Thursday, June 30, 2016

Fluffy, Fido and the 4th of July

Dogs and cats are not patriotic.  They do not celebrate anything with fireworks and loud noises.  Cats, in particular, do not welcome revelers into their homes.  And mark my words, it IS their home.  Owners are just allowed to live there as long as they cater to the cat. 

Some things I learned browsing online. 

The 5th of July is the busiest day of the year for Animal Control and shelters. 

Make sure your pet is wearing his/her tags and that the collar they're attached to is a bright color so as to be even more visible. 

Take  "just in case" photos - a head shot AND a full view of the entire animal.   Yes, most pets have beautiful faces, but to quickly identify an animal you need to see the entire body because markings are quite individual to every animal. 

Having a barbecue to celebrate?  Despite the adorableness of your pet (and dogs are particularly guilty of food begging) never give an animal beer, chocolate, onions, coffee, avocado - as in guacamole - grapes, raisins or salt. 

Put a sign on the door your guests will be using - WATCH FOR CAT - DON'T LET HIM/HER OUT.  CLOSE THE DOOR FIRMLY BEHIND YOU.  In fact, you might want to put your pet in lock down in a room with food, water, a litter box or spread out newspapers and close the door.  Put a sign on the door - Pet - Do Not Open

Seasonal costumes are very cute but think how it would feel to be put in an outfit after living naked the rest of the year and then all of the loud noises start.  You'd run, too.  And, you, too, might get caught up in an intricate costume and get hurt. 

If you already know your pet will have a heart attack at the noise, pop into the vet and get a mild tranquilizer with instructions on how and when to give it. 

As dogs and cats are the most sensitive to the commotion, they get star billing in this.  I have no  idea what gerbils, guinea pigs, goldfish or turtles think of the 4th of July.  You're their owner; you know them best. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

When Is a Hot Dog Not a Hot Dog?

When the Foodies get their hands on one.  Bon Appetit daringly takes on an American institution and, in my opinion, loses.   Granted, it must be hard to come up with something, month after month, that will dominate the shelter market, but ...  Do you believe  a hot dog in a bun dressed up as a:

Reuben Dog - Russian dressing + Swiss cheese slices + carmelized onions + sauerkraut + sweet relish 

Hawaiian Dog - paprika-honey-mustard* griddled Canadian bacon + pineapple-jalapeno relish*

Banh Mi - peanut satay sauce + pickled carrots + thinly-sliced red chili + cilantro + crushed peanuts

Ranch Dog - Ranch dressing + potato chips + creamy ranch slaw* + pickled hot peppers + chopped chives

Buffalo Dog - Blue cheese dressing + celery slaw + crumbled blue cheese + hot sauce

Elote Dog - mayonnaise + charred corn salsa* + raw tomatillo wedges + "Tajin Clasico" seasoning

* Recipes

PAPRIKA HONEY MUSTARD  Mix 1 1/2 tsp. sweet paprika into 1/2 cup honey mustard

Toss 3 cups thinly-sliced red and green cabbage, pepper and toss with Ranch dressing

1 small onion into 1/2 in. rings.  Slice 1/2 peeled pineapple into 1.2 in. thick planks.  Toss with vegetable oil and grill carefully (use a grill basket) Toss in 1/4 cup pickled jalapenos  OR buy a jar of Trader Joe's Corn Relish and add pickled jalapenos to suit. 

Grill two husked ears of corn, charring slightly.  Scrape kernels into a container, add 2 oz. crumbled queso fresco, 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion, 2 T olive oil and 1 tsp. lime zest

What do I want?  I want a bun, split and toasted then "buttered" with Colman's mustard.  Two Boar's Head all-beef hotdogs in casing nuked in the microwave and each put on a bun half.  When using casing (real) vs. not (and I'd rather not know, thank you) pierce them a couple of times with a fork.  They explode otherwise. 

Obviously am not a candidate for designer hot dogs, but you might be.  Bon appetite!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


"Ectomy" to remove" such as appendectomy. 

It does not mean that PETA swooped in here, grabbed our cats and took off.  Even PETA would have to give us a H/T for cat management and their subsequent health.  Despite the fact that they cannot speak and do not have opposing thumbs to hold a cell phone to call out for caviar, they are resolutely spoiled.  Of course, we are only a product of their conditioned-response training ... "I'll get you kibbles!  Fred, put that vase down!"

Richie had cataract surgery this morning and he is fine and dandy.  This is very much a non-invasive procedure and due to its nature, the surgeon and a full OR crew don't have to spend hours doing it while nervous family jitter and twitch around the surgical waiting room.  In fact, I went out for a cigarette twice and didn't miss anything. 

Richie went into Recovery muttering, "I felt them touching my face, but I thought it was part of getting ready and they said, 'We're done!' and here I am!" looking around with surprise.  (I think we can credit Versed and light sedation for that.)     

The "bandage" is new to me.  It's a see-through plastic bubble, Scotch-taped to the forehead and cheek bone with a side vent so it doesn't steam up.  In my first surgery I left with a huge white bandage that most closely resembled a load of whites ready to come out of the dryer. 

