Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Final Farewell As 2013 Comes To An End

Three of my good friends lost battles to cancer in 2013.

Pam Meehan, 64, on February 13, 2013.  Pam and I became friends when she hired on as the receptionist at Brompton Productions, Lord Tim Hudson's rock'n roll management firm.  Remember, this was in the heat of rock'n roll and our "visitors" were about as bizarre as they came without actually being confined to, uh, "secure quarters" (read:  Camarillo State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.)  Enter Pam of the big doe eyes and soft voice.  She had a rocky go of it until she learned to assert herself and then it was Katy bar the door!  She left an ex-husband with whom she was best friends, three daughters and a grandson when she died after a four year battle with breast cancer.

Sue Braden-Thorssen, 72,  on April 9, 2013.  We had known each other since kindergarten.  Despite being separated by half of the country, marriages, child raising and life itself, we stayed friends for more than 68 years.  She and her second husband Sig loved to travel and often took driving vacations "on the blue line roads" rather than freeways.  They were here and we had a memorable lunch at Ports O Call.  When Sig died, Sue sent me a Tupperware bowl  of his ashes and directed  that they be portioned out between the rose garden, Santa Monica; the deck of the Queen Mary (we settled for a curbside bed of flowers) and launched from the patio at Ports.  We never go there without stepping up to the railing and paying our respects.  She fought lung cancer for nearly 10 yeas, having beaten breast cancer nine years earlier.

Dale Cox, Jr. died June 25, 2013 of multiple myeloma a very short time after having been disguised with it.  Dale was a longtime member of the South Bay Writers Workshop and had recently published two books "Tango Trajectory" about a female test pilot and "Top Secret Flight" about a photo recon job over Japan during WW2.  Dale was 92 and left his wife Patricia after a 67 year marriage.   

Monday, December 30, 2013

Riddle: How Is Richie Like JFK?

If you said, "A good head of hair!"  Wrong.  If you said, "Both Irish Catholics"  Wrong. 

Both are/were married to international beauties whose wit was celebrated world-wide, well, you'd be closer..  But it's a very simple thing. 

Both are/were clothes horses in their own ways.  Jack Kennedy changed clothes from the skin out four to six times a day.  He got up, bathed, dressed and went to the office.  He had a pre-lunch swim then showered and dressed again. He had a 45-minute nap.   He then had an afternoon swim; same routine.  If he was going to or hosting a social event, showered and dressed in evening wear. 

While no less ambitious, Richie's articles of clothing are on a decidedly lower scale...When he gets up, he pulls on sweat pants and a t-shirt, brings in the papers and has breakfast.  he then changes into his gym shorts and yesterday's t-shirt.  Post gym, he showers and it's back to sweatpants and a new t-shirt.

If we then go out to run errands, he changes the sweat pants for jeans and when we get home, off with the jeans and back into the sweats. 

I have spent a good portion of daylight time telling him to just get dressed after your shower and stay dressed, but to no avail.  

The book is a good read and full of telling details of daily life for the famous couple.  Mrs. Kennedy had a grilled cheese sandwich and he had a medium-rare hamburger for lunch most days.  He also ate two soft-boiled eggs, bacon, toast and coffee every morning.  I'm surprised high cholesterol didn't get him before Lee Harvey Oswald did.

"These Few Precious Days - the Final Year of Jack with Jackie" by Christopher Andersen   Gallery Books   324 pages   $27

Saturday, December 28, 2013

To Vow or Not To Vow - New Year's Resolutions

I wondered when this pernicious annual vow became a part of the holiday season so I looked it up.   The Babylonians promised their gods to return borrowed items and to pay off their debts and they did this in March.  The Romans came along and moved the rite to honor the god Janus thus our New Years.  After Christmas, in medieval times, the knights all re-vowed to pursue chivalry. 

Now I don't know about your neighborhood, but Babylonians, Romans and knights are sparse on the ground in ours. 

It's interesting that a consistent vow - basically just to be nicer - has lasted this long.  It has, of course, become modified to include such personal desires such as losing weight, getting more exercise, giving up sweets.  Wanting to improve yourself is admirable.  Even recognizing that you may have a problem is admirable.  

The trouble with noble resolve is that very few of us have the continuing drive to see any vow through to the end.  We may go to the gym every day for a week and then three times a week and then ... not at all.

And when realization of failure sets in, the person who made the vow is more depressed than when they rashly promised themselves wonderful things.  

