Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Last Dress

As I consider our New Year's Eve occasion with friends, wardrobe considerations do not include a dress. That particular evening in my neck of the woods often includes cold, either snowy or rainy weather which, in my mind, excludes a dress. I still love the little black dress with black stockings and heels because it gives me a long, slim look. Long dresses suit me more than mid-calf or knee length dresses--both make me look short and fat. Dresses at mid-thigh look better on me than mid-calf. Dark, solid color dresses look better than colors or patterns on my weird shape.

I cannot recall the last time I wore a dress. I think it was in 2007 for a formal occasion. It would take a formal wedding at this time to get me into a dress. I haven't bought a dress in such a long time, I don't even know my size. The last wedding I attended was outdoors and I wore a pantsuit. I like dark, solid pattern pantsuits with some frilly neck treatment or eye-popping jewelry. I really prefer feminine pantsuits to dresses because my extra ten pounds and my short stature find it to be more friendly. The jackets in pantsuits hide a multitude of sins which I favor at my age. If I choose to wear high heels, pants make me look even taller, but I don't choose to wear high heels too often. My feet thank me at the end of the day when I wear two-inch heels rather than five-inch heels.

I don't mind my legs showing when wearing a skirt, because my gene pool doesn't include cellulite or varicose veins. I just find slacks are so much more comfortable even though I don't sit in any unladylike contortions. Ask any guy if he would like to wear skirts. I'm still trying to get the charm of kilts other than the obvious titillation of "going commando". I never have to think twice about "upskirting" when I climb stairs in my slacks, which is a plus to my sensibilities. The TSA won't have to waste their time searching me due to trying to wear a skirt on an airplane. I can't understand why anyone would want to wear a skirt on a plane--you never know when you are going to land in the Hudson or have to slide down an escape chute.

The basic black slacks can flatter any top, shiny or plain. I have a huge wardrobe of black dressy slacks so I prefer switching tops or buying only tops rather than paying for a dress that quickly becomes old news. Basic black slacks are even more versatile than the little black dress. I like sleeves to keep my arms warm in the winter and little black dresses look better sleeveless and low-cut. IMHO ladies over the age of fifty clearly look their age in sleeveless, low-cut dresses. The skin ages and looks like crepe--end of story. Age-appropriate is a lovely euphemism.

Friday, November 12, 2010


"My home is my castle." We like to think we have an impenetrable fortress,  even today, when we close our doors on the world to recharge our human batteries to face another day. Throughout history, mankind has built structures designed to keep out their enemies and to shelter their families.

Should people in modern neighborhoods be considered alert, observant, or overly alarmed when a stranger takes a picture of your house and the inside through the windows; or when a stranger asks for a cigarette while standing in your driveway; or when a stranger tapes seven of the same advertisements on the front door of your house on different days? Are we vigilant, or nosy, or paranoid when we see such things and report them?

Every neighborhood is a combination of various personalities and, like families, we don't get to choose the other people who are part of this circle. Every neighborhood has incidents of mischief, misdemeanors and sometimes even felonies. No neighborhood is perfect but when we buy a house, we are full of hope that there are good neighbors and no bad actors living nearby.

I have to think that some of the trend toward 55 Plus neighborhoods is an effort to shut out crime and eliminate some of the mischief that occurs in neighborhoods where unsupervised children get out of hand and steal or damage property. We like to live near people like ourselves who can relate to us.

I like the thought that neighbors look out for each other and pay attention to what's happening in their neighborhood. After seeing stories of someone like Jaycee Dugard in the news and wondering how this can happen and no neighbors would notice or report it, I think the guy who pulled off that crime for years and years wouldn't have had a chance in my neighborhood.

After some local vandalism and theft, we now have a neighborhood "passive" watch and an e-mail board where neighbors can keep each other informed of suspicious activity in the neighborhood. I am alert to the fine line between trying to be vigilant and observant but leery of jumping off the deep end and imagining harmful intentions behind every unusual occurrence. It is systematic of the world in which we live where terrorism is always front and center--"If you see something, say something." I grew up in a small community where everyone knew everyone and if someone did something bad, everyone else knew about it before the culprit got home. It made you think twice about what you were doing and how it would be perceived.

I would like to think we should look for the best in everyone, but making excuses is also known as enabling. Unfortunately, it is the reality we face in today's world that thieves, drug users, and sociopaths walk among us and look just like us. Who are they? When do we have to be on guard?  Always.

