Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mending the Sail

Mending the Sail

Stretched Canvas Print

Sorolla y...

Buy at

It Isn't Work

I received a beautiful hand-made card the other day, with this poem in it. The note on the poem said "by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, November, 1927"

Busy Day in <span class=Dollville" border="0" height="315" width="400">

Busy Day in Dollville
Tin Sign

Buy at

It Isn't Work
It isn't work, if you like to do it, 
It isn't work if it gives a thrill, 
If always pleasant thoughts imbue it, 
If you do it gladly and with a will. 

It isn't "housework"--dusting, mending, 
Scrubbing floors and baking things, 
Washing dishes and pans unending, 
To one who laughs and smiles and sing. 

It isn't work, if you find good measure
Of cheer and sun in every minute. 
It isn't housework--it's home pleasure, 
With a little love and laughter in it!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Sensible Sense and Sensibility

By Miss DePoint, The Pleasant Times Movie Critic
Willoughby Begs a Lock of Marianne Dashwood's Hair
Willoughby Begs a Lock of Marianne Dashwood's Hair Giclee Print
Brock, C.e.
Buy at
I am going to say something that will sicken those who think that they have had quite enough of Jane Austen.

For those of you who have seen all the adaptations there can be of this movie, I give you permission to skip my rantings and ravings. 

I have viewed yet another adaptation of Sense and Sensibility: The 1981 BBC miniseries (Yes, I know, it is old; some of you weren't even born then!). It is not as good quality filming, true; and the colors are rather faded and there is no dramatic music; but I thought it was worth a look.

Now I will say something that will astonish my friends: I think it is the best one yet!

The BEST Marianne I have seen yet is in this 1981 adaptation. Sense and Sensibility fans need to watch this Marriane for themselves, and see if they come to the same conclusion. The actress gives us all the impressions of youth, of a head that is full of misguided poetical romantic notions, of childish prejudice, and she is a better at crying than the 2007 Marriane. But most of all (shock coming--) she's modest. And that makes more sense to me... if I were her mother, I wouldn't let her go out as uncovered as the 1995 Marriane was. 

This adaptation also made it clear that Elinor liked to draw and paint, and really showed the level-head and good sense of her character, coupled with the doubts and trials of her situation and her inexperience of youth. In many scenes she was too pale, I think, looking much like a wax doll. I think the film needs to be updated with some color enhancement. I liked this Elinor a lot, even though she couldn't cry very convincingly.

Even though the Edward in this version has gone out of style- they all look much more "dashing" these days- he was the best Edward portrayal I have seen yet. The filmmakers took the time to establish more of a relationship between he and Elinor, as they did in the '07 series, yet  I think this actor did a much better job of making his character count in the film. One gets the feeling that there may be some substance to this character, in the short amount of time we see him; and he seems quiet and sober, which suits Elinor. 

The mother happens to be the best portrayal of the mother I have seen, too. She isn't so depressed as the other Mrs. Dashwoods have been. She has a way of seeming cheerful under the circumstances that she has been put in. She seemed to be portrayed here as having sense, even though we are told in the book that she was not unlike Marriane. 

There were some liberties taken with the film; some details were changed or left out, for instance, and Margeret's character has been left out entirely. But that didn't really matter to me... she didn't figure too prominently in the book, and all the modern films have done is use her to show that somehow girls in Jane Austen's day were oppressed and didn't have a hope of growing up to be a sea captain or soldier. Leaving her out was probably cheaper for the producers, but it didn't seem to hurt the story to have her gone. 

The "fall" scene where Willoughby rescues Marriane left out the rain storm, but we can forgive that for the introduction of a really well done Willoughby. MUCH better than Mr. Frog from the '07 version, and younger than the 1995 Willoughby, though Greg Wise is hard to top in that role.

Colonel Brandon at first did not seem interesting, but stay with him during the story, and you will find that he is very kind and gentle.  He was a gentleman through and through. You may like him by the end, though he does seem too old for Marianne.

The other characters in the book show up here, as in the 2007 version-- Sir John and his wife Lady Middleton, Mrs. Jennings, and the Dashwood and Ferrars family, as well as the Miss Steeles. I was not impressed too much with the Miss Steeles. I would have to watch it again to see if they improve with time. Some may find the other characters disappointing or lacking humor. If you aren't familiar with the book or watching the film carefully, you may be confused by the introduction of all these people. 

