Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Godey's Lady's Book



"Dress plainly; the thinest soap-bubbles wear the gaudiest colors." 
- fashion advice from the Godey's Lady's Book

On a recent used book store trip I discovered a tome about the history of the most popular women's magazine in the 1800s, Godey's Lady's Book.


I remembered how excited Ma Ingalls was in the Little House on the Prarie books every time she even got near an issue of Godey's Lady's -- even if it was more than a year old -- so I knew I had to investigate. Caroline Ingalls didn't get excited that often on that prairie. 



My used book store find is called, Mr. Godey's Ladies: Being a Mosaic of Fashions and Fancies, edited by Robert Kuncior, published in 1971. Turns out the Godey's Lady's Book was the reigning women's fashion and lifestyle publication for sixty-eight years. That's some run. 

The magazine dolled out exercise advice...


"Daily exercise in the open air is absolutely indespensable to health and beauty. American ladies are not good walkers simply because they do not practice walking. Many confine themselves at home during the long winters, keeping close in their heated rooms. Of course, debility ensues, nervousness and loss of all bloom as well as sprightliness."  

Recipes for beauty products...


"Fine Lavender Water - mix together, in a clean bottle, a pint of in-oderous spirits of wine (I think that means it has no smell), and ounce of oil of Lavender, a teaspoon of oil of bergamot; and a tablespoon of the oil of ambergris."  

And offered photos and advice on how to wear all the latest fashions. Of course Ma Ingalls used these photos to make patterns so they could sew their own.  I can't imagine trying to wear these dresses, much less make them.  The pictures are fun though and I can see how it might be considered a lifeline out on the prairie.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               




"Do women dress to please themselves? Do they dress to please each other? Or do they dress to please men? A cynical bachelor says: "They dress to worry other women."




Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Castle: Target & Hunt




Twenty-four hours later, I am still thinking about the excellent Castle two part episode that started with Target and ended last night with Hunt.  If you haven't watched both episodes, stop reading right here, and get thee to the ABC website where both episodes are available free of charge for your viewing pleasure. 

This post assumes that you've seen both episodes and are familiar with Castle



These two episodes and the episode before last, Recoil, show exactly how much more room this show has to run -- miles and miles -- despite the fact Castle (Nathan Fillion) and Beckett (Stana Katic) are together eliminating the will they or won't they tension. Castle is no Moonlighting.  The storytelling remains great. 

Didn't you love it when Castle was upset about Hunt wrecking his $200 phone and Hunt pointed out that Castle had forgotten about the suitcase lying on the ground with $3 million in it? It was almost like Hunt was telling him to put on a sweater before he went outside or he would regret it when he got cold. Such a dad comment.


By the same token, Castle's behavior to get Alexis back didn't shock me. His character has been consistent throughout about his love for his daughter. We knew he'd do anything to get her back even before he said it and then did it. 


It even showed how emotionally tied up he was when he missed the double cross cues as they were heading into the forest above. If this had been another case he would have predicted such a plot twist right about that point in the story.





Today I had three friends call me because they needed to talk about these two episodes. All of us admitted we cried at several points during Hunt - when his father told him about giving him the Casino Royale book which made Castle want to be a writer, when Castle and Alexis got away and when the Casino Royale book arrived back in New York, signaling that Castle's Dad, Josh Brolin was all right.

And I loved the nods to other shows - the "I am your father" from Star Wars and Volkoff being the Russian bad guy just as he was in the spy series, Chuck


I can't wait to see what else they have in store for us this season. 






Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Americans




After only four episodes of the new FX spy show, The Americans, I am hooked. And that's not easy to do. 

The premise is a wee bit complicated. 

Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings (played by Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) are KGB sleeper agents living in the US in the Regan era. They never met before their arranged marriage and they don't know anything about one another's lives in Russia before they met. 

They both love the children they have had together and struggle with their situation. They try to keep their cover, raise their kids, run their travel agency and do all of their assignments to their KGB bosses liking, which is really hard to do. 