NOTE: Mont Saint Michel in the picture above isn't really a home or a castle, even though it has housed many people since its construction in the sixth century. It was mainly a monastery-sometime prison, and now is a historical monument. It is one of the most beautiful structures I have ever seen and one of my treasured memories. I use any excuse to look at my pictures of it.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Turkey Day

The holidays are just around the corner and it's time to start thinking about orchestrating my Thanksgiving dinner. I have a set menu and the family prefers the same foods each year. I always use a recipe for turkey from a cookbook I have owned over forty years. 

A Thanksgiving Turkey is very special and best when moist. This technique guarantees that it will be cooked quickly, thoroughly, and it doesn't dry out with this method. It doesn't require a lot of tending or frequent basting. It is the most rewarding recipe I've ever used for the cooking of a Thanksgiving Turkey.


Thanksgiving Turkey Cooked in Foil

Weight---------------Cooking Time

7 - 9 lb.---------------------2 ¼ - 2 ½ hr.

10 – 13 lb.-----------------2 ¾ - 3 hr.

14 – 17 lb.-----------------3 – 3 ¼ hr.

18 – 21 lb.-----------------3 ¼ - 3 ½ hr.

22 – 24 lb.-----------------3 ½ - 3 ¾ hr.

Wash thawed turkey (I use turkey breast), dry, sprinkle with salt and Bell’s Poultry Seasoning to individual taste. Add small pats of butter or Smart Balance if desired. Cooking times can be the same for  stuffed birds. Place turkey in the center of large, long strip of heavy duty aluminum foil on a shallow oven baking pan. Put foil covers on ends of wings or drumsticks if it is a whole bird. Bring ends of foil to top and roll together to form a loose tent, not touching the top of the bird. Also seal the ends. Place on a rack in the center of the oven, not too near the bottom to avoid overcooking the bottom.

Bake in preheated 450˚ oven according to the chart above. Remove for the last 30 minutes, open the foil (careful of the steam!). If additional browning is needed, return to the oven. Juices can be basted over the turkey first to retain moisture. Remove juices either before or after this step to make gravy. Sometimes the turkey is cooked at this point and doesn’t need additional time in the oven. I prefer to leave it in the oven to the end of the cooking time, remove it, open foil, and let it cool for 30 minutes before slicing.

Servings vary with turkey size – normally allow ¼ lb. per serving.

*Marsh, Dorothy B., ed. The New Good Housekeeping Cookbook. New York: Harcourt, Brace; World, Inc., 1963.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Family Fun

While visiting my son's family, we sat at the kitchen table to play a board game as a family. My daughter-in-law is from Canada and she introduced us to one of their favorite family table games. It is called Rummoli and can involve two to eight players. It is a variation of poker, but has rules and a user-friendly approach that made it possible to involve a five-year-old and a two-year-old.

Rummoli has a large board with great visuals and the rules of the game make it easy to teach to a new player--even a five-year-old. It was played with a casual approach and we used buttons, rather than chips or money. That meant I could hold my two-year-old grandson on my lap and play the game while he played with the buttons. He was the official "banker" with a big plastic container of buttons that kept him busy sifting with his tiny fingers and transferring buttons to other containers. We counted the same number of buttons into a little ramikin for each player. My grandson was very generous about giving us loans when we lost all of our buttons. It was a fun session filled with mock insults, teasing, challenges, and we got a little loud in our enthusiasm. I hope the neighbors weren't ready to call the police on the noisy party people.

It reminded me of the visits to my in-laws when my son was tiny. The whole family would sit around the big country kitchen table and play poker. My hubby's grandfather would sit at the kitchen table with a green banker's/poker dealer's visor and play poker for hours and hours. My father-in-law was from the WWII generation and cards were a popular way to pass time in the military. They liked to play weird variations of poker that I had never seen even in a poker book.

The hours flew when the family sat at the kitchen table while activity buzzed all around. Dinner was on the stove, players came and went, conversation was constant. The game was ongoing until a break for a meal required clearing the table. No one took the game seriously and we didn't play for money--just the companionship at a family reunion. There were no cell-phones ringing, no MP3 players, no computers distracting anyone, no TV blasting from the next room. The teenagers didn't need a curfew, they were sitting at the kitchen table playing poker with parents and grandparents. There were lots of people, face to face, communicating, relating to each other and bonding generations with a table game.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Old Ball and Chain

I have several married lady friends who live in different parts of the U.S. and many are friends of forty plus years. They have an individual e-mail account and no other person would be reading our silly conversations so we are pretty open and uncensored in our e-mail conversations. (Yes, I know, nothing is really private on the Internet, but anyone who reads my e-mail is intruding on my privacy and deserves to get shocked.)

