Thursday, August 29, 2013

In The Throes of Packing

I never ever thought I would say this of myself, but I packed four (four) pairs of shoes for Vegas and I will be wearing pair #5. 

I admit that I really like shoes and have a wardrobe (?) of them suitable to many different occasions -- for instance, a visit to Texas - black cherry lizard cowboy boots.  Halloween costume:  construction boots, white socks, tan Bermuda shorts, white t-shirt, hard hat and clipboard.  I bet I could get into a bank vault wearing them, too.  No one pays any attention to construction workers with a clipboard except to avoid them.   Wooden-soled raffia clogs. What on earth was I thinking? 

But taking three pairs of topsiders and a pair of fancy pool flip flops to Vegas could be considered, well, a bit much.  You can only wear one pair at a time after all.

                             HAPPY LABOR DAY WEEKEND, ALL!

Things Not To Worry About Today

A friend wanted to know what on earth I've been talking about for the past two days.  It was perfectly clear to me, but then again, I was doing the negotiation dance.  Which failed utterly as I learned this morning.  A friend of ours sold his Truck and had written a lovely thank you to the Truck and I wanted to run it.  He said many of the things that I love about my Truck.  (Both are nicknamed "Truck.") 

For the past 26 years, Truck has taken me safely to such as Las Vegas, Barstow, Palm Springs and all around our town without ever breaking down someplace inaccessible to help.  There have been very few times, indeed, that she's broken down -- the last time was three blocks from our house!  How's that for being accomodating? 

There are good reasons to love a vehicle and to be grateful to it.  And it's nice to be able to say "Thank you, faithful Truck."


There is supposed to be a 50-city walkout of McDonald's employees today, and while we have three in our general area, I doubt that the employees will walk out.  This is the Beach, man!  We don't get all lathered up about stuff like "a living wage"!  Surf's up!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Day 2

Negotiations continue.  Previous offer of a shiny new wheel barrow for his garden refused.  Counter offer was a new car, color of his choice.   

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hold On!

Am in the middle of complicated negotiations with a Guest Editor who is being both coy and elusive. 

But I expect to get what I want.  Physical threats can be so persuasive...the hell with tact and diplomacy. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Putting a Party Dress On Your House

On Saturdays, the Daily Breeze runs features on interior decorating and gardening.

Last Saturday, the entire front page of this section concerned itself with how to "stage" your home if you are selling it.  It's much like dressing a stage set for a play or movie.  Professional "stagers" visit your home and make suggestions about furniture placement, accessories like new table lamps, sofa cushions, etc.  And then you pay them and they go away again.

Suggestions are not limited to heaving the furniture around but might include painting a room or two or updating your bathroom.   This in addition to the industry-average price of $2,500 for some stranger to come in and tell you how to decorate your home.  Do you sense that I am against this practice?

I'm not the only one.  Wil Herring, president of the Inland Valleys Association of Realtors, says it isn't necessary because the real estate market is strong now because there is less inventory available to buy. 

I think you can do "staging" if you insist on doing it by yourself.

Get rid of clutter -- you're going to be moving anyhow so don't put this off.  And, getting rid of the clutter will remind you that yes, you are selling the house you are standing in.

Look seriously at the way your furniture is arranged.  Would it look better to put the sofa closer to the window?  Mess around with different placements of the chairs and lamps until it looks perfect.

Our house was not staged when we bought it; every room was empty.  (And the first thing I did was paint the shiny wood kitchen cabinet doors a lovely turquoise.)  I liked "empty" because an empty house is a blank canvas, just waiting for the artist to come and make it comfortable and interesting.  

Keep it all spotlessly clean.  Speaking for myself, the best thing we could do is deep clean thoroughly and then pack our personal items, the cats and the bird and move into a hotel.     

Sunday, August 25, 2013

And Don't Forget To Crook Your Little Finger, Just So

Yesterday afternoon we had the pleasure of tea and visiting with Next Door, our former neighbors.  They were just back from a visit to his parents in the Northern England and she decided to serve us two traditional English tea foods.

First up was a plate of cucumber sandwiches.  Normally I don't eat cucumbers, but in the interests of research, I took one.  They are good!  I had to restrain myself from slinging an arm around the plate and firmly announcing, "This plate is mine."

You, too, can have one -- you'll need a quality, soft-ish white bread, crusts neatly removed and spread with thin cream cheese which is then dusted with salt and pepper and see-through thin slices of cucumber.  Fold the bread over and serve. 

Cucumber sandwiches began their popularity during the Victorian era when the upper clawss didn't have all that much to do physically so they could afford to gorge on not-so-nutritious foods at tea and other meals.  The working class ate much heartier - boiled eggs and various meats being a part of their teas.  They needed the energy.

Then along came the Edwardian age when ample supplies of coal (and cheap labor) made greenhouses popular and cucumber sandwiches became an all-year treat. 

