Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday Faves: Fooducate

Happy Friday!   Hope you've had a good week.   I have had one of those weeks where I've been busy, but haven't accomplished as much as I wanted.  I intend to take the weekend off, have fun and relax, so I will have lots of energy when Monday rolls around.

My Friday Fave this week is Fooducate.   If you have an interest in nutrition, this is an invaluable site.  You can look up any food and see the nutrition label (calories, protein, sugar, etc.) and also look at the ingredients.  The site sorts out "mystery ingredients."   

Growing up, my father was interested in natural foods and we shopped at health food stores regularly.  I grew up with whole wheat bread, natural peanut butter, wheat germ, bran, yogurt, etc.   I am a long-time vegetarian, but I will admit that until this past year I didn't look at labels past an ingredient check to make sure the products were vegetarian.

Then I found Fooducate.

It has been very eye-opening seeing the ingredients that are in many foods:  propellant (cooking spray), brominated vegetable oil (sports drinks), phosphoric acid (sodas), industrial caramel color (many foods, including salad dressing).

When I shop at my favorite grocery store, I always read labels now.  If in doubt, I look up the products on Fooducate.  There are always good choices in almost any category, products that do not have those long, unpronounceable chemical ingredients.

This site is available for computer, Android, and iPhone.  It is not available as a Blackberry app, unfortunately.  (Of course, I have it bookmarked on my phone and can pull it up that way.)

Fooducate has made a positive difference in my life, so I wanted to share it with you.

Hope you have a great weekend!   

Monday, February 24, 2014

Music Monday: "Yeh Yeh" by Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames

"Yeh Yeh" by Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames was a hit in 1965.  Georgie Fame (real name Clive Powell) is a British jazz pianist and R&B singer.  The song has a bit of jazz, a bit of R&B, and a sort of garage band sound that I really like!   I only found this song in the past few years, via SiriusXM radio, and it is one I always turn up.   There is also a great cover by They Might Be Giants.

London Calling: Downton Abbey, Season 4, Christmas Episode - Season Finale

Downton Abbey's season finale (known as the Christmas episode in the U.K.) packed a lot of story into two hours.

The show centered around a trip to London, for both the Grantham family and staff, for Rose's debut.  We see a flurry of preparation and travel.  The costumes and sets in this episode are lovely!

Cora's mother, Martha Levinson, and her brother Harold arrive from America.  Martha is once again brash and outspoken, while Harold, an unlikely playboy, is actually rather wistful and likable.

Daisy meets Harold's valet, Ethan Slade.  Ethan takes a liking to her.  He asks Daisy if she is excited to be in London and she replies:  "I'm never excited."

Mary is still seeing Blake and Gillingham.  (At one point this episode Violet refers to Blake, Gillingham, and Napier as "Mary's men.")  There is a nice scene of Mary and Blake at an exhibition together.

Tom Branson, alone for a time at Downton, runs into Sarah Bunting in the village.  They have dinner at a local pub and she wants to see Downton Abbey.  He takes her on a tour downstairs.  She wants to go upstairs to look down from the gallery.  As luck would have it, Thomas is lurking in the shadows upstairs and spies them.  This leads to tension between Tom and Thomas, with Thomas later implying to Lord Grantham that Tom was upstairs at Downton with a young woman.  Thomas has been a one-note villain this season, and I have not enjoyed his character as much.  His great anger toward Tom seems out of the blue.

Edith is back from Switzerland, and despondent about giving up her baby girl.  There is a scene where she argues with Aunt Rosamond about the baby, and she says that Rosamond is not a mother.  I wondered at that moment if perhaps Rosamond, who has been so sympathetic to Edith, actually may have been in the same position in the past at some point?

There is an elaborate dinner at the house.  Levinson makes a comment about being in England:  "cold baths, warm drinks, and most of all the food."   Edith and Mary have a brief conversation where Edith says, "I think we should make more scenes about things that really matter to us."

Isobel is becoming closer with Lord Merton, and decides to travel to London along with Violet.  Their scene on the way is one of my favorites from this episode, with one great line after another:

Violet:  "Can't you even offer help without sounding like a trumpeter on the peak of the moral high ground?"