My girl friends and I have wonderful conversations by e-mail on a frequent basis, sometimes even daily. Those conversations are philosophical, or newsy, or sometimes family-related. We do a lot of "girl talk" and discuss our lifestyles, clothes preferences, makeup, guys and so forth--a lot of stuff no guy would ever want to read about, or care about. Some of our e-mails get down and dirty and would make the guys' ears turn pink. We write about stuff I would never put on a blog because the subjects are just too personal. I would cringe at airing my dirty laundry in public which is typical of my generation.

Men tend not to be as gabby as women and their male ego, self-respect requires that they communicate about sports, jokes, or stuff you would expect to hear them discuss at work. Men don't usually do the kind of e-mail that I do with my girl friends because the guys don't spend a lot of time on the social type communicating and small talk that women love.

I have some lady friends who for reasons unknown to me, share an e-mail account with their husbands. What? Are they joined at the hip? Do they share a brain? Is this some new way to try to snoop on the guys and make sure they aren't doing e-mail with an online honey? If the guys(or girls) really want to do that, they can always have secret e-mail accounts. If you can't trust them enough that you have to snoop, you've got a real problem and a shared e-mail account won't solve that.

Whatever works for them, and it isn't my business, however it does mean that I don't do e-mail with those girl friends at all. If I don't know which one of a couple will be reading the e-mail, it totally destroys my interest in communicating. Togetherness is great, but I have my limits and I don't send girl talk e-mail to co-accounts.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Not a Poet

Not a Poet

I'm not a poet;
Don't I know it!
Need a little rhyme?
I don't have time.

Clever thoughts elude me;
Shakespeare, safe is he.
Never had a verse,
That could look worse.

Mine never seem to rhyme;
Mine don't stand the test of time.
Discard those lines,
Edgar Allen Poe whines.

Not a Poet - A Poem c. by R.J.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

They Win

Just when you think your problem couldn't be worse, someone always has a harder one. This arrived in my e-mail recently.


It's gangs like these that the people of Calgary have to put up with..
A bit different from the problems in other cities...
It proves that every City has their own "unique" gang problems. They
roam the streets and yards night and day.
They hang out in even the best neighborhoods!

..and you CANNOT (legally) stop them.

I will assume that these are elk.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


As much as I enjoy watching the deer that roam my neighborhood, I think their time has come. I don't live close enough to benefit, but Valley Forge National Park in our region will be thinning the herd that roams there from 1,277 to 185. Naturally, animal rights groups are protesting. Their efforts would be better spent trying to develop birth control and implement its use to prevent the overpopulation of deer. I support the efforts of park management  to maintain some balance in nature. When deer overpopulate, they eat so much that they impact the environment for other animals and other animal populations decrease as a result of  their altered habitats.  The deer will be harvested by sharp shooters, dressed for meat, and used for food. I have eaten venison and it is a tasty meat when cooked properly. It is the natural food chain. Deer hunting is legal in the state and most of the hunting is done in isolated areas to be used as food. The hunting in state parks will occur during the state hunting season.  

The deer have no natural predators and only cars thin the herd. A close encounter between a deer and a car results in a dead deer and a total destruction of the car usually, not to mention occasional great injury to the occupants of the car. Deer that are road kill are never harvested to feed anyone. Mayhem on the roads is the least desirable solution to the over-population. They are breeding almost as abundantly as rabbits and the numbers spiral out of control. They carry deer ticks which result in Lyme disease for humans, which my family has already experienced first hand. One can have Lyme more than once which is a constant concern. They eat any vegetation they can reach and destroy yards, gardens and future tree growth.

I love the story Bambi, but I grew up close to nature in the forties and fifties where animals were food. We ate chickens, ducks, rabbits, pork, beef and fish. We would have harvested sheep and goats if they were in the area. To me, it is no different to eat deer just because someone wrote a wonderful story about a baby deer called Bambi. The deer are beautiful to look at, but no one goes around the yard picking up their waste matter with plastic bags or killing their ticks. When we moved to our present home twenty five years ago, there were no deer for over ten years. Suddenly they started showing up when there was a lot of development on farmlands nearby. Now I can sometimes count over a dozen on the property.  Birth control efforts are preferable, but has not been developed or widely used. I would like to see more governmental efforts to control this situation. I have requested this in our area, but so far, the problem has been ignored and it is only increasing, not disappearing. Meanwhile, my yard smells like a horse barn and forget enjoying the yard for gardening or recreation.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Autumn in the West

I look forward to the colors of autumn in the eastern states of the U.S. because we have a variety of colors. When I have traveled into New England and Canada, the brilliant colors of the various trees are stunning. I was quite surprised when I traveled to Colorado to find the yellows of the Aspen trees to be equally appealing. I've experienced other seasons in the West, but the fall of the year was a pleasant surprise. The areas south of Denver and especially the area around Cripple Creek have some fabulous colors this time of the year, but the yellow/gold of the Aspen trees dominate.

