Archive for August, 2014

Random Friday Thoughts — August 29, 2014

Happy Friday and surprise as I’ve put together some random thoughts to kick off the weekend!  I hope it’s a good one.

BIRTHDAY TRIP IS STILL ON

My 50th birthday vacation and celebration is now just six weeks away and it’s still on.

In case you didn’t read my blog from last Friday, the conflict between Israel and Palestine has us, at least, reconsidering that leg of the trip.

Tel Aviv Mediterranean Sea

Here’s that blog that talks about both continents that we plan on visiting.

https://anthonypeoples.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/50th-birthday-plans-revealed/

THE LATE GREAT, GRACEFUL ARTHUR ASHE

Since I’ve been walking on the treadmill so much this year to prepare me for my fall trips, I’ve read many books.

I just finished “Days of Grace” by tennis great Arthur Ashe, who won three Grand Slam tournaments:  the U.S. Open in 1968, the Australian Open in 1970, and Wimbledon in 1975 against Jimmy Connors.

Arthur Ashe - Days of Grace

In this book, Ashe not only talked about his tennis achievements and disappointments, but also about growing up in a very segregated Richmond, Virginia, in the 1950s.

Even as he became a tennis professional playing in tournaments around the world, Ashe still faced obstacles.  If not facing blatant racism, there were those including his friend, fellow tennis legend Billie Jean King, that expected him to react differently to certain situations and she teased him.

She once said, “I’m blacker than Arthur“.  Ashe responded to that in the book with “I suppose she meant that I was not impulsive or explosive enough.  Maybe I should have called her a name, or slapped her around a little, and thus demonstrated my ‘blackness.’  Unfortunately, I don’t call people names, and I have never slapped anybody in my life.  Besides, she might slap me back.”

In the book that was co-written by Arnold Rampersad, Ashe talked at length about the heart attack in July 1979 and the quadruple bypass five months later that ended his tennis playing career.  Another heart surgery in 1983 to correct the first bypass would change his life forever.

Ashe needed a blood transfusion after that surgery that infected him with HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS.  However, it wasn’t until he had paralysis in his hand in late 1988 that doctors discovered that not only had he been infected with HIV, but that he had developed AIDS.

HIV AIDS

He talked a lot in the book about the the moral and religious aspects of sexuality.

“I want them to be familiar with the teachings of the Bible and with other religious doctrines.  Because of AIDS, however, I am equally committed to the policy of giving condoms, as well as the bare, unvarnished factors about sex and AIDS, to students.  I want adolescents caught up for the first time in the sizzling heat of sex to know scientifically about the penis, the vagina, and the rectum; about blood, sperm, and mucous membranes; about pregnancy, viruses, and the fatality of HIV.  In the midst of an epidemic that will only grow worse, I have no time for evasions and euphemisms or other timidly genteel deceptions in teaching young people who are either sexually active or on the brink of becoming so.”

Ashe died on February 6, 1993, at the age of 49, just a week after he finished writing his part of “Days of Grace”.

THE HUNDRED FOOT JOURNEY

I’ve only been to the movies twice this year.

Back in January, I saw “August: Osage County” and I loved it.  Since then, there have been a couple of movies that grabbed my attention (“Godzilla” is one of them), but it didn’t make me go.

Once I saw the trailer to “The  Hundred-Foot Journey”, I knew I would be there on opening day.  If you love food porn, this is the movie for you.

Oscar winner Helen Mirren stars as Madam Mallory, the owner of a Michelin-star restaurant in the South of France.  Her life is turned upside down when an Indian family moves in across the street from her and opens a restaurant serving authentic Indian food.

Madam Mallory does whatever she can to make sure the new venture fails.  Even so, she’s captivated by the charm and the cooking expertise of young Hassan, played by the charismatic and beautiful Manish Dayal.

You figure out early on how the movie will play out, but it’s still a great journey.

The movie, brought to us by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, has grossed $33.7 million.

GRADE:  A-

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RAY!

Ray turned 49 again (51 in reality) this week.

Ray BD

He chose Mexican for his birthday dinner at Los Agaves, a newer restaurant, on Avenue of the Cities in Moline.