I say it's better to avoid the inevitable disappointment down the road and simply think to your Personal Deity, "Work with me here on being a better person" and let it go at that.  It's better to give up without trying all that hard than it is to make yourself crazy - and fail anyhow.  Guard your mental health!  Vow NOT to vow! 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Luxury Lunacy - Craziness on a Grand Scale

Though not by any means wealthy, I had a crazy moment this morning.  I'd written three columns so that I could take off mentally for a couple of days.  And this morning I couldn't find them.  And I knew they were here.  But they weren't

We'd had guests over yesterday afternoon/evening and in the surge to tidy I stashed them ... somewhere.  I finally found them, face down on top of the dishwasher.  I'd grabbed a sheet of paper to write down the three appetizers and their relative heats and times in the oven!  So, Ladies and Gentlemen, with no further ado ...

The front page of the LA Times for 12/23/13, had this headline "Move-in-ready Homes Pop Up in Luxury Market." 

The article starts by stating the obvious - that when a celebrity sells an abode and throws in the designer furniture and personal knickknacks, the sale will quickly follow.  Elton John used to have a pair of condos in LA and he sold them replete with his personal stuff.  Including his snakeskin-covered bed frame!   Given the fact that "snake-o-phobia"(?) runs rampant with me the very thought that something like that even exists gave me a severe case of the fantods. 

Here's an example of the "Can't be bothered - I'll take it fully furnished; here's my check" type of thinking.  A $36 million house in Beverly Hills comes with a putting green with a lavish view of Los Angeles -- and a $300 putter.

We are talking detailed when all you have to bring is your own clothing.  Toothbrush?  Try these new Philips Sonicares.  Dinnerware?  Villeroy & Boch plus $1.3 million in furniture. 

Real estate gossips report that when Ellen DeGeneres and Portia di Rossi sold their 26-acre ranch in Thousand Oaks, they deliberately left behind the pots, skillets, potato peeler!  Other houses have fully-stocked pantries along with cleaning supplies, toilet paper and paper towels.

My question is:  who among us has so little interest in their surroundings as to be able to buy and live with other people's leftovers?  No aesthetic sense at all chills me.  Are the buyers just rich robots?

The article did say this type of purchase is handy for people  who want a second home and no bother or film or corporate executives transferred here for some time.

If they've got the money and this is what they want?  Soul-less living courtesy of the guy ahead of them?  Go ahead on, Philistines!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Giving Annie Chun A Facelift

Annie Chun is the label for a variety of boxed Asian products - soups include miso, spicy Szechuan, Chinese chicken or garlic-scallion.  Oh!  and I'm still a writer, not a plastic surgeon but what the hey!  It's almost the New Year - new beginnings!

I bought a box of her miso soup some time and didn't really like it for aesthetic and flavor reasons.  I thought it could have had a deeper, fuller flavor and, oh, by the way, leave out those green stringies when the soup is cooked. 

Pressed (as we all were) by the holidays and wanting something "Asian" to eat, I forgot the previous experience and bought a box of miso.  This time though I fluffed Annie Chung up so much as to unrecognizable.  Here's how I did it - Ignore the label instructions on how to prepare it.

Get a small pot, dump in 1 cup of water and put in the noodles.  Let that begin to heat up and then add the spice mixes that come with it.  Keep heating ... but now add a generous swath of cayenne pepper across the top and a T of sesame oil.  Perks it right on up. 

And remember, Annie (if I may be so bold):  Powder (cayenne) and paint (sesame oil) make you what you ain't!  

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Specialized Santas

I never thought that I'd be delivering a lecture on Christmas Day, but when I read in the Drudge Report on Christmas Eve Day that Macy's, NY,  gets customers from all five boroughs because they offer  black customers a black Santa, I became incensed.  But, the article warns, you have to know about Black Santa and special order him. 

My first thought was, "No wonder, racism is rampant in this country!  Can you start any earlier teaching kids to discriminate?  The '60s Q and A would go like this:  "Mommie, why is Santa not white?"  "Oh, he's for the coloreds, dear."

My second thought was, "A black Santa is historically incorrect."  Santa in the Western hemisphere has been white since the 1823 poem "A Visit From St. Nicolas" and cartoonist Thomas Nash's drawings which illustrate it.  

And in the full spirit of fairness, if history is going to be corrupted by have a non-Caucasian Santa, then there should be Mexican and Asian Santas as well.

I add my chorus to Rodney King's "Can't we all just get along?"  

Monday, December 23, 2013

Dear Santa: Please Bring Me Some Liniment!

Dear Santa,

I realize that I am a great deal older than your usual customers, but necessity must respond  to an honest request.    In case you don't remember me from previous years (quite some time ago) I was the one of who lived at 6316 Chestnut Avenue from 1945 to, probably 1955.  Obviously I am a great deal older than I was.  (I'm 73, actually.)

