Friday, February 28, 2014

Say, Don't I Know You?

More First Ladies Tales

It's surprising at the number of First Ladies who not only knew each other, but whose lives intertwined.  Eleanor Roosevelt and Lou Hoover played cards and entertained one another.  Lou Hoover and Grace Coolidge were close.  Grace called Lou '"Lily of the Valley" and Lou called her "Bleeding Heart" which sounds a trifle catty somehow...

During WW2 years, Edith Wilson and Mamie Eisenhower supported events for the Red Cross which had a new volunteer, a woman named Pat Nixon. 

Bess Truman organized Spanish lessons in the White House for her friends which included Mamie Eisenhower.  When asked by a reporter, if she'd learned to speak Spanish, Mamie replied, "Heavens, no!  We just talked!"

When the Trumans were moved to Blair House doing the rebuilding of the White House, Bess had to divide the traditional Congressional wives luncheon into several smaller groups.  Among the ladies in the A to F group was a new arrival to Washington named Betty Ford.  Despite Jerry Ford being a Republican, Betty enjoyed and admired Mrs. Truman.

Almost  exactly a year after Lady Bird gave birth to Lucy, her second daughter, Pat Nixon had Julie, her second daughter.  No word on whether baby gifts were exchanged. 

Eleanor Roosevelt and Edith Wilson were what today be called "frenemies."  They each respected the other, but Edith was stubbornly opposed to allowing her name to be linked to various of Mrs. Roosevelt's causes.

It's nice to read that these women had friendships with each other and often crossed party lines to do it.  Washington, DC, really is a small town in some ways.  Although there was no picket fence around the White House for them to chat over on Wash Day.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Richie Makes the Paper. Again!

Richie is not one to keep his mouth shut instead of complaining.  Most recently the local news has been screaming about the drought here.  We are being urged to conserve water at all costs. 

Meanwhile another war is being waged on our front -- the California bullet train from Los Angeles to San Francisco - duration of the ride?  Three hours.  At the moment it is projected to cost $68.5 billion and be finished in 2033.

Since one can fly from LAX to SFO in less than an hour, I fail to see the advantages of the bullet train, but I have kept my mouth shut.  Not so Richie:

Daily Breeze,  Wed., 2/25/2014

Use the bullet train money on desalination projects

Dear Sirs:

Everyone is talking about the drought, but is anyone doing anything to correct it?  No.  There is, however, lots of talk about the bullet train and how much it will cost.

Take that  money and use it for desalination plants.  What is more important - a high-speed rail or drinking  water and enjoying the fruits and vegetables the water allows?

Sincerely, Richie Murphy

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Car Book

I keep a book in Richie's car so that if he suddenly says, "Oh, I need to run in there" and I don't want to go, I've got a book with which to amuse myself.

Right now, it's "First Ladies, the Saga of the Presidents' Wives and Their Power, 1798 to 1961" by Carl Sferrazza Anthony   685 pages (hefty)   William Morris   No price given on this soft cover book.

Grace Coolidge's husband fired her married Secret Service man after they set out for a 15 mile walk and didn't return until five hours later at 2:15 p.m. well after lunch.  Calvin was so upset and angry that he finally sent out a search party which ran into the surprised hikers just as they were emerging from the forest. 

The story put out to the press about the Secret Service guy's sudden disappearance was that he'd been given more responsibilities and a raise elsewhere.  Six months later, Grace wrote the couple without bothering to tell Calvin and they all reconnected.  When the wife later opened a restaurant, Grace was one of her first customers.

Lou Hoover went 'way beyond the borders of Iowa where she had been born.  She and Herbert (aka "Bert") honeymooned while en route to China where they were caught in Tientsin when the Boxer Rebellion broke out.  She went to the hospital every day to help treat the wounded.  A geology expert, she had worked in China, Burma, Tasmania, the Suez, Egypt, New Zealand, France, Italy, Japan, Australia, Russia, England and Belgium.  She was said to be fluent in four languages.

She refused to attend any party where illegal alcohol would be served.  It was Prohibition then.

She created the first official presidential retreat on the Rapidan River and named it "Rapidan."

To Be Continued

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Utah's Official State Snack Is - Jell-0!

So says Food and Wine with no further explanation when it arrived yesterday.
Jim Meehan, owner of Manhattan's PDT, explains why he and others serve $15 "craft cocktails."  Basically, it's to p ay the rent in a better part of town than the local steel foundry. 

He tells us that he started with a paper menu and $11 cocktails.  But then he replaced the pleather seats with real leather and bought new oak tables... and then he switched out the paper menus for leather-bound ones that cost him $50 each -- and then whines that they lose two every week because people keep them!  I find no sympathy for him in my stony, little heart.  No one held a gun to his head and made him upgrade.

