Guess Who’s Talking

Given my love for British mysteries, you can imagine that I’m always on the outlook for a new series. There are plenty from which to choose, but some of them are really quite old. I’m old too, but I’ve moved along with the times. These programs are static. They still use land lines. Their lapels are disturbingly wide and their ties are disturbingly short. They smoke endlessly. I prefer period pieces that are made in this century, but take place in the last. While the clothes are 60s or 70s in design, there is a bit more pizazz than there was in the real 60s and 70s.

Anyway, I stumbled upon a series that I noticed was recorded in 2015. It is called River. It stars Stellan Skarsgard (a man of whom I was wholly unfamiliar) as Detective Inspector John River. His partner, I noticed with delight, is played by one of my favorite British actresses named Nicola Walker. That was the extent of what I knew about the program before I dove in to the first episode.

It started out with the two going through a fast-food drive-thru, and DI River being revolted by the food his partner DS Jackie Stevenson is eating. It was amusing. Then, however, it moved to the next scene in which DS River is talking to a shrink, clearly not happy to be there. It took me an embarrassingly long time, but I finally figured out that DS Stevenson is dead, killed on the job. DI River, however, continues to “see” her and, more disturbingly, talk to her. I’m unaware if the fast food had any connection to her death.

So after watching about the first half hour, I had to turn it off. I found it too weird to see him talking to his partner, and listening to her talk back to him. She’s dead, remember. So basically, he’s talking to himself. So, although Ms. Walker has a starring role in the series, she’s kind of fuzzy and, well, dead. It remains to be seen whether she is very helpful in helping him solve crimes. Because, see above, she’s dead.

That’s a very long introduction to my real point, which is that I, too, talk to myself. It’s not supposed to be a problem unless you answer yourself. Which, of course, I do. This phenomenon is not new. I have talked to myself for as long as I can remember.

When I was a child, I had an invisible friend. Her name was Cathy. This, by the way, was an odd choice for a name because I had a real neighborhood friend named Kathy, spelled with a K. Perhaps I felt the spelling difference was significant enough to make it less weird. The bottom line is that I was basically talking to myself because she was invisible.

As I got a bit older, my imagination got even weirder. I would imagine that my life was being filmed and people were watching live. Basically it was reality television before reality television became a thing. Being only 11 or 12 years old, my life wasn’t all that interesting. But then neither are the lives of the Kardashians, and they’ve become filthy rich via their lives being filmed. The point is, because my life was being filmed, I had to talk to myself. And so I did. I basically narrated my pitiful little 11-year-old life to my audience, who existed only in my mind.

Stop laughing. I don’t do that any longer.

Having said all of the above, since DI Rivers and I are basically soul brother and sister, I will give his show another try.

Gone to the Dogs

We had a very busy weekend, what with visitors from Vermont and visitors from AZ. As I write this blog, I am dead on my feet, so I will simply tell you that yesterday, the home of Bill and Kris had gone to the dogs.

My brother Dave and his daughter Brooke came from AZ for the week, and brought along Dave’s new dog, Charlie. Charlie was adopted and is of an uncertain breed. We guess perhaps a little dachshund and a little chihuahua. Maybe some corgi. He is just a pup, and so he had a lot more energy than the other dogs. He has a pensive face with bright eyes and the most adorable ears I’ve ever seen on a dog….

Dave’s daughter Jessie and her boyfriend Robert have two dogs — one apiece when they met. Both are adopted and are mixed breed. Well, to be honest, it’s not exactly accurate to say Jessie adopted Edi. It’s more accurate to say Edi adopted Jessie. She was a junkyard dog, literally. Jessie took her home, fattened her up, and Edi is about the most loyal dog I’ve ever seen. She is part pit bull and part sharpei. Mostly, she thinks she’s a lap dog…..

Ali is the matriarch and watches the other dogs romp like the elderly aunt watches her great grand nieces and nephews at play. Winston, of course, is Jen’s dog. He wasn’t sure what to think about this particular pack, and so he sort of sat on the sidelines and watched. I tried to get a photo of all four dogs, but this is the best I could do…..

Four amber pooches kept us busy yesterday afternoon.

Saturday Smile: At the Movies

Bill bought a tiny projector way back when we were still in AZ. He brought it home, with the intention of having a movie night or two with the grands. That finally materialized on Thursday. We gathered many of our children and grandchildren to our yard. Bill put up the projector. People technologically more savvy than us (our grands) figured out how to connect Bill’s iPad to the project. Voila! We watched The Mitchells vs. the Machines out in our backyard. I didn’t get a photo of the gathering, but I did get a photo of the setup…..

It was a night to remember, and it made me smile.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop

Yes, Lovers of Idgie and Ruth and Ninny Threadgoode, all who hail from the teeny tiny town of Whistle Stop, rejoice! They are back in Fannie Flagg’s followup novel, The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop.

