Monday, November 13, 2017

review of "The Florida Project"

The colorfulness of this film is somewhat reminiscent of Wes Anderson, but the plot is more like a reality show.

The movie is set in Orlando, not far from Disney World in the “less desirable” part of the city. There are two hotels – one called Future World (with a scaled down rocket near the sign)
and the other called (something like) Disney Village? (painted entirely in lavender).

“The Florida Project” is a glimpse into the lives of three children (all around 7 or 8 years old): Moonee (who lives in Disney Village), Scooty (who lives in the apartment below Moonee), and Jancey (a new friend who lives at Future World) as they spend their summer vacation doing what children do – sharing an ice cream cone, sitting in the shade trying to keep cool, and occasionally wreaking havoc on the other tenants.

William Dafoe is the hotel manager, Bobby, who seems to have a soft spot for the children. There’s a cute scene in the movie trailer where Bobby allows Moonee and Scooty to share an ice cream cone inside the lobby until one of them drips some on the floor. Bobby isn’t always so tolerant of the tenants’ misdeeds and has to call the police when an unusual amount of visitors are seen coming from some of the rooms (drugs, prostitution, etc.).

Almost everyone can recall the carefree days of their youth and how they spent their summer vacation, but most of us didn’t get up to the shenanigans of these three kids (spoiler alert – a felony is committed in a very big way).

When discussing the film afterwards, my husband and I were hesitant to say we “enjoyed” the film, though there are certainly some enjoyable moments. At times you just want to slap Moonee’s mother as it’s difficult to sympathize with her.
You have to feel for her kid who lives a life of both financial and moral poverty, and who will probably grow up to be just like her mother.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Highlights of the Last Week of Oct / Early Nov...

Meeting a veteran who had a ‘colleague’ of some notoriety…

I’ve been helping to serve lunch at the Upper Arlington Senior Center every Wednesday for the past five to six weeks. On my first day I met a WWII veteran by the name of John (97). I’ll never forget what he said to me, “You join our union and I’ll protect you.” Yes, a little quirky I know, but I thought it was sweet. Every week I watched as he always sat at the same table in the same seat. [It wasn’t until I had worked there a few weeks before I noticed the table was reserved for veterans.] He was always surrounded by fellow veterans (and fans?). I once overheard them talking about their experiences during the war “…landing on the island…” “…the food was horrible…” etc. One of the other lunch ladies told me he was a code breaker during the war. Since Wednesday was going to be my last time volunteering I finally struck up the courage to ask him about it. We didn’t talk long (I had to get back to washing dishes), but what he told me really surprised me and I only wish we had had more time to chat.

I told him I heard that he was a code breaker during the war. He confirmed that, and said he was in charge of a set of troops under President Roosevelt, and is the last survivor of the 25 under his command. What really wowed and amazed me was when he told me HE KNEW ALAN TURING!!! Being a code breaker during the war perhaps it was a given, but I was still really, really impressed! He said the subject of Alan’s sexuality was never discussed as it was an off limits topic, and that Alan was an absolute genius.

John also said he had the highest respect for all the 18 and 19 year old women (who Churchill had recruited from Oxford and Cambridge) who worked at Bletchley Park during the war not being able to tell their friends and family what they were doing for the war effort. As a code breaker himself, he too was leading a double life using a government created lie to successfully deceive his own family and friends. One of those lies was how he lost his right eye (he has a false eye). I’m not sure what really happened, but as far as friends and family were concerned it involved an accident on the shooting range. He said they all had to be trained on how to use various weapons should the situation ever arise that they would need to call on their expertise.

Finally getting to volunteer at a library…

I am now one step closer to my dream of someday working in a library (for pay) after finally getting to do my first shift of volunteering at the Grandview Heights Public Library. I’ve been assigned to the Young Adult section downstairs which is divided into two halves – one side for all the young readers (board books and some chapter books) and the other half for adolescents and teens.

My assignment was to see how many of the books I could locate from the lengthy Pull List (books reserved by library patrons) and put them on the cart I was pushing around. It took Rachel, one of the library employees, about 40 minutes to give me a proper orientation, so I lost a bit of time to that. However, I still managed to find most of the books (though I stayed a bit past my scheduled time), which impressed both Rachel and myself. The only section I didn’t get to was the picture books, which aren’t shelved with as much precision as the longer ones which get filed by the Dewey Decimal system. Hopefully next week I can actually complete the list.

