Monday, July 31, 2017

Surely This is Faux News... today ran this story and I'm calling bullshit on it.  My description follows, not a reprint of the article. 

The French government set up a rehabilitation center to de-radicalize terrorists.  It was believed that many terrorists would rather not blow themselves into a mist of blood and bone shards and that these poor creatures would be open to rehabilitation.   I will pause for you to quit laughing and have a throat-soothing splash of water.  This center was the first of 11 more to cost $47 million.

The first class numbered nine people.  All of them decamped.  The facility closed in February, but the article didn't say when it had opened which is fairly sloppy journalism. 

Having failed at interesting free range terrorists, so to speak, the French government is now considering a program to "treat" the terrorists who are currently incarcerated. 

Since almost anything outside of the cell is interesting to the average prisoner, great success in this program is expected. 

This absolutely HAS to be "false news" - or since we are dealing with the frogs, "faux nouvelles." 
No one could possibly be so stupidly misguided as to propose a program to turn terrorists into good citizens and nice people.   

Sunday, July 30, 2017


A new cookbook caught my eye at the library yesterday.  The Pat Conroy Cookbook - Recipes and Stories of My Life by Pat Conroy"  283 pages   $  unknown.  Hidden in the bar code.

Conroy is the author of "Beach Music," The Prince of Tides" and others.  Knowing that he wrote about the Low Country (Beaufort, SC) and that it is largely a seafood-based cuisine, I checked it out.

The recipes are accompanied by vignettes of old friends, local anecdotes ... not only interesting, but often funny as hell, due largely to the use of Southern colloquiums.  "Pitiful"  "Sorry"  used in unexpected places.

Never having heard of pickled shrimp, I flipped quickly to that recipe which you'll find in Chapter 15 "Why Dying Down South Is More Fun."  Conroy remarked in the very first paragraph, "In the South, you often eat as well after the burial of a family member or friend as you do on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas."  Traditionally, the mourners go from graveyard to the table at the home of the deceased.  Funeral guests will have brought their specialties and guests will be clamoring for them. 

Conroy writes that he has a go-to dish for funerals and it is pickled shrimp.  He writes, "When a good friend dies, I take two pounds of the shrimp for the mourners.  When a great friend dies, I go to five pounds.  When I die, I fully expect all the shrimp in Beaufort to be pickled that day."

Sadly, when I went to look him up - accomplishments, number of wives, children, I was shocked and then saddened to read that he had died, age 70, in 2016 of pancreatic cancer.   He wrote the book in 2004 and presumably this is a re-issue to take advantage of his death for his heirs. 

Here's a pickled shrimp for you, Mr. Conroy; I missed the funeral.

2 lbs. shrimp, cleaned and vein removed.  Set aside while you mix up:
1 cup thinly-sliced yellow onion
4 crushed bay leaves
1 2-oz. bottle of capers, drained and chopped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teas. minced garlic
1 teas. celery seeds
1 teas. red pepper flakes.

Boil the shrimp until they're pink, drain them, put them in with the sauce, marinate the dish over night, and serve the next day.

Friday, July 28, 2017

New For the Tastebuds

Hop Saint, (previously reviewed) on 190th Street, Torrance, has two items that were new to us. 

When asked by our server if we would like a drink to kick off the meal, we, of course, said "Yes."  (For the record, we have never said, "No.") 

I had studied their beer menu at home and knew that I wanted an OB Blonde Kenobi which is described as being a mead-beer hybrid with  "an insane amount of orange blossom honey and 13 pounds of hand-harvested fresh orange blossoms."  The menu added that it was 7.6 per cent alcohol and a pint was $7.    "Did it taste like an Orange Julius?" you ask?  No, it had a light-ish beer front and a faint orange back taste.   It was quite refreshing.  I forget which beer Himself ordered.  Clearly though, he liked it. 

In the past we've gotten either the deviled eggs or cornbread skillet to go with our pre-dinner libation, but this time we tried the Bacon Belly Bites, billed as pork belly with caramelized onion, bleu cheese and cane syrup.  The four bacon pieces (about 1 1/2 x 2 1/2 in.) were presented  nesting in a cup of one leaf of butter lettuce.  The bacon looked like little rafts with indeterminate smears across the top of the other ingredients.  $8

I had never eaten pork belly before and I have mixed feelings about it.  The lean part of the bacon was thick and extremely chewy.  The fat went "crunch" in my mouth and then "soft" which was ... semi-unpleasant somehow.  I was very much aware that I had just crunched into OMG Fat! 

Richie ordered the time sensitive (only served on Thursdays) Barbecue Plate which consisted of:  andouille sausage, brisket slices, chicken, sliced pickles, onion, and jalapenos $11.

My pulled pork po'boy was garnished with pickled radish slices and fennel, roasted red pepper chipotle and served with house slaw.  $14.  Very generous portions - dinner tonight is already settled and it's 9:43 a.m. 

Altogether, plus a glass of wine each with dinner, the tab came to $80.85 plus a $16 tip.  But figure four tasty dinners for $20 per meal - not too bad.   But it's still a really noisy room.  They had 17 customers at 5:50 p.m. but 15 of the 17 were yelling. 

Russian Update

I wrote Sheila that 22 people had read her column.  She wrote back "The Russian Tourist Bureau will only pay me when I can show that somebody went to Russia.  A good friend is flying to Moscow and boarding a cruise ship to St. Petersburg and spending two days there before flying home on your friend Aeroflot."

