Saturday, November 30, 2013


A brief glance at this mornings headlines tells me that going shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving is a very bad idea indeed -- Shootings!  Stabbings!  "Officer Down!"  clouds of pepper spray; dancing Taser beams...

One commentator remarked that it reminded him of the running of the bulls in Spain, "only with no bulls, just badly-dressed people." 

"Saving" $100 on a flat screen giant TV is not saving when you are then exposed to extensive ER and hospital bills.  Stay home.  You can always shop another day.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Be Careful What You Wish For...

Yesterday I was whining about the lack of people around the dinner table.  I regretted it this morning when I read a story about two families in this morning's Daily Breeze.

The Comstocks and the Kirbys celebrated their 58th straight Thanksgiving dinner together.  When Kay Kirby and Irma Comstock Ajhar met, Kay was 23 with three little kids; Irma was 24 with two little kids.   When Irma learned that Kay who was from Canada had never celebrated Thanksgiving, she set out to remedy the situation and the two families have been celebrating it ever since.

Except that today, they require tables for 64 - four generations.  There are 15 children, 39 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.   And Kay and Irma.

This is what made me rue my words -- every year they take turns holding this massive dinner in their homes

I don't think you could crowd 64 people into our house, let alone serve them a dinner!  Clearly there's nothing wrong with a quiet dinner.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Somewhat Triste Thanksgiving...

Dinner is over; the food is put away, the plates scraped and in the dishwasher and the pots and pans all scrubbed.  The turkey roaster is bagged and ready to go back to the garage until next year. 

The three of us (Richie, our adopted nephew "Raffish" and the cook - me) sat down to an amuse bouche of slice of pear, wrapped in hot sopressato, smeared with Carambolo with a little honey drizzled on it.  We segued into black pepper and sage-rubbed turkey breast, stuffing, gravy and Ignoble Green Beans (canned French-cut green- beans with cream of mushroom soup and French's onion rings) with cornbread squares with corn and chopped jalapenos, butter and honey.  Richie's pumpkin pie for dessert which, I assure you, did not come immediately after the meal.  We needed to recoup!

When "Raffish" said, "Who all was here last year?" it triggered memories - Bob and Pat, who have since moved away; John and Angie, who took turns because a year ago, their kids were 2 and 3 months; T,  and "D" and the three of us. 

This year,l John, Angie and the kids came over in the morning for almond Danish and a bottle of Sparkling Apple juice (thanks for the bubbly!  Am not about to quit drinking, but good to know there's a fall-back position, if necessary);  T's car needs a new drive shaft and he's not going anywhere; "D" is in Chicago with his ailing mother and so it goes. 

"Life" is movement, but it's also change.  I accept that (and we had a good if somewhat subdued good time) but admittedly, I rather longed for the Good Old Days. 

However, I know that finishing off the second bottle of peach champagne will cheer me up!  Richie is watching a football game and "Raffish" is "taking a 10 minute nap."  They never would have dared -- or been interested in these things - last year.  

I'm thankful for champagne! 

Just "Not Helpful" or Sabotaging A Holiday?

The front page of today's Daily Breeze newspaper is an article warning us that if we're going to pig out, we need to work out, too.  I don't find it helpful OR entertaining to read that a slice of pumpkin pie is 323 calories; a half-cup of gravy is .118 calories or a half-cup of stuffing is 150.  This is NOT need to know brain clutter.

Thanksgiving is to give thanks, not count calories.  Eat your heart out! (as I plan to do) and let the devil take the hind part tomorrow. 


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Stocking Stuffers

I'm not confused.  I know that tomorrow we will stuff the turkey. 

But Christmas is hurtling toward us - our two Christmas tree lots are up and ready for the trees to come in.  The economy is such that there will be more people in the stores, desperately bargain hunting.

So, when given the chance, take advantage and get it all done now! 

Which brings me to this (and you thought I'd never get here.)  A dear friend shared some of the chocolates her adoring son had given her.  They were German-made with a chocolate-covered peanut "crust" then a layer of hardened sugar and finally about a teaspoon of liqueurs such as Drambuie, Limoncello and so forth.

The hard interior sugar shell interested me greatly because it's such a good idea.  The unwary bite in, the sugar breaks and your mouth is flooded with a liqueur!

She said he'd gotten them at Alpine Village, Torrance, a collection of:  very spacious restaurant and bar with a separate German grocery store next to the swap meet parking lot.   Yes, lots of amusements conveniently in one location.  

They had them!  I got a 250 gram box with four flavors in white chocolate (genius):  Jamaica Run, Kir Royal, Bellini and Daiquiri.  ($10.95) In fact, I got two boxes.  And another box - slender, this time that would actually slide into a spacious stocking Asbord Pralines with Kirschen.($9.95) 

Triumpf is the maker; Edle Tropfen in Nuss is the four-drink tastes box; Edle Kirschen is the pralines. 

