Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Boys and Their Mother

"William and Harry, Behind the Palace Walls" by Katie Nicholl Weinstein Books 328 pages $24.95

Nicholl is the Royal Correspondent for "Mail on Sunday" and works as a commentator for Sky News and the BBC.

I dutifully read along, faintly irritated by her, "Nanny is always right, dear" writing style. "Although he had a wobble in his first term, William soon settled..." The wobble was that he hated St. Andrews University and wanted desperately not to go back to it after his first term there.

Photo caption under a shot of Harry, drunk on his ass, falling backward while trying to get into a car - "Bleary-eyed Harry trips after one too many cocktails in March..." Yeah, one -- and only one -- too many can do that to a person.

I didn't learn anything new about the princes that hasn't already been in the tabloids, the book was just a chronicle of previous info.

Newsweek, in its infinite wisdom, used a cover shot of the late Diana on the left and the new Mrs. Prince William on the right. Tina Brown wrote "Diana at 50; If She Were Here Now."

Lines and wrinkles were photo shopped generously and a bit of weight added to her belly. Brown seems sure that Diana would have used Botox, had a FaceBook page (Brown generously created one for her) and lived in Manhattan and London. She would have been an active participant in the Clinton Global Initiative.

Brown believes that after some initial sparring that Diana and Carla Bruni Sarkozy might have bonded over how to evade Berlusconi. Here, I think Brown flatters them both a bit -- Silvio likes the young stuff; they're both too long in the tooth for his tastes.

In retrospect, how did "the world" get to be so fond of a woman who clearly never progressed beyond about 14 years old emotionally? Did we not recognize this as evidenced by her spite, her entitlement, stalking boyfriends, look at me? All over the tabloids, all of the time, for a lot of things we didn't have to know and certainly her two young sons shouldn't have had to know either.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Attention All Politicians:

"Begin somewhere; you cannot build a reputation on what you intend to do." James Russell Lowell, American essayist (1819 - 1891)

Note the birth and death years - reversals which is interesting.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Very Light Read

"Thank You Notes" by Jimmy Fallon with the Writers of Late Night Grand Central Publishing 166 pages $12

This is a 5 in. x 7 in. volume that I'd expect to see at the next library booksale -- in the "Humor" section, selling for a quarter.

Opening the book at random --
"Thank you ... microbreweries for making my alcoholism seem like a neat hobby."
"Thank you ... nickels for being the redheaded stepchild of the coin community. You're so thick, yet you're worth so little. You're like the quarter's fatter, less successful brother."
"Thank you ... trick-or-treaters clearly too old to be doing it. It's always nice to give out candy to the same two guys who installed my satellite dish."

I read it cover to cover in 15 minutes. Perfect for driven, type A people.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Caveat Emptor

The following is a quote from the Prager Zeitling, a Czech Republic publication dated April 28, 2010.

"The danger to America is not actually Barack Obama, but rather a citizenry capable of entrusting a man like him with the Presidency. It will be far easier to limit and undo the follies of an Obama presidency than to restore the necessary common sense and good judgment to an electorate willing to have such a man as their president. The problem is much deeper and far more serious than Mr. Obama, who is a mere symptom of what ails America. Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince. The Republic can survive Barack Obama who is after all only a tool. But it is less likely to survive the multitude of fools such as those who made him their president."

I mention this because already we are being thrust into campaigns for an election that will not take place until November, 2012, a full 15 months away.

It might be prudent to ignore the Main Stream Media (MSM) and do your own research on candidates such as Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Michelle Bachmann, Jon Huntsman. The MSM fell in love last time; this time let's run a credit/security check on the new ones. Buyer beware.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Other Side of the Counter

"Checkout Girl, A Life Behind the Register" by Anna Sam Sterling Press 178 pages $14.95

Anna Sam is French and spent eight years as a checkout clerk. This book began as a blog titled "Les tribulations d'une caissiere." Today this slender book has been published in 21 countries and has sold more than 350,000 copies. The book also got her a new job -- employee advocate/supermarket consultant.

The 46 chapters are all short and designed to give the reader a backstage look at a supermarket's workings. She takes us through the job interview, first day working and then pell mell into adventures with customers -- the line jumpers, fat ladies hiding the ice cream under the celery, and more.

One exchange between a love-struck customer and Our Heroine:
He: "Did it hurt when you fell from Heaven?"
She: "Do you need any cash back?"
He: "Yes, a quarter - so I can call my mother and tell her I've met the woman of my dreams."
Me: Ah, the French are such romantics -- 100 years ago.