I like to travel in the spring and the fall because the summer or holiday crowds are gone and it is relaxing to play tourist. The weather is pleasant and we don't have to wait in lines to see the places I want to visit. We enjoyed our vacation to Colorado and spent our time wandering around the Colorado Springs region which has a large number of scenic spots. The Royal Gorge Bridge, the world's highest suspension bridge is an amazing construction in a very rugged environment at 1,053 feet high. 

The Garden of the Gods is a beautiful garden filled with huge, natural red stone formations. It is interesting to see that so many locals take their cup of coffee, find a beautiful spot to park and enjoy the view. I understand from the folks who live nearby, they never tire of seeing the beauty of those stones and the constant presence of Pikes Peak in the background. The view from the top of Pikes Peak is a dizzying experience from the thin air altitude of 14,110 ft. elevation.

At the foothills of Pikes Peak and with Cheyenne Mountain in the distance, it would be hard to find a more beautiful setting for the Air Force Academy and its main attraction,  the chapel.

If a stair master isn't hard enough, Seven Falls has a climb available with 224 steps from bottom to top for anyone with a strong heart. 

My camera worked hard and took over 600 pictures on this trip, but I will enforce some discipline and refrain from posting too many photos. Google posts many more pictures on all of those sites as well.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Ghost

After seeing the movie The Ghost Writer, reading the novel, The Ghost, by Robert Harris, was an unexpected pleasure. In my previous post, I tried to make sense of the plot and answer some of the questions I found in the movie, so I read the book. Novels written by British authors are interesting for me because they work with our common language in clever, entertaining sentence structures and word choices that send me to the dictionary. It is very enlightening to read impressions of America through the viewpoint of people from other countries. We aren't always perceived in the light that we view ourselves.

Like the movie, the atmosphere of the novel is gray, gray, and more gray. The January weather on Martha's Vineyard sets the scene appropriate to the sense of events that are out of the control of the characters. The hopelessness is brought to mind by the groundskeeper who keeps cleaning up leaves and storm debris only to find it inevitably, repeatedly returns. His struggle is as pointless as the struggle of the characters to make choices that will lead them to more desirable circumstances.

The world that "the ghost" enters is unfamiliar and he becomes lured into it motivated only by the desire to complete his project. He is so unimportant to the outcome of events that we don't even know his name. As he tries to solve the puzzle that is the manuscript penned by his deceased predecessor, he fears he will fall victim to the same fate. The memoirs of the ex-prime minister is completed and published. In solving the puzzle of the life of his subject, the desire of the narrator/ghost writer to remain in the background is out of his control in the end. He becomes as much a pawn as his subject in global intrigue.

The experiences of the movie and the novel were not boring. I take my entertainment too seriously sometimes, but The Ghost makes one think a lot about the world and the powers that control it. Fiction, yes, but sometimes "truth is stranger than fiction." Not a happy thought, but it's realistic.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Ghost Writer

When a movie is produced from a novel that has been marketed first, my preference is to read the book before seeing the movie. Often that doesn't happen and I see the movie before realizing that it was a novel first. Novels have more details that can't be included within a screenplay and if it isn't written by the novel author, the movie loses much of the ambience that is created in a novel. It is a successful movie on some level if I am intrigued to the point that I will spend the time to read the book after seeing the movie.

The Ghost Writer was a movie that lured me into a plot I had not suspected. I deliberately try not to read reviews of movies before I watch them to see them through an open mind. I read the reviews after I see the movie. I like to make up my own mind and see if I agree with the impressions of the reviewers. The review of this movie in the New York Times was enlightening and provides more than enough analysis of movie making techniques: "Mr. Polanski creates suspense inside the frame through dynamic angles and through the discrete, choreographed movements of the camera and actors. He makes especially effective use of the enormous windows in Lang’s house through which the sky and ocean beckon and threaten." 

People and their stories always interest me more than movie-making techniques. After seeing the movie, I will read the book because I want to know more of this plot to see how Robert Harris, who wrote The Ghost, adapted the novel in the screenplay which he "co-authored" with the movie's producer Roman Polanski. Aside from all the negative connotations of that name, the movie is filled with political intrigue, sinister characters and enough dark moods to rival Citizen Kane.

