H is HAPPENING

December is always a busy time of the year, so it’s a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle to just sit back and read or watch a movie.

2 points – New author: A.S.A. HARRISON

Barbara: One of my memories from when we were young was of our mom watching a TV show and yelling at a character if she was about to do something stupid. For example, Lost in Space had a female character and every time someone would specifically say, “don’t go into that room no matter what you do,” you just knew she was going to go in there. And that’s when we would hear our mother yelling at the TV.

The Silent Wife by A.S.A. HARRISON reminds me of that. I find myself yelling at one of the characters “are you stupid or what?” and other more stringent comments. The book is a fast read and engaging. Nothing heavy but it keeps one wondering about the resolution. And it definitely reconfirmed for me that I really enjoy a book that swings back and forth between character viewpoints/chapters.

2 points – Movie Theme – HOMELESSNESS

Laura: I enjoyed watching Same Kind of Different as Me, while at the same time recognizing that it relied too heavily on stereotyping and tear-jerking moments. It’s based on the story of a wealthy, white art dealer, Ron Hall, and his wife Deborah, who are seeking to save their marriage by saving the homeless. Their efforts are focused on Denver, a black man who changes from a violent thug into a loving, forgiving, wise man who teaches others we’re all the same under the skin. I had hoped to learn more about specific issues and challenges the homeless face, but this movie had a more narrow focus. The Halls had lofty goals and are to be greatly admired but I felt the way their story was presented was too sugar-coated to swallow whole.

HOT Dogs and HOLIDAY Drinks

2 points – New Restaurant: Dog HAUS

If you’ve had a love affair with hot dogs since childhood (oh those dogs at the Dodger games), it’s very tempting to read about a place that offers “gourmet hot dogs.” In fact, their motto over the name on the door is “The Absolute Wurst.” So off we went to sample a few things at the Dog HAUS in Richardson. We tried the Scott Baioli, which had caramelized onions, cheese sauce and garlic aoli and the Cowboy, a combination of cheese sauce, bbq sauce, bacon and crispy onions. The dogs were great and the sweet potatoes even better.

1 point – HOLIDAY Drinks

And what is this season’s food without a HOLIDAY drink or two? We each tried one that was new to us. Earlier this month we had attended our monthly Tales From Abroad event and were treated to the interesting and often hilarious stories of one of the club’s members who, with her husband, spent months on a season’s reality show in Sweden. Of course, the Swedish mulled wine drink Glogg was served – new to Laura. Then, at one of our book club’s (Bookies) holiday lunch and book exchange, Barbara tried a new drink – Poinsettia, which is champagne and cranberry juice. The Glogg and Poinsettia were very different from each other, but both were delicious in their own way.  Cheers!

 

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H HAS HARDLY HAPPENED

December is one of those months where there’s very little time to do anything new. Between Barbara going out of town for a week and the Holidays at the end of the month, we are going to have to make this another one of mostly food, books and movies.
But looking back over the year we are so grateful to the ABC Life for getting us out to see new places and do things we would have otherwise shined on.
At least we already have our New Year’s resolution: to start the year off with as many new experiences as we can!
In the meantime if anyone has an H suggestion let us Hear from you.
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G Goes GOBBLING Away

Although the ABC Life is all about trying new things, there’s something to be said for old traditions. Thanksgiving is one of our very favorite holidays for that reason. The “kids” come in and traditions abound:

  1. Feast at Barbara’s house
  2. After we’re too stuffed to move, we play poker to determine the Friday movie
  3. Leftovers plus Honey Baked Ham at Laura’s
  4. Friday evening game or mystery night
  5. Saturday brunch with close family friends.

Here are some memories of Murder Mystery Night.

Gobble gobble everyone!

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GETTING Better

To restart our G pursuits, we headed off to visit a new area and a new restaurant.

2 points: GRANITE PARK and GOOD UNION BBQ

Granite Park is a not so new but new to us section of our city. Designed to resemble a waterfront oasis, it has shops, restaurants, a Hilton Hotel and businesses but its main draw is The Boardwalk. Complete with wooden planks and beach chairs and tables assembled by the edge of the pond, it creates a genuine feeling of a boardwalk.

In keeping with G month, we chose to eat at the Good Union BBQ, which touts locally sourced food and craft drinks and has ample outdoor seating to enjoy the Boardwalk vibe.  Our brisket sandwich was tasty and we were introduced to Maine Root beverages, which are organic sodas that use 100% organic sugar cane from Brazil as the sweetener. We tried the Mandarin Orange – light and delicious.

