Thursday, December 31, 2009

Mixed Emotions About New Year's Eve

First, I don't think it should be a mandatory celebration just because we traveled on another year. No one celebrates November 1st which is the official holiday season...New Year's resolutions are silly -- you know you've got a problem (smoking, drinking, weight gain) well get off your languid ass and do something about it NOW. Wistful thinking isn't going to get you anywhere. Discipline will.

New Year's and St. Patrick's Day are the only two annual events that seem to be mandatory celebrations in a bar. Huh? Christmas is (by and large) reverential; Easter is joyous for reasons not clearly understood by me - death by cross has got to be extremely painful over a number of days.

I think it's healthier from a pyschological point-of-view to be grateful for all of the things that you currently enjoy. I'm grateful that Richie and I have a good, sound marriage; that we own more of the house than the bank does; that both cats, the cockatiel and (for the moment) both goldfish seem to be in good health. That we have "money enough" to indulge in an occasional splurge. For example, we bought tickets (instead of trying for Coach on MAA - which would have been free) to Paris. Air France is direct; MAA is not.

No, if I had to wish for something in 2010 it's that the following people would Just Disappear Awready!
*The entire Loham clan - attention junky Daddy, stage mommie Dina and Linsay who needs a pyschiatric intervention. Perhaps Sam Ronson would like to go with her.
* Johnson & Johnson heiress Casey and her mother. Same mental institution just for fun.
* Jon Gosselin. He's ugly, badly behaved and how the hell is he still "news"? Ans. He isn't.
* Every one of the exploitive TV shows -- survivors, bachelors, dancing, talent -- you get my drift. It's the days of the Roman circuses all over again. And that's not good...

In any event, do your best and have a happy New Year and 2010. NEVER DRINK AND DRIVE.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Book Review

"It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time" by Moira Hodgson Doubleday 335 pages $24.95

Hodgson is a food critic for the NY Observer, a cookbook author and travel writer. This book has recipes, too.

Hodgson is the daughter of a British Foreign Service officer who was promoted to diplomat status. He later confessed to her, well after he retired, that in actuality he'd been working for M16 (British security and espionage.) Prior to being moved to the United Nations, New York, when she was 17, she'd already lived in Saigon, Berlin and Sweden in addition to an education in England.

Chafing at parental discipline, she moved in with a man with whom she spent the next seven years. Both were freelance travel writers and visited and lived in Lapland, New York and Mexico. After they broke up, she had an extended stay in Marrakesh where she developed a cancerous tumor in one eye and subsequently lost it. She treats this major event candidly without whining.

She traveled in a rarified world of other writers, famous chefs and other notables. An anecdote about Lilliam Hellman contained the observation that the much-older Hellman had a mother/son relationship with her young consort -- he was the mother; she was the son.

It was an interesting read and a lot of the interest came from my watching-a-train-wreck happening gaze at what she not only managed to eat but enjoyed. Me? Undoubtedly fainted dead away at some of them. Happily, reading about them is not the same as having to eat them...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

This Restaurant Has a Bocce Court!

Tin Roof Bistro, 3500 N. Sepulveda, Manhattan Beach

Richie dropped me off in front and went to park the car. I looked around me with interest ... a low building with a sprawling front veranda with comfortable-looking chairs and tables. Between the veranda and the street was a long strip of raked sand. "Must be getting ready to sod it," I thought. It wasn't until we were seated and looking at the menu that I realized! "That's a bocce court."

Bocce Hour - 4 to 7 p.m. daily $2 off drinks, pizzas and salads - in the bar or Bocce Court area only.

Nothing shabby about the interior either -- banquets running along with walls with tables and chairs in front of them, subdued light, much of it from the spacious windows. Our server said the restaurant was supposed to reflect a Napa Valley winery.

Richie ordered a Simmzy's Berger with Tillamook sharp cheddar, sweet onion chow chow and aoli ($9.50.) I was hungry and the "fish and chips" appealed - homemade jumbo lump crab cakes, Napa cabbage slaw with chili vinaigrette, shoestring fries and tartar sauce ($21.50)

We ordered a draft beer - a traditional Belgian wheat beer; light, slightly cloudy (not wildly appealing in looks) with a spicy aroma (missed that part) and a big lemon back taste (got that.) ($12 for two.)

