Thursday, March 31, 2022

Michael Pena as Cesar Chavez

 It's Cesar Chavez Day !  And since (sadly) I know nothing about the man I watched a movie called Cesar Chavez to learn something about him.

Cesar Chavez starring Michael Pena 

(from the back of the case) Cesar Chavez inspired millions of Americans from all walks of life to fight for social justice.  His triumphant journey began in Delano, California, and led him across the United States and to Europe where he tirelessly fought for his cause

All I know about Cesar Chavez I learned from this movie so I can't tell you if it is accurate.  But I do think it is worth a look.  I think it gets the spirt of the fight that Chavez (and so many others) fought.  Chavez organized strikes among farm workers to get a living wage and better working conditions.  You get to see all the different opposition he faced, starting with the workers themselves who were scared to strike to politicians who helped the farm owners when Chavez's boycotts started to work.  The movie only covers a short period in Chavez's life but you see his dedication to his cause, the strain it put on him and his family, the hate and prejudice of the people he opposed, and the help he got from people who supported his cause along with him.  I was angered and hearted in turns throughout the movie. I'm sure there is much more to Chavez's story than is in this one movie but I think it is a good place to get an idea of what he stood for.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

A Joe By Any Other Name, well, Just Wouldn't be Joe

 Today (March 27th) is National Joe Day.  It is a day to celebrate all the Joes in your life.  I have a couple.  One I would like to celebrate and one not so much.  But if you have a Joe in your life today is the day to buy him (or her) lunch.  

As my own personal celebration of National Joe Day (my name not being Joe) I watched a couple of Joe centric movies.

Little Joe starring Emily Beecham, Kit Connor and Ben Whishaw

A plant breeder has produced a plant that if properly taken care of will make it's owner happy.  But when she takes one home to her son she starts to suspect that not everything went according to plan.

The preview made this seem like a horror movie.  I would not say that this is scary though.  There is a quiet tension through the movie and a understated menace but nothing scary actually happens.  The threat that the plant poses is hard to be scared of.  And I feel like it kind of stalled in the middle.  The plot got to a certain point and never developed further even though the movie wasn't over.  And the sound track was unpleasant.  There was this high pitched whine - it was menacing but it went on for a long time and was almost painful at times.  And the dogs barking was just confusing.  The first time I heard it I thought it was supposed to be real dogs but it was just the background sound.  I didn't understand it and found it off putting.  I thought the idea was good but after the initial concept was introduced it just kind of ambled along and got nowhere.  And no closed captioning.  Which is becoming a pet peeve of mine.

Mighty Joe Young staring Charlize Theron and Bill Paxton

Jill Young has raised the gorilla, Joe, since he was a baby.  Now he is fifteen feet tall legend.  When Jill feels that Joe is in danger if he stays in the wild she brings him to an animal sanctuary to try and save him.

So, it is a little corny.  And the bad guys were over the top evil villains that really had no character depth.  But it is a fun family film.  Although be warned the beginning is rather dark and small children might find it scary.  There are not a lot of surprises here.  You can probably guess most of the plot right from the beginning.  So if you are looking for twists and turns look elsewhere, but if you are looking for a heartwarming, if predictable, story to watch with your family I think this is a good bet.  And the effects were good, Joe was done really well and looked like a living breathing ape even when he was interacting with real actors.  

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Eat Your Spinach!

Today (March 26) is National Spinach Day!  I know a lot of people will not be excited about that.  But you should be.  Spinach is nutritious and delicious.  I mean it.  I actually like spinach.  So to celebrate National Spinach Day I made Spinach and Feta Brownies from Hungry Happens.  

Now defines brownie as:

        a small, chewy, cakelike cookie, usually made with chocolate and containing nuts

Merriam-Webster defines it as: 

        a small square or rectangle of rich usually chocolate cake often containing nuts

So not a brownie.  And this is not one of those brownies that you use to try to trick your kids into eating spinach.  This one is supposed to taste like spinach.

The flavor reminds me of spanakopita, but without the fillo dough crust.  Is has flour and baking powder so it does rise while baking and that makes it a little airy.  The texture is something like a fluffy omelet or a quiche.  But it doesn't taste like eggs even though there are eggs in it.  And it has three kinds of cheese, which is always a good sign.

It is relatively easy to make.  Once you sauté your scallions and wilt your spinach (which need to be done in two batches - it is a lot of spinach) all you need to do is mix everything together and a pan.  Don't forget to grease it.  I did and it stuck like crazy.

I had it in the fridge for about a week and it held up fine and heating it in the microwave worked well.

