Monday, September 30, 2013

Carly's Rule by Vickie King

I just finished reading Carly's Rule, a wonderful first novel from talented author Vickie King.

Carly's Rule is the story of Carly Braddock who owns a bakery called Sugar Plums in her home town.  Carly's life hasn't always been easy.  In fact, she has known grief and loss in her young life.  She finally comes back home and opens her bakery.  She has a large family and spends time with her nieces and nephews when she isn't baking.  Life has taught her not to risk her heart.  She has one hard and fast rule about relationships.

Enter a man from her past - Luke Donovan.  Though intellectually, Carly knows he is dangerous to her heart, she is still attracted.  Will he be the one to finally break Carly's rule?

This is a warm, engaging tale, filled with realistic characters who face problems in their lives.  The players and the situations pull the reader into the story.  It is an engrossing read from beginning to end, filled with the colorful inhabitants of a West Virginia town.  All of the characters are well written and memorable.  They live on the page and in the readers' memory.  You will remember these folks and wonder about them when you close the book.

I give Carly's Rule four and a half stars, only because I wasn't ready for it to end!

This is the first book in a series. The second book due to be published in 2014 is the story of one of Carly's brothers and is entitled Dusty's Fate.

I will have my copy reserved.  I can't wait to read more about the Braddock family.

Warning! Ms. King does such a good job describing the delectable treats baked in the bakery, you may well be tempted to wolf down some carbs!

I hope you're listening, Hallmark Channel. You've got the makings of a great movie in this book.

What a lovely job, Ms. King!  Carly's Rule is a must read for fans of contemporary romance.


Pastry Chef Carly Braddock only ever loved one man, Luke Donovan, who disappeared from her life years ago, breaking her heart and leaving her to wonder what happened to him. When he walks into Sugar Plums, her West Virginia bakery/cafe, and back into her life after all this time, she isn’t in a forgiving mood. Though he doesn’t know it, her experience with him shaped the other relationships in her life and led her to create a rule to protect her heart. What neither counts on is that the chemistry between them is still as fierce and tangible as it was all those years ago, and Carly doesn’t know until her heart is completely involved once again that Luke has kept an important part of his life from her. When she finds out what it is, she knows she must let him go, and this time for good. Not only did he keep something from her, but he broke the one thing she created to protect her heart . . . Carly’s Rule.
Available at

Friday, September 27, 2013

Update - BBC's Broadchurch

In my previous review of this incredible series on BBC America's "Dramaville", I was mistaken in how many episodes there were.  Actually, it aired its final episode this last Wednesday.

This is an amazing series, a mystery with many clues like strands of fog on the British coastline.  The story is haunting.  The production is evocative and unforgettable.

The cast makes a wonderful ensemble with excellent performances all around.  The directing is seamless.  The production values (sets, music, lighting, locations, etc) all play a part in bringing this poignant story to life.

There is a surprise ending that will stun you.  It did me. 

I recorded the episode on Wednesday and watched it again this morning just to see if it was as good as I remembered.  Yep, it was...I may even appreciate it more knowing that even a repeat of something I'd seen could keep me engrossed in the hour.

If you haven't seen it and get BBC America, please see if it's available On Demand on your system.  If not, rent it when it comes out.  You won't regret it.

BRAVO, BBC America for another exquisite series.

I am looking forward to their upcoming production of "Burton and Taylor" which stars Helena Bonham Carter in what looks like a dead-on portrayal of Elizabeth Taylor.  That premiers on October 16th.

Enjoy our incredible pop culture, where there truly is something for every taste.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ode To The Dearly Departed Thunder Thighs

Remember I once said I studied ballet as a child and wanted more than anything to be a dancer?  Well, that's true and even though I took classes and practiced all week, I still had big thighs.  They were muscular, but they were also big.  I inherited them from my mom.  In high school, not only did I take dance classes and practice, I was also on the drill team.  My thunder thighs stayed firmly in place...

Our best and most requested routine for the drill team ended on a spectacular contagion of movement beginning at one end of the line and progressing through the girls to the opposite end.  Those of us short enough to be at the end where the contagion started did 64 high kicks in a row.  My thunder still rolled.  (Talk about a cardio workout!)

