Monday, August 21, 2017

Creamy Tomato Slow Cooker Chicken

When it comes to cooking, I love quick and easy! Over the summer, my oldest son decided he wanted to cook three meals a week--gourmet meals with Mom's help. We're talking labor intensive with lots of time in the kitchen! The results were wonderful, but crock pot cooking is more my thing. Here's something that sounds really delicious from BettyCrocker.com. Enjoy!


Creamy Tomato Slow Cooker Chicken

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 lb) 
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
½ teaspoon dried oregano leaves
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 jar (15 oz) Alfredo sauce 
1 can (14.5 oz) Muir Glen™ organic fire roasted petite diced tomatoes, drained
1 can (8 oz) Muir Glen™ organic tomato sauce
1 box (12 oz) uncooked pasta (such as penne or mostaccioli) 
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water 
½ cup shredded Italian cheese blend (2 oz), if desired 

Spray 3- to 4-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Arrange chicken in bottom of slow cooker. Top with garlic, basil, oregano and pepper. In separate bowl, stir together Alfredo sauce, tomatoes and tomato sauce until well combined. Pour mixture over chicken.Cover; cook on Low heat setting 5 to 6 hours.

Ten to 15 minutes before serving time, cook pasta as directed on package. In small bowl, stir together cornstarch and water; stir into mixture in slow cooker. Increase heat setting to High; cook uncovered 5 to 10 minutes longer.

Do you prefer quick and easy, or do you like preparing gourmet meals?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Deanna vs. Judy

Garland and Durbin in Every Sunday
(neither one of them look fat to me)
I love film trivia and the story of Deanna Durbin and Judy Garland is interesting and amusing at the same time. 

Although few remember Deanna Durbin, practically all of us know superstar Judy Garland! Perhaps that's because of The Wizard of Oz, which used to be shown on television every spring when I was growing up, or the fact that those old MGM musicals used to be shown on TV before the days of cable and Turner Classic Movies.

Both actresses started out at MGM as young girls. When they appeared together in Every Sunday singing a duet, Garland using her powerful jazzy vocals and Durbin in her extraordinary operatic voice, MGM executives wondered if it would be wise to keep the two young singers under contract. 

Here's what happened next from Deanna Durbin Devotees:

Judy Garland
The story goes that while Louis B. Mayer was away on a trip he instructed his people at MGM to "drop the fat one." They misunderstood and mistakenly let Deanna go. 

When Mayer found out that Judy Garland was still at the studio and that Deanna was gone – he was very upset. That's just one of the reasons Mayer was never overly fond of Judy. He also preferred Deanna's classical singing over Judy's jazzy repertoire.

Soon after Deanna was released by MGM, Universal Studios gave her a contract on the 13th of June and cast her in the September production of THREE SMART GIRLS which became a major smash hit. An executive from MGM was overheard speaking about the two girls saying: "Universal got Tiffany's and we're stuck with Woolworth's."


Deanna Durbin
To this day, Deanna Durbin is the only actress in motion picture history to have ten hits in a row. The first ten were both artistic and financial successes. All of that money rolling into Universal certainly bothered Louis B. Mayer.

And the rest is history... Judy Garland eventually became a huge star at MGM and she certainly has greater name recognition to this day!

I know you must be familiar with Judy Garland, but have you ever heard of Deanna Durbin?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, August 7, 2017

What Inspires You?

"You see things; and you say 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say 'Why not?'" George Bernard Shaw

Are you a writer? If so, what inspires you? A spark of imagination, a snatch of conversation, a true story or a real life experience?

I always find it fun to discover what exactly inspires a writer to conceive a story.

Stephenie Meyer had a dream that inspired her to write Twilight. Margaret Mitchell modeled Pansie O'Hara (who later became Scarlett O'Hara) in Gone with the Wind after herself, and her experience of falling in love with the wrong man.

Those Who Save Us, by Jenna Blum, is fiction based on real stories of Germans living in the United Sates during World War II. The Reader, by German judge and law professor Bernard Schlink, focuses on the generation of children born to parents who lived through World War II in Germany. During the 1960's, as adults, this generation (including Schlink) questioned what their parents knew and didn't know, and asks how they could have let the atrocities occur. Schlink's moving story focuses on a young teenage boy who has an affair with an older woman. Only years later, as a law student, does he learn of her direct involvement with the concentration camps.

