N STARTS NOW

We had to postpone N from last month. Between Laura’s visit to her family in San Francisco and Barbara’s visit from her family from Los Angeles, there was plenty of activity. At first, we were putting pressure on ourselves to do things for the letter N but then we took a step back and realized that it would be exactly the opposite of what our ABC Life is about.

But Nothing like the present! Starting N with a song…

Activity – NAME That Tune Bingo

Barbara – I got in the mood for N month with some bingo. But not any run of the mill bingo – Music Bingo at the City Works Eatery and Pour House. Laura couldn’t make it so I went with my friend, Pam. Somehow I had in my head that this was going to be a dive but I couldn’t have been more wrong. City Works was a nice restaurant with good food and good music. Instead of numbers on a bingo card, the emcee played a song segment and we had to “name that tune” by matching the title of the song to our bingo cards.

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Whether you like bingo or not you’ll have fun just moving to the music of the 80s, 90s and other themes.

Movie theme – Neglect

Since we didn’t take care of business with N for an entire month, we felt it fitting to choose Neglect as our movie theme. We looked at both ends of the spectrum and selected two Oscar Nominated films – one about a child and one about elderly neglect. Capernaum is a hard movie to discuss. It focuses on a 12-year old Lebanese boy, Zain, who is neglected and abused and lives a life surrounded by poverty and crime. It culminates with him suing his parents for giving birth to him. His point was if you can’t take care of your children and give them love then why have them? We can’t help but agree with him.

Our other film, The Mole Agent, is a documentary about an elderly man who is hired by an agency to be a “resident spy” in a nursing home with the purpose of seeing if the agency’s client’s mother is being neglected and abused.  We came to really like and admire the Mole who is extremely kind and patient with the other seniors. His conclusion was that there was no measurable neglect by the staff, but neglect was certainly a problem caused instead by the residents’ families. He found that the biggest problem in the home was loneliness, which could easily have been resolved (or at least reduced) by a visit to the loved one by the family that put him/her there in the first place.

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MORE FUN WITH M

New Activity –Marching to a Different Drum

Exercise afficionado is not in our job description. However, when the opportunity to join one of our women’s groups for Drumba arose, we jumped – or should we say marched – at the chance of getting in some aerobics in a fun way. Drumba is a fast-paced exercise class that combines aerobic marching movements with hitting a large exercise ball with drumsticks. It was an opportunity to move madly, raise your heart rate and laugh at the realization that you will never be mistaken for Ringo Starr.

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New Projects – Masterpieces and Media Travel

This month we are launching two new projects.

We are both avid readers yet there are so many classics that neither of us have read but which peak our interest. We are very curious to know the story line and reasons why these books have reached the status of masterpiece . However, we realize we’ll never get through them all so we have allowed ourselves to take a shortcut by watching those which have been adapted to film. We’ve started this month with Moby Dick and, while we didn’t particularly enjoy the story, we can finally say we have an appreciation of the various meanings of one of the most famous opening lines in literature: “Call Me Ishmael.”

Our second project is Media Travel. Recognizing that there are many countries we will never get to visit, we decided to get there by proxy. Barbara “visited” Malta which, as the host of “The Travel Bug” says, is a place that is often ignored when planning a trip to the Mediterranean. The people are described as speaking Arabic with the hand gestures of an Italian but who are sometimes more British than the British themselves. It’s too bad we didn’t do an add-on when we took our trip to Sicily.

In an episode of “Discovering the World,” Laura traveled to Madagascar, where she fell in love with the wildlife – approximately 80% of its species of animals and plants are endemic to the island. It’s hard to resist a high jumping lemur and an upside-down tree (better known as a “baobab”).

Nothing beats a first-hand experience but rather than miss seeing these countries entirely, we’re happy to sit in front of our tv’s and travel “remotely”.

New author – Mary Morris

Barbara: So many historical fiction books that have been recommended to me are about the same subjects so when I heard about Gateway to the Moon by Mary Morris I was eager to read it and glad I did. The time period was that of the Spanish Inquisition when the Jewish and Muslim populations in Spain were forced to convert or be expelled or killed. Interesting to me is that a large number of them came to the New World and settled into what is now New Mexico and their descendants did not know about their origins. They observed traditions such as lighting candles on Friday night, not eating pork or mixing meat with dairy but had no idea why they were doing it. But what will stay with me for a long time – not in a good way – is the fact that those who were tortured by the Inquisition had to actually pay for it, literally. The Inquisitors had a pricing list and depending on the particular torture you received, you would have to pay for that item on their list. This book was a real eye opener.