I snorted and wrote back, "In aviation circles here, Aeroflot is called "AeroFLOP." 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Despite Finishing Last, Lady Bug Won for Redondo Beach and Herself

This is a heartwarming tale and it goes like this - a dachshund developed paralysis of her hind legs and the shelter feared she would not be adopted.  Then Dachshund Rescue of Los Angeles heard of her plight and swooped in.  Deanna O'Neil, the vet who treated her saw something in the little dog and persuaded the hospital to treat the dog gratis.  Lady Bug lives in Redondo Beach.

After surgery and two months of extensive therapy (underwater treadmill included) the dog was well enough to consider entering her in the Weinerschnitzel dachshund races.  Reports say that she started strongly, but faded, coming in dead last in a time of one minute.  The winning time was 7 seconds. 

It is a lovely story and Lady Bug's grit is inspiring.  But her story is useful for other dachshunds because the article warned dachshund owners not to let their dog jump off of a sofa or a curb; not to rough house with them or let them play with bigger dogs or pick them the wrong way (the right way was not specified)  because doing any of the above can cause a slipped disc and ensuing paralysis.  The average cost to treat these dosg is around $10,000.   

If you want to read all about it - Daily Breeze "Long Shot Ends Race A Wiener"


Living On Is the Best Revenge. 
Frank Sinatra's first wife Nancy Sinatra is 100 this year.  Sinatra's 4th wife, Barbara, recently died age 90.  Ava Gardner, second wife, has been gone for quite awhile.   Mia Farrow is 72 and at that age is clearly a finalist in the Last Wife Standing competition.

Military Transgenders
As of 2009, the US military numbered 1,174,563.  Today's estimates of transgenders now serving is 75,000 to 150,000 or, based on 2009, 0.06 per cent (75,000) and 0.12 per cent (150,000.)
Tail wags dog.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

In the News

Every morning, Richie goes out to our driveway and brings in the newspapers.   There are two reasons he goes out for the papers - I refuse to be seen outside the house without full make-up and two it is a male thing to want to make sure his street is sill okay - no sinkholes, fallen electric poles - guy stuff.   

This morning he dumped the LA Times on the dining room table and said, "Barbara Sinatra died, age 90" and I, thumbing through the front section of the Daily Breeze, said, "Serves her right."

As my grandmother would have said, "No better than she should be."  Using Frank's money, she established herself as a major charitable donations person in Palm Springs.  She knew PS well, having spent most of her marriage with second husband Zeppo Marx there. 

A former beauty queen and drum majorette in an annual parade at the Springs, she spent 13 years chasing Frank Sinatra. Once she divorced Zeppo and bagged Frank, she wheedled for Frank to adopt her son Bobby from her first marriage.  More of an inheritance that way ...(Sinatra refused.)

She kept Frank out on the road far longer than he should have been solely for the money and was quoted once as telling him that she needed money for such-and-such charity so go out on the road and do some concerts and she would get half of the money.  She was a pip all right. 

But I think her most egregarious insult was titling her biography "Lady Blue Eyes."  Elevating herself to ladyhood when the title should have been gold digger ... didn't go down well with me.  "Lady" my sweet patootie. 

I was cheered though, deep in the Letters section to read this: 

End of Gov. Brown's term can't come soon enough *

Professional politician Gov. Jerry Brown, 79, has been in politics for 48 years less a six-year hiatus during which he studied Buddhism in Japan and helped out at one of Mother Teresa's hospitals. 

Forty-two years of government funding, housing and perks.  Maybe it's someone else's turn at the trough.
     Nina Murphy, Redondo Beach

* Letters to the Editor are always given a title by an editor at the newspaper.  I did not write that headline although I must say I agree with it wholeheartedly.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Our guest columnist today is my friend Sheila (we go back to 1964) who left LA when Sam, her husband, swooped down and carried her off to Israel where they have lived ever since.  Sheila came to the US from Shropshire, England.   Recently, she and Sam toured Moscow and St. Petersburg with a National Geographic group.  Here is her account of what they saw.  In view of all of the Russia blathering currently in the news, this is timely indeed.


I have just returned from a 10 day organized trip to Moscow and St. Petersburg.  It was amazing.  I cannot speak about living in Russia, working, bring up children, caring for elderly parents or any of the other situations affecting our modern lives, but as a tourist, I can honestly say it was fantastic.

Tourism is an extremely important fact of modern Russian life and everything is done to make it a great experience.

There may have been restrictions or places we were not allowed to visit, people we could not see, but it was not obvious.  We could not go into the major sites without a local Russian guide and if you touched something inside that you were not allowed to touch, there was a charming Svetlana there to tap you on the shoulder, but these restrictions were no more than I have seen in other places.

There was no sign of any sanctions.  We were in a supermarket unsupervised and it was enormous and filled with everything.  Because we looked a bit lost a charming young man wanted to help us and maybe practice his English.  We went unsupervised to a restaurant and I have to admit to gaining pounds just by looking at the pastries on offer.  All the major designers had stores and car dealers were everywhere.  Only saw one LADA place though.  All of the others were foreign.

I never felt that the people were living in fear, but they certainly respect where they live and everything was very clean.  I believe they pressure wash the streets in Moscow twice a day, come rain or shine.

The weather treated us very well, a mixture of everything but snow ... it was, after all, June/July.

I was really amazed by the extent of religion in Russian history.  All the churches, cathedrals or useums were filled from floor to ceiling with art.  Nothing has been destroyed, even during the times when religion was banned the past was left standing.  There was war damage, but that is being restored to its former glory.

We were on the bus one day in Moscow and saw thousands of people waiting patiently for buses.  Apparently these were people from the countryside who had come to a place in Moscow to visit a church where there was bone (or some artifact) from a Saint and they stood for hours in the rain just to visit this site.  Obviously religion has never been far beneath the surface in the hearts of ordinary Russians. 

