Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Very Good Read

"In Stitches, A Memoir" by Anthony Youn, MD with Alan Eisenstock   Gallery Books   271 pages   $25

To my sincere surprise, Youn is a medical celebrity.  He's done appearances on a show called "Dr. 90210," CNN, Rachel Ray and several others.  He's commented on his specialty in such publications as US Weekly, In Touch, Life & Style.  His Website is

He and his older brother, Mike, were the only Korean-American kids in Greenville, MI, later joined by younger sister, Lisa.  Their father was an ob/gyn who stressed the financial importance of becoming a doctor.

"You want to be pediatrician?  Little people, little dollah!"

"Yesterday, I do laparoscopy.  Fifteen minutes.  One thousand dollah!"

A neighbor got fied from his job and Youn's father seized upon it as a teaching opportunity, saying, "Doctor never get fired.  Daddy has best job.  Daddy has best boss.  Daddy."

Daddy really steals the show in this book.  Youn's struggles with his father, his own plastic surgery for a Jay-Leno-like jaw, med school and his social life (or lack of it) are beautifully delineated. It is a wry look at an "against all obstacles, success!" story.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Welcome to the Red Carpet, Baby!

Celebrities and wealthy women have a new fad -- elaborate births.  For themselves, primarily and, Oh, yes!  The baby!  There now exists people who are titled "pregnancy concierges" who will set up the mandatory mani- and pedicures, Brazilian wax job, find chic scrubs for the husand, professional video photographers and make-up experts for The Blessed Event. 

Celebrities who have swanned into the delivery room with a list of requirements...
Beyonce Knowles ordered private and hospital security staff; had bulletproof glass installed in the windows of her suite and took over an entire maternity floor at Lennox Hill hospital, NY.  Other maternity customers were not best pleased, to say the least.

Mariah Carey wrote out maternity ward directions like a contract rider for an appearance.  She demanded that at the exact instant she gave birth, her recording of "Fantasy" be piped into the delivery room.  Picture that on a resume, "I was in charge of turning on the music when ..."

Jessica Simpson, it is said, paid $1.3 million for armed guards against a kidnapping attempt. 

Victoria (Posh Spice) Beckham demans a Caesarian, a birthing technique now labeled "too posh to push" in her honor.  

Rosie Pope, of Bravo's "Pregnant in Heels,"  is a pregnancy concierge.  She finds the best baby nurses, can set up a Demi Moore-type nude shot (Vanity Fair cover) or book a bikini wax in the delivery room itself!  She said, "The J Sisters will give you a Brazilian up to four centimeters dilated." 

I'm sure the medical staff just loves that.  Given the pain of birth plus all of your pubic hair being ripped off, I would imagine that the poor baby will require psychiatric counseling as a mere toddler.

This is such a dreadful idea that I can't report it.  In fact, I'm very sorry I read about it.  Google "orgasmic birth" and you'll see why I'm being so squeaamish. 

When I consider the extreme vanity and the preposterously shallow personalties of these mothers, I fear for the child's welfare down the road.  O(nce born - on the red carpet - relegated to life in a closet so that Mommy Dearest can shed the baby weight and swan around as usual.  A trip from red carpet to ignomy before you can even talk. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

When Is a Tax Not a Tax?

The crux of the original argument was that a penalty for NOT buying insurance was un-Constitutional.  In the Supreme Court's decision to allow Obamacare, the argument was:  "Having the penalty qualify as a tax would make it immune to legal challenge since Congress has an undisputed right to tax."

When Obama began campaigning for his plan, he was insistent that any fees charged were not "a tax."

Gonna take me the rest of the day to get this sorted in my head. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Being Practical

I come from a time when parents practiced frugality and taught their kids the nuances of "Use it up, wear it out, hand it down."  Stemming from those lessons, to this day I admire inventive people who can look at something with a specific purpose and see that it could be used for something entirely different. 

Cases in point:

Cardboard tubes - paper towels or toilet paper

Give them to kids for a megaphone

Stick them into your tall boots to keep the boot shape

Store knitting needles in one

If you're not going to frame that certificate or document, carefully roll it up and store it in the empty tube - be sure to label the tube as to contents.

Ladies, save a scarf collection from wrinkles by wrapping the scarf around the tube - no crease lines next time you wear it. 

Club Soda
We've had guests who for one reason or another don't want an alcoholic drink.  Pregnant women especially like a "mock Mimosa" - 1/3 orange juice, 2/3rd club soda in a champagne flute.

Pour club soda over rusty nuts and bolts - it will loosen the rust and make them easier to clean.

Club soda with a dash of bitters is said to be a great help to iffy stomachs. 

Red wine spill?  Soak the spot with club soda and paper towel the stain up.  Another good remedy is to dump piles of salt on the stain and let it dry.  The salt pulls the red right up. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Random Day

After a 20-day absence, Himself was cleared by his cardio to return to the gym.  I knew he could the minute the cardio angiogramist came out to the waiting room and said, "There's absolutely nothing wrong with your husband's heart."  I won't say he was unenthusiastic about returning, but he was by no means dancing with joy.  Tough kishkas.