They have marital problems of course - but it's more like what happens to our kids if we get arrested or killed, are we safer if we keep this up or defect, or will our nosy neighbor the FBI agent stumble on a body next time he breaks into our garage. Oh, and they also have to deal with the fact they both sleep with other people routinely for the job and sometimes not even for the job. 

This show is fresh, fast paced and rather awesome. I am so glad FX has already renewed it for a second season. 

The Americans is on Wednesdays on FX at 10 pm. 




******

Speaking of TV shows with spy elements. The two part episode of Castle that ended last night (Monday, Feb 25th) was excellent. You can watch both parts on ABC.com. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Farewell, Dorothy Parker

"What fresh hell is this?"

This is a first. I bought a book because of a Facebook page. It all started two years ago when my mother and I were planning to spend a pre-Christmas weekend in New York City. Do some shopping. See Book of Mormon. But I waited to long to book the hotel and the place we've stayed in the past was completely full. Now I had to start a quest for an affordable hotel in New York at holiday time. Fun.



Here's the New Yorker cartoon wallpaper from the Algonquin.
I had always wanted to stay at the Algonquin Hotel because of legends surrounding it - the hangout of Dorothy Parker, her New Yorker pals and the Algonquin Roundtable. Surely I would become a better writer just walking the place.  Luckily for us they were in the middle of renovations which made it more affordable and available this busy time of year. We reveled in the New Yorker cartoon wall paper, the wood paneling and the comfy chairs in the bar. 


Postcard from the Algonquin

After I got back, I searched Facebook for a Dorothy Parker page. Sure enough, I found one. For 18 months I enjoyed almost daily wit, snark and snippits in great Parker-style. I loved seeing these updates so much I immediately pre-ordered the pages owner's new novel, Farewell, Dorothy Parker once the author posted that it was coming out



Another postcard from the Algonquin

The book is about a woman who is having a bit of a personal crisis and manages to channel Dorothy Parker.  It arrived this week and two days later I was finished. It's a fun, witty, fast feel-good read (it's not a mystery)

In the acknowledgements, the author, Ellen Meister says she was inspired to write Farewell, Dorothy Parker because she wanted to read a book where the ghost of Dorothy Parker came back to life that she wrote it. Sounds like an excellent reason to write a novel to me. 



Post card from the Algonquin






Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Oscars: Dispatches from the Red Carpet


Today our guest blogger is Emily Fox, who is in Los Angeles to provide us a behind the scenes look at the Oscars, the Dolby Theater and Red Carpet happenings. 


Beautiful sunrise on Oscar Sunday!


It's a beautiful day in Hollywood - awesome weather for Oscars Sunday. As the day begins I can hear helicopters circling the Dolby Theatre overhead, getting early views of the red carpet in its final readiness. 

As a newbie to this experience, I'm both excited and a bit anxious to see how this all goes. It will surely be surreal to see the stars in all their glory in person, albeit from a distant seat in the bleachers, and to continuously pinch myself as a reminder that this isn't TV. 


As I prepare all my gear to carry into the red carpet area, I'm concerned that I'll forget something, as there is no leaving once you arrive - until the last Oscars guests are in the Theatre. 

These are real roses surrounding Oscar and the scent is amazing. 

And then there is the question of whether the clothes I brought to wear are not only appropriate, but will be either warm enough or cool enough to be comfortable while sitting outside for 7 or 8 hours. Time will tell....10:30 is my call time to get credentials and to be ushered into the bleachers area along the red carpet -- and then this all goes from surreal to real. 




This is one of about 20 life-size Oscars along the red carpet, from inside the mall looking out to where the stars will turn the corner to head into the Theatre. This is the back side of the curtain you'll see on the front of the bldg under the Dolby Theatre sign. The white on the floor is plastic covering the red carpet. Behind me is a long walkway w/ more of these statues lining the red carpet up to the staircase that leads into the Theatre.




Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Oscars: Getting Ready




Tomorrow night is the Oscars. In case you want to get in the spirit, we have all kinds of great resources to help you get ready. 

Need a ballot so you and your posse can vote before the winners are announced? Here you go. 

Looking for food ideas for your party? The Food Network has plenty of them, and so does Pinterest, although one of my friends assigns each of her guests a movie and they have to bring a themed dish that matches. It's a pretty creative crowd, so the results are always fun. 

Here is a cocktail recipe and review for Argo fans and an interview with Ben Affleck by Terry Gross on Fresh Air. Terrie also interviewed Bradley Cooper who starred in Silver Linings Playbook (although I remember him fondly from Alias)

The New York Times examines the relationship between truth and fiction in the movies like Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty and Argo

Below Director Ang Lee talks about making Life of Pi





Oscar decor is as close as your printer, with these printable Oscar decorations from the Huffington Post

Here is a fun montage of all of the Best Picture nominees in fabulous Dolby Atmos sound: 





Friday, February 22, 2013

Walt Disney Archives Visit


Dave Smith, former head of the Walt Disney Archives with a Mickey Mouse hand drawn and signed by Walt Disney. 



Before I started this blog, I was lucky enough to visit the Walt Disney Archives in Burbank, California.  I was looking back at the photos this weekend and they are just too good not to share.


The bed knob and spell book from Bed Knobs and Broomsticks

The photo above is of props from the movie, Bed Knobs and Broomsticks, starring Angela Lansbury, David Tomlinson and Roddy McDowell. I got a big kick out of seeing these items and the comic book below, which leads our heroes and the time traveling bed with the bed knob steering mechanism to the Isle of Naboombu




Here is Mary Poppins' hat:

Spit spot

And the globe below... We were told that movie props weren't saved in the early days of the company and that Dave Smith the archivist at the time lucked out when he found this globe had been saved and cared for for years by one of the company janitors. Dave found many of his treasures in old hall closets and nooks and crannies of the building. 



Here is one of three remaining multi-plane cameras invented by the Walt Disney Company, so they could give depth to their animated features. Drawings would be placed at each of the three levels and the camera would film them from above. 


The Multiplane camera

Dave Smith, former Walt Disney Archivist and our host for the day.




Pirate jewelry
One way to get into visit the Disney Archives is to become a member of Disney's D23.  You can learn more about that here.
You can read about Disneyland's very own fortune teller, Esmerelda here




Annotated That Darn Cat script, comments from Walt

The dwarves are holding up the corporate headquarters. Heigh Ho! 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Oscars' Mysterious Side




In honor of the Oscars this Sunday, I thought it would be fun to visit a few mystery/thriller winners from years past that you may not have heard of before. 

Here is the rundown with links to movie reviews for each picture and matching recipes from Kathy Borich at Different Drummer: Movie Reviews for Film Loving Foodies.








The Departed, Best Picture - 2006
Police in South Boston wage war on the local mafia. This one gets your adrenaline pumping. 
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicolson and Mark Wahlberg with Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farminga, Anthony Anderson, and Alec Baldwin in supporting roles. 
According to IMDB, there is an untitled sequel in the works, but it was slated for last year.



Spellbound,  best Musical Score, nominated for Best Actor and Best Picture, among others - 1945
The story of what goes on in a mental asylum when the new director proves to be an amnesiac murder suspect. A wonderful Hitchcock classic with fabulous stars.
Starring Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Michael Chekhov and Leo G. Carroll. It's based on a novel by HIlary Saint George Saunders and John Palmer called The House of Dr. EdwardesMovie review and recipe.



The Secret in Their Eyes, Best Foreign Language Film, 2009
Set in Buenos Aires, a federal agent becomes involved in a rape and murder case that haunts him for years. 
Starring Ricardo Darin and Soledad Villamil. Based on the novel, by Eduardo Sacheri, La Pregunta de sue Ojos (The Question in Their Eyes). The spanish title is just so beautiful, I wish they hadn't changed it for the American version.  Movie review and recipe.




