Friday, October 30, 2009

Trash Day

"My Journey with Farrah - a Story of Life, Love and Friendship" by Alana Stewart William Morrow 266 (turgid) pages $23.99 "A portion of the proceeds ... will go to the Farrah Fawcett Foundation to support cancer research."

Stewart's dubious achievements include marriage to George Hamilton and then Rod Stewart with whom she had three children. She and Fawcett met in the '70s when both were struggling actresses from Texas. Their friendship flourished and ended only with Fawcett's death in June, 2009. The book came out in October, 2009, so no grass growing there.

Rank assumes privilege -- Fawcett and Stewart (apparently) spent most of their time in 1st class on Lufthansa, going to and from LAX and Frankfurt. But there is never a nice word for an especially friendly or helpful FA. The pair routinely abused Lufthansa's VIP services, almost always the last to board.

Her doctors were a six hour automobile trip from the clinic she stayed in. She insisted on staying there, over and over again. Other famous folk believed in the clinic, including Dominick Dunne, who should have known better. He's dead, too.

What drew them (and presumably others) was the fact that clinical trials there are not scrutinized or as well monitored as they are here. They can inject any old kind of stew in your veins, then run scans and report, "The tumor has shrunk by 50%!"

Naturally this encourages the patient. Fawcett kept falling for it over and over even when the tumor was bigger! More of them dotted her liver! "But we'll try this!" clinicians caroled and she let them.

To give Fawcett her due, she hung on well after she could have (and perhaps should have) given up and just died, awready. Stewart's part seems to have been finding all sorts of dubious charismatic "healers" (faith and otherwise) which only encouraged Fawcett and Ryan O'Neal in their foolishness. Godless heathens the three of them.

Stewart can't resist inserting herself into the narrative. First she has an affair with a chef in the clinic's village. Then she gets a report of an irregular Pap test smear and freaks out. "OMG, I've got cancer, too!" Puh-lease! (She didn't.)

This is about as sad an example I can think of -- two friends, well-meaning, but more gullible than a pair of toddlers. Reading it is similar to passing a fresh wreck on a freeway.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


I've been able to devote a great deal of time to reading lately...Two books impressed me for vastly different reasons. The "good" is first; I want to devote an entire column to trashing the "bad" in full color, so to speak.

"Animal Magnetism" by Rita Mae Brown Ballantine Books 235 pages $25

Noted Southern writer Brown is an ardent animal lover. In her book, she recounts life-encouraging interactions with her various dogs, cats, horses and (gasp!) chickens! Turns out they have a very strict pecking order.

Her chief ambition in life was always to make enough money to be able to farm, something she has accomplished in the hunt country of Afton, VA. She wanted the farm to provide food for her horses; fox hunting is her passion. She tells heart-warming stories about courageous dogs, fun-loving cats (is there any kind?) and her horses.

She began riding to hounds on a Percheron which, until I read this, didn't know was possible. Percherons are enormous, origially bred to carry knights in armor onto battlefields, but since the demise of that kind of warfare, they are generally used as farm animals who pull ploughs and do heavy labor as required (stump pulling included.)

Her philosophy is that we can always learn from others, especially animals. She cites animals that are steadfastly true to their mates. She enjoys birds equally as well and can name many of the species by their songs.

All in all, it's an interesting read told by a wise and humerous author.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Neuro Said

The MRI was normal; I don't have a herniated disc. (Always welcome news.) He and the ortho suspect a virus on a nerve. Since there really isn't a way to treat a virus (antibiotics are not effective) he said to continue to take it easy and see him again in two weeks.

No surgery, no steroid shots, nothing. Just "Easy as you go, mate."

2:15 p.m. Today

The neuro will go over the results of the MRIs taken Saturday morning. I am fervently hoping that once it is known what's the matter with me, there will be a speedy cure. I have graduated from doing the stairs on my butt to upright on both feet (as God intended) but there is much more to be desired.

It has not been particularly helpful to uncover our cockatiel in the mornings and hear her cheerfully chirp, "Grim Reaper! Grim Reaper!" I catch myself thinking, "But ...How does she know?"

