STARTING WITH THE LETTER “S”

Short Films

While we have been seeing quite a few feature length films lately for various Zoom discussions, sometimes we are just in the mood for a quick film input. Say hello to “short films” or “shorts!” Barbara has long been a fan of short stories and over the last three years she’s come to love short films and goes to the showing of Oscar-nominated shorts every year. Laura has been curious about this medium for some time, and so we decided Short Films would be a great item for the letter S.

We viewed three films this week, but there is no shortage of films to choose from on the various streaming services. Our views merged on one and differed on two, which made for good discussion.

“My Mom and the Girl” was the film we agreed on. It did its job in showing how difficult it is for the caregiver and family of someone with Alzheimer’s. The characters were all likeable and we spent some time talking about the pros and cons of staying at home vs. living at a facility on both parties.

Next up was “The Critic.” This film shows you a glimpse of what it is like to be interviewed by someone who is extremely intrusive and who constantly turns your words around. Plus, it portrays a woman who pulled herself out of drugs to become an award-winning actress but yet is still very fragile. Or…did that really happen? Barbara loved this film because it ended with so many questions, which is one of the things she believes makes a good short. Laura felt anger at the interviewer and let her disgust with people who bully others with their words and attitudes interfere with her appreciation of this short film.

Last was “The Fish Out of Water,” which was the short about which we disagreed the most. It focuses on a young man who spends his day at a dull job, imagining all the things he wants to do if he had the courage. Barbara really disliked the film. She felt it was too linear and she didn’t feel anything for the main character. On the other hand, while Laura admitted that the film’s message was quite obvious, she enjoyed how they visually brought to life the main character’s daydreaming fantasies and she empathized with the universal dilemma of not allowing yourself to take chances in life.

We are going to continue watching shorts. Maybe we’ll select the ones that have been nominated each year and maybe we’ll spread out into short documentaries – will that be our D? A word of advice: If you only like films/books that have everything wrapped up neatly at the end, then shorts may not be for you – but it’s definitely worth giving them a try.

Watch some and channel your inner film critic. Let us know your review!

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THE ABC COVID-19 LIFE

Enough is enough! We’ve decided not to let this pandemic limit our lives. So we’re starting the ABC COVID-19 Life, safely and from the comfort of our homes.

Of course, there will have to be some adjustments made.

Instead of going alphabetically, one letter at a time per month, we have drawn up a 26 letter ABC COVID-19 Life Grid. We’re going to fill in the squares with our activities as we do them. If we find that we have more than one thing each for a particular letter and can rename it to fit into a different square, that’s OK too.

Our self-imposed rule is to go through the alphabet in the three-month period of July through September. As with the ABC Life, we are flexible in how we accomplish this but once again the ABC (or in this case ABC COVID-19) Life will rescue us from boredom, repetition and feeling sorry for ourselves – plus we fully expect it to keep our spirits up!

We hope you’ll share with us any ABCs you get started on!

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K WILL HAVE TO KEEP FOR A WHILE

Since the ABC Life is all about going, doing, trying new things our current health crisis has put a halt to most all of that. So unfortunately we are putting the ABC Life on hold beginning with the letter K.

Hopefully we’ll be back to exploring new K cities, Kitchens and Kitsch shortly. Maybe the first thing we do when everyone is healthy again will be to go to Karaoke and choose songs celebrating life! But in the meantime we hope that everyone out there is safe and healthy.

See you soon!

The ABC Sisters

 

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J JOURNEY ENDS

J month has been a bit slow. But although we may not have swam with jellyfish, jumped through jungles or jaywalked while juggling, we managed to bring J to a joyful end.

2 points – New Place – JURASSIC Park in Collin County

Laura: I’ve always loved the Jurassic Park movies, so when I heard about a tour at The Dinosaur Company, I was all in. They are the only manufacturer of animatronic dinosaurs and extinct creatures in the United States, boasting more than 400 prehistoric creatures and close to 60 different species – and it’s right here in my neck of the woods! The tour takes you through the warehouse, where I saw hundreds of beasts in various stages: some fully formed, others in need of repair and some awaiting skin or moving parts. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing our guide talk about the company’s passion to educate the public about wildlife conservation. As she explained, if we don’t take care of the animals we have now, then she might have to make an animatronic of them in the future. Definitely food for thought. The Company rents out the dinosaurs for displays and events around the world – and I feel very fortunate in having seen (and heard) these creatures in my own backyard.

