Sunday, July 31, 2011


Nothing to say or report. I am hoping for something newsworthy after this afternoon. We're invited for "Vino on the Veranda" at a friends' house. They have an enormous patio with a breath-stopping view of the sea. I suggested they name the house "La Vue de Dieux" (God's view) and it's still under advisement.

They didn't need to use any of the terrace for a pool -- there's one inside the house. How cool is that? All-weather swimming!

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Guy Book, An Unusual Salad and Payback That Bounced

"There I Fixed It. No, You Didn't" by a collection of writers and photographers who call themselves Cheezburger Network. Andrews McMeel Publishing $14.95

It's a collection of duct-taped mended and jury-rigged fixed things. Examples: the back wheel and seat of a bicycle attached to the handle of a power mower; a plastic lawn chair ($5 at the supermarket) with the seat mostly cut out and the caption, "There's something to be said for a toilet with armrests."

This book was designed for guys in that it's all pictures with very short captions. I've noted in my long career as an amateur psychologist that men gravitate to picture humor; women to humor in words (anecdotes, puns, stories.)

An Unusual Salad
Yesterday I was a guest of the Redondo Beach Parks and Recreation department's lunch for volunteers at Emerald Gardens, 3201 Artesia, RB 310-214-5455. The first course was a salad: small pieces of iceberg lettuce with a topping of fried won ton strips and a dressing that I believe was a small splash of Chinese Rice Wine vinegar. It was refreshing.

"So, Hah!"
Some time ago, the woman who runs the Veterans Park Senior Center came in and asked the Thurs. Writers who is the group leader. As one, they all pointed at me despite my vehement denials. She left, we went on with our business. Time passed.

Then I received an invitation to the above lunch, addressed to me at home. I assumed all the rest of us would be included, so I accepted.

At the lunch it was only me. The City had invited the group leaders only. Mayor Mike Gin was at my table but on the other side of the table for 10. I had a nice conversation with Steve Diels, the rep for Distric 5 where we live.

So, yesterday, I marched into Thurs. Writers and said, "You all remember when you indicated that I was the leader? Guess what! Yesterday I got to go to a FREE lunch and we had salad, soup, sweet and sour pork with rice and vegetables and a mango tapioca pudding in a little styrofoam cup for dessert! When I arrived, I was handed a carnation; when I left I was given a black lanyard with green rhinestone trim, a little plastic bag with some hard candies and a plastic fan in it and you didn't get any of that, so, hah!"

Those present responded as one: "Better you than me!" So much for leadership envy among writers.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bad Moon Rising?

Not deterred by yesterday's fiasco in Long Beach, Richie determined that after our 9:30 a.m. haircuts, we would go straight to Long Beach for our second attempt to see the ships.

In the car, heading for the freeway and Long Beach, I said plaintively, "I sure hope some entrepreneur has set a hot dog stand..." and Richie said, "Tell you what, we're coming up on Nathan's, we'll stop and get a hot dog. So we did.* Delay #1.

Then I couldn't find my hat anywhere in the car, so we went home and got it. Delay #2.

We arrived at the parking lot (free for once,) parked, cleared Security and went to the back of the line/mass. Picture some 20 to 30 people abreast, 40 or 50 people deep.

Periodically a security guard would order us into a line-like mass, but it was, for him, like trying to walk an octopus.

We chatted amicably with the people immediately around us -- an older guy, who was very knowledgeable about boats and the history of San Pedro and the couple beside us who live in San Pedro. Behind us there were seven Asian nuns and they looked too cute - all of them were about 5 ft. tall, all in traditional nun garb - navy blue jackets and long skirts, white blouses, crucifixes hanging prominently from chains around their necks. Believe me, they kept their part of the line string straight.

But, at the 40 minute mark, this was becoming boring. Just then a Navy officer, in white uniform, chest covered with ribbons and medals, popped himself up onto a table and addressed us. The problem was: a minesweeper is a small ship and only 12 people at a time are able to fit on board. The tour takes 20 minutes. Do the math...

At the one hour and 15 minute mark, I said to Richie, "This sucks - see you at the car." I hit the restroom on the way out, went to the car and settled in the comfortable passenger seat, put the windows down (lovely day, refreshing little breeze) picked up my book, lit a cigarette and relaxed. Standing on a concrete floor, wearing glove-soft boat shoes, is not going to do the average back any good at all.

An hour later, Richie appeared, looking irritated. He said, "I give up! I'm not standing in that line any longer!"

Astonished, I gasped, "You've been in the LINE all this time?" "Yes," he said, put on his seat belt, started the car and away we went.

He discarded his plan to try again today when he read the front page of the Daily Breeze - "Ship viewers wait up to three hours to tour..." Delay #3.