I read an expression which immediately charmed me with its succinctness:  Lifestyle Nazis.  This would be such as NYC Mayor Bloomberg and his oversized sodas (Doh, Mr. Bloomberg: buy two 10 oz.)   Our own local  district representative, Pat Aust, who wants to ban smoking on the Redondo Beach Pier where the wind in from the ocean is often so brisk and cold, that I take a jacket when we go for dinner down there.    Apparently, he's never looked at our summer visitors, many of whom come from "inland" and are armed.  I can imagine a Pier cop telling one of these gangsters to, "Put it out please."   Has Aust no sympathy for our police officers?

Running Figures
As of today, June 26, President Obama has held 32 fundraisers since June 1, 2012, worked 17 days of the month and on June 24th played his 101st game of golf.  These travels on Air Force 1 have cost the taxpayers $5.5 million, solely in AF 1 costs with no support, Beast transport, etc. included. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Two For the Ladies

"Sissy Spacek - My Extraordinary Ordinary Life" with Maryanne Vollers   Hyperion   271 pages   $26.99

I suppose a man who is an admirer of Sissy Spacek might enjoy it - she was a tomboy from childhood on - but basically it's "How I got here, where I came from (small town in East Texas,) how I found my soulmate and now we have two daughters and live in Virginia." 

Spacek is a great admirer of the kind of life one lives in a small town.  Everyone knows everyone else; the lack of stifling supervision that city kids get - "Put your shoes on!"  "Do not leave this front yard" while Spacek and her two older brothers roamed the fields, piney woods and town alike. 

Having had exactly that kind of freewheeling childhood - we'd make leaf boats and sail them in the gutters when it rained; rake the leaves into a bonfire and roast potatoes - reality was: cold, raw, ash-covered potatoes that even a rat wouldn't eat.

Well written, just enough "country bumpkin vs. city slicker" to amuse. 

"So Damn Lucky" by Deborah Coonts   A Tom Doherty Associates Book   381 pages   $24.99

This is the third volume in the Lucky O'Toole series.  She's the head of Customer Relations at the Babylon Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas.  Her mother, Mona, owns and runs a brothel in Pahrump where Lucky was raised until age 15, when she was sent to work at the Babylon as an executive trainee.  Lucky didn't know it then but the Babylon "Big Boss" is actually her father.    As this story begins, Lucky is still madly in love with Teddy, "the greatest female impersonaor in Las Vegas!"  (She rues the fact that he's got a better wardrobe than she does.)

Each book begins with a murder.  A woman is pushed out of a helicopter flying over the Strip..a magician with a 40 year career that is dragging to a close decides to go out in glory, doing a Houdini trick that kills him.  Was the box rigged or was he just inept? 

The lead characters are outrageous and their adventures interesting. 
1st book "Wanna Get Lucky?"    2nd book "Lucky Stiff"

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Summer Eating

Food & Wine has some interesting recipes as well as a list of the Best New Chefs.  I didn't know any of them, but perhaps you might -

This sounded like an idea with merit, but I don't like oysters so I'd substitute scallops.

1/2 teas. fennel seeds
1/4 teas. crushed red pepper
7 T butter, divided in half
1/4 cup small to medium sage leaves, plus 36 more for garnish.  (This is a helluva lot of sage, use your own judgement)
1 teas. dried oregano
2 T lemon juice
2 T tequila
3 dozen medium oysters, scrubbed

Toast the fennel seeds and red peppers in a dry skillet.  Let cool and pulverize them.

Add half of the butter to your fennel skillet and cook it until it starts to brown.  Stir in  half of the sage leaves, cook till crisp and lift out with a slotted spoon.  Then do the second half of the butter and the rest of the sage that you plan to use for garnish.  Spoon out and set aside.

Pour the browned sage butter over the dry spices in a mortar.  Add half of the sage leaves,  oregano, lemon juice and tequila and keep the mortar warm. 

Grill the oystes, flat side down, carefully open them and add tequila butter to the oyster's liquor.

Add some potato chips for crunch at the finish of making a lobster roll. 
Top barbecued, pulled pork with Frito chips. 
Go meatless - a barbecue place in Texs serves a sandwich of cooked, pressed cauliflower and three cheese (presumably grilled.) 
How about this for inventive?  Smoked beet (beet) "pastrami" with white kimchi and Thai chilis.
The PLT is fried plaintain strips, lettuce, tomato and a habanero tartar sauce. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Reunion! Champagne All Around!

This is Jim Newman, the well-known, oft-awarded  international financial journalist.  We've known each other 54 years, starting in Kansas City, Mo. in 1958.  I was 18, he was slightly older.  I moved to California first, he followed about four years later. 

We reminisced and I said, "Remember your apartment in Kansas City  where the flight of stairs went up the middle of the living room -- and abruptly stopped at the ceiling?  That was a great spot to watch all of the action in the room - I loved sitting about halfway up."  He countered with memories of my apartment on Gardiner  which faced the pool.  "I never saw so many consistently drunk people in my life!" he said, and then roared with laughter.  