And let's not even talk about the splits we had to do.  My worst memory of high school is performing at a game where the temp was below 50 and the field was wet.  I had the misfortune to be located on one of the yard lines when split time came.  My majorette boots dug trenches in the yard line as I performed my perfect split.  I got up with mud and yard line paint striping my legs...YECH!

My life is pretty stressful right now, with health issues for my loved ones, two leggeds and four leggeds.  So, it's understandable why I miss some things these days.

Earlier this week, I put on a new pair of pants only slightly less fitted than leggings.  That's when I THUNDER THIGHS ARE GONE!!!

Wha??? Where'd they go?  I hadn't been hearing the telltale whoosh-whoosh when I walked, but it didn't register on my conscious mind.  Besides, it's too early in the season for corduroy.

Granted I have been a dedicated dieter and carb counter for the last year or so.  I also started an exercise program back in the spring, which I do 6 to 7 days each week.  But who knew at this age, my old thighs would depart?  I mean they never did before...though I worked at it and wished they'd go away.

After an adult lifetime of walking like a thunder lizard, shaking the ground whenever I moved, it is very strange to tread so lightly now. (And so much faster!)

Along with the low carb diet, I have an elliptical on which I pedal daily.  I am up to eight miles a day, with my goal being ten miles daily.  My little elliptical is portable.  It can be used while you sit in a chair.  So each afternoon, I pull out one of my dining room chairs and pedal away at a fast pace (one-two, one-two, one-two.)  It takes me about 26 minutes most days to pedal eight miles, so I keep a fast pace.  I also use resistance bands for my arms while I pedal.  I am up to 200 reps per day with the bands.

Having problem knees, I couldn't really use a bike when I started.  The elliptical is much easier on the joints.  Besides, I've pedaled over 500 miles so far, not far enough for the Tour De France, but that's an impressive stat for such a dedicated couch potato!

Who knows how far I'll go?  One of these days, I may get a real bicycle and go out into the world.

In the meantime, take heart, for this is my advice and assurance to you. 

If you dream it, you can do it.  I am very serious about this.  We humans have an amazing capacity for manifesting success in our lives.  Go for whatever you want.  You can do it.  I'm living proof.

One of these days I may take my act to the beach!  (In bicycle shorts and a tank top, of course.)

So fare thee well oh thunder thighs of mine.  You kept me warm in the winter, and chafed in the summer (in Texas and Florida!) Now I'll chortle gleefully as I pull on my leggings and walk silently into the sunset...

Live Long and Prosper...*

* Quotation from Mr. Spock

Monday, September 16, 2013

Confessions of Football's Grim Reaper

I tried not to take it personally.  But lately, it's hard to ignore it.  I am the Grim Reaper for football teams.  My support slays any chance they have at successful seasons - bowl games, the playoffs - and forget the biggie - the Super Bowl!!!

Take this last week...who did I want to win?  Everybody who didn't.  They all failed, some spectacularly, some not with a bang but a whimper.

I've loved football most of my life.  It was inevitable.  My dad was the quarterback of the State Championship football team when he was in high school.  We started going to the high school games in the town where we lived when I was about twelve years old.  In Garland, Texas in those days, Friday nights were all about the Garland High School games.  Didn't matter if they played in the rickety all-wooden stadium (where I got some big honking splinters in unmentionable places, especially when I was in the drill team and sat unaware in my little short skirts.) Or if the bulk of the town's residents drove in a winding caravan all over north Texas in heat, wind, rain, whatever.  Nothing was more important than football.  Yep, Friday Night Lights, though it was written about one of our arch-rivals in playoffs, Odessa Permian High School, was real all over the state.  That's the way it was.

In those days, Garland only had one high school.  They got their second when I was a junior.  We had the option to move to the new high school if we wanted, but no way would I do that...I mean, did they think I would give up years of tradition?  No way, no how.  Would I give up being a Dashing Deb to become a Southern Belle? was totally unthinkable.  Dad thought about sending me to a prestigious private school, but I BEGGED him not to ruin my life!

So is it any wonder that I am a football fan?  In the glory days of Garland, we won the state championship two years in a row, beating Odessa Permian to get to the final game, I should mention.

With that foundation, I have loved football ever since.  My main teams are the Dallas Cowboys and the University of Texas Longhorns.  I also like Texas A&M, if they're not playing the Longhorns, and the Jacksonville Jaguars.  (I mean I live in Jax, after all...)

