Sunday, January 31, 2010

A couple of Icelandic Canadians dropped by

Len and Karen, Icelandic Canadians, visited us for 24 hours on their way back from a cruise ( Mexico) and en route to Palm Springs. We enjoyed hearing many stories about their extensive travels.

In 2001 they spent the year in Bosnia working for an International Redevelopment Organization as part of a Canadian team. In early 2002 they did a house exchange with a family whose home was in Bern. They had a very pleasant neighbor with whom they were having a conversation. She asked about where they'd been recently and he started to tell her about Bosnia. They described the bombed out buildings and lines of homeless people. Her mouth was hanging open and she exclaimed that she couldn't believe they hadn't heard about these awful things. Later on Len thought about the exchange and concluded that something misfired in the communication because why wouldn't they have heard about Bosnia. The next time he saw her he told her that he felt that something hadn't been understood and repeated some of the story. Ah, she said BOSNIA - I thought you were talking about BASEL. She said she would immediately have to go and make some phone calls.

We ate pierogis and fake Jeannie's cake (cake was too dry, but the icing was close) for lunch and talked about our wonderful childhoods living in a place where we were free to roam once we were about 10 years old. Tobogganing, playing stretch, hide and go seek with about 100 kids; running around in the neighborhood was like one huge backyard.

And we spent some moments remembering Axel, Len's father and Jill, my mother and their relationship for the last 15 years of their lives - the fun they had together and how much pleasure it gave to us. Following is a link to his eulogy:

Last but not least, we called Miss Perfect up in Canada. She was one of our beloved high school teachers, mostly Math and is now over 90. She and Len have happily kept in touch and I can see why. She sounded totally alert and with it on the phone and we had a few nice words. She had so many students over her long career and she said she could hardly walk down the street without running into a former student. Miss Perfect was tall, lean and had perfect posture. I remember her clothes were always fine and well maintained - spit polish shoes and crisp white blouses. With gun metal grey hair cut very short and always neat, she was a great role model for the girls. You always wanted to do well for her - she engendered that kind of reaction in her students. Actually her name is Mary B. Perfect, the B standing for Beatrice. Karen mentioned that her parents gave her a lot to live up to and she did.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Jeannie's Cake

I attempted a Jeannie's cake yesterday. This cake was a tradition in Winnipeg and on birthdays and special occasions they were usually included. The recipe was published in the Winnipeg Free Press although nobody in Winnipeg would be likely to make it as the "real thing" is readily available. I used a whole container of Crisco - then there's the butter. It should be called "heart attack"cake. There's a shortbread crust, then the cake which sits on it, then it's slathered with a Crisco/butter/icing sugar frosting and coated in shaved chocolate. It's not really all that good, but the flavor is associated with celebration and has just imprinted on people who are accustomed to it. I'm remaking the shortbread crust today because I don't like what I got as a result of their recipe.

The afternoon was spent with the cabinet designer working out a few things. Richard's "grooming" roll-out has to be changed. He looked at it yesterday and asked me "What am I supposed to do with all the butter dishes?" The cabinet is fitted out with quite a few plastic boxes. In the Rev-a-shelf catalogue it's listed as a "men's' grooming unit". "What man?" Richard asks. The only things he could put in the boxes would be q-tips, ear plugs and jewellery of which he has little. His fake watches we bought in Asia could find homes in that unit, but he's used to them being spread all over a drawer bottom where he can see the whole array.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The service for Richard's mom (and 4 others) at Solheim Lutheran home was better than I expected. The pastor is an enthusiastic, outgoing man and he delivered a very uplifting message about the end of life. You can't say he doesn't speak from experience. He told us that his first day on the job, two people died. That was his initiation. He's very comfortable with death and sure of a wonderful afterlife (complete with fantastic new bodies??) so much so that he temporarily mitigates the sting of loss. He said, "Jesus kicks the end out of the coffin", meaning life doesn't end, the spirit is freed and a new life begins.

He read some bible passages that surprised me. I haven't read much of these newish Bibles - a lapsed Catholic,my Bible exposure was to the Old Testament, classic style. Some of the Lutheran interpretations of Corinthians and Paul regarding resurrection seemed very foreign to me. The language was very simple and almost child-like. The concepts were reminiscent of science fiction.