Our plates arrived and the plates were well filled. The crab cakes were big and round (like a meatball) the shoestring fries took up a third of the plate and the "slaw" the rest. Composed of chopped curly cabbage and red and yellow peppers, marinated in the vinagrette. The flavors were sweet and a little hot. Richie's burger was more than juicy. Our served passed him paper napkins, remarking "That's a two napkin burger!"

Future visits will allow me to explore such as: Pizza Bianca with figs and bacon ($12) or Baby Golden Beet salad (sugar and salt baked beets, goat cheese, shaved fennel, hazelnuts, red onion - and hold the arugula) for $10.25 A dessert caught my eye -- Brown Sugar Panna Cotta with a walnut and sea salt brittle and tangerine ($6.50)

Lunch and two beers came to $47.47 and I tipped $12 - that's how good the service was.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Book Review

"The Best American Travel Writing" edited by Simon Winchester Hought, Mifflin Harcourt 351 pages $14

When I saw it on the library shelf, I thought, "Ah-hah! Perhaps this can help me write 'travel' better!" and promptly checked it out. At home, my enthusiasm waned. Titles such as "The Generals in Their Labyrinth," "The End of the End of Revolution" or "Ecotouring in Honduras" didn't interest me.

Many would argue that "Travel is politics" and to a great degree it is. We travel (largely) to see things that we don't have at home. These, by their titles alone, were "thinky" pieces. Clearly I was out of my depth ("And not for the first time," many mutter.)

Still, determined to improve myself, I pressed on. The only name I recognized was Calvin Trillin, whom I enjoy very much. He wrote about Texas barbecue in a familiar, homey sort of way.

Encouraged, I pressed on to an account of a foreign correspondent's attempts to build himself a secluded cabin - in Patagonia. "Bolivia's Wrestlers" are women, of a certain age. "Tracking Down James Bond" was an examination of the ski slopes and the stunt skiers in many of the Bond films. "Terminal Beauty" was an examination of architect-designed airports. The Chattanooga River, sctting for the movie "Deliverance" was written by the daughter of the book's author.

But I still haven't gotten around to "Ecotouring in Honduras."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Our Correspondent in Israel

The BBC showed "Bethlehem by Night" on Christmas Eve and I was appalled at all of the neon! I e'd our correspondent in Israel, 'Don't they have any kind of historical preservation group there? Not that I'm particularly religious (I'm not) but the juxtaposition of the two was not pretty."

Shortly thereafter, she replied, "Unfortunately, Bethlehem is part of the Palestinian territory and therefore mainted by them. You were lucky to see it by night and to not see all the crap that is there -- little Jesuses, crosses, endless. Also, the names of the places beggar belief. "Manger Square" is a good example. By comparison, Jerusalem which is a part of Israel, is wonderful, totally in keeping with what Jerusalem is. Nazareth, which is an Arabic town, but within Israel, has also been brought into modern times. Of course, if you watch the main stream media you will probably hear that "due to the embargo, Israel only allows neon and plastic to be allowed in."

She added, "However, to the people who have the vision of "the little town of Bethlehem," the trashy modern version will not make a difference. They walked where Jesus was born; they will probably buy a plastic Jesus and go away - cleansed. I was shocked in Rome to see some of the religious crap they had. A picture of Mary if you looked at it from the right; an image of Jesus if you looked to the left. I guess money is the biggest God of all."

And I think she's right!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Poor Guy...

Richie looked out our kitchen window yesterday and reported, "The kid across the street got a motorized airplane -- he's flying it from the middle of the street."

"Oh," I nodded.

This morning, he looked out again and reported that the airplane is now on our next-door-neighbor's garage roof. There is no way to get it down without asking permission to board (so to speak) and using a ladder.

Reminds me of the year I got roller skates -- and it snowed. Or the year I got a sled and it didn't. Experiences common to all of us I have no doubt.

I just checked and the little airplane is flat on its back -- in a rain puddle.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Season's Greetings




Thursday, December 24, 2009

This Takes the Cake, the Plate AND the Table!

Yesterday I got an e-mail greeting from Mark and David Horowitz (father-son duo) at Coast Dermatology. Take a deep breath, know that I am incapable of making this up and read on.

The good doctors are offering a gift -- $100 off of a full syringe or $300 off two full syringes of Juvederm! A helpful aside mentions that a 0.8 cc of it goes for $500. I couldn't have been more horrified! The very idea of having what I presume to be a deadly poison - like Botox - injected into my face? AND paying for this "treat"?

