Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bonding with oysters

In last week's New Yorker there was an article about cryogenically freezing corpses for resurrection some time in the future when medical technology has progressed; then you could be thawed out, repaired and live another life. I won't be requesting this service in my last will and testament. I love life but as we age, the world around us becomes more and more foreign, like another planet, another world. For most people who die at a "ripe old age" I'm starting to think they aren't leaving anything much they loved behind. My 98 year old mother-in-law, recently deceased, told me that the world and the people she knew and loved are gone, replaced by a strange place inhabited with strangers. As she was in a nursing home, this was absolutely true.

But maybe more interesting than the article on freezing corpses, is a letter to the editor in this week's magazine on the same subject. A former cryogenic researcher writes that he pays $100.00 a year to keep two oyster embryos frozen; he has been maintaining them for 25 years. Somehow he just couldn't pull the plug on them - or let them thaw out and swim away, which he claims they will do. These little frozen guys are getting so much better treatment than the Walrus and the Carpenter doled out to their tiny oyster friends.

If humans can bond to frozen oyster embryos they can bond to anything. When Tom Hanks lost Mr. Wilson, the volleyball, in the film "Castaway", I cried my eyes out. Over a volleyball!! In a movie! Most of this was due to Tom Hank's superlative acting but the human need for companionship and bonding was never better shown than in that film. And Hank's acting was so good, that I (the audience) loved Mr. Wilson just as much as he did.

We're testing a lemon shake product right now; we have to use it on seafood. Are we using oysters? I don't think so.

Accumulata - the Patron Saint

Richard doesn't know if he made up the word accumulata or if he heard it somewhere. He has an extensive vocabulary of customized words and I was sure this was one of them. On line, I found a website,, whose creator claims to have invented the word. Not only did he invent the word but he has lay-canonized a patron saint of junk, "Our Lady of Accumulata". In her photo, she is appropriately placed amongst a pile of stuff and wears bits of this and that. The web site creator is predictably a seller, buyer and collector of many things.  I laughed when I read that he designed his web site in a minimalist style and it is indeed uncluttered, sleek and simple. Such an unaccumulatic look.

There are many patron saints of the ridiculous and trivial. For instance, St Lawrence is the Patron Saint of Cooks. The legend is that while he was being martyred by roasting him on a gridiron suspended over a fire, he was so strong-willed that instead of giving in to the Romans and releasing information about the Church; at the point of death he exclaimed"'I am done on this side! Turn me over and eat." And if you believe that one you can consider  St. Denis -- Patron Saint of Headaches. In a.d. 258, Denis, the first bishop of Paris, was imprisoned, tortured, and beheaded. Would that qualify him to advocate on behalf of headaches? Here's the trump card. His headless body is said to have carried his severed head away from his own execution. I'd call him head strong.

And Edward the Confessor -- Patron Saint of Kings, Difficult Marriages and Separated Spouses. Edward became the King of England in 1042. He was a very peaceful leader,  concerned with the fair treatment of all people and wanted to do away with unjust taxation. He built churches, the most famous being Westminster Abbey. Early in life, he took a vow of chastity but he took a wife, Editha, to please the people of his kingdom. He remained celibate throughout his life and died in 1066. Based on a track record of zero relationships, I don't think you'd want to waste much time sending up prayers to Edward for anything except perhaps great architecture or lower taxes. 

Santa Barbara is the patron saint of fireworks which also includes artillery men, military engineers and others who deal with explosives. Her story is dreadful but in a nutshell she was true to her faith during terrible torture. Every morning her wounds were healed. Torches that were to be used to burn her went out as soon as they came near her. Finally she was condemned to death by beheading. Her father himself carried out the death-sentence, but in punishment for this he was struck by lightning on the way home and his body consumed. 

I was curious about whether there was a patron saint for ear problems and found Saint Polycarp of Smyrna the patron saint for dysentery and ear ache. There is no explanation about why he has this patronage, but he has a very cool name and that's good enough for me. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Choking on a hot dog

Kids are choking on hot dogs!  It must be a slow news day when they haul this one out of the files. Today's news was full of warnings because it seems there is a risk of choking - after all,  a piece of hot dog just fits into a child-size trachea (is this news?). Well, any food can be dangerous if we start using this as a criterion. Orange sections, pieces of macaroni, cut up hamburgers are all "dangerous" shapes. And not just for kids - adults choke on anything and everything - particularly after a couple of martinis. Steak pieces, aspirated because you're talking and eating and laughing and having fun, can kill you just as surely as a piece of wienie can no matter your age. Will every food have to bear some kind of lawyer-approved safety warning?