There were some amusing, lighthearted moments like that, but mainly it was one long sarcastic snark. Sarcasm, used like a spice in a dish, can be wonderful, but not for 178 pages.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Summer Springs Forth! - Sorta

Today, June 25th, is still June Gloom, a traditional season here in Southern California. It is a marine layer that dims the sunlight every single damned day until early or mid-afternoon. It does not give many people the urge to git up and go!

But we do have diversions. This weekend it's the annual street fair in Riviera Village, the southern end of Redondo Beach. It's a small, quaint shopping/restaurants area, where once a year, the streets are blocked off and various sorts of revelry take place.

Live music -- tribute bands such as Sgt. Pepper Band, Tres Hombres, Purple Haze plus arts and crafts, carnival rides for the kiddies, a beer garden and an international food court which has been a major disappointment in the past. I did hear mention that this year, it would be food trucks, the newest sensation among the Twitter set.

Of note, admission is free and you can park at South High School and ride a free shuttle to Avenue I and Catalina where it's being held.

Yes, summer is kicking off somewhere -- just not so much here.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Close Enough for Horseshoes or Hand Grenades

When we visited the Central Market, Southlake, Tx., they were running a Spanish promotion. I saved their flyer. One of the items on offer was a "Spanish Orange Torte, a rich cake made with extra virgin Spanish olive oil and orange zest, soaked in a thick orange syrup, topped with candied orange strips. 9 in. $21.99."

Two days after we got home, Bon Appetit arrived - with a recipe for: Olive-Oil Cake with Candied Oranges! So, to save you $21.99 and a trip to Texas --

Candied Orange and Syrup
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup orange blossom honey
3 T green cardamom pods, crushed
3 cups water
1 small orange, thinly sliced

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Bring the sugar, honey, cardamom and water to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the orange slices and simmer until the orange slices are tender and the syrup thickens - about 40 minutes.

Pick out the orange slices and put them on the parchment paper. Strain the remaining syrup to get rid of the cardamom bits and bobs and set aside.

The Cake
1/2 cup olive oil plus more for brushing
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup semolina flour (pasta flour)
1 1/2 teas. baking powder
1 teas. ground cardamom
pinch of kosher salt
1/4 teas. baking soda
1/2 cup sugar, divided
3 large eggs, separated
2/3 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 1/2 teas. grated orange zest
1 teas. vanilla extract
Garnish - chopped, non-salted pistachios

Preheat oven to 350. Brush 9 in. spring-form pan with oil. Whisk both flours and the next four ingredients in a bowl. Use an electric mixer and beat in 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup oil for one minute.

Beat in egg yolks and then flour mixture. Beat in yogurt, orange zest and vanilla.
Using clean, dry beaters, beat the egg whites into soft peaks. Gradually beat in 1/4 cup sugar, fold egg whites into batter. Transfer to the oiled pan and smooth out the top.

Bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Stab the warm cake repeatedly with fork tines and drizzle 3/4 cup warm syrup over the cake. When that syrup is absorbed, do it again reserving some syrup for serving the slices. Add the orange slices, dust with pistachios, cut in wedges and serve.

My Way
Buy one box white cake mix
Make the syrup

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Other People's Blogs

A tip of my hat to Richie's cousin, Ruth Ellen, who sent a newspaper article on a blog called What's Good At Trader Joe's? (

Nathan and Sonia Rodgers and their friend Russ Shelly taste and tell. Some of their favorites? Pomegranite lemonade, pear cinnamon cider, soy chorizo???

When I googled the phrase, all kinds of sites popped up. Might be a good rainy day occupation, reading what people like and don't like. I enjoy controversy, even if from a distance.

Speaking of controversy, White House reporter/blogger Keith Koffler runs an interesting column called White House Dossier ( that I enjoy very much because it is definitely NOT mainstream media reporting.

I am amused at all the yelling about re-labeling cigarette packages with Dire Warnings - This Could Happen To You! The great brain that came up with this one probably doesn't know that cigarette cases have been around since the 1920s. It was considered 'way chic-er to have a metal, possibly jeweled or initialed, cigarette case rather than the original package.

And speaking of labels, how come alcohol does not have the same warning labels that cigarettes do? You might cause an accident while driving and lighting up, but for sure you will if you've been drinking and are driving.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

This'n That

This is different! For "trendy," it puts the grilled watermelon salad in the corner.

10 red radishes, trimmed and quartered. Don't peel them. (As if!)
10 cloves garlic
1 teas. whole black peppercorns
Put these in a clean 1-qt. glass jar and add
2 cups distilled white vinegar
1 teas. kosher salt (I'd use a pinch of sea salt instead)
1 teas. sugar

Put the lid on tightly, shake the jar until the sugar/salt dissolves and put it in the refrigerator. For the next three days, take it out once a day and shake it. Start eating on Day 4.