One of my favorite movies is Finding Neverland. In it, the audience sees how Scottish dramatist J.M. Barrie, through imagination and his real experience of befriending three boys (and their evil Captain Hook like grandmother) came up with the idea for the stage play Peter Pan. "With a wee bit of imagination," Barrie (portrayed by Johnny Depp on film) says, "anything is possible."

Right now a short story is running through my head. I heard Oprah Winfrey say at the conclusion of her show one day, "Our cameras will be at Celine Dion's performance with today's guest at Madison Square Garden next month, but I won't be able to attend."

"Hmm," I thought, "what if she had a clone?"

As writers, we allow our imaginations to grow wild with just a seed of inspiration. What fun!

What inspires you? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally posted 7/19/10.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Life is Stranger Than Fiction

If you're a writer, you're sure to have a pretty wild imagination! Today I'm re-posting a piece about my wild imagination from July 16, 2010.

"Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn't." Mark Twain

My husband, a commercial and residential home inspector, had a rather interesting experience this week when he did a well test for a customer who was a Vietnam veteran. There were actually two veterans at the site, the owner of the property, and a friend who rented from him.

The men, both tanned, tattooed, pot bellied and shirtless, fit the stereotype of "rednecks," my husband said. He was, however, fascinated by their home, situated on several acres out in the country, and their life style of living off the land.

I realize any war vet experiences trauma, but Vietnam vets had their trauma compounded by a hostile homecoming. Perhaps some of them prefer living in isolation. Just my thoughts.

"They let their guard down with me," my husband said, "and let me into their world. They appreciated my interest in their way of life, and I learned a lot. They had wisdom to share, they were fun to be with, and they had lots of cool stuff to look at." He placed a bag on the counter. "They gave me some apples. There's a tree in front of the house. It's a deer magnet! It attracts them like crazy. As a matter of fact, the guy can just look out of his living room window--and bam! He doesn't even need to leave the house to hunt!"

"Oh..." I said. Not that I have anything against hunting, as long as it's for food, and I do like venison.

"And they taught me all about shot guns, high powered rifles, and pistols."

My eyes widened to saucer proportion.

"They do all the dressing themselves. They have a huge butcher shop and a walk-in freezer."

Well, at this point, my writer's imagination began running out of control. "So," I said, "didn't you start to wonder if there were any dead bodies buried out there, or hidden in the basement--or in that walk-in freezer?"

Now my husband took offense. "It's comments like that, that make Vietnam war vets feel like outcasts!"

"I'm sorry. If I'd been with you, I certainly wouldn't have said anything like that. And I wouldn't have been scared--unless I'd seen an ax."

"Oh," hubby said, "I saw an ax alright! Actually, it was a two handed cleaver about three feet long. You'd use it for cutting off a leg." Now I had a deer in the headlights look. "The leg of a deer! They also had a vertical band saw for cutting apart carcasses, a meat grinder for sausage, and a smoker for venison jerky."

My imagination was on fire now, but I didn't say a word. No more snarky comments from me. These were brave men who'd served our country and carried emotional scars, and probably physical ones unseen by my husband. One had done three tours of duty and wanted to serve more, but was told he'd had enough. If I hadn't seen the movie Hurt Locker, I wouldn't have understood the desire to go back again and again.

On to the apples. As I pulled them from the bag, each appeared more grotesque than the next. Some sported gray spots or deep black marks, while others were globular in shape.

"Eeew!" I exclaimed horrified. "Were these picked over by the deer and left behind?"

"No! They came right off the tree! There not gonna be perfect like what you find at a grocery store!"

Okay, call me a city girl. I'm used to pretty apples cultivated with pesticides and gussied up with wax. "Well," I said, "they'll probably taste better than what's at the store, but they're too scary looking to eat like this." I smiled. "I'll make an apple crisp." And despite how ugly the apples were, the apple  crisp was delicious!

Any life stranger than fiction stories come to your mind? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Show, Don't Tell

"Show, don't tell." If you're a writer, you've probably heard this as advice from other writers and read about it in craft books many, many times. I was recently asked to explain it to a new writer, but after using a few "for instances", I decided to find something that would do a better job of describing it.

Here's an excellent article by Erin over at Daily Writing Tips.  If you're new to writing, this information will help you clearly understand how to show and not tell! By the way, I just discovered Daily Writing Tips, and it's a great place to find answers for any writing questions you may have!