I loved the original book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, and its subsequent movie, cleverly called Fried Green Tomatoes, so much that I think of those characters often. So it was with great joy that I discovered that Fannie Flagg has given us an update on those beloved characters.

Ruth, of course, died in the first book. She left Idgie grieving enormously, kept grounded only by Ruth’s son Bud. In The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop, Bud has grown older and yearns to see Whistle Stop once more before he is too old to travel. Whistle Stop — like many towns who were left behind when interstate highways were built, or train stops were eliminated — has become nothing more than a ghost town. Wonder Boy tells us how Bud achieves his dream, and more.

The story is told almost like a series of vignettes, which threw me for a bit. It went back and forth in time, reintroducing some of the old characters and meeting brand new friends. Primary among the new friends is Bud’s daughter Ruthie. She has grown up hearing her dad talk about his wonderful childhood, and it has made her curious.

Idgie has grown older but has lost none of her pizazz. If anything, she has gotten feistier than ever. Through flashbacks and memories, we once again get to enjoy Ninny and hear her stories of Whistle Stop. We relive Christmas at the cafe. Even Evelyn — who is now a widow and enormously wealthy — plays a wonderful role in the story. I loved how the book ended.

Flagg’s writing makes the reader feel as though they are sitting next to the characters, drinking a Co-Cola and talking about the weather. It was such a wonderful story to read during a time when things aren’t always pleasant on the news.

I highly recommend this book, but you must read Fried Green Tomatoes first.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

Chicken Dinner
Last night, I had my visiting brother Dave and niece Brooke over for dinner. They were joined by his other daughter, Jessie, and her boyfriend Rob. Court and Alyx and the kids came as well. I fried up a whole chicken and some extra thighs and legs. I mixed some cucumbers with sour cream and chives from my garden. I rustled up some macaroni and Swiss cheese just like my mom and grandmother used to make. We did a dang good job of finishing up almost everything. I had a couple of pieces of chicken left, and a few beans. There were just enough macaroni left for lunch today. It was tons of fun.

Visiting Grands
I got a text from Maggie Faith yesterday morning. Joseph and Micah and I are heading over to your house. Shortly after, I heard the front door open and the sounds of grandkids filled the air. We really didn’t do much. They watched a movie on Netflix. We ordered food from Noodles & Co. Micah isn’t fond of noodles, but he was excited to eat the leftover cold pizza from the day before. “I like my pizza cold,” he assured me. “Don’t heat it up.” Afterwards, they settled back down to watch a few episodes of Death in Paradise before heading back to their home. It was fun to spend some time with the Vermont grandkids, even if they were somewhat distracted by technology.

Puzzled
I’ve been somewhat stumped by a puzzle that I thought would be easier than it seems to be. But as soon as Kaiya, Mylee, and Cole arrived yesterday evening, Mylee went straight to the puzzle. “Nana,” she said. “I’ve already found four pieces.” “Good enought, Mylee,” I told her. “Go ahead and do as much as you can, because I’m getting nowhere fast.” I’m starting to get used to being bested by a 10-year-old.

Picasso-in-Waiting
And while Mylee was working on the puzzle, Kaiya got ahold of the sidewalk chalk. She worked for quite some time. This was the result…..

Not too bad for freehand art.

Ciao!

Half Past Summer

I saw it yesterday for the first time. It’s as predictable as the pumpkin spice Cheerios appearing on your grocery shelves come September. I saw the first Back to School sales ad.

The smell of sulfur from fireworks is still lingering in the air, and we’re talking about our kiddies — whose feet bottoms are not yet summer-seasoned from going barefoot — going back into the classroom. Of course, my mother was ahead of the curve. Every year on the 5th of July, she would cheerfully remind us that summer was half over as she swept up the firework remnants. Over the years, I have given a lot of thought to why my mother would say those dreaded words. I don’t think she was eager for summer to end. On the contrary, I think she dreaded the coming of getting kids ready for school each morning as much as we dreaded going. I learned my glass-half-empty mentality from her. If you know it’s going to happen, you might as well start getting yourself mentally ready.

Even a summer-lover such as me must admit that the first half of the summer is a tad more cheerful than the last half of the summer. In May and June, you are planting your gardens, the grass is greening, the flowers are blooming, the nights cool off, and you can sleep with your windows open. Sometime around late July, the petunias start getting leggy, the grass is tinged with brown, darkness is appearing sooner every day, and the air is still and warm, requiring the constant hum of the air conditioner.

But the good news about July and August is that we often have summer visitors. It’s true this year, as Heather and Lauren and their two boys are in town for a week. And my brother Dave arrived yesterday with his daughter Brooke to spend the week. Her husband Alexx was unable to come, so this is the first separation for the newlyweds.

