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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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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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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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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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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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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Activity – CROSSWORD Puzzles

We have always loved crossword puzzles. We both start our day with one regular crossword from a newspaper and we also do the New York Times Mini, Seven Little Words, Waffle and Wordle. Barbara adds Dordle and Quordle. So we thought we’d see if there was another puzzle type we could get into (the more daily puzzles, the later we would have to do start something like-ugh-cleaning).

Laura surprisingly found a puzzle book given to her by our friend many moons ago. We sampled several puzzles. The verdict was:

Crypto-Clans – might be good but we didn’t have the patience for it so maybe not a morning puzzle.

Crosticlue – might be fun but the one we sampled was all about sports figures so we couldn’t do it.

Pencil Pointers – too much like a normal crossword puzzle.

Logic Problem – this also may be fun but you needed to be able to concentrate.

And the winner was: Can You Top This? This was a puzzle that was just the difficulty level needed to be both fun and challenging yet finished before your second cup of coffee.

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New author – Chris Cleave

Barbara: I usually am not crazy about English authors – although I love their television shows and movies- but the main characters in the book “Everyone Brave is Forgiven” had such wonderful turn of phrases that I was definitely drawn into their world. The book focused on the toll the war took from 3 different viewpoints: on friendship, on soldiers and I especially liked how he showed the effect on a woman who seemed to join the war effort thinking it would be a lark. It’s a recommend from me.


Barbara: This is C month so I decided to go to Champagne, France. No, of course not but what a great coincidence that a trip I’ve been planning for a year coincided with the letter C.

I love every place I’ve been to in France, and this was no exception. From the beautiful churches – the stone one below had stained glass by Marc Chagall – to the quaint little buildings in old towns that made me feel like I was living in a period piece movie, to the fantastic champagne it was a trip well worth the wait!

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New Restaurant: Bread Zeppelin

Many of us know Led Zeppelin but how many of us have heard of Bread Zeppelin? We found this delightful place in Carrollton. Their schtick was serving salad in homemade artisan bread, with an option of choosing a bowl. We opted for the Shanghai and the Plymouth Rock. Overall, we enjoyed both and would return.

Activity: We don’t know Beans about Beans Taste Test

We’ve had many dishes such as chili that include beans in the ingredients but realized that we really couldn’t tell one bean apart from another. Which beans did we really want to eat if left on its own? This is the kind of thing we wonder about, so we set out to do a taste test of our own. We tasted 7 beans:

Pinto (which gets its name from the Spanish words for “painted beans”) – good, versatile, can blend in with anything, a little heavier than some of the others; Barbara wondered if these are what refried beans are made from and as it turns out they are!

Navy (an American term coined because the U.S. has served this bean as a staple to its sailors since the mid-1800s) – more flavorful than the pinto, we got a new appreciation for that bean and would eat it on its own as a side dish.

Great Northern – similar in color but larger than the navy, closest in size to the pinto, pleasant taste similar a bit to a potato.

Cannellini – another white bean but not uniform in size; when tasting a spoonful there appeared to be a daddy bean, mommy bean and baby bean. Not as pleasant a taste as the others, had a grittier taste. We wouldn’t eat it on its own.

Kidney (named after the human kidney due to its shape) – we love this bean in chili but it was not very tasty on its own.

Lima (named after the city in Peru where it was first found) – this bean wasn’t even shelved with the other beans so perhaps it is in a slightly different category. It has a mushier consistency, a little pastier like a black bean, tastes better hot but Barbara didn’t like them growing up and still doesn’t.

Black – we knew in advance we’d like this bean because we’ve had them so often in Mexican restaurants and as dips.

All told, we learned a lot about this small legume including the origin behind the many idioms about beans so this was a worthwhile activity for us!

Learning Center: Bean Idioms

Spill the Beans”: Apparently, in Ancient Greece, the voting process involved candidates leaving their upturned helmets in a line. Voters would then go up to the helmet of the person they wished to vote for and place a bean inside it to indicate their vote. The candidate with the most beans in their helmet at the end was the winner. When the voting process ended, the winning candidate would receive their helmet, containing all their victory bean votes. In front of everyone, the newly elected official would then spill the beans from their helmet before placing it upon their head, revealing the outcome and signifying their acceptance of the new position. And that is why spilling the beans today means to share something that was previously a secret. 

A Hill of Beans”: A hill of beans is a symbol for something of trifling value, as in expressions like “it ain’t worth a hill of beans”. The mundane bean has for at least eight centuries been regarded as the epitome of worthlessness. Part of the strength of the fairy tale of Jack and the Beanstalk is the contrast between the valueless beans Jack was given in exchange for the cow and the riches revealed by the full-grown beanstalk. The expression was first used in 1858 and was referring to the idea that if one bean was worthless, a whole hill of them would be even more so.

“Don’t know beans about (something)” :  Some say the phrase originated in early nineteenth century American mercantile stores that stocked a variety of legume called “blue beans.” The outer skin had a bluish tint, but when it was removed, the interior was white. A popular riddle was “How many blue beans make seven white beans?” If you didn’t know the answer was seven, you didn’t know beans.