Nevertheless, you're known world-wide  for a generous disposition and I need that liniment!    

If you must know (and I suppose you do) Richie taped the Rolling Stones Summer in the Sun concert in Hyde Park, London.  He taped it because it was going to run at 9 p.m. and that's my bed time. 

So, after "Jeopardy" the other night (ends 7:30 p.m. here) he ran the tape.  Having had a few adult beverages (for digestion purposes only, of course) I went wild!

First of all I have loved (collectively, not individually) the Stones from their very beginning.  I've always considered the Beatles as rather ... effeminate at best.   They were very cute, to be sure, but the Stones were the bad boys of rock'n roll. 

So I'm getting into it (the concert) and "Brown Sugar" comes on and I can't just Sit There!  So I began prancing like Jagger all around the living room, arm  gestures and all.

I could see myself in the reflection from the balcony door and I was SMOKIN' Santa.  Real word about that. 

Living up there at the North Pole, you may not think that anyone could dance like a maniac in a pair of Ugg boots.  Here to tell you - doable.   But the next morning I  discovered that prancing will render your front, upper thighs virtually unusable.  You better be ready to support your own weight when sitting down or standing up.  Furthermore  the day after that you will discover muscles you never knew you had in your upper arms. 

Therefore the request for liniment.  Frankly, neither one of us is as young as we used to be so don't Bogart the liniment okay?

Thanking you in advance for what I'm sure will be a positive response,

Best regards, 
Aged Rocker

Richie's cousin Ruth Ellen wrote, "I was told that I wouldn't go to Heaven if I marked my body with a tattoo -- or was a Rolling Stones fan!"  And I wrote back, "Well worth excommunication!"

Tinsel On The Living Room Rug

This worked out well for dinner last night.  I managed to almost duplicate #68 on the Phuket Thai menu.   It's shrimp in Thai yellow curry sauce and it is awesome!  Just the right amount of heat plus cool things like ginger, coconut milk and so forth.  As it happens Trader Joe sells bottles of it and  we had shrimp on hand.

However many shrimp you have, clean them and sauté them in butter or substitute.  When the shrimp are all pink, dowse them good with the sauce and give the dish a good, hard shake of cayenne pepper!  The pepper makes the dish. 

Fancy fingerlings ...  Fingerling potatoes are the ones that actually look like fingers (if you were drunk or otherwise impaired.)   Bon Appetit suggests that you halve them lengthwise, toss them in olive oil with chopped fresh rosemary and bake at 450 (Whoa, Nellie - that's a hot oven.)   Give them a toss or two while they're cooking.

Then when you serve them, garnish them with very thin strips of preserved or real lemon! 

Doesn't sound good to you?  What about using curry powder to season them and then chopped cashews and cilantro when you serve it  

Or how about using oregano (dried or fresh) and garnishing with feta cheese?

Use half carrots and half fingerlings, toss them with butter instead of olive oil and serve with a dash of Aleppo pepper. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013


"The  Way We Lived Then; Recollections of a Well-Known Namedropper" by Dominick Dunne   Crown Publishing   218 pages   $27.50

Astaire, Fred and Adele; Benny, Jack and Mary; Bloomingdale, Alfred and Betsy; Burton, Richard during the Elizabeth years; Farrow, Mia; Hopper, Hedda; Gable, Clark; Gabor, Zsa Zsa; Jagger, Mick; Harriman, Pamela... and that's before you even get to "K" in the alphabet!

It's difficult to see why Dunne was such a star f----r but he most definitely was.  He didn't grow up in poverty; his father was a heart surgeon.  Whence came this lust to be on first-name terms with the rich ad famous?

He wrote that in the '60s, he and wife Ellen Beatriz Griffin Dunne (called "Lenny") were out every night of the week.  If not a dinner party, then cocktails with the so-and-sos, Sunday drop-in barbecues and brunches on tennis courts and in Malibu.  A very giddy life.  I would estimate that the book is 50/50 for photos and prose. 

My brother-in-law is a hoot - he absolutely eats up "the stars."  Every time they come out (from Long Island)  Charlie is on the prowl for or the expectation that a star will appear!  He's going to love this book.  And no, I'm not spoiling the surprise; they don't have (or want) a computer. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas in Other Lands

This is too funny not to use it.

Our adopted nephew is in Nicaragua for Christmas, visiting his real family.  I e'd him and asked:

Do you all go to midnight mass and then have a vast feast?
He wrote back:   Mass is usually early as most people here are trying to avoid alcohol-withdrawal shakes so they want to start the drinking early.

What are your favorites among the dishes?

