Monday, April 25, 2011

Julie and Julia

I just finished watching the movie, Julie and Julia. I am a big fan of Meryl Streep's work, and I wanted to see her rendition of Julia's unique way of speaking, sort of slurred and throaty. I didn't know it was a Nora Ephron film till I saw the opening credits. This gave me a sense of "yes" in my choice of titles, because I've loved many of the films she has written or directed. My instincts were correct. It was a wonderful film, entwining two true stories: how Julia Child became a French chef and wrote her famous book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and about a woman named Julie who decided to take a year to go through that book, cooking up the 524 recipes, and blogging about her experiences.

My exposure to Julia Child has been limited yet typical, I think. I grew up seeing her show on PBS once in a while and had the prejudiced impression she was a lush, like a kitchen drinker. She was the brunt of many a joke and comedic skit, and imitated (often cruelly) by a large number of professional comedians on TV. I didn't take her too seriously, as a result, and I certainly didn't feel much respect for her craft or lifework. I went into viewing this film with more respect for Meryl Streep than the character she was to embrace on screen, something I am ashamed to admit, now, after watching the story.

I loved the movie. I loved Meryl's performance; she made me love Julia. If this representation of Julia is accurate, I would have loved Julia (had I known her personally) and I would have tried cooking French cuisine when I was younger, hands down. (Although, I have to admit it baffles me she was a smoker. Aren't smokers supposed to have killed their taste buds or something? This is my only criticism of the woman.) Her enthusiasm for life, and loving food, people, Paris, and challenges must have influenced nearly everyone she met.

I am greatly tempted to go out and buy her book, at long last, even though I have nearly completely given up cooking myself at this point in my life. If menopause ever finishes, I might even want to start cooking again, to be able to enjoy all those really seemingly delicious recipes the actors got to eat in that movie. I really, truly hope their ecstasy wasn't acting but simply the reflection of really delicious dishes, I could also cook for my husband (a diehard fan of all things French) at home.

Further, the blogging part of the movie gave me a kick in the butt about expressing myself on this blog as well, which I haven't been very interested in doing for the past year or more. I would have to say the movie inspired me to speak up. Yes, it was an inspirational film, no question.

If you haven't seen it yet (although I doubt anyone else out there is as behind in their movie-viewing as I am), promise me you will. It really is worth it. Viva la France! Viva la Julia! Viva Nora Ephron films!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Handicraft Hobbies

I have always enjoyed creating things. I sewed my own clothes in my teens and twenties, did embroidery projects or wrote poems in calligraphy and framed them in colored matte frames to give as gifts from childhood on, studied jewelry-making in high school and college and was honored to make the wedding bands for friends & my brother and sister-in-law. In my late teens I crocheted afghans for my brothers and parents, after my grandma had taught me the basics.

Handicrafts have always been a pleasant hobby, and my perfectionistic nature has helped me maintain a high standard for the finished products. The crafts created give me a great sense of satisfaction and well being. I tend to have low self-esteem, but creating something beautiful makes me feel as though I am living up to my potential, and gives me peace.

That said, it is perhaps unexpected to hear that I gave up most of my handicraft hobbies mid-life when I had T.B. and a number of other physical afflictions hit me simultaneously. Worst affected was my eyesight, making those crafts taxing on the eyes impossible to continue. Even after having laser surgeries on my eyes and recovering, I didn't go back to my creative hobbies; I turned to the television and computer instead.

My mother always encouraged me to do something creative while I struggled through menopause; she knew it would make me feel better and give me a sense of self-worth despite the blues that come with hormonal imbalance. But it was difficult to muster the energy to pick up new supplies and my feet dragged.

Yet, it has been in the past year or so that I have found both the motivation and opportunity to try my hand at some handicrafts again. I made a small wall hanging for friends moving away (shown up at the top of this post), & began making counted cross-stitch ornaments before Christmas to give as gifts. That encouraged me to do more embroidery.

Then, when I was looking around for the embroidery floss I'd put away more than a decade ago, I came across a box of yarn in various colors. Within the box was the first few rows of three different afghans I'd started but soon abandoned. One was in a color I really liked, so I pulled it out. This past week I have enjoyed discovering that crocheting is just like riding a bike; regardless of how long it's been since you gave it a try, it all comes back to you. Crocheting is easy and can be done while watching TV, or when keeping my husband company during his late evening suppers after a long day's work. It soothes me.

I look forward to becoming reacquainted with all the handicrafts I have known and mastered in the past. With my son grown and now married, I have the free time to return to my creative roots and enjoy a new period of artistic productivity.