While the food and the service were less than stellar compared to the chain’s other restaurant on John Deere Road, he enjoyed it.

Here’s to 50 more birthdays Ray!

DIVERGENT

After seeing the first two “The Hunger Games” movies, I’m no longer interested in seeing the final two movies in the franchise.  The reason, “Divergent”!

This futuristic dystopian science fiction film takes place in Chicago where people are divided into distinct factions based on human virtues:  Abnegation the selfless, Amity the peaceful, Candor the honest, Dauntless the brave, and Erudite the intelligent.

Each person takes a serum-based aptitude test to best place them into one of the factions.  Those that exhibit several factions are called “divergent” and are seen as a threat to social order.

Shailene Woodley plays Beatrice, a young woman who chooses Dauntless, much to the chagrin of her parents (played by Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn), even though she’s really “divergent”.

She is trained by the very sexy, smoldering, and tattooed Four, played by Theo James.

She must keep the fact that she’s “divergent” from the icy Jeanine, the leader of Erudite, played with perfection by Oscar-winner Kate Winslet.

The movie made $275 million dollars in theaters and the sequel “Insurgent” arrives in March 2015.  That will be followed by two more sequels in 2016 and 2017.

AMY GRANT REMIXED!

Amy Grant is sitting at #4 on the Billboard Dance chart this week with a song she first charted back in 1991.

Since her first Christian hit in 1977, Amy Grant has hit the top of that chart 16 times and she’s also crossed over to the pop chart.

Amy has a total of ten Top 40 hits of the Billboard Hot 100, including five from her 1991 album, “Heart in Motion”, that sold more than five million copies in the U.S.

Of those pop hits, two have topped the Hot 100, “The Next Time I Fall”, a duet with Peter Cetera in 1986, and a solo hit, “Baby Baby”, for two weeks in the spring of 1991.

Amy Grant

Her new album is called “In Motion: The Remixes” and it features remixes of some of her biggest hits by some of today’s hottest DJs, including Chris Cox, Tony Moran, Moto Blanco, Ralph Rosario, and Hex Hector.

“Baby Baby”, remixed by Dave Aude, moves up to #4 on the Billboard Dance chart.

REMEMBERING LAURA BRANIGAN

This week marks the tenth anniversary of Laura Branigan’s death.

Laura Branigan was from New York and in the early-1970s, she was in a band called Meadow, but they never charted.

As a solo artist, Laura’s first four releases didn’t make an impact at radio or on the charts.  The biggest of those, “All Night With Me”, which was the first release from her debut album, “Branigan”, peaked at #69 in 1982.

However, everything changed with the second single from that album!

Laura-Branigan-Gloria

Not only did “Gloria” reach #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, it earned Laura a Grammy Award nomination for “Best Pop Vocal Performance – Female”.  However, she lost to Melissa Manchester’s “You Should Hear How She Talks About You.”

The follow-up album, “Branigan 2″, came out in the spring of 1983.  The first single, “Solitaire” hit #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and it was followed by “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You” (#12).

In the spring of 1984, Laura released her third album and the title track, “Self Control”, is still my favorite Laura Branigan song to this date.  It made it all the way up to #4.

In 1995, Laura released the last music video of her career for the album, “The Best of Branigan”.  It was for the remake of the Donna Summer classic, “Dim All The Lights”, in which she was partying it up with a group of drag queens. It reached #36 on the Billboard Dance chart.

She withdrew from the music business in 1994 to care for her husband, Larry, who had colon cancer.  He would succumb to the disease in the summer of 1996.

Eight years later, Laura died in her sleep on August 26, 2004, of an undiagnosed cerebral aneurysm and her ashes were scattered over Long Island Sound.

Laura, your music will always live on!

A PEPPY ANSWER TO SEXISM IN COUNTRY MUSIC

To the good ol’ boys in country music, move over for the Texas and Oklahoma duo of Maddie & Tae.

They’re currently at #17 on  the Billboard Country chart with their first hit single, “Girl In A Country Song”.

THAT’S IT

Thank you for checking out my random thoughts and have a fantastic weekend!

