Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween is for Kids and Lazy Adults

And I am in the latter group.  Apparently there are several degrees of celebration, ranging from flinging the front door wide open, putting a chair in the doorway and holding out a huge bowl of candy to anything that passes (including neighborhood dogs) on down to turning out all of the house lights and hiding. 

My style is certainly not to sit in the dark in a closet.  I detest anything that might interfere with my comfort and that definitely would.  I learned this from our cats.

In the past - say 25 years ago - I would get nearly as excited as Richie and I ooh-ed and ah-ed over the costumes that came to our door.  We lived in an apartment in those years and then bought a two-story house which promptly iced my ardor for Halloween because the living room is upstairs and the front door is downstairs.

Richie, however, still gets as excited as a little kid.  He runs back and forth to the kitchen window which overlooks the street scouting for customers.  "They're on the other side of the street now, in front of the Browns!" and then he hoofs it across the living room and thunders down the stairs.  It makes me tired just watching these antics and his swift movements scare the cats.  They slink under our bed and sulk.  I can assure you, they hate Halloween. 

Another bone of contention between us this time of year is the candy he buys.  'Way, 'way too much.   Two huge bags of Hershey products ($18).  You should have seen us fighting in the candy aisle at Smart & Final, Iris. 

He simply said, "Remember that one year?  Just in case..." and tossed another bag in the cart. 

Yes, I do remember "That One Year" vividly.  Just after dusk, the onslaught began.  I noticed a lot of headlights on our quiet street.   In disbelief I counted two little school buses, several vans and a couple of cars and all of these vehicles were packed with kids! 

They hit the street screaming, "TRICK OR TREAT" at peak volume and then they scattered, running willy-nilly at our houses; brown grocery bags thrust out to receive candy.  We could tell by the maniacal looks in their eyes, they meant business.

We and the neighbors held up well through the first four assaults but by the fifth we were panicking - we were running out of candy - what if they turned on us?  Granted they were all short and we are tall, but ... and we looked at each other in fear. 

Just as we were thinking about defense moves, a shrill whistle cut through our battle plans.  Like magic, the kids ran back to the parked vehicles, slammed the doors and the vehicles disappeared down the street, tail lights winking in a sardonic farewell.

Puzzled, we stood on our porches and wondered, "Why us?"  Shrugging collectively, we turned, walked into our houses and turned the candy bowls over and  shook them.  Not a grain of sugar was left.  Those vultures had cleaned us out. 

All of which h is a rather lengthy explanation for why I will be sitting in my comfortable arm chair, reading a good book while sipping an adult beverage and blowing the odd smoke ring.  I firmly believe that the Children's Raid all those years ago was a fluke and will never happen in nature again.

And we will have candy in the house until Valentine's Day, 2014.  Halloween is a great holiday -- if you don't have to do anything to celebrate it! 

Kit Kat bar anyone?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Check List

Porch light working; new bulb
Enough candy to give everyone in Las Vegas a sugar high
Solar lights working on approach to the house
Funny hat to wear while opening the door - show you're in the spirit of this thing!
Big pumpkins decorating the front porch

Take out the porch light and set it aside where you won't forget it.
No candy at all
Solar lights leading to house - unstaked and stacked in the garage
No pumpkins - they'd just get stolen anyhow
"Vicious Dog" sign mounted prominently on front porch.  "Chien Lunatique" (crazy cat) doesn't work.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Daily Breeze, Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Ex-presidents could help end government crisis

There's a way to end the government debt problem.  It's as simple as ABC - Ask Bush and Clinton to hold a get-together with all sides.  End of story.

Richard W. Murphy
Redondo Beach

Monday, October 28, 2013

You Call This a "Vacation"?!

Deborah Dunn, an editor at Conde Nast Traveler, went to Kenya to learn how to hunt with the Masai by learning tracking and throwing javelins with them. She worried about her nails.   The firm she used is trying to do a cultural exchange between them and us.

Kevin Doyle, an editor at Conde Nast Traveler, went to India and joined "hundreds of millions" as they bathed in the Ganges river celebrating a Hindu religious holiday.  He reports that "dip euphoria" lasted him three months.  (He's lucky the various illnesses he was exposed to didn't last a lifetime.) 

Other destinations addressed briefly were:

Taking pictures in China with the assistance of a professional photographer.

Saving cheetahs in Namibia.  (If you get scratched, you'd better have every known antibiotic in your travel kit.)

Visit Ethiopia's vanishing tribes to watch the Surma fighting with dong sticks  or just to gaze on the beautifully ornamented Karo and Hamar women. 

I hope to God they're kidding about the following:

On the road in Afghanistan - a 12 day trip.  "Mind the land mines!"

Go into the unknown in North Korea and you can join the fervent throngs of Kim Jong-Un fans

Visit ancient Iraq - an eight day tour.

