Violet's Nightly Walk

Sunday, 28 February 2010
I've been leash training Violet... or she's training me, really. Either way, Violet has been going outside lately to stand on the porch. I decided to train her instead of having her dart out of the door one day when I leave the apartment. The video is boring and probably annoying to people without pets but here you go:

Sherlock Holmes Review

Saturday, 27 February 2010
Love him or hate him, I think Guy Ritchie is a talented director.  Why?  He somehow imagines unique shots and sequences that not only tell the story well but also make the viewer lean forward during the film.

I watched Sherlock Holmes 2009 tonight which incorporated some of my favorite actors, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law.  The film was edited by James Herbert and I loved every second of it.  The movie was a success in my book and I'm critical when it comes to movies.  Please do see it when you get a chance.

I visited many of the places shown in the film while I completed my Master's degree. Watching it made me a bit nostalgic.  I loved seeing Baker Street, the Thames near Big Ben and of course Parliament. I can't wait to visit again.

Kinglsey works just off Baker Street and sees the big statue of Sherlock Holmes every day as I did when I went to the main campus of the University of Westminster.  The statue is enormous and to be honest, annoying to step around while trying to rush through the cross walk with a mass of tourists.  After watching the movie, however, I'll be sure to pay more heed to Mr. Sherlock when I exit onto Baker Street.

Welcome to the Weekend

We hope you are very happy here.  People are smiling and laughing and just having a grand 'ole time.  You've waited all week for this so please, enjoy!

Any fabulous plans on tap?  Speaking of tap... this is the weekend I think I'll head to the Oregon microbrew Ninkasi tasting room in the Whiteaker neighborhood.  Apparently Ninkasi has a new batch of Spring Reign to try!

I walked Violet tonight and took a stellar video of the event to share but alas, I have to figure out how to upload it from my brand new camera.  It should only take me a few minutes but I think I'll put it off till tomorrow.  I'm at a great spot in my book, A Woman named Jackie by C. David Heymann.

Facebook Question

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

I have more and more friend requests from people I do not know since Facebook's privacy policy changed.  I may have one mutual friend in common with someone and he/she requests to be friends as well.  Recently I've been ignoring the friend requests.  Now, I'm wondering about my own Facebook policy. 

Should I just be friends with everyone and keep my page professional now instead of trying to walk the fine line of  "private?"  That means no personal pictures, no real opinions on politics, religion or inside jokes on others' walls.  Also, should news personalities be "friends" with viewers (strangers) on Facebook?  Is it time to just give up on the private/personal on-line presence and recognize in this age of instant technology nothing is private anymore?

While I have you here, may I also ask your opinion on the cell phone technology that allows you to "check in" wherever you go?  Meaning, you log into the site and it adds the address of wherever you are to your FB or Twitter feed.  My Twitter friends use it every day and I'm terrified of that type of app.  It just makes stalking too easy.  Most people can find your home address online in less than 20 seconds so why do you want them to find where you are outside of your house?  Just asking...

Easy Beans and Corn

Tuesday, 23 February 2010
I tried this recipe (found on the side of a can of black beans) for dinner tonight.  It was simple and delicious.

1 can black beans, drained
1 can sweet corn, drained
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 green onions, chopped

Combine beans, corn, vinegar. 
Heat in microwave for 4 minutes. 
Sprinkle on green onions, stir so the onions wilt a bit. 
(I think 1/4 cup chopped red pepper would be nice to add as well for some color.)

Falafel with yogurt sauce

Monday, 22 February 2010
I made Falafel patties and yogurt sauce on Sunday evening and served them over a bed of red lettuce with cucumbers and a bit of red onion.  For wine, I opened a bottle of '06 Grand Crus California Syrah.  It was a nice pairing because of the spice in the wine and the pepper taste of Falafel.

Falafel is a Middle Eastern food made out of chickpeas or fava beans.  It orginally replaced meat during meals for Egyptian Christians during lent.