* Make one hot dog seem like two: put mustard, onion, pickle relish on one end; put mustard, sauerkraut on the other end. Viola - two different tastes!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Frown Part 2

I remembered a very good lunch at a place called "Blue's" but when we got to it, there it wasn't. We read the menu at La Creperie Cafe, whose sign proclaims them to be a "Bohemian Bistro Bar" and went in.

They have a sidewalk patio in front of a big, inside dining room and long bar. We decided to eat on the patio as it was a lovely day. We watched the passing scene - pedestrians and vehicles - while sipping a Stella (Richie - $4.75) and from a flute of Pul Clement Brut ($7) which was lovely - crisp, citric and a faint hint of peaches. Service is very friendly, but somewhat leisurely. No matter, we were in no hurry. Richie said to me, "This counts as a Vacation Day!" and we clinked glasses.

Unusually for us we ordered the same thing. We started with lunch-sized Caesar salads ($4) and then the crepes au homard - three small crepes of lobster meat with shiitake mushrooms, leeks and a lobster bechemel sauce. ($16.95)

We agreed we'd eaten better Caesar salads. Not enough of the rather insipid dressing but the lettuce was fresh and crisp.

The crepes, picture above, would have been a great deal better if the chef hadn't substituted green onions for the leeks! Here's a traditionally sweet meat, paired with unoffending mushrooms and that would have been fine. Enter the strident chopped, raw green onion and ... it takes over. They were listed as "crepes" but that part certainly tasted like won-ton wrappers to me. Same texture, too.

The lobster bechemel sauce had a faint flour back taste. I don't think the chef cooked that batch long enough. The lobster though was plentiful.

We finished of by sharing an Apple Pan Perdu ($7.95) which you could easily make at home. Make French toast - add a bit of cinnamon and sugar to the milk/egg mix, then top the finished toast with a layer of heated, canned apple pie mix, whoosh with clouds of whipped cream and put a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the middle of the toast.

Richie shoved the tab under my nose, pointing emphatically at it. I looked down, pointed my own self, "Richie that was your Stella and..." "No! No! - look at the name!" Our server's name is Krzysztof - pronounced Chrish-toff. He's from Pasadena, of Polish descent.

La Creperie Cafe, 131 Pine Avenue, Long Beach 562-437-8648 Other locations in Belmont Shores and Chino.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Turn A Frown Upside Down!" (Perkily)

Yesterday I wrote of our plan to visit the WW2 ships. Richie clipped the article and I put it in my purse. We were some minutes away from the freeway when I re-read it. Uh, oh - the ships named were assigned a day and time that you can visit them and none of them were on Mondy despite the L.A. Times saying Navy Week starts Monday and continues till Sunday, July 31st.

Richie pulled over to the side of the road and we discussed this turn of events. "The hell with it, we're in the car, let's go!" and down the 405 to the Harbor Freeway we streaked.

On the Harbor, going south, we wondered what was slowing the traffic. It turned out to be an elderly white pick-up truck with a huge sign that read "Joe's Ark" along with various signs and slogans, both religious and patriotic, predominantly "God told me to build an ark" a referral to a crude-looking, wood boat in the back of the truck. Front and back this truck had fluttering flags with a banner mounted across the top of the truck, facing into the wind. This slowed him down as well as everyone behind him - no one wanted to be beaned in the windshield or blinded by a flying banner. He finally got off, I think, on Torrance Boulevard.

We exited onto Harbor Boulevard and started looking. No signs proclaiming Navy Week and no ships. We finally tooled over to the USS Lane Victory which has staff and enquired. Sure enough, it all kicks off on Tuesday.

The parking lot sports a brand-new looking toilet kiosk, so, of course, we stepped in. The interior of the Ladies was polished steel - ceiling, walls and floor. all of the fixtures were automated - wave your hand to activate the toilet flush. Above the basin were three, lit pushbuttons - "Water," "Soap," and "Dryer." "My goodness," was all I could mutter in awe.

Back in the car, I suggested to Richie that we motor on over to Nordstrom Rack and finger some merch'. He was agreeable. He bought a Hawaiian shirt and a pair of woven leather loafters. I got a striped jersey. This business settled, we needed to find a place for lunch.

To Be Continued

Monday, July 25, 2011

Anchors Away!

Not exactly. Today is the start of Navy Week and the public is invited to come aboard:
USS Abraham Lincoln, aircraft carrier
USS Princeton, cruiser
USS Chafee, destroyer
USS Champion, mine sweeper

The tour starts when you board the free shuttle at Harbor Boulevard and First Street. For more information visit or

Richie's interest in today's tours stems from the fact that he did four years in the Navy. He joined with the expectation of seeing the world, but, alas, all he ever saw was training near Chicago, more in Millington, TN and finally duty at the Pawtuxet River naval base.

We have toured several aircraft carriers and they're huge with vast, echoing spaces and near-vertical ladders between decks. Pass on that!

For old times, I want to visit the mine sweeper. Back in the '70s, a group of us flew from LAX to Mazatlan, boarded John Wayne's "Wild Goose" and took it to Puerta Vallarta, where we flew home.

