January 29, 2010

Reading "The Broken Window"

Can you say Data Mining? This book was very scary in a today's real world kind of way.

Written by Jeffery Deaver, this is another Lincoln Rhyme / Amelia Sachs murder mystery. (Remember "The Bone Collector" that was made into a movie starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie?) The paperback edition was released in May 2009 and I picked it up at the used book store.

The basic premise of the story is that someone is killing people, then planting evidence that very strongly convicts other people of the murders. The killer is able to go into any type of record out there and make changes ... you failed a drug test you didn't take ... you have an outstanding warrant when you really don't ... you've missed making your car payments when you really haven't. But the records are what the authorities believe and proving anything different is pretty much impossible.

He is also able to view your records to see what kind of evidence to plant. You bought a rope at Home Depot ... you belong to a certain gym ... you frequent a specific Starbucks. Even paying cash for your transactions doesn't mean you aren't being tracked.

There really are companies out there that specialize in data mining, selling the information to people who want to sell you something or figure out where you're at in life ... buying a house ... having a baby ... being promoted in your job.

jeffery deaver
You know those little key ring reward cards for your favorite places to shop? Oh yeah, everything you buy is being tracked by someone and that information is sold to someone else. Scary, huh?

The reason Lincoln Rhyme becomes involved in these murders is his cousin, Arthur Rhyme, is being convicted for one of them. This was a very good book and, frankly, I find myself thinking about it as I'm out running errands, leaving a trail of information.


January 28, 2010

The White House Cook Book - An Antique Cookbook

I love antiques, I love cooking and I love books -- so what could be better than an antique cookbook!

I have around 200 cookbooks in my collection but I think the oldest is one I received as a gift from my Youngest Sister a few years ago. The original copyright was in 1887; my copy of "The White House Cook Book" was published by The Saalfield Publishing Company in 1907, made by The Werner Company in Akron, Ohio. It was written by Hugo Zieman, Steward of the White House, and Mrs. F. L. Gillette.

I don't know who owned it, but it is very yellowed and obviously used. There are a number of handwritten notes on the pages as well as inserted between the pages, along with newspaper clippings of recipes and a few Champion Dog Series collector cards - #9 Mastiff and #17 Great Dane.

It contains 590 pages of fascinating information including:

Page iv - Note from the Publisher (last paragraph) -- Convenience has been studied in the make-up of the book. The type is large and plain; it is sewed by patent flexible process, so that when opened it will not close of itself, and it is bound in enameled cloth adapted for use in the kitchen.

Page 37 - Recipe for Squirrel Soup.

Page 147 - To Cure Ham and Bacon with a notation in parentheses (A Prize Recipe).

Newspaper clipping for Lady Baltimore Cake by Mrs. Janet McKenzie Hill, Editor of the Boston Cooking School Magazine.

Page 158 - How to prepare Herbs for Winter.

Beginning on Page 168 - An entire section on how to make Catsup -- tomato, walnut, oyster, mushroom, gooseberry, cucumber, currant, apple, celery and spiced vinegar.

How to make all variety of Pickles.

A handwritten recipe on a piece of note paper for Molasses Candy.

Page 208 - How to make Butter.

A hand-drawn design for a Card Case (for calling cards?).

Page 226 - General directions for making Bread.

Page 229 - How to make Unrivaled Yeast.

Page 240 - Parker House Rolls. Oven temperature is "Bake in a rather quick oven."

Page 259 - How to make Crackers.

There are pages of photos throughout the book that include the Presidents' Wives (previous photo) as well as demonstrative photos like "Icing the Cakes" on Page 270.

Page 271 - Plain Chocolate Icing was an obvious favorite with a penciled X by it.

Handwritten recipe for Cucumber Pickles by Mary Roll.

Page 281 - Recipe for Snow Cake (Delicious.) "This is a genuine Scotch recipe."

Page 296 - Sponge Drops in the Cake Section. Measurements are by Teacup and Coffee Cup and instructions read to"Bake instantly in a very quick oven."

An old Sears, Roebuck envelope advertisement to order a Free Sample Book. It reads "Don't pay retail prices for clothing" and takes a 2-cent stamp.

Many recipes called for "Butter the size of a walnut" or "Butter the size of an egg."

Page 423 - Deep Red Coloring for Fruit, etc. [Take twenty grains of cochineal and fifteen grains of cream of tartar finely powdered; add to them a piece of alum the size of a cherry stone and boil them with a gill of soft water in an earthen vessel, slowly, for half an hour. Then strain it through muslin, and keep it tightly corked in a phial. If a little alcohol is added it will keep any length of time.]