For this dish you'll need:

Falafel mix (you can buy this at the store or make your own from chick peas)

1 cup sour cream
1 large clove garlic
salt to taste
3 sprigs fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped cucumber

Mix 1 cup Falafel mix with 1/2 cup cold water (makes about 8 small patties).  Let the mix sit for 10 minutes.  It will form a sort of paste.

While you're waiting for the mix to harden, stir up the yogurt sauce.  I used 2 cloves of garlic instead of 1 like the recipe calls for it and it was a bit too much.

I did not fry Falafel balls (you'll need 1/3 cup vegetable oil for that) but instead made little patties and cooked them on medium heat for 3 minutes on each side.  The patties need to be 1/2 inch thick. 

Falafel can be served with hummus or pita bread as well.  Easy, delicious and great if you're trying to cut back on meat.

Vintage Inspiration

Sunday, 21 February 2010
The more I get into my hobby of hand selecting and selling excellent condition vintage clothes, the more I find women who have been doing it forever (it seems) and are so fabulous at their craft.  Take, for instance, Thrush Vintage.  This seller is FANTASTIC.  She's sold more than a thousand items on Etsy and her photography is perfect.  If I could interview her I'd ask:

1.  Do you take your own pictures?
2.  How do you get such perfect lighting?
3.  How do you decide on your pricing scale?
4.  What are your tips for selecting the vintage items in demand?
5.  What's the story behind your rose tattoo?

I added the link to this site, you should check it out if you have time.

Vintage clothing is becoming popular for the "green" aspect of buying something that is recycled.  Granted, you may HATE vintage styles but there are black dresses with the BEST cuts by designers you may love for sale on the web right now.  For instance, I really like this wool 1960s Frank Usher black shift dress.  Simple with great detailing.

How do you successfully shop for a dress on-line and ensure that it fits?  Take a dress that is "fitted" (not just knit, free flowing) and lay it flat on the ground.  Take a tape measure and measure the waist, hips and bust.  For instance, my dress is Waist 14 1/2" Hips 16" Bust 15."  Use that while shopping and if the dress you like on-line equals those measurements, the garment will likely fit.  Or, it the measurements given are in the 20s just double your measurements.

Here's an item that just sold from my store, Black Violet Vintage:

The back has a keyhole cut out and a pearl button.  The waist ties for an extra cinch.  Add heel and oh so pretty!  

Pet Peeves

From Wikipedia:  pet peeve (or pet hate) is a minor annoyance that an individual identifies as particularly annoying to them, to a greater degree than others may find it.

P utting used tea bags in the sink instead of the trash
E very conversation seems to be about you
T hrowing money away on a pure bred rather than rescuing or adopting an animal

P arking outside the lines
E mails that are “junk” forwards
E arly risers who think I need to get up too
V eiled sexism and discrimination
E gos that get in the way of friendships
S low service at restaurants

Note:  I was surprised that it took me longer to come up with pet peeves than "the little things" that make me happy.  What "peeves" you?

It's The Little Things

Saturday, 20 February 2010

T he first sip of coffee in the morning (with sugar and lots of skim milk)
H is smile on Skype
E ggs and pancakes for the rare brunch on Sunday

L ive shots that go really well
I ce cold mug with an Oregon microbrew
T alking late into the night and laughing with friends
T he way I feel while driving with the windows down in the summer
L ove and the feeling it will last
E xtra time on the phone with family

T he chance to buy a cheap airline ticket
H arvesting tomatoes or herbs I grow myself
I nventive meals that are tasty and easy to make
N ice, clean, crisp sheets
G ood books and magazines
S nuggling with Violet on weekend mornings

What are the "little things" that make you happy?

Observations On Tiger's Statement

Friday, 19 February 2010
If you didn't get a chance to see Tiger Woods read a statement this afternoon apologizing for having numerous mistresses and affairs, here's a look (sorry you have to sit through a 30 sec ad courtesy CBS):

I watched Woods' statement via on-line live streaming.  Here's my thoughts and opinions.  Feel free to share yours or disagree with mine!