But this season is not turning out well for the Longhorns, the Cowboys, and especially the Jaguars.  On Saturday, even Johnny Football couldn't pull off a win against Alabama.  I couldn't watch it when they got so far behind, but my dad assured me it was a really good game.  BUT DID THEY WIN?!!!  NO!!!!!  The Cowboys handily beat the Giants in the first game of the real season.  Yesterday, they lost to Kansas City (who had the nerve to sneak in Andy Reid as their new coach...)

Ahem...the Longhorns, well they're not even in the rankings anymore this season...I swear I saw Bevo crying on the sidelines.  Or maybe he was chewing his cud, or the rope that held him in place.  I don't blame him, I'd try to escape the madness, too.  It must be hard to stand before 90,000+ fans in that heat and noise.  It would be much nicer to be munching grass in a field somewhere.

So I have come to the inevitable conclusion, in the "Superstition" mode (thanks, Stevie Wonder).  IT'S MY FAULT!!!  I'M TO BLAME!!!  I must be, otherwise why are all my teams losing?

I have come up with a plan.  I've decided to advertise a special service in which I will cheer for the opponents of my customers' teams.  That way, their teams will win...I haven't worked out the particulars yet, but I will...I can be clever when necessary...

Take care. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Adios, Burn Notice

I don't know how many of you watched USA's series Burn Notice.  I started watching it when it came on originally.  The premise was intriguing as was the fact that it was shot in Miami.  I was born in Miami and spent many happy summers there as a child.  To say I was stunned at the enormous city shown on the tv screen would be an understatement.  Of course I haven't been back to Miami since my grandparents died.  So, as far as I know there could be space aliens sitting at the cafes sipping mojitos.  Some of my friends are sure Austin, TX is already full of them...I'll reserve judgment on that one.

Anyhow back to Burn Notice.  I always thought it was an exciting series, full of action, but also with some human pathos for balance.  It had a great cast who worked well as an ensemble.  I liked all of them.  They all did a wonderful job in their respective roles.

My favorites were Bruce Campbell as Sam Axe and his alter ego - Charles Finley.  I have always been a fan of his.  They frequently referred to his character on the show as the "guy with the chin."  If you have seen Bruce Campbell, he does have a memorable chin.  It became a running joke.

My other favorite was Sharon Gless who played Michael's mom, Maddie Weston.  I have liked her for years, from the time she and Tyne Daley, played female detective partners for the NYC police dept in the breakthrough tv drama, Cagney and Lacey.  It was the first tv show that had a female team of investigators.  I loved it.  Of course we were all much younger then.  It was the heyday of feminism in the 70s.

Throughout all the difficulties in the storyline of Burn Notice, Gless played a courageous woman who had two sons at the beginning of the show.  At the end, she had one living son and a three-year-old grandson.  SPOILER ALERT - the hardest, most jarring part of the finale last night was when Maddie Weston sacrificed herself so her little grandson could escape from the bad guys.  She sent him to safety with Jessie (one of Michael's crew) and sat calmly smoking a cigarette, when the bad guys burst in, their weapons ready.  She looked at them and said, "this is for my boys."  Then she pushed the button on the detonator connected to C-4 that she held in her hand.  Goodbye Maddie as well as all of her would-be attackers.

Jessie took care of the two guys left outside and got the little boy to safety.

In the end, Michael and Fiona, as well as Sam and Jessie made it out alive.  Although Michael and Fiona let everybody think they were dead and went to another country with his little nephew.  Sam and Jessie were off on another mission to help someone in need.

It was a satisfactory way to wrap up the story.

I always watched Burn Notice.  It was a good combination of action and wry humor.  Last night was no exception.

I will miss seeing these guys tooling around Miami going after the predators who preyed on their human victims.  I will miss Sam's wry humor, Maddie's love and her problem with cigarettes, as well as Michael and Fiona with their on-again, off-again love story.

Nice job, folks.  Enjoy your respite from series television.  I know you will enjoy those residuals you get.  That's the real beauty of series television for the actors.  Once you reach a certain number of episodes "in the can" - the residual checks just keep on coming as long as the series is shown in reruns.

You can thank the Star Trek crew for that.  They didn't get residuals from that show.  Since then the acting unions lobbied and got a deal to take care of the actors when a show goes into reruns.  Nice gig, if you can get it.

