Sunday, March 31, 2013

Film Round-Up: TCM Edition

We've watched several movies on TCM in March.

The first was The Case of the Howling Dog, starring Warren William as Perry Mason and Mary Astor. The main reason I wanted to see this was that Bette Davis refused to do this film. She had been loaned to RKO for a brilliant performance in Of Human Bondage. When she returned to Warner Brothers, this was supposed to be her next film. Mary Astor is a good actress, but didn't have much to do in this film, which is probably why Bette turned the part down. I like Warren William; he may not be a great actor, but he has a kind of sophisticated charm. I've watched him in films with Bette before (Three on a Match, Satan Met a Lady, The Dark Horse) and as the Lone Wolf in another B movie series and miscellaneous other films.

A week later, I caught another Perry Mason movie, The Case of the Curious Bride with Warren William and Margaret Lindsay. I also learned about Margaret Lindsay from Bette Davis films. She was often cast as Bette's rival (Dangerous, Bordertown, Jezebel) but played her sister in Fog over Frisco (great title.) I was also interested to see that Michael Curtiz directed; he directed my favorite movie among others. Not much of a film, the main thing I remember is Perry's awesome office and built-in bar.

TCM returned to showing Torchy Blane movies on Saturdays. We saw Torchy Gets her Man and Torchy Blane in Chinatown. I think Torchy Gets her Man is one of the best in the series. She's usually a few steps ahead of her boyfriend Steve in solving the cases. In this entry, Steve saves Torchy and his driver Gahagan because the villain mentions that Torchy enjoys a steak dinner. The steak dinner was a tiny bit of characterization continuing from the first film. Full circle. 

Torchy Blane in Chinatown was okay; the most interesting part was that James Stephenson was in the cast. His best role (at least what I have seen) is with Bette Davis (yes, I'm obsessed with her) in The Letter.

I am distressed that I missed Torchy Runs for Mayor; I forgot to record it. It was the last of the series with Glenda Farrell and Barton MacLane. I did see this years ago, but the details are sketchy.

Jeff recorded Torchy Plays with Dynamite, the last film and the only one starring Jane Wyman as Torchy and Allen Jenkins as Steve. I saw it years ago but haven't watched this recording yet.

On the 15th, TCM played eight Bette Davis/George Brent films. I recorded a few that I hadn't seen in a while. In The Rich Are Always With Us, Bette played the third lead: she mooned over George for the whole movie. Ruth Chatteron smoked up a storm--I'm not sure Bette lit up at all. I wonder if Bette got the smoking moves from her.

I also watched Housewife and Front Page Woman. Bette was the other woman to Ann Dvorak in Housewife. One of the Torchy films copied an idea from Front Page Woman--a weird circle of life for Warners Brothers movies.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dogfish Head Beer Dinner

Last night Jeff and I went to a beer dinner at The Ginger Man in South Norwalk. We've been to wine dinners before, but a beer dinner was a first for us. We'd heard about this dinner about a week ago, and we're big Dogfish fans.We were on the waiting list and luckily had a chance to attend.

The meal consisted of six courses paired with specific Dogfish brews.

Chilled English Pea Shooter with Aprihop IPA

Pork Belly Skewers with four glazes:
maple malt with 60 minute IPA
pear cider with 75 minute IPA
dry chili-rub with 90 minute IPA
pineapple habanero with 120 minute IPA

Dry Rubbed Smoked Swordfish Loin with Burton Baton

Duck Breast Roulade with Rhizing Bines Double IPA ( a collaboration with Sierra Nevada)

Oxtail Empanada with Indian Brown Ale

Lemon Louisiana Crunch Cake with Hellhound on my Ale

All-in-all, a good night. I enjoyed all the beers. This was my first taste of pork bellies -and oxtail--good, but nothing spectacular--at least I have a frame of reference for Top Chef.

A few disappointments: the dinner was scheduled for 7, but didn't start until 7:30. My swordfish and potato pastel were cold.

As we headed to Ginger Man last night, I realized that we haven't gone out at night in a long time, except for special occasions. When did we become such homebodies? Part of it is being married and having a home of our own, part of it is hanging with Spike, especially after our recent scare, and part of it is that getting take-out is faster and cheaper than eating out.

