Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Horizontal viewing—The grim reaper

A very theatrical Liz Taylor and Noel Coward 
in the 1968 film Boom!

It's Halloween, so I thought my horizontal viewing theme ought to showcase films about the Grim Reaper of Death. This is actually a vertical viewing and horizontal viewing combo— meaning there are some remakes of the same story, and some riffs on a theme. Forget those silly zombie or chainsaw films, these reels will make you think.

The Seventh Seal  This 1957 film by the legendary Ingmar Bergman tells the story of a man who seeks answers about life, death, and the existence of God as he plays chess against the Grim Reaper during the Black Plague. It's beautifully done, in that cool Bergman way.

Death Takes a Holiday is a delightful romantic drama made in 1934, and based on the mystical, post-WWI era Italian play, La Morte in Vacanza by Alberto Casella. It stars Fredric March, Evelyn Venable and Guy Standing. "Death" decided to take a vacation, so he becomes a mortal to see what he is missing. What makes us human? What brings us joy and happiness in our lifetime? Death falls for the gal, and complications ensue.

Meet Joe Black is the 1998 remake (of the remake Death Takes a Holiday.) 

Brad Pitt portrays a quirky Angel of Death, and Anthony Hopkins is his victim, and Claire Forlani as the love interest. Well done.

Boom! made in 1968 stars a brilliant Elizabeth Taylor,  Richard Burton, and Noel Coward as the Angel of Death. This film is an awesomely theatrical interpretation of Tennessee Williams' The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore. It's set on a remote Greek island and Liz and Dick are in top form. It's campy, it's gritty, it's vulgar, and it most certainly booms!

Happy Halloween!

Click on "vertical viewing" label below for other vertical viewing suggestions!
Or click to read my vertical viewing posts of 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A golden swath

photo, Diane Carnevale

Although the windy wake of Hurricane Sandy left a woeful path of destruction, it also made some beautiful surprises. Sometimes, if you stop to really look closely, you may discover enchanting, ephemeral works of art. I came across this golden swath of newly fallen leaves at a public park path in Boston on my walk into work this morning, and it reminded me of something Andy Goldsworthy may have created. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The color ebony!

Inspired by... the color ebony.

To see more colors, click on the "color blocks" label below.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sweet potato vine

photo, Diane Carnevale

The sweet potato plant is a wonder to behold. From a little sprig, it never fails to grow into a foliage monster throughout the summer. The tubers that they grow are not edible, but look very similar to the ones that we eat. A hard frost is sure to come soon, and these beautiful chartreuse leaves will turn black and die off.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bombay chicken salad

Plain old chicken salad is transformed into something wildly exotic with the the addition of some curry powder. For this wrap sandwich, I also added cilantro, crunchy wasabi peas, onions, and shredded carrots. Alongside I had mint infused cucumbers, and for dessert, coconut laced mango. Simple stuff, but big flavors of India!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Vintage envelope portraits

This is what I call respecting your elders. Artist Mark Powell draws amazing portraits of old weathered faces on vintage envelopes, complete with stamps and postmarks. Every wrinkle, every stamp, and every envelope tells a story, don't you think? See more of Mark's work here— it's very inspiring! 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Black gold!

photo, Diane Carnevale

Rich compost is black gold to us gardeners. I have my own pretty fabulous compost heap, filling it with every tiny kitchen scrap or morsel, plus all sorts of garden remnants throughout the year, but this stuff is special. It comes from our town, which has a serious weekly front door composting pick-up program. I filled these buckets with the rich soil then  spread the it around my garden. Composted soil is alive, and filled with astounding levels of macro and micronutrients that help nourish garden plants so they grow like mad. So get those hands dirty and make some compost for your garden!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Autumn tableau

I love this time of year for pumpkins, bittersweet, gourds, cornstalks
and Indian corn. This tableau is in on a big round table in my courtyard.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Just sometimes...

Just sometimes, you come upon something delightful and unexpected, such as this Floating Sea of Colorful Umbrellas by UK based artist Luke Jerram.  His installation piece, called Just sometimes, is composed of over 1000 umbrellas floating down a Rotterdam canal. Made you smile!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

End of the affair

It's the end of the affair... my love affair with dahlias, that is. All good things must come to and end at some point, and it was finally time for the dahlias to die off. A hard frost was predicted last night so out I went after work with my bypass pruners, and I clipped nearly every remaining dahlia blossom. I had armloads full—enough for 4 very full vases. They looked like colorful fireworks and brought me great joy and the end of a busy work week in the city. Time to dig up the dahlia tubers, mark the various colors, and tuck them away until next spring. Yes, the process is a bit of a pain, but the results are worth it, because next spring my love affair will begin all over again.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fried dough + chestnut honey

Photo, Dan Ryan

We had a small bit of leftover pizza dough last weekend and decided to fry it up. Mmmm... brought me right back to my childhood. My mom (Irish, English, Scottish, and Dutch) would fry small spheres and then coat them in cinnamon sugar. She just called them plain old fried dough, though my Italian Nonna would have called the fried balls of dough zeppole. In New Mexico they call them sopapillas, which are amazing slathered in a honey butter. Whatever you call them, zeppole, sopaipillas or just fried dough, they're simply delicious. Here's a grown up version—more a flat disc than a sphere—drizzled with a gorgeous Italian chestnut honey. Bellissimo!

