Monday, April 30, 2012

Holiday Hits: Let's Go Fly A Kite for National Kite Month

Since today is the last day of National Kite Month, I thought it would be fun to watch a kite-flying clip, complete with song, from that beloved movie of my childhood days, "Mary Poppins":


Now doesn't that just make you want to go out and fly a kite, or at least burst into song?  I know I will be humming that tune for the rest of the day!

Mysterious Mondays: Bram Stoker's "Dracula's Guest"

Walpurgis Night bonfire (from Sweden.se)

Did you know that tonight is Walpurgis Night, exactly six months away from Halloween?  The night is often associated with witches and sorcerers, and is celebrated with bonfires and dancing, in preparation for the arrival of spring's May Day.  Bram Stoker's short story, "Dracula's Guest", takes place on Walpurgis Night.  This tale is thought to be a deleted chapter from his classic 1897 horror novel Dracula. It begins with an unnamed English traveller (assumed to be Jonathan Harker) in Munich on Walpurgis Night.  Despite his coachman's warning, the man wanders out into the forest at night.  A storm arises just as he enters a cemetery, and he is forced to seek shelter in a marble tomb.  At that point the night takes on a strange and menacing aspect, full of weird sights and sounds, including a glimpse of a beautiful countess and the persistent howling of wolves.  The Englishman loses consciousness, but is vaguely aware that something is holding him down.  He is eventually rescued, and learns that his rescue was even more fantastically unusual than the events leading up to it, and came about by the intercession of the very person he is on his way to visit in Transylvania, who just happens to be Count Dracula.  You can read this short story here, or watch an interesting gothic horror machinima animation version on YouTube.  The latter is something I had never seen before, and I found it fascinating!

If you find yourself travelling to Transylvania today, you had best stay indoors after dark.  Have a safe Walpurgis Night!

Dracula welcomes his guest (from Horror Cult Films)
     

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Weekend Wonders: It Happened to Jane (1959)


"It Happened to Jane" (1959) is one of my all-time favorite Doris Day movies!  Day plays the recently widowed Jane Osgood, who takes over her husband's lobster business in Cape Ann, Maine, to support herself and her two young children.  When a shipment of lobsters bound for the Marshall Town Country Club perishes as a result of negligence by the railroad company and the country club cancels all future orders, Jane is outraged.  Representatives of the railroad company sent by its new owner, Harry Foster Malone (Ernie Kovacs), attempt to convince her to accept a settlement for the price of the lobsters only, but Jane refuses, since this amount will not compensate her for the lost business.  Her old friend and town lawyer, George Denham (Jack Lemmon), assures her that she can recover her losses by suing the Eastern & Portland Railroad Company.  Jane agrees to this, and wins the local lawsuit, but is dismayed to discover that the railroads lawyers intend to file an appeal and that she may have to wait a long time before she ever sees any of the money.

George suggests that they file a writ of execution to force payment, taking possession of the local train, Old 97, until payment is received.  The story makes national news, and in retaliation, Malone starts charging Jane rent for the railroad property on which the train is sitting.  Larry Hall (Steve Forrest), a New York City reporter who comes to Cape Ann for the story and ends up falling for Jane, suggests that the way to beat Malone is by raising public awareness about his underhanded tactics.

Heading for New York with Larry and leaving a jealous George in charge of her young family, Jane makes the rounds of various talk shows, proclaiming she is fighting "the meanest man in the world".  She is a hit, and public sympathy is aroused in her favor.  Malone concedes on the issue of rent and gives Jane the train, but promptly cancels all train service to her town and gives her 48 hours to remove her train from the tracks.  At first the townspeople are dismayed by this act and blame Jane for their troubles, but after George reprimands them with a stinging speech, they rally to her support.  Since Jane's new publicity brought in a flood of orders for lobsters, with the help of her fellow Cape Ann residents, she and George set off to make the deliveries in Old 97, along with her son and daughter and George's Uncle Otis (Russ Brown), a retired railroad engineer.  Will she succeed, or will Harry Foster Malone thwart her again?  And who gets the girl in the end?  The only way to find out is by watching the movie!

Doris Day gets to sing two of the three songs in this movie -- the title song, and a song called "Be Prepared" in a scene where she and George lead a Boy Scout troop lobster cookout (the delightful Jack Lemmon is hilarious in his scout leader outfit!).  You can watch this scene on YouTube.