The Wild Goose is a converted minesweeper, refitted for civilian use. What I remember clearly is the woodburning fireplace in a corner of the living room! Also: all of the toilet seat lids had covers - needlepoint work of an eagle holding a clutch of arrows in his claw.

There are two roomy aft decks, one above the other, and we usually ate lunch and/or dinner there. One day a crewman opened one of the vast freezers that ringed the lower deck and offered us slivers of 4,000 year old Arctic ice. I was the only one that would take a piece and, while I worried about being felled by some exotic, incurable disease, I had to say "It just tasted like ice."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Friday's Spending Spree (Whee!)

First we went to the Farmer's Market and Richie bought flowers, radishes, strawberries and corn. I dread corn season; he'd eat it four nights of the week if I didn't scream like a deranged banshee.

Then we went to Border's, the bookstore off of Hawthorne. Everybody got the memo that the store was closing because Border's was bankrupt.

Take this, Kindl readers! The parking lot was jammed with cars circling like sharks for a parking space and so was the store, once we got into it. We stood in line for 40 minutes to pay and there were six or seven cashiers! A lot of us - more than you might imagine - still love the heft of a book, the expectation of a good read and that wonderful curiosity the first time you open a new book.

Some great bargains - "The Complete Book of New Yorker Cartoons" which is approximately 24 by 34 inches, weighing in at a ton. It was miserable lugging it around, even in a basket. It is the coffee table book from hell for portability. It was $20, not the list price of $60.

Then we went to Trader Joe's. The only remarkable purchase there was a jar of "Fleur de Sel Caramel" sauce. I've been dying to tast this combo and too cheap to spend $8 for a box of caramels made of it.

Once home, purchases unpacked, I got myself a dish of vanilla ice cream and poured -- tried to pour -- this sauce over it. It is so thick that I almost needed a knife to cut myself out a chunk for the ice cream. Next time, I'll nuke it first. It was very, very good but I did not taste "salt." Apparently very little is required (which is true of all sea salts) to give depth to the caramel flavoring.

All in all, profitable day -- for the merchants.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

"Medical Narrative"

It's the category that the Dewey Decimal System has assigned to biographies written by medical docors about their training. These are survival stories from the ones who made it through internship, a residency and finally won the right to add "M.D." after their name.

I love this type of book! When I was 12 years old, I wanted to become a brain surgeon. My parents - a mechanical engineer and a housewife - were all for it. At 16, I discovered boys and there went a (possibly) promising medical career.

"This Won't Hurt a Bit (And Other White Lies)" by Michelle Au, M.D. Grand Central Publishing 322 pages $24.99

Doctor Au graduated from Wellesley College in 1999, received her M.D. from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 2003 and completed her residency at the Columbia University Center in Manhattan. Today she is married with two sons, working as an anesthesiologist in a private practice in Atlanta.

I liked this book (and remember I'm very well versed in Medical Narrative - "The House of God" was and is one of the funniest books I've ever read) because her writing voice is frank, direct and she can be funny as hell to boot. She illustrates several events with play scenes - this was one. She and Joe (future husband) are going to a Halloween party in black tights and sweaters with the lines of all of the areas a single spinal nerve serves painted on them with glitter paint. At the party, they are mistaken for: mimes, cat burglars or members of Cirque du Soleil.

Doctor Au's parents are visiting her apartment and her mother spots a dying plant on the windowsill. She says, "You have to water it. Are you watering it?"

Response: "I know you have to water plants, Ma. I did water it." Michelle's inner dialogue: "Once."

The only thing I didn't like was the last 5th of the book is all "philosophy of medicine." Basically it boils down to: we're here to help you (and the money is good, too.)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Snipping Ban in San Francisco

"Nanny Rules" have gone too far. In San Francisco proponents are arguing for a No Circumcision Law. Their position is that the circumcision of males under the age of 18 should be punishable by fines and/or jail and they want this bill on deck at the August 15th Senate committee hearing. (Which obviously translates to: any 19 year old male can attach any number of rings, chains, etc. to that organ.)

This ban is despite the fact that international health groups promote circumcision as a deterent to the spread of AIDs and if you don't think San Francisco needs that, come out from under your sheltering rock.

This group of deranged citizens argue that the practice is a form of genital mutilation and that parents should not be allowed to force their decision on a young child. They believe the City is better equipped to make decisions. If I were a parent, I'd be beyong rage at this kind of thinking. "My Kid; My Decision."

Amazingly enough, a coalition of Jews and Muslims, working together, filed a lawsuit saying saying that male circumcision is widely practiced by members of both faiths. They argue that the new bill would be a violation of First Amendment rights. Their suit also argues that state law bars local government from restricting medical procedures meaning: the City can't stop doctors from performing it. (So why this law at all?)

The whole tempest is a non-issue simply because 80% of American males are already circumcised.