Show, Dont Tell 

Anyone who’s ever written a short story or taken a freshman composition course has heard the words “show, don’t tell.”

I know those words can be frustrating. You might not know exactly what “show, don’t tell” means. Or you might believe that you are showing when you’re really telling.

While “telling” can be useful, even necessary, most people don’t realize how vital “showing” is to an effective story, essay, or even a blog post. Showing allows the reader to follow the author into the moment, to see and feel and experience what the author has experienced. Using the proper balance of showing and telling will make your writing more interesting and effective.

“Okay, I get it,” you’re thinking. “But how do I do it? How do I bring more ‘showing’ into my writing?”

I’m glad you asked. Here are some tips that will help make your writing more vivid and alive for your reader.

1. Use dialogue
This is probably one of the first things I talk to my students about when I have them write personal essays. Dialogue allows the reader to experience a scene as if they were there. Instead of telling the reader your mom was angry, they can hear it for themselves:
“Justin Michael,” mom bellowed, “Get in here this instant!”
Dialogue can give your reader a great deal about character, emotion and mood.

2. Use sensory language
In order for readers to fully experience what you’re writing about, they need to be able to see, hear, taste, smell and touch the world around them. Try to use language that incorporates several senses, not just sight.

3. Be descriptive
I’m sure everyone remembers learning to use adjectives and adverbs in elementary school. When we’re told to be more descriptive, it’s easy to go back to those things that we were taught. But being descriptive is more than just inserting a string of descriptive words. It’s carefully choosing the right words and using them sparingly to convey your meaning.
The following example is from a short story I wrote.

Telling: He sits on the couch holding his guitar.

There’s nothing wrong with that sentence. It gives the reader some basic information, but it doesn’t create an image. Compare that sentence with this:

Showing: His eyes are closed, and he’s cradling the guitar in his arms like a lover. It’s as if he’s trying to hold on to something that wants to let go.

The second example takes that basic information and paints a picture with it. It also uses figurative language—in this case, the simile “cradling the guitar in his arms like a lover”—to help create an image.

When using description, it’s important not to overdo it. Otherwise, you can end up with what I call “police blotter” description. For example:
He was tall, with brown hair and blue eyes. He wore a red shirt and jeans, and a brown leather jacket.

4. Be specific, not vague
This is another one I’m constantly reminding my college students about. Frequently, they will turn in essays with vague, fuzzy language. I’m not sure if they think this type of writing sounds more academic, but all it really does is frustrate the reader.


Instead of writing, “I had never felt anything like it before in my entire life,” take the time to try and describe what that feeling was, and then decide how best to convey that feeling to the reader. Your readers will thank you for it.

Hope this information from Daily Writing Tips is useful. If you're a seasoned writer, have you had to explain "show, don't tell" to a novice?  If you're new to writing, have ever had questions about it?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally posted 10/7/13

Monday, July 17, 2017

Kalua Pork with Cabbage


In the middle of summer, who wants to spend a long time in the kitchen over a hot stove? Even with air conditioning, it can still get pretty hot in the heart of the home.

Today I'm sharing a super easy crock pot dish that my mother-in-law introduced me to a couple of years ago. It takes only minutes to prepare and my kids love it. I posted this recipe back in December of 2015, but it's certainly worth posting again!

This meal is great for a busy weeknight. Serve with hot applesauce and a salad. Enjoy!

Kalua Pork with Cabbage

7 slices bacon
1 T coarse salt
1 3-4 lb pork roast (I used a 3 lb pork loin)
1 head cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 cup pineapple chunks

Place four strips of bacon in bottom of slow cooker. Salt all sides of pork roast, then place on top of bacon in slow cooker. Put the remaining bacon on top of pork roast. Cover and cook on LOW 8-10 hours or until meat is tender. Put cabbage and pineapple chunks on top of roast and cook an additional 1 1/4 hours, or until cabbage is tender.

Have you ever heard of this recipe?  Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Interracial Love: Conflict Supreme

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Denise Turney on her Off The Shelf Radio program. We discussed interracial relationships, which is what I focus on in my novels. You can click here for a link to the interview.

Talking with Denise brought this blog post to mind that I published back in November of 2010. If you missed it the first time around, hope you'll enjoy it today!

"Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies." Aristotle

Who doesn't enjoy a good love story? But what drives one to make it great? Conflict!
And when you throw an interracial element into the mix (pun intended) you have an intensely compelling and emotionally volatile story.

Several films address this topic including, Come See the Paradise (Japanese/white American), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (white/black American), Mississippi Masala (Asian Indian/ Black American), Something New and Jungle Fever (both white/black American).

Othello
Throughout history, interracial love has been a topic of great literature. In Shakespeare's Othello, a Moor is married to Venetian, Desdemona. Here racism is seen as Iago schemes to break up their marriage. Hoping to spur Desdemona's father Brabantino to annul the union, Iago tells him "an old black ram is tupping your white ewe."

In Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, the slave Cassie is repeatedly raped by her master Simon Legree.  But she's also been in a previous relationship with her former master, who she loved. "I became his willingly, for I loved him!" Cassie says in chapter 34.

Sinclair Lewis's Kingsblood Royal tells the story of a bigoted character who discovers he has a small percentage of African blood, then falls in love with a black friend named Sophie.  When he held her hand, it was "warmer than any hand he had ever known," and when she kissed him, "he had not known a kiss like that..."  For more interracial love in literature, see Doug Poe's post on Interracial Sex in Classic Literature here.

Out of all multicultural combinations, perhaps the most explosive in our country is black and white. Make it a love story in the American South of the past--and POW!

Something New
I'm black, and my husband is white, but many years ago I began to think how sad it would've been if we'd lived a century earlier. Back then, we couldn't have married. That thought inspired me to write my first novel, Escape, about the abolitionist son of a wealthy merchant who falls in love with a slave he helps to escape.

After reading Essie Mae Washington Williams's memoir Dear Senator, I wrote my second novel, The Governor's Sons. Ms. Williams's memoir told of her black mother's love affair with her white father, future South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond.  In my novel, a rich white law student plans to sacrifice everything and move overseas for the black woman he loves.

All through our country's history, interracial love has ignited conflict.  Forbidden Fruit by Betty DeRamus and  Martha Hodes's WhiteWomenBlack Men are two fascinating non-fiction accounts on the subject.

The topic of Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson's black mistress, was swept under the rug by history, and Jefferson's white descendants, until DNA tests revealed that her descendants, were Jefferson's as well.

Although there was an enormous amount of rape and exploitation of black women by white men in the United States (especially the South), there was also love.

If a plantation owner chose a slave as his "wife" and actually lived with her, he'd become an outcast from the community.  To prevent being ostracized, some white men, assuming the facade of bachelors to friends and family, would set up separate housing and provide financially for their black "wives" and children. And then there were those white men who chose to have two families, one white and the other black, hidden away in the shadows.

Thank goodness it's a different time!  Although still a touchy topic among both the black and white communities, at least as human beings we can freely love whomever we fall in love with.  As the old cliche goes, "love has no color."

Do you know of an interracial love story to share?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Another Transformers Movie?

Okay, I have a confession to make. I love Transformers. Don't get me wrong, not the movies, with the exception of the first one (Transformers, released in 2007), but the animated TV series Transformers: Energon. Apparently the Transformers animated series has a very long history dating back to the 1980s, which I am not familiar with. Energon, however, I know quite well and it was a pretty awesome show!

The cartoon used to come on one of the cable networks at 6:30 a.m. and it was a great way to get my kids out of bed for school in the mornings. "Come on," I'd say, "get up and eat your breakfast, so you can watch Transformers before we go to school." I'd watch too. And talk about amazing toys that could transform from vehicles to robots! They were great, and pretty fun to play with too. All I played with as a kid were Barbie dolls. Too bad Transformers weren't around back then. I'm not sure how many Transformers we purchased for our kids, but we accumulated quite an army!

I remember being sooooo excited when the first Transformers movie came out. It was phenomenal (I mean, if you like lots of action and explosions)! The kids sat wide-eyed through the whole thing, and so did I.  The best part was watching the characters transform; very cool computer animation was used.  The second
movie was okay, and the third was, well, less than okay. I didn't even realize a fourth one had been released, and then yesterday I read about number five that's out now. The review I read said the worst part about it was that it left you knowing that yet another sequel was still to come. Enough already--at least in my humble opinion. But I realize that as long as the franchise keeps making money, the movies will keep being produced.