Day is wonderful in this movie -- beautiful, funny, and spunky, the way in which she is best known for film roles.  Lemmon, another one of my favorite actors, is his usual superb self in a comedic role, and the rest of the cast lend fine support.  My favorite cast member, though, has to be Sam the Lobster, in what is probably the only starring role ever for one of these crustaceans ("Annie Hall" notwithstanding!).  It may sound trite, but this movie truly is wholesome and heartwarming, and as far as I am concerned there is nothing wrong with that!

Doris Day and Jack Lemmon with costar Sam the Lobster on the set of "It Happened to Jane" (from DorisDay.net)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Foodie Fridays: Crunchy Pierogi Pie

Crunchy Pierogi Pie

Just when I was wondering what recipe I wanted to post for today, I came across this one for Crunchy Pierogi Pie!  I love pierogi, but rarely eat them because they can be a bit boring on their own.  This recipe turns them into a hearty main dish which could easily become another comfort food favorite for a trying day.  I might change it up a bit by using potato and onion pierogi instead of the variety with cheese, and cheddar instead of Parmesan cheese.  It also looks like the pie is topped with onions sautéed in butter in the photo above, and that is a traditional way to eat pierogi, so I would add them as well.  Pierogi are available in the freezer section of most supermarkets, and I am going to rush out right now to pick up a box so I can make this dish!  By the way, one interesting fact I learned about these Eastern European dumplings is that the word "pierogi" is actually plural, so no "s" is needed at the end -- who knew?

Crunchy Pierogi Pie

1 box (1 lb.) frozen potato and onion pierogi (or any preferred variety)
3 T. butter
3 T. grated cheddar or Parmesan cheese

Boil the pierogi for 3-4 minutes, until they float to the water's surface.  Drain well and place in a glass 8-inch pie plate.  Dot the top with the butter, then sprinkle the cheese over.  Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until the edges brown and everything is crispy, including the bottoms of the pierogi.  Serve hot.  Serves 4 (hopefully, unless I find that I am unable to exercise restraint!).
     

Thursday, April 26, 2012

This 'n That Thursdays: Eco-Friendly Kitchen Countertops

From Natural Built Home

The beautiful and eco-friendly kitchen countertop in the HGTV 2012 Green Home inspired me to search out other countertops that are attractive as well as easy on the environment.  There are a number of intriguing products out there, including the Nuxite countertop pictured above, which is made of a combination of crushed recycled walnut shells and a low-emission resin binder.  While probably not as maintenance-free as the more familiar quartz-resin countertops, it would certainly be a lot easier to care for than wood, and I just love the look:


Recycled glass countertops have been around for quite a while now.  Both Vetrazzo and Icestone manufacture this type of product in a variety of colors:

Vetrazzo Millefiori
Forest Fern Icestone

These countertops are made with a concrete binder, so the surface must be sealed periodically to protect it from stains, but otherwise the material is extremely durable and low maintenance.  Recycled glass countertops made by Minnesota-based Elements are bound with an environmentally friendly resin, which means that it never needs to be sealed and is virtually maintenance free:

Elements Recycled Glass Countertop

This company will custom design your countertop with almost any material added, including seashells or marbles!  Another company, Cosentino, produces a line of countertops called ECO from a variety of recycled materials, either post-industrial or post-consumer, also with an eco-friendly resin binder, such as this one made with recycled mirrors:

Polar Cap ECO

Cosentino also makes Silestone, an engineered quartz countertop, which is what we currently have in our kitchen.  I absolutely love it -- it truly is maintenance free as well as beautiful -- but after seeing all of these sustainable options that are available, I may just have to look in to using one of them in our next kitchen remodel.  And check out this site for a description of even more environmentally responsible countertop choices.  It just keeps getting easier and easier to be green!
   

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wish List Wednesdays: AWEsome Items from At West End

The folks from At West End (AWE) never fail to delight me with their fabulous finds in rustic and recycled home décor.  I featured a few of their fish-themed items last year, but this year I am expanding further into the animal kingdom.  Just take a look at a few of their current offerings:

Cast Iron Double Owl Trivet

Aqua Nesting Fish Bowls

Cast Iron Bird Bottle Opener

I'm even going over into the plant kingdom for this one:

Cast Iron Walnut Nut Cracker

And this is just a tiny sampling of all that this awe-inspiring company has to offer.  Check them out and you will see what I mean!
         