For a story that begins innocently with a job to quickly polish the memoirs of a former prime minister, the job quickly spirals out of control for the ghost writer who begins some research and gets in over his head. The movie leaves more questions than answers for me. Why does a former prime minister spend time in what looks like a WWII German bunker on a beautiful island? Why does not a ghost writer just polish the pre-existing manuscript, take the money and run? Why is he compelled to assume the role of an investigative reporter to try to unravel the complicated lives of the principals of the auto-biography? Perhaps money and power being the root of all evils are much too simple as answers. This amateur movie watcher finds the ever-present alphabet agencies of governments and all-powerful corporations provide more than enough fodder for conspiracies. I agree with James Patterson whose motto is, "Tell me a good story." The Ghost Writer is a good story, and I have to see if the book ends in the same vein as the movie.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Techie Toys are always fun and waste a lot of time on a rainy Sunday afternoon. This show is on one of my favorite sites for sharing photos. Yesterday was a beautiful sunny, summer day and a perfect time to wander around Longwood Gardens.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Makin' your way in the world today takes everything you've got.
Takin' a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn't you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go, where everybody knows your name,
and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same,
You wanna be where everybody knows your name.

You wanna go where people know, people are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows your name.

Cheers Theme Song Lyrics
Title: Where Everbody Knows Your Name
By: Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo

Cheers TV Show

Anyone over thirty remembers those lyrics and the odd assortment of characters that came to visit once a week on TV in the years from 1982 - 1993 through eleven seasons. The actors have moved on to other shows and movies, but the music still rings in my mind. It reminds me how I like my comfortable routines where I know what to expect and it relaxes me. I like to be around the familiar and with people I am used to seeing. I've always felt that "people are all the same" even though some often forget that. I like my rut in life. 

This morning I visited my local supermarket for the last time because it closes at the end of the week. It opened a few years after we moved to our home in 1985. My visit today became a very nostalgic experience with Carly Simon wailing Let the River Run from 1988 on the PA system. The shelves were practically empty with the few remaining items selling for 20% off rock bottom prices. Half the lights were off and only a few staff members remained. Customers seemed very subdued like it was a wake.

Certainly the supermarket folks know my face but only call my name when I've used a credit card. That's not the source of the nostalgia. I liked zipping in for a few minutes multiple times a week to grab what I wanted because I knew what was on every aisle and shelf. It was a compact, well-stocked store located a quarter mile from my house. Now I will have to go to a market five miles away. It has practically everything but car tires and far too much floor space with too many aisles and non-grocery items I neither need nor want. I like to grab the milk and bread and keep moving. I will miss the little market nearby.

I don't particularly like change. I like to "go where everyone knows your name and they're always glad you came."  I started to wonder where that might be for me. I don't hang out in local bars and I don't report to a job now. Mostly I like to hang out with family, long time friends and the blogs are a big comfortable community. Most of the folks in the blogs that I choose to read recognize that "people are all the same,"  even though we've assumed some new monikers. I love roaming the blogs because they remind me-- "Takin' a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot. Wouldn't you like to get away?" Life changes and that is the way of the world.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Old Wives Tales would have us assume that we could tell when a person had reached an advanced age when their penmanship became sloppy and was filled with messy mistakes as though the hand that was writing the letters had become unsteady. Small motor control is necessary to produce the beautiful penmanship that used to be treasured until the technological age hit us.

How often do we have to actually write anything with a pen in hand? If we need a grocery list, put it on the cell phone--punch those buttons, or touch that screen. If we need to do numbers, use the calculator on the cell phone. If we need to sign a legal document, we can type it on the computer and call it an electronic signature. We even have programs available to turn that typing into a script that looks like our signature.

Thankfully, doctors order prescriptions electronically now which might lead to fewer mistakes that resulted from their notoriously poor penmanship. I always thought that sloppy handwriting had a deliberate purpose--to deceive possible criminals--who knows? It certainly led to lots of mistakes on drugs received in drugstores.

If we want to compose our thoughts to write books and essays, we have a large number of options. Word processors are everywhere--on computers, and cell phones or the latest gadgets like IPad.

If we want to pay the bills, who writes checks now? We go online and log into our bank account to pay everything electronically. I noticed this morning at the food store that even though I charged my bill to the credit card, they still wanted me to sign the receipt. Occasionally, I make a short list to myself of something around my desk, but if it is more than a few words, I turn to the keyboard and type it. I might sign my greeting cards but addresses go on envelopes electronically or with pre-printed labels. Soon no one will use paper greeting cards or send them by mail because they are so much easier as e-cards and more variety is available. However, e-cards seem so cold and impersonal.

Is penmanship like the multiplication tables and is it headed for the lost skills list? Spelling, punctuation and grammar are already victims of the technological age. I had a rare occasion today that I needed to write a few sentences by hand and I noticed my handwriting had deteriorated. That's not due to age or poor health, just a lack of practice. 