They could have stopped after one, but I feel that way about most films that have sequels. Have you ever seen a sequel that was better than the original?

Thanks for visiting and have great week!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Ten Great Writing Tips from Jeff Goins

If I could just get over my perfectionist tendencies!
I'm always on the lookout for great writing tips. Here are some wonderful ones from bestselling author Jeff Goins
Jeff Goins

Have any advice you'd like to share? 

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Band of Angels

I happened to read about this movie while doing a little research and thought it sounded interesting. I love historical interracial love stories, and this one is based on a novel of the same name by Robert Penn Warren. This is TMC's synopsis of Band of Angels, produced in 1957 and starring Clak Gable, Yvonne De Carlo and Sidney Poitier.

In antebellum Kentucky, the beautiful Amantha "Manty" Starr arrives home from finishing school in Cincinnati just after the death of her father, kindly plantation owner Aaron Starr. During the funeral, it is revealed that Manty's mother, who had died years before, was one of Starr's slaves and that Manty, now considered chattel of the estate, is to be sold by a slave trader to whom Starr had been deeply in debt.

At a slave auction in New Orleans, a wealthy gentleman named Hamish Bond pays a huge sum for Manty, intending to treat her as a lady in his household. Because she assumes she is to be a kept woman, however, she rebuffs his offer of friendship. Michele, the head housekeeper, who is herself in love with Hamish, secretly gives Manty a ticket to Cincinnati, but Rau-Ru, an educated slave who helps Hamish manage his business affairs, prevents Manty from boarding the boat. 

Later Hamish confesses that he is tormented by his past, and Manty, who now sees another side of Hamish, kisses him. The next morning,
Hamish takes Manty to his largest plantation and offers to free her. She hesitates but decides to remain with Hamish. Soon afterward, Hamish learns that war has been declared. While he visits another of his plantations, Manty accepts the attentions of his wealthy white neighbor, Charles de Marigny, which leads Rau-Ru to accuse her of betraying her people by attempting to live as a white woman. When de Marigny attacks Manty, however, Rau-Ru strikes him, and subsequently is forced to run away to the North. There he becomes a Union soldier under the command of Seth Parton, a self-righteous minister who had courted Manty when she was at finishing school. 

Hamish returns to the plantation and, in defiance of Union general Benjamin Butler's order, sets his own crops ablaze in order to keep them out of Yankee hands. As his fields burn, Hamish confesses to Manty that in his younger days, he had been a ruthless slave trader. With some reluctance, Manty leaves Hamish to begin a new life in New Orleans, and there she encounters Parton, who threatens to tell her new sweetheart, Ethan Sears, that she is black unless she makes love to him. Horrified, Manty returns to Hamish's New Orleans home, where she learns that he is on the run for burning his crops. 

Rau-Ru, who despises Hamish for having treated him with kindness, which he calls, "the worst kind of bondage," discovers where his old master is hiding and holds him at gunpoint. When Hamish tells Rau-Ru that he rescued him from a slave trader's bullet when he was an infant, however, Rau-Ru decides to let Hamish go. At that moment, Union troops arrive and Rau-Ru, while loudly proclaiming that he has captured Hamish, quietly slips his former owner the handcuff keys. Hamish escapes from the Union soldiers as Rau-Ru leads Manty to the cove where Hamish plans to rendezvous with an old seafaring friend. Bidding farewell to Rau-Ru, Hamish and Manty embrace and then board the boat that will take them to safety.

Ever seen it? I haven't, but I will soon!

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Taking a Summer Break


I'm a day late, but I hope everyone is having a wonderful week. I'm taking a summer break but will be back next Monday, June 19!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Slow Cooker Barbecued Meatloaf

Too busy to blog today, so here's a republished post with a great recipe!

There’s more than one version of barbecued meatloaf, and I believe this one is from a very old version of a Betty Crocker Slow Cooker Cookbook. A few years ago when we visited North Carolina, my mother-in-law served it for supper and shared the recipe with me.  Everybody loved it, even my picky kids! I have since made it at home, but the kids swear Grandma’s is better—go figure! Anyway, this is very easy to throw together, it tastes great, and it’ll remind you of one of your mother’s home cooked meals. Enjoy!

