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Monday, February 27, 2017

Did You Watch . . .

Last night's 89th Academy Awards ceremony presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences?

Many did; I did not. Truth be told I was unaware of this televised broadcast. A perk of having "cut the cable" several years ago. I know that there has been much speculation on the winners (and losers) for weeks, I bypassed those stories and also admit to not having seen any of the nominated films, not even La La Land.


Of course, not watching a live presentation had its upsides. First, I didn't waste consume several hours watching and, reading about it afterwards condensed it a lot, including the biggest gaffe in the event's history.

What I was did instead this weekend was watch several classic films on YouTube, all filmed in what I consider the best medium, black and white. All viewed at no cost (other than an Internet connection) and in the comfort of my living room. Best of all there were no commercial interruptions. 


The List of Adrian Messenger, a 1963 American mystery film directed by John Huston and featuring George C. Scott as the lead actor. The supporting cast includes Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Frank Sinatra, Burt Lancaster, Robert Mitchum  Dana Wynter, Gladys Cooper, Herbert Marshall.

Here's a quick synopsis: Adrian Messenger, a writer, who is working on a new book, believes a series of apparently unrelated "accidental" deaths are actually linked murders. He asks his friend, Anthony Gethryn (Scott's character), recently retired from military intelligence, to help clear up the mystery. However, Messenger's plane is bombed while he is on his way to collect evidence to confirm his suspicions and, with his dying breath, he tries to tell a fellow passenger the key to the mystery. What happens to Messenger is part of how the mystery unfolds. 

The Upturned Glass (1947) is a stylistic British crime drama in the film noir tradition, a low-key black and white visual style. It stars James Mason as a leading brain surgeon who murders a woman he believes responsible for the death of the woman he loved. The suspected villain, fellow performer, Pamela Kellino, was actually Mason's wife at the time. The photo poster at the left shows Mason and Kellino in a scene from the film.

Here's a quick synopsis: A medical school class attends a lecture on the psychology of crime. The unnamed lecturer (James Mason) announces that while his past lectures have covered criminals with abnormal psychology, today's lecture will focus on the sane criminal who may have a strong sense of justice. He describes the case of a murderer who is perfectly sane, valuable member of society and a skilled surgeon who he fictitiously names Michael Joyce (also played by Mason). The film depicts Michael's story in flashbacks narrated by the lecturer. Unknown to the class, but shared with the film viewing audience, the lecturer is telling his own story as he and Michael Joyce are the same man. When the lecture is over, the drama continues as the lecturer/surgeon continues with his plan with an unexpected twist, but you'll have to watch the film to learn it.

Turn the Key Softly (1953) is another British film. The story deals with the first 24 hours in the lives of three women of widely different backgrounds, who are released from London's Holloway Prison on the same morning. It's memorable in part for the appearance of a young Joan Collins as one of the main characters. (You may be able to guess which one from the synopsis below.)

Here's a quick synopsis: One woman is a well-bred young woman, who was led into crime by her boyfriend, then sentenced for a crime he committed. Another is an attractive working-class girl who found prostitution was a better paying job. The last was an elderly widow who was jailed for repeated shoplifting, who as her neighbor said, "never took anything of value." The movie unfolds to reveal the pressures the women face not to slip back into their old ways. If you're at all curious as to whether they fail or succeed, watch the film, it's FREE.


YouTube has become my favorite film way to view films that I would otherwise not know about. It's not the only way to view classics. Another favorite online source is Archive.org. This non-profit internet library offers films, books, software, music, and more. And that's how I watched this classic film last week.


The Lady Vanishes is a 1938 British thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave. It was filmed at the Gainsborough Studios in Islington, London and was Hitchcock's last British film until the 1970s. The film was widely successful and has been celebrated as a dramatic melodrama, a who-done-it, and a comedy. It's considered one of Hitchcock's most renowned films; he relocated to Hollywood soon after its release.

Here's a quick synopsis: Most of the film's action occurs on a train. An attractive English tourist travelling by train in continental Europe to meet her fiancé. She soon finds out that her elderly travelling companion seems to have disappeared from the train. After her fellow passengers deny ever having seen the elderly lady, the young woman is helped by a young musicologist, the two proceeding to search the train for clues to the old lady's disappearance.


As you have figured out by now, I am a fan of classic films and like the books I enjoy reading, my only lament is: so many great books films, so little time.