Take care and enjoy the upcoming fall shows!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Remembering 9/11

9/11/01 for those of us who lived through it, is one of those dates we will always remember.  It will stay with us like the day President Kennedy was assassinated for those in my age range.  For my parents' generation it was the day Pearl Harbor was attacked and WWII began for the US.

We can remember where we were when the first plane hit the World Trade Center and where we were when each tower disintegrated into a sixteen story pile of rubble in lower Manhattan.

Even if we had no ties to anyone involved in the horrendous attacks or to NYC, we will always remember.

Twelve years ago today I was at work in Austin, TX in a large office complex, employed by a state agency.  One of my coworkers had been down in the cafeteria to bring back some breakfast and saw the first plane crash on the television in the dining area.  He came back and told us what he had seen.  He immediately started streaming video on his computer to watch the events.  All day long other staff members gathered in his cubicle watching it all unfold in real time.

I didn't.  I didn't want to see it.  Instead I listened to NPR and followed the events while I tried to work on writing procurement documents.  I was only partly dedicated to finishing my tasks.  Actually, I didn't want to see what I thought to be inevitable.  In other words, I didn't want to watch the trapped people die in real time.  I knew I would see it eventually on television replays.  I would watch it in the privacy of my own home with my little shih tzu pups for company, as if that would shield me from the horror of it all.

I was no stranger to man's inhumanity to man.  My early career in social work had shown me firsthand the sadistic handiwork of some so-called humans, as they starved their children, or beat their elderly parents and left them to live in their own waste.

I finally had enough of being a witness to unimaginable cruelty and sought an office job within the government system, so I didn't have to bear witness again.  I wasn't going to forget what I had seen - still haven't to this day.  Is it any wonder I didn't want to watch the towers come down when it happened?

As it was I talked with some of the other employees off and on during the day.  One woman, I remember, who had a son in the military, was loudly advocating that we should "nuke 'em all."  In retrospect that's an appalling statement, but at the time, I was too numb to feel.

I don't remember the trip home that afternoon.  There had been talk that our offices should be closed.  We had no idea if the attack was confined to New York and DC or if it would spread to other offices in other cities.  Some of our agency offices in downtown Austin were closed and the employees sent home early.  But those were the government buildings around the state capital.  We were located close to our Medicaid contractor, in an office park without even a sign that any government agency was housed there.

By the time I got home, it was all over - the towers had long since come down.  The hotel had come down later that afternoon.  And we had all heard about Flight 93.

I saw it all replayed on television that night, unable to look away.  I remember I wept watching it.  My little pups consoled me as best they could.  Honestly, I was glad I had them with me, something life affirming as I watched the stark images onscreen.

I remember it was several days before network television started broadcasting anything other than news from ground zero and the Pentagon.  NPR did not broadcast any of their musical shows, either, sticking to a news format with somber music accompanying the breaks.

The one thing I remember most is how quiet it was with no planes flying.  There were no contrails to mar the blue wide open sky of Texas.  For days afterward, we lived on the events of 9/11.  From the search and rescue that turned into recovery at ground zero and the Pentagon to that field outside Shanksville, PA, we moved through our daily lives, automatons in varying states of shock.

The sight of people putting up pictures of their missing loved ones in NYC; the fence in Shanksville that was decorated in memorial bit by bit; the film of the victims jumping from the upper stories of the WTC; the volunteers who rushed in to help, many with their valiant service dogs; the restaurants in lower Manhattan who stayed open to feed the rescue crews and bring them water; the way each recovered firefighter or police officer was accorded an honor guard as his or her body was carried from the rubble; the face of Todd Beamer's widow at the President's speech before congress and the nation as we heard for the first time that the last thing she heard from her husband was him saying to his fellow passengers "let's roll" as they went to storm the cockpit and take back the plane.  These are the things that stand out in my mind.

My memories are filled with such incredible bravery as well as such horrendous cruelty I will never forget that day.  How could I?

Each year I watch some of the programs leading up to the anniversary.  My dad asked me why I would subject myself to that sadness.  I told him I feel it is our duty to always remember.