"Hey, Santa - you don't even have to slow down over our house!  I gotcher back."

Monday, November 25, 2013

Gentle Readers: A Warning

Do-It-Yourself books can do more harm than they do good.  Especially if you are a writer or trying to gain writing skills.  This was a lesson learned long ago, but I was tempted into harm by "Good Prose - Stories and Advice from a Lifetime of Writing and Editing" by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd.   Random House   195 pages   $26

I write about things I either saw or heard about.  Simple enough, right?  It would seem I'm doing it wrong.  According to the book, you can be first person - "I saw him drop the ball" or something called "restricted third person" or "limited third person." 

And then there is "first person minor" - "We met at MacDonald's."  The reader is told that this is the approach used by the august New Yorker which goes far to explain that while I love the cartoons, I have never, ever finished an entire article in those pages.  

The book goes on and on telling us how to write in the most erudite language possible along with copious illustrations of other writers' works.  Frankly, I think these two have run out of anything else to write and are just showing off.  Authors are quite capable of obfustication.

I am also reminded of the old adage, "Those who can, do; those who cannot, teach."  Yes, that saucer of cream goes right here, in front of me.    Purrr.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Ah, the Sunday Papers

In addition to the two Sunday crosswords, I particularly enjoy the Travel sections.  Sundays are lazy around here (and let's not discuss the rest of the week at this time) and it's fun to read of unlikely destinations or unusual sights to see. 

Cases in point - The Mariners Museum, Newport News, VA, has an exhibit that is mounted inside the public restrooms - WHAT? - because it's a series of wall-mounted drawings/cartoons of how passengers on ships coped with not having flush toilets - or even toilet paper, for that matter.  It's called "A Head of Its Time - You Have to Go to See It!"

The Historical Museum of Wisconsin is having a timely exhibit - aluminum Christmas trees, brought back from the late 50's and early '60s.   They were popular long before "green" came our way and it wouldn't be surprising if they made a comeback for the simple reason that they can be used over and over again.   The most popular brand was "Evergleam" and retailed at $25.

Either one of these would be great conversation stoppers - "Well, when I was at the..."  You could dine out for quite a long while. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Saturday is no longer a day for Richie and self to run errands because we were working all week.  Saturday doesn't have any urgency to "Get it all done today!"  so we can putter all day Sunday. 

So since it is a "regular" day here, I had time to do some thinking while I showered...

Very Good Business!
Recently Truck required some work.  Three days after I got her back, we got a thank you card in the mail.  It showed a watercolor of a bottle on a white sandy beach with a turquoise sea receding into the distance.  The caption said, "Just a note to say "Thank you" (open) It has been a pleasure serving you and we want you to know we appreciate your business. Thank you, (hand-signed) Joe."  Enclosed were two business cards for Joe Kerby Auto Repair -

You can never say "thank you" enough and in this computer-driven world, the card was a very nice surprise.

Every time a black person plays the race card on a white person, the black person is automatically ceding superiority to the white.  The black person is, in essence, saying "All I've got going for me is the color of my skin."

Er, how about citing something else instead?  A degree in engineering "And that's why it won't work" or education - "I've been teaching for 35 years and..."  Anything that justifies your side of the argument intellectually.  We all have skins.  The color they might happen to be is irrelevant. 

The Tidy Cat
A friend down in Texas wrote this morning and she mentioned that there is a small area between their house and the fence which is graveled (against flooding.)  She said Daisy, the dog, will sometimes pee there and when she does, Red the cat, "neat and tidy soul that he is" goes out and covers it with gravel.  He seems to be saying, "That is just not acceptable, Daisy."   Thanks for a good laugh, Suzanne!

Friday, November 22, 2013

In Which My Sister Outfoxes Me

For years our mother would make Pecan Balls for us and guests for Christmas.   We grew up; Jane got married and I moved to California.  When she died, Jane took over the making and shipping  of them along with the decorated, frosted sugar cookies she used to make, too.  She and her kids enjoyed frosting and decorating them.  

Sometime last year I mentioned the Pecan Balls to her, saying how much we look forward to them.  By return mail, I got this:  "I had no idea that you didn't have the recipe!  Now you can eat Pecan Balls all year long if you like!  Jane."   She'd sent the recipe.

Preheat the oven to 350
3/4 to 1 cup shortening (whatever that is - it used to be called "Crisco" and was a white substance in a metal can)
 1 teas. salt 
2 teas. vanilla
1/2 to 1 cup confectioners sugar
2 cups sifted flour
2 cups finely-chopped pecans
Additional powdered sugar to roll the cookies in after baking

Blend the salt and vanilla into the shortening and gradually add the confectioners sugar and cream well.

Stire in the flour and pecans.

Shape the stiff dough into little balls slightly larger than a marble.

Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake for about 15 mintes.

Remove from the pan and quickly roll the hot cookies in powdered sugar and cool on a cloth-covered rack (less mess on the countertop.)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

BEER Sommelier?!

