JUST EAT IT

It’s all about the food this week.

New Activity – ENTENMANN’S BAKEOFF

Growing up we always had a kitchen full of baked goods from Entenmann’s. Barbara was totally addicted to their chocolate covered donuts. Before other states carried them, she visited New York and since her friends knew of her “problem,” they gave her a donut for breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, and evening snack.  Luckily for her health, the bakery branched out and so her obsession eventually broke its hold over her.

We were excited to find the Entenmann’s Big Book of Baking cookbook so we decided to recreate three of their recipes. The experience was very disappointing. The first recipe was for a lemon loaf but, even though we followed it to the word, it came out very grainy and didn’t rise in the middle. We then tried a chocolate fudge brownie. Fudge wasn’t the word – it was so fudgy that it tasted uncooked and weird. After those two experiments we abandoned the third and the book is getting donated.

New documentary: Just Eat It

Laura: On New Year’s Eve, I decided that my word for 2023 would be “Less” – less weight, less waste, less procrastination. So, watching the documentary “Just Eat It” was first on my list. It’s an eye-opening, jaw dropping yet motivating film about food waste and its impact on people, animals and the environment. I was shocked to learn that more than 40% of the food produced globally is ultimately discarded. Why? Primarily because it’s thrown away in a supermarket when it lacks an “acceptable” look even though it’s perfectly edible and in our homes where it sits on a shelf or in the refrigerator and is either forgotten about, spoils or passes its expiration date. There are several other reasons but my summary wouldn’t do them justice – so I highly recommend you follow along as filmmakers Jenny Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin take you on their six-month journey of eating only food that was discarded or about to be. They had so much to eat but wound up spending less than $200 on food and rescued more than $20,000 of food. I learned a lot from this film and have incorporated their suggestions to store items in the refrigerator that need priority in a container that says “Eat Me First” and to shop more often yet buy less and therefore waste less.

New Restaurant – Edmond’s Burgers

It’s always appealing to find a new place for lunch and what luck that we found Edmond’s Burgers. The restaurant has been open for about three months and we’d never have found it had we not been on the letter E. All of the burgers are two patties so go there hungry! The burgers were delicious and the onion rings were too. The proprietor was a very sweet and friendly lady; next time we go we’ll need to find out more about her and Edmond – who we suspect was the man busily making all the food behind her.

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E makes its Entrance

Perhaps it’s fitting to start 2023 with the letter “E,” since we are EXCITED, EAGER and ENTHUSED to start another year with the ABC life. Without it, we would definitely have missed out on experiences, restaurants, books, films, facts and places.

New activity: Exhibition on “The Green Book”

We recently read that the Irving Archives and Museum was hosting a new exhibition focused on “The Green Book,” the annual guide that provided African American travelers with information on gas stations, restaurants, stores and lodging that welcomed Black travelers.

While we had both seen the movie The Green Book, we didn’t know much about the actual book. The exhibit focused both on the man, Victor Hugo Green, who created the book in 1936 and on the various businesses that were owned and operated solely by African Americans. The only businesses they showed that were integrated were an Esso Station (later becoming ExxonMobil) and a dude ranch/hotel that allowed people of any color to use their services.

This travel guide was an essential tool during the Jim Crow era. Naturally, there was evidence in the exhibit of the fear and apprehension experienced by Black travelers, the horrible humiliation and prejudice shown to the them and the physical violence they encountered, but it also conveyed the resilience and elegance of people who opted to live a full life rather than allow themselves to be limited by others.

We remember when watching the film through 21st century eyes, how we thought it was awful that the Green Book existed because of what it represented, but the exhibit made us realize that it was just as important to remember how this book offered Black people “dignity and respect in a segregated America.”

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D WINDS DOWN

Activity: Discovering Dynamic Abstraction

Since it’s “D” month, it was only fitting that we attend an exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art. We chose the most interactive exhibition of the season: “Movement: The Legacy of Kineticism” which billed itself as showcasing how artists, from the early 20th century to present, have used the power of dynamic abstraction. We’re both familiar with abstract art, but “dynamic abstraction” was new to us. While abstract art can take many forms – paintings, sculptures, photographs, etc. – it doesn’t objectively or accurately represent visual reality. The art enters the dynamic range when the artist adds shapes, colors, lines, or patterns to create visual illusions that trick our eyes into seeing movement and depth when we are actually looking at still lines on a flat surface.