Here's info from the AP article: Pediatricians Urge Choking Warning Labels on Food

Doctors say high-risk foods, including hot dogs, raw carrots, grapes and apples — should be cut into pea-sized pieces for small children to reduce chances of choking. Some say other risky foods, including hard candies, popcorn, peanuts and marshmallows, shouldn't be given to young children at all.

Federal law requires choking warning labels on certain toys including small balls, balloons and games with small parts. Unless food makers voluntarily put more warning labels on high-risk foods, there should be a similar mandate for food, the pediatrics academy says.

Spare us a regulation dictating the texture of our food. The only really safe food is pureed or at least ground finely like they give to patients in nursing homes whose swallowing mechanism is comprimised. Will we be buying everything in flavored pouches you squeeze into your maw and that slide down easily? Baby food forever.

Choking is a tragic way to die - a bizarre accident. However, there have been far fewer deaths by choking since the advent of the Heimlich maneuver. I worked for Denny's in the 70's when the maneuver was first "discovered" and we trained everyone in the restaurants to do it. We were all overly sensitive to the risk and often too quick to jump on someone and start pounding on them. I can remember having a cold and really coughing hard while about 5 of my colleagues were circling me like sharks, waiting to pounce.  I had to fend them off, managing to say "I've got a cold" between bouts of paroxysmal coughing. Some time later at a meeting I attended in New Orleans, a big tasting session, one of our architects had a serious choking incident and was saved by the district manager who had studied and practiced the maneuver. 
I was shocked to read that the name of the maneuver has been change to "Abdominal Thrusts" because Dr. Heimlich has been discredited recently. Call me dirty minded but the new name calls to mind another manoeuver not of the Heimlich kind. 

The story gets more and more strange:

"One of Heimlich's most outspoken critics is his son, Peter Heimlich, who maintains that his father did not invent the Heimlich Maneuver, but instead stole the idea from another doctor, Edward A. Patrick. The younger Heimlich also claims that another Heimlich innovation, a surgical procedure for esophagus replacement, was actually developed by a Romanian physician, Dr. Dan Gavriliu. "Other than the maneuver for choking," Peter Heimlich says, "virtually all of my father's work has been discredited by every mainstream medical authority."

This is a list of famous people who have died by choking, none on a hot dog. Tennesse Williams choked on a bottle cap (apparently alcohol was involved).

Maybe hot dog packages should bear instructions for the Heimlich er....Abdominal Thrusting procedure.
Now that might stir up a whole new set of problems. 

Monday, February 22, 2010

Thoughts on painting

"Point and Paint", the package read. At Ross Dress for Less I was looking for a slender glass to use for milk frothing. Having searched in the usual places, I was now looking at the super discounted sale shelf.
The product caught my eye because I've never been successful at painting anything. Although I've followed the instructions for "painting 101"...all the prep work of scraping and sanding and cleaning with a tack cloth and all of that, when I'm finished, the paint has bled through the masking tape and you can see lines between roller marks and there's usually a spectacular boo boo or two that only a blind person would miss. The blind person would be me.

Is this gizmo the answer to my painting prayers? The end of the device looks like an iron tip and the copy states enthusiastically in italics with lots of exclamation marks that it can be used for high painting - will fit any long extension pole!! and will just zip around fixtures!!!

I was moaning about my tragic painting experiences recently to my actual real professional painter, who happens to be pretty good and best of all, sober, which I've found unusual in the painting biz. He told me about a customer he had who'd called him almost hysterical on the phone - they needed rescuing. When he got to the home, a roller was stuck onto the wall. It had dried in place. The couple had been bickering and badgering each other over the quality of the painting and finally in a complete snit just dropped everything (except the roller) and gave up. By the time the painter arrived a few days after the crisis, they were laughing over the incident and thought it was so funny, they just left the roller there for him to enjoy.

A friend called me years ago in a terrible state. His girlfriend had left him and he was a complete wreck. This man was usually very controlled and rarely if ever showed much emotion. Sobbing and crying on the phone, he told me he'd started painting his whole place navy blue inside and out in an attempt to ease his pain. Strangely, I never spoke to him again. After a week or so, I called him and got his answering machine. After about 10 messages I gave up. From the grapevine, I knew he was still around but I believe he linked me forever with the sad event and didn't want to face me or have to replay any of his sorrow. For me, I linked the whole incident to the navy blue paint and whenever I see it I think about him.

