Thursday, March 31, 2011

Some Great Ladies

To follow up on yesterday’s movie post, I wanted to recommend a few actresses whom I admire. If you are a film buff, these will seem obvious. But if you are just beginning to explore the cinematic archives, this will be a good first draft of a “map of the stars”. While it’s certainly not a guarantee, if you see any of these gals billed as starring in a film, the movie is likely worth a look.

Wendy Hiller
Judy Holliday
Myrna Loy
Ingrid Bergman
Katherine Hepburn
Greer Garson

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


My taste in movies tends toward classics, wit, humor, romance, happy endings, World War II, good triumphing over evil and is obviously pretty eclectic. I don’t like silent films. I detest horror films. My favorite range is from the earliest talkies of the pre-code era up until about 1959. That’s not to say I don’t have contemporary favorites. The King’s Speech is a recent example. But I love the tremendous heart evident in older films.

Blogger allows us to list favorite movies in our profile. Whenever I think of it I will add one to the string. When I looked at it the other day I decided to add the year the film was released, in part because many movies share the same title. Here are some films I happily recommend. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but each one is worthy of your time and attention.

Adam's Rib (1949)
An Affair To Remember (1957)
Auntie Mame (1958)
Battleground (1949)
Born Yesterday (1950)
Casablanca (1942)
Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939)
Evelyn Prentice (1934)
Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (1967)
I Know Where I'm Going! (1945)
It's A Wonderful Life (1946)
Libeled Lady (1936)
Love Actually (2003)
Mad Hot Ballroom (2005)
Moonstruck (1987)
Mrs. Miniver (1942)
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Notorious (1946)
Notting Hill (1999)
Pinky (1949)
Pride of the Marines (1945)
Random Harvest (1942)
Rear Window (1954)
Remember the Titans (2000)
Sahara (1943)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
Sleepless In Seattle (1993)
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
The Bishop's Wife (1947)
The Blind Side (2009)
The Gilded Lily (1935)
The King's Speech (2010)
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
The Search (1948)
The Solid Gold Cadillac (1956)
The Thin Man (1934)
What Every Woman Knows (1934)

You can learn more about each film over at IMDB, The Internet Movie DataBase and at TCM, Turner Classic Movies.

Friday, March 25, 2011


It’s been a very busy week, but I wanted to let you know that all is well.

My stitches were removed on Tuesday and the doctor was very pleased with how well the reconstruction is healing. It was exciting to see the area without the ring of dark blue stitches marching all around the perimeter - no more fuzzy blue caterpillar! Also, the swelling has completely subsided and the bruising has fully faded. Only a few areas of irritation remain from where the pressure bandage was applied right after the surgery. With the stitches removed, it was quite a treat to be able to shower without a special bandage in place. And I am happy to report that the wound area has been almost entirely pain free. I need to keep it moist and covered through next Tuesday, but after that I will be back to normal - a new normal with a very artfully created and well earned scar.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Comfort Food With A Twist

I was channel surfing today and saw Rachael Ray making this “Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese” casserole over on the Food Network. It looked yummy. I haven’t tried it yet, but I decided to link to it anyway. Let me know if you whip it up and I’ll do the same!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

It’s True

This evening finds me feeling nearly back to normal. My right eye is fully open even though it is still puffy. My face remains swollen, forehead to collarbone, but nothing like it was yesterday or Thursday. The various colors of bruising emerged last night, but 24 hours later they remain blessedly muted. Because I now have only minor discomfort, I am no longer taking acetaminophen for pain. By the way, I never needed anything stronger than that plus ice packs for the swelling. Best of all, the wound reconstruction remains in excellent condition. The stitches will come out next week.

My surgery was Tuesday morning.
Today is Saturday.
This is being quite a swift and remarkable journey.