The Constant Gardener, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Film Editing, and Best Supporting Actress - 2005
Set in Kenya, a British diplomat tries to solve the murder of his wife. I thought this could have been a little shorted, but generally a good flick. 
Starring Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Hubert Kounde, Danny Huston, Bill Nighy and Donald Sumpter. The movie was based on a real case in Kano, Nigeria in the novel of the same name by John LeCarre. Movie and review. 


My friend Emily will be live tweeting from the Red Carpet outside the Oscars this year from @emiliealys. We will have real time updates from her trip this Sunday.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Six Free Killer Thrillers - Feb 20-22


If you like thrillers on your e-reader, today is your day. 

Six authors -- C.J. Lyons, Alexandra Sokoloff, Karen Dionne, Keith Raffel, Grant McKenzie and J.D. Rhoades - are giving away free copies of their thrillers on Amazon today. It's too good of a deal not to share. 


Here is a rundown of the books (descriptions taken 
from 


Goodreads):



A Fine and Dangerous Season, Keith Raffel

The phone rings in the California home of businessman Nate Michaels before the sun is up on October 24, 1962. An hour later he's on an Air Force jet to Washington. Michaels hasn't seen or spoken to President Kennedy since they met at Stanford in the fall of 1940, but now JFK needs his help opening a back channel to defuse the threat posed by Soviet missiles in Cuba. In both the Pentagon and the Kremlin, pro-war generals want a showdown, not a humiliating compromise. As the world races toward nuclear holocaust during a fine and dangerous autumn, Michaels finds himself spinning in a maelstrom of statecraft, espionage, love, and betrayal.

"A compelling story, written with a sure hand, that keeps you intrigued. But watch out for the gut punches. They come often and unexpectedly. Raffel definitely has his game on." --Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author of The Columbus Affair and The Jefferson Key

"A rare historical novel - exciting and utterly believable - with Jack Kennedy as you've never seen him. Raffel is a master storyteller. I loved A Fine and Dangerous Season." --Gayle Lynds, New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Spies






Freezing Point, Karen Dionne

One man's dream of providing clean drinking water for millions, tapped from the polar ice, sparks a conflict of humanity, science, big business, and environmental extremism.

But no one can foresee the true danger hidden deep within the ice-an enemy more deadly than any could imagine, and an apocalyptic horror mankind may not survive





Lucidity: A Ghost of a Love Story, C.J. Lyons

Former ER doctor Grace Moran has been through a lot. After witnessing her husband's murder and barely surviving herself, she's left medicine and become a prisoner of her own house and mind. Until she wakes up in her old hospital, told that she has a brain tumor that can only be treated if she agrees to participate in an experimental drug protocol using Lucidine.

Grace sees her brain tumor as a blessing rather than a curse. It's a chance for her to die and be reunited with her lost love, her soul mate, her husband. 

Before she can flee the hospital, she stumbles on two critically ill children whose lives are also at stake. Will Lucidine cure them or kill them? The three work to unravel the mysteries behind the experimental drugs and the strange effects it has on patients but unwittingly unleash a madman intent on murder.

Their only allies are the ghost of Grace's murdered husband, a time-traveling Jesuit, and an ancient Irish warrior queen as they are pulled into a world where time is meaningless, fate is fluid, and love never dies...





Breaking Cover, J. D. Rhodes

From the Shamus Award-nominated author of the critically-acclaimed Jack Keller southern crime series comes an explosive stand-alone thriller about an undercover federal agent, a chameleon whose specialty is assaulting criminal organizations from within.
He was the most talented undercover agent in FBI history, until he dropped completely off the grid, and hasn't been heard from in years. Did he go native, or was he discovered and killed? When Tony Wolf is finally driven out into the open, torn from deep cover during the rescue of two kidnapped children, he becomes the number one target of both the vicious biker gang he double-crossed and a massive Federal manhunt.
But Tony’s tired of being the hunted, and as both the gang and a traitorous FBI agent converge on a small southern town, they’re all about to learn a hard lesson:  When the Wolf breaks cover, he doesn’t always run away.


