Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Please remember that tonight is National Amateur Drunks Night so please be careful. Stash cab fare in your shoe or hand it over to a trusted buddy that won't buy drinks with it. I can't imagine that a recovering alcoholic would want to go out tonight, but if you can find one, pay them lavishly to be your designated driver.

Stay safe -- I need all of the readers I can get! As for us? When the ball drops in Times Square, so do we!

I HATE the Rose Bowl Parade (rant)

Consider: This parade routinely draws half a million spectators who discard 65 tons of trash, cost $80,000 in police salaries -- 97% of the Pasadena police force will be on duty at a cost of $200 per man.

Going back into time, there is a Rose Bowl Queen and her Royal Court -- in 2011? Wass up with that?

The floats require 80,000 hours of manpower to build which is the equivalent of 7.42 YEARS in labor on them. Floats cost on average $50,000 and with 46 floats participating that works out to $2.3 million in float costs alone.

Non-commercial floats (like the Boy Scouts of America vs. American Honda) have the joy of paying $3,700 for a parade license. You'd think corporate would get that, not non-commercial. All floats require insurance and have to carry fire extinguishers. Those pesky engines that keep catching fire...

Every year, there is a truck that breaks down. Which is extraorindarily boring because then all of the announcers have to fill dead air by talking and it is rarely interesting or informative.

If the man hours and the costs were deflected into our sad schools or into job training, think how great that would be! I hate waste. The Rose Bowl Parade is a waste of time, money and energy. Bah, humbug.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Waste of Time/A Learning Experience

"Suck It, Wonder Woman" by Olivia Munn and Mac Montandon St. Martins Press 270 turgid pages $23.00

Munn is a 30 year old sorta-model; sorta-comedienne, self-described Nerd Girl. She is clearly greatly enamored by her appearanced. She has a program entitled "Attack of the Show!" on a channel called G4. Her book is a mismatched collection of anecdotes, copious photos of Our Star and cartoons (of her) drawn by her adoring fans. As a paean to one's own glory, it would be hard to beat.

Besides being vapid, her language is atrocious. I'm sorry, but by the time you're 30 - as she is - it's time to discard the toilet tongue, potty mouth.

"50 American Artists You Should Know" by Debra N. Mancoff Prestel 157 pages No price in or on book

Now this is an interesting book. I'm fairly hip on the major art names, but very weak on our American artists. Oh sure, Mary Cassat, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat...are a few that come to mind, but nothing like the number presented in this book.

All are presented in in order of appearance. The early guys were very often drawn to painting from another field (saddlery, lawyering and so forth.)

Intelligently presented with a timeline for each artist (and with no bad language whatsoever in stark contrast to You Know Who) it is a good read. After absorbing as much as I can, it's doubtful I'll ever be able to merely glance at an oil and knowledgeably say, "Oh, yes, that's a Charles Wilson Peale" but it's an enjoyable book, well presented and lavishly illustrated.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I'm Against!

Periodically, outrage boils within me and I give my thoughts on some popular cultural customs (which, quite naturally, I hate.)

Today's discussion includes female showbiz types who are what used to be called "bottle blondes." After having gone platinum on a whim, I discovered how expensive it is -- dye job every six weeks; special (expensive) shampoos and conditioners.

But: take a look at Madonna. Forbes estimates her wealth at $325.5 million, but in every recent photo, she's got a reverse skunk stripe down her blonde part. She's not alone - there were three more today alone in "Page Six." Tara Reid, actress; Reese Witherspoon, actress; and Lizzie Grubman, PR.

What is wrong with this picture, moralists of a certain age have to ask: "Nathalie Portman - Engaged and Pregnant!"

Expressions (cont'd)
We saw the movie "The Full Monty" and I wondered what it meant. No one seemed to know. I could only think of Field Marshall Montgomery who wore all of his ribbons/medals every day -- in war, no less!

Today I looked it up. Back in 1904 there was a tailor named Sir Montague Burton in Sheffield, England, who made suits. Customers would come in and order "the full Monty" meaning pants, jacket and waistcoat perhaps for a wedding or similar occasion. By 1906, he was doing a roaring business.

"Going commando" means "not wearing underpants." But ... where did the commandos come into it? The term may refer to an earlier custom in the Scots' armies where the men "went regimental" underneath their kilts.

Amusingly enough, in Chile the custom is referred to as "andar a lo gringo" - "To go gringo style"! C'mon, Chileans -- look to Scotland, not America!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


This is the "between season" for me when Himself won't allow me to strip the house of Christmas decorations until after New Year's (and it's sometimes a struggle even then.) Thus, stymied in that activity, my mind tends to wander. Today it rolled over to where did certain common expressions arise from?

"Fit to be tied" (which I said the other day) apparently comes out of the 1600s when the mad people of Europe were often chained to dundgeon walls. Reform began during the 1700s, happily. Later usage indicated the person needed to be inserted into a strait jacket.

"The cat's out of the bag" In medieval England piglets were sold in the city markets, customarily in a burlap bag called a "poke." Unscrupulous pig dealers might instead substitute a large cat for the piglet so customers were wise to open the bag and look.

Another possible explanation: shipboard punishment back in those days required that a new cat-o-nine-tails (horrible lash!) be made for each person being punished. The new "cat" was kept in a bag during sentencing and then brought out and used on the prisoner.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Misled! Lied To!

Hallmark birthday card

Front cover: close up of a lobster tank. Two lobsters are lolling on the bottom of it while a third is being lifted out of the tank by a hand and arm.

The trapped lobster is saying, "Did you hear that, guys? I get to go to a party in the hot tub!"

Inside: "May your birthday be full of only pleasant surprises!"

Sunday, December 26, 2010

My Sister Pulls A Fast One...

I have to hand it to her, she was so clever about it that I never suspected what she was really up to ... Here's what she did.

They live in Illinois, we're here in Southern California. Three days before Christmas, she e's to ask what we're doing for dinner Christmas Eve? I e back and tell her, "Bluewater Grill, Redondo" adding that it's become kind of a tradition to eat that meal near the marina so we can see the lit boats. She e'd that she googled the place and lucky us! And I e her back, "Good thing you mentioned it; I've got to call them for reservations!"

At the restaurant, we're given a primo table with a good view of the marina, but we count only three lit boat. "Ah, recession," we think. Richie enjoys his fish, my shrimp are good. Our server comes to the table and says, "What about dessert?" but we both say, "No! Thanks though!"

She says she'll be right back with the bill and sashays off.

When she returns, she walks right up to my side of the table, stares at me and says, "Are you Neena Murphy?" Startled at this, I said I was and didn't bother to correct her pronunciation of "Nina."

She leans back, grins hugely and says, "Your sister, Jane, paid your tab! You don't owe anything!" Richie and I gasp as one and our jaws hit the table top. "How the hell..." we splutter.

Jane cut a deal with the manager by e-mail and phone! How sly was that? I was on the phone to her as I cleared the resto door and she answered on the first ring. "How the hell did you do that?" I bawled.

She was giggling so hard she had trouble replying, "For once, little sis put one over on big sis!" she crowed. Damned if she didn't!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Tinsel on the Rug

Inquiring Minds Want to Know: How did the Three Wise Men bringing gifts to Baby Jesus turn into us giving each other iPods, gift certificates to Victoria's Secret and what not?

Christmas In A Box! Richie's wonderful cousin John, of Staten Island, sent one to us -- a tree ornament, two Pez dispensers - a snowman and a Santa; a tiny sculpture of a deer nibbling the carrot nose of a snowman; a little train engine pulling an Elsbridge Flour vat; a package of marshmallow Santa heads; a Grumpy Party Pooper - it looks like a dog and it poops jelly beans! and lastly, a beautiful little Christmas tree made of twirled red and white candy canes! And as if that wasn't enough, DVDs of old Christmas favorites! John, you da man!

And Nobody Cared - I wore my double strand of flashing Christmas lights necklace to the gym this morning and not one person seemed to notice it. At the jazz club, four different ladies asked about it. Guess that's the difference between music enthusiasts and gym thugs (haughty sniff.)

Good News! Pilsbury crescent rolls now come in a flat sheet of the dough. No dotted lines to tear, so you can easily make, say, pigs in blankets without have to twist/stretch the dough. How cool is that?

And Unto Them a Child Was Born

Congratulations to Lori and Keith and big sister Sasha Grace on the December 2nd arrival of Luke Michael, at 7 lbs. 12 oz., and 21.5 in. tall. Welcome to our world!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Old #383

Our friend "D" gave us his cabdriver. At the time, "D" was working out of state a lot and used to fly home for weekends. To get back to LAX in a timely fashion, he needed what was essentially his own driver. A guy he could call the night before or whatever and guy'd be there. Thus Frank.

Frank is "#383 on his cab; #1 in your heart." He and Richie are both New Yorkers (instant admiration society) and many are the interesting discussions we have on the way to LAX. But: only TO LAX. Frank's license doesn't cover picking people up; only getting them there.

It's a game to us - spotting Frank driving around here. Honks and waves! But today, intent on getting in and back out of Trader Joe's, we didn't pay any attention to the cab we parked next to in the lot.

I was moodily staring at the cheeses when Richie appeared at my elbow. "It's Frank!" and said, "and his wife!" "Where?" I asked, all ears. "Come with me..."

Frank, a mountain of a man, immediately grabbed me in a big hug and kissed my cheek. "Lila, Lila," he bellowed, "Come meet Nina!" She was about a third as big as he is and has long red hair. They were as cordial as could be and now we can brag to "D" that we've met Frank's wife!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Day 6: Mixed Skies

Dry going to the gym; schmizzling on the way home. Patches of blue sky off to the West, but all of the rest is dark to light gray. We shall see what the day brings...

Halfway through running errands this mid-morning, the skies opened up, but only briefly. It amazes me how quickly the sewers back up ...

This afternoon I went over to visit with Madame and it was dry all the way there. However, by the time I left it was pouring. And I was delighted! Truck got to go through God's carwash after all!

Now, sunshine is pouring in the kitchen window, but off to the East... black clouds prevail. (dum de dum dum...)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Day 5: Rain

Beach people apparently take exercise seriously. In our gym's garage this morning, there was a steady stream of cars looking for parking spots. I counted 12 on the way out of there. I also have noticed that when both sound systems are on and the treadmills in full throttle, the gym sounds like a Vegas casino!

