Sunday, June 30, 2013

Dale Cox, Jr. 1921 - 2013

Here's Dale on June 2, 2013, promoting his two books "Tango Trajectory" and "Top Secret Flight" at the El Segundo Library Book Fair.

I'd like to write about the Dale we all knew at the South Bay Writers Workshop, less formally known as "Thurs. Writers."  First of all, he was always on time.  He was orderly and carried a cardboard box marked "Writers" in which he carried file folders and a thermos of hot coffee, probably a holdover from his Navy days.

He was meticulous in his writing; working and re-working a piece until it suited him and he knew how well-pleased we were via our critiques. 

He had a great sense of humor and his "Sea Stories" were packed with it.  Not a lot of people would find naval duty in the Pacific during WW2 a barrel of laughs, but he found the telling little human bits and shared them with us to our delight.

One afternoon, before we got started, some of the members were playing the dozens about how poor they were as children.  Dale won hands down when he said, "We were so poor, we went barefoot all year around.  In winter, we had to wrap our feet in barbed wire for traction" which brought down the house. 

He could also do inadvertantly funny.  Here's an example that still makes me smile every time I think of it.  I had written a script about a pair of gay guys; one much older than the other and the ensuing problems they encountered.  After I read a scene of particularly inventive hostility between them, Dale said clearly puzzled, "Why can't they just find a pair of nice gals and settle down?"

I probably wouldn't be able to consider him a romantic.  He told us the story of how he proposed to his wife of 67 years.  It was wartime; all the men around him were getting married so he thought he would as well.  Going to the base pay phone, he called Patricia and said, "Would you like to marry me?  Make up your mind fast; this is my last quarter."

Incidentally,  Patricia should be given equal credit in the Bravery Department.  Husband a wartime ship commander and then post-war, a test pilot.  She was at home with four little boys.  Not a particularly serene and worry-free life and she is to be highly commended for coming out of all that with sangfroid  and dignity intact.

Godspeed, Dale.  Richie and I send our condolences to Patricia and the family. 

Read more about Dale at: or or click on his name at

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Huh! My Mother Already Knew This Stuff!

And she was a first generation American.  Her parents had been immigrants (along with the rest of the village) from land that was once in Russia, now Czechloslavakia.  The point I'm making here is that She Was Not French.  And I seriously doubt much of what follows was learned in a village somewhere in Russia.   Mother had innate style, bred into her bones.

"Lessons From Madame Chic - 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris" by Jennifer L. Scott   Simon & Schuster   283 pages   $23

Scott first visited Paris as an exchange student for six months.  She went from California casual (read: flip flops; pajamas to breakfast) to Parisian chic - or very near it - during those months.

Happily she was sent to a formidably French family (husband, wife, 23 year old son) who were always formally dressed outside of their bedrooms.  Dinner was always at least three separate courses, but most usually five.  The wife grocery shopped every day to get the freshest possible.  And all of the walking, from shop to shop, kept her sleek.

But my mother already knew a lot if not all of the things that Scott advises.  Some examples...

Scott:  Snacking Is So Not Chic
Orpha:  "Don't fill up before dinner - put those away."

Scott:  Deprive Yourself Not (at the table)
Orpha:  "If you always take small portions, you can eat whatever you like."

Scott:  Liberate Yourself With the 10-Item Wardrobe.  You can afford to pay a little more if you're going to wear it on an almost every other day basis.
Orpha:  "Pay more - it will last longer.  Cheap is shoddy; it'll wear out in no time and then you'll have to buy another one.  Spend a little now and save later."

Scott:  Find Your True Style
Orpha (after studying my 12-year-self):  "Well, you'll never be pretty, but you'll always be striking - and in the long run that counts far more than 'pretty'."

Scott:  The No-Makeup Look, a chapter devoted to making it look au natural  when in fact you have exfoliated, creamed, put on foundation,  blusher, eye liner, mascara and lipstick. 

Orpha (regarding my 1956 "Cleopatra" eyes a la Elizabeth Taylor) "Less is more, dear."

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Take Yesterday - Please!

I should have known it wasn't going to be all that great a day when I walked into the ladies locker room at the gym and the first thing I saw was a really fat lady, head in her locker, bent over trying to pull a pair of thong pants up her extremely big butt.  The second thing I saw (and felt) was the wall as I shut my eyes tight and walked right into it.

Ignoring this horrendous sight as any kind of warning, I went on with my day.  At 1:45 p.m. I pulled out of our garage to go see a woman that I see every Wednesday afternoon at 2 p.m.

Two blocks from the house, Truck began heaving irregularly and then the engine died.  A bright red light flashed "Battery."  I managed to start her again and got all the way down the block to the intersection of Grant and Aviation, just next to the 7-11 store.  And there she gave one last gasp and that was it.

I immediately picked up the cell phone and called Richie.  I knew he was there.  When he didn't pick up after three calls, I knew exactly what was going on.  He was on the computer with his earphones happily bopping away to Elton John and unable to hear a phone that was 18 in. away from his head! 

Beyond furious, I then called AAA and managed to have a civilized conversation with the nice lady during which drivers behind me were tooting their horns because I was blocking the right turn lane.  This did nothing at all to calm me down and several times I bellowed out my window: MY CAR IS DEAD; GO AROUND ME with sufficient volume to be heard in Torrance. 

I knew they proably thought I'd pulled over to take a phone call and was happly chatting away while they waited - and honked. 

I pulled the hood release and popped it, and put it up wondering how long my emergency flashers could last with a dead battery...

The AAA guy showed up, hooked up Truck and instructed me to get in his truck cab.  Towtrucks are tall!  I had to get on the step and then get in the seat.  He very graciously hauled me up the hill and let me out to walk the two blocks home to get Richie and his car.

