Monday, December 30, 2013

the secret life of walter mitty

this film, starring and directed by ben stiller, proved to be more than i expected!  based on the short story first penned by james thurber in 1939, walter mitty poses a funny foray into his daydreams, while living ever more of his real life.  a case in point for no longer needing to zone out because you're already living the life you've always imagined! so tonight, in reality, i made myself a gourmet supper starting, as any cooking should, with garlic in olive oil...add in salmon, quinoa and a small glass of cotes du rhone rose...candlelight, french music and voila! why fantasize when you can make it happen; plus who says dining solo has to be a bland affair?  in the spirit of going for it in 2014, i plan to go to hawaii.  what have YOU always wanted to do?  like walter, let's go for it!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

drumroll, please...

i am a firm believer that reading improves quality of life. (upon hearing that my neice, for example, was having a flat-screen tv installed in her bedroom, i did what any bibliophilic aunt would do and immediately made her tell me a story from her imagination. which she did quite well, to both my relief and enjoyment, i might add.)  in 2011 our bookclub read 64 titles.  then in 2012 we upped that to 76 books.  i just typed up our 2013 list and, drumroll please...we finished off 138 books this year!  while my tv literally gathers dust in the bottom of my closet, we have read ourselves better with a grand total of 278 books in just three years. want to have a great book club in 2014?  our only rules are not having any rules:  read whatever you want (coffee table books and kid's books especially count), stop reading if you don't like it--life's too short, and share fun food.  (it's also spiffy to go to bookstores and lectures while trying new places to eat; anything to do with books counts--see also "bookclub: the expanded edition"). 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

gateau des Anges

this is a holiday activity worth putting all of your eggs in one basket.  literally, it will take about 8 of them.  starting with advent, i wanted to have a little christmas each day, so on a random wednesday evening i decided to make a birthday cake for Jesus.  i know He's ageless, but if He were here in person, He'd be over two thousand years old our time.  that deserves some respect.  i had a recipe in my great-grandmother's handwriting for angel food cake and, being the sentimental meaning-laden person that i am, decided that "cake of the angels" was perfectly fitting for the occasion.  when it comes to baking and life in general, doing a few things well is my maxim.  and, since cooking is an art but baking is a science--which means the chemical reactions therein can go wrong--i was very exacting in following her instructions.  as i baked i thought about her life and how much i would have liked to spend more time with her here.  she lived to be 104 and i remember on her birthday five years before that she had sat up and declared, "i'm not 99!"  rather than from confusion, which i thought at the time, i think she was coming from reality.  a reality that i understand more and more--she didn't feel 99.  perhaps her spunk and light heartedness leant her what i feel, that i'm a 12 year old trapped inside a 39 year old body. so i sifted and measured and waited.  here's her recipe:

Angel Food
1 cup egg whites (8-10 eggs)
1 1/4 c. sugar
1 c. cake flour
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. water
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. lemon flavor
1/2 tsp. vanilla

sift flour and sugar seperately four times.  measure each after final sifting.  add salt, water, and flavoring when egg whites are half-beaten.  add cream of tartar.  continue beating until egg whites hold their shape.  fold in sugar 1/4 at a time.  then fold in flour 1/4 at a time.  bake in slow oven (325) for 50 to 60 min. 

i topped it with a strawberry-lemon sauce, 3 candles and singing.

some books to go along with this recipe nicely?  mfk fisher's "love in a dish" and "the table comes first" by adam gopnik.   

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

O Holy--sort of--Night

'tis the season to keep laughing!  want to sail above or right on through some of the more serious expectations and demands that seem to show up this time of year?  have a good chuckle.  turn it into a belly laugh.  get the giggles with a friend until tears stream down your face.  at this time of year, i have to ask myself, WWDBS?  (what would dave barry say?) and i think he might approve of the following holiday message.  i was attending a very classy holiday music party recently.  truly lovely.  lots of talent, lots of ages, great food.  as the evening progressed, however, and we moved toward the finale of the hallelujah chorus, people's drinking began to show itself.  which made me want to institute a new law against drinking and singing.  why is it, i asked myself, that when people sing "O Holy Night" they feel as though they must sing louder than anyone else around them, vibrato until the glass they are holding cracks and punctuate parts of the song that are actually supposed to be quiet?  a baby started crying.  "i'm with you, kid", i whispered in his direction.  and, i also felt like adding--targeted towards the contralto in the corner--"shh, baby Jesus is sleeping."  because he couldn't have possibly slept through what happened when the trumpet player started trying to one-up the contralto.  then the tenor in the christmas sweater piped in above both of them and, pinot in hand, singularly out-vibratoed them all.  i excused myself to the restroom when i knew the high note was coming because i'm not very good with a poker face and could freely laugh out loud behind the closed door.  here it comes..."O Night...Di-Viiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine" the baby cried again, a good time was had by all and i went home, laughing all the way...

