Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The French Have A Word For It

Our dear friend Michelle's birthday is in August and chosing a card for her can be complicated by the words used on said card.  She's pretty fluent in English (and French and German and Japanese) but to make sure she "gets it" I often translate it into French.  

Here is the card in English - Sassy, Classy (open) and still kickin' assy!   I didn't think that the concept "sassy" existed in the French language, but it does!

French version:  Encore coquetterie, ultra chic!
Et encore avoir un retour de manivalle!  

My Larousse English - French dictionery was up for it with ease.  Since it's 3 1/2 in. thick, I'm not really surprised... 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

This 'n That

How To Get The Last Word In at Your Funeral

A.E. Hotchner's new book "O.J. in the Morning; G & T at Night" is his take on the world at age 93. 

In a chapter headed "The Train Is Pulling Out, Step Gently On" he recommends making a video of yourself for the mourners at the funeral.  During this video, it might be fun to throw out a last insult to an enemy or explain in detail why dealings with the former spouse shortened your lifespan considerably.  Go ahead!  None of them can sue you!  Whee! What fun!

I know that I've offered the delights of endlessly changing one's Last Will and Testament in a previous column, but this video thing really has legs as they say in the entertaibnment and wine industries.

It might be better to be nice.  Imagine that you are accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Oscars and start thanking everyone profusely.  No music swell will drown out your words. 

Hotchner made himself a great cottage industry with his biography of Ernest Hemingway and frequent translations of Hemingway writings into movies and television presentations.

A Time-Saving Suggestion for the Senate and the House of Representatives. 

Voting in each of their houses they should pass a bill that allows the randier members of both bodies to wear togas.  A flip of the toga wouldd take far less time than undoing a belt buckle, unbuttoning the trousers and unzipping them.  Further the appearance of a toga-clad senator or Congressman would alert the pages and interns and they could safely scatter like sheep.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Richie Makes a New Friend

He's kind of fickle in his friendships... first he and Jacque Pepin were tight and then Richie got interested in someone else and ran off to eat one bite of Mexico at a time with Rick Bayless and last night he got to canoodling in the kitchen with Patricia Wells during her culinary tour of recipes from various restaurants in small French villages.   

From the Camargue - GARDIANE LA CAMARGUE
4 1/2 lbs. stewing beef
5 garlic cloves
2 to 3 medium onions, sliced
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-in. lengths
1 bottle full-bodied red wine
2 T olive oil
1/2 teas. dried thyme
3 bay leaves
1 cup oil-cured black olives

The day before you plan to serve it, put the meat, garlic, onions, carrots in a big bowl, add the bottle of wine and put it in the refrigerator for 24 hours.  Next day, take it out and let it sit for three hours, then saute the meat in the olive oil.  Add everything else, including the wine y ou used as a marinade, to a big pot and let barely simmer for 2 hours.  Discard the bay leaves and serve. 

Instead of noodles or rice, he also made this:

GRATIN GRAND-MERE - Grandma's Potato, Red Pepper and Zucchini Gratin
1 garlic clove, peeled and halved
4 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 lbs. peeled and thinly-sliced russet potatoes
1 teas. dried thyme
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and cut in thin rounds
4 small zucchini, very thinly sliced.

preheat the oven to 350
grease a casserole dish and layer half of the potatoes, sprinkle with thyme, drizzle with olive oil.  Add a layer of of half of the red peppers and then half of the zucchini; keep layering until all of the vegetables are used up.  Drizzle with olive oil, cover the dish tightly with its lid or aluminum foil and bake about one hour or until it's soft and tender.

What did we think of these dishes?  Richie thought the meat didn't get tender enough.  To me, the flavor was so faint as to be nearly a fleeting memory.  The Grandma's Gratin was properly cooked, but again no real flavor.  Of course, looking at the lists of ingredients, there's not a lot of flavor IN them!  One garlic peel for 2 lbs. of potatoes?  Five garlic cloves for four and a half pounds of stewing beef?  If you make either one of these, ramp up the seasonings!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Portrait Of A Village, Snapshot By Snapshot

"The Casual Vacancy" by J. K. Rowlings   Little, Brown & Company   503 pages   $35

The novel is billed by the publishers as Rowling's first adult book.   After her sensational successes with the Hogswarts series, she doesn't have to write another word, but clearly she is a writer who can't not write and good for her!

I had no idea what "a casual vacancy" could be, but she explains it by quoting from the Local Council Administration which defines a casual vacancy as:   on the occasions that a councillor doesn't respond that he/she will take the job in a timely manner or when he formally resigns or on the day of his/her death.

Rowlings, not one to mess around, promptly dispatches a well-liked and popular councillor with a brain aneurism on page 5.    The ensuing chaos of replacing him takes up the rest of the book.  Jealousies, old hatreds and rivalries all surface in a number of unpleasant ways.

Among the townspeople are advocates for the local drug counseling facility and and equal amount of Not In My Backyard objectors.  There is also a movement afoot to change the town boundaries to exclude a slum known as the Fields. 

Once I got into the book, I was interested and enjoyed this read.  But it took me until page 94 to get any real sense of who was whom among that population.  Rowlings "writes long" as is said in writing circles. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013


Time magazine arrived yesterday and this caught my eye:  The Freakiest Facials Money Can Buy followed by a list of rather outrageous items.

Gold:  Gold dust has long been considered a make-up enhancer (evenings only) but the article says that it may help rejuvenate cell structure.  Note the use of "may."

Caviar:   some spas believe a liberal rub in of caviar leaves the skin firmer.  I'd rather have a firmer belly, due to massive inhalations of caviar...

Chocolate:   granted many people are firmly convinced that regular, ample servings of chocolate are, indeed, near life saving, but wasting it on one's face just because maybe it may rid the skin of toxins?  Er, probably not.   

Beer:   beer facials are marketed mainly to men, the article says, and I've seen plenty of men using them -- heading toward the 2 a.m. mark,  there they are, face down on the bar room floor.

