Book Talk Tuesday: Ballroom!

I picked this one up from the library as research for my work-in-progress. It’s written by a former competitive dance champion named Sharon Savoy. She starts with her own background and journey through the world of dance, but also gives lots of background and insider information.

ballroomI learned lots of good stuff that may not make it into the book, but just knowing that process of dressing and styling is referred to as grooming is helpful. It’s the kind of little detail that adds verisimilitude to the story.

My rough draft is done, but as I go back and begin the rewrite and polish, these details are just what I need.

The book is well-written, although occasionally a bit stilted. The pictures are an album of 1990s hair and costume styles.

It’s worth every penny I’ll have to pay when I return it, overdue, to the library tomorrow.

Media Monday: Unbroken

I finally finished the book last week and saw the movie over the weekend. I wasn’t sure what to expect. A lot of comments I’d heard and reviews I’d read were fairly harsh.

UNBROKEN
UNBROKEN

I thought it was excellent. Director Angelina Jolie took a complex and sprawling story and put it on screen to run just a bit over two hours.

A few details were changed or glossed over, but the essence of the story was true to itself

Louis Zamperini was an incorrigible delinquent in Torrance, California until he discovered running. He was a star runner for Torrance High and went to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. He planned to return to the Olympics in Tokyo in 1942. He did go to Japan, but as a Prisoner of War, after floating on a life raft for 47 days across the Pacific.

Some of the book’s details were compressed. The only real change I caught was toward the end when, in the movie, Zamperini and his fellow POWs were enslaved by their Japanese captors and forced to work in the coal mines. In the book, Zamperini did have to work, but not in the coal mines. Only enlisted men were forced to the mines. Officers (Zamperini was a captain) had other work.

I understand why the screenwriter, director, and producer changed it. The image of so many skeletal men trudging up and down walkways with baskets of coal while coated in black dust was striking on screen. It was a small detail and I don’t have a problem with it. The beatings Zamperini endured were mostly off-screen but no less horrible in the imagination. There were some kind Japanese guards and they weren’t shown. Altogether, I think the small changes were understandable and forgivable.

Many book to movie adaptions lose something in the transition. The two art forms are so different.

Before we saw the movie, we watched a profile Tom Brokaw did of Louis Zamperini and the movie and 2D11741230-today-jolie-brokaw-140225-10.blocks_desktop_largeAngelina Jolie. Her passion for this project was evident as was Zamperini’s regard for her. His determination and perseverance inspired her to do his story proud. I believe she did.

Food Talk Friday: Cheese

I once heard someone say if they couldn’t eat mayonnaise anymore, life would be hard. My husband can’t live without peanut butter and popcorn.

cheeseMy must-have is cheese. Hard, soft, semi-soft. Grated, sliced, spooned. I don’t care. I love it. I want it.

On pizza. In lasagna. On enchiladas. On crackers. By itself. On a bagel. On a burger. I’ve never had a cheese I didn’t like. I’ve never had a meal that included cheese that I didn’t like.

Smoked gouda. Havarti with dill. Stilton with caramelized onion. Pesto cream cheese. Dry jack. Feta. Cotija. Cheddar. Swiss.

You name it.

Really, I mean it. What’s your favorite?

Woe! It’s Wednesday: The Light

We’ve had quite a year. Highest of highs and lowest of lows. The only challenge we escaped was medical issues. (Although we escaped them in our little family of six, our beloved niece received a shocking diagnosis, so we were certainly not untouched by medical stuff.)

candlelight-368227_640We’re coming up on a year since life as we knew it changed for good. As I said then, it’s not my story to tell. But I’ve lived it and walked alongside my daughter as she’s experienced every emotion, every stage of grief, and every challenge imaginable.

The culmination of last year came last week when our daughter addressed the court to give a victim’s statement. When she finished, the judge told her that in his 25 years in the law, hers was the most impressive victim’s statement he’d heard. She exhibited an understanding of the issues and wasn’t angry or vindictive, unlike most statements.

As we look forward to what’s next for our family, for our daughters and granddaughters, that’s what I take away. Anger has a place. Jesus was angry. Anger spurs change. Vindictiveness doesn’t bring anything except bitterness which leads to bondage. It’s a cliche that bitterness doesn’t hurt anyone except the one carrying it. I don’t want to be bitter. I forgive. I move on. Admittedly, not always easily and not always quickly. But I eventually get there.

