Monday, December 31, 2012

Over Under

So long 2012, Hello 2013!
(Where, oh where, did the aughts go?)
Thoughts on the past year--

Swank bars with artisanal cocktails ($12 plus a pop)
Happy hours!

Academia. Race to the Mountaintop. Teach for America.
The arts. The arts. The arts.

Cutting edge social media
Face time.

Annual New Year's resolutions
Daily to-do lists

And you, gentle reader?  What would you quibble with, or add?
In any case, happy new year!

PS: Here's a shameless Google plug.  But beautiful to behold.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My Christmas Countdown


I'm taking the slow boat to the holiday season--

However, here are seven personal favorites:

Lemon bars
Pecan bars
Pumpkin bread pudding
Ginger snaps

Accompanied by Donna and Blitzen.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Rereading Great Expectations

Surely, I am rereading it?
If so, why does every line spring so fresh; and why do certain passages seem so apposite
to today? (Check out an early section on the particular terror contained by small children).

I must have confused the watching with the reading, and the other night, turning off the set after viewing David Lean's happy ending, I had to wonder what had Dickens described, and so I began.
Did you know, it opens on Christmas Eve?  I had no recollection of that, either.

It is fascinating to me that the past of England is so gloriously romanticized-(excuse me, present too.
Who bloody CARES which royal is preggers?) while Dickens did a wonderful job of documenting
England's meanness and misery.  

Yes, I agree, you have to be in the mood for slightly archaic language, vivid description and incisive characterization.  Dickens shows and tells, something many modern writers seem to have forgotten.
No recipe today, I must get back to my book.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Vital News Flash!

Julian Fellowes is taking on the Gilded Age. He says
"It was a vivid time, with dizzying, brilliant ascents and calamitous falls. Of record-breaking ostentation and savage rivalry; a time when money was king."

Clearly so very different from today--

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Naked Truth

How do you feel about your neighbors?  
In my previous home my new neighbor greeted us with a basket of strawberries that spilled onto our shiny wooden floors.  The gift of food was foreshadowing: we had meals at each other's home, shared recipes and small bites; I remember insisting she come over right now to taste a new cookie, still warm from the oven.

In our current home, one neighbor of 13 years greets us, barely, but, I feel, it's his way of interacting with the world.  Our previous neighbor, of 11 years was a model of consistency: he had his morning walk and his evening walk.  He swept his drive.  We sipped rose on his patio and chatted about his time in WWII; at Christmas I sent over cookies while he sent us See's.

At 92 he passed away.

The first time I met our current neighbors I was in a hurry and they  had blocked our driveway with a truck.
Ah, foreshadowing.  During the open-window summer months their microwave that cooks their breakfast blasts at 6:am; their security alarm is set to go into histrionic self-destruct mode AFTER they've left their home.  In the cool fall air they pour their empties into the recycling bin at 6:30 am; he works sawing tile or drilling concrete under our bedroom window; they installed a motion detector light that flashes into our bedroom when a squirrel scuppers by; they have decorated their drive way (which we see from our living and dining room) with the broken debris of a wood shop/gym. 

This all should be funny, if I were more ZM (zen master) and less EA (easily annoyed--look it up in the DSM).

What has sent me over the edge is that they have no drapes. Perhaps they did not realize one of their bedrooms is completely visible to a visitor to our dining room. I have taken to leaving the dining room light on at all times, in an epiphany-provoking attempt.

Last night, what did I see next door as I set the table?

I promise more psychological warfare updates as they occur.

And now you know what a nutter I truly am---

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dining Alone at Home

It's the perfect moment to be selfish.  No worries about someone else's sensitive palate or over-reliance on animal protein.  Frugal or extravagant, depending on the mood.

I opted for this:

For every pound of boiling pasta place three tablespoons of butter in a skillet. Add four ounces creamy gorgonzola and 1/3 cup milk. Place heat on low, add two teaspoons of salt and mush the cheese as everything melts together. Drain the pasta, add to skillet, along with 1/4 cup heavy cream and 1/3 cup grated Parmesan. Toss. Serve. Devour.

It was memorable.

The down-side about eating alone?  When that bottle of wine is done, there's only one person you can blame.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Death By Turkey

In our home, leftovers are gobbled up quickly and gratefully  (no cooking involved!).
This year I did not host, but was rewarded with ziploc bags of leftovers.  We headed over to another home for a second dessert pit stop (always room for coffee and  homemade pecan pie)  where our hostess couldn't say goodbye without giving us half a dozen white takeout boxes filled with her delectable leftovers.  (She uses the turkey carcass for soup stock.  Mine goes pope's nose first into the trash bin.  She's a real woman, I'm a mere pretender).

The first go-to is always a turkey sandwich, slathered with mayonnaise.
My brother-in-law's favorite is always a stuffing sandwich, skip the turkey.

Here are a few more ideas for shredded turkey:

5) Turkey pot pie.  (Do yourself a favor and use Pillsbury's instant rolls to drop on top--you're tired, after all).

4) Turkey quesadillas

3) Turkey enchiladas ( I recommend Las Palmas green sauce. Yes, you MUST fry the tortillas before you dip them in the sauce)

2) Turkey risotto: add chopped turkey to your favorite risotto recipe.  Throw in some sliced sausage, for savory flavor.

1) Turkey mole, my family's favorite.  No need t0 bring out the Rick Bayless cook book.  Just pick up a jar of Dona Maria mole mixture, adding a smidge of peanut butter and a chunk of Ibarra Mexican chocolate to taste.

And you?  Any other interesting twists?