Nevertheless in an effort to be helpful, I went online and got this recipe for a Beer Facial (don't you guys all rush out into the kitchen together:)
1 T beer - no brand supplied, but Pacifico would probably be best for its association with       beaches and sea water
1 T yogurt
1 T olive oil
1 egg white (editor's comment:  gah)
1 T lemon juice
1 T sweet almond oil

Put all of this crap in a blender for 30 seconds, wet your face and apply it.  Let it sit there for 15 minutes and then rinse it off with warm water, followed by a splash of cold water.  Drink the rest of the bottle of Pacifico.

Uguisu no fun (nightengale droppings) or more commonly "bird poop" is said to beautify the skin of geishas.   The droppings are dried and then powdered onto the face.  Yes, well...

But the most bizarre is this:  a salon in Tokyo puts live snails on a client's face and lets them wander around, spreading snail slime which is thought to reduce inflamation and promote moisture.   I think it would be more prudent to moisturize from within - eat a lovely order of escargot in garlic butter and let the garlic butter seep out.  Standing on your head after eating would probably help the process along...

Equal amounts of white balsamic vinegar and lime juice make a nice dressing for raw vegetables such as sliced tomatoes or crab cakes or shrimp or ?  Use your imagination!  
Note:  dark brown balsamic vinegar is made of a pressing of white grapes; white balsamic is white grape pressings mixed with white vinegar. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Give Your Oven a Summer Vacation

I must admit that I would never have thought of this --

"The Mexican Slow Cooker - Recipes for Mole, Enchiladas, Carnitas, Chile Verde Pork and More Favorites" by Deborah Schneider   Ten Speed Press   137 pages   $19.99

I just didn't connect traditional Mexican foods (as above) with doing them in a crockpot. 

As a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) member though I can't endorse the idea of leaving something electric running for six to eight hours while you are away from the house.

That said, here are a couple of interesting recipes...

ASADO DE BODAS or Wedding Stew with Pork
4 large guijillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 ancho or pasilla chilies, stemmed and seeded
2 cups hot water
4 large garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 teas. whole cumin seeds
1 whole clove
1/2 teas. whole black peppercorns
2 lbs.l oneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-in. cubes
1 cup very finely chopped white onion
1/2 teas. dried marjoram
1 dried bay leaf
1/4 teas. ground cinnamon
1 cup water or chicken broth
1 teas. white vinegar
1 teas. firmly-packed brown sugar
1 teas. grated orange zest
1 T semisweet chocolate

Heat a heavy skillet and put in the chilis, pressing on them with a spatula until they soften and blister.   Then put them in a heatproof bowl and pour the boiling water over them.  Soak for 15 minutes, then drain carefully so that you have 1 cup of water left.

Blender:  chiles and the liquid, garlic and puree until smooth.

Toast the cumin, clove and peppercorns until fragrant - don't burn them.  After they've cooled, put them in a spice grinder.

Put the pork in a 5-qt. crockpot, sprinkle with the ground spices, add the onion, marjoram, bay leaf and cinnamon.  Pour the pureed chilies over, stir well and cook for six hours.

Lastly:  Remove and discard the bay leaf, stir in the vinegar, brown sugar, orange zest and chocolate.  Serve hot.

ARROZ CON LECHE or Rice Pudding with Cinnamon
3/4 cup short grain Arborio rice
1 cup evaporated milk
3 cups whole milk
pinch of sea salt
1/3 cup agave syrup
3 T sugar
1-in. cinnamon stick
1 tes. Vanilla extract

Put everything in a 4 or 5 qt. crockpot, cover and cook on low for 2 1/2 hours.  Stir the rice every half an hour.  When it's done, fish out and discard the cinnamon stick.  Serve warm or cold with a dollop of whipped cream.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

It's Not A Book For Everyone

Especially if you have anger management or poor impulse control issues.  If you do, move along; nothing to see here.

Basically, the book is a personal defense tool.  It will teach you in detail exactly how to disarm and/or seriously damage another person who is threatening your personal safety.  Note:  Ineffective when applied to a semi or a bus bearing down on you.

It would be a helpful book to read if one is an abused wife or girlfriend; a member of a minority race or an older man or woman.  (Note to the latter:  a cane makes a helluva defense weapon.)

I can give you two things that I learned:  if someone bigger and stronger grabs you by a wrist, instantly drop to one knee.  This throws the assailant off balance and while you're down there, you might as well head butt them in the balls which will really discourage a male attacker.

Dr. Gutierrez, the book's author and a medical doctor, taught me that the arch of the collarbone is structurally its weakest point and relatively easy to break.  If the collarbone is broken, the arm below it is useless.  Raise your hands high in the "I surrender!" gesture and then slam your fists down on this arch.  Dr. Gutierrez advises that using an elbow is a better idea, but I wouldn't want to work that close to an assailant.  Ewww - they quite possibly don't smell all that good.

"Breaking Points:  Using History, Maxims and Modern Science to Understand Karate" by RH Gutierrez, MD   $18

Disclaimer:  Gutierrez is a long-time personal friend of ours and I did the line edit for him.  I did not write one word of the book.  Amazon seems not to understand that and my name is up there as if I co-wrote it which I most assuredly did not. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Working the Red Carpet

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending a rather lavish luncheon laid on by the Redondo Beach Parks and Recreation department to thank the volunteers at their social centers.

Technically speaking, I don't think I should have been there at all.  The South Bay Writers Workshop (aka Thurs. Writers) meets in the Veteran's Park Senior Center where we've generously been given a room from noon to 2 p.m.  In January we all pay the center the $6 annual fee.

Because the center personnel have most often dealt with me, they believe that I am the group's "leader."  I have explained that no one can "lead" a group of writers; that we are a democratic society and debate and then vote on such weighty matters as where to have the annual Christmas party.  Any one of us could be considered the "leader" for those reasons.  They insisted that I attend their "Volunteers Are the Stars" luncheon. 