I hate the idea that medical doctors are succumbing to the Youthquake of today's America. This belief that you're nothing if you don't Look Great! In my naivete, a dematologist checks your skin for possibly malignant skin cancers, treats rashes, boils and other insults to our derma.

Still, it's better to have a doctor do the process rather than the local beauty parlor operator.

MERRIMENT AND GLEE A cousin in South Texas forwarded this as a contribution to the season. The writer calls it "Tiger in Verse."

'Twas the night before Thanksgiving and out of the house
Tiger Woods came flying, chased by his spouse.

She wielded a nine iron and wasn't too merry
'Cause a bimbo's phone number was in his Blackberry.

He'd been cheating on Elin and the story progressed!
Woman after woman stepped up and confessed!

He'd been cheating with Holly, Jaimee and Cori
With Joselyn and Kalika. The world had the story.

From the top of the tour to the basement of blues,
Tiger's sad, sordid tale was all over the news.

With hostesses and waitresses he had lots of sex
When not in their pants, he was sending them texts.

Despite all his crying and begging and pleading
Tiger's wife went investing - a new home in Sweden.

And I heard her exclaim from her white Escalade
"If you're getting laid, then I'm getting paid!"

She's not pouting, in fact, she is full of good cheer.
Her pre-nup made Christmas come early this year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Not-So-Jolly Christmases

I took an informal poll and these were the results:

(East Texas) The Cowboy writes, "I have a Christmas story. One year my sister, who then was always broke and without resources, was flush due to a bonus from her work. She bought me the largest display from Hickory Farms in the mall. I was thrilled at that because she never bought me anything and I really do like the sausage and cheese. I brought it home and opened it Christmas Eve with my mouth all set for a treat. It was the Styrofoam display box! Broken-hearted me ... (pause) I think it was the vendor's mistake."

(Palos Verdes Estates) She nodded at her husband of 64 years and said, "He once gave me a vacuum cleaner for Christmas!" Awed, I asked, "How long did he wear it?" She frowned grimly, thought and replied, "It was at least two weeks before I spoke to him again."

(South Redondo) "I'd only been flying as an attendant for six months, so I had no seniority at all. I had to do an overnight in Boise Christmas Eve! There were only two FAs on that plance and as soon as we landed (the pilots had taken off again) she said, " I bid this because my family and my boyfriend are here -- see you for tomorrow's flight!"

She left me all alone in a strange town, strange hotel - everything was closed so I couldn't go buy a book -- I've never traveled without one since! The TV only got about three stations, the reception was terrible -- worst Christmas of my life!"

(Beverly Hills 27 years ago) Richie and I met July 14th and for our first Christmas, he gave me a bottle Shalimar (perfume, not cologne) and a rubber bath mat! He said my tub floor was slippery and I might fall.

(North Redondo yesterday) Richie's brother and his wife were so pleased that he's taken an interest in baking that they sent him a cake stand! Not any ordinary cake stand, you may be sure. A proud product of Sonoma Williams, it is made of very heavy glass (bulletproof?) could hold a cake big enough for a multitude and weighs enough that if it's ever dropped, I predict it would go straight through the dining room floor and wind up - intact - downstairs.

May you all fare much, much better this year!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Drive-By Shopping/It's All Done!

This morning we went to the Manhattan Beach Mall, I hit two stores for gift certificates and we left. We stopped at Trader Joe's for two more. We went to Sports Authority (formerely SportMart) and I bought two more. We then proceeded to the Mail Boxes R Us (or equivalent) and mailed off: three bundles of rubberbanded Christmas cards, two padded envelopes, two packages, four envelopes bound to France and one to Israel. Damn! Those places are handy! The store was practically empty and it took less than 10 minutes.

Upon arrival at the Murphy Mansion, we discovered a large box near the front door. Grinning to myself, I unlocked the door and went upstairs. I had bought it for Richie. After awhile I hear him cussing at it, trying to heave it inside the house. Once it was in and the security door locked, he pounded up the stairs. "It's too big! I'll never get that box up the stairs."

Icily I suggested that go back downstairs, uncrate it and see. (Expletives deleted; it's the holiday season.) Pretty soon, here he came, carrying the new CD player (five at a time!) upstairs in the heavy duty shipping bag with one hand.

Now his tune was all happy - "This is great! Thank you!" I looked coldly at him and said, "Aren't you forgetting something?" "I love you?" "No. C'mon..." he looked questioning and I said, "How about 'I'm sorry I was such a (adj.) (noun)?'" "Oh," he said. "Oh, indeed," I replied.