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Terrifying Tuesdays: E. F. Benson's "How Fear Departed from the Long Gallery" (1912)


"How Fear Departed from the Long Gallery" is a short story by British novelist Edward Frederic (E. F.) Benson.  It was published in 1912 as part of an anthology of horror stories called The Room in the Tower, and Other Stories.  In this tale, the hauntings of the Church-Peveril house are described.  According to the house legend, there are several family ghosts, but none are more feared than the ghosts of two twin babies, murdered in their infancy by a wicked uncle.  Certain death has befallen all who have seen these specters, and while the Peveril family is rather fond of their other ghostly relatives, these two spirits are actively avoided.  Since the ghost babies only appear at a specific time and place, namely at dusk in the part of the house known as the long gallery, all but an unfortunate few have been successful at avoiding the sight of them.  Some of these ill-fated individuals lived long enough to describe what they had seen, but all suffered rather unpleasant deaths in a relatively short time after seeing the twin ghosts.

Despite the dreadful haunting, the gallery is a comfortable and much-used space as long as there is daylight, but as soon as the sun begins to set the room is abandoned.  This has worked out so well that no one had seen the ghostly babies in a very long time, and all would probably have continued in this manner indefinitely were it not for one brave soul staying at the house for the Christmas holiday.  Not only does this young lady confront the spectral twins, she finds a way to break the curse, and teaches a lesson to all on the virtues of compassion.

E. F. Benson is a well-known writer most famous for his humorous series of Mapp and Lucia novels.  He wrote quite a few short horror stories, and although some are quite gruesome he manages to inject his signature wit into the tales, including this one.  All of his ghostly tales were published in The Collected Ghost Stories of E. F. Benson (edited by Richard Dalby).  I highly recommend reading the entire collection, as in my opinion these stories rival those of M. R. James in quality.  Look for this book as well as other works by this author at your local library, and enjoy some truly delightful reading!

From Hotel Monteleone

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mystery Mondays: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)


In my opinion "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (1956) is Doris Day's best thriller.  Costarring the always wonderful James Stewart, this movie is an Alfred Hitchcock remake of a film by the same name that he made in 1934.  Day plays Jo McKenna, wife of Dr. Ben McKenna (Stewart).  The couple are vacationing with their son Hank (Christopher Olsen) in Morocco.  On a bus trip, they make the acquaintance of a friendly Frenchman named Louis Bernard (Daniel Gélin).  Although Jo finds him a bit suspicious, they agree to go out to dinner with him that night.  However, Bernard suddenly excuses himself at the last minute.  Out on their own, Ben and Jo meet an English couple named Lucy and Edward Drayton (Brenda de Banzie and Bernard Miles) at the restaurant and also see their French friend, who sits with another group and does not acknowledge them.

Touring the Marrakesh marketplace the next day with the Draytons, the McKenna family sees a man being chased and then stabbed.  The dying victim turns out to be the Frenchman Bernard, who approaches Ben and whispers to him that an important foreign statesman will be murdered in London, and that he must inform the authorities about an "Ambrose Chapel".  The McKennas are asked by the authorities to accompany them to the police station, and Mrs. Drayton offers to take Hank back to the hotel with her.  While at the station, the McKennas learn that Louis Bernard was a French intelligence agent on assignment in Morocco.  Then Ben receives a mysterious phone call informing him that Hank has been kidnapped and that he should not reveal Bernard's last words to the police if he wants to see his son alive again.

The McKennas travel hurriedly to London and are met by a Scotland Yard inspector who confirms that Bernard was a spy and urges the McKennas to contact him should they hear from the kidnappers.  The McKennas decide instead to try to find Ambrose Chapel on their own.  They incorrectly assume that this is the name of a man, but after following an unsuccessful lead, they realize that Ambrose Chapel is the name of a building where the kidnappers have based their operation.  Unfortunately, the kidnappers escape with Hank before Ben and Jo can rescue him.  They do, however, manage to foil the assassination plot, and eventually are able to recover Hank as well in a daring move at a foreign embassy.

Hitchcock excels at films about ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances, and this one is no exception.  Stewart and Day are perfect as the all-American couple, and as Day's character is a retired popular singer, she even gets to sing in the movie.  This is the only Hitchcock movie where a character has a singing role, and the song was commissioned especially for Day.  That song was "Que Sera, Sera" ("Whatever Will Be, Will Be"), which became a popular hit and won a 1956 Acadamy Award for Best Song.  If you want to watch a truly enjoyable film with an exceptional performance by Doris Day (and James Stewart!), then this is the movie to see.

Interesting Facts: Doris Day had two songs nominated for an Academy Award in 1956 -- the other was the title song for the movie "Julie".  Also, Day's dismay at the poor treatment of animals in Morocco led to her insisting on their better treatment during filming, and resulted in her lifelong commitment to animal welfare.