At the next table...
Waiter:  "Shall I bring you the wine list, sir?"
Customer: (dismissively) Wine list?  That is SO five minutes ago!  Bring me the beer menu" looking anticipatory and all but licking his lips."

Welcome to nearly-the-end of 2013.  I'm not so unsophisticated that I have never seen a beer menu or choices listed on a blackboard, but yesterday's lunch gave me New Information.

Richie decided that Truck needed a good gallop so we went to El Segundo and on the way, I casually mentioned that it was nearing noon and "There's a new place I want to try."

And thus we parked in their lot behind Rock and Brews, 143 Main Street, El Segundo.  The restaurant consists of a large patio and a two-sided room.  The two outside walls aren't there although I noted that roll-down plastic "walls" were neatly racked above the open space.  It was warm enough not to need the long space heaters that ran along the ceiling.  This is the kind of restaurant often seen in Cabo so we felt right at home.   And, in fact, there is one there.

Two menus and the beer list were handed to us.  To say the beer menu was extensive is understatement.  There are four pages of beers from all around America and parts of Europe.  Wines get one page and it's the back page.  Not wanting to spend the afternoon debating which beer I wanted ... when I saw Stella d'Artois, I ordered one.  You can see the beer list at  You can spend your afternoon studying it.

Richie and the waiter were talking prices and Richie seemed rather dazed by them.  I took the menu and found that The Bruery is offering 750ml for $45!  I looked at the waiter and said, "That's for a 6-pack, right?"

"No," he said laughing, "That's for one beer ... see over there, behind the bar?  Some of those are pretty big bottles."  750ml equals 25.3 ounces which equals 1.56 pounds of beer!  You better have a strong drinking arm and deep pockets is all I can say.  Other beers and sizes - Mikkeller, Denmark, 375ml for $30; Old Rasputin is a good buy - 330ml for $8. 

I had the cup of chili and Caesar salad with cheesy-garlic bread ($10.95) and Richie the pulled pork sandwich with cole slaw ($10.50)  Our Stellas were draft, served in tall glasses ($6.00 each)

The food was wholesome enough and the portions were so big we had leftovers for dinner.  I'd say the food quality and menu are typical for a sports bar.  I'm pretty sure the clientele goes to study the beer list and have lengthy discussions about it.  Just like wine snobs used to do. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


I thought I'd get paper cuts, I was flipping through my 3-ring binder of recipes so fast.  Said binder is four inches thick, easily, when it's closed.  Not surprising since it contains 30 years of recipes carefully garnered from magazines, newspapers, friends, family members...

I was searching for a specific recipe for Thanksgiving turkey stuffing which I made exactly once.  Not because we didn't like it or it wasn't any good.  No, once was enough when I had to shell two cups of pistachios for the damned thing.  "One for the dressing, two for me" ... you can imagine it took awhile.  Today, my bacon is saved (figuratively) as Trader Joe sells bags of shelled pistachios!  With that good news, let us sally forth ...

1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup Calvados*
1 /4 cup olive oil
6 cups cubed baguette
2 cups shelled pistachio nuts
1 stick butter
3 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teas. nutmeg
1/2 teas. paprika
1/2 teas. dried thyme
pinch of cayenne
2 tart apples, peeled, cored and chopped
juice of one lemon
1/2 cup chicken broth

1.  Marinate the raisins in the Calvados
2.  Preheat oven to 350 and toast the nuts for 8 minutes - cool and save
3.  Melt the butter and sauté the onions, then add the mushrooms, garlic and seasonings
4.  Moisten the apple chunks with lemon juice and toss'em in with the onion mixture.
5.  Add bread cubes and pour on the chicken broth.  Stir it around and bake until it's a golden brown on top.
Makes 12 cups of dressing. 

*Calvados is a French apple brandy from the Normandy region.  Locally, it's called "le trou Normande"  (the Normande hole) because of this odd fact:  You can plow heartily through an entire Thanksgiving dinner and loll in your chair groaning but if you drink 1/2 oz. of Calvados, you will sit up briskly and do it all  again!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Efficiency in the Kitchen!

Food & Wine presented this.  A basic cookie dough that can be transformed into three more distinctly different flavors.

Preheat oven to 350
1 cup fine almond flour - I'd bet you could just use plain, old flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of sea salt
     Sift them together
1 stick of softened sweet butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teas. pure vanilla
     Cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the egg and vanilla
Add the dry ingredients and mix well.  Viola!  The basic dough.

Now you can get fancy although there is absolutely no reason not to use cookie cutters and then frost these as is.    That was a big project when I was a kid.

Preheat the over to 350
Throw these into the dough, roll out and cut into rounds or triangles and bake for 10-12 minutes:
1/2 cup salted, roasted pumpkin/pepita seeds
1/2 cup chopped, dried mango or apricots or cranberries (or all three!)