However there is still hope for Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles and Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco who propose this nonsense. Only 30% of males worldwide are circumcised. There's your market, Mr. Gatto and Ms. Ma -- go for it internationally where you can win.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sticker Shock

We are planning to go to Las Vegas over Labor Day weekend. Because we're meeting Red and Barbara, their daughter and her husband and Barbara's sister and her husband, we have to get there - as opposed to the two of us going somewhere on our own.

So I went to a Major American Airline's (MAA) employee site and booked the flights I wanted. They looked good here in mid-July. The system codes the flights: green - looks good; yellow - good chance; red - fuhgeddabout it; black - flight cancelled. It also gives the number of pax (passengers) currently booked on each flight.

But: I have been hornswoggled many times before -- "Oh, it looks great!" and three days before the flight every flight to that destination is a bright red.

So I wrote down what I wanted and gave it to our neighbor who works in MAA's ticketing department.

She called back that afternoon, said I could get the flights I wanted (something of a miracle in itself) and RT would be $191 after various discounts. I was quite pleased and purred in gratitude. Less than $100 each! Then I took off for an appointment.

When I got home, Richie said, "She called back and it's $191 apiece so I wrote out a second check." I was gobsmacked. I read the LA Times "Travel" section and Las Vegas usually costs from $115 to $138 for American, United, Delta.

Las Vegas is a popular holiday destination and Labor Day proves to be no exception. Bah humbug!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

French Servingware

The top photo shows the typical go-with-drinks foods the French serve - hardboiled eggs in their own little ceramic "carton," radishes and the butter to put on them; a "saucisson" or dry salame - you cut off a chunk the size you want. A variety of olives is nearly always at hand. The little round dish contains olive oil and white balsamic vinegar to dip chunks of roll or bread. (The French borrowed this idea from the Italians.) The other small dish near the bread contains a crushed garlic clove and olive oil. This is a special ceramic dish with a raised, checkerboard finish to grate the garlic clove before you add the olive oil. The "green peppers" are in a bowl as are the pickled radishes.

As this was meant to be a full meal, I put out sliced ham and a potato salad and a Brie. Dessert was fresh fruit.

Bottom Photo

This is the set-up for making a pastis which is THE summer drink in Provence. Put a finger or so of the liquor in the glass, add ice and water. A guest new to it said, "It's refreshing! It tastes like licorice!" (The clay cylinder is for a white wine - really keeps it cool. ) The pitcher labeled "Pastis" is for the water.

You can double click the pictures and they get bigger.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bits and Bobs

I say that because they're unrelated.

Did you know that when you are going to boil a 1 1/4 lb. lobster to put a raw egg (in its shell) in with the lobster? When the egg is cooked, the lobster will be, too. Personally I think that's kind of silly. Picture an egg bobbing along beside a lobster.

The bacon craze (Bacon and maple syrup ice cream? Denny's) seems to be weakening, but this is a good tip when you're making breakfst for a lot of people -- preheat the ove to 350, line a rimmed cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper, put a wire rack on top of it and lay out your bacon. It should take about 15 minutes. Don't forget to rotate the pan at about the 7 min. done mark.

This is a simple-sounding recipe...Sweet Teeth, front and center!

1 1/2 cups sugar
3 T corn syrup
1 T honey
1/4 cup water
1 T baking soda, sifted

Line a cookie pan with parchment paper or foil. Mix togther everything BUT the baking soda in a heavy saucepan. Stir it over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Turn up the heat and boil it - but don't stir it - just wipe down the sides with a wet pastry brush. When this mixture turns a pale amber, add the baking soda - IT WILL FOAM UP DRAMATICALLY, SO BE CAREFUL. Whisk and pour onto the cookie sheet. Let it sit until it's cool and then bust it up with a knife handle.

This doesn't bode well...
Richie's great-nephew penned this to us: Dear Uncle Richie and Aunt Nina - Thank you for the check. I LOVE MONEY! Thank you, love, Charlie (age 6)

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Eye of the Beholder

This is the photograph I bought at the Hermosa Beach Art Walk on June 12th. It caught my eye because of the subject -- I'm a sucker for beach grass and this depiction looked just like the Hamptons to me.

Richie grew up on the North Shore of Long Island, so I thought this would make a charming memento. I mentioned this to the artist, Siep Bueneker, who then directed me to the writing on the mat -- it was shot at the beaches of Normandy, France! So much for the Hamptons.

But it's a double souvenir anyhow -- you can squint and think of the Hamptons or you can turn your head and see the beach at Loctudy, south of the Normandie Beaches, where our dear friend Michelle has a summer home.

Visit Siep and see his shots at

Sunday, July 17, 2011

This Is Healthy?

"A Man, A Can, A Plan - 50 Great Guy Meals Even You Can Make" by David Joachim and the Editors of Men's Health Rodale Press 43 pages $9.99

The premise of this book is a false one: men don't cook. And the book came out in 2002! not 1952 as one might have expected.