Barbecued Meatloaf

2 lb. ground chuck or lean ground beef
½ cup uncooked oats (quick or old fashioned)
½ cup dry bread crumbs
2 T nonfat dry milk
½ cup water
½ cup smoky barbecue sauce
2 eggs
1 t salt
¼ t pepper
1 small onion chopped
6 potatoes, cut up

In large bowl, mix all ingredients except potatoes. Shape meat mixture into a loaf. Place potatoes in bottom of Crock-Pot. Top potatoes with meatloaf. Cover and cook on LOW 8-10 hours. Makes six servings.

I never liked meatloaf as a kid, but now I love it! How about you, are you a meatloaf fan?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally posted 4/28/14

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Best Years of Our Lives

It's Memorial Day and I'd like to send a huge thank you to all of the brave men and women who have served and are currently serving our country in the military.

Reflecting on this day last night, an old movie came to mind that I haven't seen in years. The Best Years of Our Lives is one of my favorite movies, perfect for Memorial Day or any day. I've posted the original November 22, 1946 New York Times movie review by Bosley Crowther below:

It is seldom that there comes a motion picture which can be wholly and enthusiastically endorsed not only as superlative entertainment but as food for quiet and humanizing thought. Yet such a one opened at the Astor last evening. It is "The Best Years of Our Lives." Having to do with a subject of large moment—the veteran home from war—and cut, as it were, from the heart-wood of contemporary American life, this film from the Samuel Goldwyn studio does a great deal more, even, than the above. It gives off a warm glow of affection for everyday, down-to-earth folks.

Virginia Mayo's character is such a tart!

These are some fancy recommendations to be tossing boldly forth about a film which runs close to three hours and covers a lot of humanity in that time. Films of such bulky proportions usually turn out the other way. But this one is plainly a labor not only of understanding but of love from three men who put their hearts into it—and from several others who gave it their best work. William Wyler, who directed, was surely drawing upon the wells of his richest talent and experience with men of the Air Forces during the war. And Robert E. Sherwood, who wrote the screen play from a story by MacKinlay Kantor, called "Glory for Me," was certainly giving genuine reflection to his observations as a public pulse-feeler these past six years. Likewise, Mr. Goldwyn, who produced, must have seen this film to be the fulfillment of a high responsibility. All their efforts are rewarded eminently.

For "The Best Years of Our Lives" catches the drama of veterans returning home from war as no film—or play or novel that we've yet heard of—has managed to do. In telling the stories of three veterans who come back to the same home town—one a midde-aged sergeant, one an air officer and one a sailor who has lost both hands—it fully reflects the delicate tensions, the deep anxieties and the gnawing despairs that surely have been experienced by most such fellows who have been through the same routine. It visions the overflowing humors and the curious pathos of such returns, and it honestly and sensitively images the terrible loneliness of the man who has been hurt—hurt not only physically but in the recesses of his self-esteem.
This scene always makes me teary.

Not alone in such accurate little touches as the first words of the sergeant's joyful wife when he arrives home unexpectedly, "I look terrible!" or the uncontrollable sob of the sailor's mother when she first sees her son's mechanical "hands" is this picture irresistibly affecting and eloquent of truth. It is in its broader and deeper understanding of the mutual embarrassment between the veteran and his well-intentioned loved ones that the film throws its real dramatic power.Especially in the readjustments of the sailor who uses prosthetic "hooks" and of the airman who faces deflation from bombardier to soda-jerker is the drama intense. The middle-aged sergeant finds adjustment fairly simple, with a wife, two grown-up kids and a good job, but the younger and more disrupted fellows are the ones who really get it in the teeth. In working out their solutions Mr. Sherwood and Mr. Wyler have achieved some of the most beautiful and inspiring demonstrations of human fortitude that we have had in films.
Myrna Loy and Frederic March are great together!

And by demonstrating frankly and openly the psychological blocks and the physical realities that go with prosthetic devices they have done a noble public service of great need. It is wholly impossible—and unnecessary—to single out any one of the performers for special mention. Fredric March is magnificent as the sergeant who breaks the ice with his family by taking his wife and daughter on a titanic binge. His humor is sweeping yet subtle, his irony is as keen as a knife and he is altogether genuine. This is the best acting job he has ever done. Dana Andrews is likewise incisive as the Air Forces captain who goes through a gruelling mill, and a newcomer, Harold Russell, is incredibly fine as the sailor who has lost his hands. Mr. Russell, who actually did lose his hands in the service and does use "hooks," has responded to the tactful and restrained direction of Mr. Wyler in a most sensitive style.

