Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cowboys and Aliens

**Spoilers Ahead** be warned.

I've been so excited about seeing Cowboys and Aliens.

First off, much of it was shot around Abiquiu, where we spent six months or so a while ago. Some of it was even shot at Ghost Ranch, and if I was more organized, I could even show you my photos of the exact location of the opening scene. Unfortunately, organization isn't my strong suit, so I can't find them right now.

Instead, I'll repost this one,
which should give you some idea of the area.

Anyhow, as I said, I was really excited about this film. What's not to look forward to? Daniel Craig, who I have the biggest crush on. Harrison Ford, finally playing to his age. Directed by Jon Favreau (a hit or miss record for me, loved Elf, ditto the first Iron Man). And I love Westerns. It was looking good.

And you know what? It started out really well. Beautiful cinematography (although who can go wrong with that scenery?). A good solid footing character wise, I was really enjoying it.

And as long as they stayed with the Western genre, everything was all right by me..

Then they introduced the alien aspect and the whole thing began to fall apart. I mean, really fall apart. The premise (**SPOILER**) is that the aliens have been seemingly randomly blowing the crap out of various parts of the area, abducting folks and generally doing who knows what.

Then, rather than being a good old fashioned Western, it became a mash up, and not in a good way. Now don't get me wrong, I knew there were going to be aliens. And cowboys. And Indians. But I thought there was also going to be a story. And maybe some dialogue. And even a little bit of character development.

I guess while the aliens were busy abducting all these people, they also abducted the premise that this was going to be a film in which I actually cared what happened to anyone.

All of a sudden, I found myself watching a bad blend of genres. Spaceships chasing men on horses, spaceships blowing the whole landscape to Hell and back, aliens that moved so fast you could barely see them. It felt like the film makers just sat back and said, WOW, look at what we can do with special effects and CGI.

Another disappointment, I was led to believe a good part of the story had to do with the cowboys and Indians joining up to fight a common enemy. Well, they did, but just like in history, the Native Americans pretty much got the short end of the stick here. NO character development, they were just there.

Of course, the aliens were even worse. We got no idea of who or what they were, or really, why they were there. Oh yeah, they wanted gold, but why? You never got a sense of them at all, other than as mindless predators. Every story needs a good villain, and this film sure could have used one.

When the final battle ensues, the whole thing really falls apart, and actually had me looking at my watch. One plus, the whole final battle is shot at Plaza Blanca, also known as the White Place. This is a spot you shouldn't miss if you're ever in the area. So I guess for me it wasn't a total loss.

One thing about the film really bothered me. When we were at Ghost Ranch, I would drive the bus for the Georgia O'Keeffe tour, which would take guests out to the back of the ranch (where parts of this was filmed). We were always very careful to keep people off the desert floor. The ecology is such that once you tear up a piece of soil, you are disturbing an area that may have taken years to thrive. These plants, and even the surface soil is fragile. As I watched the explosions, and the thundering horses, running full speed across virgin ground, I couldn't help but cringe. Even if they tried, I know a lot of this terrain will show the aftereffects for years to come.

As I watched the credits, I saw that there were no less than six writers on this film (and IMDB lists nine!). Maybe that was the problem. Film by committee always seems to sink to the lowest common denominator, and this one certainly did.

We came home and watched Red River. It restored my faith in the Western as film.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What to Do??

Since we've been back here at the house, I hate to admit it, but our eating and exercise habits have been for crap. In my heart, I think we both don't want to be here so much that we just enable each other in our bad habits. I'm much worse than Terry but we both are in much worse shape than when we were on the road.

While everyone else seems to love it here, it's really not our cup of tea anymore. When we're out on the road, it seems so much easier to regulate our food. And we want to walk, always something new to see. Here, not so much. When I was still working, I would drive down to the beach four times a week and walk along West Cliff Drive, but now, if we take the time, we can't seem to come back and get anything done.

A few days ago, we were talking bout it and decided it was time to finally buckle down. We're back on the straight and narrow food wise (which for us means cutting out sugar and most starches, basically low carb). This leaves us with what to do about exercise.

While clearing the house, we've re-discovered a set of DVDs called Walk Away the Pounds. This is a set we had some success with years ago and we've decided it's a good place to start. The beginning volume has you briskly walking one mile in twenty minutes, including warm up and cool down. The set continues till you're up to three miles.

