2 points: Batsford Botanical Gardens

Barbara: I’ve been to botanical gardens before but not like these. You know there must be a higher being when you sit in a place like this and just look at what exists in nature. My favorite was the handkerchief tree, which had white leaves that hung down like hankies.

2 pointsBrahms concert in St. James Church.

Barbara: Lucked out. There was a chamber music festival in Chipping Campden so we got to hear a lovely viola and piano duet of music by Brahms. A great end to a breathtaking day.


While Barbara is bustling about the English countryside, Laura has been busy with more sedate B activities.

1 point: movie theme: BULLYING

Laura: A Girl Like Her takes a hard look at a suicide attempt and the bullying that led to it. The film plays out as a faux documentary about two girls, Jessica (the victim) and Avery (the bully). You would have to be completely clueless if you didn’t have somewhat of an understanding of how prevalent bullying among teenagers has become and how unbearable the pain is to the one being bullied. This film took a different approach in that it also focused on the viewpoint of the bully as well as the victim. Two things stood out for me. First was how Jessica’s parents, while shown as caring, kind people who had a loving relationship with their daughter, apparently had no idea their daughter was suffering. It is both sad and frightening that kids go to such lengths to hide things from the ones who love them and their parents don’t always see past the facade. Second, the film went to great lengths to show us how the bully wouldn’t be a bully unless she too were also a victim. “Hurt people hurt people.” The ending focused on Avery finally admitting what she had done and showing remorse, while the interviewer championed Avery for coming clean and embracing her feelings. However, this scene rang false. As Justin Chang, film critic for Variety, stated so aptly: “For a movie that’s trying to teach the teenagers of America that their actions can have tragic repercussions, there’s something borderline irresponsible about the idea that a simple show of remorse is all it takes to make everything OK.”

1 point: “B” Author: Jonathan BLOOM

Laura: With my recent refocus on reducing the amount of food waste happening in my kitchen, I benefited by reading American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and what we can do about it) by Jonathan Bloom. Although there was a lot of repetition in this book, it was full of eye-opening information. Most of what Bloom wrote about was the nation’s food system as a whole, but he did offer some concrete suggestions on reducing the waste that’s going on in your home. The chapter, “Home Is Where the Waste Is” was worth the time invested to read it and has made me even more committed to this cause. In fact, instead of having an “eat from your pantry” night, I decided it’s better to have an “eat from your refrigerator night.” That can of beans is doing fine sitting on the third shelf for another few weeks (or months), but that two-day old rice isn’t getting any fresher.


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Let B Begin

Lucky Barbara. She gets to start her B month abroad!

B&B, Buns and Books in Bath

Barbara: 2 points-BATH, England 

How convenient that my vacation to England took place during B month. My first stop was the city of BATH. I even chose a B&B to match – BROOKS Guesthouse. Small but charming, with a tilted roof, but the clincher for me was the wallpaper in my hallway is in the theme of a bookcase!








Although I was dying to be able to say I took a bath in Bath, it was not meant to be as the room had none and it was too cold to swim in the real Roman baths. A special B treat, though, was the famous Sally Lunn’s BUNS – huge things that were served either with sweet toppings on the top half or savory toppings on the bottom. Tried both but the winner in my eyes was BRIE, cranberries and BACON. Hopefully that will be the only time I can say I had huge buns!

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Recently, while having lunch with my daughter and and the twins (my sweet 7-year old granddaughters), I discovered the joy of AIOLI. Generously spooned on top of my Kobe burger, the green Aioli was bursting with flavor and lit up my taste buds. Aioli is kind of like mayo but with garlic. In fact, it’s olive oil emulsified into freshly crushed garlic and then seasoned with salt and lemon and other ingredients of choice. Celebrity chef Guy Fieri calls his aioli “Donkey Sauce” (and why not?). In researching this popular “sauce”, I found out that its popularity has already peaked since McDonald’s in Australia serves it and Burger King served “zesty avocado aioli” with its Avocado Swiss Whopper Sandwich back in 2013. Once something hits the fast food industry, I guess it’s yesterday’s mashed potatoes but not to me – I will be seeking it out on menus everywhere!