So I went.  It started at 11:30 at the Center for Performing Arts, Redondo.  It was an elaborate set-up.  We were directed to a sign-in table for name badges (very fancy with gllitter and hand-applied stars) and then, on an escort's arm, ushered down a bright red carpet that led into the room. 

As this wasn't enough to boggle the mind, a woman inside with a microphone then welcomed each of us by name and the audience clapped lustily!

They were doing a good business and the only seats left were at an empty table in the rear of the room.  After I'd been brusquely refused a seat at another table by a woman who most closely resembled and sounded like a constipated bear -- "You can't sit there!  That's Amy's seat!" I slithered over to this empty table and sat down.

I wasn't lonely for long.  Almost immediately Gabriele sat down, followed rather quickly by a man who asked if he could join us.  He turned out to be the newly-elected District 4 city councilman Steve Sammarco.  He had replaced Steve Diels (whom Richie and I  know)  when Diels was termed out.   Sammarco is clearly a good friend of Diels so that was a conversational springboard though certainly none seemed to be needed. 

I should mention the setting - round tables with black tablecloths which had been strewn with rose petals and glitter stars of varying sizes.  Each setting had a gold, plastic charger plate, a square white dish and silverware wrapped in a snowy white napkin. 

I had gotten a pina colada from the "mocktail" bar (other choice was a strawberry margarita.)  First to appear was a squarish platter with very nice slices of roast beef on a plain white triangle of bread; a chunk of pineapple on a skewer and another skewer of mozarella cheese, drizzled with balsamic vinegar atop a piece of lettuce with a cherry tomato finishing off the skewer. 

Salad came next - a veritable blizzard of disco lettuce with balsamic  vinegar dipped strawberries and chunks of walnut. 

The main course was grilled skinny green beans with diced Roma tomatoes, a small serving of grilled chicken breast with a goat cheese sauce and a big manicotti stuffed with ricotta cheese and sauted spinach topped with pinon nuts.   When dessert appeared, I disappeared as I had another appointment.  Dessert looked to be vanilla ice cream, scattered with chocolate chip cookie crumbs served in a martini glass. 

It turned out to be an interesting and enjoyable luncheon.  Gabriele is now a volunteer at my old volunteer spot - Driftwood - and we compared notes and stories.  Steve was affable as politicians are wont to be and a good time seemed to be had by all.

This time next year, the writers can vote for a delegate to attend and he or she can go down the red carpet.  I've had my turn.  Democracy Rules!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Oh Well...

"Oh, Fudge, A Celebration of America's Favorite Candy"  by Lee Edwards Benning   Henry Holt & Company   303 pages   $19.95

A friend of mine adores chocolate.  Additionally, she's a good cook and one who likes to entertain.  Thus, when I ran across the above at the every Monday Hermosa Beach Book Sale, I got it for her.  I don't like to make candy because it takes forever.  I have a recipe for English toffee that calls for stirring it for five full minutes.  So not up my alley...

As for fudge, I've never used any other recipe than the one found on the back of the jar of Kraft's Marshmallow Creme.   And I haven't even used that recipe for probably 20 years.  Curiosity alone made me open the book.

Listed under "Exotic Fudges" I found Lemon Butter Fudge, Carrot Fudge, Applescotch, Pineapplescotch and Peanut Butter Goat's Milk Fudge.  If you are interested in them, you could Google them or visit  You can find anything on line.

A Chronology of Historic Fudges lists:
1849 - Ginger Candy
1879 - Cocoanut Caramels
1887 - Vassar Fudge - Making fudge secretly at night was considered verrry daring!
1890 - Vanilla Candy
1900 - Fudge Arrives!
1902 - Chocolate Caramels
1909  - Smith College and Wellesley College Fudges
1920s - Treacle Toffee

Tempted though I might have been by some of the exotics - add chopped maraschino cherries to your fudge mix...nevertheless, making fudge is too much work.   I try to avoid hard work.  But you go ahead!  Send me a taste when you're done...


Monday, July 22, 2013

The Curious Naming of British Royals

Amidst all of the Royal Baby! furor, I began wondering, "Why do the Brits give their royal children so many names?"  Do they believe that it would easy to mistake one of Them for a mere commoner? 

 Or that the more names one has, the more powerful (and rich) one is?

Is it to provide future comfort for someone who will only be addressed by title and first name for their entire lives?  So that the person named can say, "Well although you address me as (title) (first name) I have other names -- many other names."

Prince Charles - christened Charles Phillip Arthur George

Prince William - William Arthur Phillip Louis

Prince Harry - Henry Charles Albert David

Queen Elizabeth - Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor - it was her father, George V, who obtained a last name for them.

But the all-time prize was the late King Edward VII -- Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David.  He used "David" in his personal life.    I think the "VII" in his title referred to the fact that he has seven first names!  Poor Mrs. Simpson on her wedding day.

The late Princess Diana flipped Arthur George to George Arthur at her wedding.  Perhaps that nullified the wedding?  We'll never know for sure, but apparently not. 

Best of luck, New Royal Baby!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Canadian "Loonies" III

New beers were popped and the conversation got louder.  The restaurant had long since been swiped down and the wrought iron entry gate closed and locked.   I said, "You know there are other guests here... we ought to keep it fairly quiet." 

What with Sue pouncing on me every time I went to the bathroom and Queen Me!Me! rattling on and on, I could wish that the conversation now included, "Well, we've had a wonderful time ... it was so nice to meet you all!" as they sauntered out into the night.

Finally, finally with Charlie making a great fuss about collecting her enormous purse and little bags of loot and Sue hugging me and whispering in my ear, "I love you!  Thank you!  I'm not the crazy one!" which I thought was something of a premature diagnosis on her part, they all left.

They had assured us that their hotel was "only a 10 minute walk away!  Don't be silly, we can go alone." 

Rafael and Richie exchanged a look and rose as one to their feet.  "We'll walk you" they said firmly. 

I finished my cigarette, drained my beer can and went to bed.  I mused briefly about the evening and went to sleep.