My cousin in Paso Robles recently had his place (with 24 foot high ceilings) painted by a young Vietnamese man who did the whole job with a 4" roller. He worked alone with one extension ladder and a bag full of the small rollers. Cheap, clean, quiet and fast - the ideal painter.  We need one of these in Fallbrook.

"Point and paint" my husband now tells me is one of those late night TV products. Aha....I looked up reviews and find everyone concurs that the device is worthless. More trouble than using a brush or roller and more mess. Another bubble burst.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Peeking Wok Investigations?

When you dial the Peking Wok for reservations you have to be very careful with the last digit which is an 8. If your finger slips and you press 0, you'll get a male voice which states, "Investigations". It sounds as if he's saying this out of the side of his mouth while a cigarette smolders in the other side. My mind immediately conjures up a very spare office with the answer-man sporting suspenders and a fedora sitting at a single desk equipped with only a telephone; a door with a transom, which you can see over his shoulder, has a frosted glass window bearing a sign: "Private Investigator".  Stupidly, I say,  "Er...well, this isn't the Peking Wok?" The male voice says "No dialed a 0 instead of the 8. Try again. Have a great meal."

Why do I ask him if it's the Peking Wok? Do I think they might have some kind of Investigation division, like the Peeking Wok? Or more bizarre, perhaps private detectives working the cook line to supplement their income? Can you see a line of fedora wearing, cigarette puffing guys stir-frying, chopping, mincing and answering the phone all at the same time? It wouldn't be the first time a restaurant had an unusual work force. The Pantry in downtown LA comes to mind. Rumor has it that at one time the wait staff were all ex-cons. Or Johnny Rockets whose staff are all would-be performers.

Pity the poor "Investigations" guy, cursed with receiving this kind of wrong number day after day after day. Or maybe not. Maybe every once in a while he gets someone who just happens to need both Chinese food and a private investigator at the same time. One or two of those a year and the "accidental" business might make up for the annoyance.


In anticipation of moving sometime during the next few months, I'm thinning down our possessions and getting rid of stuff or at least my stuff. Richard, the Latinista, affectionately calls his stuff "acumlata"in an attempt to make it sound more important.  George Carlin calls it what it is: shit. And like everyone else, we have too much of it.

Here's what George has to say:

 "A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. You can see that when you're taking off in an airplane. You look down, you see everybody's got a little pile of stuff. All the little piles of stuff. And when you leave your house, you gotta lock it up. Wouldn't want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff. They always take the good stuff. They never bother with that crap you're saving. All they want is the shiny stuff. That's what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get...more stuff!

Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore. Did you ever notice when you go to somebody else's house, you never quite feel a hundred percent at home? You know why? No room for your stuff. Somebody else's stuff is all over the goddamn place! And if you stay overnight, unexpectedly, they give you a little bedroom to sleep in. Bedroom they haven't used in about eleven years. Someone died in it, eleven years ago. And they haven't moved any of his stuff! Right next to the bed there's usually a dresser or a bureau of some kind, and there's NO ROOM for your stuff on it. Somebody else's shit is on the dresser."

Here's the whole schtick:

Friday, February 19, 2010

Would you prefer your slabs weatherized or caressed?

After years of struggling with a shiny black granite counter, I'm looking forward to the new granite which I intend never to clean. The slab we chose is leatherized which means they take off the shine; it's pretty well a matte finish. Spilled red wine might show on it, but most of our ordinary non alcoholic spills should be able to sit on the surface for years:) and not be detected.

It's probably a mistake to choose something which you like as a total piece - but hard to resist. The slab reminded us of the ancient cave paintings in Lascaux, France.  Once it's sliced into sections much of this effect will be lost but the colors and movement will remain. We chose a darker slab, also leatherized for the master bath. Some stone yards call the matte finish "caressed" - how's that for knowing your audience which is ultimately the "little woman" in the household.  Me, I prefer my slabs to be known by the studier designation, leatherized rather than the wimpy, caressed.

The young man in the stone yard had his own names for all the slabs -  his pet names were much better than the official names. One which he called "starry night" looked just like a Van Gogh. He told me about how he is amazed every day at the beauty of something we just dig out of the ground. Then he pointed out his favorites and why he liked them. He was quite philosophical and articulate and I wanted to ask him why he was riding around with a forklift, but in these economic times, I guess it isn't surprising. He probably has a phD in something.