Now I’m looking forward to 2015. When apparently those medical issues we dodged in 2014 will catch up to us.

Book Talk Tuesday: On My Nightstand

UNBROKEN

I finished UNBROKEN and loved it, of course. It’s on the keeper shelf now.

The next book I’m still in the middle of is Ballroom! Obsession and Passion in the World of Competitive Dance ballroomby Sharon Savoy. I checked it out of the library as research for the next book I’m working on. Somehow, in the midst of the holidays and life, I didn’t get to it and I forgot to renew it. So I have to read it in the next day or two and go pay my fine. I’ve started it and it’s full of little insider tips that I will put to good use.

Then it’s on to my Christmas books. svSMALL VICTORIES, the newest by Anne Lamott. I love her. I’m sure this will show up here with a review very soon.

Jan Karon returned to Mitford with jkSOMEWHERE SAFE WITH SOMEBODY GOOD. I’m eager to see what’s new with Father Timothy and Cynthia and Dooley and Lace. Especially since so many of the memorable residents of Mitford have passed on.  

On my Kindle: I read portions of at least three books on my reader every day. Two devotionals: BREAKING FREE DAY BY DAY by Beth Moore and MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST, the classic by Oswald Chambers. And of course, my daily chronological Bible readings. Then I always have another book there I’m working on. On my Kindle right now is MOCHA SUNRISE by my friend Julie Carobini. This one is part of her Chocolate Series, after CHOCOLATE BEACH and TRUFFLES BY THE SEA.

bfdbd    my utmost    oneyear    ms

As usual, my TRB pile is a whole bookcase and it’s threatening to teeter over. The next few weeks will be work and reading. My favorites!

Media Monday: Cooking Shows

Worst Cooks in America
Worst Cooks in America

Sometimes when I’m working on my laptop in the living room, I want some background noise and so turn on the TV to the Food Network. It’s comforting to type words while having Ina Garten roast vegetables or Giada De Laurentiiss toss some pasta with olive oil.

Sometimes this plan backfires when I hear a recipe that sounds really good or get involved in a show’s premise. That’s how I discovered WORST COOKS IN AMERICA a few years ago.

It seems contradictory to learn new recipes and cooking techniques by watching the people who do it wrong, but one of the most fun shows currently airing on the Food Network is WORST COOKS IN AMERICA.

Season 6 is airing now. I think I’ve watched every season. People arrive thinking Mac and Cheese tastes better with gummie bears added and they end able to cook a real meal.

The setup: Two celebrity chefs teach teams of people who’ve been nominated as a worst cook in America. Anne Burrell has been one of the chefs every season. She’s won four of the five seasons already aired. The other chef has been Bobby Flay, Beau MacMillan, and Robert Irvine. This year’s contender is Tyler Florence.

The contestants (called “recruits” since the whole show has a Boot Camp premise) are introduced, usually by preparing their own “signature” dish for the chef/coaches. Viewers get to know the recruits and invariably, the contestants want to learn to cook better because they want to feed and nurture and care for their loved ones. Men want to cook for their wives or girlfriends. Women want to cook for their husbands and kids. But somehow, they got to this place in their lives without knowing that peanut butter and kidney beans do not make a good casserole.

The coaches demonstrate a skill and the recruits have to make a dish using that skill. These are not easy tasks. The contestants get dropped into the hot water at the outset. This year, one of the first dishes they had to make was paella. I’ve never made paella. Well, to be honest, not because I don’t think I’m able, but because I can’t afford the saffron that goes into it.

But anyway, I watch and enjoy this one, it’s not just background noise. And I’ve learned a few things too, about chopping and searing and some of the basics. One contestant … (Season 2 or 3 or 4, I think), decided to go to culinary school after the show.

Spanglish
Spanglish

Everyone who gets washed out is grateful for the things they learned and looking forward to making better meals at home for their loved ones.

It goes to show that we often equate food with love. In the movie Spanglish that was out several years ago, the male lead was a chef played by Adam Sandler and his hard-charging wife was played by Téa Leoni. They have a nanny who has recently arrived from Mexico with her daughter. The chef/father and the nanny develop a friendship as their children and his wife demand various things from them each. Then one night they share a meal. When his wife finds out, she cries and carries on and howls, “Did … did he kiss her?” I thought the writers missed the mark with that line. It should have been, “Did he cook for her?” Not that kisses aren’t important but for a chef he’s going to show his feelings with food.