Preheat the oven to 375
6 oz. finely-chopped dark chocolate
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 7-oz. bag of large coconut flakes
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk

When you put the dry ingredients into the basic dough, add  the two chocolates, then pack a 9 in . sq. pan  and bake for 15 min.
Mix the coconut flakes and the sweetened condensed milk together and pour over the cookies and bake another 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350
When you make the basic dough, add 1/2 teas. of cardamom.
Roll out and cut in rounds.  Using either your (clean) thumb or the back of a teaspoon to make a dent in the top of the cookie.  Bake for 10 minutes, pull the tray out and re-dent them and then bake the final 7 or 8 minutes.

After they've cooled, fill the dents with your choice of orange marmalade, lemon curd, strawberry or raspberry jam or maybe mincemeat.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Title Says It All

"Crazy Rich Asians" by Kevin Kwan   Doubleday   403 pages   $25.95

This was an eye opener for me as I'd never thought much (or at all to be brutally frank) about the Asian Super-Rich.  This particular group of them lives in Singapore when they're not occupying one of their other homes in Paris, London or New York.  Their private aircraft includes one woman's 737-700 jet with a yoga studio complete with inlaid pebble walls and a heated pine floor. 

A man throws the bachelor party on his 388 ft. yacht with a karaoke lounge, a casino, two swimming pools and an outdoor bowling alley.

The story begins with an invitation from Nick to Rachel, his girlfriend of two years to spend the summer in Singapore - he has to be best man at his best friend's wedding and then why not tour around so he can show her his home town?  Both are teachers at NYU.

American raised Rachel is unaware of the degree to which these people distinguish between Mainland China vs. Overseas Chinese.  The most dreaded are the ABCs 0 American-Born Chinese. 

The families in the book are not only numerous - houses have to be big to accomodate dinners and celebrations with all of them - but they are crazy rich. 

Rivalry among the families is intense -- The Ohs have to be seated in the front pews of the Methodist church, 50 pews in front of a Ling.  A Chu won't go within 50 ft. of a Leong. 

Gossip is state of the art via international cell phones.  "You sound sleepy - why are you going to bed so early?  Are you all right?"

"Yes, it's night time here."

"Aren't you in Singapore?"

"No, Paris - what's up?"

It's a crackling good read with just the right amount of history (how they made all that money,) bitchy women, oblivious men and several love stories.  And amazing examples of how billionaires are often very cheap. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Surfeit Season

En garde!  We're moving into it.  I'm referring to Thanksgiving, Christmas/ Chanukah/Kwanza and New Year's Eve. 

Thanksgiving isn't all that fattening.  Turkey is lean, especially if you baste with chicken broth instead of butter.  you don't have to use milk in your gravy; chicken broth works just as well.  There all kinds of calorie savers you can employ for this dinner.  And you should use them!  Thigh fat is forever fat, ahem. 

Christmas is the killer.  Everyone is thrusting cookies or candies at you, squealing, "Try this!"  "No!  Try these!"  I don't know for sure, but I would bet that December is the highest sugar-consumption month of them all. 

New Year's Eve features (for the most part) rich and expensive foods -- caviar and champagne (purr) - lobster tails all around!  Eat like the Obamas!  And, of course, it's mandatory to get knee-walking drunk.

No wonder everyone is bored in January!  We're all eaten out! 

What's a body to do?  I normally wouldn't recommend yo-yo dieting (which this is) but try to lose three pounds before Surfeit Season.  A pound a week is an acceptable goal.  If you can accomplish this then you can eat guilt free and enjoy your food.

Here's an example of cutting back calories, but not taste.  The soy sauce - get the low-sodium if you haven't already - is the key to the traditional dark color with less cooking.

1 T extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup dry white wine  (or no-calorie water - or not at all; you've got the broth coming)
1 T soy sauce
6 cups low-sodium beef broth
Four 1/2 in. thick slices of whole grain baguette (for fiber)
1/4 cup shredded Gruyere/Swiss cheese.  (Really more of a garnish than a hefty part of the soup)

Cook the onions in the olive oil until they're golden brown.  Add the wine/water and soy sauce and continue cooking for about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the cheese over the baguette slices and broil them 6 in. from the flame.  You want the cheese to brown, not burn so keep an eye on it. 

They say to put the soup in the bowl and top it with the bread.  I say to put the bread in the empty bowl and pour the soup over the bread.  If you've ever tried to cut through restaurant onion soup with a spoon... you'll see I'm right to do it this way.  It's much easier on the tablecloth...

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Thought

"After the game, the King and the Pawn go into the same box."
      old Italian saying

Streaking Across the World On A Slice of Bacon

1/2 cup grainy mustard
2 T minced fresh dill
2 T crushed peppercorns
4 6-oz. skinless fresh salmon fillets
4 slices bacon

Preheat the broiler
Mix the mustard and spices in a small bowl and "butter" the fillets with it.  Put a slice of bacon on the fillet and wrap it as much as you can around the fillet, securing the bacon with a skewer.  Broil them bacon side down for 4 minutes, 4 in. from the flame, turn and cook until the bacon is crisp and serve immediately.