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MEMORIES ARE MULTIPLYING

2 points: New city: MALAKOFF

As we’ve mentioned many times, the ABC Life has been the perfect vehicle to get us to experience new activities, visit new places and expand our minds and palettes. So each month, we are on the lookout for matchups with our letter of the month and purposefully choose alphabetically. But this month, the letter chose us – and delivered a relaxing, memorable getaway.

Meet MALAKOFF, a small town in Henderson County. Neither of us had heard of this town on Cedar Creek Lake, but luckily one of our book club friends knows someone who lives there and she let us all house sit for a few days. The setting was perfect! The grounds were lovely, the lake was peaceful and we relaxed, laughed loudly, read quietly, played games (Mahjongg included)…well you get the picture.

An added bonus was the unexpected culinary gems we discovered. One was a local winery with a lunch selection that left us drooling (among other things the best Caesar Salad ever)

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and the other a beautiful restaurant behind a small store that had wonderful decor and even better food.

To top things off, we took a wrong turn and came upon a random family of deer in someone’s yard.

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Relaxation never felt this Marvelous!

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MEETING “M”

This month is proving to be a busy one as there are quite a lot of M activities that appeal to these ABC Sisters.

2 points – Moroccan Restaurant

We have had various types of Mediterranean food and love it, but never anything specifically Moroccan. Lucky for us there’s a great restaurant in Dallas to introduce us to this cuisine. Medina Oven & Bar on Victory Park Lane was a gem. The ambiance, with its couches and pillows in bright colors and the music playing in the background, added to the experience but it was the food that won us over.

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Morocco (2)

We split two dishes: Moroccan Beef Cigars and Moroccan Kafka Kabobs. Both were excellent and we definitely will be putting this restaurant on our “we want More” list.

2 points – Geometric and Madi Museum

We decided to visit some unusual museums for “M” month. You’d be surprised at what comes up when you Google “unusual museums in (your city)”. We had never heard of Madi art so we were intrigued. Madi stands for Movement, Abstraction, Dimension and Invention. All the Madi art pieces have items that come out of the piece and are three dimensional. The art was quite beautiful but one of the best things about this museum is Spencer, an extremely knowledgeable and personable tour guide. He taught us the difference between geometric and Madi art (geometric is two dimensional and has shapes such as circles, squares, etc. in it, while the Madi art has parts that stick out). Plus, he knew the history of all the artists whose work was displayed and was obviously enjoying giving tours, especially to children. The museum is free and we were more than happy to give a donation.

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Madi (2)
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The museum and restaurant were in close proximity so it made for a Marvelous afternoon outing.

2 points – Movie Theme: Masculinity

When we were deciding on an “M” theme for a movie this month, we were both immediately drawn in by the synopsis of filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s 2015 documentary “The Mask You Live In.” This film presents a fascinating but alarming look at the influences on boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while adhering to society’s expectations surrounding masculinity. On any given day, they are encouraged to push down their true emotions and never cry or look fearful. Friendships are devalued, women are objectified, and violence is sanctioned as a “masculine” way to deal with conflicts. We’ve all heard or seen boys being told to “be a man”, “grow a pair” and “don’t be a sissy” – or phrases similar but more graphic. This documentary contains a lot of frank discussion and dialogue and presents statistics throughout that are alarming and depressing. You can’t help but be affected by this film and left to reflect on certain memories regarding the boys and men in your life.  Although you can argue that this movie tries to cover too much ground, it is still better to raise our consciousness on this topic and embrace some societal changes than to turn a blind eye. Our boys and men deserve to wear their true face…not a mask. 

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LEAVING A RAINY L BEHIND

L month has been a challenge, but we still managed to do, see or read things which we would never have done if not for the ABC Life.

2 points – Movie Theme: Loneliness

Laura: Everyone longs for meaningful connections with others and when that is denied, loneliness is often a constant companion. In the movie Dear Frankie, we meet two lonely characters: Lizzie and her deaf, nine-year-old son Frankie. Moving from one city in Scotland to another, Lizzie rarely finds time to make friends, while her son’s loneliness mainly stems from a longing for his absentee dad, who he believes to be away at sea. Frankie’s only relationship with his father is through an exchange of letters, which he cherishes. However, it is really Lizzie who is sending the letters, and when this charade is threatened to be revealed, Lizzie must find a stranger to impersonate the dad. The movie moves slowly but its strength was in the acting. The main characters all could say so much with just a look or a gesture – and that kept my interest and earned my admiration. The movie lingered in my mind for days after and led me to realize that my opinion on movies can fluctuate, often settling in on a more favorable note than I had first thought.