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Hey—how 'bout that? 
Today's date would be an easy birthday or anniversary date to remember.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Collecting seeds

photos, Diane Carnevale

There are some plants that I just couldn't live without each season, and nasturtiums are one of them. The warm colored yellow and orange blossoms are so sunshiny and cheery, and they, along with their mini lily pad-looking leaves, are edible. This time of year I collect the bulbous seeds to sprinkle into the soil for next year's garden. So, does anyone want some seeds?... as you can see I have tons of them!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Winslow Homer

Winslow Homer, View of Prout's Neck, 1900

In my mind, Winslow Homer's iconic seaside paintings always conjure up wicked winds and splashing waves on the rugged Atlantic coastline. Among many locations, Homer painted in nearby Gloucester, MA, and spent the latter years of his life on Prout's Neck in Maine. I was lucky enough to spend a few summers up on Prout's Neck, and know its beauty well. The homes are classic New England shingle style, weathered by battering winds, and the police drive practical Volvo wagons. But I digress. In a splendid homage to Mr. Homer, the Portland Museum of Art recently opened the newly restored Winslow Homer Studio on Prout's Neck along with a related exhibition at the museum called Weatherbeaten: Winslow Homer and Maine. Pieces for the show were borrowed from various museums and private collections, and showcase 38 of Homer's seascapes from the last few decades of his life. This exhibit only runs until the end of December, so don't miss it!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Wild about Wilde, #3

Anyone who lives within their means
 suffers from a lack of imagination.
—Oscar Wilde

+ + + 

This is another in my series of Oscar Wilde witticisms. In my humble opinion, O.W. was one of the cleverest men in literature. Loved him! Click on the red Wild about Wilde label below to read more Wilde witticisms.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Pink dahlias

Enormous dahlias blossoms are in a treat this late in the season, 
when not much else is blooming.

These look like whipped frosting on a cake!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

By any other name...

Photo, Dan Ryan

From Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.

Apparently Shakespeare's reference to a Rose in the 7th line above was also a joke at the expense of the Rose Theatre, a local rival to his Globe Theatre. Supposedly it had—how to put this delicately—less than effective sanitary arrangements. I mean, who didn't back then?  The story goes that this was a sly joke about the awful aroma. Kinda funny!

Above are beautiful, ever blooming but non-fragrant Knockout roses, 
and below are very fragrant beach roses (Rosa Rugosa). Both have their merits.

Photo, Diane Carnevale

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Hakonechloa grass

Our Hakonechloa grass pathway is fluffier than ever this year. Love the way it sways in the breeze, The grass started out as little sprouts around 10 years ago, and has been thickening and growing longer each year. Time to divide, and I know exactly where to make a new patch of grass... on a berm in the Japanese tree grove. Details later.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Doppio zero flour

Look what I found at Whole Foods! This super fine and soft "00 flour" flour is sometimes listed in Italian pizza dough and pasta recipes. Pizzaiolo and bakers throughout Italy—not just Naples mind you—wouldn't think of using anything else. It's hard to come by in the USA but worth searching for because it has that true authentic flavor. Why? It's scientific and complicated, but I'll just give you the short version.

Here we categorize flours by how much protein are in them, which directly affects the gluten formation in whatever we're making, but in Italy (and other parts of Europe) it's categorized a bit differently. The  flour there is based on how finely the flour has been ground, from powder-fine "00" flour  to coarsely-ground type "2" flour. Just think of those crusty French baguettes, bought on a Rive Gauche saunter, and eaten under La Tour Eiffel. Oooh laa laa!

I am thinking homemade pizza is in my near future, Ciao Ciao!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Gigantic pumpkin

There we were, stuck in traffic near the Zakim Bridge in Boston on our drive home from Cape Cod, when we spotted a gigantic pumpkin in the back of a truck. Turns out the Topsfield Fair was holding the New England Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off later that night. This is serious business! This big fella that we spotted wasn't even close to the winner this year, which was 2009 pounds. I wanna know what kind of fertilizer he used.

Topsfield Fair 2012 
Giant Pumpkin Winners

1st - Ron Wallace, Greene, RI - 2009 pounds
2nd - Woody Lancaster, Topsfield, MA - 1649 pounds
3rd - Rick Skrzypczak, , MA - 1597.5 pounds