"Que Sera, Sera" became Doris Day's signature song.  You can watch her singing this song in the movie on YouTube:


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Holiday Hits: Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day, everyone!  Just in case you were wondering how to live green, today and every day, take a few tips from the Green Pug:


I love this video!  Of course, it doesn't hurt that one of his pals is a Dalmatian.  My first Dalmatian used to help me pick up trash on the roadside, just like the Green Pug -- she would go to the areas I couldn't reach and bring trash back to me.  Hope you enjoy this video, and find it useful as well!
            

Weekend Wonders: Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1960)

From Hooked on Houses

Doris Day and David Niven star in the delightful romantic comedy "Please Don't Eat the Daisies" (1960).  Day plays Kate Mackay, wife of New York City professor-turned-theater-critic Larry Mackay (Niven) and mother of four lovable but unruly boys.  The family finds themselves moving rather abruptly to a rundown old house in the suburbs just as Larry starts his new job.  Although this is what both had always wanted, and Kate and the boys adapt quickly to their new life, Larry starts to have second thoughts.  He becomes an overnight sensation as a critic when he pans a new play produced by old friend Alfred North (Richard Haydn).  He revels in the attention he starts to receive, and even manages to turn a confrontation with Deborah Vaughn (Janis Paige), the star of the play, into a witty and good-natured publicity stunt.  Larry is also writing a book, and the disruptions caused by the renovations to their new home are not conducive to this pursuit.  Kate has no interest in the glamorous life of the theater, preferring to devote herself to small-town life.  She suggests that Larry stay at a luxury hotel in the city for a couple of weeks until he finishes his book, since the remodelling of their house should be done by that time.  At first this seems like an ideal solution, but soon both begin to have their doubts as a series of mishaps leads to misunderstandings and resentment between the two. Of course, this is a romantic comedy, so everything works out in the end and the Mackay family lives happily ever after in their rambling suburban home!

The movie is based on a book of the same name by Jean Kerr which is a collection of humorous essays based upon her own life.  Day and Niven are superb in their roles.  Both are among my favorite performers, but I normally think of the latter as a dramatic actor, so I was pleasantly surprised by his talent for comedy.  The supporting cast is excellent as well, and the dialogue is amusing and quite inspired at times.  There are two songs in the movie, the first being the title song, but it is the second, "Any Way the Wind Blows", that is my personal favorite:


Also be sure to check out the description of the old fixer-upper house in the movie at Hooked on Houses.  The article includes descriptions of the movie, the sets, the author of the novel upon which the movie is based, and other bits of interesting trivia.  And don't forget to watch the movie -- the comedy is timeless, and still as hilarious now as it was over 50 years ago!
            

Friday, April 20, 2012

Foodie Fridays: Easy Applesauce Muffins



A few weeks ago I posted a three-ingredient recipe for Easy Chocolate Muffins which is super simple and surprisingly tasty.  This inspired me to try a different three-ingredient combination for muffins, and I came up with Easy Applesauce Muffins!  The recipe uses a 23-ounce jar of applesauce instead of pumpkin purée.  Since applesauce is runnier than the pumpkin, I drained the sauce in a fine-mesh sieve for about an hour first, collecting the apple juice in a bowl.  I then poured off the juice (and drank it!) and used the bowl to mix the ingredients.  Other than increasing the baking time by five minutes, the technique for making these muffins remains the same, and I find them to be even tastier than the chocolate version.  I happened to have some Hershey's cinnamon chips that I bought an embarrassingly long time ago, so I used them here, and they are a perfect pairing with the apple flavor.  I am not sure how readily available they are in supermarkets, but butterscotch chips would probably work too if you can't find cinnamon ones, and you can always add powdered cinnamon (although that would then make this a four-ingredient recipe!).

Easy Applesauce Muffins

1 box (about 18 oz.) yellow cake mix
1 jar (about 23 oz.) unsweetened applesauce, drained (see above)
6 oz. cinnamon baking chips (about 1 cup)

Thoroughly combine the cake mix with the drained applesauce.  Stir in the cinnamon chips.  Evenly divide the batter among 18 greased muffin cups.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool slightly and remove from pans.  Makes 18.

Note: Either refrigerate or freeze these muffins if they last more than a day or they will spoil.  If frozen, they thaw very quickly at room temperature, or they can be microwaved for about 10 seconds to thaw.
       