2 points – New Author

Barbara: for my new L author I picked up a book from my bookshelf entitled Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren. Although this is the type of book I almost never read – it’s a light love story where you know every single thing that’s going to happen as you’re reading it plus it is the antithesis of a book club book – since I’ve been reading books for four separate book clubs, I sometimes need a break from heavy discussable books and just want something that I can read without hardly thinking. Surprisingly this one wasn’t bad, and I was able to read it in two days. Not exactly a recommend, but not a full out pan.

2 points – Movie

Barbara – This isn’t quite an “L” theme but it is the movie Laura was named after so I just had to watch it.  I never had seen the classic movie Laura nor had I read the book it is based upon but any time I hear the song it automatically makes me think of it and wonder why not. So, I decided to correct that omission. I found the movie quite charming. Dana Andrews as the detective reminded me of Columbo with his seemingly innocent questions. I was very nostalgic seeing the Good Humor truck and watching him play with the little game where you tilt something and try to get the little metal balls into the holes (I’m definitely aging myself). The character of Waldo was a hoot and his delivery impeccable. My favorite line in the movie was when he told the detective that he tries to be the kindest, most sympathetic person in the world and, asked if he was successful, answers “I should be sincerely sorry to see my neighbor’s children devoured by wolves.” The music was super dramatic and made me think they had just come out of silent movies where the music had to convey all the emotions, but it made me laugh. All in all, I was very glad to have seen my sister’s namesake movie.

2 points – New city Guess what? “L” has soul! And we found it in the city of Lancaster. In between patches of rain, we managed to make it to Lancaster dry and hungry. Smack in the center of their historic town square, we found Casserole Soul Café. We knew we were in the right place when we came in and saw this sign:

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We ordered two small plates to share (thinking we were being very responsible with small), but when they came, boy were we surprised. The portions were enormous! We asked the very sweet waitress how she managed to stay so skinny and she said she was only there two weeks. We told her we’d check back in a year and bet she’d be much heavier. The food was absolutely delicious so how could we resist their fried chicken tenders, fresh corn bread and the numerous sides of mac and cheese, candied yams, beef enchilada casserole and broccoli and rice casserole (they generously allow their casseroles to be portioned into a side dish). We could have been sent home in a wheelbarrow!

But wait! There’s more. We visited a charming little shop called The Tattered Jacket Bookstore. After hearing the history of how this bookstore had been converted from its origins as a barber shop, we turned our attention to how creative the owner was in placing adorable props on top of books. Barbara decided she would definitely start searching for her own Humpty Dumpty bookshelf figures. And for our last stop in Lancaster, we decided to see what Lovin Spoonful Bakery was all about  – and how could we not sample their cookies? This was also a charming place and their door mask warning cracked us up.

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Lancaster

All in all, it was a lip-smacking and literary day – and a lovely way to take our leave of “L” month.

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L IS LIMPING ALONG

The rain is definitely shaking up our plans for L activities but we are still managing to Locate things to do/places to see.

2 points – New Place

How lucky that a Food Network winner was close by. We had read that The London Baker, located in The Colony, was famous for their cakes and had won Halloween Wars along with other high accolades so we hopped in the car and drove there, mouths watering. What made the trip interesting was that it was located in a small shopping center encircled by a beautiful residential area designed along the theme of Camelot. All the streets were named for it: King Arthur Blvd., Merlin Blvd., Sir Lancelot Blvd., etc. and we had to drive over a drawbridge to leave and enter.

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After embarrassing ourselves by calling them for directions when we were literally just around a corner of stores, we arrived at the charming bakery. Although cakes are their specialty we weren’t about to order something that large for a snack so we went with scones.

The baked goods were beautifully displayed and the strawberry and cream and blueberry lemon scones called our names. But unfortunately, we weren’t all that impressed. A little too dry for our taste.

2 points – New Place

After finishing off the scones, we headed out for Lakeside at Little Elm. We had heard that there is a man-made lake and beach there, so we had envisioned a lake with perhaps shops on a boardwalk. Why not go all out if you’re creating a beach? Our destination was the Hula Hut which is a Hawaii themed restaurant situated overlooking the water.

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Unfortunately, because of the weather we couldn’t get the full effect of the area. No shops or boardwalk but from our seats by the window, though, we could see a couple of guys on boards in the water, propelled by a cable, and going up and down slopes – kind of a water ski but with cables instead of a boat pulling them. Probably pretty crowded in the summer, we would imagine.