I liked John and Fanny Dashwood better in this version, their characters seemed closer to the book. I did not like Fanny's hysterical screaming, but when one has read some of Jane Austen's juvenile works, one could see how she would laugh at the ridiculous over-the-top fainting and screaming.  

There isn't as much scenery as in other films, and not a great variety of costumes, but I did like some of the details of the dresses. 

This series takes some quiet and calm time to view. Put up your feet in the evening and get a cup of tea. Beyond Fanny's screaming, there isn't a lot of really highly noisy or stressful drama, and it takes more concentration to watch this series as it moves slower than a modern movie. 

Favorite Scenes: When Elinor dumps Marriane off the see-saw, it was rather amusing. I also liked the scenes with Elinor and Edward. 
Least Favorite Scenes: Fanny Screaming!
Who would I like to invite to Tea? Mrs. Dashwood. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Secret Ingredients

I have two "secret" ingredients in the kitchen that make everything oh so tasty. And they are convenient, too... onion and garlic powder.

I have long wanted to discover how to make my own "Ranch" style salad dressing. I am a little bit suspicious of all the teeny tiny print on bottles of salad dressing, and would prefer to make it myself and keep it simple. Salad dressing doesn't last long around here so we don't really need all the preservatives. After several years of trying, I think I have hit on the "secret" to the taste of the bottled stuff (I mean, besides MSG and "natural flavoring"): Garlic and onion. But more garlic than onion, and the sprinkling of green herbs are just for show.

Onions, a Jug and a Ceramic Pot on a Tablecloth
Onions, a Jug and a Ceramic Pot on a Tablecloth Giclee Print
Brooker, Harry
Buy at

However, fresh herbs from the garden really are tasty, and one doesn't have to be skimpy with them in one's own recipes. I don't really measure ingredients when I make up recipes, I just measure taste.

Ranch-style Salad Dressing ingredients:
Several large spoonfuls of Best Foods or Hellman's Mayonnaise
A bit of cream or milk, or water if someone is avoiding dairy. Just enough to thin the mayonnaise down to pouring consistency. Made a little thicker it makes a great dip for raw veggies.
Garlic powder
Onion Powder
Fresh or dried herbs, your favorite flavor. This dressing tastes with chives alone, dill alone, or a mix of herbs such as thyme and marjoram.
A small bit of salt if needed, but it shouldn't need much if any.
Mix this with a little whisk to get any lumps out. Add the garlic and onion powder in small amounts until you get to the right taste- however you like it.

Herb Display 1
Herb Display 1
Art Print

Gamboa, Consuelo
Buy at

Garlic and Onion powder also happen to be a "secret" ingredient in making my own imitation Alfredo sauce. This is lower in fat and works well in a pinch when you don't have cream on hand but crave a creamy pasta dish.

Make a white sauce, using your favorite recipe and milk. We aren't being super gourmet here, and you can use the quick cornstarch white sauce recipe on the side of the cornstarch box. Add 1/4 cup or more finely grated Parmesan cheese, and the garlic and onion powder as you like it. Don't cook it until it is super thick, just until it starts to thicken, then pour over your pasta and vegetables.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bedrooms are for Sleeping

Or, Thoughts on Visiting for Parents and Children
By The Pleasant Times Etiquette Expert

When I was a child, and invited over to other children's houses with my family, it was inevitable that I was sent away with the child of the house to their room, where there were oodles of toys. Very often the child, in hospitable zeal, got out ALL the toys at once and invited me to play with whatever I wanted to. This was surely nice, and it was quite an honor to be treated thus. I assumed that since this was their room, the child knew what he was doing and so I shyly picked up a toy.  However, when the visiting time was over, and the parents came to fetch us children, they would look at the room in horror, and say "Look at this mess! You can't come out until this is all cleaned up."

Now I believe that children should clean up their messes. It wasn't that that bothered me so much, it was the shame of thinking that I was looked upon as an instigator in this mess. Oh, they may not have said it, but I could tell the look on the parent's face as they surveyed the room, then surveyed their child, then surveyed me, that they thought it was partly my fault. That perhaps I had encouraged their child to make this mess by asking for too many things, or going and getting them out myself. Being a shy child, I never did such things. But being a shy child, I never could muster up the courage to tattle-tale on the real culprit. 
It was always an embarrassing experience and one repeated often when I was very young.