Nest our hostess gave us individual short squat glasses that held "Fool" which is a mix of equal parts stewed seasonal fruits and whipped cream.  It is believed by some that "fool" is a derivation of the French verb "fouler" meaning "to crush."  Historians can't agree on where the word really did come from, but eaters will probably agree it doesn't matter -- just "Some more, please" does.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Tricks of the Trade

The Situation:  You're pet's collar has become pretty bedraggled.  You need to get Fido or Fluffy a new one.  "But it's such a pain to remove their ID tags," you moan mentally. "I always break a fingernail."

A Solution:   Pick up the staple remover and apply it to the crack in the key ring and slide the new object onto the old ring.  This should work with all key rings.

The Situation:  Richie and I love bacon-wrapped sea scallops with a daub of orange marmalade.  I know Trader Joe's sells a box of 12 in the frozen section.  But buying a bunch of scallops and using the bacon already in your kitchen to make your own is cheaper.   

But:  It takes forever for the bacon to cook (oven, 400 degrees) and while it's cooking it's leaving great smears of tarry black on the aluminum foil you lined the pizza pan to cook them.  The scallops stick to the foil and resist being flipped.  (And you'll have this problem with Trader Joe's, too.)

A Solution:  Take a slice of bacon, cut in half or thirds and saute it in a frying pan.  While that's going on, remove the muscle from the scallops (one of our cats loves them) and dry the scallops with a paper towel. 

When the bacon is done, set it aside to drain on a paper towel and put the scallops in the hot skillet.  Brown both sides of the scallops and put them on a serving dish.  Add about 1 T marmalade to the empty skillet and stir, then dress the scallops with the sauce.  Crumble the bacon and sprinkle over the scallops.  No muss, no fuss.

Friday, August 23, 2013

An Irreverent, But Loving Take On London

"Johnson's Life of London - The People Who Made the City That Made the World" by Boris Johnson   Riverhead Books   320 pages   $27.95

Boris Johnson was born in America, but became such a Brit that he went from being a journalist to the House of Commons and then on to the heady title "Mayor of London."  Now 49, he's written an unusual book.  As a former journalistic, Johnson has a vast vocabulary and the wisdom to choose exatly the right word to describe something.

His chapters highlight the various periods in English thought, invention and progress.  He describes the Romans who founded "Londinium" as "a bunch of pushy Italian immigrants."  He stops to focus the spotlight on such as Samuel Johnson, Winston Churchill and "Keef" of the Rolling Stones. 

He also touches on British inventions and customs that are still in use today.  The flush toilet was not invented by Thomas Crapper, but instead by Sir John Harington in 1596 for use by the Virgin Queen.  Only two were ever made; one is lost to history and the other is in a museum.

Other "Made in Britain" ideas and objects include the King James Bible, the Bow Street Runners (an early version of police,) the bicycle, Ping Pong and the Tube.  There is quite a discourse on the filth of the London sewers which emptied into the Thames and carried foul water and odors that caused disease.
In fact, 14,000 Londoners died in 1848  of cholera -- right after all the city cess pools were emptied into the Thames.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

How It Really Was

"Now Hear This" by Dale W. Cox   GCF Publishing   154 pages   $16.95

Dale's recounting of his World War 2 is important because it tells what it was really like - not just loud booms, flying bodies and blood, but human behavior in stressful times.  People at war  retain a surprising taste for the funny things that do happen. 

This is an important book because those who were 18 or 20 in 1940 are now, what's left of them, 91 or 93 and who knows in what kind of shape?

Happily for the continuation of the history of that period, Dale was just fine, thank you very much.  His writing is crisp, clear and his voice is certainly authentic. 

Dale graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in June, 1942.  His was the first accelerated three-year war class.  He retired in 1962.  He fought in the Pacific during WW2 and piloted photo reconnaissance planes in the Korean war. 

Right out of the academy, he was put on a boat, headed for Kodiak, Alaska, to rendezvous with another ship going to the Pacific.  When the ship got to Kodiak, he was assigned to take 400 men on a picnic for R & R.  Each man was given a six-pack of beer.  The picnic ground was in actuality a rocky farmer's field.  Beer consumed, the men amused themselves by lighting a bonfire, playing cowboy with the bewildered cows and yanking upriver-headed salmon right out of the water with their bare hands.  The picnic ended when the farmer showed up, cocked shotgun at his shoulder.

In one incident that has to be a personal best for the Sea Bees, they built the officers' club on Tulagi okay...but they added a secret route into the vault where the liquor was kept locked up which was most definitely not on the building blueprints.

It interested me that they drank by their rank - ensigns got one beer; lieutenants three and commanders could swill down all of the hard liquor they could hold. 

Wives were not left out of the hierarchy.  One of the commanders ordered a meeting of the wives who were told in no uncertain words to be nice to their husbands, to never start an argument or contribute to one because their men were flying million dollar aircraft!  "Be nice for Uncle Sam" was the gist of the lecture. 

