Mystery...in haunted, historic
Providence Rhode Island
by Donna Montalbano
Waterfire in Providence, Rhode Island
in the life of Angie Russo.
What she's reading,
What tape is in her VCR (she doesn't own a DVD player yet)
What's cooking in her kitchen, and
Where her "Rhode trips" take her in New England.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield.
It's cold. It's anti-climactic. I am talking about the month of January, not this wonderful spooky gothic tale that enthralls you in a way you thought never possible since you first read Jane Eyre as a precocious ten year old. A famous writer is dying, walled up in her reclusive mansion. She hires an obscure biographer to write her life story. The biographer has only one demand: "tell me the truth..." I am really good at guessing the twists and hooks of novels and I didn't see anything coming! What a thrilling, can't put down book to curl up with on a freezing January night, in a wing chair by a crackling fire.
The Shop Around the Corner, 1940, black and white. Starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan.
Did you see the remake of this film, You've Got Mail starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan? Well, immediately erase it from your memory and watch the outstanding original that can never be improved upon. This beguiling, witty, vintage romantic comedy stars Jimmy Stewart as Alfred Kralik, who works in a small shop in Budapest, Hungary. He longs for a girlfriend, and answers a personal ad for a penpal placed by Klara Novak (Margaret Sullavan.) The understanding is that they both remain anonymous. They fall in love with each other by mail, but neither realizes that they are in real life working side by side in the shop and can't stand each other. In fact, The Shop Around the Corner is well stocked with a variety of delightfully flawed characters. A bright, funny five star movie!
Technically Homemade Chicken Soup.
Seems like January is the month for catching cold...and what better comfort food for poor sick little you than homemade chicken soup? If nobody is around to make it for you, make it yourself in no time. At the first sign of the sniffles, go to the supermarket and buy:
(The following recipe will serve one patient for a day and a half.)Put aside the Nyquil, saltines and In Touch magazine for later. Bring everything else but the parsley and noodles to boil in a big saucepan, then simmer for 15 minutes more. Cook noodles separately and drain. Stir noodles into soup mixture. Salt and pepper to taste. By now you are probably fading fast, so just ladle some soup into a big mug. Forget the parsley. Grab a sleeve of saltines, go back to bed and take a swig of Nyquil. Quickly eat a saltine. Open your In Touch magazine, grab your mug of hot chicken soup...and enjoy!
Dinner and a movie are always a winning combination...and here are two streets on the East Side of Providence that combine the best of both. Thayer Street has the Avon Cinema that plays the independent and foreign films you've heard about but can't see at the cineplex. Within quick walking distance on a freezing night are two good and reasonably priced restaurants, the Greek restaurant Andreas and also The Paragon. Alternatively, head down to Main Street for a pre theater bite at jazzy cool Olive's, or the Manhattan style bistro Parkside. Then catch an indie film at the Cable Car cinema. If you're on a tight budget you could skip the big dinner and buy a wrap or a brownie or a salad right there at the Cable Car cafe. Inside the theater, you are in for a delightful surprise and I don't just mean the movie...instead of conventional movie seats you'll find wall to wall, identically upholstered cushy couches...the Cable Car gives new meaning to the phrase: "Relax and enjoy the show!" Apres theater, take a walk down Main Street to L'Elizabeth's, the Providence late night gathering place for decades...a romantic little candlelit nook filled with antiques and curiosities, and I don't just mean the patrons! Settle in a velvet wing chair or on a Victorian sofa and order a brandy from the bar...and don't forget to share the pleasure, and the calories, of one of L'Elizabeth's decadent desserts.
New England is in a state of suspended animation pretty much until March...so this is the perfect time to take advantage of Rhode Island's great Indoors.
Heaven's Prisoners, by Edgar-award winner James Lee Burke.
One of an outstanding series starring haunted ex-New Orleans cop Dave Robicheaux. The first line tells you this is not your average detective novel:
"I WAS JUST OFF Southwest Pass, between Pecan and Marsh islands, with the green, whitecapping water of the Gulf Stream to the south and the long, flat expanse of the Louisiana coastline behind me-which is really not a coastline at all but instead a huge wetlands area of sawgrass, dead cypress strung with wisps of moss, and a maze of canals and bayous that are choked with Japanese water lilies whose purple flowers audibly pop in the morning and whose root systems can wind around your propeller shaft like cable wire."