And I can't believe the Mafia is making him buy hand-carved ice (At $1 a filled glass) from an ice sculpturor either.

He remarks, "I'm lucky; I run a small, specialized bar in a big city, so it doesn't have to appeal to everyone."  Translation:  "This town is fulla suckahs and more are flying in every week"    O P.T. Barnum, what have you wrought?

Locally, Hudson House served a $12 Bloody Mary, but:  it came with a pair of enormous grilled shrimp on a skewer across the top of the glass.  Made for a great appetizer.
An Irish guy named Cathel Armstrong has written "My Irish Table" and Food and Wine excerpted three of his "rules" -

1.  For people who like onions - chop up an entire yellow onion and 1/4 cup chives and mix with six hardboiled eggs for egg salad sandwiches.

2.  Save the leftover mashed potatoes!  Add an egg and some flour, mix well and make potato pancakes.  This is not exactly brain surgery...

3.  Before you put the "lid" on an individual pot pie, turn a ramekin upside down on the meat-vegetable mix and then put the lid on.  This is said to keep the pastry from "drowning" in the bubbling liquid. 

Now that you've eaten up the leftovers and saved some pennies, either fly to NY for a $15 drink or buy a box of Jell-0 and salute Utah!

Monday, February 24, 2014

I Say! Do Join Me For Breakfast!

Richie found a little book "The London Ritz Book of English Breakfasts" by Helen  Simpson and I'd imagine it is out of print as it was written in 1988.

The Ritz Hotel from which the recipes ostensibly came from, has been a luxury hotel since April 24, 1906 when it  opened as the first big steel-framed building in London.  It's 133 rooms/suites range in price today from 435 to 1,800 Pounds.  (Keyboard doesn't have the pound sign.) 

For years visitors have complained about the quality of Brit-prepared food, but today's is getting some rave reviews.  I think people finally welcomed new chefs and new flavors.  British kitchens are in full canter now. I picked two of the "ancient" foods as a matter of  interest.

CHASSE (French for "Hunt" and may be a reference to Hunt Breakfasts at places like Downton Abbey.)
1 large or two small onions, sliced
2 T butter
2 T bacon fat
3/4 lb. of tomatoes, skinned
5 oz. slice of cooked ham
1 lb. of potatoes, boiled and diced
1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
A pinch of apple pie spice (!)

Fry the onions in the fats.  Chop the ham and tomatoes into small pieces and add to the onions.  When everything has browned, toss a dash of water in the pan and add the potatoes.  Just before serving, stir in the cheese and the apple pie spice.  Said to be good on its own or with poached eggs on top.

Scotland is justifiably proud of its distilled products, but this seems A Bit Much - Whiskey sauce for the morning's oatmeal!?

1 stick of butter (4 oz.)
3/4 cup of sugar
1 egg beaten
6 T Scotch whiskey

Use a heavy pan to stir the butter and sugar together until the butter melts and the sugar begins to dissolve.  Stir in the egg and keep stirring, never allowing it to boil.  Take the pan off of the fire and let it sit until it's tepid, then stir in the Scotch whiskey.  Serve in a tiny pitcher with the oatmeal. 

Talk about kick-starting the day ...

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Position Available: Ad Copywriter for Marijuana

Our Colorado correspondent, "Mad Mike of the Mountains," sent us some facts on the legal rules and a current price list.  He has not been able to personally visit these emporiums (allergies) but thoughtfully included the Marijuana Menu of an establishment there. 

The Rules:  You can legally have one ounce in your possession.  You can grow up to six plants.  You can buy one ounce a day (don't reach for your wallet yet.)  You can only smoke it in your home or backyard.  Airports have "amnesty boxes" for your personal disposal.  No names are taken, you just discreetly add to the collection.

The flyer for a store that gives no address or phone number divides the types of cannabis in three categories - Sativa, Hybrid and Indica.  A star next to the item indicates it is in-store the day you received the flyer.  Descriptions of the 39 types sold read like the wine list at a tasting dinner.

"Bubba Kush - 100 per cent indica.  Very calming and strong with body soothing effects, helps address insomnia."  Insomnia was absolutely not a problem for most of the people I used to know who smoked dope.  They all walked around half asleep  -- on a good day. 

The prices for one ounce of Sativa or Hybrid are $350/ounce or $45 for 1/8th of an ounce.  Indica is $400/ounce or $55 for 1/8th of an ounce.  A handwritten note across the top of the flyer reads "Pricing does NOT include tax of 32 per cent."  Trust me, you  won't be a dope addict for long.   