If that's the worst exchange over the season, all will be well. However, neighbors and friends should be warned: the new system comes with karaoke abilities.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


A Delightful Discovery

Yesterday Richie wound up the snow-flake globe's music box and "O Christmas Tree" tinkled out and Lady Bird, our cockatiel began trilling along right with it! A couple of times she and it were exactly in sync! 40 monkeys all typing in the jungle would eventually write all of Shakespeare...

Richie is Fretting

Monday, his niece, her husband and their two little boys are scheduled to fly from LAX to JFK.
Michelle plans to be on the road from Paris to her parents' home near Aix-en-Provence. We saw pictures of snow on the beach at Nice yesterday...

Tuesday, the Brodskys are to fly from LAX to BOS (Boston) to be with their son and his three little girls.

"Raffish" should have no problems -- he went from LAX to Nicaragua yesterday.

Meanwhile the Weather Channel is on a great deal of the time here... I'm not particularly worried about it -- if it's meant to be, it will happen. No sense in fretting...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The First Good News of 2010

Las Brisas is NOT closing 12/31/09! Paula, one of the owners, told us that last night.

To explain, this is our favorite mexican restaurant and we've been going there for nearly 30 years. The menu never changes (cactus soup, winter or summer) and that comforts Richie. When we first started dating (1981) I couldn't get him into a Mexican resto. He'd wrinkle his nose, look doubtful and say, "I don't think the water's safe..." (Not kidding.) Today? He'd eat at Las Brisas once a week if I went along with it.

Both owners and all of the help are related in some fashion or another. We remember Alex, when he was 18 and a busboy. We applauded when he got the scholarship and today he's in computer sciences with a wife and two little kids. Maria cut her waist-length hair and now it's nearly that long again. (Ponytail, don't get excited.) I think of them all as "Cousin."

What most casual diners don't know is that underneath the street-level restaurant is a huge room with a bar, bandstand, booths and entry onto a 50 ft. square patio - complete with a big fountain. The building is set into a hill to explain this layout.

We didn't know about it either until about five years ago when we saw tons of people coming in, opening a door by the kitchen entry and ... disappearing.

The minute I saw the space, I knew I wanted it for our funeral "afters." It was perfect! And then, in September, we were told the building had been sold and the whole shebang was moving to a new location in a shopping market! Bitter tears...

But it isn't going to happen! Our space should be waiting for us 50 years from now. The funniest part of all of this is that the man who was terrified of Mexican food is going to be memorialized in the basement of one! How funny is that?

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Christmas Surprise

'Tis the season ... to feel sorry for the mail person. But I do love the cards, letters and photos. Yesterday we got what I thought was a card from Sue, who lives near chicago. We've been friends since kindergarten so I was anxious to see what she had to say.

First surprise -- it wasn't a card, it was a cookie recipe! She stuck a Post-It on it that said, "No, Nina -- my cards are not done ... I'm still baking cookies!"

She sent it to Richie! She knows I can't bake worth a damn!

Sift together and set aside:
2 cups flour
1/2 teas. salt
1 1/2 teas. baking powder

Cream together until light and fluffy:
2/3 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teas. vanilla
1/2 teas. almond extract

Add the dry ingredients and blend.

Take one cup of mix out of the bowl and add three drops of green food coloring to it.
Add 1/2 cup diced pistachio meat. Form it into a 10 in. long roll and chill for 15-20 minutes.

Go back to the cup of white dough and form it into a 10 X 4 rectangle; chill.

Wrap the white dough around the green "tube" of dough and slice the cookies 1/8 in. thick. Put them on an ungreased cookie sheet, giving each about 3 in. of space. Bake at 375 for 8 - 10 minutes.

Note to lazy readers like myself: Trader Joe sells bags of pistachio meat. Shelling them, then dicing them... more work than I want to do! Or, rather, have Richie do! I. Don't. Bake.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmases Past

The LA Times columnist "Ask Amy" was so bemused by the letters she got from advice readers on "My worst Christmas present ever" that sheAlign Right has a Web site for them.

I was reminded of our first Christmas 28 years ago. Richie gave me a bottle of Shalimar (perfume, not cologne) and a rubber bathmat! He said my tub bottom was slick.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Lone Voice Crying in the Wilderness. Again.

(That would be me.) What new groundswell of indignation can I attribute this to?

Two days of headlines (Drudge and elsewhere) "Houston May Elect/Elects First Openly Gay Mayor! What is so important about including a person's sexual orientation into a political or religious discussion/election? I'll tell you - nothing whatsoever!