1. He was good on camera and convincing.
2. The teary-eye look at the beginning was fake.
3. He held the public apology only to to get the good vibes going so he can get back on the course and help the sponsors feel better about throwing their money at him. 
4. The whole thing was horribly awkward because honestly, why does he need to apologize to the public?  His apology didn't earn any respect back for him in my mind.  I was cringing inside while watching and almost had to turn it off.
5. I almost laughed out loud when he asked the Papo to respect his wife (cause he really showed a lot of respect to her himself, eh?).
6. Tiger has a future as a politician.
7. It was really gross that the networks dropped programing to air a professional athlete's talk on his personal sex life.  If I want an update on this circus I'll watch Inside Edition with Deborah Norvell.
8. I appreciated that Tiger said he needs to exercise "restraint" and didn't just blame his affairs on his stardom or riches.

Weight Just a Minute

Wednesday, 17 February 2010
What happened to taking responsibility for our own lives?  I just read that a Biggest Loser contestant has written a memoir about her sugar addiction and that she cannot be blamed for weighing 457 pounds since her condition is "in her genes" and that she is suffering from an addiction.  She says sugar for her functions the same way that crack does for a drug addict and she is powerless against it. 

Just recently film director Kevin Smith was in the news for being kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight.  Try as I might, I cannot find a recent full length picture of Smith which shows his current weight.  He immediately tweeted about the episode (I think to save face).  The airline maintains he could not fit into only one seat and Smith admits he normally purchases two seats on flights.  This was a flight he was bumped to and there were no additional seats. 

My brother and I are lucky because while we have family members who have struggled with their weight for their entire lives, my mother taught us how to eat fruits and vegetables as snacks.  She also taught us portion control which is key.  Most "normal-sized" people do not just show up as a thin adult and live life as a skinny person.  Most trim people do NOT eat whatever they want whenever they want to.  

Four years ago when I was working as a morning reporter in Cincinnati, Ohio, my photographer and I got on a kick where we'd eat on the road every day together at restaurants and fast food joints.  We also bought drinks at Starbucks almost every day and occassionally I would hit up Graeter's ice cream on the way home from work.  Gradually, I went up 2 sizes in clothing and finally realized what was happening when NOTHING fit.  I had to change my lifestyle or I was going to keep gaining weight and soon be very over-weight.  Little by little, I changed what and how I was eating and lost the weight.  Was it easy?  No way.  Am I happier being my "normal" size?  Absolutely.

Now, when I go grocery shopping do I long for Double-Stuff Oreos and cookie cream ice cream?  Yes!  Is it really, really hard to buy apples, carrots and bananas instead?  Yes!  Would I like to eat guacamole and chips every night of the week?  Yes!  But I know that I cannot eat whatever I want and keep a trim physique.  That's why when I go on vacation, I take a break and eat what I like but I can't do that all year round.  It takes self-discipline to stay on the thin side, not just good genes!   

I think folks that are obese also may just not know they are eating in a way that is unhealthy.  Do you notice co-workers who always have fast food for lunch (Super-sized)?  How about those who eat a Dairy Queen Blizzard on the way to work every day?  Extra whipped cream on a double mocha every day?  Cheese and meat and dessert for every meal (and then they complain about their body)?  Those calories add up especially with a sedentary lifestyle.

Yes, genes do play a role in our shape.  Absolutely!  But self-discipline and restraint matters too.  Is it okay for over-spenders to blame their debts on the culture of marketing and Consumerism?  That might be the easy way to explain away the problem.  It doens't hurt as much as admiting we lack self-control but the longer we kid ourselves the longer it takes to make a change.  

Do you struggle with weight?  What are your obstacles to changing the way you eat?

New York Fashion Week 2010

Tuesday, 16 February 2010
I'm more into affordable and reusable (vintage) couture nowadays but I appreciate fashion trends.  After viewing almost 800 catwalk looks from today's walk down the runway for NYC's Fashion Week, it appears 2010's looks will be black and grey, punctuated by five-inch wedge boots.

First two photos by Reuters, third and following photos by Associated Press.