Halfway up the street, here came Richie.   We drove to our mechanic.  I was somewhat calmer, but not much.  Turns out he'd been out in the backyard, but:   the bedroom window was open and the downstairs phone has a noticeable ring.  He's going back to the audiologist (?) hearing aids guy very soon.  This afternoon if I could get him in. 

Joe Kerby (mechanic) called before we left for the gym and Truck needs a new carburator.  $670. 

And it's now Thursday and I didn't see any thong-wrestling ladies in the locker room this morning.  Maybe today will be a better day... 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

One of the Many Reasons America Is A Great Country

Our former nextdoor neighbors rapidly became good friends.  They moved when their second child was born to a bigger house only about 1/2 mile away.  The friendship has continued.

They met another friend of ours at a party at our house a month or so ago.

The old neighbors' new street is hosting a 4th of July block party and we and our friend have been invited to attend by our former neighbors.  We accepted with gusto as none of us have ever been to a block party.

"What's so great about all of this?" you ask, yawning convulsively.

Our former neighbors John (from Great Britain) and Angie (from New Zealand) and our friend (friend Caracas, Venezuala) are all excited to be celebrating the 4th of July!  Here in the good old USA! 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Make Your Own Krupnikas

Bob and Pat were in town recently, mainly to attend the South Bay Writers Workshop's annual Summer Solstice potluck picnic.  Bob managed to also squeeze in afternoon sailing, a huge passion in his life.  The guy whose boat he was on is originally from Lithuania or Poland and he makes bottles of "Krupnikas" for himself and friends.  Bob said they already had 5 bottles of it and gave us the one he'd been given. 

When I Googled this strange word, I really didn't expect anything to come up.  Imagine my surprise -- it is a honey-based liquer known in Eastern Europe as a great cold medicine!  One is free to drink it, however, with or without a cold.   It does not taste like any cold medicine I've ever had. 

This grain alcohol drink is credited to an order of 16th century Benedictine monks.  Based on the fact that the Benedictines are credited with champagne, Benedictine and now krupnikas, I think I want to join up. 

I printed out the first recipe I came across and here it is.  Bootleggers, to your stills!

Krupnikas - makes 1 1/2 quarts

10 cardamon seeds, cracked
1/2 nutmeg seed
2 teas. caraway seed
10 whole cloves
10 whole alspice berries
4 3-in. cinnamon sticks
2 teas. whole peppercorns
1 pinch crushed saffron threads (optional)
2 1-in. pieces fresh ginger root
2 1-in. pieces fresh tumeric (yellow ginger)
3 large strips of orange zest
3 large strips of lemon zest
4 cups water
1 T vanilla extract
2 lbs. honey
1 qt. 190 proof grain alcohol 

Crack the cardamom and nutmeg and toss them into a saucepan with all the rest of the spices.  Pour in the water and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half.  Strain out the spices and set this liquid aside.

Pour the honey into a large pot and bring it to a boil over medium heat..  Then stir in the spice liquid and remove from the heat.  "Place far from the stove to avoid any flare-ups from the grain alcohol."  (I'd take this step to the bathroom and do it in the tub - stronger walls...)

Stir in the grain alcohol, then put the whole thing back on a LOW burner and cover it.  Heat thoroughly,, BUT DO NOT LET IT SIMMER OR BOIL.  Turn off the heat and leave it to its own devices for the rest of the day and through the night. 

Next day, decant it into sterile bottles, cap them and allow it to settle for two weeks.

The longer you let it sit, the clearer it will become. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Wisdom of Eating Early

Joke all you want to about all Early Bird Specials and old people, snickering all the while.

But:  a rose under any other name is still a rose and Happy Hour is when you can score big on drinks and food.  Until 7 p.m., that is.

Case in point:  Six of us (all adults) recently had drinks and dinner at Hudson House.  The tab looked like this:
Happy (hour) Ale 2 x $3 = $6   Usually $5 or $6  $10-$12    Saved $6
Happy Margarita 4 x $4 = $16  They're usually $7 to $10  or $40    Saved $24
Happy edammame $3 (usually $5)  Saved $2
Happy olives $3 (usually $5)  Saved $2
Happy mixed fries (sweet potato and regular potato) $2  Either one is usually $5  Saved $3

Saved $37.  Which was $7 more than I tipped on a $143 tab. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

This'n That

THE Best Bargain (So Far)
One of my should-be-guilty-but-isn't pleasures is the day-old bakery shelf at Ralph's (supermarket) on Pacific Coast Highway and Pier, Hermosa Beach.

It isn't that I am especially fond of pastries; I'm not.  But:  what I am passionate about is a bargain!  When I can get a generous slice of cake that some fool paid $1.99 for at a price of 69 cents, odds are I'm gonna buy it!  

Think about it - 69 cents is what it cost the bakery to make it; $1.30 is profit!  I thought that was a good deal until Richie bought me this:

Richie Is Getting Slicker Than Calf Slobber on a Doorknob
Night before last, we were eating dinner and watching the Food Channel's program, "Mexico - One Plate At A Time" -- do you sense a theme, perhaps?

The chef made stuffed, bacon-wrapped shrimp and we agreed that it looked good.  Richie said, confidentally, "I'm going to make that tomorrow night."

All he needed were four ingredients - the shrimp (get big ones,) crushed garlic, Swiss cheese and bacon.

Peel and butterfly the shrimp.  Leave the tails on for handles.  "Butter" the shrimp insides with the crushed garlic, put in strips of Swiss cheese and wrap each shrimp with a half-strip of raw bacon.  Close them  shut with skewers you've soaked in water so they won't catch fire while baking at 400.