It began to rain Friday so we prudently stayed in over the weekend. But on Monday -- in full storm -- we decided to go out because clearly between the two of us we don't have one working brain. We had to get my cousin down in South Texas a birthday card. That accomplished, we set off on a tour, meandering down past the beach, up to the RB Pier and marveling at the depth of the puddles on the road sides and in parking lots. The sewers weren't able to accomodate the onrush of water.

If you follow the news and are concerned about mudslides, don't be. Only a small portion of LA County has homes isolated enough to have one; the rest of us pretty much live in a concrete world.

I looked up winter solstice ( in the faint hope that it might include some kind of festivities involving over use of alcohol, but the only festivities occurred back in the Middle Ages and for this reason: cattled were killed and eaten because they required food in the winter and there wasn't any. Beer and Wine had finally fermented so they got drunk. And then people starved until around April. No thank you.

As far as noticing that the day is shorter, it's doubtful that we will. The skies are overcast, the rain is poundng down and we had to turn on the living room/kitchen lights at 2 p.m. yesterday.
And so it goes...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Day 4: Rain

For the past three days, we've had schmizzles, showers and sometimes wind-driven, plain old rain. We all seem to be holding up well, but I wouldn't want to speculate on tempers on Christmas Day -- with yet another storm scheduled to pass through. Ah well, that bridge when we come to it.

The weekend was spent reading, which is the best occupation in weather like this. Comfy chair, good reading light -- box of chocolates or a bowl of popcorn... here's what I managed to get through (while doing as little housework as possible, you may be sure.)

First, when your mother decides to off herself -- "Imperfect Endings, A Daughter's Tale of Life and Death" by Zoe Fitzgerald Carter Simon & Schuster 254 pages $25

Aged 75, Carter's mother decides she wants to die. Medically, she has: congestive heart failure, asthma, chronic pulmonary diseae, osteoporosis, arthritis, low blood pressure (which causes her to pass out unexpectedly) and Parkinson's. The Parkinson's has progressed to the point that she has had aphasia (unable to speak) and dyskinesia (uncontrolled writhing.) All of the diseases seem compatible with a 75 year old body except the Parkinson's and she has had it for the past 20 years.

But: she's determined to die and, being a control freak, she's going to do it her way. Assisted suicide. Her three daughters are horrified. It was an interesting read and the way it all came down was satisfying to the participants.

Look out! Loose cannon! "Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness, Only More So, A Memoir" by Mark Vonnegut, MD Delacorte Press 203 pages $24

Both sides of his family tree sprouted people who were mentally unstable. His father was the late Kurt Vonnegut, a man not especially noted for his serenity. It's no wonder Mark was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. He was hospitalized several times, but triumphed to enter Harvard Medicalschool at the ripe old age of 28. He proved to be a good doctor with a sure grasp of his speciality, pediatrics.

It was encouraging to read the story of a man who overcame a severe handicap to become a productive member of society. His is a sly wit and he can make you laugh before you realize you're doing it.

"Poor Little Bitch Girl" by JackieCollins None of the main characters are sympathetic (spoiled movie star daughter; cokehead DJ and pimp ...) the plot is extraordinarily weak and the writing style would be most suitable for a book for teens.

Why? you ask? See headline.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Death in the Family

I am saddened to report the death of my nephew Steve's Doberman Pinscher, Kane (short for "Hurricane.") He was a thoroughbred in every sense of the word.
He delighted Steve, Steve's parents and sister as well as all of the people who met him. He was euthanized yesterday as a result of serious post-operative problems after Wobbly Neck surgery. He was nine years and six months old.
RIP Kane, you brought a lot of joy and you will be sorely missed.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Be The Hit of The Party!

Flash photo doesn't show it, but the red nose blinks. $5 at Pier 1 Imports. Why, yes, it is Made in China -- how did you ever guess!

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Office Christmas Party

In 1996, when I self-published my first book, I decided it would be prudent to get a California DBA. Thus Murf Ink was born. Richie didn't retire from a Major American Airline (MAA) until 2003 (I think) so every year, I would grab whatever book I was reading, go to McDonald's and have a quarter pounder, small fries and a caramel sundae and eat it in the car. This was my office Christmas party and I was well content with it.

Richie retired and although he's not listed at all on the DBA, he now gets to go to the office Christmas party lunch. I didn't put him on it as while I had/have no idea what I could be sued about, his pockets are deeper than mine. Frankly, if you decide to come after me financially, don't waste your time. You can't get blood out of a turnip nor money out of me.

All week long, he has been agitating about this free lunch. He claims, "Staff are dissatisfied; they're beginning to grumble!" I consulted "staff" two cats and a cockatiel and the bird looked bored and both cats were asleep. So much for dissension in the ranks.

Today, he (who has nothing to do with the DBA; I am listed as OEO or only executive officer) decided we would lunch at Creme de la Crepe, Hermosa Beach (previously reviewed.) Off we sailed. We each had a savory crepe, a dessert crepe and he had a cup of coffee. The tab came to $40 (before tip) and I thought to myself, "This is a pretty far cry from a $1.75 hamburger." Back then I was making money and now I'm not. Do you think maybe I got something wrong here?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Thurs. Writers and the Love-Sick Squirrel

Today is the annual Christmas lunch for the Thurs. Writers. It's a tradition to lay aside our normal projects and contribute something funny, saluting each member, or else a poem in that vein. Bob's are famous; he calls each effort "My beautiful poem" and I mutter under my breath, "Doggerel." Naturally, Gentle Reader, you are not likely to know any of the cast in my story, but I want to see how it goes AS a story. With no further ado ...

It was a bright, sunny autumn afternoon and the Thurs. Writers had finished another spirited, but helpful series of critiques. We lingered as we exited the Veterans Park senior center, chatting in little groups, enjoying the fine weather.

Suddenly, Joyce looked down and said, "Oh! how cute!" A handsome-looking squirrel was sitting just by the toe of her shoe, looking inquiringly up at her. (Not a great distance as Joyce is not very tall.)

"I wonder what it wants?" she asked the group, but the squirrel itself answered her. He leaned his head forward, putting it delicately on the toe of her shoe, then turned his neck and gazed adoringly at her.

The squirrel was in love!

"This will never do!" sniffed Donna. "Squirrels are nasty things; they're just rats with bushy tails. We need to chase it away -- here, I'll poke it with my ski pole" and she did poke it, but gently. The squirrel shot her an angry glare. She backed off immediately.

"Nonsense!" bawled Peggy, "Let me take care of this -- I'll swot the damned thing with my lucky prospector's bed pan!" and so saying, she tossed it at the squirrel. He dodged easily, glared at her and then turned his admiring gaze back on Joyce.

"Damn it all, this is unacceptable!" huffed Dale. "I'll just run home, unlock my gun cabinet and ..."

"Dale! It's against the law to shoot stuff in a public park!" shrieked Nina. "Remember how you and Bob almost got us kicked out of here for having wine at the last Christmas party? You shoot off a gun and they'll have us all in jail!"

"No need for guns," said David and began softly singing "Danny Boy." The squirrel looked at him suspiciously. It almost seemed as if it regarded David as competition. It narrowed its little black eyes. David smiled encouragingly at it, but the squirrel once again turned his affectionate gaze toward Joyce.

Bob, who'd been studying the developing situation carefully, helpfully volunteered, "If a couple of you can catch it, I'd be happy to trip the toilet flush lever..."

No one wanted to try that. The situation was at an impasse until, suddenly, all eyes turned to Emma's big Mercedes, clearly visible in the parking lot. Our heads swung back to her, but Emma flapped her hands dismissively, "Nuh, uh, I'm not running over that squirrel with my Mercedes! No, no, not me!"

"Oh, Lerri," said Joyce, "Can't we take it home?" Lerri shuddered and said, "Mom. The dogs."

"Oh, that's right," Joyce said.

But then the group saw a second squirrel -- just its face as it peeked around the base of a nearby tree. It made a funny noise and the amorous squirrel gave a great start! Ashamed, he tucked his chin into his chest. The strange squirrel emerged from her observation spot, walked over, grabbed the love-sick squirrel's ear in her teeth and dragged him away.

Bob and Dale looked at each other. "Women!" they chorused, "They'll ruin a good time every time!"

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Santa As a Tax Write-Off

We sent out 89 Christmas cards this season.

Cards $54.00 (purchased 12/26/09; thanks a lot, Richie)
Postage $39.16
Xeroxing $1.25 for 25 Christmas letters

Grand total: $95.66

Because the 25 Christmas letters also contained this blog address (promotion) I can write that amount off!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Horizontal Goldfish

Tenderhearted Readers, this is a sad story of love and death among goldfish. Kleenex at the ready, here we go --

On November 24th, we had three goldfish (50 cents each) in a 10 gal. aquarium on the counter beteen the kitchen and dining room. We have had goldfish on and off for the past 25 years. After the first couple of years, I quit personalizing them with a name; they died to quickly. It's a freak goldfish that lives as long as 10 years. Frankly, 10 months is a good life expectancy.

On November 25th, I noted the fatal beginning of the goldfish traditional demise. It was lying on its side on the bottom of the tank (once down, never up again.) Unusually though, another goldfish seemed to be taking care of it. It would hover, gently nudging the prone goldfish with its mouth and body as if to say, "I'm here; it's gonna be okay."

This sorry state of affairs continued for five days; an exceptionally long period of time. It drives me wild when a goldfish dies as they always seem reluctant to go ... and I always stupidly think, 'This one's gonna make it!" The rare exception (in my experience, anyhow) is the goldfish that's fine Monday night; dead Tuesday morning. I really like that in a goldfish. None have ever lingered as long as this one did. I finally discovered it stone, cold, dead the morning of December 10th.

The "nurse" goldfish seemed none the worse which made me curious: had it been being friendly to a fallen companion or (sinisterly) cannibalizing it? So I looked it up. had this to say about goldfish:

Goldfish rarely hurt each other deliberately, but food is such a driving force with them that in competition for some, accidents can happen. Goldfish are "gregarious" (their word) and can come to recognize their feeder as well as the time of day they are fed.

Remembering that wikipedia is not always accurate, take what follows with a very large grain of salt: Goldfish can be trained (using positive reinforcement, i.e. food) to do tricks such as doing the limbo, slalom, fetch (with what?) and SOCCER. C'mon, wikipedia -- pull the other one; it's got bells on it.