The lives of the Tsars with all the splendor and extravagance was unbelievable to see.  The gardens were wonderful and parks still play a very important part in the development of the Russian infrastructure.  Because they have plenty of space and plenty of rain, the public gardens are a joy.  The buildings are very elaborate, very crowded, but still a must.

I have to admit that the ornateness of the buildings was a bit heavy.  It was a bit difficult to imagine living in all that gold.  I also kept wondering how many people it takes to keep it clean and shiny.  The Hermitage Museum was overwhelming.  I am not the biggest art lover (or expert) so I was ready to leave before the end.

There were very few restrictions on what we could photography and I personally am glad I bought a couple of guide books because taking a million photographs on the telephone ... it all merges and you really forget which was which.

A tour of the Moscow Metro is a must.  Russian history is well shown amongst the commuters and trains.  Chandeliers, works of art and rushing people and trains are a strange combination.

We traveled on the Metro, regular trains, bullet trains, boats and even a hovercraft.  Imagine a boat in St. Petersburg with a bunch of slightly tipsy Israeli tourists singing away, quite a sight. 

We saw many groups of young Russians who were graduating and dressed in their prom outfits being photographed at the famous sights.  Obviously, youngsters the world over are pretty much the same.  except that I made a comment about one young lady that she looked like Kim Kardashian and she looked puzzled. 

The souvenirs on sale were very touristy.  Row upon row of babushkas, the stacking Russian dolls, which my grandchildren love, the ubiquitous golden-domed buildings, everything you would expect us tourists to buy.

And tourists there were - many - Chinese, Japanese and, of course, Israelies. 

We stayed in five-star hotels, the Crowne Plaza in Moscow and the airport Hilton in St. Petersburg.  Extremely modern, amazing range of food at breakfast and king-sized beds.  The Hilton even had a heated bathroom floor.

We ate at many different restaurants and the food was very good, always accompanied by a fresh vegetable salad.  Many places provided entertainment.

We went to a few shows, excellent, beautifully-dressed ladies and very athletic men who looked good and could they sing!

St. Petersburg is the more interesting of the two cities.  It has more charm.  There is a very famous festival that occurs in June and July every year, called the White Nights and it is when they open the bridges over the river to allow the cruise liners to pass through.  A special event.

We did the tour with National Geographic and I have to say that this is a trip that is best done as part of an organized tour.  There is too much to see and Russia is big.  To be able to hop on the bus to go from the hotel to the places to see was great.  We had the most charming and knowledgeable guide who sometimes walked a bit fast for us, but she was wonderful.

We flew with Aeroflot and it was good, the food not so much, but the service was fine.

All in all, I am very happy we took this trip.  I did not go with any preconceived ideas of what modern Russia would be like and thoroughly enjoyed everything

My three-year-old grandson just came in and started to play with the Babushka - another babushka, another babushka, another babushka ... . 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Competitive Americans

In Ireland, we'd be described as willing to fight our own shadow. 

But we've branched out from football, baseball, basketball and found three more things to race - our babies to see who can crawl fastest (which is a very young start, do admit)  and looked to the barnyard to race pigs and the dog world to race dachshunds.

The Fastest Baby Crawler competitions seem to belong to basketball as the infants race on the court between rounds or innings or whatever they're called.  Apparently a parent and the competitor are lined up in a row and at a signal, the babies are turned loose to crawl speedily to the other parent at the other side of the court.  I can't think this is good for the bare knees of babies or adults, but from the photos, the babies are often costumed.  I would imagine that most games are in the evenings, well past baby's bed time.  Where are the Child Protective Service? A basketball court floor can't be any too sanitary ...

The 22nd Annual  Wiener Dogs Nationals have been held since 1996 when the best time for the 50 yards of the race was 7.01 seconds.  The prize money back then was $1,000.  Today, the fastest time ever in a time trial was 5.8 seconds and Baby Bo is only 1 1/2 years old.  He went on to win the full competition with a time of 7.05 and the prize of $2,300.  Find out more at

Billed as "snout to snout racing," the All-Alaskan Pig Racers have been around for at least 20 or 25 years (with new piglets each season!)  The pigs run a 75 ft. course, laid out in an oval.  The first heat is straight running for the treat.  The second round adds short gates for the pigs to jump over.  The running gag is that one of the gates has a flap door for the bottom slat and the pig runs through and under the gate.  O whee!  and the audience goes nuts.

This struck me as rather tasteless at the time and today as well - upon departing, the audience members are all given a coupon for a free pound of bacon at Food4Less.  

Should you have a pig and wish to train it to race, here are some useful tidbits from  Pigs cannot be led.  The flat of the hand or a broom applied to the pig's butt are used to move the pig in a forward direction.  Pigs cannot see very well although they do have acute hearing.  The training course is laid out with solid walls so that the pig is not distracted on the way to the treat.  Gradually the walls become shorter and the pig inured to the audience. 

Think about this for a moment.  Not only do people race pigs, they do it from very fancy, a/c special pig haulers - all shiny paint and glossy chrome.  Clearly, this is a lucrative way of earning a living.

But would we want to do it? 


Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Travel Magazine I Didn't Know

It's called Afar and specializes - or seems to, this is my first issue - in off-beat but not wacky travel destinations and specialized info for when you get there.  First person accounts figure in, too.  I particularly liked "Eats Well With Others" - Auckland - because we have friends living there.

Next up is the account of Ryan Knighton on his visit to Zimbabwe.  "Oh, please," you say pettishly, "I've been on armchair safaris."  Knighton is blind.  The guide had several years earlier had a blind traveler and learned for himself what our other senses are capable of feeling.  It's a fascinating account, no less so for Knighton's acceptance of and clever reportage on the experience of being blind on safari. 

