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Oct. 30th, 2016


An eventful couple months, and not in a good way

Again, I did NOT mean for it to be so long between posts. Oy.

The good news is my skin has healed up and my asthma has come back under excellent control, with a changeup of meds. But it was the prednisone that caused my skin to break out so badly; also that last round of antibiotics really took the starch out of me. It was about the last week of September before I felt normal again.

Temperatures have remained on the warm side. I was at Weathervane last night, and heard someone from the Akron Zoo saying they had a record attendance. Also, it was I think the week after Labor Day where several schools closed because of the heat- 90s and humid. In September. That is unheard of (both the high temperatures and schools taking a heat day)!

Midweek this week was cooler, more fall-like, but it was 70s again yesterday, 60s again today and will be 60s and 70s the remainder of this week, last I checked. Then it’s back down to the 50s, which is more typical. The leaves on many trees are still green albeit a bit faded, or just turning colors. My sugar maple’s leaves are finally golden yellow. I imagine the peak color will happen either late this week or early next week- rather late. Usually, most trees have shed their leaves at this point.

Things have calmed down now, at least a bit, but late September and October were not great times. One, I was involved backstage in a show where, well, let’s just say I was so glad when I was done. Not a good time. Also, had a couple bomb shells dropped at work. Four people got laid off, and I’m no longer doing the entertainment beat. I’m with one of the papers. The latter part I saw coming, but the layoffs were completely out of left field. I feel terrible for them, and the atmosphere is just so dark at work. Everyone is upset, angry and scared. Was supposed to be onstage again, but reluctantly decided to drop it because everything is just so upside down. To top it off, I’m on jury duty starting next week (which would have been tech week for that show). Generally I wouldn’t mind but with things being so topsy turvy… just another hassle.

On a lighter note, I got to experience something completely different – I was asked to be a judge for Dessert First, a Girl Scout fundraiser event! I was on the panel of judges to got to sample the various desserts and grade them. A sweet assignment, but something I learned: only take one or two bite of each dessert. I was rather full by the end. Glad there was dinner afterwards to dilute the sugar!
So new experiences= 20. Seems like I might be missing some things, but perhaps not, as screwy as this time period has been.

Saw three plays this weekend, and hope to do short, online followups. All were very good!

Really haven’t done a lot of reading- I think I actually went a month without touching a book. You know things are nuts when this avid bookworm hasn’t read. Still I did finish up some books I haven’t had a chance to do my review on, and am working on a couple others, so I’m back on track. The ones I finished aren’t for the Book Riot challenge (not mine, anyway) but the two I’ve been reading are. I have a feeling I’m going to be down to the wire on the Book Riot challenge and I probably won’t get to 50 books this year, but given recent events, plus the fact that two books took more than a month each, I’m not going to beat myself up over it.

The Book Mouse’s Book Report
27. Best of One Tank Trips, by Neil Zurcher. This was a fun book. Zurcher, who recently retired, is known in this area for his One Tank Trips feature, a segment where he would find fascinating and unusual destinations that could be done in a day. Most of his trips are in Ohio, but a few go out of state. Anyone looking for a good day trip that’s not too far from home should get this book, but even if someone doesn’t like to travel, Zurcher gives you a written tour of the many places listed. Some highlights include a ride-through wildlife park, a place where you can legally drag-race in the family car; an Amish hardware story that only sells non-electric tools, appliances and toys; and the only World War II submarine still in original condition. In addition, this travel veteran shares tips on what to do before venturing out, and gives some of his own anecdotes on his adventures (and even a couple misadventures; one of his final stories had me laughing so hard I had to put the book down for a moment).

28. True Tales from the Buckeye State, by Linda Lehmann Masek. Another book readers may want to consider if they are looking for interesting trips, or even just interesting facts, about Ohio. Masek shares stories about some of the fascinating attractions around Ohio, as well as her own experiences in the buckeye state. Masek goes into the stories of the traffic light, the sea serpent of Lake Erie and the Cat Museum in Alliance. In addition, she also includes a collection of her own poetry, plus information on other interesting historic tidbits not connected to Ohio. These last inclusions were a bit puzzling given the title of the book but were informative.

29. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany. This was disappointing. Three-quarters of it was… OK. A bit rough around the edges, especially the beginning, but I did note that the book was branded as a rehearsal copy, which means that it probably wasn’t the final, polished draft. Also, I realize that you can only get so much reading a script. A play was meant to be seen, not just read. So, for the first three-quarters I was willing to give this script some leeway. I noticed a couple minor inconsistencies, but for most of the book I was enjoying the trip back to the Harry Potter universe. The action concerns Harry Potter’s son, Albus Severus, who tries to set right a terrible event from Harry’s past, but unwittingly creates far more problems. The premise is good, for the most part. Not sure I like Ron’s portrayal as a bit of a dolt- he could be smart in canon. But otherwise, it felt like a good, working draft, something with potential. Then- we get to the final one-quarter, where a revelation about a character takes this work from “needs polish but generally pretty good” to REALLY bad fanfic territory. I just lost all enjoyment after this reveal. Not sure I could stomach even watching it on stage now. A pity, because it had such potential.