We had a chance to speak to a few of the staff members. Richard would like to return to thank them all properly for the care they gave to Pat. They really were superb.

After the service, Paula, Jim, Richard and I went to the Tam for dinner. Prime rib all the way around. Jim had a Manhattan and I had a glass of a Meritage. Paula and Richard abstained. We shared a chocolate souffle for desert. The prime rib was fantastic as always and although Paula and Jim had enjoyed chicken there recently and were extolling it's virtues, we couldn't be convinced to change our standing order - they couldn't pass it up either.The Tam rarely changes - a few bar flies cling to the end of the bar in the murky part. The waitresses show a bit of cleavage and wear short tartan skirts with white tights. The ladies room has been the same for at least 40 years.

We briefly laughed over the notion that the next time we see Solheim may be as they are rolling us in. Jim stated emphatically that he would throw himself under a truck first. Paula is more realistic and recognizes that at some point, living with care takers won't seem so bad.

We had an easy drive home.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Swimming in Velveeta

Hal and Andrea visited yesterday for lunch. We had enchilada soup ala Chili's. The recipe included Velveeta cheese. After we ate, Andrea was asking me what was in the soup. When I mentioned Velveeta, everyone paled. The night before, Richard looked in the refrigerator and said "Velveeta cheese - I haven't eaten that stuff in 35 years...what is it anyway?"

Velveeta is a pasteurized process cheese food which was born out of research by Kraft into the use of whey left over from regular cheese processing. Despite my guests horror, plenty of people like Velveeta. There are 1867 recipes listed on Recipezaar incorporating it. The last time I used it was in Velveeta Fudge! Working for Equal, I was testing foodservice recipes they'd collected from various chefs and were publishing in a little brochure. This was one of them....not only was the idea of Velveeta Fudge weird but the notion of replacing sugar with Equal to reduce the calories was even more ridiculous. The fudge was actually pretty good if you didn't know about it's checkered past.

The enchilada soup also contained masa harina which is the secret to achieving the flavor of enchiladas. Enchilada sauce, cumin and chili also add to the flavor profile. We had cilantro, green onions, chips, salsa and grated cheddar (the real thing) for stir-ins and toppings. Everyone ate two bowls and we had to scrape the bottom of the cauldron to refill everyone.

Hal and I remembered working on a Velveeta burger for Burger King about twenty years ago. Hal worked hard with the Kraft marketing people to work out some kind of joint promotion deal. It was tough to do back then and we didn't get anywhere. The burgers however were well received in the tests we conducted. Burger King had a portable store - actually a trailer outfitted with all the BK cooking equipment. They'd drive this to a consumer testing facility and we could use the actual equipment for food preparation. BK had a stringent testing protocol.

With Superbowl on the horizon I think about the Rotelle cheese dip that almost every Texan eats while watching the superbowl. A brick of Velveeta is heated up with a can of Rotelle tomatoes. It's eaten as fast as possible preferably with warm tortilla chips before it all congeals. I came to enjoy this while I was consulting in Austin with Guiltless Gourmet. We were making fat free dips and always comparing the products to the real thing - the Rotelle dip being the standard of excellence in this context.

The GG fat free dip stuck to me for some time like glue and the image above (lifted from John Mariania's web site) reminded of the last I heard of it. A radio station somewhere in Texas was running a contest. The gist of it was that they were throwing a set of truck keys into a vat of GG fat free cheese dip. People could dive into the vat and try to get the keys and win the truck - I gather the vat was deep. They called to ask if there was anything in the dip that might be physically damaging to the skin or eyes? When you compile a formula you think of a lot of things, but certainly not what might happen when people swim in it!

Ah...those Velveeta memories.

On fire

Burning bagel empties Portland City Hall
Jan 27 03:23 PM US/Eastern

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - An overdone bagel has forced the evacuation of Portland's City Hall.
The Oregonian reports that City Hall emptied for about 20 minutes Wednesday morning while firefighters dealt with the burning bagel in the break room of Mayor Sam Adam's office. There's no immediate word on who burned the bagel in the toaster oven or what type of bagel it was.