Durban Poison  100% sativa  Strong and energizing sensation with the well-known (?) Durban aftertaste.
Green Crack  100%  An amazing body buzz, great for anxiety relief
Island Sweet Skunk 100%  Great for depression, stress.  Makes you feel very energetic and euphoric.  (Ed. note: Might be a good idea NOT to drive after using it.)

Moby D  70/30 sativa dominant  Good for stress, lack of appetite, pain, depression and fatigue.  A euphoric, creative and focused high. (Ed note - Yeah, right!)

FU Cali  100% indica  Strong smell and equally strong high.  Works well for aches, pains and migraines.
Grape Ape  100% indica  Smooth and fruity taste with a euphoric high and strong body relaxation effects. 

Mad Mike reports that there are legal pot stores "all over."  Have decided that any trip to Colorado is fraught with peril - remember the old Country and Western ballad "Asleep at the Wheel"? 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Not-Very-Smart Sparrow

We have a pair of hummingbird feeders out on the balcony.  We do a good business with hummingbirds, but there is a sparrow who visits and tries in vain to drink their sugar water.  He/she doesn't realize that humminbgirds have long beaks for a reason - to suck up the last bit of nectar in a flower - which is why their feeders are so very different.

The sparrow's beak is 'way too short, but undeterred He/she keeps coming back.  It's really funny to watch it trying to get a foothold on the perches - He/she has much bigger feet than a hummingbird! 

What prompted this was that movement outside the office window caught my eye and it was said sparrow, perched cockily on a branch of the avocado tree looking in at me.  I could swear He/she winked as if to say, "Today I'm gonna nail it!  Better buy more sugar!" 

Friday, February 21, 2014

This Is A Real Headline (on Drudge)

I'm not creative enough to make up something like this:

"Girl Scout does brisk business selling cookies outside pot dispensary." 

The girl was selling them in San Francisco and sold 117 boxes in two hours.   The next day she worked the front of a grocery store and only sold only 80 boxes. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Being Flay-full

Bobby Flay Sez...

That to tame hot, spicy Mexican or Asian foods, use this condiment -

1 thinly sliced large scallion, green part only
3/4 cup coarsely chopped dry-roast peanuts
1 T finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 T light brown sugar
Pepper to taste
Mix and serve right then because the cilantro will make the peanuts soggy

How to cook a porterhouse steak the Flay Way
Get a thick piece of meat - 1 1/2 in. or 2 in.
Cook the first side, lift onto a breadboard cooked side up and slice it.  Then carefully put it back in the skillet, raw side down.  When that side is cooked, fan out the steak slices a little bit, add daubs of butter and put the whole thing under the broiler.  The melting butter will further flavor the steak. 

That to cook the edges of a hamburger patty just before you take it off the fire, add a little water to the pan, slap on the lid and hold it down for 15 seconds so that the steam can cook them -- it'll also melt all of the cheese you put on, too. 

This isn't a Flay deal; it's Bon Appetit's idea -
To make a pretty poached egg... you'll need a strainer to set over an empty bowl.  Break an egg into the strainer and watch all the wishy-washy parts of the white slither away.  Carefully slide the remaining egg into the boiling water.    Viola!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Gleeful Chortles

I scored a triple in the New Books section at the library today -

"Damned If You Do" by Michael Brandman writing as Robert B. Parker
"Doing Hard Time" by Stuart Woods
"Light Of The World" by James Lee Burke

And then again at the supermarket.  There weren't any desirable-looking, day-old baked goods, but up on the top shelf, I spotted a heart-shaped box of candy.  Russell Stover's mixed chocolates, a whole 6.5 oz. for 79 cents!  Previously only $1.50 but still ...

I am planning to re-ensconce myself in "my" armchair and have a lovely afternoon with one of the above guys and a box of chocolate.  I wish you all the same kind of findings!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

So, These Two Mules Go To Baskin-Robbins...

That is not the lead-in to a joke.  On the other hand, maybe it is...

It all started at the supermarket.  They were selling two pints of Haagen Daz ice cream for $7.  Richie took a chocolate and I a Dulce de Leche. 

Back in the car, we drove on into Riviera Village to have a look at the ocean.  Without any warning, he suddenly swerved the car into the Baskin-Robbins parking lot.  In astonishment -- I did, after all, have two pints of ice cream chilling my feet in the sack of groceries -- "Why on earth do you want to go here?" I asked.

"Coupons" he replied succinctly.

"But we just bought two pints of ice cream"

"I know, but the coupons will run out."

"But I don't WANT ice cream!  We just bought ice cream!"

"C'mon," he said, parking and shutting off the engine.

(Mutinously) "I want a sundae then." 

He fumbled with a wad of coupons and said, "I don't have the sundae one with me; left it at home, but look," thrusting a coupon at me, "Buy one for the regular price and get the second one for only 99 cents."