We started the bacon on a pizza sheet (and let it go a tad too long) but in the end it all worked out.  Crushed garlic from a jar is "sweet" as is the Swiss cheese and the bacon's salt brings it all together. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Trader Joe Goes Vegan

In addition to their grocery stores, Trader Joe cookbooks are a mini-industry with approximately 10 different books - go to and check them out.  Box lunches, college students, Indian cooking and comes now, "I Heart Trader Joe's Vegetarian Cookbook" by Kris Holechek Peters  Ulysses Press   191 pages   $17.95  softback

The cover states that it "includes a Vegan version of every recipe."  To  make sure I wasn't chatting through my hat, I looked the word up.  Vegans will not eat meat or dairy products; they even eschew milk and eggs.  Both of which are products of living animals, yo?  I remember being on my aunt's farm and seeing the cows come in from the field, solely to be milked, bawling their heads off.  Trust me, vegans, the cows were glad to get rid of the milk!

Be that as it may, I am never averse to finding something good to eat and these seemed (vaguely) appealing.

2 T olive oil
1/2 small yellow or white onion diced (Vidalia or equivalent might be good)
1 14 1/2 oz. can garbanza beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup Kansas City-style barbecue sauce
1/2 of a 20-oz. can of pineapple chunkc, drained
4 split buns or rolls
4 slices mild cheese such as Fontina or Swiss.

Heat the oil and saute the onion.  Add the garbanzos and bbq sauce.  Cook until the sauce begins to coat the beans; remove from heat and add the pineapple chunks.  Put the mixture on the bottom half of the roll, add a slice of cheese and broil.  Top it with the other half of the roll and eat.  Vegans:  leave out the cheese or use a vegan cheese substitute.

2 slices baguette or other crusty bread
1/3 cup fig butter, divided
handful of baby greens (would omit myself)
4 to 6 thin slices of blue cheese

"Butter" both slices of bread with the fig jam, top with blue cheese and put the top slice of bread on.    Vegans:  substitute Tangy Vegan Cheese spread for the blue cheese.

They kept talking about this vegan cheese spread so here's their recipe

4 oz. non-dairy spread, softened
2 T green olive tapenade
Cream them together and store in a covered container, kept in the refrigerator.  Use within a week of making it. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Clafoutis Recipes

From USA Weekend

4 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
scant half cup of ground almonds (or hazelnuts or pistachios)
2 T all-purpose flour
7 T creme fraiche - you can substitute 7T heavy cream mixed with 2 teas. lemon juice
7 T milk
12 ounces of pitted cherries or slices of peach - any seasonal fruit

Preheat the oven to 350
Butter and flour a pie pan
Whisk the eggs and sugar until they're a pale yellow and then sift in the flour and ground almonds and then stir in the creme fraiche and the milk.
Spread the cherries evenly across the bottom of the pie pan and pour the batter over the cherries.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.  Serve either warm or cold. 

Coincidentally, the July issue of Food & Wine had a clafoutis recipe, too.  

1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for dusting
5 large eggs
1/2 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 cup plus 2 T almond flour or almond meal
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
12 ounces cherries, pitted
confectioner's sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350
Butter a pie pan and dust with granulated sugar.
Whisk the sugar with the eggs and vanilla seeds. 
Whisk in the flour and almond flour/meal until just joined.  Add the milk and cream, whisking until the whole thing is light and very smooth.
Pour into the pie pan and arrange the cherries on top.  Bake for 35-40 minutes until it's set.  

Note:  in France, the cherries are not pitted (Beware!)  because it's believed that the pits add more of an almond flavor -- almonds and cherries are cousins - both members of the genus Prunus. 

Clafoutis (kla-foo-tee)

Clafoutis is a three layered dish, similar to a quiche but using fresh fruits not ham and cheese.  It's definitely a dessert in this form.  Richie read a recipe for a cherry clafoutis and decided to make one.  Here's what one looks like:

The first peek while it's baking


Fluted ceramic pie pan by Crate & Barrel

The recipe Richie used is from USA Weekend, May 31-June2, 2013

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Suitably Chastised

Even as I typed this line in yesterday's column, I knew I was pushing the manners envelope and not in a good direction.  The line was:  "Despite the fact that sophisticates like myself have traditionally sneered at bowling, bowling shoes, accordionists and yodeling..."

My late mother's soft voice made an appearance in my subconscious.  "Dear, you do know that a 'sophisticate' would never describe themslfes as that and futher (a little louder) no 'sophisticate' would denigrate another's hobby or interests."

I thought, "Yes, you're right.  I apologize."

"Fix it," she said sternly. 

And then a friend forwarded a Letter to the Editor in the Las Vegas Sun-Tribune.  It had been written by the accordionist of some years standing at Batista's Hole in The Wall, Las Vegas.  It was brief and said, "Dear Sirs:  What does she know?  I cleared more than $200,000 last year playing my accordion.  Who doesn't love an accordian? 
Unsigned for Tax Reasons"

I don't love an accordion and he is the reason I don't.  Batista's is one of Richie's favorite restaurants in Las Vegas and we have been going there for years.  I think he likes it for the free wine (inferior) and the huge portions. 

The accordionist is, er, an extremely short person who comes right up to your table unasked and then blurts out rather patronizingly, "Where you folks from?"  Guests usually tell him whereupon he launches into the first eight bars of the approriate song.  Indiana?  "Back Home in Indiana" billows forth.  And then he quits playing and stares at you until he's handed a tip, generally $5 for eight bars of music!

If a concert pianist was paid $5/eight bars, they'd be driven on stage in a solid gold Bentley.  And it would be worth listening to at that!

Now I'm expecting a nasty letter from the Proud Yodelers of America, if, in fact, such an organization exists.  Since there are State Fair contests for pig calling then there probably is one.  (sigh)

At any rate, I apologize for having been insensitive to those wonderful special groups that make us the Americans that we are.  God bless you all. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Bowling Shoes Are So Pitiful That I Could Almost Feel Sorry for Saying They're Ugly.