30. Get Smart, by Christopher Sergel. This is a stage adaptation based on the series created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, and was the show I was supposed to be in. For those not familiar with the television series, the story lines revolve around secret agent Maxwell Smart, who tends to be more lucky than smart. Smart and Agent 99 work for Control, which always has to attempt to thwart the evil of KAOS. Those familiar with the series will see a lot of the classic lines and moments in this stage adaptation, and the script does an excellent job capturing the spirit of this hilarious series.

31. The Hudson Library and Historical Society. This was a photo book of the Hudson Library and Historical Society. My feelings were mixed. On one hand, the photos are lovely, and capture the beauty of what is considered to be a gem in this area. But I also felt there were missed opportunities as well. There was no cutline information to go with the photos, and no statistics or information about the library as it was depicted in this relatively recent publication. 50 years from now, few if anyone will remember who was pictured, and what the context was.

Currently reading: The Midwife’s Tale, by Sam Thomas, and The Agency: A Spy in the House, by Y.S. Lee.

Aug. 27th, 2016


What a time last weekend!

Wow wow wow wow! Had a whirlwind weekend last weekend as I got to see HAMILTON ON BROADWAY! I wrote a column which gives a pretty thorough account of my adventures: http://fallsnewspress.com/entertainment/2016/08/26/my-shot-in-new-york-editor-takes-in-times-square-sees-hamilton-on-broadway. But, in summary:

- I got to see my first Broadway show! And it was amazing!
- It was my first time in New York since grade school, and I don't recall a lot about it then
- I got to meet up with a friend, Gina, whom I have never had the chance to meet with face-to-face.
- Tried mimosas for the first time (they were...OK. A bit strong for my taste)

So that brings my new experiences count to 19.

Also, finally on the mending end of a series of health issues- I think the heat, humidity and stress brought out the worst in both my asthma and eczema. Had the worst eczema flareup since 1999-2000. I was on four rounds of antibiotics and three rounds of prednisone (although the latter I think did far more harm than good). But my skin is clearing up and the swelling going down. In addition, the doctor put me on a new asthma drug which slowly seems to be improving things. Still, I napped most of the day today. It felt so good.

Also read a couple more books.

The Book Mouse's Book Report:

25. Speaking of Murder, by Les Roberts, with Dan S. Kennedy. Another fun addition to the Milan Jacovich series. Roberts again teams up with Kennedy, this time to explore the world of public speaking and motivational seminars. In this story, Milan and Kevin O'Bannion are hired on as extra security at a convention for high-profile (and some not-so high profile) motivational speakers. Of course, it doesn't take long for one of them to wind up dead, and Milan and his lady friend Tobe Blaine, a homicide detective with the Cleveland police find no shortage of suspects. I have said it before, but I love the dynamic between Milan and Tobe, although I noticed some of the exchanges seemed sharper at times. I was especially happy to see the return of Victor Gaimari, the head of Cleveland's mob. He's a fun character, one you can't decide whether to love him or hate him, and you often wind up doing both in the same book. All in all, this was another excellent mystery, with great dialogue, some good laughs and excellent action. In addition, I had no idea whodunit until the end.

26. Hamilton, the Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter. I read about two-thirds of this before seeing Hamilton, and finished the rest on the car ride home. If you are a fan of the musical, or curious about it, or like a good behind-the-scenes book on the making of a musical, you must get this book. It's a lovely book, filled with gorgeous full color photos and tons of information on the play. The book is set up with headlines that read like something from Hamilton's era, and the chapters include interviews with the cast (the ensemble as well as the main cast) and the creative team behind this blockbuster show. It also includes Lin-Manuel's notes and pages of early drafts, costume concepts and more. In addition, the book includes the full libretto, with Lin-Manuel's side notes on certain lines and passages sprinkled liberally throughout. Those side notes were my favorite part, and offered a peek into the thought process in forming the lyrics of this work.

Currently reading: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany

Aug. 14th, 2016


Wow, so much ground to cover!

It’s been an eventful summer, both good and bad. Did not mean to leave off posting for so long and as it is, I hope I don’t forget anything.

One, I was involved in one of the local theater’s production of Beauty and the Beast- my first musical since 2002. I forgot how intense musicals could be! It was grueling, especially the two weeks before the show opened, but no regrets. I was in the ensemble (one of the villagers, or, heh heh, Village People), but I also got to help with set design! Now that was cool, and something I never got to try before.

In fact, I was actually allowed to design the main flat for Gaston’s tavern! They gave me free reign, so I mocked something up on paper, they liked it, so I drew it on the flat. There were some minor modifications (improvements) made later, but for the most part that was my baby  So that is the 13th new thing I got to do for my 42 goals challenge. Woot!

I also painted two portraits – one for the prince, and one for Gaston. I have a whole new level of appreciation for portrait painters. I never considered it easy, but painting portraits (I attempted to use the actors as my models, but both wound up looking more like the animation; ah well) is much more difficult than I could have imagined. That was ambitious but I had fun trying it.

This was not the only new thing I tried.
14. Tried two different types of Margarita. One, at Chipoltes, was… OK. Nice citrus taste going down but strong alcohol afterburn. But I tried a second at Rose’s Run, strawberry- now that was delish.
15. Went to Rose’s Run Country Club for the first time, to hear a local band, The Copper Pennies. I know everyone in the group and that night knew a third of the audience. That evening was a blast! I even danced a bit for the first time in who knows how long. Then, as things were winding up, I turned to Lynn.
“Ah, man, can’t believe the evening is over so soon. I don’t want it to end yet.”
Lynn: “Well, several of us are going out for milkshakes afterwards. Do you want…?”
Me: “You had me at milkshakes. I’m in!”
Was up too late but no regrets. Don’t remember the last time I had that much just pure, unwound fun.
16. Tried a Pink Elephant martini – yum yum yum! Also tried a baby sip of a peach martini. Ehh, a bit too strong for me!