Thursday, April 19, 2012

This 'n That Thursdays: HGTV 2012 Green Home in Serenbe, Georgia


Are you entering to win the HGTV 2012 Green Home located in the Serenbe Community of Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia?  If not, you should be!  This beautiful modern southern farmhouse, in an eco-friendly community less than an hour from Atlanta, has three bedrooms, two full and one half bath, and 2300 square feet of finished space, plus unfinished space on the ground floor ready to be turned into whatever type of room you desire!  Add to this two spacious courtyards as well as a front deck, a garage with attached carport, and complete furnishings, plus a new 2012 GMC Terrain and $100,000 cash, and you have a grand prize worth $800,000!  All you have to do is enter twice daily on two sites (HGTV and HGTVRemodels), and you just might win yourself a lovely new home.  The sweepstakes started April 12th, but you can enter every day until June 1st, so don't delay -- get your entries in now!

In my opinion this is the best Green Home so far -- I think it is just lovely!  Here are a few photos of some aspects of the house that I find especially attractive:

The kitchen countertops, made locally with recycled shells and glass -- this may be my absolute favorite item in the whole house!

The kitchen is my favorite room in the house -- I wouldn't change a thing!

Another space that I adore is the retreat room -- I love the color and furnishings, and just the fact that a room like this was included in the home!

This is the Georgia room, a fabulous space in itself, but what really makes it special is that the French doors on both sides can be opened to connect the room with both the front deck and the barbecue courtyard, making outdoor living effortless!

The view from the front deck through the Georgia room and out to the barbecue courtyard.

The barbecue courtyard dining table, with a view of the Georgia room.

I could go on and on, but I'd better stop here or I will have photos of the entire house posted!  You can see why this house is so special, though, and why I will be entering twice every day -- my chances of winning may not be great, but they are zero if I don't enter at all!

By the way, my husband and I have visited Serenbe twice, and I set up a separate blog to relate our experiences there.  We normally don't care for these types of planned communities, but for us Serenbe was special.  We are considering retirement options, and were so impressed with this community that it is now on our list.  Tours of the Green Home start next month, and we will be going.  In fact, we are thinking about staying overnight and checking out Serenbe in more detail with a realtor -- just in case we don't win the Green Home!

         

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wish List Wednesdays: Favorite Fishs Eddy Finds


In February my husband and I visited Serenbe, an eco-friendly community in Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia, to take a look at the HGTV 2012 Green Home (more about that tomorrow).  While there, we stopped by a charming little shop called Twig, where I found and had to have a cute little pale blue cow creamer by Fishs Eddy (I collect creamers, in addition to far too many other things!).  This inspired me to check out Fishs Eddy's other creations, and I am now seriously coveting a few more of their charming items!  For example, the Farm Animals Glassware like the storage bowl shown below would be perfect in our funky farmhouse:


Dog lover that I am, I just can't resist these Dog Walker Mugs:


Then again, I am a big fan of Charley Harper's art, and this Charley Harper School of Fish Mug designed by Todd Oldham is pretty fantastic too:


I love color and I love Dalmatians, so I suppose it is not surprising that I also love this Polka Dot Dinnerware:


I'd better quit before I buy out the site, but just one more item -- this Dachshund Oval Platter is on sale and probably won't last long, so if I want it I had better get it now:


And to think I had never heard of Fishs Eddy before I found my cow creamer -- now I have to make up for lost time!
   

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Terrifying Tuesdays: Margaret Oliphant's "The Open Door" (1882)


"The Open Door" (1882) by Scottish-born writer Margaret Oliphant (1828-1897) is another ghostly short story, this time involving a child who encounters a spirit.  In this tale a family man rents a house in the countryside outside of Edinburgh, mainly so that his only son can easily ride to and from school every day.  All goes well until the approach of winter.  In London at the time, the father begins to receive letters from home informing him that his son is ill.  Hurrying home, he finds that the boy does indeed seem ill, but the lad declares it is not sickness but a secret which has made him feverish.  He then proceeds to tell his father about a series of encounters at an old ruin nearby, in the evenings when returning from school.  Both he and his pony hear crying sounds, and the latter is so frightened the first time that it runs home wildly, the boy barely managing to cling to its back.  After a short time words become distinguishable, and the boy insists that there is something otherworldly at the ruin calling for its mother.  He then declares that he is sure his father can deal with the problem and help the poor soul calling out so piteously.  His father is perplexed as to just what he must do, but believing that his son's life depends upon his success, the man proceeds to investigate the happenings reported by the boy.  Fortunately, although the haunting turns out to be frighteningly real, a solution is found, and the father has the satisfaction of justifying his son's confidence in him, as well as seeing him recover his health completely.