2 points: New author

Sometimes you can surprise yourself by liking something unexpectedly. We found the book “All the Ugly and Wonderful Things” by Bryn Greenwood to be fascinating and captivating. It was a provocative story about the relationship between the daughter of meth dealing parents and one of the father’s cohorts. As one of the reviews says, “The whole premise should be off-limits, but strangely, it’s not.”  We’re trying to give nothing away so it’s hard to say much here. The book was definitely influenced by the life experiences of the author whose father was a meth dealer. The author believes that “Not everybody has a nice, neat suburban childhood, but they deserve to see their experiences mirrored in fiction as much as anybody.” This story reinforced our belief that so much more can be learned by listening to and seeing the world from another person’s perspective. Understanding is not the same thing as accepting but it definitely stretches your range of emotions.

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G Whiz

We started our G month with enthusiasm but our choices greeted us with disappointment.

2 points – Activity: GALLERY reGRETS

We went to see Speechless: different by design at the Dallas Museum of Art. This new exhibit aims to bring together various ways we connect with the world through multisensory and interactive experiences. Its goal is to provide new perspectives on how we can communicate. While we both enjoy abstract art, this exhibit did not capture our hearts or heads for that matter. There needed to be more explanation for the visitor and although there was a room that attempted to do this each of the six artists’ thoughts, it was disjointed and hard to piece together. It would have been more meaningful and instructive to have each design’s story and intent in the room where it was showcased. If the goal of “speechless” was to let each person come to his or her own conclusion, it still left a lot to be desired.  But that is only our opinion. The beautiful thing about art is that everyone’s interpretation is unique and personal.

1 pointGOURMET GRAZING

One of the local supermarkets advertised a free entertaining expo with samples of extraordinary holiday finds. We were intrigued and headed out but were sadly turned off. There were just a few samples and they were nothing out of the ordinary. Plus, this market always has samples so it was no different than normal and their advertising made it seem as if it would be.

1 pointGAME STORE

We learned that there was a gaming group meetup at Doc’s Comics and Games and thought we’d get a peek into the world of video gamers. It turned out to be board games which we would have enjoyed even more as we have always loved playing them. However all the board games were like a video game on a board – all fantasy and role playing. I guess the game world has passed us by. But we’re glad that the younger generation is actually meeting their “playmates” in person rather than in cyberspace.

 

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F FINALE

2 points – Books

All Barbara’s F books were  Failures but Laura made up for it with two good ones:

I Liked My Life by Abby FABIASCHI

This may be my favorite book read so far this year. The writing is smart, witty at times and full of “truisms” – those nuggets that stop you and make you think. It’s about motherhood, marriage and relationships – and it’s also about suicide, grief and loss. It’s hard to believe this is her debut novel but I certainly hope it won’t be long until I can read another Fabiaschi book. Discovering new authors is another great reason to pursue The ABC Life and, in this case, the author not only writes beautifully but is a human rights advocate and has co-founded Empower Her Network, an organization that helps survivors of human trafficking.

The Woman in the Window by A.J. FINN

This well-written suspense thriller is about a New York child psychologist who suffers from agoraphobia. Anna hasn’t left her house in months and spends most of her time watching old movies and spying on her neighbors. One day she witnesses a terrible crime in the house across the park (shades of Hitchcock’s Rear Window) and things spiral out of control. In the age of the #MeToo movement, there’s a recognizable thread that no one believes Anna. Another debut novel, but this time the author is less than broadly admired by his peers. His real name is Dan Mallory and his story is even more bizarre than most fiction, with lies and embellishments part of his daily persona. He has generated quite the scandal within the publishing world.

1 point – Learning Center

Laura: FOLD and Shake

Well, actually it’s Shake and FOLD – a movement that the GREENWorks organization says will save 286 tons of trash or 571,230,000 paper towels every year. I’m up for that so I learned the Shake and Fold method to do my part. It’s all about paper towels and using only one paper towel to dry your hand in public restrooms, rather than using several as most of use usually do. You shake the water from your hands 12 times and then take one paper towel, fold it once and then dry your hands. I’ve tried it several times and it works!

Barbara: FESTIVUS For the Rest of Us

Laura and I are major Seinfeld fans and in keeping with one of their episodes about an alternative holiday to the commercialism of Christmas, we went several years ago to a Festivus celebration at a winery. So I thought I’d see if there was anything behind this holiday and there was. Festivus was conceived by author Daniel O’Keefe and was celebrated by his family as early as 1966, resulting in his son writing the Seinfeld episode.  Festivus includes the “Airing of Grievances” during the main meal, where you can tell each person all the ways they have disappointed you over the past year. This is followed by  the “Feats of Strength” involving wrestling the host to the floor. A tall Festivus pole replaces the traditional Christmas tree. So if you’re looking to make a change this holiday season and you don’t mind arguments and body contact, Festivus might be for you.

 

Time to move Forward. Farewell to F and soon-to-be Greetings to G!