What? You gonna pretend you don't like sweet and savory?  Perhaps you've never tried barbecue?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Anne Lamott Gives Thanks

I love her.  I loved Bird by Bird and Traveling Instructions. Vulnerable, painfully sensitive,
with an explosive sense of humor.

She gives thanks here and here.

 Oh, and I shall give a little thanks.  We are 23 years married today.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

More Thanksgiving

Really?  You still haven't figured out the menu?
Enter the NY Times, always ready with a wry hand up, here.

I clearly need that freedom software, as I've been amusing myself for sometime with this.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Killer Thanksgiving Apps

I get emails, I get emails----

From a buddy who was a recent site-rep for a tv shoot, one of TWO Latinas
"Latina on set ok - but don't let a female or a minority near those directors' and writers' chairs!"

From another faithful reader

"Have you heard about this app? I know that many well-known writers use it.

With Thanksgiving coming up, I need an app for freedom from all the pie my father-in-law is going to make...and that I am going to eat."

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Celebration/Consolation Sundae

 Two large scoops chocolate ice cream.
Drizzle with salty caramel sauce.
Sprinkle with beer nuts.

Whether you won or lost yesterday, either is reason enough to raise your spoon and dig
into this.

Ice cream, the great equalizer.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

May the Odds be Ever in Your Favor

It's not so much that I'm voting for Katniss Everdeen, as against President Snow.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Text from a Stranded Lower Manhattanite

Union Square in complete darkness

Mom can you make ropa vieja and matzo ball soup and albondigas and split pea soup and macaroni and cheese and salmon and poached pears and swirly pasta even though it's expensive?

Author's note: said daughter was out of power for a week.  Her long wish list narrowed down to one item: a bath.  Her school and dorm buildings now have power and she's back in class, as of today.  Hard to fathom how many remain without a home to return to.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Radio David Byrne

A few weeks ago, after an all-day board meeting, a group of us walked out of our hotel and past another on Shelter Island, San Diego.   People had brought their camping chairs, parking themselves on the public greenbelt.  Why? I wondered--then realized to listen to the music that wafted out of the concert venue, free of charge.  David Byrne was performing, that very moment!  I pointed this out to my companions.

Who? They said.
WHO? I said.  Ever hear of the Talking Heads?

For those of you who are familiar with this fellow, you may not know he broadcasts a play list he composes, new each month.  You can find it here.  I've enjoyed going through the archives, just to see what music tickles this musician, and see if I recognize a few of my own favorites.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thanksgiving Countdown

Where will you be on the day?  Right now my family is playing hot potato, delaying the decision until some neurotic A personality (moi) can no longer bear the suspense and comes down hard.

In the meantime, make something for the morning that will suffuse your home with scents of gratitude.

Pumpkin bread pudding with salty caramel sauce.
Inspired by the Little Flower Co.

Cube stale challah or brioche, enough for five cups.  Set out to dry further.
In a larger mixing bowl combine:
One egg
1/2 teaspoon cinammon, 1/4 teaspoon allspice or mace, a smattering of nutmeg and a crush of cloves.
Stir in a cup of half and half, half a cup brown sugar, half a can pumpkin puree (plain, unseasoned).
Mix well.

Stir in the cubed bread, and let it soak in for 10 minutes or so.  Pour into a buttered 8 x 8 pan.
Bake in 350 degree oven until firm all the way through, 30-45 minutes.  Remove and cool until you can no longer contain yourself.

While it's baking, make the salty caramel sauce.  The best recipe in the world for this is right here.
The secret? DON'T STIR it while it's coming to a boil!

Your family will thank you.  And if they don't, eat the whole damn thing yourself.
Not up to the challenge? There's always caramel corn for breakfast--

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sexier than a Psychopath?

What could be? Who could be?
It's a hot hot hot topic, between the tv series (Dexter) the movie (7 Psychopaths)
the mysteries (your pick) and the elections (oops!). 
Kevin Dutton is cashing in--on his topic, his research, and our thirst for knowing all the lurid details.  An energetic, entertaining and engaging speaker,  along with his Michael Palinesque intonation, he gave the Cal Tech audience a terrific talk.

Want to read some of his stuff on line?
Here and here.

Interested in an extended interview?
Try this.

Then let me know your thoughts.

Happy Halloween.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Want to brush up your novel with Jane Smiley?

Got a spare $2850?
Then THIS is the place for you.

And they call self-publishing vanity publishing!

Friday, October 19, 2012

5 Reasons to Drown Yourself in Halloween Candy

5.  The presidential debates.

4.   Global warming.

3.   The economy.

2.   You're easily annoyed.

1.  The anthology that solicited your short story rejected your submission.

What are your reasons, gentle reader, and your candy of choice?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


"Oh, you're a vegan?  Guess what I don't have: a smug sense of superiority."

Hmm, a tad on the defensive? I recall going away to college where everyone was a vegetarian.  Clearly, I was inadequate.  Later surrounded by kosher people.  Clearly, I was unclean.  Food choices as identity markers, we've all been there.  I'm stepping out now, to pick up a slice of pumpkin bread pudding slathered in a salt caramel sauce.  That should tell you all you need to know about me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dolores Huerta's F-bomb

What a thrill to listen to this icon at a YWCA breakfast, introduced as "the original wise Latina." How moving and humble of her to share her congressional medal of honor with everyone in audience, as if we shared in those struggles and accomplishments with her.
In addition to her advice on the coming elections, she wanted to remind us about the f word:
Viva Dolores Huerta! Viva!