Derek Lam added a cowboy-esque hat to some of his outfits.  And several designers including Elie Tahari presented wraps with a built-in hood (which I love).  

Red, red lips also popped up on Donna Karan's catwalk and while the look is feminine, I have a hard time pulling it off in real life.

Fur and hats were all over Carolina Ferrera's collection.  Is fur taboo or not?  I don't mind vintage fur since it is "recylced" but this is clearly not old or faux. the hats.

One of my favorite pieces on the runway today was by G-Star.  This blue jacket would look cute for work or brunch.  ADORE.

Consumer Culture

Monday, 15 February 2010
This year my New Year's resolution was RAC (Rebel Against Consumerism).  I've been forthcoming about my overspending habits in my early to mid 20s.  Now, I'm paying for it but I love to learn about our consumer culture specifically when it comes to credit (spending money we don't have).

I recently finished the book Ad Nauseam:  A Survivor's Guide to American Consumer Culture by Carrie McLaren (editor) and Jason Torchinsky (editor).  While the book simply points out the ways marketing influences our purchases, it opened my eyes to the way I view products and brands.

For instance (p.90) the editors include a chapter about children "playing" by doing parodies of people they see on TV.  I was once part of a skit in college of Madonna's "Vogue" song.  I looked up to her and wanted to be like her.  Why?  Possibly because of consumer culture which included MTV and fashion magazines.  Did you dress up as Superman for Halloween?  How about a Disney character?

Ad Nauseam also outlines Consumerism by "fans."  The chapter covers the absolute obsession one "fan" has for Disney's Ariel mermaid character.  The man saved all of his money for three years and then quit his job so he could pursue his love for Aerial.  He estimates he has spent more than $18k on Ariel products which he has on display on every room in his house.  His plan was to begin working again so he can save his money and continue buying Disney products which feature Ariel.

I was shopping two weeks ago and thought, oh that's a nice Nike bag.  I picked it up and carried it around the store.  Did I need a new duffel bag?  Nope.  But the brand's logo attracted me to the item and luckily I was able to reason with myself before getting to the check out.

The point of the book is to open readers' eyes to the reasons why we buy what we do.  It is a quick, easy read and very interesting.

KLCC Brewfest

Sunday, 14 February 2010
Oregon loves it's microbrews!  A local listener-supported radio station in Eugene hosted Brewfest 2010 last night and I met up with a group of friends for beer tasting.  It was $12 just for entry but to me it was well worth it.  KLCC hosts NPR programs on 89.7 and I listen everyday.  You'll notice brewing terms below in italics.  They were provided to us on a pamphlet by brewfest volunteers and are not my words.

The Ty Curtis Band entertained the crowd of thousands with jazzy music with a little blue grass thrown in. Here's a clip of them playing at the Redwood Run from YouTube.

51 breweries participated in the event by offering brews to taste.  We bought "taste tickets" for $1 each and I sampled 5 different brews.  (The samples were small.)

Of those, my favorite was the Firthur Pale Ale from Wakonda, Florence, Oregon.  The flavor is amazing because the brewers finish it with Douglas Fir pine needles.  This brew got my "People's Choice" vote!

Ale - Brewed from the same basic ingredients as lager (barley, malt, hopes, yeast and water) but more hops are used and fermentation is done with a top-fermenting yeast which produces a more full-bodied and higher alcoholic beverage.

My second favorite beer was Maui Brewing's (Maui, HI) CoCoNut Porter.  As you may know, porters are very dark beers but they are not syrup-y like a stout.  The aftertaste of this beer was amazing and somewhat tropical.

Porter - A variety of ale in which roasted barley is used to achieve a dark color.  Porter is generally lighter in color and of a lower alcoholic content than stout, while also less bitter.

Stout - Beer brewed from roasted, full-flavored malts, often with an addition of caramel sugar, and a slightly higher proportion of hops.  Stouts have a richer, slightly burnt flavor and are very dark in color.

I also really like Oregon Trail's "Wit."  Oregon Trail brews in Corvallis, Oregon.  This wheat beer was orange in color, brewed with orange peel and coriander, unfiltered.  Tasty.