Anthony

 

 

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50th Birthday Plans Revealed!

A milestone birthday is coming up for me in less than two months.  I’ve been living my life planning on this for almost 50 years now.

Dessie-Hollie-Anthony -- Fall 1964

My mother didn’t get that opportunity and my father barely made it.  She died at 47 (in 1990) and he passed away at 55 (in 1987).

So, what’s a few wrinkles and a head full of gray hair?  I never had a six-pack stomach, so as I get old/older, I don’t have to worry about losing that.  And, I can’t be all that disappointed that I have to work a little harder to keep the slowing metabolism in check.

AP 1st Birthday

While I definitely love cake, even that boring white cake for my first birthday in 1965 (Happy Birthday Crystal!), there’s a chance that I won’t have a cake this year — unless I have it early or late.

Since you only turn 50 once, Ray and I decided to make both of  our “nifty fifty” birthdays memorable.  Last year, he celebrated with a Danube River cruise that allowed us to spend a day in Zurich, Switzerland, and to visit Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, and Germany.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Since then, we’ve been saving our pennies (okay, mostly dollars) to make another international trip to celebrate my 50th.

However, the second part of that trip may now be in jeopardy due to missiles, bombs, bullets and bloodshed.  While we’re not changing the itinerary just yet, a back-up plan is being considered.   More on that shortly.

When we started planning the trip, it was going to be an overnight flight from the United States to the Mediterranean destination of my dreams with a plane transfer and four hours of sit-time in Paris, France.

Dreams of wine, cheese, and pastries began filling my head.

Pastries

At that point, we decided instead of spending seven nights on the Mediterranean Sea, we could spend three nights in Paris and hit two continents!

Picnic

So, now I plan on spending my birthday sitting in a park having a picnic of wine, cheese, fruit, bread, and pastries in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower — rain or shine!

eiffel-tower-at-night-with-moon

While Ray and I each paid for the trip, I already know what my birthday present is from him — a Sunday evening that includes a three-course dinner cruise on the Seine River, a one-hour visit to second floor of the Eiffel Tower to look out over Paris, and an evening at the world-renowned Moulin Rouge!!!

Now, about my original 50th birthday destination spot before Paris crashed the party!  I’ve always wanted to visit Tel Aviv, Israel, the fifth most visited city in the Middle East on the beautiful Mediterranean Sea.

Tel Aviv Mediterranean Sea

Tel Aviv is known for its dynamic atmosphere and famous 24-hour culture earning it the nickname, “party capital”.

It’s also known as “The City That Never Sleeps”, “The Bubble”, and “The White City” (for the more than 4,000 buildings built-in a unique style from 1930s German-Jewish architects and, yes, the buildings are white!).

Tel Aviv

Since Tel Aviv is Israel’s financial capital and is compared to New York City, it’s also nicknamed “The Big Orange”, because of the famous Jaffe (now a part of Tel Aviv) orange — a very sweet, almost seedless fruit similar to the Valencia orange.

We booked this trip back in January, but once the Israel-Gaza conflict started back in early July, which has led to bombings and missile strikes that have claimed more than 2,000 lives, mostly in Gaza, we thought about choosing another destination.

However, Tel Aviv is still the safest city in Israel and we’re still going.

So, that is how I plan on spending the last days of my 40s and the first few days of my 50s.

In the words of French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement, Victor Hugo, “forty is the old age of youth; fifty is the youth of old age”.

Anthony

One (Culinary) Reason To Visit Branson

A couple of weeks ago, we took a little road trip seven hours away from the Quad Cities to spend a few days in Branson, Missouri, in the Ozarks.

This time, it wasn’t just the two of us.  We took Gretel and her best friend, Zoe, along with us.  Let’s just say it was an interesting time hanging out with two thirteen-year-old girls!

While definitely a tourist trap, it was beautiful with all the trees.  We took advantage of nature and the nice weather and took the girls hiking in the Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area for a few hours.

Hiking

On Friday evening, we enjoyed a dinner cruise on the Showboat Branson Belle. 