City commissioners were meeting at the time and joined those who took to the sidewalks. Adams apologized for the interruption after the evacuation.
This article reminded me of my mother's fire. My sister had gone to Winnipeg to help mother (who was 85) with house maintenance and miscellaneous chores. One evening, she turned on the oven and shoved a chicken in it. Soon smoke was pouring out of the oven - she opened the door and flames shot out. Quickly she called 911 and the fire department was soon on the scene to extinguish the flames. Mother had been using the oven as a closet - putting excess clothing in it. Getting more absent minded by the day, she forgot that she'd been using it for storage. The fireman pulled out a charred black chicken carcass and a few melted bra closures and commented that the well-dressed chicken was not going to be on a dinner table that night. "You are eating out tonight ladies" was his parting remark.

Photo of my pyromaniac big sis and me circa 1950.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Worm in head instead of tumor

My friend Dan, ever the kid, regaled me today with stories of his cabernet colored Pantera. A total ham, Dan has to be the center of attention at all times and the Pantera is an effective accessory. Wherever he goes people cluster around and ask him questions. He's thinking about buying another.

He wanted to tell me that he heard a report on TV about a surgeon operating on a brain tumor and instead of a tumor, finding a worm!

On a video of the surgery, Nakaji can be heard chuckling after he made the discovery.

“I'm sure this is a very strange response for the people in the operating room,” he told “But because I was so pleased to know that it wasn't going to be something terrible.”

Doctors removed the worm and don't believe Alvarez will have any lingering health problems. No one knows exactly where she picked up the worm –- doctors said worms can come from eating undercooked pork or spread by people who don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom, according to the report.

The idea of parasites is pretty obnoxious. My only personal experience with them has been ticks and leeches. After swimming in the Northern Canadian lakes, you'd emerge with 10 or 20 leeches stuck to you. We used to put lit cigarettes on them to make them drop off. Nobody thought it was a big deal.

Iron railing

The Guatemalan welders brought the iron fence up yesterday. Based on some other work they did for us, we had low expectations but we were bowled over by how well they did the job. Eugenio is hilarious. He snickers behind my back but he never really completely gets behind, so I think he wants me to see. Whenever I've pointed out deficiencies in the work (not this job), he rolls his eyes and immediately talks about what a great job he does. Well, in this case he really did. I find him very likable but he has to be shamed or cajoled into doing his best. If you let him slide - he will, with pleasure.

Nobody was up at the job today and in the blissful quiet (particularly the absence of buzzing saws) I spent a silent couple of hours working on the concrete cleaning. The job is almost done.

The Wolf rangetop should be into Fergusons and delivered over the weekend. Carpeting in the office will be installed next week and the closet installations will be completed.

Too pooped to cook, we had dinner at El Jardin which was nearly empty. Economy or the rain? We stopped to pick up some groceries on the way home and Albertson's was quiet too.

Enchilada soup (Chili's recipe) for tomorrows lunch with Hal and Andrea - if they can't come because of the rain, we'll eat it for dinner.

Selecting granite

The beauty of what nature wrought! My mouth hangs open in awe as I stroll through the granite displays at showrooms. The slabs are displayed on racks and in some cases, very nicely lit to emphasize the sparkle of mica and the translucency of some of the pieces. Although I'm looking for a light piece, I spend far too much time admiring the dark granites as well. Many of them are orange in tone and I'm trying to avoid that and looking for something in greys, beiges and mica. This kind of slab is available but I have yet to find one with a lot of movement in it. Today I'll spend more time at Arizona tile, hunting through the pieces.

You have to wear a hard hat in these yards and some of them are very disorganized. The colors are all mixed up and they separate the lots to prevent error. After choosing a type, then you choose the specific slab which has been cut off a huge piece. The next 4 or 5 slabs will also have been cut from the same piece. When contiguous, the color will be consistent and the amount of movement, if any will be similar.

There are always ways to cut corners - there are in any business. A salesman pointed out to me that some stone cutters cover up dings with a poly materials and you have to look closely to make sure there isn't any in your slab. Also some minerals wash out and I could see pools of color, leached out by the rain, on the floor next to the ravaged slab.

Edge detail is also a question : bullnose, single ogee, double ogee, waterfall. Many choices.