In Norway this dish is served with boiled, parsley-ed potatoes or dilled lentils and thin rye bread toasts and shot glasses of ice-cold vodka or beer.

6 large boiled Idaho potatoes
4 slices of bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 ripe medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
Black pepper to taste
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Manchego cheese

Keep the potatoes warm while you fry the bacon and onion for a couple of minutes.  Add the tomatoes and pepper and simmer until the mixture is well blended and smooth.  Then add the cream and cheese.  To serve, quarter the potatoes and pour the sauce over them.  If you can't get Manchego, you can use a slightly-aged Munster or sharp cheddar. 

3 oz. air-cured Chinese bacon - soaked in water for at least 6 hours.  Remove the rind and chop coarsely.
1 T peanut oil
1 T sesame oil
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 lbs. Bok choy or Savoy or Napa cabbage
2 T chicken broth

Fry the bacon, drain it and set it aside.  Pour off all but 1 T of the bacon fat.  Add the two oils to the remaining bacon fat, crank up the heat, add the garlic and stir fry it for 15 seconds.  Add the greens and stir until they're wilted, then add the bacon and chicken broth and stir for about 2 minutes. 

Frankly I don't think you're going to get much bacon fat using 3 oz.  And:  how the hell do you measure oil left in a pan?  Eyeball it?  Pour it all out and then measure out a tablespoon?  Where's Wolfgang Puck when I need him?  

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Brief History and Some Amazing Statistics About Bacon

I've always considered bacon an essentially American table item.  Yeah, sure the French sneak it into a quiche Lorraine and you can order bacon and eggs for breakfast anywhere in Mexico.  Ireland has "bacon" which is Canadian bacon and "streaky" bacon which is the same as ours.

But America uses the most bacon, right?  Burger King alone uses more than five million pounds of bacon a year!

I was shocked to read that the Chinese were salting and preserving pork in 1500 B.C.!  Aesop mentioned it in 550 B.C.

The countries that routinely eat bacon surprised me: 
America, Great Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal (!) Germany, Austria and Switzerland plus Hungary, Denmark and, of course, China. 

Bacon is eaten sparkingly in this house - a slice and a half each on Sundays - because even though it has no trans fat and does have vitamins, protein, niacin, potassium, zinc and selenium, it is too high in salt, total fat and cholesterol.  Bacon should be like a great treat once in awhile - you wouldn't want to live on, say Godiva chocolates, for very long.

According to  "The Bacon Cookbook," by James Villas   Wiley Publishers    275 pages   $35  bacon goes well with bananas (of all things.)

2 T lemon juice
1 T grainy, dark mustard
Pepper to taste
2 ripe and firm bananas
8 slices of hickory or applewood smoked bacon, each slice cut in half

Whisk together the lemon juice, mustard and pepper.  Cut the bananas in rounds and marinate them in the sauce. 

Meanwhile, cook the bacon to about half done, drain it on paper towels and then wrap each strip of bacon around a slice of banana and toothpick it together.  Put them on a pizza sheet or similar and broil 4 in. from the flames until the bacon is crispy - about 5 or 6 minutes.

I bet Elvis would have loved them.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Follow That Beer Truck!

Richie and I were cruising north on Catalina heading for home port.  Light traffic so we noticed a beer truck with the name of a beer we'd never heard of - Duvel - Brussels - on its sides.

Intrigued, we agreed we'd never heard of it.  The truck moved over into the left turn lane and Richie followed suit!  We tailed the beer truck until it made the light and we got caught.  But we were down by the north side of the Pier and there are only two restaurants down there (Captain Kidd's and On The Rocks) so no worries; both are easily visible to passing traffic.

But no!  The truck turned into the Pier parking.  Nadja's House of 700 beers?  Quickly Richie parked in the free parking at Kidd's and started to walk into the Pier area (it's free.)

He reported the driver was unloading at what used to be the Happy Clam resto  and then Luey Louis  and is now yet a different restaurant.  And neither one of us can remember it's name. 

But, since we know where to go for a taste of a Duvel, no problem.  Their opening on the Website says:  "Hello - are you of legal drinking age?" and you have to click "Yes" to get in.  Cute but not tremendously useful.

Get Your Shoes Tattoo-ed!

Yesterday I was on deadline, today I'm not so I went back to and browsed a bit. 

Getting a pair of Oliver Sweeney men's shoes tattoo-ed by artist Henry Hale appeals to me for the avant garde thrill of it all  - "Tattoo-ed shoes! You saved your skin!""and disappoints me as it is so very, very obviously, "Look at me!  Look at me!"