Isobel:   "And must you always sound like the sister of Marie Antoinette?"

Violet:  "The queen of Naples was a stalwart figure.  I take it as a compliment."

Isobel:  "You take everything as a compliment."

Violet:  "I advise you to do the same.  It saves many an awkward moment."

Rose is presented by Cora at her debut.  The Prince of Wales, whom she has met previously, engages her in conversation, so she speaks briefly with King George as well.

When Anna donates one of Bates' old jackets to a charity, Mrs. Hughes discovers a rail ticket to London in the pocket.  She thinks immediately of Green's sudden death, and discusses this discovery with Mary.  Mary debates what to do.

Rose gets involved in a complicated plot involving a missing letter belonging to the Prince's mistress.  It seems the letter has been purloined by Mr. Sampson (the card shark from earlier this season).  During a card game, Mr. Sampson mentions Michael Gregson.  We also learn this episode that Gregson was beaten up by a group of German Brownshirts before he disappeared.   I wonder if Mr. Sampson had some indirect link to what happened to Gregson.

The case of the purloined letter allows the Grantham family to come together in a plot to steal the letter back, with Mary, Rose, and Blake rummaging through Sampson's room.  Mr. Bates displays his gift for forgery and pick-pocketing, and saves the day (and the Prince's reputation - at least for now, until Wallis Simpson comes along).  Out of loyalty to Bates, Mary burns the ticket to London.  Hopefully the Green storyline is now over.  I would like to see Bates and Anna happy together next season.

There is a small picnic where Lord Aysgarth (a fortune hunter) pursues Martha Levinson, but is rebuffed.   Martha says, "Why don't you come and visit Newport and I will rustle up rich widows who want titles much more than I do."  Aysgarth's daughter, Madeline, flirts with Harold Levinson as well.  Harold says, "I would find it hard to respect any woman who wished to marry me."  At one point during this social whirl, Violet says:  "The combination of open air picnics and after dinner poker make me feel as though I've fallen through a looking glass into the Dejeuner sur l'Herbe."

There is a wonderful scene featuring a ball in honor of Rose's debut.  I want to go to a ball!  It looks like fun.  The Prince of Wales arrives, and dances with Rose.  Gillingham and Blake are at the ball, and Gillingham tells Mary that Blake is from a similar background to theirs, and due to inherit.  This seems to change Mary's opinion of Blake.  I think she saw the perceived difference in their backgrounds as an obstacle;  this is no longer an issue.

Upstairs, Martha and Violet exchange words.  Martha is snippish and says that she is the new world and Violet is the old. 

Edith wants to be part of the baby's life in some way, so she approaches Mr. Drew (the handsome pig farmer at Downton) about adopting (or fostering) the baby.  He agrees, so she plans to move forward with bringing her baby to England.

The servants go to the seaside on vacation.  Molesley and Baxter are getting closer, as she tries to remove herself from Barrow's machinations.  

Anna and Bates look happy again.  (Note the tiny beach huts in the background!)

Ethan wants Daisy to travel to America as Harold Levinson's cook.  She rebuffs his offer and Daisy offers to go instead.  This quickly becomes a plan, and so we finally have an end to the Daisy/Ivy rivalry.

In a lovely final scene, Carson is hesitant about wading out into the surf until Mrs. Hughes takes his hand, and they walk on together.

Thinking about next season, here are things I wish for:

  • More of the Mary/Blake/Gillingham storyline, with a satisfying choice and resolution.  (Mary, pick Blake!)
  • Edith's reunion with her baby (hopefully somehow openly parenting the child).
  • Resolution of the Michael Gregson storyline.
  • No more Sarah Bunting!   I find her personality brash and grating.  I would love to see Tom with a nice, intelligent woman who is also warm and sensitive.
  • Happiness for Daisy.
  • Happy Anna and Bates, maybe with a baby Bates.
  • Romance for Isobel with Lord Merton or Dr. Clarkson.
How about you?  What did you think about last night's episode?  What is on your wish list for next season?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday Faves: Here Comes the Sun!

Happy Friday!   My very favorite thing this week is the warmer weather we are having in Atlanta.  One week after our Snowmageddon we had temps around 70 degrees.  Nice!  It feels like Spring is on the way here.