2 points – JUSTICE in Plano

Barbara: For nearly a year I have been trying to get accepted into the Plano Police Dept.’s Citizens Academy but always got shut out until now. I am in class 65 and it has already been a fantastic experience. So far I have learned all about traffic control and got to clock some cars with radar and laser devices plus learned more than I ever thought I would about the various narcotics out on the streets. I’m especially looking forward to driving through cones (hopefully without being made fun of) and riding along to get first hand knowledge of what goes on in the day of a police officer. This is a wonderful program they are offering; I come home energized after each class. There are also many volunteer opportunities that I will look into once I’ve graduated from the Academy.

 

 

2 points – Activity – JUNK Toss Olympics

We decided that “J” month was the perfect time to pitch (or donate) some things from our houses. But we didn’t want it to be a random “chore,” so we beefed up the stakes and challenged ourselves to win a medal (imaginary medal, but a medal nevertheless) for how much junk we tossed per room. The rules:

Gold: 50 items

Silver: 30 items

Bronze: 20 items

Laura won the Gold medal for pitching 55 items from her bathrooms (too many old samples from her time at a beauty/personal products company made this an achievable act) and Barbara won the Silver for tossing 39 items from her office. We will continue with every room but realize this is not going to be finished for some time.

2 points – new food

We put ourselves in another “spicy” situation when we decided to taste JAMBALAYA.

A Cajun restaurant opened up in Celina in September but we just found out about it now, and how convenient that it was in time for a J tasting. First we had Big Breaux Crawfish Bread. This was delicious, just the right amount of heat for us and we couldn’t eat it fast enough. After that came the Jambalaya which the waiter claimed was not spicy. But he didn’t know who he was dealing with. Our mouths nearly breathed fire! But we definitely want to return, especially when they start having live jazz playing.

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JUST GETTING STARTED WITH J

1 point– New Author – Suzanne Jenkins

Barbara:  Someone Like You by Suzanne Jenkins. While this book wasn’t a dramatic masterpiece, it did confront the topic of forgiveness. Can a terribly abused child ever forgive her parents, both the perpetrator and the one who stood by silently? Who would you have a harder time forgiving? When I took a Masters class in educational psychology we went around the circle and told about our childhood. Everyone had an unfortunate experience to relate. When it came to my turn, I was attacked verbally by all the others who accused me of lying, but really we had an Ozzie and Harriet childhood and I was blessed enough not to have to deal with what the protagonists in the book did.

1 point: New Author – DAVID JOY

Laura – I was deeply moved by the messages that David Joy shared in his debut novel, Where All Light Tends to Go. This is a story set in Appalachia, a place I’ve never visited nor read much about. I became immediately involved in the book – drawn in by the writing, the characters, the setting and the tragic elements hovering over the story from the outset. With a mother who is an addict and a father who is kingpin meth dealer, young Jacob yearns to escape this life but it’s a long way from where he is to where he’d like to be – and it is that situation that is at the heart of this book. It’s a gritty, dark and sometimes violent book that took me out of familiar territory, but it was often mesmerizing and I know I will be reading more from David Joy in the future.

1 point – Movie Theme: JEALOUSY

Although we wouldn’t consider ourselves as particularly jealous by nature, we are aware that “jealousy” can take various forms – none of which typically lead to great outcomes. Picking that emotion as our “J” movie theme, we watched the 1984 made-for-TV movie Jealousy, which showed three vignettes on how this emotion affects three different women, each played by Angie Dickinson. We were pleasantly surprised because each story ended with an unexpected twist and surprisingly did not go down the clichéd path we had anticipated.

2 points – New food – JALAPENOS

We’ve both been a tiny bit scared of jalapeños. While Laura has become a little bit more accustomed to spicy foods, Barbara’s taste buds are still New York wimpy. So what better month than this to do some jalapeño testing? The first place we went to was Central Market for jalapeño cheddar cheese sourdough. We bought that and a jalapeño bagel. Just as we thought, the spice level was a bit too much for us (although we discovered Central Market’s bagels are delicious). Then off to Laura’s to try a recipe of hers for a tomatillo sauce that had jalapeño in it and that was very good. Maybe we can handle spicy better when cooked rather than the raw pieces in breads. Anyhow we were proud of ourselves for trying.

2 points – New restaurant – JIMMY’S

We also tried out a J restaurant, Jimmy’s Burgers. Thanks to a “Seinfeld”episode Barbara can’t meet a Jimmy without breaking out into paroxysms of laughter so fortunately Jimmy wasn’t at the restaurant. Food was just ordinary so we probably won’t be back.