What are your film preferences, current or classics (or both) ?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Scallops & Pasta Florentine

Photo by dianegrapegrower
While it sounds fancy, this recipe is really easy to prepare. Similar recipes use a cream base, this one included chicken broth and white wine. I'm not sure if there's less calories in that combo, but it definitely was delicious, I used linguine, but other pasta, such as farfelle (bowtie) can be substituted in this recipe. No grape tomatoes in the fridge, so those were eliminated ☹️.

(I neglected to take photos during the prep or serving eating stages. The photo here is from an online contributor to Food.com.)

This recipe was prepared using bay scallops, which we had in the freezer. Next time it will be done with larger sea scallops; these can be cut in half if you prefer a smaller size.

Scallops & Pasta Florentine
Prep & cook time: 30 minutes
  • 1 lb scallops (bay or sea) patted dry
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 TBSP olive oil (+ 1 TBSP, add extra if needed)
  • 1 shallot minced
  • 3 garlic cloves minced fine
  • 1/2 C white wine
  • 1/2 C chicken broth
  • 3 TBSP butter softened
  • 1 package baby spinach
  • 1-1/4 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1/3 pt grape or cherry tomatoes (per person) 
  • 1/4 C fresh parsley chopped (substitute lesser amount of dried if not available)
  • 1/2 C medium pasta shells per person 
  • Parmesan/Romano cheese grated or shaved
  1. Season scallops with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat 2 TBSP olive oil in skillet; add scallops and cook about 2 minutes each side until browned. Remove from skillet and keep warm.
  3. Heat remaining oil in same skillet, add shallot and garlic, cook until softened (about 1 minute). Stir in wine and cook until reduced by half.
  4. Add broth and simmer, then stir in butter and pasta and toss until heated.
  5. Add spinach, cherry tomatoes, parsley, lemon zest and toss until spinach wilts. 
  6. Add scallops and serve with grated cheese.
How did we enjoy this recipe? Grenville gave it two forks up which is very high praise.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Grand Trio

As many readers of this blog know, we welcomed granddaughter Lilliana Jean into our family (and hearts) in mid-December.
She recently celebrated a 2-month "birthday" at her PA home. Her mother sent this photo update with elephant "Ollie" a holiday present from us.

This weekend was another "first" as she met her cousins, older grandchildren Bobby (10) and Ellie (5-1/2) who travelled from RI to PA with their mom during winter break.
Bobby and Lilliana seemed to have mutual admiration 😍 at first sight. 
This group photo was sent by Lilliana's mom, Coleen. 
It was wonderful to see our first photo of all 3 grandchildren together. We're hoping for another reunion at Easter 🐰. That holiday is 54 days away on April 16, but who's counting?

We are 😘

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Phriday Phunny- (a little late)



























SOOOOO is this "Duck On Ice" or just some "Cold Duck"????
























She doesn't look happy....Maybe because He "Ducked Out"?
I think i need a nap now😉
Grenville

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Hearts Day Fun

We had a great time on Valentine's Day 💕this week. 

We didn't go out to dinner, send or receive flowers or chocolates, but the card fairies DID leave lots of cards (along with specific instruction on when to open each one). 

What we did do was to go snow shoeing in nearby Mine Falls Park, a short walk from our mill apt. It was a beautiful afternoon after a 9-inch snowfall on Sunday and gusty winds all day Monday. And, we had the trail all to ourselves, aside from 2 cross country skiers.

There were quite a few snow drifts along the trails — great for some snow 💘 art.

And, no outing is complete without a "selfie" these days.

There was also a greeting from granddaughter Lilliana, 2 months old this week.
It was a fun way to spend ❤️ Day. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Oh, Brother

WAIT this is not a rant. Nothing is wrong and it's not about my brother.It's none of those, but refer to my new printer; made by Brother. 

After a recent post rant about the sooner-than-expected demise of a (2-year 
old) Epson printer, this replacement, a Model MFC-J885DW is all good It's a compact multi-function: scan, copy, print and fax unit

Features include duplex printing, print speed of 3.9 ppm, 20-sheet automatic document feeder, 2-7-in. front color touchscreen LCD, starter ink cartridges, setup poster and CD, a not-so-standard printed 71-page user guide, unlimited customer support, and a 2-year warranty.


Like many other other printers, this model uses separate ink cartridges: black and 1 each: cyan, magenta, yellow (CMY). If ink runs out in one, replace only that one. Good news is that these cartridges cost less than competing inks and are easier to install from a front right side panel. My previous printers (Epson and HP) required lifting the scanning bay to change inks which was cumbersome at times. 

