Friday, August 28, 2009

Fall & Halloween on the Horizon

Now, that we will soon be entering the month of September thoughts of fall color and foliage start to come to mind. I'm not wishing away summer or longer days. I too dislike the thought of loosing valuable daylight hours at the end of the day. The trade off is that we receive a wonderful new pallet of colors. A few of my past Halloween projects have been picking up in the number of views this past week on Flickr. Take a peak.

Halloween in the dining room circa 2005 was spooky and fun. Since then I have located black tapers that tie in more with the theme. Cupcakes were featured on the center three-tier stand. The stand is basic white that on top of I added a flocked pumpkin floral pick and orange paper fringe around the circumference of each level with double sided tape. Vases filled with candy corn or dried black beans made colorful anchors for tabletop candles.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Edward M. Kennedy 1932 - 2009

Kennedy's beloved dog Splash enjoyed coming to work with the Senator.

The more our feelings diverge, the more deeply felt they are, the greater is our obligation to grant the sincerity and essential decency of our fellow citizens on the other side. . . .

In short, I hope for an America where neither “fundamentalist” nor “humanist” will be a dirty word, but a fair description of the different ways in which people of good will look at life and into their own souls.

I hope for an America where no president, no public official, no individual will ever be deemed a greater or lesser American because of religious doubt — or religious belief.

I hope for an America where the power of faith will always burn brightly, but where no modern inquisition of any kind will ever light the fires of fear, coercion, or angry division.

I hope for an America where we can all contend freely and vigorously, but where we will treasure and guard those standards of civility which alone make this nation safe for both democracy and diversity.

Ted Kennedy, Truth and Tolerance in America speech, 1983

Once I made Massachusetts my new home I was honored to vote for him in 2000 and 2006.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Julia Child Reaches New Heights

After 48 Years, Julia Child Has a Big Best Seller, Butter and All
Published: August 24, 2009 NY TIMES
Almost 48 years after it was first published, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child is finally topping the best-seller list.

Are we relaxing as a society and discovering that real food made from real ingredients plus a dash of care can possess a wealth of joy? Special occasions should be special and require food that did not come from a box. The meal need not be perfect - a word Martha Stewart uses way too much to stress the hell out of the rest of us without a staff of 40 sycophants. Have fun. If people come to your home for dinner, they will not complain if every dish is not spot on. They will know at least those who cook or occasionally throw a party will that the effort is a genuine expression of fellowship. This does not mean that one should cut corners or not try recipes or flavor combinations outside of an established comfort zone. Of course, I have to remind myself of this important rule and not let anxious little demons devil me if the deviled egg are slightly off center.

A woman , Auntie Mame, who knew how to live before there was magazine about living it to perfection said it best. "Yes! Live! Life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!" Auntie Mame 1958

PS: Should people not appreciate your effort and be so ghoul headed as to grouse to your face regarding your cooking, take them off the invite list for good. No one should be surrounded by kill joys who suck the life from your time intensive labors. Family, on the other hand, you should confront with your discomfort.

Monday, August 24, 2009

"The Kind Lady" Kept Me Up Past My Bedtime

The headline of this post may appear a bit tawdry. . . but headlines can misrepresent their subject in order to entice the sensational eye of their readers. I have decided to stoop to that level today as I report on adding another classic film to my viewed list. First, I want to be clear that I enjoy Ethel Barrymore in almost everything I have previously viewed from her career. Some highlights for me are the following: Pinky, The Spiral Staircase, The Farmer's Daughter and Portrait of Jennie (my personal favorite). Last night as part of their Summer Under the Stars day-long tribute to Angela Lansbury, TCM aired The Kind Lady (1951). I had to know what happened to the captive Barrymore and ended up remaining awake until 11:30 p.m. to see the suspenseful conclusion. Source material for film was a stage play followed by a 1935 film version. In Robert Osborne's wrap-up, I learned that Lansbury's mum, Moyna Macgill, had a bit part in the film as the household cook, Mrs. Harkley.

"More regal than royalty." --critical accolade once bestowed on Barrymore quoted in her The New York Times June 19, 1959 obituary.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

District 9

Another film that proves that big A list stars have their work cut out for them if they wish to maintain their multi-million dollar pay days(see Friday, August 21st post). District 9 has an unknown cast and is directed by first timer Neill Blomkamp. Peter Jackson produced and his Lord of the Rings team handled special affects and creatures. I go see a film generally if I want to and ignore reviews or do select viewing of them because I want to be caught off guard as much as possible. Previews that give away the whole film help one easily avoid spending treasured funds on worthless rehashing of tired old plots. These days the tired old plot may even be a blessing since plots seem to be on hiatus from a growing number of scripts. The protagonist (Sharlto Copley) has hints of Peter Sellers humanity and bungling in his break-out performance.

A couple of reviews that sum up or concur with my feeling regarding this wonderful late summer big screen arrival.