In the morning, Richie handed me a small bottle of vanilla (sold all over Mexico) and a note scrawled on a piece of ripped-off, brown paper towel.  The note read, "Dear Nina - Thank you so much! love, Sue."  She'd obviously bought the vanilla at the liquor store during one of the beer runs and left it in our room.  Kind of eerie...

It turns out that the sisters' hotel wasn't a 10-minute walk, but nearly all the way across Cabo.  We should have just called them a cab.  Or ... let them take their chances.  I was sure Charlie could bore any abductor into freeing them within minutes of being accosted.

I had to buy breakfast to get back into Richie and Rafae's good graces.  Too bad I couldn't use Canadian loonies...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Canadian "Loonies" II

(Rafael and "My name's Charlene, but everyone calls me Charlie" have left the restaurant and come to our table on the hotel patio.)

And thus ensued a great to-do about where to sit.  The hotel cat was sleeping contentedly in one chair.  Richie, Sue and I were in the other three.

On seeing the cat, Charlie clutched her flattish bosom in horror and said, "Oh, but I'm allergic to cats!" as if we had deliberately put a cat there to freak her out.

Seeing Sue light up, Charlie flapped a defensive hand at the smoke.  "Oh, Sue!  You know I'm allergic" she said in tragic tones.

Then she launched into attack mode; the target being her husband.  Though the sisters live on opposite sides of Canada, they'd joined forces to invade Cabo to plan revenge.  The cause?  Charlie's husband was being unfaithful to her.  She knew who he was now laying pipe for and she swore she would divorce him.  The debate that drew them to Cabo centered on how devastating the damages could be.

"He doesn't know that I know," she said darkly, a certain glitter in her eyes.  "But I do."  Ominously. 

By now, Sue had drained her wine as well as her Irish and we had drunk ours.  "I'll go on a beer run!" Sue announced and picked up her purse. 

"I'll go with you," Richie said, "I know where the liquor store is."

Charlie said to Sue, "Get me one of those canned daiquiris I like?"  Turning to us, "I don't like beer." and wrinkled her nose.  Richie and Sue trundled out, arguing about who would pay for the beer.

Charlie, who had elected to stand rather than sit in our miasma of foul air, became more animated.  She had a love affair going with her hair.  Said hair was below-shoulder length pre-Raphael curls.  The kind of hair that looks like a wig made out of pipe cleaners.  She was wearing a long dress which whirled out prettily as she illustrated her conversation with little shimmies of delight or horror.  I cut my eyes at Rafael; in an instant we'd both looked away.  It was that or both of us would have burst out laughing. 

Having apparently forgotten the storm clouds that went over the patio when she spoke of her husband, she launched into a series of anecdotes about her treatment of her sister.  "We were kids - I had to be mean to my little sister - it was my job!"  Peals of girlish laughter.  I rapidly added "sadist" to the "narcissist" I'd already jotted down mentally. 

Of course, the four of us went through the six pack like Grant took Richmond and Sue immediately volunteered to go for more. 

"We're all having such fun!"  she said, "But first I have to go to the john - you know where it is?"

I laughed and pointed down the patio to our room door.  "Use ours," I said.  "I have to go, too." 

The minute we were in the room, she turned anxiously to me and said, "You see!  What did I say?  She never shuts up!" with some vigor. 

"I'm no doctor," I said, but I believe she does have some, er, issues.  Narcissism being the major one ...which is difficult to cure..." (explaining myself) "You notice that not only does she talk incessantly, but it's all related to her?  What she thought, felt, said, reacted..."  (Sue is nodding vigourously)  "Rather than sitting with us; she's standing -- the better to be the queen with the peasants..."

Sue was pumping her arms up and down, grinning adly and say, "Yeah!  Yeah!  I'm NOT the crazy one!"

And we returned to our seats on the patio.  Sue and Richie left to get more beer which frankly probably wasn't needed.

To Be Continued

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Canadian "Loonies"

The $1 bill in Canada has been nicknamed a "Loonie" because there is a picture/drawing of a common loon bird on it.  But the "Loonies" in Canada are not limited to the one dollar bill...

Recently Richie and I and our adopted nephew, Rafael, were in Cabo San Lucas to celebrate my birthday. 

On this night, we'd been out to dinner and had returned to our hotel which shares a patio with a restaurant.  It was a lovely, balmy evening and we decided to have a nightcap before the restaurant closed for the night.  I settled into a chair on the hotel patio and the men went to the bar to get the drinks.

On the way back to our patio, they were waylaid by a pair of ladies at a table in the restaurant.  Apparently one of them had asked them something.  Richie is one of the world's most obliging people and he looked to be fully engaged in answering whatever the question had been.  Rafael stood slightly behind him, smiling pleasantly.  It's all very well to make new friends, but not, in my opinion, while you are holding my drink as the ice turns to water.

Finally Richie came back with one of the women following him.  My eyebrows rose speculatively as I appraised her.  Frankly, she didn't appear to be much of a threat to marital security.  My first thought was, "She's a librarian -- that unassuming hair-do; the glasses, the slightly meek mien..."   She was one of those women who are "average" all over.

Beaming, Richie said, "Nina, this is Sue.  Sue, this is my wife Nina."  I gestured to the chairs and she set down her half-full Irish coffee and half-empty glass of red wine.  She was prattling away as she reached into her purse, pulling out a pack of cigarettes.

"You can't smoke down there" - gesture at the restaurnt - "But then I looked up here and saw you smoking so I asked if it was okay to smoke here and your husband said it was so here I am.  Thank you so much!"  As I'd had nothing whatsoever to do with Mexican smoking rules and regs, I thought her gratitude was somewhat misplaced.

She downed her coffee in one long gulp and started talking.  Within seconds, we knew that she'd had a bad first marriage, a bitter divorce and had decided never to re-marry even though the man she'd been living with for the past 25 years, did want to get married. 

