Grandscape is a large and highly entertaining development nearby that we have not yet explored – and it has lots to explore.
New Activity: Grandscape Ferris Wheel
As sisters we have many things in common. However, the dare-devil gene is far stronger in Barbara than in Laura. Barbara was all jazzed and eager to try the 200-foot Grandscape Ferris Wheel. Laura not so much. Fortunately, the climate-controlled gondolas move much smoother than the ferris wheels at Coney Island (from our youth) or those at various Los Angeles county fairs (from our young mothers era). Plus, being enclosed, they didn’t offer the same exposure that open air ones do. Also, there was no stopping during the continuous 15-minute ride, so you didn’t have to experience the scary rocking back and forth. This was a ride that offered far-reaching views, although not exactly particularly picturesque. All in all, it is an experience that is far better suited for young families.
New Restaurant: Barley and Board
After the ferris wheel, we were eager to try a new restaurant and Grandscape had plenty of options. We chose Barley & Board, advertised as a gastropub. It’s a spacious eatery with an interesting atmosphere and a few built-in round tables for six and eight (perfect for a friend or family lunch or dinner). They are known for their many in-house brews (thus the Barley) and hand-crafted cocktails and creative charcuterie boards, but we opted for their goat cheese flatbread (with artichoke hearts and roasted grapes) and the pecan bread pudding. So delicious. We oohed and aahed throughout the meal and told the waitress we wanted to live there.. We will be back.
Barbara: I’m pretty sure that neither Laura nor I have a drop of Irish in our blood but ever since I went on my trip to Ireland a few years ago I’ve loved Celtic music, so what better way to go green than to see a Celtic band perform on St. Patrick’s Day? Cleghorn is a Celtic Rock Band spearheaded by Texas guitarist John Cleghorn and his son Dylan who designed and plays a really mean, acrylic fiddle. In addition to the fiddle, he played Uilleann Pipes which are similar to the Scottish bagpipes, plus a strange instrument called a Didgeridoo that looks like a long wooden pipe. Just the name alone made me a fan of that instrument.
The performance was high energy and great. The only thing I forgot to do was have a glass of Guinness but I’ll take care of that later in the weekend.
When it comes to Hispanic food, we are both big fans. We’ve been trying all different types lately and so it was only fitting for “G” month that we chose to sample food from Guatemala. We went to Lily’s Cafe in Plano, and it was a great choice! Surprisingly, their menu offers a lot of Tex-Mex food, but they have a large menu insert with Guatemalan specialties. We ordered from the breakfast menu and the Huevos Rancheros and Huevos con Salchicones delivered quality food with amazing flavor. Both dishes had seasonings that were new to us and were served with a traditional slice of cheese, Guatemalan cream, and homemade tortillas (thicker than those served in Mexican restaurants). The grilled pork sausage and fried plantain were the stars of the meal and were definitely worth returning for more. Our waitress was very helpful in answering our questions about the food and told us that pineapple was a big deal in Guatemala. Naturally, that was all the push we needed to take home a pineapple empanada for dessert. It was amazing!
New Movie Locale – Guatemala
Laura: I wanted to extend my Guatemalan experience, so I turned to the film Living on One Dollar, where four young guys decide to live in ruralGuatemala on less than $1 a day for two months. It was a very interesting, enlightening, and inspiring film. Although the guys encounter hunger, parasites, and discomfort they also discover that the strength of the community can lend support, help solve problems and provide hope. Poverty is no joke – it presents young families with horrible choices, such as feed their family or send the kids to school. Being a bit snobbish about using lard, I was humbled to learn that lard is used purposely to increase their caloric intake, so they have more energy. I was impressed how neighbors pull together to save collectively so that one neighbor each month can get a sum that will help them with a larger purchase. But on a more personal level, I now more fully understand how Kiva.org (make a loan, change a life) is so instrumental in helping people in impoverished areas around the world by helping them access loans. Our friend Jane introduced us to this organization some years ago and it was very rewarding to see in real time how this type of loan service really makes a huge difference in providing people around the world with a means to better their lives.
This month has been getting away from us so even though the weatherman said rain, we forced ourselves out. Garland was a close city that we actually never spent any time in so we looked up some things to do there. Google found us a cowboy hat plant that gives tours, a nice museum with the history of Garland, a downtown to explore and a farmers market. Laura was on a quest for bread, so she was happy about the latter and off we went.
First setback – the plant no longer gives tours. So we headed to the Farmers Market and the next setback – no Farmers Market. Laura found another Garland Farmers Market online so we continued on, laughing as we went since every time we came to a light it turned red. When we got to the “Farmers Market” it was a small store that wasn’t at all appealing to enter so we called the Landmark Museum to make sure we weren’t too early. Well we were – by about a week as it was closed for repairs. By this time we were laughing so hard Barbara could hardly see to drive. The icing on the cake was getting to the downtown area and finally seeing a bakery. Eureka, bread at last! NOT – bread was the only thing this bakery did not sell. Oh, well you win some and you lose some.