Monday, October 15, 2012

More Nostalgia

There were actually some nifty parts of the 70s.  Here's something that I sang to, over and over and over again, as a kid.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

External Validation

Know Camille Paglia, that brilliant feminist provocateur?
She, too, loves the "Real Housewives of New Jersey."
Scroll through here to find her take on it.
Don't bother me tonight, Episode 3 of the reunion is on.

Whew!  And here I thought I was low brow.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


I am a fan.  I can't help it.  Improve myself? Let me count the ways, the possibilities, the benefits and on and on and on. 

My offspring view any attempt at self-improvement as ludicrous and personally embarrassing.  (As if THEY were born, fully formed).  My husband finds the entire topic wearing.  Up until now.

He calls this the best short self help film ever.  As if!
Check it out and let me know your thoughts.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Party's Over

Those fey gals from Jersey ended on a sour night the other night.  They took their dough and kneaded it into drama, betrayal and shredded families.  Why should I care?  Why should it matter?

Maybe cuz it was fun to eavesdrop 3000 miles away, gawk, cast aspersions and pronounce judgement.  But who are they if not a mirror of who we are? (Me, I should say, not you, gentle reader).  High dudgeon, righteous indignation, coupled with an incredible capacity to resist apologizing.  No one on that show was ever wrong, except to believe the better of someone.  It makes me sad to recognize bits of myself there.

Consolation Pasta
 (swiped, recklessly, from Food and Wine)

  • In 2/3 cup olive olive steep 2/3 cup peeled garlic cloves, on low heat, stirring until lightly golden (the smell, THE SMELL! will drive you wild with garlic desire)
  • In 3 cups of water boil 4 ounces sliced mushrooms until reduced to one cup.
  • Puree the olive oil and garlic in a blender with one 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes, pour into heavy sauce pan.
  • Puree the mushroom broth (toss the shrooms) with one 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes, pour into heavy sauce pan.
  • Simmer blended ingredients an hour, until thickened.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Ladle over pasta of your choice, garnished with fresh basil and parmesan.
 Devour.  Then click on the tv, because Dr. Drew's Rehab has been dvrd!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


What great nation has a populace that feels entitled to food, shelter and healthcare?

Food vs. hunger
Shelter vs. homelessness
Healthcare vs. illness.

Can't be us.  We have the highest infant mortality rate of any developed country.
It's our weird mythology, that the rugged individual who makes it on his own. (Yes, gentle readers, it is always a he). It never seems to take into account
the money or privilege certain rugged individualists inherited upon birth.  And the rest of us?  Lazy slackers, agitating about our share of the government pie.

Coping mechanisms, anyone?

Monday, September 17, 2012


 Childhood foods include:

4. Bugles

3. Doritos dipped in sour cream.
(Wanna go upscale? Add pickled jalapenos to the sour cream)

2. Homemade divinity fudge. We made it one New
Year's Eve-it was so wonderful I ate it until I got sick.  I haven't touched the stuff since.

1. Underwood deviled ham on soft white bread, interrupted by mayonnaise and a leaf of lettuce.

What about you?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

NPR, Where Have I Been?

I have been listening to NPR for years.  How then, have I missed this?
That's right, a short story contest.  Readers!  Join me and submit!
Grand prize?  Story read on air and PUBLISHED in the Paris Review.

Nice work, if you can get it.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


The problem with alcohol is that it neither cools nor refreshes; it makes you drowsy then it disturbs your sleep.  But, it is something to take your mind off of the heat.

Easy Cooler:

Fill a tall glass with ice.  Add 2-3 ounces sweet vermouth.  Fill glass with Diet (or regular) 7-up.
Sip.  Nibble with a few nuts.  It's too hot to cook, anyway.


Monday, September 10, 2012


NPR recently covered the benefits of eating organic.  The scientific evidence? None.

Kids, when I buy organic, it's not about what I'm putting into my mouth.  My background makes me think about the women and men picking the vegetables and fruits.  At times I think about the animal welfare, and their conditions before slaughter.  And that's when I buy organic.  Although, if you're Steve King or  from Arizona, the animals probably have the edge.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Seamus Heaney


Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.

Seamus Heaney

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Stage direction:
Lanky 17-year-old male scooping more ice cream into bowl, speaking to weight-obsessed mother.
"Can you imagine having to be on a diet? That must be miserable."

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Forty Percenters

A 2009 study recently caused an explosion of media attention on how much food Americans waste.  If you haven't heard, up to 40%.  Counter-intuitively, as soon as I heard this I raced out to Super King and stocked up on those most perishable of items, fruits and vegetables.

I had just used the last of the fading string beans in a cold summer salad.  I had fed the cucumber and zucchini skins to the bunnies.  So, I like to think there's not a lot of waste in this household. 

But  forty per cent is a mind-boggling number!  It makes me think of the time a couple invited us for dinner.  They had ordered in boxes and boxes of Chinese food.  When we were done I thought appreciatively of the meals ahead they faced, of delectable leftovers.  I then watched the hostess rinse all the food down the sink.  Speechless, I couldn't muster up a plea for a doggie bag.

How about you?  Do you have tales of the 40 percenters?  Pardon me while I throw out the avocado the ants tackled last night, and toss the brown Mexican rice from a previous meal.  Are those blackberries sprouting fur?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Note to self

The night before the college girl returns to NYC for the year sucks.