What? Houston Elects First Closeted Gay Mayor? Clandestine Gay Elected Mayor?

It may come as a surprise to many, but Texas has just as many homosexuals as any other place. Don't let the cowboy image cloud reality.

To get to a source, I ranted about this to a friend (who is gay) and he replied, "She's a lesbian (as in "Who cares?") I reeled in shock. He went on to say that "Your city (RB) elected the first gay mayor in the country - how's he doing anyhow?" (Not phrased that politely.) I immediately fired back a missile on "accepting others" "individual prejudices ("I hate Obama/the Nazis/HiHos) are perfectly acceptable, but not group generalizations!"

He's laughing (loves to set me off) and I'm still fuming! Damn AP style!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Very Bad Idea - It Could Get You Killed

Many US cities have tours - historical buildings, old churches, botanical gardens. Few of them could be considered in any way dangerous. Cemetery #1, just outside the Old Quarter, New Orleans, is perfectly do-able -- in broad daylight with an established guide.

But now, a former gang member - one Alfred Tomas - is promoting "LA Gang Tours!" For $65 per person (presumably round trip) one can take a small tour bus past the LA County jail, Skid Row, the birthplace of the Black Panther Party, the Jordan Downs Housing projects, a graffiti lab 9?) and (shudder) South Central among others. Purpose? Ticket profits (if any) are set aside for gang improvement.

Tomas says he has set up a cease fire agreement among three of the most powerful gangs. "This agreement will allow young people and children safe passage through gun fire-free safety zones." You'll note that nothing was said about adults.

Tomas, formerly a South Central gangster himself, is now the director of the mobile food truck ministry with districts in both Blood and Crips housing developments. His mission statement (a phrase I hate, by the way) is to give hope to drug addicts, alcoholics and he said, "For every single mother struggling to pay her bills, don't give up!" How about "Make the worthless father get off his hind end and pay you money every week"? Nothing mentioned about that.

I did some research and found that: The Crips number 93 gangs in Los Angeles, 22 in Compton and another 11 in Long Beach. For a good explanation of the Bloods, go to

Since gang membership depends mainly on respect as a key ingredient -- and to dis someone is an instant death (not threat;) since many of them are not in full possession of their faculties (to say the least,) don't you think it has occurred to gangsters that tour buses, full of gawking strangers, are anything BUT respectful? To a gang member, finding a defenseless bus full of whales (i.e. people with money) has got to be a blessing from above!

This ran in Sunday's LA Times letters:

"I am going to get in touch with LA Gang Tours to get them to do a "drive by" on the house where two of my setp-children died due to gang activities. One son is left. Perhaps, if they get there in time, he can stand on the porch and wave.

"My late husband was in the same gang as his deceased sons. I bet he would turn over in his grave if he knew there was a possibility they could be exploited by this tour."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Vanity Tops Gullibbility

The Japanese have given us a number of cultural "oddities," if you will. In no particular order, Hello, Kitty, the Tamagotchi or Nano babies, Anime and the See-Through Skirt -- regular skirt material overprinted with a woman's body in underwear. Think of our t-shirts with the muscular dude or the well-endowed woman.

Now comes this* - Collagen is a long-time wrinkle filler; it's injected into the crease. It's now available in Japanese foods such as soft-shell turtle and pig's feet and Japanese woman are said to be cramming them down in the hope that the collagen will rise to its true destiny (so to speak) and depart from the stomach into facial wrinkles. The newest product is a slice of cheesecake! The manufacturer says each slice contains 1,000 milligrams of collagen.

Annet King, of the International Dermal Institute said, (scornfully I hope) "There's no way that eating collagen boosts collagen in skin." Drop the pigs feet, ladies, and have a steak instead.

* Source: January issue of "W"

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cookie Masters -- and Their Monsters

When Richie began dabbling in baking, he found the Thurs. Writers an excellent source of feedback. They became his personal taste test staff. Yesterday he dazzled them with --

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teas. backing powder
Pinch of salt
7 T sweet butter, softened. NOTE: When he went to roll the dough into balls, it crumbled; needed more butter so keep that in mind.
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teas. vanilla extract
1/2 cups chocolate chips to finish.

Mix the flour, backing powder and salt together, set aside. Beat the butter until creamy; add the sugar. Beat a bit more, stir in the vanilla. Gradually blend in the flour until you have a soft dough.

