Thursday, May 31, 2007
So I had to cough up one more. One I don't usually share. I'm stingy with my favorite things.
So, here is another favorite restaurant in Paris. One that we make it a point to go to every trip.
I didn’t mention it the first time, because, well, I like to keep secrets.
Okay, it’s owned by gay guys. We were sent there by the fellows who own the Chateau des Ormeaux. And like the chateau, though it is owned by gay guys, it is not a GAY restaurant. Below is a "return the favor" advertisement on the bathroom wall at the restaurant for the Chateau des Ormeaux.
All that lead up and then I have to tell you, they don’t speak much English. They often look at me (and only me) funny when I speak French to them.
But the food, oh the food... Oh my god, the food... I’ve got my super waterworks Nora drool on just thinking about it...
The offer a prix-fix menu that keeps the cost more reasonable. And a great wine list (Lyle does the selecting). GET DESSERT. Oh, and don't order your coffee with your dessert. Coffee comes AFTER dessert. Robb will spank you if you order out of sequence.
Looking over their seasonal menus, I realize I have only been there in the Winter and Spring. Because those are the only desserts I recognize...
It’s on a little street and not too prominent. Most likely walkable from your hotel. And when I go to their website, I see they have an additional restaurant that I have never tried.
It means Three Little Pigs. You MUST make reservations in advance if you plan on going. (not like a month in advance, but more than probably that morning in advance.)
We have only done the Loire Valley once. But it was a lovely once.
Robb located the delightful Chateau Des Ormeaux for us all to stay. It’s not a gay chateau. It’s a chateau that happens to have been restored by and run by 6 gay guys. I’d tell you to mention us, but it was SOOOO long ago (1999) that Lyle had that full head of Blond Ambition hair.
However, if you take this photo (below) of us sitting in the living room reading they may recall that we spent a lovely meal with the six of them and a friend from down the street who cooked for us. I can’t imagine they get many guests who peruse their photo albums of Halloween drag photos, share their love of all things Dalida (above) and wind up drunk on pear cordial (moonshine) crawling down the kitchen counters on their way to skinny-dipping in the pool. But then again, I could be wrong.
It’s a great central location for seeing all the chateaus of the valley. But please don’t. There are too many! We picked some top notes, some middle notes a couple of “what the hell”s to get a good cross sample.
I guess I should start with a confession. We had just seen “Austin Powers, The Spy Who Shagged Me” before our trip. Remember that was the one with the mini Doctor Evil. As you are fully aware, I can get obsessed with something quite easily and this was no exception. I was obsessed with saying “mini” like Dr. Evil. Mini-croissants. Mini-backpack. Mini-headache. Mini-pot-au-chocolate. As we drove in to the Valley, I saw it. My first (and not my last) billboard for “MINI-CHATEAU” Park. All day, all night, I mocked it. On our way out to the first chateau of the day, we drove right past it. To spite me, the rest of the car decided to teach me a lesson and make me go through it.
Mini Chateaux Val De Loire was FANTASTIC! Its like a miniature golf course (sans golfing) of every chateau in the Loire Valley. See it before you drive there! Get an aerial view! Play Godzilla storming France! (Yeah, we took a few of those pictures but I don’t have them scanned into the computer yet.) Seriously, it sounds completely stupid, but I think it’s a great leaping off point. You’ll already have your checklist of chateaus you want to see. This can help you confirm that you really want to see them and add a few you had no idea were so interesting.
You must see Chateau Chenonceau. Its the most picturesque of them all bridging the river. Read you guide book, follow the signs, schedule it so you can have a little snack on the grounds and enjoy it that much longer.
My brother Gary suggested Chateau Beauregard. He referred to it as a smaller hunting chateau that was less visited. He was correct. Less visited and still pretty, Beauregard still had family living in some of the house which were marked off as private. This also turned out to be the day we all wore similar shades of chartreuse and refused to change. Except Lewis, he had on a cream sweater. We refered to him as our tour leader, Mister Boscolo.
Tours”. You really can’t go wrong in seeing any chateau. One tip, don’t over do it. They will all begin to blur together into one over the top gilded brick in your brain. Okay, yeah, that happened to me and that’s why I can’t give you more detailed info.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
No not a post about the birds and the bees, but what site refers people my site?
For instance when Rachel told people on her blog that I had photos of her at Disneyland, I got a few people showing they had come from Rachel's blog.
Here's something funny - open a new window and go to www.google.com.
type these words into the search area - Paula Dean in swimsuit (don't use quotation marks around it).
My blog comes up in the top ten results!
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
First off your hotel is in an AMAZING location. Perfect choice.
I agree with Robb on eating at Les Philosophes Cafe. And it is on Rue Vielle de Temple.