"Islands of Plenty" an article on the Las Isletas de Granada of Nicaragua was fascinating, too, because another friend of ours has family there and has visited often over the years.

In a section titled "Live Your Travel Fantasy" the reader is offered such as sleeping in an overwater bungalow; having an island all to your precious self; live like royalty in a palace (Scotland, Piedmont, Jaipur, India.) 

Neither of these appeal to me, but, hey!  Go for it.  Bungee jump from Victoria Falls.  it's a 230 ft. freefall down to a crushed skull and drowning.  Or would you prefer to fly a MIG-29 jet fighter over Nizhny Novgorod?  This is the good part:  "a veteran test pilot guides you."  And yet ... remember Gary Powell and the U-2 matter?

Speaking of Nicaragua, you can surf an active volcano - by grabbing a plank of wood, sitting down on it and sliding 2,388 ft. to the bottom, a trip of perhaps five minutes. 

When you ponder the probable accident rate, when you consider the fact that many of these equipment-based rides have never heard of OSHA ... I think "armchair" is best. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

An Excellent Beach Read

Although people shuffling past you on your towel on the sand may wonder why you are laughing so hard.  The title of this thigh-slapper - "Oops! Forgot sun screen there!" - is Dead End Gene Pool by Wendy Burden  279 pages  $26

Burden is the 6th generation (or something like that) member of the Vanderbilt family.  One of her ancestors, a Burden, married into it and everyone had money ever after. 

She was brought up in a world where her grandfather would pick up his phone at any of their four residences and tell his secretary, "We're having important people for lunch tomorrow and I want grouse.  Not in season you think?  My August calendar says it is.  Yes, in Scotland.  Take the 8:30  flight and get a dozen."  His grandmother ran her three huge houses with a grand total of 200 servants.  He had to make do with a skeletal staff of 20 for his four houses.

Burden's mother was unusual to say the least.  After Burden's father committed suicide when she was 14 (and she and her brother were sent to school that day as if nothing had happened) her mother went husband-hunting and on a postcard from Cozumel, she wrote "Guess what!  Peter and I were married last week!  The dogs are fine and we've moved to Virginia."

And this is how Burden's father died.  He called his shrink, said he was very depressed, got a prescription, went home and wrote his obituary, put it in an envelope marked "Press", drove himself to the DC city morgue, parked out in front and blew his brains out.    

Burden amazingly seems to have survived a very unusual childhood and has certainly written an engaging account of her life. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Summer Flies By ...

Closing down the laptop this morning, popped up and I couldn't have had a happier surprise. was long my go-to about aviation information.  I loved to focus on flight attendant reports about passengers, pilots, airports and much more. 

Famous destinations and what to see that's off the usual tourist rut, but interesting never-the-less - the special finds of people who routinely spend a two or three day's leave several times a month  in the destination site before saddling up and working the return flight.  This is true for international flights with a shorter layover for intercontinental like LA to NY.  Turn-arounds are LAX-DFW-LAX for example and barring weather or some other delay, the FAs sleep in their own beds that night.  .

I came to a section on unusual dining spots and read with some interest about a place called Eats in Brooklyn that is a totally silent dining experience.  Upon being seated, you are allowed to tell your server about any special requirements ("Please cut my steak in the kitchen") or food allergies because restaurants hate it when some diner puffs up, turns blue and slides off of their chair and lies gasping on the restaurant carpet like a goldfish whose bowl broke and then all of the drama when the paramedics come storming in.    And the pushing and shoving from other diners and wait staff to take a picture...and those who see it as a God-given opportunity to walk the tab.

The owner of Eats once spent time (I'd say, "did time") in a monastery and the total silence all through the meal appealed to him. 

There are other themes in the sensory field ... Deaf dining (San Francisco) means you communicate with your server by such as pointing to a picture of a dish and/or using a little tablet or slate to write what you want such as "well done" or "hold the mayo."  

If you fly a lot or once a year, if you're lucky, is a fascinating site for either type of flyer.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Something in the Washington, DC, Water?

John McCain, recently diagnosed with a glioblastoma or out-of-control-growth brain tumor shares that diagnosis with Ted Kennedy, who died of it in 2009 at the age of 77 after a 15 month battle.  Joe Biden's son Beau lasted longer, nearly two years, only to die age 46, in 2015.

It does make me wonder about the drinking water in DC ... except many politicians seem to prefer bourbon or Scotch to water.  Maybe they know something the voters don't?

Writer John Gunther's son Johnny died of glioblastoma brain cancer when he was 17, having been diagnosed at 15.  The book was written in 1949 shortly after he died  after a three year struggle when treatment protocols were nowhere near as sophisticated as they are now.  At that time, treatment was largely brain surgery to remove the mass and to leave a hole in the skull to accommodate new growth.  You can imagine the danger from infection with not only your hair free to blow in the breeze, but the surface of your brain as well. 

Measuring the poor kid's "bump" sticking out of the skull was a near-daily experience for parents and doctors. 

It's an informative if depressing book and provides a great contrast to treatment then and now.  "Death Be Not Proud" by John Gunther. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Entire US Weather Map Today is Orange

Wherever we are, we are not alone in our suffering.  We have to suck it up and  put on some spin!  If this is Summer, can Fall be far behind?  Fall with it's beautiful crisp air, the trees changing their leafy petticoats, that hint that something nice is going to happen ... such as Fall foods!

Leafing through (couldn't resist) the menu at Oheka Castle, Huntington, NY, because we plan to go to Long Island this September, I came across rather perfect Fall foods ...

This sandwich is apparently sold all-year round or else they never change their menu on their Website.  And when you think about it, why not?  We are limiting ourselves with a once-a-year dinner.  Do we only eat hot dogs 4th of July, Memorial and Labor Days?  Tsk.  I think not.