I have spent time this week opening accounts at several bookselling sites:  AbeBooks, Alibris, and Biblio.  During the next few months (possibly up to 5 - 6 months), I will be going through my inventory, freshening up my eBay listings, pulling some items, and listing everything at Etsy, Bonanza, Amazon, AbeBooks, Alibris, and Biblio.  I am really so excited about this new venture!

It has been fun to watch Olympic figure skating in Sochi the past couple of weeks.  I haven't had time to watch as avidly as in the past, but it is still wonderful to see Olympic figure skaters competing at their best.  (U.S. skater, Gracie Gold, is pictured above.) 

I've also been enjoying American Idol, and the announcement of this season's top 13.  So far my favorites are Majesty Rose (soulful singer with a coffeehouse type vibe) and Caleb Johnson (an old fashioned rocker).  Of course, this may change in upcoming weeks - you never know!

Of course, I also have a new food product that I love.  Kashi Blackberry  Graham Soft-Baked Cereal Bars are all natural and vegan. I love Kashi products, and this is a yummy treat.  

How about you - how was your week?   Have you been watching the Olympics?  Do you have any thoughts on the American Idol top 13 singers?  I hope you'll leave a note in the comments section below.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Music Monday - "Bizarre Love Triangle" by New Order

My Music Monday song this week is "Bizarre Love Triangle" by New Order.   This is a fun New Wave dance song that was released in 1986.  It was popular on the radio and in dance clubs during my college years, and brings back lots of fun memories.  This song was also featured in the movie Married to the Mob (love that movie!). I've always loved the chorus:

"Every time I see you falling
I get down on my knees and pray
I'm waiting for that final moment
You say the words that I can't say."

Bazaar Love Triangle: Downton Abbey, Season 4, Episode 7

What a perfect night of Downton!  This was easily my favorite episode of the season, chock-full of plot developments, romance, and great lines. 

The show begins with Mary, Tom, and Edith meeting with the tenant farmer about the pigs.  He is handsome and kind, and Edith thinks about getting him to adopt her baby.  Poor Edith is grasping at straws.

There is a lovely tea scene, with (to Carson's consternation) babies in the parlor.  Mary learns that Blake likes babies when Blake reaches for baby George and holds him.

While Tom is in town, he spies Rose flirting with Jack Ross at a cafe.

On the way back to Downton, Tom sees the young woman from last week's political rally on the side of the road.  She has had car trouble and he stops to help.  Her name is Sarah Bunting, and she is a school teacher in the village.  She talks to him about his life with the Grantham family.  It seems she distrusts the aristocracy, just as he did before he met Sybil.  Tom tells Sarah:  "I don't believe in types.  I believe in people."

Rosamund comes to town to talk to Edith about the baby.  She immediately shoots down the idea of passing the baby along to the tenant farmer.  She suggests they vacation in Switzerland, so the baby can be adopted and raised there.  The Dowager Countess gets involved in the plan.  When Edith raises objections to her child being raised (horrors!) Swiss, the Dowager replies: "Switzerland has everything to offer, except perhaps conversation. And one can learn to live without that."

There is yet more screen time spent on the (seemingly endless) Daisy - Alfred - Ivy love triangle.  Alfred proposes to Ivy and she turns him down.  Daisy goes to see William's father, Mr. Mason, who advises her.  When she sees Alfred and tries to part on good terms, Alfred declares his romantic interest.  She turns him down.  I think that after talking to Mr. Mason, she remembers how William loved her, and she wants to be loved like that again (as first choice, instead of being loved by default). 

Tom tells Mary about Rose and Jack.  When Mary confronts Rose, she is defiant.  She says they are engaged, but it appears the engagement is primarily to gall her mother.  Mary goes to London with Anna, in order to talk to Jack Ross.  He has already decided to break off the engagement.  Mary and Jack have a nice scene together backstage at the theater. 

Mary also meets with Gillingham in London.  She finds out he has broken off his engagement, and she does not discourage his interest.  She asks him to fire his valet Green (who raped Anna), although she does not tell him why. 