Rafting in Bhutan - probably the safest of these tours.

Sail to the North Pole on a two week trip.

For myself, I'd recommend doing quality control checks on beer in Dublin or re-visiting my beloved Place Trocadero in Paris and, oh!  We didn't make it to Brighton while we were in England.  Those are my kind of "vacations" and if you know what's good for you, they'll be yours, too!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

GOING TO (see) THE DOGS All Photos By Richie Murphy

He left his motorcycle in the parking lot.

Alligator dog


Short skirted Sally

Pumpkin sweater

Help me!   I look silly!

S & M dog?

Look! Look!  I'm my own parade float!

As if!  My owners would never dare to submit me to such tomfoolery.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Today's Excitement!

Howl-oween Hoedown, a group that supports the Redondo Beach dog park is having a to-do today from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with a COSTUMED DOG CONTEST at noon.

Dog park - 190 Flagler Lane, Dominguez Park

Added attractions -   a silent auction!  Taco truck!   Bake sale!  Agility demonstration!  A photo booth for dogs and humans!  

I'm sure it will be well attended by the local pet food suppliers, too. 


Photos to follow!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Frankly, I Wish I'd Thought of This

From today's L A Times letters section.

"If endangered species were as protected as incumbent politicians, the Dodo bird would still be walking the earth today."
     Stacy Antler, Los Angeles

Thursday, October 24, 2013

For Millionaires Only - The Rest of You Go Back To Your Skateboards

There is a travel agency for the very wealthy called InTrav, who boast that they have been planning tours (for millionaires) for 100 years.  I'd never heard of them until I read their ad in Conde Nast Travel which offered exotic destinations for only 50 passengers aboard a 757-200ER.  Clearly it's been reconfigured to a fare-thee-well because passengers have been given 6 sq. ft. of personal space. 

The slave to master ratio is one flight attendant per five passengers.  So there will be a crew of at least 10 of them (FAs,) plus a chef and a caterer and, of course, the flight crew.

The tours don't begin until Spring of 2014 so you have plenty of time to decide on which trip of seven offered appeals to you the most.  Here is a sample:

Bora Bora to Sidney to Myanmar then on to India and the Taj Mahal, then Istanbul followed by Marrakesh and finally to -- are you ready?

Ft. Lauderdale!  Talk about a come down!

Curious about who owns this fantasy plane, I studied the ad carefully and discovered that Icelandair does.  So I Googled their safety record (good) and to my surprise well-known travel writer and tour guide Rick Steves weighed in and said not to fly Icelandair from the States to Europe (or vice versa) unless you are prepared to go hungry on the long flight or pay through the nose for even the smallest snack!

What a contrast!  The 25 day custom tours start at $99,950 per person!

And what if someone brought along their teething baby?  The thought of 25 days with one is ... daunting.

At those prices, I'll stick to Truck (27 years old in October.)   Take a look ...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Soul of an Accountant

Don't laugh and say, "Good luck!  They don't have one!"   I admire accountants a great deal because they deal easily and quickly with numbers which I cannot.

But if I'd said, 'The soul of a  banker" you would be just in that comment and I would heartily endorse that statement.  I've never had good luck dealing with a bank for the simple reason that they think it's their money. 

But we're talking about accountants here.  I do like all of them except for the one that lives in this house.

Richie has receipts that probably go back to his tricycle.  He has 30 years of tax returns and you only need the past seven years.

This morning provides an accurate assessment of the situation here.  Long ago Richie started cost accounting the morning cereals we eat.  When he began, I was costing him 27 cents a day.

On a whim, this morning I said, "Am I still costing you 27 cents a day in cereal?"  He looked at the box in his hand, did some quick calculations and said, "No, only 16 cents a day now.
I swiftly stuck out my hand and said, 'Give me the difference!"

He looked startled and then grinned triumphantly and said, "Don't forget the strawberry you cut up for it every morning!"

My own husband happily gypped me out of 11 cents a day.  That could have added up you know...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

When To Buy It

Mark Di Vincenzo has a cottage industry going with his two books.  The first was "Buy Ketchup in May and Fly at Noon;" now comes "Buy Shoes on Wednesday and Tweet at 4 (p.m.)" 

Thursday is the best day to tweet.  Only 18 per cent of college students twitter (whatever that is) so you don't have to do it either!

I've never paid much attention to "when to buy" something.  If you need one, you go buy one is my thinking.  I do know about January White Sales and I know that for 28 years I have unsuccessfully resisted Richie's insistence on buying next year's Christmas cards the day after Christmas.  This annoys me because I want our cards to be brilliant or funny or innovative and not shriek "Picked over and rejected!"

Di Vincenzo certainly seems to know his onions (and when to buy them.)  Here are some random selections -

Fresh and soft cheeses are good for two weeks after the sell-by date.  Medium and hard cheeses can last for three to six months.