I happened to have been serving it with chicken shawarma (I used The Mediterranean Dish recipe which is also pretty easy to make and delicious.) so I had made tzatziki sauce.  (Also from The Mediterranean Dish.)  The "brownie" is good all by itself by I think it was better with a little tzatziki.  The only issue I had with this dish was the parmesan on top.  Don't get me wrong, I love parmesan.  But it had an almost sandy texture that I didn't really like.  But the taste was great.

I like this.  It comes together quickly (although it is in the oven for 40 minutes) and it is a nice change for my usual side dish choices.

Friday, March 25, 2022

The Friday 56


* Grab a book, any book.

* Go to page 56.  Or 56% on your ereader. 

* Find a snippet, short and sweet.

* Post it and add the url to your post at Freda's Voice

My book this week is The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer.

It is the true life story of a man who smuggled thousands of manuscripts out of Timbuktu to save them from being destroyed.

My Friday 56:

On January 13, 2000, in a ceremony attended by many luminaries, including the ministers of culture of Mali and Morocco, and the first lady of Mali - Henry Louis Gates had conflicting engagements and couldn't make the trip, and the Mellon Foundation sent a representative months later - the Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library officially opened its doors to the world.

Page 56 was the end of the chapter and this was the only full sentence on the page.  It may not sound all that exciting but it was to Abel Kader Haidara, who had put in a lot of work to make it happen.  I have not really gotten to the bad-ass part of the book yet.  It is still setting the stage for why the manuscripts had to be saved and how Haidara came to have the manuscripts and be the one to save them.  I think it will be very interesting.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

The Importance of Water (National Water Day)

Today (March 22nd) is World Water Day.  We all know the importance of water for all life on the planet.  But I don't spend that much time thinking about it.  I have watched two movies that have changed that.  

Secret of Water narrated by Lex Lang

(from IMDB) Water - a living substance, the most common and least understood.  It defies the basic laws of physics yet holds the keys to life.  Known to ancients as a transmitter to and from the higher realms, water retains memory and conveys information to DNA.  However, water can die if treated poorly.  Water's arrangement of molecules can be influenced by such factors as sound, thoughts, intention, and prayer, as well as by such toxins as chlorine, affecting all that comes in contact with it.

This movie concentrates on the living nature of water and all the things people can do that can make water sick and even kill it.  It talks about how water has a memory and how all the things people do to water can change it's very nature.  You see how ice crystals form from water that has been subjected to good thoughts and water that has been subjected to bad thoughts, and how much energy the water has in each case.  People talk about how there felt better after drinking water from natural sources as opposed to store bought water.  It was all very interesting.  I saw all the evidence.  But I have to admit I have trouble believing it.  Can you change water by saying nice things to it?  Or sending it good thoughts?  I don't know.  It is a radical idea.  Am I going to start thanking water before I drink it?  Probably not.  But it did get me thinking about how water is treated and often taken for granted.

Flow: For Love of Water directed by Irena Salina and Dan Berger

Flow is about the distribution, disappearance, availability (or lack there of) and privatization of water.

Flow shows how water has become a big business and a private commodity instead of a free and public resource.  It shows the impact that a lot of businesses that sell water are having on the environment and the people living in and around the plants.  It is disheartening to see how policies and greed have made it impossible for many people to get clean drinking water.  If they cannot afford to pay they must make do with whatever they can get, which is often water that makes them sick.  The question of 'since water is a basic human need shouldn't it be a basic human right to have access to it' is raised.  On the flip side you do see the people out there trying to make a difference, fighting companies that pollute the water, finding low cost ways to supply clean drinking water.  It made me think about where my water comes from and how it got to me and the cost of it on all levels.  It made me think about a lot of things that I had not thought about before.  I'm sure it is not the whole story.  No movie told form one side can be.  But it will certainly get people thinking.  

Monday, March 21, 2022

I Venture Out For Dine Out Week Boston

My husband and I have not been out for a while now.  COVID has made things difficult and we decided we would wait until restrictions and rules eased up a little.  Fortunately, that occurred concurrently with Dine Out Week Boston.  If you are not familiar, Dine Out Week is an event when area restaurants offer special prix fixe menus for two weeks.

shrimp and chicken
We decided to try someplace new and went to Basile - Fine Italian Kitchen.  It was a short walk from work and had crème brulee as a dessert choice.  I love crème brulee.  I have to admit that I never go anywhere for Dine Out Week if they have not posted a menu.  I like to know what I'm getting.

We made reservations and asked for bar seating.  I liked that they had an option.  We find bar seating more comfortable because it is more casual but usually for bar seating you have to take your chances.  When we got there at 4:30 PM we were almost all alone so we got our pick of seats at the bar.  It is nice inside but without feeling so fancy that I felt out of place.