It really is an interesting read.  The reader is never harassed to "Remember this!" or any kind of lecture.  It's just a factual, funny account of Dale's very interesting life.  He had a good sense of humor and an unobtrusive way of presenting it. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Happy Confluence of Events

When I got home from seeing my friend Olga, Richie looked up from his Solitaire game on the laptop and said, "Oh - "T" just called; said he had to be in Torrance on business and that if we were going to be around, he'd drop in for awhile.  So I told him I was making Arroz con Pollo tonight and to come for dinner."

I knew without Richie having to say it that "T" had accepted with enthusiasm.  "T" is Chicken Crazed or Poultry Passionate, a condition that has lasted quite some time.

Richie's favorite Mexican dish is Arroz con Pollo and he'd finally found a recipe that suited him in a book called "Around the World, Around Our Town; Recipes from San Pedro."  Thus this was a double good hit for "T" - he grew up in San Pedro! 

Richie tweaked the recipe a little and these additions gave the dish a kind of warm glow on the tongue.  We all went back for seconds...and there's more leftover (but not for long.)

3/4 cup olive oil
1 package skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into 2-in. chunks
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1'2 cup tomato sauce - he substituted La Victoria salsa
Pinch of saffron which is optional so he left it out
1/2 teas. curry powder
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
Pepper to taste
1 cup raw rice
3/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
And he added a handful of pickled jalapenos, chopped

Using a Dutch oven, brown the chicken in the oil.  Add the onion and garlic and fry a few minutes more.  Add the tomato sauce/salsa, saffron if you're using it, curry powder, chicken broth and pepper.  Cover and cook for 20 minutes.

Add the rice, stir well and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add in the peas and mushrooms and cook 15 minutes longer.  Call "T" to join you and serve.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Coming Dearth of Favorite Authors?

I was sorry to read that Elmer "Dutch" Leonard has died, age 87.  He was a prolific writer (49 books; 19 turned into movies and seven as made-for-TV projects) and the one who taught me dialogue-driven plot writing.  Thank you, Mr. Leonard.

Then I remembered another who is gone - Robert B. Parker (9-17-1932 - 1-18-2010) who never taught me much of anything; the most useful being "write short" - his chapters were generally two and a half pages, but who did amuse me in every book he wrote.  There were nearly 50 of them.  Parker's publishers quickly hired a faux Parker giving him full credit on book jackets and in PR, but that seems to have dwindled away.  (Maybe he died, too?)

Having just finished a Stuart Woods, I began to wonder how long he could last and looked him up.  Born 1-9-1938 he is 75 and apparently going full speed ahead.  I love his books for the "uppah clawss" tone in all of them.  No one ever says, "I can't;" they say, "I cannot."  I find that amusing and damned near unheard of in today's world of books.

Spurred by the thought of loss of other authors I favor, I quickly made a list to see who among them might be of an age to keep'em coming.  Assuming no run amok buses...

Richard North Patterson, 2-22-1947, is "only" 66.

Joan Collins, 5-23-1933, is 80; younger sister (and far more famous author) Jackie is 76. 

James Lee Burke, 12-5-1936 is 77 (and looks every minute of it.)

Jonathon Kellerman, at 64, and his wife Faye, 61, seem destined for good long runs at the typewriter.

British Cozy writer Maeve Binchey has a new one and she's 73.  Go, Maeve!

Edna Buchanon, 3-16-39, is 74 and forging ahead with her Britt Montero series.

Whewsht -   for the moment, all seems well among my favorite authors. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Miss Marple With a Twist

If you remember Agatha Christies' character Miss Marple, it's likely that you will enjoy G. M. Malliet's character Max Tudor. 

There are striking differences.  Tudor, in his late '30s, is a retired spy for M15.  Had he and his colleague Paul not switched days off, Tudor would have been killed instead of Paul.  After some reflection, he quit and became a cleric in a small but picturesque village in western England.  He is neither celibate nor completely out of the spy business.  In a previous book (and I'm looking forward to it) he solves a murder in the village and thus the local constabulary learns of his detecting skills.

"A Fatal Winter"  is set after Chedrow Castle's Lord Footrustle is murdered in his bed.  It proves to be unfortunate that Lord Footrustle had summoned his greedy and selfish relatives to the castle for Christmas only to tell them that come January he is changing his last will and testament. 

His body was discovered by the butler.  When his twin sister, Lady Baynard, was told of the savage murder, she promptly had a massive stroke and died forthwith.  Or was it a stroke...?

The author delights with the names of some of her characters --Jocasta Jones is a failed B movie actress, totally convinced that she is talented as well as beautiful - Botox and all.  Lester Baynard, a son of the Lady Baynard, and his wife Felberta (aka "Fester") hail from Australia.  Poor orphan Lamorna Whitehall was adopted by Lady Baynard (parents killed in a plane crash in Alaska) and now serves as her lady's maid.  She is alarmingly religious.

The dialogue is amusing  "'Thank you so much,'" she brayed in an upper-class accent."  "(He) half expected the obviously wealthy woman to say, 'Poverty?  What on earth is that?'"