Eve's Bayou, 1997, starring Samuel L. Jackson, Lynn Whitfield and Debi Morgan.
Roger Ebert loved it. So will you. The film begins with the line: "I was ten years old when I killed my father..." and then takes you back in time to rural Louisiana in 1962 and into the troubled lives of the Batiste family...a womanizing doctor father played by Samuel L. Jackson; his lovely, long suffering wife Lynn Whitfield; and their three children. Jackson's sister is played exquisitely by Debi Morgan (you will remember her from the soaps); whose husbands have all died tragically. She is a clairvoyant who can predict everybody's future but her own. This film is intoxicating, with the texture and resonance of great southern literature.
Homemade Low Carb Chocolate Valentine Truffles. (Makes one gigantic truffle or lots of little truffles)
Melt the chocolate in the microwave. Then blend in the ingredients in this order: sugar substitute, butter, cream and vanilla. Add nuts if you don't mind adding additional carbs to the mix. Spread into a loaf pan and chill until firm.
What's the first sign of Spring? No, not a red breasted robin perched on a forsythia bush...it is the Rhode Island Spring Flower and Garden Show...that fragrant, lush, enchanted April under glass...only it's in February!
The kids are happy to see you...and just as glad to say goodbye so they can beat the traffic back home. Rather than a late afternoon Easter dinner, throw a lovely brunch instead.
“I never can be tied to raw, new things, For I first saw the light in an old town, Where from my window huddled roofs sloped down To a quaint harbor rich with visionings. Streets with carved doorways where the sunset beams Flooded old fanlights and small window panes, And Georgian steeples topped with gilded vanes-- These were the sights that shaped my childhood dreams.”
H.P. Lovecraft Sonnet XXX, Background, of Fungi from Yuggoth Memorial Plaque, John Hay Library Providence, Rhode Island
“I am Providence, and Providence is myself.”
H.P. Lovecraft died in the ides of March, the 15th of this month, in the year 1937, in his native Providence, which he adored and called his "glamorous old city." To visit him, take a leisurely ride down past the aristocratic mansions lining Blackstone Boulevard on the East Side of Providence and turn into Swan Point Cemetery. Search for a crooked old gravestone with the strange chiseled words: "I am Providence."
On that same historic boulevard is Butler Hospital, where both Lovecraft's parents died, insane.
Born to privilege and wealth on Angell Street, at the ripe old age of 14 he was exiled by dwindling family fortunes to "a skimpy flat...where almost nothing familar remained." Lovecraft thought himself a failure as a writer, but indeed, he is revered today as a visionary and a genius...inheritor of Poe's dark takes (Edgar Allan Poe, who also roamed the streets of Providence)...Lovecraft is considered the true father of modern horror fiction to whom Stephen King, Peter Straub and Ramsey Campbell owe a huge debt of gratitude...and maybe even some royalties...
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. by Mark Haddon. Copyright 2003.
This quirky, utterly original book was a New York Times Notable Book and won (British) Whitbread Book of the Year. The unlikely hero has been compared to Huck Finn, Holden Caulfield, David Copperfield and a patient from an Oliver Sacks case study...but the truth is, there is nobody quite like Christopher John Francis Boone, an autistic boy who knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. Christopher cannot stand to be touched, hates the color yellow, has no understanding of human emotions and relates better to animals. He is exactly fifteen years, three months and two days old when he discovers his neighbor's dog murdered by means of a garden fork. You soon begin to realize that the people around Christopher are way more dysfunctional than he is.
Coneheads. 1993. Starring Dan Ackroyd, Jane Curtin, and a veritable Who's Who of rising comedy stars including Jason Alexander, Adam Sandler, Jan Hooks, Sinbad, Chris Farley, David Spade, Phil Hartman, Tim Meadows and Kevin Nealon.
You just wanna laugh? Then rent this movie...based on the classic Saturday Night Live sketch, and the best of the SNL franchise movies. The Coneheads, Beldar and Prymatt and their cone-quettish teenaged daughter Connie, are an alien family who fell to earth from their home planet of Remulak. When asked, which is remarkably seldom, they insist they are from France. They are pursued relentlessly by the INS as they seriously assimilate in the state of New Jersey...possibly the only place on this planet they could pull it off...
Leg of English Spring Lamb.
