Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Sure Bet on the Superbowl

Based on my nearly-professional understanding of football (this is by no means my first) I can confidently predict the outcome of tomorrow's game. 

Every living member of the viewing audience will be insensate with boredom by game's end with a never-changing loop of Viagra and Cialis commercials. 

Take it to the bank; Big Pharm will be. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

This One? Or That? Quit Waffling Around!

"Maximum Flavor" by Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot  Clarkson Potter/Publishing   255 pages   $32.50

We haven't been recipe diving for some time now...these both sound interesting and they're both variations on a theme.

Making this very simple - make your usual waffle mix, but add:
1 teas. ground ginger
1/4 teas. ground cloves
1/4 teas. ground cinnamon
1/4 teas. chili powder

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 half cups corn flour or fine cornmeal
2 teas. baking powder
1/2 teas. baking soda
1 teas. sea salt
2 T cane syrup
2 1/2 cups cultured buttermilk
1 cup whole milk

Mix all of the dry ingredients together and add the cane syrup, buttermilk and milk and whisk until you have a thin batter.  Make waffles and eat. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Selfie Sticks or The End of the Civilized World

My fellow Luddites, I don't want to alarm any of you unnecessarily but yesterday I saw a device that so alarmed me that I very nearly ran out of the store and into traffic. 

Richie and I had popped into our local Hallmark to get a get-well card for a dear friend.  Found the perfect card, paid for it and then Richie spotted what looked like a back scratcher lying near the register. 

He picked it up, but it wasn't a back scratcher.  Where the soothing little claws would normally be?  Instead there was a smallish rectangle or frame containing nothing at all.  Richie turned to the store owner with a quizzical look.

"Oh," she caroled, "That's a selfie stick!  We just got them in today.  You put your camera in the frame at the top -- the handle is adjustable for distance..." sliding the frame up and down.

My disbelief was considerable.  In fact, I couldn't utter a word for at least 30 seconds while my mind, in shock, turned over the implications, motivations and sheer stupidity of potential buyers.  Unless a woman wanted to avoid a trip to the ob/gyn, what possible use could be employed by it? 

I tell you my fellow Luddites, I felt a cold wind pass by me.  It was the forerunner of The End As We Know It of Civilized Life.  Prepare and act accordingly.  Before it's too late and we have all taken to the streets brandishing selfie sticks and clicking madly away at our own selves. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Four New Things in the Refrigerator

In no particular order -

Hormel Pepperoni Jalapenos - available at most supermarkets.  This is a good snack -six or eight slices with a stick of string cheese - crackers optional. 

Trader Joe's Tunisian (pickled) Lemon Slices.  For literally years, I've been seeing recipes for pickling lemon slices but, as usual, thought "That sounds interesting ..." and promptly done nothing other than have the thought.

If they sound appealing to you, pay a visit to for about 30 recipes that call for them.  I so far have opened the jar and eaten one.   Oddly enough the peels of the thin slices of whole lemon are tender; the pith tough.  Might want to run them through a mini-Cuisinart and then use them.

Trader Joe's Thai Green Curry simmer sauce..  This is one of those items that sounds good - coconut, lemongrass, serrano pickles and ginger puree - and yet somehow remains "bland."  I did simmer some shrimp in it and it turned "watery."  Or maybe the shrimp leaked.

Trader Joe's Sambal  Mutah  is billed as Indonesian salsa and the label urges the eater to use tortilla chips, or Fritos - whatever you can dip with..  Ingredients are peppers, lemongrass, garlic and shallots.  But the first thing you have to do on opening the jar is discount the half-inch of sun flower oil.  It is one oily mess!  And sunflower oil is really, really slippery.  I'll never buy more of it, that's for sure. 

A Great Big "Thank you!"

I want to thank two contributors to this site - Lynn, of Winnie Views, and "Mr. December 36" for their comments. 