But sometimes, going out is well worth it.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Happy Anniversary Spike!

This is my favorite picture that I took of Spike on the beach at Hobe Sound in Florida. I love how the footprints center Spike in the photo. His smile remains the same, but his coloring has faded to white; after all he will turn 13 this year.

11 years ago, Spike came to live with us. I've told the story many times; Jeff asked me to tell Spike the story before we gave him his frosty paw.

A friend says we were destined to be with Spike. That's the kind of destiny I can embrace.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Film Round-Up

I haven't written about films for a while. Here are our latest Netlflix selections:

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: We enjoyed this film--good fish-out-of-water story and a great cast. Director John Madden also directed Shakespeare in Love, which is one of our favorites. After seeing Madden's name in the end credits, I could see the similarities between the two films.

Vamps: At first I thought it was cute, then weird, then cute again. A unique take on a vampire tale that was fun and charming due to an upbeat script and its leads, Alicia Silverstone and Kristen Ritter. It also has Richard Lewis as a romantic lead; that's unexpected.

Prometheus: This was billed as a prequel to Alien. It was intriguing, the kind of film I could watch a few more times to try to make sense of it all. It also contains the most harrowing abortion sequence I've ever seen. Just imagine self-aborting when the fetus is fighting you--scary as hell.

Looper: I have a weakness for time travel movies, even if they're dumb. This one is better than I expected based on the TV trailers. It's even got telekinesis.  I like a future that isn't immutable, that we can change for the better.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


I get two words emailed to me daily; one from and one from

Primaveral is today's word from of the early springtime. I haven't heard the word before, but do know primavera (as in pasta.)

It's a great word for studying roots with my SAT students. But more importantly, it's a beautiful word. I have to write a poem around it.

Unfortunately, it's hard to feel springlike when I see snow on the lawns and the temperatures can't get out of the thirties. I enjoyed Renee's take on the problem.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Real Simple Isn't

I picked up a copy of the March issue of Real Simple. From the cover, I was interested in this month's organizing makeover (I can always use help organizing) and to a lesser extent, back-to-basics beauty.

The organizing makeover was a disappointment: it focused on setting up a command center in a kitchen corner, hallway nook or centrally located home office--not appropriate for me. I figured the beauty basics would include something like making facial masks from oatmeal or other common household products. It was more of a how-to series than anything else.

I did find one recipe that sounded interesting--curried lentils with chicken and potatoes--and I was interested in the hummus road test. Overall, not a good return on my magazine investment.

But then I read the pictorial, Work clothes under $100; it reminded me of what angered me about the last issue I'd purchased. First when you turned to the page, it said nothing is more than $150--not the $100 listed in the Table of Contents. But then 12 of the 24 styles were items of jewelry. Jewelry? WTF?

I love jewelry as much as the next person--maybe more--but I don't consider jewelry as part of my essential work wardrobe. In three of the five looks featured, the cost of the jewelry far exceeds the cost of the clothes.

I don't get it; what's so simple about this? Who is Real Simple's audience? The Mitt Romney-rich who think they can relate to the middle class? I'm perplexed.

Inspirational Quotes

I found a list of 25 quotations via an email from linked in.

I liked these two the best:

"When you're finished changing, you're finished." -Ben Franklin--A great quote for a Gemini.

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” -Leonardo daVinci

Of A Song of Ice and Fire and Rape as Wallpaper

I love Game of Thrones (the TV show). In fact, I may be obsessed: I am currently re- watching the second season; Season Three starts on March 31; I am re-reading (more accurately re-skimming) the second book, A Clash of Kings.

That doesn't mean that I don't have problems with the show or the books.

I wrote about  my issues with the books before. Then I read this post via a link from Shakesville. Sophia McDougall said, "I found I couldn’t cope with rape as wallpaper."

Sophia said it much better than I did; I couldn't find the right words.

Although Sophia stopped reading, I continued with the series, despite my misgivings.  And I'm looking forward to Season Three.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Lingering Winter

As I write this, it's snowing. The lawns, sidewalks and roads are coated in white. When Jeff walked Spike earlier, he saw the aftermath of a three-car accident on the Maple Street hill.

Overall, this hasn't been a bad winter: one big storm--a nice change from the winter of 2011.  But we should be done with winter weather by now.

