Pizza and a Movie: Mistress America

This weekend’s Pizza Toppings at Corner Pizza:

  • Artichoke Hearts
  • Bacon
  • Sun Dried Tomatoes



Mistress America

These pizza toppings were a particularly good combination. The pizza was tangy, yummy, and semi-healthy.

Ahead of time, my husband and I had agreed on the Artichoke Hearts. We waited until the last second to choose the other two toppings. Looking over the menu, my eyes fell on Bacon and his fell on Sliced Tomatoes, and after a short discussion, we modified that to the Sun Dried version.

A few weeks ago, we walked into Corner Pizza with no preconceived notions of what toppings to select. As we were discussing the choices, a young couple sitting at the bar watched and listened, and once we made our decision, they told us we were “cute.”

I took it as a compliment.

As for this week’s movie…well, I can’t give it more than a C. I didn’t think it was particularly funny or witty, and both of us later decided that the older step-sister was bipolar. I walked away thankful that A, I don’t live in NYC or up north, and B, I’m not the age of the characters in this film.

It would just be too complicated for me.

Now, if you’re a northerner, please don’t take offense. I love visiting “the city” and have traveled up north a good bit – but mostly in the summer and fall. Once I went to New York in January, but lucked out with the weather. It was simply very cold (freezing by Atlanta standards) but not horrible or blizzard-y. In fact, the folks I spent time with who live up there thought it was “nice.” Another time, I visited the city in December, and it was even colder (and windy) but it didn’t snow, thank goodness.

In the movie, I liked the fact that one character was a writer. But a lot of the dialogue seemed, well, pretentious. On the other hand, that worked (and was very funny) in the Woody Allen film Blue Jasmine. I loved that movie, and laughed a lot while watching it.

Now, I don’t like all Woody Allen films (who does?) but I admire the fact that he’s always working on something. He keeps on “showing up.” It’s what I try to do, as a writer.

When you think about it, Mistress America sounds like it could have been the title of a Woody Allen movie. Right now, I’m struggling with a title for my next thriller. I’ve finished writing it, and it’s been edited and is ready to go, except for its name.

I may just have to figure it out at the last second.







Rendez-vous in the Big Apple

My husband and I spent a few days in New York City earlier this month, in between two bouts of record low temperatures up there, and (fortunately) days before snow fell in Manhattan.

As we walked from our hotel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the “Met”) one day, I tried to picture Candace Morgan’s apartment. Candace is the main character in my Suspense novel UNDERWATER, and she lives in Atlanta and New York. Undoubtedly, her place in the Upper East Side is tiny compared to the luxury penthouse condominium she owns down south. But it works, because she’s a minimalist – sort of.

In UNDERWATER, Candace spends most of her time in the city I know better, Atlanta (though she jets off to two exotic locations, only one of which I’ve visited).  Relatively few of the story’s scenes take place up north, none during the winter; however, unlike me, Candace knows her way around “the City.”

So, why did my husband and I schedule a trip there, with no thought to the January weather possibilities? Parce que we recently reconnected with an old friend from our college days in Chapel Hill, whom we hadn’t seen in decades. That friend and we decided to rendez-vous in New York (she lives in Boston), and she and we contacted three other UNC friends who live in and around New York and asked them to join us.


The Old Well on the campus of UNC in Chapel Hill, North Carolina:

We’d seen one of these friends a few times in recent years (although she, the Boston woman, hadn’t seen him since college), but we hadn’t seen or talked to the rest in over thirty years. Pourquoi? Because we had moved to Texas right after graduation and had simply lost contact. We hadn’t known their parents’ addresses or phone numbers  – pretty much the only way, back then, to find each other.

But now, thanks to technology, social networks and just plain serendipity – well, I’m going to credit serendipity too, because it just felt like it was a factor – all but one of us met on a Saturday at a Greek restaurant on 7th Avenue. We caught up over lunch at a round table, then continued to share memories and news at a nearby Irish Pub. That night, it was a smaller group at dinner at an Italian restaurant on 51st Street.