Since only one person has commented, it's easily believable that I don't bother to check to see if I've HAD any!  Somehow, yesterday "Comments" caught my eye so I flicked  it on. 

I feel extremely bad that it's taken this long to acknowledge your participation and, in future, I will check.  My process is, I write it, post it, check for errors and that day's work is finished; no need to go back to it.   

Lynn's column   is very interesting - she and her dog Millie travel all over the US and parts of Mexico in a Winnebago, photographing and reporting back to us on the many beautiful spots to visit. 

If you have a column, Mr. December 36, let me know about it at racebookwriter@aol.  And any of the rest of you that have something to say, use that address as well. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Fred's New Hobby - Free Climb!

He likes to get near the art

Atop the refrigerator

Looking regal -- on a refrigerator

Monday, January 26, 2015

More About Peohe's

One of the reasons I love Ports O Call so much is the water view (even if it is only a channel into the port itself. 

Peohe's beats that hands down.  Sailboats, ferries, a buy-a-ride-on a-cigarette boat... and even more thrilling than that, a squadron of five WW2 type solo aircraft that flew over the bay three times in a row, all painted in metallic colors.  And we had absolutely beautiful weather!

Maui onion rings - a sweeter than usual batter on the rings which had been dredged in fresh coconut - $8.95 - but the plate was heaped with them.  Served with a chipotle catsup (house made)

Coconut shrimp appetizer - $13.95
Pacific Fire Shrimp  appetizer- $12.95
Cup of (very good) Lobster Bisque - $6.95
Prime rib sandwich - $14.95 which came with shoestring fries and two sauces. 
Banana ice cream dish - $6.95
House made Key Lime Pie - $7.95 (and it would have served four easily)

One Stone India Pale Ale - $6.25  Richie
Two splits Krug Brut @ $7.50 each  the Champagne Ho

Total w/tax - $101.41 with a $20 tip.   

Already dreaming about going back ...

The Best Restaurant on Coronado Island

That would be Peohe's, 1201 First Street, Coronado CA  619 - 437-4474

We went there for lunch Saturday prior to the dojo grand opening.  I have pictures (for once) to illustrate what I'm talking about.

Richie's shaved roast beef sandwich

All of that is MY  lunch - Firecracker shrimp, coconut shrimp

What could be lovelier?  Maui onion rings in the sunshine

Richie's banana dessert with chocolate syrup

Key Lime Pie - one needs something "light" for dessert

The view from our table; San Diego skyline in the background.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

What We Saw at the Dojo

Sensei Rafael Gutierrez
When this kid punches, there is a whistling sound - he's that fast.

This is a "little girl."  one that I myself wouldn't mess with.  At all.  Despite being twice her size...

The dojo and the ballet studio share days and times..  These little girls did a sort of Skaters Waltz.

Dojo front with students

Saturday, January 24, 2015

What Do You Wear to the Grand Opening of a Dojo?

A dojo being a karate studio. 

Putting on a karate outfit - the white pants, white coat-like top and going barefoot would be presumptuous in the extreme - neither Richie nor I know a lick of karate ...  I have described karate as "all that jumping around" which made the 3rd dan, black belt I was talking to laugh.  A lot. 

And what if someone, seeing our garb, challenged us to some kind of demonstration?  Not a good place to be. 

Happily, it's going to be 76 degrees or so which means pants and a top would be comfortable.  I can state with authority that no one in Southern California ever "dresses up."  I have seen white t-shirts and black pants on males at funerals!  But for the occasion of a funeral, pants were belted at the real waistline and not sited just below the curve of the buttock.  Not up close and personal, mind you, but while driving past Pacific Crest cemetery off of Inglewood.  One corner of their grounds seems to be The Designated Final Resting Place of gang members.   

Where was I?  So -- dress pants (as opposed to sweat bottoms) and a civilized-looking top.  Black driving loafers.  I'm set.  We shall have to see what Richie decides to wear.  "Raffish" brought him a "Happy coat" from Okinawa after his last visit there which is "Japanes-y" enough to be appropriate ... a sort of Salute to Okinawa! 

