Michael’s birthday in January and our 44th anniversary in June, both celebrated at EMP as has become our custom. But the REALLY BIG event was my 70th birthday in October. As I’m still in catching up mode because of my nearly two-month absence from the blog, reports about what transpired during our two celebratory dinners at EMP are in the works, so stay tuned!
New York Times Puzzles
Sunday: 23 completed without errors. 13 completed with errors, 6 of those with only one mistake.
Thursday: 14 completed without errors. 7 completed with errors, 5 of those with only one mistake.
We saw ten plays. Seven were part of our Roundabout subscription and three were independent productions.
First, the Roundabout plays. Loved Harvey! I’ve never watched The Big Bang Theory, the TV sit-com in which Jim Parsons stars, so this was my first time seeing him in action. He did a great job as Elwood P. Dodd, the role made famous in the movie by James Stewart. The raves Douglas Hodge received for his leading role performance in Cyrano de Bergerac were justly deserved. And I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed The Common Pursuit. Don’t Dress for Dinner, a typical British farce, was frothy entertainment. Look Back in Anger was a severe disappointment. Actually, quite awful. If There Is, I Haven’t Found It was a ridiculous title, and what I did find was that it was utterly bo-o-o-ring! Lastly, a week ago, we saw the revival of Picnic. Ellen Burstyn and Mare Winningham were the only case members familiar to me. While I couldn’t find fault with their acting or that of the others, I found the play itself was rather dull. .
As for the other three, The Lyons, starring the always wonderful Linda Lavin, was an enjoyable comedy. She received a Tony nomination but didn’t win. James Corden, truly a master of improvisation, did win a Tony for his riotous, laugh-a-minute performance in One Man, Two Guvnors. Finally, Death of a Salesman with Philip Seymour Hoffman as Willy Lowman was fantastic! Better, I thought, than the previous Broadway production with Brian Dennehy. Definitely the standout of the ten.
In 2011, we went out to the movies only once. This year, we increased it to three times. Early in 2012, we saw two movies which had actually opened in 2011. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows had Robert Downey, Jr., and Jude Law reprising the roles of Holmes and Watson respectively. As with the first movie, I loved the interplay between the two men. A slight detraction for me was that some of the action scenes were way too long. But the final moment was a total hoot. The Descendents, starring George Clooney, was a family drama. The story held my interest, and the acting was excellent. The third movie, Skyfall, with Daniel Craig, opened in November. I’d seen Casino Royale and enjoyed that but skipped the second Bond movie with Craig. In Skyfall, the special effects and stunt work are truly amazing, and it’s cool having the old Astin Martin come out of storage. Craig is fine as Bond but, in my opinion, he lacks that certain je ne sais quoi that Sean Connery brought to the role making him, for me, the quintessential Bond.
We attended one concert. Brahms’ Third Symphony is one of my absolute favorites. Why orchestras rarely perform it is a mystery to me. Thus, when I saw it on a New York Philharmonic program in November along with Brahms’ Fourth Symphony – another favorite – I absolutely had to get tickets. I was not disappointed. The Philharmonic’s former conductor, Maestro Kurt Masur, returned to lead them in what was a thrilling performance.
We attended three ballets during ABT’s spring-summer season. It had been more than 35 years since Michael and I had seen a live production of Romeo and Juliet. That performance was by the New York City Ballet Co. back when Balanchine was the director. While we’re familiar with some of the music by Prokofiev, we didn’t remember anything about the choreography though no doubt it would have been different from the ABT version. Jen and Louis, who had never seen it before, came with us. We all agreed that the dancing and acting were superb. It was just the two of us for our favorite ballets: La Bayadère and Swan Lake. As usual, both were mesmerizing.
We went to the Frick twice. The Renoir exhibit consisted of nine full-length portraits. Mategna to Matisse: Master Drawing from the Courtauld Gallery is still on display.
I read sixteen books this year + one I didn’t finish. Mostly fiction and mysteries but a few non-fiction as well.