A precis of some of Jim's accomplishments:
Winner - Janus Award for Excellence in Financial Broadasting
The Overseas Press Club Award for Int'l Business Reporting
LA Press Club's "Business News Reporter of the Year" - twice
Emmys for TV reporting - three

He has attended Economic Summit meetings, filing from France, Germany, Mexico and Canada as well as reporting on outlooks in Australia, China and Japan. (No wonder we haven't seen each other for 30 years - he wasn't home!)

For fun - Jim loves classical music and is an official spokesperson for the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and he appears seasonally with the Boston Pops.  He is on the Board of Trustees for the Stroke Association and for St. Anne's.

I've got to get the story behind this, but his bio mentions that he has had four racehorses named for him at Hollywood Park!

All of the above are accomplishments - the journalism awards reflect his quick  intelligence and affability, as well.  Jim has the wonderful gift of being able to listen (something of rare quality in most people) and his charm and joy in life are irrepressable.  He is sophisticated without being the least bit snobby; he has a great sense of humor and anything he ever said could have been said in front of his mother - he is not a vulgarian.

The more I think about it .... "Jim Newman For President'!  He could get this country out of financial woes in perhaps a weekend. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

New At Nelson's

Nelson's, at the Terrenea resort,  has become a great "special treat" place for us.  (  As I've said, the food is good, the scenery spectacular and the staff is efficient and amiable. 

New on the menu are sweet potato croquettes with a sririch aoli (four -  $8.)  Ours were slightly larger than golf balls sitting on a plate decorated in a squiggle with the aoli.  They're perfect with a drink as you peruse the menu.

The only place the "onion tumbleweeds" are listed is as a side to the pulled pork with cole slaw sandwich.  Sandwiches at Nelson's come with a choice of fries, cole slaw, small salad or fruit, but I imagine you can order the tumbleweeds as a side as well.  Our server said that normally they come - a scattering - on the sandwich itself,  along with the coleslaw - this is Memphis-style barbecue where all of these ingredients are on the bread. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

"This has got what in it?!"

The July issue of Food and Wine ( waxes rhapsodic about the addition of "xanthan gum" to various foods.  Xanthan gum has long been used in commercially-made salad dressing and is an essential tool in molecular-gastronomy kitchens.

Chef Fox, of Commonwealth, San Francisco, says "With xanthan, you can change the texture of a liquid without changing its flavor."  Chef Jesse, of Recette, New York City, uses it to blend oil, lemon juice and water into a vinagrette that won't separate.

It's a whitish powder that can thicken sauces and liquid dressings in an instant, at any temperature.   Old-fashioned thickeners include flour (gravies, rouxes and sauces) and corn starch which is more finely-ground than flour.

But what, exactly,  is this "whitish powder"?  Wikipedia to the rescue!

"Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide, derived from the bacterial coast of Xanthomonas campestris is used as a food additive and rheology modifer, commonly used as a food thickening agent and a stabilizer in cosmetic products to prevent ingredients from separating."

"It is produced by the fermentation of glucose, sucrose or lactose by the Xanthomonas campestris bacterium.  After a fermentation period, the polysacchaaride is preciptated from a growth medium with isopropyl alcohol, dried and ground into a fine powder.  Later, it is added to a liquid medium to form the gun." 

What I learned here is that hit "Control" + "I" and italic type will appear.  what

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Go Tie A Can To It! (20's slang)

Practical Problem Solver's advice for re-using cans.  Every Christmas season, the ladies' magazines urge us to make our own outdoor lights -- simply take an empty can, wash it out and using a Phillips screw driver or equivalent, punch random or patterned holes in it. put in a lit candle and step back and admire your creation.  In summer, use a citronella candle to repel bugs. 

This sounded kind of redneck to me, but nail can lids over knotholes in the floor or inside the  attic roof to keep rodents out.

Plant protector - cut off the top and bottom of the can, jam it into the dirt around a young seedling and protect it from cutworms.  Cutworms are vicious!  I was optiistically growing big pots of cherry tomatoes and butter lettuc on our balcony.  They were moving along nicely until the morning I went to water them and they were literally all eaten down to the roots.  Cutworms. 

Campers!  Save your empty cans and nestle them in order of size and take the stack with you for disposble pans.  Don't forget to take a pair of pliers to handle them!

Got lots of company coming?  Take two card tables, shove them together and put the middle legs in big cans, (I'm thinking those enormous cans of tomatoes) throw a table cloth over them and viola!  A big sturdy table. 

If you feed the birds suet in winter, put it in small cans that you can jam into tree branches. 

Use them as miniature golf hazard tunnels.  Tuna cans, both ends removed work well.

Make your own mini-basketball net.  Flip up the top of a coffee can for the backboard, cut off the bottom and nail your "net" over the garage door, get a tennis ball and "Game on!"

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Something of a Surprise...

From the front page of the Los Angeles Times ( "Asians nation's fastest-growing group."