Michelle, my French friend, taught me this -- when you buy basil or cilantro (or any other herb like them) put them in a big water glass with about half-an-inch of water. Leave it out on the counter. Change the water daily and they'll stay green and leafy until they're used up.
Feeling ambitious? Want to cook a whole fish? Be sure to score it deeply before you put it on the fire says chef Eric Werner. The cuts distribute heat so that the fish cooks more evenly and also a lot faster.
We had to call the paramedics for a guest (ongoing illness) at Richie's birthday party. He recovered and worriedly said he hoped that the drama hadn't detracted from the party. I said, truthfully, "No! No! All over America people were lighting boring birthday candles, but we had two ambulances and a fire engine, all flashing their lights! You put the party right over the top!"
This is a headline in today's Drudge Report:
Cops Bust Amish Sexter Who Sought Buggy Tryst with 12 year-old-Girl.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ode To Ports O Call

(sung to the tune of Elton John's "Goodbye, Norma Jean")

Goodbye, Ports O Call
Now that you're "No Smoking" at all
I guess I'll have to steal away..
I won't be on your patio another day
While the fire pits smoke and bands of heat expand
But it's "No Smoking" at all..
And your legend dies away ...
Now I don't know you at all...
Goodbye, Ports O Call.

No, I'm not quitting my day job. Not to worry.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

"He Loved Me Best, So HAH!"

"Lady Blue Eyes, My Life With Frank," by Barbara Sinatra Crown Archtype 388 pretty self-serving words $24.95

Born Barbara Ann Blakely, she began her showgirl career winning beauty contests. In 1948, she married Bob Oliver. They had a son and shortly thereafter divorced. She had a long affair with a disc jockey in Las Vegas. She worked as a showgirl and as such caught the eye of Zeppo Marx whom she married in 1959. She writes that he adored her enough to adopt her son with Oliver. This was a ploy -- getting new husbands to adopt the boy (looking for a vacancy in the Will) but it didn't work with Sinatra.

There are always two -- sometimes three and four versions -- of any event. Barbara writes that she and Sinatra began dating "in the early '70s" but she didn't obtain a divorce from Zeppo until 1973. She then married Sinatra in July of 1976, after they had been living together for four years. Others in the know have said she chased him inexorably for 13 years (an earlier Katey-Waity) until at age 65, he gave up and married her.

She writes of their glorious love story -- Frank would leave little love notes all over the house for her, named both his plane and his boat Lady Blue Eyes; bought her expensive jewelry at the drop of a hat to surprise her-- same with new cars. All in all it sounds idyllic. Sounds.

In return she made him quit smoking in the house (he made her quit smoking at all) cut him off from some of his more disreputable friends, and locked herself in her room when he began drinking gin. All in all she made his life a living hell. Just read any one of Sinatra's children's books about Mommie Not Dearest At All.

If you like name-dropping, this is the book for you. All of the famous names were, of course, BFF. There is a curious coldness to the Widder Sinatra. "I met O.J. (Simpson) at a disco with his wife, Nicole, who was adorable; it was so sad how that ended." A brutal double murder was "so sad"?

She was thrilled to brag that at 22 years of marriage, she'd outlasted Nancy Barbato, Ava Gardner and Mia Farrow. Poor Frank, I'm sure it felt like 44 years to him.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011


Yesterday afternoon, I said to Himself, "If it weren't 'just another day,' where would you go for a birthday dinner?" and he confidently replied, "Already got that suitcased - Charlie's!" (referring to "Charlie's, a New York Joint" formerly known as "Cialuzzi's" - previously reviewed.)

One of my many bad habits is: When I find a good dish at a specific place, I tend to order it every time we go to that restaurant. Such is the case at Charlie's where my order is a small Caesar salad, a thin-crust pizza of pineapple and pepperoni.

"This night will be different from all others," I vowed, "I am going to listen to the specials and I am NOT going to order the same thing." Our server explained the several nightly specials and I heard her say "osso bucco." And then I heard my voice ordering it.

I did have to ask if her if it involved eating the marrow of a large bone. She said it did and that osso bucco translates to bone with a hole.

It came with crispy polenta cakes and a mix of roasted baby onions, broccoli and carrot chunks. This was the "old-fashioned" prep with roasted vegetables, cinnamon and bay leaf. A newer version includes tomatoes. The dish originated in Milan.

It was a generous serving of veal shank with meat so tender I used my fork to spear chunks. The gravy/sauce was delicious and I shoveled bites of polenta through it with gusto. Still in Adventure Mode, I scooped out some marrow and ate it.

Okay - summation: the flavor was excellent, the visuals were not. The marrow looked like gray Jell-0 and the meat, torn and raggedy, didn't look appetizing to me. I couldn't tell fat from meat (possibly the lighting there) and I dislike eating fat intensely.

