New activity – Great Backyard Bird Count

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.

Learning Center:

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.

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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.

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New activity – Selected Shorts

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.

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It’s all about the food this week.


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.

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E makes its Entrance

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.”

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Activity: Discovering Dynamic Abstraction

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 dynamic abstraction. 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.

Activity: Documentaries

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.


Wishing everyone a great New Year We’ll leave you with this one fun fact (thanks to our friend Rosemary for introducing us to “One Good Fact”)

“People in Spain celebrate New Year’s Eve by eating 12 grapes in sync with the 12 clock chimes at midnight.”

We’ll have our 12 grapes on hand for the countdown tonight in hopes of a sweet 2023.

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New Activity: Drawing

Both of us have absolutely no art skills. Ironically one of our favorite games with the family at Thanksgiving is Who, What, Where, which is a game in which you have to draw a scenario that describes your who, what and where cards. E.g., Shirley Temple swimming in the bathtub. Ours are the pictures that draw the most laughs as no one can figure out what we’ve drawn.

But we digress. This week we decided to see if there’s any hope for us. Laura had a book on how to draw so we chose a picture of a wild cat. The book had some steps leading up to the finished product, so we were somewhat optimistic. Alas, we think we won’t give up our day jobs (although we already have).

This is what we were copying:

These are our end products:

D Reading Challenge activity – DIY Bookmark

We channeled our inner child for our next reading challenge. Inappropriately giddy over the purchase of a box of craft supplies, we picked our favorites to use in this project. Actually proud of how they came out and will cause a smile when we read our next books.

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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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