Page 437 - The Healing Properties of Tea and Coffee. [The medical properties of these two beverages are considerable. Tea is used advantageously in inflammatory diseases and as a cure for the headache. Coffee is supposed to act as a preventive of gravel and gout, and to its influence is ascribed the rarity of those diseases in France and Turkey. Both tea and coffee powerfully counteract the effects of opium and intoxicating liquors; though, when taken in excess, and without nourishing food, they themselves produce, temporarily at least, some of the more disagreeable consequences incident to the use of ardent spirits. In general, however, none but persons possessing great mobility of the nervous system, or enfeebled or effeminate constitutions, are injuriously affected by the moderate use of tea and coffee in connection with food.]

How to make Wine and Beer.

Weekly Menus for each month of the year including holidays and special days like Washington's Birthday.

Special Menus including a State Dinner at the White House; Mrs. Cleveland's Wedding Lunch - June 4, 1888; General Grant's Birthday Dinner; and a Buffet for 1,000 People.

Remedies and Cures for the Sick including Beefsteak and mutton chops if he is very sick; Draughts for the feet; and Cure for ringworm.

Health Suggestions including How Colds are Caught; for Toothache; and Asthma.

Miscellaneous recipes To clean kid gloves; Paper-hangers' paste; Postage stamp mucilage.

Facts Worth Knowing such as To clean marble busts and To freshen gilt frames.

Toilet Recipes, Items including Lavender water; Hair invigorator, Phalon's instantaneous hair dye; Pearl smelling salts; and antidote for poisons.

How to make dyes in all colors for a variety of fabrics.

Table Etiquette including Dinner giving [We gather around our board agreeable persons, and they pay us and our dinner the courtesy of dressing for the occasion, and this reunion should be a time of profit as well as pleasure.] ; and A family dinner [This sensible meal, well cooked and neatly served, is pleasing to almost any one, and is within the means of any housekeeper in ordinary circumstances.]

Handwritten recipes and notes in the book include Burnt Carmel Cake; Horse colic; Washing fluid; Throat gargle; Little Sage Tea [A pinch of Borax and a little honey is good for Baby's sore mouth]; Cod oil and vinegar is good to take rust from cloth; and Black Chocolate Cake (requested).

This beautiful cookbook is an absolute treasure in my collection. I doubt if I'll be doing much actual cooking from it, but it is fascinating to read! Thanks again to my Baby Sister!

January 27, 2010

MY Personal Perfect Diet and Exercise Plan

While the actual words "diet" and "exercise" were not in my New Year's resolutions, that doesn't mean I don't climb gracelessly up the splintered side of that ugly old wagon every January. *sigh*

In my Christmas stocking (Santa looked suspiciously like my Youngest Daughter), was a jump rope. Huh... It's a lot harder than I remember and not nearly as much fun as it used to be!

YD has also recently challenged me to be her workout buddy. We don't work out together, but text each other before and/or after we've worked out, telling what we've accomplished and giving praise and encouragement. She is doing a Boot Camp DVD - show off!

I love to walk outside -- hubby and I take the dogs on walks after dinner -- but when the weather is in the "face of the sun" temps or raining steadily like it has been lately, I get on the treadmill. I like to walk while watching Regis & Kelly, Martha, Oprah or anything that makes me forget what I'm doing. I also try to do sit ups and some free weights.

Living in the land of sleeveless shirts most of the year, getting rid of the batwings would be good. I remember hearing about a woman who called them "Hi Helens" because she had a neighbor named Helen who would raise her arm and vigorously wave, calling out "Hi."

So after many years of intense research and personal trial, I've developed the precise plan that works for me. I've found that I can't eat while on the treadmill so...
  • Wake up.
  • Cup of coffee with fat free half & half.
  • Bowl of healthy cereal with skim milk.
  • Get on treadmill.
  • Walk until lunchtime.
  • Have a healthy lunch.
  • Get back on treadmill.
  • Walk until dinnertime.
  • Have a healthy dinner.
  • Shower (ewwwww).
  • Pass out from exhaustion.
  • Repeat.
    See? No snacking or excess eating and I'm off the couch. Maybe I'll start this new routine tomorrow or the next day or next week or next January!

    January 25, 2010

    Receiving a Prayer Shawl

    My sweetie pie brother-in-law has knitted me a beautiful prayer shawl. I think one of the nicest things a knitter can do is make something for another knitter. Seems most of us make things to give away first and foremost and only occasionally keep them for ourselves.