“Cool beans”: Growing up most kids know a variation of the rhyme “Beans, beans, good for the heart, the more you eat the more you fart, the more you fart the better you feel, beans, beans for every meal.” That’s right, folks. According to research by Lauren Oyler, “the phrase “cool beans” stems from the phrase “some beans,” which stems from the phrase “full of beans,” which probably stems from horse farts. And that, I think we can all agree, is pretty cool.”

New Restaurant: Bruncheon

On our return from the Highland Park Library (see last post) we decided to try another new B restaurant and found Bruncheon in Richardson. Judging by the amount of people there, it is a very popular restaurant and we discovered why. The menu was varied and extensive and the food delicious. Laura had a brisket skillet and Barbara had a vegetable skillet, both great. But during the course of the meal, we watched as the chicken and waffles went by and a plate of French toast topped by the crispiest, juiciest looking bacon which we had to restrain ourselves from leaping up and grabbing off the lady’s plate. It looks like we’ll be returning.

Activity: Baking Bread

This was the least successful of our Bs in the Belly. We have made many recipes from the Los Angeles Times California Cookbook and they’ve all turned out to be favorites so we were very disappointed when we made their Pineapple-Macadamia Nut Bread. It looked great because it rose high but it was completely tasteless.

New Book: (not a B in the Belly but worth mentioning): Bomb Shelter: Love, Time and Other Explosives

Laura: If you’re a mother (check), a worrier (check) and appreciate humor and excellent writing (check), you’re going to really enjoy this memoir-in-essays book. I was immediately hooked because I felt a bond with Mary Laura Philpott, the author, over two incidents she related rather early on. First, she recalls a childhood memory of creating a dance routine in the ocean while being completely unaware that she was wading through a school of stingrays and that folks were calling to her to get out of the water. My childhood memory is that of thinking I was moving horizontally across the ocean while in fact I was going diagonally deeper in a strong undertow. I saw people on the beach lined up calling and I thought it was for someone else until the lifeguard came toward me. These incidents were so embarrassing to me and the author. The other thing we have in common is she has a turtle (Frank) that goes to their back door and bangs his head until someone comes to feed him while I have a squirrel (Lady Chatterley) that scratches at the back door, then peers in and stands up to beg until we feed her. But aside from the personal connection, I loved how she explores life, love, death and fear and coats it all with insights and humor.

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We never got around to our A month reading challenge so this month we are doing both A and B.

“A” Month Reading Challenge: Attend a talk, reading or open mic night — virtual is more than encouraged! — for an Author about whom you know nothing.

We had never been to the Highland Park Library so when we saw that an author would be there, talking about his book “Deadly Dallas: History of Unfortunate Incidents & Grisly Fatalities”, we were intrigued.

This was like no library we’ve ever been to. You couldn’t tell that it was a library from the outside. When we arrived at our destination this is what we saw:

No signage indicating a library; perhaps limiting who they wanted to enter?

We entered, walked down a long hall and the library itself looked almost like a lovely old bookshop. The hall we were directed to seemed like one in which the someone would give judicial testimony. Quite unusual.

We really enjoyed the talk given by Rusty Williams. We had no idea of the many ways in which everyday life in the late 1800s in Dallas were deadly, from elevators which no one had operated previously to the fact that one was more likely to get run over in the streets in those days than someone in the present driving the length of the Dallas North Tollway in reverse! So glad the ABC Life inspired us to hear this amusing and very interesting talk.

“B” Month Reading Challenge: Discover a new Book podcast

Barbara: I sampled three book podcasts. Sampled, because I didn’t care for any of them. The first was Beaks and Geeks. I have no idea how that title relates to the blog but it was an interview with an author. I’ve concluded that listening to an author I don’t know talk about a book I haven’t read is not at all appealing to me. So, I moved on to the second, Banging Book Club. This was hosted by two women who I’m guessing are in their early 20s and they were talking to a young author but all through the portion of the podcast I listened to the three of them were giggling. I’m sure no one wants to hear my friends and me giggling so on I moved again. The third and final podcast I sampled was Backlisted but it was too dry. My conclusion: I’d much rather read the book and then discuss it with my friends or book club members than sit through a podcast.

Laura: I approached this challenge with trepidation, already a bit biased against book podcasts after talking to Barbara. Well, I totally agree with her views. Book podcasts are not my thing. The first podcast I sampled was Sarah’s Bookshelves Podcast. I really enjoy her blog so I was disappointed that I was bored and disinterested in the episode I listened to. Then I tried So Many Damn Books. The moderator immediately did a commercial for Bomba socks! Really? My third and final try was somewhat successful. It was Simon Mayo’s Books of the Year. The episode was talking to Jonathan Freedland about his book The Escape Artist. They got right into discussing the book so at least you were listening to what you tuned into hear! I realize there are many out there who love book podcasts so the lack of my listenership will not be missed.

Follow up to our last post: In keeping with our vow of B Begone! Barbara has already donated 17 Blouses and 8 Belts and tossed a great number of unused Beauty products. Laura has bagged 4 pairs of Blue Jeans, 7 Beauty products, 10 Books and 1 Bayonet (just kidding).

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