  • Knowing that I would be stressed and resentful if I had to prepare something, we all cheered up with the thought of takeout pizza and antipasto salad from Domenico's.  Too bad we drove over there, not realizing they're closed for Labor Day weekend.
  • Plan B, cheap and cheerful Chinese, only to open the plastic bags at home and realize one of our main courses was missing.  Thus ensued a ten minute phone conversation trying to explain our plight, more and more vociferously.
  •  Dr Who, season premier, the family entertainment standby, appeared to have been written by a plot-addled Dalek.
All this translated into an early bed time to me.  Good byes are just too damn hard.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Is this it?

Are you a grasshopper or an ant?  You know, via Aesop, upended by Maugham.  I've been thinking about this lately, because I've been such a good ant for so many years, putting a little aside each year, being proud of being responsible, delaying gratification by second nature.  (The ability to postpone gratification is one of the most significant indicators of adult success, if you remember the oft-cited marshmallow experiment).  So, pleased with myself, I go along my ant ways, unwilling to look up, to be distracted by the careless but beguiling grasshoppers around me.

Adhering to the cultural convention that passing time = progress, I have blithely assumed that at some point in the future, I will have arrived.  I will no longer have the financial or emotional need to further delay any damn thing. Just as I believed that age = wisdom and, again, at some point in the future, we will have figured every damn thing out.

Lately I have taken to thinking that there is no logic in either of those premises, nor is there any supporting evidence. Which leads me to my opening question: is this it?  And if this is it--what should I do now?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Taking Measure

J Alfred Prufrock measured his life by coffee spoons.   I measure mine by the gardeners.

Got a few quiet moments for a sit in the shade in the back yard?  If it happens to be 4:30 on a Friday afternoon or 5:30 on a Saturday afternoon, you will be serenaded by multiple two-stroke leaf blowers.
No need to set alarms on Tuesdays through Fridays, the gardeners are eager, hardworking and early.  In fact, mid week they never seem to leave the neighborhood.


All summer with the windows open I've been awakened to the shattering two-stroke engine.  Want to hear something ridiculous?  It only dawned on me last week to use ear plugs!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Re-media-ted Experiences

Saturday night at an at outdoor concert were the ingredients for a perfect evening: balmy weather, talented musicians, a vibrant audience.  During the first set, behind us a group of men were hooting wildly over an app one had shared with the others, followed by a loud and extended discussion on predicting Facebook responses.   To my right a woman tapped at her glowing screen; in front of me another couple checked their photos from earlier in the day.  A number of people were viewing the performance from behind the safety of their video-recording phones.

Sunday morning at a local coffee shop I watched a couple having brunch, their baby parked securely in a stroller.  Between bloody marys and mouthfuls of food, the husband kept reading his messages and texting; the wife tapped at her screen.  At another table a very old grandmother and a mother sipped at their martinis while the teenager tapped beneath the table at her phone. 

As we mediate our experiences via technology, we hold our experiences and each other at arm's length.  Our constant separation of ourselves from the moment at hand is the collateral damage of technological innovations.  As if we're terrified of being alone and still with ourselves.  As if we need a safety valve of distraction while with others. 

During a class this summer a student corrected a misconception of mine regarding the Amish.  "They're not against technology," he said, "they're against any technology that separates them from God."

Sign me up.  Just because it's new and shiny, doesn't mean it's progress.

Thoughts? Quibbles? Corrections?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Quotable Moment

"You have no idea how funny and small you look from my moral highground," said my daughter, after a particularly bristling row.

That will doubtless be in a future novel of mine.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Slinging slaw


 I love cole slaw.  Chop, dress, and eat.  Adapted from an LA Times recipe, ages and ages ago.

Red cabbage slaw:

Shred a head of red cabbage.  Place in large mixing bowl.  Sprinkle with a tablespoon of caraway seed.

In one half cup of red wine vinegar add 3 tablespoons sugar, two teaspoons salt, one teaspoon seasoned salt,  1/8 tsp pepper, paprika, cayenne and onion powder each.  Blend in well.  Add half a cup vegetable oil, emulsify.

Pour ontop of shredded cabbage, mix well.  To deepen the flavors let it sit for a few hours.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The New Epicure's Epicenter

According to Bon Appetit, is the town where I live.  If you click the link and read the story, you will think that Altadena is monochromatic, and filled with hipsters.  Nothing inherently wrong about monochromatic hipsters, but it's certainly not the place I've chosen to live.

Surely the quote "Altadena is our Brooklyn" is a stab at humor?  Has the author ever been to either Altadena OR Brooklyn?

But then again, what am I thinking?  Everything is airbrushed and made commercially pretty for a slick magazine.

If you want to meet a true locavore, visit Christopher Nyerges.

Monday, August 20, 2012


is the title of Ed McBain's 39th novel set in the 87th precinct.  I've immersed myself in the hardboiled world, in order to keep my wits in this heat.

Plot and character driven, this series is a classic. What always impresses and surprises me is how emotionally engaging his stories are.

Why the photo?  It's a clue as to which poison is used.

Where is your book mark these days?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Terror Alert!

A faithful reader sends me a link, here.

I hope to soon return to recipes.  Cooking in 100 plus heat just isn't for me.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


For years I've wanted to live inside the pages of a sleek, glossy magazine, filled with perfectly coiffed people, with all musses and disasters cropped out of sight and existence.

Being a part of a reality show has never interested me. (No, nobody's asked, either). Oh the vulgarity!  The drawma!  The fake eyelashes, heavy makeup and high heels!

I've decided that what I really need is a skilled novelist shaping my story arc, giving it layers, depth, unexpected plot twists, and an emotionally resonant and satisfying ending that brings the house down with epiphanies and spiritual awakenings.  That's right.  But not too much drama, okay? And let's take plenty of time building to the ending, shall we?  In fact, let's have the ending more of a threshold to a whole new adventure.