Joanna Trollope is one of my favorite fiction writers. I’d fallen behind on her output, so I caught up on three of her novels. Friday Nights has a large cast of characters, mainly women who get together every Friday night. When one of them meets a new beau, things take a dramatic turn for all of them. In The Other Family, a famous performer dies, and his will sets off a conflict between the woman and daughters he’d been living with for 20 years and the wife he’d never divorced and their son. Daughters-in-law is about how the dynamics in a family change when the youngest son gets married.
I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson two years ago. It took me until early this year to get the second book in the trilogy off the regular shelves at the library. (For some reason, the third book was always there, but I wanted to read them in order.) The Girl Who Played with Fire was even better than Dragon Tattoo. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest was, in my opinion, the best of the three. It makes me so sad that Larsson died. Such a fabulous writer!
An Ocean Apart by Robin Pilcher. Britich author Rosamunde Pilcher’s son. I’ve read and very much enjoyed all her books. Following in her footsteps, his plot is a family drama. While the story is interesting, I didn’t find his writing style to be as pleasing as his mother’s.
Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld. Fascinating look at what goes on at a prep school from the vantage point of a main character who doesn’t come from a privileged background.
Tunnel of Love by Hilma Wolitzer. It had been years since I’d read anything by her. Interesting story but I found her writing style in this book unappealing.
I’ve read Sue Grafton’s alphabetically titled mysteries in order since A is for Alibi. They come out once a year. This year, it was V is for Vengeance. While we are in the 21st Century, Grafton’s private detective, Kinsey Milhone, remains in the 1980’s. As always, an A+ read!
I’ve also read Elisabeth George’s Inspector Lynley mysteries in order. The latest, Believing the Lie, is superblu written annd engrossing.
I hadn’t read any P.D. James in ages, so I decided to catch up on a couple of her Inspector Adam Dalgliesh mysteries. Death in Holy Orders was published in 2001 when she was 81 years old. In addition to murders that need solving, romance is in the air for Dalgliesh. The Murder Room, which came out the following year, has Dalgliesh’s team solving the murders when he falls ill and moves his romantic entanglement along.
A Clue for the Puzzle Lady by Parnell Hall. Because I enjoy doing the NY Times crosswords, I thought I might like this book, the first of a series. I didn’t because I felt the plot line and characters were rather silly.
I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephon. I hadn’t read this when it first came out. Reading it after Ephron’s death a few months ago was bittersweet. Many of her comments were ironic. For example, she talks about getting to be 80. (She was 70 when she died.) The final chapter about death was painfully true.
Giorgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman. While tooling around the TV dial, I happened upon the movie The Duchess, starring Keira Knightley, which I really enjoyed. It piqued my interest in reading the award winning book upon which the movie was based. An engaging read about a truly fascinating woman.
Four Kitchens: My Life Behind the Burner in New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv, and Paris by Lauren Shockey. An interesting memoir. This past year, Shockey left her position as a writer for the Village Voice’s food blog, Fork in the Road.
The only book I didn’t finish: Heat by Bill Buford. I was so turned off by the portrait he paints of Mario Batali that I stopped reading after the first few chapters.
For years, I resisted dumping the so 20th Century Sony TV and the VCR in our bedroom. I bought the TV f or my mother in 2000 when she moved here from Florida to an assisted living facility. When she died in 2001, I took it to replace a really old (25+ years) TV. When Michael bought a flat screen and got a DVR for the family room, I remained quite satisfied with the arrangement in the bedroom which is where I prefer to watch TV. I saw no reason to toss perfectly functioning pieces of equipment. Even the government required switch to digital didn’t persuade me to change. We installed a cable box with the intent of being able to receive all the channels offered by our provider Cablevision. However, we discovered that the box posed a problem, i.e., if I was recording something, I couldn’t watch any other station thereby defeating one of the purposes of having a VCR. So, we returned the box. That meant I was only able to get a very few cable stations. No matter. Since TNT and USA remained among the very few, I could care less about the rest. Then, this past summer, Cablevision announced that it was requiring installation of cable boxes in order to receive any reception at all. Forced to relent! So, out with the 12-year-old 20” Sony and the VCR (not sure how old it was). In with a 30” Samsung flat screen, a DVR, and a Blue Ray component. Very 21st Century! O.K. I must admit that I’m liking this new set-up a lot.