P.S. This is my 350th blog since October, 2008. Apologies for some missed days...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Quick Read

"Wishful Drinking" by Carrie Fisher Simon & Schuster 163 pages $21

Early in the book, Fisher makes the point that hers has not been an ordinary life. As a child, she was asked, "What's it like to be a movie star's daughter?" And all she could reply was, "When wasn't I?" Her parents are Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher (before he ran off with Elizabeth Taylor and an ensuing career as a serial marrier.) Because she grew up on backlots and sound stages, her grasp of "real life" is not like ours.

She is a recovering alcohol and drug abuser and has had treatment (elctro-shock therapy) for bipolarity.

The characters scattered throughout are richly described. Harry Karl, Reynold's 2nd husband, had peculiarities all his own. "Because he was wealthy and well-groomed, he was said to be distinguished looking. That's ugly with money" Fisher described him.

Fisher married Paul Simon, divorced him and went into rehab. She then married agent Byron Lourd who neglected to tell her he was gay. And then left her and Billie (their daughter) for another man.

It could be argued either way - Fisher is positively gifted at making bad choices or that in her carefree insouciance she figures, "It'll all turn out all right in the end."

It's an amusing book and I enjoyed it.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

MRI Tidbits

(C'mon - you knew I'd do it!)

In Reception, you're handed a clipboard with eight (8) pages to look over, check off and sign. One entire pages listed "stuff" people might have in their bodies - shunts, mesh (used in reconstructive breast surgery) heart valves, pace makers -- on and on it went.

Next you're given a dressing room with a locker and key. Ladies, remove your bra (wiring) take off your skirt or pants, but keep your underpants on; put on the pair of scrub bottoms and, "Oh, you might want to put your sweater back on - it's cold in there." (Understatement if I ever heard it.)

My last go-round with an MRI was more than 20 years ago so I was delighted to discover that the Long, Dark Coffin of Claustrophobia was gone. In its place was a gigantic "donut" with a sliding bed into it. It's reassuring to see daylight ahead of you and behind you -- from next to the door. Inside the machie, of course, it's the same old tunnel vision.

I was offered a choice of music - Classical, Relaxation, Frank Sinatra or an FM radio station. I took Frank somewhat bemusedly, wondering if the estate got royalties for MRI room appearances.

Before each different noise, the tech would tell me the estimated time. I could see how that would be soothing for nervous patients, but I was anything but that. As one test ended, I was singing "Summer winds" with Frank...

Afterward, I asked her some questions.
"Approximately how much did this machine cost?" "It couldn't have been less than $3 million" she said.
"How long are they good for?" "Oh, indefinitely, but after about 10 years, you want to upgrade a little." (I'm now wondering about the market for used MRIs in developing countries.)
"Does it take longer with, say, a morbidly obese patient?" "Our table limit is 350 lbs. and some of our patients are even larger than that" -- she shrugged and indicated that they usually could shove them in somehow. And no, the machine cuts through fat as if it wasn't there.
"Do you have to start as a nurse and then switch to this technology or can you skip nursing and go right to the technology?" "I started in X-ray and then moved on, but, yes, you don't have to be a nurse. In fact, there's a new thing -- as an amateur (shudder) you can work 700 to 1,000 hours as an assistant and then take the exam for your license but ...I don't much like what I'm seeing with that."( slight sniff.)

Now the orthopod and neuro can start a cure treatment and this whole ghastly experience will be behind me. In more ways than one -- I need to put the apple fritters et al aside...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Good Manners

Conde Nast Traveler is running a helpful series called Etiquette 101 and covers eating, drinking, etc. in major countries in the world. This month? Think Before You Speak.

In retrospect, their advice really isn't too different from what I learned, growing up the Midwest. The Big Three were: never discuss politics, religion or how to bring up children. Slightly behind, but of almost equal importance: never discuss money -- your own or someone else's; don't even ask someone where they live because it could be an economic indicator. This is also a throwback to the Wild West where most people preferred to travel in anonymity (often for good reason.)

For specifics, got to I'll save you the effort.