I read in our local paper about a couple in Oceanside who lived on a dollar a day on a vegan diet as an experiment. Guess what? They lost a lot of weight and made a fair amount of money as they now have a book about their ordeal. These food gimmick blogs are popular - and there are a lot of them!! You really have to stretch to find something that hasn't been done and has some redeeming economic or social aspect to the theme.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Weird coincidence?

Richard is spraying weeds and uses a colorant so that he can see where he's sprayed and where he hasn't. Today, he passed me a package of Good and Plenty through the car window when suddenly we noticed the color of his shoes and the color on the package are almost the same!! Is this  meaningful or just some kind of weird coincidence?

Changes the meaning of Good and Plenty somewhat for me! Good and Plenty what??

I was reading recently that the aroma of G & P and the aroma of cucumbers is a combo that turns women on, literally.  Here's a report on the study:

Certain scents somehow stimulate areas of the brain involved in sexual arousal, said Alan Hirsch, famous neurologist.

To arrive at their findings, the researchers measured vaginal blood flow in 30 women after they were exposed via surgical masks to eight different scents or scent combinations: Good and Plenty and cucumber; baby powder; lavender and pumpkin pie; baby powder and chocolate; perfume; men's cologne; charcoal-grilled barbecue meat; and cherry. For comparison, the women also smelled a nonscented surgical mask. 

Overall, the researchers found that women's vaginal blood flow increased by 13 percent for both the Good and Plenty and cucumber combination or the baby powder, 11 percent for the combination of lavender and pumpkin pie, and 4 percent for the combination of baby powder and chocolate.

There was little or no effect for perfume or men's cologne. And both meat and cherries decreased vaginal blood flow, the study showed.

Previous studies in men have found that the smell of lavender and pumpkin pie increased penile  blood flow by 40 percent. 

The studies were done without benefit of the brand name so that didn't influence the participants. The study protocol interested me. They must have paid these gals in the test a pretty penny to submit to vaginal blood flow testing...I wonder how they did it? Clipped something on? They must have recruited a bunch of masochists for the testing.

Nevertheless with little to lose at a buck a box,  guys might try grinding up some G & P and slipping it in the old shirt pocket or sprinkling it around in the car before a hot date. Riding around in a cloud of G & P might improve the final outcome of the evening. Forget about a steak dinner or serving a slice of cherry pie. And throw out the cologne!!

Good and Plenty candy has been around since 1893 - who would guess it's such an old brand. The advertising jingle circa 1950 sums it all up - we know what they meant by "making his train run" and
"really rings my bell"- or have I been watching too much Mad Men?

Once upon a time there was an engineer
Choo Choo Charlie was his name, we hear.
He had an engine and he sure had fun
He used GOOD & PLENTY candy to make his train run.
Charlie says "Love my GOOD & PLENTY!"
Charlie says "Really rings my bell!"
Charlie says "Love my GOOD & PLENTY!"
Don't know any other candy that I love so well! 

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Good week on construction project

This week was productive. The antique door was installed and baroke glass placed in some of the cabinets. I loved the spelling of Baroke but that's what the manufacturer called it. Manny our tile guy finished installing tile dots here and there..we settled on nine in a diamond shape. He also installed a
marble top in our small upstairs bath. A backsplash and oiled bronze faucets will finish it off. The tile guys sealed the caps on our outside wall, making them shiny and wet looking. Last but not least they did a good cleaning of the house and took off all the window goo and splashed-on concrete. I ran out of gas on that project and was happy to hand over the baton.

Jeffrey's French Toast

A gorgeous but chilly morning in Fallbrook - just right for Jeffrey Saad's French Toast. We prepare a FT batter as usual - couple of eggs mixed with cream or milk (whatever you have), a tablespoon of sugar, pinch of salt and about 1/2 teaspoon of Chinese 5 spice seasoning;finish with a dredge in Panko crumbs for extra crispness. The resulting toast is crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside; delicious with maple syrup.

Jeffrey likes to use Chinese 5 spice seasoning, in fact, he's a little stuck on it. 5 spice seasoning is usually a combination of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, szechwan pepper and fennel seeds.  Some include ginger. The story goes that it was planned to contain all the basic tastes of sweet, sour, bitter, salty and pungent. I can pick up the sweet, sour and bitter and pungent - salty escapes me. Following is a "make-it-yourself" recipe from the Asian Foods website.