I heard a voice that sounded remarkably like my own say, "If I can't have what I want, I don't want anything at all." 

Richie looked at me.  I looked him right in the eye and said, "Go ahead, get what you want," making shooing gestures. 

He didn't say another word, just got out of the car (and didn't bang the door) and disappeared into the Baskin-Robbins.  Time passed and the door opened gingerly and out he came - with a cup of ice cream in each hand!  He walked up to the car, set one cup on the car roof, opened the door, retrieved the cup from the roof and got into the car. 

"You've got to be kidding!"  I said, "You're going to eat two full cups of ice cream?"

"Yep," he grinned and began plying his spoon busily in the first cup of ice cream.

"Two can play that," I thought and opened the sack of groceries, rootled around and pulled out the Dulce de Leche and then the spare spoon in the as-yet-uneaten cup and began nibbling at the Dulce de Leche, tracing the thread of caramel. 

Two mules in quiet enjoyment, eating their ice cream. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Remarkably Good Photo

Our local paper, the Daily Breeze, runs a guest editor column called "My Turn" periodically.  Today it was written by me and the photo used online amazed me!  The one that ran in the paper was black/white - didn't near do justice to my amazing internationally-acclaimed beauty...

You Never Know What You'll Get In the Mail...

After yesterday's delivery, I was surprised to get what looked like a personal note from a woman up the street from us.   What on earth could I have done to her to warrant a personal message?  We don't have a dog so it couldn't be a barking complaint... 

 We park our cars properly in the driveway when they've been left out...and parking on our street is willy-nilly with cars at odd angles in the owner's driveways...

I don't go out and get the morning papers improperly dressed; in fact, I don't go out at all - Richie does.

One way to find out so I opened the pale blue envelope.  Inside was a printed note with "Dear Mrs. Murphy" scrawled on top of it.  The note started out, "I'm proud to help the March of Dimes give babies a healthy start as a volunteer in a very special neighborhood event known as Mother's March.  And I'm sending you this note to ask for your help."

I burst out laughing.  I am 73 years old and extremely unlikely to start producing babies.  I have been fortunate enough to have never had children.

The rest of the message was all about helping our community to fight premature birth, bringing and keeping healthy babies in our midst.  If you ever go to the Friday Hermosa Beach Farmers Market you will readily see  baby after baby in Volkswagen-sized prams, strollers and push chairs.  To say the least, they are robust looking. 

The March of Dimes really missed the mark here.  Or else my neighbor is running a scam of quite brazen proportions!  Recipients are asked to write a check, payable to the March of Dimes, and return it to her in the enclosed envelope.  Let me use my Mickey Mouse checkbook for that check...

IN OTHER NEWS  Today the Daily Breeze ran the "My Turn" column I wrote.  If you want to see it, Google     "Why do we write?  Everyone tells a different story" and it should pop right up.  It did when I tested it. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Just Lazing Around

Browsing  the "Comments" sections of several newspapers, I noted with amusement the many that asked why couldn't both Obamas have gotten on Air Force 1; he could have dropped her off in the mountains to ski (her way home) and gone on his merry way to California?   

No answer here, but it did make me wonder how other European biggies get around so I looked it up. 

Former French President Sarkozy ordered a $230 million Airbus A330-220 in 2012 because it was said at the time, that he was jealous of Air Force One.  The French press , an irreverent group on a good day, promptly dubbed it "Air Carla One."

Queen Elizabeth II thriftily avoids the expense involved in plane maintenance, hangar space, etc. by chartering the appropriate-sized jet from British Air.  

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has to share a pair of Airbus 319s with other top government officials.  Off topic, pronouncing her first name with a hard "g" always unnerves me.  

It is a sort-of-sunny day here and the crossword puzzles beckon.   Plenty of time to do the laundry tomorrow.  Have a great day!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Viva Amor!

Dear friends Bob and Pat descended from their lair in the trees of Claremont yesterday - Bob wanted to go sailing (and did) Pat wanted to take advantage of a store's going out of business sale (she didn't - they'd gone before she got here.) 

And they wanted to have dinner at Havana Mania (previously reviewed.)  I knew it was Friday night and Valentine's Day to boot, but I didn't think of Havana Mania as a Valentine's "destination" dinner.  Wonderful place, great service, good food - yes.  Romantic?  Er, not particularly. 

It was jam-packed!  Whole families from grandparents down to screaming babies (and who could blame them?  The noise level was tremendous.)  And then the band came on at 7:50 p.m.  Maracas, drums and a lovely lady singing while conversational noise rolled through the place.   Screams of delight were heard but whether for a favorite song or an inbound relative?  Dunno.  I just know it was lively and Viva Amor!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Warning - Richie's Tender Valentine's Day Wish Will Make You Cry

His sign-off on the card was:  "A happy Valentine's Day wish to my only love except my hair."