He followed typical out-patient behavior - euphoria at being in the recovery room; followed by "I'm hungry!" thus  Eat at Joe's (the John Wayne special) and now home, deep in peaceful sleep in his recliner, belly gently distended, breathing softly and sweetly.

He sees the surgeon tomorrow afternoon (regular post-op visit), but he's fine.  When the recovery room nurse said to him on bidding him goodbye, "See you in a couple of weeks for the other one!"  he said, "Yes!"

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Brexit from our Overseas Correspondents

I have Brexit reports from our various correspondents in Yorkshire, New Zealand, and an American coincidentally visiting London the day of the vote. 

Helen, in New Zealand - "Woohoo!  A vote for freedom, national identification and self determination, IMHO.  Well done that, nation!"

Anne in Yorkshire - "Yes... and now?  Well, it's early days. " Sheila from Shropshire"  and her husband voted "leave" and (I) will let you know what the personal affects are in due course.  It would appear that some of the EU member nations are envious of the UK's situation.  We wanted our sovereignty back and to be free of  the EU's petty rules and regulations and free of the 351m pounds in weekly donations to the EU coffers (some of which is refunded.)  This cash could be better spent for instance on our NHS service.  Sheila will no doubt let you know when events begin to affect us. 
Sheila in Israel - "If I was still in Shropshire, it would probably have an effect on me, but here in Israel we will have to wait and see.

It will only affect my passport which says European Union on it, but that is the same for all Brits.

I did not get to vote because I have been out of  the UK for over 15 years, but I think I would have voted "in"  Bit of "better the devil you know."

I think many of those who voted to leave did it because they resent being told what to do by unelected diplomats in Brussels, stupid things like not being able to eat their fish and chips in newspapers.

They also think that getting out will prevent illegals from coming in, which is also stupid because the Europeans came in legally and those coming in illegally will still come from Syria, Africa and Iraq.  Also, many Brits have moved to Spain,  France and other countries in Europe and they will feel it.

I also really believe that many truly believed it would not happen, but voted "leave" just to feel a bit rebellious.  Today, when they listen to the endless analysis by the media they will realize that it will affect a hell of a lot more than fish and chips. "

Maureen, an American in London - "I'm not sure you want my input.  I'm as ignorant as the British on the issue.  We just heard on the news that they are Googling "Brexit" after they voted and may be regretting their vote.  We don't hear anyone talking  about it here.  The only time we heard about the subject is to get "I'm In" stickers while walking across the Thames."


Saturday, June 25, 2016

New Fruit This Summer

It's new at the Hermosa Beach Farmers Market at any rate.  Cherry Plums are the name and they are quite tasty.

They look like cherries on steroids - same glossy skin, round plumpness, but bigger than your average cherry. One writer said "the size of a ping pong ball." They have a small pit and sometimes a short dainty stem like a cherry from when they were picked.

The first taste is cherry with a back (and dominating) taste of plum.  I think the plum flavor comes mainly from the skin myself.  The fruit's texture is that of a plum as well.

Applications for them are preserves, jam, wine, pies and served nekkid with cheeses. 

Buy a quarter pound and test them out.  They are a summer fruit and will still be being sold next week if it turns out that you like them.  

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Good Restaurants for Biggish Groups

Today (Thurs.) was the annual Thurs. Writers Summer Solstice Potluck Picnic.  Actually when we all got tired of the hassle of potluck picnics (this one can't eat that, that one can't touch this,) we shifted to lunch at a restaurant a few years ago. 

Today's lucky joint was the El Torito at 600 S. Sepulveda, Manhattan Beach.  We occupied the patio on the eastern side of the restaurant.  We had a good day - sunny, but not hot and better still the 15 of us had the whole patio to ourselves. 

Service was thoughtful - waiters brought more chairs without being bidden; orders were taken and delivered accurately and the food was hot!  Donna, on my left, had shrimp and mahi mahi fajitas on a platter so hot it sizzled and steam wafted off of it for a good five minutes.  And Donna was hungry!  And here's all of this food! 

We all sympathized (briefly);  as we tore into our own plates.  We weren't raised by wolves, but one does have an obligation to the chef to eat his creations while still warm.  I knew you'd agree!

All of the checks came to the right diner (and there were at least eight of them.)  Very professional.

I can only tell you our tab and if we hadn't had four Pacificos at $26.36, our tab would have only been $12.99 (bacon-wrapped shrimp) and $15.99 (shrimp Mazatlan) and would have been relatively inexpensive.

Other venues we have tried.  All had good food, reasonably priced.

The Fish Store, Pier just south of PCH, right hand side.  We had the patio, but we also had individual tables for four which made visiting difficult without leaving your table.. 

California Pizza Kitchen, inside, at long table in the main dining room.  It was so loud, no one could hear anything.  Both ends had only their next door neighbor with whom to chat.  Because it was busy, you took your life in your hands to get up and work the long line of diners.  We agreed - Patio next time.

Something Promising - Rosa's on PCH, Hermosa Beach, has a huge dining room and very few customers using it at lunch.  We could really hold forth there and Rosa's is a very pretty restaurant  - handpainted Mexican-themed original art work on the walls.  Slit your eyes and you could be in Mexico. 

Writers are canny and we can almost always find a suitable bolt hole.  If you've got a few, let us know!  We tip well!

