Pizza, Salad, and a Movie: The Girl on the Train

This weekend’s Pizza Toppings at Corner Pizza:

  • Arugula
  • Jalapeños
  • Banana Peppers

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Movie:

The Girl on the Train

You’ve read the book, but have you seen the film?

My husband and I finally read it over the last few days. I had wanted to for awhile, and had the perfect chance while we were on a beach vacation earlier this month. He read it after me, and we both really liked it (and, comparing it to other suspense novels we’ve read, understood why it’s sold so well). Perhaps because I’m a writer (or, just because we like to talk about books), we talked about the characters, the plot twists, and the unreliable narrator, Rachel.

Though the movie has had mixed reviews, I wanted to see it as soon as possible after reading the book, so we could see it for ourselves and discuss the film adaptation. Since it’s been out for awhile, we had to go far from our neck of the woods for a showing at the right time (after our early dinner). I’m glad we did, but I agree with those who think the film wasn’t nearly as good as the book.

But I think it could have been.

It wasn’t just that they moved the story from England to Connecticut (or somewhere up north), and that the houses weren’t as I pictured them; they seemed too far from the train tracks, and too far apart. They also cut a lot of important scenes (and some key dialogue), and added some things that weren’t in the book, and weren’t needed.

Even so, if you see the movie, I strongly suggest you read the book first. Or – just read the book.

Oh, and I had a wedge salad, and (oops), one very small piece of pizza. But now I’m back “on track” on my diet, so to speak.

Reliably.

Wine with Wendy on Wednesday, numéro douze (12)

Last week, for our October lunch, Wendy and I broke with tradition.

Instead of going to a French restaurant (of which, we’ve just about run out – that is, of any close enough to where we live), we went to a Mexican one. And instead of Wednesday, we went on Thursday, because it worked better for both of us, and gave us a bit more time.

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Which was nice, because we were celebrating our birthdays: mine was the week before, and hers is coming up this weekend.

We caught up with each other’s lives – work and family – and then talked about her art, my writing, and books we’ve read. I loved hearing about her current project, and I described my work-in-progress and asked for her thoughts. Sometimes, when I talk to others about the books I’ve written or about what I’m writing, they can lose interest, and their eyes start to glaze.

Not Wendy, though. She listened intently and offered great ideas for characters and missing plot elements –so many, in fact, that I later wished I’d taken notes.

When we parted, I felt re-energized about this new novel (whose working title I ran by her and explained what it meant). I’m writing the next scene today, and I hope to finish it before trick-or-treaters show up at the door.

And then, I’ll have (another) glass of wine!

 

 

 

Je vous présente Cooper’s Crew, that I met through CURE

Almost a month ago, I attended CURE Childhood Cancer‘s annual “Quiet Heroes” luncheon and silent auction in Atlanta, held at the Intercontinental Hotel in Buckhead. It was the 12th annual luncheon and my second time to be invited (last year was my first) by Executive Director Kristin Connor.

“Quiet Heroes” – honored at this event – are parents of childhood cancer patients, survivors, and children lost to the disease. My son Jack was diagnosed with and battled brain cancer at the age of 19. Because he was over 18, he was a legal adult, and had to sign all the consent (and other) forms during his treatment. But because he was under 21, he was termed pediatric, so he (technically) qualified as a “child” with cancer. We were told that was fortunate for him, and it was: he received care that was a little gentler and kinder than patients over 21 do. I was grateful for that, and I think he was, too.

On Jack’s 19th birthday, May 8, 2010, the unthinkable happened when he learned he had a brain tumor. But after an arduous and very difficult journey (chronicled in my book ALL THE ABOVE), he survived. He is now 25, 6 years cancer free, holds a Masters degree, and is working full time.

As he puts it, he was one of the “lucky” ones. His brain tumor, though rare, was the type with the highest cure rate. Other kids–many others–weren’t, or aren’t, as lucky. I met the mother of one of them as I was leaving this year’s luncheon.

Like last year, I had come alone to the event. I didn’t know anyone there (though I had met Kristin), but I was acquainted with Lynn Crow, fabulous Atlanta photographer, so I said hello to her. But as I walked around to view the auction items, I felt a kind of bond with the other moms–at least, with those going through what I did as Jack’s caregiver, and with those whose child had survived.

By happenstance, I met two women who weren’t actual “Quiet Heroes,” but who are involved in the event and in CURE: Joanne Hayes, Publisher and Founder of Simply Buckhead Magazine (and recently, 17th South Magazine), and Allison Palestrini, Principal at Type A Development. We chatted for a few minutes, and both were welcoming and kind.