Oven-baked turkey (substitute with deli turkey,) bacon and baby greens (both questionable in my mind) cranberry compote, stuffing, apple-cinnamon vinaigrette on cranberry-walnut bread. 

Having happened on it at the Ragin' Cajun and liking it very much, I became a fan of Corn and Crab Chowder.  So much so that I searched for half an hour trying to find the chowder or soupy part of this dish to make my own.  Making it is problematic as the recipes I ran across all called for such as "two cups heavy cream" or as that's known colloquially as "Death By Big Spoon."

There is one new ingredient that surprised me though -

CORN AND CRAB CHOWDER a la Oheka Castle Bar and Restaurant
Grilled corn, lump crabmeat, Yukon Gold potatoes, chipotle and a chive oil drizzle. 

Chunks of chipotle?  Chipotle juice?  Powdered chipotle?  It wasn't specified.  I'll just have to order it when we're there.  Ah, the sacrifices... (snort)

Monday, July 17, 2017

So Precious!

Cheerios: bagel seeds   Water: snowman blood   Milk: cereal sauce

Can't you see some proud parent cooing about their kid's sophistication and all-around cuteness?


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Burratta - First Cousin to Caprice

We are hoping to go to Long Island sometime in September to see Richie's side of the family.  Naturally I wondered if there were any new restaurants since our last visit.

One I noted is called "Swallow" and the name alone was ... distasteful.  I leave it to your own imaginations to supply the reason. 

One of the dishes on their menu is described as "Burratta" with Granny Smith apples, walnuts, sopressata and a bourbon cider "gastrique." Having no idea what either was, I hied myself to our friend Google. 

Burratta, in addition to being cheese curds cooked in water and covered in mozzarella so that there is a shell-type exterior and a creamy interior, is also the name of a dish which has a combination of cooked vegetables  and Burratta.

We had dinner at Charlie's the other night and the special was "Burratta" and our server said it was a combination of cherry tomatoes, basil strips and Burratta.  Richie ordered it.  To my jaundiced eyes it looked like a really tired Caprice which is fresh tomato slices, with a round of mozzarella on top of the tomatoes, garnished with a fresh basil leaf and drizzled with olive oil.  Come to find out, all of the ingredients in Richie's order had been sauteed in olive oil, no doubt accounting for it's fatigued look. 

Still, they are cousins since they both have the same DNA.  They were just raised differently.

But what's a "gastrique"?  It's a reduction  of a fruit for the juice and vinegar.  So I supposed Swallow's gastrique would be considered a reduction of an apple and the bourbon substitutes for the vinegar.  We'll never know.  I'm not about to eat in a place named "Swallow." 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Summer Reading

You don't have to be at the beach or a pool to enjoy a "summer read" which is defined as "not a taxing read - like The History of Algebra" or something similarly dry. 

Mrs. L - Conversations with Alice Roosevelt Longworth by Michael Teague   203 pages   $19.95

Author Teague was lucky enough to have spent many afternoons visiting with Mrs. L at her Washington, DC, home where she had ruled since 1961.  The daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, she lived in the White House - and hated to leave "like everyone did."  But not for any sentimental memories of having been married in it.  When asked at Tricia Nixon's wedding there whether it brought back any memories, she replied, "Not a goddamn thing."

Dying at 96, she knew and most certainly had opinions on 18 Presidents.  The book has 170 photos showing her with such as the Dowager Empress of Japan and with her five brothers from Roosevelt's second marriage; Alice's mother having died not long after her birth, as well as life at Sagamore Hill and various ultra society events such as being presented at Court.

Blind Item by Kevin Dickson and Jack Ketsoyan   360 pages   $26.99

Both authors are long-time entertainment PR specialists and can dish with the best of them (who are mostly dead anyhow - Rona Barrett, Hedda Hopper, and so forth.) 

The plot line involves three wanna be's in that field and while they are interesting enough (once you get into it) the absolute stars of it are a pair of rival talent agency heads who have had a running feud for years and years.  Sample -The women are lunching at The Ivy.  Crystal's lunch is a martini with a rack of olives.  Gaynor is having fried chicken and raving about it.  The myth is that Crystal never eats.  But it's equally well-known that she will excuse herself from the table to go to the bathroom where she devours the neatly-wrapped sandwich the waiter hands her on the way in to the Ladies.

Crystal says:  "My clients are booking lots of things."  Gaynor shoots back, "The only thing your clients are booking is hospice care" and it goes south from there.  Very enjoyable.  I love witty bitchery and this book delivers.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Silly Food Season - Unicorn Food and Outrageous County Fair Foods

The discerning and the literal among us would say that since there is not and never has been a "unicorn" it would be impossible to eat "unicorn food."

When I first heard the phrase, I wondered, "Some kind of designer hay?"  Because except for the single horn thing, they have always been pictured with a horse's body.  And the depiction of this mythical creature is always white.  Wait'll BLM hears about this!

Turns out it can be a Starbuck's Unicorn Frappuccino or a cupcake, ice cream sundae or cone, or a slice of toast or a waffle ... what these all have in common is being decorated to within an inch of their lives - or yours if you eat this crap - with heaps of sprinkles and frosting, most often cream cheese.  However, the dyes used to create rainbow colors for a cream cheese frosting are made with vegetable dyes -- "So organic, Dahling" - blueberries for blue, beets for red ...

The Orange County Fair kicks off the fair season with some extremely strange things you can ingest if not, in fact, digest.  We'll warm up softly with last year's biggies - caviar-topped Twinkies.  Deep-fried dill pickles stuffed with peanut butter. 