The Don'ts are the same as in the Midwest; what changes are the Do's.

Egypt - the country's cultural relics and historical importance
Israel - as a thriving democracy; the quality and freshness of the food.
South Africa - Nelson Mandela; equal rights and relative prosperity.
Brazil - music is universally loved so praise a song or ask if the Brazilian can recommend a good group.
Canada - Hockey!
Mexico - Marriage and family rites such as the quinceanero.
Australia/New Zealand - Australian football and the openness of the people.
China - the success of the Olympics
Japan - all the ultra-modern designs and conveniences - their vending machines come to mind.
Thailand - talk about their relative prosperity
France - The food! What else?
Germany - try to speak a little German; know a little about the country.
Ireland - The Irish love us - talk about the US - Irish connection.
Russian - Russia's entrepreneurial streak (keep your tongue firmly in your cheek - Russian oligarchs? Russian Mafia?)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

For the Moment...

My promising debut as a pole dancer has had to be set aside -- although at the Palm Springs Follies (age 55+ to audition) their opening act was the entire cast, on-stage, brandishing walkers in military precision. Doesn't work well with a solo act.

I take two food magazines and both of them this month are just chock-full of things you never thought of eating for Thanksgiving dinner. At least I never have. I say this because if you are over age 21, you already know what you look forward to eating each year.

Take dressing, for example. On paper, they all have their merits but for The Day? I rather think not. Consider:

Wild rice and mushroom stuffing
Whole wheat stuffing with pancetta (bacon), chestnuts and Parmesan
Sourdough stuffing with sausage, apples and golden raisins
Rustic bread stuffing with red mustard greens, currants and pine nuts
Corn bread stuffing with andouille, fennel and bell peppers
Sweet Potato stuffing with bacon and thyme
(Full recipes at Bon

In the event, you are salivating, think of this: the beloved next day sandwich of turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce on mayo-slathered white "squish" bread.

I'm sticking with old Tried and True -- hand-cut baguette (Mrs. Cubbison is handy and quick, but it's also loaded with salt) with sage, onion, garlic, tons of black pepper, moistened with chicken broth.

Years ago, I tried a Martha Stewart concoction with pistachios and God knows what all else. There were about 16 or 18 ingredients, but it's in my recipe folder if you want it. Happy to look for it for you -- not much else to do when My Glorious Career has been sidelined.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Into the Cave of the Tumbling Rocks...

And if you've ever had an MRI, you know of what I speak. Friday, 10/30/09 at 11:30 a.m.

The neuro suspects a pinched nerve, the MRI is to see exactly where it is. What is difficult for me to grasp is: how did I pinch a nerve (deep inside the body) without major trauma somewhere on the outside?

In the fullness of time...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

'"Because cops don't look dorky enough on Segways?" *

Redondo Beach uses this to issue parking tickets. We're out and about nearly every day and had never seen it. Naturally, I walked right up and asked questions about it. My first was, "What is it? It isn't a Segway..."

"No, it's got three wheels. (Doh) Wow! Ben Hur's chariot!"

Parking officer, "There's another maker and those are called "chariots."

"C'mon - tell the truth -- how much fighting do you all do among yourselves to get to ride?"

"No one else wants to do it! I'm the only one... I didn't like it the first time I rode it -- I was so tired at the end of the day that I fell asleep in my car in my own driveway! Now I just half-a-day on it -- first of all, you're standing up and second there are no shock absorbers."

He said that he goes out after lunch on it and has a regular route. "I start at Gold's gym (down near the Pier) and then cut through Pier parking to Catalina -- you know all the parking meters along there and I wind up in Riviera Village (which has a huge metered lot.)

He gave me the Web site -- He said the City paid about $7,000 for it, if you're thinking of getting one...

Other uses
Mall security
Paramedics in crowd conditions
Reno, NV, official said, "It's better than a Segway; it climbs curbs and has a better sight line for cops."
Mail and parcel delivery
Operates on 10 cents a day which equals 500 mpg.