At Les Philosophes, a charming cafe at 28 Rue Vieille du Temple in the Marais, our waiter, Jean-Pierre, advised us on the menu. The plat du jour (special of the day, $16.70) featured a marvelous first course of curried rice with white fish. The main course included the best duck I had in Paris.They make a nice breakfast if you are the breakfast type. If you are not the breakfast type, just pick up a quick and easy quiche at a bakery. The outside seating is perfect for people watching. Just up the street (away from the river) is a GREAT patisserie (about four or five doors). Eat anything, no make that everything with cream in it. Also further up the street is a cafe called Les Petits Marseillais, 72, rue Vieille du Temple, 75003 Paris. Tel: 01.42.78.91.59 We seem to always go there each trip for dinner.
However my FAVORITE pasty shop in on the Ils Saint Louis, on Rue Saint-Louis-en-l’Ile I can’t remember the exact name of it. But will explain it later.
Travel begins: When you get on the plane bound for Paris, set your watch to Paris time. Begin living your life on Paris time RIGHT NOW. If it’s dinner time in Paris, eat. If it’s night time, sleep. If needed, take drugs to induce partial coma. If it’s daytime, stay awake. This is the great beginning of your clock re-set. Once in Paris, adhere to new schedule. Daylight and walking really wake a person up when in a new land.
Day one: Get your bearings. Though you’ve brought 4 tour books with maps in them, you’ll wind up taking the map the hotel provides you because the hotel address is on it and there’s a big red dot to guide you home. Also it folds up so nicely in your pocket to prevent that “tourist” look. Oh, and Robb says NO SHORTS. You may be able to skate by in kicky capris (that goes for you too Graham). I would head out of my hotel and towards Hotel De Ville (City Hall) and take in the beauty of it all. From there head towards Notre Dame. Sure the inside is amazing, but then all churches in France are. Check the line up for the tour that lets you climb to the higher level up with the gargoyles. Since you are travelling in June, there may be many tourists. The line for the climb is to the left of the church main entrance. The view up top is Stunning.
After Notre Dame, walk behind the church and continue over the bridge to Ile Saint Louis. My favorite pastry shop in here! The first intersection you come to was featured in “the Devil Wears Prada” towards the end when Andrea decides to go home with the writer while in Paris. Anyway, stay on the middle street (Rue Saint-Louis-en-l’Ile) and about halfway down the first block on the left side is my (and Chandra’s) favorite jewelry store in Paris. Great colors, interesting designs, reasonable prices. You will know it by their colorful window displays.
Further down the Rue Saint-Louis-en-l’Ile you will come to Calixte. I read an article that claimed this is the patisserie that had the best Millefeuille (Napoleons) in all of Paris. Go in, get one, and share it between the two of you. Don’t get two, because you are walking further down the street to get two more. One for each of you because the shop down the street is better. But I think you should experience it all and make an informed choice, so go ahead, get one at Calixte first.
Continue down Rue Saint-Louis-en-l’Ile past Rue des Deux Ponts and halfway down the next block (again on the left side) is my favorite patisserie. Lyle also liked their Tartlette au Citron and the raspberry tort in the window. Good bread as well! I think it MAY be called Boulangerie Martin, but go on my directions, not my memory of the name. Approximately across the street from that patisserie is a restaurant called Nos Ancetres Les Galois. It’s medieval dining. Kitschy. Touristy. Funny. Go if you get stuck for ideas on where to eat.
Also on Ile st Louis, around Berthillon, is nos ancetres les galois which is a bit hard to describe. for 160 francs (not sure what it is in euros now) you got smething like 7 courses of food starting with a basket of crudites, followed by meats, cheeses, and dessert. Wine is served by the pitcher (you fill it yourself, all you can drink). Bit of a tourist dive but fun.From the Ile Saint Louis you can go a wandering around town. If you come across St. Eustace Church, take a gander in. It’s not the most popular church, but I always wind up stopping in. If I were with you, I’d take you there. Very pretty stained glass windows.
Day two: I like to start EARLY. Take the metro up to 1 rue d’Alger 75001 Paris. The closest metro station is TUILERIES. From the station exit, cross the street, turn left and walk 100 meters on rue de Rivoli, turn right on rue d’Alger. Take a early morning kitschy picture and then begin your hike up the backside of Montmartre.
This should being you up to where the artists of Montmartre are setting up their easels. Take a gander around, in the early hours, it only gets more crowded later on. Head to the Sacre Couer Basilica and I hope you wore your climbing shoes. The best thing you can do here is to climb the stairs to the top of the church. At just under 300 steps it is quite a task, but the view is something most people don’t get to see. The church opens early, but the climbing tour opens somewhere between 9-10. Again go early, as you don’t want your vista spoiled by having to climb up stairs with your face up someone’s crack on a spiral staircase.