While Mary and Anna are away, we see Bates taking the day off and quietly walking away from Downton.  He says he is going to York. 

The Dowager Countess introduces Isobel to an old family friend, Lord Merton.  There seems to be a mutual interest as they walk through the village.  Later, Lord Merton sends flowers to both ladies.  The Dowager seems miffed that her bouquet is smaller. 

Downton Abbey hosts the village's annual church bazaar, all organized by Cora this year. 

Rose is still irked with Mary about Jack. 

Robert returns, weary of Prohibition, and delighted to see Cora.

Gillingham arrives to see Mary.  He tells her that his valet, Green, died suddenly when he fell into traffic and was run over. 

Mary relays this information to Anna. 

Romance seems to be in the air, as Baxter and Molesley have a flirtation.  He shows off his strength with a carnival game.  He defends Baxter against Barrow. 

Mary is surprised, and pleased, to see Blake.  He throws his hat into the suitor ring. 

Blake and Gillingham leave together to drive back to London.  Robert says:  "What sort of ménage has that turned into while I've been away?" In a wonderful image, Rose, Edith, and Isobel lean forward to watch Blake, Mary, and Gillingham walk away together. 

What did you think of this week's show?  Did Bates kill Green?  Should Mary choose Blake or Gillingham?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments, below.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Book Review: Dewey, the Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron

My online reading group, Curl Up and Read, has monthly theme reads.  This is a small, friendly group, and you should join us if you enjoy discussing books.

We recently read Dewey, the Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron.  This is the true story of a small town library in Spencer, Iowa.  One cold winter morning librarian Vicki Myron opened the book deposit box and found a tiny, freezing kitten.  He was a little striped yellow tom, and she fell in love with him.  So did the other librarians;  they named this little kitten Dewey, and he became a library cat.

Vicki was a single mother, and Spencer was going through some tough economic times.   Dewey had a long and happy life at the library, and made a remarkable difference in the life of the librarian and the entire town.

The anecdotes in this book are very charming, and sure to please an animal lover (especially anyone who loves cats), as well as readers who enjoy small town Americana.  

I have recommended this book to several friends and family members.  There is even a version of the story available for children.  You will find  a lovely tribute page to Dewey at the Spencer Library website:  Dewey's Page.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A glimpse at vintage ads for Bissell housecleaning toys

Hi all!

I had a nice email exchange with someone who is doing advertising for Bissell UK;  they are using some retro themed advertisements.  She said I could share these retro ads with you.

Both ads feature vintage housecleaning toys for girls.  Do you remember toys like this from your childhood?   I vividly remember cooking and cleaning toys from the 1960's.  The top ad is especially neat, as it features a grown-up Bissell with a matching toy set.  I love retro housewife ads, and think this is one is fun!

This is an older ad.  It features a Bissell toy for a little girl - and a fabulous dollhouse, too.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday Faves: Snow, Curry, and Trivia

Happy Friday!   We have had snow and ice and then some more snow in Atlanta.  I am happy to say that the sun is out and most of the snow has melted away.  I grew up in a warm climate, and love snow for about three hours.  Then I am ready for it to hurry up and melt.   My friend Bob of Gilliland Records took these gorgeous snow pics in the North Georgia mountains, and said that I could share them with you.

When it snows I want comfort food, ideally as simple as possible.  I just discovered the Tandoor Chef line of frozen foods.  Their selection of Indian food includes many vegetarian and vegan options.  The dishes are natural and preservative-free.  I love, love, LOVE their Channa Masala.  It is a spicy chickpea dish, and each package makes two servings.  I serve it in a bowl over rice.  Delicious!

On snowy days I also tend to go into "Snow Day" mode and spend more time than usual goofing off.  This week I discovered a fun app for iPad or iPhone called QuizUp (also coming soon for Android).   It is an insanely addictive trivia game.  There are over 350 categories to choose from.  They are widely varied and include Musicals, Children's Literature, Words, Classic Movies, 1960's Music, and much more.  You choose a topic and then the app matches you with another player (from anywhere in the world).  You play a short trivia game, very fast paced.  It is so much fun!