Mid-life crisis as the new bildungsroman.

Interviews begin next week.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Some Assembly Required

But no cooking!

You will need:
canned artichoke bottoms
canned crab or shrimp
a hard boiled egg (per person)
sliced tomatoes.

Per person:

Place two artichoke bottoms on the plate.
Mix shrimp or crab with a little Russian dressing (a dollop of mayonnaise, and a splash of ketchup for color).
Spoon onto artichoke bottoms.  Garnish with sliced egg and tomatoes.

Classy.  I used to have this often as a first course in France.  Now if I could only remember its name!

You know, the French  really excel at the no-cook dining experiences.  Their charcuteries are marvels of freshly prepared cold salads, waiting in cool cases to be ordered, snatched up, and devoured with a slice of pate, ham, and a crispy baguette.  Celeri remoulade, caviar d'aubergine (took me ages to realize that is baba ganoush).   What are your no-cook go tos?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Can we do it?

More motivational thinking here.  I trend heavily to self-help; my husband is fond of wryly saying I don't limit it to "self."

What are your motivating tools?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Heat Wave Continues

Too hot to cook?  Open a bottle of this, Curtis 2010 viognier/rousanne sip, savor, and nibble on smoked mozzarella, garden grown tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil and dandelion vinegar.  It will help the time and the heat pass, and foster warm feelings towards your company.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Things I do not understand

 Surely, the list is infinite.  But in terms of cultural conventions, here are a couple of mine--
5) Twitter.  Why? Wherefore?  Who?
I love Alain de Bottin's tweets, but even he palls after awhile.  And how many twitter accounts can a human being actually follow? Care about?

4)Unlimited beer, wine, spirits and food events.  What are they thinking?  Everything goes better with a celebrity, I suppose.

3) County Fairs.  In September.

2) The death penalty, particularly for those with an IQ under 75.  (In a recent execution of a man with a 60 point IQ, a Texas spokesman said he had gamed the system, because in previous tests he had scored 70).

1) Chatting on cell phones in public loos.  It startled me the first time I witnessed it, eight years ago at Pasadena's Borders, it surprised me last week at Santa Monica.  Doesn't all that flushing detract from the conversation?

What about you?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Kitchen Nightmares


    I told my son, you pick the restaurant.
We were in an armpit of a town, an overnight pitstop from point a to point b during our family vacation.  The son had been a total trooper, so it was his pick.
     "Italian," he said, fully committed.
The front desk recommended Mike's Palace.
     Mike's Palace's menu was filled with columns and acropolis font.  Nice.   They offered Italian, American, Mexican and Greek, of course.  Olympian flat screen tvs promoted entree after entree.  The owners sat at a table by themselves, ignoring the flustered waitresses, occasionally coming out of hiding in order to seat determined customers, who apparently weren't going to leave quietly.  One owner in particular spent an inordinate amount of time picking her teeth, and startled a diner by abruptly returning a chair to the customer's table.  In short, this was not a promise of cultural fusion but of cultural discombobulation.  I lowered my hopes accordingly.
       The menu had truly remarkable offerings, braised asparagus with brown butter and parmesan, traditional pumpkin ravioli,  an ambitious watermelon and feta salad.  The polpettini were advertised as a mixture of beef and veal. You can't screw up a meatball, right?  I attempted to lower my expectations.
     I requested the polpettini from the waitress, who replied "The what?"
     I foraged ahead.  "Your menu calls them polpettini,  The meatballs."
    Moments later she brought a huge platter of antipasti to our table.  We had not ordered the antipasti.  I ordered a glass of wine, to help me through this travail.  As I waited, I wondered what Gordon Ramsay would make of this mashup.

Out came the wine, the pizza, my son's lasagna and my meatballs.
I took a bite of each. 
Every bite was heavenly.  The lasagna tasted as if the pasta were freshly made, the meatballs lovingly seasoned, the pizza a delight.  We were surprised to have enough leftovers for a cold pizza breakfast the following morning.

We tipped the waitress happily, and passed along our compliments to the chef.  (As we left I scowled disapproval at the still-banqueting owners, but they remained quite oblivious and unperturbed).

What culinary surprises, heavenly or otherwise, have you encountered this summer?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Strawberry Daquiris

In this heat we're sticking low to the ground, and rising only for something cold and frosty.

Hull one half pound of strawberries.  Macerate in a tablespoon of sugar for ten minutes.
In your blender add a cup of crushed ice, the macerated strawberries, and three ounces of rum or vodka.  Blend.

Serve in frosty cocktail glasses and hide near the air conditioner vent.
Or, skip the ethanol and start your day berry berry  happily.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Current Addiction

Uninspired by the same old chicken marinade I tried a new one.  I loved the flavors, and how tender the yogurt seemed to make the chicken.  We grilled it quickly--it's too hot to stay outdoors too long!

You will need:
 one pound or so fileted chicken breasts.  Place in a ziploc bag.  I like to do as Marcella Hazan does, and  turn a single breast into two or three flat filets, depending on the thickness.

Mix: 1/2 cup yogurt, 1/2 cup cilantro, two minced garlic cloves, half a tablespoon paprika and ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Don't be stingy with the salt, as it helps permeate and flavor the chicken.  Smooth with a tablespoon or more of olive oil, pour into baggie, seal, and mush about until it's evenly distributed.

Since I know I'll be cooking it thoroughly soon, I prefer to marinate meats at room temperature, it speeds up the process.  After two or more hours, grill.  Serve on pilaf, with a delightful salad.  You'll love it!