    He picked up knitting just a little over a year ago and has made some wonderful prayer shawls and scarves. He's now taking classes at his local yarn shop and I'm planning to take a few with him for the learning, the getting out of the house and, mostly, the camaraderie and FUN!

    This shawl is a gorgeous green variegated bouclé that is light as a feather but incredibly warm and cozy. I love it and will wear it often. Thanks, BIL!

    January 23, 2010

    Reading "Tender at the Bone"

    Our book club selection for February is "Tender at the Bone -- Growing Up at the Table" by Ruth Reichl. I had to keep reminding myself that this is non-fiction.

    Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet magazine which is no longer being published as of November 2009, has an entertaining history with food. While she had no formal culinary training, she has cooked since she was a small child. This is the story of her life with food and her no holds barred personal life, including dealing with a manic-depressive mother who was known as the Queen of Mold.

    Here's a little excerpt from the first chapter:

    "Oh, it's just a little mold," I can remember her saying on the many occasions she scraped the fuzzy blue stuff off some concoction before serving what was left for dinner. She had an iron stomach and was incapable of understanding that other people did not.

    This taught me many things. The first was that food could be dangerous, especially to those who loved it. I took this very seriously. My parents entertained a great deal, and before I was ten I had appointed myself guardian of the guests. My mission was to keep Mom from killing anybody who came to dinner.

    She tells about learning to cook from her Aunt Birdie's maid, Hortense, as well as their own family's maid, Mrs. Peavey; being sent to boarding school in Montreal to learn French and getting an education from the local deli owners; spending time with a fellow student's millionaire family where she was introduced to gourmet food; traveling abroad with her college roommate; marrying and making ends meet -- then moving to California and living in a commune; being hired as a restaurant critic by a San Francisco magazine; going to France on a wine buying trip; even attending a party in honor of James Beard.

    ruth reichl
    I found her story interesting and fascinating. She really went through some ups and downs with her mother's illness and came out on the right side of happy.

    Ruth Reichl has written and edited a number of books and cookbooks over the years and I believe I'll read them all. "Tender at the Bone" includes recipes throughout the text as well.


    Legend of the Stick Lizard

    I have to share another bit from Clay Thompson's Arizona 101 column. I love this ...

    "A stick lizard, as many an old-time Arizonan can tell you, scurries along the hot desert floor with a stick held crossways in its mouth.

    The stick serves two purposes. When a lizard comes to a burning stretch of sand, it uses the stick to sort of pole vault over the hot part, thus preventing burns to its little lizard feet.

    The stick also is used for self-preservation. If the lizard is attacked, the crossways stick prevents the predator from swallowing the lizard.

    This stick-lizard business is old-timer, tall-tale hooey of course, but it amuses the tourists."

    Taken from the Arizona Republic. Thanks again, Clay Thompson!

    January 22, 2010

    Reading "Comfort Food"

    I really enjoy books by Kate Jacobs. She has written “The Friday Night Knitting Club” and its sequel “Knit Two.” Of course, stories about knitting and knitting shops and knitting friends always appeal to me.

    Now she has crossed over into my other love interest – cooking – with her book “Comfort Food.”

    Gus Simpson is a widow with two daughters, now grown. At the time her husband died, her girls were still young and Gus felt the only way she could hold it all together was by being strong, hiding her grief and working, working, working. She has no formal culinary training, but enjoys cooking and opens a sandwich shop that receives interest from the head of the CookingChannel. After ending up with her own TV show, she feels like she has everything under control.

    kate jacobs
    Then the show's ratings go down and she is unwillingly paired up with spicy hot former Miss Spain, Carmen Vega, to bring new viewers and regenerate interest with her existing audience. Through this painful process, she ends up learning a lot about herself and the disservice she has done to her daughters and their relationship.

    It’s a fluffy, light story, but still lots of fun and all the more enjoyable with food talk throughout.


    January 16, 2010

    New Baby Road Trip

    The sweet momma I had the baby shower for last month delivered the little buckaroo last week. We were eager to meet him, so YD and I took a day trip into the mountains yesterday to do just that and take the momma and grandma out to lunch.

    It was a pretty drive ...

    saguaros on a hill
    scrub brush and cactus
    tree shadows
    Here's a sign you'll never see in Phoenix ...

    and finally, here is the new baby with his knitted horsie blanket ...

    Look at that thick head of hair. He is tiny and adorable and perfect! What a fun day!!!