The secret is to marinate! Few cooks do it because lamb is a generally tender meat; but it's the best way to maximize the flavor. The day you serve it just sizzle it for a few minutes in a frying pan, put it on a pretty preheated platter and take your bow. Impresses four very hungry people and it is so easy and fast!
Put three tablespoons of the olive oil, the garlic and the rosemary leaves into a small dish, just large enough to take the lamb. Add the loin or half leg, season with several turns of a black pepper mill and then turn it over in the mixture so that it gets well coated.
Providence Place Mall.
When April showers, duck inside this architecturally pleasing shopping mall which sits at the heart of the city of Providence, across from Waterplace Park, just down the street from the Capitol and its glorious dome. The two anchor stores are Macy's on one end, and Nordstrom's on the other...with a skybridge to the Westin Hotel across the street. The usual irresistible upscale specialty shops are all here. Atop the mall is an entertainment level with food court, a multiplex cinema AND an Imax theater...and also Dave and Busters...the video game mecca with state of the art games and simulators, billiards, bars and a restaurant. At street level are an array of good restaurant franchises, with outside tables overlooking the bustle of this tourist destination...especially nice on waterfire nights!
The House on the Strand by Daphne DuMaurier. Published 1963.
When we think of Daphne DuMaurier, we think of her classic haunting tale Rebecca. Yet this daughter of an English aristocrat wrote prolifically and famously throughout her career: non fiction, short stories and many gothic novels. The House on the Strand is a sci fi thriller set deep in the wilds of England's Cornish coast. Magnus Lane, a mad scientist, has let his ancient house, Kilmarth, to his friend Richard Young. Richard agrees to help Magnus with an experiment...and imbibes a potion that sends him careening back in time to the fourteenth century. The potion, and the experience becomes addictive, and Richard is obsessed...torn between two times, and two loves. As she does so well, Daphne DuMaurier twines history with romance, horror and suspense and ties it up with one last shocking twist.
The Birds. 1963. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Starring Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy and Suzanne Pleshette.
Few people realize that this movie was based on a short story by Daphne DuMaurier. The idea for the story came to her one day as she saw seagulls diving and wheeling around a farmer ploughing his field. She imagined the birds, starved after a harsh winter, turning hostile and predatory; attacking the people of the little town and eventually turning against all mankind. It's said DuMaurier disliked the Alfred Hitchcock film because he changed its setting from Cornwall to the west coast of America. For the rest of us, The Birds is one of the most shocking, original horror classics of all time. Some movie trivia: Tippi Hedren had a nervous breakdown after a three day shooting of the famous attic scene, during which the birds actually DID attack her. And the schoolhouse in Bodega Bay--where the children are attacked in one of the most horrifying scenes in the movie--well, that is a real local landmark that was said to be haunted even before the filming of the movie.
Fried Dandelion Blossoms.
Look at your newly greening lawn...and you will inevitably notice an outbreak of those humble yellow flowers that get no respect...dandelions. Pluck them out, if you must, but don't toss them away...they're not weeds, they're snacks!
You'll need: new dandelion blossoms plus:
1. Pick new dandelion blossoms, those on short stems, and rinse well in cool, lightly salted water.
2. Cut off the stem ends close to the flower heads, leaving only enough to hold the petals together, because the stems and greenery are bitter.
3. Roll the dandelion flowers in paper towels to blot up the excess moisture, then dip each one in a batter made of 1 egg, beaten, with 1 cup milk, 1 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper.
4. Drop the batter-coated blossoms into deep hot fat (375 degrees) and fry until lightly browned.
5. Drain on absorbent paper;
6. Sprinkle with more salt, if needed, and serve at once as a hot hors d'oeuvre.
I Angie’s Cookbook (Off) Rhode Trip. Treeless, bleak, windscoured...the Isles of Shoals are not named for shallow water "shoals", but for the schools of fish that were abundant there, in the deep cold waters of the Atlantic. On a clear day you can see the mainland, but the sight does nothing to dispel the feeling that you have happened upon wild and uncharted territory. Indeed, the lonely isles were haven and home to ghosts, pirates, murderers and mooncussers (who deliberately lured ships aground to plunder their cargo). Buried in the hard earth are the bones of shipwrecked sailors, and, perhaps, Blackbeard's buried treasure. The "Shoalers" of yore were hard drinking and hardworking fishermen who lived a rugged, isolated existence, a law unto themselves. Angie's Nightstand Rhode Trip Abigail (Marmee) was one of the first paid social workers in Massachusetts. Anna (Meg) was a talented thespian. Louisa (Jo) dreamed of fame and riches for her beloved family. May (Amy) was a talented artist and the sketches she drew on her bedroom wall are still there. Elizabeth (Beth) died shortly before the family moved to Orchard House. The family friends were Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Imagine! Visit Orchard House and bring your children. Concord is a very special place...take time to visit Walden Pond, the Old Manse, home to Hawthorne and Emerson, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Old North Bridge where the "shot heard round the world" was fired. Downtown Concord is filled with quaint and upscale shops. And you must lunch at the Colonial Inn!