* Quote from a rather disbelieving blogger on a Web site.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Medical Update

If you want to send your nearest and dearest into immediate flight or the polite into an irreversible coma, ask "Did I tell you about my operation?" Not going to do that.

Saw the orthpod this morning who referred me to a neurologist to rule out some sort of nerve disorder. His instructions to the neuro were "bilateral lower extremities EMG test."

He took two x-rays and we looked at them (as if I knew what I was looking at) and he said he didn't see any irregularities other some small bone spurs which aren't relevant in this case.

Meanwhile, this afternoon, I got up, walked to the dining room table and the next thing I knew Richie was yelling, "What are you doing?!" Instantly taking umbrage, I said, "What are you talking about?" as I realized... both knees were on the dining room floor....

I'm getting faster on the stairs -- even thought I have to pull the right leg up. Unless the knee is locked, it's useless. My initial outing with a walker -- How the Mighty have Fallen! - went well.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Learning the Hard Way

Pretty much my style anyhow (sigh.) I've had a "bad back" for quite some time now, but it has been in abeyance due to the exercises I do a.m. and p.m.

What triggered this episode is that I remembered to take a lumbar pillow in the car for the drive to Las Vegas. But forgot to recline the seat back...

Yesterday afternoon, I was carrying a pair of liter bottles of Coke upsairs. One in each hand meant I couldn't use the railing. On the second step, my left knee folded and down I went! I'm floundering (think Keystone Kops) and finally drop the bottles, twist in the air to land on my palms on the hall floor. Didn't get all the way over in time, hit the throw rug and surfed it right into the wall where the baseboard cut my head.

The cats fled to Under The Bed. Richie came flying, I'd gotten up on all fours. All I'm concentrating on is getting the rest of the way back up. Richie sayd, "Uh, your face has blood on it -- and so does your hair..." The hall floor looked like an abattoir. Got up, got down the hall to the bathroom and glanced into the mirror. Egad! He was right about that!

Wet paper towels, pressure and it abated. Since I can't see the outside top of my head, Richie took a digital picture for me.

You will never believe this. Blood all over the place, right? From a quarter inch cut! When you're next told that "Head wounds bleed the most" -- believe it!

My only regret is that it wasn't Halloween night -- We could have given those kids more than their money's worth in fright!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Quipping Along...

"Move the women and children out of the room!" Robin Miller (announcer and professional chauvanist) on "Wind Tunnel."

"Gonna be some door slammin' and furniture kickin' at his house tonight." Me on Steve Kinser's failure to win a spring car race.

"Lock up the likker and hide the good silver, it's the Murphys!" to Bob Brodsky on his intercom..

"Such a party animal, she'll be passing out hors d'ouevres and pouring drinks -- at her deathbed." An ambition of mine...

Texas classic: A wife finds her husband in bed with another woman! The man indignantly denies it, saying "Who're you gonna believe? Me or your own lyin' eyes."

Rodeo announcer commenting on a lady rider who knocked over three of the four barrels on the course. "Cute outfit; long ride home."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Adventures in Las Vegas

We'd all been looking forward to seeing Fat Elvis. We hurried from lunch at the Bellagio (3 p.m.)! and raced over to Bill's Gambling Saloon, wriggled our way through the gamblers and arrived at his stage -- only to see a sign which ead: "Elvis is indisposed and will not be performing." Dejected, we walked out.

Red is a great fan of "group gambling." He picks out a machine that's "hot" and we all gather round it, chip in $10 each and take turns pulling the lever.

I'm against. I make my own luck (usually bad.) He finally conned/nagged me into it and we made a bet -- $60 into the machine. I warned him, "You'll get less than 22 pulls..." Red said, "No! At least 50!" So we bet a bogi on it. The sogi bogi is Red's creation. There are two kinds -- any time or on demand. The bogi-er (?) gets down on his knees and salaams the winner, murmuring "Sogi bogi..."

I won -- sadly -- and I say that because this machine never paid off at all! 21 pulls and the money was gone. Red dutifully knelt on the casino floor and gave me a bogi. I'd rather have gotten my $10 back... Nevermore.