Making it completely delightful - the inside covers have a pen and ink map of the locale written about in the book!

"A Fatal Winter" by G. M. Mailliet   Minotaur Books   364 pages   $24.99

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Marketing From Beyond the Grave

Dale Cox, Jr. a long-time Thurs. Writer, had celebrated his 92nd birthday well before he died on June 25th.  Vainly, we all searched for an obituary which finally appeared at the mortuary Website. 

Then in mid-August we received an invitation to his memorial, to be held at the house, no less.  We were both touched that while we are known qualities, we were still included!  Usually, our reputations preclude an invitation.  We would be much more likely to get a mass card or equivalent well after the event. 

The invitation was quite ornate - heavy paper stock, curlicue writing, a color headshot of the late author inside and another color photo on the back that shows Dale in a flight jacket and jump suit against a flaming orange sunset or dawn (depending on your mood) and the words "Now Hear This - Dale Cox."

It wasn't until we had arrived, greeted the widow and were moving through the people that I spotted a stack of Dale's books.  The cover of the newest was the photo on the back of the invitation!  Dale, always a man who planned ahead no doubt ordered this himself.  He was very much the type to have planned his own memorial -- and advertised his third and newest tome on the back of the invitation!

For myself, I was touched that he'd left orders with one of his sons to "Make sure Nina gets a copy of this book."  A posthumous gift, to be sure.  And then I realized what should have been apparent to me long before -- Dale knew damned well there was no way I wouldn't review "Now Hear This" in this column!  Marketing from beyond the grave - I have to shake my head in awe of his genius.

I've already heard many of the stories as he read them for critique first at the South Bay Writers Workshop (.com).  I'd like to read the entire book before reviewing it for you.  

You know it will get a rave review, don't you?  My way of crediting an inventive and creative man.      

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Taking the Day Off

I have written 1,613 columns that have been seen 30,972 times.  I've earned it!

Besides I have nothing to report and all day to report it! 

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Long History

A man named B. F. Trappey worked for the family that either created Tabasco or stole it from Trappey, depending on who is telling the story.  One of B.F.'s granddaughters is a woman named Mary Trappey Domingue who is the mother of Stephen Domingue.

Huh? you say?  Stephen is the owner-chef of the Ragin' Cajun, a well-known and loved local restaurant.   The restaurant flourished for many years and then when the lease was up, the property owner refused Stephen and gave the property to his own son.

Now homeless, Stephen entered into a deal for an El Segundo property and when that fell through, took to the streets in the Ragin' Cajun food truck.  His truck(s) became the local Next New Thing and he was winning contests left and right.

Most recently, he found a property and a new deal.  He partnered with the owners of the very successful Suzy's, one of the few places in town with live music most nights.

The official opening was lunch last Monday, but it took us until Thursday to get there.  

I sense a new product coming online for Stephen and it is Ragin' Cajun label sauces.  I noticed the bottles on every table and we had a taste test using our hushpuppies as bits of bread.

The  Ragin' Cajun Garlic Sauce contains 8 oz. of the sauce, 2 oz. of which is squeezed garlic.  But I didn't get the heavy garlic taste you'd expect with that much garlic.

The Ragin' Cajun Raspberry-Chipotle Sauce was faintly sweet and went well with my fried crawfish.  8 oz.

The Ragin' Cajun Chipotle Sauce was satisfyingly smoky with a little snap! after taste.  

The sauces are shown on the Website ( and I would imagine that Stephen has made some kind of a deal with Trappey's to bottle and market them.  Keep an eye on the Website for when the prices are posted because these three bottles as a gift pack would make a very good and unusual Christmas gift.  Especially if the recipient lives in a cold climate.  "Warm up - hug a Cajun!"      

Ragin Cajun/Suzy's is located at 1141 Aviation, Hermosa Beach  310-379-6171

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Modestly Offered As Proof that Eccentric Behavior Is Not Limited To The British Aristocracy

Despite what you may have seen and heard at Speaker's Corner, Hyde Park, London

"The Astor Orphan" by Alexandra Aldrich   Harper Collins   257 pages   $24.99

The term "Astor Orphan" is somewhat misleading because neither of her parents were dead..  Her father was just insanely stubborn about keeping the 43-room mansion, Rokeby, in his family's ownership.  As a result Aldrich's family lived in three rooms in the servants' quarters; outbuildings were rented to bohemians (precursor to flower children?) and the grandmother (an alcoholic fond of throwing dinner parties) lived in splendor downstairs. 

Her mother was from Poland, an artist who nagged her father, the estate's repairman, farm worker, engineer and repair man.  Consequently he wore old clothes and rarely bathed, to his wife's disgust.   None of which apparently bothered his French mistress whom he brought for dinner into the family house. 

There were frequent social evenings, musicales and pageants thrown by the whimsical and "unstructured" people who lived in the various outbuildings.  The old creamery was their ballroom. 