After that exhausting morning, you deserve a break. GO shopping. No wait, go to the Opera house instead. In fact, go buy the classic novel “the Phantom of the Opera” by Gaston Leroux and read it on the plane ride over. THEN go take a tour of the Paris Opera House. You can pay and just go wander around on your own during the daytime (instead of a guided tour) and get more than enough from it. Be sure to gaze around at the exterior as well. From the Opera House head towards the Samaritaine department store. If you go to Building 2 there’s a rooftop terrace at the top that has one of the best views of the city and it’s free. Though there is a bar/cafe type thing up there DO NOT EAT THERE. IT’S CRAPPY DEPARTMENT STORE FOOD.
Enjoy the view, have a Perrier if you’d like. Leave after photo taking.
Day 3: Explore the city.
Definitly go to the Eiffel Tower. The view from above is cliche and you’ll regret not going. I prefer to approach the tower from Trocadero as it’s the most impressive. If you've been to my house, you may recognize the view in my dining room is the same as the view from the Eiffel Tower!
If you decide to go shopping in the ritzy area, remember to eat outside of the ritzy area. On our way to the Hermes store 24 Rue Fauberg St. Honore, we stopped for a quick bite. The glass of Orangina cost more than my entire lunch the day before in the Marais. I like to tour the area later in the day with the ultimate goal of seeing the Place Vendome with Cleopatra’s Needle at the end of the Champs Elysées. Look up the street and see the arc De Triomphe. From Hermes, walk out towards the Champs Elysées, past the American Embassy and Buddah Bar. This will put you right in front of the Hotel Crillon. And therein lies the secret of doing this towards the end of your day, pop in to the hotel which is owned by the same company that owns Tattinger Champagne. Head back to the bar and have a glass of bubbly. It’s old world Paris glamour. Yes, Lyle introduced this all to me. After your drink, head back out to the Champs Elysées and take the metro up to the Arc De Triomphe and see it at night.
Day 4: Musée D’Orsay. As a friend of Lyle’s told me on my first visit to Paris, “The Louvre is nice if you like old paintings. Basically everyone runs past all the artwork towards the Mona Lisa. Once there, you are pushed and herded past the smallest painting you’ve ever seen and after you’re past it you wonder what the big deal was. If you like more modern art, as in since the 1900’s I suggest the Musée D’Orsay.” Now, having heard that, I decided I don’t need to go to the Louvre. I could be wrong. I was wrong about Les Miserables based on the review from some girl at work “Everybody sings. Everybody dies. Everybody comes back from the dead and sings again. What the big deal?”
But I did go to the Musée D’Orsay and it is Incredible. All the art you want to see from Matisse, Degas and more. Start there. If you don’t’ get your fill or art work, go to the Louvre the next day.
Day 5: Versaille. Plan it for a day when the fountains are on. Fountains will be on June 2 & 3, then again on June 9 & 10. It will be hot. It will be crowded. IT has cobblestone paths. DO NOT WEAR HEELS. That goes for Graham as well. Still no shorts. Save those for Germany.
Day 6: Sleep in. Plan tonight for your big night out. I recommend Rick Steves' Floodlit Paris Taxi Tour. I'm sure you could modify it to some walking and metro taking if you wanted. But do make sure you go out in the dark. After all, Paris is the City of Lights. You really must see it illuminated!
Day 7: By now you’ve see it all. Go back and repeat what you loved. Eat more.
Follow the links below and learn some more about:
Sacré Coeur via Fodor'sPastry, Chocolate and Bread via David Lebovitz, a pastry cook living in Paris. Take Notes!
Another Foodie Blog from Paris Chez Pim
I have no clue on what to tell you about Düsseldorf. Never been. Do check out a store called Hallhuber. They have three stores in Düsseldorf. When I discovered them in Berlin they were very forward, reasonably priced and colorful. I did notice that it is close to Belgium. If you decide to take a day trip to Antwerp or Brussels let me know...
Monday, May 28, 2007
When I was younger, Memorial Day meant one thing: a road trip to the other side of the state to see relatives.
There we were, a family of 5 packed into our station wagon. Though there are many variants of how this trip began and progressed the cliché that stands out in my mind always begins in the dark.
We would either be leaving well after dinner (probably about 10 pm - early to me now, so late to me then) or early in the morning (is it actually possible we left before 6 am?). My parents plan was to ambush us kids into travel at such an ungodly hour that we would all be QUIET. Apparently the worst thing you can have on a road trip is squabbling kids. I guarantee you - we squabbled.
