Saturday, April 16, 2011


It's been a very tough week, but who doesn't have them?  Not going to post much today, but two things happened yesterday that made me reach for my camera.  Cooper, my resident backyard squirrel is a thief of hearts.  He does silly tricks in my back yard.  I often catch him on my balcony, rooting around planter boxes, probably looking for a place to hide nuts.  He plays very aggressive games of tag with his fellow squirrels, but he will boldly, if cautiously take a peanut from my hand.  I think he appreciate my leaving spent jars of peanut butter for him.  Cooper loves peanut butter as my photos of his inside the jar will attest.

I happened to look outside my dining room window and there was Cooper in the middle of my new hanging fuchsia looking around for something. My camera was close to hand and I grabbed these two quick shots of him before he flew off the pot and onto the support beam and lowered himself to the ground and scurried away.

My friend, Elena Ferretti arrived with her daughter Eliot and Portland friend, Kelly for breakfast yesterday.  They brought with them this lovely batch to tulips, which of course, made me think of Easter.  They are lovely and our visit was wonderful.

The carpet people arrived and finally fixed my new stair carpet, it it now looks symmetrical.

The final bit of good news was to pick up my taxes.  I got a small refund from the IRS, which is being applied to my first quarterly tax.  I don't owe any quarterly tax to the state of Oregon until next September.  There's some dumb transportation tax, but it was only $279. and the fee for this year's tax preparation was just over one third of what I normally paid in New York City. All in all, a quiet and nice coda to what began as a bit of a nightmare.  I thank and love my friends who rallied round offering their support.  

Monday, April 11, 2011


The Euphorbia have taken over one a small space on the side of my garage. This year's display is spectacular.

One of two Hostas that are shooting up under my big Cedar tree.  They look like some sort of bulb plant like a daffodil or tulip and in the photo below, they are slowly unwrapping themselves into beautiful leaves.

If you plant them, they will grow.  My first tulips.

A sweet, all-white daffodil.  Along with the tulips, the only bright spot in my ugly dog run, which is 
getting a face lift this spring.  

A pretty Azaelia I just bought and ready for planting. 

A newly revived hydrangea.  I bought this as a plant last Easter and planted it in a sunny spot last summer.  Big mistake.  Hydrangeas don't like sun pounding down on them all day long. It will get moved in a few weeks.  

My grated pear tree, which has four different kinds of pears.  It's just blooming and leaving
 right now.  We had a last-minute snow storm in the Portland hills last week.  It could have killed the possibility
 of any fruit this fall. Fortunately, the city was spared a big dip in temperature.

This tiny little Grape Hyacinth is such a pretty color and shape.  It multiplies like crazy and is a 
wonderful spring flower.  

A pretty pink Peonie that is more than three times its original size from last year.  Should 
produce some gorgeous blooms in another month or so.  

These daffodils should open any day now.  I ran out of room in the garden last November and 
decided to fill an unused planter at the foot of my door walkway.  

We're still  mired in cold, damp, rainy weather at nearly the halfway mark in April.  Friday we were teased with a beautiful, warm, sunny day that lulled us into thinking that a few days of sunshine were at last here. It was not to be.  It got cooler and more overcast on Saturday morning as my friend, Trish Hamilton arrived to take me to the Hardy Plant Sale that happens every year at the Portland Exposition Center.  We arrived for the show ten minutes before the door opened and there were already long lines snaking through the Exposition lobby.  We grabbed a box flat to capture our purchases and at 10:00 AM we filed in to view a huge selection of plants being offered from local Portland-area growers.

I haven't quite been bitten by the garden bug yet. Gardening is a messy, dirty business and my 60-year-old-knees loudly protest whenever I have to put any weight on them, even for a few minutes.  Gardening requires vigilance, vision and a capacity for attacking weeds at will.  Still I've managed to amass a large variety of flowering shrubs, bushes, and flowering plants, and a few trees in a very short time.  My weeping cherry, purchased last season rewarded me with a nice flowering display a week or so ago.  My daffodils in the dog run have bloomed, and yesterday, I noticed the tulips I put in last November are just beginning to bloom there was well.  The Hostas have thrown up their annual shoots and their tightly-wound leaves are in the process of unfurling.  The peonies are shooting up and should bloom at the end of next month (sunshine permitting).  The lilac bush is sprouting its leaves. I don't think I'll get blooms this year, as this is the first year since I planted it. The Japanese maples are budding, as are the hydrangeas, and grape Hyacinths. All the rose bushes are ready for blooming, sporting their vibrant red-green leaves and I hope these produce spectacularly this year.  I worry because if it continues to be such a soggy spring, they will pout and not produce as well, which was the situation last summer.  The white Camellia produced a spectacular display again this year, but I can't wait for my friend Dyanne to visit and help me prune it back into a more manageable shape.  It's entirely too big right now, cutting down on the light in the guest bedroom.  But the three weeks it is in full bloom just take your breath away.