If Only One Could Bitch-slap through a TV screen...UPDATE

Technology being what it is ... perhaps this is on the horizon?  Our 5 yr. old big screen came with not one but TWO remotes.  Apparently TVs are now so complicated that one just won't do - horrors!

What am I carrying on about?  Jeopardy contestants, that's who. 

Alex is a delight with a gentle, kind sense of humor, never putting a contestant down.  He's not the problem.  The contestant that nearly makes my hair spontaneously explode in flames are the women - and it's always women --  who have this extremely annoying speech tick. 

They drop the "ed" at the end of a word.  Example, "Alex, I'll wager four hundr-ED" - dropping the ED in tone.  It sounds snotty (and is) studied, artificial and phony as hell.  Clearly it drives me crazy.  Short trip, I know. 

There's one competing now and every night I root for her to lose and ignobly at that.  "Bet it all, bi ITCH! and loos-EH" 

The studied, dilletantish, languid, superior tone is enough to make me subscribe to a research fund for "real interaction with your TV."  I'll buy the first prototype that works!  Inventors - call me!

Hah!  She lost last night which is just as well.  Richie doesn't like it when the "Jeopardy" theme starts playing and I start growling like a Rottweiler. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Summer Camping! Family Fun!

Never mind Smokey the Bear;  keep an eye out for a park ranger.  They are incredibly helpful since their duties include searching for lost hikers (but don't call for their help if you're just tired of marching - they won't put up a helicopter for that) fight fires, arrest  poachers (both flora and fauna), conduct public health inspections, manage wild life and look out for fugitives.

Some counsel from them - if you get lost, stay right where you are (unless in the middle of a raging river) and spread out a shiny reflective aluminum blanket to make your presence known.  They fold up into an incredibly small packet that weighs only a few ounces.  Worst case, grab your girlfriend's make up mirror. 

Don't pose like you're falling off of a cliff.  The snap-happies very often do fall.   And then a helicopter will be sent.  Complete with body bags.

Keep your distance from the animals.  Yes, a pair of cuddly little baby bears are adorable, but they have a Mamma who will tear you limb from limb for messin' with them. 

Less threatening (and the rangers all report seeing them) are the nude Yoga practitioners, nude hikers (talk about "Wow!  How'd you get that?!") and outdoor sex.

They also must be rather patient people - some questions they've fielded -
"Is the Grand Canyon man-made?"
"What time do you feed the animals?"
"What time do you turn on the waterfalls?" 

H/T Readers Digest

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

In A Funny State

Not "in a funny state of being," but literally a funny state.

California:  listed as the 8th largest economy in the world.  Take that  India, Russia and Italy!

New Year's Eve to-dos -- Manhattan drops the ball in Times Square, Key West a red, high-heeled woman's shoe, but in Boise, Idaho, they drop a 16 ft. long Idaho potato made of steel and foam for the spec-taters.

Snotty Hawaii has their own personal time zone, thank you very much. 

Minnesota, "The Land of 10,000 Lakes" technically has more than 11,000 lakes.  Talk about slipshod accounting practices!

New Hampshire license plates read "Live Free or Die" and are made by prison inmates.

New Jersey - famous for horses and divorces (lowest rate in the country) and there are more horses per square mile than any other state including Kentucky.

Wyoming - there are only two sets of escalators in the entire state.  Both are in Casper and both are in banks.  Imagined conversation:  Department store owner to mall lessor- "Sam, I think we're ready to expand.  I'd like to add a second story ..."  Sam cuts in, "Nah, Bobby, you don't have to go and do that!  We've got 800 acres out back you can have!  Here in Wyoming we go back, we don't go up.  Don'chew know we only got two escalators in the whole State?  We don't need no more! "

Don't run for President from the state of Iowa.  Half of the Presidents who died in office came from there.  Harrison, Garfield, McKinley and Harding. 

H/T Readers Digest.

Monday, June 20, 2016

A Perfect Riposte made much of a New York Times headline that read "NY Times Laments Orlando Massacre Has "Spoiled Ramadan."

A comment that is near-perfect:  "Forty-nine of the 102 victims of Omar Mateens devout expression of faith remain unavailable for comment."

Sarcasm at its finest.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Fathers Day's Amble Toward Being a National Event

Fathers Day Timeline

1910 - Spokane, WA
Sonora Smart Dodd proposes it in honor of her own father who raised six children after his wife died.

1924 -  President Coolidge "supports the idea."

1926 - the National Fathers Day Committee meets in New York.

1956 - 30 full years later - the idea is recognized by a joint session of Congress

1966 - President Lyndon Johnson declares it an official national holiday.

1972 - President Nixon signs a law making the official holiday the third Sunday in June

Today it is estimated that Dear Old Dad's nearest and dearest will take him out for $3.1 billion worth of brunch, lunch or dinner.  A meal out is the first choice, followed by a big gap and clothing, gift cards and electronics.

I learned about the popularity of Dinner Out, Dad! the hard way.  Richie and I, Raffish and Tee were headed for the Sunday brunch at Ports O Call.  The lads were fretting.  "You know it's Fathers Day, don't you?" 

Waving an airy hand, I said, laughing, "Don't you know that the traditional Fathers Day gift is his kids call him collect?" (tee hee, girlishly)  "No worries!"

