Friday, August 31, 2012

Fiction Friday: August 31, 2012: Mirror, Mirror

Madame L finally had a chance to see this movie, on a plane, and she loved it. Just check out the trailer, and see if you don't love it, too:

The plot is a "dark" reworking of the original fairy tale, with Seven Dwarves named  Napoleon, Half Pint, Grub, Grimm, Wolf, Butcher and Chuckles.

(As one commenter wrote, "I don't know...I think this looks more entertaining than watching Kristen Stewart gape idiotically at the camera." And Madame L agrees wholeheartedly.)

What Madame L loved most about the movie was seeing Princess Snow take care of herself, without the help of the prince.

But she also loved Julia Roberts as the stepmother, Nathan Lane as the brilliant and hilarious Brighton (some kind of chamberlain), Lily Collins as the luminous Snow White, and Armie Hammer as a presentable Prince Charming.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Quote for Today: On Ugliness and Loveliness

A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely. --- Roald Dahl

Monday, August 27, 2012

"Wink at the Moon"

Neil Armstrong is another person who made a difference in my view of the world and the universe.

He passed away at the age of 82, and his family gave this statement about what we can all do to honor his memory: Wink at the Moon. Here's the entire statement:

"We are heartbroken to share the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.

"Neil was our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.

"Neil Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job. He served his Nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut. He also found success back home in his native Ohio in business and academia, and became a community leader in Cincinnati.

"He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits.

"As much as Neil cherished his privacy, he always appreciated the expressions of good will from people around the world and from all walks of life.

"While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.

"For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink."

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fiction Friday: August 24, 2012: Make Lemonade

Madame L loved this book by Virginia Euwer Wolff, the author of "The Mozart Season."

As in "The Mozart Season," this book is narrated by its young heroine. Unlike the narrator of "The Mozart Season," this 14-year-old girl, LaVaughn, does not have a loving support group of a family. She has her mother, who is a great mother, but her father, who was working hard to keep out of the deadly drug dealings and crimes of the neighborhood, was killed by a stray bullet when she was very young.

So LaVaughn has her mother, and she has school. And then she has a job, babysitting for another teenager, Jolly, who has two children already. And if you thought LaVaughn had it bad, think of Jolly, who has lived in a box and who is afraid of getting any help from anyone because if she accepts that help, she believes, her children will be taken from her.

LaVaughn is in a dilemma, and the adults around her are clueless. Her mother wants her to go to college, so she worries about the bad influence Jolly may have on her. The teachers in the "Steam Class" almost outright accuse her of taking advantage of Jolly by accepting money for babysitting for her. The school counselors suggest she can babysit for Jolly only after taking a class in how to babysit---after she has been tending the children for some time, and doing it better than Jolly herself can do it. Then, when LaVaughn finally talks Jolly into getting some help, getting into special classes for teenage moms, what do you think happens?

Ah, Dear Readers, you'll have to read this book to find out.

And, Dear Readers, you'll WANT to read this book for the pure beauty of it. How could Ms. Wolff get so thoroughly into the mind of a 14-year-old girl, the girl's own words and everything, and write it like a poem with chapters?  Madame L does not know, but she thinks you'll be as amazed as she was.

Madame L got "Make Lemons" on sale when her local Borders was closing, and you can get it from for $7.99, new, and various other prices, used.

Madame L found out by checking this out on that it's the first book in a trilogy, so she'll be getting those books from her local library (free) or from (used); and then she will report on them.

Ratatouille and Fear of Eggplant

Remember that? Great scene from a fun movie, and it looks like a wonderful version of ratatouille. But, according to this article from, this is the wrong way to make ratatouille.

L.V. Anderson writes, "Ratatouille was invented by Provencal peasants, and Provencal peasants possessed neither the time nor the inclination to slice vegetables with such precision or to bake them as gently and slowly as possible. What they had the time and inclination for was stew."