For a few days now, we've been walking a mile, and hopefully, this will set us on the road to regular exercise. Within a few weeks we should be up to the three mile walk. Then, hopefully, exercise will once again be a part of our routines.

So tell, me, what do you do to stay in shape while you're on the road?

Wish us luck!

Monday, July 25, 2011

San Francisco

As regular readers know, we haven't been going many places since we've been home. A good friend lives up near San Francisco and is a founding member of the Walt Disney Family Museum. When she found out we had never been there, she graciously asked us to be her guests for a tour of the museum and a celebration of the lives of Wally Boag and Betty Taylor

I could write volumes about Wally Boag and Betty Taylor, but that's another story entirely (feel free to click on their names for more info on this incredible pair). If you're really interested, click here and you'll see why these two are missed so very much.

We had the most wonderful afternoon, but unfortunately, there is no photography allowed in the Museum, nor at the lecture. Instead, I'm going to take you on a photo tour of my day in San Francisco.

Let that serve as a warning before your proceed, cause there's lots of pictures ahead! Keep in mind that these were mostly taken through the window of a moving car, so some aren't as sharp as they could be. And sometimes, you'll see reflections of the windows.

As always, these all look better if you click on them. That way you can see all the detail that doesn't always show up in the thumbnails.

Here we go.
As you can see,
it's a perfect San Francisco day

Lots of pictures of the bridge
and gorgeous old houses.

I liked the way the bay looked
framed by the pilings.

It was such a glorious day . . .

Like always,
I can't resist playing with the color.

The Museum is in the old Presidio,
so many of these shots are from that area.

There were lots of sailboats.

Again, the bridge.

After the Museum,
we made a quick jump
over to the Letterman Digital Arts Center .
You might know it better as the new home
of LucasArts.

Is this the coolest fountain
you've ever seen?

Done perfectly to scale.

I had to include a closeup of Yoda's face.

The campus is quite fine.

Can you imagine working here?

A beautiful bronze statue of
Known as the Father of Cinema,
he's another one you might want to read up on.

I had to include this close up . . .

This is also part of the Lucas campus.

Then it was time to start home.

I guess I could live here.

Or here.

While not as sharp as I'd like,
for me, this just looks so much like
San Francisco.

These are right on the highway.
They have the best ocean views.

Further down the coast, we saw this.
Enlarge it and tell me,
does this man have wings?

Just a few miles down the road,
we saw this.
I would love to fly,
but I think I'm too afraid to try this.

We had a spectacular day, and while I know I'm posting too many pictures, I wanted to remember every moment.

Thank you Cindy.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tired . . .

This will be kind of a disjointed post. We've been so busy, and now we're both completely beat.

For the last ten days or so, we've been going through the house, working furiously. Last week we had a flea market to sell at, as well as another appointment at the used book store.

Since I've been retired, I've gotten so used to setting my own hours. It's always stressful when I know I have to be somewhere at a specific time. When that time is early in the morning, it's even worse. The night before the flea, I had a horrible time sleeping, and finally, at 4 am, I just decided to get up. The one good thing about getting up at 4am is that you get the great spot at the flea market. Out of the fifty odd sites, we got the only ones with shade all day, so at least we don't have sunburns!

In addition to the flea, last Thursday, we had an appointment at the local used book store. We took in another twelve boxes of books. The books we've taken in before are old inventory from when we used to sell online. But finally, it was time to start in on my books. I have to tell you, the memories have been coming fast and hard.

I've collected books my entire life. I learned to read early on and was always in advanced English classes, even in grade school. Reading has been encouraged my whole life, and truthfully, I cannot remember when I didn't collect books. Over the years, I've learned to let go of the casual books I've read, but somewhere along the way, I became enamored of science fiction and old children's books. And now I'm down to getting rid of these.

Twelve boxes in, eleven boxes back, plus a hefty chunk of change. The rest go in the garage to be resorted for the next flea market or the auction. While this is all a huge effort, I must say, the financial rewards are coming through and the house actually has some bare space.

One of these days, we'll be done, and back on the road.

Before I end this tirade, I want to share a quick recipe that I just "discovered". I'm sure someone, somewhere has done it before, but I've never heard of it, so I'm claiming it as mine.