I thought hard before deciding to share the photo in the previous post. My only fear was that I might discourage someone from pursuing treatment. But I trusted my Mohs surgeon and all my research which told me that any postoperative consequences would be brief. I’ll have a bandage for a couple of weeks and a scar which will eventually quiet and fade. The basal cell carcinoma is gone and I will be screened regularly. Should another bcc appear I will schedule treatment immediately and know for sure that any discomfort really is temporary.


Thursday, March 17, 2011


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Happy Birthday Chuck!

”Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday dear Chuck
Happy Birthday to you -
and many more!

Thank you for riding the roller coaster with me for nearly a quarter of a century and most especially over this past year.
May I someday be as good a wife to you, as you are a wonderful husband to me!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bye Bye BCC!

About a month ago I was diagnosed with a small basal cell carcinoma, just above my right eyebrow. It looked as if someone had dipped the top of a #2 pencil eraser in pink ink and daubed it on.

Today I underwent Mohs Micrographic Surgery to remove it. As of this moment I am very happily free of the bcc!

I first noticed the pink spot sometime in the autumn. (But, thanks to the arrival of Isabella, I have been able to look back in photos and see a very tiny spot at the end of August.) It looked to me like a similar reddish spot I’ve had unchanged on my face for years, so I thought nothing of it. Sometimes this new spot was dry; sometimes raw. I kept Noxzema on it (For me Noxzema is the equivalent of what Windex was to the father in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”!) and it seemed to calm down.

But in January, not even the Noxzema was soothing it so I headed to WebMD and viewed a skin problem slide show. After viewing the slides I was convinced it was an actinic keratosis. Being fair haired, fair skinned, blue eyed with a history of sunburns in childhood I knew that put me at risk. Because many doctors consider all actinic keratoses to be pre-cancerous, I called my primary care physician the very next day and saw him later in the week. He also thought it was an actinic keratosis but referred me to a dermatologist.

My dermatologist turned out to be great. He is smart, relaxed, kind and has a sense of humor. As soon as he took a close look at the spot he said he didn’t think it was an actinic keratosis, but a basal cell carcinoma. I said: “Well that’s not good.” to which he replied “Well, it’s not bad!”. A biopsy confirmed his eagle eyed diagnosis and I was scheduled for the Mohs surgery.

The Mohs doc who treated me today is exceptional. (Lately I have been on a roll in finding very good doctors!) Mohs surgery, named for Frederic E. Mohs, MD, was first performed back in the 1930s. A Mohs surgeon, usually a dermatologist, has an additional year of training before becoming a Mohs Fellow. If you think of the cancer as an iceberg, the specially trained doctor removes a thin slice of tissue off the top. It is marked precisely, frozen and examined under the microscope. Let’s say the left edge of the sample has a margin of healthy tissue. When the second slice is removed, more is taken from the right side. It too is marked and examined. These steps continue until all of the cancer is removed. Because of the thin layers and the level of precision, no roots of the cancer are left behind and the least possible amount of healthy tissue is taken.

To my amazement, all of my bcc was removed with the first slice! The challenge then for the doctor was how to close the wound. If he had simply pulled all the edges of the thumbnail size wound together I would have been left with a large pucker, plus it would have pulled my eyebrow up into a permanent state of skepticism and Dorothy Parker snarkiness. Happily I did not require a graft. Instead he decided on a teardrop shaped reconstructive flap which was “slid” into place and echoed the shape of my brow - quite brilliant actually.

Chuck was able to be with me for every step of the procedure, which was an enormous gift. And my doc was perfectly comfortable with Chuck snapping a couple of pics with his cell phone to document the occasion! When we were scheduling the Mohs surgery, the first proposed date was tomorrow, March 16th, but that’s Chuck’s birthday. So we chose the day before. I told Chuck that still didn’t seem fair, but he said that having a cancer free wife was an excellent birthday gift! I tell ya, the man’s a keeper!

I will return next week to have the stitches removed. Because once you have a skin cancer your odds increase for another developing, I will also be seeing my dermatologist on a regular basis for ongoing screenings.