But I am adamant: when these last two die they will be the last two for quite some time. The trauma of this one's death is just too raw, too fresh. Besides I need to scour out the aquarium and replace all of the rocks and fernery.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas at the Jazz Club

The South Bay New Orleans Jazz Club meets the second Sunday of every month so despite the fact that Christmas was a good two weeks away, the members were ready to bring it on right now! On entry, each of the 25 to 30 woman was given a Christmas tree ornament made from a plastic champagne "cork," made by a particularly creative member. Beaded with gold studs and thin gold wires, they looked like chandeliers. I found myself rather enviously wondering who had drunk all the bottles of champagne...

Red was the predominant color -- women in red sweaters, blouses, jackets; men boasting red shirts and socks. Several of the men had on Santa hats, but none was as good as Richard T's. He fiddled with something at the back of the hat and the hat top which had been in a floppy position near his shoulder began to rise to what I can only call a full erection! And then it waved around, side to side! He said he got it Card Smart, Hawthorne Boulevard, Torrance.

I was wearing my Christmas lights necklace and several women admired it and asked where I got it? Hallmark Cards, $12. It's particularly noticeable set on "blink."

The featured band was Night-Blooming Jazz Men (isn't that special?) under the baton of a rather crusty leader. He announced the key of each number to the band and asked that they try to find it this time. He told us that the band plays Christmas songs only once a year -- right here and at no other place.

It was certainly ... different to hear carols with a New Orleans jazz beat. "O Christmas Tree" rocked the house. Four couples got up to dance to "Silver Bells" in 3/4 time as a waltz. The drummer helpfully held up and rang a little set of bells at each chorus.

I began to be glad they hadn't tackled "O Holy Night" until I remembered the New Orleans funeral classic, "Just A Closer Walk With Thee."

All in all, it was a great afternoon. All of the musicians were in good spirits and enthusiastically played and sang. Thank you, Gentlemen!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What Is Wrong With This Picture?

Richie's electronic thermometer says it's 81 outside, 71 inside.
And I am wrapping Christmas presents!

Friday, December 10, 2010

This Just In

A group of wacka-dos plans to disrupt the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards tomorrow by gathering across the street from the church where the last rites will be held and waving anti-Elizabeth placards.

The group is the Westboro Baptist Church, of Topeka, KS., led by lead wingnut Fred Phelps, Pastor. Most in the congregation are members of his extended family.

A photo showed a placard which said, "Thank God for breast cancer."

They have gone too far.

Granted the Edwards were not the most admirable couple in North America; criticism is certainly due them for some of their behavioral choices, BUT: disrupting someone one's funeral is totally Beyond The Pale.

Normally I am as anti-gun as one can be, but for this? Justice would be served if the NRA showed up, armed, and scared them off like you would crows on your wheat field! Since, alas, it's too late to clorox their gene pool...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

World's Longest-Titled Cookies...

Cousin Marvin, down in Harlingen, TX, sent me this yesterday and said he was ready to roll -- no oven required!

Jack Daniels Old No. 7 Sour Mash Whiskey Balls (whew)
2 1/4 cups fine vanilla wafer crumbs
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup sifted Hershey's cocoa
2 T dark corn syrup
6 T Jack Daniels Old No. 7 Sour Mash Whiskey
dash of salt

Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Roll balls using 2 T of mix per ball then roll the finished ball in cocoa or powdered sugar. Store in a sealed container. Makes 4 dozen +/-.

Another good thing that travels well -- Patron English Toffee
(This is so simple that I can make it; the tedious part is standing at the stove stirring for five (5) full minutes)

1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped and spread out on a pizza pan
1 1/4 cups sugar and 2 sticks butter, melted together in a quart saucepan
add in 2 T water
1 8-oz. bag chocolate chips

Cook the sugar, butter and water until the candy thermometer reads 300 degrees. When it does, stir for five minutes.

When done (it or you) pour the mixture over the pecans and then sprinkle the chocolate chips over the mixture. The heat will melt the chips a bit; take a knife and smooth them out. Let cool and then wham the pizza pan across the counter and break into bite-sized pieces.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Who Knew?

Richie wants to go out to dinner Christmas Eve. I'm always amenable to a meal out! I looked at the menu for Chez Melange (Robert Bell-Richard Franks mother ship) and immediately saw two things that I'd never heard of and certainly never eaten.

Tomato Nage - this turns out to be a broth flavored with white wine, vegetables and herbs. In short: vegetable broth with a fancy name.

Plugra Butter - "Plugra" is a corruption of the French "plus gras" (more fat) and contains 82% butterfat, not the more normal 80%. Thus you could make Alfredo sauce using only plugra and Parmesan cheese; no need for cream. So said Google at any rate.

Alas, nothing on the menu appealed to me so the quest is still on.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Last Words?

Elizabeth Edwards: Hah! I told you I was dying of cancer!

Rielle Hunter: I do! I do!

John Edwards: Hi, I'm John Edwards -- can I tell you about my dead son?

(What do you expect from two lawyers and a New Age bit of fluff?)

Monday, December 6, 2010

In Praise of Bathroom Books

The perfect bathroom books are 1 1/2 to 2 pages per story, all of which are self-contained when they end. Here are a couple of examples:

"Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog" by Lisa Scottoline St. Martin's Press 288 pages $21.99

I was surprised to see her as the author of a humor book as her previous 17 books have been feminist-tinged murder mysteries. She writes particularly of a female lawyer (Bennie Rosato) and her office full of women attorneys.

In this book she refers to two previous marriage partners as Thing One and Thing Two. Her daughter Francine has written a couple of chapters in the book, presenting a younger woman's opinions on various. Francine is 21; Scottoline is 45. Not a whole helluva lot of difference there other than world experiences.

"I'll Mature When I'm Dead" by Dave Barry G.P. Putnam's Sons 254 pages $24.95

Although Barry is now 63, according to my calculations, no one would ever peg his age at much more than 14.

In this volume of 18 new pieces (i.e. not cobbled together from previous newspaper columns) he offers his advice to first-time Dads, describes his son's wedding and explains to women why men do the things they are accused of doing and addresses other weighty issues.

Both have short chapters; each chapter begins and ends decisively. Doesn't get much better than that for a bathroom book.

Shameless plug: my book "Dispatches From a Born-Again CYNIC" is another one.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Betcha Don't Have One of These in Your Neighborhood!

This is usually parked over by Birney grade school on Grant Avenue. The Web site -
is not working or at least not for me. Perhaps this was used in some movie by the name of "Curbside Confessions"...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Up On the Hill With the Swells

Palos Verdes looms over us flatlanders with beautiful homes, smart malls and expensively-dressed people. How do I know this? We had lunch up there yesterday.

I've long been a fan of Robert Bell, a local chef-restaurant owner (with partner Michael Franks.) Their mother ship is undoubtedly Chez Melange with the attached bistro pub Bouzy. Bell tells the press that he had an Italian grandmother and one of his childhood's greatest pleasures was Sunday dinner at her house. Thus his newest restaurant Mama Terano. Remembering those days, he's doing a Sunday Family Supper, serving the food family-style (passed bowls and platters.)

Well, yesterday was Friday, not Sunday so let us move on. It's a split room - tables and a counter to your left, booths to your right. There's an outside patio for better weather. They have two kitchens, too -- cold prep and hot stove.

I ordered a smal Caesar salad ($5) a small salumi plate ($8) and we shared a small serving of mozzarella marinara ($7.) Richie ordered chicken cacciatore which came with a split, grilled artichoke and sauteed mushrooms on the side ($13.)

The Caesar was crisply fresh, the dressing didn't overpower. Both of us were startled to see that the mozzarella marinara came shaped like golf balls (but bigger) instead of the flat slabs we're used to. They were served on a folded dish towel on a plate with the marinara on the side in a cup. I took one, bit into it and got a shower of mozzarella juice down my front. Then I got it about the presentation on a dish towel!

Bell's trademark is a sort of sly wink and a nod at quirky foods. The salumi came on a cutting board; four slightly rolled pieces of prosciutto, six or eight rounds of dry sausage, a nice chunk of mozzarella and six rustic-looking green olives. I say "rustic" because several had a long, thin stem attached.

They weren't olives. Three of them were caper berries (the larger version of capers) and the rest were dwarf peaches in truffle oil! The peaches hadn't formed a pit; one just bites right into their very firm flesh.

Dessert was equally off-beat. They're served in a French water glass (500 kg?) and contain deliberate surprises in taste and texture for your tongue. I had the Nightcap "Coppetta" (It. for "cup") which had: maple ginger gelato, candied pecans (some in maple candy clumps) chocolate espresso sauce and biscotti. It was very good, but there was a lot of it. I mentally tried to invent an ice cream take-home box, but was unsuccessful.

Richie? he scraped his spoon against the glass to get the last drops of his New York Coppetta of chocolate and vanilla gelatos, cheesecake, cherry sauce and almonds.

We drank water; the tab was $47.19 and we added a 20% tip. Mama Terano, 815 Deep Valley Drive, Rolling Hills Estates 310-377-5757 - Sunday reservations a must; not really necessary the rest of the time.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Shakespeare By the Sea?

The specific play would be "Much Ado About Nothing" and it's an evil tale of friendship betrayed! Theft! Grand larceny!

"What?" you say? "In sleepy little Redondo Beach?" Nay, good sir, it is a neighbor of ours -- a clearly not-so-sleepy small town called Hawthorne.

Larry Guidi (GW-eedy) has been Hawthorne's mayor for the past 17 years. Today he was ordered to make an appearance in the Criminal Justice Center in downtown Los Angeles on December 16 for arraignment. Good heavens! Did he, like the denizens of Bell, CA, outrageously overpay himself? Er, not exactly.

He allegedly stole a commercial food mixer from an elementary school in the august City of Hawthorne! Statements vary as to the worth of said item. Guidi's lawyer claims it was worthless due to being some 30 years old, rusty, dirty and anyhow, it hadn't been used by the school for the past eight years. But wait! Anna Apoian, food supervisor for the district, claims that the Hobart A200 20-quart mixer could have been sold for $1,350 and the push cart it was on was worth between $50 to $100.

Guidi was caught on video surveillance taking both items (after allegedly "hiding" it in a storage facility by covering it with a black plastic bag) and putting them on his truck.