    January 14, 2010

    What's Cookin' - Lemon Meringue Pie and Chicken Stir Fry

    Hubby told me recently that he thinks I love my new phone more than him -- because I pay more attention to it than him.

    So I told him, "That's ridiculous! I love you both the same!"

    There is nothing cooler than picking lemons off our tree, zesting and juicing and making ...

    my first ever Lemon Meringue Pie! I did not make the crust, but bought a frozen pre-made from the store and baked it. Then filled it with the lightest, yummiest lemon filling. Then took just a few minutes to make meringue. This is Paula Deen's recipe and I could not believe how fast and easy it was to make. I have always shied away from meringue because I thought it looked complicated. Boy, was I wrong.

    And it is so delicious!

    In my effort to reassure hubby that I really do love him as much as my touch phone, I also made a dinner that he loved -- Stir-Fried Honey-Ginger Chicken with Peppers -- that I saw on Martha Stewart's show last week. It was so good and very healthy ... which was a good thing since we each had two pieces of pie for dessert!!!

    This picture is from the MS website. I don't own a wok; just used a really large skillet. Worked like a dream and tasted amazing. I am not a big fan of ginger, but the fresh ginger really made this taste wonderful.

    Both of these recipes are definite keepers!

    January 12, 2010

    Wordless Wednesday - Pooch Under a Pillow

    Wordless Wednesday

    What's Cookin' - Poached Salmon

    My Youngest Daughter taught me how to poach, eat and love salmon. I have never been a fish lover or eater other than shellfish so when she made it for me the first time, I figured I'd eat it holding my nose ... once. Well, I was absolutely shocked at how good it was; not fishy at all. And the greatest thing is it's fast, easy and so healthy. We always do the same combination of poached salmon with steamed broccoli and I can have it on the table in 15 minutes. No kidding!

    Seems like salmon is very well priced, too. Watch for specials on salmon fillets. I can usually get a pound of salmon for just over $6.00. I like to pick up broccoli at the farmers' market and can usually get a couple of crowns for around $3.00. When we steam one crown, dinner for two costs between $6.50 and $7.00. And we open a bottle of wine.

    Poached Salmon with Steamed Broccoli

    Salmon fillets
    Seasoning, i.e., garlic salt or lemon & herb seasoning - whatever you like
    1/2 cup of white wine
    1 lemon
    Broccoli crowns


    For the salmon - heat about 1/2" of water in the bottom of a skillet to boiling. Sprinkle in whatever seasoning you like (tonight I used Schilling Lemon & Herb Seasoning, but we also like garlic salt).

    In the meantime, trim and separate the broccoli into florets. (We use a steamer basket in a saucepan, but there are other good ways to steam including the microwave.) Put about 1/2" of water in the saucepan, place the steamer basket over it and the broccoli in the basket. Start heating the water to a boil.

    Carefully slide the salmon into the boiling water skin side down, turn the burner down to medium-low, pour a little white wine over the fillets, put the lid on and set the timer for 8 minutes. We buy 4-packs of  small wine bottles that I use just for cooking. This time we had Sutter Home Pinot Grigio but any white wine will work. You can also use some right out of the bottle you'll be drinking with dinner.

    Put the lid on the skillet over the salmon and the lid on the saucepan over the broccoli and start the timer. In 8 minutes, dinner is ready to plate. Squeeze a little fresh lemon over the salmon or make some of Eva's Dill Sauce. Just think, it was such a healthy dinner, you can have a really nice dessert!

    January 11, 2010

    On the Needles - Soft Rib Cardigan

    With our months of home improvements and making the horsie blanket for the baby shower, I actually only knit one gift for Christmas -- a prayer shawl for my Middle Sister. It's made of Bernat Soft Bouclé yarn (#26958 - Carnival Shades) that is so light and soft and cushy, it feels like you're knitting air. MS emailed me ... It is already in place on the back of my prayer/reading rocker in the living room (reading + rocking = exercise!). Maybe I should get rid of my treadmill and get a rocking chair instead. It would certainly get a lot more use!!!

    I enjoyed making this prayer shawl so much, I bought yarn to start another (#22927 Misty Shades). While I didn't know at that time who it would be for, I spoke with someone last week whose husband has been through cancer treatments. Things were looking good; then he was just retested and they found another spot. I can't even imagine how scary that must be. They are young with three boys. She told me she puts on a confident face for her husband, but cries in the shower -- this one will be for her.