Report and pictures tomorrow!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Still In Lockdown

Richie is reading Bob Brodsky's most recent book and had a question for him.  He wanted to know if Bob and his wife (and coauthor) had ridden an elephant while they were visiting India? 

Bob wrote suavely back, "We were offered the opportunity, but declined. (We'd already been on a camel.)"  And just how debonair is that?

He went on to complain that they are still in lockdown.  "It is tedious - food is at best lukewarm by the time it gets delivered." 

He closes this bulletin with a rather plaintive plea -- "Is there room in Redondo for  us to return?"

Make the poor guy happy - buy a copy of his newest book.  Your check will have time to clear - God knows they aren't going anywhere at the moment. 

Pat and Bob TRIP the Light Fantastic - Annals from World-Wide Travel   216 pages   Contact: for particulars.

Countries covered:  North and South America, Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Russia and Asia   

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Quarentine News and Other News

I took the liberty of giving poor Pat and Bob succor with the knowledge that help is now knowledgeable about their dire situation and forming committees to save them and all of the other residents, too.

Bob wrote to us, in gratitude, saying "Thank God someone is coming to our rescue.  The quarantine goes on and on.  It seems that every day one of the residents/staff gets the flu.  Pat is pacing about like a cat on a hot tin roof."  

And I think we all say "Courage! Bob and Pat!"

Today's Daily Breeze led the Letters section with Richie's comments regarding congestion at the port.

Dear Sirs:

Has anyone heard of the phrase "killing the Golden Goose"?  Both sides need to reach a quick resolve of this problem - like yesterday.

Sincerely, Richie Murphy, Redondo Beach


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Developing Situation? Or Not?

When I was told this, I didn't believe it.  But then I got to thinking about what is entailed and ... it is believable.  What's believable you want to know?

Our friends Bob and Pat now live in a senior housing center in Claremont, CA. They have a lovely one-bedroom cottage and life was good.

But:  came the 'flu and their cottage became their prison.  The entire facility is in quarantine, Bob wrote us, and all meals are delivered to their front door.  The dining room is empty, chairs upended on the tables. 

More ominously he added, referring to the quarantine, "and no end in sight." 

This is not a good thing.  Older people need mental stimulation and locked in your house with a mate you've been with for the past 63 years is not going to yield any new information/insights to either one of you. 

I say we drive out there and LIBERATE THE CLAREMONT 650! 

We may have to repeat ourselves as to who we are and what we want them freed from and especially so to those who dwell in the Precious Garden of Forgotten Memories (just south of the main building.)  Once it's all clear in their minds, I think they can easily be led to freedom. 

If we can pull off this bloodless coup, then we are that much nearer to world domination.  And given the general state of the world today, we are needed. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Market Tips

Right now I'm investing in over-the-counter cold remedies.  Went to Switzerland for shares in Ricola cough drops; Kroger  because they make and distribute Non-Drowsy Tussin DM Cough Formula and, of course, I have widened my holdings in Kleenex to a great extent.

When this miserable cold has finished having its way with me, will advise when to sell.    Here's to major profits to us all!

Friday, January 16, 2015

I Wonder If Miss Manners Knows About This?

Miss Manners is the pen name of a longtime etiquette expert Judith Martin.  In an effort to augment the good manners taught me by my parents, I have read her many books with a great deal of interest.  So I speak as someone who is reasonably knowledgeable about manners.  Which is not to say that my personal conduct is impeccable.  Doctors will say, "Don't do as I do; do what I tell you to do."

Recently a friend's mate died.  Naturally we sent a condolence card.  Note:  ever since I got old myself (and how the hell did that happen?) I have kept a stock of condolence cards because most of our friends are reaching A Certain Age.  We duly sent one.