When I was older and had a voice, I would ask, "are you sure your parents said we could.... play with that family heirloom? ...that big game? ....that antique toy? ...get something in the kitchen to eat  ....get this or that out?" Many children confidently affirmed that, yes, their parents let them do whatever they wanted. And how many times was that proved wrong? Same embarrassing situation again... but the parents are more upset, and give more piercing looks. Has that ever happend to you?

Secret Place
Secret Place Giclee Print
Barber, Charles...
Buy at

Or how about the other way around: how many of you can recall having a family over, and you took the child to entertain in your room while the adults visit? How many times did your hospitable obligation led you to let the child play with some of your most precious things? How many times did the guest jump all over your bed and messed it up? And how many times was your room been wrecked by said child? 

How many of you parents have had guests over, whose children disappeared down the hallway to your child's room, where all kinds of bumps, noises, crashes and cries come to disturb your visit? All the jumping up and down to check on the kids interrupts the flow of conversation. 

Or perhaps you, the parent, were the guest; when it was time to go and find your child, did you find you had to navigate your way through a strange labyrinth of doors and hallways to see where she was? 

Even worse, how many of you have been to visit others, only to find the teens all go and lock themselves in someone's bedroom and play loud music? Not only is that rude, but it isn't good training for real-world socialization. 

I realize that adults would love a time to have a quiet, deep and meaningful conversation with friends, without children in the same room, talking noisily, or interrupting. However, I think that one could find a creative way to get around this without sending junior down the dark hallway to the bedroom to play. 
Here are my thoughts for solving this: Bedrooms are private. Keep your bedrooms for sleeping in.
Bedrooms are for peace and rest; we do tend to use them as playrooms or storerooms, but it is our personal area and our personal things.  Unless we have prepared the room especially to receive guests, I consider the bedroom private. I don't believe in sending children off to a bedroom, out of sight and earshot, to play and wreak havoc.
It is nice for a child to share a toy to entertain a guest, but take it out of the bedroom before the guests arrive, and shut the door behind you! Parents can help their children think of all the things they can do to entertain a little guest, and prepare ahead of time for the visit. There is no need for the guests to get a tour of every inch of your house, unless you, the parent, decide to take them on one. 

There are many ways to be hospitable, to show your guests preference and honor, and give to them your very best. Perhaps, though, it doesn't have to include play time in your child's bedroom. 
Find a place close by to where you are, where your children can play a quiet game, or talk politely, and where you can still see them. If they want to play outside, make sure you can see where they are and where they're going. You may have told junior not to play in the flower bed, but in the excitement of the moment, junior might have forgotten and he and his friend trampled your flowers. If you can at least see the children, you might prevent a lot of trouble and damage. 

If your child is invited to go to someone's bedroom, make sure you say something, such as "I'd rather keep junior where I can see him. Can they play on the porch out here?" Make sure that your children know to play quietly in the house. When they are older children, teach them to politely say, "Thank you, but can we play (somewhere close by)?" 
As for teenagers, they ought to be quiet and listen to the adults converse. It is good for them to experience the real world. If they are desperate to have a private conversation of their own, they can also go out to the porch or someplace where they can be seen. Why do they need so much secrecy? A respectful teenager will also ask permission to leave the room with a guest, stating why and where they are going, and making sure that the visiting family is okay with it. 

Remember that people are often embarrassed to say anything, lest they seem to be "making a fuss," and so might agree to things that they are really not comfortable with. If you are such a person, try to find ways to say things ( such as "I don't let my children go unsupervised") in polite ways, and in the sweetest way possible. 
I realize that it is sometimes not possible to prevent damage or chaos, or even to keep an eye on children at all times. I do believe, however,  that at least trying to supervise children at play may prevent a lot of woes. 

Some may disagree with what I have said here, not wanting to monitor their child's every movement (though I did not say you have to follow every footfall of your child) or somehow hinder their freedom. If you feel that way, time and experience may soften your opinion of my views. 

Children get excited when a playmate is coming over! Giving and receiving hospitality can be (and should be) a wonderful experience, both for the parent and the child. 

Friday, October 10, 2008