Early Valentine's Day Celebration

Cleverly (we thought) we agreed to go out to dinner last night to beat the rush tonight.  Richie balked at the two choices I'd proffered because they were in Manhattan Beach which has no parking at all.  We agreed on Dominique's Kitchen which has the advantage of its own little parking lot -  in Redondo. 

I phoned them and was told we had two choices - 5:15 p.m. or 8:30 p.m.  I thought Richie would demur but he surprised me and said decisively "5:15."  I hung up and said, "Apparently we aren't the only ones to think of this.."

When we duly arrived on time we were the only customers in the place!  "Reserved" signs decorated many of the tables, but no  legs and feet under them.  It was kind of fun...

Our waiter, Nameless, was quite gregarious and over drinks (ours) and chicken pate with baguette toasts, cornichons and a bit of lettuce, he told us that he was from Maine, his mother was Italian, his father French Canadian but none of them spoke French; that he had gone with one woman for nine years, but too much drama - she was Mexican and that Mexican mamas try to fatten up an undesirable husband (to them) by making them fat so the daughter won't like the man - and he did date a Jewish lady - and here he said, fervently, "But I'll never go down that road again!"

In response to my anecdote about there only being one employee at Mon Ami Gaby, Paris Casino (and she was off that day,)  he responded with stories about his parents visit with him to Las Vegas.

He set down my Kir Royale saying, "Here you go, Beautiful"  My instant thought was, "OMG he's blind!  Don't order the soup!"   But he did it with a direct look into my eyes so clearly he is a practiced performer.  Richie didn't hear and even if he had, he is unlikely to ever rip a leg off of the table and beat the waiter to death for such effrontery to his wife. 

We began with amuse bouches of white beans, kale and slices of Parmesan with another little dish of olives.  I ordered the chicken pate ($5.99) to go with our drinks and then for dinner the garlic-y escargots ($9.99) followed by lobster bisque ($4) and finally a Caesar salad.  He offered to bring the smaller go-with-dinner version and I was grateful ($2.)  And if that was "small" then I'd guess that the larger version is one whole field of romaine lettuce. 

Richie ordered the roast half-chicken which came with a tumble of French fries.  Midway through the meal I asked him how it was?  And he said that it was a little dry.  Paula Dean here advised him, "Put some butter on it" 

All of it was very good and amazingly cheaper than I had thought it would be.  The bar bill was $44 and food was $48; I tipped him $20 and took home the leftover pate with "I added some olives for you" whispered Nameless. 

On the way out, we were hailed by Robaire, a French waiter we'd met 32 years ago when we were still dating!  He served us at Chalet de France.. and then again at Aimee's Bistro and when Dominique's Kitchen was a different restaurant.  Robaire is now 84 (he told us) and still working part time as a waiter!  Of note:  all three of the restaurants listed above are now closed...

Dominique's Kitchen, 522 So. Pacific Highway, Redondo Beach  310-424-9054

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Different Kind of Economic Indicator

"Finances" are a topic of interest to nearly everyone.  Since I know my own balance  (pitiful) I look to other things to tell me what the real state of the world is.   My best source is -- drum roll -- Architectural Digest!

There are two monthly sections that I trust and both involve what people are spending.

In "Exchange Rate" (what auctions sold and which items went for more than the reserve) I find that last month "Portrait of Francois-Henri d'Harcourt" which was purchased in 1971 for $850,000 brought $24.9  million.  A 1950s sofa (which looks like two surfboards - think v-shaped and then put legs under it) had an $18,000 high estimate and went for $70,000.

Farther into the magazine, we find "On The Market" with houses for sale.  A family has owned an estate in Hillsborough, CA, for 150 years - and now they're selling it.  It sits on 46-acres which is huge for the area (about 20 miles south of San Francisco) and it has 7 bedrooms, 8 1/2 baths within 16,000 sq. ft. for $100 million. 

An Addison Mizner house in Palm Beach, FL, is changing hands and getting one's hands on a Mizner is not easy.  It has 6 bedrooms, 7 baths, 4 half baths in 11,900 sq. ft. for $26.4 million.

This rather surprised me - Paradise Valley, AZ:  1 bedroom, 3 baths, 3,350 sq. ft. for $2.4 million.  One bedroom?  What kind of misanthrope hermit buys a house with only one bedroom?  (sigh) We'll never know...

But we can all rest easy in our little beds tonight - the wealthy are doing just fine, thank you!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Morning Full of Shocks

Some good; others not so good as you will read.

Good:  the Daily Breeze published my letter to the editor:

Where are all these people smoking on the beach?