Some time later, we received this card in the mail.  Cover:  With Special Thanks"  (inside) "Your kind expression of sympathy will always be remembered."  and signed "the XYZ family."

This is the kind of Victorian recognition that grew on me.  It is a stately minuet of manners and at a time when condolence cards are probably being sent online (the horror) is very welcome. 

But so far, Miss Manners hasn't mentioned it.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The GREAT BIG Book of the Roosevelts

"The Roosevelts - An Intimate History" by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns   Alfred A. Knopf   502 pages   $60 ($60)

This truly is what publishers call a coffee table book.  Attach legs to it and you could use it as a coffee table, albeit it would only hold one drink and a small can of peanuts.  It is 11 in. by 9 and weighs between 2.5 and 3 lbs.  Our scales are a little iffy. 

The three stars of this tome are Teddy, Eleanor and FDR himself.  Bit players include the family's Designated Brat, Alice.  Happily she only occupies one chapter - she got plenty of attention in life, why drag it out all of these years later?

The book is lavishly illustrated and the many pictures give a real portrait of the times in which they were shot.

The one thing I'd not realized before heaving this book up into my lap was the depth of FDR's involvement with the small town now named Warm Springs, GA.  It was once called Buchanan, but with the spreading of the news of the 88 degrees all-year-round springs and the arrival of sickly tourists, it was decided to give it a spiffier name.

FDR first stayed at the "ramshackle" Meriweather Inn in 1924 and by 1927 he liked it there so much that he bought it and renamed it Georgia Hall.  It was about to fall down, so it was rebuilt.  H had a separate cottage named the Little White House for himself.  In April 1945, he died there.

Another local hotel, the Hotel Warm Springs B & B Inn was built in 1907 and some of the antique furnishings today  are furniture from Eleanor's Val-Kill furniture factory.  It has hosted such diverse luminaries as the King and Queen of Spain, the Queen of Mexico and Bette Davis. 

Warm Springs was popular with all sorts of people for "the cure" of the waters.  It was particularly popular with polio victims and the funding to help them evolved into the March of Dimes.  Franklin loved being there for the freedom to drive his handicapped car while there - to events, out for an ice cream  and picnics with his paramour. 

O/T  In 2003 a panel of medical experts ventured that FDR had had Guilliame-Barr, not polio at all. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Fred (the cat) Is Not a Deadbeat Dad

We went to the pet food/items store on a Saturday, both of us having forgotten that Saturdays are Cat Adoption days.  On the way to the cash register, Richie spied a long line of tiered cages with felines of every description.
Excitedly, he waved me forward to show me something.  I had been lagging behind, studying a display of cat clothing and letting my mind wander through such thoughts as, "Who on earth would dress up their cat?  "And to what purpose?"  Swiftly followed by "Manufacturers make a living selling belly-close cat outfits?"
Knowing full well that all three of our cats would rip them off - and then eat them - I went to Richie.  He was in line to pay and  pointed at the second cage from the front.  I glanced over and saw a tuxedo kitten, busily playing with something in his cage.  I smiled at it.  Richie took the paid-for food and we went to the car.
But ... since what we assumed to be Fred's mother lives on the next block over, and since Fred didn't get spayed until he was seven months old, the thought nagged at me that this could be one of his offspring.
The following Saturday I insisted that we go back to the pet store and, if the kitten was still there, inquire about where  it had been found.  If it was north Redondo, we had a responsibility here...
This time there were TWO tuxedo cats waiting for homes.  I'd brought pictures of Fred to show the shelter ladies who run this event.  Gravely, they regarded them while I explained why I wanted to know what I did.  Gravely they looked at each other and then at the photos.  They also took another  good look at me and edged that much closer to the store doors. 
Meanwhile, I stepped up to the cages and took a look at what might or (please, God) not be Fred's offspring. 
I asked where they'd been found and one of them said, "Oh, Bitsy brought them in from downtown LA. she brings us lots of cats from there."  "Not Redondo Beach?" wanting to be sure.  "No!" they said in unison. 
So I had a good look at the kittens and saw that though they were tuxedo cats, they didn't have the same marked nose point that Fred does.  His facial markings are masklike, similar to a raccoon.  The sharply defined point makes his face resemble a fox's. 
I've privately decided no more trips to the pet store on a Saturday.  If Fred sired a family, they're on their own.  Just like he was. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Our Paris Correspondent Notes