I didn't read online reviews before buying. My priority was a compact all-in-one printer. My first choice was HP, a previous favorite; but current models were very wide. Checking reviews after buying had some negatives: slow print speed, "low" 100-sheet main tray. Not too worry. Grenville has a personal printer; both printers are network connected so we can share. Another criticism was "thin and flimsy"  plastic construction. Granted this may be true, but what current printer isn't made of plastic?


courtesy free online clipart
Thumbs up for the unlimited tech support which I've called twice and was impressed by the knowledge of the tech representative. The support tech was courteous and thorough (one call lasted 30 minutes).

So far this printer-buying experience has been good. I hope it  continues this way, at least for the next couple of years. 



Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Hearts Day 2017





Today is Valentine's Day and we hope that wherever and however you spend the day, that's it's a lovely one (pun intended. 

As I was unsure as to whether or not it was strictly a U.S. celebrated day, I checked online and learned that Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia. And that it was celebrated in Sweden under the name of "Alla hjärtans dag" but don't know the English translation. Additionally China, Japan Korea Formosa, Turkey and the Philippines observe a similar day to express love. 

"Beatrice" and "Grenville" are represented in the figures in this post and are displayed in our apt. These are also the aliases we used when we first created this blog. Now, we use them interchangeably with our actual names, Dorothy and Patrick.

Beatrice and Grenville are part of Boyds Bears. While I searched online  to learn why these names (and others) are selected, there was no information available. Maybe they are chosen from family or friends surnames or perhaps, more likely, selected at random.

Years ago we bought the Beatrice and Grenville "True Love" shown above. It was our first joint purchase and we had displayed it on our wedding table. Afterward, we came across the other two: "Best Friends Weather Any Storm" and "Best Friends." 

All three pieces were purchased in our native NJ and have "lived" with us in NJ, VA and now NH. They just seem to fit how we regard our love and relationship. each piece has a quote on the bottom.


True Love:  “The great secret of successful marriage is to treat all disasters as incidents and none of the incidents as disasters.” – Harold Nicholson

Best Friends: "There is only one happiness in live, to love and be loved." George Sand
Best Friends Weather Any Storm: "Love comforteth like sunshine after rain." Shakespeare
In case you didn't know (and why would you?) Boyds Bears is named after the Maryland town where the business was started. Company founders Gary M. Lowenthal and his wife, Justina Unger, left merchandising positions in NYC to relocate to Boyds, Maryland in 1979. They opened an antique store out of their partially restored Victorian home, but found the business to be costly and unprofitable and switched to resin figurines and later stuffed toy bears. The first bear was named "Matthew" after their newborn son, later a "Bailey" bear was named for their daughter. The stuffed toy bears, rabbits, moose and others as well as resin figurines (Boyds Bearstones, Folkstones, Wee Folkstones, Nature's Woodland Fairies, Dollstones) were widely popular for years and are still collected by many. However, the collectibles market is not the way to make one's fortune (think Beanie Babies).  Enesco acquired the company in 2008 and in 2014 discontinued the Boyds Bears product line stating in an email to retailers that . . . "a decision has been made to place Boyds into hibernation."

We will continue to enjoy our small B & G collection which also includes this card.
Perfect for Today & Always

Monday, February 13, 2017

Classic Hitchcock on a Snow Day

As Grenville noted in the previous post, it was a cold and (very) snowy weekend here in Nashua, NH. Apt living has the benefit of no shoveling or digging out needed. We stayed indoors and watched classic Alfred Hitchcock films, thankfully available online.

Hitchcock, an English film director and producer if often called The Master of Suspense for pioneering elements of the suspense and psychological thriller genres. Out of 53 major films he directed, only one, Rebecca (1941), won the Academy Award for Best Picture. In later years Lifeboat (1945), Spellbound (1946), Rear Window (1955), Pyscho (1961) were nominated. He never a Best Director Oscar, but in 1968 was awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for lifetime achievement. His brief acceptance speech was "Thank you very much indeed."

My favorite Hitchcock films feature actor Cary Grant as the male lead. Hitchcock and Grant teamed on four films: Suspicion (1941), Notorious (1946), To Catch a Thief (1955) and North by Northwest (1959). The first two were filmed in black and white; the last two in color.

Actor Jimmy Stewart also made four Hitchcock films (all in color): Rope (1948), Rear Window (1954), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), and Vertigo (1958). The last, while now a classic, received negative reviews and poor box office receipts on release. Hitchcock blamed its failure on Stewart "looking too old to attract audiences" and replaced him with Grant in North by Northwest. (Grant was 4 years older than Stewart.)