Back to Saturday's flower sale:  I was lusting for a gorgeous white lilac tree, but I'm not sure I have a place for it at the moment.  And I'm told it will grow to 30 feet.  At about 12-14 feet currently, it was certainly on its way and the price was very tempting.  Sanity took over.  I settled instead on a Viburnum which will produce large pink flowers very much like a hydrangea.  It can take some muted sun, and I've got just the spot for it.

A plant I see in a lot of gardens in Portland is Helleborus, which has a blossom that reminds me of a sturdier clematis.  The version I bought is called 'Pink Lady' but it looks more purplish than pink.  It too likes shady areas of the garden, so it will go on one side of my fountain, along with a bunch of new Hostas.

These two delicate "lamp shade"-shaped flowers are called Fritillaria.  They look like they were designed in the Arts and Crafts era.  They are very delicate, pretty bloomers.  The next plant is a Cordyline, known as 'Red Sensation'.  It too grows in sun and partial shade, so I think it will go on the patio in a pot where it will get just that kind of light.

I had such good luck with a geranium last summer that when I passed this pretty little pot, I couldn't resist.  I'll plant it in the same hanging pot I put last year's specimen in and see what happens.  You can see on the left inside my vegetable planter box, the bright green shoots of my returning Tarragon.  Oregano and Italian parsley along with last year's Sage are planted.  Thyme, mint and chives also came back and are thriving in their own pots where they don't amok.

I decided for my hanging tomato planters off my bedroom balcony, I'll plant cherry tomatoes this season. I purchased Sun Gold (yellow) and Baby Girl red cherry tomatoes and they will be planted in a few weeks when I'm sure the cold won't kill them.  And finally I found this stunning echeveria with it's light green throat and coral ruffled edge and underleaf.  I will keep it as a houseplant indoors until it's warm and then bring it back in next fall.  

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Doris Day day didn't step out often into Hollywood events, but when she did--wow.  Here she is a the Academy Awards in 1960, dressed to kill. 

Depending on your source, today is Doris Day's 86th or 88th birthday.  One week after we lost Elizabeth Taylor, here is the perennial, sunshiny Doris--long may she wave.  Doris Day was my first movie star crush.  I was nine and was taken to see PLEASE DON'T EAT THE DAISIES, with David Niven.  Based on Jean Kerr's (the wife of New York Times Drama critic, Walter Kerr), bestseller. it told the story of a young wife and mother who neatly balances the demands of her theater critic husband, and their four rambunctious children as she is finally able to persuade her husband that their future is to leave their New York City apartment for an easier life in the suburbs.  I recall the first time I saw this movie and being utterly charmed by Doris Day and her easy rapport on screen with her co-star, David Niven.  I loved her fresh scrubbed beauty and easy screen charm.  The camera always loved Doris Day.

With Rex Harrison who drove Doris crazy in MIDNIGHT LACE

Her straw-yellow hair, blue eyes and can-do movie persona made her so appealing. Soon afterwards, I saw this very sophisticated movie with Doris called MIDNIGHT LACE.  It was a mystery about a rich woman living her British husband played by Rex Harrison in London.  Someone was trying to kill Doris.  Turns out it was Sexy Rexy as they used to refer to Mr. Harrison, who was after her fortune, but it was fun to watch Myrna Loy and handsome John Gavin who rescued her from the clutches of her murderous husband.  Doris got to wear some gorgeous costumes designed by Irene, and suffered magnificently, if a bit too hysterically.  That was it. I was a Doris fan for life.

With James Garner, a wonderful co-star in THE THRILL OF IT ALL.  They had chemistry on screen.

In the 60s it was THE THRILL OF IT ALL with James Garner. Doris played a housewife married to a doctor.  The doctor's rich client, owns a soap fortune.  And Doris' natural approach to using the soap in her daughter's bath charms the crusty old chairman who makes Doris a star through a series of commercials. Doris and Garner had chemistry.  The movie had a wonderful script and a terrific cast.  It would be another few years before I saw the film again, and it held up. It still holds up.

PILLOW TALK, the first of three very successful movies Doris made with her good friend, Rock Hudson and the only movie for which she was nominated for an Academy Award 

Cary Grant with Doris in THAT TOUCH OF MINK--not a great movie, but one elevated by the stars enormous personalities and charisma. 

When I was fourteen, I saw PILLOW TALK for the first time and from then on I was a Doris fanatic.  Her chemistry with Rock Hudson coupled with a wonderful script made the film a huge hit and justifiably so.  They recreated the magic more intensely with their next vehicle, LOVER COME BACK.  These romantic comedies stand out as the very best of the their era.  They can be viewed over and over again with pleasure.

As Calamity Jane, the first movie that elevated Doris into an A-list movie star where she would 
remain for the rest of her career.

Years later as an adult, I got the full measure of Doris's amazing talents.  CALAMITY JANE is  a charming movie musical, and Doris' wonderful singing and tomboyish acting was very endearing.  Her performances in THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, and especially LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME, reveal an actress who has more depth than she was often given credit for. There's an imposing physicality to her portrait of Ruth Etting matching the blazing intensity of James Cagney's tough and insecure would-be Svengali.  It's Doris' best film performance.