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INJUSTICE AND ILLUSION

2 points – Activity

In today’s day and age there really shouldn’t be anybody who is unaware of racial injustice. The film Just Mercy deals with the injustice of false imprisonment on death row and the systemic racism of the American penal system. It is a tightly scripted and well performed film and it’s a good reminder that we should take notice of the people who stand up and not just stand by when a wrong is committed and that, like the slogan says, if you see something, say something.

A group of our friends saw the picture together and later discussed it. What was interesting is that each of us had a different interpretation of what the title meant. If you see the movie think about the title and what it means to you.

2 points – Activity

Since childhood we have always had a fascination with magic and its first cousin Illusion. So we were very happy to learn of the existence of the Museum of Illusions in Dallas. Although small it has more than 60 exhibits, for some of which we had no explanation. For example, from the picture below it appears that the dangling piece would not be an exact fit for both figures yet it was.

You can go through the whole museum in a half hour- a little bit of fun for the young at heart.

  

 

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INTERESTING “I”s

2 pointsIRVING, Texas

IRVING is about 30 miles from where we live but neither of us had ever been there. Fortunately, the IRVING ARTS CENTER had a SOME ILLUSTRATOR! Exhibit that featured pictures by Melissa Sweet. It was an instant love connection for us. We both were captivated by her work and loved how the exhibit was put together, with her illustrations and each book so beautifully entwined – so much so that we plan to buy a book or two so we can continue to admire her work. As a bonus, we also walked through the Ed Wheeler: Santa Classics exhibit, where the artist creatively inserts Santa into famous masterpieces. It was a lot of fun to walk through this exhibit and we both felt energized by the humor and whimsy on display. Plus, a few of the paintings changed from the original “masterpiece” look to the Santa replacement depending on where you stood. We will definitely be back to visit this Gallery again!

 1 point: ICE CREAM Tastings

ICE CREAM is a true passion for these sisters so we needed no persuasion to sample several “new to us” ice cream shops. First up was Howdy Homemade Ice Cream, started by Tom Landis, who believes everyone has the right to realize their potential and thus mainly hires special needs young adults. Dr. Pepper Chocolate Chip ice cream was touted as the leading flavor so Laura gave it a try, while Barbara tasted the Ninja Turtle flavor, which is likened to Mint Chocolate Chip. Next up was Sprinkles Ice Cream, which encourages you to try their ice cream crowned with a cupcake top or sprinkled with cupcake crumbs. We did, but regretted it. The mixture of ice cream and cake was a definite turn off for both of us. Our third try was iCream Café, a liquid nitrogen shop, where you select the elements of your treat and, in essence, create your own flavors. These concoctions tasted great but we’re not totally sold on the health aspects of liquid nitrogen. Our best ice cream tasting turned out to be back in IRVING at the Big State Fountain Grill. Our chocolate shake and chocolate malt were delicious!

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THE “I”s HAVE IT

2 points – IDENTITY, INHERITANCE and Artificial INSEMINATION

We recently had lunch with a few friends and discussed the book Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love by Dani Shapiro.  Having recently discovered that one of her parents wasn’t her biological parent, this 50+ year old author’s memoir raised a host of questions, among them: how much does what you “inherit” from your parents’ genes account for who you really are; is lying ever the better choice than the truth; does shared DNA guarantee connection; and what responsibility does a donor owe the person who was the recipient of their sperm? But to both of us, the most important takeaway was the whole issue of artificial insemination and how it has changed over the past decades and what it will mean in the future.

 

2 points – Movie Theme – INCARCERATION

Laura: I didn’t expect to like the film, Shot Caller. In fact, I was almost certain I would abort about 10 minutes in. But the acting and the intensity of the message kept my interest. It’s a film about a successful businessman who is sent to prison after causing a car accident that had dire consequences. What I found different about this film (whose story line was fairly typical: good guy goes to prison and turns into a bad guy, etc.) was the way it clearly and convincingly showed how – and why – a person in prison can change into someone else. It was fascinating to see the hierarchy of power behind bars played out. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, best known for his role as Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones, did a great job playing a man who must reinvent himself to survive.