Something the recruits know even without knowing what is a mandoline and what do you do with it.

Food Talk Friday: My Most Requested Recipe

Lemon Artichoke Chicken over Pasta.

I got this one from my cousin Lori. She passed away a few years ago unexpectedly, so it’s particularly dear now. She said she learned it during a visit to Tuscany. She served it on top of a quick pasta in a cream sauce, but I’ve just served it with pasta tossed with a little olive oil. My preferred pasta is a Spinach and Chive linguine from Trader Joe’s. Their lemon pappardelle pasta is also good with it.

Lemons and Artichokes
Lemons and Artichokes

I often make this for friends who need a meal; new moms, patients, new hospital releases. Without fail, they ask for the recipe.

So, here it goes:

All ingredients are approximate. Don’t stress if you have more or less of anything.

2-4 chicken breasts cut into bitesize chunks.

2 cans artichoke hearts, quartered, if you can find them.

2 jars marinated artichoke hearts, quartered or pieces. Reserve marinating oil from one jar.

2-4 fresh lemons

Flour for dusting

2 T Olive oil — give or take

1 package pasta. I prefer Trader Joe’s Spinach & Chive pasta.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet or electric wok.

Coat the chicken in flour and drop it in the hot lil. Sear the chicken, then cook and stir until it’s done.

Add the artichokes and reserved liquid. If the artichokes were whole or in large pieces, give them a rough chop.

Squeeze the lemons and add the juice. This is the most uncertain step. If the lemons are really super juicy, I only use about one and half lemons. But I’ve occasionally used four lemons because they just weren’t that juicy.

Cook the pasta.

Let the chicken simmer a few minutes. Let the juices boil down just a bit.

Serve the chicken and artichokes over the pasta.

Enjoy!

Book Talk Tuesday: UNBROKEN

I bought this book for Stud Muffin for Christmas a couple of years ago. He loved it and couldn’t put it down.

I put it on my TBR pile and then ignored it. I knew it would be one of those books that lives in the mind long after you turn the final page, but I needed a little space in my own brain just then.

When the movie adaptation was announced, I knew I had to read it.

UNBROKEN
UNBROKEN

I started it last spring. Then I set it aside.

It was too intense. I knew the story (a WWII soldier crashes, drifts in a life raft for 47 days, then is taken prisoner by the Japanese). I also knew once I got to the part of the story where he crashes, I wouldn’t be able to put down the book. So I set it down before I got to that part.

I’m back into it now though, so I can see the movie next week. I’m not quite finished with it, but I’m far enough that I’m past the most harrowing stories of brutality. Japan has just surrendered and the POWs are being rescued.

it’s an incredible story movingly told. Laura Hillenbrand is arguably the queen of creative non-fiction. She wrote the bestseller SEABISCUIT and UNBROKEN is her follow-up book. Louis Zamperini, the unbreakable subject, passed away last summer. What a blessing that he got to talk to Hillenbrand and was still alive to see the impact his story has had.

Even when I’m finished, this one will go on the keeper shelf.

Did you read it? What did you think?

Media Monday: Moms’ Night Out

I finally got around to seeing MOMS’ NIGHT OUT last week. I know it was out a while ago but it got past me.

I often come with vats of skepticism to movies labeled “faith-based,” or “family friendly.” But MOMS’ NIGHT OUT was a refreshing change. I enjoyed it a lot.

MOMS' NIGHT OUT
MOMS’ NIGHT OUT

Allyson is a stay-at-home mom who knows she should love her life and feels guilty because she’s unhappy. She feels like a failure at motherhood and marriage and life in general.

She plans an evening out with two girlfriends. The dads are going to keep the kids for the evening. Should be simple.

Of course, nothing is that simple.

The dinner reservation is messed up. The guys have a slight accident. A child goes missing. The evening out turns into a quest to find the baby.

The acting in this one is excellent, the best in any “faith-based” movie I’ve seen in quite a while. The story wasn’t preachy. The characters were real, even the pastor and his wife and daughter. For that alone, I give it a recommendation.

Anyone else have a favorite faith-based movie?