Ingredients for Chinese 5 Spice
Grind together all the ingredients, using a mortar and pestle or grinder. Store in an airtight container.
2 Tbsp Cinnamon
1 Tbsp Cloves
2 Tbsp Szechuan Peppercorns
4 Tbsp Fennel Seeds
2 Tbsp Star Anise
We tried it the first time because it seems so utterly unlikely to be successful with the eggs, milk and bread but the combination is striking and very pleasing. Maple syrup helps to blend everything together. It's become a regular in our weekend breakfast repertoire.

A recent interesting find at Big Lots was a grinder shaker of five spice seasoning; this one does contain salt. The grinder doesn't do a good enough job of grinding fine for something like the French Toast application but it's great for marinades, seasoning meats and anywhere that you'd want a little chunkiness to the spice. Five spice blend can be used to season meats, especially fatty meats like duck and some pork and it is traditionally used in some vegetarian cuisine. It works well as a rub and can be used like other Chinese aromatics - in the frying pan in a little oil at the start of cooking. As it heats up it will add fragrance to whatever is placed in the pan to cook: fish, chicken, beef.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Head examined again

I'm going to have my head examined today. 15 minutes in a tight tube with myriad sound effects: banging, growling, clicking and clacking. Half-way through, they drip gadolinium
into the veins which is a contrast material and shows the tumor up very well. It's slightly uncomfortable but a small price to pay for the diagnostic value of the test. MRI's have been used on humans since 1977.

From Wikipedia: Magnetic resonance imaging is a relatively new technology. The first MR image was published in 1973] and the first cross-sectional image of a living mouse was published in January 1974. The first studies performed on humans were published in 1977. By comparison, the first human X-ray image was taken in 1895.

My symptoms have stayed about the same for the past two months. I'm guessing the tumor will have swollen slightly which is to be expected; my hearing is totally gone in the left ear which will be confirmed with a hearing test in April. Fortunately, my right ear has perfect hearing. All the symptoms including the hearing loss are easier to deal with every day. This is not necessarily true for those around me, who have to repeat things so often, but at least I'm at peace with my limitations.

Post-script. Wow, I took an atavan before the procedure on the advice of many people on forums. Fell asleep during the MRI. Whew..I'm achieving the Echart Tolle's goal of living in the moment. I don't have a worry in the world! Better living through chemistry and all that.

Tolle's philosophy is that by removing oneself from thoughts and ego and by focusing on each present moment the individual will have greater appreciation of his/her life. This philosophy encourages people to overcome the dominance of the mind and ego over the body, which Tolle calls the "pain body"

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Shrimp and oysters

Work today. I spent two days in Orange County working with Shari on BB website photos. Shari is in photo below with a new red sweater. This was an experiment to see if I have enough stamina to actually work (other than  mindless construction projects) again. Although officially retired, I would like to work on the occasional project because it's stimulating and I still find work (the creative part) fun.

The only disagreeable part of the endeavor was the drive up and back. It's just too long! A nice visit with Jim, my brother-in-law, was an extra bonus. After three years of struggling in the kitchen, he's actually developed a little repertoire of recipes and gaining confidence that he can care for himself. The house is tidy and orderly, he's doing his own laundry and getting the help he needs with house cleaning and gardening leaving him time to pursue his many interests: bridge, music, volunteer projects, suduko and his relationship with Stella. I'm relieved that he appears to be happy.

We completed six shots in three days, despite the occasional glitch including burned toast as pictured,  using tiny shrimp, medium shrimp and oysters. The tiny shrimp are very small but well suited to certain dishes - chowders, dips and spreads. Oysters, well - they are not my thing so canned oysters to me are not as shocking as they might be to a fresh oyster lover.  The oysters out of the can have a bit of a blue tinge, which reminded me of the famous poem, the Walrus and the Carpenter. As a child I thought this was the saddest tale and my heart ached for the poor, duped little oysters. My Dad used to recite the middle stanza (below in italics) as he'd ease himself into his chair with a glass of whiskey.

The Walrus and the Carpenter, by Lewis Carroll

The sun was shining on the sea,
shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright --
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.
The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done --
'It's very rude of him,' she said,
'To come and spoil the fun.'
The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead --
There were no birds to fly.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
`If this were only cleared away,'
They said, `it would be grand!'
`If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year,
Do you suppose,' the Walrus said,
`That they could get it clear?'
`I doubt it,' said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.
`O Oysters, come and walk with us!'
The Walrus did beseech.
`A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.'
The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head --
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.
But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat --
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn't any feet.
Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more --
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.
`The time has come,' the Walrus said,
`To talk of many things:
Of shoes -- and ships -- and sealing-wax --
Of cabbages -- and kings --
And why the sea is boiling hot --
And whether pigs have wings.'