From our Man in Paris, Fabien --

"Nothing special today in Paris, but Sunday was a big day in France, an historical day.  Things look to become calm."

You can see his 3D art at        or  

Monday, January 12, 2015

Er, Not Exactly

"Anais Nin, Anne Frank and Sylvia Plath wrote the world's mot famous diaries.  And where are they today?  Dead.  But the world's other great diarest Joan Rivers is alive and kicking.  And complaining." 

From the frontispiece of  "Diary of A Mad Diva" by Joan Rivers   Berkeley Books   290 pages   $26.95

In her last days, Rivers was a great deal funnier than she was in the first (or 15th) flush of youth.  The posse I ran with used to go across Beverly Drive from our clubhouse "Maison Gerard" (bar/restaurant) to the Little Club where Rivers liked to try out new material.  None of us were too impressed -- scratchy voice, begging tones - "Kin we tawk?" over and over.. Eventually she moved on and ... so did we.

But "Diva" is rich with a funny line on very nearly every page.  Some samples -

(from a list of things she loves about Israel)..."voice mail was invented in Israel.  It said, "Leave a message.  Or don't.  I'm only your mother.  I'll be dead by Tuesday anyway."

She went to buy a copy of the book "Fifty Shades of Grey" which in Hebrew is "Thirty-Three Shades of Grey" - "We always get a third off" she explains.

She wrote that she didn't go backstage at a Diana Ross concert because "the thought of  saying  "Miss Ross"  to anyone but  Michael Jackson -- too depressing.

She wrote of her sadness at the news that Charles Manson was getting married.  Despite the fact that she's a Jew and Manson thinks he is Jesus; he's still the right age for her.

She complained to her daughter, Melissa, that she was having a bad hair day and that Melissa ran to a lawyer's office to get a Do Not Resuscitate  order. 

Rivers is so irreverent that she makes me laugh out loud - page after page.  Usually a short-chaptered book like this is perfect for bathroom use.  You can pick up and not have missed anything.  

This book was so intriguing that I read it cover-to-cover during a long afternoon.  Now I' sorry it's gone... just like she is.     

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Fireplace Nostalgia...

A friend and former schoolmate of mine lives in Kansas City from whence we both sprang.  It was churlish of me, admittedly, to whinge about our weather - for the record it was cold, overcast and rainy - when hers is so much worse. 

She mentioned that they had a fireplace and used it which prompted the question from me "Do they really provide heat or just a mellow beauty?"  And she replied as follows - please meet our Guest Editor Carolyn Green!

My memories of when I lived on 69th Street, we had a huge fireplace in the living room and we spent the weekends with a BIG fire in the winter ... popcorn and TV (or games before that.)  It kept the room toasty and I never remember anyone saying it bothered the original forced-air furnace.  We had a new furnace put in when I was still in grade school ... and still used the fireplace, too.

When I was married and lived in Raytown we built a HUGE stone fireplace that we used.  It had a BIG entrance so we could cook in it or just sit and enjoy it ... the only time it was really necessary was one year when we had a hard freeze and all the electrical lines were down and out.  We ate hot dogs and chili, etc., whatever we could fix by putting it over the fire - hung it on the latch that opened or closed the flue...

The one we built in this house we had a glass-enclosed fireplace that sits out between our hearth room and great room.  This one has an electric switch to turn it on ... it is beautiful and my favorite time to turn it on is when I'm chilled, have a cold coming on or just like the ambiance ... it is warm and if I lean against the glass I can get warmed up fast!  ha...

