Thursday, February 25, 2010

"Leaf" Me Alone, Please

The Problem:

 Leaf accumulation less than 48 hours after The Boston Lady bagged 10 bags of leaves after raking for several hours.

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit C

The Culprits:

Our lovely Live Oak Trees, "The Spider", in particular.


"Spidey's" accomplices, "Little Bit" and "Fingers"
Don't be fooled by their good looks

The Solution:

Keep raking and stop whining.

Torture Devices

The Payoff:

A beautiful Staghorn Fern that has thrived since infancy under it's protective older Oak sisters.  And "Bromeliads Gone Wild".  Started from one plant in planter about 8 years ago.  Could never grow grass in this area, but the "Bromies" have gone gangbusters. I have had to separate them several times for their scandalous behavior and some now reside out front, under "Fingers".

"Bananas" The Staghorn Fern.  So-named for her banana peel addiction

Our very prolific "BGW"s.  I think there's a very incriminating video of their activities out there somewhere.

The Real Payoff:

Lots of lovely shade in the hot, Florida summer and frost protection in the winter.

Aaah, the green. Not a brown leaf in sight.

Of course, "they" love it.

Lesson Learned:

Uh, raking is good exercise? Um, the Yard Waste guys need something to do? Er, Oak leaves are good for some plants, but bad for grass? Ah, okay, a month of picking up leaves (won't even mention the 2 months of acorn rain this year) pays off with happy trees that keep our house protected from many, many things.

But, I still hate raking and bagging leaves.
Boston Lady out.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Gramps. My Surrogate Grandfather.

This is a classic Gramps picture pose. Arms crossed, mouth set, a twinkle in his eyes.  From the time I first met him I was taken with his crooked little smile and mischevious glint.

Mr. Tennis and I had been dating for awhile when he first took me to meet Gramps at his little house on Lake Trout in St. Cloud.  He had been a steady father figure for Mr. T and his brothers since their father had died.  Gramps had moved permanently to what was once his and Grandma Rose's weekend lake house.  He was still working full time when I first met him, at the age of  75, for Minute Maid, a Coca Cola company.  Brand loyalty was strictly followed in that tiny house.  Every morning started with Minute Maid OJ, and there were always Coke products available for thirsty water skiers and swimmers.  Pepsi was verboten!

Mr. Tennis, probably middle school age, cutting the grass at the lake
He was so gracious and welcoming to me from the start.  I remember Mr. Tennis telling him that we weren't that crazy about each other when we first met.  With that little glint in his eye, Gramps said, "So, now you ARE crazy about each other?". Our Saturdays would be spent (after the OJ and Buckwheats, always Buckwheats) clearing the beach area, if needed, burning trash, cutting the grass on the riding mower, taking the boat out for a spin-Ziggy always got there first, water skiing (yes, I did-scary), grilling hamburgers for lunch, more boating, skiing, burning, clearing or lounging in hammock. Frozen entree for dinner, Lawrence Welk, Love Boat, Fantasy Island, light off from automatic timer at 11pm. Bed.  Sundays:  OJ, Buckwheats, church, breakfast at Howard Johnsons, pack up stuff, load car, head back to Gainesville.  There was comfort in the lovely predictability of it.

Uncle Larry in his favorite spot

I would always write a note thanking Gramps for letting me come for the weekend and I think that solidified my standing in his eyes.  I even got to call him Gramps after Mr. Tennis and I were engaged!  Here's a picture of us at an engagement party Orlando Grandma hosted for us:

I know, he doesn't look happy, but I have very few pictures of him actually smiling.  But that set to his jaw is just how it always was.

Mr. Tennis and I graduated from UF one week before we got married.  Here is a picture of Gramps and me, with my other surrogate grandparent, Tita, at a little family gathering we had at Mr. T's apartment the night before graduation:

See, he's almost smiling in this one!  I am obviously anticipating the stress of the upcoming wedding and look a little queasy. March 1981

After our honeymoon, Mr. Tennis and I lived at Gramps' little lake house for a couple of weeks while we looked for a place to live in Orlando.  We didn't know where we would settle after we got married because neither of us had job offers yet.  (Why worry?)  When we returned from our honeymoon (Mexico) Mr. Tennis had an offer to work at a local TV station in Orlando - parttime. So, it was settled where we would settle, O-town. Don't worry we both found full time employment shortly afterward and the rest is history.

But speaking of history, Gramps has one himself.  He came to the U.S. when he was 21 from Germany.  He spoke little English and went to live in Cincinnati where many German immigrants settled.  So determined to learn English was he that he decided not to attend events or get-togethers where everyone was speaking only German, he instead chose to socialize with English speakers.  I'm not sure how he met Rose, but she was also from a German immigrant family, The Peters, but she had been born in the U.S.  There was a lovely wedding picture of them that hung in his house, but I don't know where that picture is now, sadly, because it was beautiful.  They got married during the depression.  Gramps was fortunate to have a job and he rented and completely furnished an apartment so his new bride would have a comfortable home.