Barbara – In keeping with the apple in our recipe from the other week I got to wondering how the ADAM’S APPLE got its name. I found that the most popular legend states that when Adam took a bite of what was assumed to be an apple from the Tree of Knowledge, it got stuck in his throat. That was found to be ridiculous because even if you bought the explanation, why would Adam’s descendants also have a piece of apple stuck in their throats? Since an Adam’s apple is actually the front part of the cartilage of the larynx and is more prominent in men than in women, the more scientific explanation is that in Hebrew the proper name Adam literally means “man” while the Hebrew word apple means “swollen.” Hmm. Say no more.




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1 point: movie theme

Ben is Back is a hard-hitting and emotional roller coaster of a film. At the heart of the story is the theme of ADDICTION and the toll it takes on Ben, the Abuser, and those around him during his unexpected visit home before Christmas. Not ready to truly be released from rehab, Ben wants to convince his family that he won’t use drugs again. But will he? Does his family believe him? The film’s strengths center on the acting of both Lucas Hedges and Julia Roberts, whose performances tear at your heart and literally leave you exhausted at the end of the movie. It’s a powerful mother-son dynamic but what we particularly found valuable were the statements on drug abuse in America, stereotypes, off kilter value systems and the realization of how one’s life can easily slip into the realms of horror. Both of us are so very fortunate that this particular horror has never crept into our lives but that doesn’t make us blind to the tragedy that awaits those who travel this path.

Rumaan ALAM

1 point: “A” Author

 Laura: I enjoy discovering new authors so I was looking forward to reading That Kind of Mother by Rumaan ALAM. The novel deals primarily with motherhood and adoption (an unintentional nod to our A month), but what makes this different is that the adopting family is white and their new son is African-American – plus the author is a gay male, with parents from Bangladesh, who is raising two African American boys with his white partner. Wow! That’s a lot of viewpoints! It’s not surprising that racial issues and white privilege are also examined. But the main character, Rebecca, was so spoiled and self-centered that I could never truly embrace her point of view. In addition, I found myself getting annoyed and even a bit angry at the few storylines that were hard to believe or a bit of a stretch – difficult to explain without giving anything away. This would actually make an interesting book club selection since there are so many things to analyze and discuss.


2 points: new restaturant

ALLEN CAFÉ in (where else) Allen, Texas has been in the neighborhood for 23 years so it was about time to give it a try. We found it to be a slice of Americana – an old-fashioned café that serves breakfast and lunch, as well as a serving or two of homespun comfort and local chatter. Good food and great prices. Oh – and the coconut crème pie that Laura took home for her hubby was outstanding!


1 point: “A” Author

Barbara: Jami ATTENBERG is a new author for me and since The Middlesteins is a black comedy and is written from all the characters’ alternating viewpoints it’s right up my alley. Here’s an example of her style which is in line with my sensibilities: “There he was, in a suit (it was his only suit, but Edie didn’t know that yet), and he was smiling (his happiest days were behind him the minute he met Edie, but Richard didn’t know that yet).” So although a story that is basically about a woman who eats herself to death doesn’t sound like it would be funny, it definitely worked. It was a very adept handling of the dynamics of a family that misunderstands each other.

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Now that our children are grown, we sometimes just have to go back to being kids ourselves. That’s why we decided to revisit the Scarborough Renaissance Faire in Waxahachie. This was a perfect weekend to do it as they were having special ARTISAN booths.

A highlight for us was a reaffirmation of the goodness in people. As we were waiting on the long line to buy tickets an ALTRUISTIC woman came up to us and said she works for the Faire and had complimentary tickets for her family and offered us two. Nothing expected in return. That was a $56 savings for us!

It was amazing to us how many people got into full costume to attend this event. It was sometimes hard to tell apart the attendees from the performers.

Our first path was to visit the artisan booths and see what crafts harkened back to the Renaissance days. Our favorite “shop” belonged to a woman who hand-made purses. We could have bought the whole store, they were so adorable. Something about them just spoke to us. Laura bought one with a whimsical dragon and Barbara bought one with a fairy girl. The owner of the shop was very friendly and we wish her goods were sold nearer to us because we would definitely revisit. Good thing we saved that $56!

We also saw a show called Harmless the Juggler Show. We buried our innate New York cynicism and just let the kid come out and wound up really enjoying this show. The juggler was quite funny without being too corny.

The only disappointment was in the food. We thought we’d get down and dirty with a big turkey leg but unfortunately ordered fish and chips which weren’t very good and by that time we were too full for the turkey. We didn’t stay too many hours; just enough to get the memories back, but it was an experience worth doing. And, of course, we wouldn’t have had it if not for the ABC Life!