So, here's the recipe for the authentic Provencal stew. I'm sharing it here because I tried it last night for some dinner guests who on doctor's orders have gone vegan. I was worried about it because of my low success rate with past experiments with eggplant. But this worked, and it tasted great.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Time: About 1 hour

2 medium zucchini or yellow squash (about 1½ pounds), roughly chopped
⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 small head of garlic, separated into cloves, peeled, and roughly chopped|
1 large eggplant (about 1½ pounds), roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 large red or yellow bell pepper, roughly chopped
1½ pounds fresh Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
½ cup chopped fresh basil
½ cup oil-cured black olives, pitted and roughly chopped

1. Heat the oven to 425°F. Toss the zucchini with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and a little salt and pepper on a 13- by 18-inch baking sheet. Roast, stirring every 15 minutes or so, until fully tender and golden brown, about 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, put the remaining ⅓ cup olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the eggplant and thyme, season with salt and pepper, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the eggplant is partially tender and has reduced considerably in volume, about 10 minutes. Add the bell pepper and continue cooking and stirring for another 10 minutes.

3. Stir in the tomatoes and zucchini, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have broken down and the mixture is thick. Stir in the basil and olives, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. (Store leftover ratatouille in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.)

I did make some modifications: I used a bunch of random "Italian herbs" instead of fresh basil and thyme leaves, I used a sweet Walla Walla onion instead of a yellow onion, I added a sweet banana pepper from my own garden, I used a can of jumbo black olives instead of the kind of olives the recipe calls for, and I put in a few dashes of spicy barbecue sauce at the end.Oh, and I served it with sparkling limeade from Trader Joe's (perfect!) and corn muffins made with almond milk (yummy!); and fresh peaches for dessert (heavenly!).

If you try the recipe, let me know how it works for you, and especially if you think of any more brilliant variations. But, you know what, I'm going to try Remy the Rat's version someday, too.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Power of Compassion

Thanks to Neva for telling me about this talk about a Buddhist monk diagnosed with cancer, and what happened when he asked for, and showed, compassion. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

“Nothing Is Withheld From Us...”

"Nothing is withheld from us what we have conceived to do."

Check out this post about young whippersnapper Joel Runyon's meeting with Russell Kirsch, who invented the world’s first internally programmable computer.

Here's a bit from the conversation:

“I guess, I’ve always believed that nothing is withheld from us what we have conceived to do. Most people think the opposite – that all things are withheld from them which they have conceived to do and they end up doing nothing.”

“Wait”, I said, pausing at his last sentence ”What was that quote again?” 

“Nothing is withheld from us what we have conceived to do.”

That’s good, who said that? 

God did.


God said it and there were only two people who believed it, you know who? 

Nope, who?

God and me, so I went out and did it.

Now, check out this post about the 7 lessons Joel Runyon learned from the conversation.

Here are the 7 things he learned---but you'll want to read the actual post.

1. Make stuff.

2. You are not that important---be humble.

3. Details may make you right, but they'll probably make you miserable.

4. Don't complain. Fix it yourself.

5. Don't stop creating.

6. Live a good story.

7. Most of all: Stop reading. Start doing. There’s a lot of things that haven’t been done yet that need you to go do them. Go.

Monday, August 20, 2012

God Says Yes To Me

I just looked again and saw that the place I found this poem online is a Library of Congress website, so I think it's okay to post the whole poem, "God Says Yes To Me." Here it is:

God Says Yes To Me

Kaylin Haught

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don't paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I'm telling you is
Yes Yes Yes

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Fiction Friday: August 17, 2012: Super 8

With apologies for (again) not posting her "Fiction Friday" review on a Friday, Madame L atones by suggesting that her and Aunt Louise's Dear Readers check out "Super 8," a fun cross between "The Goonies" and "Aliens" and "Close Encounters" and "E.T." and a few others. This is not to suggest that the movie seems to be copying any of those, although it pays homage to them. It's fun and scary and the characters are believable. What more could you ask from a movie? (And for those who can't stand the scary movies unless they know there will be a happy ending: not to worry.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My Favorite Poem

God Says Yes To Me, by Kaylin Haught

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes...

(I first read this poem when my niece Angela sent it to me, and I love it. It's my favorite poem for now (and for the past year or however long it's been since she sent it to me). 

The poem is copyrighted, so I don't think I should post the whole thing. Here's where you can find it. It's from The Palm of your Hand, 1995; Tilbury House Publishers;Copyright 1995 by Kaylin Haught.)

After you read it, check out some of the other poems on the site. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tortilla Factory Closed? Oh No!

But they've published online their recipe for salsa, the best salsa I've ever tasted.