This year's biggie is the back leg - 5 lbs. worth - of pig leg.  Bacon-wrapped Brussel sprouts or asparagus are flying off of the counters ...  bacon clearly isn't "so last year" yet although it's been more than a year since Denny's offered bacon sundaes. 

Which I'm happy to say I missed.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Odds and Ends

Not To Throw Shade on SheepWorld ...
Westways, the AAA magazine, is touting what they call "Critter Country."  It's affiliated with Moorpark College, Ventura County.  I never dreamed you could take this when I was in college.  And you probably couldn't.  We knew how to take care of our rides (dinosaurs.)   Among other courses, Exotic Animal Training and Management Program prepares students for work in zoos, Las Vegas shows with animals, water-animal attractions and such of that ilk.

Their zoo is home to 150 animals and students are expected to learn all there is to know about each of them.  The classroom (the zoo) is open to the public on weekends only, but the students will be at work preparing the foods peculiar to each animal, cleaning cages, and working with the animals as usual.  The literature at advises students that they will have to buy appropriate boots, be prepared to work all kinds of shifts and - deal breaker for me - euthanize small animals that are fed to the big ones. 

The article says that during the behind-the-scenes tours, you may be treated to an emu "drumming" (world's largest bird goes all stompy foot?) feed a beaver - beware of those teeth! would be my advice.  They cut through wood! You might want to pay your respects to Clarence, the 95 year old tortoise.  Have never seen a tortoise do tricks, but who knows? 

This tour ends in the animal kitchen where you can watch students prepare dinner for their 110 different exotic species.  

No credit cards.  Cash or a check.  Admission is from $6 to $8 with the behind-the-scenes tour costing an additional $7.
Have you given any thought as to something witty you could have put on your tombstone other than the name and dates?  Presented for your deliberation ...

Don't Laugh, You're Next

I'd Rather Be Reading This

I Knew This Would Happen

We Finally Found a Place To Park in Georgetown

"Onward!" in up-slanting script will decorate mine and Richie's. 

Letter to the Editor
Daily Breeze, 7/13/17 
It's getting harder to be a smoker in California
RE:  "Lawmakers look to ban beach smoking"

Dear Sirs:
In 2015 there were 36.5 million smokers in a total population of 321.4 million people.  That is only 11.3 per cent of the U.S. population.

California smokers (the few who are still here) just got a slap across the chops with a new tobacco tax of $2.87 per pack.

Despite supporting our economy in Southern California, we are now forbidden on the beaches, the breeziest and best-ventilated places in the state?
Nina Murphy, Redondo Beach


Wednesday, July 12, 2017


"We did nothing, Your Honor!  Nothing!"

Southern California Edison gave us fair warning though.  First a big notice in the local paper, then a robo-call warning us and, finally, a poorly-xeroxed notice on the door mat that alerted us:

YOUR GARAGE, STREET, AND/OR ALLEY WILL BE BLOCKED BY EDISON EQUIPMENT.  PLEASE MOVE YOUR VEHICLE OUT OF DESIGNATED WORK ZONE PRIOR TO CREW ARRIVAL.  In all instances we were warned that we would not have electrical power from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

This is not the end of the world as we will have finished our coffees by 6:30 a.m.  We weren't planning to wash clothes or dishes.  My laptop has an 8 hour battery; the PC has 3 hours and the iTablet and cell phone were both fully charged.  They were made to run off of battery power fa heaven's sake.

What I forgot is:  all of the above used at home are Wi-Fi users and the tower plugs into a surge strip.   Which from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.. would be deader than vaudeville.

So much for printing labels for the envelopes to post the books which I don't have yet anyhow.  It's all good. 

The workers arrived promptly and our short street (three blocks) filled up quickly with trucks and gigantic cherry pickers.  New wiring was on the way!

Intermittent "brrrrrtt!" sounds rose and fell all during the day.  It sounded like perhaps the Jolly Green Giant's drill might have been borrowed. 

When it became apparent that they wouldn't be finished by 5 p.m., Richie began to grow restive about the probability of dinner at 7 or 7:30 p.m.  He proposed we go out and I eagerly accepted this idea.

The vehicles (theirs) had moved down the street and our driveway was free and clear.  What we both forgot, of course,  is that the garage door opening is powered by ... electricity.  Yesterday, it was Richie-powered.  But by the time we returned, electricity had been restored and all was well. 

Just in time for "Jeopardy," too.

Monday, July 10, 2017

BAAaaaa! Up Yours Disneyland

Great friends moved to New Zealand and most recently sent a picture of their daughter "helping" to shear a sheep, one of the attractions at SheepWorld, Warkworth, NZ, with this comment - "The US has Disneyland, NZ has SheepWorld."

And I must say that after visiting I think that NZ has the edge. Disneyland pushes fantasy, SheepWorld is right there with reality. 

Their petting zoo where kids can feed the animals includes:  calves, pigs, lambs, goats, ponies, donkeys, deer, alpacas, emus, possums (!) mini-horses, and Indian Ringnecked parakeets. 

Their gift shop offers such as Ugg-style boots and slippers, warm wool clothing, scarves and more.  Window shop at their gift shop. 

This is the part that would totally intrigue me - it's a performance where the sheep dogs round up the sheep, and presumably barn them where they are sorted out as to who needs a haircut and those that do are shorn then and there.  I have only too rarely seen dogs herding sheep by following their owners hand motions and it was fascinating.  I think it was the movie "Babe" in fact. 

Interestingly enough their Web site knew I was in America because the prices were in dollars. 
14 years and up - $34.50    4-13 - $12.00   Family package of two adults and two children $69.00

All but one item on their agenda sounds like tremendous fun, but the rest of you can go see "Eel Feeding." 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Mah Fellow Readersss... informs me that is ready, willing and able to make us both rich.    In the $$$ Sweepstakes, I am a very distant #6 billion, 3 million, 900,000 behind, but undismayed.  I have lesser needs than those of giant corporations.