And we didn't.  We were squeezed into the bar with a table not big enough to hold four dinner plates.  Elbows around us were flying - Tee lost a drumstick I seem to remember...  The food was good as it always has been, but it got cold while you had to insinuate yourself through hordes of people waving plates.  The shrimp and crab serving bar had a crowd three deep around it. 

The dessert table looked like a ruined battle field.  Gobbets of icing clung to every surface. 

We passed on dessert and I had learned a very important lesson.  Dad fashions have changed.  Bon appetite, Dad.  Ports O Call - see you next Sunday.        

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Product Snobbery

I wanted to head this Ultimate Product Snobbery, but I knew that if I did, some new ridiculousness would present itself and the egg would harden on my cynical face.

After all, just the other weekend I ran into a couple who owned a $300 margarita maker.  No other purpose on earth other than to mix ingredients and chop ice for a margarita at the press of a button.  For someone working as a part-time caterer for Mexican-themed parties, meh, why not?

The refrigerator that photographs the contents every time it's opened and closed?  Probably useful for the extremely forgetful. 

But today, we do have a contender!  The Apollo Peak people have come up with a pair of wines for your cat.  Their thinking is that you and Fluffy would enjoy a calming glass of wine at the end of the day.  Toward this felicitous end-of-day  ritual, they've come up with Pinot Meow and Moscato, both brewed from organic catnip stewed in pure mountain water with an added effusion of organic beets (for the color.)  There is no alcohol involved. 

Apollo Peak is based in Denver with a few stores elsewhere, but you can order and pay $11.95 per 8-oz. bottle online.

Management says that while dry catnip will wire your cat up and risk its becoming a "'Nip Head" stewed catnip may have a soporific affect on the cat.  To avoid lawsuits down the road - "My cat won't drink this and you said ..." they helpfully point out that cats are finicky eaters.  Don't feel slighted dog owners - they are working on a formula for Fido, too

And somewhere ... some how ... someone is coming up with yet another bizarre bragging rights product for the product snobs among us.  Excuse me - one of the cats just pushed the button on the margarita maker.  Already graduating from wine ... sigh.  Where will this end?  Cat-aholics Anonymous?


Friday, June 17, 2016

Big Brother, 2016 Version

Today's last errand of the day was stopping by Redondo Tobacco for a carton of cigarettes (for me.)  I've been doing business with Sam and his brother "Grumpy" (nicknamed by us) since 2001 before debit cards came into being.  My Citi card has been mine since the '80s.  I mention all of this to explain why however alert Citi is, they skipped right over the part about "valued customer" since 2001.

I bore you with the above to explain what happened this afternoon.  I went in, Sam reached for the Winstons and we chatted as we always do.  He swiped my card, I reached for the carton and he said, "O hon, they're refusing your card!" and I screamed "WHAT?"

Seeing I was perturbed, listening to me hiss, "I pay that bill - in full - the day after I get it!" Sam said gently, calmingly, "Let me try it again ..." and it sailed through the swiper faster than me with a bucket of popcorn. 

Then, looking a little shame-faced, he said, "It was me -- flipping the card over, he pointed to the three-digit verification number and said, "I typed in a 1, not a 7..."

We laughed and I got back in the car.  Our house is maybe 10 minutes from Sam's place.  When I walked into the house and checked the answering machine, the message light was blinking.

"This is Citi Card Alert -  call us back re the card ending in XXXX, issued to Nina Murphy and use this reference case number - an 8 digit string."    So I did.  And it was Redondo Tobacco where I had been a mere 10 minutes ago!

I never did talk to a human voice, it was a robot call.  Maybe the human was off feeding the attack dogs?  Dunno, but damn!  Citi is on it like a spaghetti stain on white clothes. 

The News Blackout Continues...

"Brain Storm - the Race to Unlock the Mysteries of Parkinson's Disease," by Jon Palfreman   Scientific American   273 pages    $26

I had specific reasons for picking up this book when I saw it in the non-fiction section of the library.  I know two men who have it and my mother died as a result of it in June, 1993.  She had been diagnosed with it at age 81 and was 87 when the disease took it's final toll. 

Too late for her, but perhaps the book contained some gleaning that the two males weren't aware of or a treatment that they hadn't tried.

Palfreman has Parkinson's himself so the reader gets an insight into it that they might not if it were written by a scientist without that personal involvement.

He traces the history of the disease - once called "the shaking palsy" - various treatments, such as administration of the drug L-dopa (my mother was given that) and its efficacy versus a very tricky brain surgery to quell said trembling. 

Exercise is well proven to aid in walking and amazingly, a person who has difficulty walking can hop on a bicycle and pedal away!  Clearly, one never does forget how to ride a bike!   Riding  as the rear pedal-er on a tandem bike makes that rider really put effort into it, more than riding solo.  Tai chi is recommended, too, to improve balance.

Today's micro-everything has fostered the development of sensory bracelets that measure difficulty in various physical activities.  They are so specialized that a weaker limb can be compared to and contrasted with the stronger one.  Because the information is instantly sent to the doctor, this means fewer visits to the doctor for office testing and a better means of diagnosis, pinpointing troubled areas.