`But wait a bit,' the Oysters cried,
`Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!'
`No hurry!' said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.
`A loaf of bread,' the Walrus said,
`Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed --
Now if you're ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed.'
`But not on us!' the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
`After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!'
`The night is fine,' the Walrus said.
`Do you admire the view?
`It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!'
The Carpenter said nothing but
`Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf --
I've had to ask you twice!'
`It seems a shame,' the Walrus said,
`To play them such a trick,
After we've brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!'
The Carpenter said nothing but
`The butter's spread too thick!'
`I weep for you,' the Walrus said:
`I deeply sympathize.'
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.
`O Oysters,' said the Carpenter,
`You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none --
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

He had a Crazy Heart but no nose hairs

Jeff Bridges, even playing a sloppy serious drunk is still appealing. In Crazy Heart, he's an aging country singer on the road playing bowling alleys and small joints. Along the way, he falls in love with Maggie Gyllenhaal and her young son.

This film, Crazy Heart contained too much country music for me. The 5 note songs moaning and groaning about lost love and open skies are not my bag. There are two pretty songs in the lot - the rest are an agony. Twang, twang, drone, drone. Richard likes the lyrics so he enjoyed it more than I did. He's a music omnivore and has excellent hearing. Since my left ear deafness, I know he hears more than I do, but even before the deafness, he could hear all kinds of sounds that I missed altogether.

Funny that the smoking in Mad Men makes me dream of smoking again while the smoking in Crazy Heart is so obnoxious, it's sickening. In one scene a drunk Jeff tries to pull a cigarette out of the pack and ends up with three in his mouth at once. Shots of over-flowing ashtrays, cigarettes burning through counters, ochre stained fingers and the desperate fashion in which he sucks the smoke out of the cigarette, lighting them end to end,  all combine to be a huge smoking turn off.  The poster is from the Center for Disease Control.

The director didn't hold back on the nasty part of alcoholism either. Bridges is over-weight and out of shape, with a belly hanging over his belt and the start of sagging male breasts. Physically, he looked the part perfectly but one thing was missing. Despite many close-ups, some with shots up his nose, you couldn't see any nose hairs!! What were they thinking? You know a 57 year old guy who pees in a bottle in the car, vomits into waste baskets and drinks whisky all day is going to have hair sprouting out of his nose. But no - his nose was tidy - somebody in charge of grooming must have decided the nose hair reality might be too disgusting. However they showed everything else - the vomiting, hangovers, disorientation, deterioration of character and the horror of an immensely talented person with his life in shambles. In the end, there's recovery and some redemption which makes you walk away a little happier.

Two years ago we had dinner at Palate in Glendale, which was one of the hot dining spots at the time.
Jeff Bridges and two elderly women - really elderly, with canes, blue hair and little hats - were seated next to us. As the restaurant is one of those cram and jam places, we could hear every word they were saying. It struck us both how effete Bridges sounded  - the perfect metrosexual - compared to his on-screen characters. Given this peek at the guy, we realize what a tour de force is his portrayal of this broken-down has-been.

I'm inspired now to create my own country song that might go something like:

He had a crazy heart but no nose hairs, she loved him madly.
She had a lazy heart and some affairs, he loved her sadly.
She shaved her legs and wore perfume,
He craved her legs and helped her bloom.
Oh (moan, moan) woe is me.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Pink slept late

Pinkie couldn't seem to get his eyes open this morning. He got up to eat, wandered around a bit, cleaned himself from tip to toe and snuggled back under Richard's sweat shirt. He was watching us walk around and do the usual things but there was no coaxing him out.

Grey and cold, it was the kind of morning you really can skip. He had the right idea.

Keeping cool

In the late 40's and early 50's we still had an ice box in our family home. You'd put a red card in the window with a number on it indicating the number of blocks you wanted or reverse the card, showing a blank if you didn't need anything. Using real horsepower, the ice man and his wagon would trot around the neighborhood on his route. The ice was carried using huge tongs and he'd muscle it straight into the house and put it in the tin lined compartment. As a child I remember this as a very exciting event - the horse, the heavy lifting and the grand finale -  if you were lucky, the iceman might give you a small chunk of ice to suck.