A further claim, "This food does everything from prevent heart disease and prostate cancer to boost your immune system and energy levels."

You be the judge.

Border-Patrol Casserole
2 5-oz. cans chunk lean ham, drained
Mix in two 15-oz. cans barbecue-baked beans
Spread the mix out in a glass casserole, top with half a 16 oz. jar of chunky salsa, spread 1 1/2 CUPS baked tortilla chips over the salsa and dust with a half-cup of shredded, reduced-fat Cheddar cheese.
Calories per serving - 587, 18 grams fat, 1,610 mg.n sodium

Under the "Fruit" heading we find, Cherry Chocolate Chippers
1 15-oz. can cherry pie filling
1 18-oz. refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough
3/4 cup of rolled oats

Preheat the oven to 350. Mash the oats into the cookie dough and press the dough into an 8 in, skillet, forming an even layer. "Plop on"* the pie filling and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 16 wedges.
Calories per wedge - 313.

* Guy speak, used throughout.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Comeuppance of A Sort

We'd just walked into the Hermosa Beach library book sale this morning, when I was greeted by my friend Pat, a fellow Beach Cities Health District volunteer.

"Any of your books here?" she asked. I grinned and said, "I hope not!" We both laughed and then went about our business. Pickings were slim so I headed back to the car to wait for Richie.

When he did come, he said, "You know that little cabinet on your right as you come in the door? Your racing book is there!"

"No!" I was exceedingly startled because it's been out-of-print for all of five years. "I've got to get it!" And there it was.

It wouldn't have surprised me to see my second book there ("Dispatches From a Born-Again Cynic" and truth be told, I've often checked out the Humor section at book sales just to be sure it isn't there. So far, it hasn't been. So far.

I took it to the cashier ladies and proudly said, "I wrote this!" Suitably impressed, they examined it carefully, noting "That is you!" at the photo on the back jacket. Shamelessly, I preened - "How much is it?" I asked.

"A quarter" was the response. "That's all?" I gasped. "It sold for $19.95 and I netted $16,500 on this book!"

Aside to the IRS and the California Franchise Tax Board - and I paid every penny due you, too!

Twenty-five cents. Something of a comedown, you must admit.

R I P Hootie
1996 - 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011


"Stories My Father Told Me - Notes From "The Lyons Den" compiled by Jeffrey Lyons Abbeville Press 351 pages I couldn't find a price; try

Leonard Lyons for 40 years wrote the anecdote column -- I say "anecdote" because Lyons didn't do who was sleeping with whom (unlike Walter Winchell) called "The Lyons Den" for a now-defunct NY newspaper. It appeared six days a week and that meant he had to hit the Stork Club, 21, the Latin Quarter, theaters every afternoon and evening.

The book is tidily divided by decades - the '30s, the '40s and the anecdotes often cover years of the person being exhibited.

Some gleaned tidbits -
* John Steinbeck's wife wouldn't allow him to fly; he had to take a train.
* George Burns played "Oh God" and didn't bother with make up. He remarked, "We're about the same age, but we were brought up in different neighborhoods."
* Noel Coward on trans-Atlantic travel: "I prefer to travel to New York on a French ship. They don't have that silly rule, 'Women and children first.'"

* When Harpo Marx went to a restaurant in Haifa and realized a neighboring table was celebrating a birthday, he pulled his curly wig out of his pocket, put it on, stuck a match under each fingernail, lit them and whistled "Happy Birthday."

If you like to smile or if you're curious about famous people, it's a very good book.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Getting Down at the Gym

A crew was power washing the garage floors and we were directed Down instead of the usual Up.

Down, down we went ... "I didn't even know this was down here!" I said to Richie. He shook his head in agreement. We had to take four escalators to get to the gym, that's how far down we were.

As I was leaving aftr my workout, I quipped to the very nice young woman at the desk, "We had to park so far down (sympathetic head shake on her part) that we were next to three Chinese kids playing soccer." And she roared.

Once down the four escalators and in the car, I checked the cell phone for messages and the screen read -- for the first time ever -- "Searching for a signal..."

That's D O W N.

Hereuse Jour de Bastille!

This is the day that the Bastille, a fortress-prison, was stormed by the peasants in 1790.

Today there is a huge military parade and Sarkozy and the Missus will throw a garden party at the Palais de l'Elysee. All over the world, in fact, the French embassies will be doing similar garden parties.

I wanted to be sure that what I will be serving Sunday was authentic for a French pique-nique, so I checked. Various Website instructed as to what "proper" Bastille Day dishes should be and "they" are so wrong I nearly covered my hairline with my sneer.

Bouillabaisse and French Onion Soup are winter dishes. Crepes or a chocolate mousse would be acceptable, but barely. The only thing suggested that IS picnic food is ratatouille and here's how you make it. This is a very easy dish and much of the content is left up to the cook.