All in all, it's a fascinating read and certainly explains Parkinson's.  Those that have it refer to themselves as "parkies" at their support group meetings.  I like the idea that there are support groups.  It's often hard to explain something to another person who doesn't have what you have/had.  I see a certain comradery at Thurs. Writers with other writers who have broken a hip.   Am pleased to report we're all doing fine with just some minor glitches from time to time. 


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Moratorium on the News

Today is a self-imposed effort to ignore the news - two year old kidnapped by alligator, not "feared dead" but since an alligator immediately dives to the bottom of the body of water he's occupying, known dead.  Then there's all of the politicians bleating about guns, ISIS and Their Position On It All.  Lastly, I have no interest whatsoever in another's sex life.  Hook up with the sex of interest to you, go to the bedroom and shut the door.

Instead, let us enjoy this gray, overcast day with a good book.  I recommend Dead Presidents - An American Adventure into the Strange Deaths and Surprising Afterlives of Our Nation's Leaders by Brady Carlson.  W.W. Norton & Co.   324 pages   $26.96  

The U.S. presidents didn't have a federally-paid for doctor in attendance until Andrew Johnson's administration.  Before that, they all consulted with their personal physicians.  But military doctors could be summoned at any moment of the day and the government was already paying them so ...

Franklin Delano Roosevelt's doctors encouraged the public to believe that he was hale and hearty (visions of a fourth term) when in fact his blood pressure was dangerously high. 

Zachary Taylor had been resting comfortably (presumably) for 140 years when he was unceremoniously lifted from his grave so that samples of hair, nails, etc. could be taken.  An obsessed (fair to say) teacher of humanities at the University of Florida was convinced Taylor had died of arsenic poisoning.   To get permission for this graveyard upheaval, she tracked down and asked for permission from every living off-spring of Taylor's.  He hadn't died of arsenic poisoning, just cholera. 

Well, when a president dies in office, what should be done with the body, what kind of service - is there, in fact, a "standard" service? 

It turns out that the source book for presidential funerals is the Army Pamphlet 1-1:   State, Official and Special Military Funerals.  It is said to be extremely detailed -- such as there's a 3 mph speed limit for the cortege.  The military personnel lining the route are not to salute until the coffin is within six feet of the saluter.    

A new tidbit about Air Force 1 - several of the tables and chairs aboard are removable so as to provide space for a presidential coffin. 

The book while lighthearted is also educational.  Historians will probably enjoy it for the juxtaposition of a grin while learning something. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Clarification and Perspective

Assault guns are my target.  I don't care if you have a houseful of .38s, .22s or similar.  If you live out in the country (nearest neighbor is 10 miles away) then I advocate buying a rifle or a shotgun to defend yourself (or kill snakes.)   Kansas ... Clutter family?  Remember?

Some statistics of note:

in 2012 there were 58,344 federally-licensed gun dealers who sold 47,856 guns.

in 2015 there were 64,747 federally-licensed gun dealers versus (nationwide)
10,843 Starbucks (2013)
37,716 grocery stores (2014)
14,350 MacDonalds (2014
55,246 coffee shops (2016)


Monday, June 13, 2016

Short and Sweet

If a gun dealer sells an AK47 or other type assault weapon and the buyer goes on a shooting spree as we've seen all too often, then the gun dealer is prosecuted and tried for aiding and abetting first degree murder with suitable punishment.

Suck that one up, National Rifle Association.

If You See Something, SAY Something

We've heard this said and read the signs posted in the airports.  But it might also be helpful in this application:  have you noticed that after a horrendous attack by a deranged gunman, people - fellow office workers, distant relatives, acquaintances of the gunman (so far it's only men doing the shooting) come out of the woodwork telling how anti-social/bigoted/nasty, etc. he was?

It would be a great deal wiser for these people to quietly let authorities know that there is something wrong - very wrong - to see in the behaviors of the gunman.  And they know.  Believe me they know.  When the Thanksgiving dinner table conversation is dominated by a wing nut who wants to "take out" all of the (fill in object of hatred) that's a clue. Ya think?

Why isn't there some kind of mental test a wanna be gun buyer has to take?  A letter attesting to their mental soundness from a physician?  Because anyone can fake a  letter and anyone can buy their way out of an exam. 

But, conversely, why can't a gun dealer who has a customer, clad head to toe in cammies, ranting about Jews or "niggers" or whatever wanting to buy a AK47 at least be civic minded enough to delay the customer "with paperwork" or "waiting period" and call the police after they've left the store?  Answer - "It's all coin in the pocket, baby." 

Gun laws?  Please.  Chicago has what are said to be the toughest gun laws in the nation.  As of June 1st something like a thousand people had been killed with a gun since January, 2016.

I wish there was a way to make killing someone with a broom chic.  Maybe videos by hip hop or movie stars?

To cheer myself on a gray day with dismal thoughts of the futility of trying to stop mass killings, I Googled Christos, the artist, and went to look at his draped art exhibits.  The bridge in Paris, the umbrellas near Bakersfield and the corresponding city in Japan; his current project, a bridge on a lake in Italy.  Strangely soothing ... a familiar object becomes unfamiliar merely by wrapping it ... As a sort of non-harmful Valium, I recommend it.     