This short story is well written and a pleasure to read.  The author, whose own life was difficult and who suffered devastating losses of family members, excels at describing the loving devotion of father for son, and vice versa.  She also provides a lesson in the healing power of human kindness.  The tale is quite touching, and has a happy ending as well.  Like Elizabeth Gaskell, whose story was featured last week, Margaret Oliphant was a popular Victorian woman writer, most of whose works did not include the supernatural.  If you would like to read more of her writings, your local public library is a good place to start.  Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this tale as much as I do!

Haunted Ruins (from deviantART)
   

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mystery Mondays: Midnight Lace (1960)


"Midnight Lace" (1960) starring Doris Day and Rex Harrison is a thriller about a newlywed American heiress, Kit Preston (Day) living in London.  She begins to receive eerie and menacing threats from an unseen source, beginning with a frightening, high-pitched disembodied voice heard by Kit as she walks home alone in the fog one evening.  Terrified, Kit tells her husband, Tony Preston (Harrison), but he reassures her that such occurrences are common in London on foggy nights and it was probably someone's idea of a joke.  Then the next day Kit is almost struck by a falling girder from a construction site next to her apartment building, pushed out of the way in the nick of time by Brian Younger (John Gavin), the contractor.  When she receives a phone call from the same voice that threatened her in the fog, Kit reports the incidents to Scotland Yard, but the inspector who interviews her merely concludes that she is being paranoid.

More unsettling events occur, but Kit only seems to experience them when alone.  Her aunt, Bea Coleman (Myrna Loy), comes for a visit, and she and Tony come to the conclusion that Kit is becoming delusional to the point that they fear for her sanity.  Events finally come to a climax, with an ending probably not unexpected by most, but quite suspenseful nonetheless.

Doris Day does an excellent job portraying the increasingly hysterical Kit Preston.  Day drew upon personal life experience to communicate the terror felt by her character, to such an extent that it affected her health and production of the movie had to be shut down for a few days so that she could recover.  The main actors are impressive as well, as are various others who make brief appearances in the film (Roddy McDowall as her maid's unsavory son, John Williams as Inspector Byrnes, Herbert Marshall as one of her husband's business associates, to name a few).  This is a must-see film for Doris Day fans, who will be impressed with her abilities in a challenging dramatic acting role, but anyone will appreciate this movie as a highly effective thriller.

Interesting Facts: Doris Day was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama for this film.

Doris Day and John Gavin in "Midnight Lace" (1960)
(From The Films of Doris Day)
         

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Weekend Wonders: Calamity Jane (1953)


I am featuring a few of the thrillers Doris Day made on Mystery Mondays, but of course she is best known for her comedies, so I thought I would mention my favorites on the weekends.  I absolutely love the musical comedy "Calamity Jane" (1953) because Day was so refreshingly funny in the title role.  She has said that this was one of her favorite movie roles because the character's tomboy persona was so like her own, and her affection for the role is evident.  Since this movie is a musical the plot is not especially important -- suffice it to say that, as a leading figure in the Old West town of Deadwood in the Dakota Territory, Calamity Jane (Day) finds herself in the position of escorting a popular singer from Chicago to her home town.  Unfortunately, she brings the wrong woman, which works out just fine in some ways, but in others causes Calamity Jane much frustration.  The story line is fun, if a bit frothy, but the actors are superb, in particular Howard Keel as Wild Bill Hickok, Allyn McLerie as Katie Brown, Phillip Carey as Lieutenant Danny Gilmartin, and Dick Wesson as Francis Fryer.  Day and Keel are a riot to watch as their bickering characters interact, and both are in fine form as far as singing some truly excellent songs in the movie.  These songs include "The Deadwood Stage", "Just Blew in from the Windy City", "A Woman's Touch", and "Secret Love".  This latter song won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.  My favorite, however, happens to be "The Black Hills of Dakota", and you can watch the movie rendition below:



I doubt that this movie has very much in common with the real Calamity Jane, and I have to wonder how she would have felt about this movie version of her life, but I like to think she would have gotten a kick out of it and enjoyed it for the fun and well-made musical comedy that it is!
            

Friday, April 13, 2012

Foodie Fridays: New Potatoes and Peas in Cream

From Anissa's Kitchen

We have been having a bit of a cold spell for the last couple of days.  Just the kind of weather, in fact, that makes me crave comfort food -- like New Potatoes and Peas in Cream.  Warm, creamy, filling, easy to make and easy to eat, this dish is perfect for a chilly day.  Stir in some diced ham and turn it into a satisfying main dish, and if you feel the need for more flavor add some good quality mustard or even a sprinkling of tangy cheese like cheddar or gorgonzola.  I prefer to keep it simple, but however you choose to make this dish it will always bring comfort on a challenging day.