David, our bartender, was friendly and helpful.  And he makes a good, fruity

Old Fashioned.  He was there when we needed him but he did not hover or intrude when we did not.

creme brulee

The complimentary bread was buttery soft and so delicious and the spread ( I think it had parmesan cheese in it) was awesome.  I had the arancini appetizer, the ravioli entree and of course the creme brulee.  It was one of the best arancini I have ever had, the ravioli was delicious and the creme brulee was creamy and the brulee on top had the right crack to it.  The whole meal was very satisfying.  My husband had the meatball appetizer, the shrimp and chicken aglio e olio and the creme brulee.  He enjoyed his food as well.

They had a nice selection of whiskey as well.  The whole experience was a lot of fun and it is definitely some place I would love to return to.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

All You Need To Know About Grocery Stores (Blood Feud Review)

Blood Feud by Daniel Harris

(from the back of the book) 

This is a simple story.  It begins with an immigrant grocer selling vegetables from a pushcart and ends in a court case with two billion dollars at risk.  Two brothers, sons of the founder, inherit equal shares of a burgeoning food chain.  One dies, and his widow, suspecting that she is being short-changed from profits earned, sues to recover.

Now it becomes complicated.  The author, an insider with over thirty years working in the food industry, spins a yarn of a twisting, turning labyrinth that features a love tryst, intrigue, betrayal, and greed.  The characters and dialogue are real, authentic, and they draw you from the printed page into the middle of this fast-moving action.

Russell Riley is the highest-ranking non-family member of this company and it's his job to protect and grow the business while the two families duke it out in court.  But even he can't stay entirely above the fray because he owns stock that could provide the swing vote for control.

If you are in the mood for an insider's take on a nasty and vitriolic family food fight that ended in a celebrated court case, Blood Feud is it.

I was a bit skeptical about a book about supermarkets being able to hold my attention.  But this one did.  You do learn a lot about the industry of the supermarkets and how they are run.  I think a lot of people will think you learn too much about it.  But that is not what the book is about.  It is about the people who run the stores.  Russell started working in the business as a teenager when there was only one store.  He grew up with this family and in this business.  I like that the story is told by someone who is on the inside but not a member of the family.  It kind of gives you both perspectives - the family one and the outsider one.  The characters are engaging enough for you to want to know what happens to them, which keeps you reading.  Because the characters felt real I was happy for the family when everything was working out for them and sad when it all started to fall apart.  The story does jump around in time a bit, sometimes without warning, and it lost me a time or two, but only for a moment.  I did feel a little let down because the build up of tension, the secrecy, and the rather sudden change in attitude of some (or really just one) of the characters had be believing something more was going on then there actually was.  It was not an exciting book but it was an interesting one.  I enjoyed it but I can't say I will go looking for more.

Friday, March 18, 2022

The Friday 56


* Grab a book, any book.

* Go to page 56.  Or 56% on your ereader. 

* Find a snippet, short and sweet.

* Post it and add the url to your post at Freda's Voice

My book this week is Monstrous by MarcyKate Connolly.

An unusual young girl is told by her father that she was killed and he rebuilt her and brought her back to life with a special purpose.  A purpose that necessitates wings, cat claws, and a tail with a stinger at the end.  Kymera doesn't doubt her father at all.  But I have to admit that I do.  I guess we shall see.

My Friday 56:

"I am sorry, but that is exactly why you must stay."  My tail swings out and stings her in the arm.  Father was right, they never understand what we do for them.


I hope for Kymera's sake that her father really is a good guy.  But he seems sinister to me so far.  

Friday, March 11, 2022

Friday 56


* Grab a book, any book.

* Go to page 56.  Or 56% on your ereader. 

* Find a snippet, short and sweet.

* Post it and add the url to your post at Freda's Voice

My book this week is Rampant by Diana Peterfreund

In this book unicorns are not nice.  They are bloodthirsty creatures that must be hunted down.  Good thing they're extinct.  Or are they?  I just started this one.  I haven't even reached page 56 yet.  So I have no opinion yet.  But bloodthirsty unicorns sound fun.


My Friday 56:

I wondered if I could concoct some sort of medical discharge, like one did for the army.  Break my leg, maybe.  Cut off a pinky toe?

This girl really doesn't want to hunt unicorns.  I hope she thinks of a better solution than cutting off a toe.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Farce of the Penguins Review

 Farce of the Penguins starring Samuel L. Jackson and Bob Saget

A farce about the miles long trek of the penguins to find a mate.

So this group of male penguins has to go a long way to get to the female penguins who are waiting for them.  The penguins are cold and they want sex.  That is the whole movie.  The audience listens to the penguins talk about getting to the girls and complaining about the cold while watching random footage of penguins marching and milling about.  And the movie seems to go on forever.  I wanted the penguins to get where they were going just as much as they did.  I would pass on this one.  It was boring, the jokes got old fast and you can see more interesting footage of penguins elsewhere.