Seems like I might be missing something in terms of new experiences. Hopefully I’ll think of it later. At any rate, I know I’ll have some new experiences to report on next time I post- some really cool experiences, too! Sooooo excited! More later. In addition, fingers crossed, but I hope I’ll have some other exciting news to report as well- something I’ve been hoping and wishing for a very, very long time.

We’re sort of paying for our uber-mild winter with a very hot summer. Nothing off the bell-curve, just high 80s and 90s. For the most part the evenings at least have been cooler, which makes sleeping bearable. So far I’ve been OK with fans. This week has been humid. Not sure what the temps were yesterday but I felt like I was gagging every time I left air conditioning.

Still, could be worse. The south just got hit with massive flooding; I know at least one person who lost everything, save his and his family’s lives. Three young kids.

I’ve also finished three more books. Actually, two books and a play script. That reminds me: I’ll be handling props for Little Shop of Horrors at one of our local theaters. Look forward to this! Should be a fun show. Plan to get started on that full-throttle after this coming weekend. Can’t believe we are in mid-August already. I know I say this every summer (heck, every year) but where does the summer go?

At any rate….

The Book Mouse’s Book Report

22. Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow. This one completes my challenge for reading a book about politics. WOW. What can I say that probably hasn’t been said already? It took me most of the summer to read this biography on one of our Founding Fathers, but it was worth it. I’ve heard the storytelling tone described as Dickensonian, especially in describing Hamilton’s early days in the British West Indies. This is apt.
Of course, I became interested in Chernow’s biography when I became hooked on the Broadway musical Hamilton. The musical takes a lot of its inspiration, even some song titles, from this biography, and it was neat for me to read passages and think “OK, I recognize this scene,” or “so that’s the inspiration behind those particular lyrics!”
But back to the novel (I can digress forever on the musical, which I will be seeing very soon!). I really want to check out more of Chernow’s biographies now. I don’t recall the last time I was actually sad when I had finished the last page of a book; probably the seventh book of Harry Potter. I certainly don’t recall that ever happening with a nonfiction book. I tend to be drawn to nonfiction, and love to learn about history, but I was actually a bit blue when I finished this one. It was such a captivating read, on such a fascinating man living through a singularly epic time: the founding of a new country. Chernow has a great gift for not only storytelling, but connecting the dots. Actions early in Hamilton’s life have a deep impact on his thought process and actions later in life, and Chernow points that out without bludgeoning the reader.
I also loved his last chapter, which was dedicated to Elizabeth (Eliza) Hamilton. What an amazing woman, whose own legacy to continue her husband’s work and her own charitable causes cannot be overstated.
Chernow’s treatment of our Founding Father’s is fairly balanced; Hamilton especially is seen, warts and all. I am thinking of reading something on Thomas Jefferson; after reading this book I have to wonder (and I’m not the only one) why Jefferson is lionized so much. Jefferson was a smart man, but at best could be horribly myopic when it came to the future. He also was a walking mass of contradictions. At any rate, I felt Chernow was thorough without delving too much into minutia.
I know many people will feel daunted by the length (it’s 731 “reading” pages, with a lot of index, notes, etc. in the back). It is long, and it is a dense book. You can’t just fly through it. But again, it’s worth the read. It’s a well-told story about a fascinating person in this nation’s history, a person who, until the past couple years, never really got the spotlight he deserved. I mean, this man created our banking system, Wall Street, the coast guard and was one of George Washington’s most trusted advisors. He wrote copious amounts of reports, letters and pamphlets, in an era of the quill and scroll.

23. Little Shop of Horrors, by composer Alan Menken and writer Howard Ashman. This will complete my challenge for reading a play script. Since I’m handling props for an upcoming show, I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone. I’ve seen this play before a couple of times, so this was a fairly quick read. I still prefer the movie ending, but it’s a weird, wacky play with a lot of fun songs and memorable characters. The most known character, of course, is Audrey II, a carnivorous plant not just content with Miracle-Gro. No, Audrey II’s tastes are more sanguinary. At any rate, I was reading it from a props perspective, and it makes me appreciate how much is needed for a musical such as this.

24. Murder in Spokane, by Mark Fuhrman. If you can get past who the author is (and the infamous case he was a big part of is mentioned briefly a couple of times), this is actually a good read. It is a bit dated, but it’s an interesting perspective that reads like a whodunit at times. When several bodies of prostitutes start turning up in the mid and late 90s, the local law enforcement in Spokane (and other areas) find themselves looking at a serial killer case. Much of the story concerns the investigation (and what Fuhrman lists as the many, many mistakes made in said investigation). If Fuhrman’s statements can be taken at face value (a cursory check didn’t reveal anything contradictory) then there were a lot of appalling mistakes made by law enforcement, and perhaps as many as nine lives were needlessly lost. Leaving crime scenes overnight. Not following up on tips. Lack of communication and cooperation with other enforcement agencies. In the end, Robert Lee Yates is known to have killed at least 13 female prostitutes, most of them also drug addicts, and probably killed more. It’s sad because you see this a good deal with serial killer cases. With a few exceptions, the victims tend to be marginalized, so no one really notices – or cares – when they turn up dead. Indeed, I guess Fuhrman’s wife was talking to a Spokane resident, who flat out said who cared about a few drug-addicted prostitutes, and perhaps the killer was doing the area a favor. Ouch. I have to wonder if this was a part of the reason for the lackadaisical attitude on the part of law enforcement and the community when it came to these crimes. The Yates case reminds me of the more recent Anthony Sowell case here.