We saw a revue featuring the Platters (first Detroit group to be invited into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame) the Coasters and the Marvelettes. For older guys, they had a lot of energy -- one of the Coastrs was jumping around like a flea! The Marvelettes were considerably younger -- daughters of the originals? I could swear that the middle singer (and lead) was a female impersonator. All of the gestures, facial expressions down pat!

Our last night in town, we had an alfresco dinner down on the resort's patio. Leftovers from lunch (pizza which had been reheated in the room - these were one bedroom suites with full kitchen, dining rable, living area, bathroom and a huge Jacuzzi off the bedroom. There's a little grocery store that's part of the deal and we purchased a fruit plate, cheese tray, cold shrimp and potato chips from there as well as a couple of six-packs and three splits of champagne for the ladies to congratulate them on their big win. Nancy and Barbara shared a machine and it paid them $1,000 or $500 each. Barbara got a big grin on her face and said, "Here's my new washing machine!"

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Economics of a Party of Six

Our six were: Red and Barbara, her sister Nancy, husband Bill and us. Since we were never able to redezvous before 9 a.m. for breakfast, we ate late lunches.

Barbara's favorite restaurant is Mon Ami Gaby, Paris hotel and casino. We weren't that hungry so we decided to get a pile of appetizers and graze. We decided on:

Chicken pate - $9.95
Country pate - $9.95
Cheese plate - $15.95
Mussels - $10.95
Two sandwiches (for Red and Bill who wanted "real" food)
Hamburger with fries - $11.95
Chicken BLT with fries - $11.95
and for dessert, two profiteroles - $15.90

We drank a bottle of Pinot - $28.00
Two beers - $10.16

Our pates came with a small baguette, raisin bread toast, butter, cornichons and two different mustards. The cheese plate borught more bead plus sweet and sour fig jam and thin slices of raw apple. The portions are large enough there that this was a feasible lunch for six.

After a leisurely consumption, we were temped by the desserts. The profiteroles come with a big, cream-filled pate doux and three scoops of vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce decoratively used on both.

The tab (two hours later) came to $147.35 or $24.50 per person for quality food. The restaurant charged an automatic 18% gratuity which made me laugh - I almost always tip 20%. That added $24.53 (their figuring) and brought the grand total (with tax) to a whopping $171.88! Gasp!

But: break it down into six people and you have a very different story. It pays to cost account -- a nice wine, good food with a variety of flavors and sumptious desserts -- for $24.50 each!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

We're Baaaack

Vignettes at the Flamingo --

Red was outdoors admiring the flamingos when a bride (full-length white gown) pointed at one and said, "I wish I'd married that one-- he's cuter than my husband!"

We were inside the casino, passing a 21 table where another bride, resplendent in gown and all the trimmings, skirt hiked up around the stool, petticoats cascading down was enthusiastically betting...

Friday, October 9, 2009


Driving to Las Vegas tomorrow morning to meet up with Red and Barbara. We have to drive since all three flights are borderline over-sold. Recession?

Red has promised more Lloyd Black stories so you have a treat in store.

Richie did due diligence on the guide books and wants to go see:
Double Down Saloon
The Gordon Biersch Brewing Co.
Peppermills Fireside Lounge (said to be very '70s? with a water wall and a fire pit)
Fat Elvis at Bill's Gambling Hall

Home Tuesday. Enjoy your weekend!

A Memorial Restaurant

Britt's BBQ, 408 Main Street, El Segundo 310-640-0408 or Open 7 days a week, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

El Segundo has an amazing number of restaurants considering its rather "hidden" status. If you want to go there, you have to make an effort because the "big streets" don't take you through it. Yesterday I finally figured just why there are so many restaurants. The El Segundo refinery on its southern border runs 24-7 and must have easily 1,000 workers at any given time.

Britt's has only been open five months, but at noon they were doing a brisk business. Nearly all of the 30 or so seats had butts on them. It's a small place with a big window out onto the street and a couple of tables on the sidewalk. Service is swift, the food comes out hot or cold as it's supposed to do.