Switch, Grant McKenzie

How far would you go to save the ones you love? Would you run five traffic lights in a row? Would you rob a store at gunpoint? Would you commit murder?Security guard Sam White's life falls apart when he arrives home to find his house a burned-out shell with the bodies of his wife and daughter inside. Then he receives a phone call from a man who claims that his wife and child are alive and Sam can still save them. But first, he must complete a few simple tasks. Sam joins forces with Zack Parker whose life has also been ripped apart by the same sadistic kidnapper. Together they plunge into the dark, labyrinthine underworld of Portland, Oregon, and into a race against time to discover the identity of the kidnapper and save their families before it's too late.




The Unseen, Alexandra Sokoloff

A terrifying novel of suspense based on the Rhine parapsychology experiments at Duke University

After experiencing a precognitive dream that ends her engagement and changes her life forever, a young psychology professor from California decides to get a fresh start by taking a job at Duke University in North Carolina. She soon becomes obsessed with the files from the world-famous Rhine parapsychology lab experiments, which attempted to prove ESP really exists.

Along with a handsome professor, she uncovers troubling cases, including one about a house supposedly haunted by a poltergeist, investigated by another research team in 1965. Unaware that the entire original team ended up insane or dead, the two professors and two exceptionally gifted Duke students move into the abandoned mansion to replicate the investigation, with horrifying results.

The Unseen is Alexandra Sokoloff's most thrilling novel to date: a story of deception, attraction, and the unknown.



Monday, February 18, 2013

Once Upon A Time: Manhattan



This weeks episode of Once Upon a Time was a big storyline payoff from seeds that have been planted since the beginning of the show, and I'm not talking about magic beanstalk seeds.  Don't read this unless you are caught up and have watched, "Manhatttan."

So now it's confirmed that everyone's favorite theory is true.  Rumple's son Baelfire is Neal and Henry's Emma-deserting, thief father. Henry has both Prince Charming and Rumplestiltskin for grandfathers, the Evil Queen as his adopted mom, and Snow White for a grandmother. As Charming pointed out in my favorite line from the episode, "That would be one awkward Thanksgiving."

This episode made sense of the snappy buy mysterious opening to season two, with Neal (although we didn't know who he was at that point) getting the Storybrooke post card from the pigeon saying the word, "broken." I went back and watched the scene and it's the same Manhattan apartment. I'm still not sure what all of the close ups of horses or the song that played in the background, "Charley's Girl" by Lou Reed in that scene we're about, but I liked the song much I bought it.

We spent a good bit of the episode on Rumple's backstory, how he lost Mila's love by being a coward to come home alive to her and their newborn son and how badly he wanted his son. This almost makes us sympathize with the Dark One. Almost. This completely vanishes at the end of the episode and I think you know what I mean. 

Meanwhile back in Storybrooke, The Queens, Evil and Hearts, are looking for Rumples dagger so they can steal it's dark magic. Regina is going along with this so she can get Henry back. This doesn't seem like a winning strategy to me, but I don't think like an evil queen (well most of the time.) And they both decided they had gotten enough usefulness out of everyone's favorite pirate, Hook. 

Our mystery visitor with the even more mysterious Pennsylvania license plate (2KFL138) now has a video of Regina performing magic over Belle's bedside. He e-mailed this to his mysterious female contact that we only know as "Her" from his caller ID on his cell phone.  