"Manhattan Beach snuffs out smoking" Feb. 6

This is not exactly the City council's shining hour.  Based on a population of 35,135 people (2010,)  11 per cent equals 3,846 people who smoke in Manhattan Beach. 

I rarely go to Manhattan Beach, so I have missed seeing the wall of people standing on the beach chain-smoking and throwing cigarette butts onto the sand and into the ocean.  Can anyone tell me when this happens?  I'd like to see it.
     Nina Murphy,  Redondo Beach

Meh in the shock department - We had to park down on the very bottom level of the garage at the gym today.  We were so far down that there was no cell service which is no bad thing.  When Richie came down (he lasts longer than I do) I said, "I won't say we're pretty far down here, but there's a hole in the wall behind those cars and I saw three Chinese guys come out of it..."

THE WORST  The Ladies Locker-room has a dog-leg entrance so no one can see us in our altogethers.  This morning I walked through it and straight in my line of vision was ... what I at first thought was a sumo wrestler's back, er, view, bending away from me.  That nanosecond passed and my mind screamed, "I'm gonna go blind" in real fear!  I squinched my eyes shut in shock.  It was awful.  Just remembering it scares me retroactively. 

But:  God bless her - yes, she was obese, but she was at the gym and (presumably) doing something about it.  Go, Girl - but for God's sake throw away the thong and buy some grannie pants, okay? 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Solutions To Problems You May Not Have Known You Had

Cooks Illustrated, for reasons of their own, sent issues 126 and 127 in the same mail.  This was a problem I didn't know I had - joke.

Peeling a hardboiled egg:  tap the cooked egg all over with the back of a spoon. Slip the spoon into the air pocket on the bottom and then scrape along the inside of the shell, following the curving shape.

Kneading sticky dough gives you sticky fingers.  Put your hands over the sink and dry wash them with flour.  Then use cold water to rinse.  Don't use hot because it causes the dough to "gelatinize."

Rack up your metal measuring cups on a magnetized strip - they'll be easier to grab rather then stacked together. 

Need a quick shot glass?  The next time you have a cough, save the little measuring cup that comes with the cough syrup.

To avoid dealing with a soggy peanut butter and jelly sandwich you packed for lunch, put peanut butter on both slices of bread and top each slice with the jelly.  Bye, bye, soggy sandwich.

Next time you open a bag of flour (for purposes that would be unclear to me; I don't bake) set the bag on the counter and then slap the top of the bag in a downward direction and go ahead and open the bag.

Monday, February 10, 2014

She Grew Up But She Never Matured

"Shadows of a Princess - An Intimate Account by Her Private Secretary" by P D. Jephson   Prospect Media, Inc.   456 pages   $26

The princess is, of course, Diana.  Jephson worked for her for eight years, during the various Squidgygates and Camillagates and "Diana, Her True Story" fanfare,  accusations, counter accusations and general mayhem. 

Over and over he writes of her childish tantrums; her manipulative use of staff and media and yet ... she was genuinely touched by the various groups her charity works exposed her to -- she was very professional in her charity fundraising.  She whined about it, of course, but she gamely put on a brave face and strode forth. 

Jephson blames much of her failure to mature to the severe stresses of her parents' divorce, as acrid and animosity-laden as it was.  Jephson concludes that she believed that no one would ever really actually love her.

She was enchanted by playing the media.  One Christmas she asked Jephson to call Mother Teresa, in India, and to tell her that she, Diana, would willinly fly out to visit her on Christmas Day.  Mother T's people suggested instead that she visit two of their London shelters and Diana dropped the idea completely.  She's just have to think of something else to make her look good to the media.

She really did live in a hothouse rose sort of way.  The fairy tale she had believed in never existed at all. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Old Girls

Once upon a time (the '80s) there was a tribe of rich women who did nothing but shop, lunch, plan galas and throw parties.  If you followed Society back in the day, you would recognize these names:  Deeda Blair, Patricia Kluge, former flight attendant who married well, Susan Gutfreund, Lily Safra (believed to have had her fourth husband offed) the late Nan Kempner and Jerome Zifkin, not technically a lady; he was gay and greatly in demand as a "walker" which is a non-threatening man who is socially-minded and witty.  Walkers serve at events husbands despise.   

Nancy Reagan and Betsy (nee Betty) Bloomingdale, both 91, have been besties for a long time.  Betsy's late husband Alfred died of throat cancer when he was only 66.  His mistress of 12 years died when her gay roommate beat her to death with a baseball bat.  Psycho issues...

"Entertaining With Betsy Bloomingdale" invites us to see how the very wealthy entertain.  Redundant.  We all know how to entertain - sweep the dirt under the rug, set out some food and booze and throw open the front door.