The site was not forth giving on exactly the process or the cost.  All I could glean was the pair of shoes pictured was $314  (no mention how much extra money you will have to spend to have one Henry Hale tattoo them.)

Sweeney has "invented" the Anatomical Last, famed because Sweeney includes the big toe in the last to mimic the true shape of the foot.  Our toes are (generally) set at an angle from biggest to littlest and Sweeney believes this is critical to a well-fitted shoe. 

As I would never spend that kind of money on shoes, I'll never know.  Richie might.  He once spent $400 on a pair of cowboy boots...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Stupifying, Positively Stupifying

There is a tour company named that is offering a three month long tour of 10 countries and 20 locations within the countries.  What is the purpose of this lengthy jaunt? 

To visit spots where movies were filmed!  If you aren't sitting down from that, sit down right now -- the tour costs $300,000 per couple!

Bear in mind the fact that all of the people connected to the film are long gone. Thus you will be able to stand and stare at where they used to be.  For $150,000 per person. 

Koh Phi Phi Leh island, Thailand - Leo DiCaprios The Beach was shot there.

Machu Picchu - The Motorcycle Diaries

The Trevi Fountain, Rome

If you're not a movie buff what would you say to a tour that visits every Michelin three-star restaurant in the world?  "Bring it on!" would be my enthusiastic response.

The two year (two year) tour visits all 900+ UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  At the end of two years with the same people, I'd expect a marriage and/or divorce and possibly a group murder attempt of a bad tour guide at the end of it.  It might all turn out to be more interesting than UNESCO World Heritage Sites might appear to be at first glance.

Now I wonder if the firm provides a licensed psychiatrist on that tour.  People crazy enough to take a two year tour really do need on-going help.

Monday, November 11, 2013

At The Jazz Club

The featured band was a very popular local group called "Night-Blooming Jazz Men" which never fails to amuse me.  Yes, ye of simple tastes...

The bands' many fans added to our usual population yesterday.  Many men were wearing burgundy-color knit shirts with "I Am A Night-blooming Jazz-maniac" writ large across the back.

Toward the end of their set, they announced their intent to play each of our military's "theme songs" to salute today's Veterans Day holiday.  If you had served with that group, stand up!  And they launched into "Anchors Away" and seven guys stood up, Richie among them.  Next it was "Wild Blue Yonder" but we apparently have only two Air Force alumni.  This all moved me to tears and I sat there daubing at wet cheeks with a Kleenex.  I always tear up at our national anthem and this was similar.  Otherwise, I never cry.

When the Marines' song began, a young guy, maybe 23 or 25, erupted from his chair and began doing a variation of an Irish step dance across the floor.  Since I cannot imagine a Marine jumping around like a leprechaun, I found his actions strange.   I doubt he's ever seen the inside of a Marine barracks because his shirt tail was hanging out over his cargo shorts, above his earth sandals.  Marines always tuck their shirts in and very precisely, too. 

Bernie was missing last month and when I asked, I was told "Hospice care at home."  Lou was there then as she was yesterday.  I saw her approach the band manager (?) - he's the guy who changes the signboard to reflect who is playing.  But she struck out with him.  

And then she did find a partner, a man we'd never seen before.  He was shaved head bald with a bushy goatee.  He seemed energetic enough and would prove to be indefatigable as he alternated dances with Lou  and another woman!  She was wearing white pants and a red shirt with tennis shoes and happily jigged and bobbed around.  Lou had on a black dress and looked sedate in comparison.

We decided that he must be the Designated Dancer.  I was hoping for a cat fight out on the floor with both ladies tearing hair and clawing faces, but (sigh) it never happened.  They shared him equally. 

I must say that Lou is a hard dawg to keep on the porch.  She wants to dance, dammit!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sunday Op-Ed

I love the Sunday papers for the crossword puzzles and the op-ed pieces.  I  enjoy hearing what people are talking about and why.

Lately there has been a tremendous amount of bitching about Congress or the House or the Senate and usually all three.  People are angry.  And I'm tired of hearing all of the impotent rage when there is a very simple thing we can all do, regardless of political party affiliation.

                                           Never vote for an incumbent.  Never. 

Whatever we elect will not last long enough to do any real damage to our country so why not bring in someone new?   (Senators serve for six years; House members for only two.) 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

* Public Service Announcement *

Television viewing may be harmful to both your health and your finances.

A case in point:  the Galumphies, Mr. and Mrs., were watching television and the Missus remarked on a commercial being shown that screamed "One in three adults will get shingles!"

She knew that shingles are related to chicken pox which most of us have had as children.  She remembered that her case was so severe she even had the blisters on her gums!  Surely, shingles were lurking just around the corner to pounce on her!

She turned to Himself, "Did you have chicken pox when you were a kit?"  He shrugged and said, "Dunno" and turned his attentions back to the television. 

The Missus reached out in alarm for their friend, "Raffish," who is a medical doctor.  He thought the shot would be a good idea for Himself.