I intend to make the most of the weeks ahead. We have a trip planned to Vermont in August, there are some birthdays to celebrate, and, of course, there are always the late summer tomatoes and Palisade peaches to anticipate.

Last year pools were closed and restaurants were silent. The best news, of course, is that we are able to enjoy each other without masks, even if summer is half over.

Grown Up

There are two things that are telling me: YOU’RE GETTING OLD AND BORING. The first is that Sunday night — the 245th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence — Bill and I were in bed at 9:45. In the background, we could hear fireworks popping and booming. Well, at least for about the 5 minutes it took me to fall asleep with my earplugs.

The second thing that tells me that I’m getting old is that I was inordinately excited to receive the package from Weather Tech that held my brand new plastic cut-to-fit cargo liner for the CR-V. There was a time when it would have taken a package from Nordstrom or Crate and Barrel to excite me. Alas, given that I dress now like a hillbilly and I mostly use plastic glasses because we spill a lot, I have lowered my excitement standards to car accessories.

Shortly after we purchased the car this past spring, I drove it to my favorite nursery to buy some plants. While I thought I had the plants securely fixed so that they wouldn’t tip over, they tipped over. Would you like me to come organize your car trunk for you? Anyway, I got home and showed Bill the dirt. We vacuumed it up, but nevertheless, I immediately got on Weather Tech’s website and ordered the trunk liner. As I write this blog post, Bill is installing the liner, happy as a fly on

We had a nice celebration of our nation’s birthday. Jen hosts because her daughter Maggie and family are always in town for the Fourth. This year the dinner featured Chicago hot dogs, because nothing says God Bless America more than a hot dog. Of course, Bill kicked in to buy a couple of pizzas, because for him, nothing says God Bless America more than pizza. Take THAT, Italy.

Ironically, when Bill and I took our Big Trip to Europe, we spent the Fourth of July in Certaldo, Italy. While I was often homesick for my family, it was the first, and I believe only, time that I was homesick for my country. So we went to the market and managed to find funny little short hot dogs and some buns. I opened a can of cannellini beans, and doctored them up with brown sugar, mustard, and ketchup. They weren’t good, but they were as close as we could get to baked beans. Bill downloaded I’m Proud to Be An American, by Lee Greenwood, and we had a little July 4th celebration. No fireworks.

It would be hard to beat the time that my dad and my Uncle Dale were in charge of fireworks and managed to drop a cigarette in the wagon holding our entire stash. That, my friends, was a Grand Finale that we never let him live down.

Oh, and I just thought of one other thing that made me homesick for the good ol’ U.S. of A. while we were traveling. Much as I enjoyed the espresso in every country we visited, I couldn’t wait to get home and have an bottomless cup of American coffee.

God bless America.

Saturday Smile: What’s Up Cuz?

On Thursday, Jen and I got our grands together for the first time in several years. We took the gang to Pirate’s Cover, where they enjoyed swimming and floating and splashing and sliding for many hours. Kaiya, Mylee, and Cole haven’t seen Lilly and Austin for a long time, but cousins are cousins, and they made me smile…..

L-R Kaiya, 12, Mylee, 10, Austin, 10, Cole, 7, and Lilly 7

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: When the Stars Go Dark

Author Paula McLain has written a number of historical novels. I’ve read them all, and enjoyed them very much. From her writing, I have learned about Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley, Beryl Markham and her love affair with Denys Finch Hatton, and Ernest Hemingway and another of his wives, Martha Gellhorn.

I was surprised to learn that the author had undertaken the challenge of writing a distinctly different kind of book — a detective mystery story of sorts. Since mysteries are one of my favorite genres, I was eager to read the book. It met my expectations and beyond.

Anna Hart works as a detective in San Francisco, where she specializes in finding missing children. A tragic event in her own life — for which she blames herself — forces her to take a leave of absence from both her job and her husband and child. She moves back to her home town of Mendocino to try and pull herself and her life back together. It was in Mendocino that she spent the best years of her life with her much-loved adopted parents.

Unfortunately, she no sooner gets to Mendocino and a young girl goes missing. Despite her own psychological problems, Anna can’t help but get caught up in the search for this girl. It reminds her of her own childhood in Mendocino when one of her friends is murdered and the case remained unsolved. Before long, the search for the girl becomes oh-so-familiar, as the past connects with the present.

While this is not a historical novel, I liked the way the author tied in real-life cases and real-life people into the novel. It gave the story a realistic feel and made the book even more readable.

I enjoyed the book very much. I hope the author undertakes this type of book again. I would even like to see the return of a more-at-peace Anna Hart.

Here is a link to the book.