But most of all ... I couldn't get the vision of a sweet, little calf, looking at me with big eyes and those long lashes. Ruined my appetite actually and I am not a vegetarian (not by a long shot.) So much for osso bucco. It thrashed me. I admit it. Over and done and I lost.

Instead of Caesar (as usual) I ordered the sliced tomato salad and we split it. Sliced tomatoes (I'd use Romas) with slices of red onion in a balsamic vinegar-olive oil dressing with chunks of bleu cheese as garnish. Quite tasty as balsamic vinegar and tomatoes go together like a hand in a glove.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Very Different Styles

Today is Richie's 70th birthday. I am reminded of the poem that goes --

Monday's child is fair of face
Tuesday's child is 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.

June 16, 1941, was a Friday. Trust me on this -- Richie IS loving and giving. If a family member or a friend wants something, Richie won't rest until he's found and given them what they wanted. I learned early in our marriage, not to ask for the moon because he'd probably try to get it for me.

But there's always the exception that proves the rule...I planned a birthday party for him, but he has adamently and consistently declared, "It's just another day." So today that's what he's getting! The closest he got for a birthday greeting from me today was "Are you enjoying 'just another day'?" Yes indeed, I am that mean! How could you even wonder?

I think he'll change his tune by 5 p.m. tomorrow night when he greets 21 of our friends and his family at his birthday party (my tab.) Maybe for next year he will have adopted my philosophy: If you didn't celebrate for an entire week, you didn't have a birthday!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sunshine, Serenity and a Sea View

Two different friends had raved about Nelson's in the Terrenea resort, located on the site of the old Marineland on the Palos Verdes cliffs.

They sighed over the impossible beauty of the sunset...and they also said the food was good, so I looked up their menu and it was reasonable. I'd expected "glass of fresh tomato juice, $50."

Richie's brother Charlie and his wife Rosalind always want to see new places on their bi-annual visits and, frankly, I thought this would blow their socks off, sight unseen, because I already know how lovely that area is and like it.

Terrenea drops from road level, down about three tiers to, in Nelson's case, the cliff edge. Parking is $5 and it's the first thing you do. Then you go through the lobby of the hotel (?) down stairs to a path which winds along, always downward. You pass another cluster of buildings - the condos? and finally you arrive at the bottom and Nelson's which has a 2/3rds wrap-around terrace.

We elected to sit in the sun, but quickly changed our minds and scuttled over to a table in the shade. There they ordered mango margaritas ($11 each) and we couldn't resist the nostalgia of a pint of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer ($3/pint.)

Drinks in hand, Richie ordered the New England clam chowder (see above - and yes, the garnish is croutons and chopped green onions)and he also got the shrimp tacos
$12. Charlie went for the crab cake $9. Rosalind the seared ahi sandwich $15 with sweet potato fries $4. I turned greedy and got the pair of shrimp tacos and the pair of pulled pork sliders with cole slaw $7. (But I didn't eat the pork buns or the taco shells.)

The portions were generous, the food was good and the view sensational. From our shady spot we looked across the sunny patio to the distant ocean. To see the shore, it's necesaary to get up and walk over to the fence at the cliff's edge. A formation of pelicans, all in a single line, flew past at eye-level to us, cliff level to them.

Having eaten our fill, we were grateful for the golf cart shuttle service that whisks you back to the top and the parking lot.

The big deal is go to Nelson's for the sunset. I liked it just fine around 1 p.m. with few other customers. The serenity was sensational!

The food tab was $66 (divided between four people for a cost of $16.50 per person) and the bar bill was $28 for a total of $94 before tax and 20% tip.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Third Time Is NOT A Charm

In one day, two of our friends got comped for food in a restaurant -- one lunch that wasn't ready on time and one dessert that wasn't either -- it was frozen.

Last night we got a free appetizer and here is how it almost killed me.

Charlie and Rosalind are staying with their daughter, who is a vegetarian. Her help does cook meat for C amd R, but she doesn't like leftovers (some childhood trauma, no doubt) so she serves sparse portions. We thought they'd like to positively wallow in beef so we went to Union Cattle Co. (Previously reviewed.)

We haven't been up to the third floor, open air patio in years, but thought they'd like it. So, up a very dark stairway we trudged. Charlie didn't like it -- too sunny. So we tried the middle floor, but the tables and seats were uncomfortable. In unison, we said, "Downstairs."

I was last down the dark stairs. I was back in the light, eyes adjusting two steps up from the marble reception floor. I missed the bottom step and went sailing out into space. I'm told I made a rather dramatic entrance, landing on my left knee, skidding onto my right, turning in mid-fall to crack my head on the marble floor. Meanwhile (funniest of all) my right arm slammed into my right breast which slammed against whatever rib is under there and strained it.