Wheat - Beer brewed with 30% wheat malt and 70% barley.  Usually served with a squeeze of lemon or orange.


Thursday, 11 February 2010

Seth and I judged a BBQ contest for our news station last weekend in Florence.  I stayed there overnight and plugged in my phone to charge while I was sleeping.  The next day, I got up, packed my things and went on with my weekend.

Last night my phone was completely dead so I rumaged around for my charger.  It was no where to be found.  Drat!  I wrote myself a note, "Call hotel - charger" and went to bed.  As I was falling asleep I thought "maybe it's in my car..."

This morning I dug out my old phone charger thinking I could stop by Sprint and trade it in (doubtful!).  I couldn't call the hotel after all because (dur) my phone was out of battery.  Feeling a bit angry with myself for being careless, I went about my morning. 

Later, as I was plugging in my hair dryer, I noticed my phone charger plugged into the outlet.  Not only had I brought my charger back from my night away, I had apparently already charged my phone at least once this week!

Am I the only one losing my mind around here?

Thumb Double

Wednesday, 10 February 2010
Did you watch the Super Bowl?  I didn't see the entire game because I was brunching at King Estate Winery for a Eugene Tweetup.  We arrived at 1pm and didn't leave until 4:30.  It was that much fun.  So, I didn't see all of the Super Bowl ads but one did catch my attention.

Take a look:

I know you thought I was going to blog about the veiled sexism (haha) but no!  Did you see her thumb?  Watch it again.

In the bottom right hand corner of the picture by you can see Megan Fox's real thumb.  Beside it, the folks at have provided a shot of her "thumb double."  Writer Issie Lapowsky confirmed Fox has "a hereditary defect known as brachydactyly."

So what is Brachydactyly?  The word means "shortness of the fingers and the toes."  The producers of the Motorola spot just couldn't let her be herself.  Nope.  Call in the thumb double!  

What do you think?  Should Motor have used Fox as-is or is the double not such a big deal?  Post a comment.  I love hearing from you.

Oprah Interviews Child Molesters

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

I am not an Oprah fan but I found her candid interview with four child molesters informing. (My friend Samira mentioned it on FB.)  Possibly parents, grandparents, caretakers, teachers and coaches can learn something from what the convicts had to say.

Since you likely do not have two hours to watch the interview (which gets boring and sensational in some places), I took notes to pass along.  However, if you would like to see it in its entirety, my news station has posted it on the website:  Just click here.

Offender 1 molested a five year old girl when he was in his 60s.  He said he was very close to her and she even called him "grandpa."  He helped her with her homework and spent more time with her than he did with the adults when they were around.  He says he did a lot of "babysitting" for the parents and since his wife had severe Cancer, she wasn't always around.  He finally got caught when the mother walked in just after he performed oral sex on the victim.  After he got out of prison, he molested a seven year old girl who lived in his neighborhood.  He invited her into his RV one afternoon to play his computer.  She was fond of the Disney computer game and that was the hook.  Offender 1 says he thought he was just bringing pleasure to the victim.

TAKEAWAY:  With the five year old, the man was spending more time alone with the little girl than with the adults.  That is a warning sign.  Victims are molested by people they know 90% of the time.  The second victim was out roaming a neighborhood alone and felt comfortable enough to be lured into a stranger's RV. 

Offender 2 molested his own daughter.  He says he began fantasizing about her when she turned 12.  He was estranged from her mother and she would come to stay with him because of shared custody.  He had her sleep in his bedroom and while she was "asleep" he would molest her.  His daughter told her mother what was happening and the Offender convinced the mother she was lying.  She asked him to stop but he repeated the abuse over 2 months.  He admits he looked at pornography every day, several times a day since his teenage years and thought it was perfectly normal.  Offender 2 says he thought what he was doing to his daughter made her feel good.

TAKEAWAY:  The mom did not believe the daughter when she reported the abuse.  Why not?  The daughter was made to stay with the father and abused on a higher level for another two months.   This offender says he never understood sexual addiction and thought his repeated masterbation to "barely legal" pornography was normal.  Perhaps, culturally, pornography shouldn't be something we make light of and joke about.