Rhode Island doesn't have a Manderley, but we do have Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum...
Blithewold is a beautifully landscaped historic public garden situated on Bristol Harbor with sweeping views overlooking Narragansett Bay. A forty-five room historic mansion, trees, lawns, flowers, gardens by the sea...Blithewold is breathtaking anytime, but especially in the beautiful month of May.
Poison, by Kathryn Harrison. Published 1995.
Threads of shimmering silk weave together this tale of two doomed women in 17th century Madrid, at the Time of the Inquisition. The book begins with their tragic ends...one is a silk growers daughter, Francisca de Luarca, who is accused of witchcraft, torn by the rack, praying for death. The other is a Queen: Maria Luisa, French born wife of Carlos II...poisoned because she cannot bear children.
In 1600's Spain only the aristocracy could wear silk. When Francisca first sees the new Queen, who is the same age as she, arrayed in lengths, layers, petticoats, pantaloons, skirts and slippers of silk; she thinks:
"...it was as if before me stood the work of a hundred thousand worms. I saw the leaves of all our trees shiver over her in the wind; I heard the jaws of our worms, chewing, chewing, like the noise of a great storm."
Reading Poison makes you feverish. Your real life becomes a maddening distraction.
I'm Not Scared. (Io Non Ho Paura) Italian; with subtitles. Theatrical release in 2004. Director Gabriele Salvatores also directed the Oscar winning Mediterraneo.
Despite the title, YOU will be scared!
A shaft of sunlight, boring down to the very bottom
of the blackness, reveals a filthy human foot.
Michele slams down the cover in horror and hurries home.
He tells no one. Days later, he summons up the courage
to return. Such is the level of tension in this
masterful film that no revelation can abate your anxiety;
every answered question just frees you up to be scared
about the next awful thing that might happen.
Praise be to art house cinemas everywhere
(such as the Avon and the Cable Car in Providence)
for bringing these works of art to us.
June seems nice but it's actually a cruel month. You can no longer hide behind long sweaters, leather jackets and blazers. You must bare your arms. Eventually, you will have to bare your legs. The first thing to do is cut and streak your hair. Then buy some self tanning cream because everybody looks thinner with a tan. The third thing you must do is resign yourself to the low carb lifestyle; which means no bread, pasta or potatoes...just salads, salads, salads from now to September. The trick to sticking to low carb anything is variety: of tastes, textures, ingredients and seasonings.
Antipasto Salad for Herbivores:
For the dressing, heat a mixture of white vinegar, Italian seasoning, dry mustard, salt and a packet of Splenda, then remove from heat and mix with olive oil.
Put bite sized pieces of carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, drained artichoke hearts and pimento stuffed green olives in their own plastic bags.
Pour dressing mixture into each bag, seal and shake and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
In the middle of a pretty floral patterned platter set a hollowed out red bell pepper heaped with pitted black olives. Layer leaves of lettuce all around. Arrange the marinated vegetables on the plate any way you please.
(For Carnivores: Add pinwheels of prosciutto, provolone and salami.)
Before the serious summer heat and humidity sets in, visit the Mansions of Newport. Take the RIPTA water ferry that leaves from Providence's Point Street Landing. This fun, relaxing trip is an outing in itself; the kids will love it and you will save yourself the aggravation of traffic and parking. The ride takes about an hour, costs $7 one way; $5 for children 5 to 11; kids under five ride free. For reservations email nefastferry.com. The ferry docks in Newport at Perrotti Park, a short stroll from the harbor shops and restaurants and the Visitor's Center, where you can catch a shuttle bus to the Mansions. Certain mansions are run by the Preservation Society of Newport County, and a combination ticket buys you entrée into the finest summer "cottages" of the Gilded Age: including Cornelius Vanderbilt's magnificent "Breakers"; "Marblehouse", modeled after Le Petit Trianon at Versailles, "Rosecliff", where movies such as the Great Gatsby, High Society and Amistad were filmed, and the "Elms" with its spectacular Classic Revival gardens. These are by no means the only Newport mansions open to the public...don't pass by Chateau le Mer or my personal favorite, "Kingscote", a rare Gothic Revival house with towers, arches, and rooflines inspired by medieval tournament tents. Go to newportmansions.org for information, directions and schedules.
