June 3, 2020

Downton Abbey – the Movie

I was sad to see the tv series Downtown Abbey broadcast its last episode of season six in 2015. Small wonder that a movie revisiting these beloved characters was welcomed in the fall of 2019.

The original series was set over several years in the early 20th century, including World War I. The film continues with the characters in 1927 when the King and Queen of England pay a brief visit to the Downton Abbey residence.

Lord Grantham and his wife are much the same. Widower Tom Branson and Lady Mary now jointly manage the Downton Abbey property. Sybil is living life as an aristocratic mother and wife at a nearby estate. Maggie Smith as Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham embroils herself in a fight over a relative’s inheritance.

In the servant quarters, romance and marriage continue to be a driving force. Daisy is reviewing her marriage prospects. Mr. Carson, now married to Mrs. Hughes and in retirement, is commandeered to manage the Royal couple’s visit. Butler Thomas Barrow, meets a new friend and possible love interest. Tom Branson, an Irish hybrid of both upper and lower classes, saves the king from an assailant and falls for a maid traveling with the royal retinue.

Although not as engrossing as the original tv series, Downton Abbey (the movie) makes for a charming evening of entertainment. May Julian Fellowes continue to write about these memorable characters as they traverse the ever-changing 20th century.

The 2019 film is now available on Amazon Prime Video.

Truffle Ketchup and Peppery Radish Sprouts

My palate has become a little bored with my very basic cooking, so I have been seeking out some food enhancements. One of my newest discoveries, thanks to chef Carla Hall, is Truffle Hunter Black Truffle Ketchup. A 7-ounce jar of this wonderful stuff arrived in time for a Memorial Day barbecue. Truffle Ketchup has the tart taste of tomatoes with a kick of smoky truffles. I can’t wait to try it with sweet potato fries or hot dogs.

I ordered Truffle Hunter Black Truffle Ketchup from Amazon, but you can go directly to the Truffle Hunter web site which offers other Black Truffle flavored items such as Crisps, Cheddar Cheese, Tagliatelle Pasta and Butter.

truffle-hunter.com

Another food item that has added some zing to salads and sandwiches are radish sprouts. My plastic container sports the name Hometown Acres’ Peppery Radish Blend and was purchased in the refrigerated case at a local Chicago produce store, but your locality may have a similar product. Radish sprouts supposedly have up to 40 times the nutrients of fully-grown adult radishes. Funny to think of food from infancy to adulthood, but there you have it.

Based in Carpenterville, IL, Hometown Acres grows a variety of micro greens as sprouts from seedlings. I have previously purchased their crunchy Pea Shoots when I have needed a departure from lettuce and spinach. Hometown Acres also produces Sunflower Shoots and Hemp Microgreens which I look forward to trying.

Hometown Acres does not bill its products as organic, but they use no pesticides, insecticides or herbicides. The products are distributed locally so they are literally delivered hours after harvest.

The web site is a hoot with pithy quotes, nutritional info, musings on the food industry and an invitation to contact Farmer John from the web site.

The tag line under the product title says “Crazy Healthy, Crazy Local, Crazy Fresh.” My kind of company. If you are in the Chicago area, ask for Hometown Acres by name. If you live elsewhere, perhaps you can ask your local produce store to stock locally sourced micro greens.

hometownacres.com

Great Big Story on CNN and as a downloadable app

When all of the negative and scary news starts to get you down, consider visiting the Great Big Story initially launched by CNN.

Short documentaries on various POSITIVE topics might just keep you from slipping over the edge. I especially like to have these clips playing when I exercise, cook or clean.

The link I included will send you to a Great Big Story on Hungarian piano-maker David Klavins who is veering away from Steinway, Fazioli and Bosendorfer in a big way.

https://www.greatbigstory.com/stories/piano-maker/?xrs=CNNHP

The Great Big Story site hosts short films on a myriad of topics that will amaze and uplift you. For kicks, type “Paris,” “London,” “China” or “Italy” in the subject line which will bring up short films for those of us who would prefer to be traveling the world right now.

Politics, illness, floods and bad economic news will become background noise, at least for a few minutes.

You can download Great Big Story from your app store or go to the GBS link:

https://www.greatbigstory.com

McMafia on Sundance Now

I am still on a crime drama tv-watching spree and McMafia on Sundance Now has fed that yen with international style. A co-production with the BBC, AMC and Cuba Pictures, the tv series is based on the 2008 non-fiction book by reporter Misha Glenny, McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld.

James Norton plays Alex Godman, son of a Russian mafia don who is trying to go straight in England. Alex and his British fiancee get drawn into the international skullduggery. Vadim Kalyagin (actor Merab Ninidze) shows up as the arch nemesis crime boss still in Russia who threatens the entire Godman family.

Almost all of the major male characters have attachments to family members or friends who become their points of weakness. A grey-bearded David Strathairn as shady Israeli businessman Semiyon Kleiman and Antonio Mendez (actor Caio Biat) as a handsome liaison for a vicious Mexican drug cartel are some of the bad guys who make use of these relationships. Wives, daughters, mothers and girlfriends are, for the most part, collateral damage in this serious-as-death global game.

The show intro shows a red map line extending from Mumbai, to Prague, to London to Moscow with exotic stop-overs that include Tel Aviv, Cairo and the Cayman Islands. The cinematography can be stunning and the cultural glimpses intriguing.

McMafia, co-created by Hossein Amini and James Watkins, is a smart international crime show that is all the more frightening when you consider its inspiration was a non-fiction book. Season 2 has been ordered. Release date pending.

Cara Cotton Gloves

I have been seeing discarded plastic medical gloves on sidewalks and in gutters. Wanting to come up with a hand-covering that is reusable and more organic, I purchased white cotton gloves in a package of 24. I use them once and then throw them in with the other white laundry items. Hot water, bleach and soap is purported to clean and sterilize them.

The gloves come in all different sizes and you don’t necessarily have to buy them in bulk, but if you have multiples, you are less tempted to reuse them after out-of-home use.

People may see your white-gloved hands and think you are a mime, but we just may start a current day fashion trend.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CIBQD7I?tag=duckduckgo-osx-20&linkCode=osi&th=1&psc=1

Dr. Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 Breathing Technique

Breathing exercises are not for everyone, but if you are having trouble calming your nervous system or suffer from insomnia, here is a technique worth trying.

Dr. Andrew Weil, the noted alternative medical doctor, based his relaxing 4-7-8 breathing technique on the ancient yoga practice called pranayama. It may be done sitting, standing or prone. It is particularly useful to create a state receptive to sleep.

Here are some basic pointers in commencing a daily breathing routine:

1. First, let your lips part. Make a whooshing sound, exhaling completely through your mouth.

2. Next, close your lips, inhaling silently through your nose as you count to four in your head.

3. Then, for seven seconds, hold your breath (the most critical part of the exercise).

4. Make another whooshing exhale from your mouth for eight seconds.

5. You can do the breathing sequence up to 4 times per session.

6. You may work up to doing the 4 breath sequence up to 8 times, spaced throughout the day.

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-sz-001&hsimp=yhs-001&hspart=sz&p=dr.+weil+4-7-8+breathing+youtube#id=2&vid=5f2d983e18bca10aadffb4a8fc534efa&action=click