After all, there will be a small service for Richard's mom conducted by Solheim Nursing Home where she spent her final years. She was so against having anything that it makes me a bit uncomfortable, but what the service consists of is naming the individuals who have passed with only a short mention of who they were. Mostly the nursing staff attends. We will go up with Richard's brother and his wife for the sake of that wonderful nursing staff - to say goodbye to them. After the service we'll go to the Tam O Shanter and eat. From the Tam's website:

"In 1922, you could crank up the engine of your Hupmobile, lurch through the dust and ruts of a country road, and arrive at a convivial old-world inn. Established by Lawrence Frank and Walter Van de Kamp, the restaurant offered hearty food and amiable service.

Tom Mix, Fatty Arbuckle, Mary Pickford, John Wayne and Walt Disney and members of his studio were regulars in the early days of the "Tam." In fact, the Disney people had lunch here so often, some referred to it as the studio commissary."

For the years I worked at Lawry's I got half off any meal (no matter the number of guests) at the restaurant group: Prime Rib, Five Crowns and the Tam. At first, I thought it was wonderful and we ate at the restaurants every weekend, then every second weekend, then once a month and near the end, not at all. Even when it's free, a menu can get tedious - which affirms our omnivorous nature. We're driven to seek out variety.

At this stage of life, with the number of possible meals dwindling, I'm really loathe to do a repeat but the rest of the group loves the Tam so thats our choice.

Monday, January 25, 2010

How much is too much?


My interior consultant cat asks "Would this be too much?". Dot tiles really appeal to me and we've got them all over the outside in the hardscape. I'd like to put some in the kitchen as they cheer me up and I think they are very playful. We may have gone overboard and adding more to the kitchen could be sending it over the top. Maybe just a few larger tiles?

I'm off to the stoneyard today with Will to look at slabs. We'll pick them out and put them on hold. The slices or slabs have to be consecutive out of a large piece so it's a matter of finding what you like in the quantities you need.
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Saturday, January 23, 2010

House progress: The last 8 days or so has been cabinet installation with 4 of the appliances in place. Our tall Thermador food columns are in and the two ovens. All the rest will be installed once the granite is placed. The electrical on the oven wall was a huge sore point. Our electrician had a fit because we wanted to make a change...just a fit. Richard told him to just skip it and we got our handyman to make the changes. The electrician came back in and changed it to the way he wanted it - as he is our neighbor, that caused a bit of a strain. We are back on track now - he has calmed down but it's amazing when you are paying people that they throw such fits.

The rain really pounded us all this week. Much of the sand in our pavers washed away because we didn't get it sealed before the rain. The house withstood the deluge pretty well, but there is one leaky spot, from below, in the master bedroom. Our stream has suffered erosion at the banks which is pretty significant in two or three areas.

Although we had high winds, there wasn't as much fruit on the ground as you might expect. We picked up a hundred pounds or so...most of the little babies clung on very well.

Today I'm reconsidering my decision to put granite all the way for the back splash. We're thinking tile might look better. It was very hard to see until the cabinets were actually in place. I'll be going to the granite yard with William today to take a look at
granite he'd suggest.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Socks with Additives

Today I was shopping at Target - shopping therapy if there's ever been such a thing. Too much construction has me fatigued in a serious way and I was in need of a change of scene. Wandering around the health and beauty aids I was struck yet again by the incredible market segmentation of the old familiar products. Buying a deodorant requires 1/2 hour to read the labels and sort out the various claims. At that rate, even my short shopping list could take an afternoon. I was purchasing toothpaste which has also segmented beyond all reason, but I simply buy Colgate Gold which claims to do everything - remove plaque, whiten teeth, reduce dental caries and so on.

Rounding the corner, I bumped into an end cap filled with Aloe Socks fortified with Vitamin E. What? Socks with vitamin fortification? What next? Here are the claims:

This Premier Aloe and Vitamin Sock by Adidas keeps your skin soft while reducing blisters!

Product Features:
* Low Cut length
* Hand-linked toe seam adds comfort
* Soft microfiber yarns for high comfort
* Vitamin E nourishes and moisturizes skin
* Aloe Vera moisturizes skin and limits blisters
* Fits shoe size 5-10
* Fits sock size 9-11
* 97% Nylon, 2% Spandex, 1% Natural Latex

The next end cap was full of germ eradication kits. "Buy one for each person" it boldly stated. The kit contained face masks, latex gloves and an antiseptic spray. Are people living in such fear?

