Masterpiece Theater

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Have you ever watched Masterpiece Theater? I think that Downton Abbey was a big awakening for people who had never been a fan of Masterpiece before.

Now that DA is over for the season, Masterpiece is back to their classic tales from Charles Dickens and Jane Austin. Of course I love anything Jane Austin, but Dickens was a little more difficult for me to get into.

My favorite was Oliver Twist. And then the movie and play Oliver. Poor little boy goes to an orphanage. Porridge was the main dish in the dining room. I shall never forget the line, “Please Sir, can I have some more”.

And then his adventures when he later joins the pickpocket gang and learns the art of pickpocketing. (from Rodger the Dodger). The interesting thing about Dicken’s stories is that they really happened.

Of course he fictionalized them, but the events were pretty accurate for the times. London was quite a dirty place two hundred years ago.

Last night was one of Dickens stories that I was not familiar with, although it is one of his most famous. ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’.

This was so well done and each actor deserved an award for their portrayal of these mostly detestable characters. Other than Nell and poor Mrs. Quilp, all the other characters are not very nice.

The story starts with Nell and her grandfather in their little shop. Grandpa is a gambling addict and he sends little Nell to the money lender to get money so he can play cards.

He never wins and so he winds up signing over his shop and everything in it to the mean Mr. Quilp. Then he and Nell duck out and hit the road.

I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it is a real tear jerker.

I think I will watch Masterpiece whenever it is on, as they seem to have really high quality shows. They tend to be British, and classics from a bygone era.

If you want to get some history with your entertainment, watch Masterpiece. And if you have children, they can watch too. Most of Dicken’s stories have children in them.

In those days, children as young as seven and eight, were working in the work house and being sent to prison for the slightest infraction. There are teenage girls of fourteen who are pretty much running the household. By sixteen they are old enough to marry and get out of their situation and into a worse one.

Masterpiece is a great way to introduce your family to the classics and more fun than just reading the book on Kindle. Plus it will make your children appreciate how good they have it today.


Mozart’s 25 Greatest Opera Hits

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Saturday night I went to a Mozart concert. This was something I had never done before and didn’t know quite what to expect. Joe Moore, a local newscaster and Mozart buff was the host and sponser of the event.

As it was not heavily advertised, I wasn’t sure what the turn out would be. Here in Honolulu, it was held at the Diamond Head Theater. I have been going to programs at this theater for over fifty years and every seat is OK. The performance was 100% sold out.

The tickets were all general admission so we got there early. The crowd was very orderly. I would say the average age was around seventy. Many people had canes and the audience was heavily gray haired.

I heard a lot of German being spoken. As Wolfgang Amedeus Mozart was German, I guess he has a big following in that community.

In any case, the concert was a total delight. I wasn’t sure just what a Spring Wind Octet would consist of. Two clarinets, two oboes, two bassoons and two horns.

As it turned out, Joe Moore narrated the entire evening and told the audience just what ‘hit’ would be next and a little story about what it meant and of course from which opera.

The program was set up like a Top 40 count down. Except it was the Top 25 according to Joe Moore.

I knew a little about Mozart, as I saw the movie Amedeus in 1984. Tom Hulce played Mozart and he was amazing.

Joe Moore told little anecdotes about Mozart that brought the composer to life. However he died over 200 years ago at the age of 35. During his short lifetime, he wrote 25 operas, the first one when he was twelve years old.

Jeffrey Boeckman was the conductor and while he was very understated, he had his octet totally together. Every musician was a master of his instrument.

But the big standout of the evening was the First Oboe, J. Scott Janusch. He was so incredible and he stood out from everyone else in the group.

I had never realized that an oboe could be so haunting. And his range was remarkable. After the performance the players were out front of the theater, which was a nice touch. We were able to go up and shake hands and compliment them in person.

Go directly, digitally to jail? Classic toys learn new clicks

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When I was a little girl I played with a box of paper dolls. I sat on our back porch with my best friend and for hours we played with our dolls. We dressed them and made up elaborate stories about their lives.

