Tuesday, December 31, 2019


"Doubles" above is not a drink order.  (In this case anyhow.  You're on your own in this.)

A sort of indoor hobby with me is writing Letters to the Editor.  And then waiting to see how Me vs. Editors turned out.   I am more than pleased to say that at least half of the time my missive runs.  The bragging is now over.

The other day I did a double submission and this morning my scream of joy announced that the Daily Breeze, our local subscription paper had run it.  And then my cup runneth over and both cats ran for Under The Bed when my scream announced that the LA Times had, too!  Yeesssss!

Why this one?  What had I written?  What deathless prose?    "May we all get what we want and not what we deserve in 2020."

I have championed "write short" for years now to aspiring others.  One could hardly get shorter and it worked.

And oddly enough it touched on a personal superstition for the New Year that I forgot to mention in yesterday's column.

I like to think that if you have a talent in some area - painting, drawing, writing, play a musical instrument that if you do it on New Year's Day you'll be able to do it (whatever) all of the coming year.  Happily these editors aren't reading this or they would put my name on some kind  of black list, never to be heard from again.

                              HAPPY, HEALTHY AND PROSPEROUS 2020!

Monday, December 30, 2019

New Years Eve Superstitions

Here's a surety, not a superstition - drive drunk, get caught, bye-bye drivers' license.

But on a lighter side, let us answer the deeply curious beliefs about underpants.  You will need one pair each of red or yellow panties (or boxers as the case may be.)   Turn them inside out and don.  What you can expect from this bizarre-ity

Red:  Passion and love
Yellow:  happiness and money
As both are always welcome, patchwork panties in red and yellow?

Red or yellow with contrast embroidery?

After about five minutes, excuse yourself and put them back on, right side out.  This part - wearing them right side to - will ensure a full closet all year long.

In Argentina where they practice the same superstition the color is pink.  (Possibly in West Hollywood, San Francisco and Palm Springs, too.)   Pink, red, meh  - both mean looking for love.

At midnight, open all of the doors in the house and let the old year out.

Throw a cup of water over your shoulder to wash away the year's tears.

Make a list of things that annoyed or hurt you in 2019 and burn it.  I think this might actually be therapeutic.

If you go out, do not take any treasures with you.  They will vanish in the new year.  With a concert grand piano, this is not going to be a problem.

Don't wash your hair!  You'd be washing out 2020 luck!  Or do laundry.  If you do, it, too, will wash away good luck or your laundry in 2020 will either get lost or you'll have a great deal more of it to wash.

In Italy it is believed to be lucky to line up 12 grapes and eat one per church bell bong for good luck.  I, for one, would prefer a glass of wine that used 12 grapes in the making of merlot say.

                                          HAPPY NEW YEAR AND MANY MORE

The basket of various-sized red and yellow panties is right over there by the skype hole on your computer. .

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Gelson's or Bristol Farms - Duking It Out For Most Expensive?

Both are upscale supermarkets.  Gelson's is new to the South Bay (Manhattan Beach) but Bristol Farms (Rosecrans, Manhattan Beach)   has been here some time.

In years gone past, I would go to Bristol Farms for exotica for Christmas presents to family on the East Coast.  Fig jam for Brie and crackers, being an example.  Back in the day when we entertained a hella lot more than today, I always set out chopped liver.  Bristol Farms was reliable for a number of years and then came the day I waltzed in to get some and when I said, "Chopped Chicken Livers was handed  a small bag with - O horrors! -  raw, naked chicken livers!  I thought 25 cents for the contents was very cheap!  Until I opened the bag.  And set a land speed record for getting back to the butcher counter and hysterically handing them over.

In recent years, Dee has liked to join us New Years Eve for champagne and caviar.  And there was none.  Bev-Mo?  Gone and they used to have a whole glass-fronted showcase of it with varying prices.

Yesterday, we decided to have a mini-adventure and go stroll the aisles at the new Gelson's.  If this doesn't strike you as mad adventure, remember that we are old and it doesn't take much in the way of entertainment.

Many were the sights we saw - a wine bar that serves tapas,(get about half lit and then go grocery shopping.  Uh, huh.  Not a good idea.)  a fresh sushi place but most wondrous of all, - a couple of shelves of caviar!  I scooped an ounce ($27) jar and in passing the meat department saw lobster tails for sale - $12 each.  Certainly cheaper than "market price" in restaurants; market price being $40-$45*  

Near the cash register, we found the bakery department.  A lime green frosted cake wearing a lei?  The smaller version - $48; the larger $52.  yes I am talking about one birthday cake.  It reminded me of the 85 Euros chocolate cake I once saw at Ladura's in Paris.

Also of note was the scarcity of customers.  I later read that high prices drive consumers away making for a much faster shopping experience with fewer people out and about and no hanging about at checkout.  Rich people, it was explained are happy to save the time  (snort.) It's much more likely to save the time while the housekeeper is out doing the marketing (and escaping house work..)

One guy in the article  sighed,  "I can always get my ostrich meat at Bristol Farms."

*Our second stop was Ralph's Supermarket where lobster tails were $4 each.  I bought three.  Do the math.  $12.  Sound familiar?