We did find a nice GREEK restaurant, Little Greek Café, on the way home and had a delicious GYRO there and a Greek Salad AND found a farmers’ market near home to buy bread.
Speaking of laughing, a Fun Fact: “Laughter that comes from tickling is called gargalesis, and aside from primates the only animal known to experience it is the rat.”
So don’t try tickling your pet bird; it won’t work.
Barbara – My daughter-in-law Linda loves watching our feathered friends and has sent me many pictures of interesting birds from her yard. So when I read that there was something called the Great Backyard Bird Count, I figured she would be willing to participate with me and I was right. Reading up on the event, I learned that four days every February the “world comes together for the love of birds.” People go to their favorite places to bird watch and report their findings to the Audobon Society.
So, armed with binoculars and the Merlin app, we identified 7 different birds. Not sure I’ll continue bird watching but it was fun and felt good to be part of a global project to help scientists “better understand global bird populations before one of their annual migrations.”
New activity – Fanciful Feathers
The Kittrell/Riffkind Art Glass Gallery is one of our favorite places and it was nice to see they were honoring our feathered friends too! The art was gorgeous and we wish it wasn’t out of our price range because the birds they showcased were stunning and our pictures don’t do them justice.
While we’re on the topic, do Birds of a Feather REALLY Flock Together?
Yes, they do for various reasons such as defending against predators.
New activity – Theatre Production of “Forever Young”
Lately we hear a lot of people saying “getting old sucks.” But the five friends who put together this musical feel that music can make getting old feel forever young. We were in agreement with their feelings about music, how it can bring you back to periods or events in your life, uplift you when you feel low. Josh Sassanella is credited with being one of the writers and we saw him that afternoon. The play was very enjoyable, Josh was extremely entertaining with his facial expressions, and it was fun to listen to all the music we grew up with.
Learning Center – Fountain of Youth
Speaking of “forever young,” we learned in school that the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León went to an island called Bimini looking for a legendary, magical spring whose water was believed to make older people young again. Today we hear product after product advertising that they will make one look young again and restore youthful appearance.
As it turns out, Ponce de León never looked for the Fountain of Youth. According to Brittanica.com, the tale was concocted years after his death by a chronicler who wanted him to appear foolish.
Barbara: I went to the Dallas Museum of Art to see Selected Shorts. The theme this year was Friendship. I love this program. Actors (in this case Tony award winners Michael Cerveris and John Benjamin Hickey plus film actress Cindy Cheung) read a selection of short stories on the same theme. I love short stories but find them hit or miss when I borrow a book of them at the library. When they’re a hit I LOVE them. But I find that a short story that perhaps I wouldn’t be crazy about on my own, totally comes to life when performed by a talented actor. This evening was no different. In fact, I think the next short story I get I shall read aloud or get in Audible and see if that increases my enjoyment.
Activity – Movie theme – Friendship
Having loved Fredrik Backman’s novel “A Man Called Ove,” we were both hesitant to see the recent Tom Hanks’ Americanized film version “A Man Called Otto.” (There is also a Swedish film version that was produced several years ago that we did not see.) Typically if we really love a book, we find the movie lacking and often avoid seeing the film so as not to “taint” the story we hold dear. But since we wanted to watch a film about friendship, we decided to give this one a chance. The beginning of the movie set the stage for yet another grumpy older man story and we were feeling a bit bored, but once they introduced his pregnant neighbor, it drew us in and we began to enjoy the film and the performances. The film makes the point that friendship is crucial to a good life but that the feeling of community and family among friends was the vital link to having a purpose for living. Originally, we wondered why a remake of this film was necessary but our research revealed that Tom Hanks felt the human condition requires belonging to a community. Since the recent pandemic left too many of us isolated, he wanted to show the benefits of people coming together to live a larger life than would otherwise be achieved.
Learning Center – Figs
Barbara had to bring an appetizer to a friend so since she made figs stuffed with goat cheese, we decided to learn a little something about the Fig. It’s definitely a good thing she ate the fig appetizer before we did this because we found out this little tidbit: Wild figs are pollinated by wasps crawling inside them to lay eggs. After laying their eggs, the wasps die and are digested by the figs as nourishment.
Somehow the figs wouldn’t have been as appetizing as they were before learning this.
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.
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.”
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 dynamicabstraction. 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.
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.
New experiences keep your life fresh and interesting – a constant stream of discoveries. So the sisters are having fun with the ABC Life – an orderly way to expand our lives with fun places to visit and fascinating things to do, read, eat and experience. The ABC Life is where you do as many things within a month that you can – starting with a specific letter.