Then when I had two little girls in the sixties, they played with Barbie dolls. The clothes were fantastic and I even sewed many of the outfits myself.

My most ambitious project was sewing a wedding dress and veil. This satin and lace wonder took me the better part of two weeks to make and cost nearly $20 in pattern, fabric and tiny little buttons. And this was back in 1965. (Velcro hadn’t been invented yet).

I also made Barbie a real mink coat, out of a piece of mink I had after having my own coat shortened. And since I sewed my children’s clothes, Barbie had matching outfits for most of my daughters dresses.

Today I read this in the Sunday paper. Wow! Now Barbie has a camera in her back. Just point and shoot using the button on her belt, and the photo appears on her tee shirt and can be downloaded to your computer. Read on, there is more.

NEW YORK » Generation after generation, Monopoly money stacked up in piles of pink, green and gold, Hot Wheels raced across floors and Barbie was, well, just a doll.

Not anymore.

Classic toys are becoming much less classic because of upgrades meant to entertain technology-obsessed children. Where they once tried, unsuccessfully, to compete with digital devices, toy makers are co-opting them.

Monopoly money can now be counted by a tablet computer. Hot Wheels cars can zoom across iPad screens. And Barbie? She’s become a digital camera.

The souped-up classics reflect the growing reality that children, like their parents, are loath to spend time without their devices. More than a third of children 8 years old and younger use mobile devices like iPads or smartphones, a recent study from Common Sense Media found, and about a quarter of children ages 5 to 8 multitask with their digital devices most or some of the time.

And the main item retailers could not seem to keep in stock last year was a tablet computer for children, the LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer.

“Kids like to play with the gadgets that they see their parents using, so I think it makes sense for toy makers to find a way to freshen up,” said John Alteio, director of toys and games for Amazon, which will carry several of the tech-enhanced toys.

So Mattel’s new Barbie has a lens in her back; children point the doll at an image, and press a button on Barbie’s belt to take a photo. The image then appears on the front of Barbie’s T-shirt. The photos can also be downloaded to a computer.

Toys like spy glasses and laser tag sets have been transformed. Now, because of the addition of technology that records daytime and night vision video, the spy glasses made by Jakks Pacific, called Spy Net Multi Vision Goggles, could actually perform serious surveillance. And Hasbro’s Laser Tag of yore, when children ran around and pointed toy guns at one another, has been replaced by children pointing iPhones instead. Players place the iPhone in a gun, and the iPhone display — via an app — shows live video of whatever is ahead overlaid with graphics. When the trigger is pulled, lasers appear.

Mattel is introducing a line of games called Apptivity for classic brands, including Hot Wheels, Fisher-Price and Barbie. Using free apps, children pull up a game on the iPad. But instead of using a virtual car or avatar, children move small plastic toys with sensors around the iPad.

The makeovers have extended to tech versions of board games, too. In Game of Life, the plastic spinner has been replaced by a tablet, which shows a picture of the spinner and makes the spinner’s sound. In Monopoly, a tablet or smartphone counts everyone’s money and, when a player lands on Chance or Community Chest, it starts a short digital game, replacing the cards that told people to go to jail, go directly to jail.

“While parents might want certain things, kids enjoy their mobile devices,” said Hasbro’s chief marketing officer, John Frascotti. “This allows parents not to have that confrontation with kids.”

However, given that the digitally linked games are more expensive (the Barbie with a camera, for instance, is $50, more than twice as much as a plain Barbie) and that many require expensive iPads or smartphones to work, analysts say their potential is limited.

One of my fondest childhood memories is the great fun we had playing with a stick of wood. This was a two inch by two inch piece of lumber that was about thirty inches long. It could be a horse or a sword.

We would go to our clubhouse, which we made out of old venetian blinds wedged in the corner of the fence in our back yard, and could play for hours inventing secret codes and burying coffee cans filled with messages in the flower beds.