Currently reading: Speaking of Murder, by Les Roberts, and Hamilton, the Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter.

Jun. 5th, 2016


Enter, allergy season :P

Well, my allergies for the most part were OK until Memorial Day weekend, then my sinuses decided to go a bit haywire, and I had to break out the allergy OTC. I'm a bit congested even now, and my eyes have been bothering me. But - and I am knocking on wood very hard - in all, even now my allergies are nowhere near as bad as they have been the past few springs. My sinuses have been irritating but manageable with swimming, saline sprays and very occasional allergy meds. Hate allergy season but right now I'm counting my blessings.

Oh, forgot to mention something strange that happened in mid-May. It was a Sunday... maybe two Sundays before Memorial Day weekend? No longer recall precisely when. But it actually snowed. Yes, you read that right, it snowed. In mid-May. North of us, in the Cleveland area, it actually stuck. Someone I know had a picture of her little boy in a snowsuit playing in the snow. In May. That... just does not compute. That's not all. In the span of less than an hour, it clouded up, then rained, then hailed, then snowed, then rained again, then cleared up, then became cloudy, then railed, then snowed again, then rained, then snowed...might not have the precised order but you get the point. Weird weird weird weather day. I mean, I've lived here all my life. Snows in early, even mid-April are not uncommon. But I'm trying to recall if I've ever seen it snow - and that much- in May. Oh, and this is in the middle of the day. NOT at night. Cold weather and frost is not uncommon in early or mid-May, either. Indeed, the rule of thumb around here is to not plant fragile annuals before Memorial Day weekend. But snow. In mid-May. In the middle of the afternoon. That popping sound heard that day was the brains of thousands imploding.

Rehearsals have started, and so far so good. Have a good cast assembled. Nothing about scene painting yet but I imagine that talk - and action - will happen in late June. We had to relocate to the middle school while the many burnt-out lights in the high school auditorium get replaced. Lighting is a good thing to have! Also, better now than closer to production.

Looking forward to next Sunday- the Tony Awards! Now, ordinarily I don't give two hoots for award shows, but there are several of us -- my mom, my lil sis, some friends and I-- are having a Tony party so we can watch Hamilton sweep everything! Woot!

Also tried Chardonnay for the first time Friday. It's OK, for a white wine, not too strong. Still, stomach still feel irritated afterwards. Glad to get something to eat after the show. So far this makes 12 new things.

Also, finished another book. This is my 21 book for the year, and 15th of 24 challenges met for the Book Riot Read Harder challenge

21. Novel Without a Name, by Dương Thu Hương, Nina McPherson (Translator), Phan Huy Đường (Translator). A really powerful book set in Vietnam, during the final days of the Vietnam war. The story is told by Quan, a North Vietnamese soldier who joined the army at 18. Then, he was full of patriotism and ideals. Ten years later, his idealism has worn away and what he is fighting for far less clear, as he sees childhood friends killed, landscapes destroyed and people left destitute. The imagery and language is both beautiful and searing. The reader watches Quan as he tries to make a difference -- usually a futile effort-- and to understand what the purpose of the war really is. I kept thinking of Red Badge of Courage, a book I read in high school. I didn't care for the book then, but it has been on my re-read and "give another chance" list.

Currently reading: Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow. This will fulfill the challenge requirement to read a book about politics. So far, loving this one but it's going to be a while before I finish. It's 800+ pages!

May. 24th, 2016


So, so many good things happening!

April and May have just been fantastic months overall.

I have two more exciting pieces of news. One, I've been cast in the ensemble for a local theater's production of Beauty and the Beast. My first musical since 2002! Had the first two rehearsals- yesterday and today. Really excited! It's good to be back.

Also, fingers crossed, I'm hoping I can try my hand at scenic design painting. Now that could be fun. Just imagine, the theater as my canvas mwaahaahaa!!! Oh, I know I won't be the only one- and that's a good thing. Dynamics' stage is cavernous!

In addition, there's even more exciting news. Well, potentially exciting news, it's not definite by a long shot. But my play, the Scarlet Pimpernel, is under consideration for Dynamics' spring 2017 show!!!!!!!!! Yeah, I've been bouncing off the walls since Thursday night, I'm so excited! I was just hoping to pull of a staged reading, a fully staged production wasn't even on my radar!

So, I have a few things to add to my list of new things:

9. I will be in a new play at a theater I've never performed at before

10. A few weeks ago, I tried a chocolate martini. It was... OK. A bit too much of an alcohol-y vibe, and it upset my stomach a bit. Only drank perhaps half of it.