The ingredients are as follows

2 large portabello mushrooms
green onions (or whatever onions you have on hand)
3-5 pieces crisply cooked bacon, roughly chopped

Brown a good amount of butter in a large frying pan. Next, slice/chop up two large portabello mushrooms. I imagine you could use regular mushrooms, but I've made this twice, both time using portabellos, and I believe their firm texture adds to the dish. Place the mushrooms in the pan over a low heat allowing them to cook slowly. While the mushrooms are cooking, chop up three or four green onions and if you like, a small yellow onion as well. When the mushrooms are close to done, add the onions and the bacon, cover the pot, lower the heat and let the pot heat for a few more minutes.

When all the ingredients are cooked through, it's ready to serve. This is a wonderful dish, really tasty. One night, we had it as a main course with salad on the side, then tonight we had it with hamburger patties. It's like mushrooms on steroids. I recommend it highly.

As a final note, I just read this post and while I know it could use a good bit of editing, I'm too tired, so I'm going to hit the post button and go to bed.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hold Your Horses

Where did that phrase come from?

I've never thought about it before, but today we had a unique pleasure of watching a John Ford western that we've never seen before. Regular readers know that we're movie freaks, and in particular, we have a real fondness for westerns.

And who made better westerns than John Ford? Nobody!

Today we took eleven boxes of books and three boxes of DVDs to the used book/record/DVD store, where we found a copy of John Ford's Wagon Master. It's a film I've heard about for years, but never seen. While we got rid of most of the DVDs (the first batch of many I'm afraid) we also brought one home.

I have to tell you, nobody did it like John Ford.

The location, my beloved Monument Valley. The faces! Ben Johnson, so young and virile, Jane Darwell, you can't help but love her. Harry Carey Jr., the cast is simply perfect.

Then there's the fact that Ford insisted on using real Native Americans, what a difference that makes!

When you look at the photography, my God what beautiful shots. I think it has something to do with the way they set up shots in those days, pre CGI (computer generated imagery). Take a look at the long shots in these old films, they're simply stunning, evoking a feel for the time and space of the story. I've written about this before (here if you'd like to read it) but when I spend time with one of these old films, my appreciation renews all over again.

When I see the long shots of the wagons, lumbering across the open spaces with those monolithic spires in the distance, it makes my heart yearn to go back here.

Oh, and "hold your horses" (in case you thought I forgot . . .)

In the Wagon Master, they're going through the desert, it's been a while since they've had fresh water. A front rider comes over the rise and shouts "There's water ahead!". The excitement spreads, the horses are smelling the water, yanking at the reins.

And the wagon master yells "Hold Your Horses!!".

I looked at Terry and said, "do you think that's where that phrase comes from? And he said "I wouldn't be a bit surprised".

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Gordon MacRae and Old Dogs

We've been working so much in the house, things move in, things move out, things move around, things pile up . . .

And some things get moved to Cholula Red, so now the rig looks as bad as the house!

Today I sent Terry off by himself so I could tear the rig up in peace. I must say, I'm getting much better at letting go of things.

While I work in the rig, I like to put on a movie I'm familiar with, usually a musical. Today I picked Oklahoma!

Gordon MacRae, heavy sigh. Curly hair, tall, good looking and my God what a voice! Then there's dancing Gene Nelson and Gloria Grahame (this is the role that I always think of with her, even though she had a solid career as a femme fatale). Charlotte Greenwood also stands out, and hard as it is to believe, this was Shirley Jones' first film. I'm not a real fan of many sopranos, but her voice is just so light and clear, she's lovely.

Oklahoma! is a darn near a perfect film.

I also love the British revival starring Hugh Jackman (I wrote about that here); but the original has a place in my heart that cannot be replaced.

If you need something to cheer you up, Oklahoma! fits the bill. The music is so great that it helps me with housework, could any film be better than that? Entertaining and energizing.

OK, on to something else entirely . . .

I'm sure that, like me, you have your own way of doing things. We learn them as children and it becomes so imprinted, you never consider another method.

Like with me and fruit.

One of the good things about this area is the numerous Farmer's Markets. I've always cut my fruit in half, removed the pit (not always easy) then sliced it from there. That's the way I was taught, and that's the way I do it, dagnabbit!

But at the local Farmer's Markets, they cut their samples by cutting down along the sides the pit, twice, giving you two large orbs, then they cut the other sides, then the top and bottom. By this time the pit usually just falls out or has very little meat left on it. And it's so easy! I've always cut mangos this way, so I don't know why I've never applied it to peaches and plums.

Habit I guess.

It seems you can teach an old dog new tricks.

(And my hair is still silver . . .)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

What Shall I Do?