I guess nowadays, the kids just sit in their air conditioned bedrooms all by themselves and ‘play’ on their iPads. How sad.


Sears-Going, Going, Gone

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I grew up with Sears Roebuck. Here in Honolulu it was the ONLY department store from the time I was born until the time my children were born. I can even remember way back in 1944, going with my mother to the Red Cross station in the Sear’s store and ‘rolling bandages’ for our soldiers.

Until 1959, the Sears store was on Beretania Street. It was a free standing monolith. It had a Dairy Queen in the parking lot, so it was a one stop shop for me.

And those were the days when Dairy Queen was really delicious. Cone with the curl on top. Chocolate dipped. And no chemicals or preservatives. Ten cents and you were in heaven.

Then when the Ala Moana shopping center opened in 1959/60, Sears became the huge anchor store with 270,000 square feet of space. That was where I bought all our appliances, tools, TV’s, furniture and baby goods.

In 1958-1962, when my children were born, there was no such thing as disposable diapers. Sears was the place to buy cloth diapers and also diaper pails. And of course a washing machine to wash them in and clothespins to hang them on the line to dry.

They used to have a great furniture department, which is long gone. When my daughters were eight and ten, we got them their Cinderella white with gold trim canopy bed sets at Sears.

But no more. No more anything. Sears is closing. General Growth properties, the company that owns Ala Moana shopping center bought out their lease for $250 million dollars. Then they will spend another $250,000,000 to redevelop the space to bring it up to date and make it more profitable.

While I will miss all the little vendors who were part of Sears, I think in the long run, this is a good thing. Good for the people of Hawaii.

I feel sorry for the owners of small businesses who rented space from Sears. There is the embroidery shop, which was handy for having things monogrammed, a gift wrapping shop, good for buying gift wrap and boxes, and of course Sears jewelry repair, florist, and Aloha Lock and Key.

Hopefully these little shops will reappear in the newly developed area. But I don’t know if they can ‘hold out’ during the renovation period. And what about all the employees, who probably thought they had a job for life?

We will now have even more shopping choices and hopefully some of the merchants that are not here yet in our fair islands, will be lured to open, now that there will be more space available.

Here is what I would like to see in part of that 270,000 foot area: First, I hope that Long’s drug store moves over one notch and takes a much larger space. Their flagship store right next to Sears, is way too small. Now that CVS bought Longs, I’m sure they would love to have a bigger area.

The CVS stores on the mainland are enormous. They have great cosmetic departments, household goods, and even a large book and magazine department. Their pharmacies are spacious with lots of sitting area to wait for your prescriptions. Plus many are open 24 hours a day. (people get sick between ten p.m. and eight a.m. too)

In the current Long’s location there could easily be something else. The most logical would be Starbucks. They are being displaced by the Sears closing and they are currently in a lousy location on the lower level. If they had a nice big Starbucks on the mall level, that would be a winner.

Other than Jamba juice, there is nowhere on the mall level to get something to drink.

The Long’s at Ala Moana is their only store that is too small to use a cart. There are little baskets by each entrance, but you really can’t put much in a little basket, and if you are buying paper towels or toilet paper, forget it.

The aisles are too narrow. If someone is looking at coffee or macadamia nuts, it is nearly impossible to ‘pass’ them. There is a very small selection of liquor and wines and the ‘cold food’ department is just one small refrigerator case. This could all be vastly improved by more space.

Now that Sears will be gone next year, we really need a store that carries ‘everything’ from luggage to electronics. Target. That would be great. We really need a Target store for everything from children’s clothes, maternity clothes, furniture, garden supplies, pet supplies, toys and bicycles.

There will be no store that carries strollers and car seats once Sears closes. No store that carries tools. No store that carries TV’s and sound systems (except tiny little Radio Shack). I hope General Growth properties has the good sense to make sure that the people of Hawaii have a good mix of merchants.