Much solicitous help. Band-Aids and ice brought to our table. The minor bump on my head had a shot of ice and disappeared. The knee quit bleeding. It all hurt like hell and I was in mild shock (fully oriented X4.)

The General Manager came over, apologized and said, "Any appetizer on the menu - gratis" and departed. Rosalind got a glean in her eye and said, "I think the lobster quesadilla, don't you?"

I nibbled quickly, not really hungry and went outside to walk off my knees. The receptionist and I got to talking and she said, confidentially, "I fell here yesterday ... to be fair, the floor was wet" (brightening) and the day before that a lady fell down and she was furious! She screamed and threatened...(indignantly) She wasn't a trouper like you!"

Compliments are always well received, but so is a fully comped dinner!

P.S. As we left, we noticed that the stairway blazed like the runway at LAX. Someone had forgotten to turn on the lights and we didn't know to ask.

Monday, June 13, 2011

What Are the Odds?

Yesterday I wrote about the house next door and two of its owners -- one 25 years ago and the other now. I marveled at seeing them both on the same day. It gets weirder...

Angie and Miss Ella rendezvous-ed with us at the Hermosa Beach Art Walk. We took our time, strolling, pausing to more closely look, talking with the artists. At noon, we decided we had time for a quick appetizer in lieu of "real lunch" so we decided to try a place that has just opened in the last month or two. They were doing a good business, but we were shown to an long booth. It's kind of an awkward space -- half indoor dining room and bar and half covered-patio outdoors. I wonder how they close up at night... but, none of my business.

We settled in, menus in hands. A server appeared and we ordered drinks (a beer, iced tea and apple juice.) We had quite a wait for them. We ordered -- Richie their specialty hamburger, Angie the chicken flatbread sandwich and me the prosciutto-wrapped grilled shrimp with aioli and a Caesar salad.

We had an even longer wait for our food despite the fact that servers were milling around, but none had plates of food in their hands. My Caesar arrived first and we all had a taste. I'm on a quest for the best in the South Bay. Angie said it certainly tastes freshly-prepared; Richie said his first taste was salt and I thought the pepper was a much needed accessory.

Another interminable wait and then here came my shrimp and his hamburger. Nothing for poor Angie. She beckoned a server over and asked, smilingly, if perhaps her order might have been lost? (It should be noted that Angie has a British accent and a Brit can get away with saying things an American would be shot for --Brits get away with murder!)

"Oh, no" the server exclaimed, "It should be here soon... let me go check on it" and then returned to say the kitchen was having some slight problems. I said, knowingly, "You're in the weeds, aren't you" and she said, "Hon, the world's biggest weed whacker couldn't fix that kitchen today!" and ran off.

By the time Angie's food arrived, she had to leave so she got it boxed and the server apologetically said, "There's no charge for this, of course. I'm so sorry..."

I'm not sure if Angie has made up her mind even today on the burning question: Is it better to get free (if cold) food or pay for hot and ready to eat?

Cut to dinner with Eileen (former neighbor) and her sister-in-law Nancy at the Cheesecake Factory Dinner proceed fairly smoothly, the conversation sparkled, we all had memories to remind the others about and there was much laughter.

Comes now dessert and Eileen, whose closest Cheesecake Factory at home is 200 miles away, tells our server, "I flew all the way out here from Detroit for a piece of your low carb cheesecake! And I may want one for tomorrow in a take-out box!" (smug grin) Woman likes her low carb cheesecak; she even checked the glass display case in the front of the resto to make sure they had it when we first entered the place. They did and it was a full pie!

The cheesecake is brought, Eileen admires it and then starts eating the thin end. She's rolling her eyes in bliss and eating steadily (think of a jack hammer) and then she comes to the middle which is frozen.

Just then, the server pops up to ask winsomely, "Is everything all right?" Eileen says "Well, now that you ask, this is frozen!" and jams her fork into it to demonstrate.

"Oh, my! Let me get you a slice to take home; it'll thaw out by then. And, of course, there's no charge for it."

Two residents of the same house, 25 years apart, both get free food?! What are the odds?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Continuum of Time

More than 25 years ago, we bought this house. Our next door neighbors were a nice young couple named Jerry and Eileen. In the fullness of time, baby Steven joined them. But California's economics took a major down turn so they moved back to Detroit, from whence they had come. We remained good friends though, with letters and cards and their infrequent visits to see Dave's brother and his wife out here.

Time passed, various owners came and went (Richie thought one couple was Witness Protection but that's a story for another day.) And then a couple of years ago, another nice young couple named John and Angie bought it and in the fullness of time baby Ella joined them.