Thursday, December 12, 2013

the know-it-all plays tennis

and this is from the "M" section for motion.  jacobs is playing tennis, which reminds me i've always wondered if it enhances or distracts from life to understand why something happens the way it does.  (for example, i can enjoy the sunset without knowing all of the rules of atmospheric light or ride my bike blissfully ignorant of most all physics terms).  he writes, "...i am feeling more confident than usual.  i've come up with a bold new strategy.  i've been brushing up on the physics i learned in the britannica, visualizing the mechanics of flying spheres, and i've semi-convinced myself that this will make me a better player.  i will see the court in angles and forces and arrows.  i will be master of the natural laws of tennis.  i will turn knowledge into power, specifically a powerful forehand.  as we warm up, i tell myself to be aware of the magnus effect.  the magnus effect is what causes tennis balls with topspin to dive downward.  it's actually a special case of bernoulli's theorem which we can thank for keeping airplanes aloft, and has to do with a greater pressure on top of the ball than under it.  every time the ball comes to me, i watch that yellow fuzzy projectile spin, understand what's going on, and thwack it back.  i am doing it!  the master of the natural laws of tennis is in the house!  i am playing as well as--if not better than--my impeccably dressed brother-in-law.  i keep focusing on my beloved magnus effect.  but i'm not forgetting about the parabola of teh lob, discovered by galileo himself.  i'm not even forgetting about how gravity is weaker toward the equator, so the south side of the court should have a little more bounce.  okay, well, i'm trying to forget that one, because that's probably not going to help me.  and i'm trying not to get caught up in the coriolis effect either, which says that a projectile moving north will drift to the east because of the earth's rotation.  that won't likely have a huge effect on my ground strokes.  but still, the master of the natural laws of tennis is thwacking back forehands and backhands, visualizing the projectiles in all their newtonian splendor...we have had our moment of glory among the yellow spheres."

the know-it-all

aj jacobs is funny.  and smart.  seriously smart.  he sets out to try to become the smartest person in the world by reading the entire set of encyclopedia britannica from A-Z.  and he succeeds.  his book "the know-it-all" captures many of those words, so i guess you could say he makes the reader smarter without us having to do all the work of turning thousands and thousands of tiny print on tissue-like pages.  here, in an exchange between jacobs and his brilliant 11 year old nephew, is one small dosage of what i learned by reading his entries, this one in the "L's" for language, "well," said douglas, "everyone's heard of antonyms and synonyms.  but there's also capitonyms.  that's when the meaning of the word changes according to whether it starts with a capital letter...like Herb and herb...or Polish and polish...or consider miranyms, the word in between two opposites, like when you have 'convex' and 'concave', the miranym is 'flat'." his nephew proceeds to show off with the longest word he knows, "pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis" (the disease you get from the silica dust when volcanoes erupt).  aren't you glad you know that? 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

the book thief

this movie made me want to be a better person.  as i sat through the credits wiping my eyes, i had a big picture view of life:  flying over at 10,000 feet, as it were.  while i wait for my order of the book by australian author markus zusak, i decided to see the film first.  a unique point of view about this novel is that it is narrated, gently i might add, by death.  at first this might seem off-putting, but to me was an interesting angle and beautifully done.  he is not menacing, simply present, witnessing both the worst and best of humanity. the actors, especially geoffrey rush's character, really portray kindness during wartime in a way i've not seen before.  the best of humanity:  something i'd like to contribute to with my days on the planet.

visible, invisible

for advent, i'm feasting...but not in the usual way. oh yes, i like eating, quite a lot.  but i've learned about myself that just as--if not more--important than food and water is taking in beauty.  mainly in images and words.  i love this time of year because i use the symbols around me (visible) to enjoy their even more important meaning (invisible).  i recently discovered the poet wendell berry who, i think, would be the happy combination (and i mean this as a compliment) of the:  farmer next door + mary oliver + gerard manley hopkins + william wordworth plus maybe a dash of william stafford.  naturally i love berry's reverent irreverence and have collected a few of my favorite lines from reading, fire-side...the full poems (unless otherwise noted) are in his collection entitled "leavings". 
-(on the older generation in town) in their rest and quiet talk there was peace that was almost heavenly, peace never to be forgotten, never again quite to be imagined, but peace above all else that we have longed for.
-(on birds) think of it!  to fly by mere gift, without the clamor and stain of our inert metal, in perfect trust.
-(on his lifetime friend arthur) to be on horseback with him and free, lost in time, found in place, early Sunday morning, was plain delight.
-(on hope) that we may know the small immortal joy of beasts and birds.
-(on poetry itself) there!  where the aerial columbine brightens on its slender stalk.  walk, poem.  watch, and make no noise.
-(sabbath walk in the forest) Gratitude for the gifts of all the living and the unliving, gratitude which is the greatest gift, quietest of all, passes to me through the trees.

X (on love)
i love the passing light upon this valley now green
in early summer as i watch late in life.
and upon the one by whom i live, who is herself a light,
the light is passing as she works in the garden in the quiet.
the past light i love, but even more the passing light.
to this love, we give our work.

XII
learn by little the desire for all things which perhaps is not desire at all
but undying love which perhaps is not love at all
but gratitude for the being of al things which perhaps is not gratitude at all
but the maker's joy in what is made,
the joy in which we come to rest.

but what is made by destruction comes down at last to a stable floor, a bed of straw, and for those with sight light in darkness.