Date night on Saturday (taking advantage of the extra hour and unseasonal temperature)…

This was one of those spontaneous evenings where I suggested we go out because it was too warm to stay home and I had some Graeters (ice cream) coupons burning a hole in my pocket. Hence, after dinner Andrew and I drove over and used our ‘Buy one sundae, get one free’ coupon. He got the 1870 special (a tiny choc bundt cake topped with a scoop of black raspberry choc chip ice cream and whipped cream with chocolate sauce drizzled over top)
and I got the Pumpkin sundae (a small piece of pumpkin cake with a scoop of pumpkin ice cream and whipped cream on top with butterscotch sauce drizzled over top).
We both polished them off with no problem and then went across the street to Half Price Books to look for any bargains (or at least I did as I headed for the clearance section). A dozen books and a CD or 2 later we staggered out with our overflowing book bag.

After we got home Andrew put the headset on me so I could try virtual ping pong. It’s every bit as difficult as playing it for real since I suck at ping pong. However, I love the d├ęcor of the studio apartment the ping pong table is situated in.
You can click around to see the apartment from different vantage points, which is super cool, but you have to stop yourself from trying to lean or sit on non-existent furniture. At one point I clicked and I was literally standing on top of a thin beam looking down at the apartment from above. That was a little scary, but I knew it wasn’t real.

We ended the evening by watching the second episode of “Stranger Things” on Netflix.

Monday, October 30, 2017

From Failure Comes Success…

If it’s true that you learn from your failures, then I practically got a degree this weekend.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that I am not a master baker, but am a huge fan of “The Great British Bake-off,” and always watch the Master Classes with Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. Though I’ve learned a lot, apparently I still have a long way to go before I even reach amateur status.

Friday afternoon I decided to bake some chocolate chip cookies for my church’s prison ministry (Kairos). This is something I’ve done from time to time – always with mixed results, which is why I don’t volunteer for it every time.

Here’s what happened this time…
We have a small oven, one which is built into the wall (like the Brady’s had) so we can only fit in two trays at a time (vertically). I was also cooking a pan of scalloped potatoes for our dinner, so I placed that on the bottom rack while rotating trays of cookies on the top rack. None of the trays of cookies ever got completely baked (though they were soft and lovely!) as you could tell from a lack of a bottom layer on each cookie. My husband, Andrew, who definitely knows his way around the kitchen and usually has far better luck than me with most things culinary, figured the tray of scalloped potatoes absorbed all the heat and I would have been far better off putting that on the top rack. Also, I burned the bottom layer of my potatoes since they were in the oven far too long (2 hours + last hour on low).

Final result: kept the cookies since trying to keep 2 dozen soft cookies from forming one giant lump of a cookie seemed futile. Most of the scalloped potatoes were still edible, and I extend my gratitude to Andrew for cleaning the burnt pan for me (which we soaked overnight).

The apple tart dilemma…

In early/mid September Andrew and I went apple picking at a local farm. After making several containers of apple sauce, and eating an apple or two occasionally, we still have an entire drawer (and then some) leftover. I borrowed my sister’s Kitchen Aid blender to assist with making an apple tart in the ceramic tart pan I bought many, many years ago at a garage sale and have never used.

Sunday morning I got on my laptop to look up baking instructions since my tart pan was ceramic and not metal like most of them. It was while doing that, that I learned what I actually have is a quiche pan. I acknowledged that, shrugged, then carried on with making my recipe for the crust (copied directly from a Master Class episode). Since the dough was so sticky (as it was supposed to be) and apparently I was over-flouring it, my husband stepped in and rolled it out for me. Once he did that and then looked at the size of the quiche pan, we both determined that was going to be a no go in terms of fitting properly. His circle would adequately fit the bottom, but there wasn’t enough dough to reach up to the sides. Rather than make more dough, we just decided to carry on and use a pie tin instead, so we did the blind bake and then added our apples. The crust got a little overdone so Andrew covered it with tin foil to allow the apples to bake properly. The end result – a sad little pie that tasted alright, but a lot of work for just a mediocre result. However, the crust (even though over baked) didn’t stick like it normally does because of using a different recipe (and doing a blind bake, etc.).

At least I got good results after making some cupcakes to donate to the food pantry tomorrow (though I still have to make the frosting using a dry powder mix). Fingers crossed!

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Mays in the Maze of Maize….

Saturday October 21, 2017 
Saturday afternoon I attended the second annual B.R.E.A.D. (Bake, Reconnect, Educate, make Art, celebrate Diversity) Festival held in downtown Dublin. Like last year, they lucked out with really nice weather – sunshine with temperatures in the high 70s (which certainly brought out the bees everyone kept swatting at).

Although I hadn’t necessarily planned on spending the whole afternoon there, I figured I would take my time to walk around and check out all the booths at a leisurely pace. My first order of business was grabbing some lunch. I considered buying one of the many bread products for lunch, but the lure of the food trucks was too strong so I ended up buying a bowl of noodles from the Mixing Bowl Asian [Next year I think I’ll stick to just trying just a few free samples and perhaps buy one of the bread products.] In spite of sucking down a sizeable bowl of noodles, I bought an iced mocha and a couple small chocolates from my favorite downtown coffee shop, Winan’s. I just hope I burned off a few calories while walking around.