The very next afternoon, the Missus began her quest.  She called their pharmacy and asked if they were giving that shot because she knew they were doing flu shots.

"Oh, no," the pharmacist said, "It has to be kept at a certain temperature and the process of delivering it to pharmacies could render it unusable."

She knew if she made an appointment with the doctor so much time would pass that she would have forgotten why she had wanted to see him.  So she turned to Urgent Care instead.  Yes, her favorite doctor was working; they were open until 7 p.m. but the pharmacy closed at 6.  

Agitated, she turned to Himself and told him they had to leave right now!  He turned balky and moodily said, "I don't know if I need this..."  She threw up her hands and said, "Yes. You. Do" and they were off.  

After spending 45 minutes in the reception area, they were called to the desk and told that since this was urgent care, insurance wouldn't cover it and they would have to pay it.  She added that if they saw their "regular doctor" insurance would pay for it.  They thanked her politely and went straight to the pharmacy across the lobby.  They were told the shots are $210 per person.  

On the way home, they decided that the next time they had to see a doctor, they'd ask for the shots but until that time came, they'd just take their chances.

The Missus, having gotten over sticker - rather shot - shock figured something out.  The drug company could easily afford multiple commercials in prime time.  Look what they charged per shot! 

She resolved to ignore such ads in the future.   

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Buy Yourself Into Celebrity Status!

No need in today's world to work to be noticed and fawned over.  My dear, you can now buy paparazzi to follow your every public move! 

H/T to Barbara McCullough who sent me an American Way inflight magazine because it had an article on British cooking.  It also had an article on purchasing four paparazzi to follow you around taking pictures of adorable you. 

This was, to say the least, a new concept to me.  Bought and paid-for celebrity status?  Why would anyone want that?   Doesn't make sense, especially if you're on the lam from an irate spouse or in the Witness Protection program.

The article's author describes himself as having  "a face best suited for AM radio in rural areas" that didn't bear any resemblance to any males of note.

But it turns out that didn't matter on the streets of Manhattan.  People - perfectly ordinary people - stopped, looked and then crowded around taking photos with their  phones of a person none of them had ever seen before (and likely would never see again) and asking for a shot with the "celebrity"!

I visited the Website -  - to see what this purchased adoration might cost.  The only package offered was for a full day of being escorted around and shown "famous, secret places" where celebs might be found as well, of course, as being one of them as well.  "Look!  I've  got paparazzi, too!" pose, turn, smile.

Cities currently available are New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco and the cost was listed as $800.

Let me tell you a better deal.  Richie and I both have cameras and we'd do it for $500.  Both of us are as bold as brass and would have no compunction whatsoever about yelling, "Look!  Look!" and pointing our fingers at you while bobbing and weaving to take your picture.  And you'd have $300 left to pay for all the prints!  What a Christmas card photo, eh? 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Do You "Meez"?

Chef Anthony Bourdain says it is the only way to cook whether in your home or a restaurant kitchen.  He's talking about the French phrase "mis en scene" (putting in order) which is shortened in professional kitchens to "meez."  He means that your work surface is clean, that your ingredients are measured and laid out in order of use along with the proper tools - knife, tongs, etc.

In a restaurant kitchen speed is necessary; at home, not so much.  Richie does a meez; I rarely do  because I already know that while this is doing that, I'll be cutting vegetables because I've got the time to do it then.  With a new recipe I would make sure I have all of the ingredients or if it's something I don't like, I have a replacement ready to use instead.  That's about the extent of my meez.

"Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook - Strategies, Recipes and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking"   Bloomsbury   304 pages   $34.95

The reader is taken backstage at Les Halles, the then-hot New York restaurant.  The book was published in 2004 so Les Halles may have cooled off a bit by now. 

Even if you don't make a single recipe in the book -- really old French classics such as Foie Gras Aux Pruneaux or Coquilles St. Jacque with Champagne or Blanquette de Veau - you should check it out for the introduction he wrote.  Some tidbits:

"I will assume that you know how to use a knife ... without being a danger to yourself or others."

"Almost everyone lacks any kind of formal training and entered the business as a dishwasher or night porter."

"Anyone who says 'cooking is in the blood' is talking out of their ass.  EATING well is in the blood."   I have to agree with that. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

There's Rich - And Then There's Ridiculous

Obviously the December issue of Architectural Digest arrived yesterday.  I have to give the staff fist bumps because they never disappoint.  What art works merited how many millions at auction; the grounds and interiors of well-known people... there was a very funny letter talking about the Tom Brady and Giselle Bundchen home which is quoted here:

"...I think it might be laying it on a little thick to emphasize the eco-friendliness of a 14,000 sq. ft. home with it's own pool, pond and moat."

I try to keep you apprised of the Very Upscale Housing Market just in case you've won a substantial Lotto.