(And I'll tell you what, if we still lived back there, they wouldn't have had to close because we would have been there eating lunch or dinner so often, bringing friends to share their wonderful food...)

Here's the recipe, according 

Blend together:
  • 1 29 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • Medium onion, chopped
  • 1 or more chopped cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp. crushed red pepper
  • 2 tsp. Mexican oregano, preferable
  • 2 tsp. salt/to taste
  • 1 tbsp. ground black pepper
  • 4-6 oz. coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2-3/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
I'll try it and see if it's really the same recipe, and report back....

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fiction Friday: August 10, 2012: "The Tulip Touch" and "A Crooked Kind of Perfect'

Madame L had no idea that a book titled "The Tulip Touch," which won the 1997 Whitbread Award for Children's Book of the Year, would be uplifting and interesting, yet it was neither. It was certainly intense, as the narrator (Natalie) falls under the spell of another girl at school, Tulip, who turns out to be bad for her in every way. Natalie's parents don't pay much attention to her, so she's left on her own to deal with Tulip's misbehavior.

The title alone of "A Crooked Kind of Perfect" made Madame L smile.  And, sure enough, the narrator, Zoe, has her share of problems at school and at home. Her parents also are too busy and preoccupied to pay her much attention, so she's also left on her own to deal with the ordinary problems of life. Fortunately for her, and for readers of this book, she doesn't have to deal with someone like Tulip.

Linda Urban ("A Crooked Kind of Perfect") and Anne Fine ("The Tulip Touch") are writing for children of about the same age. They deal with the same issues of oblivious parents and teachers, mean kids, being popular, and having trouble with school. But they're worlds apart.

Madame L found "The Tulip Touch" at her local library in the cart by the check-out desk of books recommended by the librarians. Yet she would never want a child she knows to read this book. It's dark and it deals with issues children should be figuring out by discussing them with their parents, not by reading them in a random book. The book ends, "But what about Tulip? I shall feel sorry for Tulip al my life. And guilty, too. Guilty." Come on, Anne Fine! This is too depressing for even the most masochistic adult! Why would anyone want their child reading such garbage?

On the other hand, Madame L would recommend "A Crooked Kind of Perfect," which she bought on sale at for $3.95,  would be a fun and uplifting read for anyone. The heroine starts to figure out her parents, the popular girls, and even a boy, who becomes her friend. And the book ends with her finally getting a piano. she says, "I don't care if my piano isn't perfect yet. I just want to play. And I do."

Friday, August 10, 2012

More About Olympics Photos

Here's the short essay about different photos of male and female Olympics athletes which I mentioned earlier, which I couldn't find online when I was finishing that post because I was having problems with my computer.

"Beach Volleyball Butts"

And here are the photos referenced in the article.

And here's L.V. Anderson's conclusion to the essay:

     "Close-range photographs of male basketball players’, hurdlers’, and swimmers’ torsos and glutei maximi look ridiculous. And yet that ridiculousness—the fact that I want to laugh when I see a photo zoomed in on a male gymnast’s crotch but don’t even think twice about seeing an editorial photo highlighting a conventionally attractive female athlete’s scantily clad behind—just underscores how inured I’ve become to sexism in the media. Jones’ simple, elegant technique highlights how thoroughly chauvinism pervades the images we mindlessly consume on a daily basis—during the Olympics, and every other day of the year."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Another Thing About the Olympics: Hurdling

When I was in high school and we "had to" try out in all the track and field events, I remember thinking something like the following: Are you kidding me? Running around the track and jumping over those things? That's a great way to break your face! I thought it was just another torture our horrible P.E. teachers had dreamed up for us. (They certainly had a knack for taking whatever you had earlier thought was fun and interesting, and turning it into a hateful, stressful, and/or boring activity.) So I love watching the hurdlers in the Olympics because I think they must be the most admirable people on Earth (assuming they had the same type of high school gym teachers I had---and everyone does, right?) --- because they can even do that: they can run that fast and make it over those obstacles and make it look like it's fun and exhilarating. Sally Pearson of Australia won. Amazing!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Olympics Fun: Polo, Volleyball, Junk, and Sportsmanship

I've found the ideal way to watch the Olympics: DVR everything and then watch it all, hours later. It doesn't matter if the results are already available on the Internet, because if I care about the event, I'll watch it anyway, and if I don't, I fast-forward through it.