Yesterday we attended Henry's sixth birthday and what he wanted was a bowling party!  And because it's traditional to get what you want on your birthday ... we all (the family) duly trooped to Pinz Lanes in Studio City.  We fortified ourselves for this exciting physical sport with lunch at Jerry's Deli which is so connected that you walk through a door from the alleys to the restaurant.

We (8) were joined by three more, so we had two alleys - #11 and #12.  Stretching off into the vast reaches of the place, I'd have to estimate that there are 40 or 50 alleys available.  There were a lot of kids present and I began to really feel for the alleys themselves.  Witness:  a boy, maybe four, carried the ball up to the line, dropped it (CRASH) and attempted to kick it down the alley!

Since the smallest ball weighed 10 lbs. just getting it to the line was an achievement on his part.  Whatever happened to "duck balls" which were much smaller?  The kids did get help in the form of "gutters"  or railings which rise up out of the gutter and keep the ball in the proper alley.  The parent called for them after her kid heaved the ball into the alley and it ricocheted off the gutter and into the alley on the left! 

Others (kids and adults) seemed to believe that the farther you could heave the ball down the alley, the better off you would be.  BAM!  CRASH!  Do not try to spend a restful hour in a bowling alley.  Trust me on this. 

The last time we bowled was some 30 years ago while courting.  With no muscle memory to guide us, we had quite a time.  I got off to a bad start because I put my thumb in the big hole - which you're supposed to do, but I stuck my second and third fingers in the other two holes.  It's supposed to be your middle two fingers?  Finally got that straightened out and finished the 10 frames with a score of 57.  Richie came in at 38 (but had much better form) and the rest of us scored similarly.  We could have used those gutter rails...

It was amazingly good, family  fun.  Despite the fact that a sophisticate like myself has traditionally sneered at:  bowling, bowling shoes, accordions and yodeling, the commoners seem to be onto something with this bowling thing.  Richie is panting to go again. 

And then we went back to their house and had cupcakes from Yummy Cupcakes, 2918 W. Magnolia, Burbank.   They had a wild mix of adult (alcohol involved) and childrens' sweet treats.  I googled their menu this morning and found two rather off-beat styles.

The Arnold Palmer - black tea and lemonade flavored cupcake, frosted with black tea and lemonade butter cream.

The Bloody Mary - tomato-spice cupcake with vodka, horseradish and hints of celery cream cheese frost garnished with celery salt and an olive. 

Not your usual cupcakes by any means. 

I ordered a lemon flavor, please, when they went to bring them back to the house, but since there are 13 or 14 varieties of lemon, I couldn't find it.  I can tell you it was delicious.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The 84 Year Old Harlot

At the June meeting of the South Bay New Orleans Jazz Club (aka jazz club) the first thing we saw after we walked in the door was -- you guessed it, Bernie and Lou out on the dance floor.  They were the only ones dancing; you couldn't miss'em.  Bernie in black slacks, sweater, newsboy cap and Lou in a new dress; a kind of cobalt blue with a swirly skirt.  Bernie now looks as if he was constructed from pipe cleaners, but Lou seemed as robust as ever.

My heart sank at this sight.  I reached into my purse and put the cell phone on the table in front of me, leaned back in my chair and tapped a foot to the rollicking music.

We hadn't seen them at the May meeting and I'd thought at the time, "Good, I can turn off the cell phone.  If they're not here, I won't have to call the paramedics."

The music may have been too rollicking because suddenly there were people crowding onto the floor, bending over and reaching down.  Bernie and Lou had fallen again.  I grabbed the cell and hurried out of the bedlam to the sidewalk so I could hear the operator and be heard myself.

Quickly I found and punched in the direct dial number for the Redondo Beach dispatcher only to hear a cooing voice saying, "I'm sorry; you have reached a number that is not in service at thes time."  *  Flipped the phone shut, then dialed 911.

"What is the nature of your emergency?"

I said, tersely, "Elderly couple, down on the dance floor at the Knights of Columbus, 214 Avenue I, Redondo Beach."

"Well, what do you mean 'down on the dance floor'?"

"They fell down!"

"Are they hurt?"

"I don't know - I came outside to call!"

"Well, how can we help you if you don't know --"

"Never mind!" I roared, "I'll take care of it!" and slammed the phone shut.  I was so frustrated and thus angry that I was shaking.

I went back inside and saw that Lou's right elbow was being treated for an abrasion by the bartender, who had pulled out the first aid kit.  Bernie was safely seated in a chair back at their table, his walker folded neatly beside him.  I have no idea why he doesn't use it out on the dance floor because he does everywhere else.

I sat down and the phone rang.  911 had called me back!  I didn't know they could/would do that!  It was a different voice and we managed to sort out our difficulties.  I did say that this was the second time they'd fallen at this event; that when you have elderly people crashing around in a private building during a public event, for insurance purposes and liability issues, it's a good idea to call the paramedics to officially assess their condition.  I assured her of their apparent well-being and we left it at that and we hung up. 

Paul, the club president, had the misfortune to walk by and I stopped him.  I begged him to have a word with the Dancing Fools and he looked helpless and gave a half shrug.  He said, "I know she wants to keep him moving..." and I snarled, "They have chair exercises!"  He nodded.  I raged on, "Perhaps she would like to dance with him on a rug?  Or put a helmet on him?"

Possibly to divert me from a course that clearly didn't bode well for him, he said, excitedly, "I saw it!  Bernie started to go over backwards and she was pulling on him, but he hit that point of no return and she managed to let him down slowly, but then she lost her balance and fell on top of him!"