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LEADING OFF WITH LUSCIOUSNESS

What the “L”- let’s start L month with food. What a hardship!

Of course, being Lazy we waited two weeks before posting but eat we did. The first food we wanted to try was Lithuanian. Not having Learned much geography, we assumed that would be the same as Russian cuisine so we found a little gem called Bubala Cafe.

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Having heard that word a lot in childhood (it means sweetheart in Yiddish), it really appealed to us. Bubala turned out to be a sweetheart of a restaurant.

Although we learned that Lithuanian food was not the same as Russian food, we did get to try Lepyoshki which is a bread from the Uzbek region of Russia.

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It comes in a circular loaf and is meant to be pulled apart and used to sop up the good flavors of the rest of your meal. Definitely a thumbs up. 

Next on our list was Lebanese food which we sampled at Rose Mediterranean Cuisine in Plano. The food was tasty – of course we tried Lamb – but it wasn’t different than other Mediterranean foods we’ve had. We’ve yet to find something that is specific to only that country. 

Our mom wasn’t a great cook (sorry mom) but she was a fantastic baker, always the person called upon to bring the dessert. So it’s only fitting we find her specialty- Lemon meringue pie. The best in DFW can be found at S&D Oyster House in uptown. Make sure you save room for dessert if you go because it will be worth it!

Let us know of any tasty L treats you have sampled!

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KNOCKING OUT THE LAST OF THE K’s

1 pointKorea

Laura: One of the things I have missed most this past year has been travelling.  So, to celebrate “K” month, I went to Korea! No, not by plane…but by streaming. First, I watched an episode on The Travel Bug, an Australian TV series available on Prime Video, hosted by the likeable Morgan Burrett. Seoul is fascinating – a vibrant, fast-moving, bustling but quirky city with a varied cuisine and a fascinating history. This show had a few references to food but concentrated mostly on local attractions and cultural insights, and it was so interesting to see how although Seoul is a modern city, it also holds fast to its ancient traditions. For a true taste of what Korean food is all about,  I re-watched the Seoul episode from Season 3 on Somebody Feed Phil. Nobody does a food show quite like Phil Rosenthal. If you are a “foodie” and haven’t seen this series, check it out. You too may find yourself hoping to try (if you haven’t already) tteokbokki, bindaetteok, kalguksu and chimaek. His episodes cover a lot of ground and his enthusiasm for culinary delights is, well, delightful! Although nothing takes the place of putting your own feet on the ground in other countries and cities, having the chance to walk around in someone else’s shoes is definitely a worthwhile experience.

2 Points – Korean restaurant

After learning a little about Korea – its cities, culture and cuisine – it seemed only fitting to sample some food here in Plano. There are quite a few Korean restaurants but being “K” month, we chose Kooksoo. Not knowing if we would be fans, we chose the Korean BBQ Bulgogi Combo sampler as our takeout choice.

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Lucky us! It was delicious! The bulgogi (pronounced “bull-go-ghee”) was really tasty. In fact, bulgogi is listed as Number 23 on the World’s 50 most delicious foods poll compiled by CNN Go. The sampler also had rice, glass noodles, kimchi (a bit too spicy for these sisters), dumplings and a small salad. We are definitely planning on returning. Once again, we thank the ABC Life for expanding our palettes.

Learning Center

2 points – LEARNING CENTER

Barbara – KISSING K Goodbye

The other day, after I planted a kiss on my dog’s head, it made me wonder if dogs recognize the kiss as a sign of affection. That led to my curiosity about how the kiss even became that for human beings. Why don’t we rub arms or noses? Who was the first person to decide that swapping spit was the way to go?

1500 B.C. had some Sanskrit verses that seemed to describe a kiss. Of course, people may have already been kissing but never wrote about it. It was another few hundred years before any Indian poems mentioned the kiss. It wasn’t until the Roman Empire that kissing reared its head but it was the Romans that started traditions such as kissing passionately at the end of the wedding ceremony and sealing a document with a kiss. They also used kisses in political campaigns and I got a laugh out of the fact that even back then there were political scandals such as “kisses for votes” in the 18th century.

French kissing was not started in France (many thanks to the Indian people once again) but it was more popular there than in America. There was a lot written about the anatomy of a kiss, etc. but I won’t kiss and tell!

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WE’RE FINALLY oK

It’s K month and the sisters are back and raring to go. Well, Laura might be medium rare. It’s been such a long time since we’ve actually been able to go out and do anything that I think anything we try now will be particularly satisfying to us.