The one who couldn’t attend that Saturday had previously scheduled a weekend trip. But – serendipitously – we had arrived on Thursday, and she happened to be free for dinner that night, so we met at a fabulous midtown restaurant. It was a wonderful kickoff to a great weekend.

It was a  little weird to see each other again after so long and compare memories. On the other hand, it was somehow comfortable. We had all become friends without the benefit of instant and easy communication, and with the aid of serendipity. (Perhaps because we never did anything like it in college, exchanging emails and texts before and after our “reunion” in NYC felt a little odd – but only a little.)

I was glad the weather cooperated while we were there, and I’m thankful we dodged the snow and freezing temperatures (though ours down south have been pareil, lately). Next weekend, as I watch the Super Bowl, if it’s extremely cold (or worse) up there, I’ll be thinking of my northern friends.

With warm thoughts.

Joyeux Noël, Elno

The cartes de Noël have been sent (and many received), the tree has been trimmed, the decorations — and lights — carefully placed, and the stockings hung…

but I’m not quite ready for Christmas.

It’s my favorite holiday, with Thanksgiving a close second. I love l’automne (the fall) best of all the seasons, and here in Atlanta, l’hiver (winter) feels like autumn (and sometimes almost like summer). Earlier this month, when my daughter and I visited New York City for a special birthday weekend trip, le temps was very, very cold and windy…

But we still walked down 5th and 6th Avenues, Madison Avenue, Broadway, Canal Street, through Central Park and the World Trade Center Memorial (but not in that order). Other than a few taxi rides, we saw Manhattan à pied (on foot), during the day and at night, with its spectacular illuminations de Noël:


On 5th Avenue


There were plenty of other touristes in New York, and we did a lot there in less than 72 hours — more than I dare to write about in this space. Because what happened in Manhattan…well, you know.

But both of us were ready to come back home that Sunday, where more most people are very polite and friendly, and speak a little more slowly. And we were happy to toss our heavy warm  not-warm-enough-for-the-north coats back in the closet.

But it was worth every freezing moment.


Back home, we’ve done a lot in the last three weeks, though I made a serious effort (again) not to go overboard with decorations. I think I succeeded without being too Grinchy: I forced myself to leave left a couple of boxes of holiday “stuff” that had seen better years in the storage room; I (almost always) resisted the urge to buy new “stuff”; and, because I hurt my back somehow (it’s just finally feeling better now, phew), I took things a little slower. And if they didn’t get done, oh well.

Because those things aren’t what Christmas is about, anyway.

When we were first married, my husband and I couldn’t afford to buy Christmas decorations, but we had a few that that my parents had given us because they didn’t want them anymore. One such item was two matching tacky adorable elves holding signs that said “NO” and “EL.”

My husband, always the joker, used to reverse their order on the shelf, so that “EL” was before “NO.” All it was missing was an apostrophe before the “E” and maybe one more “L,” and it would have been, well, a little bit French.*

After five moves, four kids and three decades, we don’t know what happened to “EL” and “NO” — they got lost, sadly. So this year, while shopping one day I spotted a replacement (sort of), and decided we had to have it (plus, it wasn’t expensive):

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Finally, here’s a photo of one the ornaments hanging on our Christmas tree. It’s very old (also inexpensive), kid-hand-made, and was recently repaired by a dear friend who doesn’t judge me for my phobia of super-glue:


Are you ready for Christmas? I’ve still got a few gifts to buy and a party to host, but other than that, I’m close, and I’ll keep the following lines from Dr. Suess (and from my favorite card received so far this year) in mind, as the 25th approaches:

It came without ribbons. It came without tags. 

It came without packages, boxes or bags. 

And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore.

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.

What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store?

What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?

Merry Christmas!

*Or Spanish. In my new novel MAKE THAT DEUX, there’s a character called “El.” Read and find out who!

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