Saturday, December 28, 2019

"'This Is Goooood," she purred'

Then belched daintily behind her napkin.  What is "this"? you ask?  One of the best Reuben sandwiches I've ever eaten.  Where were we?  Richie, Dee and I?

The Standard Station Bar and Grill, 26 Standard Street, El Segundo  

What was the occasion?  None, really - just a holiday lunch.  Dee was the finder and naturally we had to put him to the test.  Here follows what we each ate and why it was so good.

Dee:  The pulled pork with barbecue sauce, cole slaw and tobacco onions (aka onion strings) on a brioche bun with French fries.  The brioche top was shiny from grilling; the cole slaw on the sandwich made it Tennessee-style and the tobacco onions for crunch.  For once it was a proper amount of French fries, not half of the plate space.   $13

Richie:  The Italian Melt with salami, pepperoni, mortadella, capicola, olives, peppercinis, red onion, provolone and Italian dressing.  He chose cole slaw as the side.   $13

Self:  Grilled Reuben with corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut on marble bread (dark swirled into white)   $13.  For once a deli got this creation Just Right - my sandwich actually had sauerkraut - many restaurants either omit it or add about five strands.  The chef gave the whole thing a generous splash of the dressing, too. I traded the French fries originally for tobacco straws with no fuss at all.

I ordered the churro dessert which is considerably up-graded from the ones you buy crossing the border.  These are cream-filled with caramel syrup drizzled over them and three great puffs of whipped cream along the side of the platter.  The server, of course, brought three plates and three spoons.  She'd seen us clean our plates.  She was very, very good at her job, too.

It's difficult to give you an exact count on the cost due to missing information (Richie apparently lost the part of the ticket that lists the item and cost which has been a godsend to me over the years of blathering on about various places.  Anyhow, here goes -

Three $13 dollar sandwiches  $39
One churro dessert                      6
For $45
Two 805 beers
One lemonade which added   $30
Grand total:  $69 + tip (always 20%)   Or $23 per person - and well worth it.


Thursday, December 26, 2019

Boxing Day, December 26th

Boxing Day celebrations go 'way back.  In England, it was the day that the mansion owner gifted the sarvints with sort of a yearly tip - money (in a box) given - along with a day off - to said help.  This was understandably better than Christmas Day for most of them.

Other box items might be a turkey for the family or similar food gift or a warm blanket - something to make life easier for them.

St. Stephen was martyred in Sweden but his fame spread as far as Germany where church on the 26th could be very exciting indeed.  St. Stephen liked animals in general but his pet love (deliberate) was the noble horse.  Thus there are race meets on Boxing Day.  There is even more excitement in a German church where horses are to be ridden around and through the main chapel.

How the world changes department:  a friend e'd from New Zealand that today the 26th the family was going to a movie "a tradition on Boxing Day."

If you can't find a movie about and starring horses, maybe switch in "Best in Show" and say, "What funny-looking horses" abut the dogs.  You're unlikely to get a box of money or a live turkey in a box from your boss.  But enjoy Boxing Day and I wish you many more of them.  Happy encroaching New Year!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Family - Prix Fixe - Friends So much to eat; So Little Time

As a holiday treat, Richie and I go out to dinner Christmas Eve night every year.  Dress up a little (very little this is So. Cal.)   Last night Dominque's Kitchen got our patronage and this is what we ate.  Here is what the choices were from the menus given out -

Pink French bubbly (champagne, but they had to sound cute)  and Amuse Bouche - literally to amuse your mouth, in this case our mouths laughed at little two-bite pastry shells, two with glazed onion filling and the other two  with potatoes and cheese.   Just the right amount - gone in a twinkle of Santa's eye.

Appetizers - Parisian-style blue crab and wild Mexican shrimp in a somewhat spicy remoulade sauce.  The shredded crab and a little lettuce in the bottom of the bowl; four big shrimp hooked over the bowl edges.  For both of us
Creamy porcini and summer black truffle soup with a fresh herb Chantilly profiterole
Entrée - a three meat platter with:  Roasted rack of lamb with a Dijon and parsley crust,
pork and grass-fed beef filet mignon with pomme chateau, Farmer's market vegetables
and a shallots and burgundy wine reduction.
Lobster and crawfish with Morel mushrooms and broccoli florets, imported Italian pasta and a champagne and cream reduction  For both of us

Desserts - A mille feuille  (thousand leaves pastry  - which gives it the desired flakiness) with organic berries and Grand Marnier custard Richie - who would mug Santa for a crème brulee.
Five assorted French macarons  Me.

Dinner tab?  $80 per person = $160 +  $40  of wine for four glasses of our choices and not the chef's suggestions.  $200 and we've got a remarkable dinner tonight.  What the hell - it was Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Festival Goats and Sports Terms

I came across a ceremonial use of goats in Gavle, Sweden, that is said to date back to pagan times.  Today's goats there are made of straw and red ribbon, structures as high as 30 feet.  The pagan was Thor, who was believed to ride about the skies in a two-goat hauled chariot.  It was believed then that the last sheaf of grain bundled had magical powers.  Which were unspecified in the mention of this holiday for Sweden, Finland and Norway.