Offender 3 molested a younger family member for 12 years.  He says he started abusing her when she was five and he was eight.  He saw her naked when she was five and began a game called "playing doctor" with her.  That progressed to him raping her when she was 11 and he was 14.  He was able to control and manipulate the little girl, he says, because no one paid attention to her and he was the only one she had.  When she would try to get away from the abuse, he would ignore her and withdraw attention which would draw her back in and she would allow him to abuse her.  He says she never consented.  Once her mother walked into the bedroom when the offender was getting out of bed from molesting her.  He explained they were playing but the little girl told the truth.  The mother confronted him the next day and he lied his way out of it.  Nothing really happened.  The abuse continued for years after that.  Offender 3 said, "I was able to molest my victim because she was severely neglected."

TAKEAWAY:  If parents, teachers, caretakers, aunts and uncles do not pay attention to their children, someone else will.  Children thrive on attention and if they cannot get positive attention, they'll settle for negative attention.  Did anyone notice that this little girl was withdrawn, upset, scared?  Why didn't the mother push to protect her daughter?  Why didn't she believe her daughter when she told on the offender?  She could have prevented the rape and the abuse that went on for another 6 years.

Offender 4 raped three victims.  His first victims were 17 and 16.  After he got out of prison for the first two rapes, he raped a 15 year old.  He says his victims were "Just angry.  They were angry with their parents."  He was able to manipulate them because of their vulnerability.  The 16 year old he raped was a runaway.  This guy didn't seem very bright at all...none of the offenders did. 

TAKEAWAY:  Offender 4 says he was able to convince his first vicitm to go down to the river with him where he could rape her without anyone overhearing them.  His victims trusted him and he took advantage of that. 

OVERALL TAKEAWAY:   I was shocked to see the sense of entitlement these men seemed to have.  Most molestations began after elaborate fantasies.  At a certain point, the men just decided they had to have the victim.  They knew they could control the victim and they did.  Simple as that.  Oprah asked why some got to the point where they thought it was okay to abuse.  None of them even thought about the abuse as being "wrong" they just didn't care about anything other than the payoff. 

Ours is still a male-dominated culture.  Some men are raised (possibly inadvertently these days) to believe they are powerful and can/should control women.  The churches I went to preached that often, "For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything." Ephesians 5:23-24  Boys raised in families where women and girls are regarded as objects or secondary within the family circle believe they have power.  Clearly not everyone that grows up this way will be an abuser but sexism is also hurtful to the progress of our society.

Many of the offenders said they thought they were pleasuring their victims.  How could they EVER have gotten that idea?  Possibly because our culture propagates that men are sexual beings, gods and desirable by all women. When in reality, the men Oprah talked to were ugly, selfish and sick. 

Why not peacefully protest sexist television shows, sexist jokes, sexist fundamentalist religion and sexist politics?  It's okay to not laugh when someone tells a joke about pornography.  It's okay to delete emails that make you feel small.  How about taking it one step further by being honest when something offends you?

The men Oprah interviewed had jobs, families and were professional charmers.  In most cases no one noticed anything was going on until the men were caught in the act.

**A gripe:  Oprah said over and over and over, "Well, if you're a good molester the act might feel good to the victim, what about then?  Is that still wrong?"  I found that to be horribly offensive.  The victims did not consent to the act.  They were forced against their will to endure something unsolicited.  There is no such thing as a "good molester."

This is another resource from Oprah's website entitled "Traits of a Sex Offender:"

Update on Violet

Sunday, 7 February 2010
Every morning I wake up and open the blinds for Violet so she can look out and watch over the birds and squirrels.  She loves to go outside and look around from the steps of my apartment.  Even though she is micro-chipped, I'm not quite ready to let her roam around the neighborhood.  Indoors, she loves to get explore and even squeeze under the dresser.

She batted her tiny mouse, golf ball and basketball under the furniture and somehow wedged herself in the four inches of space to get to her "prey."