The SWACO (Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio) table was near the food trucks, so I stopped over to say hello to the employee working there (a vegan named Alex) and picked up a couple sheets with the recycling arrows on them to color in. I also grabbed a couple free pins that said, “Bring me Back – Return or Reuse your Bags.” Alex told me that envelopes, even the ones with wax windows, can be put in your recycling bin completely intact. I told her I always take the time to cut out the wax windows as I was taught back in college. I’m glad she told me. That will certainly save me a bit of time, and my husband will no longer need to put them in the trash as he’s been doing.

From what I could gather, there were at least half a dozen countries strongly represented. Japan had an origami booth
and a tea ceremony booth; the German booth was handing out samples of meat & cheese;
the Ukranian booth was coloring Pysanky eggs;
Henna tattoos were being given at the India booth; the Polish booth had tasty samples of Babka and Paczki; Irish music was being played at the Ireland booth
(didn’t see any soda bread samples though); almost bought some Turkish coffee from the TASO (Turkish American Society of Ohio) booth.

Although I told Andrew I wouldn’t buy any bread since we already have a freezer full of various kinds, I couldn’t resist the budget friendly bargains. Among other things, I bought a peanut butter roll,
a cheese roll,
a Tomato, Basil & Garlic loaf,
and a chocolate pudding dessert (not bread, but really tasty!). My non-bread purchases included a rainbow colored beaded bracelet and a Christmas ornament.

As I was standing around watching the Richens/Timms Irish dancers (they’re pretty big here in Dublin) a lady came over and said hello and we started chatting. I just assumed I knew her from St. Brendan’s since that’s where I know most people. Her name was Sue Ellen and she’s actually one of the volunteers at UALC (Upper Arlington Lutheran Church)/SON Ministries (Serving Our Neighbors) whom I had met on Thursday. I told Sue Ellen I’ve definitely heard more Irish music here (living so close to Dublin) than the two times I’ve actually been to (the Republic of) Ireland and Northern Ireland. We had a nice chat, but as it was getting late I remembered that I needed to get home since Andrew and I were attending his Leading Edje Fall Fest at Little Darby Creek farm (where I had been a couple weekends ago).

The MAYS in the MAZE of MAIZE….

In spite of me running a bit late, we arrived in plenty of time as the fire (for roasting hot dogs) had only just got started. Unfortunately I was still a bit full from lunch, so I watched as Andrew and the others ate, but then decided to grab some dinner so I wouldn’t be hungry later.

Since our passes included some free shots with the corn cannon, we each had a go with that. Andrew used his token to try the pumpkin cannon, but I saved mine to get a pumpkin to take home.

Of course Andrew wanted to have a go at the maze, so we each chose a passport. He chose the Corny questions, while I selected the Scriptural one. If you go in as a pair (which I would recommend), it’s a good idea to select two different passports so you can compare questions & answers. Overall, I think my scriptural questions were a lot easier than his corn trivia. Although it was more fun going around with my mom and sister, I definitely made better time going around with Andrew. I think it’s because he’s so methodical - when the passport said to go left, he made sure to make every left turn until we got to another passport stop. I think we made it out in around 45 minutes, compared to the well over an hour it took my mom, sister and I.

Andrew wasn’t too bothered to feed the goats, pet the bunnies, or throw the baseballs through the holes, and we certainly didn’t want to wait in the mile long line for the haunted hayride, so we left shortly thereafter. I kind of wish marshmallow roasting had been on the agenda, but since this was a family event (and so many things for kids to do), the communal dinner in the pavilion was about it. At least we spent just over an hour, just about making the half hour drive there worth it.

Sunday October 22, 2017


On Sunday we went to the Gateway Film Center to see what has been described as “the world’s first fully painted feature film” called “Loving Vincent.”

According to the description of the film, “The man was carrying nothing; his hands clasped to a fresh bullet wound leaking blood from his belly. This was Vincent van Gogh, then a little known artist; now the most famous artist in the world. His tragic death has long been known, what has remained a mystery is how and why he came to be shot. Loving Vincent tells that story.”

The movie definitely lives up to its description as a painting in motion. Both Andrew and I agreed we had never seen anything quite like it and both of us were more than a little impressed (and perhaps a little depressed due to the melancholy plot line) with the whole technique. Andrew said at times it felt like a bit of a whodunit. I agree. I also think the plot was a bit slow moving at times. Even though the movie was only an hour and a half long, it felt a bit longer. I love the end where they showed pictures of the actors as they were painted into the film all while the song “Starry, Starry Night” played in the background. Overall, it’s an excellent film, but just know that it’s certainly not a cheerful plot line. I read that in one showing over in Europe it got a standing ovation.