Attending this exhibit taught us a few things – and not only about the specific art displayed. We learned it’s a good idea to read up beforehand on the exhibit you’ll be seeing or to pay closer attention to any written information posted on the exhibit’s walls. For instance, not until we looked up information the next day did we learn that when we first entered the exhibit and walked through several feet of hanging chains, we were supposed to pull the chains, turning lights on and off. Not a deal breaker, but it would have added more “dynamics” to the experience.

An added bonus to the afternoon: “Matthew Wong: The Realm of Appearances.” Our tickets also included this exhibit, and we were so glad it did. We both loved his later work. When we say “later”, unfortunately his career only lasted six years. He suffered from Tourette’s syndrome and depression and he committed suicide at the age of 35.

His sense of isolation was evident in many of his paintings by a tiny lone figure, often hard to spot. We will both remember the feelings his artwork invoked in us.

Activity: Documentaries

Barbara: Dear Future Children

This 2021 documentary focuses on three countries – Chile, Uganda, and Hong Kong – and the problems they are facing, narrated by a young woman in each. They all worry about how their world will be for future children. In Chile, the youth were protesting the government and the vast gap between the poor/middle class and the rich due to the low wages, low pensions, and high cost of living. “When you lie to the poor, you find your answer on the streets.” Uganda’s problem was climate change and the question posed from the narrator, when asked why she is focusing on this problem, was “Why would you study for a future that is not clear?” Her professor told her it was God’s will and that there was nothing she could do about it. Hong Kong’s issue was the attempts by China to bring them under their control and especially an extradition bill. All three stories were powerful and upsetting. I am not sure what the situations are in their countries today but hope that their brave work will not be for nothing.

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Wishing everyone a great New Year We’ll leave you with this one fun fact (thanks to our friend Rosemary for introducing us to “One Good Fact”)

“People in Spain celebrate New Year’s Eve by eating 12 grapes in sync with the 12 clock chimes at midnight.”

We’ll have our 12 grapes on hand for the countdown tonight in hopes of a sweet 2023.

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DABBLING IN THE ARTS

New Activity: Drawing

Both of us have absolutely no art skills. Ironically one of our favorite games with the family at Thanksgiving is Who, What, Where, which is a game in which you have to draw a scenario that describes your who, what and where cards. E.g., Shirley Temple swimming in the bathtub. Ours are the pictures that draw the most laughs as no one can figure out what we’ve drawn.

But we digress. This week we decided to see if there’s any hope for us. Laura had a book on how to draw so we chose a picture of a wild cat. The book had some steps leading up to the finished product, so we were somewhat optimistic. Alas, we think we won’t give up our day jobs (although we already have).

This is what we were copying:

These are our end products:

D Reading Challenge activity – DIY Bookmark

We channeled our inner child for our next reading challenge. Inappropriately giddy over the purchase of a box of craft supplies, we picked our favorites to use in this project. Actually proud of how they came out and will cause a smile when we read our next books.

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DOING D – FINALLY

New activity – Discovering Decatur

We’re finally back on the road again and this time it was to the city of Decatur. When we got there and parked, the first thing that struck us was the height of a lot of their curbs. The one by our car was probably a good two feet high and Barbara couldn’t get up on the sidewalk without a hand from Laura.

Of course, we couldn’t help asking one of the store owners of Decatur if all the people there had really long legs. After sharing a chuckle, she opined that it could have something to do with water runoff. We still don’t know but are sure everyone thought us a bit suspicious as we were staring at their legs.

While waiting for a table to be available at Rooster’s Roadhouse, we took a quick look at the city’s absolutely gorgeous historic courthouse. Unfortunately, it was closed for renovations but they just don’t make courthouses like this anymore.