I met some other moms at my table during lunch, and loved the program, which featured a panel of three very inspiring young cancer survivors. Afterward, like everyone else, I got ready to leave. Then in the Ladies’ room, as we both washed our hands, I met another woman named Theresa. She had come with her good friend Donna, whose son, Theresa told me, died two years ago, at age 14, of an extremely rare cancer called sarcoma. I told Theresa about Jack, and about how blessed I know we are that he made it.

A few minutes later, in front of the hotel, I ran into Theresa again. This time she was with Donna, and she introduced us. We three chatted as we waited for the valets to bring our cars, and I felt an instant like with both women. Have you every felt an instant dislike for someone? I have felt that way, a handful of other times over my lifetime. But (luckily) more often, I’ve felt an instant like.

Anyway, just when I thought I would see them both next year (or maybe, never again), one of them asked if I’d like to join them for a drink at a nearby restaurant. At first, I declined; I didn’t want to intrude on their time together. Then, one of them (I think it was Donna), said, “Are you sure? We can talk, and kind of decompress together.”

There she had me. It was only 2:00, anyway, and I didn’t have to be anywhere until 4:45. We decided to drive a few blocks up the road to Phipps Plaza and sit outside at the Tavern restaurant.

Boy, am I glad we did!

During the next two hours, we got to know each other a little better. Like me, they had gone to high school in the Atlanta area (I’m older, though), but not to the same one. They told me the story of how they met (at the beach, in their 20s), that they live in Suwanee, Georgia, and a lot about their lives and what they do. I felt an even stronger connection as we drank wine and laughed together (“decompressed”), and I shared much about myself. They wanted to hear all about my books, including the one I wrote about Jack’s battle with cancer.

I loved telling them about all that, but I also wanted to know more about Donna’s son. Turns out, his name was Cooper–which happens to be my maiden name (and yes, I told them). His battle lasted a little more than a year, and his cancer was aggressive. Hearing about his journey, I was filled with compassion. How did his younger brother handle it? I asked. What was his treatment? and, How did you make it, as a family, when the worst happened?

Those are pretty direct questions–but, having lived through Jack’s brush with death, I felt like I could ask–and like I should ask. Remember, I already had that instant like with Donna and Theresa, and by this time, I thought they felt the same way. Before we left, they invited me to an annual event in Suwanee to honor Cooper’s memory, raise awareness of sarcoma, and raise funds for research.

The event is a golf tournament, silent auction and dinner at the River Club in Suwanee, and it was to occur only three days later. I thanked them and said I would try to attend.

Well, I did attend, and I’m so glad I did. I arrived that day in the late afternoon and joined a huge crowd of Cooper O’Brien’s friends and family, called “Cooper’s Crew.” Again, I didn’t know anyone (except Donna and Theresa), but after a quarter of an hour, I found them as I perused the auction items. I met one of Donna’s coworkers and best friends, Cooper’s brother Parker and his father Kevin, and also met Theresa’s daughter Michaela, who was a lifelong friend of Cooper’s. Kristin came to the event (and spoke at it, during a program after dinner that included a video and a speech by Kevin). I got to speak to Kristin, too.

If you’re like me before that night, you don’t know about Cooper O’Brien, Cooper’s Crew, or sarcoma. Now, you do. They even have a website, and I urge you to check it out.

Serendipity is a wonderful thing, and I’m glad I happened to meet Theresa, Donna, and all of Cooper’s Crew.

What heroes they all are.

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Donna, me, and Theresa at Cooper’s Crew event in September, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pizza, Salad, and a Movie: The Accountant

This weekend’s Pizza Toppings at Corner Pizza:

  • Anchovies
  • Jalapeños
  • Shallots

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Me? Wedge salad.

Movie:

The Accountant

He liked this movie better than I did. I did enjoy several scenes, but as a whole it wasn’t exactly my thing. However, I did think it was pretty well cast, even if I found the story a little bit out there. He thought it was actually set up for (or could be set up for) a sequel.

As for the pizza toppings, I know anchovies don’t look that good, but I think they taste pretty good – better than jalapeños, anyway. He’s running through every combination (it seems) he can make with jalapeños as one of the toppings, since I dislike them and am not eating pizza for the foreseeable future.

And all those salads (and other healthier food choices, + daily exercise) is paying off: Today is exactly 6 months since I started focusing on losing weight. In those 6 months, I’ve lost exactly 45 pounds!

People have asked me how I’ve done it. I use the app “LoseIt” to keep track of calories, and of pounds. I’m not at my goal, but I’m more than halfway there. When I reach it, I think I’ll pick all 3 toppings and have 1 very tasty slice of pizza (and a side salad, of course). I plan to continue using the app then (and for life, too – why not?) so I can maintain, after such a long weight-loss journey.

That’ll be my sequel.

 

Pizza, Salad, and a Movie: Queen of Katwe

This weekend’s Pizza Toppings at Corner Pizza:

  • Sliced Tomatoes
  • Jalapeños
  • Red Onion

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and a spinach salad for me.