Compared to the far more complicated and troubling skin cancers I could have been diagnosed with, I feel incredibly fortunate. I also am counting my lucky stars that fine doctors and excellent treatment are both affordable and readily available to me.

Friday, March 11, 2011


This isn’t a review.
It’s more of a whispered recommendation.

If you find yourself in Hardwick, Masschusetts, in the village of Gilbertville, right on the main drag you will find “Rose32 Bread”. We’ve only been once, but we intend to go back. Lovely things are happening in the converted gas station. We’ve tried two kinds of cookies and one loaf of bread. As we used to say when I was growing up: “Mmmm, tastes like more!”

In addition to the baked goods, Rose32 also does breakfast, soup, quiche, salads and sandwiches. The place smells good, looks spotless and the staff is chipper and cheerful.

And let’s all remember that Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream started out in a converted gas station in Burlington, Vermont back in 1978. I know this because I ate there many times!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The End of 30 Year Mortgages?

Here in the United States, 30 year fixed rate mortgages have been the only realistic means to home ownership for the middle class. They first began in the 1930s when the government stepped in to help stabilize the housing market during The Great Depression. B-flat, garden variety, 30 year fixed rate mortgages, taken out by responsible home buyers and written by honorable lenders, were not the cause of the contemporary mortgage crisis. Those responsible homeowners were, however, part of the collateral damage in as much as the values of their homes declined sharply. Now it seems as if all the responsible home buyers who wish to sell and buy a new home or get into the market for the first time, are about to get screwed out of the option of a 30 year fixed rate mortgage.

In a housing utopia we could all save for a few years and buy a home for cash - I said utopia! In an ideal world we could all afford a 15 year fixed rate mortgage. But with income stagnant and the buying power of the dollar diminished, the significantly lower monthly payment of the 30 year fixed rate mortgage is key to the equation. (For a $250,000 house, with 10% down, at a 5% interest rate, the monthly payment for a 30 year fixed is $1,208; for a 15 year fixed it’s $1,779 - a $571 difference.) But with the impending demise of the elder Fannie Mae and the younger Freddie Mac, 30 year mortgages could disappear and so too the dreams of home ownership for the middle class.

Paul McMorrow explains the problem in the Boston Globe and Binyamin Appelbaum explores it further in the New York Times.

Without a 30 year fixed from the Bailey Building and Loan Association, Mr. Martini and his family would not have been moving into their own home in Bailey Park. And George and Mary Bailey wouldn’t have been toasting them with “Bread: that this house may never know hunger; Salt: that life may always have flavor; Wine: that joy and prosperity may reign forever”. That was all from “It’s A Wonderful Life ”, but isn’t that exactly what we all want?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Jam Jar Still Wins

Back in August, I posted about the wine from South Africa called Jam Jar. A few weeks ago we went back to Wine Nation to stock back up, only to find they were sold out. After Chuck revived me from where I had collapsed on the floor in despair, one of the managers took us on a tour of other sweet reds. We bought a few and drove home, still pining for Jam Jar.

Tonight we opened a “Sweet Walter Red” from Bully Hill. The nose, as they say, was profoundly Concord Grape. It was super, super sweet (the label had been abundantly clear on that point) but it didn’t taste much like wine. It reminded us both of the classic Manischewitz Concord Grape Wine. Now, Manischewitz has its place of pride, but not as an accompaniment to this evening’s whole wheat penne pasta with red sauce and meatballs!

So Jam Jar remains at the top of our delicious, versatile, complex, yet sweet red wines list.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


It’s been twelve years since Chuck’s Mom passed away. It was Alzheimer’s which took Betty, just like it was for my Dad. Mom was warm, gentle, strong and loving. Besides being a devoted wife and mom, after she died, we learned that she had lettered in sports in high school. She had excelled in basketball, baseball, dancing and archery! She loved to laugh and would have enjoyed how that discovery caught us all by surprise.