On the farm my grandfather would cut huge chunks of ice out of the river, drag them onto shore and stack them  under a tree, covering the whole ice mountain with tarps. The ice pile would gradually dwindle during the spring thaws and by July or August, there was little left. Grandpa was legendary in the area for ice rafting. Once the ice really started to break up, he'd take a day and ride ice chunks going at high speed down the river as far as he could go. Not a sport for wusses, it was freezing cold, dangerous (you could fall off and be crushed) and a long, long walk back, but it was something he loved. There was no Raging Waters in Manitoba - you made your own fun or didn't have any.

Electric refrigerators were a huge leap forward - no more cleaning the nasty drip pan or careful meting out of space and timing of the purchase of ice cream and other frozen treats. Conveniently, we had something called Winter in Canada which enabled us to tuck things out in the snow when the ica boxa was full. Fine for Christmas dinner but not so good in the summer time.

Keeping things cool is a lot easier now. New refrigerators on the horizon include the conceptual refrigerator in the photo by designer Yoon jung Kima and Jong rok Lee. It has a special glass in the front that is normally opaque however if a current is run through it, it will turn transparent. As you approach the unit, the current flows and contents are displayed. No energy wasting door opening to visually shop the contents for a snack. Other new refrigerator concepts divide the box into 5 or 6 different compartments which can be kept at different temperatures. Both photos are from Electrolux Labs.

Now that I don't have a solid black granite counter top to wipe down every hour, I'll need something else to we are buying the Frigidaire glass front refrigerator for our laundry room after much debate. Towering over the laundry room space, this monster should fill up quickly with extra fruit, drinks in the summer and on special occasions when you need plenty of cold space.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Another wedding in 2010

Our younger cousin Jennifer called last night. She's been out of touch for a while, having experienced one crisis after another. She relocated to Los Angeles after almost a year in Colorado working with her boyfriend on a large estate - managing the real estate, herds of cattle, vehicles and personnel. Everything fell apart - the job, her relationship with the boyfriend and she returned to her most familiar stomping ground, Beverly Hills.

The best news we had is that she has fallen in love, serious love and will be getting married in Kauai next month. We're very happy for her.

Today we had decorating advice from Marie - she helped us pick out our backsplash and had many interesting ideas about how to furnish the place. I enjoyed watching her look at something, think for a minute and then cook up an idea. Watching a creative mind at work is such a pleasure.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Carpet roll with feet

Out of the corner of my eye I saw this roll of carpet traveling across the floor. Then I noticed the feet.

The roll was bigger by far than the guy carrying it. He didn't stop for the landing, just negotiated the turn and went straight up.
Two men came to do the installation (one office, one closet) and completed the job in 2 hours. Everything was cleaned up and all packaging in the garbage. They left me with almost as much carpeting as they installed.

Arizona tile was almost empty which seems like normal to me as most of this past year when I've been tile shopping has been dead for stores like these. For the second time, I wandered through the slab racks with a hard hat on trying to follow a chart they give you. The hat keeps sliding off and it's like walking and chewing gum to keep everything together.

Last stop was Old Town for olive oil. They have a new flavor - white truffle. Very nice, but so subtle that I decided to pass and purchase instead one of their seasonal products, Le Caprice de Nature. Old Town was busy. Mad Madeline's patio was full. The new municipal buildings will probably add a lot of traffic to the area.

Once again, I've managed to configure a bathroom so that no towel bars can be installed. Three times I've made the same mistake and have had to use a free standing towel rack which is fine for me, but it's definitely not a male thing. Richard would prefer a line of hooks that everything could be slung on. Like a men's locker room.

Betty Crocker Estate

The Betty Crocker Estate is for sale.

"Behind carved iron gates, nestled amongst ancient oaks, towering olives and a running stream, is a historic and architectual Amercian treasure. Built in 1878 in the victorian gothic revival style, rests the enchanting brick abode that was long the beloved home of "Betty Crocker",incredibly preserved and restored; an iconic piece of our nations past. The estate is graced by a massive stonewalled barn with 20 foot rafters and an orginal manger, a romantic pool and courtyard reminiscent of a Maxfield Parish painting, exquisite manicured grounds, ponds, gardens, and over 8 acres of beautiful rolling land. Inside the home are original and exquisite appointments: cedar wood floors, intricate moldings, grand ceilings, waved glass, carved ballisters, fireplaces and orginal mantels, over 3000 square feet of living space, a fabulous remodeled kitchen with hand made copper counters, 3 charming bedrooms, a solarium study, 2 and a half bathrooms, and a four car seperate garage with massive loft. An amazing piece of Americana!"$1,295,000.00

Who was Betty Crocker?