"District 9 proves that sci-fi thrillers don't have to be star-studded or mega-budgeted to be visually compelling and thoroughly entertaining." Claudia Puig USA Today


"This might go down as the year that science-fiction cinema, despite the deafening crash and clangor of sparring robots, began to rediscover its brains, heart and soul." Cary Darling
Dallas Morning News

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Begonia Collection on Vintage Distressed "Boo-Fey"

Begonia Collection on Boo-fey

This summer I moved my begonia collection to the dining room to a prominent display location on the buffet - also know as the Boo-fey during Halloween. I have put many a begonia out of their misery by over watering. Secret for my plant success is to wait until the soil is dry past the top inch of soil or wait until they start to droop a bit. Occasionally I will mist them in the winter since they are no fan of dry artificial heat. Martha features them in her dining room for her September column in MSL on newsstands now.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Jimmy Stewart the Man & His Words

A clip for dog and film lovers.

After yesterday's post I found myself thinking of other films of his that I would consider favorites. We don't have movie stars anymore at least not as they were originally defined. The definition of movie star has changed. We still have many actors who are either talented or try very hard. But there seems to be a lack of people who will survive the strange process of film decade after decade. Stewart's career was in full swing for over 30 years. He was one of the first independent stars to reap a portion of the profits rather than take a straight salary. The fact that neither Vertigo or It's a Wonderful Life were popular in their day seems unfathomable. Stewart is often remembered for his stammering/starting-stopping speech pattern but he could not be typecast. He starred in almost every type of genre film had to offer and excelled. BTW: I don't remember Carson crying on another show with the exception of his finial broadcast.


A-List Stars Flailing at the Box Office
Published: August 21, 2009 / NY TIMES
Studios aren’t giving up on stars but they are trying to pay them less or looking for cheaper alternatives.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Spielberg to Re-Make Stewart's Harvey Classic

Newly flush with cash Spielberg's Dreamworks Studios plans to re-make the 1950 classic, Harvey, staring Jimmy Stewart. The original was based on a Pulitzer Prize winning play by Mary Chase. It is unclear if his role will only be that of a producer or both producer and director on this project. Tom Hanks - often compared to Stewart -would be a possible casting choice for the film should Spielberg direct. I don't understand the reasoning for touching a classic like this featuring an iconic performance. Will they keep it simple or CGI the crap out of it to suit a wider audience? Will they choose to make it a period piece or give it a modern slant. Look at last years' The Women to see what happens when they take a classic and make it modern. Despite being in development for over 10 years, The Women was done no favors by director Diane English (Murphy Brown creator).

The Women 1939 classic.

The Women 2008 better left unviewed.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Don't Think Your Way to Stress

Clever illustration from Times article uses a combination of an Ugly Doll and vintage glass teddy bear eyes to document stressed-out humans.
Vicious Stress Loop

Brain Is a Co-Conspirator in a Vicious Stress Loop
Published: August 18, 2009 / NY TIMES
Chronic stress changes the brain, but relaxation can change it back.

A few notable highlights from article:

"In humans, though, the brain can think too much, extracting phantom threats from every staff meeting or high school dance, and over time the constant hyperactivation of the stress response can unbalance the entire feedback loop. Reactions that are desirable in limited, targeted quantities become hazardous in promiscuous excess. You need a spike in blood pressure if you’re going to run, to speedily deliver oxygen to your muscles. But chronically elevated blood pressure is a source of multiple medical miseries."

"Yet habits can become ruts, and as the novelist Ellen Glasgow observed, 'The only difference between a rut and a grave are the dimensions.'"
A new source for information on human stress:
Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapolsky

Monday, August 17, 2009

Memories of a Mimosa Tree

A healthy Mimosa tree with several trunks and forks.

The beans appear in late summer and early fall.

The pink flowers attract butterflies and humming birds during the summer. Fern-like foliage also closes up and "sleeps" in the evening.

I remember the pink flowers of the Mimosa tree (Silk tree) being sticky and pink like the texture and color of cotton candy. These trees served many purposes for me during my childhood. I would climb their smooth branches and trunks before building forts under them. The forts would end up having more grandaddy long-legs spiders protected behind their four walls than people. Tree foliage and fall beans provided tons of play opportunities. However, admitting to having played "restaurant" with the tree's leaves and beans sounds less adventurous than having built a fort at the base of the trunk. The small individual leaves of the fern-like fronds would also be stripped off and used as confetti. I recall also using the beans as currency for a made-up primitive or post apocalyptic world - it was the 1980s during the Cold War, after all.

How did all of this memory jogging come about? I was driving through Charlestown, Massachusetts and saw a very large example on Monday. I did not know they could thrive this far north. But we seem to be on the edge of a favorable growing zone since we are on the sea coast and have slightly less harsh winters. My garden may be the proud owner of one of these memory laden trees someday.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Toffee Twist Grass / Four-Season Garden Border

A Toffee Twist "bouffant" emerges from a pot.