As the wife of the sergeant, Myrna Loy is charmingly reticent and Teresa Wright gives a lovely, quiet performance as their daughter who falls in love with the airman. Virginia Mayo is brassy and brutal as the latter's two-timing wife and Cathy O'Donnell, a new, young actress, plays the sailor's fiancée tenderly. Hoagy Carmichael, Roman Bohnen and Ray Collins will have to do with a warm nod. For everyone gives a "best" performance in this best film this year from Hollywood.

One great movie! Have you ever seen it? 

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!  

Monday, May 22, 2017

Maria, Maria

Carol Lawrence: the original Broadway Maria
Hubby and I were watching a re-run of the TV series Kung Fu over the weekend, and Carol Lawrence was a featured guest star. Hubby didn't know who she was. I told him that she'd played Maria in the Broadway version of West Side Story.  He said, "she played Maria?" "Yes, I told him, "on Broadway, not in the movie version."  Well, I've always wondered why Natalie Wood starred in the film rather than Carol Lawrence. So here's why, from TMC:

The first order of business in bringing West Side Story to the screen was casting. This was left largely to Robert Wise,who had been chosen as co-director primarily for his work with film actors (stage choreographer-director Jerome Robbins would handle the musical sequences). The Broadway leads, Larry Kert and Carol Lawrence, were deemed too old by 1961, a curious decision considering the "teenagers" in the film were eventually played by people ranging from their early 20s to 30s. 

For the role of Tony, everyone from Marlon Brando to Elvis Presley was mentioned. Brando, who made his musical debut in Guys and Dolls (1955), was reported by The New York Times as being "very anxious" to do the picture, "however, he wants to play the young lead and is worried at 34 whether this will be plausible on screen." The question turned out to be moot. The producers decided early on not to seek major stars since the project was considered to have enough advance appeal to attract large audiences on its own. 


Natalie Wood: the movie Maria
Dozens of actors were tested before the male lead was given to Richard Beymer, who had made his mark in George Stevens' film version of The Diary of Anne Frank (1959). Several of the original dancers from the stage musical of West Side Story were brought to play members of the Jets and the Sharks, although the show's Anita, Chita Rivera, was bypassed in favor of Rita Moreno, a Puerto Rican actress known to movie audiences from The King and I (1956). George Chakiris, who played Riff in the London production, was cast as Bernardo. The role of Riff was assigned to gymnastic champ/dancer dancer Russ Tamblyn, even though Arthur Laurents thought the all-American actor "didn't belong" in the picture.

Natalie Wood was Ernest Lehman's choice for Maria, but when it was decided to go with unknowns, she was eliminated, and the long testing process began. Ina Balin was an early favorite, but her deep voice contrasted too much with the soprano requirements of the songs. Barbara Luna was the tentative choice after all the tests, but suddenly Lehman's suggestion was reconsidered. Former child star Wood was just coming off the success of her first adult role in Splendor in the Grass (1961) when she was offered the script for West Side Story and one for Parrish(1961), a melodrama being produced by her studio, Warner Brothers. 


She thought the latter script was "crap," but knew if she refused it, Jack Warner would make it impossible for her to go to United Artists for West Side Story. So she faked a case of tonsillitis and checked into the hospital to have them removed, effectively ending her obligation to star in Parrish. Her plan almost backfired when she contracted an infection that developed into pneumonia. She was in critical condition for three days, but recovered in time to report to work on West Side Story in April 1961.

There's your trivia for the day! Is it new to you?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Barbara Bilingsley: Real Mom vs. TV Mom

Mother's Day was yesterday, so today I thought I'd share a little something about Barbara Billingsley. If you're not familiar with that name, she's the actress best known as June Cleaver, one of the world's greatest TV moms from the sitcom Leave it to Beaver.