She waxed eloquently about her late dog "Teddy" while patting the hotel cat, Ma Moochie, lovingly with adoring eyes.  She said she and her sister were visiting Cabo and that her sister never shuts up.  'It's driving me crazy!" she said with irritation.  She said that she lives in Edmonton and her sister in Toronto, Canada.

Rafael, somewhat resignedly, had sat down in Sue's empty chair and was listening to this sister.  Chairs began scraping on the tiled floors and the restaurant began to close.  So they joined us.

To Be Continued

Thursday, July 18, 2013

All Better!

The computer has been fixed.  The message it was giving me  (repeatedly) was:  Thunking spoolers API5 from 32 to 64 has stopped."

Don't let your thunking spoolers stop!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Closed Due To Technical Difficulties

Am contacting service representatives for a fix now. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Play With Your Food - It's Fun!

I'm a great fan of "finger food." 
Richie is now enjoying making (and eating) Mexican food.  He and Rick Bayless are enjoying Mexico, plate by plate.

I read the recipe for making your own tortillas, quesadillas and sopes and the opportunity to play with the dough seems irresistible. 

Basic Masa
3 cups dry masa harina
2 teas. sea salt
2 cups lukewarm water, plus more as needed
1 T vegetable oil

( It hasn't escaped me that the basic pasta recipe is flour, 1 egg and vegetable oil)

Mix it all together, form it into a ball and then break off pieces to make tortillas for quesadillas or sopes.  If you don't have a tortilla press, you can roll pieces out and hand shape them...or roll out the dough, put a small saucer face down and, using a sharp knife, cut around the saucer for perfectly round tortillas.  Reshape the scraps into a ball and make more tortillas. 

To play with the taste, you can throw in 3 jalapeno chilis, stemmed and seeded, into the blender with a clove of garlic and a bunch of cilantro.  Hit the "Go" button and finely chop everything.  Dump it in the masa mix and blend thoroughly.   Return the masa and seasoning back into a ball and begin using it. 

You might consider taking a handful of dried tomatoes and tossing them in the blender and make yourself some tomato-flavored tortillas.

The addition of the dried tomatoes, chilis, garlic and cilantro ought to  make anything you make from it extra good. 

Go on - play with your food!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Psst... Got $38m For the 20% Down Payment?

For Sale:  Copper Beech Farm, Greenwich, CN - $190 million

It was built in 1896, 117 years ago, and owned by one family since 1904.  The house still contains the original speaking tubes to the servants along with the sleeping porches used because air conditioning hadn't been invented yet. 

It is the only 50-acre water front estate in all of Greenwich.  But that's not all, folks!  There are two islands on Long Island Sound that come with your purchase! 

No one will gawk at you or your house as the  driveway is 1,800 ft. long.

The three-story home of 15,00 sq. ft. contains a wine cellar, "several" laundries , 12 bedrooms, a basement kitchen,  a tennis court with viewing pergola, a 75 ft. heated swimming pool with pool house which could be rigged up for extra guests.

Price tag notwithstanding, set aside even more money for a decorator.  The house is structurally sound, but the interior really could use a decorator.  Can you imagine?  A $190 million fixer-upper?  The mythical gods of Croesus and  Midas must be laughing in their fists. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Later That Same Day...

Well the jazz bands didn't know any French tunes, so nix on that.  However, there was good news on another front.  I was talking to Paul, the club president, and I said, "Did you notice that Bernie and Lou aren't here today?  I'm SO GLAD; I've been developing a real phobia about them out on the dance floor."

Paul said, "I ran into them at another jazz club and she was pushing him in a wheelchair." 

"That's great!" I replied with a big grin.

Many of you may wonder how I could possibly take joy in a fellow human having been relegated to a wheelchair and I understand your qualms.

Consider:  No one but the most deranged would expect a person in a wheelchair to get up from a wheelchair and frug the night away.    He is (finally) safe from dance floor falls.   Although the men at the monthly club meetings are now in double danger from being shanghaied out on the dance floor.  They're not in wheelchairs; they can fend for themselves!

Happy Bastille Day!

"Quatorze Julliet" is the usual reference to this day in France - "July 14th."  It is also celebrated by the oldest and largest military parade in the world, right down the Champs-Elysees.  Comes the night - fireworks (feu d'artifice) all around! 

2013 was the 224th year of celebration.   

Today, July 14th, is also the monthly South Bay New Orleans Jazz Club meeting.  Wonder if they know any French tunes?  We'll find out!

Saturday, July 13, 2013


Food and Wine publishes a monthly column that might as well be titled, "New Stuff You Need To Try Now."   I was surprised to read about a company that is offering "different" flavored sauerkrauts to the paying public. now carries the following flavors of sauerkraut:
Classic Caraway
Smoked Jalapeno
Horseradish Leek
Garlic Dill Pickle
Ginger Beet

They all sound intriguing.  Suggested uses - on a grilled cheese sandwich, on a hamburger or hot dog...    

Sauerkraut is a very, very old dish - Genghis Kahn imported it from his invasion of China and it became a European cure for stomach ulcers and canker sores as well as a traditional accompaniment to pork dishes .   In Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Dutch eat sauerkraut and pork on New Year's for good luck. 

Sauerkraut  is very high in vitamins C, B and K; in fact, the finished product has more good stuff than the raw cabbage alone.  During the American Civil War prisoners of war were fed it and that was believed to reduce the death rate among them.

Conversely, sauerkraut is very, very high in sodium which isn't good for people with hypertension or thyroid problems. Farmhouse Culture says that they use 1.5 lbs. of salt per 100 lbs. of raw cabbage.  That's probably the minimum that can be used and still crank out sauerkraut with the right taste.

However, if you're still leery of salt,  here's a recipe for curtido, which is a Central American staple, eaten as we would sauerkraut.  The Smoked Jalapeno sauerkraut above was derived from curtido says the manufacturer. 