They are good neighbors and we enjoy their company. This morning Angie and Ella and we are going to do the Hermosa Beach Art Walk. Ella has a new pram, so they're walking (Angie described this trip as "more of a saunter than a walk!") We have errands afterwards so not.

Last night the phone rang and it was Eileen! She'd flown in for a girls' weekend with her sister-in-law. I couldn't have been more surprised or delighted. The four of us are having dinner tonight.

Morning with the new owner; dinner with the old owner. What a circle of time on the same day...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Three (Very) Different People

He was a Yorkshire veterinarian turned best-selling author. His stories were so popular that more students signed up to be vets and tourists from all over the world beat their way to his doorstep. His son lovingly writes his biography and seems to be determined to get it right to the point of including vet school grades! The beginning of the tale was confusing because "James Herriot" is a pen name - his real name was Alfred Wight. While he was pleased with the attention and honors he received, he often said, "I am 1% author and 99% vet."
The Real James Herriot, A Memoir of My Father" by Jim Wight Ballantine Books 371 pages $25

She had a difficult childhood, but in her teens she became the darling of the Hollywood set. She married director Howard Hawkes, then famed agent/producer Leland Haywood and, finally, Kenneth Keith, an English Lord.

She ran around with Ernest Hemingway, but was not interested in him sexually. She said he rarely bathed and wore the same clothes for days on end. Hemingway's wife "Miss Mary" distrusted her and there was the very real fear that if she accepted a safari invitation from the couple, there would be a "bang!" she'd be dead and Miss Mary would be smiling quietly to herself.
"Slim, Memories of a Rich and Imperfect Life" bu Slim Keith with Annette Tapert Simon & Schuster 319 pages $22.95

She had a long and adventurous life and became an icon for cooks all over the world. She towered over them literally as she was 6 ft. tall. She met Avis Devito after she wrote a letter to Devito's husband, Bernard, about his article on American knives. They hit it off to the point that Avis became Julia's mover and shaker on the publication of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." "As Always, Julia - the Letters of Julia Child and Avis Devoto" edited by Joan Reardon Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 416 pages $26

Friday, June 10, 2011

Semi-Retro Dinner

Once upon a time, there were two restaurants on the Redondo Beach Pier. One was named Tony's Fish Market and the other was named Old Tony's and they pretty much faced each other across the Pier.

Tony's Fish Market got sold some time ago (much to the sorrow and despair of the natives) but Old Tony's is still going strong. But it may not be soon. The august City of Redondo Beach wants to find a master lessor to manage every business on the Pier and that puts Tony's at risk. What if they don't like Tony's? Even though it's been there since 1952! See it before it's gone at

To show our support, we went down there for dinner. It was faintly sunny, but mainly our usual June Gloom (overcast or marine layer, whatever you want to call it.) Instead of seafood I decided I would have me a retro dinner - salad, sirloin tips in Bearnaise sauce and big, fat baked potato with all of the trimmings - sour cream for one half of the potato, butter for the other and chopped green onions over it all. Bring it on!

Since it was cool out and Tony's had their sliding windows open, I started with a Bloody Mary and we split an order of Cajun popcorn shrimp. The heats blend and it's warming. I recommend the combo.

I was worried about the house salad though. Tony's Fish Market made one that I loved - butter lettuce, chopped hardboiled egg, tiny shrimp in a half buttermilk-half mayo dressing. Old Tony's didn't. So, I asked what was in it? Server Jason obliging reeled off the ingredients and it was the Fish Market recipe! Yay! Now my retro evening was set!

Three minutes after taking our orders, Jason returned, a grim look on his face. "We're out of the sirloin tips," he said sadly.

So I ordered coconut shrimp and French fries instead. So much for a retro dinner...

Thursday, June 9, 2011


When this column gets a response, as in a comment from a reader, I am beyond delighted. Finally! A dialogue, not a monologue of me spouting off! All right!

I am especially grateful to "Kattytrick" for the positive remarks, to Richie's lovely cousin in Florida and now comes this from "TNWT" re the piece written on Wine Tasting, Texas-style. In its entirety:

"Norton/Cynthiana Grape: A recent study done at Florida A & M has narrowed down the parentage. Parker, Brodollo and Colova published a paper in Acta Horticulturae in 2009 that states, based on DNA analysis, that V. aestivaltis, V. labrusca and V. vinifera are all involved in the parentage of Noton. The vinifera cultivar is 'Chasselas.' The researchers also discovered that PD resistance is derived from V. aestivalis. They also found out that Norton and Cynthiara are genetically identical, ergo, they are the same cultivar. Dr. Eric Staphne, Oklahoma State University, Dec. 1, 2010."