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2 points: The American West

Born and bred on the East Coast, we don’t have any memories of playing “cowgirls” when we grew up. Yes, there was the occasional western movie and vague recollections of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, but the one name that stands out the most – ANNIE OAKLEY. An American sharpshooter who joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, she quickly became an international star. We got to visit Annie during our recent trip to The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth. This is a beautifully designed museum, with unique displays, films, artifacts and art. (The Hermes scarves lining the staircase were stunning; did you know Hermes started as a harness making store?)

Plus, they have quite a few interactive exhibits for hands-on learning and fun: we posed with Annie (she looks quite disgusted by our antics), while Barbara let loose her inner cowgirl by riding the mechanical bull!

1 point: A+ Ices

We realize it’s a stretch to toss this in here, but we just had to give a shout-out to the AWESOME Ices at Steel City Pops. These pops, inspired by unique sweets called “Mexican paletas” are incredibly fresh and delicious, using all-natural, certified organic ingredients. We were able to design our own dessert by first selecting from a fruity pop, creamy pop, cookie pop or paleo pop and then choosing to dip, dredge, drizzle or dust our pop with all kinds of goodies, such as chocolate, pecans, pistachios, cookie crumbs, etc. We were with our friends from the Cowgirl Museum outing and we all were swooning and smiling over this indulgent but delicious treat. If you don’t have a Steel City Pops store near you, search for “paletas” in your town and you just might get lucky!

1 Point – Cooking with A

As part of our new ABC rule, we decided to do two recipes made with A ingredients. Since Laura has long been intimidated by the idea of using a fresh ARTICHOKE, that was the starting point of our search. However, after perusing many recipes we decided to let intimidation win and found a recipe for an Artichoke Tuna Noodle Casserole, which used artichoke hearts only. Part of what attracted us to this recipe is harkening back to the “olden days” when moms lived by Betty Crocker and regularly made tuna noodle casseroles. While our casserole didn’t taste bad, artichokes were really not the stars of the recipe and really – who wants hot tuna (unless it’s a tuna melt – Barbara’s personal favorite).

More successful was the APPLE BROWN BETTY, a recipe from the Pioneer Woman. Far from being pioneer women ourselves, we were nevertheless attracted to such a simple and sugary recipe. Laura wasn’t totally sold but Barbara loved it and will be making it regularly, so expect some Apple Brown Betty the next time you invite her over!

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It’s time to start the ABC Life, Round Two.  But before we begin, we wanted to revamp our rules. First, we’ve decided on less More and Less – so much less that we are not doing it at all. Second, we are bringing back our points count as it holds us more accountable for getting things done. If not for the ABC Life, we would be doing the same old thing, not branching out, cancelling plans if they took too much effort, etc. Knowing we have to reach a certain point total helps keep us on track even though we are only accountable to ourselves. So here they are:

2 points – for experiencing something new

It could be a new town, new restaurant, new event or activity.

2 points – for a movie

In “Round Two” we are choosing them by theme (addiction, cowardice, friendship, etc.)

2 points – for a book by an author we have not yet read whose last name begins with the letter

1 point – for cooking with an ingredient beginning with the month’s letter

We’re also going to try to make a new dessert per month.

1 point – for a learning center addition

We want to expand our knowledge always.

1 point – for a craft

(For two people SO un-crafty, this should probably get us 3 points!)

Now for our first A Activity!

2 Points: Today we decided to explore ARGYLE, Texas. We discovered a small town with not much written about its points of interest – mainly because there is not much there. However, on the road leading to Argyle, we stumbled upon a small Farmer’s Market (a weakness for both of the sisters). With a squeal of tires, we took a sharp turn into the market where we were able to buy some of the ingredients for our A recipes and found some great homemade jams, including bourbon and bacon which we were told tastes great on grilled cheese and hamburgers. We continued on into Argyle where we found a cool little area that included Kimzey’s Coffee set in a hobbit-like cottage. Of course, we had to try an “A” muffin. It was an AVOCADO muffin – a little dense but yummy.

In the same area was Gnome Cones.  Surrounded by dozens of cute little gnomes, this small stand offered ices of various fruit flavors served in a gnome cup. It was a very different gimmick but lacking some flavor in our opinion.

The gnome in the black jacket must have had a growth spurt!

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