Spring begins on Wednesday although it's hard to believe with the cold we've been having lately. We even pulled out Spike's fido fleece;  I had hoped we'd seen the last of that this season.

This is the second week of daylight saving time. It just needs to warm up so we can take advantage.

Thoughts on St. Patrick's and Half-Way Day

Some of my family is from Ireland and I love the color green, so I'm a natural fan of St. Patrick's Day. I don't know anything about its religious traditions--that never interested me.

Jeff and I have our own tradition of going to the Sono Brewhouse. The Brewhouse also holds a Sunday brunch, so it was very crowded yesterday. We managed to get a few seats at the bar. The first course: Irish nachos.

St. Patrick's Day also marks our half-way day. Jeff and I have been married for 24 1/2 years. Pretty impressive.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Veronica Mars: The Movie?

This morning I wrote my first Veronica Mars re-watch post in over two months. Then I saw this. I'm intrigued and would love to see a Veronica movie.

Can Kristen Bell and company recapture the magic? Who knows? I felt the show went downhill as it continued after the first season. It's still one of my favorites (with Deadwood.)

I hope they go for it. It may be great.

Happy Pi Day and Happy Birthday Albert Einstein

How to celebrate the day? Wikipedia suggests: eat pie, talk about pi, watch Life of Pi. Another pursuit is to memorize pi digits. How about browsing the Einstein shop?

I think I'll stick with eating pie and looking at my Einstein clock.

Veronica Mars Re-Watch: Season One Episode Twelve

Clash of the Tritons

After a night of pub crawling, Neptune High student Tim is in a coma. His buddy Rick says Veronica provided them with fake ID's. When Sheriff Lamb and Vice Principal Clemmons open her locker, a cascade of fake drivers' licenses fall out.

Veronica confronts Rick. He claims the Tritons, a secret society at Neptune, instructed him to blame Veronica. Since Veronica is suspended, Wallace finds out about a secret locker: put $250 in the locker in the morning and get a fake license in the afternoon.  Veronica also tracks Duncan because he's a Triton pledge. This leads to Veronica's awesome rendition of One Way or Another. (Kristen Bell has a great voice; check out the musical version of Reefer Madness.) Ultimately, Veronica finds the real culprit and clears her name.

Meanwhile, the Echolls family is having issues dealing with the aftermath of Aaron's stabbing (Episode Ten: An Echolls Family Christmas.) Aaron hires Keith to find out who's leaking stories to the tabloids. Logan's family is even more dysfunctional than I thought: Lynn (Logan's mother) is the leak. The episode ends with a shot of Lynn's car abandoned on the Coronado Bridge; police are investigating a possible jumper.

Also, Neptune's guidance counselor is interviewing students close to Lilly for a study on long-term grief. Veronica finds a way to eavesdrop and discovers: Lilly was involved with Weevil (is this her big secret?); Logan blames Veronica (himself and Lilly) for Lilly's death; Duncan is off his medications (what medications?) and doesn't remember the day of her death.

The plot thickens.

Ode to Roger

Years ago, my dad used to play this Roger Miller album.  I wasn't a fan at the time, but have come to appreciate him.

Every once in a while, a line or a snippet of melody from one of those songs (King of the Road, In the Summertime, Dang Me) will come to me. Today as Spike stopped to sniff something in the middle of Maple Street, I started singing, "You can't stand around in the middle of the street, can't stand around in the middle of the street" to the tune of You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd.

Sometimes I crack myself up.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


I found this article via my Dog Lovers linked in group. I liked the idea about broadening your puppy's horizons. I see how Spike enjoys his walks--especially all the scents he gets to explore. Paraphrasing myself: on our walks, Spike keeps his his head down, investigating scents and sniffing out stories in the dirt and grass that I will never read.

But there's another side to this: what walking Spike provides for me. It gets me outside into the neighborhood every morning. Basically, it broadens my horizons too. I see different things when walking.

Thank you Spike.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lazy Week

My quiet weekend has morphed into a lazy week. It was one thing to relax on Friday when it was snowing and then on Saturday when I didn't feel well. But now it's Tuesday and I've run out of excuses.