The best time to dye your hair is when it's slightly dirty because the faint film of hydro lipid will protect your scalp from the chemicals in the dye.

Buy life insurance before your next birthday because the rates go up a bit each year.

Uncle Hubert is in jail (again) so what's the best time of day to wire him some money?  At 9 a.m. when the bank opens.  It'll have the best chance of getting there the same day. 

Try for a Wednesday appointment with your doctor.  Mondays are full of weekend sufferers and Tuesdays cover the patient that couldn't be seen on Monday.

Try to go to bed between 9 or 10 p.m. and get up at 6 or 7  Yes, you're sleeping but your body is working.  From 9 to 11 p.m. your lymph glands are detoxifying; from 11 to 1 a.m. our livers are sweeping the floor and tidying up.

"Buy Shoes on Wednesday and Tweet at 4 - More of the Best Times to Buy This, Do That and Go There" by Mark Di Vincenzo  William Morrow   221 pages   $13.99

Monday, October 21, 2013

Making Halloween Faces

Remember the drama logo of two faces?  One with  a turned up grin; the other with a frown and a semi-snarl?

The smile side would cover kids' delight at free stuff.  It used to be that kids looked forward to unlimited candy! and dentists rubbed their hands together in anticipation.  Today, dentists probably offer a free x-ray to check the few candies the kids will get.  There is no rejoicing in the candy factories either.  O tempes, o mores.

Today people are being encouraged to dress up their pets.  We were buying pet supplies for our pets at Centinela where my eye was caught by a rack of costumes for dogs.  Would you be mean enough to dress up your dog as Madonna - pointy breasts and all?  Good, I didn't think you were that cruel even if she is kind of a dog today. offers a variety of outfits - the Pope (cape and hat,) Snow White, a "dogo-saurius," a mermaid, complete to long fishy tail.   

The darker side really is the human costumes plus make-up.  Ralph's (of all places) a grocery store, mind you, put out a flyer and the first three pages are head shots of a vampire, a zombie and a skeleton.  Instructions are included.  To make scratches:  drag a mascara wand across taut skin. and both offer extensive lines of make-up as does the CVS Pharmacy.  Always wanted to have red, white and blue streaks in your hair?  Step right up!  There are prosthetic devices - think big, warty nose - and even more grisly items.

I am thinking to combine the two faces that one could dress up like a vampire and carry around a "dead" dog (plush toy.  Think that would raise a couple of eyebrows?  Yeah, me, too. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013


Sunday, October 20, 2013



A London Haven
The Rockwell, in tranquil South Kensington, 1 1/2 blocks from Earl's Court Tube station, is a great base camp in London.  It's ideally suited for shopping, and Hyde Park and the Victoria and Albert Museum are near.  The 40 rooms are bright and restful with nice en suite bathrooms.  There is a restaurant/bar with a spacious private terrace.

The Rockwell, 181-183 Cromwell Road,; 011-44-20-7244 2000,  Doubles from about $135 a night.
                                                      Nina Murphy
                                                      Redondo Beach

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Dodgers Lose (Again) ((As Usual))

When it became clear that last night's game would end Dodger hopes, I looked at Richie with watchful eyes, fearful of his reaction.  He walked over to the desk and, taking a sheet of paper and a pen, walked back to his recliner, settled in and began writing.

What could this be?  A suicide note?  Threats to burn down Dodger Stadium and sow salt on the field?

It turns out that he was addressing himself to "D," Mouton and his two baseball-mad nephews as follows:

""Wait till next year!" that was the headline in the Sports section of the Brooklyn Eagle more times that Dodger fans liked.  And so, after a rocky road (and no ice cream treat) that will have to be our wish.  But we have lots of hope for 2014!  Don't feel badly - spring training will be here soon!  Just skip the box scores this morning and go straight to the funny papers."

I should have known that he would take it well.  Richie is good for quick bursts of yelling outrage, but not for a long-term sulk.  I guess I can safely stow away the black bunting that I was planning to use to drape the house this morning.  Won't be needed. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

A Life That Can Only Be Imagined

"Daughter of Empire - My Life As a Mountbatten" by Lady Pamela Hicks   Simon and Schuster   240 pages   $26

The "Empire" refers to the fact that Hicks' parents Lord Louis and Lady Edwina Mountbatten were the last Viceroy and Vicerine of India.

When Lord Louis married Lady Edwina Ashley, he not only got her, but "Broadlands" as well, a 60-room Palladian-style mansion set on 5,000 acres of prime land.  During WW2 it served as a troop hospital.

Hicks, born at the end of the Roaring '20s, missed WW1.  During WW2, her parents sent her and her older sister, Patricia, to stay "for the duration" with Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt who was hardly on her last bean!  The "cottage" in Newport and the huge house at 640 Park Avenue were quite spacious to accommodate the two sisters plus an orphanage or two.