I'd say the majority of people don't really know how to use fireplaces ... unless they grew up with them.  Years ago at my in-laws farm in Southern Missouri they used wood in their in-house fireplace.  It was a big metal round thing that vented up and out the chimney in the ceiling.  They fed it chopped wood ... it smelled great  - at least at the time, I thought it did ... can't imagine how hard it was to clean and paint walls, etc. in that house, but they did  redecorate often ...

That's my fireplace history ... I love the memories ... and I enjoy the fireplace.  I'm not as in love with taking the glass out and washing it inside and out and putting it back in ... but that's because I'm older and not as agile ... good thing I'm used to it!  We've been in this house 21 years in April.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Day Late and a Dollar Short

That would be the Daily Breeze.  Page 2, A section contains a plea for "Mittens for Koalas." 

Brush fires in South Australia have injured a number of these particularly photogenic animals.  Four teams of Australian and international organization wildlife rescue charities have joined up to provide for the koalas.

Curious about how the hell you'd make a mitten for a koala bear paw, I turned to my friend, Google.  The blueprint showed   a thumb-less  mitten that looked to be eight inches long, by 6 inches wide.  Easy-peasy to make, but now the rescue organizations are backing off, "Thank you, thank you, but we now have enough mittens!"  or possibly, "Good show, mate, but we've got enough."

If we'd only known about the request sooner ... How cool would your resume look with "Koala Bear Mitten Knitter"?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Our Correspondent in Paris

Fabien writes on February 9th at 17:05 GMT + 1:

I've seen nothing of the attack.

The first attack was 800 meters from my office, but I didn't hear any shots.

In the evening, everyone was on Place de la Republic, in Paris.  I went to the manifestation with lots of (other) people, just 5 minutes away.

Everyone looks to be afraid over here and wants to battle for a good cause.

As of now, all of the terrorists have been  killed.  Are we safe?  Probably not!

I'll send news from the front.

Kiss, Fab

He illustrated this bulletin with a color shot of a much younger Sylvester Stallone in "Rambo" garb holding a gun. 

Standing By

For a first-hand report from our correspondent in Paris, Fabien. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

"Je Suis Charlie"

This event came a little closer to home than many others and the reason is this:  Our godson Fabien (Fah-be-en, not "Fay-be-en) is a video producer for an advertising/promotional company in Paris. As a kid of 10, he was already a gifted and somewhat sardonic cartoonist.  With a certain taste for danger. 

His parents sent him over to us when he was 20 (he'll be 34 in February) to improve his usage of the English language.  I can say now that it was a bad idea in that when he got stuck, I'd step in and translate into French for him.  And I am very lenient with our godson as he is thoroughly charming. 

And I remembered ... one day the police helicopters were circling over a high school not far from us.  Fabien grabbed his camera and started for the front door. 

"Where do you think you're going?" I asked, knowing full well because I'm a former photojournalist.

"To see what's going on!" he said impatiently.  The fever of discovery was upon him.

"Fabien, when the police helicopters are up in this country, we stay in our houses.  You aren't going anywhere."

He didn't pout long because shortly afterward, the helicopters flew away.  But I did get a slit-eyed look from him. 

So given all of the above, we were concerned. 

Granted he is living in a small village in Bretagne, but he comes into Paris once a week to work in his office; otherwise he works from home.  I e'd his mother and him yesterday; this morning I got this message from her.

"He's okay.  He was working at his desk one block away from "Charlie's" and went out for lunch at 12.  I sent him a message at 12:30 because I was worried and it took him one hour to answer."

This was written above the cartoon he'd sent her - a totally black background with 'JE SUIS CHARLIE" in bright yellow over a side view of a machine gun barrel with a yellow #2 pencil jammed in the muzzle.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Why We HAVE To Be Nice To Our Young

They are fluent in smart phones, tablets, pads and computers.  And people like Richie and me are not. 

