Suzy & Spice

a pinch of this, a dash of that

Archive for the ‘movies’ Category

Random thoughts 01/10/10

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on January 10, 2010

I was writing an e-mail to a college roommate this afternoon when I realized that if she clicks the link below my signature and goes to my blog – which she’s likely to do because we haven’t been in touch since I started the blog – she will see very few recent posts.

So, even though I can’t seem to form a coherent thought lately, you need to know that I am not dead.

Random thoughts on a Sunday afternoon:

  • I’ll begin Accounting II on Saturday, Jan. 16, after withdrawing last semester so as to avoid a heart attack from everything that was going on in our lives (I mentioned the latest heart symptoms in my Sept. 12, 2009, random thoughts). I decided to try a Saturday morning class because I simply hate having to rush home from work, gulp down a few bites of something and rush to class, sit there for nearly 3 hours trying to stay awake and get home just before bedtime. Besides, I’m a morning person, and that’s when I do my best thinking (if you call me after 9 p.m. – or if you’re a former roommate [hi, Di!] – you’ll understand). My class this semester will be 8-10:40 a.m.
  • I finished reading In Cold Blood, although I never told you I finished it. I mentioned it in my March 22, 2009, post (a random-thoughts post that was a LOT more interesting than this one, and a lot less depressing than the 09/12 one, so check it out), and I finished it months ago, but now I have closure since I have told you about it. 🙂 The book was great, if creepy. Killers with no remorse. And it’s a true story. I read somewhere that when Perry and Dick were hanged, Truman Capote (the book’s author) became physically ill and had to remove himself from the crowd of onlookers. Interviewing the killers, retracing the events of the heinous murders, left a lasting impression on him, and he was never the same. I believe it was his last book.
  • And this year I finally started reading the book on which my favorite movie was based – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Since the first time I saw the movie about 20 years ago, I’ve been in love with Atticus Finch (Bruce understands – I think). I kept telling myself I needed to read the book, but when I checked for it at the local library, it was always checked out. After several months (maybe even a year) of checking, I finally inquired about it at the desk, because the electronic card catalog kept saying it was NOT checked out. They said it probably had met the same fate as a lot of the other classics: Someone simply took it and never brought it back. Before Christmas, I finally checked again, and they had 2 copies! (Bruce was an English major and has many, many of the classics, but we’re not sure whether this book is in one of the boxes-upon-boxes of books that we have packed, ready to move “someday.)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Part 2 (because the above paragraph was getting long and this really should be a separate post): So I’ve been reading it, along with dealing with the usual Christmas chaos, which this year included getting new windows installed all over the house (the “2 1/2-day” job took nearly 3 weeks!), and trying to read a little of my Accounting I book to refresh myself since taking a semester off, and being tired and going to bed early. And from the very first sentence of this long-desired book, I was hooked. It just draws you in immediately, this tale told through the eyes of a 5-year-old tomboy in a small 1930s Southern town. I have to say, though, that this is one of the rare cases in which I didn’t immediately start to think, “The book is way better than the movie.” The movie is just so darned good, it actually enhances the reading of the book. When I read a book after I’ve first seen the movie, I try not to imagine the actors as those characters. Most times, the actors are too Hollywood, I guess. But in this case, I am imagining Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus, and the kids who played Scout and Jem and Dill, and of Calpurnia and the schoolchildren and the neighbors. … I’m in chapter 10 or 11, and we haven’t even gotten to the rape trial yet. But it’s not slow reading. It’s written through the eyes of little tomboy Scout Finch, and it’s just delightful, because the actress they picked to play Scout is just perfect  – not Hollywood at all (please, if you know anything about the actress that will burst my bubble, keep it to yourself!). And Scout and Jem and Dill and Atticus – and even Boo Radley (Robert Duvall), even though the kids haven’t laid eyes on him yet – those are the faces I see as I read. Brilliant casting.
