Sunday, February 21, 2010

Poetry Project

Years ago, I bought the book When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple. While I've enjoyed many of the poems and short stories therein (especially "Warning" by Jenny Joseph, which is one of the inspirations for The Red Hat Society ladies you can see bustling about on fun outings these days), I think the one below is my most favorite.

Social Security
by Barbara Bolz

She knows a cashier who
blushes and lets her use
food stamps to buy tulip
bulbs and rose bushes.

We smile each morning as I
pass her - her hand always
married to some stick,
or hoe, or rake.

One morning I shout,
"I'm not skinny like
you so I've gotta run
two miles each day."

She begs me closer, whispers
to my flesh, "All you need,
honey, is to be on welfare
and love roses."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Faith and doubt

I recently got around to watching Doubt, the onscreen drama starring Meryl Streep, Amy Adams and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Wow. It was not as dark a movie as I had feared, performances are uniformly astonishing and the film keeps you second-guessing (which, I imagine, is the point).

Inevitably, Streep is the star of this film. The legendary actress plays Sister Aloysius Beauvier, a nun who serves as the principal at a Catholic school in the Bronx. The year is 1964, and the school has just admitted its first black student (Donald, played by Joseph Foster) in the fall. There's a charismatic new priest in St. Nicholas parish - Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Father Flynn often finds himself at odds with Sister Aloysius' strict ways with the schoolchildren and her faith.

So when young, naive Sister James (Amy Adams) mentions to Sister Aloysius that Father Flynn may have taken a bit too much interest in Donald, Sister Aloysius becomes certain that the relationship has developed into something improper.

Without proof, the two nuns confront Father Flynn, who defends his actions. Undaunted, Sister Aloysius schedules a meeting with Donald's mother (played with heartbreaking genius by Viola Davis). The woman, who is dealing with her own suspicions about Donald's nature as well as violence in the home, provides Sister Aloysius with no method through which to exercise her moral certainty.

As Sister Aloysius becomes more and more definite in her efforts to oust Father Flynn, questions of faith and doubt emerge in stark relief.

What can I say about this movie? Meryl Streep is a goddess, and anyone who denies it is a fool. The woman is Proteus-like in her ability to inhabit any character with utter credibility. It completely blows my mind. Adams and Hoffman aren't slouches, either, but Streep owns this movie.

Though the story line isn't a happy one, rest assured that the film focuses on Sister Aloysius and her quest. The film purposefully neither confirms nor denies the suspected relationship between the priest and the boy, leaving the viewer to wonder if the nun's conviction has any truth.

A fascinating character study. Worth watching for the performances alone, although the film's morla statement about "innocent until proven guilty" does make one think.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Winter wonderland

We woke up yesterday morning to a 4-inch blanet of snow! It snows rarely where we live, and we've gotten TWO snowfalls this year!

The only thing is, there are good things and bad things about the snow. The bad thing is that hubs and I work for a utility and a hospital, so we don't exactly get "snow days." Even when the weather is really bad (and, in my case, especially when it's bad), we are expected at work. And booger's daycare, like most daycares and schools in the area, shut down on Friday. Hubs and I handled it by each spending half the day at home with booger and spending the other half of the day at work.

Now the good thing - I stayed home in the morning, and during my hours at the house, Clay and I bundled up and played in the snow! He really loved it. We tried (without much success) to build a snowman, we walked all over the front and back yards, and we even checked out the yards of our neighbors, who were having snow ball fights, building their own snowmen, and just enjoying the unusual flakes falling from the sky.

We made a big pot of white chili for lunch, then when hubs arrived to switch off, out I went to work. All in all, it was a good day!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Vegas Adventure!

Well, we've gone and done it. Hubs and I have booked two plane tickets to Vegas! Our 10th wedding anniversary is coming up, and we're celebrating by spending 5 days in Vegas, seeing the sights, eating the food, and renewing our vows in the campiest ceremony less than $300 will buy.