In 2000, 60% of immigrants were Latino; 19.2% were Asian.  (Nowhere in this article does it say that any of the groups were legal or illegal which is confusing statistically.)

Potential employers consider Asians the more desirable because many of them  have been well educated. 

Degree                         Income
US population 28%    $49,800
Asians  49%                $66,000
Whites  31%                $54,000
Blacks    18%               $33,300
Latinos   13%              $40,000

Six groups make up the "Asian" population

Chinese - 4,010,114
Filipino - 3,416,840
Indian - 3,383,063
Vietnamese - 1,737,433
Korean - 1,706,822
Japanese - 1,304,286

Together this group accounts for nearly 6%, or 18.2 million, of the US total population. 

All I can add and that solely from observation and reading the papers is that the Palos Verdes High School routinely wins awards in the sciences and in general education and that there are a number of Asian residents in Palos Verdes.

Asian parents seem to demand excellence.  The down side of this, of course, is that in about five years when the kids have all graduated Magna Cum Laud, the parents will then be sending them for extensive, long-term therapy. 

As we Americans say (31% of the people with a bachelor degree) "All work and no play..."

I admire the spirit of people who want to succede, not just sustain.  Go for it!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Richie Is Fine

I took him in this morning for an angiogram with the possibility of stent(s) installation.  The surgeon came out after awhile and told me, "There is absolutely nothing wrong with his heart or blood vessels.  All perfectly normal.  The nuclear stress test gave us a false Positive result."

I was confused and puzzled.  "What the hell?"

"Hey, I just gave you the best possible news!"( rather briskly.)

"No! no!  I'm delighted..."

Richie is sleeping off the sedation in the recovery room and will be discharged at noon, doubtless ready for some lunch although they gave him juice, a banana muffin, a banana and coffee in the recovery room before he drifted off to sleep.  An army marches on its collective stomachs, so does Richie.

Meanwhile he gave me his billfold for safekeeping - anybody want to go shopping?  I don't have to be back there till noon ...   

Sunday, June 17, 2012

U.S. Citizenship

I've been at a loss to understand why nearly 12 million illegal aliens, residing on our shores, are reluctant to seek legal citizenship.  Knowing nothing about it as am 2nd generation on one side and 16th or 18th on the other, I looked it up.   The information I found was confusing, but then Time magazine came to my rescue.  This week's edition  ( - read the whole thing for yourself) features an interview with one Jose Antonio Vargas, an activist for illegal aliens.  In it, he answers specific questions.  The following is the short version.

"Why didn't you become legal?"  Answer:  Because the US issues about 25,000 green cards per country per year.  Moldavia, pop. 3.5 million gets the same number as Mexico, pop. 112 million.  Filipino siblings who applied in 1989 are still waiting in line.  (My solution - move to Moldavia and wait your turn.) 

Marriage to an American citizen.  Vargas says he couldn't do this even if he wanted to as he is gay and gay marriage is not recognized by the federal government. 

Despite being here illegally, he got a driver's license (cancelled when he declared himself an illegal alien.)  He lives in California, but went to Washington because they are much more lenient.  He says that illegal aliens also need to drive to work, drop the kids off at school, run errands.  He used his to board a plane, since he doesn't have a passport.    If the federal government is really trying to weed out the illegals, then make it mandatory to show a passport to board a flight.   Having to have a passport or stay home, would also give a truer picture, perhaps, than the US Census. 

Do you notice a theme in the above?  "I'm a victim!" by any chance?

He claims that there are 11.5 million illegal aliens here.  Of them, 59% are Mexicans, 1 million from Asia and the Pacific Islands, 800,000 from South America, 300,000 from Europe.  The US Census say that children born to racial and/or ethnic marriages now represent the majority of all US births.  Obama has caused 1.2 million illegal aliens to be deported in his 3 1.2 years in office; George W Bush took eight years to deport 1.6 million.  In fiscal 2011, Obama deported nearly 400,000 people, 55% of which were convicted criminals. 

The Office of Immigration Statistics at DHS, says that 86% of the illegal residents have been here for seven years or longer. 

Okay, they're here and, according to Vargas, paying their taxes and living  just as we do.  He tries to limn a picture that illegal aliens are "just like us."  I don't think so.  He is, after all, an illegal alien activist, pushing an agenda. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Generations Dissed!

The Thurs. Writers (formally known as the South Bay Writers Workshop - have two galas a year.  In June, we have a potluck picnic to celebrate the Summer Solstice.  This makes us feel all warm and pagan-ish.  In December, we have an annual Christmas lunch in a restaurant or a member's home.  That usually happens only once - in a member's home - we tend not to get asked back for some reason. 

At both events, we are urged to write something funny, stinging or descriptive about the group.  For years Bob was justifiably proud of his "Beautiful Christmas Poem."  This was my contribution at our picnic.
"I've extracted some of an e-mail I received the other day with some added research of my own.

Remember, if you totally copy someone else's work, that's plagarism!  That's a no-no!  However, if you consult several sources, that's research and perfectly legit. (Ahem)

I am sure that my grandparents told my parents of the hardships they had to live with in "olden days." I know for a fact that my Dad had to walk to school which was two miles away for a four mile, five day, week.  In addition to his book bag, he carried a hunting rifle agains rhinos, which while rare in Kansas, could exist.