Lisbon, Portugal - six bedrooms, five baths and two half baths - $11.5 million.  For that kind of money I would expect each bedroom to have its own bath - none of this sharing stuff. 

Plettenberg Bay, South Africa - six bedrooms, six baths and 21,500 sq. ft. to run around nekkid in.  A rather reasonable $5.6 million.   Now where the hell is it in South Africa?

Soullies-Toucas, France.  it's a 20-minute drive from Hyeres on the Cote d'Azur.  You will never lack for company; just ask Peter Mayles.  $8.8 million.

Preservationists have coined the word "archicide" which combines architecture and suicide to chastise the communities that permit historical buildings to be bulldozed.  Can't you hear them hissing, "Take that!"

There is a mention in the front of the book for "Dom Perignon by Jeff Koons" followed by a full page ad and at the very back of the book yet another mention.   Jeff Koons is an artist with a cartoon-like delivery.  You may have seen his "Dog" in the lobby of the Palm Springs Art Museum.

Koons built a container for a bottle of Rose Vintage 2003 or a Blanc Vintage 2004 that looks like balloon-made statue of a naked woman.  her belly is missing, the better to display the label on the champagne bottle. 

Given all of the extremely  expensive advertising, I thought each bottle would probably be in the $5,000 per bottle range, but no!  $340 for the Rose; $180 for the Blanc.  Koons balloons must have been made in China.

Just as well I'll never have that kind of money.  $340 for a single bottle of champagne?  Don't be ridiculous!

Monday, November 4, 2013


Gender Bender or Mid-Life Crisis?
"My Brother, My Sister - the Story of a Transformation" by Molly Haskell   Viking   211 pages   $26.95

The betrayal in this book is unbelievable.  Haskell writes about her brother who married and divorced, married again and seemed happy for something like 20 years when he decided he'd always wanted to be a woman.  A bit late to be finding that out, eh?  In his late 50s?  So he began the transition with hormonal help plastic facial surgery - men have longer jaws or some such and, of course, The Final Change which was quite interesting surgically.

To say his wife, ex wife and sister were shocked is understatement.  It fascinated me (who doesn't know any of them) because I'm not convinced one can change the basic fact of nature - your sexuality at birth.  This guy was definitely male.  It was his mind that wanted to be female.  Essentially, if he could have gotten his mind under control, his sexuality might have veered back to what he actually was - male.  Talk about selfish...

Trying to Spin Straw Into Gold
"Kate: The Future Queen" by Katie Nicholl   Weinstein Books   354 pages   $26

How can a writer hope to write a "biography" for a person that is 30 years old?  If it were 103, okay, that's one thing - some life has been lived!

It isn't until page 102 that Kate and William meet.  Previously, the reader was treated to a great deal of her genealogy as well as descriptions of every school she ever attended, plus all the sports she adored.  All the way through, the prose is a warm bath of praise; Kate is never wrong, never spiteful and that's boring reading. 

But I enjoy reading about "the Royals" as their lifestyle is so far out of reach.  We take a cab; they have a helicopter fly in to whisk them away to lavish vacation villas.  The happy couple's new home in Kensington Palace is three stories with 40 rooms and what is said to be a nice garden. 

The 50 Year Rehash With Much Added Speculation (at no extra charge)

"Where Were You?  America Remembers the JFK Assassination" compiled and edited by Gus Russo and Harry Moses   Lyons Press   407 pages   $29.95

Luminaries (Dan Rather, Bill Clinton, Pat Buchanan, John Glenn, Jay Leno) versus "ordinary people" a woman driving to her kid's school to pick the child up and an examination of such pressing questions as "Had he lived would we have gotten out of Vietnam sooner?  "Would Nixon have made it to President?"  I can save you time here -- no one knows!

Sunday, November 3, 2013


That would be the official word for Sunday mornings and the funny papers.  Richie always reads me the kid jokes there.  And I respond as above.  GROAN.

Today:  Richie asked me, "Where do cows go on their first dates?"

I am silent, considering "cow dating" of which I have never heard. 

He says, "To the MOO-vies!"

He says, "What do you call a fake noodle?"

I sigh and shake my head.

"An im-pasta!"

I hate puns. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Bumper Sticker

Seen yesterday afternoon, on the back of a blue pick-up truck:

    HONK if you love Jesus
TEXT if you want to see Him

Friday, November 1, 2013

In Which I Bet the Unders - and Lose

At 5 p.m. last night, our street was silent and lifeless as a mausoleum.  I turned back from the kitchen window and said to Richie, "So how many trick or treat-ers do you think we'll get?  I bet less than five."

He was engrossed in the BBC news and I had to repeat myself. 

 "Oh, surely more than five!" he protested before turning back to the TV.

We had nine.

But he cheated.  Later in the evening, I glanced out the kitchen window to see this sight:  He was standing in the middle of the street with a big bag of candy in each hand, waving down motorists!   

Good thing no money was bet.  I'd still be screaming!