As a result, Aldrich writes that she longed to live a respectable and disciplined life where the mother was one and not the rather frosty, self-absorbed artist and the father had a job and went to an office.

She laments that she had no choice but to become a bohemian, saying, "We didn't live by rules that coincided in any way with those of the outside world.  We never had a dinnertime or matching dinnerware.  I had no set bedtime.  I did not own pajamas or a nightgown."

The book ends when she "escapes" and goes to boarding school.  Thus I have no idea how many years of therapy were then required.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Putting A Little Spice In It

I finally made it to the dessert section of the Food & Wine Annual Cookbook for 2013 (what early birds!  It's only August) and in the section on making your own ice cream, they listed four flavors that I hadn't considered...

Most unlikely - 1 cup strawberries macerated in 3 T sugar with 1 teas. minced jalapenos!  I like "hot" as well or better than the next person, but strawberries and jalapenos?

Salted Caramel - 3/4 cup pour-able salt-caramel sauce
"Salted caramel" became what I think of as a "fad food" some months ago.  Salted (which is done with sea salt for a subtle flavor) is good but eating a square caramel will have you enjoying the remains on your teeth all the rest of the day.

Blackberry-Sage - 34/ cup blackberry preserves mixed with 1 T minced, fresh sage.
Okay, I get it - forest flavors.  But sage is normally used in the Thanksgiving turkey dressing.  My brain might get confused.

Chocolate-Toffee - 1 cup broken chocolate and toffee covered saltines or pretzels.
If you have ever seen chocolate-toffee coated saltines in a store, please raise your hand. 

Some time ago I reviewed a Mexican restaurant that served a warm cilantro sauce.  It wasn't very cilantro-y, but it was warm.  And then I found this in Food & Wine:

CREAMY CILANTRO-LIME SAUCE (said to be served with roasted meats all over Latin America)
2 large jalapenos, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, smashed
2 T fresh ginger, minced
2 T white onion, minced
1 T lime juice
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped

Put everything EXCEPT the cilantro and mayonnaise in a blender and pulse it until it's smooth; then add the cilantro and mayo and pulse a couple of times. Sauce can be refrigerated for three days. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Wow'em in Coach

Make your own 1st class amenities kit.  You'll save money and earn envious looks while occupying Steerage or as it's better known "Coach.". 

What brings this up?  At yesterday's jazz club meeting, I won a 1st class amenities kit in the raffle.  These little surprise kits have always intrigued me.  I love poking around and making discoveries - "Oh!  This is the toothbrush! Look how cunning - it folds in half!"

Yes, well I am easily amused.

And I'm also cheap.  Here's how to make your own, based on what I fished out of this one, a soft grey color with navy accents, which is well padded and could be used as a neck pillow during the flight. 

First get a smallish toiletry kit that zips open and shut and has two compartments when unzipped and lying flat.  This one which is approximately 4 in. wide by 7 1/2 in. deep has a short ribbon attached to a clothes hangar crook so it can be hung on the shower rod or a door knob.  

Unzipping the right side, I find:
A tiny box of perhaps three tissues
A similar sized box of mints
Ear plugs
Escents Mojito lip balm, lime and peppermint flavored
Sleep mask
Escents Verve hand and body lotion with bergamot and honey
A folding plastic comb
A silvery colored ball point pen, designed to look like the body of an airplane in the sky - little round passenger windows.
(Escents -

Unzipping the left hand side now::
Escents Rejuvenating cleansing cloth (grapefruit and bergamot)
A pair of dark grey, knee-high fuzzy socks
A tube of Crest toothpaste  .85 oz. Don't bring a big tube.
A short, dark blue plastic toothbrush with a head guard.

I am no stranger to amenity kits for this reason:  10  years ago, when Richie still worked for a Major American Airline (MAA) if a passenger didn't want theirs and left it behind on the plane, he would give it a warm welcome and a new home.  (The airlines can't re-gift them.)   There is a box under the house with 56 MAA amenity kits in it.  Uh, if you're too lazy to make your own, contact me -- we could maybe do a deal ...


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Purely By Accident, I Assure You

I blame the Redondo Beach library.  The book I picked up was not labeled "Christian Murder Mystery" nor was it in a special section entitled Religious Fiction.  It was right there among all of the other books.

The storyline is:  an FBI agent, Paul Falcon, meets and falls in love with a woman named Ann Silver, who is a Midwest Homicide Investigator.  Together, they set off to find a female assassin who, after killing 30 people for hire, wants to turn herself in, but only under specific conditions. 

Along about page 50, Falcon muses about his deep commitment to religion which sent up a warning flag in my mind.  Later on as the case and their courtship progresses, I was to become educated in the ways of a Christian romance (she was just as godly.)  I found it best just to skip over those passages.  I have my own religion and it isn't theirs.

I'm on page 395 of a total of 473 and have learned that this couple; (he's 40, she's 39:

Drinks only cold soda or a cup of hot chocolate.  Alcohol is never mentioned.