Movie:

Queen of Katwe

He had heard of this film and wanted to see it, and I really enjoyed it. Based on a true story, it’s about a young girl in Africa who turns out to be a chess prodigy. I don’t play chess (and don’t want to learn how), but it was absolutely wonderful that this girl did. She was amazing, and during the chess competition scenes, it was tense, and she didn’t always win. I was mesmerized by her and her opponent’s eyes – watching their expressions and their reactions as they competed.

There was a lot more to love about this movie, too, including the rest of the cast, and it was well done. Sully was a feel-good film, and so was this one. It was just a tad bit too long, but overall I think it’s an A.

Our dinner was great, too, and it was a fun evening out. I’ll eat pizza again later on – but not with jalapeños on it!

 

List Post, octobre 2016

October is my favorite month of the year! 🎃

  • I’m hard at work on my next novel. It’s got a working title I really like, and I hope I can live up to it. Characters are shaping up nicely…
  • On Saturday, October 15 from 2 – 4 pm, I’ll join my pal, SC author David Burnsworth, for a book signing together at Eagle Eye Book Shop called “Southern Authors.” This wonderful bookstore is located at 2076 North Decatur Road in Decatur, Georgia. David and I previously teamed up this year to do a presentation for the NC Triad “Murder We Write” chapter of writers organization Sisters in Crime (of which we are both members).

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  • Publicity! In case you missed my last blog post, click HERE for an article in the “Good Books” section of Northside Woman magazine about me and my book ALL THE ABOVE by Kathy Des Jardins Cioffi (an interview, mostly). The magazine caters to North Fulton and Forsyth counties, north of Atlanta!

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Wine with Wendy on Wednesday, numéro onze (11)

Before September comes to a close (is it fall, already?)…

Wendy and I had lunch together at an Atlanta French restaurant recently and had a glass of wine. 😎 🍷 🇫🇷

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She told me all about her trip to Ireland, where she played golf and watched two (American) football games. In both, her team won, and in one of them (a high school game), her son played! She also visited San Francisco this month to visit one of her three daughters. I told her about my trip earlier this month to New Orleans, where I attended the mystery writers conference, Bouchercon.

Bistro Niko is one of our favorite lunch spots, with a great menu, and it’s conveniently located. Next month, who knows where we’ll meet? But since our birthdays fall within 2 1/2 weeks of each other (mine in late October, hers in early November) I think it will be fun to celebrate them together! 🍰

Bon weekend! 

 

 

List Post, septembre 2016

Better late than never!

  • Activities this month (so far):
    • AJC Decatur Book Festival:
      • Atlanta Writers Club Thriller Panel
      • Signed books at Eagle Eye Book Shop tent, the Atlanta Writers Club booth and Sisters in Crime booth

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  • Sisters in Crime, Atlanta Chapter meeting:
    • “Marketing and Publicity Secrets and Tips” Panel with 4 other Sisters

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  • Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in NOLA (New Orleans):
    • “Watch that Man – Thriller” Panel, signed books afterward
    • Happy Hour at the House of Blues Voodoo Garden, hosted by my publisher Thomas & Mercer
    • Drinking, dining and fun connecting with other authors and wandering around the French Quarter

With my pal author Emily Drake Carpenter at the Happy Hour party

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  • CURE Childhood Cancer’s Quiet Heroes Luncheon:
    • Wonderful silent auction and program given by CURE for moms and dads of cancer patients, survivors, and children who lost their battle with cancer
    • Met some incredible women who help raise money for cancer research and find a cure (two of whom I am with, below)

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  • Activities coming up: 
    • 2016 Cooper O’Brien Memorial Golf Tournament, Dinner and Silent Auction: I was invited and will attend this event on Sept. 27
    • Preview for October: Author Appreciation Reception hosted by the Georgia Libraries Association in Athens, Ga; Book signing at Eagle Eye Book Shop; and LOOK FOR AN INTERVIEW ARTICLE on me by Kathy Cioffi in the GOOD BOOKS section of the OCTOBER issue of NORTHSIDE WOMAN MAGAZINE!

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P.S. Latest “Wine with Wendy on Wednesdays” Post coming up soon, too!

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Pizza, Salad, and a Movie: Sully

This weekend’s Pizza Toppings at Corner Pizza:

  • Corn
  • Jalapeños
  • Garlic

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For me, spinach salad.

Movie:

Sully

Dinner was good, and the film was great. I had my doubts about whether to see it (since I’m mildly afraid of flying), but I’m glad I did. Tom Hanks was terrific, and the story unfolded very well.  If you see it, I think you’ll feel good about pilots, New Yorkers, and just about being an American. And don’t miss the credits at the very end – they almost make the movie!

My verdict: A+