We both ordered pulled pork sandwiches ($6.75) and orders of beans and coleslaw ($1.50 each)

Their menu does offer something I hadn't seen before -- a pulled pork taquito (3 for $6.75) or BBQ tacos, choice of pork, chicken or beef brisket $6.75 or a BBQ quesadilla (pork, chicken or beef brisket $2.75)

Our sandwiches must have had a half-pound of pork each on a fat grinder bun; they're generous here. The beans and cole slaw came in cute little dishes with scalloped tops. The sauce - thin, faintly peppery - is served on the side. All of it was very good. In fact, this is the best bbq I've eaten here in the South Bay.

I heard a man at the next table ask the server, "So -- which one a ya is Britt?" She gracefully responded, "We get a lot of that -- Britt was the co-owners daughter who was 19 when she was killed in a traffic accident in 2008. She'd always dreamed of running a restaurant with her Dad."

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Richie makes a very good pumpkin pie (and I don't even like pumpkin pie) so I'm wondering if this topping might add the final flourish. It's kind of like turning a pumpkin pie into a pecan pie...

1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teas. of ground cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt

Mix all of the ingredients together and sprinkle over the pie top 15 minutes before it finishes baking -- oven at 325 - to finish the pie.

Frankly I think cornbread mix would work just as well but ... here is the formal version:

10 thick-cut bacon slices, cooked, drained and chopped. Set aside.
1 1/2 cups medium ground cornmeal
1 1/2 cups flour
3 T brown sugar
1 T baking powder
1 teas. salt
1 2/3 cup milk
3 large eggs
3 teas. honey
2 T sweet butter, melted
2 cups frozen corn kernals (don't thaw them.)

Preheat the oven to 350. Coat a 12-in. heavy skillet with a film of bacon grease. Whisk the dry ingredients together.
Beat the milk, eggs, honey and butter in a separate bowl.
Stire the wet into the dry mixture and add the corn.
Heat the skillet and pour the batter into it. Sprinkle the bacon over it and bake for about 50 minutes. When done, leave it in the skillet for 30 minutes more and then serve it - right in the skillet.

Both recipes courtesy of Bon Appetit.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Taking Beer "Uptown"..

Apparently it's possible to be snobbish about beer! Beer, to me, is a bottle of Pacifico or a can of Miller Genuine Draft. How little I knew... mea culpa...

The editors of "Relish," a Wednesday section in the Daily Breeze, tell us that it's important to pair the right beer with specific cheeses. Here are their suggestions:

Cheese Beer
Emmentale (Swiss) Bock beer, such as Shiner Bock
Cheddar Nut brown ale, such as Newcastle
Brie Crisp, floral pilsner, such as Pilsner Urquell
Kaseri or sheeps' milk Highly-carbonated wheat beer, such as Blue Moon
Parmesan Smooth porter, such as Michelob Porter
Mozzarella India pale ale, such as Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Roquefort Yeasty, Trappist ale, such as Chimay Bleue
American Medium-hop pilsner, such as Stella d'Artois

And then comes -- brace yourself!
CHEEZ WHIZ Amber lager, such as Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Don't Eat That! It's 55 Years Old!

Made you look! I'm talking about the recipe for Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing.

A man named Steve Henson first created it in Alaska. (What he was doing there wasn't stated.) When he and his wife Gayle opened a dude ranch outside of Santa Barbara, CA in 1954 they named it Hidden Valley Ranch. Steve's dressing proved so popular with guests -- who wanted to take it home -- they opened a factory to make packets of the seasonings which were then mixed into equal parts mayonnaise and buttermilk.

In 1972, Clorox offered them $8 for it and they took it. In 1983, Clorox developed a dressing that didn't have to be refrigerated. Today, Clorox runs two bottling plants at factories in Reno, NV and Wheeling, IL. Competitors are thick on the supermarket shelves.

Uses for it have grown 'way past simply "salad dressing." It's now used as a dipping sauce for broccoli, carrots, radishes, fried mushrooms, fried zucchini, onion rings, hush puppies, tacos, hamburgers and baked potatoes.

Nutritionally, it isn't the best for you ("Could I have the dressing on the side, please?") A 2 T serving is 145 calories and 94% of those calories come from fat.