The week prior to the trip included an extra trip to the grocery store for "what you want to eat and drink in the car". I always got Bugles. Those cornucopia shaped pieces of dried corn pounded into dust then pressed back together. In later years I realized the wisdom of getting Doritos so you could open the bag and breathe in the Dorito fumes instead of the pulp mill smell in Everett. On the day of the trip the luggage would be loaded in the back of the wagon next to the ice chest with our treasure of junk food. The ice chest would be right behind the back seat to remain most accessible.
Here's how the station wagon gets loaded:
Front seat driver - dad
Front seat passenger - mom
Back seat driver side - my sister (she would watch over my dad's shoulder, "you're speeding," "you're falling asleep," "that was a police man," were some of her key conversation starters.)
Back seat passenger side - my brother
Rear cargo area passenger side - ice chest + all luggage
Rear cargo area driver side - me on a sleeping bag with books, a flashlight, and toys galore.
Variations: if it's super hot and the air conditioner doesn't reach the back, I can ride in the middle of the front seat. I will never be seated between my siblings in the back seat.
From our house to my grandmother's house on the other side of the state it was about a 3 and half or 4 hour trip. If there was no traffic. But on a holiday weekend...? Now I see another reason to drive under the cover of darkness.
If we left at 10 pm we'd get in about 2 am.
My grandmother would get out of bed and welcome us. My uncle lived with my grandmother as well. My parents got my uncle's room, my sister had to sleep with my grandmother, my uncle took the hide-a-bed in the living room or slept in his camper out back. My brother and I got the floor in the living room. It wasn't a huge house.
In my father's family food equals love. Clearly my grandmother loved us. On arrival there was tons of fresh fruit, whatever was in season. What was usually in season was cherries. Cherries do NOT agree with my brother. As someone who had to sleep in the same room as my brother, it was always a crazy race between my brother and I to get to the kitchen first. He wanted those cherries bad. I wanted to hide those cherries and keep all bad smells away.
My grandmother would have been filling her freezer for the last month in anticipation of our visit and in the morning when we woke, there were cinnamon rolls! Oh my god, the best cinnamon rolls in the world. Try as you might to buy one better, you never will. These were not just the best recipe, but filled with months of anticipatory love from my grandma. Best of all there was no limit on how many you could have.
If we were lucky, come Saturday morning we would need to replenish something from the nearest grocery store. Like something out of a tv show, the world's strangest named grocery store - the Wigwam. And it's name was up in crazy large square block neon letters. The luck of the Wigwam shopping trip meant we could all buy a comic book! I can't remember which ones my brother bought, but my sister bought Archie (I'd read it when she was done) and I bought either Richie Rich or Casper (no one read them when I was done).
For the rest of Saturday we'd "visit" our relatives. You know, where the adults sit in the house, drink coffee and talk about other relatives health issues and my mom would crochet. Outside the cousins and us ran around like a pack of wild dogs.
On Sunday my grandmother would be up early. While we finished breakfast she was outside cutting flower stems out of her yard. Chrysanthemum, mums, roses and especially peonies.
In fact peonies is what sent my mind back in time this weekend. Trader Joe's had an island of peonies as you walked in the front door. At first I thought, "How beautiful! I must get a bunch and take them home, Lyle would really like that." I try to get flowers at the end of my shopping, like frozen foods so they last that little bit longer. By the time I'd reached the front again to get flowers I was flooded by Memorial weekends past and couldn't bring myself to buy any. Not sad per se, more wistful.
Flowers cut and into water, we'd load all the buckets and people into two cars and drive out to the cemetery where my grandmother would place coffee cans filled with amazing bouquets at my grandfather's headstone and a few others . It was a the very quiet portion of our weekend.
More food and relative visiting followed on Sunday. By Sunday night the mood would change. Tomorrow we'd head back home.
Monday morning there was a limit on how many cinnamon rolls you could have. "I'm not going to have those kids trapped in that car hopped up on sugar the whole ride home." Not to worry because grandma had already wrapped about 2 dozen from the freezer to put in the ice chest to take home with us. Along with meat pies, all the leftovers from the weekend, sandwiches and fresh fruit. Dammit! I have to hide those blasted cherries again!
The ride home took twice as long. No anticipation of what lay ahead. No leaving under the cover of darkness. So much more traffic. We'd stop about halfway, just after we'd cleared the mountain pass and get root beer floats at the XXX Root beer restaurant. They bred St. Bernards next door and they always had puppies. I think the connection was the root beer was supposed to come in a wooden keg. St. Bernards in Switzerland carried little wooden kegs, but I really have no idea. Every year I'd beg for a puppy and every year get turned down. This would lead to two scenarios, I'd scream and run away vowing to "NEVER GO HOME WITH YOU MEAN PEOPLE!" or if I was slow, I'd get caught early and I was drug off to the car I'd blubber, "I WANT ONE! I WANT ONE! I WANT ONE!" that would last for about half an hour longer in the car.