Although it was rainy and dreary, I couldn't procrastinate another day--I had to go food shopping. Our veggie drawers were down to an avocado, a bag of radishes and some broccoli. Plus I needed a new mop head before I could clean the kitchen floor. The old one wasn't that old but was parts of it were falling off in flakes.

At least I managed to do the shopping, run a few errands and make an interesting dinner: chicken-pineapple-teriyaki meatball shish kebabs with onion, green and red pepper, mushroom and pineapple over rice.

The kitchen floor remains on my to-do list.

Dog Park Afternoon

Yesterday was relatively warm and the first Monday of daylight saving time. It was a good time to return to the dog park. We haven't been there often this winter; our last visit was the day before Spike virtually stopped eating. That day the park was covered in snow, ice and slush and Spike just sat there as some puppies played.

It was so much better yesterday. Spike was active greeting his friends, especially Chris who is known for carrying dog biscuits with her at all times. We did two loops before returning home for dinner.

Spike is back.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Quiet Weekend

We've had three days of wind, rain and snow, Wednesday through Friday. Luckily Jeff and I didn't have to travel much after it started snowing. Eventually, we got about seven to eight inches.

But the last two days have been beautiful. I found myself singing yesterday on my morning walk with Spike. It was nice to go out and not have to wear gloves or even button my coat.

Didn't feel well yesterday so things were quiet. I did try my hand at sweet potato soup. I used three sweet potatoes, three apples and the last of the carrots. I made a pizza with a crust made from a naan brand (Stone-something.) It was good except for my sauce--too much tomato paste. I'll do better next time.

Today I made banana bread and scrambled eggs with onion, green pepper and monterey jack cheese for brunch. For dinner, we had sweet potato soup, duck breast with berry sauce, broccoli, romaine salad and crescent rolls.

I have the next two days off--time for some housework.

Friday, March 8, 2013

To Lisa from Rodney E

As we were watching the World Baseball Classic, we saw the Budweiser Clydesdale pony commercial from the Super Bowl. It featured the Fleetwood Mac song, Landslide.

I played a version from youtube. Then I selected another Fleetwood Mac tune, Blue Letter.

Music memory: standing in the bathroom of the second floor of Rodney E dorm at University of Delaware: Lisa and I turned to each other and sang the chorus, "I ain't waiting, I ain't waiting..."

Wonder how she's doing now?

Time to Relax

It's been a tough two weeks.

We were lucky. First Spike's test results showed no sign of cancer. Secondly, the results came back earlier than expected; in two days. Of course, we were relieved but we had to watch Spike closely: walk him on a leash, keep his walks short, keep him from jumping on furniture and running.

His follow up appointment was Wednesday. Spike's staples were removed and all is well.

My teaching/tutoring workload has dwindled down. I'm going to spend some quality time with my guy.



Sunday, March 3, 2013

Not a Smidge of Cancer

I haven't posted in over two weeks. I started a post on Friday the 15th about Valentine's Day. But it soon became moot as my week spiraled downward.

Early Saturday morning, I headed out to proctor a test, tutor a student and pick up some steak for dinner. When I returned, Spike was uninterested in the steak. Jeff said that Spike had barely stirred nor eaten all day. At least he had taken a few drinks of water. We took him to the vet on Monday and Spike underwent blood, urine and fecal tests.

When I stopped to pick up some medicine on Tuesday, I told the vet about a strange incident. Spike had toppled over for a moment when we were going down the front steps on our morning walk.

The doctor referred us to the specialist. She told us that Spike needed surgery that very night and that he had an 85 per cent chance of having cancer.

We were devastated; we'd never considered he could be that ill.

We stayed with him until he went into surgery. He had two growths in his spleen and had been bleeding internally. The surgeon removed his spleen but it didn't look good. We visited him the next day and started to talk about what it might mean if he had cancer. We wanted to make the rest of his life a good one and we were forced to imagine a future without him sooner than we had expected.

Spike came home on Friday with a plastic cone around his neck. He kept catching it on the ground as he lowered his head to sniff. Jeff told me about comfortable cones and I picked up an inflatable donut at Petco.

That evening we got the call. Spike's test results had come back earlier than expected. There was no sign of cancer (or not a smidge as I paraphrased Janie Bailey from It's A Wonderful Life in this post's title.)

The doctor had said that the surgery was curative if there was no cancer.

Bliss. More time with Spike.