How are you doing this week?  How is the weather in your part of the world?   I would love to hear from you in the comments, below.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Music Monday - The Beatles - The Night Before (Official Video)

Do you have a favorite Beatles song?  Mine changes from time to time, but I usually come back to "The Night Before."  This song was featured in the movie Help! (1965).  It was written by Paul McCartney, and he also sings lead in the song.   It has the urgency of a fresh break-up, with lyrics like:

"We said our goodbye, ah, the night before
Love was in your eyes, ah, the night before
Now today I find you have changed your mind
Treat me like you did the night before."

I also love the interplay of guitar and vocals on this song.

How about you -- do you have a favorite Beatles song?  I hope you'll tell me about it in the comments below.

This Little Piggie: Downton Abbey, Season 4, Episode 6

Last night was another very good episode of Downton Abbey.   The show started with Lord Grantham leaving for the United States to help Cora's brother out of his financial and legal woes.  Thomas travelled with him as valet after Mary learned (from Mrs. Hughes) about Anna's rape and her need to keep Bates at home for support.

In the absence of Lord Grantham, a lot happened.   Evelyn Napier confessed to a sort of crush on Mary, which she seemed to brush off.   

When pigs for the farm appeared, Charles Blake and Mary went to see them.  It turns out that Blake is from a farm family and realized the pigs desperately needed water.  Blake and Mary worked late into the night with the pigs, getting very muddy, and finally sat down for a rest in the barn.  They had a laugh or two and even threw mud at each other.  Blake was charming and had a Colin Firth quality (very high praise indeed!).  Mary was likable.  They went back to Downton Abbey and she scrambled eggs, which they sat eating in the kitchen, still in their muddy clothes.  I loved the Mary and Blake storyline!
Meanwhile, Edith went to London and Rose tagged along.  Rose's motive was to see Jack Ross.  Their romance blossomed as they kissed in a row boat.

Did you know that Jack Ross's character is said to be inspired by real life jazz singer Leslie ("Hutch") Hutchinson?    He performed in New York and London, and was rumored to have had affairs with Edwina Mountbatten, Tallulah Bankhead, Merle Oberon, and Cole Porter.

Edith confessed her secret pregnancy to her Aunt Rosamond, and went to an abortion clinic.  At the very last minute she changed her mind, and went back to Rosamond's house to pack to go home.  I think from the trailers for next week that we will see that Edith has a plan.   Does it involve marrying a local farmer?

Tom went to a political rally and met cute with a pretty woman in the audience.   They talked for a bit after the rally and he said:  "I don't know what I am, except a man in search of a better world."   Will she reappear again, or is this just a sign that Tom is moving on with his life?

The Dowager Countess fell ill, and Isobel nursed her back to health, with help from Dr. Clarkson.  When she felt better, the Dowager seemed surprised that she developed more of a bond with Isobel.  There is a great exchange:

Dr. Clarkson: You’ll be rewarded in heaven.  
Violet: The sooner the better.

Lord Gillingham returned to the Abbey with his evil valet, Green.  Mrs. Hughes cornered Green and said, "If you value your life I should stop playing the joker and keep to the shadows."   Green is such a scary character that I was afraid for Mrs. Hughes.  He seemed to think everything was all a great joke.  I believe that Bates has figured out the truth. Look at the stink eye he is giving to Green in this screen shot:

Overall, I found this a very interesting and satisfying episode.  What did you think?  Should Mary choose Blake, Napier, or Gillingham?   What do you think Edith will do about her baby?   Do you think that Bates will extract revenge?   I hope you'll leave a comment below.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Beatlemania - The Beatles, 50 Years Later

The Beatles arrived in the United States 50 years ago today, on February 7, 1964.  They were greeted with fever-pitch excitement by fans, concerts throughout the United States, and several appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show.  I was a toddler when they first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show.  I understand that I stood up and put my hands on my ears because I was scared of all the screaming in the audience.  That changed quickly, and I became one of their youngest (and most fervent) fans.  How about you - do you remember the Beatles from the 1960's?  I would love to hear your Beatles thoughts and memories in the comments, below.

Friday Faves: The Food Edition

Happy Friday, y'all!  Hope you've had a great week.

My faves this week are all food related, probably because it is winter and I'm in the mood to cook.