Nowadays I stay home for Memorial Day. Los Angeles is a quiet city when everyone else leaves. It's rare to get to drive around on the open streets.
My grandmother passed away when I was 12. When my brother made it to high school he had to march in the local parade on Memorial Day. We didn't go over the mountain pass as often. This weekend I really miss my grandmother.
I still want a St. Bernard.
Friday, May 25, 2007
How is it that I can't walk two dogs at the same time and this person has ten? Apparently this is the big thing in Buenos Aries as we saw numerous dog walkers like this. You can see this one has all the same sized large dogs. We saw one with all the same size little dogs. And then there was one that had all the same breed. I admit it, we followed this dog walker until he stopped to drop off a dog. He attached all the other leases to a post in front of an apartment building, slipped out the dog leash for the dog that lived there and took him inside. The dogs on the sidewalk just sat and waited patiently. I think my dogs need an Argentinian dog trainer.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Let me correct that. Every day of my life is G-A-Y. Me and my husband walking our matching Dalmatian dogs out of our manicured front yard past the Volvo convertible and Range Rover strikes me as super G-A-Y. And we try to go to Southern Decadence in New Orleans (rebuilding the city one money throwing gay at a time) in September. But a Gay Pride festival is one of those places that you find yourself mingling nearly exclusively G-A-Y.
And don't forget a little back story that we used to be "professional homosexuals" back when we had our gay & lesbian greeting card, stationary, book and calendar publishing company. We rarely went out to anything gay that wasn't work related. The world got a little small.
We were supposed to be out of town last weekend but at the last minute our plans changed. Jeniffer Hudson was performing at the Long Beach Gay Pride festival and I thought it would be fun to go. I've gone to Long Beach Pride twice before and found it fun, casual, less attitude that LA and it is always remarkable how different people look once you leave West Hollywood.
So we went. We didn't need to go early, sunset over the water is pretty. We left home at 3:30. Arrived in Long Beach at about 4:10.
I drove to Long Beach. After the first 5 minutes of trying to find parking, Lyle took over driving. If you've ever seen me frustrated at not being able to find parking, you know this was the smartest move. We were finally parked about 4:30... and only about 10 blocks away... ten blocks that had "lot full" signs on every parking lot... BAD OMEN.
After getting a coffee at Borders, we walked towards the festival. The line was two blocks long to get in. Suddenly it lurched forward, Hooray! Turns out it only moved because they decided to close that entrance and send the entire line on a forced march across a park and parking lot (loads of parking now, still "lot full" sign out front) to the next entrance.
When we reached that entrance, I could see they weren't letting anyone in there either. THIS SUCKED. WE headed to the last entrance further down the beach. This one was open!
We got in line and began our wait about 20 people from the front.
A voice from behind us boomed out, "As I live and breathe, if it isn't Jim & Lyle!" Actually the voice used our full first and last names which is odd, as you are never called out by your first and last name in public. If my middle name had been there, I'd have been worried that my parents had found out I was the one who broke the light switch in the garage.
Lyle is not the type to acknowledge people in public, so I turned around to see who knew us.
There was a bearded cowboy smiling at me.
Absolutely no recognition. Cowboy smiled at me as my mind began to scan all files in my brain marked "beard" and/or "cowboy". I don't know anyone with a beard. I don't know any cowboys. Next it scanned files marked "California" and tried to place things like voice or eyes, since clearly cowboy and/or beard weren't working.
Mental circle of possible locations to scout people expanded to North America (voice was definitely not from other continent).
OH MY GOD. It clicked. I gave cowboy/beard a hug and we began to talk. I glanced over at Lyle who was still giving me the "WTF?" look.
So I stopped talking to cowboy/beard and turned to look directly at Lyle, "I'm sorry, I have to do this. I have to look right at your face to see what you look like when I say this. Lyle, you remember Dele Lowrie?"
Lyle's face went blank, a little white, and then he smiled, "Oh my god, how are you?"
So let's back up, Dele was my first boyfriend way back in the early 1800's, you know before the Civil War. Since Lyle and I have been together for over 17 years, he's heard all the stories and met Dele a number of times.
The last time we saw Dele was in 2001. We were in Vancouver BC, and he was in Twassen about 20 minutes South of Vancouver. I am not in charge of telling Dele's story. I feel okay saying that he had gone through some stuff and was at a facility that removed him from his situation to get clean. Basically, re-hab.
After that, we lost touch and my friend Rachel got a postcard a year or so later with a San Diego postmark that said he was happy, things were good, but no contact info. I told Rachel he must want to disappear and when he wanted to be found he would be found.