You'll need - one large egg plant or 3 or 4 small ones. Some people slice the egg plant, salt it and let it sit to take away the inherent bitterness. Other people don't. Your choice on how to treat the eggplant.
A medium onion -- red or white -- coarsely chopped.
Couple of zuccini, cut in rounds
Couple of cloves of garlic, minced
4 or 5 tomatoes - beefsteak for more juice; Romas for less
Seasonings - equal parts thyme, rosemary and basil

Get a big pot (I use a pasta pot) and pour in maybe 1/2 cup of olive oil. Because eggplant soaks up olive oil, be prepared to add more.

You want to put the vegetables that take the longest to cook in first, so -
eggplant first, followed by onion, chopped; zuccinis, garlic, minced and lastly 4 or 5 raw tomatoes, sliced or quartered, your choice. Toss in the seasonings.

Keep the burner gentle, put the lid on the pot and leave it alone for 20 or 30 minutes. What happens is that the vegetables release their liquids and they become the "juice" in this dish. It keeps well and is usually served at room temperature. Bon appetit!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Richie and I have a French godson named Fabien Gibert. His nickname is "Fob" like "Bob." He is an attractive young man (27) who inherited all of both his parents' considerable charm.

He is also a talented cartoonist and now works in Paris as a graphic designer and video photographer. To see his works, visit (the second photo, top row, is his grandfather, Rene.) More of his work is shown at

Take a look at how the French do it -- Bastille Day is right around the corner!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Let's Have A Pique-nique!

Bastille Day is this Thursday, but I'll manage to restrain myself until Saturday to throw a French picnic. It won't be easy ...

One thing that will be different will be: No Firecrackers! I was in Aix-en-Provence for a Bastille Day and spent the afternoon and well into the night quivering in terror. Reason? French people laughingly lob cherry bombs at each other! Far from my gentle childhood when we had Roman candle duels.

So, what're we going to eat? Ah, let me tick off the delicacies... radishes with butter, "green peppers," assorted olives, a baguette, a stick of dried sausage -- just whack off a chunk with that knife on the bread board -- French potato salad, a pile of sliced French ham (supermarket delis usually carry it) a couple of Maille mustards, a Brie for a ham and cheese sandwich, maybe a Camembert, too -- fresh fruits and peach champagne to wash it all down! (Amour de Paris, Trader Joe's, $4.79/bottle)

"Green Peppers" is straight out of Provence and it's simplicity itself.
1 clove garlic, minced, crushed into 1/2 teas. sea salt. Douse this paste with a T of olive oil
1 green pepper, washed, cored and cut into thin strips. Put the strips in the "sauce," mix well and eat. I use a bowl with a tight-fitting lid to make this; it's the easiest way to coat all of the peppers. And because the salt makes the green peppers limp after awhile, make it and eat it; don't make it ahead of time and hold it back.

Jacques Pepin's Potato Salad
2 lbs. fingerling potatoes, boiled and drained. For fun, peel a strip lengthwise around each potato and then cut each potato in half horizontally. You want to have bite-sized pieces of potato at the end.
1/2 cup olive oil to saute:
2 green onions, cut in rings; white and green; 2 slices red onion, chopped and 1 clove of garlic, minched. When this is done, add it to the potatoes.
Put 1 1/2 T Dijon mustard into 1/3 cup white wine and mix. Add a grind or two of black pepper and slam it onto the potatoes.

Pepin's recipe also calls for addingt 2 or 3 T chopped chives and 2 T chopped fresh basil OR 2 T chopped fresh fennel, but I think that would make it "too herby" so I'm calling these ingredients "optional." Pardon, M. Pepin...mes apologies.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Richie is a great advocate of windowshopping. As he gleefully points out, "It's FREE!"

Many women and quite a few men like to dreamily house hunt. And we're not interested in some little beach shack, an abandoned hut or, God forbid, a fixer-upper! We want the good stuff!

And I found a terrific source for big time daydreams. Architectural Digest runs a monthly column called "On The Market" -- breezy, catch-y, no? They also run the properties up for bid on their Website --, then inner search for "estates for sale."

Let's start small and move on up, shall we?

Palm Springs 5 bedrooms, 5.5 baths, 8,000 sq. ft. $13.9 million Cool factor! Parts of the James Bond film "Diamonds Are Forever" were shot here.

East Hampton 4 bedrooms, 4.5 baths 3,400 sq. ft. $38 million Cool factor! Dahlings, it's on Further Lane, THE address in the Hamptons

Oh, the Hamptons are so over for you? How about Blair Castle then, in Ayrshire, Scotland. It's 900 years old and has been completely restored. There are 18 bedrooms, 16 baths, 25,000 sq. ft., along with four farms, seven cottages, a carriage house with stables and a tennis court. 13 million! (What a deal! For $13 million you could have your own city!)