My mother, the youngest of eight children (six of whom were boys) did have the luxury of riding in the farm wagon to and from school.  It only became hardship when they were moving the hogs from one lot to another.  Hogs tend to jostle a lot, so she took to wearing a rain coast on those occasions. 

Happily, Richie and I have no children, but I do make a point of telling our young nieces and nephews that I am 113 years old and that when I went to school, we rode our pet dinosaurs.  Richie, wisely, keeps his mouth shut.

Then one sad day I was put firmly and forever in my place and so were my parents and grandparents.  I happened to overhear this conversation among several of our members.  It went something like this:

Dale, 90, "Out on the farm, in my day, we couldn't afford shoes so we went barefoot.  Winters, we had to wrap barbed wire around our feet for traction." 

Joyce, 94, snorted and said, "Well in my day we didn't even have rocks!  We had to take our clothes down to the creek and wash them by beating our heads against them!"

Bob, 87 and a former rocket scientist,  harrumphed and said, "In my day, we didn't have oxgen!  We had to smash together our own hydrogen and oxygen atoms!

Parents, grandparents' feats of hardy determination?  Gone.  Outgunned by true pioneers."

Friday, June 15, 2012

Social Notes

The Thurs. Writers met for their annual Celebration of Summer Solstice potluck picnic at a member's home.    Writers at play!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Cocktails In Bermuda

Richie found yesterday's French Meatballs -aside:  he wondered what made them "French" and I said, "Probably the cream of mushroom soup" dryly.

But I found this which might be considerably more, uh, intoxicating.  John Trimmingham's wife Mary Lou sent in his rum cocktail recipe.

13 oz. Barbados rum
3 oz. Gosling's Black rum
2 oz. Bacardi light rum
1 T grenadine
1 T white Falernum *
13 oz. unsweetened Dole pineapple juice
13 oz. unsweetened Trinidad grapefruit juice

Stir together in a large pitcher and serve over ice.  Mary Lou's comment?  "Yum, like drinking candy!"

The dishes listed for a "cocktail crush for 50" were:   pizza - pate maison - cheese straws - cheese ball and crackers - liverwurst pate - caviar on toast - artichoke hearts and ham bites - assorted quiches - fresh vegetable platter - cheese fondue and cheese biscuits.

Based on the richness of the above, I would imagine that Bermudian cardiologists make a damned fine living!

* Falernum is a rum-based spicy mix with toasted cloves, allspice, nutmeg, lime zest and julienned ginger.  It dates back to the ancient Romans who called it "Falernian" "Falernum" in Latin.    John D. Taylor's Velvet Falernum is available in the U.S. I'd look in Bev-Mo or equivalent.   

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

French Meatballs - Made in Bermuda!

In an on-going (futile) effort to clear out some of the books here, Richie has been going through his caches.  When he came across "Bermudian Cookery" published by the Bermuda Junior Service League, he sat down to read it. 

A Sunday Patio Brunch, Bermuda Style
Celery with cream cheese - cocktail sausages wrapped in bacon
French Meatball Casserole with Broccoli Spears
Salad of Bermuda onions, avocado and lettuce

4 T butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
2 lbs. ground beef
2 eggs, beaten
Pinches of salt and pepper
1/2 teas. thyme
2 T vegetable oil
1 lb. sliced mushrooms
One 10 1/2 oz. can of Cream of Mushroom soup
2 cups dry white wine

Saute the onion in 2 T butter, mix in the garlic and bread crumbs and cook for 2 minutes.  Take the pan off of the heat and mix the beef, eggs, spices into this mixture.  Mix well.

Make patties and brown them in the rest of the butter and set them aside.  Use this pan to saute the mushrooms.  Mix the wine into the soup and pour it over the meatballs and mushrooms. 

Bake in a pan with a lid for 45 minutes at 350 degrees, then remove the lid and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

The Verdict:  They were acceptable, but not outstanding.  Very nursing-home-kitchen bland.  But: everything in the world that I put in my mouth does not have to be fiery hot.  Just most of the time. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Inventive Uses for Everyday Objects

Richie and I have spent a lot of time in Baja and in Mexico itself.  I'm amazed at Mexican creativity -- got two long planks and some short ones?  Make a ladder!  It's generalization to label a whole nation as made up of people who hand it down, use it up, wear it out, but they do!  Trust me!

Much closer to home, Richie has a growing stack of the green plastic mesh baskets that strawberries and such are sold.  He keeps meaning to bring them back to the guy he buys strawberries from but so far, has forgotten to do it. 

Turning to "Practical Problem Solver" my go-to book.  Some of these are kind of silly so I list them last.

Berry Baskets

Make an orchid planter - line a basket with sphagnum moss, put in a little potting soil, plant an orchid and hang it up with fishing line. 

Plant protector - put it upside down over new seedlings OR put bulbs you're planting in the basket in the ground to discourage underground eaters, like moles.