  • This bullet point is sort of To Kill a Mockingbird (hereafter referred to as TKAM), Part 3, but it’s technically about the author and not the book, so cut me some slack. 🙂 Did you know that Harper Lee and Truman Capote were childhood friends? In fact, Harper Lee was Capote’s research assistant for In Cold Blood. And her character Dill Harris in TKAM was based on old friend Truman. Some say Capote was the real author of TKAM, but others say it’s a ridiculous notion, the different writing styles being one clue among many.
  • (Link to info about the movie To Kill a Mockingbird.)
  • The next book I read may be Breakfast at Tiffany’s (by Capote), another book I’ve never read but I’ve seen the movie. I didn’t like the movie the first time I watched it – not in spite of Audrey Hepburn but because of her, or at least the character she played. Audrey Hepburn is delightful to watch, but I did not like Holly Golightly the first time I experienced this movie (I tend to judge people I perceive as flighty and irresponsible). Fortunately, my favorite song, “Moon River,” is a big part of the movie, so there have been times when I’ve popped the DVD into the player just to hear that beautiful Mancini tune. So, because of the wonderful song, I’ve grown to love the movie and appreciate the sadness and lostness of the main character. But I imagine this will be one of those times when the book will be much better. It has to be – Capote has written so many wonderful books, and the film version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s (BAT?) is somewhat Hollywoodized, I think. And I want to know what the sad, lost Holly was thinking that early morning as she stood outside Tiffany’s looking in, after having partied all night in that iconic hairdo, dress and black evening gloves. All dressed up in party clothes yet all alone, and I want to know what she was thinking. A movie doesn’t give you that. (Unless it’s Ferris Bueller.)
  • Last year I decided to read more of the classics and am gradually getting around to them. I read slowly, and I tend to get sleepy when I find the perfect comfortable spot to read in, so it takes me a while to finish a book. But now that the holiday season is over, I won’t be watching Food Network as much, so I’m already reading more than I did in the fall. I tried some Solzhenitsyn (One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich) and Upton Sinclair (The Jungle), but those are books I didn’t finish. I’ll eventually get back to Solzhenitsyn, but the only thing I liked about The Jungle (it’s a really gross expose on the meatpacking industry) is that it has caused me to eat less red meat! I think the problem with Denisovich is that I’ve read too many concentration-camp books (I had the same problem with the movie Schindler’s List); maybe I’m desensitized to the issue, or maybe it’s that nothing on the subject comes close to my all-time-favorite book, The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom (“No pit is so deep that the love of God is not deeper still!”). That is a book that I’ve read several times already but could read every year and never get tired of it. I’ve loaned my copy several times and just told the friend to keep it, then I go buy myself a new paperback copy. The tale of God’s light in a sea of darkness never gets old.
  • I’ve decided – officially – that Naps are a Good Thing. Because I finally have a job that allows me to take actual holidays off (I may never get used to that!), Bruce and I have spent a few long weekends at Mom’s lately (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s). Thanksgiving weekend, I took a long nap (really, a short nap but a long rest) every single day. At Christmas we were busier, so not so many naps, but New Year’s I got a couple of good breaks in, with the exception of the day that Mom was noisy in the kitchen and I got up cranky at her (don’t worry; I apologized). Just goes to show how important naps have become to my mental health. I turned 47 in November, so I am not a spring chicken anymore. For sure, Naps are a Good Thing. (I’m thinking of trademarking that expression.)
  • A soft bed, a warm puppy and a good book – who could ask for more?
  • I have written a set of “goals” – not New Year’s resolutions – for 2010 (it will include naps, although not in so many words). I didn’t get them posted by the time we rang in the new year, so it may be March before you seem them here! Or I may post them tomorrow – just depends on how tired I am when I get home from work.
  • And of course I’m supposed to be reading my accounting book!