Shape the dough into small balls, put them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and make an imprint in each cookies' center. Bake at 350 for 16 - 18 minutes until firm and golden brown. Melt the chocolate and fill the indents.

He took them 12-14 cookies in a plastic box and brought the box home ... empty.

Then my sister e'd in a panic! Did I have THE Sugar Cookie recipe? She and our mother made and decorated them every year until Jane married and, in time, she and her daughter made and iced them. Happily, she'd only misfiled it, but I e'd it to her anyway.

3 cups flour
2 teas. baking powder
1 teas. slt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 teas. vanilla
1/4 cup milk

Sift tother the dry ingredients, cream the shortening and sugar together and the the eggs and beat.
Alternate adding the dry ingredients with the milk and vanilla. Let chill for about 2 hours.
Roll out and cut with cutters -- a star, camel, Santa -- and bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes. Makes about 2 dozen.

I don't bake; I got to Trader Joe's for a box of Pfeffernusse, a German, spicy cookie. These have a wonderful crisp covering that breaks into a soft cake filling as you devour them.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Devilishness

Due to the fact that the new computer only accepts CDs for storage -- and not the 3 in. "floppies" I'd stored the Christmas addresses on, I had to labroiously re-type the whole thing.

But as I did, I thought of the people who would be receiving them ... "Will so-and-so still be in the nursing home?" Of old neighbors, 20 years gone, "Their boys must be in college by now!" I love getting Christmas letters, too. The more information, the better! One card's letter said they'd re-done their kitchen (appliances and all!) and re-landscaped their (huge) backyard. I thought, "Damn! Wish I'd known that before they did it -- I could have borrowed some money from them!"

But I also got to be the terrible, snide, evil person God meant me to be. If you haven't sent us a crd in three years, you're history! Ta!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Our Social Climes editor is back at her desk, ready to report on the Vanguard's last meeting.

"Good afternoon. This venue was held in the 12th (and top floor) grand ballroom of the Double Tree Hotel, Torrance. Upon entry, the space unfolds into three shallow levels, each with tables of 10. Seating was assigned by table number and then place cards. One's place card was either yellow (chicken) or orange (salmon.)

"The menu began with bread rolls and butter, followed by salad, choice of ranch or raspberry dressing. Entrees were either chicken or salmon with a version of potatoes au gratin and steamed broccoli, squash and on some plates, a carrot round. Dessert followed with coffee and was a dense chocolate cake slice.

"On the way home, I asked Richie "What was that bird on the plate? A pullet? Miniature chicken? (Naturally I didn't touch mine -- a dark brown half with leg, wing and slice of breast with rosemary stuck hither and thither on it.) He replied, "Dunno - might have been pigeon (referring to the size) - it was okay." The master sleuth then added, "Didn't you eat yours?"

"A designated prize (your name was called out) and then a drawing for cash money. Not expecting to win anything (not a member) I repaired to the Ladies Room where, from my seat, I heard, "Neena Murphy! Neena Murphy!" (pause) "YOU don't look like a Neena!" as Richie collected my prize.

"As the grande finale, a man named Kimo came to the lecturn. He reminded those present that he had been a founding father 29 years ago, he listed some of the groups achievements. Participation as support staff for the LA Olympics, charitable work, long association with Toys for Tots, he told us The Last Joke. In previous meetings Kimo always told a bunch of old online jokes, all of whom I had heard before, some as many as within the last 10 years. His final joke:

A group of nuns went to a baseball game, in full regalia - gowns, wimples, starched hats. The guys behind them couldn't see the game and began deliberately talking loudly to be overheard.

First guy: I think we should go to Wyoming - I hear there's only 50 nuns there.
2nd Guy - No, North Dakota -- there's only 28.
3rd guy - "No, no -- Maine - there's only 14!

At which point the Mother Superior rose to her full height, turned and said, "Why don't you go to hell - there's NO nuns there."

Told you so ...

Prattling ...

Brr Fer Sure!
At 6:12 this morning, it was 44 outdoors and 55 in our living room. Into winter mode at warp speed! Turned on the gas wall heater in the upstairs hall full blast, waited 15 minutes and then turned on the dining room ceiling fan at it's lowest speed. Warmth spread.

Our house, like many along our street was built in the '60s and while they are all solidly built, they are not insulated. Then as now, central air is not needed (one mile east of the beach) so minimal heat was provided.