On the other hand ...

Click on the illustration and it should get bigger so that you can read the details.  Pig in a poke .. you know.     

Soft cover - $12.99 (I like rounding it off to $13 - we will see about this "bad luck" thing)
Kindl - $3.99

Make the cash registers roar!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Create Space Says Book Has Passed Their Requirements

Getting "Word of Mouth" to print nearly killed me.  I am not computer gifted; I do not speak "Computer" and I have been trying to get this done since the middle of June.  I had to go back to them so many times that yesterday, when they accepted it, I wrote a "thank you" note to Anshu, Daniela, Wardah and Vaishnavi, the poor techs who had to work with me.   They wrote a thank you for your thank you back to me.  Any gratitude that they may have felt is substantially, "Thank God - we never have to hear from her again!" 

For any of you who are contemplating writing and publishing a book, here are tidbits I can offer based on (bitter) experience.

Either write the book as one file - i.e. Chapter 1 through 10 as one file,' not Chapter 1, Chapter 2, because it won't fly like that.  I kept getting this in red ink:  Each file must be at least 24 pages.  And between the lines, "Go back and do it right!"  When you don't know what "right" is and you have tried several different means ... It turns out that they meant "book" instead of "file."

I had to learn copy, cut, paste to put the Dedication, quote, Table of Contents, Chapter 1 to Chapter 46 in one humongous file and send it on it's way. 

Happily I had the great good luck to have a friend who is a retired graphics director who put the front and back covers into a format acceptable to Them.  Note "retired" - he won't do it for strangers. 

Today's love note from Create Space said they have accepted cover and interior, all that's left is to prof it and I did that yesterday when I put in the last of the photographs.

Off to see what fresh hell awaits me. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Am At A Loss For Words

This doesn't happen often.  But I have never tried to have publish a book for me.  It finally got did, but it has left me in terrible shape.  I dread the ping for "You've Got Mail!"  It can only be them telling me I didn't do it right again this time either.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Guest Columnist - Richie Murphy

Hi from the road.  Which road?   The correct one, I hope. 

We, the guest blogger and the head blogger, are visiting Texas for a birthday party.  You may have read about this party elsewhere.

"Is it hot this time of the year in Texas?" you ask?  Yes, around 100 and bit a bit humid. 

So:  as we travel the road from Beeville to San Antonio's airport, we stop for fuel.  It is a 7-11 petrol palace.  As the car needs fuel, so do the pilot and crew.  We  buy a 3 oz. bag of cashews.  We saved them though for our 6:30 a.m. flight home.  Good thing' not much else to eat on board.

So, I am thinking, the cashews must be from Brazil.  I look at the package and they are.  But, with some nutty friends - they are also from Cambodia, Ghana, Guinea, Bissau India, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Viet Nam.   Who knew that cashews were so worldly?

But notice:  no mention of the United States (no surprise.) 

So on "Jeopardy" when the question about cashews comes up - and it will - you will have the correct answer thanks to this blog! 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Writers At Play

Writers on deadline or in the throes of a plot twist won't play, but when we are at leisure ... different story.

And this is the story line for the World's Shortest Horror Story - "The last man on earth sat in a room.  There was a knock at the door."

I sent it out with this heading:  Okay, Writers, Top This!

The responses in order of appearance.  Notice how the idea expands and branches out.

Must have been a woman at the door since all of the men were dead.

How many women still lived?

And there appeared the last woman on earth.  She took one look at him and decided she'd rather join everyone else.

From the hall came his wife's angry voice, "Get off of the pot already," she yelled, "You act like you're the only person who needs in there."

Would they harm the last sperm donor on earth?

The last man on earth sat in the room worried sick about the rent being overdue.

But to whom would he owe it?

"Go away!" he yells.  "I need to sleep a few hours.  And I want the next group wearing those little black French maids' outfits with nothing underneath.  And get me some more of that Beluga caviar that I had last night."

See how amusing we can be?  Toot! Toot!  that's the sound of our horns blowing.

Monday, July 3, 2017

This, That 'n the Other

That is a South Texas way of deflecting curiosity on the part of a person being questioned by another.  My cousin Jean, some 20 years older than I was, used it often.  Very often.  No one in the family knew what she had been up to unless they'd seen her being up to it. 

I bragged about the timing of my sister and bro-in-law's flight and ours.  Hah.  San Antonio Int'l Airport (pause here for a chuckle "Int'l") has two terminals - with a sister in each one.  Her cell phone wasn't working right and I barely know how to use "phone" on ours. 

We finally hooked up in Beeville, our "final destination."  Curse the airlines for using that expression, too. 

Our third couple - my cousin Marvin and his wife Raquel and we were staying in three different hotels.  Getting together was like trying to herd cats.

Roadside armadillos have been replaced
With shreds of blown tires.  I had been misled (talkin' to you, 727) about there being a dead, roadside armadillo approximately every mile marker.  Normally I would be distraught about any dead animal roadside, but I don't think I would have been about an armadillo, sometimes carrier of Hansen's Disease or leprosy.   

Smolisk's Barbecue
Four of us made it to Just Outside the Mathis County Line and when we lined up to order and I asked for iced tea, I was reminded of the way you order iced (ahsst) tea in South Texas.  They will ask, "Sweetened or unsweetened?" you say "Unsweetened" or else you will be handed a big glass with 9 parts sugar and 1 part tea.  I got it right and thus I still have all of my teeth.  My cup came with UN writ large on one side. 