Countess Nathalie Volpi has moved on, but you can buy her old house. Located in Sabaudia, Italy (an hour south of Rome) this 11,370 sq. ft. place has seven bedrooms, five baths, a guesthouse, caretaker's quarters and stable. The land stretches from the Tyrrhenian Sea to Lake Paola. $28.1 million

The hell with it all, you say? Start from scratch with Ronde Island, Grenada. This undeveloped island covers 2,000 acres and costs $100 million. And that's just for the dirt -- you have to install electricity, gas, water, fi-os, sewage disposal and all of the rest. Based on the helicopter-shot photo, set aside a lot for trimming out the trees.

Makes the mortgage payment look downright friendly, doesn't it?

Sunday, July 10, 2011


"My Father at 100, a Memoir" by Ron Reagan Viking 228 pages $25.95

Reagan writes that his father loved being on stage, the cheering crowds, the public speeches, but was intensely private at home. He writes that his father would listen to a family member, respond and then vanish, back behind the shutters of his private world.

He wrote that he was the heart and soul of affability, but that he had almost no close friends in later life. I think that's fairly easy to figure out -- his peers were his age and he lived to be 93.

He was athletic and loved to ride horseback and swim, activities he willingly shared with his children.

Reagan goes on at length, describing how non-confrontational his father was, how he swallowed anger and avoided "discussions." Nancy Reagan in a Vanity Fair interview stated that "Ronnie never really got mad at me." What neither of them relates is a Secret Service agent's recounting of a time at the ranch when Reagan wanted Nancy to come riding with him and she preferred making phone calls to her girlfriends. Reagan waited patiently for awhile, then came charging into the house and ripped the phone right out of the wall. The agent said that it was hard to get another one up there quickly due to the isolation of the ranch.

In 2010, Ron, Jr. because curious about his Reagan grandparents and went exploring Tampico, Dixon, Rock River, the small towns in Illinois that his predecessors had inhabited.

He paints an unsurprising portrait of a man many of us felt we knew. Ronald Reagan was the same straight shooter in old age that he had been as a teenager.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

She Didn't Always Live in the White House

Betty Ford had a good, long run. Her outspoken candor always intrigued the media and she was enormously popular -- at one point, 75 per cent of Americans liked her.

Because we knew of her at a certain time in her life, I was surprised to do some digging and discover other things about her that, while never "secret," were not addressed.

She was the youngest of three and had two older brothers. When she was 16, her father was found dead in the family garage. He'd been working on the car and died of carbon monoxide poisoning. The garage doors were open, but he was an alcoholic and my imagination filled in the blanks. He died the day before his 60th birthday.

She married William Warren when she was 24. Unfortunately, he was also an alcoholic with, as a bonus, diabetes. Just after she decided to divorce him, he went into a (possibly alcohol-fueled) coma. It didn't kill him and she stayed with him for the two years it took him to recover. Then she divorced him.

She married Gerald Ford when she was 30 and they were married for the next 58 years, until his death age 93.

It could be argued that no matter how bad it may have been in the beginning, a life can wind up happily ever after.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Doing What We Do Best!

The annual South Bay Writers' Workshop potluck picnic, held yesterday at Andrews Park, Redondo Beach. It should be pointed out that adult beverages in a City park are strictly forbidden but that two of our male members, ages 90 and 86, feel they are sufficiently adult enough to know that a glass of wine isn't going to hurt them any. Do not deny these sophisticated, world citizens their pleasures!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Today, I had a routine appointment with my GP. I was called, Nurse Jessica weighed me, took my BP and temperature. Then she abandoned me.

I sat and sat and as I did, noticed that the room was noticeably chilly.

"Doctor" finally tapped on the door, swung it open and we exchanged the usual greetings. Hugging myself, I remarked easily, "Damn! It's cold in here -- I was about to set fire to the magazines -- get a little warmth in here!"

I just wish you could have seen the startled jump he gave.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


"Not Afraid of Life - My Journey So Far" by Bristol Palin with Nancy French William Morrow 256 pages $25.99

On October 18, 2011, Palin will be 21 years old. Now I wasn't born in Alaska, didn't grow up there, my mother never ran for a public office in her life ... but I have to ask -- how much living can a 20 year old have done?

I've made it as far as page 164. Palin is sitting at the kitchen table, feeding the baby while reading Star (trashbloid magazine.) She is stunned to see a picture of the baby and then angry becuse the photo collapses her agreement with People magazine for exclusive shots -- for a great deal of money. Sleazy Levi has struck again! (Note: his mother has been buying him chewing tobacco since he was in 7th grade.)

Palin's message is somewhat crisscrossed: premarital sex is bad, but the resulting baby is like totally awesome!

I found this to be somewhat strange, vaguely off-kilter ... the names that Sarah and Todd gave their children.