Kiwi makes a shoe polish using "nano" technology which it claims on the label. I didn't realize the average consumer (whom studies show cannot tell that 50% off and half off are the same thing) would be aware of such technology, never mind impressed enough to pay more for shoe polish so manufactured.

Happily the next corner got me into the book section where I couldn't find a thing that was vitamin fortified. Is this the new frontier?


The exterior of the house was left in an unbelievable mess by the concrete pourers. I've been working at cleaning up the screed, scarping plastic out of the concrete and other kinds of tape that was actually concreted in. Cleaning the screed has meant hours on my knees turned almost upside down, using a screwdriver and a hammer to scrape out the concrete and the stucco, jammed into it. It takes about an hour to do 4 or five feet. So far, I've spent about 60 - 70 hours on the job. Now I have a technique and I've found a paint that works pretty well to give a clean look to the house bottom. After the rains this week, I'll be able to finish up the job and by the end of the month we can have everything sealed.

We take our little fights one day at a time. Yesterday, Richard battled with Pacific Sales. We have one wine refrigerator left to be delivered and they want to deliver between 4 and 8. We can't take delivery at that time at the rancho as it's too dark for big trucks to negotiate the driveway. 4 times, maybe 5 Richard has scheduled the delivery only to find out they want to bring it at 6 or 8 or sometime. Very frustrating. He's also having trouble getting the plumber to come for the fire inspection. Manny the tiler seems to have dropped out again. This time I've had it with him and will look for someone else to complete the job.

As of this moment we are thinking we will be finished in March or April. I'm thinking Easter.


At last, our cabinets are going in. They started on Thursday and worked until almost 6:00 last night. They have installed most of the lowers in the kitchen. The bathroom cabinets have all been placed. So far we have a problem in one corner where there is an 8" gap. I'm calling it the opportunity gap and looking for things to put in it...a pullout cabinet for knifes storage kind of appeals as well as storage for Richards pills. A couple of our electrical connections are slightly high - Gail can hopefully lower them slightly. The floor slants toward the middle and of course the walls are not absolutely flush, so there is some shimming required. I like the way it looks so far, but hope to replace one lazy susan with a different kind of blind corner storage.

We have four people on the job: Will, the designer, Jason, Antonio and Videl. All hard workers and problem solvers. There's some tension between Will and the installers as for Will, every problem is an opportunity. The installers find every problem an agony and a reason to kick and scream. Different styles. I prefer Wills.

He told us today about working in a barn in Massachusetts which had a loft, full of bats. A local farmer took care of parking his car in the barn and letting the exhaust blast all night. Death by CO - Will said they had to bring in a skip loader to scrape them all out and the guano was many feet deep. We have one bat, Bob, who likes to swoop in and we were worried that he might make an attempt last night with the lights on inside and dark outside. But no, Bob didn't show.

Today, I'm going to measure the side cabinet to see if I can fit in the fancy blind corner gizmo, order the carpeting and take back a few things to Lowes. Also have to purchase a few items.

We are preparing for rain - 8" is forecast over the next week. Fortunately our roof leak should be fixed. They finished yesterday.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Today we are going to Laguna Beach to a meeting of the Society of Retired Foreign Service Officers. The speaker is a scholar specializing in Iraq. The lunch will be some kind of pork schnitzel. The people who attend these meetings are real geezers, but I guess we are too. Most of them have had fascinating lives, living around the world at a time when this was a very rare life style. They worked in American embassies where life was really one long party interrupted by the occasional work. If you were posted in a place like Paris or Rome, there would be 40 or 50 other embassies in the city. They all had receptions for annual holidays, visiting dignitaries or to honor their host country. Add it up - you were out every night, meeting and greeting. Richard was even when he lived in "armpit" countries as he calls them...Bulgaria or Roumania.

We sat next to a retired judge, African American, who went to USC slightly before Richard. He graduated from Howard law school practised criminal law, got swept up in the civil rights movement and had many stories to tell. His daughter is a rabid republican and is a lobbyist in Washington. The pendulum swings. Most interesting is that his great grandfather was a general in the Confederate army.