11. Also tried Jameson. None Too Fragile offers Jameson shots, and I kept telling myself I was going to try it, just for the heck of it. Well. I tried it. And I'm good with not trying it again ha ha. Man that stuff is strooooooong, and yes, I only took a tiny sip. Heck, I barely coated my tongue.

Again, it seems like I am missing an item or two, but ah well. I may remember them for next time.

Also finished three more books, two for the Book Riot challenge. I noticed that I misnumbered the last book, which should have been 17- d'oh!

The Book Mouse's Book Report

18. Life Expenctancy, by Dean Koontz. Really enjoyed this novel. Koontz has this knack for making you laugh out loud one moment, then recoil in horror the next. He has this talent for these dark quips and strange twists. Those who like combining dark humor with a thriller will love this. In the story, Jimmy Tock is an unassuming pastry chef, with little self-confidence except when it comes to his culinary skills. But his birth is eventful to say the least. Part of it involves his grandfather, who dies the same day he is born, in the same hospital. Moments before dying, the grandfather makes several predictions about Jimmy, which are accurate. He also foresees five incredibly dark, tragic days in his grandson's life. The other eventful circumstances would involve too many spoilers, but let's just say they wind up impacting the rest of Jimmy's life in unexpected ways.

19. City of Veils, by Zoë Ferraris. This completes my Book Riot challenge for reading a story set in the Middle East. This is the second book in a series set in Saudi Arabia. The two central characters are Nayir Sharqi, a conservative desert guide, and forensic scientist Katya Hijazi. This unlikely duo again wind up working together on a case after a young woman is found horribly mutilated, and with her neck broken. After some digging, Katya discovers the dead woman was an aspiring filmmaker. One project included conversations with prostitutes and the condition of women's lives in general. This alone had caused conflicts. However, Leila also had been working on a far more contentious topic when she was killed. I had really enjoyed Finding Nouf, the first book, and this is an excellent encore. Ferraris paints a fascinating picture of Saudi Arabia - both the country's deep flaws and its beauty and variety of people and cultures (and views). The dead Leila is a fascinating character; without giving too much away, she has her shortcomings as well as her strengths. The rollercoaster relationship between the independent Katya and the deeply pious Nayir has been interesting to watch, and I'm glad the book didn't resolve things to tidily. There are actually several mysteries at work here, and I had no idea how things were going to resolve, and my guesses were generally wrong. Excellent mystery, all in all. I'll have to check out the other books in this series.

20. George, by Alex Gino. This fulfills the Book Riot challenge for reading a book about a person who is transgender. This is aimed at older grade school (third through sixth grade). I finished it in one day. The story centers on George. Everyone sees George as a boy, but George never saw herself that way. She keeps her thoughts hidden until her teacher announces her class will stage Charlotte's Web- and George really wants to play Charlotte. George's teacher reject the idea, but Kelly, George's best friend hatches a plan to make her dream come true - both in playing the role, and in having people see her the way she sees herself. This is a fairly balanced book; the outlook may be a good deal more rosy than in real life. But given that this book aims at education, understanding and promoting tolerance, I don't see this as a flaw.

Currently reading: Novel Without a Name, by by Dương Thu Hương, Nina McPherson (Translator), Phan Huy Đường (Translator).

So I have 14 of 24 books checked off, and working on Book 15 (Novel Without a Name) now. This one will fulfill the requirement for reading a book by an author from Southeast Asia.

May. 6th, 2016


Awesome few weeks!

Well, the first big news: I AM SEEING HAMILTON ON BROADWAY IN AUGUST!!!!! SOOOOOOO excited! The more I find out about the musical, the more I fall in love with it. It's just so fascinating, and the music is so addictive. I'm listening to it. Again. I've lost track of how many times I've listened to it.

I have new experiences to add, hope I remember them all...

6. I tried intestine- quite good, actually.

7. Just got home from- yes, another- painting workshop. This one wasn't just for fun (although I had a blast!) This is mom's Mother's Day gift. The workshop was called Mom, the Masterpiece. An artist instructor walked you through how to paint... mom! I'm pretty pleased with the result- I've never tried to paint from a picture. I've never tried to paint architecture. I've also never tried to paint an actual person/people. So this stretched me nicely! I used the picture of my mom and me in Savannah- it's my favorite one of us. I can hardly wait to show her on Sunday :D

8. FINALLY saw Despicable Me. Finally! I love this movie! How could I have waited so freaking long to see this?? Now I need to check out the sequel. May need some arm twisting to watch the Minions movie, though- I think they are cute but can't picture an entire movie with nothing but the minions.

Seems like I am missing something. I might be thinking of the potential for new adventures, between Hamilton and one theater doing Beauty and the Beast.

Also finished another book...including my 12th book for the Book Riot challenge. This is the halfway point!

The Book Mouse's Book Report:

16. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, by John le Carre. This one fulfills the challenge for the book published in the decade I was born. I misread it, thinking it had to be a book published in the YEAR I was born. There were plenty to choose from, even with that mistake. Still, I have to say, I was only meh about this book. Not my cup of tea. I found it rather boring and confusing. Too many characters, too many points that dragged and too many unexpected leaps back and forth in time. George Smiley was an interesting character- a man who seems plain and unassuming but who has more to him than you'd think. Also, a lot of the dialogue was really good. But it was too slow overall. My brain had already checked out of the story by the time the culprit was revealed.