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Pickle-flavored Popcorn

We were buying wine at Trader Joe's yesterday and, of course. roaming the aisles to see what might be new that we'd like.  Among the undesirable items were - Popcorn In A Pickle which is, as you may have suspected, dill pickle-flavored popcorn.    I do like both - but together?  Alert Readers will remember that I came across dill pickle-flavored potato chips at Target and those make a certain amount of sense with a corned beef sandwich. 

I'd read good reviews on box wine and they did have it, but the only white was Chardonnay which I dislike rather.  A clerk was unloading and shelving some wine and I told him I was disappointed - no Riesling?  no Pinot Grigio?  No Rose?

"Ah, but we have rose in a can!" he crowed, and turned and pointed at a row of silver cans with a bright red label - Rose Wine, Oregon Grown, UNDERWOOD.  It's a product of the Union Wine Co. . The label says the wine notes are strawberry, watermelon and peach.

A brief chat with the checker was interesting because he held it up and said that he thought people bought it to drink on the beach - smaller and thinner than a beer can and unlikely to garner much, if any, police interest.

Got home, refrigerated it and after dinner decided to have "a glass of summer" for dessert.     It was by no means "summer."  I would have to compare it with a nuclear winter - nothing left alive.  Bitter, aluminum can-ny tasting ... much as I hate to throw away food (let alone wine) I had to give it to the garbage disposal.  Am surprised it didn't whip its blades around in death throes.  Good luck, Oregon, with that one.

Last Thanksgiving Trader Joe went nuts with the pumpkin-flavored this and that.  Since the pumpkin season is mercifully a short one, pumpkin products slowly disappeared from the shelves and coolers.

But my joy has been short lived.  Trader Joe seems to be running "The Last Mango in Paris."  There are 22 products on his shelves ranging from mango-flavored desserts to salad dressing to real mangoes.  I got a box of bite-sized mango bars - 1st cousins to lemon bars - from the freezer section and they are good.  The Orange Peach Mango juice might be good - with a healthy slug of rum.  But never with canned wine. Or pickle-flavored popcorn.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Two Countries Tackle the Five-Course Dinner

We will go first to France where the five-course dinner is served every night.  Since we are nominally in "summer," let's go to Provence and see how they do it, shall we?


Aperitif - mixed olives, prosciutto-wrapped melon (cantaloupe, honeydew), balsamic-marinated mushrooms  Baguette and butter

To drink - pastis, chilled rose, kir (white wine) or kir Royale (champagne)

Entrée - Salad Nicoise.  This is a real presentation dish.  It dresses the table and is good to eat.

Salad course -  leaves of romaine lettuce with the classic dressing - olive oil, vinegar, small splotch of mustard, shake of garlic powder, mixed with vigor.

Cheese course - choice of three - soft, hard, goat.

Dessert course - perhaps Key lime pie or macaroons or lemon bars - something light.

And in the American South....

"Horsies" of barbecued bologna,, peanuts in the shell, deviled eggs, Fritos and bean dip

To drink - Budweiser, Two Buck Chuck for the sophisticated, RC Cola, sweet Iced Tea

Entrée - fried chicken or squirrel, mashed potatoes, bacon gravy, creamed corn, collard greens, biscuits, butter and honey

Salad - potato salad, cottage cheese in lime Jell-0, fresh fruit in Jell-0 with whipped cream

Cheese - Velveeta, American slices, Laughing Cow cubes

Dessert - pecan pie, apple pie, yellow box cake with chocolate icing

With the exception of fried squirrel and collard greens, have eaten - at one time or another - all of the above. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

It Occured To Me ...

That today's politicians are like vehicular traffic in Times Square - everyone is honking their horn like mad, but traffic is at a standstill. 

Richie likes zucchinis sautéed in olive oil as the dinner vegetable.  Since zucchini has no taste that I've ever been able to ascertain, I sprinkled long slices of it with chili pepper flakes, sautéed it and finished it on the plate with a drizzle of honey.  Worked out quite well. 

Next time might sautee it in sesame oil and serve it with soy sauce for an Asian taste. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

June Gloom - Primary Cause of Physical & Mental Inertia

"Gray May" is the traditional lead-up to June Gloom so essentially Southern Californians get not one, but two! months of making intensive mental health efforts to stave off Terminal Boredom and Lethargy.

We were doing okay, about as usual ..frustrated, but not frenzied, but today is June 9th awready!  It doesn't help, Mother Nature, to tease us with emerging bits of sunshine anywhere from 12 to 4 p.m. 

Gloom also makes it look cold outside even if it's 72 degrees (and we should be so lucky.) 

We've missed personal windows for seeking sunshine ... Palm Springs is now too hot, ranging up to 113 the other day.  Cabo San Lucas, 2 short air hours away, is much more pleasant with temps roaming around the 80s.  But the streets and sidewalks are rough enough to kill my push chair (wheelchair for balance and seat for towels, sunscreen, paperbacks, etc.) and Versailles already gravely wounded it, pauvre chose.  The left front wheel broke and it was something of a fight to keep it from making nothing but left turns.  Happily not all that many frogs seem to recognize American swearing.     

The best we can do to cheer ourselves up a little is to go restaurant exploring.  Where haven't we been?  What looks good?  What do we feel like tonight?  Nothing seems too bad when perusing a menu over an adult beverage. 