It was hilarious to see her twist and turn her way out.  I do love having a pet.  They are such entertainment!  Consider adopting, fostering or rescuing an animal.  The time and money is worth it.

Island Life

Saturday, 6 February 2010
One of my favorite parts of our mini-tour of the Yucatan Peninsula was Isla Mujeres.  It has a small, village feel and is much more authentic than the resort area of Cancun.  The island is only four miles long and boasts a coral reef, an ancient Mayan structure and fabulous restaurants serving fresh seafood.  

We were daring and rented a scooter for the day for just $20.  I'd recommend doing this so you don't have to  pay taxi fees and you can feel the island breeze on your skin while touring.  If you'd rather not chance your life among the native shooter drivers, you can rent a golf cart to get from one end of the island to the other.  Helmets are mandatory.

While researching the Cancun area, I read about Isla Mujeres and the temple constructed on the Eastern tip to Ixchel, the goddess of fertility.  History says Mayan women would trek to the Eastern point of the peninsula and then paddle alone in a kayak all the way to the island.  They would then walk to the temple to worship.  This was a sort of pilgrimage for women of child-bearing age.  The structure was damaged by a hurricane in 2003 but restored a few years later.  It was truly awesome to stand on the cliff overlooking the ocean and contemplate the journey to the spot that so many women had made before me.

The island is extremely laid back and we spent time at the free beach, Playa Lagunas.  Kingsley chilled in a hammock, we both swam in the sea and I admired the Palm trees and privacy.

Travelers to the island are bombarded with people trying to get you to sign up for tours as soon as you leave the ferry.  They are shouting about snorkeling, renting scooters and going to the "park" on the island.  The Garrafon National Park, while pretty, is a rip-off (in my opinion).  Each person is asked to pay $70 to enjoy the blue waters in the park.   

If you go to Isla Mujeres, don't leave without going through the graveyard.  It is bizarre but beautiful.  All graves are above-ground, fashioned as tombs.  Each has it's own style and they are painted in bright colors.  We walked along the over-grown paths quietly observing how different family members honored their deceased loved ones.

They Have Iguanas instead of Squirrels

Friday, 5 February 2010

In Mexico, we loved watching for iguanas.  They were everywhere.  If you weren't careful, you could step on one since they blend into the greenery and rocks.  These silly-looking LARGE lizards liked to sun themselves (they are cold-blooded and do so to stay warm) while watching us through beady little eyes.  

Kingsley crept up to one to get a picture and it whipped it's head around making him jump and run for cover.  Hilarious!

These little guys are native to Mexico and can grow to be over four feet long.  The Wild Ones says iguanas have long, almost sharp tails.  If an iguana feels threatened, it might snap its tail in the air as a defense mechanism.   

The first day in Cancun, we were walking out of the pool area and I asked one of the staff members if they ever see iguanas on the grounds.  He grinned at me and motioned to the ground.  This one was sitting there with a sober look on it's face.  They can be a bit intimidating but they are so interesting to watch.

Costa Rica has introduced a conservation project to teach people how to raise lizards for food on "farms"  rather than hunting a dwindling population in the wild.  They are a source of meat for many in South America and the Mayan in Mexico.

Video Clips of Paradise

Wednesday, 3 February 2010
Kingsley and I agree our trip to Mexico was one of the best vacations we've ever had.  The Gran Melia Resort was luxurious with impecable service.  Our weather was sunny and warm and the cultural aspects of Tulum and La Isla Mujeres were memorable.  Throughout the week, I took a few video clips so you could experience some of the things we did. 

Music is an important part of the Mexican culture and our first night at Los Rancheros we enjoyed a Mariachi Band.

On La Isla Mujeres, we ate at a lovely resturant with a cheesy name, Cocktaileria.  The place is directly on the water and they serve fresh fish and lobsters the fishermen catch daily.  We even watched some of them mend their nets under the palm trees on the white sand.  Here's a sampling of the live music from the restaurant.

The Gran Melia has "green" decor thoughout with vines hanging from every floor.  The main lobby is peaceful and naturesque with Koi ponds dotting the floor.

