Friday, October 31, 2008

Jouni's Cafe

Restaurant: Jouni's Cafe
Location: 932 N. Central Ave., Upland, CA 91786
Like/Don't Like: Yummy! Like.

People of Upland and Surrounding Areas: Go to Jouni's Cafe!

You know where this is. You've passed by it a few times, I'm sure. It's in that shopping center near the corner of Central and Foothill, the one with the Bra Lady and the British Emporium and the Moose lodge. Yes, I know, it's totally the GREATEST shopping center ever. I've lived practically around the corner from it for years now and I've always wanted to go because it seems like the type of place that I love to eat at. I pictured good food for cheap, homey decor, regulars who are mostly 80 and all know each other, and feisty waitresses.

And that's exactly what it is. Since we all had the day off for Camille's Triumphal Return, Katie, Lindsay and I tried it out and were thrilled with it. I always believe that the true test of a breakfast joint is their omelet because there are a million different ways to ruin it. Anyone can do pancakes or French toast but an omelet takes skill and the omelet I got was perfectly done. I also tried Lindsay's biscuits and gravy and they were really tasty. The portions are enormous -- I got the kids size and it was still too much -- but the prices are great. And there were cops there who you could tell were regulars, so you know that it's good.

As we were walking out our feisty waitress said, "Please come again and tell everyone about us. Seriously, tell everyone." Which made me think that business isn't so great. This makes sense considering their location. Even though it is in the greatest shopping center ever it still is in a lousy spot, tucked away in the back on an intersection that looks a little sketchy. So go support your a small local business and have breakfast or lunch there with your family. But be careful, I'm not kidding about the feisty waitress.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Tale of Despereaux

Book: The Tale of Despereaux
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Like/Don't Like: Like a lot

It's been ages since I've read a children's book. I have a huge collection of them and the other day I was looking over the shelves for something new to read and since they're arranged alphabetically by author (the one area in my life that is in some kind of order), I came across this one first. I'm a huge sucker for books with award stickers on them. Have you noticed that more and more books have them and don't really deserve them? I blame Oprah. But this sticker was for the Newberry Award and I trust that one.

Gosh this is a cute book. And it was nothing like I thought it would be. I got it years ago but haven't read it because it has a mouse on the cover, which I took to mean it involved a mouse and I'm always slow to warm to books about animals. But the story was so well written, about a mouse named Despereaux on a quest to save a princess, that I forgot all my prejudices and loved the whole thing. It made me want to steal a few children and read it out loud to them. It's a perfect reading-out-loud book.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Alchemist

Book: The Alchemist
Author: Paulo Coelho
Like/Don't Like: Yeah, sure, I liked it.

I'm not sure what all the fuss is about with this book. It seems like I've been seeing it everywhere for years and years and I hear people talking about it like it has changed their lives. But I'm going to be honest here (like I'm going to lie to you) and say that while it was a sweet little allegory and made some good points it certainly wasn't revolutionary. There are plenty of books and people out there who say the same thing. Dr. Laura for instance. I know this because I have to hear Dr. Laura every day at work whenever I walk into the back office. She is always telling people to get on with their lives and dump all the baggage that's holding them back. But I would recommend reading this book instead of listening to Dr. Laura. She's a bit of a crank. I try very hard to not go to the back office when she's on. This book is much nicer and won't make you cry.

But just because it didn't wow me doesn't mean it was unpleasant to read. It had a great message, that we all have things that we need to accomplish in life and sometimes they're hard and sometimes things get in the way and sometimes we fail but there are forces out there willing us to succeed and if we just get to work and use our surroundings and our abilities to our advantage then success is inevitable. Everyone needs to hear that, right? It was like a little self help book in the form of a fable. And even better that it can be read in just a few hours. If you're looking for a novel then skip it. It's not much of a story. But if you're looking for a little shove in life, go ahead.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