Arsonists make a game of trying to burn it down and today's massive goat is guarded by security cameras and right-there police.  In 2005 a man from Cleveland succeeded in at least setting fire to it, was seen, jailed and fined 100,000 Swedish kroner.  His lighter was confiscated as the judge didn't find him capable of carrying one.  He fled back to Cleveland and never paid the fine.

It's customary in Sweden for a small group of carolers to gather and go house to house singing their little hearts out.  Each home visited is expected to add a member to the group as they continue through the neighborhood.  It's a great chance to "hide the goat" (a small replica) in the house as a prank, another custom.

Christmas isn't the only goat fest - in Ireland, in the village of Killorglin, in the Ring of Kerry area, in August there's a three day (drunk) festival  celebrating the King of Puck ("puc" is Irish for billy goat.)
An innocent wild ram is brought in from the land, groomed, fed lavishly, fitted out with an elaborate crown. He even has a Queen of Puck; usually a young school girl.  At the end of three days, the goat is taken back to roam his former fields and the little girl gets ready for school in September.  We've seen this town during a tour of southwest Ireland.   There was a pub on every corner of the town square.  We were sorry to have been there in May and not August when the fun kicks off.

Not all countries and religions are as kind to their goats.  Muslims during Eid, said to be their holiest time period, slaughter a goat and family and friends gather to celebrate, apparently much as we do Thanksgiving or Christmas.  In 2017 there was a goat shortage in Palestine who had to come up with enough goats to feed 15 million people,  all of whom were trying to get/find one.    

In 2015 it was the year of the goat - or ram - in the Asian calendar.  Goats get around!

Sports Lingo, used beginning in the 1900s when if the team called you a goat, that meant that you were the dummy that moved wrong and cost the team a victory.

But then it devolved (with the help of rapper LL Cool J) to mean Greatest Of All Time.  Yes, well...

If you want to show a goat that you're not mean like those people in other countries,  contact goat farms and offer them your used Christmas tree to feed the buggers - goats will eat anything - only if the tree  has not been sprayed.

And mark your 2020 calendars for August and a trip to Ireland.  Sounds more like fun than freezing your chitlins off in December in Gavle, Sweden.  And - oh, if you go leave all incendiary materials at home.

Monday, December 23, 2019

In Which Richie Points Out An Error

He reminded me after reading yesterday's column "Flashing Forks" that I had clearly forgotten the most glutinous eating of them all.  Super Bowl Sunday.  If you are reaching for a chip or a beer, at hearing "Super Bowl Sunday" you didn't need reminding.

As usual, overkill on my part …
11.2 million lbs. of potato chips followed by 8.2 million lbs. of taco chips
1.2 billion (billion) chicken wings - flew away
8 million lbs. of guacamole
60 per cent of take out or delivered?  Pizza!

Little side note on the wings - the number eaten that day equals 300 times the weight of all 32 of NFL team players together.

$13 million for vegetable trays (amount of dip that usually accompanies these was not noted.)
$89 million in popcorn
$58 million in deli sandwiches

$1.2 billion (billion) for beer, flavored malt, cider, $5 94 million wine, $503 whisky

Avocados - without which no Super Bowl game could take place, are said by reliable sources (not me) to date back to 500 BC and were originally called "aguacates fruit."

In the '90s the game edged out of sports and into partying.  Whatever - if you can eat guacamole in front of a TV - let the games begin!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Flashing Forks

I never cease to muse on America's determination to EAT at every major holiday.

Toast the New Year in with lashings of champagne and caviar.  Bev-Mo used to sell it for as little as $70.oz. found in it's own little locked refrigerator (some as high as $200 per oz.)  They quit carrying it and I quit looking for it there.  The new Gelson's on Sepulveda, Manhattan Beach probably has it.  And closer to the $200 mark and up.

Valentine's Day - take your sweetie out or cook him/her a special dinner at home.

St. Patrick's Day - you're a pinko commie fag if you don't eat at least one corned beef sandwich!

Easter - Bring out the honey-baked ham.  Post Easter, use the leftover eggs for the basis of a dynamite deviled egg sandwich mix.

Mother's Day - if you don't take Mom out to the breakfast buffet, you are automatically written out of the Last Will and Testament.  The Ladies' room attendant told me that the now gone Ports O Call, routinely served 3,000 guests that day.

4th of July - hot dogs and hamburgers all around!  Don't forget the potato salad either.

Halloween candy to Thanksgiving turkey to Christmas which is where we are now.  "Alka-Seltzer anyone?"


Saturday, December 21, 2019

Ancient Amusements While Waiting for Santa

Long ago, well before even the invention and popularity of the radio (!) people of all ages and wealth loved jigsaw puzzles.   They gathered around a card table in front of the fire, sipped sherry and occasionally reached down to pet the dog at their feet and among squeals from the ladies and hearty guffaws from the menfolk, an evening passed in great entertainment.  Glancing back and forth between piles of oddly-shaped pieces of cardboard and the box lid which showed the completed work, people loved the sense of a successful conclusion when Viola! it was done!  And the compliments that ensued.  "A thousand pieces!  My lands! would you look at that!"

In today's world (and am not going to list them here) jigsaw puzzles have been elevated to an astonishingly different status.