 

2 points: Activity on IMPRESSIONISM

This month we tried out another activity group offered by Newcomer Friends of Greater Plano – Art Appreciation. Neither of us knows anything about art but we do know what we like and what we don’t and we are both interested in learning about some of the classical artists. Barbara sat through a semester of Art History in college but came out with very little knowledge (that cute guy she sat next to could have had something to do with this) and so getting together with a small group of women who had the same interest was appealing to both of us. At this first meeting we discussed an Impressionist, Vincent Van Gogh. Each of us brought our favorite picture of his and we watched an extremely clever animated film about his life called Loving Vincent, which is the world’s first fully oil painted feature film. Each of the film’s 65,000 frames is an oil painting on canvas in the style of Van Gogh.

Just incredible. We’ve got high hopes for this group and are looking forward to the next artist.

2 points: New author: EOWYN IVEY

Barbara – I’ve come to realize that the enjoyment of a book sometimes has a lot to do with the mood you are in. If I were restless and just needed something to read that I didn’t have to think too much about, I would not have enjoyed my “I” book this month. But fortunately I was in just the right mood to appreciate “The Snow Child” by Eowyn Ivey. This is a lovely novel based upon a very old Russian fairy tale about a snow child that comes to life. It’s a book that somehow had a calming and peaceful effect on me and I definitely recommend it.

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GETTING INSPIRED BY “I”

2 points: Movie theme: Immigrants

The whole topic of Illegal immigrants is so political right now that I don’t really want to get into it strongly. A Better Life was about a single father in America illegally with his teenage son. He has been struggling to make a better life for him and his son and finally started to do so by buying a gardeners truck and tools with money borrowed from his sister. It was nice to see the pride in his eyes when he got it, even though he knew if he got a ticket or was stopped for any reason it could mean trouble for him. I won’t give away the course of events. What I will say is it gave one a greater sensitivity to how illegal immigrants live, what prejudices they face, etc. and it did serve to reshape my opinion about things. Definitely worth watching

2 points: Activity

In keeping with the theme of immigrants, we went to another meeting of our Tales from abroad group to learn a little more about Poland from a woman who immigrated to the United States as an adult. We had actually learned quite a bit about Poland from our trip there in 2015 when we were on a quest to learn more about our father’s origins. We even had a private tour to his home city, Tarnow. At this week’s meeting our host Anna dressed in a traditional country outfit and cooked some dishes we hadn’t had before – beet soup and a type of cabbage stew. It was fun going back to our roots once again.

 

 

 

 

 

2 points – New food

“I” month was the perfect time to finally try an Indian restaurant. A friend recommended we try the lunch buffet at the Maharaja Restaurant so we could sample a variety of dishes. Everything we tasted had great flavor but overall the spice level was too high for us (we are lightweights after all). It would have been far more helpful had we invited our friend to join us and guide the way through the unfamiliar.

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HASTA LA VISTA H

2 points – Activity

Crafts have never been our strong point. Ask us to discuss a book? We’re there. Come over for a game? Absolutely. See a movie? We’ll do a double feature. But suggest we do a craft? After we stop laughing and realize you’re serious, we’d break out in a cold sweat.

But in the spirit of H month we attended a group meeting of Handmade by Me through Newcomer Friends of Greater Plano. The project for the month was to craft an angel ornament out of a tie. There was sewing, cutting and gluing involved. But with a little help from the leader – ok, a lot of help – we managed to make a respectable tree ornament (2nd and 3rd angels from the right) and Barbara’s wound up on her son’s first Xmas tree of his own. Who knows – more crafts might be in our future!

 

2 points – New author: CATHERINE RYAN HYDE

Laura: Thank you ABC life! Because of “H” month, I’ve discovered the author Catherine Ryan HYDE when I read the heartwarming YA novel: Have You Seen Luis Velez. More good news…she has 36 books. Now, I’m not going to read all of them but I will try a few more, especially when I need a lift and a thought-provoking escape. Although this book is uplifting, it’s not a fluff piece. There are several serious issues presented within the context of a story about the relationship between a teenager who feels he doesn’t fit in anywhere and his 92-year old blind neighbor, Mildred Gutermann. I took several notes while reading this book because I didn’t want to forget the “lessons” and wisdom it shared.

 

1 point – Learning Center

Barbara – You don’t hear this one used much anymore but I had wondered about the expression “Hair of the Dog.” The full phrase is actually hair of the dog that bit you. The meaning is an alcoholic drink intended to cure a hangover, mistakenly because it was thought that a small bit of the same drink that made you drunk will sober you up.

The origin was from a crazy belief in the 16th century that if a rabid dog bit you, a cure could be made by applying a hair from the same dog to your wound. How many people do you think got bitten a second time, trying to pull a hair off that rabid dog!

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