The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve.
This is a story within a story. A century-old true crime mystery wrapped in a modern family tragedy. Ten miles off the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire is Smuttynose Island, one of nine barren windswept rocks that make up the archipelago called the Isles of Shoals. Jean is here on assignment; to take photographs for a magazine article about the bloody axe murders that took place back in 1873 (decades before Lizzie Borden whacked her parents). She's brought along her husband, her young daughter, her brother in law and his beautiful new girlfriend. The narrative moves back and forth from past to present; where in both time zones relationships unravel, passions flare and jealousy leads to devastating consequences.
A Summer Place , 1959. Starring Sandra Dee, Troy Donahue and who cares who else is in it!
Let that haunting Percy Faith theme song "A Summer Place" replay in your head as you remember this humid tale of young love, repressed sexuality and dysfunctional families. Sandra Dee is Molly Jorgensen and Troy Donahue is Johnny Hunter. Molly's parents, trapped in a loveless marriage, decide to spend the summer on Pine Island, Maine. (The movie was actually shot in Carmel, California.) Twenty years before, her father had lived there and fallen in love with a local girl. His old flame is none other than, you guessed it, Johnny's mother. His return rekindles their romance and causes a public scandal. Adultery and virginity were shocking subjects in the 1950's; a shame they aren't today. A Summer Place is right up there with the best of the teenaged angst movies such as Splendor in the Grass and Rebel Without a Cause...a place well worth revisiting.
The following is not for the squeamish!
Fresh Maine (or American) lobster is best in the summer months...or maybe it just TASTES best in the summer...in any case, look for the friskiest lobster in the tank at your supermarket. Put it in your trunk for the ride home. (You may feel a little bit like Tony Soprano.) A lively lobster can be a challenging and even traumatic cooking experience. You can calm a lobster down by popping it in the freezer to teach it a lesson. Or, if you're a hands-on kind of person, or a professional masseuse, you can grab it by the lower carapace near the tail, stand it upside down on its nose, and stroke its back. In a couple of minutes, it will be lulled into a false sense of security. That's the time to toss it into a pot of boiling salted water. Cover the pot quickly so you don't have to watch. Boil for ten minutes a pound, three minutes for each additional pound.
On second thought, find a supermarket that cooks your lobster for you. Just as delicious and leaves no guilty aftertaste.
(Off) Rhode Trip.
The Isles of Shoals.
In later, more civilized times, poet Celia Thaxter established an artists' retreat at the grand hotel her father built on Appledore Island. It attracted the cream of American painters and literati: Harriet Beecher Stowe, Richard Henry Dana, Nathaniel Hawthorne, John Greenleaf Whittier and impressionist painter Childe Hassam.
The Isles are divided between the towns of Kittery, Maine and Rye, New Hampshire. Its inhabitants today are mostly wild birds and marine life. The Star Island Corporation hosts several conferences and religious retreats during the summer season. To visit as a tourist, the best place to cast off is Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a great tourist destination in itself. Go online to islesofshoals.com and get information, rates and schedules for the Isles of Shoals steamship company.
Angie’s Night stand
Close To Shore, by Michael Capuzzo.
Did you think Steven Spielberg just made up that story about a killer shark on a rampage? No...what he did was take a true event (which was even scarier) update it by several decades and change the venue. This book relates the true story of "Jaws": it is a meticulously researched adventure thriller which describes the great white shark attacks of 1916. During that long hot summer, the War to End All Wars raged on in Europe, but on America's East Coast, thousands were cooling off in the bright surf off New Jersey. The novelties of the beach in that post Victorian era made these revelers oblivious to its dangers...and now the mother of all dangers lurked close to shore. A rogue predator was about to launch the first attacks on swimmers in American history. At that time, even scientists did not consider sharks to be dangerous...the notion that a monster shark would invade the shallow shorelines to feed on tourists was unimaginable. At Spring Lake, New Jersey, in that fateful summer, a woman sat on the beach near the grand Essex and Sussex hotels. Suddenly she cried out: "That man in the red canoe is upset!" Only it wasn't a red canoe...