Dinner will be turkey with a Nicaraguan, pork-based stuffing; it never goes into a turkey's cavity, but is always served on the side.

Do the maids do the cooking or the family women or both?
Maids do the cooking as most people are too blitzed to do anything but serve more drinks.  Those that claim to cook usually give the directions to the maids. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Professional-looking Garage Sale

This is one of the nitpicking types of things one can do that completely escapes me.  It wouldn't even occur to me!

"What's she nattering on about?" you ask.  The Garage Sale Kit which includes:
6 large fluorescent signs, directional arrows along with price stickers, inventory list, tip sheet and a marking pen.  Cost for all of this splendor?  $7.00

Who is selling them?  Our weekly throw-away newspaper.  Makes sense doesn't it?   Printing a newspaper/printing "Garage Sale" on a sign - both are (technically) printing.

But it's a type of thinking that distantly alarms me ... what's coming next?  Putting up aisles in your garage and sorting what you're selling into categories? 

No, don't!  Half the fun of a garage sale is "finding" funny stuff (and quietly wondering in your own head why anyone ever paid cash for it.)

Save the random-ness of garage sales!   

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Your History Preference - Factual or Frisky?

The history we were taught in school and the way it was taught very nearly put me off of it for life.

Dry:  On August 7, 1848 General T. Beauregard DuPont ordered his men to...

Frisky:  The sky hung leader; the clouds nearly touching the rolling fields of Bocaster Farm where the rebel troops waited for orders.  The possibility of rain wasn't even discussed; their situation was bad enough.   The soldiers stood, staring down at their equipment; tightening and re-tightening their musket balls.

Okay, now you see what I'm talking about.   Even a dull subject can (usually) be padded out into a much more interesting shape.

But this book blew me away with its matter-of-fact tone!  "Cleopatra, A Life"   by Stacy Schiff   Little Brown & Company   368 pages   $29.99

We Americans have castigated our leaders throughout the years.  But nothing they have ever done has been as scandalous as the way people in Cleopatra's world behaved.

Consider this - young Cleopatra married twice - both times to her own brothers!  The first husband irritated her to the point where she went to civil war with him and killed him.  She poisoned her second brother and later, an ambitious sister who had gotten in her way. 

Despite marrying brothers (her own) it was believed that she only slept with two men - Caesar and later, Marc Antony.  She and Caesar had a child; he was assassinated; she got interested in Marc Antony and went on to have three kids with  him.  She died age 40.

While we snicker at electing a president that has been divorced, consider this:  Pompey married five times and Caesar four. 

Schiff makes much of the fact that Cleopatra was so far ahead of her time.  Her choices were her own, no one forced her on to Caesar   She controlled Egypt's money, waged wars (and won)  Perhaps she was the first liberated woman?  Or maybe it was Catherine the Great, of Russia.  I'll have to get a history book and look.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Deification of a Chef

From time to time, following a schedule that only the editors know, a food and wine magazine will fall madly in love with a chef.

Remember Paul Prudhomme?  Every piece of meat or fish in America was blackened until no one could stand it.  Thomas Keller and his French Laundry dominated the headlines for a long time and whether it was the exquisite food itself or the fact that Keller was getting $200 a plate (I think) doesn't explain it. 

The newest deity has been crowned by Food and Wine and he is 36 year old Corey Lee, a Korean-born, American-educated chef.  He currently runs Benu, San Francisco, and will be opening Monsieur Benjamin, an "Americanized French bistro."  Lee does have impressive credentials - he's worked at Daniel (as in Boulard,) Lespinard as well as the French Laundry and Per Se.

The January issue is running several of Lee's recipes and Food & Wine welcomes visitors to its site. 

Pork Kimchi Dumpling Pancakes caught my eye because I love Kimchi (and am the only person I know who does.)  Deconstructing the recipe, Lee makes kimchi dumplings with fried ground pork, diced firm tofu, scallions, garlic, minced ginger and puts a tablespoon of his mix in a round wonton rapper, fries it and instead of adding a little water and slamming the pan lid shut, he adds what he calls a "slurry" 1 1/2 T cornstarch with one cup of water plus 2 T water.  The idea is for the "slurry" to run together and turn wontons into "pancakes."

This is over-chef-ication to me.  Make wontons, make the dipping sauce and eat.  None of this pancake nonsense.  Kimchi was never meant to be a pancake! 

1/4 cup soy sauce
1 T white vinegar
1/2 T crushed red pepper
1 T sesame seeds
1 T sugar

Mix until the sugar dissolves and serve. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Christmas Letter Provides an Unexpected Insight

You either love'em or hate'em.  There seems to be no middle ground.  I love them because I enjoy hearing what others have been up to all year long.  Travel destinations, vacations taken, family achievements (although this can be overdone - to retaliate one year, I wrote that both cats had graduated summa cum laud from UCLA)

A glimpse away from your own navel is good for you.