Friday, August 10, 2012


Street vendor Kanheri caves in Sanjay Gandhi National Park

Makes me want to pick up a slice of that star fruit and dip it in the orange colored seasoning.  No, makes me consider traveling to India.  Have you been?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Thirty Day Challenge

Thanks to my buddy I was exposed to yet another TED talk, although this should be filed under TED lite, as it was three minutes instead of the usual 20.  His premise is quite simple, you want to stretch a bit, try something new and keep it up for 30 days.

But what, I pondered.  Try a new recipe each day for 30 days?  I already cook, does that count?
Post 30 days straight?  Hmmm, something new, something borrowed, something blew--

Y'all got any ideas?  The world is our oyster, every now and then.  What new experience would you be willing to commit 30 days to?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Opposite of Schadenfreude

We all know that dank and nasty feeling, schadenfreude,  a gleeful emotional hiss of laughter at someone else's misfortune.  A satisfying sensation that panders to our vanity, and our own misguided view of personal justice. 

The other day, as a read a retraction of the Clinton and the swarm of bees story, I noticed they were quoting Ayelet Waldman, "journalist," who was apparently on the tarmac with Ms. Clinton.    Waldman and I go way back, ever since I fingered one of her published mommy mysteries on a table at Vroman's.  How had she swung that?  I was a mommy, I was a mystery writer, what false step had I taken?   There, on the book jacket, was what I had missed.  Harvard Law School attorney, married to Michael Chabon.

If you don't know him, Michael Chabon, at 23,  was a literary wunderkind.  Twenty odd years later he still makes novels pop, and  in addition is a screenwriter.  Remember the Spiderman with Tobey Maguire? So perhaps, in addition to Waldman's literary talent, she had a connection or two.

Since that fateful afternoon, I have lurked in Waldman's life, shocked to read of her bipolar diagnosis, been amused her tweets regarding her lust for her hubby, informed by her essays on mental illness, motherhood, and marriage.  And now, close enough to Clinton in Malawi to be a source.   I asked my own husband (neither novelist nor screenwriter) what was the opposite of schadenfreude?

He smiled and said, "That's easy.  Old-fashioned envy."

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Waiting Game 

I am waiting for a response.  The answer may or may not be a new fork in the road.  I should have had the answer weeks ago, and, who knows, I may have the answer before I post this, but the waiting gnaws away at me, consumes me, banishes thoughts of anything else.  I find myself sucked of all productivity, living a series of "what ifs" followed by "then, this".  Ugh!!!

The dramatic tone is meant to be ironic neurotic---

How do you wait? 

You can listen (ignore the shlocky image) to Joe Jackson waiting for the verdict here.

Monday, July 9, 2012

What Becomes a Goddess Most?

A novel, of course.

Margaret Finnegan's wild romp The Goddess Lounge is feminist fusion, wedding the present day to the
epic Odyssean tale.  In honor of her hot-off-the press publication, a toast, and a virtual menu.

While we know Mt Olympian gods live on nectar and ambrosia, our goddess has lustier appetites.

To start:
sparkling pinot, a deep dry sparkling wine, "To Margaret and your successful publication!" The dry wine emphasizes the silky, slightly sweet foie gras on brioche toasts.

First course:
Antipasto:  a hearty platter of soppressato, caponato, mortadella and pungent provolone.  Keep sipping the sparkling pinot, and when it runs out, a bottle of lambrusco will do.

Pasta a la carbonara, heavy on the cream, extra bacon please, and keep grating that fresh parmesan until I say when.
Wait, you've got a fresh truffle there?  Shave away!

If you've sworn off chardonnay, bored by the whole thing, now's the time to reconnect to something oaky and/or buttery.

Direct from Angelique's cafe on the Rue de Rivoli, Paris:  hot chocolate (where it is rumored they melt chocolate bars to achieve the perfect quality) topped by creme de chantilly.

You will need nothing more after this, I promise, except some quiet time to finish reading this great book.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Too many zucchini?

Two for all you overachieving gardeners out there

Grill 'em.
(But I'll bet you already knew that) 
I like to slice them, sprinkle them with garlic salt, then sizzle.

Cold (via Jamie Oliver):
Peel them (really, the skin is awful anyway)
Using the peeler ( I use a broad one) peel strips of zucchini into a large salad bowl.

a couple of tablespoons of freshly minced mint
a tablespoon of minced garlic,
a sprinkle of chile seeds/or
a minced chile

Right before serving salt to taste, a squeeze of lemon and a slather of olive oil.  Easy, elegant and offbeat.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Easy, Really Easy

Chicken Kebobs:
Slice your chicken breasts into manageable chunks--square inches or so.
Drop in a ziploc--add a teaspoon minced garlic, salt, pepper to taste, a squeeze of lemon, a teaspoon of dried or a tablespoon of fresh rosemary
and a dollop of olive oil.  Set aside for at least an hour. Want to be fancy?  Add the zest of your lemon.

Skewer on soaked bamboo sticks  or alternative.
Heat grill.  Set out your skewers, and grill, on each side 1-2 minutes for a total of 6-8 minutes.

Simple and delish, perfect for your fair weather friends.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Recipe for Summer

  • Create
  • Add value
  • Be happy
I'm going to try this one out this year.  How about you? What's your recipe for summer?

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Navarin d'agneau printanier

So many times I have spent hours of planning and concentration and presentation, and then, in a fit of pique, spoiled my family's and my appetite with an angry, resentful comment at the dinner table.  What is that craziness about?  Please tell me I'm not alone.

Or gone to a fancy, high end restaurant and by the next day forgotten what I'd eaten.