For some forty years, I was a bottle redhead.

I love red hair. I know, in my heart, that genetics made an error somewhere along the way in not blessing me with titian hair.

Looking to correct nature's error, I've used every product on the drugstore shelf to change my hair color. Sometimes the results were stupendous, other times, not so much. One day, I found that I had I honestly forgotten where I started and just accepted that I was a true redhead.

This went on till I began to notice that I was having to color my hair more and more often. Paying close attention, it became apparent that, whatever color I had started out with was no longer the color on my head. Lawdy Miss Scarlet, it appeared as if one day, when no one was looking, I had gone almost completely gray.

Facing this dilemma, I knew it was time to make a decision. I was getting close to retirement age, and coloring my hair had become somewhat of a chore . . .

So the decision was made, I quit dyeing my hair and from that day to this, I've been a silver haired woman.

Cut to today . . . .

As I mentioned a while ago, due to the heat, I cut my hair, pretty short. I've lived with this for a few months, but the other day, I went to the hairdresser and told her to take it really short. The heat has been bothering me and since we're involved in such grimy work, I figured shorter would be better. She did exactly what I asked, and boy howdy, is it ever short.

Actually , it's a bit too short, but I figure what they hey, it'll grow.

Just this afternoon, I found myself at the market and, I swear, a package of red hair dye jumped, I mean it literally vaulted, into my shopping cart. With this leap, the idea sprang into my head; why not try red just one more time?

Maybe my hair will never be this short again. Wouldn't this be the ideal time to take the plunge?

Many reasons not to dye fell into place.

I'm much older now.
My hair is very gray and quite resistant to color.
What if I love it, but, as before,
my hair doesn't really want to hold on to the dye
and I have to redo it every 13 days?
Will I look like one of those red haired Bingo Babes?
(All I'd need is a cigarette hanging out of my mouth.)

So I sit here, a box of Clairol Paint the Town, Color Me Vibrant, staring me in the face. I have to admit I don't know what to do.

On the other hand, she wore a glove. (SORRY, I may be reverting to my childhood), if this is the biggest problem facing me, I guess I would have to say that

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Some of My Favorite Things (and a few useless facts)

I always mean to write about some of my favorite things. Then I start the list and it's really long. Then I realize I need to take pictures and it seems like such a daunting task, I forget about it.

So I've decided to write about just a few of my favorite things. No pictures, maybe just a few words about each of them.

And a few useless tidbits that I find entertaining.

Many of my favorite things have to do with cooking. In the motorhome, space is limited. That said, I don't think that means a thing to those of us that love to cook. We just have to get a bit more creative.

An absolute must is at least one good knife. My very favorite is a Shun Ultimate Utility Knife. Retailing for $150, it was too rich for my blood, so I entered it into a price watch program a couple of years ago. When the price dropped to $60 for one day, I jumped on it. This is by far the best knife I've ever used. It cuts hot bread, soft fruit, meat, veggies, you name it. In constant use for the three years I've had it, it will still slice a tomato so thin you can read a newspaper through it. And I've never had to sharpen it.

A good friend was kind enough to make me a knife sheath which we mounted over our cutting board, so it's always available.

A good peppermill is another must, but not always so easy to find. Many of them only work for a short period, then gum up. I finally found one I like that has been in constant use for several years and still works like the day I bought it. It's called a PepperMate. The grinding mechanism is made of ceramic and handles any size of peppercorn. The size of the grind is easy to adjust and the feed opening is quite large, so, unlike most mills, it's very easy to fill. And it holds a lot.

As to salt, I use a bamboo salt cellar that sits above he stove for my Kosher salt. I also have a couple of inexpensive pepper mills that I've picked up over the years for my "special" salts. I'm a big fan of lemon salt and dehydrated garlic mixed with sea salt.

A special favorite of mine is the ISI Whipped Cream Machine. While certainly not a necessity, this is one of those luxury items that turns your coffee, hot chocolate, or your favorite dessert into a special treat. We use ours for storing cream, since that way, we don't use up extra space in the fridge. Another tip: when the recipe calls for it, you can make flavored creams. Brandy flavored whipped cream will turn an every day pecan pie into something that you'll remember for years. While these can be kind of expensive, if you keep a sharp eye out, you may find one at a thrift store like I did.

As to the useless facts . . .

Did you know that Judy Garland was only 4 feet 11 inches tall?