Kathryn Klepak’s Snowy Range Alpaca Farm

2 Points – Activity

Barbara – This was such a great way to step back into the ABC Life. Kathryn’s farm animals were great fun, especially those gorgeous alpacas. I learned so much about this beautiful animal – how they communicate to their children (with clicks), how they warn each other of danger (whoever sees it makes a noise and the rest stop and watch until the first one says all clear), the differences between males and females (females were neater, especially in their bathroom habits . Naturally). I was able to feed them, groom the donkeys, pet the goats…a great day all around.

2 points – Movie Theme: The Ku Klux Klan

You wouldn’t think that any movie about the Ku Klux Klan could be both uplifting and depressing but that’s exactly what we found in Best of Enemies. This movie was based on the true story of an unlikely friendship formed between the Exalted Cyclops of the Durham S.C. Ku Klux Klan and a civil rights activist during the process of voting on school integration there. We were surprised to see that the reviews were not the best; they seemed to be in a consensus that the story was trivialized. We weren’t judging the movie by its dramatic quality but more by how it drew upon our emotions. On the uplifting side, we were very inspired and impressed with the courage of the real-life people it was based upon. The fact that those two individuals could ever see eye to eye on anything let alone become friends was amazing and we were both touched by it. However, the depressing thing is to acknowledge that the Ku Klux Klan is still around and race relations is still a prominent issue in this country. Reviews be damned…we recommend this movie.

2 points – Book  

Barbara: We’ve always (especially Laura) loved reading a good quote. We even go as far as to write them down sometimes. So, when I found I Really Needed This Today: Words to Live By by Hoda Kotb it definitely hit the right button. I knew by the third page in, when I read this quote, that I was hooked:

“And if I asked you to name all the things that you love how long would it take for you to name yourself?”

Each day of the year had a quote that the author initially posted on her Instagram and what it meant to her. The only thing I wish she had included in the book were a few of the reactions she received from her followers as she mentioned in her preface that it was fascinating to see how it touched them for different reasons.  

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THE “I”s HAVE IT

YOU SCREAM, I SCREAM, WE ALL SCREAM FOR ICE CREAM

How many times in our lives have we seen the logo for Baskin-Robbins with the 31 hidden in it to represent their 31 flavors? Most of us have our favorite flavor but have you wondered about the other 30? Well, we did and as part of “I” we have decided to start checking off all 31 flavors.

We went into the project with a certain number of flavors already tasted. For Laura they were: Chocolate, Chocolate Fudge, Mint Chocolate Chip, and Jamoca Almond Fudge. Added to those were Barbara’s: Vanilla, World Class Chocolate and Snickers.

So far, we have tried an additional 7 and divided them into 3 categories:

Good, will order again

German Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Pistachio Almond – Laura, not Barbara

Good but one time only

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Caramel Turtle Truffle – too sweet

Not good

Black Walnut – the ice cream was watered down but also had a bad, almost rotten taste to it.

Pistachio Almond – Barbara felt this one had a bad aftertaste but it could be because she doesn’t like almonds.

Gold Medal Ribbon – thought this was rather tasteless.

Despite the great sacrifice, we intend to get through the rest by the time we check off the rest of the letters on our grid.

Film Theme – INDIGENOUS Native American People

Barbara: I watched the documentary Unspoken, which is a film about the Indian Boarding Schools. These schools were designed to wipe out the Indian way of life, language and culture and force the assimilation into the white man’s world. They were stripped of their hair, their names, their clothing, everything they learned as an Indian people. Although not what I would normally call a great film, the film touched me because even though I am not very religious, I have a very strong sense of culture and it is unimaginable to think that someone could have taken me away from my family and forced me to unlearn everything that made me me, especially if I had lived in the country all my life.

Film Theme – ISRAELI Cuisine

Laura: Watching the film In Search of Israeli Cuisine, you follow Israeli-born American chef Michael Solomonov of Philadelphia’s Zahav restaurant as he travels though the many regions of Israel to sample food, talk to chefs, visit farms and chat with journalists  – always searching for a definitive answer to the evasive question: what exactly is Israeli cuisine? Since there are more than 70 cultures that make up the Israeli people, it’s inevitable that the cuisine is a blend of these various ethnic traditions. But it’s a wonderful blend, since the food there is delicious and has led to the emergence of Israel being regarded as a trendy food destination. I really enjoyed this journey. Michael Solomonov is very likeable but the food, the various regions and the Israeli people are the true focus of this film, along with the political and social challenges of having a melting-pot approach to cuisine.

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