The lady who does some of the organization for these events is a very outspoken liberal. Richard excoriated her about a year ago when she used the Societies news bulletin to extol the praises of Hillary Clinton. Richard didn't care about her politics however he thought it was inexcusable to use the bulletin for your own political agenda. A bit of an email fight ensued. They've made up and he's looking forward to meeting her in person today.

He researched Marguerite a little further and found out that she really accomplished quite a lot during her time in the foreign service. She attacked the inequities between male and female employees and made many gains for women in the future in the foreign service.

Yesterday would have been my mother's 99 birthday. As usual for that time of year it was very, very cold in Winnipeg. I vividly remember trips back for her birthday when I suffered the shock and awe of the brutal Canadian plains winters, wind chill factors being reported every morning along with the minus numbers. Whenever I hear wind howl, I think about lying in my bedroom on Dominion street and wishing I could stay in bed. I'd stand up and look out the gun port type windows we had running along the top of the room and peer through the frost patterns on the glass at the back yard and lane behind. Icicles would be hanging from the roofs and snow would be blowing sideways across the yard and piling up against the garage. In Fallbrook, today, dawn broke in a shimmering red glow bathing the valley with gold. No wind chill factor.

Mom would make us porridge for breakfast and then we'd wrap up in our snow suits, boots, mitts and a big woolen scarf across the forehead and around the neck, trudging off to school carrying an extra 10 pounds of clothing. For me, it was a short walk for elementary school, more miserable once we were in junior high and the longest walk to high school. Nobody drove kids to school that I can remember.

Once in school, we took off all the heavy clothes in the infamous dimly lit cloak room where all sorts of dark and secret things occurred. Notes could be exchanged, teachers would pull you in for a special talk or scolding and some kids even went in there and kissed. It smelled like mothballs, unwashed hair, trapped feet, chalk and floor wax. We each had a hook and a small space underneath where our boots would go. In 1st and 2nd grades the teacher had to help us get all our gear on and fastened properly. I can remember the teacher tugging at my jacket bottom hem to get the zipper up straight.

Almost everyone in first grade got their tongue stuck on the front railing of the school at some time during the winter. There was a small mark left on the rail where I experienced the shame of it all - trapped, in pain, crying as the school nurse came out with a basin of warm water to release me. Every day it happened to some kid. The other inevitable kid thing was chapped lips. Our mothers, teachers, nurse would all tell us not to lick our lips. I had a perpetual scabby ring around my mouth that my mom would force me to look at. "See what you're doing? That's from licking. Stop licking.". I guess we didn't have chap stick. The climate was so dry that on exertion, sledding or skating out in the cold, licking your dry lips was irresistible.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Lunch with the Pressnells

Sharon asked me up for tea today and I arrived at lunch time! How inconvenient for them and what a bonanza for me. I'd been working on the house scraping, tired, hungry and dirty. They had had left overs from Sharon's 70th birthday party. She was wearing the cutest pink jeans that Gail bought her as a present. She made ham sandwiches and tea plus they had a lot of goodies left over from the holidays. She serves tea in a beautiful pot and uses her gorgeous tea cups. So lovely. It's sort of like ascending to heaven from the work hell, when I go up there.

They talked about the big 70th party - lots of the kids and grandkids attended and they all had a lot of fun. Gail threw the party and took care of everything - he was surprised at how much work it all was even though he got a lot of help from others. This reminds me of Jim who hosted the bridge party once after Eilleen died. Too much work. I don't think he's ever done the Sunday Supper. Eilleen used to do it at least once a year if not more.

Gail was quite amusing and made some funny remarks during our lunch. He was also very conversant which is odd for him.
He's full of surprises.


Can you even remember wearing a shoe with a heel like this? So pointy, so stiff, so high and so unyielding looking. The currently fashionable strappy studded styles soar up so far beyond anything I would have dared to wear even when my bones were flexible. Not to be boastful, because I believe these things are a matter of genes, in my mid-fifties I was still working on a trade show floor at a convention, wearing high heels (what we called high heels which are "starter heels" compared to the pictured pair) for 12 hours, with no ill effects. No foot soaks, no foot massages necessary. Foot pain was a stranger to me.