Back to Rooster’s and another question, this time to the waitress. The restaurant had many animal sculptures and pictures but none of roosters – so why the name? She had no idea and told us the original owner was long deceased. Are people just not curious anymore? We couldn’t imagine working there all this time and not finding out the answer to that question. But there was NO question about the yumminess of the food. We split an order of Brisket Hash and a Brisket Burger and each was fantastic. We followed the meal up with a visit to Hey Sugar candy store and then did a little shopping. All in all a fun way to spend the afternoon.

New actress – Danielle Deadwyler

The discovery of an actress who is new to us is always rewarding, especially when there is a slew of movies and tv series to choose from to catch her again. However, it is her performance in Till that we were so impressed with. Till is a gut-wrenching film, dealing with the true story of Mamie Till Mobley’s fight for justice for her 14-year old son, Emmett Till. Emmett was brutally tortured and lynched in 1955, and the film focuses on his mother’s quest to bring his story to the world. Although we felt the film would have been just as powerful if it were 30 minutes shorter, it’s hard to see this movie without experiencing outrage and riding a hard-hitting roller coaster of emotions. Overall, we both agreed that it was the performance of Danielle Deadwyler, who plays Emmett’s mother Mamie, that shines the brightest and almost guarantees her an Oscar nomination. This is an actress whose face can emit so much emotion that words are entirely unnecessary.

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

The holiday season is here – and our schedules reflect that. Between getting ready for family festivities and a weeklong freelance assignment in Las Vegas for Barbara, we have decided to postpone our “D” month until December.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving, your families and friends and – of course – the food!

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AND WE CLOSE OUT “C”

Activity – Movie theme – Canada

Laura: I chose One Week because it was filmed in Canada and it was touted as a beautiful journey through that country…and it was. The movie was about a young man (Joshua Jackson) who is confronted with his own mortality when he finds out he has cancer, and his chances of survival are slim. Rather than start treatment immediately, he decides to buy a motorcycle and ride across Canada. His fiancé and his less-than-satisfying job will just have to cope without him while he faces the big questions: how do I want to live the rest of my life? what matters most? Although there is nothing particularly new about this story, the presentation is very touching and the insights into the Canadian landscape and landmarks elevated this film from enjoyable to memorable.

Activity – Cooking Cupcakes

We’ve already sampled a bunch of cupcake bakeries for our ABC Life but this month we decided to try our hand at baking them. The recipe called for creating cupcake owls and since that involved Oreo cookies and M&Ms how could we not? They actually came out quite good and were fun to create.

Activity – New Movie:  Comedy special: Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King

Laura: Honored with a Peabody Award in 2018 for this 2017 American stand-up comedy film, Hasan Minhaj has acquired a new fan – me. This was Hasan’s first special on Netflix and it focuses on his experience growing up in an Indian American Muslim family. What made this film so special was Hasan’s blend of humor and sadness. It was like a personal memoir unfolding, where he shared the immigrant experience, being on the receiving end of racism, how it feels to be stereotyped and the pressures of intergenerational acceptance. His comedy succeeded in both making me smile and laugh while gracing and enlightening me with a new and deeper understanding of the immigrant experience.

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THE CAT’S MEOW

New Movie: Inside the Mind of a Cat

Laura: Whether you’re an ardent cat lover or just curious, Inside the Mind of a Cat is an interesting movie. Having lived with three cats (Ming, Kosmo and Diesel) over roughly 35 years, I was looking forward to an even better understanding of these furry friends. Experts admit that cat research has lagged behind dog research by about 15 years, but we all know these two popular pets are vastly different. I learned that cats have 20 different meows, each expressing a specific emotion. I was familiar with only 18. (just kidding) Overall, the movie provides good insight into how cats think and behave, but nothing earth shattering if you are or have been a cat owner.

New Book: The Cats of America: How Cool Cats and Bad-Ass Kitties Won the Nation’s Heart

Laura: This 155-page book is fun and factual – a great combination. It’s the perfect book to pick up for 10 or 20 minutes, read a delightful anecdote or two and then put it down for future enjoyment and move on with your day. The real charm of this book is learning the role cats played in our history and how they are such an integral part of our great American institutions. You also gain all kinds of trivia, such as learning that President Lincoln was the first president to bring cats into the White House and that the longest living cat was a white tabby from Texas named Creme Puff. She lived for 38 years. Would make a great gift or stocking stuffer for the cat lovers in your life.