If you're mailing presents and have made a big, fancy bow, tape a basket upside down over it to protect it in the post office.

String dispenser -- fasten two baskets together around your ball of twine and pull one end out through any of the holes.  

Flower arrangement "frog" - turn one upside down in the bowl and stick your flowers through the holes.  

"Show and Tell" cage for such as mice, toads, rats, turtles -  fasten two together to make a "cage." 

Silly or impractical:  Weave ribbons through the baskets and use as party favor holders.  Do only if you don't have a 99 Cents Store or equivalent.
Dishwasher basket for small things - not a good idea unless you would enjoy green plastic lumps wrapped around and over whatever you'd put in them?
Hang one upside down over baby's crib and tie ribbons, strips of cloth or paper to it. 
Easter basket - make a pipe cleaner "handle" and fill with artificial grass.   See 99 Cents above.

Best:  take them back to the vendor.  They last forever! Recycle!

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Pushy Trojan Horse

To be pushy is to stick your nose in or to elbow and shove your way into a location or situation where your presence is not necessarily considered to be desirable.  I hear "pushy" in New York often, but very rarely out here.

Last Saturday began my own experience with "pushy - on the Notebook of all places!  I kept getting these insistent ads (triple layer that kept me clicking the red "X" repeatedly) for "Live Security Platinum."  Nothing I did could get rid of them.

In disgust, I shut down for the night.  Next morning?  More of the same.  I should mention this infestation was occurring on the Notebook upstairs; the downstairs PC was unaffected, but it has quirks of its own -- I have to type something and print it out off-line before I can go online without seeing "Internet Explorer cannot display this Website." 

I called McAfee, my security provider and began a 4 1/2 hour trek through computer innards uncontrolled by me.  An hour around noon; then we had to go to the jazz club; work resumed at 5 p.m. and lasted until 8:30 p.m.  Remote control means you cede the power to a tech somewhere in the world.  Yesterday it was India, a previous time it was Bosnia. 

For quite awhile, I had "Paul" all by himself.  Then he handed off the Notebook to Vijay and the PC to Sandeep.  The Notebook screen to my left, the PC to my right, I felt like a flight controller or a space shuttle captain, but mostly like a long-tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs. 

They had control; I had nothing to do but sit and wait to answer questions they would ask me.  "I would like to (perform some action)" and, knowing nothing whatsever about what they were doing, I'd say, "Sure!" encouragingly. 

They were all very friendly and courteous and we chatted via IM.  Employees of iYogi, a subsidiary of McAfee, they all had good command of the English language in print and two of them only had traces of accents. 

My visit and subsequent clean-up and clean out of both computers cost me $330 for a year's service.  iYogi has six buttons at the top of the screen.  Press the green icon with the phone - you're speaking to a trouble shooter.  Click another and the server goes into automatic scan mode.   Customers are meant to do that once a month.

"Live Security Platinum" was a Trojan horse.  To avoid this sort of expensive invasion in the future, I'm going to write all of the people who routinely see something that they think I'll like and hit "Forward" without cleaning out the addresses of everyone else who has seen it. 

1.  You want to forward something to me?  Fine.  Hit Forword AND STOP! Do NOT put in my e-address.
2.  Use your cursor to highlight and delete all of the addresses of previous viewers.
3.  When you've done that, gotten rid of all of the other addresses, type my address in and hit "Send." 

NOT doing this is like having unprotected sex.  You know who you're with, but do you know his last three girlfriends and their ex-boyfriends?  No, you do not.  Don't send me "unprotected" mail.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Fun Cookbook

"More Back of the Box Gourmet" by Michael McLaughlin   Simon & Schuster   144 pages   $15

I liked this book because McLaughlin is a man who is on a mission to taste all the flavorings possible.

The first chapter is entitled "Feeling Condimental" and includes such as Hot 'n Nutty Cookies which have a shot of Tabasco and Love Apple Pie with 1/3 cup of catsup!  Catsup was invented (?) in China in the early 1700s, but called "ket-tsiap."  He writes that the finished pie will have a sweet-tart taste and a pinkish red color.

I can't eat dessert after dinner (3 a.m. sugar rush, elbow poking Richie, "Hey, wake up!  Let's go down to Long Beach and go dancing!") but I have been known to pensively consume a Dove bar or a handful of cookies in the afternoon.  This sounded appealing to me because it's sweet and gooey.  They go together in my mind...


One 2-layer sized packaged white cake mix (a good start, if you asked me)
One 21-oz. can of cherry pie filling
Two 6-oz. packages of Heath Bits 'O Brickle
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teas. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
4 or 5 teaspoons of water

Do the cake mix per its instructions.  Stir in one bag of Heath Bits 'O Brickle and spread on the bottom of a greased , floured 13x9x2 pan.  Top with the canned cherries in a smooth layer.

Now for the topping.  Combine the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Cut in the butter until the whole thing looks like crumbs  then stir in the second packge of Brickle Bits and the almonds.  Put this on top of the cherries and bake for 40 to 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Mix the powdered sugar and water together and drizzle on top of the finished cake as frosting.