We use our next-door neighbor's garage roof as a weather channel of sorts. It's flat, rain water pools on it and we can estimate rainfall; rain drops ripple the sitting water so we can see exactly how heavy any rain might currently be. This morning Richie reported he saw a thin glaze of ice on it.

I have learned (over approximately 24 years) never to remonstrate with Richie, "It's winter, dammit!" because he will smugly reply, "It's not 'winter' until December 21st which is the shortest day of the year." (Unspoken 'So Ha!') This response only raises my blood presssure, so I have learned to say, "Brrr! It's cold!" No one could argue with that.

The Tiger Woods Furor
I am genuinely not getting it. Mistress after mistress (allegedly) comes forward. So what? If you've read dan Jenkins' "Dead Solid Perfect" (and you should) you would know that his life style is more the norm than not in the golf world.

I say if you want scandal, you've only to peruse the items about Angelina and Brad -- six kids and not married yet! Now that's a shanda!

From the Ridiculous to the Sublime
This morning the upstairs toilet was blocked. Richie just finished snaking it out and reports that it is operable. Now he has to shave, shower and get into his finery for today's last Vanguards Christmas luncheon. I do think a champagne toast to their illustrious past would be appropriate since I find champagne suitable for every occasion. Especially if someone else is paying for it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Two Books...

"Barack and Michelle - Portrait of an American Marriage" by Christopher Anderson William Morrow 326 pages $25.99

This book is basically a rehashing of the stories about the Obamas during the long campaign. Yes, she is a controlling woman; he is the dreamer who believes it'll all come out all right (against all evidence to the contrary would be what Miz Obama would say.) Yes, she does run him like a train; yes, he likes it and considers them a true partnership ...

Moving on ...

"Even" by Andrew Grant Minotaur Books 341 pages $24.95

Author Grant is a former telecommunications executive, who lives in the UK with his family. This is his debut novel and judging by the list of authors who endorse him (Nelson DeMille, Tess Gerritsen, Ridley Pearson, Jeffrey Deaver to name a few) he is very, very good.

But I had a hard time getting interested. David Trevellyan, of Royal Naval Intelligence is a loner (much like Lee Child's character Jack Reacher) with a somewhat sardonic sense of humor -- veddy, veddy British, old chap.

But by page 40 I was interested. Grant's use of devices in ingenious (if somewhat James Bond-ish) and, of course, Trevellyan is able to take out whole regiments at once - without getting a scratch or scrape. Each chapter begins with Trevellyan's memories of childhood and then naval training which give you insight into how and why he thinks the way he does.

I look forward to Grant's second and since Trevellyan is alive and well at the end (which you ill note all through the book - not giving anything away here) I would imagine we'll be seeing him again.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bird Menaces and Child Pornography

A Korean Air jet was grounded just before take-off so that the crew could catch a sparrow that had come in through the jetbridge door and was flying around inside the plane. All of the 123 passengers dutifully exited the plane, got on a different plane and took off. Delay time? Three hours. Helluva'n agile sparrow or a bird-terrified crew ... you decide.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey launched an 8-day raid that netted them 1,236 geese. (What happened to the geese was not disclosed, but some people like them for Thanksgiving or Christmas meals.) Volunteers coated 1,739 eggs with corn oil so that they wouldn't hatch. Both acts came to a grand total of $50,000. You will be interested to learn that there are now 20 people licensed to carry shotguns on airport grounds...Wear an orange vest if you're boarding there.

A United Kingdom children's advocate group is up in arms. The full-body scanners being tested at Manchester Airport violates the laws against child pornography!!! The airport management argued back that the scanners do not constitute child pornography under the 1978 Protection of Children Act, but prudently backing down a bit, they have gotten legal counsel.

Source: Vanguards last newsletter after 35 years.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Race

Back in mid-October, I was felled by a virus on a nerve in my right leg. After about five doctor visits (two MDs - orthopod to neuro hand-off) it was decided that I have a "viral ridiculitis of the iliac femoral nerve." An anti-viral drug was prescribed and I took it. Happily the leg began to respond. The neuro assured me I'd be my old self by the first of the year.

Two nights ago, the very same symptoms began to show up in my "good" leg. Happily I had refilled the anti-viral Rx just before I was told "10 days only."

The race, you ask? Can the drug beat the virus before the next symptoms show up?! Bet to the drug because if not, I project that I'll be falling down all over again by Tuesday morning. I've got the weekend to load up on books and snacks before I reclaim Richie's recliner. C'mon on drug!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Oooh, Santa Babee!