1/2 green cabbage, shredded
1 carrot, grated
1 qt. boiling water
3 green onions, minced
1 cup distilled white wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 teas. dried oregano

Mix the cabbage and carrots together and pour the boiling water over them.  Let it sit for 5 minutes and then drain off the water.  Mix the onions, vinegar, water and oregano together and stir into the cabbage-carrot mixture.  Chill for 20 min. before eating.  Served in tacos, it replaces the lettuce and tomato. 


Friday, July 12, 2013

Too Hot To Cook, Let Alone Can!

On the other hand, 'tis the season of roaring amounts of fresh fruits in all of the farmers' markets as well as the supermarket.  And winter will come... what's a body to do?

Here's Food and Wine's recipe for

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 T Ball Real Fruit Instant Pectin
2 lbs. strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 1/2 T. lemon juice
2 1/2 T finely-grated, peeled fresh ginger
pinch of kosher salt

Take a big bowl and whisk the sugar with the pectin.  Use a food processor and finely chop half of the strawberries, putting them in with the sugar and pectin.

Repeat with the other half of the berries and add the lemon juice, ginger and salt stirring until all of the sugar has dissolved.

Spoon the jam into clean glass jars - leave 3/4 in. of space between the lid and the jam and let it stand at room temperature for approx. 30 minutes while the jam thickens a bit.   Refrigerate until the jam is chilled and set which will take maybe an hour.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Not A Fashionista? Ignore Me Today

"Grace, A Memoir" by Grace Coddington   Random House   330 pages plus extensive photos in the back of the book   $35

Coddington became a model during the late '50s and into the '60s.  Jean Shrimpton was called "The Shrimp" and Coddington became "The Cod."  She was quite pleased to read this description of herself which was "cold as a cod, but hotter than a four-bar heater."  She thought it made her sound sexy. 

When she got too old to model at age 28, she went into fashion management as a creative director for British and then American Vogue.  She has curated several of the big fashion exhibitions in New York.

Her book details the world's top fashion photographers, hairdressers, make-up artists - and their quirks and foibles. 

The book is lavishly illustrated with her quirky sketches of friends, various outfits and her cats.  She is inordinately fond of cats.

She married twice.  Her first husband was Michael Chow, of Mr. Chow restaurants, but it didn't last long.  Chow's next wife was Tina and she and Grace are great friends.  Number two only last six months.  Today she is more than 30 years into a committed relationship with fashion hairdresser Didier Malige.   She had no children, but when her sister died, she adopted one of the two nephews.  The other went to his father's family. 

As a fashion editor, she has traveled all over the world for photo shoots and has had many amazing experiences doing so.  She has worked  for a long time with Ann Wintour (aka "Nuclear Wintour) and was best friends with the late Liz Tiberis. 

This is an entertaining and engaging book for people who are interested in fashion and the workings behind this million dollar industry.  It's more of a gentle reminiscence  about the bright lights in the fashion world than a "Scandal!" tell-all which distracts not at all from the insider feeling the reader gets. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Iron Man
Entering the gym this morning, we were right beside a very tall, slender man wearing a plain black jumpsuit.  He had his ear pods in and I heard a faint strain of "soft rap" music.  Draped around his neck was a shiny big chain, that glittered in the desk's lighting.  The chain looked quite capable of providing snow chains for a semi in Anchorage, Alaska.

Naturally we didn't remark on this at all, but when I left I asked the desk guy what that was about.  I was wondering about management's carelessness in allowing a possibly deranged man to roam freely (with his seven or eight foot chain)among us.

Desk guy said carelessly, "Oh, those are weight training chains.  He wraps them around his waist and hooks weights onto them.  Then, when he exercises, he's using even more weight."

I pondered this and said, "A little too ardent for me" and we both grinned and I left.  

Showing 'em How You Feel
Seen on a placard in a photo from the Texas abortion law protests:  Keep your rosaries off my ovaries.  
Psychological Study
Question:  can a previous mildly bad experience at a restaurant color your perceptions when you attempt a second visit?

Case in point:  About two years ago we and Bob and Pat went to the Nameless Mexican restaurant.  It was in the winter, near a holiday (and I can't remember which one it was.)  The Nameless was packed and the only table free was right beside the front door.  Every time it opened or closed, we got a blast of frigid air.  We quickly decided to go elsewhere, made our apologies and left.  We walked straight across the parking lot to Cialucci's.

Last night, Richie decided he needed an Italian fix so we went to what used to be Cialucci's but is now Charlie's.      But, alas - Charlie's was closed for a private party.  So we reversed our steps and walked back across the parking lot to the Nameless.

Got the back corner booth (right next to the hallway door to the bathrooms) ordered a couple of Pacificos and studied the extensive menu.  Healthful items such as Turkey Jalapeno Enchiladas, Roasted Sweet Corn Ravioli, Honey Chili-Glazed Salmon over Black Bean Sauce appeared (and were equally dismissed by us.)

Service was pleasant and prompt.  The big room began to do a good business.  My shrimp quesadillo of grilled shrimp, sweet onion and garlic and jack and cheddar cheese arrived promptly, quickly followed by Crispy Chicken Potstickers with chili sauce on the side and a side of the cilentro cream that came with something else -I'd wanted to taste it and thought the sauce and potstickers would go well together and they did. 

Richie ordered the grilled shrimp and scallops with pasta and again, service was prompt .

Back in the car, laden with leftovers, we compared notes - he thought the pasta was "too tough."  I thought the Swiss cheese was too sweet for the shrimp quesadilla and it wasn't until I re-read the menu  this morning that I saw that it should have been jack and cheddar.  I was disappointed in the cilantro cream sauce; just didn't have enough flavor.  Unusually, it was served hot - the server warned me about the bowl it came in.    Cold might have sparked more flavor.

So here we had an adequate dinner; good service and yet... left with a vague feeling of discontent.  Maybe it was the clubby atmosphere; customers and servers all seemed to know each other ...we were clearly the only strangers in the whole restaurant.  Which is never a problem elsewhere, but here it was like a family renion!

'Tis said "Third time's a charm" but given the two previous outings... dunno.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Now You Can Buy Your Own Damned Downton Abbey!