And who was the desperado who ratted him out and caused cameras to be used? His former best friend who worked directly for him at the school district -- Louis Velez. Guidi helped Velez get elected to the City Council in 2003, but Velez resigned in 2008 over accusations of conflict-of-interest when he rented a house from a local developer while also voting on the developers city contracts.

The theft occured last March; by April, Guidi was saying that, yes, he took it and moved it to a storehouse. But Velez testified as to a possible motive. He reported that he's seen Guidi's backyard pizza oven and remembers that Guidi told him he'd bought a food mixer to make pizza dough, but that Guidi also said it was too small. Velez added, "He makes a lot of pizzas for his family." And under his breath he might possibly have muttered, "Vengeance!"

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Sign the End Is Near

Moments ago, we spotted a white convertible -- ancient; in fact, the plates read "1923" -- heading East on Artesia with one of those magnetized signs on the passenger side that read: "Christmas has been cancelled; go directly to dying eggs"

You'd think the car's antiquity would have been enough...


Good - Alert readers will remember my love affair with Polar Fleece Funnel-neck tops. Curious I went back to to see if by any chance they made Polar Fleece pants and they do! Mine arrived yesterday morning and they are wonderful - a low, wide waistband that softly squashes belly fat and legs long enough to cover my Uggs to the foot. They were $24.95 which is pricy, so I checked out Target and while they have varous styles of tops/hoodies, no pants. Other sites listed were in Pakistan, etc., but Land's End tops and bottoms are made in Jordan.

Perhaps Not So Good - A catalog arrived for Richie the other day called "Joie de Vivre - Authentic French Specialities" - you can visit at

The front section covers various food products (fois gras, escargots, jams, jellies, etc.) But I soon became extremely suspicious of their mark-up in prices. Because we stay with Michelle in her condo, we cook and grocery shop; thus I know what Amora mustard (sort of the French's of France) costs and it is most decidedly NOT $6.95 for a 15.5 oz. jar.

The back half of the catalog covers bistro-ware, tea towels, oven pads, boxed cookies and so forth. One item did catch my eye and it is this: a doormat (made of coconut fiber so it'd last approximately 30 minutes in any rain) that has a horizontal line dividing it. If you are facing the front door, it says "Bonjour." If you are leaving the house, it says, "Au revoir" which I think is funny. But it's $30 plus shipping to have a laugh so ... fuhgeddaboutit.

Very Fair Price - They sell an 8-person raclette set for $119 plus shipping. "Raclette" is the French name for the Swiss custom of melting cheese at the table.

It's a rectangular or round grill top with an electric heating unit directly under it; then an open space of some 2 inches and the individual "skillets" to hold the cheese. The grill is used to heat up ham, salami, cured meats. The melted cheese is poured over boiled potatoes and the traditional garnish is those little bitsy French pickles called "cornichons." Each guest does his/her own cooking.

It's a great, informal way to entertain dinner guests and I recommend getting one. Comparison shop! Don 't buy the very first one!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Nursery Stuff

I hunted this up for friends who recently had a baby and showed it to dinner guests last night to see if anyone remembered what day of the week they'd been born. A gay guest hit the last two words, roared with laughter and said, "Oh, well - that explains it!"

Here's the poem:

Monday's child is fair of face

Tuesday's child s full of grace

Wednesday's child is full of woe

Thursday's child has far to go

Friday's child is loving and giving

Saturday's child works hard for a living

And the child that is born on the Sabbath Day
is bonny and blithe and good and gay.

"Sabbath Day" indicates that this is a verrry old rhyme.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Day After Thanksgiving

Driving to the gym we noted that the Kiwanis tree lot had unloaded and set up a number of Christmas trees, but hadn't yet cut the individual trees out of their bindings.

You could have fired a cannon across the gym and not run any risk of hitting anyone.

Our route home takes us past Debbie and Jeff's Christmas Tree lot (last week it was Debbie and Jeff's Pumpkin Patch complete with two live chickens) where a big truck from Sun Valley, CA, was being unloaded. Richie spotted a woman overseeing the unloading and got all excited that maybe that was The Real Debbie.

Such is the excitement on the day after Thanksgiving here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mandatory Phone Greeting onThanksgiving Day

Phone rings. You grab it and say this:

(gobble, gobble) Saaave me; saaave meeee" in a falsetto voice.

Guaranteed the caller will crack up.


According to Bon Appetit, this is what New Zealanders call a warm open-face sandwich. The recipe they gave is for AVOCADO TOASTIES WITH KIWI SALSA AND BACON

8 slices bacon, cooked, drained and set aside

1 T plus 2 tsp. fresh lime juice - set aside the 2 tsp. juice for the avocado
1 teas. honey
3 large kiwis, peeled and cut into dice
1/2 cup chopped, fresh cilantro (seems like a lot, doesn't it?)
2 green onions, chopped
2 teas. hot sauce
Mix together and set aside

1 loaf ciabatta or pain rustique cut in half horizontally. Using a large griddle, put the bread cut-side down on it and "toast" it until it's the color you want.

2 avocados, halved, pitted, peeled - mash them with the 2 teas. lime juice

Spread the mashed avocado over the toasted bread, top with a slice of bacon and some salsa.

But I don't think New Zealanders then say, "Bon appetit!"

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mothers and Daughters

First I read "Mama Makes Up Her Mind" by Bailey White. Unfortunately, I stupidly took it back to the library before I jotted down the publisher, number of pages (not many, it's a slim book) and price. Go to; I did.

White seems to have made a cottage industry out of living in the South; she has at least four other books out. She writes about the vagaries of living in the South and with this one, pretty much living with her mother.

Her account of Mama's doings -- a Volkswagon stored on the front porch; Mama always sleeps on the back porch -- reminded me strongly of Big Edie and Little Edie Beale of "Grey Gardens" but she's just not quite as insane as they were. yet.

Next up was "Tip It" by Maggie Griffin. Apparently there is a television program called 'Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List" and her 90-something year old mother has frequently appeared on it.

Kathy wrote her own biography; so here is Mom's which is, by and large, a lecture; don't dress your little kids like tramps and 'hos; why Bill O'Reilly and Judge Judy are her heroes and the book is punctuated with "witty" asides from Kathy. Based on her interjections, I would think she's kind of an angry objector with 'way too much mouth. I'm sure she would call it "biting sarcasm." To which I would say, "Not."

There are also 'way too many references to gay people and their lifestyles. I wanted to say, "Uh, it's 2010 now? They're queer and they're here? What part of that don't you understand?"

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mapping Mexico One Bite at a Time

Richie and I went for haircuts the other day. Dale, the Tonsorial Parlor, has been cutting my hair for the past 27 years (and Richie's even longer.) We go together not because of any separation anxiety, but because the street parking in Manhattan Beach is nearly non-existent. And there's no parking lot near Dale, nor, come to think of it, anywhere but downtown Manhattan Beach.

Dale raved about a new Mexican restaurant so naturally, we drove directly to it the minute he'd finished with our hair. No time like the present and it was noon...

Teresa's Mosaic Cafe, 150 S. Sepulveda, El Segundo 310-648-7212
Apparently, the "mosaic" comes from the different areas of Mexico represented on their menu -- Sonora and Oaxaca and New Mexico (dessert sopapillas, a puffy, fried tortilla served with honey and powdered sugar.)

My beef taco and cheese enchilada were very good. ($9.50) Of course, they came with rice and beans! But the rice was very different -- imagine draining and adding a can of Veg-All to the rice and then tossing it with shreds of white cheese (like mozarella) and letting the cheese melt into the rice. Richie usually doesn't eat the rice, but he certainly lapped this version up.

Some of the things that aren't usually found on our Mexican restaurant menus --

Cazuela - traditional Sonoran beef soup from dried beef and potatoes. Small $4.50; large $8

Topopo - a version of a tostada with avocados, tomatoes, eggs, cheese, black olives and green chiles on a crisp corn tortilla with beans. $8

Tortas (Mexican sandwiches) - warm Telera roll "smothered" with beans and mayonnaise (!) topped off with salsa de aguacate, tomatoes, jalapenos and panela cheese. Meat choices are: breaded top sirloin or carne asada or chorizo - $8 apiece.

Tamales de Elote - sweet green corn tamales $12

Lomo Adobado - Sonoran style roast pork marinated in red spices $11

Camarones al Mojo de Ajo - garlic shrimp served with Calabacitas con queso (squash, corn, tomatoes, onions and cheese.) $15

And they even have fried ice cream for dessert! $4 (As well as a full bar and a tortilla making stand.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Taste Testing

A photo in a magazine showed a platter of grilled shrimp that looked delicious. The caption read "Grilled Shrimp with ginger, chili flakes, honey, garlic and lemon." No recipe, no amounts, nothing.

Undaunted I assembled all of the above along with what the Brit "cookery" books call "a knob of butter" and started heating it up. I then threw in eight, good-sized shrimp and cooked them. When they were done, I spooned them out of the sauce, cranked up the heat and reduced it a bit. I served the shrimp over white rice with the sauce over the shrimp.

Next time, less honey, more ginger and perhaps minced real garlic. But it was good, just not as good as it could be. If you know this sauce, let me have the recipe, please!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Gift That (Presumably) Keeps on Giving

Yesterday's mail brought a catalog from an outfit called Heifer International, which modestly bills itself as "The most important gift catalog in the world."

The idea is that your donation pays for in part or in full a live animal (sheep, goat, cow, llama, honeybees, rabbits) to be given to an impoverished farmer who, after building the new animal a proper home and learning about its care, then receives that live animal. When that animal gives birth, the farmer must give one of the off-spring to a fellow farmer/villager.

Here is a partial price list for your consideration:
Gift of a goat or a pig or a sheep $120 Share of a goat, pig or a sheep $10
Trio of rabbits $60 share of rabbits $10
Flock of chicks $20
Gift of honeybees $30
Gift of a llama $150 share $25
Gift of a water buffalo $250 share $25

Countries listed as recipients include: Armenia, Arizona, Tanzania, Uganda, Thailand, Arkansas, Albania, El Savador, Kenya, Ghana, Guatemala, Ecuador, Georgia, China and Peru.

Learn all about it at This is not an endorsement of the program or the people who run the program, by the way.

Friday, November 19, 2010

It's Who You Know That Gets Your Book Published

"Paul and Me; 53 Years of Adventures and Misadventures with My Pal Paul Newman" by A. E. Hotchner Doubleday 234 pages $26.95

Hotchner wrote "Papa Hemingway" which was published in 34 countries in 28 languages in addition to 16 other books and screenplays. He and Newman met in 1955 when Newman appeared in a movie that Hotchner had written based on a Hemingway short story. In truth, Hotchner made something of a cottage industry of his friendship with Hemingway.