At the end of the war, Mountbatten and wife were sent to Delhi by the British government to dismantle the various states of India and divide them into two, single states..  India and Pakistan. 

Hicks wrote that the living quarters there were so vast that it took her mother and self two hours to finish touring the place.  "Our bedrooms and private sitting rooms were so far from the dining room that you had to allow 10 minutes to get there."

The three family members wanted to take along two guests for a short stay in the mountains where it was cooler.  Mountbatten's military aide was shocked and insisted on sending 180 servants to care for them -- out of a staff of 5,000 people!

No wonder that for years and years, the Brits moaned about losing The Raj - you just don't see things or places like that today. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Coming Back! Yay!

My somewhat gaudy enthusiasm is a result of a page in Bon Appetite that states firmly "Iceberg lettuce is back!" the inference being "Kiss your kale goodbye"  Never having eaten kale, I bear no grudges against it.  What I really hate is the "mixed lettuce" that closely resembles what you'd get if you mowed a field and ate what appeared in the mowing basket.

I grew up with iceberg lettuce.  A "salad" back them meant iceberg lettuce leaves, sliced tomatoes, a little sliced onion and dressing.

More recently someone got the bright idea to serve it in wedges topped with all kinds of good things such as diced bacon,  chopped hard-boiled egg or slices of avocado with either a bleu cheese or Ranch dressing.

One of my all-time favorite salads is found at Tony's On The Pier.  It has existed there for all of the 30 years we've been dining there.

Iceberg lettuce leaves, tossed with river shrimp (the smallest size shrimp) and chopped hard-boiled egg with a dressing that as nearly as I can figure out is equal parts buttermilk and mayonnaise. 

That's a good salad!  Welcome back, Iceberg Lettuce!  Don't get pushed off the plate again by those upstart "mixed greens."

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lying Without Saying A Single Word

The short answer is "kinesics;" the longer is "non-verbal behavior related to physical movement" or simply, Body Language.  In a poker game, the players' faces can reflect the hand they've been given, hence the term "poker face" meaning an unemotional, blank look.  Used away from poker, too, very often by wives who spent more than they should have or a husbands denials of where the meeting was actually held (and with whom.)

The study of kinesics was begun back in 1952 by an anthropologist name of Ray Birdwhistell and carried forth to this day by fiction writer Jeffrey Deaver via his heroine Kathryn Dance of the California Bureau of Investigation.  She is their body language specialist.

I'd never heard of kinesics until I read Deaver's "Roadside Crosses."  Being an ardent observer of human behavior, I was fascinated.  Deaver is wonderfully educational on this subject.

The Good Guy first has to establish a baseline of normal thus truthful behavior of the person being questioned.  Such as, do they normally wiggle, use "Uh" a lot, twist a strand of hair?  You get the picture.

When a subject being questioned is lying, they may offer unnecessary digressions, ramble on or generalize by saying 'Oh, everyone knows that" such-and-such.

The Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator is pretty conclusive as to types of people - extrovert, introvert, intuitive, verifying data by using the five senses or relying on hunches. 

The other side of the coin is the type personality that liars present - manipulative lies, social lies, insecurity or (tellingly) actors who lie for control. 

This is a fascinating subject and to practice you skills with television personalities or politicians can be quite amusing.  Since all politicians lie, they aren't much of a challenge, but you need to start with something easy.  As entertainment, I recommend it. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Arguing With Myself

I'm glad that food magazines run Thanksgiving ideas in the September issue.  It gives me time to argue with myself - try this just this once or stick with what I know and save these for another occasion? 

So as a public service, I present herewith:

Make mashed potatoes in your own style then stir in shredded white cheddar until it is melted and then add one large seeded and minced jalapeno pepper.

Cook 1/2 lb. thick bacon until it's crisp, drain it and chop it.
Get rid of all but 2 T of bacon grease and add one large red onion, chopped.  Get that going well and pour in 1/4 cup apple cider, 2 T wholegrain mustard and a teaspoon of celery seeds and cook.  Fold in the bacon and onion mixture and add to mashed potatoes.

Bake the sweet potatoes in the oven, then mash them and add 1/4 cup of harissa and beat in.  Harissa is a Tunisian spice made of red roasted peppers, Serrano chilies, garlic paste, coriander, hot chili powder and caraway.

Bake and mash the sweet potatoes and add 3/4 cup of unsweetened coconut cream and 1 1/2 T of freshly-grated peeled ginger.  Garnish with dried coconut flakes.

Good ideas all, but Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving after all ... 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Bending One's Mind

That title is not a reference to LSD or sexual proclivities.

Instead, I'm talking about the Thanksgiving dinner mindset that many of us have and I might add "especially me."  For years and years, I have kept to the same menu.  And to a large degree, so has my sister.  She goes for elegant; I go for comfort food eats.