The shopping center now is mostly high end stores like Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Prada and Ralph Lauren. Even jeans are expensive. Lucky brand jeans start around $80 and Gap has all but disappeared. This is nice for the tourists from Japan, but local people want to be able to buy a reasonably priced stroller or hammer. (And would like to be able to buy their children cute clothes that don’t cost $100 for an outfit or go to Old Navy for a $5 dress).

Another store I would love to see added to the mix is Trader Joe’s. We don’t have TJ in Hawaii and it is sorely needed. When we fly to the mainland, many people take an empty suitcase, fill it up at Trader Joe’s and bring back supplies for the whole family.

This would give shoppers at the Ala Moana Shopping Center a market other than teensy weensy Food Land for their food shopping needs. Trader Joe’s has brands and foods that are not found anywhere in Hawaii. Plus their cookies and candies are without parallel.

I think the store I miss the most these days is Woolworth. I don’t know if it is even in business any more. That was the greatest five and ten cents store. Although now it would probably be the Five and Ten Dollar store. They had a great lunch counter with milk shakes and sundaes in real glass containers.

I guess it would be asking too much to get that one back, but maybe a 99 cent store wouldn’t be a bad idea. These are very popular on the mainland. When I lived in Mexico this was called the 11 Peso Store. Everything from candles to hats and a nice mix of toys and plastic containers to boot.

Forever 21 has a small store at Ala Moana. Hopefully they will relocate to a much larger space and something else can go where they currently are. Their present space is only about 5000 square feet at most. They could easily use 20,000 to 25,000 square feet or more. Some of their outlets are double or triple that size.

Forever 21 has a three story location in Waikiki. It is well located right next to the Cheesecake Factory. They do a booming business with tourists, but for local people if would be great to have a store in the mall where there is plenty of parking.

Now that Sears is leaving, there will be a few departments that must be replaced with something else. Craftsman tools. Other than Home Depot and City Mill, both of which are not very convenient, there really is nowhere to buy a hammer or a saw, much less power tools.

Hopefully there will be a hardware store with all these items. In San Diego there is a famous hardware store. It is pretty amazing and is stocked like an old time General Store. They have absolutely everything, and even people who don’t love to shop in a hardware store, love to shop at this one. It’s been around since 1892.

Craigslist-Wanna Buy a TV?

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I just did a really dumb thing. I decided to sell my ‘old’ TV on Craigslist and when I wrote the ad I put my name and phone number in the ad.

As soon as I realized my error, I quickly edited the ad, leaving my name and phone number out.

Well, it didn’t go through that way and within half an hour I got a phone call from a man who definitely wanted to buy my TV.

Except for one little problem: He doesn’t have a car and he wants to put it in his storage locker tonight. Right.

I can just see me driving into Waikiki, picking up this guy, putting him in my car and driving him to his storage locker in the pitch dark.

He must think I am an idiot. Well, I wasn’t too brilliant, when I put my name and phone number in the ad.

As I couldn’t seem to edit my name and phone number out of the ad, I simply deleted the whole thing.

After careful consideration I realized that even if he had a car and didn’t require pick up and delivery services, I wouldn’t want this guy coming to my condo at any time.

I’m sure Craigslist has lots of very happy customers, both buyers and sellers. I just don’t think I am cut out for this type of merchandising.

Don’t get me wrong, I think buying and selling previously used items is a great idea. Over the years I have had many garage sales and moving sales.

When I sold my home in Las Vegas, I ran ads constantly in the Review Journal and sold all my furniture and practically every household item from appliances to dishes.

People came to my house and purchased hundreds of items. I was never apprehensive about doing business this way.

At one point in my life I ran a consignment shop in Waikiki. I went to many peoples homes and bought and bartered inventory for the store.

But somehow this seems more impersonal. Or maybe you just read such grim stories in the paper these days, people are more cautious.

So if anyone of you Dear Readers in Honolulu want to purchase a Samsung 24 inch Sync Master TV/monitor 1080p for $100, leave me a comment with your phone number and I will get back to you.