Both were at the start of their careers and would never have dreamed of the success Newman's food products would bring them. Hotchner and Newman were also partners in the Hole in the Wall Gang camps for cancer-stricken kids. They lived within 10 minutes of each other in Westport, CN. A favorite occupation was fishing at which both were dismally and routinely unsuccessful.

It's an engaging little book, full of anecdotes and gives insight into Newman's character. Hotchener claims that he was the exact same person in 2008 (when he died) as he was in 1955 when they met.

"This Family of Mine; What It Was Like Growing Up Gotti" by Victoria Gotti (and I'd bet $100 a ghostwriter) Pocket Books 379 turgid pages $27

To say that Victoria is a Drama Queen is understatement. She seems to be more than slightly ego-driven paranoid (if there is such a thing) as well. Describing hotelier Leona Helmsley's kindness to family during John, Jr's marriage, Victoria wrote, "The law enforcement types who approached her and asked to infiltrate the wedding were told 'no.' She was later prosecuted for tax evasion by the government in revenge." Right, Victoria, riiiight.

Victoria's younger brother was killed by a drunk driver while riding a friend's mini-bike. His mother had warned the youngster never to ride one; they were dangerous. He did so anyhow.

Several days after the funeral the kid who loaned the bike shows up at the house and asks when are they gonna buy him a new bike? The drunk who hit the boy lived directly behind the Gotti's house. He threw a noisy, drunken barbecue in his backyard. Mrs. Gotti heard the noise, grabbed a baseball bat and, in her nightgown stormed, around the corner where she proceed to beat the up the car that killed her son. The driver wanted to know who was going to pay for the damages! Not the smartest frocks on the rack ...

Immediately after his wife beat up on the car, Gotti took the family to Florida for a rest. Purely by coincidence, during their absence the drunk driver vanished, never to be seen again, dead or alive. Victoria doesn't think Daddy had anything to do with this; it was probably a friend of her father's who avenged this insult for him.

It's entertaining enough, but it's also reading about animal behavioral patterns, too.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Lunacy In Florida
A truck dealership is offering a voucher worth $400 for the purchase of an AK-47 if you buy a truck from the dealership. This offer was annunced to celebrate Veteran's Day! A critic of this plan said it might make more sense to give buyers a free flag and a pole to fly it for their front yard.

I think it's a terrible idea to give people AK-47s for this reason: the median age for Floridians has to be something like 102 years old. You really want to give a 102 year old a gun? Have you seen the way they drive in Florida!? They don't need guns!

Aw, Coo -- Prince William has finally proposed to his girlfriend. Certainly it was touching when he told the cameras that the reason he gave his fiancee his Mother's old ring was so that she would be a part of this event. (Aw...) However, given the fact they've been a couple for the past nine years and that she lives in his North Wales cottage...can't be many surprises on the old wedding night, eh?

The Dentist
I saw mine yesterday. He has an unusual way to administer the shots that numb your gums. He grabbed me by the cheek -- oh, very well -- by my sizeable wattles -- and began vigorously shaking my head! My eyeballs rattled around in my head like marbles in an empty Crisco can. I can promise you I never noticed the needle sticks. I remember thinking, "Man I'm so glad he's not my grandfather! Grandpa's coming - run like the wind!"

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

At The End, It Was a Sad Story

"Furious Love - Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and the Marriage of the Century" by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger Harper 500 pages $27.99

If you're old enough to remember the '60s, then you will recall what a scandal the Taylor-Burton affair caused. The Pope chastized them! I seem to remember they were banned in Boston... Double adultery, living in sin, much guilty moaning about "my children," suicide attempts, wild disbursements of cash to such as jewelers, hotels, staff (some 18 or 20 people on their payroll,) yacht brokers plus incidentals like Chasen's chili flown in to them in sites all over the world.

To say nothing of horrendous drinking bouts. In the end, it was Burton's inability to deal with drink (and Elizabeth) that did in not only their marriage, but his health. He died aged only 58. She, in her 70s, has slowed but by no means stopped. A month or so ago, there was a breathless media announcement that she was engaged ...and then the story abruptly died.

What amazed me is this: In their early careers, both drank like fish (Bloody Marys on set at 10 a.m.) but "delivered great performances, never missing a mark or a word." C'mon! I wasn't born yesterday. I've been drunk and I've seen drunks and none of us were coherent enough to star in a movie. That's a nice story, but it surely isn't true.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The New Neighbor

Not to brag or anything, but our new neighbor is a rock star. We met her for the first time as her shiny, silver convertible rolled smartly in to her driveway next door. When her chauffeur, John, had parked and her lady's maid, Angie, had fluffed her hair, the convertible top came down to reveal her regally enthroned in the back seat. She was just home from a jaunt to the beach (it was really a lovely day.) She stretched languorosly in her bunny suit as we admired her.

She is known professionally as Son Altesse but her real name is Ella. She was also just four days old! Yet, with what aplomb she greeted us...

She arrived at 10:05 a.m. on November 7, 2010. No height given and I know she'd kill me if I put in her weight (8 lbs., 13.4 oz - hah! She can't read yet!) Her Mom said it was a long process bringing her here - she's wide shouldered like her Dad -- but I prefer to think that the train of the royal robes got twisted around an intestine or something. We are talking royalty here...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday Silliness (Blog #700)

W is the magazine side of the newspaper Women's Wear Daily and covers fashion matters. The new one arrived yesterday ...

The Fat Whisperer is a "body therapist" in Pasadena, CA (Not my idea of a fashion capitol. Ed.)
She does spot reduction (butt and thighs) via a combination of wraps, glops, a vacuum machine and this: She whispers to the offensive cells, "I command you to get out. I listen to what emotion is in the cell membrane, then I talk to it. I tell the cell which way to move out of the body." (Barking mad. Ed.)

Here's a treat for the Greenies! Shoes made from recyclable plastic that cost $119 a pair. They are flats that are "chic enough to wear to dinner."

"All the romance and grandeur of a European castle, yet only 15 minutes from the DFW International Airport!" reads the headline above the full-page ad. Here's what you get for $8,950,000: 3.3 landscaped acres with a 19,000 sq. ft. house which has 8 bedrooms, 8 full baths, 3 powder rooms, 9 living areas, 4 full kitchens, 3 mini-kitchens, a cake decorating room, loggia and veranda, exercise room, pool and pool house, tennis court and tennis house with full kitchen and lavish guest suite, 7 garages, an elevator, nanny quarters, outdoor entertaining area with fireplace and bar.

There is an article on Sky Mall, the magazine of airline travel. I think we all need ... the Healthiest Deep Fryer - makes up to 2 lbs. of fried food using only one tablespoon of oil! $299.95 A sort of alien-looking mask that is worn 10 minutes per day to "achieve a 72% reduction in sagging." $149. The photo of a newborn looked so convincing that I literally jumped when I read it was actually the Cherish Baby Doll. (No price given) Why on earth would anyone want one? Only someone that was truly deranged was my conclusion. But then that could be said about me every time I renew my subscription to W ...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Neighborhood

We've seen two interesting things at the beach recently -- "beach" meaning the parking slots on the hill overlooking the Redondo Beach Pier and the sea. This is a frequent stop for us while out running errands. It's a game to see if we can see Catalina or not and it's usually "not."

The first was the sight of one of those block-long limos gingerly ooching itself up and over the speed bumps to pick up a wedding party, milling around the parking lot. Apparently, it was a wedding on the sand as all of the participants were barefoot, including the bride. Much laughter as they sorted themselves out and clambered willy-nilly into the vast cavern of the limo.

The second sight was sad. The other day one of our local scuba divers (this "beach" is one of their favorite areas to embark) got into a bad situation of some sort and was declared dead at the hospital despite the best efforts of the RB paramedics to revive him.

We'd stumbled on to the memorial. A group of people stood on the sand; a smaller number had gathered to form a circle in the shallow water. This group was wearing big white t-shirts (pulled over their street clothes) and they had a floating bouquet of flowers. What struck me was the trust of these people -- the sea had taken one of their own, but they forgave it and in fact had gathered by it to celebrate a life now lost to them.

Today the city of Hermosa Beach is dedicating (to whom or to what is unknown) all of the "improvements" to Pier Avenue, one of the two main drags in that fair city. These "improvements" it must be noted removed half of the parking slots on the street, took out even more space to have palm trees planted down the middle of the road and they were a real bummer for the businesses there during destruction and construction which ran from January to last week.

We drove down Pier after going to the library book sale, but though the dedication was scheduled for 10 a.m., at 9:50 a.m. there were only a few desultory efforts to get ready -- a couple of small tents on the sidewalk, a bunch of balloons tied at this door or that one. Not many people walking their dog or shopping either. Life is easy going at the beach. We like it that way.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bits & Bobs

"I Can Get It Wholesale"
I really enjoyed a glass of Zonin Prosecco at Tin Roof Bistro the other day. Crisply cold, tons of vertical spiraling bubbles ... Tin Roof prices it at $8/glass or $32/bottle which is 'way too rich for my blood. Next day we were in Trader Joe's and on a whim, I went to look at their wine stock. Zonin Prosecco $16.99/bottle.

Still the Same
Seven months ago, new owners took over the venerable Rosa's Mexican resto which has been right where it is since 1972. It's known for good, but inexpensive food. Longtime fans were outraged, horrified, you name it at the new owner news. We popped in yesterday and it's exactly the same. Same salsa, same break-em-up-yourself tortilla chips. We had a cheese enchilada and a beef taco apiece and the tab was $8. Rosa's, 322 Pacific Coast Hwy, Hermosa Beach 310-374-9094 Mon. - Thurs. 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Fri. Sat. Sun. 9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Fit To Be Tied (up in a Straitjacket)
Tuesday morning I have an 8 a.m. dental appointment to replace two crowns and get a filling. Due to the fact that I fear dental tools and human proximity, I prefer to be sedated. The less I have to know the better.

My personal space is about 3 ft. away from any point in my body. If you move in next to me at 2 ft. 11 in. I am going to start edging away. I'm not physically affectionate; I was raised that way (sniff.) So having the dentist and a tech literally in my face is not pleasant.