My grandmother wasn't so lucky. She was plagued with bunion pain for most of her life. When she was about 85 she announced to my mother that she was having her big toes removed. My mother screamed at her not to do it, but Grandma was making an announcement and not requesting an opinion. She went ahead and had them hacked off by some French Canadian quack. We were all horrified because she had to wear special orthopedic shoes for balance and they never worked very well.

The last time I wore high heels was 7 years ago on New Years Eve. We were sitting most of the evening so I really wasn't foot-challenged much. The shoes weren't at all comfortable - mostly because of the challenge to my balance and besides, who was I trying to impress (this is a question I ask myself more and more frequently)? I still have those heels but am ready to pitch them out along with the remaining suits in my wardrobe all of which are out of style and ill fitting (shoulder pads). My many chef coats will hit the skids as well. I have 20 or so emblazoned with various of my past clients logos and there's no need to keep them hanging in the closet. I know the minute I throw them out logo-covered chef coats will be all the rage.

My present shoe line-up consists of three pairs of lace-ups, two black and one brown, the dirty (once-white) athletic type sneakers (in photo) I'm wearing today , 2 pairs of backless clogs, 2 pairs of wedge heels - black and brown, one pair of black boots and a bunch of sandals. 8 months of the year, we wear the sandals in Southern California. I wore the boots to a Christmas party this year and one of the women commented on my sexy boots.

In Japan, we saw many tiny girls teetering along in micro-mini skirts with this kind of extreme high heel. As the Japanese girls look like little dolls, the shoes seem appropriate and the whole look is cute. Here, we see over-weight young girls in these shoes with skin tight skirts and stretch tops with bare midriffs that display their fat rolls. With the high heels and the teetering, the whole mass jiggles and wiggles. I guess this is part of the new push against anorexic models and the joy of being yourself, fat or thin.

I have a friend whose mother is now over 100. When she was 98 she was still wearing high heels. My friend would plead with her not to wear them because of the danger of a fall. She replied, "But Merle, they make your legs look so much better!".

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Palm Springs

I got up early this morning (New Years day) to peel and chop mangoes for a salad to take to Palm Springs - mangoes, jicama, kiwi fruit, cilantro, lime juice and Phu Thouc pepper. The annual gathering at Bud and Gail's was well attended this year and everyone looked pretty good. We met two new couples, the diminutive Diane and her bridge-playing husband plus Cullen (Bud's brother-in-law) and his new friend, the delightful Mary, a real southern Belle.

Oddly, the party split almost immediately into "boys at the TV" and "girls in the kitchen". This group mixes pretty well so it was surprising to experience this classic and profound sexual cleavage. I did get a chance to speak with Jerry for a few minutes and a couple of words with Ed about golf and that was that.

The girl talk was lots of fun. We discussed first ladies and their respective challenges. Michelle Obama it was concluded has a great style and look which is appropriate for the times and the generation. Everyone agreed that she should be able to wear sleeveless dresses and shorts if she wishes. We universally condemned Tiger Woods for being the jerk of the decade and such a huge disappointment. Recipes were exchanged and there was lots of Palm Springs insider talk...where to eat, where to eat cheap, where the best entertainment could be found. Most of these women volunteer and their various projects were hashed over...women's club fund raising, film festival volunteering and the like. We dished almost no dirt except for speculation about Rosie O'Donnells divorce (latest tabloid headline) and the destiny of her adopted children. If a kid has two mommies and they get divorced and one of the mommies remarries does the kid have two moms and a step mom? One thing is sure - the kid has too many mommies.

Who knows who won the game, who even was playing? Even the guys seem to lose interest at about the 3rd quarter.

The annual pork with sauerkraut bake was delicious and Mary made excellent mashed potatoes as an accompaniment. There was a tossed green salad, plenty of appetizers and cookies for dessert.

Our ride home was a breeze - no traffic. A good time was had by all.

From the politically incorrect food file:
"moros y christianos" or Moors and Christians. Black beans and rice. Need I say more?

We're sorry to hear you are dead

Richard received a letter from social security. It was addressed to his mother and it read, "Dear Mrs. Dukeslaw". We are sorry to hear that Mrs. Dukeslaw is deceased. Please accept our condolences". In other words, Dear Mrs. Dukeslaw - we are sorry to hear you are dead! We got a bit of a laugh over this and we know Pat would have thought it was hilarious.