Many of the recipes were so '50s that I laughed.  "Butter thin slices of ham with cream cheese, roll the ham around a sweet pickle spear, cut in coins and stab with a toothpick.  "Lolly Pops" - isn't that special?  Their idea of guacamole service - take a rolling pin to thin slices of bread, put the bread in muffin pans, into the oven until  they are toasted then fill each cup with guacamole and serve.  Apparently taco chips were just so ... oh, low, darling.

So many of the recipes were not what I thought millionaires ate -- bread and butter pudding?  Casseroles with crushed cornflakes on top?!

Don't misunderstand - there were plenty of mentions of caviar in the menus.  Clearly  then as now, caviar was recognized as an expensive splurge.  Jerry Zipkin earned fame with his usage of red, gray and black caviar to make a sort of bull's eye of caviar on a plate.  "So pretty!" the ladies twittered.  Can't you just hear them?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Quirky Little Book

"Bumper Sticker Wisdom - America's Pulpit Above the Tailpipe" by Carol Gardner   Beyond Words Publishing   175 pages   $19.95

The book is divided into sections to cover such as work, animals, children, relationships, politics, regional.

Some samples:

The weather is here; wish you were beautiful

Get even - die in debt!

Suicide in Kansas Is Redundant

Maine Bumpah Stickah

I (heart symbol) Spotted Owls Fried in Exxon Oil!

Eat moose - 40,000 brown bears can't be wrong

I'm not a bum - my wife works!

(heart sign) my boss  (heart sign) my job - I'm self-employed. 

                           That one works for me.  Where can I buy one?!

Friday, February 7, 2014


My epistle to the Daily Breeze didn't run today (no surprise,) but a good friend's letter to the LA Times did run this morning. 

Steve Switzer is a former South Bay Writers Workshop member who is a very talented writer.  I'll try to duplicate  the headline and reference as it appears in the Times.

Just hold your fire
Re: "A manhunt and bad judgment," Editorial February 6

(the letter)
I'm a retired cop - a former lieutenant with the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, actually.  As such when it comes to officer-involved shootings, I'm naturally biased in favor of the officers.  I steadfastly try not to second guess them.

Startlingly, I find myself in complete agreement with your editorial supporting the decision by Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck that the officers who fired at a truck carrying two women last February violated departmental policy.

Of course those cops were jumpy and nervous.  But "jumpy and nervous" is precisely is what police training is designed to overcome.  They put themselves in crossfire and blasted more than 100 rounds.  Unthinkable. 

An attorney would probably call it negative hiring, negative retention and failure to train.  I call it stupidity.  I was involved in four such incidents; having been shot myself, I know whereof I speak.

Steve Switzer
San Pedro


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Letter to the Editor

Today's Daily Breeze has an article announcing the ban out outdoor smoking in sister town Manhattan Beach.  I reacted somewhat sarcastically. 

Dear Sirs:

This is not exactly the council's shining hour.  Based on a population of 35,135 (2010) 11 per cent equals 3,846 people who smoke in Manhattan Beach.

I rarely go to Manhattan Beach so I have missed seeing the wall of people standing on the beach chain smoking and throwing the butts onto the sand or into the ocean.  Can anyone tell me when this happens?  I'd like to see it.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"Eating with our ears" Explained

I'm still periodically deep into Mary Roach's book "Gulp."  I say "periodically" because it is intense reading for a person who looks forward to Wednesdays to go to "Midweek Madness" to read a compendium of supermarket trashbloids.*

When we bite into something crunchy (carrot, potato chip) our ears tell our stomachs "This is okay - it's fresh."  But our ears are somewhat flawed -- what we hear as one crunch per bite is actually hundreds of individual sound bursts.

Scientists (who clearly have nothing better to do) have arrived at between 90 to 100 decibels as the perfect "crunch" sound level.  And these scientists are a peevish bunch - crunch food makers don't consult them, but just ask the volunteer, "That taste good to you?"

That's why Roach is such an interesting writer.  Not only does she find weird stuff, but she researches it thoroughly - interviewing the scientists face-to-face and asking the tough questions. 

* patent pending 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Universality of Food for Celebrations

This could be filed under "Random Thoughts" but I got to thinking this morning and found that there are no US national holidays that don't involve food! 

Valentine's Day - dinner out and a box of chocolates.  Or not.
Easter - ham
Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day - everyone outdoors for a barbecue!
Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Eve - belly up to the table! 

And I wondered why this is so.  I finally decided that celebrating with free food and drink for guests must go back to the Bible when a "fatted calf" was killed to celebrate a return of the so-called prodigal son. 

And it's not just us - while doing research, I found various celebrations all over the world - and the recipes for making holiday-specific dishes! 