I loved watching the women's water polo match today. (I don't even know when it happened.) It reminded me of the one time I ever played water polo, in a pool in Saudi Arabia, and I got the ball away from some big tough guy who tried to get it back by holding me under the water, thinking I'd eventually have to come up for air, and he'd get it. But Cory attacked him before it got to that point (and I surprised myself at how long I could hold my breath, out of pure obstinate refusal to let that guy get the ball from me!).

Have you seen the beach volleyball? I guess it's a sport. I think it's hilarious how the women have to wear bikinis and then men wear T-shirts and baggy shorts. Oh, it's because the women LIKE to wear those bikinis? Not so! They're REQUIRED to wear them. And go to any website with coverage (ha, get it, coverage, ha, ha) of the Olympics with a discussion about those bikinis to see what people think about it.

And thus we get to the issue of junk. Yeah, you know what I mean. Junk. Why do the (mostly, if not all, male) photographers zoom in on the butts of the women athletes, and not so much on the junk of the men? Wel, you and I and everybody on God's green earth knows the answer to that question. I found a website with a great slide-show of what it would be like if the photographers zoomed in on the men's privates. Can't find it now and with the formatting problems I'm having I wouldn't be able to provide the link, anyway, but it made me laugh.

Finally, on sportsmanship. I hated hearing the few boos I heard at the Olympics, and loved watching the young American Samuel Mikulak, who eventually came in fifth in the men's gymnastics vault, say to the winner, South Korean Yang Hak-Seon, "That was ridiculous!" while giving him a huge hug. That's the spirit. (And fortunately Yang Hak-Seon knew Mikulak was giving the highest compliment.)

Here's Mikulak in his second vault:

 And here's the South Korean who won, doing his amazing vault. Notice how in his first vault, with a difficulty of 7.4, he doesn't quite "stick" it, but on his second, with a difficulty of 7.0, he does. You'll see all the gymnasts congratulate and hug him at the very end, but look at the huge smile Mikulak gives him (you can't hear his words, but he really did say, "That was ridiculous!"

Please see Laura's blog for more on the Olympics. I'd write comments on her blog except that I can't. I love what she's written, and I absolutely agree with her about NBC's televising of the events and all the other issues she discusses. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Curiosity On Mars---And New Exploration Begins

I couldn't wait to post this photo taken after the Mars rover Curiosity landed safely.

(NASA Photo)
I'm so glad NASA has decided to go back to Mars again, even though it's with unmanned missions. The little rovers are amazing, and I'm excited about what we'll learn from them, preparatory to sending humans to the beautiful Red Planet.

And where should NASA be getting ready to go next? Best suggestion I've heard so far: Saturn's moon Enceladus, which is spewing jets of water and ice from its south pole.

Groucho Marx Also Said About Reading:

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Quote for the Weekend: On Reading

Groucho Marx once said, "I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book."

Friday, August 3, 2012

Fiction Friday: August 3, 2012: Your Daily Horoscope

Madame L has of course written about horoscopes many times in the past. Today, she would just like to suggest to Aunt Louise's readers this great way to enjoy your daily horoscope: Open the newspaper to the horoscope page, close your eyes, point your finger randomly, and then open your eyes and read whatever horoscope your finger has landed upon. Madame L promises this experience will be just as helpful and edifying as if you found the "correct" star reading for your star sign. For example, this morning Madame L read the Libra horoscope. (Madame L is NOT a Libra.) She read that her "thorough knowledge of one subject" can act as a "reagant" to bring her and someone else closer. Madame L will now spend her day thinking about what subject she has thorough knowledge of and who would come closer to her through the magic of star reagancy. (Yes, Madame L made up that word.) Have at it, Dear Readers! And, if you like, write a comment or send a message to Madame L telling her the results. (Madame L apologizes for the strange formatting of this post and hopes she can figure out how to resolve the problem soon. If any of her or Aunt Louise's Dear Readers has a suggestion that would help with this, please let your Dear Writers know!)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Today's Great Quote

This was sent to me today by a former co-worker, part of a longer message which I'll post soon. But for now, just this great quote:  May the Lord bless you and keep you, May the Lord make His face to shine upon you, And be gracious to you; May the Lord lift up His favour upon you And give you His peace. --- Numbers 6:24-26