Friday, August 6, 2010

Gourmet? NOT!!!

As a general rule of thumb, I have a mantra: don't look at food, don't think about food, don't take pictures of food, don't watch TV advertisements featuring food, don't read recipes and don't read dieting advice web sites. Like everyone else in the world, my daily attempt to keep my BMI in a low range has its good days and bad days. My heroes are those folks who join the Lean Plate Club and succeed in being trim and fit.

Yesterday, was a good day and a bad day--totally blew my diet on my greatest weakness. This baby calls to me every summer and thus far this season, I've had one.

You can tell if you're an alcoholic if you sneak a drink alone. I'm an addict when it comes to ice cream. Nobody comes between me and a chocolate-dipped, soft-serve ice cream cone. It isn't an experience that I want to share. I don't eat ice cream to socialize. I just want to savor the cold, creamy flavor as it melts on my tongue and slides down my throat. If I'm listening to someone talk, I miss it. It's an experience best savored alone. It's a spiritual experience like meditating.

I drove completely across town for the real deal, no frozen yogurt, low fat, ice milk pretender will do. It was full of calories, cholesterol and enough heavy cream to choke a cow. So I told myself it was full of calcium. It was yummy and delicious and I can still taste it. I kept telling myself to remember it as I dragged myself to the fitness center and walked it off for an hour this morning. I walked four miles in an hour, but I don't think that was enough to compensate for falling off the wagon. I thoroughly enjoyed the ice cream so I have to challenge the magnet on my refrigerator that says, "Nothing tastes as good as thin feels." It tasted pretty darn good, but I have to remember that other expression, "A minute on the lips, forever on the hips." Back to rabbit food. 

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Summer of Murder, Spies and Sex

Now what on earth does a 66 year old librarian know about any of those subjects? Hey Mars, you'd be surprised what Venus knows about a thing or two. This isn't true confessions, but I refer to my reading and entertainment habits.

On the subject of murder, I'll get to the sex later, I've been wading through the swamp of Prey books of John Sandford starting with Rules of Prey, I'm currently reading number six in a series of 20. It is called Night Prey. Number three was called Eyes of Prey and it was the creepiest so far. I found it so gory, it was hard to read, and forget watching a movie about something like that. So why am I reading it? I'm a sucker for mysteries and the hook was so strong, I kept reading and I was starting to really like the main character, Lucas Davenport. I read Sandford's latest book in the series called Storm Prey released in 2010 before deciding that I liked the author well enough to spend time on his other books. I'm pretty adept at blowing off the parts I don't want to cope with so I'm hanging in there through the whole set.

I read spy novel authors like Vince Flynn and Robert Ludlum. Vince Flynn's Mitch Rapp is supposedly the prototype for Jack Bauer in the TV series 24 and Vince Flynn served as adviser on the program. Of course spies like Mitch Rapp are strong Alpha Male characters and always "out of control" according to those who want to control them. Robert Ludlum's Jason Bourne character was cast from the same mold. I got hooked on watching the Bourne Trilogy again on cable recently and they just keep running them and I just keep watching. Matt Damon is so easy on the eyes and I have loads of time to watch him. Of course he always wins in the end so spy novels and the following movies are like old westerns because we know ahead who wears the white hats and who is going to win at the end. Murder mysteries in books are unsettling and sometimes the movies are even more unsettling.

The most rewarding read is always a good romance novel.  The category of romance novels outsells all others in the book market. According to NBC, romance novel sales are not only thriving, but increasing in sales in a depressed economy where the publishing industry shows a decrease in sales in all other categories. People are always looking for an escape from the realities of life and what better than a  "trashy" novel with a happy ending,

We romance novel readers know there are romance novels, then there are spicy romance novels. If the spice of life appeals, one of the best authors on the market today is Stephanie Laurens. I just finished her third book in her Black Cobra quartet. It has mystery and romance with graphic, spicy, yes sexy details! I eagerly wait for the fourth due in the fall. I've read all of her books and will read anything she writes. That ex-Ph.D. biochemist, Stephanie Laurens, knows a whole bunch about sex. Oh, those Cynsters and that Bastion Club with the mysterious Dalziel are fascinating!

Another of my favorite authors is Lisa Kleypas and her Sugar Daddy with sequel Blue-Eyed Devil which were very enjoyable reads. Of course the queen bee of all romance fiction, Nora Roberts, is still going strong and producing a dazzling number of books each year on her way to the bank. I finished her third in the Brides quartet about the four young ladies who run a wedding consulting business. The photographer, the baker, the florist and the coordinator of the whole show  find their grooms also.