Open Water . Starring Daniel Travis and Blanchard Ryan.
Merely contemplating the premise of this film is horrifying enough; watching it unfold onscreen is nearly unbearable. Thank goodness it is only 79 minutes long. Does that mean it's a terrible film? No, it's actually terrific; a modern horror story that lingers forever in your nightmares. Daniel and Susan are American tourists on vacation. They board a crowded dive boat going out for an underwater tour of the reef. When they surface and look around for their dive boat, they see nothing but open water. They are alone, adrift, in shark infested waters. The true story behind this movie is even more disturbing. It involved two Americans who went out on a charter boat for a dive off Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The boat left them behind and it was two long days before anybody even realized they were missing. The Barrier Reef tourist industry scrambled to do damage control and rumors were circulated that the couple had committed double suicide, murder-suicide or even faked their own deaths. Several months later, a hundred miles north, a fisherman found their dive slate. On it was written: "Monday Jan 26; 1998 08am. To anyone [who] can help us: We have been abandoned on A[gin]court Reef by MV Outer Edge 25 Jan 98. Please help us [come] to rescue us before we die. Help!!!"
Grilled Corn, Arugula and Tomato Salad.
August is harvest month for lots of delicious fresh fruits and vegetables, but the most eagerly anticipated crops are sweet corn and homegrown tomatoes. Here is a super simple salad that brings out the best of both:
4 ounces baby arugula
4 ripe beefsteak tomatoes, sliced
4 ears corn, grilled, kernels cut off the cobb
4 slices cooked pancetta, chopped (pancetta is an Italian bacon that is salt cured, not smoked)
Find a very pretty platter and layer on the arugula. Top with the tomatoes, corn and bacon. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper.Serve with a buttermilk or mild ranch dressing and a loaf of light rye bread.
The Newport Jazz Festival. And don't forget Waterfire! Fire set to music ignites the narrow river that runs through the heart of Providence. Go to waterfire.org for more info.
Angie’s Night stand
Naked, by David Sedaris
Don't bother with his later stuff. Read this book so you can always know and remember David Sedaris as the most brilliantly hilarious humorists of our time. Naked is a collection of short stories; some of them demented flights of fancy; most culled from Sedaris' own dysfunctional family history (Amy Sedaris, of Saturday Night Live fame, is his sister). How his mother got the teachers drunk when they came over to complain about his OCD behavior at school (tapping his forehead, licking light sockets) the Christmas his sister brought home a whore; the mysterious case of the defiled bath towels (which his mother solved by buying all brown towels.) And of course the madly irreverent Santaland Diaries which was produced on Broadway.
Bell, Book and Candle. 1958. Starring Kim Novak, Jimmy Stewart, Jack Lemmon, Hermione Gingold, Elsa Lanchester and Ernie Kovaks.
Gillian Holyrod is a New York City witch. She owns a very upscale "antiquities" shop; she is very upscale herself, elegant and gorgeous. However, because she is a witch, she isn't allowed to fall in love. But rules, like spells, are made to be broken, so she sets her second sights on a very handsome but not so eligible bachelor played by Jimmy Stewart. Like so many of the delightfully zany 50's comedies, the main characters are backed up by an outstanding supporting cast. Especially Jack Lemmon as Gillian's feckless warlock brother Nicky, whose idea of a good time is to zap the streetlights on and off. This movie is thoroughly enchanting...and the obvious inspiration for the TV shows Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie.
The wonderful, ripe, peak-perfect fruits and vegetables of late summer are in abundance. Garden beefsteak tomatoes, fresh squash, cucumbers, peppers and of course, corn. It is ridiculously easy to make a fresh cold gazpacho soup. Go to your local market and buy, if you can, the locally grown vegetables and other ingredients you need.