This is the mandatory "You've got to be kidding!" recipe.  Make cole slaw and blend it into Knox unflavord gelatin.  When it "sets," cut it in squares and serve it buffet style!  His recipe:

2 envelopes Knox Unflavored Gelatine
2 T sugar
1 3/4 cups boiling water
1 1/3 cups mayonnaise
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup finely-chopped onion

Put the gelatine in a large boil with the sugar, add the boiling water and stir or whisk till the gelatine is dissolved.  Then beat in the mayonnaise, lemon juice and finally, add the vegetables.  Pour it into a loaf pan (11 x 7 in.) and chill.  Cut in squares and dazzle the world.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


"Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he isn't.  A sense of humor was provided to console him for what he is."
     Horace Walpole, English author   1717-1797

Friday, June 8, 2012

Going To The Dogs....

My sister and her husband had business in Manhattan, KS, and they stayed at The Morning Star Bed and Breakfast.  Jane was mightily impressed by owner Laurie Pieper's decorating taste and...  the breakfasts.  She bought a copy of Pieper's breakfast recipes and sent it to me.

The book is full of pastry items - some of them quite elaborate.  Maple-glazed cranberry ginger muffin?  How about a coconut date scone?

To cater to "the compleat family" the last chapter in this book is devoted to home-made dog treats!  All pet recipes were approved by Karel Carnoham, DVM.

1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup cooked, cold, plain white rice
1.2 cup boiled carrot slices, drained and cooled
1 large egg
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 T chopped parsley
2 T cold water as needed.

Mix well, adding water as need to make it stick together.  Arrange by the spoon full on a parchment-lined baking sheet and put in a 375 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes.  You want "lightly browned and dried out."  Makes about 35 individual treats.

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 medium banana, peeled
1/2 cup natural (no sugar) panut butter
1/4 cup cold water

Mix and drop by spoon fulls on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Treats should be about 1 in. wide by 1/3 in thick.  Bake 15 - 20 minutes on one side, then flip them over and bake the other side for 15-20 minutes.  Makes about 35 individual treats.

The Morning Star Bed and Breakfast, 617 Houston Street, Manhatta, KS 66502

Thursday, June 7, 2012

"Mah Fellow Lobster Lovers..."

Marmaduke Cafe is again doing their Lobster Fest on Tuesdays only.

The specials are:
Lobster Bisque - $7
Lobster and Shrimp Linguini - $19
Surf & Turf - $28
1 1/2 lb. Live Main Lobster - $26

Palos Verdes - 550 Deep Valley Drive
El Segundo - 2014 Park Place

Reservations are advised...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"Here Clumps the Bride"

The June 11th issue of TIME magazine reports in the "Pop Chart" section that Ugg, the beloved of surfers and others who like toasty-warm feet in the winter, has a new product. 

The "Bailey Button" comes in white only and is intended  "to pamper the bridal party before and after the wedding."  However, a reader wrote that she wore hers all during the wedding and the reception!  I looked to see if she was from Anchorage, Alaska, but no -- New York, New York.  

It is the short boot model, slit down the outside seam to show a tasteful ruffle of sheepskin and closed by a large hook over a Swarovsky crystal.  $225.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Pomp and Circumstance and the Costs Thereof

Today is the last day of Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee.  It's her third Jubilee as they are celebrated at the 25, 50, 60 and 75 years of a monarch's reign.  25 = Silver Jubilee; 50 is Golden, 60 is Diamond and 75 is Platinum. 

Tourism is estimated to bring in $15.8 billion, but $157 million will be spent on security.  Another $11 million will spent on medals awarded to troops, police, firefighters, paramedics and prison guards who've been on the job a minimum of five years.  

A stained glass window that will be installed in Westminster, commemorating this event.  $155,249 but it's to be paid for by some MPs and peers. 

What a tourist will spend, if he goes hog wild:

$15,787 for a collector's bottle of John Walker & Sons  Diamond Jubilee whisky. 

$74  for a family pass to the BBC's Jubilee concert, Buckingham Palace.

$29  Admission fee to Buckingham Palace.  When Prince William and the Missus married, 600,000 well-wishers tromped through.   

$67.93 for the British Street Party Ultimate Party Kit from Party Pieces, the firm owned by the Middleton family.  Pippa!  Start shopping!  Your fortune's are about to improve!

$155  seating in the Queen's Stand at the Epsom Derby on June 2nd.

And last, but not least, Good Health, Prince Phillip.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Thames

It's overcast, cold and generally gray here today which reminded me of the scenes we saw yesterday during the BBC's broadcast of the massive river parade for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.  I loved the guy who remarked that it made the parade "more English" to have a cold  rain coming down.  

Never having been to London (other than a plane change at Heathrow) I was astounded at the breadth of the Thames.  That is one wide river! 

The Thames is the longest river contained wholly in England and is 215 miles long.  It begins as a kind of trickle near the village of Kemble, which is near Cirencester, and goes south, widening perceptibly as it does.  Underneath the Tower Bridge, it is 871 feet wide.  Of  note:  only 61 seconds are required to open Tower Bridge which is done, on average, 1,000 times a year. 

