Sunday, April 24, 2022

Of Dogwoods and a Little Sprite


A month ago I asked our youngest son if he had any pretty pictures he'd taken in previous springs of pink dogwood in bloom. He couldn't recall any but one day spotted a gorgeous one in full bloom in his city and stopped to photograph it for me.

 It was a beauty and the white skirts spread around its base made me wish for one exactly like it.

 My list of plants I wish we had planted in our past years grows longer and longer but a pink dogwood has been moved to the top of that list.

And while RH hunts for one he might as well choose a white dogwood too.

 Even if the trees are mere twigs compared to the ones Daniel captured above. 

We planted a Kousa dogwood at Valley View that grew to a large bouquet of white in our May dooryard garden there over 26 years, and we have a small Kousa that RH planted here at Home Hill a few years ago. It had a few white blooms on it last year and is putting on green leaves right now so I'm hoping for more blooms this year but a Kousa is just not the same as a dogwood dogwood, in my book. 

Of course this sweet little Sprite would need to come stand in front of our dogwoods and blow bubbles.

 Then they would be perfect!



Friday, April 15, 2022

Easter Week

 Easter has not changed but Easter dinner has. 

When my children were young, the week before Easter was a busy one with plans for helping out the Easter bunny deliver baskets, plans for getting church clothes ready, and planning for Sunday dinner to be special but also much of it made earlier in the week as to be ready not long after returning home from Easter services. 

I no longer have the stamina for all of that but I sure do miss it. And those the Easter baskets were hidden for.

I have a general idea what I'll fix for Sunday dinner this year but last year, for just the two of us, I made Jacques Pepin's Poulet a la Crème featured by blog friend Sandra on her At Table--Maison de Jardin. Here's a link to her post where it's found.


It was delicious! I think the fresh tarragon added so much to the taste. Our tarragon has come back every year and is ready for clipping from already. It's planted in the ground inside an old terracotta chimney pipe.


I made a salad to go with our chicken and rice but later found a recipe in the April/May issue of Garden & Gun that became a favorite of ours and would be perfect with it.


 Here's a link to Garden & Gun's recipe for Simple Chile and Honey Asparagus.

And for the dessert I'm most craving, the rice pudding I made at Christmas from Ruth Reichel's My Kitchen Years. 

Reichl used the famous Longchamp's recipe that was her father's favorite dessert. I followed it exactly except that I doubled the raisins and soaked them the night before in cognac.

Here's the link for it.

It was so good that RH ignored his lactose intolerance and had two servings. The next night he ignored it again. The third night he regretfully had to say no and it was all mine. 

 [It's a well known fact that rice pudding is even better ice cold.]

I have been trying to catch up on appointments that were postponed during the years of pandemic. I went to the dentist on Monday for the first cleaning in ten months and on Wednesday to get new glasses and computer glasses ordered. My eyesight has grown worse and when everything I try to read on my cell phone is doubled I have about given up using it for anything other than phone calls. I'm really looking forward to getting them. And next is a dermatologist visit. My doctor retired and I've put off seeing a new one but after two skin cancer surgeries over the years it's time I took care of it.

 And then there's the spring cleaning list that needs to be whittled down. 

But first I'll focus tomorrow on what to cook for Easter dinner. And try to complete the Easter centerpiece I started four days ago. But I no longer need to help the Easter bunny make Easter baskets, which by the way was what I did in a local store when I was a teenager. And I'll watch Easter service online from the beautiful Covenant Presbyterian church in Nashville instead of attending church in person. Our youngest son used to take me to special choral and orchestra concerts at this church before he got married and they and the magnificent pipe organ were some of the most beautiful music I'd ever heard in person. 

And now I'll stop rambling and wish everyone a blessed Easter.




Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Now, Voyager and Bette Davis


With April 5th the birthday of my favorite actress, it seems the perfect time to share the book that my favorite Bette Davis movie is taken from. 

Now, Voyager by Olive Higgins Prouty was published in 1941 and just a year later Warner Bros. released the movie. While not Davis's best critical success by any means, it is the movie I must stop and watch every time TCM plays it. 


 It's no surprise that while the movie is fabulous, the book is even better. The movie screenwriter was wise enough to include much of the actual dialogue from the book, including the Walt Whitman lines Prouty used on the title page:

The untold want, by life and land ne'er granted,

Now, Voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find.

If ever someone needed to seek their untold want, it was Charlotte Vale, far away from her domineering mother. While I cannot imagine a better actress to have played the part of Charlotte than Bette Davis, I was fascinated by Prouty's own word picture of her that she opened the book with:

She looked as if she might have recently been ill. She had little natural color, and no artificial color whatsoever. There was something that suggested old ivory about the cast and quality of her skin. Her cheek-bones were high and accentuated by hollows in her cheeks. her brows were black, well-defined, and extraordinarily far apart. Her hair was black--what could be seen of it. It was cut very short. Her eyes were the somber blue of late-blooming monk's-hood. She was dressed in the conservative good taste that is expensive. A navy blue costume, very plain and very perfect, with a small snug navy-blue hat on her close-cropped head. Over her shoulders hung the pelts of several little animals, probably Russian sable. She caused much comment among the other passengers because of the incongruity between her distinguished appearance and her wary manner.