Gazpacho Soup, No Cooking Necessary
Just mix it all together with the natural juices
1/2 C. chopped peeled cucumbers
4 C. chopped beefsteak tomatoes
1 1/2 C. chopped sweet onions
1/2 C. chopped green bell peppers
2 C. water
2 T. red wine vinegar
Salt and garlic to taste
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
Angie’s Night stand
I Never Believed in Ghosts Until... 100 Real Life Encounters 1992; Collected by the Editors of USA Today Weekend
Fictional horror tales abound and they can scare the bejeezus out of us; but nothing is more frightening than the ghost stories of ordinary people like you and me who are minding their own corporeal business when suddenly they run smack into...a GHOST! Having never believed myself until I moved into my own genuine haunted house...this book scared me to death. The kind of scared when your heart starts pounding and you have to close the book and put it up on the highest bookshelf until you collect enough courage to take it back down again. USA Today editors said that an amazing number of the contributors to this book described themselves as skeptics...and often started their stories with the words "I never believed in ghosts until..." The story titles alone will chill you to the bone: "Did I Lock the Basement Door?" A Phone Call from My Grandfather" "A Woman in the Well" "A House in the Woods." And 96 more just as scary. Happy Halloween!
Carnival of Souls, 1962, starring Candace Hilligoss. Black and white.
Filmed in Lawrence, Kansas on the frayed ends of a shoestring budget; this movie proves, as did the original Night of Living Dead, that you need money to make a first rate horror movie only if you're short on everything else that counts. A young church organist is obsessed with an abandoned amusement park; repelled yet strangely attracted to it. She is plagued by hallucinations (or are they?) Sometimes ordinary people don't seem to see her, but grotesque pasty-faced freaks accost her at every turn. The movie is accompanied by unnerving organ music that sounds as if it was played by some demented church lady. A perfect, skin crawling classic horror flick that will always dwell somewhere in your subconscious. Isn't that what you want?
About 99% of pumpkins at Halloween are used to make jack o'lanterns. Why not be that unwasteful one percent who actually EATS your pumpkin?
Not sure how? Well, just get yourself a three pound or so pumpkin. Cut out the top as if you were making a jack o'lantern. Scrape out the seeds and pulp, wipe out the inside and brush with melted butter, sugar or salt. Put the lid back on and bake in a moderate oven for about half an hour. Take it out and swab the inside again with butter, sugar or salt. Put it back in the oven for another 15 minutes or until the inside is soft and tender. To serve, slice into wedges.
Site of the infamous witch trials, Salem, Massachusetts has made witches and warlocks a cottage industry. Their annual celebration of Halloween is a hoot; fun for kids and parents and everybody else. Parades, psychic fairs, costume balls, haunted houses and tours of Salem's best witchy attractions. While you're here, don't pass by the "other" Salem: the outstanding Peabody-Essex martime museum; Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of Seven Gables. But take a moment to linger at the Salem Witch Trials Memorial and remember that Halloween or no Halloween, back in the late summer and fall of 1692, twenty good and innocent people were wrongly executed in this place: nineteen by hanging, and one by being pressed to death by heavy stones.
Have you made no contract with the devil?
Why do you hurt these children?
I do not hurt them. I scorn it.
Who do you imploy then to do it?
I imploy no body.
What creature do you imploy then?
No creature. I am falsely accused.
Dialogue based on the examination of Sarah Good by Judges Hathorne and Corwin, from The Salem Witchcraft Papers, Book II, p.355
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. Published in 1868.
"My book came out, and people began to think that topsy turvy Louisa would amount to something after all." Louisa May Alcott.
You are never too old to revisit this most beloved of American women's classics, based on the real-life adventures of Louisa and her sisters as they came of age in Civil War era New England. Pay a return call on the Marches; the four sisters, Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth, who are looked after by their devoted "Marmee" while their father is off at war. Remember Laurie? Jo's borrowed gloves and scorched dress? Amy's lemon drop debacle? Mean, rich Aunt March? Meg's crush on Laurie's tutor? And of course, sweet Beth at her piano? November nights are getting colder and longer...so lay a fire in the fireplace, make a cup of hot tea, take a break from the twenty first century and curl up with "Little Women."
Simon Birch. 1998. Starring Ashley Judd, Oliver Platt. Narrated by Jim Carrey.
A screen adaptation of John Irving's book, A Prayer for Owen Meany, this is a kleenex box movie that is warm, funny, nostalgic, heartbreaking and uplifting. Very much evocative of its time and place, Simon Birch is set in 60's era New England. Young Joe is a bastard. His beautiful mother (Ashley Judd) won't tell him who in town is his father. Joe's best friend is Simon Birch, a stunted little boy who is convinced he is destined to be a hero, that God has a plan for him. As Joe and Simon try to solve the mystery of Joe's paternity, little incidents lead to big accidents and at the end, you will believe: God did indeed have a plan for Simon Birch. A simply wonderful movie!
