Friday, December 18, 2015

The ABCs of My Favorite Things (A)

 Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens ...

At first, I thought I would blog on my favorite things in an alphabetized list, with one item per letter of the alphabet. I pondered the types of things that I pin on Pinterest. Then, I realized I wanted to name more than one thing per letter, so I thought I would do a series, with maybe A through F in the first post. The interesting A items in my mind continued to accumulate, so here we are with just a list for A, but I still hope to do a series.

Action Men

I wanted to introduce myself as an author before I began my A list, but this actually fits right in. In my mystery comedy novel, "Action Men with Silly Putty", the "action men" are Jack Donegal and Andy Westin, my main characters. Jack Donegal is a toy inventor and the head of his own toy company who becomes an amateur sleuth when he just happens to stumble into a mystery after buying an antique teddy bear at an auction. Andy Westin is Jack's marketing manager and best buddy as well as the story's narrator.

Here is my explanation of the crazy title. In the process of writing my mystery, I learned that "action men" is the Britspeak equivalent of the toys Americans call "action figures." (Some time after writing it, perusing the toy section of an old antique store in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, I actually saw some action figures labeled as action men.) One of the chapters in the book features both this kind of action men and Silly Putty in a scene. I thought "action men" could also represent my main characters as men of action or men having an adventure, and the Silly Putty in the title would give readers a clue there was some silliness and comedy involved. I plan that "Action Men" will continue in ensuing titles in the series.

Is it strange to list my own fictional characters among my favorite things? I imagine all writers and creators feel this way about their creations. They feel like real people to me, like a couple of my buddies.

Jack is highly intelligent, dreamy and inventive, but like other brainiacs and creative types, has a poor sense of time and seems, on the surface, to be totally disorganized. He's an electrical engineer with a specialty in robotics. He surprises Andy with his knowledge of strange and obscure facts, often in areas outside of his official fields of study. Much to Andy's embarrassment, he also likes to dress like a children's entertainer or a walking gimmick for their toy business. In his trench coat pockets, he carries all sorts of electronic gadgets, toy parts, and other miscellany which he puts to interesting uses in tracking down the criminals.

Andy is almost Jack's polar opposite. He is down to earth, practical and time efficient as well as compulsively neat and organized. His genius might not be so obvious, and Jack loses him in the areas of his technical expertise, but he's not quite a dummy either. He's a good partner who contributes in his own way to the investigation. He balances Jack out. He's fashionable, but his ties don't have to announce his line of business, thank you very much. Andy's too reserved to do anything goofy (intentionally,) but that does not mean he's the unfunny one. In his narration, he often sees Jack and the rest of the world in a humorous way. He's also a bit of a wit who likes to use verbal irony and exchange playful insults with his waitress friend at the Salvador Deli.

Alice in Wonderland

The story of "Alice in Wonderland" is special to me. One Christmas, when I was a child, my brother Dan gave me two of these Big Golden Books like the one above. One was "Alice in Wonderland," and the other was "Peter Pan." I loved both, but I especially loved "Alice in Wonderland." I begged my mother and my three older brothers to read this book to me over and over again. Mom was quite dramatic when she read aloud! I had it read to me so many times that I eventually memorized it and could "read" it to myself.

Disney's "Alice in Wonderland" is also one of the few movies that I saw in the theater as a child. I remember watching a TV commercial for the movie one night, and, suddenly, Mom announces, "Let's go see it right now!" I was accustomed to not always having my wishes met, and I was so surprised by the treat and Mom's spontaneity.


It wasn't until I was in high school that I read the full Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" novel. I've read many odd theories about Carroll's inspiration behind the book, that he was inspired by opium or by his migraine attacks. There is even a variation of migraine named Alice in Wonderland Syndrome that affects your perception, say, of your size. Migraine is my "thorn in the flesh," but I'm very glad I don't get this more rare variety. "Alice in Wonderland" is a fantastic story, but why do critics assume that an imaginative story had to be inspired either by drugs or some other mind altering experience? Children have wonderful imaginations and are not limited by adults' knowledge and sense of logic. My theory is that Carroll simply maintained this child-like imagination into adulthood. 


Above -- Lewis Carroll's handwritten page with his own illustrations.

Art Nouveau

This particular taste of mine became more apparent when I curated a board on "art I like" on Pinterest. More and more, I began pinning works by Alphonse Mucha.

It may be partly the romanticism and extreme femininity that appeals to me, but I think my eye is attracted to pattern and ornate detail. I love the shapes and patterns in their hair ornaments and the shapes behind them -- I want to call them halos -- adorned with their highly ornate designs.Perhaps, it's also the nature themes in this art movement that I like, flowers, birds, dragonflies, moths, etc.

It's not just Mucha illustrations that I like. I've also collected images of art nouveau art objects and jewelry.

In an "Action Men" story in progress, the stolen object is an antique art nouveau ring by Lalique.