Look out, liver, inbound!

Why yes, rationalization for indulgences is a great gift.  I recommend it. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A Passionate Plea - VOTE

These are today's primaries and the number of delegates at stake:

California - 475
New Jersey - 126
New Mexico - 34
Montana - 21
South Dakota - 20
North Dakota - 18

Don't sit at home and complain that your vote is pointless because this one or that one has a lock on this election.  They don't.  Our votes CAN make a difference. 

Honor our dead who made it possible TO vote in a free country.  Although what with Politically Correct at all costs it may not seem like it from time to time.

If you don't vote, you don't get to complain down the road.  But if you do vote, you will have the pleasure of rebutting a whiner with this sentence:  "Oh, you didn't vote?  Then shut the (expletive deleted) up!"

Wear your "I Voted" sticker with pride.  I look forward to getting mine.  

Later that same day ...
We voted around 10:30 a.m. and the polling place was doing a brisk business.  I was heartened to see such a good turnout and especially the surprise of several 20 to 35 year old males.  Granted they probably voted for Sanders, but they were voting.

The poll lady directed me to my voting booth (a double row of three back-to-back with each other)  by saying, "The Republicans are behind the Democrats" and I grinned and said sotto voce "Not for long" and she laughed out loud.

Seriously, I believe that this time there will be a very respectable voter turnout.   Which is, of course, long past due.    

Monday, June 6, 2016

Poutine - Putain - Putin

Poutine is a serving of French fries with cheese curds and brown gravy over them.

They are extremely popular in Canada where entire (small) restaurants have dedicated menus featuring all kinds poutine toppings.  And nothing else.  Food trucks, ditto. 

Poutine came in 10th in a list of Canadian Greatest Inventions, beating out the electron microscope, Black Berrys and paint rollers!  Beating out a paint roller is not exactly a stop the presses! moment; how often do we use them?

Ruffles sells a poutine-flavored potato chip in Canada. 

Where can we locals find versions of poutine?  In & Out Burger is said to have a "secret" menu and on it you will find "animal fries" which are French fries, cheese, grilled onions and their secret sauce.

The closest to featuring genuine Canadian poutine would be the Redondo Café, 1511 S PCH, Redondo Beach.  Their basic poutine is French fries, white cheese curds and gravy.  They list nine toppings ranging from mushrooms, bacon, Texas (with no bean chili) priced from $7.49 to $12.49.

Putain - French for "whore" but used to express a variety of emotions - example "Oh or Ah, putain!" can mean "bummer" or "oh, shit" or "Maaaan" (similar to "Duuude")  I can state with some authority that it is a very popular utility phrase used in France.  I seem to remember having availed myself of it in various situations there.

Putin - as in Vladimir Putin, of Russia.  In French printed media,  his name is routinely misspelled as "Poutine"   What Putin thinks of this is unknown to this writer.
Seen during poutine/ putain/ Putin research, an ad for a doormat that reads "The Neighbors Have Better Stuff."   $50.
Redondo Beach makes the national and international news:  Roger Clinton, bad boy half-brother of former President Bill Clinton, got busted on a DUI last night here and bail was set at $15,000.  As of 9 a.m. today, he was said to be still languishing in the RB lock-up.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

"Hop Saint II," She Said Drily

Our Spanish lesson ran long; the two dinner choices take a long time to cook so we went back to Hop Saint.  We remembered the grilled cornbread with flavored butter (and can't remember what it was) and the pork ribs fondly. 

I took my usual look at the menu before we left and their version of deviled eggs sounded intriguing:  thin slices of leek, pickled with beets which gave them a rosy color, three or four sprigs of chive and pulled pork.  This combination reminded me vaguely of breakfast bacon and eggs.

I wondered if the pulled pork was mixed in with the egg yolks or draped across the top or what?  So we ordered them with our drinks - Bobblehead Blonde ($6) for Richie and a glass of Fess Parker Riesling ($8) for me. 

Four halves arrived, resting atop a pile of designer lettuce and it was an artful presentation.  The (very dry) pulled pork was arranged like a cheapo bird nest - perhaps from a lazy bird? and the pork was then garnished with the leeks and chives.  They were very good, once I got over the extreme dryness of the pork.  Chewy comes to mind.  . 

A new item on the menu from our first visit is Pulled Pork Poutine ($12) which consisted of a small double handled iron skillet filled with a pile of crisp oven-roasted potato quarters with pulled pork with barbecue sauce poked in among the potato crevasses,  all resting on a bed of what they call "Beernaise" sauce which most closely resembled a white sauce made with beer instead of milk. 

Here again the pulled pork was very, very dry.  Barbecue sauce applied to it did soften it up - marginally.  It was as if the pork had been roasted, forked apart and then the thinnest possible strands put in a drying oven.  It was an interesting dish and my leftovers will be the side dish at dinner tonight. 

The place is still brain-numbingly loud; the crowd is still 30-something couples, often with small children.  Future visits will take place (if I have anything to do with it) at around 1:30 p.m.  The office workers furtively belting down a brew on their lunch hour will be gone and the tots safe at home, napping.   