The band resumed playing and Bernie and Lou sat beaming at their table.  Some time later, I saw her come walking back into the room, carrying a glass of white wine, sipping coquettisly on it as she walked.  I put the whole thing out of my mind - or tried to at any rate.  I was still furious about the snotty 911 operator.  My adrenalin had kicked in big time on that one.  Not that mine is a lamblike temperament on any given day...

Our handsome scholarship student Roberto, 21, was with friends on our side of the room.  This afternoon, he'd branched out from piano accompaniment to singing with his playing and had favored us with a couple of songs in a rich baritone. 

I saw Lou walk up to his table, lean forward and address him.  They chatted briefly; she all smiles; he with a bemused grin.

"How nice," I thought, "She told him she enjoyed his singing" and thought no more about it.

Richie went to get us a beer and through the window in the bar, I saw Lou walk up to Richie and kiss his cheek and I thought, 'How nice - she's thanking him for hauling her husband up off of the floor!" 

She came out of the bar, white wine glass in hand and sat next to Bernie, head nodding merrily to the music.

Richie returned and idly, I asked, "Was Lou thanking you for your help with Bernie?"

"No," he said, "She asked me to dance with her (my dropped jaw nearly landed on a mustard smear on the tile floor) but I told her, 'Nah, two left feet.'"   Then he had an after-thought and frowned slightly.  "She told me that was Roberto's excuse, too!"

I was absolutely, literally gob-smacked.  She's 84 and she's running around soliciting men to dance with her!?

I will try to be charitable here; bear with me; it's not easy for me to be charitable especially to some antiquated bimbo who is flirting with my husband, but I'll try.  Perhaps the white wines (plural) combined with the adrenalin of their fall could have caused her to behave like that - importuning a 21 year old and a 72 year old to dance.  At least she certainly isn't into age discrimination.

The harlot. 

* I'd put in the wrong number; situation now fixed.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Using Beer As Club Soda?

I know that beer is enjoying a resurgence in popularity.  Give me at least that much credit!  But beer instead of a soda in a mixed, alcoholic drink?  Wine + Food promoted the following cocktail in the July issue. 

1/3 cup lightly packed mint leaves plus small sprigs for garnish.
12 oz. bourbon - this recipe makes 8 drinks, calm down!
4 oz. peach liqueur
4 oz. fresh lemon juice
2 oz. pure maple syrup
24 oz. chilled apricot or peach ale (Samuel Smith's Organic Apricot Ale)

Take a pitcher and put everything in it BUT the ale, ice and mint sprigs and stir until the maple syrup is dissolved.  Refrigerate the pitcher until everything has been chilled.
Ready to serve?  Add the ale to the pitcher and stir it in.  Pour the pitcher's contents into eight ice-filled highball glasses and garnish with a mint sprig or two. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013



Dick and Mary's little boy was 72 today.  We had a great lunch at Ports O Call's Sunday champagne brunch with good friends "Raffish" and "T". 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Small Bites

New at Tin Roof Bistro, Manhattan Beach mall -- Crispy Shrimp Cake with Napa cabbage slaw, chili vinaigrette and shoes string fries.  $18
 The shrimp cake is underneath the slaw.  Richie ordered the same thing and our plates looked polished after we finished eating.  Amazingly, the shrimp stayed crispy all the way through to the end.

Indian-Spiced Spinach Dip with fresh spinach, cheese, curry on a wood-fired flat bread.  No picture, because didn't order it. 

Time magazine notes there is a new food fad at the Ansel Bakery, New York.  "Cronuts" are croissants fried like a donut (i.e. in deep fat.)  The greedy New Yorkers are going to be dropping like flies since a croissant is already so buttery that you only put jelly or jam on one.  The bakery is sold out by 8 a.m., despite a two-per-person limit, and they're being scalped for as much as $40 each.

Spirit Airlines is now serving canned wine, your choice of a can of white Moscato or strawberry; $7 for either.  Years ago, we bought a can of red wine in Paris which was the equivalent of a bottle of Ripple here.  Somewhere there's a photo of Richie sitting on some steps going down to the Seine in a blue plastic poncho "raincoat," can in hand, leering drunkenly.  A joke photo!

Friday, June 14, 2013

See Richie's Girlfriend!

Here she is -- she's holding the Fiesta Casserole that he made for dinner last night.

Even if you don't have a "girlfriend," you might like this dish. 

1 lb. ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 cups chunky tomato salsa
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes and juice
2 cups fresh or frozen corn
12 flour tortillas (6 in. wide)
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese  (he used Velveeta and it gave the dish a "sweeter" taste)
Garnishes - sour cream, chopped cilantro and chopped avocado.

Set the oven at 325 and start browning the meat, adding in the onion and bell peppers.  When the meat is done, drain away any fat and stir in the salsa, tomatoes and corn and bring to a boil. 

Spread a cup of this meat and vegetable mixture across the bottom of the casserole dish and top it with six tortillas, overlapping them.  Put half of the rest of the meat on the tortillas, adding half of the cheese.  Lay out your six tortillas and top with the last of the meat and cheese.  Cover the dish with foil and bake for 25 minutes or until heated throughout.

This is Mexican lasagne to me, but it is good.  The tortillas sop up the moisture and turn soft. 

Both of his casserole cookbooks are due back at the library today so perhaps that will be that for him and his girlfriend until winter....

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Hee Hee, One of My Favorite Things

We're meeting two other couples in Las Vegas Labor Day weekend.  This gives me ample time to Restaurant Explore which is a favorite pasttime - read a guidebook, write down the restaurants that intrigue you and then go online and read the menus.  Yeah, it's all about food!   And you won't even gain an ounce!   You may even get some ideas on foods that you can re-create right in your own kitchen! 

Best of all - all of the above is free!  The following have made the list; time will tell if they made the cut.

