Welcome back to the Friday 5ive, a weekly(ish) blog post about five things that caught me attention this week. It's been awhile since I posted a Friday 5ive, the holidays and work kept me very busy, but now that it's 2022, it's time to get back on track.
1) Like everyone else in the world, I was saddened to hear of the death of Betty White. I know that most people associate her with The Golden Girls, but for my money her best performance was as the Happy Homemaker Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I have been watching reruns of that show on my Echo show in my kitchen while making dinner at night and I'm up to seasons 6 and 7, when Sue Ann had some great storylines. (Season 6, episode 15- What Do You Want To Do When You Produce?, Season 6, episode 23- Sue Ann Falls in Love, Season 7, episode 3- Sue Ann's Sister are standouts.) You can find it on Hulu.
2) We had family visit us for Christmas, and my rusty coooking skills got a workout. Two breakfast recipes were so popular, I made the each twice. The first is Berry Croissant Bake, a recipe I found on Kara Creates on Pinterest. You make it with already baked croissants from the bakery, top with fresh or frozen berries and a cream cheese, eggs and milk mixture. It was so good, there were nearly fistfights over the leftovers. The recipe is here, and the photo is from Kara Creates webpage.
The second recipe is for Baked Western Omelet is from The Seasoned Mom, and is one I have made in years past. It's an easy casserole with eggs, milk, cheddar cheese, diced peppers and onions and ham (I also made a smaller dish without ham for our vegetarian fans). This recipe makes a great lunch or light dinner too. The recipe is here. The photo is from The Seasoned Mom.
3) Last night I listened to a fascinating Zoom conversation with author John Searles in discussion with Laura Lippman celebrating 25 years as an author (20 novels, 2 essay collections, and 2 short story collections) and her current book of short stories, Seasonal Work (which is terrific, especially the title story.) I like both of these authors and their discussion ranged from Lippman's pandemic closet remodel and her daily posting of her outfits she bought on ThredUp on Twitter (she is marvelous on Twitter!) to her channeling of the voices of her characters in Seasonal Work. Lippman has always been interested in female characters, particularly young women and girls, and that comes through in this amazing collection set mostly in her beloved Baltimore. Searles' upcoming novel, Her Last Affair, out in March, is also a great read, especially if you like creepy psychological suspense stories, and the setting of an abandoned drive-in is genius. The Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore hosted the event.
4) I watched the movie Being The Ricardos on Amazon Prime this week. Nicole Kidman's astonishing transformation into Lucille Ball really impressed me, especially in light of all the criticism she took on prior to the filming. Javier Bardem is great as Desi Arnaz, and although the movie focuses on one week in the life of Lucy when she was accused of being a Communist during the filming of season two of I Love Lucy, we get flashbacks to their early relationship. The rest of the cast is fantastic, including JK Simmons (as William Frawley aka Fred Mertz), Nina Arianda (as Vivian Vance aka Ethel Mertz) and Tony Hale as executive producer Jess Oppenheimer. Aaron Sorkin wrote and directed the movie, and it's a must-see for anyone (aka everyone in America) who grew up watching reruns of I Love Lucy.
5) After a brief hiatus from reading, I managed to get four books read over the Christmas break. Dana Spiotta's critically acclaimed novel Wayward is set in Syracuse. Spiotta is a professor at Syracuse University and her novel is centered around Sam, an upper class woman in her 50s who, after the 2016 election, has a midlife crisis and decides to leave her husband and buy a dipidated home in a troubled neighborhood in Syracuse. She has a good relationship with her mother, but her relationship with her seventeen year-old daughter is fraying at the seams. Sam is trying to connect with the people in her neighborhood, and when she witnesses a police officer shooting a young black man, she grapples with how to deal with that. There is also a lot of architectural history about Syracuse (I grew up in nearby Auburn) in this deeply moving story that I found so interesting, it makes me want to research it more thoroughly.
Kimberly Belle's My Darling Husband would make a terrific Lifetime movie. The story centers around Jade, a woman married to Cam, a celebrated chef and restauranteur in Atlanta. They live in a McMansion with their two young children and all is well until a man follows Jade home and holds her and the two children hostage. He demands that Cam bring him a very specific large sum of money by 7pm or he will kill the family. Cam has been hiding things from Jade, and she must use all her skills to figure out who this intruder really is and how to keep her children safe. My full review posts January 10th. It's a pulse pounding read.
If you remember watching the sitcom Roseanne, Jenny Pentland's memoir This Will be Funny Later is one you will want to read. Pentland is Roseanne Barr's daughter, and she, her older sister Jessica, and younger brother Jake were youngsters when their mother rocketed to fame as a standup comic and then sitcom superstar. The family lived in Denver and eventually moved to Los Angeles when the sitcom took off. The family came apart when Roseanne divorced their father Bill and became involved with Tom Arnold. Jessica and Jenny were both sent away to various facilities over the years to deal with their behavorial, psychological and drug problems, and Jenny's descriptions of the places she lived in are harrowing at times. The price of fame for the Pentland family was way too much, and if you ever dreamed of what it would be like to be rich and famous, this book will disabuse of any notion you have.
And finally, as mentioned above, I read Laura Lippman's brilliant short story crime fiction collection Seasonal Work. Lippman excels in creating full-bodied characters in these short stories that many novelists would not be able to do in a full novel. The first story, Seasonal Work, is the strongest one about a down-on-their-luck family whose car is broken into on Christmas Eve and all their presents are stolen. Tess Monaghan, the star of many of Lippman's twenty novels, makes a welcome appearance in this story and another for true Lippman fans. The other stories, including the hilarious Snowflake Time, with its Bill O'Reilly-type main character, draw the reader in immediately. Many of these stories have been seen in other collections, but the new one, Just One More, combines Lippman's love of the TV show Columbo with a bored couple during the pandemic. If your attention span suffered during the pandemic, Seasonal Work is a great cure.
I hope you all had a happy holiday season, and that you stayed safe and healthy. Until next time.