My first fave is Silk Pure Coconut Coconutmilk.  I bought the original (unflavored), and it is so delicious!  It is dairy free, gluten free, and has 50% more calcium than dairy milk.  I love this on cereal, and can't wait to try it in smoothies as well.

I also love Boca Original Vegan Burgers.   I've been vegetarian for years, and have lately been trying to make the vegan choice when possible.  I just started buying the Boca Vegan Burgers instead of the traditional Flame Grilled (vegetarian).  At first bite I wasn't sure about the burgers;  they taste simpler, but I have gotten used to the taste and actually crave them now.

I have a restaurant to recommend, too.  The Local No. 7 is located on Main Street in Tucker, Georgia (a small town outside Atlanta).  The restaurant is a cozy pub, and they have a terrific menu!  They have several vegetarian and vegan options.  I had a veggie wrap (spinach tortilla, hummus, veggies, vinaigrette) and homemade fries.  They also have a bar, with team trivia a couple of nights a week.  Fun!  I will definitely go back.

How about you -- do you have any great vegetarian or vegan food products to recommend?   I would love to hear from you in the comments section, below.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Music Monday: Marshall Crenshaw "Someday, Someway" (Merv Griffin Show 1982)

For whatever reason (I don't know), this song has been in my head for about a week.   "Someday, Someway" is the first Marshall Crenshaw song I ever heard.  His music was part of the soundtrack of my college and grad school years.  Hearing it again takes me back to that other time.  "Someday, Someway" was released in 1982.  Marshall Crenshaw is from Detroit, and at different points in his career he played two famous musicians.  He portrayed John Lennon in the touring company of Beatlemania, and later played Buddy Holly in the movie La Bamba.  I think his voice has a real Buddy Holly quality.  I love his first five albums especially, and still enjoy hearing them:
  • Marshall Crenshaw (1982)
  • Field Day (1983)
  • Downtown (1985)
  • Mary Jean & 9 Others (1987)
  • Good Evening (1989)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

And All That Jazz - Downton Abbey, Season 4, Episode 5 (US)

Things we learned on this jazzy episode of Downton Abbey:

Uncle Harold, Cora's brother in America, is in financial distress.  His name is mentioned at least three times, which means he is certain to appear soon on the show.

Mrs. Hughes proclaims, "You know me, Mr. Barrow, a woman of mystery, if ever there was one," when Thomas asks her about the secret Rose has entrusted her with. This is one of my favorite lines of the night, in an episode with one great line after another.

The Dowager Countess continues to clash with Isobel about the young gardener Pegg, and the mystery of the missing knife.  Isobel says, "How you hate to be wrong!"  The Dowager Countess replies:  "I wouldn't know.  I'm not familiar with the sensation."

Mrs. Pattmore has a crush on silent film actor Rudolph Valentino.  "Oh, that Rudolph Valentino.  He makes me shiver all over."  To this Carson retorts:  "What a disturbing thought."

James gets fresh with Ivy after going to see the Valentino movie, The Shiek.   Clearly, Valentino + Downton = Trouble.

Edith worries that she hasn't heard from Michael Gregson, and then she gets the news by letter that she is in the first trimester of pregnancy. 

Anna and Bates work on their relationship with dinner out at the Netherby Hotel.  There is a surprisingly warm scene between them and Cora, who is also dining at the Netherby.

There is a lovely scene of Mary, Isobel Crawley, and Tom Branson in the nursery, reminiscing about their lost loves.  Mary states:  "I'm not unhappy.  I'm just not quite ready to be happy." 

When Mary meets Charles Blake, who accompanies Evelyn Napier to Downton, sparks fly ... and they are not friendly sparks either.

Cousin Rose brings Jack Ross and his band from the Lotus club to Downton Abbey for Lord Grantham's birthday.  Surprisingly, Lord Grantham is pleased with this jazz age surprise.  Mary discovers that Rose has crossed the dating color line (in 1920's England).

Last, but not least, Alfred gets into cooking school at the Ritz in London.  This means we are now saddled with Molesley as a regular character, and we discover he has a first name:  Joseph.

What did you think of tonight's show?   I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section, below.