Ri Ra Irish Pub, Mandalay Place
Famous for a potato pancake with Irish cream and balsamic vinegar-glazed  appetizer.  They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  One of the couples toured Ireland with us and they just might like to have a traditional Irish breakfast again. 

Olives, Bellagio
Love their fig, prosciutto and gorgonzola pizza (which is certainly do-able at home)  This is a place for a light lunch because they bring out baskets of foccacio with tapenade to spread on the bread and an assortment of olives.  After demolishing all that (because it's very good) you can get by with just a salad. 

Hash House A Go Go, Imperial Palace
The guidebook remarked, "Pancakes the size of pizzas; waffles the size of a checkerboard!"
I want to see them with my own eyes, but as far as eating one, good thing there will be six of us.  We can share!

Lola's, A Louisiana Kitchen,  201 W. Charlston Avenue in the Old Holsum Bakery.
She's from Louisiana - 'nuff said?  They have Crawfish Fridays.  The menu covers po'boys, roast beef debris, BBQ shrimp (the shrimp are never near a barbecue; they're sauteed in butter and a spicy sauce.  Another you can make at home.  Get a bunch of shrimp, clean them and sautee them in butter with splashes of Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco.)

Cantor's Deli, Treasure Island   Corned beef sandwiches nearly 6 in. thick.  One should share, but ...

Seafood Village, the Rio
The theme is The Seven Seas with such as kung pao scallops from China; fajitos - Mexico, plus sushi (you can have mine,) lobster, crawfish (tough last time) and crab and more.  $40 per person. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Richie Is Having A Love Affair!

I didn't see it when they met at the Hermosa Beach Plant and Bake Sale, but the brazen floozie had the nerve to come to our house!  And Richie was delighted.  He gifted this hussy with a couple of books and  cleared a space on the kitchen counter.

And I'm delighted.!  Couldn't be happier for him!

 His love object?  A casserole dish that he bought for a dollar at the above sale.  The books?  "Bake Till Bubbling" and "The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever."  The Hungarian Goulash (since fixed and sure to be very good indeed) was their first love child.    Here's what she carried last night.

Cook 3/4 cup macaroni or pasta of your choice; drain it and put it in the casserole dish.
Add in:
1 6-oz. can tuna
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
Set aside: 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese.

Mix well and bake for 20 to 25 minutes; take it out of the oven, sprinkle the shredded cheese over it and wait for it to melt, then serve.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

This One's For Charlie and Rosalind, Sean, Bryan and Kelly

They're my in-laws and all three of the men are baymen on Long Island.  Depending on the season, they're going after clams, lobsters and conch (now considered a great delicacy in Japan of all things.)

Rosalind is already fairly famous for her deviled clams, but she might like this dish.

One 3-oz. slab of smoked bacon cut into 1/2-in. dice - 1/2 cup in all.
1/4 cup very finely chopped shallots
2 T very finely-chopped garlic
 2 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed and soaked in cold water for 15 minutes.
1/4 cup bourbon
 1/4 cup heavy cream
2 jalapenos, thinly sliced into rounds
1 T very finely-chopped parsley
2 T sweet butter

In a big, deep skillet, cook the bacon until crisp and transfer it to a plate.
Add the shallots and garlic to the bacon skillet and cook for about 3 minutes.  You want them to soften.  Add the drained clams and bourbon and simmer it over low heat until the bourbon is mostly evaporated.

Add the clam broth, cover the skillet and cook until the clams open up.  Discard any that don't open. 

Put the clams in soup bowls.  Then add the cream to the skillet and cook until the cream is slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.  Add the butter and stir.

Pour the cream sauce over the clams in their bowls and serve with a nice crusty bread. 

I like bacon, bourbon* and jalapenos, but I just don't like clams...

* Bourbon and tonic makes a great drink for the Thanksgiving season.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Idyllic to Horrific

"Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn   Crown Publishers   419 pages   $25

I've been seeing the above listed on the New York Times Bestseller List for a long time.  When I ran across the book in the library, I checked it out.  It's okay to keep reading this; I don't give the ending.

She's a New Yorker from birth.  He's from a smallish town in Missouri.  Together they are the "cool couple" leading the frantically cool New York lifestyle -- friends' gallery openings, off-Broadway theater, best and closest take-out places, hottest new restaurants -- they know their way around.

And then ... he's fired from his writing job at a magazine; she's fired, too!  His mother is diagnosed with cancer.  They can't get jobs; they're soon not going to be able to pay the mortgage.  So he says, "Back to Missouri - pack what you can't live without."

She hates small town life, but endures it for two long years.  And then, on the morning of their fifth anniversary, she disappears.

What happens next is very interesting.  Flynn is talented at manipulating the reader's thoughts/opinions about various characters and their acts.  Her microscope ignores no detail.  It's a good summertime read.  Save the Ibsen for winter!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Paprika Problem Probably Solved

Our paprika was "just paprika."  At the supermarket, I went straight to the spice section and there, amid several containers of  regular (?) paprika, I found a red tin of 100% sweet Hungarian paprika.  So I winced ($5.95 a tin) and bought it.

I complained to a friend in Texas and she wrote back that cooking wih red wine is probematical for her.  She found a "luscious" recipe for braised short ribs that called for red wine and the dish turned out bitter, just like our Hungarian goulash.  Anyone have a good go-to cooking red wine? 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Politicians: SoCal Style

We had to drop a video back at the library which is next door to the Redondo Beach City Hall.  Richie spotted him first - Steve Diehls, our former district manager  for our area who is now running for City Treasurer.

It was just Steve and a cameraman and they were clearly filming a commercial.  Steve looked quite professional, navy sport coat, dark green polo shirt, dark pants and -- barefoot in flip flops! 