LEARNING CENTER – The Cat’s Got Your Tongue

Barbara: Cats sometimes get a bad rap (mostly by dog lovers). They’re stand-offish, they mess up the place with their kitty litter, they claw up your furniture, strong willed, etc. So, I wondered about the expression “the cat’s got your tongue” and whether it was related to any of these traits.

There are two thoughts about where the expression originated. The first is that it was due to the cat-o-nine-tails which was a whip used by the English navy to flog someone. The second is that it is from ancient Egypt where a liar’s tongue was cut out and fed to the cats. We prefer the second one since our father loved tongue (ewww) and, since Laura is a cat lover, it would be nice to think her former cats’ ancestors did too.

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OUR READING CHALLENGE IS MET

New Activity – Collin College Theatre Department

The Collin College Theater’s production of “Lost Girl” was an “unusual” experience for us. We decided to go see it because it had been awarded the 2018 Kennedy Center Darrell Ayers National Playwriting Award and it would fulfill our “C” Reading Challenge (go to local community college’s play if it’s based on a book). The play continues the story of J.M. Barrie’s famous character Wendy Darling – the girl who had to grow up. We meet Wendy many years after her return from Neverland and learn about her determination to find Peter Pan and reclaim her kiss. It’s the only way she can move on with her life. And, it’s the only way the play will finally end and we can leave! Talk about tedious.

Unfortunately, we did not enjoy the play but admired the production details and found the actress Haley A. Kanik who played Wendy to be very talented. But the most memorable thing about the evening was the young gal who sat just a few seats away from us who had the loudest and most irritating laugh you’ve ever heard! Plus, she laughed at things that barely deserved a chuckle. We decided she herself was probably a student at Collin College and was enjoying her friends on stage…as did the majority of the audience, who were generous in their applause. It wasn’t the best of afternoons for us but it’s nice to support the local arts.

Activity – CONTEST

Barbara: I find contests intriguing. There are loads of lists on the web of all kinds of contests. People could potentially spend their whole day in front of the computer, submitting an entry into every contest out there. Just for the heck of it, though, I found a contest site for writers and even though I’m not one, I did have a silly short story (“Candy From Strangers”) I wrote in school (how many years ago was that!) and submitted it to Servicescape. No shot of winning whatsoever as I read some of the past winners’ entries, but it was fun to hit the button. The contest ends the end of November.

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COLOR US DISAPPOINTED

Activity – COLORS

We read a blurb about a new temporary exhibit called Prismatica, which was described as consisting of prisms that look like kaleidoscopes. Picturing a large exhibit where we could walk around and lights would be shining everywhere, we decided it would be worth checking out. So, we drove over to the mall and, having read it was at the main entrance, went inside and saw…nothing. We asked a few people if they knew where it was, but no one had even heard of it. Figuring we may have had the wrong entrance, we started driving around the entire boundaries of the mall and were ready to leave when we noticed a security car driving towards us. Having nothing to lose, we flagged him down and asked if he knew where the exhibit was. The guy was nice and said we should just follow him. We’re not sure if he thought we looked old and feeble, but he was going about 5 miles per hour and had his flashing lights on. Hopefully he didn’t notice us laughing in the car behind him. We did come to the prisms but were greatly disappointed as they were just standing in a row in front of the mall, and while each prism was a different color, there was nothing special going on at all.

Barbara: I later reread the blurb and saw that they suggested going after sunset for the best effect. So off I went again and while it was definitely more impressive, the overall planning was poor. First, they needed to have signage inside the mall so people could find it. Second, instructions on how to maximize the effect of the prisms were sorely lacking. While they had one little placard by the prisms that said that you can manipulate the prisms to cause them to spin, it wasn’t clear that you did that not by pressing something, but by actually spinning the prisms by hand. Once I did that the effect was nice. But unless there was a group of people all spinning at once (the picture below shows them after that happened), it was still unimpressive. There should have been an automated mechanism that spun the prisms at set intervals so that driving up one could be attracted to the exhibit. My exhibits manager self was screaming and if that had been my project, I definitely would have fired the design house.

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