The Thames travels under these main bridges -- Tower, London, Westminster and Millennium plus another 29 and over four tunnels, not including the London Underground. 

The Thames actually froze over once but that was in the 12th century.  The current is now too swift for that to happen again.

The name "Thames" is believed to have originated from the Sanskrit word "tamas" which means "dark."  The Thames is not a gentle river and its waters are usually described as "dark and turbulent."

 I admire and enjoy rivers and wondered idly how much to live beside the Thames?  I Googled "Thames-side housing prices."    The most expensive -  six bedrooms, -  was 2,250,000 pounds,  a two-bedroom semi-detached was 335,000 pounds and a one bedroom flat was 225,000 pounds. I just checked and today the rate of exchange is $1 US = 0.0.6505 pounds as of June 4, 2012.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Mexican Ninja Waiters in a French Restaurant

This was different!  Most of the servers were male, many of them were Hispanic, all of them were clad in black from head to toe -- pants, shirts, aprons, all topped off with a bandanna over their hair!

Where is this interesting, international brew?  L'Amande Bakery, in the Rolling Hills Plaza, 2553 PCH, Torrance.  310-326-8980

Richie had read a glowing review and he is a Francophile.  Naturally, we must go there tout de suite.  We did yesterday. I 've been taking Celebrex for an L5 problem and my stomach really doesn't care for it.  I wanted something bland, home-y and thought, "Quiche Lorraine."

They serve a "quiche breakfast," your choice Lorraine or Tomato-Goat Cheese which comes with a salad of mesclun, and toasted almonds in a citrus vinaigrette, bread, butter and a house fruit compote.  $8.50  'Way too much of a good thing, although certainly value for money spent. 

We ordered Croque Monsieurs. $9.50. Theirs is the "classic" Black Forest ham, gruyere (Swiss cheese to us) and cheese sauce topping on pain de mie (honey bread) which would not be my first bread choice.  It was a "true" sandwich - two slices of thick-cut bread.  In France, it's served open faced which I much prefer.  I thought about flipping the whole thing over onto its creamy top, lifting off and discarding the bottom slice and use my knife and fork, but I was too lazy.  The sandwices came with the house salad, as well. 

Other dishes looked interesting for a future visit.  Not your usual grilled cheese -  Cheddar, Mozzarella, blue cheese and mayonnaise on a raisin-walnut bread.  $9.50 

You might like Smoked Salmon on a bed of ricotta with a classic side of onion, capers, lemon and sour cream.  $13.50  For vegetarians, ricotta with parmesan shavings, topped with toasted pine nuts and Mission figs on a baguettine.  $9.50

They offer a choice of five different salads including Caesar Royale with the usual ingredients plus hard-boiled eggs and their own house-made dressing.  $8.95, so you can bet it would be enough for four people.  They are not French in their portion sizes here. 

A light lunch for four would work if you ordered the Cheese Platter (various cheeses served with toasted almonds, diced dates, walnuts and fresh bread - $12.50) and a Ham Platter (prosciutto, Black Forest ham, salame, cornichons and bread - $14.50)  Around $7 per person and it would leave room for dessert, hint, hint.  The Shopper's Special!

L'Amande (The Almond) has a booming bakery business, too.  All kinds and cuts of bread, rolls and dessert tarts.  Helas, we were too full for dessert....Next time...

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Day Late and a Dollar Short

Richie advised me on Thursday that Friday was the start of National Donut Weekend.  Accordingly, he went to our local mom 'n pop shop and bought a pair of apple crisps.  "Here's to the police!" he said as he bit in.

Had he read his information a little more carefully, he would have known to go to a Dunkin' Donuts or Krispy Kream where he had a shot at a free donut on Friday.  It's National Donut Day (first Friday in June) not Weekend.

I thought it was an unlikely holiday, so I looked it up.  In 1917, during WW1, the Salvation Army took an interest in "our boys" and sent a fact-finding group to France to see how the Army could be of help.  Consensus was to establish canteens and serve baked goods, hot coffee and writing supplies and stamps. 

Trying to bake in a "hut" near an Army base was not practical, so they turned to donuts.  Margaret Sheldon, a volunteer, wrote home, "Today I baked 22 pies, made 300 donuts and served 700 cups of coffee."  They certainly weren't sitting around on their hands!

Today, donuts are a nearly $700 million business in the United States.  The average donut shop sells $757 worth of donuts per week.  This is a 5.1% increase from 2010 to 2011.  Projections are that donuts will become an $11.6 billion (billion) dollar industry in 2012.  So much for cutting back!  The trend now, in a modest nod to good nutrition, is for smaller donuts with fewer calories and less fat, but despite the smaller size, donut prices will go up -- the cost of the yeast necessry to manufacture donuts is rising. 

So we all don't miss a chance at a freebie, Krispy Kreme celebrates its 75th birthday in July, 2012.  Keep an eye peeled for the exact date.