Duuude, it's just a commercial!  They'll never see my feet!

It Was Good Enough, But No Hit Out of the Park

Richie for reasons known only to himself has gotten interested in casserole dishes.  "But... but..." you may stutter, "It's the beginning of summer!  You don't want the oven on all afternoon!"  To which I can only sadly say, "Maybe it's summer where you are, but not here.  Ever hear of "June Gloom"?"

His first venture into a casserole dish, so to speak, was Hungarian Goulash For Two" and it goes like this:

1 T butter
2 T sweet Hungarian paprika

Put them in the casserole dish in a 325 degree oven.  When the butter has melted and the paprika smells good, add

3/4 lb. lean beef stew meat, cut into cubes
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teas. caraway seeds
1/2 teas. dried marjoram
pepper to taste
1 small bay leaf
1/2 cup red wine
Cover the dish tightly and put it in the oven for 2 1/2 hours

Just before serving over hot noodles, stir in 1/2 cup sour cream

The front taste is kind of bitter...  But something occurred to me as I typed - I wonder if it was SWEET Hungarian paprika... will have to check the label.  I know it wasn't pilot error - Richie is meticulous about following a recipe.  What do you think it was?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Bringing Your World With You

"Driving the Saudis, A Chauffeur's Tale of the World's Richest Princesses (plus their servants, nannies and one royal hairdresser") by Jane Amelia Larson   Free Press   208 pages   $25

Larson doesn't name the family and probably changed a lot of the names of the people she discusses in the book. 

Basic plot:  Larson is an actor and independent producer and when the work wasn't coming in and she needed money, she turned to working as a chauffeur for a big firm in Beverly Hills.  After proving herself capable, she was assigned a huge job.  A royal Saudi family was coming to town for seven weeks.  The family needed 40 chauffeur-driven luxury vehicles (with the odd SUV thrown in for the help.)  Said drivers would be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Each driver had an assigned passenger.

Larson was the only female driver among them.  She was assigned as part of the womens' entourage and she noted rather quickly that the Saudi women came to Beverly Hills for two reasons - to shop and to get plastic surgery.  One woman got breast implants and found a bra that she loved ($500 per bra) and sent Larson out to buy all that she could find in every color that they came in.  Larson covered Beverly Hills, Orange County and San Diego and garnered 60 of them; a task she spent all day on, for a grand total of $30,000 for bras.

The princess didn't even thank you, a reccuring situation.  Larson came to realize that the Saudis were not in any kind of imminent danger from outsiders; the drivers and noticeable security guys made them feel important, special. 

Saudi rules are stringent.  All of the women came off their 747 disreetly covered from head to toe.  But:  when they arrived at the various hotels, gone were the robes and veils.  they wore short, tight skirts, mile-long high heels and, generally, looked like working girls. 

Larson worked her derriere off, hoping for one of the legendary tips Saudis are said to hand out -- as much as $20,000 cash in $100 bills or an extremely expensive watch or both.  She daydreamed about the money, but she was to be disappointed.

To ward off sexist attacks from the men, Larson had said that she was married; her husband had been in an accident so she had to work.  She was tipped $1,000.  The Saudis reasoned that it was her husband's duty to provide for a wife and it was her duty to stay home.  After all, that's how they did in Saudi Arabia. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

One of My Favorites

I have previously reviewed Hudson House ( at 514 Pacific Coast Highway, Redondo Beach, but as they change their menu, new rave items come up.

We had dinner there last night.  We ordered Toasted Edamame with Shishito Peppers in a garlic, soy, honey sauce and at first Richie turned up his nose at the thought of either one.  He was the one that asked for a box for the leftovers.  He couldn't get over the sauce. 

If I were going to try this at home, I'd glaze the bottom of a skillet with olive oil and semi-dry fry the edamames in their pods and set them aside.  Shishito peppers don't bring a lot to the dance, so I'd leave them out.  They're neither hot nor particularly flavorful.  Then I'd mix crushed raw garlic (from a jar), soy sauce and honey in the empty skillet and heat 'er up and pour it over the edamames. 

He likes the Pretzel Burger (a regular hamburger served on a pretzel croissant) and a glass of house cabernet.

I ordered the Pulled Pork on a grilled Pretzel Croiossant with Fennel-Poppyseed Dressing and sweet and sour pickles (three baby onions and a piece of cauliflower pickled in vinegar and beet juice and two "regular" pickle strips.)  The cole slaw is served on top of the meat.   It was huge!  The other half is lunch today. 

Happy hour lasts until 7 p.m. and I recommend going before seven -- the edamame deal was $3, not the $4 on the regular hours; the Happy Ale was $3.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

If Only One or Both of My Parents Had Been Insane

"Chanel Bonfire, A Memoir" by Wendy Lawless   Gallery Books   295 pages   $25

Lawless and her younger sister lived a fairly tumultous life with their clinically insane mother.  She was markedly not interested in either daughter and fancied herself quite the seductress.  In her mink coat, cigarette holder glowing, she cut quite a swath across New York, the Hamptons and London. 

The mother emerged to an apartment in The Dakota, one of New York's toniest addresses, from a trailer park via her beauty.  She was prone to drama and suffered numerous "nervous breakdowns" in various asylums as well as suicide attempts.  Lawless struggled to hide what was really going on at home which nearly drove her crazy, too. 

Okay, here is the explanation for the title - you can cash in on them when you are safely an adult.  Especially if you are a writer with any talent at all.  (And I may be flattering myself here...)

Here's an example:

"My Dad always went on a bender on Saturday nights.  He wasn't very dangerous because he was more interested in berating my mother than me.  It was Sunday mornings that I had to be wary.  When he finally did get out of bed, it was with the Mother and Father of all hangovers.  The slightest look could set him off and he would rummage in the knife drawer in the kitchen and come after me, bellowing with rage.  Sine he was somewhat crippled from a childhood bout with polio and not moving any too well anyhow, due to the hangover, he was easy to elude.  I thought of it as Sunday exercise more than anything else.  It was handy on rainy Sunday mornings.