A computer to me has always been a sort of combined typewriter and filing cabinet because I'm a writer.  All else is more or less unnecessary.  And a computer is not a cell phone nor vice versa.  Unfortunately, in today's world they are and I am married to a gadget freak.

Ergo, we attended Smart Phone School last night.  It was a small class of nine or 10 "older" students co-taught by a couple of youngsters who couldn't have been drinking age yet.  But they knew their onions, let me tell you. 

Both were very friendly and very willing to steer the students through the shoals and rocks of mainstream means of communication. 

The battery in ours had worn down, probably because it wasn't fully off since we bought it which was the end of December.  We didn't know it either.  So we started class with 20 per cent battery power which diminished to 10 in no time.  The female instructor quickly plugged it into a socket and waited, but while it came back to 18 per cent ... it took another six hours to be 100%. 

Richie has already been playing with Siri, the GPS lady.  I have struggled twice, half an hour at a time, to put our router password into it.  The problem for me is that the keyboard is so very tiny.  I don't have particularly fat fingers (I don't think) but time after time I get the wrong letter or number.  It is maddening.  

And a pencil eraser used as a stylus doesn't work at all.  

Disheartened (to say the least) I turned to the iTablet that was part of the smart phone deal.  I can't even find where you turn it on.  I pushed them all so perhaps it needs a "simcard" which the salesman said he'd put in, but since I can't turn it on ... who knows?  Clearly we're going to have to go the iTablet school, too.  And us at our ages going to school! 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

When the Title Sells A Book

"The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon" by Alexander McCall Smith   Pantheon Books   242   $24.95

This is the 14th book in "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency: series by Smith.  As with the others, it is set Botswana and it features Mma Precious Ramotswe, the detective, her assistant, Mma Grace Makutsi and Precious' husband Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni, who owns the Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors garage. 

"Mma" (women) and "Rra" (male) are the equivalent of our "Ma'am" and "Sir."  Botswana seems to be a very formal place.  Mma only addresses her husband as Rra J.L.B. Matekoni. 

The book flies off into believable fantasy from time to time -- such as Mma Ramotswe's belief that a tangle of old telephone wires in a neighbor's back yard still have faint echoes of previous conversations spoken down them. 

Throughout Smith's writing in this series, there is a sense of gentle wonder at the countryside around the characters as well as a deep love for their part of Africa. 

Tact is wonderfully illustrated by the phrase "a traditionally-built woman" (fat.)   Merchants  choose expressive names for their businesses -- Mother and Baby could hardly be clearer; an electronics store named "Loud Sounds" ... the Double Comfort furniture store.  And, of course, the Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon.   

Monday, January 5, 2015

Practical Wine Gifting

My nephew, Steve, is a professional sommelier and for the past three Christmases he has gifted us with a bottle of personally-chosen wine.  The first one surprised me because it was so well-packed in a sort of paper mache "coffin" inside a regular shoe-box shaped box.  "Kudos to!" I thought.  The next two arrived as unassumingly as the first. is onto something.

Come to find out from their site that if you buy the $49/year StewardShip program, there is no mailing fee - free shipping! -- and better still, you don't have to jury rig some kind of packaging to ship it onward.  Free shipping - long may there be such a thing!

"Never mind all of that," you say, "What was this year's wine?"  It was (note past tense) a Nino Franco Rustica Prosecco, variously described as ...

..."elegant, fresh, lively fruit, notes of BREAD DOUGH and citrus ..."

." touches of greengage and white peach ..."

..."golden color and peach nectar finish ..."

And it was delicious!  Our Boxing Day guests commented very favorably on it.  Steve's good health was toasted with enthusiasm.