My favorite site is jigzone.com a free (free - this can never be stressed too much) set of hundreds of puzzles and a variety of innovatively-sized puzzles pieces - traditional, birds - set bird shapes that interlock for a completed puzzle.  Euros, the US States - Florida is a give away; polygons  (good luck) bulbs, circles... Numerous choices for subjects, too.  Animals - dogs, cats, miscellaneous (camels, horses, monkeys) birds, butterflies, gardens, flower close ups, portraits, cities - St. Louis Square New Orleans …  Right now Christmas - of Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving among others, is currently running in the New One Every Day challenge to finish in the shortest period of time.  Number of pieces are your choice, too.  Start every shape new to you by getting six pieces (babies could do it) and on up to 279, your choice of shape.  The 48 piece Euros are my favorite.

All of this entertainment for free!.  And then you go to bed and in the morning, "Why Santa Claus was here!"  Sometimes updating an old thing into a new one can be quite entertaining.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Drawing A Bead On "The Best Caesar Salad in the South Bay"

This is quite a bit better than "runner up."  Yesterday the (formal) South Bay Writers Workshop/ (informal) Thursday Writers had their annual holiday luncheon at  Café 1511, corner of PCH and Avenue H in Redondo Beach.  They had the perfect place for us and it's called The Garden Room.

A curving booth facing a small one for three people and one wheelchair guest.  Previously, all of our choices (yes, we vote) put us at a long tables making conversation and conversing difficult.  To properly circulate, you have to get up - bench seating means you have to be Very Careful not to knock the person next to you onto the floor or mis-step and shove them into their food.  We have been trying for years to find a round table.  

Be that as it may and it is.  In other good news, they offer various beers and wines including a coup de champagne and thought it was not served in a flute, it was even better their way - a white wine glass and a hefty pour!  Ditto with the other wines.    Another point in their favor - swift, very good service for the 13 of us present.  As far as I know, everyone got home safely even if they had to roll from their car to their front door.  Portions are as generous as the wine.   So much for the bad luck of 13 at table.

I know this personally.  Our first visit I tried the poutin - French Fries with white Cheddar cheese curds and brown gravy - and it would have served a family of four and this was the small size!

So I thought I'd try them on a Caesar salad with house dressing and crispy bacon.  It was delicious - icebrg lettus well chopped and a lot crisper than Romaine which has such thick stems that if you're me, you waste dining time cutting the leaves off of the lettuce stems.  The bacon being crispy enough - always a concern; gah to nearly raw bacon - and it was.  Crispy.  And croutons which I never eat anyhow.   I shared them with the others as a petite hors d'oeuvres.  They went over well.

At $11.99 yes, it was pricey but well worth the money.  Their house dressing had just  the right amount of mixed flavors and the bacon provided the vitamin B.  No dithering about the menu next time we visit - a glass of champagne and a Caesar salad.  Perfection is nearing …

Thursday, December 19, 2019

He's Impeached. Now Can We All Calm Down and Get On With It?

"IT" being Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanza.

I came across a US News poll for (of all things) the worst U.S. Presidents of all (in a long line, I might add.)  By order of time period:

Benjamin Harrison - widely blamed for the Panic of 1893

Chester A. Arthur - won the election but he was not a party favorite.

Herbert Hoover made (or is said to have made) the Great Depression worse.

In a tie - John Tyler and Millard Fillmore  Both wicked but who was worse?  Dunno.

William G. Harding - one scandal after another Teapot Dome the  most notable

Franklin Pierce - set the stage for the Civil War

Andrew Johnson - impeached

James Buchanan - Refused to challenge states that had accepted slavery.


Richard Nixon  #15

Jimmy Carter #18

Gerald Ford #19
Side trip over to impeachment in the United States.  Parade led by Andrew Johnson who escaped eviction by one vote.  Bill Clinton just went on about his business while much of America grumbled in indignation.  (None of us were alive in Johnson's day; thus we can only speculate at the indignation roiling around him.)

The slap on the hand that impeachment means to me - just that.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Dear Santa - Skip the Murphys I Know What You're Bringing

Because Richie is Santa around here and I know exactly what I'm getting.  This is why ..

Thirty six years ago, when we were first married, Richie was clearly at a loss as to what to buy me for Christmas.  Picture it ….But I'm forgetting his first Christmas present to me when we were dating.  A bottle of Shalimar perfume (the real deal and not cologne) and a rubber bathmat for the tub.  "Your bathtub floor is slick."  I'd say that was kind of a shared present, wouldn't you?

Two years later, the happy couple is strolling through the women's department at Macy's.  She is looking thoughtfully at such as cashmere sweaters (go big or go home) cool jackets... meanwhile, He is running back and forth from say cocktail dresses and dragging them over to Her who is feeling the cashmere to see if it's thick enough.  He did this several times with the enthusiasm of a hunting dog bringing back a dead bird.  They might be twice my size or a color I hate and never wear but his enthusiasm never lagged.

Discouraged by my "Uh huh" responses, he goes to jewelry where I tell him that I don't need any.

I do find something I like and He says, "Well go look over there (pointing around a corner) there might be something else that you'd like.  I didn't so came back to find Richie putting his credit card away and the navy cashmere sweater I liked peeking out of the tissue in a Macy's bag.

