November Reprise

November was mostly about cleaning and cooking and squirrels.  I had hoped to get the entire main floor of our house cleaned, but only got to the living room, dining room, and a bit of the bathroom. Oh well. The important thing is I’m making progress and I will continue (albeit not much in December which has its own agenda).

rosieIn between bouts of cleaning I read 11 books (4 each fiction and nonfiction, and 3 poetry). The standout fiction book was The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion: A socially challenged genetics professor develops a 30+ page questionnaire to help him find the perfect mate. This was a fun, witty book which made me laugh aloud several times. I didn’t want to put it down and finished it in two days. The standout nonfiction was The Art of Communicating, by Thich Nhat Hanh, a short book full of wisdom that I vowed to reread every year the moment I finished it.

I really ramped up the cooking in November. This surprised me because of the cleaning project. But it also pleased me because I feared I had lost my cooking genes, but apparently they were just dormant over the summer months. I made steel-cut oats, wild rice, and orzo, all for the first time. I also made my first chicken adobo (excellent) and brown rice and peas (horrible and bland). I made three more batches of applesauce (including a microwave recipe that was not one whit easier than doing it on the stovetop—and nor did it make the house smell as good!).

And now that we’re in root vegetable season (parsnips!) I’ve made aparsnips couple of batches of roasted vegetables (seasoned with pepper and rosemary). Last time we went to the co-op, I got a few turnips. I expect they will be a nice addition to the mix. And since winter is here (we had an extremely cold November), I made some red lentil soup (which was merely okay).

We were invited to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving. I was responsible for the corn pudding and the mashed potatoes. It was a fine meal, and I got to take home the turkey carcass (along with a lot of leftover turkey). So I made turkey stock and also a wild rice-turkey casserole which was kind of bland (but the cranberries I added were a fun occasional splash of tart).

In the herbal realm I was somewhat influenced by the cleaning project (sweet birch dust cloths, homemade air freshener), but also made some winter wellness tea (rosehips, elderberries, and star anise), cinnamon massage oil, a foot scrub, and I put up a couple of oils (thyme, chamomile, and elderberries; and ginger, chamomile, and clove) which should be ready to decant in a couple of weeks.

I’ve continued the haiku project (one haiku a day, which I send to a friend in Montana as a sort of record of the year), and the Obama weekly postcard project (I’ve now sent 24 postcards to the White House). I drafted another villanelle.

We trapped eight squirrels (they were in our walls) and there has been a blessed lack of scritching and scrabbling for the last two weeks. We got the lawn raked and the garden put to bed in the nick of time—snow fell the next day. Since I’m not a winter biker, I’ve adopted a winter regimen of yoga, weight lifting, and stretching. I do this with my neighbor, which is the only reason I do it at all. Otherwise I would just curl up in a chair and read all winter.

HepburnOn a final note, we abandoned the Hitchcock project. It all started when I lost the list (highlighting the ones we had seen). A sign. I thought of how many Hitchcock movies I had returned to the library unseen. And then I noted that we had never returned a Katharine Hepburn movie unseen. So now instead of the Hitchcock project, we have the Hepburn project. Next up: The Lion in Winter.

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Double Feature

Shall we DanceA couple of weeks ago I was searching the library database for the movie, Shall We Dance. There are two versions, the Japanese version from 1996 (the one I was primarily looking for) and a U.S. version from 2004 (which I was willing to settle for). The library had neither of those, but did have a completely different Shall We Dance, with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Why not, I figured? I do love a good dance, after all.

For a movie called Shall We Dance, it did not have so very much dancing in it, and in my opinion, not nearly enough! Only towards the end was there a lot of dancing. And yes, it was worth the wait. All I have to say in addition is that Fred Astaire looks much better with Ginger Rogers than without her.

For those of you wondering, the Japanese Shall We Dance got the highest Rotten Tomatoes Rating (91% approval), followed by Fred and Ginger (86% approval rating), and the U.S. version (46% approval rating, in spite of Susan Sarandon).

Strictly ballroomIn my search for Shall We Dance, I also ran across Strictly Ballroom. Not exactly the same thing, but sometimes things get tough when you rely on the library, and you settle. But I remembered liking this when I watched it years ago (it came out in 1992), and it got a 95% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

It was as good as I remembered (though I had forgotten it’s Australian). Lots of dancing (and some really excellent dancing at that). Lots of tango. But what I liked most about it was the message: A life lived in fear is a life half lived. Since I don’t want to give anything away, I will merely say it’s an absolutely lovely romantic comedy with all the good things—I laughed, clapped, and cried. Did I mention that the dancing is exceptional? A totally fun movie.SB dancing

Spellbound: A Tale of Two Movies

hitchcockFor the last several months, we’ve been slowly moving our way through the Alfred Hitchcock oeuvre (so far we’ve seen 10, a small dent). We’ve been doing this primarily through the library, and it’s slick as can be: You go online, look for the movie you want, and the library system searches all the libraries in the county and has it delivered to your library of choice. Seriously. Is this not almost like magic?

Most recently I ordered Spellbound. I was running errands with a friend, so grabbed the movie, checked it out, ran back out to the car and tossed it on the floor as we continued errands. But it was a new Hitchcock movie, which neither Hal nor I had seen and we were both looking forward to, so I kept glancing down at it on the floor. And I kept seeing children. Children do not feature heavily in most Hitchcock films. I felt a tinge of concern. I picked it up off the floor. No mention of Hitchcock. Oh, 2002. Was Hitchcock still even alive in 2002? He was old when I was little. (No. He died in 1980.) I look closer. This is about a spelling bee. Eighth graders. A documentary. Words.

Oh, bummer! (Not that I don’t love words, I do. Or documentaries, I do. It’s the expectation thing. I was so looking forward to Hitchcock, and I got a spelling bee.) I called spouse to relate the bad news. Horrible disappointment, and then he suggested I look it up on Rotten Tomatoes just in case it’s really good. I checked, and this spelling bee got stellar ratings (98% positive). Since this was the bird that we had in the hand, we decided to watch it.

They were right! It was quite good. We both enjoyed it (not surprising since we both love words)spelling bee movie 2
and it was fascinating to get a look inside the world of the national spelling bee. They follow eight kids, and they all approach it differently and have different levels of support (and interest) from their families. As to the words: I consider myself to have a fairly decent and even above-average vocabulary. But the words in this bee? I had never heard of many of them. Not all, of course, but a lot more than I would have expected. Embarrassing. Humbling. And again, fascinating.

The same day I got home with the spelling bee Spellbound, I went back online and reordered Spellbound, this time making sure I had the Hitchcock version. It arrived, like magic, a few days later. Is it possible to go wrong with Ingrid Bergman? I don’t think so. We both loved it.

Ingrid BergmanHere are the other nine we’ve seen: The 39 Steps (1935); Rebecca (1940); Notorious (1946); Stage Fright (1950); To Catch a Thief (1954); The Trouble With Harry (1956); North by Northwest (1959);  Torn Curtain (1966); Frenzy (1972).

Most I’ve gotten from the library, but I’ve been surprised at how many of the Hitchcock films the library doesn’t have. I may have to cast a wider net. But for now, I haven’t exhausted the supply. Next up: Family Plot.