Yesterday was a work day at the rancho..scraping yet again - windows and the screed around the house. The temperature was in the 80's and it was wonderful to be outdoors. Tired today and I will likely not attempt as much. Splendid weather again - clear and sunny.

The wrap-ups for the decade were interesting to read. Remembering back to Y2K was particularly strange - how did we fall for all of that? We know people who took all their money out of banks for fear that the entire banking record keeping system would evaporate in one fell swoop! All the billions of dollars and energy that were spent to fight an imaginary problem - much like parts of the global warming forecasting and the never-ending predictions of religious fanatics about the end of the world. We don't seem to be able to relax and enjoy ourselves and are compelled or condemned by something in our makeup that insists we worry about impending doom. And as always, the thing we focus on and worry most about, passes right by us and something else, totally unanticipated, sneaks in and gets the economic collapse.

Maybe this doomsday dread is genetic in origin and plays a part in survival? Worry, while debilitating, keeps you on your toes. Ever alert, one is in protective mode and less likely to get surprised by disaster. Surviving smallish disasters makes you stronger and able to survive the larger ones when they come along. Thinking about dread as a Darwinian force makes it seem less dreadful.

Science fiction writers frequently predict that our downfall will be rooted in genetic manipulation...that breeding microbes for military purposes will get out of control: fall into the hands of evil genius or "get loose" via innocent scientific error, wiping us out...all but for the few resistant or adaptable or those who by lucky accident are protected from contamination. "The Road", by Cormac McCarthy paints a horrible picture of what the world would be like. They've made a movie out of the book that is reputedly colossally depressing. I would like to see it regardless because the story telling in the book was so good.

I'm finding I worry less as I get older. The realization sinks in at some point that there is little one can do about most of the disasters even if they could be forecasted...we have to grin and bear them, ride them out. The unthinkable happens, you suffer and then it's over. Life goes on.

Funny after I wrote the above, I read one of my favorite bloggers on the Blue Heron Blog and he posted the following about a prediction by Harold Camping.

Now, I am not going to necessarily buy into any of this mumbo jumbo but as a prudent person you still might want to get your library books returned before May 21, 2011. That is the day that Camping says the third planet will meet its ultimate demise. He has been doing some serious biblical number crunching for going on 80 years and his recipe for earth's swan song runs thusly:

"Christ hung on the cross April 1, 33 A.D.," he says. "Now go to April 1 of 2011 A.D., and that's 1,978 years."
Multiply 1,978 by 365.2422 days - the number of days in each solar year, not to be confused with a calendar year.
Note that April 1 to May 21 encompasses 51 days. Add 51 to the sum of previous multiplication total, and it equals 722,500.
Camping realized that (5 x 10 x 17) x (5 x 10 x 17) = 722,500.
(Atonement x Completeness x Heaven), squared.
"Five times 10 times 17 is telling you a story," Camping said. "It's the story from the time Christ made payment for your sins until you're completely saved.
"I tell ya, I just about fell off my chair when I realized that," Camping said.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year!

Lobster and steak last night was delicious. We were pleased to spend a little more time with Patricia and Harry, people from New York who built a huge house up here - 8000 square feet. They were building for a couple of years - well more like 8 years. Now
they are starting to be interested in the neighbors and neighborhood. Ina and Jerry, our hosts live just down the street from them.
Ina put together a great dinner. The lobsters were done perfectly and they are always fun to eat - pulling everything apart, dipping etc. She also had some asparagus and potatoes. For dessert Patricia brought cream puffs and a melted c chocolate dip. Excellent. Ina made shortbread which was divine.

We celebrated the East coast New Year at 9:00 and were home at 11:30. The blue moon was fabulous and rose over all the proceedings.

Today is clear and back to the usual thin, high haze. It will be about 70 in Palm Springs. I made a mango, jicama, kiwi and cilantro salad to contribute to the traditional pork dinner. There are always good appetizers and the main feast, the pork and potatoes are usually delicious.

From the politically incorrect food file:
Spotted Dick: a pudding of British origin made with currants - hence the spotted. Dick it is surmised derived from a corruption of pudding to puddink to puddick to just plain dick.