Christmas morning held no surprises, let's just say.  Not in my side of the pulled-off paper anyhow.  I liked the navy sweater - exactly what I wanted - but not being able to use something you got before Christmas Day kind of takes the shine off.

Now years later, he starts asking me (in late August) "What do you want for Christmas this year?"

"I want to replace the toilet in the downstairs bathroom," firmly.

"No! No!  That's not a Christmas present!" he thunders.

"If you get what you want, it is!" I snarled.   Had some discussion on this  - He, "There's nothing wrong with it!"  She counters, "Well yes there is - it's round and the oval upstairs is much more comfortable and takes up less space!"  He, closing the discussion, "It's not a Christmas present."

This morning I remembered something I had wanted last year and that he also refused to buy me.  Target is selling men's cotton (I presume) sport coats with a Christmas theme - a pattern of green trees or red and green lollipops.  Which would look tres chic with jeans and a white sweater.  You can or could rather buy matching trousers which I didn't want anyhow.  I have that outfit in my mind and I know it would be cool for the Thurs. Writers annual seasonal lunch.

This morning he was even more emphatically against the awesome jacket.  "You'll wear it once!  A hundred dollars to wear something once?!"
"No," I could wear it every Christmas!"
"No, think of something else."

So I did.  I want to go to the 99 Cent Store and buy stupid things like reindeer antlers on a headband - last year's was "SELFY" on a headband and at the lunch we passed it around and photographed everyone wearing it.  That was fun.  So I want to go back an see what's on offer this year.  The price is certainly right for Richie … And who knows?  Maybe they're selling crepe paper Christmas sports coats?

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

HOOK - to hook you into the restaurant and PLOW through the extensive menu

The Hook and Plow restaurant, 425 Pier Avenue, Hermosa Beach  Google their menu to gawp at such as a black kale (and other stuff) salad.  It bills itself as farm to table.  They do bow to the fishing industry with various fish.

Monday, December 16th, 2019 was the December Dinner for us and Dee and Mouton, and the last of the 2019 once-a-month gatherings, largely to worship and alternately castigate the Dodgers.  I play with my phone during discussion time.    All four of us are happy especially when Dee brings a bottle of champagne.

The restaurant is very pretty in a non-rustic way.  I would estimate that the walls came from a dismantled barn; the tables are those round Big Pedestal farm dining tables, all painted white.  The main dining room is outdoors with working (and very good job they did) heat lamps.  Since it was in the mid 50s I wanted to find the warmest, most wind-saved corner inside, but the server (a beautiful Brazilian) was so convincing about the warmth generated and the pleasures of sitting on the sidewalk that we agreed to try it.  It was quite cozy!

I ordered the Bar Snacks to accompany our champagne "And put it on my bill," I told her.  They consisted of three small round steel bowls which held sugared almonds, crisp chick peas with Aleppo pepper and Castelv - something or other olives - in a herbal marinade.   As we are used to rather lush  offerings elsewhere (Dominque's Kitchen, Hudson House;) they disappointed.  $12

The three of them ordered a cup of the house clam chowder - $4 which arrived packed in the bowl with a green tracing  of something across the mountainous top of ?  Guacamole? asked Dee.  Wasabi? I asked.  None of the above,  We were told (borderline sneeringly) "Chive oil."

Our mains were:

Grass-fed beef slider with onion jam, Gorgonzola cream  $3.50  Someone's ide of a cheeseburger?

Roast pork soft tacos (corn) with white Cheddar, peach sriracha and cilantro garnish  Two for $8.   The only reason I ordered this was curiosity about the peach sriracha.  Never tasted it.  Never saw anything that could look like it.  Fought back bitter tears.

Richie complained that the beef slider was tough, all three of them complained that the slider rolls were too dry.

Consensus:  We'll we've been here, we don't have to go back.  Where shall we go in January?

Monday, December 16, 2019

Tinsel on the Rug

"Protest Nativities"  Perhaps in your neighborhood?

Christ Church Episcopal Church, located in downtown Indianapolis, IN,  has replaced the traditional and familiar manger scene with this version.  All three of the principals are in a chain link cage to protest Trump immigration policies.  This church is "Known to be politically active."  No!  You think?.

United Methodist Church, Claremont, CA has the trio divided into three chain link cages - not even the unity of all in one.  That's kind of sad don't you think?  

And lastly I have to call bullshit on Rev. Stephen Josomas, St. Susanna Parish who said (winsomely perhaps)  "Our goal was never to fill the pews.  It is to live out the Gospel."  Whatever one might think of his sincerity in this matter, he said it. And then had to hurry to catch up with a group of press he was showing around their display.  A three cager.

Whatever happened to separation of Church and State anyhow???

A Royal Christmas  Queen Elizabeth II rewards her faithful staff by sending out 1,500 Christmas puddings (Brit fruitcake?) and 750 cards.  I heard that she likes to decorate her own tree, one of three located in the Marble Hall at Sandringham.