Sedation instructions were: take a 10mg valium before you go to bed on the eve before - here's the Rx for that. At 6 a.m. take the "forgetter" pill - here, it's in this little envelope. Be there at 7 a.m. for a second forgetter and the commencement of work.

Excuse me? I have an 8 a.m. but I have to be there at 7 a.m.? Despite my having stressed (repeatedly) to personnel there that I am a writer and writers don't do diddly before 9 a.m. Deaf ears ... selfish personal agendas (theirs; certainly not mine!)

I dutifully took the valium Rx in to the pharmacy yesterday and picked it up this morning. The dentist had checked the 1 to 24 supply box on the Rx so I'm all happy, thinking I'm going to get a nice supply of Mother's Little Helpers (Rolling Stones.)

It was one pill and that one pill was $11.99.

The only thing I can do is spin this thing like a politician. My mantra is now: the work that's being fixed is 30 years old; I'm 70 years old, this is probably the last major dental work I'll ever have to have...

Still doesn't make up for the indignation of absolutely having to be up at 6 a.m. and in an office at 7 a.m.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Honoring Our Veterans

Oldest Serving Vet Dies
5/15/09 Major Steven Hutchinson, 60, of Scottsdale, AZ, died in Iraq when a roadside bomb exploded.

Hutchinson, a Viet Nam vet, wanted to re-enlist the day after 911, but his wife objected. When she died of breast cancer, he did re-enlist in July of 2007.

Hutchinson was a pyschology professor at various California colleges, had had four marriages, no children.

It might be argued that he had poor impulse control (to re up the very day after 911 to say nothing of four wives) but certainly no one could possibly question his patriotism.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Letter To The Editor

One of the best ways to reach a number of people is to write a letter to the editor of your local paper and get it printed.

Ay, there's the rub -- get it printed. From experience, I tell you: keep it brief. Stick to your point and use the fewest possible words to convey it. Often the Letters column has just a little bitof space leftover and that's where your letter should be designed to go.

The Trump $12 million home not being news (at all) but an ad masquerading as news irritated me so much that I did indeed write to the Daily Breeze and my letter ran in today's paper. I boiled down the column to some 90 words.

I could have made it even shorter had I written:
Dear Sirs: So -- who's banging Trump's real estate lady?"
but I doubt they would have printed it.

Use discretion, sign with your name, address and phone number and know the thrill of seeing your name and, more importantly, your point of view in the paper -- without having to buy an ad!

Monday, November 8, 2010

(signed) Outraged Subscriber

It must have been a very slow news day because the Daily Breeze in its infinite wisdom plastered a huge photo of a woman walking barefoot across a wooden floor, shoes carefully held in her right hand as she peered at the camera through midnight black sunglasses. The photo and the headline "House With a $12 Million View" were above the fold.

As was the subhead, "Trump seeks buyer for lavish estate in RPV, where he's ever controversial."

Back story for non-locals: Trump has been at war with the city of Rancho Palos Verdes since 2002 when he bought the 261-acre site for $27 million. He put in a golf course; the 18th hole fell into the ocean. He put up a 70 ft. tall flagpole with an American flag (had he put up the Trump logo, he would have been promptly stoned to death) of commensurate size to the howls of outrage from residents above and overlooking the property.

Trump said, "I built the number one-rated golf course in the state of California and instead of saying, 'Thank you very much,' all they do is impede me." He called city representatives "nasty and incompetent."

In today's paper, he said, "Locationally, it's fabulous." Locationally? What language is Ego Central aka Donald Trump speaking?

Linda D'Ambrosi, saleswoman for the property, referring to a rumor that Trump lived there and was moving out: (It's) "one of the estates in Mr. Trump's personal collection." (Ed. note: Well, la-ti-dah)

What does your $12 million get you? The view, five bedrooms, an infinity pool flanked by two fire pits, inlaid marble floors, a full bar, a "huge" wine cellar and nine (9) bathrooms.

"It's a very special home for someone like Mr. Trump. It's a life style -- Palos Verdes," smirked D'Ambrosi.

If the Daily Breeze was trying to roil up the outrage at Mr. Trump and his various doings, this was not the way to do it. I'm outraged, all right, but at a more-or-less respectable local newspaper running a real estate ad disguised as "news" on the front page!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Experiment

Recently I read that the best way to re-heat a slice of pizza is to put it into a dry skillet and put the skillet over a medium fire. Reasoning? The crust will stay crisp. We had three slices of plain cheese pizza left. Time to slip into my lab coat and get to work.

I heated one in the microwave (one minute; medium) and it was soggy.

I put one slice in the toaster oven and set it on convection mode at 300 for about three minutes. Crust was crisp; top was pliable.

I put the last slice in a dry skillet and heated it slowly. Very slowly because you have to press down with a spatula to get all of the crust uniformly across the skillet surface. The crust stayed crisp and the top started bubbling.

Conclusion: if you're dying of hunger, nuke it. If you want "same as" the night before, put the slice directly on the wire rack in the toaster oven and do that. Having eaten three full slices, I had to go sit down, but I did it happily -- anything for my readers!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Richie's Big Adventure

He just left for the Chevron refinery, El Segundo, to hook up with Emma and Dale (both Thurs. Writers.) The three of them will board a posh tour bus and be driven all over the refinery while a Chevron employee tells them what they're seeing.

I have no idea what propels Dale (aerospace engineer) or Emma (retired grade school teacher) into the bowels of a refinery, but I certainly know why Richie's there. It's a free tour.

Richie loves "free" or even "nearly free." I think we all remember the recent Nathan's Coney Island hot dog caper? Billed as "Buy one at regular price, receive the second one for a nickel!"? And in his vast excitement, we arrived one full week ahead of time for this gala?

This is Chevron's third offering to a (supposedly) admiring public. I know this because Richie invited me to go the first one which I did and he dragged me, kicking and screaming, to the second. As it happens I hav a lot of uncles and cousins in South Texas and Oklahoma who were/are in the "awl bidness" thus a refinery is not all that exciting to me.

Chevron has very strict security, you must call them well ahead of time for the tour and make a reservation, including the full names of all in your party. Upon arrival, you must show Security a photo ID before your name is ticked off of his clipboard and you are allowed onto the bus which is, incidentally, quite fancy -- reclining seats, foot rests, big TV screen over the driver's head.

There are a couple of spots on the road that are quite exciting. This is becaue the road would only be considered two lanes if you were on a motorcycle. It is narrow; the bus is immense (comparatively) and there are a couple of very tight corners. I remember the driver having to back up once just to make a turn. Not quite a Disneyland E ticket ride, but when the back of the bus extends out, off of a cliff face, you tend to pay a certain amount of attention.

After about half an hour of winding around the refinery -- "We have our own fire department" -- "Employees use the bicycles in that parking lot to get around quickly" -- "We're proud of the fact that we have gone 3,452 hours with no accidents -- safety first!" -- you are deposited gently back at the offices where you started out.

I'm just as happy to be on my own at home. It looks like it's going to rain; all of the refinery buildings, fittings, pipes are varying shades of gray ... they can have it and joy to them!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friends of the Artists

Pat Cox (wife of Thurs. Writer Dale Cox) has works as part of a show now going on at the Zask Gallery. Pat is a "found" artist which means someone who can find/make beauty out of damned near anything. I don't doubt that Pat could take an odd piece of driftwood, two or three pearl buttons, a light bulb, an old jar and create something beautiful. To be a found artist means your eye must be accepting and imaginative.

One of the biggest pieces at the Zask Gallery is a rocket booster shell she bought from NASA! It was being sold as scrap!

We've been privileged to be guests in their home where we marveled at her personal gallery. I doubt they'd open their doors to just anyone (even a Word of Mouth reader) so do go to the Zask Gallery.

Zask Gallery, 31246 Palos Drive West (near Admiral Risty'[s restaurant) in Rancho Palos Verdes. Friday and Saturday, noon to 9 p.m. Sunday noon to 4 p.m. Tues. wed. Thurs. 5 to 9:30 p.m.

Lerri Peterson (daughter of Thurs. Writer Joyce Peterson) is a visual artist who paints nature in acrylics, water colors and pastels. She also teaches at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center. Visit her by going to

Lerri's works are part of an exhibit opening on Sunday, November 14th, from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Colortec Art Gallery, 24247 Hawthorne, Torrance 310-373-6717

Her mother, Joyce Peterson, is the artist who painted the Palos Verdes cliffs painting that adorns this column. She painted it as a card for my 70th birthday. Joyce is 92. I had it framed and it now hangs in our living room. Think how wonderful it must be to have that kind of talent -- to personally make something fine for something as mundane as a birthday card.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

It's a Numbers Game

Day before yesterday, I listed the cities in our area that are called the 53rd Assembly District along with total population (423,395,) people old enough to vote (340,064) and registered voters (256,619) because after an election, I'm always curious to see just how many people got up off their arse and wended their pensive way into a voting booth.

Voter apathy is such out here, that some years we have hated to interrupt the poll workers at their bridge game or knitting to give us ballots, but Tuesday's vote seemed lively. The parking lot was nearly full; there were a lot of people voting when we were there and poll workers reported a good turnout.

Today the LA Times printed the statistics that interest me:
53rd Assembly District
117,902 did vote (46%)
138,717 pulled a Meg Whitman and stayed home (54%)

Disappointing, of course, but bad as this is, it was still a major improvement.

More pointedly, Redondo Beach (pop. 60,000 +/-) had to vote aye or nay on a local issue and a lusty number of us did -- 19,236 total votes.
Measure G garnered 10,075 votes 'Yes" and 9,161 votes "No."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pumpkins Are Smashing!

The people who pack Libby's 100% pure pumpkin ran ideas for use of their product as something other than "just" pumpkin pie.

* Use canned pumpkin as a thickener in vegetable chili; a spicy stew, black bean soup or curry.

* Fat substitution - use canned pumpkin for half of the fat in quick breads. It will add color and flavor.

* A simple soup -- saute onion slices, add 4 cups of chicken broth and a 28-oz. can of pumpkin. Stir in 3 oz. of goat cheese and season with a pinch of nutmeg.

And when you do make that pumpkin pie, consider adding any of these ingredients -- brandy, rum, maple syrup, chopped dates, crystalized ginger or candied orange peel.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


The 53rd Assembly District is comprised of: Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, El Segundo, Lomita, Marina Del Rey and Torrance.