Case in point:  She buys fresh green beans, steams them and sautés mushrooms; mixes them together and tosses a handful of sliced almonds over the top just before serving it.

I open two cans of French-style green beans, partially drain them and put them in a casserole dish, stirring in a can of undiluted Cream of Mushroom soup and sling the dish in the oven.  I serve them with an open can of French's onion rings on the table.  It doesn't get much more "Under the Bridge" than that.

Let us go mind bending - Food & Wine suggests amping up the gravy with the addition of any one of the following:

Dried sweet or sour cherries - toss them in the gravy and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in raw of fried prosciutto bits

Add a couple of tablespoonsful of chopped, canned chipotles in adobo sauce.

Add chopped dried figs and simmer for 10 minutes before serving.

Sauté mushrooms until crisp (and good luck with "crisping" mushrooms) and add them just before putting the gravy out.

Put your head around those!  And be prepared for more shocks coming your way.  Wooooooooo 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

On the Inside Looking Out - at 35,000 Feet

"Air Travel Tales From the Flight Crew; the Plane Truth at 35,000 Feet" by A. Frank Steward   Impact Publications   294 pages   $14.95

I read this yesterday and found it riveting due to the fact of Richie's years with a Major American Airline ( MAA) and the many flights we've taken (and the many more we've stood by for.)

"A. Frank Steward" is the pen name of James Wysong who was a flight attendant (F/A) for 17 years for a major American international carrier.  His wife, a former F/A, is now a pilot.

The book is full of informative tidbits - did you know that 40 per cent of all F/As are afraid of heights?

The ratio of F/As to passengers by class:
First - one for every three passengers
Business -  one for every 12 passengers
Coach - one for every 50 passengers

Steward wonders why airlines show massively successful films when many of the passengers have probably already seen them?

That 40 per cent of all major airline pilots are named "Bob."

If the airlines can serve inedible food, why aren't the F/As allowed to hand out Rolaids?

And most tellingly:  why do CEOs of airlines in bankruptcy still make so much money?

His tips for getting off of a plane without getting a cold:

Be prepared - bring a decongestant with you

Use the fan located in the ceiling over your seat to direct air away from yourself

Wash your hands often in the waterless hand sanitizer in your purse.  Everything you touch has already been touched by 50 people before you. 

Dress in layers; airplanes are always cold. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

"Move Over, Seattle, I'm sittin' there" said Portland

Food magazines have lately been on a huge Portland, OR, bandwagon.  Many are the articles on the "innovative dishes," the various cooking styles and what the locavores favor This Instant. 

The October Bon Appetite features Duane Sorenson's coffee.  Sorenson is the founder of Stumptown Coffee Roasters, clearly THE place to get your coffee rock on in Portland.

This intrigued me more.  At first sight, the ingredients struck me as wierd, but as I reasoned the flavors out in my mind, it just might be pretty damned good. 

DARK MOON  Serves eight
1 1/2 cups cold-brew coffee
1/2 cup coffee liquer
1/2 cup spiced rum
1 12 oz. bottle Mexican Coca-Cola (it's sweeter than ours)
1/2 cup heavy cream

Combine the coffee, liqueur, rum and cola in a large pitcher
Put ice in the eight glasses and a dollop of cream.  Pour in pitcher ingredients, stir and serve.

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Definite Case of Over Kill

Apparently, based on this latest flyer, the good people at Trader Joe's have all gone quite mad over - of all things - pumpkins!

I am not unaware that today is October 11th and that Halloween is October 31st and that Thanksgiving will be our next national holiday.  Yes, pumpkin pie is a tradition here. 

However, their shopping list goes like this:

Bakery - Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Beverages (non have alcohol) ((more's the pity)) - Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte
Pumpkin Spice Coffee, Pumpkin Spice Rooibos

Cheese - Pumpkin Cream Cheese

Frozen - Mini Pumpkin pies, Pumpkin Bread Pudding, Cheesecake, Croissants, Ice Cream, Macaroons, Waffles!

Grocery - Pumpkin granola, instant oatmeal, bar baking mix, butter, pancake mix, soup, toaster pastries

Products & Flowers - miniature pumpkin trees

Refrigerator - honey-roasted pumpkin ravioli

Snacks and Sweets - Pumpkin Cranberry crisps, biscotti

For Your Pet - Pumpkin Dog Treats!!!

I can't go on.  I feel like I'm typing in a whirling maelstrom of flying pumpkins!  I'm going to have to sit on the couch for awhile.  Perhaps with a refreshing noggin of KBC Pumpkin Ale.  Then again -- probably not!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Afghanistan Food and A Browse Through a Cheese Cave

Walter's, 308 N. Yale Avenue, Claremont, CA 909-624-4914

We went to see Bob and Pat in Claremont and, of course, we timed our visit to have lunch.  This has become something of a tradition.  Bob suggested Walter's rather hesitantly, saying it had been there for 40 year, but it was "kinda pricey."  "Full speed ahead!" we roared and off we went.