From The House on Benefit Street:
The bird was picture perfect. It even sported frilled orange cuffs on its
"What a beautiful golden brown turkey," Angie exclaimed.
"I marinated it in Southern Comfort for two days," Marian confided. "Then
I deep-fried it in peanut oil."
They began with a Manhattan red chowder and moved along to a lightly
oiled arugula salad accompanied by warm loaves of homemade cheese bread.
As for the stuffing, well, according to Marian, it wasn't exactly
stuffing as the term is commonly understood, but actually a complex paste of
matzoh, pate de foi gras, three kinds of mushrooms and sauterne...at least Angie
thought Marian said sauterne, it may have been something else. Beatrice had
three helpings, but Angie tried to fill up instead on the Lyonnaise potatoes and
pearl onions in curry sauce...
Orchard House, Concord, Massachusetts.
This destination is obviously not in Rhode Island, but will prove to be the best detour you've ever taken. Orchard House is the home of Louisa May Alcott and her family, it is the place in which she wrote Little Women, at the little shelf desk her father, philosopher and teacher Bronson Alcott, built for her in her room. Visitors to Orchard House describe it "as walking through the book." No major structural changes have been made to the house since the Alcotts lived there; and most of the furnishings are original. The rooms are very much as they were in the Alcotts' time.
What else, but a Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens?
A very short little book, and we all know the ending, and chances are we've already seen the movie in all its myriad versions about a dozen times already this month. But the book is better! taking you by the hand and transporting you back into Dickens London, sooty, foggy and already ancient. Poverty and prosperity brushed up against each other in the narrow, dirty cobblestoned streets, and when that happened, prosperity usually got its pocket picked. The themes of hope and redemption, of keeping Christmas by giving, not taking, are timeless.
The Grinch starring Jim Carrey.
It was a tough choice between A Christmas Story based on brilliant radio raconteur Jean Shepherd's childhood, starring Ralphie and his official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle! ("You'll shoot your eye out!")
but Ron Howard's hilarious version of The Grinch That Stole Christmas that even out-Suesses Seuss wins out! My favorite moment? The Grinch wondering if his schedule will permit accepting an invitation to the"Whobulation":
"The nerve of those Whos. Inviting me down there - and on such short notice! Even if I wanted to go my schedule wouldn't allow it. Four o'clock, wallow in self pity; 4:30, stare into the abyss; 5:00, solve world hunger, (tell no one!)5:30, jazzercize. 6:30, dinner with me. I can't cancel that again. 7:00, wrestle with my self-loathing; I'm booked! Of course, if I bump the loathing to 9 I could still be done in time to lay in bed, stare at the ceiling and slip slowly into madness. But what would I WEAR?"
Put it away! Let somebody else cook!
Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother's house you go! Merry Christmas!
(Off) Rhode Trip. Treeless, bleak, windscoured...the Isles of Shoals are not named for shallow water "shoals", but for the schools of fish that were abundant there, in the deep cold waters of the Atlantic. On a clear day you can see the mainland, but the sight does nothing to dispel the feeling that you have happened upon wild and uncharted territory. Indeed, the lonely isles were haven and home to ghosts, pirates, murderers and mooncussers (who deliberately lured ships aground to plunder their cargo). Buried in the hard earth are the bones of shipwrecked sailors, and, perhaps, Blackbeard's buried treasure. The "Shoalers" of yore were hard drinking and hardworking fishermen who lived a rugged, isolated existence, a law unto themselves.
Abigail (Marmee) was one of the first paid social workers in Massachusetts. Anna (Meg) was a talented thespian. Louisa (Jo) dreamed of fame and riches for her beloved family. May (Amy) was a talented artist and the sketches she drew on her bedroom wall are still there. Elizabeth (Beth) died shortly before the family moved to Orchard House. The family friends were Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Imagine!
Visit Orchard House and bring your children. Concord is a very special place...take time to visit Walden Pond, the Old Manse, home to Hawthorne and Emerson, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Old North Bridge where the "shot heard round the world" was fired. Downtown Concord is filled with quaint and upscale shops. And you must lunch at the Colonial Inn!