We're going in April, and we are now trying to decide where to stay and what to do. Properties under consideration include the Paris, the Venetian, the Bellagio, the Wynn, the Encore, the MGM Grand, and the MGM Grand Signature. Our must list of sights is shaping up as follows:
1.) general gawking on the Strip: I'd love to wander around in many of the casinos, including the Paris, the Venetian, NYNY, and the Luxor (and maybe also take a ride on the NYNY roller coaster!)
2.) Bellagio fountains
3.) the Liberace Museum
4.) the auto collections at the Imperial Palace (Both hubs and I would love this.)
5.) the Paris' Eiffel Tower (we need another goofy photo)
6.) a gondola ride at the Venetian
7.) exhibits: there's a Titanic exhibit and a Bodies exhibit at the Luxor. Either one would be fun, though it's going to take some pretty sustained persuading to get hubs inside the Bodies exhibit.
8.) animals: there's a shark reef at the Mandalay Bay, the dolphin habitat at the Mirage, and lions at the MGM Grand. Might be fun for quick diversions.
9.) Hoover Dam: it would be fun to get out of the city for a bit, and hubs has always wanted to see Hoover Dam.
10.) shopping: if I splurge on anything, it will be a gorgeous bag at one of the outlets.
11.) campy, cheesy vow renewal
That's alot to fit into about 4 days! We'll see if we get to all of it.

Of course, in addition to all of the sightseeing, we've got to EAT. Several restaurants have made my short list:
1.) Petrossian at the Bellagio (I hear their afternoon tea is amazing.)
2.) Joe's Stone Crab at Caesar's Palace
3.) Burger Bar in Mandalay Place
4.) Verandah in Mandalay Bay
5.) Diego at the MGM Grand
6.) Onda at the Mirage
7.) Lots of fun places at NYNY - Il Fornaio, Nine Fine Irishmen, etc.
8.) Dos Caminos at the Palazzo
9.) Mon Ami Gabi at the Paris
10.) Okada at the Wynn
Anybody eaten at any of these? We'll be lucky if we get to most of them. The majority of the restaurants above are not crazy expensive and have gotten raves from both guidebook writers and internet reviewers.

Anyway, if you have suggestions for lodging or must-sees, I'd love to hear them! Can't wait for our trip!

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Fun with booger

I've gotten the chance to spend lots of time with little man lately, which has been wonderful. For a few weeks there, I was devoted to a big project at work, leading to more overtime, some night and weekend hours, and general distraction even when I WAS home. Now that I've been able to get my schedule a bit more back to normal, booger and I have been enjoying one another's company more.

This morning, I took him to the Mississippi Museum of Art to see the Jim Henson exhibit. What fun! They had lots of his puppets on display, including Kermit, Bert, Ernie, some of the Fraggles, and more. They even had lots of props and costumes from the Dark Crystal movie in the exhibit. I loved it. Booger ran around there for more than an hour, looking at all the puppets up close. You could check out your own hand puppet at the front of the exhibit, and Clay used his deer puppets to talk to Kermit and Bert behind the glass. (SO cute!) They also had a puppet theatre area where you could put on little shows, and some televisions in the back were playing some of the puppetry that's been produced in Mississippi (Clyde the Frog, Dr. Ticktock, Between the Lions). We had lots of fun, and I bought Clay a copy of Harold and the Purple Crayon from the museum store before we left. He already loves it!

If you haven't been to see this exhibit, don't miss it. I grew up watching many of Henson's creations on television, and I think I enjoyed the exhibit more than Clay! I didn't get a chance to read all the panels and really look closely at all the drawings, but that's kind of part and parcel of taking a toddler to anything. I may swing back by the museum one afternoon, just so I can fully appreciate everything. Regardless, it's a great display with a wonderful Mississippi connection. Highly recommended!

Chinese Almond Cookies

As promised. These were a huge hit. I made them from a slightly modified recipe I got off allrecipes.com.

Chinese Almond Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. almond extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg white
1/2 tsp. water
sliced almonds and white sugar, for garnish/topping

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg and extract. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Gradually add dry ingredients to wet, mixing until combined. Roll mixture into 1-inch balls. Place the cookies 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Flatten each cookie with a fork and sprinkle with almonds.

In a small bowl, beat egg white and water. Brush over cookies, then sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 325 degrees for 14-16 minutes, or until edges and bottoms are very lightly browned. Cool for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks.

Note: I made about 20 of these cookies, figuring we'd have plenty for a group of only 5 adults and 2 kids, especially after a filling meal of dumplings, soup and noodle stir fry. We served them with hot green and white tea, and not a one of these cookies was left by night's end. YUM!