Over the years, his name comes up in our group of friends and people wonder if he was dead. I always say, "if he was dead, I would know." Yeah, I'm tuned into some people on that level. I can't track him around the globe, but I know when things go super bad. Some of you out there have experienced that phone call from me when I know I'm supposed to call you. I don't always listen to that little voice inside, but if it shouts loud enough I call you.
Anyway, he is not dead. He told me the re-hab in Twassen didn't stick and he had to go through some more bad stuff before he went in again and that time it stuck. Clean and sober for 6 years. That made me very happy for him.
We chatted some more, and then he went off to meet his friends and we went off to wander through the garbage filled festival (people, it's called a trash can, you put trash in it. No not trashy friends, actual litter).
The rest of the festival was kind of a blur for me. Pondering running into someone I hadn't seen in over 6 years and finding out he lives in Long Beach and is in fact alive. I've connected him with a couple other friends and we shall see where this leads.
Oh, and though I think the beard is permanent, I believe the cowboy part only goes as far as nightclubs and festivals. I don't think he owns a real horse.
We didn't stay for Jenifer Hudson. The evening wore on and it wore on us. I decided if I wanted to really see her I could go buy a ticket and not deal with all that crowd. We were home by 10:00!
Oh, and Dele said I was easy to recognize as I hadn't changed one bit. Which drew my mind to a post from another blog I like (you're boring me) and wondered, do I look that good now, or did I look that bad then?
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
There is a horrible phenomenon known as "June Gloom" that often bleeds over to "May Grey" (last year I coined a new term, "July, WHY?" let's hope it doesn't do that again this year).
Anyway, it's gross outside. Allegedly it's all just a marine layer that will burn off later in the day. Not so much yesterday. As gorgeous as it can be here in the winter (we had Christmas breakfast outside) this portion of our weather is when we can finally start making all those soups and stews.
And it's not pollution, apparently the native language introduced the first settlers to this area they called the "fog bowl".
All in all, it puts me in a funky mood. Mood today, FUNKY. And it's not the Funky Cold Medina, it's not the Funky Chicken. I'll say it, CRANKY.
Friday, May 18, 2007
So, this set of three all come from the trip I had to Rio de Janeiro in November 2005.
"Happy Dog" because what dog wouldn't be pleased to be fluffed out like a puffer fish to tour the neighborhood. Also, I love pink!
These coconuts are fresh! Here they are hanging next to a snack shop on the Ipanema Beach. Should you like one, they will slice off the top and put in a straw for you to drink the milk.
This lovely portrait was just random graffiti on the wall. Probably an underpass of some sort. The picture is about 4-5' tall. The graffiti art in Rio was VERY impressive.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
But as I continue to drive around on the spare tire that requires you drive no faster than 50 mph, I've noticed that this entire city is an international speedway.
Just driving home from the tire repair shop, just keeping up with traffic on a four lane city street, I glance down and realize that I am (and the cars surrounding me are) going about 60. Yikes!
On the flip side, I do live in Los Angeles. Any slower and you've become a hazard.
As I always say, "If you don't want to get where you going, why are you going? MOVE THAT PIECE OF SHIT, GRANDMA!!!"
Okay, I guess I don't actually "say that" I more or less scream it inside the car.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
"Well," I replied, "if they're gonna get a bath, we may as well make them REALLY dirty first."
And that is how we decided to take the dogs to the beach last weekend.
Lyle took them rollerblading both Saturday and Sunday mornings. They were pretty pleased with their lives already. The best part for us, we thought, was they would be worn out and easier to take in the car. Note how I said, "we thought."
About a year ago, when we had purchased the convertible, we had also acquired two dog+car harnesses. These harnesses go on the dog, and then a large circle clamp piece of hardware attaches to another piece that has a real seatbelt buckle on the end. Effectively tethering the dogs butt to the seat.
The dog can lie down or sit, but not fully stand not jump out of the car. Perfect.
We found all our supplies (harnesses, dog bag, beach leashes, 50' piece of rope with clip on end for extended control, collapsible dog water travel bowl, baggies for poop, sunscreen and some good music for the drive) and loaded the car. Supplies first, dogs and people second.
Don't believe them for an instant, our dogs get out of the house plenty. But they way they behaved you'd have thought they'd been in prison for 8 years to life. Clamoring their way to the car in some new fangled clothes (the car harnesses) they had already figured out this wasn't an outing to the vet.
We got them locked into place and started out. We drove through the city to get to Pacific Coast Highway. We had already agreed that if it was too much, we could turn around and the car ride in itself was probably a good enough treat.