    I receive a weekly email from Lion Brand and last week's newsletter included a pattern that was so cute, I decided I had to start it right away. Check out the Soft Rib Cardigan. I am not using the Fishermen's Wool yarn they show it in, but their pastel blue Pound of Love that is easy care and can be machine washed and dried.

    I started the sweater yesterday and got the lovely rounded bottom of the back done while we watched the Cardinals football game. I'm not a big sports fan, but it was quite the exciting game, tied 38 even and going into overtime. Fortunately, the Cards beat the Packers by 7 points so we're still in the play offs. I must say, it's a lot more fun to watch sports (and everything else) on the big screen. I can actually tell what's going on ... sometimes.

    Anyway, this sweater is knit holding two strands of the yarn together so it is thick and cozy. And the slip rib stitch is an easy repeat that I can just knit on without referring back to the pattern every few minutes. I think I'm going to like this one a lot.

    January 9, 2010

    It's Citrus Time Again

    I wrote lemons on the grocery list a few days ago and hubby reminded me we don't need to go to the store for them right now.

    lemon tree
    I know it's hard to tell how big it is, but we pulled over 1,000 lemons off this tree last March. I juiced until there wasn't a non-sticky spot in our kitchen. We filled freezer baggies with 3-cup portions to make fresh lemonade. I also cook with it all the time. I plan to learn to make lemon meringue pie this year, which is one of hubby's favorites.

    In addition to the lemon tree, we have a grapefruit, an orange and a tangerine tree in our back yard. I've pulled two baskets of tangerines off so far.

    They're pretty tasty, but just not big enough to make them worth juicing.

    As I was running in and out of the back door, the dogs finally got tired of following me and just watched through the glass.

    whatcha doing mom
    Yep, it's citrus time again!


    Hubby was flipping through channels last night and stopped for a while on a basketball game with the Denver Nuggets playing. Having lived in Denver a few times in our relocations, we had gone to a Nuggets game with the girls. Our Oldest Daughter was probably in 4th or 5th grade.

    Periodically, the crowd would stand up, pump a fist in the air and yell, "Charge!" This went on for a while ... then OD finally had to ask ... "Who's George?"

    That will be forever funny!

    January 8, 2010

    What's Cookin' -- Crostini Caprese

    The Crostini Caprese I made for book club was so good, I decided to do it again this evening just for the two of us.

    most of the ingredients
    first toasting in the oven
    ya gotta love that pesto
    ready to nosh on
    So good ... I'll be making these many, many times!

    January 7, 2010

    Reading "Dear John"

    My horoscope in today's newspaper reads:

    You find it impossible to think anything but the best about everyone you meet. Goodness hovers around you like a perfume.

    Is that what that smell is? Obviously, they don't know me!

    I hosted our book club meeting last night. It's good to have people over periodically. Makes you straighten up the house. I love the morning after we've had guests, just walking around with my coffee cup, enjoying the sparkly clean!

    We discussed "The Help," which everyone really liked and we're all hoping Kathryn Stockett goes on to write more books. We were missing a few members due to illness and a bad back, but gained a new member -- my YD joined us. There is another mother-daughter who attends and it's so nice to see how they really like each other and want to spend time together. We are all lucky to have this close relationship.

    In addition to the usual wine, cheese, crackers and fruit, I decided to make a little hot appetizer. It was super easy and really delicious. Actually got raves. At Italian restaurants, one of my favorites is a Caprese salad, which is mozzarella, plum tomatoes, basil and olive oil so this plays off of that. Called Crostini Caprese, I found it on the Pampered Chef website and will make this one over and over again. I don't have the Large Round Stone, so substituted a cookie sheet and it worked just fine. Also just used my store brand spray olive oil.

    Finally, to the real reason I'm writing. "Dear John" is classic Nicholas Sparks. As you'll remember from "The Notebook," he writes deep love stories and someone always gets sick and/or dies. This book did not disappoint; however, it was predictable. YD, hubby and I all read it and figured out the ending ahead of time. All that said, it was a nice read.

    John Tyree is a troubled kid, raised alone by a father so shy he can barely carry on a conversation. After completing high school, John decides he is on the wrong path and joins the army, which turns out to be a good thing for him. Home on a furlough, he meets Savannah and they fall in love. They make plans to marry when he gets out of the service -- then 9/11 happens. When his entire squad reenlists, he has to choose between love for his country and love for his woman. Lots of angst, lots of drama.