The population of this beach area is 423,395
Those of voting age number 340,046
Registered voters number 256,619 people

I can hardly wait to read the paper tomorrow and see how many people did vote. We normally vote in the morning, but this time held off until 3:30 p.m. to query the polling people and see how the turnout was coming along. To my joy, all said that it is better than has been historically.

Monday, November 1, 2010

1,657,137 Reasons to Vote

U.S. Military Killed in

World War 2 291,557
Viet Nam 47,355
War on terror 4,295

U.S. Military Wounded in

World War 2 1,076,245
Viet Nam 211,454
Iraq 36,231

Sunday, October 31, 2010

When the Tsunami of Greed Swept Over Me...

We went to Kip's, El Segundo (Previously reviewed as "I Like It") for the Sunday gospel brunch. We knew going in that it would be recorded music and not a live group which was fine with us. Mutable noise is preferable to people screaming with joy/religious fervor.

We were the only people there at 11 a.m. and that was lovely -- sort of like you're the Gotrocks and you call the place and say, "No other guests, please; we'll make it worth your while."

When Kip came to take our drinks order, I asked for a spicy Bloody Mary ... "Alas, it's a minimal bar on Sundays ... champagne? wine? beer?" so we ordered champagne. I assumed it was $5.50 a flute and was dismayed because my favorite champagne for home dirnking is $5/bottle. It turns out to be all the champagne you want while you're eating for $5.50. Richie joined me. I asked for the "hog planks" (thick bacon swathed in brown sugar, chopped hazelnuts and baked crisp as "a kind of appetizer."

We continued to study the menu. When Kip came back with the flutes, I sheepishly pointed to the menu and said, "Uh, and three of the coconut shrimp with sweet and sour ginger sauce?" ($8.50)

Richie ordered the Eggs Creole (eggs over easy on potato cakes with Andouille gravy - $16) and I the Cajun Bubble and squeak. The menu said poached eggs over potato cakes with a shrimp pork hash and chili Benedict sauce ($18.)

Some confusion arose when I saw and tasted it. The "hash" was sausage rounds cooked and sliced. Kip noticed my distress when I tried to switch plates with Richie figuring we'd been given the wrong ones. I asked "Is this andouille sausage?" and he said, 'It's a Portuguese sausage - made out of pork." Richie helpfully told him that I don't like sausage. I quickly added that I had plenty of protein (gesturing at the bacon and shrimp) that Richie does like sausage and I'd just take it home for him.

The bacon was sensational - "plank" is the right word for the long, narrow, very lean pieces of excellent bacon. The ginger sweet and sour sauce had a kick like a mule and was delicious. Richie practically licked his plate clean of the Eggs Creole. The tab came to $64.20 plus a 20% tip.

Now we have four good restaurants, of equal cost (pretty much) and quality. Tin Roof Bistro, Manhattan Beach; Hudson House, Redondo; Charlie's (formerly Cialucci's) and Kip's.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Find!

Every winter for the past 27 years, Richie and I have gone to war over the inside of the house temperature. He feels that 60 is bright and bracing, easily standable and I don't. Not by a long shot. Parenthetically, if you know of any place on earth that's a consistent 72 degrees, 'year 'round, please contact me.

We have an electric space heater that I set at 64; obligingly it turns itself on and off to maintain that temperature. It is never left unattended, despite the fact that if you so much as nudge it, all hell breaks loose audibly.

But: I think I see light glimmering at the end of the very long tunnel that is winter out here (overcast, grey and as low as 40 at night.) All by myself, with no help from the audience, I have discovered POLAR FLEECE!

Polar fleece is a man-made creation; probably of a bunch of chemicals whipped together into fabric, but O! that fabric is so warrrmmmm.

Originally, I was looking for a cotton sweater on the Land's End site when I discovered Polar Fleece Funnelneck sweaters. I ordered one; it came and I was impressed by the fit (sleeves and hem just long enough) and absolutely blown away by the fact that a pair of feathers might weigh more than it does, but the heat generated is awesome!

I promptly went back online and ordered three more. I have a three super warm sweatshirts (purchased in Cabo San Lucas; go figure) and with the addition of four WARM tops I am set for this winter and winters to come. polar fleece funnelneck $22 each for a woman's; check prices for men and children.

"Funnelneck" means a much looser fit than a turtleneck. Both help hold precous body heat IN.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Thought

As our thoughts turn toward voting next Tuesday, consider this...

"Numerous politicians have seized absolute power and muzzled the press. Never in history has the press seized absolute power and muzzled the politicians."
David Brinkley, 1920-2003

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Oprah-zation Of A Nation? Damn! Missed It

"Oprah, A Biography" by Kitty Kelley Crown Publishers 524 pages $30

What I gleaned...

Oprah is as much a brand name as IBM or Ford. She has cornered the market on all things Oprah. So much so, that all of her employees no matter how far removed from her physically are given a professional security firm's scrutiny before a 30-day test drive. Then they may be hired. She pays well, but forgets the creator of the idea's name. Harpo, her corporate identity is badly run; no one is in charge; everyone wants to please Oprah (and keep her ratings up.) The in-fighting is said to be vicious...

All employees sign a binding confidentiality agreement. Given her money (billions) and access to lawyers, no one wants to go up against her.

Oprah believes in branding. When her book club was up and running, publishers had to include her logo and "Oprah Book Selection" printed into the cover - not a decal. Her magazine "O" has 2.5 million subscribers. Every single month the cover photo is -- Oprah.

Those famous give-aways on her shows? Oprah bullies CEOs of major corporations into giving her 300 of whatever she wants for her audience that day. She bills the give away as "One of my favorite things!" knowing that those not present in the audience will rush right out and buy a whatever. This gives her tremendous leverage with the CEOs.

Kelley praised Winfrey for her generosity to charities as well as friends, but notes that Oprah always has to show the recipient the price tag. "Isn't this a great watch? I paid $26,300 for it!" Telling, isn't it?

Over the years a lot of speculation has been devoted to the trio of Oprah, fiance Stedman Graham and best friend and constant companion Gayle King. Several quoted in the book report that Stedman, while attractive, is basically a stupid, humorless man. Oprah loves to brag about her gifts to King (a house, nannies for her kids) exactly like "a husband brags about the things he buys for his trophy wife" remarked one observer. King is divorced.

Oprah's campaigning for Barack Obama made him President (or so she feels.) Probably the only reason she hasn't run for president is that she doesn't want it! Hey, coupla billions; the ability to buy virtually anything she wants -- including Secret Service-level guards, a $50 million estate near Santa Barbara, a Gulfstream jet -- mingling with such as Nelson Mandela, Bush the Elder -- the only person who won't take her calls is the Pope -- who needs it?

And if she follows through on plans for her own TV channel -- OWN or Oprah Winfrey Network -- in 2011, she will certainly feel more powerful than any mere president. Because if Oprah wants it, she gets it. She has worked hard; she deserves success, but when success turns you into a raving dictator it's time to thank God a little less (more or less as a co-conspirator) and get your head on straight.

I can't help wondering what her end will be. Absolute power corrupts absolutely we have been told...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

An Explanation

A reliable source told me that the gulls and dolphins were communing with each other.

Dolphins round up fish by circling them into a wild, thrashing group and then proceed to eat them. (Sharks may also do this.) The gulls catch wind of the activity and join in.

He said that he's often seen it off the Point Ferman lighthouse in San Pedro.

I'm relieved to learn that this was a normal activity and not seagulls picking on an injured dolphin!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Something Strange at the Beach

Today we stopped to look at the ocean, as we often do, just south of the Redondo Beach Pier. Out in the deep water, we saw a flock of gulls repeatedly diving at something in the water. Richie grabbed the binoculars and reported that it was a dolphin!

Was the dolphin injured? Were the birds eating parasites off of its skin? What was going on?

Came home and went to Google and the information wasn't there. Some varieties of orca (killer whales) eat fish, regurgitate it to the ocean surface and when the seagulls (which will eat anything) arrive for lunch, the orca eats the bird.

But the bird population remained steady at the site we were watching. What was going on? If you are familiar with the habits of seagulls and dolphins, Inquiring Minds want to know!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Viva Autumn!

Last night Tony and Raffish joined us for dinner -- since it was pretty much a stag party, I served the lads quaffs of Trader Joe's Hofbrau Bock and pretzel crackers, then segued way into brauts with a choice of three mustards, potato cakes (lacy and brown) baked beans, sauerkraut* and rye garlic toast**. For dessert I passed around small bowls and turned them loose on Mint Chocolate Chip or Cherries Garcia ice cream. This was a dinner the men especially enjoyed -- not a single green vegetable on the table!

*Sauerkraut -- drain a can of sauerkraut, put it in a pot, add a couple of jiggers of gin and about a teaspoon of carraway seeds. Just before you serve it, drop in a pat of butter and stir well.
** Rye garlic toast -- toast slices of rye bread, rub briskly with a clove of garlic, cut in strips and serve with butter.

Tonight the same cast plus Pat and Bob for:

Warm Pumpkin Bread with Pumpkin Cream Cheese or honey-butter

Pork loin roast with my sister's marinade
Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

Romaine Lettuce with Pear Slices, Bacon, Walnut and Toscana Cheese with Cinnamon, Balsamic dressing.

Dessert is Richie's home-made Pumpkin Pie!

I love fall cooking! The oven does all the work!

Friday, October 22, 2010

On The Shelf

"A Complicated Man, The Life of Bill Clinton as Told by Those Who Know Him" by Michael Takiff Yale Unversity Press 496 pages $32.50

Admitted, I didn't bother to read the accounts of Clinton's early life; they happened 60 years ago.

What did interest me is the contrast between his humanitarian efforts in Africa and China and the couple's personal assets. At the end of 2008, these assets numbered $109 million. And yet, the Clinton's were reluctant to spend any more than $1.3 million to pay off $11.3 million in lawyers' fees. A fund was set up instead. You may be very sure that everyone but the Clintons paid into it. Once you get money, don't ever let go of it!

"Deliver Us From Evil" by David Baldacci Grand Central Publishing 406 pages $27.99

Baldacci's previous 18 novels have been published in 40 languages in more than 80 countries with nearly 100 million copies in print.

That said, I didn't like this book. The plot was not believable, not fleshed out enough and when I read that the bad guy aka "the real butcher of Kiev" lived in a 13,000 sq. ft. penthouse completely alone, wouldn't even allow cleaning staff in, I thought, "Give me a break. This guy is going to clean his own shower, toilets?"