Friday, June 3, 2016

Out of the Paris Sewers

H/T  to Arlette N., French professor extraordinaire

She sent her newsletter out and one of the articles highlighted the day the main boulevard (Champs-Elysee) was closed to motor traffic and the crowds turned out to walk it and take selfies.

I e'd back that today they'd be using rowboats (bateau a rames) and she replied that the last time she'd seen the Seine this flooded she was a little girl.  She remembered that the statue of the Zoave by the Pont l'Alba bridge had his feet wet!

Breaking - Richie turned on the 5 p.m. BBC and the water this time is up to his waist.

She also pointed out something I never would have thought of and that was:  the rats surging out of the sewers, fleeing the rising waters. 

If the National Rifle Assoc. could fly in hunters with .22 rifles they could be lining the banks.  With a pop-pop here and a pop-pop there - tallyho - let's shoot the rats! 

Homeowners, flushed with gratitude, might even offer the hunters glasses of wine to celebrate.  And a wonderful time would be had by all. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Three Disparate Things

1.  The Seine continues to flood.  It is predicted to overflow by as much as 16 ft., heights not seen since 1960.  The Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay notified employees that they will be closing early if not altogether today.  A Metro line that mainly takes tourists to the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame has been closed for fear of flooding.  The bateau mouches or sightseeing boats that routinely crowd the Seine are not running.  The water has risen enough that the boats might scrape their roofs on the bridge undersides. 

2.  Sometimes one runs across a line so good that you want to use it to death.  This is the one that did it for me - "Why don't I have any tattoos?  For the same reason you wouldn't put a bumper sticker on a Ferrari."  Is that great or what?

3.  Speaking of boats, Bon Appetit missed theirs.  In an article about grilling pizzas, they wrote that they are officially adding eggs to the list of Great Pizza Toppings!  O wow!  Bon Appetit says!

Except that the French have been adding an egg for at least the last 10 years, probably longer.  BA says to break the egg over the pizza dough, cover it with cheese or whatever and cook the pizza.  "By the time the crust is bubbling and brown, the whites will be cooked and the yolks still runny."

They do it differently in France.  The cooked pizza is brought to you with a raw egg in the half shell in the center of the pizza.  You dump the egg on the pizza and the heat cooks it.   I would never have known this if Michelle hadn't ordered a pizza at lunch in Versailles.  Also of note:  little packets of chili oil replaced red chili flakes there.

Bon Appetit's "Italian Breakfast Pizza" - Ricotta + cooked pancetta + eggs, cracked black pepper, parmesan, olive oil and flaky salt.  I think any truly Italian pizza eater would brain you with the pizza shovel if you dared order it.  But who am I not to say "Live dangerously!" 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Conspicuous Consumption in the Kitchen

These people exist, but I have only heard of them, never visited their lavishly-furnished abodes.

These people, despite not being able to boil water, take delight in such as:  an AGA ATC5 CRM stove - with five (5) ovens - $20,000   A Breville Barista Express $600  A Cuisinart 14 cup $200.

This month's edition of Bon Appetit will have them frantic to get their hands on -

An Asian konro barbecue grill.  It is made of unfired clay and looks like, say some, a terra cotta flower pot.  It is to be used outdoors only and the model pictured is top of the line - a Korin's Konro Grill with Net, Medium for $240 plus binchotan charcoal ($25) to use with it. and others prices range from $30 to $60.

Chef Kostow, of The Restaurant at Meadowland, Napa, goes in to raptures describing why it is a superior grill - "When a meat's fat and juices drip onto the binchotan, it creates a cloud of flavor that engulfs the food.  You don't get the flare-ups that you do with American charcoal which create bitter, burnt flavors."  Er, Chef that's called over-using the lighter fluid.

Binchotan charcoal is made from white oak and is said to burn very cleanly and very hot.  To start it going, the charcoal is put in a wire basket and held over a gas burner on your stove, then put in the konro.  Then you can use a hair dryer to get the heat the way you want it.  This all sounds a little suspicious to me - if it were truly state-of-the art it would have a self-ignition switch and a built-in fan.  Caveat emptor anyone?

An ad for a Samsung Family Hub refrigerator faces the grill news.  The interest line reads, "It  has built-in cameras (3) that take a photo every time the doors close, so you always know what you have and what you're missing."  This app is, of course! tied to your smartphone so that you can item shop on the way home. 

Samsung claims that the buyer can store 22 or 28 or even 30 bags of groceries in it!  If you are stocking 30 bag provisions, how many kids was it that you adopted? 

Additionally, the refrigerator will tell you when something has gone bad.  Does the app have a nose, too?  It does have speakers, a microphone (karaoke with your refrigerator?  That's desperate unless the wine cellar is just next door to the reeferand an internet connection.   To go online in search of immediate psychiatric help?   $6,000.  Still, cheaper than a $20,000 stove.

Out of curiosity, I went window shopping for much cheaper kitchen gadgets.  Williams-Sonoma has  "guacamole tools" and this set includes a pitter (curved spoon) and a masher (ordinary potato masher) for $15.    You see how improvisation can save you money?  Use whatcha got awready!

And kitchen snobs?  Maybe a cooking course so that you can use some of this stuff instead of just waving at it as you cruise through to the pool where the caterer has set up the barbecue?