"The Washburn Crosby Company -- later re-named General Mills -- invented the character Betty Crocker in 1921 to personalize letters in response to customers. Betty Crocker's name and signature soon became a representative for the company's flour and other "home economics" projects, including a chain of cooking schools throughout the United States designed to test and demonstrate products and recipes. By 1936 Betty had become so popular the company created a face to go along with her signature. In 1950 the first Betty Crocker cookbook was published, and quickly became a staple in American kitchens. Around the same time the logo, a red spoon and signature, appeared on boxed cake mixes. Since then Betty's name has been used on a wide range of products, and her image has been updated 8 times, most recently in 1996."

Agnes White was one of the actresses who portrayed Betty Crocker. In 1941 she and her husband moved into the San Diego home, the Betty Crocker estate originally built in 1883. She lived there until her death in 1979 at age 84.

My friend suggested this would make an excellent food museum, research center, retreat, restaurant, offices for a magazine. Rights to the use of the name associated with the estate are transferred with the property so it can continue with the splendid name.

The house images came from
Photos of Betty Crocker from Attic Magazine.

Monday, February 01, 2010

The Road

Finding ourselves altogether too happy, we decided we had to do something to tone things down a bit. The film," The Road" was just the ticket. By the time we'd endured 2 hours of post-apocalyptic scorched earth scenes, starvation and cannibalism, we weren't laughing anymore.

Having read the book, I knew what to expect but was curious to see how the director would handle the more sensitive parts of the story. Casting was excellent and Viggo Mortensen played the part well. The young son's role, that of metaphor for decency, was also played well by Kodi Smitt-McPhee

The idea of cannibalism is so impossible for me to grasp that I almost wanted to laugh, like you would at a really sappy horror film. Because the acting is good and the story well told, it's pretty convincing.The planet is dead and there isn't anything left to eat - all moral compasses are gone. Vigo and his son scratch for seeds in the dirt, scavenge as much as they can, but pretty well everything is gone. Their most important possession is a pistol with two bullets, reserved for suicide should they get snatched up by the roving gangs of predators.

Lest we not get the point there is one particularly grisly scene where Vigo opens up a root cellar and when they go down to see what is there (hoping for some emergency provisions) they find several naked people obviously in extremis and crazed. The scene is shot in semi-gloom and you can hear animal- like sounds coming from them. It is a cache of food alright, but food for cannibals. Next we see a bloody bath tub where butchering has probably been happening - mercifully they spared us these details and cut to a shot of a classic cannibal pot - black, round, sitting on a pile of firewood - just the right size for a human being.

Plenty of food for thought in the film and it's true to the book. The box office will never be much because who wants to pay to see such a downer...reading it was difficult but infinitely easier than seeing the misery unfold on the screen. We were shocked when a family with 3 young children took seats just in front of us. This family group was dead silent throughout - not a peep from one of the kids. All that horror for those young brains. You wonder what the parents are thinking about?

Just for fun I googled cannibal recipes and although there were only a few, this one stood out from the rest:

Quick and Easy Telemarketer Chili by Kelly Spies
Telemarketers are known for disrupting dinner with their sales pitches. If you ever manage to get your hands on one, instead of getting up from the table to answer the phone, sink your teeth into one of them with this easy to prepare chili.

1 to 1 1/2 lbs. ground telemarketer
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup water
1 cube Beef bouillon
2 (8 oz.) cans tomato sauce
2 to 3 (15 1/2 oz.) cans dark red kidney beans
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce or dry pepper
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil

In large skillet, brown telemarketer with onions and drain off excess grease. Stir in water, bouillon cube and tomato sauce. Add kidney beans to the pot and season with Worcestershire sauce, red pepper, salt and pepper. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, simmer 15 to 20 minutes, and stir occasionally. Serve over tortilla chips with shredded cheese, guacamole, sour cream, black olives and onions.

Art Wiebe RIP

Art Wiebe died on the 23rd. He'd been ill for some years suffering with protate cancer. Art was one of the really good guys. Always kind and gentle, I know he was an excellent big brother to Linda and we always looked up to him as we were growing up.

I have fond memories of him tooling around in his car(s) - he always seemed to have one of the most wanted and most popular cars. He and Pete would race around the lake in that boat which was also seemed very glamorous to us kids.

Art, Lorraine and Eilleen seem to have died too young although from a younger person's perspective, anyone over 70 has had a good long shot at life. For the siblings left behind, it's no consolation.