The August issue of Architectural Digest proudly submits Tyringham Hall, built in 1797,  in Buckinghamshire, England, for your inspection.  It was  the work of noted architect Sir John  Soane for a financier named William Praed, banker and MP.

In the 1920s, famed landscape architect Sir Edwin Lutyens added a swimming pool, formal gardens and a pair of follies to the 29-acre grounds.  Additionally there is a stable house.  Tennis courts weren't mentioned, but surely...

The house style is described as a neoclassical with a semicircular portico to greet you, and an enormous copper dome to look down its nose at you.  There are  many formal rooms inside to stun you with ornate woodwork,  carved marble fireplaces and intricate frescoes. 

The house is certainly spacious enough for the entire cast of Downton Abbey as it has 32 bedrooms, 30 baths and four half-baths in its 36,700 sq. ft.  

Tyringham Hall has led a versatile and rather lively life since the 18th century having served as a private house and then as a maternity ward  which then became a private club for a group of New Zealand bankers and then a naturopathic clinic (God knows what went on in something named that) and finally back into a private home.  Ah, if those walls could talk...

$28 million makes it yours.  But you should have bought in 2001.  Property developer Anton Bilton bought it then -- for 2.5 million pounds. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

She Who Likes To Talk

"The Secretary, A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power" by Kim Ghattas   Time Books  345 pages   $27

Ghattas' back blurb states that she has been the radio and TV correspondent for the BBC's State Department coverage sice 2008.  Her articles have been published in Time, Boston Globe, Washington Post.

Born and largely raised in Beirut, she is the daughter of a Dutch woman and a Lebanese father.  She makes a point of her heritage all through the book which is is a kind of joining of "My Life" and "Hillary's Doings" which can prove difficult for the average reader.  Anytime an author inserts him/herself into a story as opposed to a biography, it can get confusing.

I am not a Clinton fan, so I picked up the book to see if it was a pre-Presidential campaign puff pece and, if so, to try to determine the am9unt of spin given recent events.

About all I learned of substance is that the Clintons - Bill or Hillary - are alwas one hour late for scheduled appearances.  Ghattas says that Hillary wants to spread cheer and US good will via her personal style which is talkative.  Ghattas remarks often on how Hillary will laser in on the person she's talking to as if there were no others in the room.  She has a good memory (and a thick briefing book) and remembers people and events around them including how many children.  

Ghattas Beirut background intrudes often and, indeed, the book (I'm on page 207) seems to concern itself the most with Arabic affairs.  Clinton is praised for telling it (like she) think it is to the Chinese as well as presumably well-intentoned visits to such outposts as Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.  

It would be a great read for someone with a great deal more political interest than I have.  I've only survived by skimming over a lot of the descriptions of situations, reasons for situations, conferences to fix situations and details about political leaders wity (to me) unpronounceable, long names.    
The computer is acting up so
1st graf  since, not sice but since
2nd graf Dutch mother, not Dutch woman and delete one "is" in is is
3rd graf  piece, not pece   amount, not am9ount
4th graf always, not alwas
last graf - with, not wity

Sunday, July 7, 2013

This'n That

Yesterday (Saturday) we went to the Torrance Farmers Market and Richie picked up this salad recipe from a vegetable vendor who was offering passers-by a sample - so they'd buy the vegetables needed for it from him.  I would call it "Mexican Confetti" because the "dressing" is a typical use of two major food groups in Mexico - limes and chilis. 

Confetti Salad
1/2 chopped red onion
1 red Bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow Bell pepper, chopped
1 green Bell pepper, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
1 Serrano pepper, de-seeded and ribbed and chopped
pinch of garlic salt

Mix it all together, give it a good shot of lime juice (fresh or bottled) and toss well
Dust with red chili powder.

The LA Times Travel section runs a column they call "Your Tips" which consists of letters from readers.  Every now and then they have some good ones and then there are some that are not-so-good.

Oceanside, CA:  Car trips with kids - put slip-on shoes on them and you won't have tiresome waits at stops for them to find the shoes, untie the laces, put the shoes on and re-tie the laces.
     I'd counsel slip-ons (loafers) at airport security, too.  Richie used to fly in cowboy boots; when that ruling came in he went out and bought a pair Bass Weejuns.

Manhattan Beach, CA suggests that on group tours just before the tour begins, set up a meeting place at a prominent location within the tour.  Everyone will then know where to go to hook back up with the group.
     But I say that it's easier, faster and avoids any walking at all, to just stop dead in your tracks and hold one arm up in the air.  Yes, of course people will look at you!  The responder should also hold up his/her arm so everyone is on the same page and you can start walking towards each other.

Porter Ranch, CA:  Take a plastic, sealable bag to the airport for your watch, coins, cell phone, pens and let it go through security like that.  At the end of the beltway, grab and go. 
     This would also speed up security lines if everyone did it. Ahem, Richie.

Ontario, CA urges us to hang onto the plastic zip bags bed linens come in.  She says to pack your clothes in them, sit on them  to get the air out and zip them shut because they are easily seen through and that she has never had one opened by Transportation Security Administration.
     Years ago when these first came out, I bought a set of these bags and found that stuffing clothes into a bag, sitting on the bag and trying to zip it shut did work for more inside the bag room, but:  these bundles were stiff as boards and I couldn't pack other things in and around them.  Today I just roll my clothes, stick them in the suitcase and go. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

"Right Wine; Wrong Bottle"

That's a quote from Jennifer Finney Boylan, famously the first transgender person to write a best-selling memoir on that life.  (What?  The world forgot Christine Jorgenson?  1926 - 1989)

"Stuck In The Middle With You, A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders" by Jennifer Finney Boylan   Crown Publishers   280 pages   $24

She seems to be making something of a cottage industry of her sex change from male (two sons) to female.  This is her second book on the subject and she also writes columns and gives lectures.  