The show, featuring a comedian/magician, music, and aerial stunts with complete with fiddle playing, was fantastic. 

The only down side was that between the show and dinner, we didn’t get to enjoy the deck during much of the cruise.  It may have been that we went on the 8 p.m. cruise and it was dark, so the show may have been longer since you couldn’t see as much outdoors as you could during the day?

On Saturday, we visited the Silver Dollar City theme park and I took my first real roller coaster ride with Zoe on the “Wildfire”!

Anthony Roller Coaster

At 120 feet high and a top speed of 66 miles-per-hour, the “Wildfire” is the tallest and second fastest ride at Silver Dollar City.  It covers more than three thousand feet of track and features five upside down turns and loops!

Roller Coaster

The thrilling ride only lasted what seemed like a minute or so, but seeing the Ozarks from that vantage point and knowing that I could die at any moment made the ride more exhilarating and incredible.

I wanted to do it again with Ray, but we decided against having both adults on the thrilling, life-defying ride.  So, he rode it with Zoe, who was more than willing to take another spin on it!

That evening, we bought snacks at a fun grocery store, Price Chopper, and sat by the pool, drank wine, and played Marco Polo with some other hotel visitors from Oklahoma and Chicago.

Now, on to one of my favorite topics — food.

On the drive down on the first night, we stopped outside of Branson in Ozark, Missouri, and had a southern meal at Lambert’s  Cafe, “Home of the Throwed Roll”.  Yes, grammatically incorrect, but it’s a slogan known across the South and Midwest!

Lambert's Food

The food was amazing and, luckily, no one in our party dropped any of the tossed rolls that came our way!

However, the highlight of the trip for me is something that I’d highly recommend for anyone visiting Branson.

On Sunday, as we were leaving town, we stopped at The Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks for Sunday brunch at the Dobyns Dining Room.

Keeter Center 1

From the moment we walked into the rustic building and were escorted to our seats right past the most beautiful display of homemade desserts, I knew I was in heaven.  If you know anything about me, you know how much I love desserts and I would forsake the food pyramid for sweets.

Needless to say, my first plate of food was dessert.

Dessert 1

Now, since we were with two impressionable teenagers, I wanted to set a good example.  So, I sampled only a bite or two of the dessert plate before moving on to my first plate of real food — fruit, cheese, and two different salads.

I then tried a few breakfast items and a couple of lunch options.

Entree Plate 2

Our server, Stephenson, a student from Haiti, was very attentive.  The culinary staff’s presentation of made-to-order waffles and omelets, numerous breakfast and lunch items, including carved meats, and a made-to-order pasta station was very elegant.  I skipped the pasta station, but Gretel says it was delicious.

After trying all that I wanted, my third plate of food focused mainly on my favorite part of the brunch (desserts withstanding).

Summer Salad

It was a refreshing and stunning summer salad with spinach, almonds, peaches, watermelon, cantaloupe, blueberries, feta cheese, and a honey-citrus dressing, if my memory serves me right.

After finishing my third helping of the summer salad, I moved on to finish my first of two dessert plates and then I sampled Ray, Gretel, and Zoe’s desserts, too.

While every dessert that I sampled was superb, my favorites were the orange-flavored baklava, caramel peanut clusters, white chocolate peanut clusters, lime cheesecake, and the pralines.

Dessert Plate 2

College of the Ozarks, just outside of Branson in Point Lookout, Missouri, provides a  “Christian education to those who are found worthy, but who are without sufficient means to obtain such training.  Instead of paying tuition, all full-time students work campus jobs to defray the cost of education”.

Maybe it is because of these principles that everyone was so warm and inviting from the moment we walked in to when we left.  They worked effortlessly to make sure our dining experience was superior.  And, it was.

Culinary Staff

I don’t recall what we were reading online when we found this place when researching Branson, but I’m glad we did.

Would I ever go back to Branson?  Probably not — unless I was going just for the brunch at The Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks!

By the way, Ray wants me to point out something.  Those are Gretel’s blue fingernails in the first picture.  Much to his chagrin, people on Facebook thought they were his when he initially posted the picture. 🙂

Anthony