Our weekend viewing were the first two Hitchcock-Grant pairings: Suspicion and Notorious. Here's a rundown on both if you aren't familiar with the plot lines.
Suspicion (1941) is a romantic psychological thriller that starred Grant and Joan Fontaine as a married couple. It was Hitchcock's fourth Hollywood production based on the novel, Before the Fact (1932) by Francis Iles. In the film, a shy spinster (Fontaine) runs off with a charming playboy (Grant), who turns out to be penniless, a gambler, and dishonest to the max. She comes to suspect that he is also a murderer, and that she will become a victim.

This relationship mystery hinges on the idea that Lina McLaidlaw doesn't trust her charming rake of a new husband, Johnnie Aysgarth, who’s more ambitious than industrious. Is it just her imagination as she uncovers his gambling and other secrets, or is her instinct warning her to be afraid? Hitchcock snakes viewers through the highs and lows of their evolving emotions.
Joan Fontaine, Cary Grant in Suspicion

The film's climax has lead to a couple of theories. One is that Hitchcock planned to follow the book's ending in which Johnnie gives Lina a glass of milk containing poison. Supposedly, Lina is positive that he plans to kill her, but loves him too much to live. She drinks the milk, but first writes a letter to her mother explaining what happened. The last scene would have seen Johnnie sending the letter. Hitchcock said this was his original intention. The film has many references to letters and stamps. In the opening scene, Johnnie borrows a stamp from Lina to pay his fare telling the annoyed conductor, "Write to your mother."

Another is that Hays Production Code guidelines wouldn’t let the film end with what would have been Lina’s suicide. Criminals could commit suicide within the code, but a heroine could not despite the fact that her action could help convict a killer. And, the studio didn’t want Grant shown as a murderer. Hitchcock has been quoted as saying that the studio forced him to change the film’s ending to protect Grant’s image. As a result, the climax doesn’t make much sense to many.

The Hays Code (Motion Picture Production Code) was the set of industry moral guidelines applied to U.S. motion pictures released by major studios from 1930 to 1968. It was named after Will H. Hays,  president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA) from 1922 to 1945. Under his leadership, the MPPDA, later the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), adopted the Production Code in 1930 and began strict enforcement in 1934. The Production Code spelled out acceptable and unacceptable content for motion pictures produced for a U.S. public audience.
Fontaine won the 1941 for Best Actress Academy Award the only Oscar-winning performance in a Hitchcock film and almost didn't qualify. The film opened in New York in Nov 1941, but didn't play in Los Angeles until Jan 1942. After Fontaine won the New York Critics Circle Award for best actress, RKO scheduled a special screening at the Pantages Hollywood Theater on Jan 12, the final day of eligibility under academy rules of that time.
Notorious is a 1946 American spy film noir starring Cary GrantIngrid Bergman and Claude Rains as three people whose lives become intimately entangled during an espionage operation.  Shot in late 1945 and early 1946, it was released by RKO Radio Pictures in August 1946. 

In Notorious, an allegory of love and betrayal, Hitchcock fuses two of his favorite elements: suspense and romance. A beautiful woman with a tainted past (Bergman) is enlisted by American agent T.R. Devlin (Grant) to spy on a ring of Nazis in post-war Rio. Her espionage work becomes life-threatening after she marries Alex (Rains), the most debonair of the Nazi ring. Devlin rescues her, only after he admits to his role in her desperate situation and acknowledges that he’s loved her from the start. The film contains memorable performances, a script by renowned screenwriter Ben Hecht’s and Hitchcock’s direction.

Notorious is well known for two scenes. In one, Hitchcock
Claude Rains, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, stars of Notorious
starts wide and high on a second floor balcony overlooking the great hall of a grand mansion. Slowly he 
tracks down and in on Bergman, ending with a tight close-up of a key tucked in her hand. Hitchcock also devised a scene that circumvented the Production Code's ban on kisses longer than three seconds—by having his actors disengage every three seconds, murmur and nuzzle each other, then start back up again. The 2-1/2 minute kiss is "perhaps his most intimate and erotic kiss."

Critics consider Notorious an artistic watershed for Hitchcock and one that represented a heightened thematic maturity. According to his biographer, "Notorious was the director's first attempt, at age 46, to bring his talents to the creation of a serious love story; its story of two men in love with Ingrid Bergman could only have been made at this stage of his life." 
On a future weekend, we'll watch the last two Hitchcock-Grant collaborations: To Catch a Thief (1955) and North by Northwest (1959). Being snowbound wa a very good thing.
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