Split Pea Soup-Anderson’s Recipe

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For years my mother made the greatest pea soup. Now I make it the very same way.

This recipe is from Anderson’s pea soup house. Yes, that’s the one with the windmill on top. And they also sell their soup in cans, White cans with green writing.

I love to make this for a cold winter’s day. (Here in Hawaii that means the temperature dropping below seventy degrees in February).

OK. First you will need to buy a bag of dried green peas at the market. Any kind is fine. You will need three stalks of celery, one onion and two or three carrots. Now this is my addition: To make it extra good, a ham bone, ham shank or just some little pieces of cut up ham.

If you are a strict vegetarian, you can leave out the ham or ham bone, but I think it adds a lot of flavor.

For spices, besides salt and pepper, a dash of cayenne pepper and lot (at least one or two teaspoons) of thyme (dried, fresh or both).

Heat a little oil in a big pot. Add coarsely chopped onion, celery and carrot and stir around a couple of minutes. Add ham bone, rinsed peas and seven or eight cups of water. Salt, pepper, a dash of cayenne pepper, thyme come next. Stir together.

Bring to a boil, lower to simmer and cook for about two hours, or until peas are tender and soup is all blended and the right thickness. You can add more water if necessary.

This makes quite a lot, so if you save some for later, you will have to add more water as you heat it up again. This turns into a big glob when you chill it.

I like to serve this with homemade croutons. To make these, take what’s left of a loaf of sourdough or french bread and cut into cubes or tear into little chunks. Before you do this spread the bread with garlic/butter. Or use left over garlic bread.

Put a little oil in a frying pan and dump in the croutons. Stir till they are nice and toasty. Turn off heat and let them crisp. That’s it. Serve a few on top of each bowl of soup, or let guests serve themselves.

To make Bulls eye soup, heat a can of tomato soup in a separate pot. Make a little circle using a folded over waxed paper strip held together with a paper clip.

If you wrap the strip around two fingers, this should be about the right size. Set the open circle in the middle of the soup bowl.

Fill the circle with a spoonful of tomato soup. Add the pea soup around the outside edge of the waxed paper to the edge of the bowl. Remove the waxed paper circle and the two colors will not run together. Bulls eye!

Think Outside the Bag

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I was rearranging my closet the other day. Since half of my wardrobe is black, I decided to put all my black things together on one rack. Jackets, pants, tops. So much easier to find just what I want when I want it.

On another rack I put all purple things together, then lavender, blue, then leopard, grey, and then red. I don’t know if I can keep this up, but it sure makes sense.

I already have two hundred flat velvet hangers, so you would think that would be plenty, but I used every single one of them.

And that was after I discarded three full bags of clothes for the Salvation Army. Some lucky lady is going to find some real treasures, but these were things I hadn’t worn in two years.

I know the rule is if you haven’t worn it in one year, but sometimes I travel with certain items to different climes, so I say two years just to be on the safe side.

When it comes to shoes, I decided anything with too high a heel would have to go. No sense breaking my neck.

Purses are another story. I have to admit I was weak. I did give away several chunky small purses. Nothing I would miss. Some were gifts with purchase from cosmetic companies and were never worn. Who would wear a pale green purse?

Some of the fabrics and leathers are so beautiful, they really can be recycled into something else. If I needed any more pillows for my bed, I could have made at least six beauties.

Maybe I should go into the pillow business. Hmm.

I couldn’t bear to part with one of my large tote bags that I know I will never use. I decided if I cut it up, I would have two nice big pieces of black patent ‘leather’ to use in a craft project. This might make unusual gift wrap. Some zebra ribbon?

I have some choices here. I could put a new floor in my dollhouse playroom. I could gift wrap that ‘special’ present. I could cover a box. Hmm. Let me think of a few more and then I will decide.

This would make a nice 12 inch by 14 inch floor for the playroom in my doll house

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