I looked at my 2013 calendar to see if we'd done anything particularly interesting... the annual Hermosa Beach plant and bakery sale?  Except for the lemon cookies, nothing exceptiional. 

The Thurs. Writers (southbaywritersworkshop.com) had just celebrated our annual Christmas luncheon and the June Summer Solstice Pot-luck Picnic was a vague memory.

Where all did we go?  And that's when I discovered that we tend to travel in bunches.  First week in April we went to New York for six days, visiting Richie's family.  April 23rd we were in Cabo San Lucas. 

Then we flew to Las Vegas (never doing that drive again - never!) for Labor Day at the invitation of dear friends Red and Barbara, her sister Nancy and her husband, Billy.  We flew home Tuesday and Saturday we were on a flight to London.

Both of these trips were made easy because of clothes, believe it or not.  Summer clothing in Cabo and Las Vegas; winter (more or less) in New York and London.

Maybe there's a method to our madness? 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Worst Fears Confirmed

The characters on A & E's "Duck Dynasty" show are real.  I will pause and let you absorb this ghastly thought.

I would never have heard about these duck people if it weren't for the Sunday NY Times book review which has been listing "Si-Cology 101" for a long time.

When it popped up in front of my nose at the library, I checked it out.  I shouldn't have.

Si Robertson and Mark Schlabach have a romping good time, shoveling out the platitudes, cliches and stupid-isms of the so-called Redneck Tribe.  Si is a treasure chest of horrible, ancient jokes with which he lauds himself, presuming to be the biggest wit in the room.  He's about half right.

Blowhard, braggart, falsely modest - step right up and pick your cliche!  Uncle Si is happy to provide it.

If you have to winter in a duck blind to avoid this book - DO IT.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

O How the Swells Prance and Swirl Haughtily Around Us...

"Swells" are generally thought to be better dressed, possibly better educated (but not often) people who have money and no shame about flaunting it.

And their homie magazine is Town & Country which this month offers several sommeliers  talking about how they serve champagne.  Caviar and champagne or icy vodka and champagne?  My dear, how very five minutes ago.  Let us collectively bring you up to cruise speed in the champagne aisles of this great country.

Laura Maniec, owner, Corkbuzz Wine Studio:  Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut  to accompany crispy French fries.  The rest of us can hit McDonald's for ours.

Juliette Pope, wine director, Gramercy Tavern:  Ceci La Luna Lambrusco paired with the off-menu Gramercy Park bacon cheeseburger.  The rest of us proles can just get a Big Mac to go with our fries.

Dennis Kelly, sommelier, the French Laundry:  Bollinger Special Cuvee:  with truffled popcorn!  Is it possible to get any more twee?  More chi-chi?

And, finally, the guy who confounded me:    he has created his own little version of surf and turf.  He serves a course of grilled crab and grilled licorice stick!

What the very hell?  The only licorice sticks I remember seeing were the long, snaky whips at the penny candy store.  You want to really make a mess, put a couple across a roaring barbecue pit.

It turns out that licorice sticks can be eaten like raw sugar cane.  I have to wonder if the crab is cooked over a bed of licorice sticks or if it is grilled on its own to be chawed at the table or what.  If any of you have dined with Richard Geoffrey, chef du cave, Dom Perignon and he served it - please advise!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Pretentiousness - I'm Agin It!

There are new entries in the race to be considered avant-garde.  The newest  must have for artists comes from the Institute for Art and Olfaction of downtown Los Angeles.  The function of this elevated title Institute is to provide appropriate aromas  to go with paintings.   Heavy floral scents for a painting of a vase of flowers... an intensification the perfumers claim.  

An example is the planned series of 10 big billboards on the 10 Freeway.  (My guess would be on the way into Palm Springs.)

All well and good.  This work is entitled "Manifest Destiny" (talk about pretension) and will illustrate territorial expansion, i.e., Going West.  The accompanying perfume will contain "notes of leather, dust, sweat and jasmine." 

Consider this:  traffic on the I-10 is going, on average, 80mph; out in the desert it's hot so the windows are up and the air conditioner is on.  No one is going to smell anything except the interior of their own vehicles. 

Further I wonder if the residents will rise up and disconnect the scent dispenser?  It is windy in the desert and the "aroma" could go anywhere on any given day.   After all the people that live there aren't "going West" they're already there!

It's all too pretentious for me. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Santa Double-Crossed Me - And So Did My Own Mother!