Christmas Doings at the White House  I recommend   whitehousehistory.org which is rich in hard facts and intimate details.  A taste - The White House was wired for electricity in 1894.  Three years later in 1897, Grover Cleveland and his family delighted in the first Christmas trees to be lit - red, white and blue bulbs were the theme colors.  His daughters were thrilled to bits according to reports at the time.

The number of trees in the White House went up considerably under Mamie Eisenhower's reign.  Her first Christmas included 26 trees throughout the official and private areas of the White House.
In 1997 the Clintons upped the ante with 36 trees and in 2008, Obama downsized the number to 27.

The Trump theme for 2019 is The Spirit of America with four-star- spangled trees with an eagle topping the trees in the East Room; a Gingerbread house in the State Dining room.  Trees in the South Portico of the White House with a Liberty Bell, Mt. Rushmore,Statue of Liberty.   The Grand Foyer shows swags of 22 evergreens and 14 magnolia topiaries.  I searched and could not get the number of trees this year.  Annoying as I try to be factual.

White House pastry chef, Roland Mesnier will make yet another gingerbread house.  The first was five cottages for the George H.W. Bush family.  In ensuing years, a recreated White House (the whole thing) or the South Portico have been popular models.

He has to start the fruit cakes and their aging early because there will be a half ton of them.  So the kitchens start in early summer and then they are aged in refrigerators until the season calls for them.  Mesnier has written several books and I look forward to finding them in our local library.  I don't want to bake anything, (I can't stand flour on my hands) but I love the behind-the-curtain stories of the greats and not-so-much ones.

Now - go get the vacuum cleaner and sweep this mess away!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

A Poet, An Artist and a Farm Wife

My aunt Vera and her husband, Uncle Floyd, lived on a farm outside of Yates Center, KS, pop. minuscule, bought a farm in 1946 for $6,100 and paid off a $40 year note in a brief five years.  From my childhood visits, I remember that there was a water pump in the kitchen (water lines hadn't been put in yet) an outhouse some 40 or 50 ft. from the back porch.  They put in a bathroom when the water got to the farm.

They had to use oil lamps until electricity arrived and trimming the wick so it would burn evenly  and cleaning the glass was a big job.  Heat was provided by a trio of black stoves - the big one in the kitchen for cooking; the two middle-sized in the dining room and parlor which was seldom used.

 They raised pigs ("Don't sit on their fence; you fall in, they'll eat you!") a couple of draft horses to pull the plow and reaper in season and a couple of cows.  Vera sold milk and cream to a dairy - after separating out some of the cream for her uses.  Her whipped cream for various desserts could truly be cut with a knife.  My job was feeding the chickens and collecting their eggs, a great adventure for a six year old.  They bite!

Their farm was at the end of the road, and Vera named it Wits End Farm, whether ironically or in desperation was never known.  She painted a sign and hung it on the gate onto the land.  It was lonely out there, no close neighbors; Yates Center some five miles away.  Too far to walk, especially in a Kansas winter where, unstopped, the snow blew in with vigor -  and regularity.

Uncle Floyd was taciturn to the point of nearly not talking at all.  Whether he was the same when they were alone will never be known, but what is known are her poems, hand designed and painted birthday and Christmas cards.  Vera's grandson Leslie came across this Christmas poem, written July 26th in 1946.

'Tis the day after Christmas
and all through the flat
There are boxes and wrappings
Scarce room for the cat

The house is all silent
Except for Pa cracking nuts
And I go around munching
Too much candy and such

How proud of my presents
My loved ones have given
Sure looks like old "Santa"
Some good bargains had driven

My greetings from friends
Both near and after
Gives me a happy feeling
No loneliness can mar

I clear up the nutshells
The tinsel and trash
Take down the little tree
Once a beautiful thing

Put away the decorations
Carefully wrap the soap deer
Pack away each bauble
To use next year

There's a feeling of sadness
The girls are gone*
But I had a good Christmas
With everyone home

*Referencing their two daughters Mardell and Marjorie.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

First Responders! Att: for cats and dogs

If you're the owner of either and they go south on you for some reason, you're going to be the 1st Responder. Do not call the closest fire station; call your animal's  vet.

Tis the season and all that, but it's also the time of the year that dogs/cats are tempted to chew up the creche and all that lies within it but also the plants particular to Christmas.    The following are poisonous:

mountain laurel

1st - get them away from the source  2nd cautiously swab their mouth out with a finger;  3rd.  save any vomitus in a plastic bag or a small sample of whatever was eaten leaf, flower, and take it with you to the vet.  It can help in a diagnosis by your vet and instant proper treatment.

Another emergency help source is the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Poison Control Center    Website is   www.aspca.org/poison   Phone:  888-426-4435

Heloise said a consultation fee may be assessed.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Today is Friday the 13th! Hide or go about your business as usual?

About half of us are quivering under tables or beds in our happy place; another quarter are laughing and making fun of the "scaredy cats" and the last quarter forgot it was Friday the 13th and have carried on as usual.

 And then there are those of us (too small a number to make it into the statistics) who love this day and consider it to be lucky - "Huh? the fear and trembling crowd wonders?   All of the others are home and not making traffic snarls in the streets; planes fly marginally less filled; of course, you can the reservation time you want at a restaurant … all good things.