This site back in 1957 was just a hamburger place.  In 1973, Nangy and Fahima, who hail from Afghanistan, bought it and turned it into the space it now occupies.  There is a Front bar, Lounge, Cottage, Afgan Room and a VIP room with three fire pits, two waterfalls, a full bar and a 138in. HD screen.  It is deceptive from the street as it's L-shaped and it just keeps going back and back from the street. 

The menu was a little long on lamb and short on shrimp for my tastes, but the Quiche Lorraine ($12.50) was dense with bacon and cheese.  Pat had Salmon Tartar ($12.50,) Bob had Gravlax ($14.50) and Richie a tuna melt with a cup of Turkey Vegetable soup instead of French fries ($12.50)

Bob and Richie had a Stella ($4.50) each and Pat had a glass of house Chardonnay ($6.95) and I a glass of Maddalene Pinot Grigio ($9).  This all added up to $21 per person before the 20% tip.  Since there were now clean plates all around the table, I didn't think it was pricey at all. 

I left them wrangling about the check - all three of them wanted to pay it and I didn't so I went across the street to a small shop that had caught my eye.

The Cheese Cave, 325 Yale Avenue, Claremont  909-625-7560

It's only been open since June, 2010, and is owned by a pair of sisters - Marnie and Lydia Clarke who sell boutique wines, artisan salume, cheeses and handmade local beers.

To my utter delight, they had Brillat-Savarin, the best cheese ever!  While it was being cut, wrapped and rung up, I took a gander around the room.  I couldn't resist a jar of Pinot Cherries from the Friend In Cheeses Jam Company, Santa Cruz, CA.  It is made of:  dried sour cherries, SCM Pinot Noir, sugar, orange zest, vanilla, black pepper and sea salt.  I think it was $9 because my total tab there was $17 and I know the cheese was "$8 worth, please."    Now to get some really excellent bread...FEAST!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Separating the Wheat From the Chaff

Which is me trying to be tactful about sorting out true suffering from hypochondria.  There are frequent fads in cooking and eating and "gluten intolerant" seems now to have taken center stage.

I must admit to a certain amount of slit-eyed skepticism when some 30+ someone starts whining about not being able to tolerate gluten.  Have they not been eating pizza crusts, rolls, cakes, pies, pasta and on and on most of their lives?  In many cases, yes they have.

If, however, you are in the very small group that really can't tolerate gluten, you have my full sympathy and trust that something can be worked out for you.

This might be the test that separates trulys from wannabes... Here is a recipe for making your own gluten-free, all-purpose flour!  This comes from Silvana Nardone, Good and Wine Digital Food Award winner:

6 cups white rice flour
3 cups tapioca flour, preferably Shiloh Farms
1 1/2 cups potato starch
2 T xanthan gum (an old food fad, by the way)
1 T salt

Whisk it all together in a large bowl, store it in an air-tight container and bake as you please for up to a year. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Deconstructing the Chick Lit Murder Mystery Genre

I have admired Janet Evanovich's "Stephanie Plum" series for years - I think Book #20 will be upon us soon.  She started the heroine in an exotic locale with an unusual job for a female.  The Burg, NJ; bounty hunter.

But Evanovich's heels are getting nipped at by a relatively new comer - Deborah Coonts with four books and counting in her "Lucky O'Toole" series.  Whether this style imitation was a deliberate act on Coonts part is unknown. 

Here's the formula as I see it (but I'm not creative enough to duplicate it, more's the pity.)

Exotic locale - Las Vegas

Job - Vice President of Customer Relations, the Babylon Hotel and Casino

Heroine - Lucky O'Toole, daughter of the Babylon owner aka "Big Boss" and Mona, former owner of a bordello in Pahrump, NV.

Boyfriends - She was dumped by Teddy, a female impersonator/singer/ songwriter who got discovered.  She claims he had a better wardrobe than she did. 

Possible love interests - the hunky French chef at the Babylon;  Paxton Dane, security/mystery man.

Jump start the book with a wildly insane murder:

Woman falls from a Las Vegas sight-seeing helicopter into the Pirate Lagoon at Treasure Island which, unsurprisingly, kills her. Or was she already dead when she went in?

A magician disappears in the middle of his act - for realsies.

In "Lucky Bastard" a beautiful woman is found splayed across the hood of a bright red Ferrari in the hotel showroom, stabbed in the carotid artery with the spike heel of one of her own Jimmy Choo shoes.

"Lucky Bastard" by Deborah Coonts   A Tom Dougherty Assoc. book
349 pages   $25.99

Monday, October 7, 2013

Richie Expresses His Displeasure

October 7, 2013

Customer Service
British Airways, Pfc
P O Box 365
Harmondsworth, UB7 OGB

Ref.:  PNR 7EANWG  9/15/13

Dear Sirs:

And I thought highway robbery as a trade was dead.