Ours was a small family - mother, father, younger sister and me.  I was post-WW2 and luxuries and goods were scarce.  I think that's why my parents decided on one big present and satellite little presents of useful items such as mittens, or socks.

So that they could sleep past 4 a.m., we were allowed to go quietly out to the living room and bring our stocks back to our twin beds to explore them.  This was followed by a big breakfast and finally we got around to opening presents.

The year I got the Flexible Flyer sled I'd been panting for, we had no snow.  None.  From personal experience, I can tell you it is not a good idea to pull on your snow suit and boots, take the sled out to the driveway, run a couple of steps and throw yourself down on the sled.  Concrete is not what the sled is used to and in shock, it stops instantly.  You, however , will go sliding down the sled and into a face plant on the driveway.

The year I got roller skates, we did have snow.  I took them out to the street where there were ruts from car treads, put them on, stood up and went exactly nowhere.  I was literally spinning my wheels.

Many years later, I was 32 and had fallen in love with photography.  I wanted a Nikon, a camera bag and two lenses to start me off.  I'd already bought the camera strap for the gear I was sure my parents would give me. 

When I got to their house, the first thing I looked at was the Christmas tree (in the guise of admiring it) and yes!  There were Nikon-sized packages under it!

Comes Christmas morning and I demurely open my smaller packages, just itching to rip the wrapping off of those had-to-be-Nikon items.  I tackled the biggest box that just had to be the camera body and found -- a boxed stack of dinner plates!

Bewildered, I put them down and opened the second box - a boxed set of matching salad/dessert plates!  What the hell had happened to my Nikons? 

I looked inquiringly at my mother, who said, "Someday, dear, you'll meet a nice man (aside) God hurry the day- and you'll serve him a nice dinner on this lovely set and get married!"

In truth, I didn't know any "nice men"; they were all rogues, scalawags or pirates of one sort or another but tremendously fun which is why I ran with them. 

I had to fake joy at this unlikely scenario my mother had presented for the rest of the time I was at home.  When I got back to California, the dishes went up on the top shelf of a kitchen cabinet and there they have rested ever since.

And 11 years after I'd gotten the Nikon China I married Richie and we've been happy for the past 30 years.

He never asks about the plastic-swathed dishes on the top shelf.  I guess I'm just sentimental -- or the holder of the world's longest grudge!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz

Huge shout out and a fist bump to ALKA SELZER PLUS COLD FORMULA. 

The box says the fizzing flat tablets are good for a veritable laundry list of symptoms:  nasal congestion; runny nose; headache and body ache; sore throat; sinus pressure.  

And I'm here to testify that they are good.  I had two doses yesterday (mid-afternoon and before bed) and I am at least 60 per cent better than yesterday.  And what a relief it is!  Christmas cards, here I come!

Even if you don't have any of the symptoms, get a box "just in case."  This is good sh - er, stuff. 

Recycled Words

Today I got the "My Turn" column in our local paper the Daily Breeze.  You can (probably) see it at   dailybreeze.com/general-news/3013121  or by Googling Daily Breeze + My Turn.

What amuses me is the fact that I wrote this column a year ago and ran it here.  I then submitted it to the Daily Breeze - last year - and they turned it down.  Undeterred, I printed the blog and stuck it in the December section of my big calendar.  Who knows?  There might be a new editor by then or better still the paper might have gone back to it's original tradition which was paying the writers.  Granted, it was only $25 a story published, but ... $25 is $25.

Naturally I'm pleased at the additional audience that it might amuse, but I was more pleased to read the last line -- "Murphy is a member of the SouthBayWritersWorkshop.com"  Now, maybe we can get more writers!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Written With a Fever

I am on Day 2 of a bad cold; nothing life threatening, of course (unless I can really ramp up the drama ...)

How bad is my cold?

I'm blowing my nose so much that I had to duct tape a box of Kleenex to my chest...

I'm coughing so much I'm getting six-pack abs

My nose is so red that Santa's got me on speed dial in case anything happens to Rudolph

I had to e Dr. "Raffish" to ask what color brain tissue is - there can't be anything else left in there.  "And not too much of that either" many might say. 

A New Holiday?

I think most of us greet January (any year) with a great big yawn.  The excitement is over or depending on your degree of participation in the holidays, was never there in the first place.

But I think this might be a minor celebration many of us can get our teeth into (literally.)

January 1st is national (!) Bloody Mary Day!  And I think the newly-re-opened King Cole Bar, St. Regis Hotel, may have been the group that dreamed this up.  And this amused me, too.  They are promoting their  "Red Snapper" which they claim is related to the original Bloody Mary recipe in 1934, invented by Fernand Petiot.