On the surface this story seems to be your basic "the mere mortals found out we're special" problem that seems to surface in almost every magical story from Harry Potter to Charmed. I don't find this type of story super compelling but...every time I see the "Her" on his caller ID, I think of the White Witch from the Chronicles of Narnia. And then I think, the wardrobe from the Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is a portal that goes between the real world and the magic world. And Disney, which owns ABC, co-produced the recent Chronicles of Narnia movies. Hmmm. If a lion shows up my suspicions will be confirmed, and that might be super interesting.

Now we know who Baelfire is, what mysteries do we have:
1) Can Regina and her mom get Rumple's super evil dagger? Bets are that they will but it won't work how they want it to.

2) Will Neal go back to Storybrooke? Sure. He wants to spend time with his son. Does he have another fairy tale role, like Peter Pan?

3) Who is: "Her" and what will the exposure of magic to the real world mean for our fairy tale friends?

4) What does license (2KFL138) plate mean?

5) The seer said that Henry is more than he seems. What does that mean?????

Interested in your theories and comments below. 

You can see other Once commentaries from Mystery Playground here








Sunday, February 17, 2013

Murder in Amish Country: A Plain Scandal



Amanda Flower's new Amish Country mystery, A Plain Scandal, made it's debut this week, and in celebration Amanda has shared some photos from her research trip with us. Look for her description below each photo.

She describes her Amish mysteries as, "witty suspense with hope," and I agree.


"This photo was taken in Holmes County Ohio. This horse is similar to Sparky, Grandfather Zook's horse in the series. Sparky is a major player in book two."


Here's the book blurb for A Plain Scandal (you can read the first chapter on Amanda's Facebook page, look for the Facebook link below):
The Amish in the quiet Appleseed Creek community are under attack. An unknown assailant is cutting off the long hair of Amish women and the beards of Amish men. Computer specialist, Chloe Humphrey, is alarmed over the crimes against the Amish and worries over how the events will impact the Troyer family, especially her housemate Becky and Becky’s older brother Timothy. Her anxiety increases when she discovers the body of an Amish businessman, who had been stabbed in the back and his beard cut off. Now, Chloe and her friends must find the culprit behind the hair-cutting before someone else pays the ultimate price.

"This is an Amish farm in Knox County Ohio. The series in set in Knox County and this what I imagine when I think of the Troyer farm."


A Plain Scandal is the second book in the series, so you may want to start with the first, A Plain Death...
An unlikely friendship between a high-tech woman and a runaway Amish girl leads to murder. Her first day in Appleseed Creek, Ohio, Chloe Humphrey, befriends Becky, an ex-Amish teenager looking for a new home. While driving Chloe’s car, Becky collides with a buggy, killing an Amish bishop in the process. The case moves from accident to murder when police reveal a cut brake line. Now, Chloe and Becky’s handsome brother, Timothy, must discover who the real intended victim is before the murderer makes a second attempt.

"This is an Amish plow team. Notice how the horses are bigger than the one in the previous photograph. Many Amish use retired racehorses to pull their buggies, but larger animals like these for the farm work. This was also take in Knox County, Ohio."


The third installment in the series comes out in September of 2013 and is called A Plain Disappearance...

It’s Christmastime in Amish Country, and Chloe Humphrey settles into her life in Appleseed Creek excited to see where her relationship with Timothy Troyer will lead. Unfortunately on her first official date with Timothy, the couple discovers the body of an Amish teenager Katie Lambright. Near the body, there is evidence that Timothy’s friend and auto mechanic Billy Thorpe is involved with the murder. The police reveal Billy is an escaped convict who has been living the last decade in Knox County under a stolen alias. Now, Chloe and Timothy must find Billy bring him to justice or prove his innocence.

"Food is very important in Amish fiction, so I have visited many Amish restaurants and bakeries. The Amish are famous for their pies."
"This last picture was taken in Sugarcreek, one of my very favorite Holmes County towns. It's only an hour and half from my home, so I go there often. This was take in February, and as you can see, the weather was awful. However, the Amish still have to go about their business. Bicycles are another main form of transportation for the Amish."


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