Despite discussing a possible marriage, their only physicality has been:  holding hands while walking her black Lab; a peck on the top of the head (him to her), several hugs (Oo la la!)  and a kiss - singular. 

No one in the entire cast, including police officers, has so much as muttered, "Damn!"

He prays to God; she has conversations with "Loverly" her pet name for God.  This alone nearly caused apoplexy in this reader.  I firmly believe that it's one thing to pray to God.  But if you think God is answering back and actually engaging in a personal conversation with you, you're bat shit crazy. 

The only joking remarks are gentle teasing.  "Amusing" or "cute" is when the dog snubs her for leaving him with a neighbor yet again. 

If this is "Christian living," count me out.  Why they all aren't dead of boredom (and too much hot chocolate) is a mystery to me.  This book read like science fiction to me and that's a full disclosure.

"Full Disclosure" by Dee Henderson   Bethany House   473 ppages   $22.99

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Gloomy Days

On A Loss of Dinner Guests

"They flee from me that sometime did me seek
With naked foot, stalking in my chamber
I have seen them gentle, tame and meek that now are wild
And do not remember that sometimes they put themselves
In danger to take bread at my hand
And now they range, busily seeking with a continual change."

Thomas Wyatt, published between 1536 and 1540.  (He died in 1542 so no more poems.)

I do sympathize.  All of the guests who once took bread at my hand have vanished, too.

First, Bob and Pat scuppered off to Claremont to take up residence.
"Raffish" is headed to Okinawa for the next nine months to major in karate (and who, pray tell. will carve my Thanksgiving turkey?)
"D" flies back and forth to Chicago every other month on business
John and Angie and the kids are in England, visiting his parents.  

On the Futility of Eating the First Corn-on-the-Cob of the Season and Pretending It's Summer

We have had overcast mornings long, long after they should have ceased.  Usually our tradition is "Gray May" followed by "June Gloom" and then in July the sun begins. 

Not this year.  It is nearly mid-August and nine out of 10 mornings are ... overcast.

Nevertheless, Richie bought corn at yesterday's market and we had the first ears with dinner last night.  Richie loves corn-on-the-cob and would eat it five nights out of seven if I didn't demur (which is putting it politely.)

This made a good sauce for it though -- equal parts white balsamic vinegar and lime juice with a shake of cayenne pepper.  Chilies and lime juice are classic Latino accompaniments for mangos, pineapple and other fruits, but white balsamic vinegar brings a lot to the dance  and points up the inherent sweetness of the fresh corn.

It brightened my mood.  Briefly.

Friday, August 9, 2013


In an effort to lessen the weight of my enormous purse* and the futility of taking my driver's license to England, I've decided to try an experiment. 

I am going to get a sandwich-sized, zip lock baggie for money and credit cards, medical insurance card and an Rx refill.

I will leave the billfold itself at home.  It is fat with things I won't need - Redondo Beach Library card; AA ID (flying British Air,)  AAA card, California insurance card,  membership card for the jazz club, certificate to do CPR and AED/infant CPR. 

I can also leave behind my CERT and Beach Cities Health District IDs.  They hang from a lanyard and I keep them in my purse for the monthly case conferences.

My passport and credit cards will do fine as ID.  Because Richie carries our passports in his money belt, I will take the little tag ID that comes with a new passport, too.  But not my keys.  Anything they could unlock is here. 

Pounds lighter, I shall positively flit - nearly airborne - around London!  

* How big is my purse?  The other day I was digging around in the bottom for my keys and an annoyed-looking German Shepherd hopped out.     

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Buying TicketsOn The Doomed Express

We planned back at the end of June to go to London in September and to accept the very gracious invitation of friends to visit them in the north of England, the Dales country.

Today - August 7th - Richie announced we would be "discussing the trip."  You should know that I've already found the hotel, booked us non-revenue with a Major American Airline (MAA), looked up the relevant directions for getting from Heathrow to said hotel as well as figuring out the trains to the north and back.  Additionally, we both poured over at least seven different British tour guides and Richie got out a big stack of maps.

Since MAA didn't look promising, I looked up British Air and their flights and prices.

After all of this, we're going to "discuss our trip."  Never mind that Richie has already quartered London - "And see the Eye is here, right across the Thames from the ... so we could do this, that and some of this on Tuesday..."

What this "discussion" meant was:  let's buy the tickets and book the hotel.  

Since plane tickets are a Big Ticket Item to me (not yet being a millionaire nor even a thousand-aire for that matter) I wanted to go to LAX to the British Air counter, hand them the Advantage Miles credit card and have them hand me our tickets.

I have another card which is ONLY used online, but I can't get miles with B of A (or much else, for that matter) but I really wanted the miles, which considering  the final price of the tickets, could possibly send us around the world in Business.

After circling the Tom Bradley Int'l parking lot for 35 minutes, looking for a parking spot, we finally found one.  Then it was off to cross the street from the parking lot to the terminal.  This involved dodging drivers from foreign parts who clearly don't have luxuries such as traffic lights in their home countries.  I had a riveting moment with what I believe to have been a Russian cab driver.  Happily he was off the vodka during working hours and we both escaped damage.