What can you do if you're superstitious?  These sound kind of made at home with loving hands-ish, but here are some remedies listed online.  Burn sage.  Go to crystals and stones; light a white candle, do a good deed and do not throw shards of a broken mirror away.  Since in many places, a broken mirror will get you seven years of bad luck, perhaps just let it be on the floor.  And for God's sake don't go padding around the site barefoot!

Another bit of advice sounds faintly pornographic to me ... cleanse your chakras with fresh flowers.  I have no idea what a chakra is nor where it is located in the human body and my would-be source on the matter (Raffish, MD) is out of town.  

If you wouldn't be freaked out about flying on this date, you could flee to any of the Spanish-speaking countries where Tuesday the 13th is feared.  In Italy, it's Friday the 17th.

British auto accident numbers  may go up as much as 52 per cent, but in the Netherlands, the statistics go down - there are great numbers there who stay safely in their houses.

Speaking of flights … the possibility of a flight going down on The Day is 0.067 but on any normal flying day that same rate is 0.091

Calme toi  There were two in America in 2019; next year in November, 2020, will be the only one. All you have to do is toast midnight tonight and skip gaily through life until then.  

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Wine Popularity Contest

Curious, I asked whether red or white wines are the most preferred in the United States and now I'm sorry I did because red won at 60 per cent.  And among the reds the most popular is cabernet sauvignon followed by merlot.  (sigh)  No wonder nearly every wine list I've seen in any restaurant is heavy on the reds and light on the whites and rose might as well be nonexistent.  

Clearly my preference is white if I'm sighing.  And of the whites, I like pinot grigio and most emphatically not the chardonnays which always have too much cork and/or oaky flavor.   

So it is with great delight that I beg your kindness in my pimping a new white on me.  Honey Moon Viognier, specifically which is a delightful mouthful of melon, honey, apricot.   It's $5.99 per bottle which contains 600 calories - no more no less.  

It edges out my lovely Venetian Moon pinot grigio $4.99, 600 calories at Trader Joe.  I know that is popular because it's frequently sold out.  Which is how I happened to try the Viognier.  Always have a Plan B and the V is mine!  Try it - if you like whites.  If you're a red fan, well I tried.

Bottoms up whatever your tipple.  

Monday, December 9, 2019

Happy 103rd Birthay Issur Danielovitch!Perhaps

Perhaps better known as Kirk Douglas.

He was born in Amsterdam, New York, surrounded and (presumably spoiled rotten) by his six sisters.  I couldn't find a reference (one too many sisters?)  to his reasons for joining the Navy in 1941 through 1944.  Having done his service to our country; when he left he was a Lt JG.

I've heard that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.  Well, he served in the Navy in WW2 and that didn't get him.  The sisters, previously mentioned and Show Biz.  Chug on Issur!

Sunday, December 8, 2019


Loved comparing gun oil and Madeleines.  For a Proust fan, that was a riot.  Good luck on the book; love your writing.  Jim, LA

I just finished your book today an I must say I found it filled with amusing anecdotes.  I particularly liked Chapter 28, London's "friendly" bar.  I could just picture in my imagination how you recoiled as the woman pummeled you with kisses.  I liked your metaphor of comparing it to being caught at Pompeii.  I also liked Chapter 33: Impressions at a funeral" - it was not at all what I expected and I  laughed aloud several times.  The book was a good read.  D. Vermillion

Funny, and you catch yourself laughing out loud.  Where has Nina Murphy been?  Her new book "Word of Mouth" is just what the Doctor ordered for the summer months or any time of the year.  It is clever, interesting and full of surprises about some people you may have known or heard about.  Murphy says people are quirky and with that statement she allows us to see ourselves more clearly and with a sense of humor.  She and the book are a "find."  James Newman.

An easy cruise - Nina has the gift many authors lack; she writes as we think and speak.  No need to battle with excess flowery prose, just for the sake of filling pages.  An easy cruise through situations we have all lived in one form or another.  Well done!  APHS

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Who Sez So? Comments on "And the Best Block Is ... Word of Mouth

The Comments listed below are probably what gave me 4.7 stars out of a possible 5.  Disclaimer:  none of the comments shown here were written by me!  Scurrilous as I am no doubt; despite my oft asserted statement that I'm a mercenary at heart, I still haven't sunk that low.

Watch this spot though ...

This was exactly what the author said it was: little mental tidbits to nibble on while you're getting your oil changed or catching an Uber for dinner.  It's entertaining and just plain fun.  Now that you can get it in Kindle format there's no excuse not to give it a read.    Tracey Johnson, author of "A Different Place to Die"

Author Nina Murphy's "And the Best Blog Is Word of mouth" gave me a little vacation.  If her intent were to make me laugh, she hit the target.  I really enjoyed this book. .

Clever observations, reality in your face, unbiased opinions and random thoughts from someone who has seen it all, Nina Murphy is that crazy lady down the street that would make your Thanksgiving dinner conversations better than with your own relatives.  Highly recommended. Michael C. Messineo, author "Rigby's Roads"

A very enjoyable read.  I am thoroughly enjoying reading this book.  Perfect reading for the hot summer days.  Light, fun and interesting.You certainly have a way with words.  I have young grandchildren and sometimes during this loong summer vacation, you just need to escape and this is the kind of book that lets you take short breaks from the chaos and the heat.