Gramps and Grandma Rose

Two sons were born while they lived in Cincinnati, Courtney and Larry. Then in the 1940s, Rose, Gramps, Courtney and Larry moved to Orlando, Florida and that's when his career with Minute Maid began, I believe.  This was all BD (before Disney) so the surrounding areas were filled with orange groves, not subdivisions, shopping malls and theme parks.

Pretty soon there was a pretty daughter-in-law in the picture, Orlando Grandma.  She and Courtney were married at St. James Church in downtown Orlando and had their reception at "Ronnie's" , an Orlando dining institution that we miss to this day.

Gramps in another classic pose in his Orlando home with a pregnant Orlando Grandma, sometime in 1958 before the arrival of you-know-who.

As we know, Mr. T and his brothers came along and added to the excitement.  They spent many weekends and summers fishing, swimming and water skiing on Lake Trout.

Mr. T. and Tony with the day's catch

Gramps and "his boys" getting ready to take a spin around the lake

Gramps showing perfect diving form off the end of his dock

There were many family gatherings at the lake.  I attended my fair share after I entered the family.  Countless birthdays were celebrated on the green picnic bench or in the dining area of the tiny cottage.

All the Weissmueller men together: Mr. T, Larry, Courtney, Gramps, baby Kurt and Tony

There was even a Christmas when our families had the day's festivities hosted by Gramps out at the Lake.  My mother always said that was one of her favorite Christmases because it was so casual and relaxing.

Back: Grandpa Hughes, me, Orlando G-ma, Lanny G, Richard, Gramps and  Larry.
Front: Eric G. (hi Mr. Decor!), Bonnie G and Grandma Hughes.

Gramps, we miss you very much, but how much better all our lives have been because you were in it.  You will always have a special place in my heart for all the kindness, generosity, suppport and love you showed me, your surrogate granddaughter.

Happy Birthday
February 20th

Gramps and his grandsons in the late 1960s

Here they are about 20 years later, plus the addition of The Writer.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Brothers.......and Sisters

I finally saw one of the movies on my "to see before the Oscars" list last night.  My very good friend CC (as opposed to my other very good friend CG) and I ventured to "Dollar Tuesday" night at our local discount movie theater to see "Brothers". 

I would definitely put this movie in the class, in the words of my fellow blogger Laura at Decor to Adore, of "full price worthy".  CC and I had tried to see the movie when it first hit the big screens, but could not get to it before it disappeared from sight.  We have been stalking the discount theater listings each week since.

I had heard people saying that Tobey McGuire's performance in this movie had been snubbed and had not gotten a nomination for Best Actor in this year's Oscars.  The Writer had told me how impressed he was by his performance and was sure he would draw a nomination.  Well, I have to agree that his portrayal of a returning Marine, declared dead after his unit was shot down in Afghanistan, was simply wrenching and believable.  Natalie Portman portrays his grieving, then shocked and helpless wife.  Jake Gyllenhaal earnestly plays the "black sheep" brother trying to get his life back on track after a stint in jail by helping his sister-in-law and her children cope with the death of their husband/father. McGuire's character has trouble adjusting to his old life and becomes dangerous to his family.  His character was always the steady influence between the two brothers and the roles are reversed as he becomes unhinged and his brother steps in to protect the family, while letting his brother know he will always be there for him.

It is a story for our times with our troops' presence in hostile areas of the world and their sometimes difficult adjustment to their lives back home.  It is also a good story about family support and sibling loyalty.

I remember when my kids were very young I read an interview with Jackie Onassis.  The interviewer asked her what she was most proud of in her life, and her answer was that her children had grown up to be friends with each other.  At the time that answer depressed me.  My kids were at the stage where every car ride was a torture session and Mr. Tennis and I had resorted to putting up a cardboard wall between them in the back seat. 

I would think back to the early days when The Writer was a smitten older brother and The Maven would look at him with adoration and want to be just like him.

The Writer, 4 years old
The Maven, 2 weeks old

She was always looking up to him and he was fascinated by her.

See, they looked happy enough. 

She wanted to do everything he did including taking care of his hermit crab, Fred.

He started keeping a closer eye on her as she got older and more of a threat. :-)

Then they developed their own interests and friendships.  The time they spent together as they grew older seemed less fraught with whining and teasing.  The cardboard divider went away, they invented clever games to keep themselves entertained in the backseat. The video camera became their tool as they crafted talkshows, commercials and short movies.  They played basketball together.

They started doing weird stuff with their hair and laughing together in a conspiratorial fashion. Do I sound paranoid?

In the end they have become friends, support for each other.  So, Jackie O, I despaired for naught.  I know now, just like you did at the time of that interview, that my kids will be there for each other in the future. 
That was one of the chords that struck me in the movie -  that no matter what those brothers had been through, whether they fought as kids, disagreed as adults, they would ultimately be there for one another. And I've seen that with my own children as they have grown into pretty great adults.

  This has been somewhat self-indulgent, but I am very proud of the people my kids have become, by their choice.  Again, I am a proud Mom.