Currently reading: Life Expectancy, by Dean Koontz, and City of Veils, by Zoe Ferraris

Apr. 23rd, 2016


Oops! Forgot a book!

Whoopsie- I thought I wrote a review on this book already!

16. Big Girls Do Cry, by April Kirkwood. This was an interesting autobiography of a Youngstown woman who had a periodic affair with legendary singer Frankie Valli. She recalls her days as a child, going with her mother to Four Seasons concerts and meeting Valli afterwards. When she was older, she'd go back with him to his hotel room. Her infatuation and dreams of becoming the next Mrs. Frankie Valli would color her relationships with other men, none of which ended well. She reflects on her weaknesses and on imprinting, which she says can ruin any relationship. Kirkwood also goes into her background, growing up in blue-collar Youngstown, her up and down relationship with her troubled mother, and the more stable support of her aunt and grandmother. This is a quick read, about a colorful and fascinating life. Today, she works as a counselor and as a speaker on relationships.

Winding down a bit... yay!

I think all the chaos and activity kind of hit this week, especially Thursday. Kind of dragged this week. Glad I can unwind; if I can make it to Wednesday I'll be good; May, so far, isn't looking quite as insane. Also got some interesting news- more with the next post. If things work out I'll have huge and exciting news.

Weather looks like it is stabilizing. Supposed to be mid-60s and low 70s for the foreseeable future. Lots of rain, but that's not unusual.

Forgot to add something to my experiences last time (I had a feeling I was missing one!)
5. Tried a new video editing technique. Stumbled across a feature where, when I do a cutaway, I can make it so both videos can be seen (a sort of a transparency). I've tried it a couple times with good result.

Also, finished two more books- both for the Book Riot challenge.

The Book Mouse's Book Report:

14. Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson. This one fits the middle school novel requirement for the Book Riot challenge. This is essentially Woodson's autobiography, told in free verse. It's beautifully written. Woodson (After Tupac and D Foster, and many other books) covers her life from a toddler in Ohio and a young child growing up in Greenville, South Carolina, and later in her years split between Greenville and Brooklyn, the latter city which would eventually become her home. She captures a childlike innocence with a story set in the middle of the Civil Rights movement. She shows the difficulties growing up in two areas, both of which present difficulties, but she doesn't dwell on the hardships. Instead, you see the closeness of her family, especially to her grandparents. You see her relationship with her mother, two older siblings and her younger brother. You see her curiosity as she seeks to find her way and find where she fits, and her thrill as her ability to tell stories and, later, write them come to fruition. This is an excellent book for preteen and younger teens- or any age.

15. Trashed, by Derf Backderf. This fulfills the graphic novel requirement for the Book Riot challenge. Backderf, best known for his graphic novel My Friend Dahmer. Here, Backderf tells a fictionalized story of his time serving as a garbageman. As expected, this story has a generous serving of Backderf's irreverent humor. However, there's also a good deal of compassion, such as when the garbage crew comes to a house that has obviously been foreclosed on. Throughout the story, Trashed gives information on how much garbage is generated in the United States, how it is stored, the anatomy of a landfill and even some history on garbage trucks. While the story is listed as a fictionalized story of Backderf's life behind a sanitation truck, I suspect there's more truth than fiction in many of the stories, which not only go over the perils and hardship of picking up garbage, but exposes the garbage in politics and even within people. There are a few four-letter words, but teachers in the higher grades shouldn't feel they need to hesitate to use this book as a teaching tool, and not just for ecology, either.

Currently reading: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, by John le Carre.

Apr. 17th, 2016


The usual April chaos- but what a fun ride!

It's been a busy couple weeks! I've been working on stories for two magazines, and it's the usual busy season for entertainment-related things. But it's been a lot of fun! I'm doing stories on restaurants in one area, and doing a story on another community's K-9. Those assignments kept me on the road a good deal, which I love. Also indulged in two Painting With a Twist evenings. One was my birthday gift to me. But I forgot my water bottle and when I went to retrieve it on the following Monday. It was pouring down rain so long story short, they had a small class (four other people) so I stayed out of the inclimate weather and had another fun night. And I have two more paintings :) Yes, I am addicted, although I better take a break for a bit on those.

Spent a great afternoon today with a good friend and my lil sis. We caught a movie and my friend and I had lunch afterwards. New movie, new restaurant... more below.

Weather has been gorgeous this weekend, after a (hopefully) last wintery blast. I actually had a couple of inches of wet snow fall on my birthday. Wheeeeee. It melted away before the end of the day, but then we got more Saturday night into Sunday afternoon. We've had worse, and it looks like the spring flowers have tenaciously hung on. Yesterday was close to 80, today did get above 80, and both days lots and lots of sun and blue skies. Bliss! It's supposed to stay nice, too, 60s and 70s for the foreseeable future. Woohoo!

My lil sis and some of her friends (and mine, too) got to see the musical Hamilton ... was it three weeks ago now? Wow, I haven't heard this much buzz over a Broadway musical since Wicked! Really want to see this... I've seen snippets on YouTube, plus have heard the music through the sidetrack. Wow, the music is addictive! I've listened to it three, maybe four times already.

Also off to a good start to me new experiences goals- now 42.