Keep writing, Nina, I look forward to your next book.  I hope I can add to this review because I have just finished one of Jeremy Clarkson's books and I love the fact that Nina and Clarkson have the same style.  No flowery descriptions, no time wasting on superfluous stuff...just straight to the point, short, sharp and funny.  Love them both.    A  fan in Netanya, Israel

Nina, your book is incredible!!!  I've been waiting for its release since you told me about it.  In addition, I like the fact that I can go on your blog at any time and stay current without having to explore the hodgepodge of different dispatches in order to find out what is going on in our world locally and internationally.  I don't trust the media nor do I enjoy reading the news so reading your blog keeps me up to date and amused.  Your anecdotes, use of fun and interesting  language and most of all, your fresh perspective keeps me reading.  You've lived a very full and interesting life and you offer readers a very unique perspective into your life and the lives of others.  I look forward to sharing this book with friends and family.  Mattthew

To Be Continued

Friday, December 6, 2019

Back Cover

Or:  a further explanation re the contents of "And the Best Blog Is ..Word of Mouth"

WAITING;    Illustration is a slug turning into a butterfly to signify  waiting and the results thereof.  .

Do you hate to have to just sit there?

At your doctor's/dentist's office?

At the car wash when you've long since gotten over the excitement of watching your car go through?

Sitting at the gate, waiting for your flight's boarding number?  And you're in Group 6?

At the laundromat (unless it has a bar)?

For an oil change or minor auto repair?

For the bail bondsman to show up?

"And the Best Blog is" was designed and written for those tiresome moments.  It's a collection of short pieces so that you can start and stop reading with ease and not lose the plot line because there isn't one!

The mention of "Bathroom books" often cause a slight grimace of distaste in polite company, but a nice thick-ish book (196 pages) like "Word of Mouth" is perfect for those, uh, secluded moments; yes, that's the way to say it.  .

Thursday, December 5, 2019

"What's it all about, Alfie"?

Well let's start with basic information.  First and foremost, I am not named "Alfie."  You should have twigged this on your own as there are plenty of clues on this site as to the fact that I'm Nina to friends and foes alike.  (If you are a foe, please let me know at your earliest convenience. I will make every effort to fix it whatever it might be.)

What in this instance is the book I am touting so assiduously about?  From the copy on amazon.com

"Little kids go through a period when their every utterance is either "Why?" or "NO!"

I got over "No" pretty quickly but to this day I've never gotten over "Why?"  Why would anyone go three months without bathing just to live like they did in Tudor England?  It turns out that the Tudors were a lot cleaner than we might have thought in a land where people of wealth existed with only three pairs of underpants each - one on them, one in the wash and one in reserve.  Nice ones were left in Last Will and Testaments!

Why would any man be loony enough to go around marrying trees?  Some sort of bark fetish?  As it turns out, he is an ardent ecologist.  And in my not-so-professional jargon "bat shit crazy."

How did that pistol turn up in an old suitcase under our house?  And who put it there and why?

Why can you buy kosher marijuana in New York, but not Los Angeles?  Because New York has the highest Jewish population of all American cities.  And I didn't know the population figures either.  Double new info.

I like the quirky because human behavior fascinates me.   When something strikes me as odd, funny or faintly educational, I'm off on the hunt to find out more.  "

So, to answer your curiosity, that's what it's all about, Alfie!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

OMG! Only 24 shopping days until Christmas!

This is not yet an emergency though.  Four days or four hours to shop IS!  But in an effort to be helpful to you, my readers, I have found a gift - among the very many - that you can order from your very own abode and have sent to your intended recipient.  No braving bad weather - talkin' to the East Coast here but it could be Southern California today - rain, lashing winds and the furnace roaring away.

It's a modest gift, gently priced, a perfect stocking stuffer if the stocking is a size 17 EEE.

It's my book "And the Best Blog Is - Word of Mouth" by Nina Murphy  196 pages  $12 or $1.99 Kindle  amazon.com   barnesandnoble.com

Monday, December 2, 2019

De-coding the Southern Lady Code

"Southern Lady Code" by Helen Ellis 203 pages  $22 

Although Ellis now lives in Manhattan, she was born and brought up in Alabama and she has not forgotten the rules for Southern Ladies and what they're really saying.

I am reasonably sure that no matter where you were born and raised whether as an Eskimo in Alaska or an Italian in Little Italy, Manhattan, NY, one or more of your mamas stressed to you " If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.  The Southern Ladies, however, have also been instructed  "Say something not so nice in a nice way."  "Bless her heart" plays strong for this. "She's got a rack like a loaf of WonderBread and she's jes' so proud of them (insert bless, etc. here)

It's an amusing book, if you find Southern isms funny or educational.  The funniest I've read so far in this genre is Southern Funerals.  Hint:  pimento cheese (not Velveeta), deviled eggs and Co'Cola cake  are mandatory for the funeral afters.

I enjoyed this book except for the chapter on watching porn like a lady.  Flat doesn't make sense given the nature of porn itself.  Other than that .. hit'er!