I'm also going to take this opportunity to rant about something that bothers me.  This movie has no closed captioning for the hearing impaired.  I don't think there is any reason for any DVD released after the year 2000 not to have closed captioning.  Can it really cost so much that it is worth excluding all the people who might not be able to hear?  Anyway, I bothers me.  And I can't believe I'm the only one.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Just Throw in a Pound of Everything

It is National Pound Cake Day!  And I believe that Pound Cake should be celebrated.  Because it is delicious.  It is not a complicated recipe, but it works.  Now, pound cake is called pound cake because way back when the recipe called for a pound each of butter, flour, sugar, and eggs.  That sounds like a heavy cake.  The one I made to celebrate was not quite so heavy.

There are a bajillion recipes for pound cake out there.  How do you choose which one to make?  I have no idea.  I didn't want a lemon one or an iced one or anything like that.  So, I just browed around until I found one that seemed like it would be close to the traditional pound cake I always think of when I think of pound cake.  I ended up choosing basically at random and settled on the one from Once Upon a Chef, hoping it was really the Perfect Pound Cake it claimed to be.  

Putting it together is as simple as the ingredients.  You do need cake flour for this one.  I happened to have had it in the house, so I was happy to have a use for it.  Everything else is stuff most people have in the house all the time - eggs, milk, butter and such.

You whisk the wet ingredients together.  You put the dry ingredients in the mixer.  I was surprised that I was told to put the flour in the mixer along with the sugar and before the butter.  I am used to mixing the sugar and butter together first.  But I follow the directions exactly the first time I do any recipe.  And it all worked out, so it shows you how much I know about baking even thought I do it all the time.  

Then you add the butter and wet ingredients and you are all done.  All you have left to do is pour it into a greased and floured pan and put it in the over for almost an hour.  

What you get is a buttery, slightly dense (as pound cake should be), delicious treat.  Very much like the pound cake I had in mind, that I remembered from those ones that we got from the store in an aluminum tray when I was a kid.

It may not be perfect but it is close.

Friday 56


* Grab a book, any book.

* Go to page 56.  Or 56% on your ereader. 

* Find a snippet, short and sweet.

* Post it and add the url to your post at Freda's Voice

My book this week is Mr. Popper's Penguins by Florence and Richard Atwater.  Mr. Popper writes a letter to Admiral Drake (because he loves anything to do with the Arctic or Antarctic) who responds by sending him a penguin in the mail.  It is silly and goofy, and all sorts of impossible things happen.  Some people (especially children, for whom it is written) might find it cute.  But I had trouble with the fact that Mr. Popper paid more attention to the penguin than he did to his family.  So I had trouble liking Mr. Popper and therefore trouble liking the book.

My Friday 56:

The man who kept the barbershop had, up to this time, been a very good friend of Mr. Popper's.

I like this line.  You don't know exactly what is going to happen next, but you do know that afterward the man from the barbershop will not be a very good friend of Mr. Popper.  

Thursday, March 3, 2022

A Mug Should Not Take This Much Practice

 My husband and I decided we were going to start bringing our coffee to work because buying it at Starbucks everyday was getting way too expensive.  So we needed travel mugs in which to carry it.

We browsed around and ended up going with the Contigo Stainless Steel Travel Mug, 20oz., in gunmetal.

Let's start with what I like about it.  I like the look of it.  I like the size of it - it fits well in your hand and in the car cupholder.  I like the non slip rubber grip.  I like the pop button opening.  (I don't like the sliding ones.  I always feel there is stuff between the layers I can never really clean out of there.)  And it keeps my coffee hot for a long time.  (I have never tried it with cold beverages but the principle is the same so I'm sure it keeps things cold too.)

But it leaked.  And the little rubber gasket in the cover fell out a lot.  And trying to get that thing back in was a twenty minute project.  But...

Now I have to give the credit to my husband because he is the one who makes the coffee in the morning.  The cups don't leak any more.  He had to practice putting the covers on and then holding them upside down over the sink to see if they would leak for a while but he figured it out.  You have to be gentle with them.  Turn the cover slowly until you just get resistance and then one small little turn to make it just snug.  Because if you turn the cover to fast and too hard the rubber seal twists and the cup will leak.

Now I like the cups.  But I don't think a mug should take so much practice to use correctly.  I read some other reviews and other people also had leaking problems so it isn't just me.  

Now they work great.  The rubber on the button to open the cup is starting to come off but that does not interfere with the function at all.  (The cups are now a year and a half old and we use them every day.)  And if you do buy them open the cover before you take it off the cup.  It is very hard to open it after.

I will continue to use them until they fall apart on me.  I might even buy more now that I know the secret.  But new customers might be frustrated with these.