At the counter, a rather bored, busty blonde lady listened listlessly to the flights I wanted and then told me that it's cheaper to go online and buy them.  Since it wouldn't have productive to further bore her with the details, I said, "Well, I was quoted (figure)" and she clicked around on her computer and announced the Buy Them Now price which was double what I'd been quoted online.

We left, came home and I got it done in a  little over 10 minutes.  Cyberspace is taking over.  All of the bored busty (or not) agents are soon going to be out of jobs.  Hey!  I tried to do my part!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Hmmm...Power of the Press?

Vanity Fair arrived four days ago and among the articles was one entitled "From Coast to Toast" a somewhat breathless recounting of how the sand is receding on Malibu's Broad Beach and the Nantucket beach.  Homes are at risk!  The rich people that live there are prepared to spend tens of millions of dollars to put up berms!  Import new sand!  Build retaining walls!  The poor things are semi-frantic!

Since we live down the coast, south of Malibu, the subject interested me.  I felt rather smug as I thought of our wide beaches and grinned at the the distress of those with  more money than maybe God intended them to have about their shrinking strip of beach.  Yeah, I'm mean that way...

I'd read about David Geffren's refusal (for years) to grant public beach access because it ran in front of his house. 

Photos of Broad Beach in 1972 and in 2013 show a loss of 65 ft. of beach.

And then yesterday, Architectural Digest arrived and I eagerly turned to my favorite section in the magazine - "On The Market" - listings of expensive and unusual homes around the world.  (Previously covered.)  Buy your own island; Scottish castle; French chateau, etc. 

But hark!  What's this?  Malibu, CA - 6 bedrooms, 10 baths, 11,400 sq. ft.  $57.5 million!

The house was designed by Frank Gehry for an insurance executive named Burton Borman.

The ad goes on, "Set on a 160 ft. wide stretch of BROAD BEACH, the roughly 1 1/2 acre parcel contains a lap pool and a tennis court.  Neighbors include Steven Spielberg, Danny DeVito and Pierce Brosnan.

You can see the detailed photos of this and many other properties at

Magazine stories are written three months before publication so I wonder if the Broad Beach home owners were given an advance copy of the article.  Given the money there, it's certainly possible that VF would have given them a copy.  Real estate ads can pretty much appear at any time.  I wonder if this is a case of Cause and Effect?  Ah, the press is mighty!

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Brief Discourse on the Uptick in Popularity of the Korean Dish Kim Chi

It is widely discussed is kim chi because it is something of an acquired taste.  I know people who won't stay in the same room with it; others who like it. 

I bought a jar at the supermarket to go along with tonight's pulled pork.  Joe Kim's Kim Chee to be exact - the label says salted Chinese cabbage, water, ginger, garlic, chili peppers, paprika and MSG (which I haven't even heard of since 1973.)  Perhaps it's also an acquired taste because it's expensive.  $7-something for a 12-oz. jar is expensive to me. 

To start you into kim chi gently, let's add some alcohol!

Puree two cups packed kim chi
Add 46 oz. tomato juice
1/4 cup sriracha (hot sauce)
2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T sherry vinegar

Fine strain this into a bowl and throw away the solids.
Chill thoroughly and then add 2 cups vodka to the juice and serve.
Makes 8 drinks - thought I'd better add that bit of information because two cups of vodka would put me on the floor.

To make your own kim chi, check for a recipe

Sunday, August 4, 2013

WhoYou Callin' Chicken?

Food + Wine's September issue is concerned with all things chicken.  In addition to the recipes, cooking hints, suggestions and cool tips this time, the editors have included an "Ayam Cemani" which is a totally black breed of chicken from Indonesia.  "Ayam" means "black" and "cemani" means completely black.  These birds have black feathers, comb, nails and even their internal organs.  Paul Brachsaw of Greenfire Farms, Florida, is breeding them, but he won't have chicks to sell until early 2014. 

The hens only produce 80 eggs (white shell with a pinkish cast) per year and they don't sit on them.  Want a pair for your backyard?  $5,000 the pair.

Chef Michael Symon offers the reader some made-for-chicken dry rubs.  He says to take 2 T of each ingrediet listed, toast them in a dry skillet and then  use a mortar or spice grinder to mix before application to the chicken (or whatever else suits your fancy.) 

No. 1 - coriander seeds, dried lemon peel, ground ginger

No. 2 - cumin seeds, smoked paprika, chipotle powder

No. 3 - dried oregano, dried orange peel, granulated garlic

No. 4 - fennel seeds, dried orange peel, onion powder

No. 5 - pink peppercorns, dried rosemary, granulated garlic

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Defending The Redneck(s)

Not that they need it.  I was perusing a new cookbook yesterday, entitled "The Redneck Cookbook" and got to wondering what, exactly, is meant by the phrase "redneck."