One evening Kingsley and I went to the luxury shopping center on the lagoon (Cancun is like Vegas when it comes to Consumerism).  We took a walk along the water and he spotted a tiny jelly fish as well as other wildlife in the water.  I love that he admires living things as much as I do.

Our trip to La Isla Mujeres was filled with new experiences (we rented a scooter) and fascinating discoveries such as the Mayan altar dedicated to Ixchel (goddess of fertility).

Movies that move us

Tuesday, 2 February 2010
With Oscar nominations announced this morning, I started thinking about top 2009 flicks. 

My picks:  Precious for the intense drama and excellent acting by both Mo'Nique and Gabourey Sidibe.  The plot tackles both racism and poverty. 

For comedy, my favorite was Hangover.  I cringe while typing that because I deplore the college slap-stick humor genre but the movie was not what you'd expect.  The cast gels to create a whirlwind of on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspense which sets you up for laugher every time.  Sure, there were parts I hated but I'm picky like that.  If you haven't seen it, rent it and watch with friends and a microbrew.

Biggest surprise:  District 9.  I liked it.  The concept was different and if you've spent any time in South Africa, the plot makes you uncomfortable because the alien shanty towns represent the shanty towns in place now.  The "white" government leaders walk around in an ignorant haze and the aliens are persecuted.  The movie appeals to a wide audience (action, sci-fi, romance fans) and then weaves the subtle struggle of discrimination throughout.  The special effects are also fab.

Coolest extras:  State of Play (Reporter #5).  Haaaa!  Couldn't help myself...but really, if you haven't seen this political thriller, it's pretty good.  There's a wicked twist in the end that still has me shaking my head.

Worst movie of the year:  Night at the Museum II.  I watched this on the plane coming back from London because there were no other choices.  Half way through I had to restrain myself from gouging my eye with a plastic spoon.  Wow.  The onscreen chemistry between Ben Stiller and the Amelia character was as dry as a paper cut.  Really, there's only so many scenes one can sit through of characters dumbly racing around a musuem before it becomes incredibly boring.

Movies I still want to see:  Sherlock Holmes (yes, I may have a slight crush on Robert Downey Jr. and I like Guy Ritchie's style ), Food Inc. (documentary on corporations and the behind the scenes control on the food industry) and The Cove (documentary on dolphin killing in Japan).

Movies that may be good but I haven't seen and probably won't:  Inglorious Bastards (excellent director) and Avatar (3-D!).

Give me your faves and tell me why my picks are good or bad.

Reading Helps

Monday, 1 February 2010
The bad thing about going to Mexico:  it takes 2 days to get back to the upper Western corner of the U.S.  The good thing about going to Mexico:  you can read an armful of books while waiting on the plane and in airports for two days.

I bought and finished the memoir Dewey, The Small-town Library Cat Who Changed the World and now I'm half way through My Life in France by Julia Child (which is excellent).

If you are an animal lover, the story about Dewey the cat will make you laugh, cry and will inspire you.  The book is not only about a loving cat (first dumped in the library's book return as a kitten) and his impact on the elderly, children, disabled and homeless library patrons but about the struggles of a small Midwestern town.
The book is set in Iowa and narrated by the library director who struggled through bouts of Cancer, the death of her mother and her long divorce from her alcoholic husband. 

This quick read truly made me love animals even more and I cannot wait to have my own rescue zoo full of birds, fish, cats, dogs and perhaps chickens.  (Great time to roll your eyes here.)   It was also fantastic to see how Dewey tended to children who were paralyzed and loved on them by jumping up on to their wheelchair trays to just sit and purr.  Service dogs are also very good at making disabled children feel comfortable and I think using our companion animals to bring happiness to others is a nobel endeavor.

The other fabulous book I purchased (you know I'd rather buy books from thrift stores) is Julia Child's memoir from her time in France.  When I write my book I want to model my prose after hers.  Her words are easy to follow but wonderfully descriptive and makes the reader feel as if we're sitting there with her.