After dealing with fictional serial killers and spies, I have to look for some reading of a happier variety and I'm addicted to romance novels.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

What's in a Name?

Before I went to school, my family called me by my middle name which was J--- , chosen by my Mom. When I entered school, teachers called me by my first name R--- which my Dad had chosen. Therein lies the roots of an identity crisis. I didn't care for either of my names. When I grew up in the South, it was common to give children two names and call them by both, so my aunt I.B. and uncle P.J. (Initials were their given names and had no further words that the initials replaced) always called me by both of my names. My students liked to call me Miz A and that was fine with me.

I have chosen to use my initials R.J. which I prefer above the names they replace. Some people dislike their given names so much they legally change them. Who wants to be called Merry Christmas? She attended my college. I don't hate my name quite that much--I just don't care to use my given names. I choose to use initials instead and I really like the letter R., but the connotations that I, and especially others, connect to the name it represents are not part of my self image. By the way, reetjann is not my real name--just another creation.

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." 

 --William Shakespeare

Assuming that Shakespeare meant that a rose would still be a beautiful, fragrant flower regardless of the name, I think if we called it a  "stinkweed", we wouldn't pay $100 a dozen for them and use them in the language of love.


People make judgments of others based on names, and physical appearance, before looking at their deeds. I like to be known by the content of my character, how I treat others, my opinions, my values, the books I read, the people I see, the places I go, not my name, or how I look.  

"Words can evoke human reaction, or emotions, referred to as connotations, as well as literal definitions, which are the meanings of the words, also called denotations."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Ladies of Summer

I love a very select list of action/drama television shows (yes, gasp, groan, cable television shows) and especially when they feature some very strong, confident women in lead roles. This summer, I'm having fun in the air conditioning and watching these ladies tear up the crime scenes with outstanding joie de vivre and super entertainment. 

The Closer (TNT)

Brenda and Fritzi are back for season 5 with Brenda Lee Johnson-Howard in charge of a Major Murder Crimes unit in Los Angeles with a team of 8 men to answer to her directions. Assistant Chief Will Pope likes to think he's in charge, but Brenda is the real Closer which is why he hired her and created the unit just for her. Brenda solves murders faster than he can make margaritas. Fritzi Howard, her new husband and FBI agent, provides backup information, sniper coverage as needed, and convenient backrubs. 

The Closer


Rizzoli and Isles (TNT)

This new show features Jane Rizzoli as a Boston murder detective and her associate, Maura Isles--a medical examiner. This series sprang from Tess Gerritson's novels about crime and medicine. I've become a recent fan of Tess Gerritson and I'm plowing through her books as quickly as possible. Rizzoli is polishing her tomboy image and trying to fit in with the guys on the detective squad, while Isles is the total antithesis--a brainiac in high heels with red soles. They have a lot of fun trying to solve murders and I have fun watching. 

Rizzoli & Isles


Covert Affairs (USA)
Another new show, this series features a new CIA agent, Annie Walker, an over-achiever, who has to overcome her trainee status fairly quickly because she gets thrown in the deep end of the pool of domestic terrorism and she often finds herself in hot water with the brass.

She's gorgeous, funny, vulnerable, and frighteningly competent. When I often think, "Why couldn't I think of a quick quip?" she suffers no such deficit. The girl knows how to think on her feet and always lands on her feet, which is necessary to stay alive considering the scum bags that she encounters. She's learning to handle a double life and keeps us guessing about the mystery man in her background.

Covert Affairs

Monday, July 26, 2010


As I grew up in the post World War II era, women didn't shake hands with each other; furthermore, the etiquette books of the time stated that men should not offer to shake the hand of a woman unless she volunteered and women need not shake hands with each other at all as a socially-accepted practice. Up front, I will declare that I dislike the custom of handshaking.

According to my research, evidence exists that handshaking is a very old practice for the purpose of peacemaking and proving that a person carried no weapons. How did it morph into a daily necessity in this country in the work and social environment? Handshaking customs in countries and cultures around the world vary greatly. When traveling into exotic cultures, tourists have to be informed and alert to local customs.

In the U.S. handshaking is rampant and hard to avoid. For one with a minor case of germophobia, the fact is that H1N1 influenza is firmly among us; hand washing is important, but how many people bother? According to the New York Times, in several studies, it has been shown that many people don't wash their hands after using the bathroom. More women than men are proven to be conscientious hand washers but both groups have large percentages of non-washers. When someone thrusts their hand at me, the first thought in my head is, "What did you last touch and therefore want to transfer to me?" I'm not developing OCD in my dotage, but I'm informed enough to know that handshaking is unsanitary even if folks think you're neurotic. Having spent my adult life with hundreds of school children, the joke around my house was: "Mom has her fall cold."