Here's what they say is the Original Bloody Mary recipe

1 oz. vodka
2 oz. tomato juice
1 dash lemon juice
2 dashes salt
2 dashes black pepper
2 dashes cayenne pepper
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce

The King Cole Bar will wait a long time for patronage by me -- they charge $30 a Bloody Mary or Red Snapper or whatever they're calling the vodka and tomato juice drink this week!  Talk about New York Nerve!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Death Cuts In On Dancing Duo

The gaiety at the Jazz Club dimmed when Paul Goldman, president of the South Bay New Orleans Jazz Club, announced the death of Bernie Petitjean.

Petitjean, born November 1, 1925, died on November 23, 2013 while being treated in a hospice for dementia.  He leaves his wife Lu (previously misspelled as "Lou") two daughters and a son and their various spouses and children. 

He was an active member of this jazz group since 1985 as well as other groups throughout the locale.  As a reflection of his interest in jazz, his immediate family was present yesterday and provided refreshments to the members present.

Petitjean was an aviation mechanic in World War 2; went four years to an art school and then began working at TRW.  He was a member of the Sierra Club.  During 20 years with that group, he climbed more than 500 mountains.

After retirement, he and Lu visited 43 countries.

The family and the widow received condolences - when she wasn't out on the dance floor. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Different Strokes

I have often noticed the difference between a male's idea of "funny" and a females which is often "How ridiculous" to the male's idea of a joke.

Cases in point:  This morning Richie asked me, "Why did the banana go to the hospital?"  I just looked at him.  "Because he didn't peel good!" (roars of laughter on his part.)

He then asked, "What did the lawyer wear to court?"  I slit my eyes and waited.  "His law suit, of course!"

Yesterday a male sent "the best beer joke ever!" which was:  about 10 guys and 10 kegs gather around the opening to an absent friend's crawl space, underneath his house.  They proceed to connect the kegs to all of the water pipes there so that when the guy goes for water (for whatever reason) all that comes out is beer!

All I could think was, "What a waste of beer, time and energy."  Plus you'd have to flush the pipes after the kegs are disentangled from the house pipes...all to amuse a group of frat types with more time than money on their hands. Or brains in their heads. 

That's not funny.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

"I Say, Old Chap, Shall We Dine at the Club Tonight?" (wink, wink)

"The Bordello Cookbook" by Jo Foxworth   Moyer Bell Press   229 pages   $24.95

Foxworth makes a lively point when she points out the fact that being a madam was about the only job possible for women in the late 1890s and early 1900s.  They didn't go out to the workplace because there was no workplace for them other than perhaps being a servant.

She gives as much of the back story as is available with the likes of the Everleigh sisters, Chicago; Sally Stanford, San Francisco; Miss Millie's, Atlanta;  and Miss Lulu, New Orleans.  Entrepreneurs all and to keep the men coming in, they also offered fine dining in addition to other, er, tasty tidbits.  All of the above served such lavish and tasty dinners that some customers never were interested in any activities while at the brothel.

Oysters gained their reputation as an aphrodisiacs in 1907 when a smart vendor added this sign to his push cart:  "Improve your love life!  Eat delicious oysters - six for 50 cents."  Today's nutritionists say his claim has validity -- oysters are rich in zinc; said zinc is conducive to sexual health.  (Who knew?)

Here's a recipe for pickled oysters for the man on the go - pop a container in your brown bag lunch - think of them as "Old-fashioned Viagra"

3 pints whole oysters, shucked, including their liquor
2 cups white wine vinegar
12 whole cloves
12 whole black peppercorns
2 T ground mace
2 small red peppers
Pinch of salt

Boil the oysters in their juice and put them in a bowl or jar.  Add the boiling vinegar and spices to the bowl; cover the bowl and let it cool.  Serve cold.

It's a fun read filled with all sorts of interesting trivia - Diamond Jim Brady, a big spender and an even bigger gourmand, had a stomach six times larger than a normal one and he never, ever drank although he was more than happy to see others do so and cheerfully paid enormous bar bills.   My kinda guy...

Friday, December 6, 2013

Winter Is Officially Here

Mark the date - Friday, December 6th!  "But winter does not officially arrive until December 21st" you protest.  Maybe so "officially" but this morning when I got upstairs, I found that Richie had turned on the gas wall heater and the dining room ceiling fan! 

For him to turn on the heat is winter enough for me!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Pop-Out Yacht

I think all of us have seen the RV trailers with a side section that pops out?  Now there is a yacht that splits wider (when parked at the dock only.)  We saw an infomercial on it at the Hangar Inn whence we had gone to celebrate finishing the Christmas shopping with a beer.  I demurred, "Richie, it's 2:10 in the afternoon!"  Richie argued that it would be almost criminal not to celebrate such a time-honored tradition.