Lola and Cooper loved riding in the convertible. A couple of people stopped next to us in their cars and talked to us and told us how great they looked and how happy they seemed. One person surreptitiously took our photo from the other lane while just behind the car (hello, I can hear you camera make that shutter sound).
and then North through Malibu. In LA county we used to take our dogs to the beaches North of Malibu. It used to be legal as long as they were on leash. But no more.
We also recounted how we used to go to the beaches and park on the street above the lot as we couldn't afford the extravagant $2 parking fee back then.
We were headed all the way to Ventura to the beach. There is a closed refinery up there that not a lot of people go the beach in front of. Well, that suits us fine.
The dogs got bored and Cooper was VERY FRUSTRATED at not being able to stand. He rarely has limits imposed on him and I was thrilled that there was no escape for once. That boy needs to learn more than I have the energy to teach. (Mom, Dad, remind you of anyone?)
Finally we arrived.
We unloaded ourselves and our supplies, and hiked out across the dunes and sand to the beach. As we reached the beach we saw a sign that said dogs prohibited.
Too late. We're here. Screw you.
Way off to the left, and way off to the right we could see other dogs. We went to the beach.
Now lets back up. We got Cooper from a rescue shelter about 2 and half years ago. He was approximately 2 at the time. In the 2 and half years we've had him he has never been to the ocean. He's a great dog, but it has taken a lot of work to get him socialized and friendly and under control. I still do not trust him to be free around other dogs. The deal today was he would ALWAYS be on a leash. Maybe a 50' leash made of rope, but never free to run off.
So, it's Cooper's first day at the ocean. We are all very excited. Sophia, our Cocker Spaniel was quite the water dog. She inspired our first Dalmatian Nora to be good in the water as well. Lola learned from the two of them. But let's be fair, Dalmatians aren't naturally water thrill seekers.
Cooper was unimpressed.
Here you can see me with Cooper on the leash, dragging him to his perceived watery grave while Lola runs circle around us both. Oh, and I am totally working on my future tank top burn.
It was a great day. We did see the other dogs. We did keep our dogs under control.
I think we lasted about an hour at the most and then it was time to go home and pass out clean baths to everyone... except first we had to fix a flat tire on the car. Ugh.
Flat off. Spare on. It says you should only go 50 m.p.h. Do they not know where we live?
We agreed to take the freeway home because it would be more direct than the way we came. We also agreed that we could probably manage to go 60 m.p.h. on that tire.
Uh, the speed limit on that freeway is 65. And this is Southern California. Who knew that 60 could feel so hazardous as people (usually me) zoomed by at 70, 80, 90 or more. Oh how I wanted to go fast!
But we made it home safe, sound and slow.
Altogether a fabulous day for us all... except for the dogs. They still had to get their baths!
Monday, May 14, 2007
The garden has given me my first cucumber this year. There is another one about the same size ready to go next. I am stunned. Give me a month, and I'm sure I'll be annoyed that I have too many. But for now, I'm sticking with stunned.
I wanted to take the photo with something other than just the cuke so you could see the relative size. So I took it with this chef. As you can plainly see, the cucumber is bigger than a man.
More tasty than any cucumber (sorry, that's just the way I'm built) is the tiramisu that Lyle made on Saturday. WOW. No perspective trick here, built in a springform cheesecake pan, it's bigger than my head.
Lyle doubled the recipe and then tweaked it slightly. Instead of all coffee and Kahlua he makes a mixture of coffee, Kahlua, vanilla liqueur and Godiva white chocolate liqueur. Then when the recipe asks for "vanilla sugar" he put in cinnamon sugar with real vanilla bean.
For the next two days I will be in one of two places. At the gym trying to get rid of this fabulous dessert, or in a sugar coma reveling in it.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Happy Mother's Day mom!
I put up these nachos because I know you always like it when I make nachos for you. I want to remind you how easy they are to make.
Take nacho chips. Don't dump them in the pan, place them in as flat a layer as you can (allowing more cheese per chip!).
Then dump grated cheese over them. This stuff you can dump. More is better. You're not really eating them for the chip are you?
After that, add any leftover meat you have, beef, chicken, pork (I wouldn't do fish, ick.) chopped up and spread around over the cheese. I like to add sliced olives (easiest if you buy them pre-sliced in the can).
If you choose to add tomatoes, chop them up and hold them until the nachos are almost done. Add them in at the last minute to take the chill off them but not to super heat them. If you super heat your tomatoes, you'll have to wait until the cheese is too cold to be able to eat them all together.
Broil your pan of delicious goo. DON'T MICROWAVE. It doesn't take that much longer and it taste vastly better.
Don't forget sour cream for dipping. Again, you're not eating these for the chips.
As a bonus for my dad who is not eating wheat, most likely you've got corn tortilla chips, go for it! Happy Mother's Day dad!