 Audrey Hepburn


The first Audrey Hepburn film I ever saw was "My Fair Lady", which is still one of my very favorites. (Musical theater will have to be listed under favorite things for M when I get to that.) Musical theater, in particular musical comedy, combines a lot of the artistic elements I like into one art form: beautiful music, extravagant and often colorful costumes, dance, comedy and storytelling. It engages all of your senses, and, I think, has the ability to give me a "high." If I'm in a very good mood, it is often Broadway music that comes to mind.

 My mother's favorite movie in the world is Audrey Hepburn's "Sabrina" from 1954. She remembers seeing it when it was a new film. Back in the days when we did movie rentals from Blockbuster, we tried over and over again to find her favorite movie in the classics section. All she could remember was that it was the story of a girl who lived with her chauffeur father above the garage of a grand home. She confused it at first with "Gigi" and "Lili", both of which star Leslie Caron. It wasn't until the release of the "Sabrina" remake, starring Harrison Ford, in 1995 that we rediscovered this great movie. Well, Mom rediscovered it, and I discovered it for the first time, and I confess that I like the original best.


Now, I own several of the movies on DVD, and I like so many of them so well that it's hard to pick a top favorite. I love "Roman Holiday," the story of a princess who needs a break from her stresses to have some fun. I love "Charade," a suspense mystery story with another great star, Cary Grant. "Funny Face" is a wonderful entertaining story about a bookish girl who becomes a model. It features music by Gershwin. (He'll have to be listed again under G.)

 Aurora Borealis

I have been collecting beautiful nature images of all sorts on Pinterest. When I come across photos of the aurora borealis or Northern Lights, I collect it. It's truly an amazing phenomenon, and the assortment of colors and variety is astounding. I don't live in a part of the world where this is visible, but I did hear news rather recently that there was a chance it could be visible in my part of the world.


These are some of my favorite colors in the world here.



Have you had your beauty overload yet? Perhaps, you should see one more.


Isn't it wonderful that we can, through photography, enjoy beauty from various areas of the world you may never see?

  Jane Austen

Jane Austen really has quite a following of fans today. I wonder what she would have thought if she knew she'd have devoted fans in 2015? Maybe some of her popularity comes from the many film adaptations of her stories. I've enjoyed both the books and the movies. I didn't know of any Jane Austen fandom when I read my first Austen books. The only title of hers I had to read for a college literature class was "Northanger Abbey." As an English major, I always looked forward to getting my books for each quarter! My mother sent me two others in a college care package, "Pride and Prejudice" and "Sense and Sensibility."

They really are more than just romance novels. They take a satirical look at a lot of interesting characters and social conventions of the time. I'm not infatuated with Mr. Darcy as some of her fans are. (I'm not infatuated with any of the fictional characters.) I don't quite understand that, because you spend half of your reading of "Pride and Prejudice" believing he's not a good person, which, of course, he turns out to be. My favorite Austen heroes are Edward Ferrars from "Sense and Sensibility" ...

and Edmund Bertram from "Mansfield Park."

I guess I like the ministers ... the ones that aren't silly.




Avocado may seem like a strange addition to this list of mostly artsy things. I suppose alphabetization and "favorite" is the only thing tying rather random things together. When people ask me what my favorite food is, I can not, usually, come up with a quick answer. I like so many different types of foods and cuisine. However, my recipe boards on Pinterest certainly have a lot of recipes containing avocado. Apparently, I have decided that any recipe with avocado in it must, therefore, be delicious. Humorously enough, Pinterest, the website, caught onto this trend and began suggesting avocado recipes to me.

I live in the New York City area, a long way from where avocados grow. My first exposure to avocado probably happened no sooner than my high school days and, most likely, in the form of guacamole. Now, I like them in salads, on burgers, and almost any way ... I can eat them with a fox. I can eat them in a box. I like them, Sam I am.

How about a bacon, brie and avocado sandwich? I don't think this even needs a recipe.

How can this go wrong? Three of my favorite ingredients in one sandwich.

Maybe you'd like to try an avocado salsa. It would be a little like having your guacamole and salsa combined. I've tried this avocado and edamame salad and enjoyed it. It has so many interesting ingredients, radishes and green onions, ginger and parsley ... This chickpea, avocado and feta salad sounds delicious to me.

So, we've come to the end of A but not to the end of favorites. Stay tuned ...


  1. Looks like you had a lovely Christmas eve with lots of yummy goodies. Love those Lindt teddy bears I bought two as well this year. It is nice to indulge over Christmas!

    1. Thank you, Alida. I think you meant to put this comment on the Christmas Eve post. I have a memory of my parents putting Lindt chocolates in our stockings when I was growing up. Now, I like to spoil my family with them. The bears are adorable. I gave them to these two nephews last year too. Maybe, it will become a new Aunt Susan tradition. :) Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

  2. I'm not even an avocado fan, but that sandwich sounds delicious.

    1. Doesn't it? Each ingredient looks so good. I'm on a new diet/nutrition plan that won't let me have bacon, but I have some turkey bacon. I wonder how that variation would be.