New Potatoes and Peas in Cream

1 lb. small new potatoes
1 tsp. salt
1 package (10 oz.) frozen peas
2/3 C. heavy cream
pepper to taste

Peel or rub off potato skins if desired.  Cook the potatoes with the salt in two cups of boiling water until almost tender.  Add the peas and continue cooking until the vegetables are tender.  Drain, add the cream and pepper, and heat through.  Serves 4 (or possibly 2 if you wish to indulge -- just try not to eat the whole thing at once unless absolutely necessary!).
       

Thursday, April 12, 2012

This 'n That Thursdays: Think Pink (and Blue and Gold)!


I am not normally a pink person -- I prefer bold colors and darker shades.  But that doesn't mean I can't appreciate the color.  A few recent posts on HGTV's Design Happens blog featuring pink home furnishings got me excited about the idea of a room designed with pink in mind, as well as a couple of complementary colors to balance things out.  Here is the room I imagined:

Clockwise from top left: Cocoon Sofa from Dering Hall; Haviland End Table from Loft Home; Bexley Glass Lamp in aqua from Arteriors; Chailey Button Back Velvet Chair in pink from Twenga; "Les Zèbres" by Karine Arnou; Frosted prisms chandelier from 1stdibs; "Zebra" by Nicole Charbonnet; Small Fishtail Console Table from Amara; Turquoise Zebra Pillow from Zuniga Interiors; Center: Trio of Haviland end tables as coffee table; Center background; Tiger Pink and Green Rug from Carini Lang.
            
Even though this room is really not my style, I still think it looks pretty spectacular, thanks to the hot pink hue and the zebra print accents.  Incidentally, perhaps the reason pink has never resonated with me is the fact that it does not really exist:


Have pink afficionados been adoring an imaginary color called "minus green" all these years?  Or are the physicists just having a little fun at our expense?  I'll let you decide!
        

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wish List Wednesdays: Claudia Pearson Dog Plates


I am an ardent Dalmatian lover, and have been collecting Dalmatian-themed items for years.  Recently, however, I came across these Claudia Pearson Dog Plates featuring some delightful dachshunds, and I'm thinking I may have to add a new breed to my collection.  The beach-themed serving plates are only $16 each and would be perfect for a summer table, especially if you are dining by the ocean -- and especially if you are feasting on hot dogs!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Terrifying Tuesdays: Elizabeth Gaskell's "The Old Nurse's Story" (1852)

Elizabeth Gaskell (1851)

This week is National Library Week, so I have decided to highlight reading on Terrifying Tuesdays for the month of April.  The focus will be ghost stories, since I do love a good ghost story!  I am of the opinion that the best ghost stories are in short story form rather than full length novels, so my selections will all be short stories.  This is also National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and some of the most compelling ghost stories involve children and/or the ghosts of children, so all of my choices include children.  The first is a work by well-known British writer Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865) called "The Old Nurse's Story" (1852).  It is a heartbreaking tale about the folly of pride, and the unexpected consequences that can result when pride is indulged.  Told from the point of view of the old nurse, we learn the tragic story of Furnivall Manor House as she learned it firsthand when she was young, caring for a little girl even younger than herself.  Elizabeth Gaskell is known for her writings about Victorian life as seen from a woman's perspective, and her ghostly tale is no exception -- all of the major characters are women.  This is not a happy story, but it is a well-written one, and a superb example of the genre.  If you would like to read more of this author's works (most of which are not ghost stories), pay a visit to your local library!

From The Lecture List
       

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mystery Mondays: Julie (1956)


Doris Day starred in a total of 39 movies, both comedies and dramas.  A few of her films were suspense thrillers, and I will be highlighting them on Mystery Mondays this month in honor of her April birthday.  First up is "Julie" (1956), co-starring Louis Jourdan and Barry Sullivan.  In this film, Day plays the title character, a young widow who has recently remarried.  Her second husband, Lyle Benton (Jourdan) is a concert pianist whose jealousy and possessiveness convince Julie that he is dangerous.  Then she discovers that her first husband, a supposed suicide, was actually murdered by Lyle.  With the help of old friend Cliff Henderson (Sullivan), Julie flees to San Francisco.  However, even though the police know that Lyle killed her first husband, he eludes them and there is legally nothing the police can do to protect Julie.  She does her best to evade him, but he always tracks her down and she must flee again.  Julie returns to work as an airline stewardess, but her psychopathic husband even manages to find her on the job, leading to a violent and thrilling, if rather melodramatic, ending.  While this movie is not considered one of Day's best, it is a true thriller, with very little relief from the suspense until the very end.  Watch this one for the action, the beauty of California's Monterey Peninsula, and of course if you are a big Doris Day fan like me!