In early 2012, Michael decided to replace his iPad 2 with the iPad3. And I became the recipient of his hand-me-down. In Luddite mode with regard to iPads, I hadn’t paid any attention to it, so it lay ignored on my desk. That was until the cable box issue arose. You see, in addition to affecting the TV. in the bedroom, Cablevision’s dictate also affected the very small TV. in the kitchen. There was no way we were getting a cable box because there was no space for it on the baker’s rack where the TV stood. Enter the iPad! Since we have wifi, we can get TV reception on the iPad in any room in our house. So, we ditched the small TV and have been using the iPad instead. It’s actually even better than the stationary TV because its portability thereby making for improved viewing. That led to me becoming familiar with the iPad’s other capabilities, and it’s now an important member of my electronics arsenal.
One of the benefits from having the new TV set-up was discovering that among the hundreds of stations I can now access – for the most part, rather a vast wasteland — there is the excellent Turner Classic Movies station. All the movies are shown uncut and commercial-free! I happen to love films in black and white, and they show a lot of them. I’ve come across quite a few I’d never heard of before and which turned out to be very entertaining.
Having never watched Mad Men, I’ve begun to do so on Netflix. I’ve quite a way to go since I’m still in Season One.
The Closer wrapped up its final season, but happily, there is the spin-off Major Crimes. Most of Brenda Leigh Johnson’s team remains together now under the leadership of Det. Sharon Raydor played by Mary McDonnell. Loved the first season and especially enjoyed watching the relationship between Sharon and the young man she took into her home. I’m eagerly looking forward to the show’s return this summer.
The Good Wife, Royal Pains, Suits, NCIS, and Downton Abbey were (and remain) on my must-watch list. I also watched the second season of the new Upstairs Downstairs which I believe will be returning. And, of course, I continue to follow The Young and the Restless.
We did our usual spring clean-up. But there was a whole lot more going on with our house which is continuing into 2013. There’ll be several upcoming posts with the details.
Philadelphia in May: Our friend uhockey was there for a medical convention, so we met up with him for a few days of Philly dining. We had dinner with him at Vetri (which we’d been to before in 2008) and the French bistro Bibou, brunch at the Greek restaurant Kanella (I thought it the best meal of the trip), and lunch at The Dandelion, a British-style pub. Michael and I also had one dinner on our own at Lacroix at The Rittenhouse. We stayed at The Palomar, a terrific boutique hotel.
In December, my cousins opened a Manhattan branch in the West Village on Christopher Street.
As usual, I’ve continued to provide the list of places quarterly. Photo sets from all these meals can be found on my Flickr. I did several “Memorable” lists last year, and there will be some again. Look for them in future posts.
New Year’s Eve
We did our annual fondue for two at home in New Jersey. The quality of the filet mignon (I get them as steaks and cut them up myself) was outstanding. It’s always a challenge getting the potatoes rosti to come out right, so I was particularly pleased at how beautifully they turned out this time.
We listened to the final four selections on WQXR’s Classical Countdown. No surprise that Number 1 was Beethoven’s Ninth, as it has been for many years. But it ran past midnight, so just before the clock struck twelve, we shut off the radio and watched the ball drop on the TV in the family room. Then, we moved upstairs to our bedroom to watch a re-mastered version on DVD of Vertigo, my favorite Hitchcock movie.
Once again, I want to thank all of you who have visited here during 2012. Even if you have not commented, the year-end statistics provided by WordPress tell me there are many of you out there reading my little blog. I should also add that according to Flickr statistics, even more folks are looking at my photos. It’s all very flattering. I did 80 posts in 2012 – averaging a bit more than once a week. Had it not been for my absence, that figure would undoubtedly have been higher. In any case, during 2013, I’m going to make a concerted effort to post more often. I hope you will continue to come here and find what I have to say informative and entertaining.
My best wishes to all of you for a healthy, happy, and safe 2013!