Bon Appetit, in this month's edition suggests beating it into mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving. Being their usual helpful selves, they give the recipe to make it from scratch.

1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 T finely-chopped chives
3 T finely-chopped parsley
1 teas. garlic salt
1/2 teas. onion powder
pinch of black pepper

Beat together and refrigrate.

This is what I think Old Tony's on the Pier used on their house salad -- 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 cup buttermilk and black pepper. Their house salad was iceberg lettuce, diced hardboiled egg and little tiny river shrimp and I loved it.

Monday, October 5, 2009

For The Birds...

For an urban nieghborhood (mostly planter boxes out front on driveways and little patches of green in the back) we do have a lot of wildlife. We've trapped and let go two possums (in the garage, of all places;) I had to shoo a raccoon off of the balcony -- he'd climbed up the avocado tree to get there. He must have weighed 25 lbs. We've had skunks right by the side garage door, munching away at the dry cat food. They're so tame they'll pose for flash pictures! (We quit leaving food out at night and haven't seen them since.)

We also have birds. Richie hung up a feeder and we get hummingbirds nearly all year.

There are ravens that are huge -- the flap down during the day to eat the dry cat food and you can hear their wings flap from inside the house! They also CAW CAW! repeatedly, probably to warn off the neighborhood cats from "their" food.

And, finally, the blue jays are back after an absence of at least three years. No idea where they were all this time, but now they're defiantly back and they are demanding little bastards. We put peanuts on the balcony railing (cedar) and when they've eaten them all (8 to 10 at a serving,) they perch on the railing and scream at us -- or bang their beaks on the railing. Woody the Woodpecker has nothing on them!

Cats and birds... one of our cats (the sensible one) ignores them. The other makes a great show of crouching in front of the balcony screen and making little sounds like "Lemme at'em!" Guess what? When the screen is open, she ignores them, too! All bluster, that's her.

Yes, the birds are alive and well on our street. The neighborhood cats are too smart to try messing with the ravens which are very nearly cat-sized. Peace reigns throughout.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

"And, best of all, it's FREE!"

This is one of Richie's criteria for events. As he reads the newspapers avidly, he finds nearly all of these just-too-good-to-be-true events. Thus, we've been on the El Segundo refinery tour --twice. You're put on luxury buses (Recaro seats, big screen TV, etc.) and driven all over the acreage. At seveal points of the tour, it was something of an E ticket ride -- the "roads" are little more than pathways with several switchback turns and the buses are huge.

We go every year to the K-9 trials, we've participated in a number of CERT drills (we had to, we're members) and once upon a time, we'd go to the Polliwog Park Sunday summer aftrnoon concerts. Until parks management said genially, "Sure, you can drink responsibly in the park, but absolutely no smoking!" Huh? Open air park?

This weekend is a double -- yesterday we went to Long Beach for the Green Port Fest. Apparently they had one last year because I heard people asking each other, "Are you going on the boat tour?" "No, we did that last year; we're going on the Metroliner this time."

A very long line stretched across the parking lot, but it moved quickly. Soon we were on an ecologically-correct bus heading to the event. Once there, it was a mass of people and lines for everything.

The Port of Long Beach ( covers more than 35 miles with cranes as tall as a 30-story building to unload container ships, the length of three football fields long. Every year about $140 billion (billion) worth of cargo is handled.

Activities included: harbor boat tour, Metroline ride, plant a tree (sprig) and take it home to "produce oxygen and reduce greenhouse gases in your own backyard," Cambodian folk dancing and a ra;;eping demonstration by the Long Beach Fire Department. We admired a huge machine that monitors air quality at the Port. We walked around a bit and took the bus back to the car.

Back in our car, I looked at the booklet handed to me and didn't want to tell Richie he missed out on coupons for a FREE hot dog or pizza slice or popcorn or snow cone or a beverage. Insead we went to King's Fish House, 100 W. Broadway, Long Beach, 562-432-7463 and ate shrimp. Very good they were, too.