We visited England (London and the North) for a week.  We had a good trip and a great time.

Until we started home.  We left Preston on time via rail; got to Euston on time and then we took the Tube to Heathrow.

There we had a problem.  Just before Heathrow, the Piccadilly line branches out and we had the wrong branch.  A very nice man told us to get off at Hammersmith, which we did.  For some reason, we had a bit of a wait.  Reason unknown.

At Heathrow, we were told we had missed our flight to LAX by five minutes.

Okay.  We missed the flight.  We knew we had to pay a re-booking fee.

The credit card bill arrived today.  $561.68 to rebook us; a matter of some three minutes with a computer keyboard.  $561.68 is more than a little bit high.


Richard W. Murphy

P.S.  Spend that money wisely.  We sure didn't.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

International Travel Tips That Work For Us

Some may strike you as being over kill, but it wouldn't be any fun to be stranded in a foreign place with no passport, money, or credit cards.  Remember how the Cabo hotel manager laughed as he watched two young couples charge down the street at full gallop to catch their cruise ship?  Were that us, we would not be laughing...

Passport Carrier
Richie has a navy blue square suspended from a stout cord.  There are slots in it for your passport(s) and the square is only slightly larger than the passports for a nice snug fit.  This item is worn under his shirt or sweater.  Meaning that if he had to run for any reason, the passports won't fall out. 

The Cash Protector
Richie has what looks like a square pocket, with a zipper across the top and a wide belt loop attached to it.  Put the money/credit cards in this "pocket," zip it shut and run your belt through the loop, putting the "pocket" inside the pants.

Packing Aid
For international travel, I buy the requisite number of bags of new underpants.  Not because I can hear my mother saying, "Always wear clean underwear - what if there's an accident?"

No, I do this for space reasons.  There they are, five or six pairs, all neatly rolled and crammed into a plastic bag.  Which then gets stuck in an odd corner in the suitcase.

Incidentally I have checked with emergency medical personnel and they are much more interested in why you are bleeding from both ears than the state of your underwear.

The Insurance Policy
I put a pair of adult underpants in my carry-on bag and wear the third.  Picture it, you are all settled in your seat, have dined and are watching a movie, sipping at your wine and you think, "I should get up and go to the bathroom - I'll go at the end of this scene; everyone was talking about it."

And then the Captain comes on and says, "Er, ladies and gentlemen, we're going to be flying through a short spell of turbulence - I'll try to get us through it as quickly as I can but for now I'm going to turn on the seatbelt sign.  Flight attendants, strap yourselves in."

Now sheer fear has been added to your, uh, Comfort Level.  And the turbulence doesn't stop.  And you really, really have to go!  Enter the bliss - you're safe in your maximum strength Depends!

Happy trails to you!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Today's Excitement

Saturday, October 5th
From 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.  The Costumed Dog Contest
at the Redondo Beach Civic Center, Diamond and Pacific Coast Highway

I'm looking forward to posting Richie's photos after it. 

At 2:15 p.m., we arrived on scene to discover empty tents, a few people and a grand total of two dogs.  They were resting under a table and were Assistance Dogs - puppies, really. 

So - nothing at all.  (sigh)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Style vs. Stodgy

It's considered rude to compare hosts, but when you have paid for a specific service, you should get it, no matter who or what the host is.

A case in point would be the contrast between service on British Air (Sept. 7, 2013, and Sept. 15, 2013 to London) with that given us on an Air France flight to Paris and back to LAX in August of 2012.  Both airlines sold us tickets on watered-down Business and Jumped Up Coach.

World Traveler Plus
Coming home, we were offered the following menu:
Apple, celery and carrot salad
Choice of - Seared fillet of British beef with Port wine sauce, creamed leeks, roasted pumpkin and roasted new potatoes OR Roasted breast of corn-fed chicken with wild mushroom and fines herbes sauce, creamy mashed potatos, carrot batons and savoy cabbage.
Dessert was dark chocolate and butterscotch.

All of the above was served British Air style which is a rolling food cart with the entree of your choice more or less pitched at your tray.  We already knew that if we ordered a mixed drink, we'd be doing the mixing, but being handed a plastic bottle with a screw top and your choice of wines "Red or white?" was a bit over the top. 

Premiere Voyager offered:
Priority status and the invitation to make yourself at home in the airport lounge with free drinks and food. 
Being greeted with a glass of champagne before take-off.
At dinner, the food is served course by course, starting with a stand-alone amuse bouche, followed by salad (lobster, in this case), followed by the entree, individually served on a plate and not in a container and after the cheese course, your choice of chocolates from a box as well as little containers - a darling miniature hatbox, a mini-purse - with additional sweets.  There were four wine choices, each glass was individually poured from real wine bottles.