Perhaps Baldacci is tiring of the enormous pressure to crank out bestsellers. He deserves a rest, not my criticism.

"Lunch in Paris; A Love Story with Recipes" by Elizabeth Bard Little, Brown and Company 324 pages $23.99

Bard met an attractive, quirky French man; they fell in love; she moved into his Paris apartment; then they got married.

A lot of the book (more than I liked, to be honest) concerned itself with her reactions as a New Yorker to the Parisian way of life.

Most especially, she touts "her" fact that Americans are driven, ambitious, aggressive types in comparison to the more relaxed, day-to-day enjoyment of small things that the French exhibit. Her husband was (and presumably still is) an unambitious type, content to let life's river swirl him through any eddies. I don't think it's fair to base one's entire judgement of another country's people on your own husband's laziness!

Other than my umbrage at this, it's an interesting enough read. She does like and admire Paris and her remarks about the place did resonate with me.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New Bridge in Town - Las Vegas, That Is

The formal name is: the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. Mr. O'Callaghan was formerly a Nevada senator and Mr. Tillman left a promising and lucrative career in football to defend our country.

It's a by-pass bridge for the road that has run across Hoover Dam for as long as I can remember. Since 911, it's also been considered a prime terrorism target. Based on the length of time it used to take to drive across it, terrorists would have plenty of time to plant dynamite, make sure it's set right and then eat their lunch.

The by-pass bridge presented a tremendous challenge to the engineers -- it had to arch 900 ft. into the air and the two sides had to meet within 1 in. of each other!

Bridge construction started in January, 2005, and was expected to be finished at some time in 2008. But: on September 15, 2006 a tower that held the steel cable support system crashed due to a storm.

Recently the bridge was opened (with the requisite pomp and ceremony, you may be sure) and it is 1,900 ft. long and 88 ft. wide. How well did the spans match up? Within 3/8 in. (which was filled in with concrete.) That's some pretty amazing engineering!

You never realize how many times you bend over during the course of a day -- until your back goes out.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A "Royal" Place To Shop

Alert Readers will recall that I have an unholy fascination with the antics of Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband, Prinz Frederic von Anhalt. Obviously, he's as crazy as betting a NASCAR race, but he presents his insane didoes with such a self-deprecating flair that I can't help but laugh.

Some tidbits ... Born in 1944, this former masseur bought his title from an old lady. He married Zsa Zsa in 1986 and so far, this is her longest running marriage. As she is 93/96 (dates differ) I think it's safe to assume that it will be her last. Incidentally, together the couple have adopted (aka sold the title von Anhalt) to four different adult males.

He appeared on my radar in 2006, when he daintily suggested that perhaps he was the father of Anna Nicole Smith's baby daughter.

He was back in 2007, claiming that he'd been held up at gunpoint by three women who left him handcuffed and stark naked. Somehow he managed to use a cell phone to get help (amazing, really, when you remember he said that the women had taken his wallet, watch and cell phone...) Police reported no handcuffs were found at the scene.

In 2010, after a three year absence -- possibly spent recovering from the trama above -- he returned to make a bid for Governor of California. I seem to remember his platform embraced legalizing drugs and prostitution. Alas, it was not to be -- his wife's health demanded his constant presence.

Today he has opened an online shop. You can visit at but to save you time...

There are only nine items for sale. Starting at the low end:
One gubernatorial campaign button - $12.50
One campaign folder - $14.50
Choice of two styles baseball hats - $37.50 each
One campaign pillow - $65
One campaign package consisting of one pillow, two hats, two stickers and one folder - $160
One ducal house uniform (nice shade of green) - $160,000 Note to buyers: Make sure all of the medals are included.
Two Rolls Royce cars - one at $140,000; the other at $350,000
Two diamond "collars" (no photos) one at $500,000; the other at $1 million

Ah, Prinz, you never disappoint....

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Odd Couple

Richie and I have very different tastes in food -- he enjoys fish, lamb, oysters, clams...I'm horrified at the idea of eating any of them.

Thus, last night he had swordfish* and macaroni and cheese and an avocado halved, with a dab of dressing in the hollow. I embarked on a sauce testing no doubt still under the influence of Chef Messina's skills in putting foods together.

I cooked up seven Trader Joe's pork-filled won tons, set out seven sauces and proceeded to eat my way through them.

1. Kikkomen Soy Sauce - Wow! Salt! Then it softened down into semi-sweet.
2. Trader Joe's Gyozo Dipping Sauce -- Good, but bland. Needed some fire to is. This is peppy on other dishes but not this.
3. General Tsao Stir-Fry Sauce - The label says "with bits of chili and a hint of garlic" but I didn't taste any. It did have a slightly hot taste, and that was good.
4. Viola's Jalapeno Jelly - Sweet and okay, but not standing out in any way.
5. Coleman's Mustard - Bam! All I could taste was vinegar and mustard; the pork won ton was lost in it.
6. Cilantro and Ginger Marinade (Tikki - mild) - Slight vinegar taste, cilantro, yes; ginger taste, no.
7. Trader Joe's Sesame Wasabi Dipping Sauce - no heat which surprised me- on other dishes it has a back burner heat.

Next time? Col. Mustard and General Tsao will be introduced to one another.

* Since I don't eat fish, I don't know how to cook it so I vamp with this: black pepper one side of the swordfish steak; saute it in fairly hot oil in an 8 in. skillete for about 5 minutes, flip it, pepper that side and cook another 3 or 4 minutes. Leave the fish in the pan; turn off the burner and dash a little lime juice into the skillet. You're leaving the fish to "finish" while the rest of dinner finishes, too. When you serve it, stir the lime juice and olive oil and pour over the fish. I do this with salmon, too.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I Liked It! I Really Liked It!

Kip's, 403 Main Street, El Segundo 310-529-1132

Kip's was favorably reviewed by Richard Foss, in the Easy Reader, and he knows food. Then Kip's put an ad in the paper that Richie saw and cut out -- for the ad said, "French-Country, Cajun-Inspired Good Food!"

It drizzled yesterday, it was a day for comfort food. El Segundo was quiet, as it always is. Kip's is a long, narrow cave of cypress-painted walls, industrial pipe ceiling and dark wooden tables and chairs accented by crisp, white table linens.

Richie ordered a draft Stella, I had a glass of water and we perused the menu. He decided to have the baby beef tenderloin with garlic green beans and fingerling potatoes. ($14.95) He's a fool for green beans. I wanted the three course "Lunch at Kip's" and started off with roasted garlic soup., followed by a Cajun Caesar salad and then grilled BBQ shrimp on Forbidden rice. ($16.50)

We were offered our choice of sourdough or jalapeno sourdough and naturally we went for the hot. It arrived and was warm - from the oven, I thought as I bit into a buttered slice and then, no, nuked and it shouldn't have been. It was soft, not chewy.

We looked around and at 12:20 on a Friday there was a table of four men and us. More people arrived as time went on, but I was too busy eating to count them. It was quite nice with only a few people, a serene atmosphere. The only complaint I've heard about Kip's is that it's really loud at night -- no soundproofing materials. Hey! they could hang Cajun quilts!

The soup was thick --and was basically potatoes and roasted garlic. Richie said, "You can sure taste the garlic!" which is a good thing. It arrived with parmesan shavings strewn across the top. They never had a chance to melt with me -- I scarfed that soup down!

Caesar salad has its own identity -- tossed romaine lettuce and a specific salad dressing. The Cajun version came as traditional but with a slight dusting of what tasted like paprika and cayenne peppers. The lettuce was crispy fresh which it sometimes isn't at other restaurants.

Four, big barbecued shrimp topped the Forbidden rice. The story on the rice -- which is black, by the way -- is that the Emperor loved it and forbade his peasants to eat it. This version tasted sweet and the chef later told me he uses a sesame-chili oil in it. Dots of yellow corn brightened the black of the rice. All of the above was good and I cleaned my plate (a rarity.)

Richie loved the long slivers of his garlic green beans, but the fingerling potatos startled him at their arrival on his plate -- they were purple which threw him off. While I liked the idea of a faint dusting of sea salt on the potato skins, my first impression was: salt! (Not that potatoes are particularly flavorful on their own.) His tenderloin was a beautiful piece of meat, the fat had been trimmed off and it was cooked to exactly rare.

Feeling expansive, I asked about dessert. Owner (with his wife Tammy) Kip Long replied that he does serve dessert at dinner, but ... lunch ... I pointed at the Fig Melba and sighed. I'd really wanted to taste it because Foss went nuts for it. Mr. Long said, "I can make you one!"

"Oh, no. no! Don't go to all that trouble!," I protested. He said, "I can do it..." and smiled teasingly , so I said, 'Gimme!" with a big grin.

Fig Melba should have been called "Essence of Autumn With a Foreshadowing of Winter." It arrived in a piping hot oval baking dish -- a dark syrup that bathed blueberries, strawberries and, of course, the figs (Fall) and a great lump of vanilla ice cream (Winter.) $10 and we shared it, ooohing and awwing the while.

As we were leaving, I asked Mr. Long to please thank the chef for me and he said, "You can meet him and tell him yourself!" I was thrilled -- I'd never met a live chef that had just cooked my meal! Wow!

Chef Johnnie Messina was slim and efficient looking in a black chef's coat. He smiled, we all shook hands and I began my thanks.

We discussed the food-- he said it's brown sugar and water, reduced, for the Fig Melba sauce and that he gently presses the fruit as it cooks so as to release more flavor. I wondered aloud if anyone had ever made a Tabasco reduction and what it would add to the Forbidden rice without the vinegar, Tabasco's primary taste. He laughed and said he'd tried making a Tabasco reduction, but without any protein in the mix, it just didn't work.

I'm enthused about Kip's (obviously) and now I want to go to the Sunday Gospel Brunch, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Listen to some of the offerings --

Coconut shrimp with sweet and sour ginger marmalade -- three for $8.50; six for $16.
Eggs Creole - two poached eggs on crisp potato pancakes with shrimp-Andouille gravy $16
Cajun Bubble and Squeak - two poached eggs over a potato patty with shrimp hash browns and a chili Hollandaise. $18
I know I'd get an order of Hog Planks - thick, crisp bacon candied in brown sugar and topped with crumbled, roasted hazelnuts. $5

These are all inventive foods with a visceral understanding of what tastes good together. Kudos to Chef Messina.