I've read that an army travels on its stomach.  Clearly the rest of us celebrate at the dinner table. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

It's Not Wal-Mart But

Whilst wandering through the sock department at Target, I noticed three or four full-length standing mirrors.  In the sock department.

I expected to hear, "Honey," she whined, "Do these anklets make my foot look fat?" 

Humane or Hoarder?

"Dogtripping - 25 Rescues, 11 Volunteers and 3 RVs on Our Canine Cross-Country Adventure" by David Rosenfelt   St. Martin's Press   278 pages   $25.99

Rosenfelt is an award-winning novelist; his wife Debbie is a retired Taco Bell executive.  When she retired, they decided to move from Southern California to Maine.  Moving their 25 dogs with them. 

But how?  The "dog flights" were not only roaringly expensive, but traumatic for the dogs.  In the end, they rented three RVs, stocked them with human and dog food, meds, blankets, leashes and 200 ft. of snow fence for rest stops - they lined up the RVs in a row and fenced all the way around them.

When pricing hotels, he did find a pet-friendly place, but the cleaning fee was $50 for a dog less than 30 lbs. and $75 for over 30 lbs.  "I hadn't done the math, but I was pretty sure we would be traveling with over a ton of dog, so the cleaning deposit probably would be the GDP of a third-world country."

Never mind this trip - what about the time needed on a daily basis to care for all of those dogs (at one time, they had 42 dogs!) let alone the expenses of vet bills, medications, food and dog hair.  He writes early in the book that their garage held a row of broken vacuum cleaners. 

Their Tara Foundation specializes in rescuing golden retrievers.  Apparently there are a number of specialized breed rescue foundations which seems a bit snobbish too me.  As far as number of dogs living with them at any given time, I got the strong impression that Debbie is the hoarder, if such behavior does exist,  and he just goes along with it.  He seems scared of her and I don't blame him; she sounds monumentally stubborn.

It's a book that will appeal to "dog people" and it must be said for "cat people" (me), too.  The dogs and their owners are endearingly goofy. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Such A Busy Day

The annual Redondo Beach Super Bowl Sunday 10k's last runners must be coming off of the course around south Redondo by now.  Promoters said they were expecting 9,000 "race enthusiasts" for it and based on the traffic yesterday, I'd say they all got here.  We already knew not to go south of 190th Street today, but who knew it applied to yesterday and all of the local streets? 

This afternoon, of course, is the Super Bowl which year in and year out is the Super Bore to me.  In view of Richie's enthusiasm for it (and most forms of entertainment) we will be celebrating with chips and his home made guacamole.  Wheee!

In light of both of the above, not all that much attention has been paid to Punxsutawney Phil, poor old thing.  The Groundhog Club there would have you believe that Phil - actively celebrating his day from 1887 (1887) - is the same Phil. 

Club members tell us that every summer, Phil is given a sip of Groundhog Elixir which in turn gives him another seven years of life.

Phil must be lonely - the only human he speaks to all year is the club president who converses with him in groundhogese.  Phil gives him his prognostication and then leaves the building, er hole in the ground, to return home to his wife and, presumably, children. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Gulp! TMI*

"Gulp - Adventures on the Alimentary Canal" by Mary Roach   W.W. Norton & Co.  348 pages   $26.95

It really is a pity that Christmas has passed - this book would do wonders for the hypochondriacs perched delicately in the family tree. 

Roach has made a successful writing life with regard to the "odd sciences" which is a layman's term for an entire book about cadavers ("Stiff" which was, in its own way, very interesting) and now the politely-phrased alimentary canal which starts at the nose and descends to a flush of the toilet. 

Along the way Roach takes us to a pet food taste test lab where grown-ups from the various pet food makers test the appeal of their various offerings with a pack of dogs who happily live there.

There was a fascinating case study of a man accidentally shot with shotgun whose stomach never closed around the wound.  His stomach was visible to the naked eye and for 30 years a scientist supported him and housed him just to see how quickly certain foods were digested.  What I want to know is, how the hell he didn't die of gangrene.

Could "Fletcher-izing" lower the national debt?  This is a weighty question posed by Horace Fletcher who proposed that the longer one chews one's food, the longer it takes to eat anything and thus the stomach feels sated long before it really is and so, less food is eaten.  Roach remarks that meals were rather lengthy affairs and quite tedious due to the lack of conversation.  I visualized cows sitting around a formal dinner table...

As far as the squeamish factor goes, I enjoyed the chapter on mega-colons (you don't want one;)  speculation constipation killed Elvis (probably) but I totally choked on a proposed visit to a saliva lab.  For a woman who can read an autopsy scene  in a psycho killer book while happily eating her lunch, this is rather inexplicable. 

*  Too Much Information