Oldest son, Track - "because he was born during track season and my parents love sports."
Bristol - "Dad told everyone I was named after Bristol Bay, where he'd fished since he was a kid, but Mom told everyone I was named afer Bristol, Conn., home of ESPN where she'd hoped one day to be a sportscaster."
Piper Indi Grace - "after the Piper plane my dad flies, the idea of 'independence' and the grace of God."
Willow - "a small community that began in 1897 when miners discovered gold and for Willow Bay, one of my mother's favorite sports reporters."

It occurs to me that they may have been out in the bitter, biting cold a little too long...

Monday, July 4, 2011

I Like Ike

"Going Home To Glory - A Memoir of Life with Dwight David Eisenhower: 1961 - 1969" by David Eisenhower and Julie Nixon Eisenhower Simon and Schuster 336 pages $10.12 at

Author David is Ike's grandson and he spent many of his youthful summers on their farm in Gettysburg, PA. He weeded the garden, tended the horses and painted the fences.

I looked Ike up and was stunned to read that he was born in 1890! His presidency from 1953 to 1961 made him a contemporary, sort of, as I was 13 in 1953. "1890" just sounds so ... really last century, totally unconnected. He died, aged 78, at Walter Reed hospital ending a long stay there in 1969.

Mamie was born in 1896. When they married he was 25 and she was only 19. She lasted another 10 years after he died, dying aged 87 in 1979.

They enjoyed a quiet life post-Presidency, summering at their Gettysburg farm, wintering on the Eldorado golf club grounds in Indian Wells, CA. Ike's two best friends there were Freeman Gosden and Fred Allen. Ike and Mamie were frequent guests at the Annenburg estate, Sunnylands. It seems that all they ever did was play golf and bridge! It doesn't get much quieter than that... You can tour this house by typing "Eisenhower Eldorado home" on Google. The place was huge!

Dinners were formal, coats and ties for the men, unless they were alone. Their preference was to use TV trays in front of the television. Ike loved gadgets and he drove everyone crazy switching channels when he was given a remote control for the TV.

Ike's famous cooking was basically his loyal Sgt. Moaney doing all of the prep work while Ike then poked stuff with a fork or ladle for the cameras.

He and Nixon were always close, but he and Kennedy, while cordial and respectful of each other, didn't like each other at all. He and Truman got along fine until Eisenhower fled the Dems and joined the GOP. That tore it with Harry.

Triva: Actress Joan Olander signed with Universal Studios on the day Ike took office. Studio heads promptly re-christened her "Mamie Van Doran" in homage.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Officially Summer!

This morning, Richie put the towel across the spring-loaded curtain rods in the sklight in the living room. Now it's nice and shady and when dusk falls, I just reach up with a pair of longish tongs and pull one side down. Next morning, up on the stepladder and put it back. Requires a bit of athleticism, but well worth it. It's at least a 10 degree drop in temperature.

Today I'll pack up the fall-winter clothes and install summer stuff in their place. I will be growling at some of my t-shirts. I hate the "clingy" look and even though I buy that type in XL, they're still not loose enough to satisfy me. I yank at the side seams, stretching it all the way to the bottom of the shirt before I struggle into one - to not much avail. Many of us have belly flop and remembering to stand tall and suck it in is wearying.

It's true that Southern California weather doesn't vary much and that we don't have four, distinct seasons like most of the rest of the country, but because of that, I think we notice our temperature differences more. I DO shiver when it's 60 degrees in February. Cue colder climate denizens to: start screaming in disbelief, roar with laughter or yell "Idiot! Try 32 below!" (Your choice of actions.)

If I ever discover a place that is roughly 72 year 'round, I'll send you a postcard.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Two Score & Three Years Ago, Our Forefathers...

Whoops! Wrong event! Today, July 2nd, Richie and I celebrate 27 years of (mostly) marital bliss.

Because we were 43 and 42 when we married, it is unlikely that we'll live to celebrate a 50th anniversary and at 93 and 92, it's unlikely that either one of us would recognize the other!

Marital Trivia:
Dear friends ages when we married:
"Raffish" - nine
Tony - 22
Bob - 59
Pat - 50
Joyce - 66
Dale and Pat - 63

Personally, I've always thought Richie picked 4th of July weekend to get married so that he wouldn't forget an anniversary. Such is the man's sense of sureness that he is positive all the hoop-la is for him!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Come On, Summer!

A reader just wrote to say that she'd tried carpaccio and loved it. She did say hers was wagyu beef which is certainly one-upping kobe!

Trader Joe has some new stuff -- "Naturally Smoked Sea Salt from South Africa with a umami taste." I bought some, but can't imagine what I'll do with it. Put it on the table for guests, I guess.

Habanero Hot Sauce. This is a serious heat source, but by no means fatal. Less of a vinegar taste (unlike Tabasco) and more of a spreading heat.

You be the judge! I think this is a dubious idea at best -- sparkling sake! My only experience with sake was many years ago and, frankly, it didn't take prisoners and dropped me on my derriere.