I would personally write a proper "thank you" note, but the column deal is set up so that I can't. Thank you. Your taking the time to write is very much appreciated.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

June Gloom Fighter (But It's Fattening)

I've been enjoying Patrick Taylor's series - Irish Country Courtship/Doctor/Christmas - for some time now. They're what's known as "British cozies" in literary-speak and the cast is the senior doctor, his new partner doctor, their housekeeper, various love interests as well as all of the characters in the village of Ballybucklebo in Northern Ireland.

The cook, "Kinky" Kincaid" is a marvel in her kitchen and at the end of every book, she shares a recipe or two. This sounded wonderful to me since I like butterscotch/caramel better than chocolate.

1 cup dates, chopped
1 1/3 cups hot tea
Oil for greasing pans
1/2 cup swet butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup self-raising flour
3 eggs
1 teas. bicarbonate of soda
1 teas. vanilla essence
1 teas. instant coffee

Soak the dates in the tea. Cream together the butter and sugar and beat in the egs one at a time. Fold in the flour.

Add the vanilla, instant coffee and soda to the date and tea mixture and stir it into the creamed mixture. Pour it into individual, greased rounds and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes - until the cakes are firm and starting to come way from the sides. Set aside to cool.

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup cream (horrors!)
1 cup Irish whiskey
1 T vanilla essence

Melt the butter in a pan and when it bubbles, add the sugar and stir until it bubbles again. Pour in the cream and then the whiskey and return to the boil for a minute or two and then take it off of the fire. Let it cool a bit before you stir in the vanilla.

I would add: Be careful when you add the whiskey as it is flammable.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Marilyn Monroe's Wastebasket

"Fragments - Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters by Marilyn Monroe" compiled by Stanley Buchthal and Bernard Comment Farrar, Strauss and Giroux 239 pages $30

Monroe left her personal papers to Lee Strasberg who then left them to his widow, Anna. She finally got around to looking at them and discovered the materials in the book, but didn't know what to do with them. Enter family friend Stanley Buchthal.

Monroe wanted to be portrayed as an intellectual, not just another dumb blonde. To that end, she made sure that when she was photographed, it was a shot of her with a book in her hands.

But sadly, sometimes words are more of a reality than pictures and her words just weren't that good. The strongest feeling I got was that she'd filled a wastebasket; these were her discards (often written in pencil on whatever scrap of paper she had around.)

It doesn't help that she was obsessed with herself and how she was feeling every live long day of her life. And wrote about it.

This is column number 888. Champagne all around!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Huell Howser's Biggest Fan

Huell is a PBS broadcaster who specializes in California -- visiting it and also extolling any "green" things he can find about our fair state. A former Marine (and still brawny-armed) he has a Tinn-a-see accent?

And the slightest little thing can set him off into gales of enthusiasm - "Wait a minute! OH MAH GOSH!? That's a COW!"

All last week he was exploring donuts - where the best are found, how they're made -- on and on about donuts. Richie watched intently. He may even have been taking notes for all I know. Friday, National Donut Day, he insisted we buy a pair of apple crisps for personal consumption.

Saturday, he took a box of a dozen donuts to the CERT picnic and periodically would wander past the food table to see how many were left. (Three when we took off.)

I dread the day Huell gets orgiastic about something like chewing tobacco or raising goats...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Community Emergency Response Team Picnic

Apparently the Powers That Be (the Board) have a reason for the Hawaiian theme, but they've never explained it to us peons. In addition to a quite professional appearance, there was a cattle call from the four dancers for the rest of us to join in. It was quite a sight to see the RB Mayor Mike Gin and the (I believe) RBFD Battalion Chief and other political figures gyrating half-heartedly (and clumsily) around. A good time was had by all!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

As Old as Dirt and Proud of It

"If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't)" by Betty White G.P.Putnam's Sons 258 pages $25.95

Betty White has proven to be so successful that at age 89, she signed a contract to provide her publisher two more books! That's faith - on both sides!

But to be fair, this isn't much of a written book as it is lavishly illustrated. "The writing" might be from 300 to 500 words per chapter. (There are 317 words in this column to give you an idea.)

White was born Jaunary 17, 1922, and today she said she has to restrain herself from saying, "Hi! I'm Betty White - and I'm 89 years old!" She says the older you get, the prouder you are of your age. I saw this myself at an assisted living facility. Three ladies got into a heated argument about their own ages -- "You're not 93!" "Yes. I. Am!" emphatically.

Despsite having won seven Emmys, her childhood dream was to become a forest ranger. She loved being outdoors and the animals she and her parents saw on their summer vacations camping out. But women were not allowed to serve in her day. (Today 38% of forest rangers are women.) When she was made an honorary forest ranger, she was beyond delighted.