Since all of the above (except the bread dough) would describe my beloved Amour de Paris peach champagne ($5/bottle Trader Joe) I think Dear Nevvie was trying to suggest tactfully that I upgrade a tad.  Hey, Steve!  Keep trying!  You know how stubborn I can be!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

If This Is "The Next Big Thing" Then Science Has Gone Too Far

Silicon Valley firm Hampton Creek is soaking up $30 million in R & D funding to develop the first totally plant-based egg.  When is an egg not an egg?  When it is constructed out of such as Canadian yellow peas and any number of other vegetables.

Company founder Josh Ettrick - notice his first name?  Yes, well... I think he is joshing because he wants to duplicate all of the qualities of an egg from plants.

It is believed that "Just Scramble" won't be available for a number of months to come.  The article writer, Emily Kaiser Thelin, was given the chance to make an omelet in the firm's test kitchens and reports that on a scale of 1 to 10, she'd probably give it a 7 or 8.  One of the chefs involved in the product coolly said that it was probably only a 5 out of 10.  "Ours will be a better egg," he said.

Perhaps so, but I doubt if they'll be on my plate.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Letting Food & Wine Burn My Fingers

Site motto:  I read this stuff so you won't have to wade through it all. 

The cover intrigued me as it's a photo of a stack of grilled sandwiches on a plate.  The caption states that they are Grilled Cheese with pecans and pepper jelly by Chef Vivian Howard.

This vision made me want one because I'm a fool for grilled sandwiches.  I had to make do with no pecans (no loss) and to substitute Jalapeno-Cranberry sauce for the pepper jelly.  Why, yes, I did use Velveeta for the cheese.  How else can you  make a grilled cheese sandwich anyhow?

Yes, it was good.  And I'm now thinking grilled cheese with sauerkraut and a dill pickle ... Velveeta has a sweet taste.

Another and much more fanciful entry in the grilling sweepstakes was Grilled Chocolate Sandwiches with Caramel Sauce.  To spiff it up, the editors include directions for making a chocolate ganache and the caramel sauce which calls for something called "heavy cream" which I haven't seen personally since 1946. 

These easier thing to do is to grill both sides of two slices of which bread and "butter" each slice with a heavy chocolate syrup and garnish them with swizzles of caramel from a jar of caramel sauce, findable next to where the supermarket keeps the ice cream.

Bon Appetit!  Oops, wrong magazine.  My bad (giggle.)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Random Thoughts

In no particular order...

The annual Rose Bowl Parade is a gigantic waste of time and money; tradition be damned.  It's a lovely example of corporate narcissism is all it is.  I would much prefer to see the corporate suits walking down the middle of the street, each holding up a mock check with the amount their firm gave to charity rather than on a float that will last two days, if that.

We all know this will never fly.

But here's something we might could change and that is the annual national embarrassment of Kathy Griffith and Anderson Cooper as announcers/emcees for the famed ball drop in Times Square, New York.

They are fatuous beyond belief.  This year's gig about Cooper's hair?  NO ONE CARES.  Griffith's insistence on exposing Cooper's sexual preferences is totally obnoxious, but he's such a pussy he just stands there and grins because after all, it is attention.

Banish them by using social media -- get out there and hash tag and twitter to your heart's content.  #GoHomeKathy would be a good start...

A side bar to the Rose Bowl Parade - the firm that did the opening and closing ceremonies is right here in Redondo Beach.  Assuming the trickle down theory, the beach cities may score a dollar or two out of this debacle and, trust me, I'm embarrassed.

This is a personal superstition and it's this - if you are a writer or painter or singer -- whatever talent it is that you cherish, make a point of doing some of it today.  Just write a paragraph or scribble a quick cartoon or give it your all in the shower (good acoustics.)  This will insure (in my mind only) that you will retain that skill all the rest of the year.

Off now to organize my shiny new 2015 calendar (Monet paintings this time.)  This is an annual tradition and one I love because it reinforces my mistaken belief that I have any kind of control over the new year. 

By coincidence, this column has 365 words.  You talkin' to me, God?