While playing a mom on TV, she was also a mom of two boys in real life, so here's some interesting trivia about that, courtesy of Wikipedia.:


"She was the ideal mother", Billingsley said of her character in 1997 in TV Guide. "Some people think she was weakish, but I don't. She was the love in that family. She set a good example for what a wife could be. I had two boys at home when I did the show. I think the character became kind of like me and vice versa. I've never known where one started and where one stopped." As for the idealized TV family onLeave It to Beaver, which continues in reruns on cable more than half a century after its debut, Billingsley had her own explanation for the Cleavers' enduring appeal. "Good grief," she told TV Guide, "I think everybody would like a family like that. Wouldn't it be nice if you came home from school and there was Mom standing there with her little apron and cookies waiting?"
Billingsley, however, questioned her character's reactions to the Cleaver children's misbehavior, basing her concern on personal experience as the mother of two sons. As the co-producer Joseph Connelly explained, "In scenes where she's mad at the boys, she's always coming over to us with the script and objecting. 'I don't see why June is so mad over what Beaver's done. I certainly wouldn't be.' As a result, many of Beaver's crimes have been rewritten into something really heinous like lying about them, in order to give his mother a strong motive for blowing her lady-like stack."

I watched reruns of Leave it to Beaver while growing up and thought she was a great mom. My mom was and is still a great mom, but she never wore pearls and heels while doing housework! Did yours?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, May 8, 2017

A Good Southerner

Not long ago, I had the opportunity to meet one of the descendants of Henry A. Wise of Virginia. I was not familiar with this gentleman's famous ancestor, but learned an interesting fact that probably isn't documented in any history book.

According to WikipediaHenry Alexander Wise (December 3, 1806 – September 12, 1876) was an American lawyer and politician from Virginia. He was a U.S. Representative and Governor of Virginia, and US Minister to Brazil. During the American Civil War, he was a general in the Confederate States Army. He was the father of U.S. Representatives Richard Alsop Wise and John Sergeant Wise.

There's even a book about Henry A. Wise available on Amazon called A Good Southerner. The book blurb says, "Wise (1806-76) was extremely active on the Virginia and national political scene from the early 1830s to the mid-1860s, drawing popular support because of his projection of hopefulness and energy. Regarded as eccentric, Wise is given, in this study, an interpretation that finds consistency in his life-long controversial and impulsive behavior. Simpson stresses Wise's ambivalent attitude toward slaves and slave-holding, authority and authority figures, and Virginia and the United States."

I am currently writing an interracial historical romance, so talking to Mr. Wise's descendant helped me a lot! The gentleman I spoke to is an African American, descended from Wise's son, William Henry Gray, who was born to Elizabeth Gray, Wise's slave. I learned about the loving relationship between Wise and Gray and that provided some great insight for developing my story. 

 Ever heard of Henry A. Wise? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Double-Take!

I got a kick out of this story when I first heard about it, and when I told my kids, they had a hard time believing it. Fun story! Here it is reprinted from The New York Post.
There’s a set of biracial twins in the UK who are turning heads because one is black and the other is white.
Born in 1997 to a white father and a half-Jamaican mother, the sisters have grown accustomed to getting mistaken for being just friends — and they have even had to produce their birth certificates in order to prove they are in fact related, Barcroft Media reports.

Modal Trigger
Lucy and Maira Aylmer pose with their mother, Donna, father, Vince, and siblings George, Chynna and Jordan. 

“No one ever believes we are twins because I am white and Maria is black,” Lucy explained. “Even when we dress alike, we still don’t even look like sisters, let alone twins.”
After giving birth naturally, the twins’ mother, Donna Douglas, did a double-take as she looked at her daughters for the very first time.
“It was such a shock for her because obviously things like skin color don’t show up on scans before birth,” Lucy said. “So she had no idea that we were so different. When the midwife handed us both to her, she was just speechless.”
And when it comes to the girls’ personalities, they are nearly as different as their looks.
Lucy, who has red hair and a very fair complexion, studies art and design at Gloucester College, according to Barcroft.

Modal Trigger
“No one ever believes we are twins because I am white and Maria is black,” says Lucy. 

Maria, who has brown hair with a caramel complexion, studies law and psychology at Cheltenham College. They have three siblings, who all have mixed skin color.
“All our older brothers and sisters have a skin color which is in between Maria and I,” Lucy said. “We are at opposite ends of the spectrum and they are all somewhere in between.”
Lucy says one of the great things about having a twin who looks completely different is that people don’t mistake them for one another.
“We were in the same class at infant school, but no one ever had a problem telling us apart,” she explained. “Most twins look like two peas in a pod — but Maria and I couldn’t look more different if we tried. We don’t even look like we have the same parents, let alone having been born at the same time."
Were you familiar with this story? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!