Today - Sunday - we're going to the RBPD Safety Fair (415 N. Diamond - civic center.) Visitors are offered tours of the jail (no, thanks) a mock crime scene with CSI investigators, a firearms training simulator, free gun locks and talks on drug awareness (unnecessary in our case) and police history. SWAT is to be there with their equipment wagon and rather maniac officers. To a man, they look more than ready and willing to go ... jumpy, in fact. There'll be a K-9 demonstration because the RBPD is very proud of their dogs.

"But, best of all -- it's FREE!" Richie reminded me. "What time do you want to go?"

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Um, I Pretty Much Think It IS You...

"It's Not Me, It's You - Subjective Recollections from a Terminally Optimistic, Chronically Sarcastic and Occasionally Inebriated Woman" by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor Simon Spotlight Entertainment 227 pages $23.99

Television writer and guest on such as Dr. Phil, the Today Show and PBS' "Real Savvy Moms", she is also the author of "Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay."

At an early age (18 as I recall) she left her parents on the East Coast and drove herself and a girl friend to Southern California. The girls funded the tip from the other girl's bat mitzvah cash. She was fleeing a fairly dysfuncitonal family -- both parents were what I think of as "serial marriers." She spent years and years in therapy and recounts these adventures. She needed a car out here so she went on "Hollywood Squares" and won one.

Yes, it's that kind of book. Clueless, but plucky, dammit! She's witty enough if you can get past the continual self-absorption...

Friday, October 2, 2009

Introduction to Practical Cooking

I went back and checked prices on yesterday's off-shore cooking schools and wow! Try $2,900 or $4,995 per person! That's serious money!

Naturally, my very next thought was: How can I get me some of it? No reason I couldn't teach a simple cooking class. I began thinking of a curriculum ...

Pork Roast and a Movie -- Put the roast in a pan with a tight-fitting lid, set the oven at 300, put the pan in the oven and take off for three hours.

Classic Sauces -- Why spend all afternoon making a complicated sauce when you can buy a jar of it. Field trip to Trader Joe's.

Know What's in Season and Cook It! Field trip to Hermosa Beach Farmer's Market; demonstration with "simple veggies" - corn on the cob, steamed asparagus and more!

Perfect French fries Every Time -- Buy any brand of frozen fries that you like -- and follow the directions on the bag! French fry type optional.

Creating Dinner Menus -- decide on an appetizer, based on the cuisine you'll be serving. Taco Bar? Salsa! Lasagne? miniature frozen pizzas! See how easy that was? Lecture: appetizer aisles at Trader Joe's. Hand-out: maps.

Proper Service Order - appetizer, main course, salad, cheeses, dessert, nuts. Discussion: "Salad is a palate refresher, not an accompaniment to the main course"

Setting Your Menus Apart -- type up the menu (date and time at the top) and then do little sketches appropriate to either the holiday or the occasion. Optional: drawing classes.

Wine Appreciation - Meet in the Bev-Mo parking lot, Manhattan Beach. Bring white and red wine stemware and napkins.

Now that you've read and learned, donations to the cook are always acceptable. Look at the money you saved by staying at home!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

"Culinary Travel Market"

Who knew there was such a thing? Clearly, there is and to say it's widely varied is understatement.
Hands-on cooking lessons in a Turkish home in Istanbul or shopping in the spice market. "...the Turkish way of life - l'Arte de Vivre!' (which is French for the art of living.) So -- how "Turkish" is it if you have to describe it in French?
Cooking with John Wilson in France, Italy and Spain. Chef Wilson is pretty clever -- free travel while you teach!
"Our chefs don't go the refrigerator. They just step outside the door." It's touted as the healthiest vacation ever! What? Chasing a chef across a pasture, while screaming, "Where's dinner, you bastard?!" Located near San Diego.
We're invited to travel quaint side streets, to see someone called "Nonna" cooking in the kitchen and (unnervingly enough) experience "the smell of Italy embracing you." Italy and fine sewers don't come together readily in my mind, but I've never been there.
Take your gluttony to Asia, South America and Europe! Taste wine with the makers; shop the markets and cook with the experts.