After two brief marriages, back in the '40s, she met and married Allen Ludden in June, 1963. They had 17 blissful years together before he succumbed to stomach cancer and died in June, 1981.

Long an outspoken champion of animals, she's been able to visit such as Koko, the gorilla that learned sign language and the beluga whales at the Atlanta Aquarium. She collects stuffed animals and keeps them in a special room. On entering or leaving, she always greets them.

It's an interesting book - more for the photos than the words - and if your library has it, take a peek. (This is tactful-speak for 'Don't go out and buy it.')

Friday, June 3, 2011

Cherry Season

We may have blown the photo opp in Japan for blooming trees, but it's not too late to enjoy a handful of cherries.

Hudson House, 514 N. PCH, Redondo, has an item that's perfect with drinks and you can easily make it at home -- and stick that $5 bill back in your billfold.

1 cup almonds
1 cup whole cashews
1/2 cup black Sicilian olives
1/2 cup green olives
1/2 cup dried cherries
Put all of the above in a big bowl, drizzle a judicious amount of light olive oil over it, stir well and serve. You want a light sheen of oil, not a greasy mess dripping out of your hand.

Bon Appetit suggest using Pickled Cherries instead of cornichons with your pate or plate of salume.

3/4 cup distilled, white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 teas. whole black peppercorns
1 teas. coriander seeds
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
1 lb. fresh cherries, stemmed and pitted - (I'd do it with dried cherries)
1 large sprig of rosemary

Bring all but the cherries to boil in a saucepan, simmer for five minutes. Strain it, using a fine mesh sieve and reheat the liquid. Add the cherries and rosemary and cook till the cherries are soft. Transfer them to a 1 qt. glass jar, close the lid and refrigerate them.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Triple Generation of Women

"My Nest Isn't Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space" by Lisa Scottoline St. Martin's Press 245 pages $22.95

Scottoline is a former lawyer turned author who has written 17 novels that were published in 30 countries. This is her second biographical effort, following "Why My Third Husband Will Be A Dog."

The book is a series of short essays on family events, past history, personal problems and her relationships with her mother (always referred to as "Mother Mary") and her daughter, Francesca. I's a perfect bathroom book -- a quick, easy read, bit by bit.

Her daughter chimes in with a chapter from time to time: "I am going to see my cousin's new apartment, but in Mom-speak that translates to: 'I am going to meet certain death in the New York subway tunnels that are soon to be my tomb.'"

It's a bit overblown -- specifically about how all three of them just love and adore the others; how she sleeps with four or five dogs (forget exact number) and two cats -- I wanted to say, "I get it awready!" But there are some funny moments in it as well.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Incident at A Lecture

Last night we attended a lecture on the history of New Orleans jazz, given in a 2nd floor room at the Redondo Beach Library. The room itself is large and for the lecture, had rows of plastic and metal chairs set up with a wide aisle between two sections of seats. A long table held the professor's tools - a machine with a lighted face for transparent sheets of print/photos, a boom box and various papers. There were perhaps 25 to 30 people present, all middle aged or older.

I noticed a rather odd-looking lady. She was short, plump and walked with her head down and shoulders hunched -- like a turtle. Her masses of thick, black-going-grey hair hung down her back and formed wings shielding her downard-looking face. Unremarkable dark slacks and top and a bright blue warm-up jacket that hung down off of her shoulders, nearly to her knees.

The woman in the row ahead of me and slightly to my left had excellent posture and sat up attentively, listening and looking at the displays on the screen. All seemed to be going well until the lecturer threw up a screen with a lot of much smaller printing on it.

"Crazy Lady" got up, crept up the main aisle and stood, staring at the words, making them out.

The woman in front of me grew impatient, stood up, walked up the aisle to Crazy Lady and hissed something at her, spun on her heel and returned to her seat. Crazy Lady ignored whatever had been said to her, and took her time, leisurely continuing to read.

Finally she turned and began walking back to her seat and as she passed Impatient Lady, she abruptly stopped, reached out and snapped the fingers of her right hand about six inches away from Impatient Lady's hairline! Impatient Lady reacted by jerking her head back, letting her mouth drop open and a whispered "...see that?" to the woman next to her.

Having delivered her scorn, Crazy Lady continued down the aisle to her seat.

I was stunned at the insolence of the gesture and the more I thought about it, the more I felt that I'd seen it before somewhere... where? Where?

This morning, I finally remembered. In the pages of Kathleen Winsor's book, "Forever Amber." Amber St. Claire was forever rousting flirtatious gentlemen with a snip of her fingers at his chest and the words, "Marry come up, sir!" indignantly.

Crazy Lady must have been a fan. For all I know, she could have been saying, "Marry come up, you little Madam!" But, trust me -- she was no Amber St. Claire.