The most surprising thing of those events and the aftermath to me was so many politicians and pundits spoke about how "shocking" it was to have the attack happen on our soil.  I suppose it was, but I never thought we were invulnerable.  I grew up during the cold war, learning how to "duck and cover" - constantly being reminded that the enemy had ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) that could reach us in a matter of minutes with their nuclear warheads in place.

A lot has changed in the past twelve years.  My mother died in 2003.  I retired in 2010 and moved across the country to look after my elderly father.  One of those little puppies from twelve years ago died last January.  Life is ever changing.

Yet this year on 9/11 I stop and remember that day in 2001 and pay homage to the brave men and women who marked that day in our collective memory.

I will continue to honor the victims and those who rushed to help every 9/11 for the rest of my life.  It is the least I can do.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Say It Ain't So, HBO!!!!!!

Cue the dirge.  Cue the blue lights.  Get out your mourning clothes.  HBO announced that True Blood will not be renewed after its seventh season.  I don't know why.  Perhaps the producers feel they've done all they can with the subject.

They promise next summer's season will be a fitting end to the series and the best ever.  Humph.  I will reserve judgement on that one.

As much as I've enjoyed the series, I am a realist.  It has to end sometime, but I will miss Sookie and her buds in Bon Temps.

I will definitely complete my TB dvd collection...

At least Bill has already returned to normal...Hope Eric does the same after his harrowing, crispy sunbath in the snow.

But as we've said before, we'll have to wait until next year to find out, I guess.

In the meantime, there are lots of other shows to watch now, like Broadchurch on BBC America, which closes its first season tonight.

Enjoy pop culture! 

Create pop culture, not war...hmmmmm, I think I like that.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Broadchurch - BBC America

I don't know about you, but I like BBC America.  They show great British shows, including reruns of Doctor Who, Torchwood, etc.  They also show Star Trek: The Next Generation reruns.  What's not to like.

In the past few years I have been hooked on several of their dramas, such as The Hour, Whitechapel, and Luther.  By the way, Idris Elba is coming back for a third season of Luther, which begins airing this Tuesday night.  If you've never watched the show, he's a fascinating character.  Elba is a fine actor who you may have seen in some American films.  He played Beyonce's husband in Obsession, complete with an American accent.  He played a drug lord in HBO's The Number One Ladies Detective Agency.  But Luther is his best work.  Look for it.

Broadchurch is the current star series of BBC America.  According to one critic, it's the new Downton Abbey.  The British viewers have been mesmerized with Broadchurch.  Now we Americans get a chance to see it.

Broadchurch stars David Tennant (my favorite Doctor in the Doctor Who series) as a Scot detective who is given a job in the small seaside town of Broadchurch in England.  He is a stand-out in the small, closely knit community.  His accent is strange, his ways are strange.  He is suffering from PTSD, but we're not sure yet just why.  It's from a previous case that went awry.

On his first day at his new job, an 11 year old local boy is found dead on the beach below the cliffs.  It becomes obvious he did not jump, nor was he pushed off the cliffs.  In fact, his body was placed there and the area staged.  That doesn't fool DI Alec Hardy (Tennant).  He knows the boy was murdered elsewhere. 

Complicating his job is DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Coleman) just back from maternity leave.  It seems she was promised the Detective Inspector position, but lost out to Hardy while she was away.  Of course nobody bothered to tell her until she came back to work.  To top it off, the boy who was killed was a schoolmate of her own 11 year old son.  In fact the victim was his best friend.

Broadchurch is a small town, filled with tourists merely six weeks out of the year.  The rest of the time, it's just the local residents.  DI Hardy and DS Miller determine it must be someone local who killed the boy.  Everybody in the town is a suspect.  One by one, they interview the locals and try to unravel a considerable mystery. Local resident DS Miller has a hard time thinking any of her neighbors could do such a thing.

Along the way, they learn the child's life wasn't what it seemed.

There have been four episodes aired so far.  This is a short-run series. There will be only one more this season, airing Wednesday night.

It has held my interest throughout.  It's storyline is compelling, filled with mysteries, and townsfolk who have secrets, including the boy's family.

Previous episodes are available free On Demand, for those of you who have that feature.

If you like mysteries that are filled with human drama, this one is for you.

I'm not a big mystery fan, but this one grabbed my interest.  If you don't get BBC America, the BBC shows are available on dvd and Blue Ray for purchase or rental.

Check it out!