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FINAL FESTIVAL

2 points – Activity – Day of the Dead FESTIVAL

Laura recently introduced the movie Coco to Barbara so how apropos that the sisters made the Denton Day of the Dead Festival their final festival of the month. Now this was a festival that delivered. There were many attendees who looked like they were returning from the after life to join in the festivities.

People went all out to create coffins for the coffin races.

And there were vendors galore. Barbara was “dead” set on buying a skeleton bride and groom but surprisingly none were for sale so she had to make do with a mug showing the “spirited” couple.


To top off the day we went to a Mexican restaurant and spent the next hour “goblin” down our food.

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Full of FLOWERS

How fortunate that we found three Flower related things to do in our F month: a city, a restaurant and a TV show.

2 points – New City

Roughly a half-hour drive but never visited, FLOWER MOUND called our name. We chose to visit their FARMERS Market, but unfortunately there was hardly any fresh produce (off season) and relatively few craft booths, but we did discover a new vendor for jam and jellies.  After sampling a few, we settled on the No Sugar Plum and No Sugar Blueberry Jam – and you really couldn’t tell it had no sugar! But since we did want more edibles, we drove another eight miles to the Coppell FARMERS Market where we found delightful FAIRYTALE Eggplants. These purple and white striped miniature eggplants made for a delicious addition to a newfound pasta recipe.

2 points – New Restaurant

FLOWER CHILD Restaurant in Addison was a wonderful discovery and we loved their motto: live wild and FREE! Everything is made from scratch, using farm-fresh ingredients, and there is an ample selection of bowls, grains, greens and wraps. We had the Mother Earth Bowl and the Mediterranean Quinoa and both were delicious!

 

 

1 point – TV show

The bloom was definitely off for our third Flower pick. FLOWERS, a British black-comedy about a weird and eccentric family, received outstanding reviews from Rotten Tomatoes, The Guardian and The New York Times, but did not come out smelling like a rose for these sisters.  We gave it a try but both of us could not even make it through the first episode.

 

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FOOD AND FACTS ABOUT FAR AWAY PLACES

We recently joined a group called Tales From Abroad, where someone who has lived in – not just traveled to – another country shares something about daily life there and brings samples of the food common to the country. This first time we learned about India. Our hostess shared fascinating details of her life in India. We found out that there are 29 states in India, speaking 22 different languages. Can you imagine going from Texas to Louisiana to New York and the language is different in each state? (Although some might say it is!) We got to examine her collection of beautiful saris (72 of them) and bangles, as well as sample several types of dessert and a cup of chai. Chai actually means tea so we now know not to order Chai Tea as that is actually saying we want tea tea. We’ll just knowingly order Chai.

2 points – New FOODS

Next stop on our “world travels” was Cuba. One of our book clubs was reading the book Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton, so naturally the discussion took place at E. B. Latin Bistro. We had a delicious lunch of grilled shrimp with rice and black beans while discussing the politics of Cuba under Batista and Castro. We still talk about possibly going to Cuba one day when travel is not as restricted as it is now.

The last country on our journey was Lebanon. Ever since we went to the Egyptian street food restaurant for E month, we have been drawn to anything that advertises itself as street food. So how lucky to find Board Bites in Plano. We ordered the Kafka wrap, which was beef with spices and a homemade hummus in a toasted pita. We accompanied that with Fattoush, which is similar to a Greek salad but with the addition of pita chips drizzled with pomegranate molasses. Everything was delicious and the staff was very friendly and generously gave us a sample of two pieces of falafel. Then to cap things off for the day, we found a Lebanese bakery. OMG the desserts were great. The owner gave us a sample of three types of baklava (theirs are made with sugar instead of honey) and two types of shortbread cookies. Then Laura bought a sample of a dozen different desserts to bring back home. Once again, we probably would never have tried these wonderful cuisines had we not been traveling Far and wide for F month.

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Plain-O FUN In Plano

2 points – Activity

Time for Festival #2 – The Plano International Festival. On our walk from the car to the festival ground we found the 1418 coffee shop. We were neither thirsty nor hungry but, hey, it’s F month so in we went. The shop had the usual couches and computer counters. Cappuccino – great; muffin too cakey.

On to the festival. Unlike the Peanut Festival in Aubrey this one showcased what it advertised – international foods and products. Tents from various countries (the diversity was impressive) were set up and international music was playing from the main stage. Although we didn’t make a purchase, it was nice walking around and watching the children exploring the goodies.

 

For lunch we selected another spot that fit the bill –  Fillmore Pub. Barbara was drawn to the chalk board highlighting Guiness and Smithwicks as she developed a taste for them while visiting Ireland. Verdict: the beer was great, food not so much but we weren’t expecting high dining from a pub. All told a fun day that we wouldn’t have experienced had it not been for the ABC Life.

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