For those familiar with the movie, you'll notice that the book opens with the transformation of Charlotte Vale after her stay in an expensive sanitarium following her nervous breakdown, while that part comes much later in the movie.

Olive Higgins Prouty wrote honestly about mental illness because she was a sufferer of it herself and I read online that she wrote very accurately about psychotherapy, something that few authors of the time did. 

And here in the rough draft that I wrote Sunday morning while watching CBS Sunday Morning is where my notes end because I went on to watch Face the Nation and Margaret Brennan's video call interview with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine, including current news and pictures. 

I've often turned to books these last horrifying weeks to distract me from the news I cannot turn off. But even a book I loved like Now, Voyager cannot help when faced with such atrocities being committed against innocent people. I had to get up, go to my kitchen and bang pots and pans angrily together and when that didn't help, go outside in the cold but sunny day with BreeBree and James Mason and cry helplessly.

And life goes on here in America.

Last week I went to our local library for the first time in years. After organizing my bookshelves this winter I realized I should stop buying more books (most of the time) and start finding them at the library, one fabulous thing that is still free

I picked out three novels and a new Susan Loomis cookbook, which I later ended up ordering because there were too many good recipes to copy. Ha, so much for my good intentions! One new idea at the library was a rack of Lucky Day books, new popular releases that you could only choose one of, with no renewal.

I chose a new Anne Tyler book called French Braid.


My apology to Anne Tyler fans but I finally laid this book aside after three nights' reading, hoping it would get better (happier). It didn't.

Next I opened Sarah Addison Allen's First Frost, chosen because I think I remember liking her Garden Spells. Even it took awhile for me to warm up to but I ended up enjoying it, the ending especially. 

I need happy endings. 


I'm grateful to be starting a library routine again. So many of the new books I've bought the last few years have not been put on my own bookshelves but rather passed on or donated. Very few new authors join the books on my eight bookshelves to be read again and again. 

There's no hope for me. I like old music, old books, old movies. I won't say "old" actors but rather say "actors from the past."

Happy Birthday, Bette Davis!

From Ladies' Home Journal, June 1951, the original Bette Davis eyes.

Friday, April 1, 2022

The Enchanted April and Marriage


I may have written about this favorite book too often already on my blogs but every April I fall in love with it all over again.

 On April 1, 2014 at Dewena's Window I published a post on the movie, a post I'd spent far too much time working on but I'm still proud of it. And when I entered "Enchanted April" as a label here I realized I'd used quotations from it near the first Valentine's Day I began blogging.

When our youngest son and his family were here visiting us recently I put my DVD of the movie in their hands when they were leaving and told them to watch it together in April but to bring it back to me, please. 

Not that our two lovebirds need it but I think every couple who has been married a while needs to watch it together every year. 

I made RH watch it with me last year! And he liked it!

Very few couples are Hollywood-story beautiful or perfect and neither were the two married couples in Elizabeth von Arnim's 1923 novel, The Enchanted April

Take the Wilkins couple. Mrs. Wilkins first:

She was the kind of person who is not noticed at parties. Her clothes, infested by thrift, made her practically invisible; her face was non-arresting, her conversation was reluctant, she was shy.

Wait, am I talking about myself or Mrs. Wilkins? I do feel an affinity for her and she sometimes irritates me.

Mr. Wilkins:

Wilkins was very respectable. He was known to be highly thought of by his senior partners...He pronounced adequately intelligent judgments on art and artists. He was pithy; he was prudent; he never said a word too much, nor, on the other hand, did he ever say a word too little.

And Mr. Wilkins might be a little too big for his britches.

Mrs. Arbuthnot, when Mrs. Wilkins first met her:

She was just staring; and her face, as usual, was the face of a patient and disappointed Madonna.

Which might possibly get a little old.

And Frederick Arbuthnot? How I laughed at this:

Frederick had been the kind of husband whose wife betakes herself early to the feet of God.

And does any normal husband want to know that his patient and disappointed wife is constantly on her knees begging God to change him? I felt a little sorry for the beautiful Mrs. Arbuthnot's husband.

As you can tell, I both love this book and believe in it! When the two women left dreary London one March and traveled to a villa they rented in San Salvatore, Italy, they, and two other London escapees, began to change. San Salvatore changed them.

Naturally, Mr. Wilkins and Mr. Arbuthnot found their way there too. Otherwise what would be the point of the story? 

The Enchanted April