Briefly:  As a male, she met a woman named Deirdre Finney.  They fell in love, married, had two sons and he was a father for six years and then a mother for the next 10.  While the boys were still young, approximately six and four, Boylan finally told his wife that he wanted to transition from male to female.  For the 10 years of their married life, he'd never mentioned it.  Spanner in the works!

Enter:  stress, emotions, her sister dying, his mother dying and the traumas of major surgery.  Through it all, Boylan says that their sons never got upset as Daddy Becomes Mommy and bases that statement on the fact that they were to young to understand the nuances and that as they were continually loved, the change didn't threaten their well being.  Boylan is 55, Dierdre is a bit younger and the boys are in college.  According to Boylan, all are thriving. 

His book raised more questions for me than it gave me answers.  I can grasp the "right wine; wrong bottle" description of a female thinking in a man's body or vice versa, but why couldn't the individual just roll with it?  New York-based writer Fran Leibowitz clearly thinks she's living in Oscar Wilde's body.  She writes as she thinks he did and she dresses in what might very well be his old clothes.  Everyone in New York society (and all of the Post's Page Six readers) know she's a woman, acting and dressing like a man.

I'd like to think that personality and intelligence are much more important than whatever mantle of sex we are wearing.

Boyland writes well and it amused me that he takes umbrage at the transgender who will say, "Oh, I always knew I was a woman - I liked to play with dolls and bake cookies."  Boylan says he tells them to go ahead and bake cookies because you don't need a vagina for that!  Which rather begs the question of why he went out and got one, you ask me.  I am not imaginative enough (sadly) to imagine "me" being a man in a three piece suit, lace-up shoes and a Homberg. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

4th of July Block Party


There's a small dog on the other end of the leash

The best-dressed guest of them all

A small sample of the foods available

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

We've been invited to a friend's neighborhood block party and we're excited about that as we've never been to a block party.  We understand that a section of the street is blocked off - no vehicular traffic - and that the Redondo Beach Fire Department will make a visit to allow the kids to climb all over the equipment and use the water hoses. 

Everyone was asked to bring a potluck dish so I'm making a jalapeno potato salad and "Green Peppers" and Richie is making guacamole with chips.  I printed labels of the contents of each dish to stick on their containers.  It's the price of living in a world full of people with food allergies or gluten fears or whatever is the latest food fad avoidance. 

Full story and photos tomorrow!

Warnings... the fines for drunken behavior in Hermosa Beach will be tripled today.  Fireworks of any kind are illegal here.  Nevertheless, some idiots won't get the memo or will ignore it, so make sure your pets have a safe haven away from the noise. 

This is a recipe from the South of France and is good in the summer time.
1 green pepper, cut in slices
1 garlic clove, diced and rubbed into a pinch of sea salt.
Olive oil into the garlic/salt and stir
Add the green pepper slices, mix and serve cold. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Famous Writer/Cruel Man

"Great Expectations - The Sons and Daughters of Charles Dickens by Robert Gottlieb   Farrar, Straus and Giroux   239 pages   $25

Charles Dickens, 24, married Catherine Hogarth, 20, on April 2, 1836.  Nine months later, their first son was born and he would be followed by nine more siblings (and at least two miscarriages) during a 15 year stretch.  Clearly amusements in London during those years were few and far between.

Catherine's younger sister, Mary, came to help with the children.  She didn't last long as a mother's helper; after a night at the theatre, she suffered a fatal heart attack and died the next day.  She was 17 years old.  Dickens then insisted that when he himself died, he must be buried with her.  He wore her ring for the rest of his life to the probable dismay of his wife. 

Catherine, one of nine in her family, was not at a loss for more help; she recruited her sister Georgina to take Mary's place.

And then in 1857 disaster struck again.  Dickens fell wildly in love with an actress named Ellen Terman.  Shortly after they met, she retired from the stage and was supported by Dickens.

In 1858, he ruthlessly kicked his wife out of their home after having given her a nice settlement and a new home.  As a sort of final thrust, he refused to let her take the children.  The oldest son, Charley, was 21 and he elected to disregard his father's orders and visit his mother.

Dickens made nearly  a career of welcoming each new baby with enthusiasm and joy; never hesitated to prefer one child over the others, proclaiming said child, "My favorite."  As they grew to adulthood, each child, one by one disappointed him and he was not shy about expressing his bad impressions of every one of them in private and in public.  

As a result, only one (a son) turned out to be a success.  So much for Dickens' great expectations.  

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

"Just Another Day," A Self-fulfilling Prophecy

Today, Richie and I take note of the fact that 30 years ago we were married, having dated for two years before marrying.  (Thank you.)

But for 30 years of birthdays, Richie has always replied to my question about what he wanted to do/celebrate his with "Nothing, It's Just Another Day."  So I did it back to him re the anniversary.  Many of you may be nodding to yourselves and thinking, "There won't be a 31st..."

The funny thing about this is, it IS just another day.  Richie and I often go out for dinner; we occasionaly go out for breakfast as we did this morning and our lives are, generally speaking, quite peaceful.  We don't even fight that often and when we do exchange heated words, it's the type of situation that is an irritant, not a major death blow to the relationship.   

Today is the monthly meeting at noon, which lasts until 1 or 1:30 p.m.  Normally I would go visit a friend on Tuesday afternoons from 2 to 3 p.m. but her husband is in the hospital after a stroke last Wednesday.  Richie's got the dishwasher running right now.  A very normal day.

I also resent the fact that Hallmark expects me to buy a card to tell my husband that I love him.  God gave me a mouth; I can use it for a great deal less than $3.50.   In fact, after breakfast we did hit the card store for a bereavement card and I slipped in an anniversary card (because he gave me one with coffee and the newspapers this morning.) 

When I pulled out my money to pay for these items, he said, "No, I've got it" and I said, "You're not going to pay for your own anniversary card!" and he said,  indignantly, "You don't have to buy me a card!"  So I said, "Okay, read it and I'll put it back!"  He did, I did and that was that. 

He was happy, I was happy and the hell with Hallmark!