Recently I discovered this new grass thanks to Martha's blog entry documenting the planting of her terrace at her Maine estate, Skylands, once owned by Edsel B. Ford. Toffee Twist appears dead but grows in a tight mass with wispy ends that trail in the wind. I think it will make a nice accent when fall approaches as well as a spooky element to planters for Halloween. Unfortunately, in our growing zone, the grass is an annual but will bounce back in zones with warmer winters. Gordon Florist & Greenhouses in Ipswich, MA is a smaller nursery with an eclectic selection of plants. They offer a nice selection of ferns and begonias in their greenhouse. I also found a great selection of plants for rock gardens and for use as ground cover. The nicer aspect of going to a smaller nursery with a great selection is that you do not have to go up and down massive rows of the same plant. They also were the source of a few Curly Wurly plants for my garden and deck.

In The Garden
A Tapestry of Color, Unfolding All Year
Published: August 13, 2009
A recent tour of the new four-season border at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx introduced me to coneflowers unlike any I’ve ever seen.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Julia Child's Pots Return Home to Her Kitchen

Smithsonian presents Child's famous copper pots.

Julia Child (Meryl Streep) refines her chopping skills.
Yes, another Julia post. This story continues to unravel revealing new layers like an onion. Julia's editor Judith Jones has a blog relating to cooking and her life in food/publishing. Copper pots are not very common to find when out shopping. Only place I find Mauviel cookware is at Williams-Sonoma and they are joined together with chains to prevent theft. Copper cookie cutters are the extent of my copper cookware/tools.
North Pole Set of Copper Cutters

A copper beating bowl would be fun to have to beat egg whites to perfection in. To keep the copper exterior looking new, use a copper polish or a combination of lemon and salt. Martha recommended using Red Bear Copper Cleaner to clean the copper cookie cutters she once sold through her now defunct Martha By Mail division. Another method, which I have not tried, is to use cheap ketchup with a couple of other ingredients to bring back a gleaming finish. The sticker shock and up-keep prevents copper from being as popular as the enameled, cast iron Le Creuset pots or the much less expensive alternatives by Martha Stewart sold at Macy's.

Architectural Digest / Visits: Julia Child / My Take on Film, Julie & Julia

emArchitectural Digest/em Visits: Julia Child:

Shared via AddThis

Recently I posted links to the Smithsonian regarding Julia's famous kitchen. Architectural Digest ran a piece on the entire Cambridge, MA home back in 1979. The warmth of the house reflects the intellectual curiosity and passion of both Julia and her husband, Paul.

Paul Child (Stanly Tucci) and Julia Child (Meryl Streep) live it up Parisian style.

FYI: The Julia parts of the new film are wonderful. The movie reinforces the universal love for Julia while reminding us that her larger-than-life persona cannot be duplicated or replaced. Meryl Streep is excellent and captures the culinary masters essence on celluloid. I strongly recommend picking up a copy of My Life in France. Stanly Tucci is equally wonderful as Julia's devoted, passionate husband. Revisiting my copy, I was stunned at the excellent job the casting director did in casting all the roles in the Julia portion of the film. The actors look as if they jumped off the surface of the original photos courtesy of My Life in France.

Brown Snakes Make for a Happy Garden

A couple of days a go I spotted two baby brown snakes in my garden. It was early evening and they were getting an early start hunting for dinner. Having an urban garden, I don't often see as much wild life as my more rural counterparts do. I was very excited and at first thought they were very healthy earthworms. Sadie has been hunting them around the rock wall which is a great habitat for them - I hope they will survive and outsmart her hound instincts. The best part is that they love to dine - like the French - on snails. Also, they have an appetite for slugs which are in health supply in my garden. I now may not have to rely on another remedy to rid my garden of squishy slugs. There are some other natural ways to void the garden of slugs. For now, I will let the snakes feast on the abundance. I hope they will make my garden their home.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Julia's View of Martha Stewart

Yesterday, I compared the two great ladies (Julia and Martha) of style and cooking and posed the question: "Who would you rather have had a beer with?". Here is an excerpt from a reporter's interview of Julia back in 1997. Julia's true no-nonsense goodness comes through like always. Link to full text follows.

"MR: What do you think of Martha Stewart?

JC: We know her. She's a very special person. And I think she's also a perfectionist. She came to our house when we were doing the baking series. She was very professional and pleasant to be with, and she did a beautiful job.

MR: She has been lampooned and parodied somewhat mercilessly, alas.

JC: Yes, and I don't know why. People are probably jealous of her because she's so good-looking and capable, and anything she sets out to do she can do."

Julia Child, on Marijuana and Martha Stewart by Michael Rowe

Monday, August 3, 2009

Julia Child's Kitchen / Salad Spinner

". . . above all have a good time." Julia Child
"Life is too complicated not to be orderly." Martha Stewart

Who would you rather have had a beer with?
Film Julie & Julia opens Friday, August 7, 2009
In 2001 Julia Child donated her famous kitchen located in Cambridge, MA to the Smithsonian's American History wing. If you are not able to make it to the museum they have a nice tour online. At first glance, it appears the set designers left out no small detail when constructing this important set/character for the film.

FYI: The salad spinner was one of the gadget that Julia introduced as a must have for American at home kitchens. Who wants soggy lettuce that can't hold it's dressing? More objects from Julia's kitchen.