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!"