    I am looking forward to seeing the movie, which comes out February 5th. But here's one of the things that drives me nuts when they make a book into a movie. Sparks makes it very clear in the book that Savannah is brunette. Especially in the beginning when they first meet, it is mentioned over and over that she is an attractive brunette. So in my head I have this image of Savannah as a brunette. If you've seen the movie previews -- or just look at the cover of the book, they have cast her as a blonde. What???

    Pictured is the book with a vase of pretty yellow flowers I got yesterday.

    January 4, 2010

    Happy Birthday, Bubbles!

    Happy, Happy Birthday
    to our
    Bubbly Niece!

    Hope you have a Wonderful Day!
    Lots of Love from your Auntie and Huncle!

    January 3, 2010

    Airplane Mode

    You have to take a test to get a driver's license but anyone can get a phone. A little earlier today -- January 3rd -- I tried to send a text message to YD because we were going to get together to hang some shelves and pictures in her apartment. And it said the message couldn't be sent. What? Then I realized that any messages I had tried to send for the last few days had not gone. What???

    Apparently, when I was fooling around with my phone on New Year's Eve, sending text messages to the kids and playing games, I somehow put my phone on "Airplane Mode" which stops it from transmitting.

    So when I finally was able to figure out how to take it off of Airplane Mode, all of the "Happy New Year" messages I sent 3 days ago just went out.

    This is the message I got back from YD today after she received my "Happy New Year" 3 days late:

    "Holy crap who let u into the alcohol? Kidding!"

    I guess she thought I was still celebrating.

    I have read the touch phone manual from cover to cover, but I understand they give some kind of lesson at the Sprint store. Sign me up!

    January 1, 2010

    "Up in the Air" about Movies

    Happy New Year! We had our usual quiet New Year's Eve at home. We're not ones to go out on the road to celebrate this occasion. I stepped out onto our front doorstep with a noisemaker at midnight and hollered Happy New Year to the empty street while hubby laughed at me from inside the house. It was perfect!

    We just got home from seeing "Up In the Air" starring George Clooney. He plays a "terminator" who goes around the country firing people for various companies that don't want to do it themselves. He is a more-than-frequent flier who feels like he is providing a valuable service, helping to let these people go in a face-to-face personable way. With all of his traveling, he doesn't have a home life ... or even a home. It was a fascinating movie, especially if you like to ponder the psychology of people and situations. It is very thought-provoking but I am a happy ending kind of girl and this one didn't cut it. I usually gauge how much I liked a movie by whether or not I'd like to see it again as I'm leaving the theater. This one, not so much.

    One of my favorites this year was "The Blind Side" with Sandra Bullock. If she doesn't get an award for her role in this, I'll be sorely disappointed. It is the wonderful true story about a well-to-do white family in Texas who takes in a homeless black boy, Michael Oher, and wholeheartedly makes him a part of their family. He goes on to college as an All American football player. This was a heartwarming story of love and encouragement that I am looking forward to seeing again.

    If you've read the Twilight books, you know "New Moon" is the second in the series and the movie was terrific. They did a nice job with the supernatural changes, turning people into werewolves on-screen. This ongoing saga of a high school girl who falls in love with a vampire, and whose best friend just happens to be a werewolf, is fairytale great. Looking forward to the third one.

    We saw a few animated movies with the Granddaughter, including "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel" and "Up." The Chipmunks movie was just plain fun. There was a lot more to "Up" than just a cartoon, including love, death, mourning, trust and loyalty. Definitely an all-around great cartoon for kids and adults. Carl's voice (the senior citizen in the movie) was done by Ed Asner, who I've always loved. I once stood in a long, long line in Las Vegas to meet him and have a photo signed by him. (Not sure where it is right now, but it's here somewhere!)

    And, of course, my favorite, favorite movie of the year was "Julie and Julia." We rented it recently and I fell in love with it all over again. It just makes me smile. I now have my own Blu-ray copy on order from Amazon and when it gets here, I'll happily watch it again.

    We saw other movies this year, but those were the standouts.

    So, New Year's resolutions anybody? I have a few ...

    Continue to get organized. Sometime during 2010, I will have gone through every single drawer and cupboard and closet in this house and cleaned. We keeping using the word minimalist, which means a lot more donating and garage sale-ing, as well as just plain throwing stuff out.

    Work on my zen. I will let things go, dismiss those that aggravate and frustrate me, and just be happy ... in the moment.

    Eat more salads. And that's as close as I'll get to the word diet.

    Take more walks. And that's as close as I'll get to the word exercise.

    Happy New Year!

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