There was a difference, too, in attitude.  The French flight attendants were focused on the passengers, keeping watchful eyes for an empty wine glass or a water bottle that needed replenishment.  British Air's ladies did have warm and cordial manners, but only to each other.  I can't remember ever having seen a crew that so clearly regarded us as cattle and tiresome cattle at that.

Ta not very much, British Air.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


I got interrupted by this computer.  Apologies...

Tattler was founded in 1901 and is a glossy aimed at the nobility and rich people.  The October issue features:

A Field Guide to Bores - How to spot and when to swerve
Invasion of the Princesses - How London became a sanctuary for stateless royals
Harry (heart shape with the word "loves" on it) Cressie - 20 Things you need to know about Cressida Bonas who is apparently Prince Harry's most recent squeeze
The Duke of Devonshire on rebellion, female succession and rewiring Chatsworth

A copy of "Schools Guide 2014" was thoughtfully included in the plastic sack that Tattler had come in.

The other mag that I couldn't resist was a supermarket trashbloid y-clept "That's Amazing!"

Some cover headlines:
I Raised the Wrong Baby for 18 Years!
"20 Stone Legs 'Cos (because of) a Mozzie (mosquito) Bite."  Including a photo of the unfortunate woman flat on her back, shot from the feet upwards was not a good idea.  Each leg weighed 125 lbs. 
"I Love Rats More Than My Husband!"
"I Turned Detective to Prove Mum Murdered Dad!"

It was the glossy version of The Globe, found on checkout magazine stands everywhere.  I was somewhat saddened not to find any alien stories, but the photo of the woman with anorexia who weighed 62 1/2 lb. made my day.  She looked like an alien!

Almost Out of London

Our ride back to Heathrow arrived promptly and we left the hotel at 11 a.m.

We had plenty of time before boarding, so we went out to lunch.  Carluccio's seems to be a chain, but an upscale one with a surprisingly chic menu for an airport restaurant.  Richie ordered bruchetta  which came spilling over with chopped tomatoes and bits of basil.  Then he tucked into a bowl of pasta fazool soup.  I had grilled garlic bread (more grilled than garlic-y) with melted mozzarella.  I had a lemon tart for dessert, too, and it was properly "tart" with plenty of lemon flavor.

Finished, we did Bag Check, Security and finally found our gate which was located several corridors and escalators away.  Richie went to the news stand and bought a paper.  I got bored with my book and took off for the news stand to see what I could glean.

Having heard about "Tattler" all of my reading life, I bought one. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Ta, London - 2

Airport hotels have been holding passengers for ransom for years.  It doesn't matter why you now have to check into one, they don't care.  That's because "Thar's gold in them there hicks!  Let's take it!"

The Park Inn Heathrow was no exception.  There were three tour buses parked out in front and the lobby was filled with people milling about as uniformed tour guides bellowed out names.  Corporate types in suits (male and female) crowded the bar.  Interestingly the bar top was luminous glass which cast a really unflattering view of every face above it.  

We were given keys and staggered off with our luggage to said room.   There were no ash trays in it.  So I called the desk and was merrily told "That's because it's a no smoking room!" (as if to an idiot.)  After some negotiation we were told to wait there; someone would bring us a key to an okay to smoke room.

Hoping to speed the process, we loaded up and took it all down to the elevator to wait for the person.  Finally a woman arrived, handed us a key and took off.  

The new room was a smoking room, but again, no ashtray.  I called Housekeeping this time and was politely told that "All of our ashtrays are in use right now (HUH?) but I'll check the ballrooms."  In a few moments, there was a tap at the door and an arm handed Richie an ash tray.

We went down to the bar for the necessary pint.  Since lunch was only a vague memory; I think we shared a small bag of peanuts, we were well ready for dinner.  There was a great long line snaking into the restaurant, so we returned to the bar and got a table, an enormous booth that would easily have seated six or eight people.  

A nice-looking couple looked around at all the filled tables and approached and asked if we would mind sharing the booth?  "Of course not!" we said in unison and they sat down.  They were from Norfolk and he was a retired policeman.  He said he never carried a gun in the entire 30 years of his career.  "Only a truncheon," he said with a smile. 

They were flying to Chicago the next morning to take a tour of Route 66, all the way to California where they would fly back to Heathrow. 

He told us a funny story.  His station got a call from a man the police all knew well.  He was threatening to kill himself.  When they arrived, he opened the door and stood in the doorway.  In one hand, he held a bottle of pills; the other pressed the point of a butcher knife at his heart.  He whined that he didn't know which to use to kill himself and this cop said, "Tell you what, mate, I''ll help you out - I'll slam this door!"

We roared.  He was an excellent raconteur.  Cops usually are and we were lucky to have their company.