We saw Santa tooling north on Aviation yesterday -- yup, red hat, white beard and what looked like the standard-issue suit -- all I could see through the window of Santa's shiny black Corvette. Santa's not at the North Pole anymore; he's gone Hollywood.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Official Proclamation!

As the Honorary (and imaginary) Mayor of this town, I hereby proclaim that yesterday was the first day of winter in Redondo Beach. On December 2, 2009, the following events took place:

I woke up to find both cats sleeping on the leeward side of Richie - first time this season.
I wore my Ugg boots (ditto)
We received our first Christmas card - thanks! Kathy and Wayne!
Michelle sent us from France (at 10 Euros in postage!) a pair of Tintin comic books - in English! - and wrote that she was sending two "so that there will not be any fighting." As ever, the Peacemaker.

Thus - you may now begin decking the halls ...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tree Huggers and Greenies - Rejoice!

Up for adoption! For a holiday gift or for yourself...

Adopt an olive tree from the Nudo olive estate in the Italian Apennines - you'll receive four tins of the first cold-press-extra virgin olive oil in the Spring and three tins of infused olive oil in the Fall. One year - $150

Closer to home - adopt a maple tree - and get the syrup! You will receive a certificate, a photo (of the tree) and a package of products for each tap you purchase. per tap - $23.40

Adopt a rain forest tree! The purveyors state that it will never be destroyed or "commercially exploited" (How do you exploit a tree? Take pictures of it sans bark?) You will receive ownership documents with the GPS location for your tree, located in Biaciu, Brazil. $49.95 (Please google adopt a rainforest tree)

Stepping back from the woods - adopt a llama or an alpaca for 25 Euros a month for 12 months. A certificate, a photo with details about your llama, two free admissions to the Park along with their newsletter (Stay in touch with your llama!) Ashdown Forest Llama Park, somewhere in England.

The Adopt-A-Highway program (familiar to many a freeway traveler) exists in 14 states. The monthly fee paid goes to Adopt-A-Highway to actually do the trash pick-ups. Closer to home, Adopt-A-Street in Long Beach, CA. The cost varies based on location (1/2 mile long) and times per month it has to be cleaned up.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mr. Creative Has Another Brainstorm

Richie is tireless in his efforts to provide fun events for others. His suggestions to the Thurs. Writers have been largely ignored by them. They're really too old to go for a shot and a beer after critique, among other daft schemes.

Our leftover turkey provided him with a new challenge - make something with it! I was against this since our turkey had not been all that good to begin with.

Cartoon: a turkey stands alone in a barnyard, looking pouty. Caption: "You only want me for my breasts!" Our turkey was (to be charitable) a B cup at best. Just as I'd said, no one wanted dark meat, so the legs and wings lay forlornly next to a picked-over breast.

Undaunted, he disappeared downstairs to his lair yesterday and soon re-emerged, waving a French cookbook (Charles Virion's French Country Cookbook.) He had just the thing - and if it was good, he'd suggest it to Michelle for their Christmas leftovers!

HACHIS A LA PARMENTIER (Hash a la Parmentier)
2 to 3 cups leftover, cook meat (turkey, chicken, ham, veal) finely chopped
Minced onion sauteed in butter
1 egg
Finely-chopped parsley
Beef consomme
Bread crumbs and sesoning to your taste (he went with Italian seasoning and pepper)
2 medium-sized potatoes
4 T sweet butter
1 cup grated Swiss cheese

Mix the leftover meat with the onions, add the egg, parsley, consomme, bread crumbs and seasoning. Spread this in a layer across the bottom of a meatloaf pan.

Boil the potatoes and make mashed potatoes with the butter and Swiss cheese. Cover the meat with the potatoes and bake at 350 for 45 minutes, browning the top in the broiler at the end.

Basically, this is a meatloaf covered in mashed potatoes; "a la so-and-so" be damned. It turned out well, a nice winter comfort food. He was so proud of himself for using up the leftovers. "Waste not, want not" he cooed as he put it on the table.

This morning I was relieved that this latest burst of creativity had passed. Until, brandishing the newspaper, he said, "I'm going to re-do the kitchen!" I said, "No, Richie, you say, 'I want to discuss re-doing the kitchen with you.'"

He showed me the article which featured a kitchen photo with a long mirror, tilted over the stove top. "Are you expecting the Food Channel?" I asked dryly. "Not a bad idea ..." he said thoughtfully, lost in a new dream.