The Maven and her brother, The Writer.  Los Angeles, summer 2009. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It's That Wonderful Time of Year! Oscar Season.

It's all about Oscar, baby. Yes, this is MY superbowl.  I carefully view contenders throughout the year, with a wild last minute frenzy to see the last few nominees (if they make it here before THE night) in the weeks leading up to the most exciting night of the year!  For me.

I realize this is all kind of strange, but remember I am a pop culture junkie going way back.  In fact my own mother encouraged this when I was younger by letting me stay up late on Oscar night so we could watch the splendour together - in black and white.  When we finally got a color television in 1974 I thought I had finally arrived.

Of course I missed a few Oscars over the years.  There was college afterall.  Although I do recall watching "Rocky" win for best picture while I was slaving away at my studies.

Then there was the year The Maven broke her arm.  I had just put chicken in the oven to cook so we could watch the "Barbara Walters" lead-up interviews when The Maven's two friends came running in to tell us she had fallen off her bike and her arm was "messed up". Try getting the ER staff to put the Academy Awards on will you?  Of course, The Maven's arm was more important, but come on people...

The year that Cher won for Moonstruck, The Maven was 2 weeks old.  Mr. Tennis was out of town on business.  Grandma Hughes had left for home suffering with a really bad cold.  I was sick as a dog, but I watched "my" Oscars.  Dang it, I did!

My children know I get excited about it.  I can't help it!  I even won a contest one year and predicted all the winners.  I got a t-shirt for that skill.  My dream, of course, is to actually attend the awards in person.  Not as a screaming fan in the bleachers along the red carpet. I want to-be-in-the-building. They do have such a thing as seat-fillers and I suppose that will be the way I will worm my way in there one day.  Can't you just see me filling in for Meryl? Or Sandra? Or George?  Oh yes, I'd definitely fill in for George. 

Anyway, I digress.

I actually get more excited about the individual performances than which picture will win or which director.  My favorite categories are the acting ones, the costuming, the writing and music categories.  To me it's hard to pick a "best" picture when all nominated are so very different from each other.  Because I liked them for different reasons, I simply cannot choose one.  Favorites this year from pictures nominated:  "The Hurt Locker", "District 9", "An Education", "Precious" and "Up in the Air".

Now, ask me about Best Actress.  Saw all performances except for Helen Mirren. "The Last Station" has not come here yet. So, I am choosing from four of the five nominees.  I pick Gabourey Sidibe from "Precious". Love Meryl, love Sandra Bullock, thought the actress Carey Mulligan ("An Education") was great, but Gabby's performance was a career making one, in my opinion. I hope she will not be a one time contender.  The movie was wrenching, but really gave it's audiences a peek into a world many of them know very little about.

For Best Supporting Actress I have to go with an actress from "Precious" as well, Mo'nique.  To witness the transformation this comedienne underwent to play this role was incredible.  I hated her character with all my being and what a challenge it must have been to portray such a despicable character. If it can't be Mo'nique, then I'd give it to Anna Kendrick from "Up in the Air". What a controlled and believable performance she gave. 
Mo'nique as Precious' nasty Mama.

Best Actor is a difficult choice for me because any time I see Colin Firth, I want to give him any award possible.  How can you turn down "Mr. Darcy"? 

He was painfully good in "A Single Man", but my choice is between Jeff Bridges ("Crazy Heart"-just saw it this last weekend. Engrossing) and Jeremy Renner from "The Hurt Locker".  My crazy heart wants Jeff Bridges to get the award, but I think it will go to Jeremy Renner for his tense, steely portrayal of a military bomb defusion expert.

The Best Supporting Actor category is my weak area this year because I have yet to see any of the movies the nominees were in.  I do have a beef that Peter Sarsgaard was not nominated for his slimy performance in "An Education", but as I said, I haven't seen the others.  Although I will blindly throw my support behind Christopher Plummer ("The Last Station"-I can't abandon my childhood fear/love for him as Captain Von Trapp) and Stanley Tucci who plays against type in "The Lovely Bones", a wonderful book.

I also wish that the actor/technician that portrayed the lead "Prawn" in "District 9" would get a nod.  I felt such empathy for this atrocious looking alien, and I'm not an alien-lovin'-science fiction-gal.  But this creature/actor/special effect gave a heart-wrenching performance.  I hope they are recognized in the Special Effects category. I should also mention the performance by the lead actor, Sharlto Copely, who played a hapless Afrikaans Government Agent.

Okay, okay, okay.  I've indulged myself long enough with this.  It all started because Mr. T and I went to see "Crazy Heart" this weekend and I started thinking about "Oscar Season".  So, I've said enough for the moment, except..... Colin Farrell gives a really suprising performance in this movie as a country singer - who knew?

What do you all think?  Any favorites?  Any disappointments?  From this year or previous years?  Is there anyone else out there besides me who looks forward to this evening of glitter and glam?

Alright, you pulled it out of me.  I want "The Hurt Locker" to win for best director because it would be the first time a female director would win that category.  Besides she's up against her ex-husband.