Doris with James Cagney in LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME--certainly Doris' very best dramatic role

The mid-to late 60s saw the diminuation of quality in her films.  Doris' marriage to her producer/husband, Marty Melcher resulted in some strange choices.  As she moved into her middle forties, the films became predictable. The "virgin" tag that stuck to her image began to strangle her film persona.  Then when Melcher died unexpectedly, it was further revealed that their lawyer had boldly stolen her fortune.  It was the first in a series of shocking revelations of marriages in Hollywood between female stars who had been fooled by their less talented husbands and been bankrupted in the process:  Debbe Reynolds, Esther Williams, Rosemary Clooney, Doris and other stars of that era had put their faith and success in the hands of husbands who robbed them blind at the time when they should have been riding into the sunsets of their careers, fortunes in tact.  But it was not to be.  Day was a widow in her late 40s and broke.  Worse, her husband and lawyer had committed her to a TV series for CBS.  Doris's son, Terry Melcher (a record producer), took control of his mother's affairs and while Doris toiled on her eventual hit TV series, which paid her bills and restored a measure of her fortune, her son pursued  a lawsuit against the unscrupulous lawyer.  They won in one of the biggest victories ever recorded by a star who had been duped by her management.  She settled with the lawyer's insurance company and retired to Carmel, Califorrnia where she pursued her real love--animal rights activism, and opened a hotel.

With Stephen Boyd in JUMBO, one of my favorite Doris Day movies--not a classic, but one where singing, personality, and sheer star power count for a lot. 

Doris Day remains one of the premier box officer stars of all time.  She enjoyed one of the most successful recording careers which lasted from the early 40s to the late 60s.  Her impeccable vocals made her one of Columbia's biggest stars before the arrival of Barbra Streisand and rock and roll changed pop music forever.

I found Doris's polished vocals to be just a bit too surface for my taste, especially as her brand of big-band vocalism wanted.  She wasn't a searching musical performer in an era when Frank Sinatra's and Judy Garland's confessional performing where they wore their hearts on their sleeves.  Doris's recordings are on the same level as the woman who inspired her to become a singer following an car accident that ended her dancing career:  Ella Fitzgerald.  While young Doris recovered, she found inspiration to become a singer via the recordings of Ella, becoming first a band singer and then one of the most popular recording stars spanning two decades from the mid-40s to the mid-60s.  The voice is lovely, the musicianship sure.  But like many band singes, hers was an instrumental approach and she rarely dug below the surface of a song.

Like another popular, squeaky clean movie star of the next generation, Julie Andrews, Doris Day had one of the greatest bodies of a movie star ever.  Don't believe me?  Look at her in the black gown she wears in THAT TOUCH OF MINK.  As Cary Grant starts to kiss her shoulders, the script calls for him to extol the beauty of her shoulders.  There's blond, virginal Doris looking absolutely sexy in that figure hugging gown, her broad shoulders and beautiful decolletage a feast for discerning eyes.  Her figure is a wonder in the buckskin outfit she wears as she sings "Secret Love." in CALAMITY JANE. And she wears her stunning working girl wardrobe to superb effect in PILLOW TALK and LOVER COME BACK TO ME.  Doris was a dish, and like Julie Andrews, often hid her assets under a mountain of costumes.  If Doris were walking the red carpet at today's Golden Globes or Oscar ceremonies, she would put most of her contemporaries to shame.

Doris' last film--WITH SIX YOU GET EGG ROLL with Brian Keith.  Worth a look with an excellent comic cast, a good script and delightful performances.  Out of step with the political winds of the times. but Doris still delivers the magic.  

Today Doris has survived her husbands, her son (Terri Melcher died of cancer a few years ago), and devotes her time to animal rights.  Her's is a dignified retirement where she doesn't seek the public's approval and keeps pretty much to herself.

Doris Day is an increasingly dim reminder of a once fabulous career that ended nearly forty years ago. She is a beloved movie icon with a body of work that many of today's actresses would kill to own and she did it by sheer dint of talent with little press to add spice or tabloid credibility.  She was famous for not drinking and having a soda fountain in her living room.  Maybe Sandra Bullock enjoys some of the affection that Doris Day's fans once lavished on her, or Diane Lane.  In any event, she remains one of the bright movie spots of my youth.  Doris Day's career spanned World War II, the Cold War, McCarthyism,  the Kennedys, rock and roll, the Hippie era, and the studio system.  She was a sunny, delightfully innocent presence in movie theaters, and her popularity rivaled John Wayne's in the public's affection.  She never won an Academy Award, and certainly CALAMITY JANE, THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME, PILLOW TALK, LOVER COME BACK and THE THRILL OF IT ALL were worthy of a win.

Like Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, Steve McQueen, Natlie Wood, Julie Andrews, Shirley Maclaine, Barbara Streisand, Sean Connery, Sandra Dee, and Sophia Loren, Doris Day was a fixture of my youth, a movie star who was always a pleasure to watch, even when the vehicles were less than her talent was due.

Happy Birthday, Doris.