Zichrona liveracha
Her memory is a blessing...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Adventures With A Very Old Barn

We have an ancient barn, which our miracle worker Roger and his late partner John explained was really one, maybe two, very old barns reincarnated into our current barn. But the current barn was reborn at least a century ago and then completely rehabbed about a dozen years ago by John and Roger. That work reclaimed the usefulness of the barn and the attached three-holer outhouse. The center bay has an enormous sliding wooden door, which rolls on metal wheels up in the rafters. That’s the bay where we park our car.

Monday, we had freezing rain blowing in from the south. But we had already rescheduled our appointment with our attorney and were determined to keep this one. I headed out to the barn without tossing on a jacket or pulling on boots. It’s a quick scoot across the dooryard and I had already “sanded” the walkway with (non-clumping!) kitty litter so the traction was fine. I hip-checked the sliding door a few times and felt it free itself from the icy buildup at the sill. Several determined pulls and shoves allowed me to slide it all the way open. I hopped in the car, started it up and pulled it out into the driveway. I decided to leave the engine running so that the defrosters and heater could warm up.

I popped out of the car, dodging sleety rain to close the barn door. I got it about halfway when it ground to a halt. I did my best imitation of the actions of a “Pushmi-Pullyu” trying to restart and close the darn door. As I got it underway again it began to slow. So I stepped inside the barn to give my feet better traction. Giving one more generous pull it slammed shut.

But I was on the wrong side of the door!

I tried to pull it back open. No dice. I immediately turned to the double doors on the adjacent bay on my left. They were latched from the outside. I turned to head into the house via the woodshed, but quickly remembered that since I hadn’t used that door, it would be locked from the inside. That left the back door to the barn which is on the north side. We never use it. The snow drifts up into the little corner between the barn and the outhouse and stays there until spring is in full force. I was wearing Birkenstock clogs and didn’t really want to go thigh deep into the snow.

I turned back to the sliding barn door. I told myself not to panic - which when you have to tell yourself not to panic is really not a good sign! I tried pulling on it and then thought to go get a crowbar out of Chuck’s workshop in the bay to my right. I returned and did my darnedest but could only oonch the door a couple of inches. Now I was panicking. If I hadn’t left the keys in the ignition I could have used the remote to trigger the car alarm. That would have easily gotten Chuck’s attention. Chuck, by the way was inside the house in the main part of the building, upstairs in the bathroom. I wasn’t sure if he was still in the shower. Which if he was, he would have the radio playing loud enough to be heard over the sound of the water.

So I did what any level headed 52 year old woman would do. I began to yell “CHUCK” at the top of my lungs! My voice echoed around me and I realized I needed to add a bass line. So I began rhythmically kicking the barn door and hollering. It was a cross between the dots and dashes of an SOS and the chest compressions and breathing of hysterical CPR. Sooner than I imagined possible, Chuck appeared at the kitchen door. He caught sight of my desperate face through the barn door window and came to my rescue. Lord love a duck, I felt like such an idiot! But Chuck was once again my hero!

The End.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fair Imagination

I attended the 1964 - 1965 World’s Fair in New York City. I don’t remember exactly when we piled into the car and drove down from Rhode Island, but I know I very much enjoyed it. Based on the dates it was open, I would have been between five and seven years old. It was exciting and interesting, yet I can recall very few specifics: the enormous globe, the dazzling pavilions, “It’s A Small World”, the Pieta.

Chuck attended the same World’s Fair. All these years later, the most tantalizing thing about that fair is the slim possibility that my future husband and I were both in the same place at the same time. Maybe we walked by one another near the entrance in Queens, New York. We might have stood next to each other looking up at the gleaming Unisphere. Perhaps we gazed into the imagined future at the same time in one of the pavilions, never realizing that our true future was right beside us.