1. On my birthday day last Friday, I tried falafel. It was...OK.
2. Now this was fun- I'm going to be doing a story on a handbell choir. I went to cover the rehearsal for one of the choirs. Afterwards, two of the members stayed behind and showed me the different bell ringing techniques (and wow are there a LOT of different techniques!) This was eye-opening! I never thought handbells were easy, always realized a lot of cooperation and coordination would be involved. But I never realized just how complex and how versatile handbells were!
3. Saw The Jungle Book. Disney came out with a live action Jungle Book. I wasn't sure what to expect but found myself enjoying it overall! The CGI is amazing! The young man playing Mowgli was very good. Warning to parents- stick to the original animated version for smaller fry- this take on the story is a lot darker and may be too intense for younger ones.
4. Tried a new restaurant- Burger Fi. It was good. The hamburgers were delicious, and I tried a red velvet milkshake. Yum! Now I am stuffed to the gills, even two hours later.

So that's four so far. Not too bad, with only a bit more than a week in!

And yes, this time I have books to report on. Only one is for the challenge this time.

The Book Mouse's Book Report:

10. Grounding the Cloud, by Todd Lyle. This is a short, easy to follow book aimed at businesses eyeing going into the technology cloud. I also heard Lyle's talk at the Hudson Library, and he covered verbally large parts of the book, so this book reinforced his talk. It's a short, quick read but covers the important information in a way a non-IT person can grasp.Each short chapter is followed by a bulleted synopsis of the high points. I recommend it for those wanting a read on the basics of cloud technology.

11. The Little World of Liz Climo, by Liz Climo. My lil sis gave me this charming book for my birthday. A lovely and different gift! Climo fills a book with amusing cartoons. The cartoons range from cute to light comedy to just a bit twisted. There is some mild language in a handful of the comics, but the main reason I consider this more geared to adults is that I don't think younger children would get half of the jokes or references. Overall, this collection made me smile.

12. Ukrainian Folk Tales, by Irina Zheleznova. This is a lovely collection of short folk tales, many with beautiful illustrations. This was a book sent to me by a dear friend who lives in Ukraine. I was struck how many tales had parallels with stories that I grew up with. The Little Round Bun, for example, is similar to The Gingerbread Man. Another story (don't recall which one) had elements of Snow White. What was fascinating was the staple characters and scenarios. The stories are filled with devils, witches (including Baba Yaga), Sister Fox, wily wolves, and dangerous dragons. A couple I've heard before in different formats- the flying ship and the one with the glove. All in all, an enjoyable collection of stories. They are well-translated; there were only a few places where the translatons and ion felt a bit off, and nothing major. Also loved the illustrations within. I found it curious that the dragons and snakes were often depicted as green-skinned people.

13. Hedy's Folly, by Richard Rhodes. This one fulfills the Reading Riot challenge for a biography. Hedy Lamarr was well-known as a famous Hollywood actress and, for her time, regarded as the most beautiful woman. What is not as well known is that in her free time, she loved to invent. One of her inventions, which she worked with composer George Antheil, has impact even today: spread-spectrum radio. The technology was initially created for the World War II Allies' torpedoes. With the technology, torpedoes would not only be controlled by radio communication but the signal that controlled them would hop randomly from frequency to frequency - making the torpedoes' radio signal virtually impossible to jam. Lamarr used her knowledge of weaponry from her ex-husband and his contacts, and Antheil used his technical know-how from working with recording and with player pianos (I know that last one may sound odd; it just proves how the strangest knowledge can come in handy in the most unforeseeable ways). They were spurred into action after the torpedoing of two boats filled with children being spirited away from their war-torn countries. The book refers to Hedy but it's almost a split biography, with roughly equal pages dedicated to the movie start and Antheil. This is a quick read, and easy to follow. There's a good balance between setting the scene and time period and keeping the story moving.

Currently reading: Big Girls Do Cry, by April Kirkwood.

Apr. 3rd, 2016


Four seasons in one day

I know I say this a LOT, but Ohio weather is weird. Still, Mother Nature truly outdid herself yesterday.

It rained much of yesterday morning, although when I left the house to chat with the dancers and director at Ballet Theatre of Ohio, it was decent. A bit cool compared to what it had been, but decent. While chatting with the artistic director, Chris, at one point looks out the window. "Oh my gosh, is it snowing?" Now, I wasn't at a good angle to tell but when I left about a half hour or so later, yes, yes it was. Here's the weird thing- it didn't feel that cold, and my car guage read 42 degrees. Now, I know it's possible for it to snow when it is above freezing- but 10 degrees (maybe more) above??

At any rate, I next stop at the Nat for a good swim (fourth day in the week, and third week in a row where I got four swims in- YES!). By the time I got there, it was raining, but then the sun came out. I wound up swimming for about an hour and 20 minutes. Generally I stick with an hour but one hour would have put me close to 6 p.m. (factoring in time in the hot tub), where open swim ends. So, I figured on swimming until 6, spend 10-15 minutes in the hot tub and then I figured by the time I got to the locker room, it would be mostly cleared out. This usually works but it backfired this time. Towards the end of my swim- about 10 until 6 or so, I thought I saw lightening and heard thunder. Then at 6, when I went to the hot tub- I got in, turned around, and didn't even sit down when a lifeguard came over: "Sorry, everyone has to get out- lightening has been spotted!"