And then there are other nights, where the guests sparkle, the conversation sings, the music incorporates the past into the present, and the food surrounds us, bringing one more sense, one more connection.

I don't think that magic has a recipe, because surprise is part of the delight.  But I would say it has a few components:

1) The cook must love what she is doing.  It comes out in the food.
2) There must be time.  Just time.  You decide how to use it.
3) Your guests must want to be there.  No guilt-filled obligations, no courtesy visits, no mandated quality time.

What are your magical meal components?  Or memorable meals? I'd love to know---

Monday, April 23, 2012

When next weekend becomes now

A contractor came by to give me a quote on some work we've been contemplating.
As he pulled out his metal tape measurer he told me about his client, a woman in Westchester who has hired him for a top-end remodel of her kitchen.
He said to her, "You're 82 years old, why do you want to remodel your kitchen?"  How much more cooking, he wondered, was she going to be able to do.
She answered, "For forty years my husband told me he'd get to it next weekend.  Now that he's dead, I want
it done now."

Friday, April 20, 2012


Is it a secret club, a secret code? 
This Chicago born low-number franchise has infiltrated Pasadena, you may already know.  I went speeding by on a rainy evening, and loved the brick facade (god, I'm a sucker for brick--a harbinger of new places and old buildings) and found myself craving, CRAVING a made-to-order cup of coffee.

The scoop:
How do you like your waiting?  Distended?  Eternal? Cuz, here, you wait.  After a bit, you order.  You repeat your order because the background music is actually foreground.  Then you wait again. I watched a man devour his croissant long before the coffee arrived.  You watch a victim of tattoo ink and multiple piercings whisk a carafe of steaming hot water over a filter, as if he were uttering an incantation  to an Ethiopian goddess, and you pray too, surely that's your cup of coffee? But it's not--you ordered a cappuccino, and piercing victim #2 is doing his magic with the arcane fixtures.

Many minutes later you have a modest mug of cappuccino with a beautiful design on the foam.  You suffer multiple pangs, because, 1) it was more expensive than Starbucks so you didn't 2) tip the foam-based artisan.

You seat yourself with a view of the slick Pasadena streets and sip.

Then you get it.  Yeah, you're pretty cool  That's right.  You're so cool to appreciate this high end, fussy coffee, how could you regret the 4 plus bucks it costs? You're precisely the discerning  kind of person who appreciates that kind of thing.

On your way out you snag a couple of those Intelligentsia-stamped cylinders of sugar.  You're pretty sure Intelligentsia, somewhere, in some language, translates as pandering.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I Know Where I'm Going

apologies to Altadena Hiker

Recently back from "the Bay Area" (the vaguest geographical term in all of California) where you couldn't make a left turn without tripping across  a free range cow or a sustainable cup of coffee, which, happily, translated into delectable meals all around.  The Il Fornaio in a hotel in San Jose is bliss--the one in Pasadena: corporate.
Why not So Cal?  Why not? Is it the car fumes?  The haze?  This, I had to ponder.

Then I realized, there are some great spots with wonderful, reasonably priced food.
My recommendations to you--
The York, in Highland Park.  Truly delicious food (perhaps not the most comfortable venue).  I had a spectacular bouillabaisse for $15. Sublime.
Happy hour at Ruth's Chris.  An amazing filet steak sandwich, with perfectly crisp fries for $7.
Cacao Mexicatessan, Eagle Rock again, great stuff, the owner studied under the master, Rick Bayless.
Daisy Mint in Pasadena.  Just fun.

I was going to recommend Palate Food and Wine, but, dammit, they've closed.
I guess I'm not quite sure now, where I'll be going, when I feel flush.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Marvel of a Marinara

Adapted from Marcella Hazan.
Puree a 28 oz can of tomatoes in your blender.  Pour into a saucepan, adding a teaspoon of salt,a quarter teaspoon of sugar, a stick of butter, and a peeled onion, halved.  Bring to a simmer and simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally..   If it reduces too quickly, add a little water periodically.

Remove the onion.  (I end up scraping the sauce off of the onion before tossing it.)  Use whenever you are tempted by bottled sauces.

Simple and elegantly delicious. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Check it out--

Here's my daughter.  Of course I think she's brilliant.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Current Addictions

inspite of myself. Gogol Bordello.  Give it a try.  Deeper than you might think.

I watched a movie, "Wrist Cutters" dark, and offensive, particularly since the topic was suicide and there had been a horrible suicide at a local high school.  Despite myself I was drawn in, and part of it was Tom Waits and the soundtrack.  It's all fine being retro, rediscovering Billie Holliday and Django Reinhardt. But what if you were their contemporary? 

"Between the borders, the real countries hide.. the strategy of being is one of  in your face disguise."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Huckleberry, gooseberry, raspberry pie
All sweetest thing one cannot buy.
Peppermint candies are six for a penny,
But true love and kisses, one cannot buy any.

---Clyde Watson 


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sunshine in a jar

There are far too many Meyer lemons hanging from the tree.  And lemon curd is too easy to resist.

Key tip: have the eggs at room temperature.

Pour one half cup of fresh lemon juice over 3/4 cup sugar.  Let steep and dissolve a bit, stirring it along.

Beat two eggs well, in a medium saucepan.  Add lemon mixture, blending well.  Cut one stick of butter into pieces, add to mixture.