This concludes another portion of our semiregular feature, Random Thoughts. Tune in again, when you may hear Suzy say, “Has it been that long since I posted?”

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Posted in books, dogs, fun, health, holiday, inspiration, journalism, movies, music, reading, work | 1 Comment »

Maple almond-butter cookies

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on August 23, 2009

also your first look at my new countertops!

Have a cookie and a smile.

Friends, baking with healthy ingredients can be a delicious way to satisfy your sweet tooth, I am here to tell you.

You may be skeptical of the recipe I’m about to give you, but try it before you rush to judgment. Ever since I ran across it on the blog I discovered recently (while trying to find a description of Sucanat, an ingredient mentioned occasionally in Clean Eating magazine), I had been dying to bake these almond-butter cookies sweetened with maple syrup. Today I finally had the opportunity.

Not a stick o’ butter, a teaspoon of refined sugar or even a drop of egg is included in these cookies. And, trust me, after seeing the movie Julie & Julia a couple of days ago  (and watching Kate & Leopold on TV that night), “rich, creamery buttah” was on my mind!

But these cookies are a healthy alternative to the baked goods I usually make. I am not quite of the Paula Deen and Julia Child variety (“You can never have too much butter”), but I definitely like the stuff.

So I was happily surprised when Bruce and I sampled the first cookie a few minutes after I pulled them out of the oven.

And, just so you know, I’m adding Sweet & Natural to my blogroll at right.

The blog is right up my alley. In fact, it’s the blog I had imagined I might someday write, if I had the time (and money) to experiment as much as the author does with different ingredients and recipes. I have long wanted to come up with a way to turn my love for baking into something healthy.

I bake because it gives me a sense of “home and hearth” (and, frankly, because I like the accolades I get when someone tastes my sweet confections), but all too often my recipes are laden with unhealthy ingredients, simply because it’s easier to find those recipes.

But I am no longer willing to settle for that for my family or for myself. We all (except Bruce) could stand to lose a few pounds and clean up our eating habits. And, as Ashley of Sweet & Natural has proved, you don’t have to trade taste for healthy.

I have a heart condition that the doctor says he doesn’t think is caused by overweight, but who really knows? There’s no clear-cut cause for mitral valve prolapse that I’ve been able to discover.

And because I’m 30-40 pounds overweight (I know, I know, I don’t look that heavy, but my height disguises some of it) and have been having more noticeable palpitations and shortness of breath lately, it’s time to stop dabbling in healthy eating and get serious. Being overweight puts extra strain on my delicate little heart valve.

Last week I wore a portable EKG monitor for 24 hours, and I will get the results in a few days. Even if the doc doesn’t report any serious concerns, it’s still time to quit messing around and cut out the unhealthy fats and sugars. It’s a process that will take some time, some retraining of taste buds and a lot of commitment – but it’s well worth the journey.

Friends, even if you don’t have any health issues and you don’t feel the need to “clean up” your eating, try these cookies. It will be worth your time – and the effort it takes to find the ingredients you may not keep in your pantry routinely (natural almond butter, real maple syrup, whole wheat flour).

I have made a couple of tiny modifications, but I don’t think the author would mind. See her original recipe here.

Maple Almond Butter Cookies

1/2 cup natural almond butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup chopped almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, combine almond butter, maple syrup, canola oil and almond extract until well blended.  In a separate bowl, mix together pastry flour, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, along with chopped almonds, and stir until just combined.  Let sit for 5 minutes.

Roll heaping tablespoons of dough into balls, flatten to about 1/3 inch and place onto cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes.  Makes 18 cookies.

Posted in baking, food, health, home, movies | Leave a Comment »

Arsenic and Old Spice

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on October 26, 2007

spicecookies

My close friends will not be surprised that my inaugural post is about baking cookies – one of my all-time-favorite activities.

Tonight’s bakefest coincided with another favorite pastime: watching a classic movie – specifically, my favorite Cary Grant movie, Arsenic and Old Lace. My husband and I watch it every year at the end of October (the movie is set on Halloween).

Now that I’ve revived this old recipe for Spice Cookies with Pumpkin Dip, it has GOT to become part of the annual ritual! I hadn’t made the cookies in several years, and I don’t know why. They were so yummy, I could have eaten all 164 (yes, 164) of them. They’re great just a couple of minutes out of the oven, still warm and chewy.

Saturday is our community’s ShareFest, and I was asked to make two dozen cookies for our church’s volunteer crew. I didn’t remember that this recipe made so many spice cookies. Looks like there will be plenty to share.

Which is another of my favorite activities … sharing baked goods straight from my oven.

Spice Cookies with Pumpkin Dip
From Taste of Home magazine, October/November 1995 issue

NOTE: Dough must chill for several hours.

Spice Cookies
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon salt
Additional sugar for rolling

In large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add molasses; mix well. In separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt; add to creamed mixture and mix well. Chill dough overnight.

Preheat oven to 375º F.

Shape into half- to one-inch balls; roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 6-9 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Cool 2 minutes before removing to wire rack.

Pumpkin Dip
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
15-ounce can pumpkin
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Beat cream cheese in mixing bowl until smooth. Add pumpkin; beat well. Add sugar, cinnamon and ginger; beat until smooth. Serve with cookies. Refrigerate leftover dip. (Makes about 3 cups.)

Posted in family, food, movies | 8 Comments »