The real truth:  My mother served Sunday breakfast to us, dressed in our Methodist church garb, and we all went to Sundaqy School and then church where I sat between them and Daddy drew rabbits and cats on the program to amuse me. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What's Happening To My Newspaper?

Signs that all is not well in the offices of your local newspaper ... there are ads for dubious medical services and/or supplies on the bottom of the front page.

You're asked to vote for your favorite comic strips -- to keep them running in the paper.

And then there's today's story, below the fold with a jump to page 7.

"Michael Douglas Revelation
HPV Virus Growing Cause of Throat Cancer
Michael Douglas recent interview wih a British newspaper in which the actor said his particular kind of throat cancer was caused by oral sex will raise much-needed awareness on an increasing public health risk, physicians said Monday."

I didn't need to be made aware of this before I'd even poured my coffee. 

The story details specifics such as percentages of males and females affected plus a mention or two of Gardasil, the vaccine approved in 2006. 

Oh, one other thing...Douglas' spokesperson has tried to clarify that the actor did not tell the newspaper that his throat cancer was caused by oral sex.  The newspaper said, "Oh, yes, he did."  And there the matter apparently rests.

I can hardly wait to get through my day, go to bed and then wake up tomorrow morning. 
"Richie - the Daily Breeze here yet?"

Maybe tomorrow has started:  I finished typing this and went to The Drudge Report to find a headline about late-night comics having fun with Douglas' cancer story.  This site isn't late night; you're on your own.   I don't want to get into trouble again with a vociferous critic in central Texas. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Triumph!

This is Dale Cox at the El Segundo Library Book-Author Fair.

Dale is a member of the South Bay Writers Workshop which no doubt contributed to the fact that he sold the most books there!  (Kidding, Dale)

Dale is now 92 and has had a very interesting life as a Navy flier - that's Leiutenant Commander Cox, by the way,.  His flights from Los Angeles to New York and back to Los Angeles are still the record to try to beat.  He and his wife of 60+ years are the parents of four strapping sons. 

His so-far two books have explored a flight that was classified for 60 years - photo reconnaisance of Japan resulting in Doolittle's Raid only a month after Pearl Harbor - and his work as a Navy test pilot, starring Ms. Terry O'Brien, who has to overcome general hostility from the men at Groom Lake, Nevada, before piloting the ultra up-to-date Taurora, a Mach 7 plane. 

Both of these books are good reads ... did I forget to mention that Father's Day is coming up?  Look for Dale at or   As he signs all of his e-mails - "Cheers!"

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Today's Adventure

We're going to be promoting a pair of books at the El Segundo Public Library for a fellow writer.  He bought a booth at the El Segundo Book Fair and then got sick.  Fellow writer Rudy and I volunteered to man his booth.  If you can, stop in to visit anytime from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  The library is located at 111 W. Mariposa Avenue, El Segundo. 

"Top Secret Flight" reveals a secret the US Government kept quiet for 60 years!  In February, 1942, three handpicked bomber crews were trained in photo reconnaissance, set up in modified B-17 air craft and sent off to shoot the pictures necessary for Doolittle's bombing raid which followed. 

The B-17s were not exactly dependable rides as they'd been modified well beyond maximum weight limits.  They flew from Wright Field, OH, to Japan where the crew feared being seen (and shot at) and then another 2,700 miles to land in Dutch Harbor at a not-yet-finished Navy airfield.    April 16, 1942, 16 B-25s were dispatched from the USS Hornet to bomb Japan. 

"Tango Trajectory" is pure fiction as far as plot is considered, but the Mach 7 aircraft that stars in the story was real enough.  You can read all about the "Taurora" in an article in the Wall Street Journal in 1992. 

A young Navy test pilot is positioned by a powerful Congresswoman to become the first woman to fly Taurora -- if she can past the hostility directed at her from her fellow pilots.  That's just the start of the story.  Romance, intrigue, Al Qaeda members, the CIA and the FBI, a plot to down Taurora and kill the pilots... it's a really interesting story.

Dale Cox, author of both, is now retired, but his two transcontinental speed records still stand.  He flew from LAX to New York and back in 1957.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Sauce for the Goose?

"Mrs. Kennedy and Me" by Clint Hill with Lisa McCubbin   Gallery Books   340 pages   $26

It is well known that Mrs. Kennedy's husband, John F. Kennedy, was an avid skirt chaser, but after reading the above, I have to wonder if she didn't get a little of her own back with her Secret Service agent, Clint Hill. 

There is a "cute meet" in that Hill wanted the assignment to guard the President, but instead was given Da Wife.  He expected lots of tea parties.  Instead, for the first seven months of his duties, Mrs. Kennedy was out of the country or at Hammersmith Farm or Hyannis Port or Palm Beach 80 per cent of the time.

At about the middle of the book, Hill begins to more openly rhapsodize about her beauty; her soft breathy voice and the fact that in a glance, he knew what she was thinking.  How they spent every weekend usually alone at Glen Ora, the house the Kennedys rented in fox hunting country.  How they took long walks togeher at Hyannis Port...

It would be a rare person who didn't fall into thinking that they love the other person after spending virtually every hour of the day with that person.  It's called "propinquity" and I consider it to be closely related to Stockholm Syndrome wherein the captive falls in love with the captor.

Hill closed a chapter with these words, spoken after Mrs. Kennedy threw a farewell party for him.  "We had been through so much together, Mrs. Kennedy and me.  More than anyone can imagine.  More than anyone can ever know."

I rest my case.