Set saucepan (or double boiler) over  (OVER, not IN)
simmering water, adding water as necessary.  Stir gently and occasionally as the mixture warms up, monitor it more closely as you go along, 15 minutes or more. At some magical point it will turn from soup to custard, and you will have a very fine lemon curd indeed. (What's the clue? It will now coat your spoon, rather than slip off).   Mix in a teaspoon or two of finely grated zest.  Cool.  Slather it onto scones, biscuits, muffins, top off your non-fat Greek yogurt, spoon into pre-made tart shells.  I like it for breakfast.  And lunch.  And dinner.

Monday, January 30, 2012

For the Weekend, Or, Weekend Recovery

My friend Robin and her friend Robin came up with a twist on the martini:

One part vodka
Two parts blood orange juice

Shake well and pour into cocktail glasses.

Splash one part ginger ale, garnish with freshly grated ginger.
Bloody delicious.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Yeah--late to the party.
First off, I could not connect.  Where I come from, this is what sopa is:

Heat a little oil in a sauce pan.  On medium, saute half a pound of vermicelli or coiled pasta until lightly browned or toasted. Feeling wild? Saute a half cup of frozen carrots and peas as well.  Crumble in a cube of instant broth, chicken, veg or beef, add a quarter cup tomato sauce.  Add a cup and a half of water.  Cover saucepan, simmer on low until the broth is absorbed by  the noodles.

This was a go to dish when I was raised, an instant hit with my son when he was younger, and comfort food to my grandparents.  Long ago, after traveling to Europe and arriving in France, worried about what they would find to eat, they were delighted to be served this dish. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Pork Tenderloin

This is an  easy piece of meat, one that I have often sniffed at, skeptically, and avoided.
Was it the cost? The strange shape?

For some reason I slipped it in my shopping cart. 

Season a pork tenderloin (1-2 lbs) or two with garlic salt, pepper, sprinkle with dried or
chopped fresh rosemary.  Grate the zest of one small lemon over it.  Let sit on your counter for
an hour to absorb the seasonings.  Place, fat side down, on a tin foil lined roasting pan,  in a 400 degree oven for thirty minutes.  Remove from oven, turn fat side up, return to oven and bake until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees.(Five to fifteen minutes).
Remove and let rest, another 5 to 10 minutes.
On your  platter or cutting board, slice cross-wise to thickness you deem fit.  Serve with whatever delights you, macaroni and cheese, ratatouille, roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes.  A dream in seasoning and tenderness.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Slow cooking

Sometimes you have the centerpiece of a feast that deserves special treatment.  Like a lamb roast, donated by an occasional carnivore, in search of the perfect approach.  And yes, you have to risk a new approach will turn out delectable, despite misgivings and a suddenly unreliable oven.

Gigot a la cuillere
Which is French for lamb tender enough to eat with a spoon.

Heat your oven to 210 degrees.
In a Dutch oven, heat a tablespoon of olive oil.  Take your four pound lamb roast, shank or shoulder and brown on all sides.  Remove lamb, pour out oil and fat.  Add a bottle of plonk (white--if, like some you have an aversion to $2 Chuck, find a $4 bottle at the grocery story) and deglaze, scraping up any bits and pieces.  Add a cup or two of chicken stock, bring to a simmer.  Add browned lamb, five crushed garlic cloves, a bay leaf, a sprig of parsely, a sprinkling of dried rosemary or a sprig of fresh.  Cover and place in oven, for 5-7 hours, (that is correct, not a typo) turning the lamb hourly.  If the stock seems overly reduced, add a half cup of water as necessary.

What's great about this slow cooking is that it allows you plenty of time to check your email, write a few chapters of your novel, set the table, take a nap, chat on the phone, all the time not worrying at all at all about what's in the oven.  Unless you're mildly neurotic, like me, and you spend your 5-7 hours fretting (baselessly) about how it will turn out.

 Remove from oven, let rest fifteen minutes or so.  Serve sliced or shredded, with your choice of sides, (creamed spinach! roast potatoes!) to general acclaim.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

When Life Gives You Turnips

Few things are more "local" than a nearby friend offering you the bounty of her own garden.  I've eaten turnip raw (peeled and salted), oven roasted, added to mashed potatoes (oh, my children still mock me for that effort), but no experience with turnip greens.  Up till now.

So, if you, too, find yourself with a bushel of greens, here are my recommendations:

Slick a low and wide saucepan with olive oil. Add a two cloves garlic, one meaty shallot, and saute briefly, until tender.  Sprinkle in a half teaspoon of chili pepper flakes, and whisk around. Add your cleaned and chopped greens (a pound or so) and stir until covered with oil.  Cover and let simmer on low heat for 5 minutes.  Stir at your leisure.  Remove lid, add a half cup chicken stock, sprinkle with salt, and cook, covered, on low, for fifteen minutes.

You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Wishes

My definition of civilization is below.
"The country of Bhutan’s emphasis on GNH, or 'Gross National Happiness,'dates back to 1972 when King Jigme Singye Wangchuck coined the term. And they back it with a Gross National Happiness Commission set up in 2008 to guide public policy. Here are a few examples of how the commission reviews public policy proposals. Do proposals:
  1. Increase or decrease levels of stress in the population?
  2. Discourage or encourage physical exercise?
  3. Increase or decrease “economic security within the population”?
  4. Increase or decrease “material well-being within the population”?
Their prime minister explained to a reporter from The Guardian:
'In the end, the development must be about furthering human civilization … to increase and improve the level of human well-being and happiness. We are talking of happiness, not of a sensory kind. The human being has material as well as emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs.'"
What would the US capitalism look like if these were our guiding principles? How truly civil-ized.
May Bhutan's conception spread. 
Thanks, Karen, for pointing the way.
Read the entire article here, and happy new year!