I've always loved the Muppets, especially Bert and Ernie. I recently learned that Bert is named after the policeman in "It's a Wonderful Life". Ernie is named after the taxi driver in the same film.

Did you know that Kemo Sabe (the name Tonto calls The Lone Ranger) means soggy shrub in the Navajo language?

Or that a full 25% of your body's bones are in your feet?

That's it for all the pertinent facts for today.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


As I said last night we've been really busy in the house. Since the mood is on us, we're trying to make the best of it. We're still doing the auction, and looking for other ways to divest ourselves of all our "stuff".

I've been kind of bothered by the fact that dishes don't seem to bring any money at all from the auction. I have a set of china that are very dear to my heart, lots of good memories (but that's another story). I've been holding on to them because I hate to just see it go to a dealer for $10. The other day at the local Farmers Market, we ran into an old friend we haven't seen in years. She came over to the house and mentioned that she had broken a dish just that morning. I asked her if she would like to have mine and she was delighted, saying they were just talking about having to get a new set. It's not that I mind getting rid of all these things, it's just that for some of them, I would really like to see them go to a good home.

Where someone will appreciate them the way I have for so long.

Does that make sense? I hope so.

Since we did well at the local church flea market last month, we've decided to do it again in about ten days. I'm starting to feel hopeful, but we still have a long way to go. I know we have a particular thing, but when I try to find it, it's unavailable. Is it in the garage? The extra outside room? The attic? Buried in the back of the matting room? The possibilities are so many . . .

Terry says we should clean out one room at a time, but for some reason, I just can't seem to work that way. Lately we've been making a lot of progress in the living room (the largest room in the house) and now have some room to actually sort, so, as I say, progress is being made.

The other day, we came across a chest filled with linens. For years, I've collected old linens. I love the embroidered towels, the hand crocheted doilies and especially the graphics on old tablecloths. You know the ones I mean, from back in the thirties and forties, when they made all those linens with states and cities printed on them. Also lots of fruit and really cute children. After finding the chest, I knew there was more, so the search was on, and sure enough, we came up with six large boxes of linens.

After going through them, we washed a few that really needed it, then I actually ironed a ton of doilies and made a very small stack of pieces to keep. I think I'll redo the curtains in the kitchen and bathroom of Cholula Red with some of these old linens. Would that be cool or what?

The rest will go to the flea with us. I figure even if I only get a dollar each, the volume will bring us a nice little pile of cash. More money for our fix up the rig fund. Before we finally leave, we'll need new tires and it's getting to be time to reseal the roof. It brings me a certain amount of pleasure to know that the money we're getting from all these old belongings will fund the rig and more time for us on the road.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


You know how sometimes you just get in the groove and are able to get a lot of work done? That's where we are right now, making big progress on the house. Hence, very little blogging (in fact I'm posting this from the iPad, too tired to even fire up the computer).

More later.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Life on Mars

Just a quick post tonight.

We've just found a new series on DVD called Life on Mars. It's a British production and wow, is it ever good. The premise is that a policeman circa 2006 gets in a car wreck and wakes up, still a policeman, but in 1973 Manchester.

But it's not the premise that gets me, it's the acting. While the nominal star is an actor named John Simm, it's Philip Glenister that steals virtually the entire series.

Glenister is one of those actors that just commands that you watch him. Not traditionally good looking, he has such power and presence that after a while, you find him to be the most attractive of men. Call it stage presence, charisma, raw talent, whatever, he is the real deal.

I first became aware of him an an A&E production of Vanity Fair, where he played Richard Dobbin. In that role, he shines. While not the star of the story, he was the one that made the impression on me. I've watched for him ever since.

In many ways, he reminds me of a young Richard Burton. I remember reading about Burton that when he talked to you, it was like you were the only person in the world, he was that intense.

While I don't know if Philip Glenister has that intensity in real life, he certainly brings it to the screen.

Watch out for him. At first, you'll think he's no big deal but as he fills each role, I bet you'll find yourself focusing on him more and more.

One more thing about Life on Mars. I'm always hearing that certain American television series can't be released on DVD because the rights for the music can't be obtained. I don't know if things are different in Britain, but the music in this series is stupendous. Paul McCartney, Elton John, LOTS of David Bowie (the title Life on Mars is form a Bowie song) the Who, the Moody Blues, the list goes on and on. It certainly adds an element to the story.

That's it for tonight. I hope you all have a safe and sane fourth of July. We'll be sticking close to the house.