The Yonder Inn, Beeville, was very pleasant.  The d├ęcor might have been intended to reflect oil baron style, circa 1935.  Heavy furniture, intentionally dim with several shoulder mounts of deer.  The shaded front porch-patio had several wooden rockers and a wooden swing.  The free breakfast room had a shuffleboard game - the looong wooden counter and the steel sliders and we would have played (all of us) but another group got there first. 

I had asked for a suite because they came with a balcony where I could go out, admire the scenery (a truck stop across the road) and puff away to my heart's content.  At night you could see the glittering lights of Beeville - all five or six of them!  The Yonder Inn's idea of a suite is a mini-house.  A full-size refrigerator and stove, a living room and a separate bedroom.  $116/night.

We would see this again at Starbridge, San Antonio Int'l Airport.  This was not a planned visit; both of the flights back to LAX were sold out.  We were advised to try for the 6:20 a.m. flight because "It's wide open!"  Since we had to get up at 4:30 a.m. for a 5 a.m. shuttle, I could easily see why.  God doesn't even get up that early I have been told by reliable sources.

A great bar makes up for anything
I am enthusiastically touting the Republik bar on the outskirts of Beeville.  This is the second bar we've been in that had:  a regular restaurant for barbecue, a bar, and a huge backyard (?) with picnic tables, a big patio with wrought iron chairs and round tables, a kid's playground and a fire pit for winter warmth. 

We had five St. Arnold's Fancy Lawn Mower beers for a total of $15 which is $3 per draft.  This was a lager and obviously quite tasty.  It was also very warm outdoors and really, they could have been considered necessary hydration.  Two each and we split one.  From the same maker St Ono's Bishop which is 12.1% alcohol.  I noticed that the ubiquitous Moscow Mule made it to South Texas as a row of the distinctive copper mugs hung in a row behind the bar.  The bartender told me they were a new fad. 

We'd seen from the Starbridge shuttle (which had passed us twice at the Hotel Shuttle stand at the airport) a 3-story sign for freeway visibility for the Texas Land and Cattle restaurant.  Upon checking in, we asked about it's proximity and were told it was right behind the hotel and so it was.

Given the theme, I had expected soft lighting, crisp white tablecloths, deep masculine booths, but I was to be disappointed.  We did have a booth, we were issued the mandatory steak restaurant knife, but any air of a luxurious, expensive place was immediately dispelled by the family groups complete with hordes of small children.  It would seem that the great State of Texas has been running a very successful breeding program. 

Waiting to be disappointed at yesterday's flights, we were stunned at the fact that about every five people was a family with up to four kids each.  I was told they were going to LAX to go to Disneyland.  Since quite a few were in strollers the size of VWs it seemed doubtful how much enjoyment they would feel.     When you consider being strapped to your seat with a plane 2/3rds full of small children, maybe we lucked out.  It is a 3 hour flight. 

Back to dinner.  We had an order of onion strings with our drinks (G&T for him Stella for me, later repeated) and they were clearly right out of the fryer.  Piping hot with little flecks of shining fat.  Richie got himself a 9oz. smoked sirloin steak with garlic mashed potatoes and I the crab and shrimp-stuffed mushroom caps.  They were quite good, but they were Texas-sized and I had to have three in a go-box.  We did have a full-sized refrigerator.  Where they probably are to this day.

7-11 isn't what it used to be
Since every American destination calls for a rental car and since it's prudent to top up the tank, we made a point of gas stations with a food store on the way to the airport.  The snacks at any one of these were half the price of the dread At The Airport.  "Candy bar and a sack of chips?  That'll be one mortgage payment, please."

Whoa, Nellie!  I bought a pair of bags of cashews for $8.  Richie got a good-sized bag of Doritos - I think they were $5.  I will now try to remember to stock up on plane snacks at the local supermarket of wherever we happen to be. 

The Armenian Cab Driver
Richie asked our driver where he was from because he had an accent.  I have tried very hard to break him of this gigantic faux pas but to no avail.  He said, "Armenia - I came here 25 years ago as a diamond cutter and I worked at that until the recession when no one was buying diamonds." He has been a cab driver for the past eight years.  When apprised that we'd been to my 96 year old cousin's birthday party, he said that his father lived to be 98 and died just short of his 99th birthday.

I asked him if he had ever dreamed of doing the cut on the Hope Diamond and he laughed.  He said that opals are the worst to try to cut as they will shatter at a dirty look.  Who knew?  If you listen, you can learn something new nearly every day.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Home Again

We left Thursday and expected to fly back Saturday.   We didn't get out until a 6:26 A.M. flight this morning.  We landed at 7-something but not because they unearthed an old Concorde for us.  ha ha.  Time change.  It's two hours later in Texas.  

Consequently, we feel like we've been up for hours and now, here at home, it feels kind of like a Groundhog Day - the movie.  It's been 7:30.  It was 8 a.m.! 

In the happy event that I return to time and space by tomorrow - the ones I know, I will update you on our adventures in Texas.  The famous barbecue place, a steak restaurant and a family party.  Helluva great bar - it should not be ignored. 

But for now, here is a good idea.  If you fly stand-by or non-revenue, before you ever leave home, compile a list of airport grounds hotels (or very nearly) with phone numbers.  In the event your  flight goes and you don't, you won't have to thrash around at the airport with the hotel board, picking your way down them.  You will be 'way ahead of the game.  Especially since this hotel board seems to be a  profitable deal  between hotels and airport space.  And never in your favor.  Hiltons and Radissons abound.  Motel 6 didn't make the cut and you will see one as your complimentary shuttle (bearing you straight to the cash register) passes it.  Since $200/night for a stay from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. is exorbitant ...  . I will say no more.