The bartendress and I were the only females in the place and not finding the gentlemen's conversation to be of much interest, I turned my attention to one of the TVs behind the bar.  

My eye was caught by a shot of a sleek speedboat, roaring through an ocean, followed by a rooster tail of spume.  "This is pretty," I thought.  

But when the boat was shown docked and the sides of the top deck began to extrude from the boat, my eyes really popped.  Up rose a complete bbq set-up, lounges slid into view -- there was more "stuff" going on there than a half-price sale at Nordstroms.

WiderYachtsUS.com has a great many more details to show you than the bits of information I gleaned at the bar.  The boat is made of all aluminum with a complicated dashboard with the various functions/possibilities of the yacht to expend, shrink back into itself, all of which can be keyed to operate singly.

The boat comes in 32 ft. or 42 ft. or 150 ft.  lenghts.  The 32 ft. costs $1.4 million and is manufactured in Italy.  Tilli Antonelli is the co-founder of WiderYachtsUSA.com  

Too bad we'd finished all of the Christmas shopping when we saw it.  It would definitely be a major conversation piece - until the hydraulic system broke down ...     

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Softly-Spoken Word of Warning

Both local Christmas tree lots opened over the weekend.  We've already seen several cars with Christmas trees carefullly tied on the roof. 

But after reading several sites on tree safety, I can tell you that it's a better idea to buy the freshest tree you can find and put it up only days away from Christmas and dispose of it as quickly as is feasible after. 

It's critical to keep a fresh tree watered.  When you get it, cut additional slits in the wood below the water level of your container.  This helps the tree "drink" more.  And check the water every day.

If you have tree lights, keep a small fire extinguisher near the tree.

Usually, paper-wrapped gifts are piled under the lit branches.  A better idea might be to fire retard a Christmas tree skirt, spread it under the tree -- and stack the gifts in a pile away from the tree.

Experts recommend LED lights as they are cooler to the touch and do not use as much electricity.

Never go away and leave the tree lighted!  If you're going out for dinner or to bed, TURN OFF THE CHRISTMAS TREE LIGHTS.

One in three home Christmas fires are caused by "electrical problems."

Monday, December 2, 2013

Works for Swordfish and Salmon - Good Enough for Me!

Since the only fish I eat is canned tuna, when I fix "real fish" for Richie, I have no idea what the fish tastes like so am at rather a loss for the proper seasonings.

In the past, he has happily eaten:  well peppered, sautéed in olive oil with the skillet deglazed with lime juice.

But a conversation with the butcher at our local supermarket gave me a new idea.  It was swordfish and the guy and I were joking around while I looked at the fish package.  I said, "It looks more delicate than other, darker fish."  This was so, he said.  Thinking aloud, I asked - "So, whatya  think about sesame oil ... and deglazing the skillet with white balsamic vinegar?" 

He grinned and said, "What time is dinner?"

I tried it and Richie said it was delicious (quite possibly because I cooked dinner that night.) 

Tonight I tried it with salmon and Richie and "Raffish" both liked it. 

Apparently using sesame oil gives the fish a "deeper" flavor and the white balsamic adds a touch of sweetness.  Probably because it is sweeter than the usual balsamic. 

My tasting board has agreed, so go for it!

Back In The Middle Ages...

I forget the source, but when I ran across this familiar English nursery rhyme, I was forced to consider something.  Here's the rhyme:

Sing a song of sixpence
A pocket full of rye
Four and 20 blackbirds
Baked in a pie

When the pie was opened
The birds began to sing
Wasn't that a dainty dish
To set before the king?

The king was in his counting house
Counting out his money
The queen was in the parlour
Eating bread and honey

The maid was in the garden
Hanging out the clothes
When down came a blackbird
And pecked off her nose!

They sent for the king's doctor
Who sewed it on again
He sewed it on so neatly
The seam was never seen

There was such a commotion
That little Jenny wren
Flew down into the garden
And put it back again.

Okay - it's a nursery rhyme.  It never happend.  But how could live birds be baked in a pie and not dead in there when the dish was served?  Hello, Google?

Wickipedia told me that live birds in pies became popular in the Middle Ages and these dishes were called "Entrmets" or between servings.  As time passed, these dishes became ever more complicated as the dukes and earls and others all tried to out-do one another.  Imagine shaking out your dinner napkin and out fly a couple of songbirds!

To answer my question:  the pie shells were baked empty, a hole was cut in the bottom crust and the live birds were inserted just before serving.