La Vie En Rose

Movie: La Vie En Rose
Like/Don't Like: Like-ish

I have found that with most music biopics the performance of the star of the film and the music that accompanies it are usually the best part. I'm thinking of Ray and Walk the Line here. The same is true with La Vie en Rose - a film about Edith Piaf and her bulging eye balls. Marion Cotillard is sensational as Edith Piaf and the music is amazing. At one point in the movie someone says that Edith Piaf is the voice of Paris and I have to say it's true. Whenever I think of classic French music I hear her bold, passionate voice and an accordion. Well, the accordion goes without saying because every single song I've ever heard that was in French has an accordion. Which makes me wish I were born in France because maybe I would have learned how to play one. It is a wish of mine to play the accordion while wearing a sparkly vest. I like to dream big.

But if Marion Cotillard and the music with all those accordions are the best parts, the worst parts are just about everything else. It was all jumbled. We're at the end of her life, then when she's a kid, then back to an old lady, then a teenager, then older but not really old. And one minute she looks like she's dying and the next minute she just looks drunk and you're not sure if it's when she's actually dying or just one of her spells. And there's all these people who are her friends but you only know a few names and only recognize a few faces and were they with her earlier or later? And when did she go to California? And when did she get married anyway? You can't tell because it just keeps jumping around and her hair keeps changing from red to black to red to black. It was slightly exhausting. And I kept sitting up straight but she had the WORST posture.

But then there were all of those wonderful songs. So I liked it. Sort of.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Three Cups of Tea

Book: Three Cups of Tea
Authors: Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin
Like/Don't Like: Like. And it inspired me.

You've seen this book everywhere, right? Everywhere! And when I asked for recommendations a while back this one got a number of mentions. And I'd like to thank all of you who did because it was really amazing.

About 15 years ago Greg Mortenson attempted to climb K2 and failed but in that failure he has managed to build dozens of schools for the poorest of poor in Pakistan and later other parts of Central Asia. He started out with one school, learning from mistake after mistake how to best get a school up and running in one of the most remote parts of the world. And he did it because he felt that everyone benefits when people are educated. This is a fairly simple and obvious idea but it's amazing how many obstacles he faced because not everyone believed it.

Because of the region and the wars that are going on there I was afraid that it was going to be heavy handed in its politics and I felt like it would have ruined the story. But this was not the case at all. They told about what they saw, both the good and the bad and I thought it was very fair. It read like a very long newspaper human interest story. The style got a little old at times but when it veered away from it it got overly sentimental and romanticized so I was happy with the way it was written in the long run. I should warn you though that you may feel like a bum when you're done reading for not doing more. Like, why haven't I thought to fly to Pakistan and build a school with my bare hands in a place that takes a 3 day mule trip to get to over unpaved mountain passes in a war zone using money I saved while living in my car for a year to cut expenses? Clearly, I hate humanity.

Son of Rambow

Movie: Son of Rambow
Like/Don't Like: How could I not like this?

As soon as I saw the previews for this movie I knew I would love it. Mostly because I think that little boys are the funniest things around. Especially when they're at that age around 9, 10, and 11 and they're just all freckles and arms and legs and energy and they laugh and jump and run and their whole lives are centered around finding adventure. They are just so cute. I think that God made them that way because when they hit 12 and start acting like they're in Lord of the Flies you're going to need those memories of when they were cute and funny.

The movie centers around these two unlikely friends who are out to make a sequel to Rambo: First Blood. They do their own stunts and camera work and they scamper around town getting shots in. It's hysterical. There's a little conflict and there were some legitimately sweet moments to it but it mostly is just fun. And it had kind of a timeless quality to it. Boys are boys no matter the time or place. It hit me about an hour after I finished watching it that it was set in the 80s. I didn't even pick up on that (this is not the film maker's fault. I'm fairly dense and what with all the kids these days wearing leg warmers and gold lame Members Only jackets I could easily get confused. Remember, I'm 80.) But it could have been set in the 50s or the old west or ye olde days of yore. Boys are always going to shove each other around and dream up crazy ways to hurt themselves. And I love them for it.