Figures. At least the locker rooms were fairly clear. But when I got out of the locker room- this is about 6:30 - the air was white with fat, fluffy flakes of the white stuff. I had a Subway lunch, and by the time I was done, the snow had stopped. Still, it was *cold* when I went back to my car.

Yeah, I think we had all four seasons in a matter of hours :P

Today is cold, but sunny, and most of the snow is now gone. I met my parents, Grandpa Helms and his sweetie Pat for brunch before they headed to Atlanta. Was going to go swim afterwards but I was so stuffed I decided I may just go after seeing Zootopia later. Going to see it with my lil sis. I've heard soooo many good things about it! Also looking forward to hearing her tell me about Hamilton. I haven't heard this much buzz about a Broadway show since Wicked!

At any rate, this is my final week at age 41. On Friday, I will celebrate the 42nd anniversary of my birth. I was tallying my new experiences. Wasn't sure if I've made it- still don't know. Last I counted, I was in the low 30s range. I seemed to go like gangbusters for a while, but sluffed off this fall and winter. I started writing everything down, but didn't number them. Soooo... how did I do? Let's see:

New restaurants/foods/beverages
1. The Office in Cuyahoga Falls (excellent!)
2. The Craft in Cuyahoga Falls (great place- but they need more tables)
3. O'Charley's in...Cuyahoga Falls? It's on that Falls/Akron border (very nice!)
4. Beau's on the River in Cuyahoga Falls (LOVE!)
5. Igloo's Frozen Yogurt in Tallmadge (Enormous selections of delicious cold treats)
6. Mocha Chips in Tallmadge (divine cupcakes!)
7.Salted Caramel Ice Cream (now one of my favorite flavors!)
8. Went to a wine tasting at Hale Farm and tried a couple of the wines, including Chocolate Wine (YUM!!!!)
9. Tried a pumpkin martini (YUM!)
10. Longon (might not be spelling this right but it's a type of delicious fruit)
11. Bach Ngoc- a sweet and savory fall festival cake
12. Snail (meh)
13. Edamame (addictive!)
14. Seaweed Salad (delish!)
15. Nutella (caution- could be highly addicting!)
16. Paczki- a Mardi Gras pastry- quite good, like a semi-sweet, filled donut
17. Don't recall what it's called, but it's a Vietnamese flat bun with carrots and meat. Delicious and surprisingly filling
18. Had Eggs Benedict for the first time too (just this afternoon!) I know, odd. But they were delicious. It won't be my last time!
19. The Blue Fig in North Canton- went for a Paint Nite (no, not counting Paint Nite because I've done wine and canvas-type events before, through the Cuyahoga Valley Art Center).

New movies/television shows (I debated whether to count these or not, but decided to do so since I'm not a big television or movie watcher. I will NOT count the new books I've read ha ha- that would feel too much like cheating)
20. Shaun the Sheep (hilarious!)
21. The Force Awakens (LOVED!)
22. Inside Out (Can't say enough good things)
23. Nosferatu (the silent movie- a bit cheesy at times but creepy overall)
24. Star Wars, the Clone Wars television series (all of 2007... at least some of 2003)
25. All About Eve (I've been wanting to see this one since seeing the musical Applause)
26. Some Like It Hot (a movie I've been wanting to see for a while, a lot of fun)
27. The Seven Year Itch (amusing, but rather draggy at times)
28. Leverage (television show- I could get hooked! I have seen this one at my parents' house)

29. Studied Dutch
30. Studied Turkish (need to get back into languages, feeling the itch to do so again)
31. Grew strawberries and green peppers- had moderate success with both
32. Participating in the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge (I've done the 50 book challenge but this is the first time I've participated in a book challenge with set criteria like this)
33. Participated in a 3D printing workshop at the Hudson Library and Historical Society
34. Participated in a webinar on 3D printing and copyright/property right issues

Other new experiences
35. Having a workshop reading of my play. This is the big one this year, for me, a major highlight of 2015. Now, I hope by next year, I can put "had a staged reading of my play" to my list.
36. Served as a substitute editor and laid out my first front page; actually I did this a few times since summer. Loved the stretch!
37. Handled props for a play. Another highlight. Learned so much in organizing props for Clybourne Park!
38. Related somewhat to 35, I filed a copy of my play with the copyright office. First time I'd ever done that with any of my work!
39. Had my house on the market- included working with a realtor, cleaning my house, having it stage ready. Mind you I have since taken my house off the market for several reasons. But this was... well, it was a new experience.
40. Went on a Home and Garden Tour
41. Went to the Peninsula Art Academy, for an exhibit on glass art.

Holy moly- I did it! I didn't realize it until I typed in those last two entries that I made- no, exceeded - my goal. I'll be seeing Zootopia this evening, as I mentioned. I started using Incomptech to add music to my videos. Also, experimented with a video editing technique that makes a video look like I used two cameras (works well, too, in certain circumstances!) I also learned how to make a glass flower and how to spin wool into yard. So this is 45 new experiences, and it will be 46 by the end of the evening. Yaaaay me! Woot!

So, of course starting April 8, my next birthday, I will aim for 42 new experiences. One thing I want to try to do is go to some of the locally-owned restaurants and establishments.

I have actually finished a book, but I'm looking at the time and I have less than an hour to go before going to the movie. So, I will save that for next time. By my next entry, I'll probably have a second book done, perhaps a third, too. Never fear, the Book Mouse will be back!

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