Wikipedia Dictionary told me flatly this:  Noun: offensive.  A working class white person, especially a politically reactionary one from a rural area.  Synonyms are white trash and hillbilly.

I don't agree with that.   Thinking about all the redneck jokes and cartoons and photos I've seen of redneck works, so to speak, I find them inventive, creative and practical.  When old tractor tires are painted white and discarded toilets are turned into flower beds, I find it poignant.  It's the desire for beauty in their surroundings.

When it comes to cooking though, that's a different story.  

1 teas. mustard
2T  Worcestershire sauce
1 egg yolk
6 thin slices of bacon
bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 250.  Whisk together the mustard, Worcestershire sauce and egg yolk.  Dip the bacon in the egg mixture and then in the bread crumbs.  Put them on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until the bacon is crispy.  Served as a side dish.  

2 10-oz. cans water chestnuts, drained
1 5-oz. bottle soy sauce
brown sugar to dust
1 lb. sliced bacon

Marinate the chestnuts in soy sauce for an hour, turning frequently.  Preheat the oven to 400, then take the chestnuts out of the soy sauce, roll them in brown sugar, and toothpick a half slice of bacon around the water chestnut.  Put on a cookie sheet and bake for about 15 minutes or until the bacon is crispy.

2 12-oz. packages Stouffer's spinach souffle
4 trout, filleted
1/2 cup white wine
1 can hollandaise sauce

Cook the spinach souffles according to package directions.  When the souffles are 20 minutes away from being eaten, put the trout in a shallow baking dish and surround them with water and the wine.  Poach them until the meat is opaque, discard the liquids and put the filets on a plate and then spoon the spinach over them and top the spinach with hollandaise sauce.    

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Swagger of an Old Blowhard

And it came to pass in Limerick, Ireland, that amoung the several off-spring of one married couple (Malachy and Angela McCourt) were two writers.  Frank McCourt grew up to give us "Angela's Ashes," a best-selling book and then a riveting movie and Malachy, Jr., firmly attached to Frank's coattails gave us "A Monk Swimming" an account of his days as a bartender, gold smuggler and all-around ass.

The title "A Monk Swimming" comes from Malachy's confusing "Blessed art thou among women" with "Blessed art thou, a monk swimming."  Isn't that precious?  Apparently he thought so ...

He relates events from his past which do not show him in the best of lights.  He routinely crashed parties (for the free food and drink,) borrowed money that he never paid back and was usually half drunk.  He brags that his charm carried him through and boasts about it.

Told by a bartender that he had to check his overcoat, he argued vehemently (because he had no money to tip the cloakroom lady) but the bartender held firm.  Infuriated (and more than somewhat drunk) Malachy retreated to his car, disrobed completely except for socks, shoes and said overcoat and returned to the bar.  When the bartender ordered him to check his overcoat, he pulled it off and stood there stark naked to the horror of the other patrons. 

He routinely cheated on his poor wife, but swore he'd never been unfaithful.  He left her alone frequently with two small kids to take care of while he was carousing all night long in a bar or another woman's bed.

For sheer selfishness with faux remorse and an emphasis that his background in poverty excused him, Malachy is pretty much a one-trick pony.

What interests me now about him is this:  born September 20, 1931, he died July 26, 2013, aged 81 (and given the drink, I'm surprised he lasted that long) and is buried "somewhere in Ireland," dead of no one knows what.

If you must ..:A Monk Swimming" by Malachy McCourt   Hyperion   290 pages   $23.95 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Random Acts of Wine-ness

My nephew Steve is a professional sommelier and the food and beverage manager at a resort in northwest Illinois.

He'd e'd me last week to say that he was sending us a bottle of wine and that it should arrive on Tuesday of this week.  It did.  From our correspondence.

Nina to Steve:  It got here -- in one piece, no leaks!  It was in its box on our front porch before 10 a.m.  I rarely start drinking wine at that hour of the morning, but if it's the wine I remember from Christmas, it did take restraint.

By the way, it was your birthday the 19th, not mine (thank God) so how come this bottle?  Do you plan to be dead by Christmas or something?  I won't tell your mother; she worries enough as it is.

We really appreciate your gift and your thoughtfulness, love Ancient Auntie.

Steve to Nina:  I'm hoping to start a new craze in the wine business.  Random Acts of Wine-ness - spread love the world wide in wine form.

Be sure to pay it forward.   Let me know what you think of the bottle...

The Wine in Question
The wine in question is a Burgans Albarino from Rias Baixas, Spain.   I Googled it and read that it has notes of lemon, peach and tropical fruit aromas.  The taste is round, ripe and savory with a slightly exotic personality.  It's said to be nicely textured, and over-delivers in the finish.  
It is the same wine we received previously and we loved it then.  It's attractively packaged with bright orange, deep green and cream being the colors on the label.   The bottle wore a tag around its neck with these instructions:

Drink Date __/___/____
Order again - yes ___  no ___
Food Pairing: 

And don't forget to participate in Random Acts of Wine-ness!