Interesting Facts:  This movie was nominated for two Academy Awards, Best Original Screenplay and Best Song ("Julie", sung by Doris Day).  This film was very difficult for Day.  She was reluctant to make the movie because the personality of the Lyle Benton character reminded her too much of her first two husbands.  Her third husband, Martin Melcher, insisted that she do it, as this movie was his first effort as a producer.  Day was also ill while performing in "Julie".  Her husband felt that, as a Christian Scientist, she should not seek medical attention, but after filming was complete Day did see a doctor, who discovered that she had an ovarian tumor and needed surgery.  Melcher also became quite jealous of Day's friendship with Louis Jourdan, mirroring one of the film's story lines.  About the only good thing to come out of this production for Doris Day was the fact that she fell in love with the Carmel location where parts of the movie were filmed.  Later in life she settled in the area and is still there today.

Doris Day in "Julie" (1956)
(from The Films of Doris Day)
     

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Holiday Hits: Happy Easter!

From MarthaStewart.com

Easter Sunday has arrived, and I'm sure that in addition to the meaning of the day everyone is focused on spring, flowers, bunnies, chicks, eggs, and/or most especially candy!  I am loving the dreamy table setting pictured above, and while mine will not be quite so fancy we will certainly make an effort to set a pretty table for the Easter feast.

I found a very funny article about what not to give someone as an Easter gift.  Although I have never even considered giving gifts other than candy for this holiday, if I ever did I would definitely follow the advice given.  In fact, I have even come up with acceptable alternatives for the truly ghastly finds the article mentions!  For example, instead of the horrifying Chocolate Zombie Bunny (honestly, who comes up with these things?  And the most disturbing aspect of all is that the site is sold out!) I would gift a Lindt milk chocolate Gold Bunny, recently rated as the best milk chocolate bunny out there:


And instead of presenting an unsuspecting loved one with a live Easter bunny or chick, why not go the live flowers route instead, which will be much more appreciated by most:

From ProFlowers

While children may enjoy the hilarity of Easter Bunny Poop Soap, I think that I can safely say the vast majority of adults would be happier receiving these more subtle Egg Shaped Soaps:


I suppose no holiday is safe from being exploited as the topic of a horror movie, but there is no reason to promote this trend!  Stick with a classic like the delightful "Easter Parade" (1948) and you can't go wrong:


Giving apparel as a gift is fraught with peril, as you must not only know the recipient's tastes, you must also know their size!  If you are willing to enter this dangerous realm, my best advice is to keep your selection simple -- try to avoid anything too showy or busy like the goofy Candy Bunny T-shirt (which by the way is shockingly expensive!).  An elegant long-sleeve cashmere T-shirt in a soft orchid color would be perfect:

From Land's End

If you are sure your giftee would prefer something with more visual interest, at least aim for a more restrained pattern in a less holiday-specific design, like the floral print on this Romance Beaded Tee, which even has tiny crystals scattered over it:


Let's face it, almost any Easter-themed wreath is going to look tacky -- the Easter Bunny Marshmallow Peeps Wreath is actually much better looking than a lot of other Easter wreaths I found on the Web!  If you are going to go to the trouble of hand-crafting a wreath for someone, though, why not use real flowers and create something like this lovely hydrangea wreath instead:


And why waste your money on a gift like a sticker set for children when the little ones would probably be happier creating their own art.  Just set them up with a craft area full of colored paper, safety scissors, colored pencils or crayons, etc., and let them do whatever they wish!  I love the idea of this German Easter Tree, where children can design their own paper eggs to attach to a picture of a tree.  The  tree shown here was pre-made, but I'm sure creative kids would enjoy making their own:


I didn't feel the Carrot Lollipops were that bad, but I think I would look for something a little more interesting to give as a gift.  If I had the time and the energy and wanted to gift an Easter edible on a stick, I might make my own Easter Cake Pops:


Otherwise I would let someone else do the work for me, and still have gorgeously decorated Easter Egg Cake Pops to give:


So you see, there is absolutely no reason to give a bad Easter gift to anyone when there are so many wonderful choices out there!  Of course, if you are deliberately considering a bad gift for someone because you feel that they deserve one, then I can't stop you -- and may I make one more suggestion:

Ralphie's bunny costume in "A Christmas Story" (1983)