If spinach contamination with E.coli can bring down a nation-wide industry, why are we walking around shaking hands with each other and sharing who knows what? In the years before bacteria was discovered, people were dying in hospitals not from their illness, but from acquired bacterial infections. Some of those germs were acquired from careless medical workers. When I go to my dentist, I expect to see him wash his hands, not put out his hand to shake mine. Use your words, not your hands.

Beyond the obvious health implications of handshaking, there is a whole body language situation at work in this oft-repeated ritual. Endless books and articles advise people how to do the effective communication needed in a handshake in a job interview or in the workplace--no limp wrists, sweaty hands, or cold fish handshakes. If the guys want to trade handshakes and shoulder bumps like two dogs establishing the Alpha Male dynamic, whatever. When the men shake hands with women, it becomes the whole male dominance issue, Mars/Venus struggle. When it comes to women shaking hands with other women, it just seems creepy.

Queen Elizabeth wears gloves and I often long for that custom to return. George Washington mythology claims he considered handshaking to be a practice of the "common" man and did not shake hands at all. He preferred to bow and speak to people. My preference doesn't include bowing, but simply a verbal greeting and eye contact. I never volunteer to shake a hand. I often manage to have my hands occupied in a way that discourages others from initiating a handshake--hands in pockets, behind the back, holding a cold drink or holding a pile of papers or books. I like to eliminate the power struggle issue and the interpretation people place on the handshake. Having read "The person who initiates a handshake establishes dominance," I like to do an end run around the whole situation because I don't want to shake hands in the first place. Unfortunately, it seems to be here to stay and I will invest in Purell manufacturers, Johnson and Johnson.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Blue Rocks

From "The Star-Spangled Banner" to the closing fireworks, great entertainment was as close as our own back door. Minor League Baseball at the Wilmington Blue Rocks, offers an inexpensive ($7.00 tickets for senior box seats) small-town, fun night. It is a totally informal, family-friendly and safe environment to enjoy a summer evening. The fans arrive early and fill the stadium by the middle of the first inning. 

The Blue Rocks date back to 1940, and used to be affiliated with the Philadelphia Phillies, but in 1993, after a lull in the preceding decades, they opened in the new Frawley Stadium and are now a farm team for the Kansas City Royals.


It is only the second time we have attended a game with friends and we had to wonder why we don't do this more often. We didn't have to drive crowded traffic into South Philly, noted for recent flash mobs, or pay outrageous ticket prices, parking and food prices. As much as I support the Phillies in theory, I find Minor League Baseball more to my taste. The fans are laid back, relaxed, friendly and not aggressive toward other fans at least in Wilmington, DE. Activities are designed to encourage kids and families to attend.


Aside from the game itself, the silly activities involving fans filled the downtime and kept us laughing.Community involvement is very upfront and promoted. One concession stand benefited and was staffed by band members from a local high school. Before and during the game, community groups performed, and were recognized on the large scoreboards. The local church groups and local business groups were named on the loud speakers. 

Birthday people were named and one guy even proposed to his girlfriend while the whole stadium watched on the scoreboard camera. A local car club drove through to show off their corvettes. A car dealer drove a car around the field with the sun roof open so fans could toss balls to try to land one inside the car and win the car. They had to purchase the soft balls in advance and put their names on them for the contest. Don't know if there was a winner. Cute idea though. 

This team probably used more balls and gave away more balls per fan than I've ever seen. The players were very available for pictures and autographs. Minor League Baseball isn't all about the players, the fans are pulled into the event and they have discovered that keeping fans happy is how to have a following and support.

They had several mascots and various giveaway activities like tossing rolled t-shirts into the stands. Nothing they did was elaborate or expensive but it was fun to watch and see what they would present next.


The game was exciting even though the Blue Rocks let the visitors win by two hits. One more inning and we would have won. It was kept interesting by questionable calls at second base, double plays and an argument by the coach and the umpire which got the coach thrown out of the game. It may be Minor League, but they take the game seriously even though the fans didn't, because they were too busy trying to get their "wave" coordinated and singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in tune. The best was at the end with a two run homerun out of the stadium for the hometown team. Too bad it didn't go into overtime because the crowd was just getting cooled down at 9:15 from a warm evening and everyone was really getting loose and having a good time. 

Even leaving the stadium after the really good fireworks, the traffic on the exit was effortless and well-coordinated. I have to become a baseball fan again.