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Nope. That's not me. I follow recipes. I rarely go with the flow in the kitchen. I find my best dishes and repeat them without straying.
Don't get me wrong. My food taste great. If I was with a truly awful cook I'd probably be knows as "the good cook". Thank god that didn't happen, because I don't actually love to cook. I cook, so I can eat.
All that being said here are three recipes I happen to know that work.
I have fallen in love with Paula Dean. She has a cooking show on the Food Network. I saw her on Oprah and she was so funny, I had to follow her to her own TV show. She is from Savannah, GA. I love her accent. Only a Southern lady can take a three letter one-syllable word like "dip" and change it to w two syllable word "di-yup" and make me still love her.
Now I don't want to get into any trouble with other websites, so I am not including the recipes here. Just follow the links in the highlighted colors and you will be taken to them to print them out for yourselves.
Here is an impossibly easy, fun and TASTY recipe for asparagus wrapped in filo pastry. My tip, have a little patience for the filo dough. Its very thin (on purpose) and make a slight mess on your counter. Easy clean up.
When your asparagus is done, Paula suggested presenting it as in the photo at the beginning of the blog. She used swiss chard I believe. I used beet greens as we had some on hand from making borscht (Lyle's specialty).
Another thing I am not the best at is gardening. I am just a newbie at getting things to grow. Too much faith in Mother Nature, not enough faith in adding fertilizer. But this year we are having a bumper crop. Almost everything I've put in the ground has made astounding progress.
So can someone tell me why I planted spinach?
I recently learned that cooked spinach is better for you than raw spinach. Since I don't love spinach either way (I grudgingly eat spinach. I don't hate it. I don't love it. But it's good for me, so I try. Children, are you listening? I sure didn't.)
Holistic health expert Dr. Andrew Well explains, "Raw spinach, chard and beet greens contain oxalic acid a dicarboxylic acid occurring in various fruits and vegetables and as a metabolic product of glyoxylic or ascorbic acid; it is not metabolized but is excreted in the urine. Excess may lead to formation of calcium oxalate calculi in the kidney., which robs your body of calcium and iron. In general, these natural toxins are destroyed by cooking, especially cooking in water."
Spinach is America's most popular dark leafy green, and is very high in calcium and iron, though these nutrients are best absorbed by the human body when the leaves are cooked.So here I was with a BOUNTIFUL HARVEST of Spinach in my front yard garden. Where the hell am I going to hide all that cooked spinach?
My second quiche recipe is Madame Quiche's Quiche au Fromage. Slightly more involved (only slightly). This one you do have to pre-bake the crust. I do find this recipe about 5% better than the speedy spinach recipe. But for 5%, do you want to devote that much more effort?
After all my talk about not modifying recipes I will now confess that the Speedy Spinach recipe doesn't call for bacon but I add it in with the egg mixture. And Madame Quiche's recipe doesn't call for spinach, but I add it in just before the egg mixture.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
"What are you going to do without Chandra around?" Rachel asked me.
"Dance around in the living room in my underwear," I answered.
Let's clear up a few things right off the bat. I do not run around in my underwear. My underwear is about the same as my swimsuit. I do wear my swimsuit to the beach. But I do wear clothes around the house.
But this week without that girl who makes me coffee hanging out at the house, I have made it a point to watch TV in my underwear at least twice. Why? Because I can! Keep n mind it has been really warm here for a few days. It's nice to feel cool.
Then today, I got up and fed the dogs without getting fully dressed. Turned on the stereo. Got laundry started. Had a piece of toast. Next thing I know, I am actually dancing around the house in my underwear!
Dean & Keith shot this video. Any doubts? Look closely right about the 1:22 (or 45 seconds before the end) mark.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
While at the gym tonight, about half the people working out had stopped and were staring at a television I couldn't see from my vantage point. I guessed it must be some big sporting event (that's why I'd have no clue what it was) but it turns out it was coverage of the fire.
This is the second fire in Griffith park this year. The first one was on the North side of the Hollywood Hills behind the Hollywood sign. It spread West and North.
This one seems to be on the East side of the Park and is spreading East and South.
They've evacuated the zoo as a precaution.
I called Lyle from the gym and told him to check in on Ophelia and her family. They live West of the fire. She told him things seem okay for her but that they had packed up a few things and loaded them in the car 'just in case."
Of course we offered to host them here if needed. Picture it if you can, Jim, Lyle, Lola and Cooper with Ophelia, Matt, Becca and their three dogs. Well, you do what you have to.
Seriously, if need be we'd totally manage (Ophelia, the offer still stands).
When we took the dogs out for their walk tonight you could see a large well lit cloud over the park. Very sad.
Monday, May 07, 2007
(on the left, me dresed in William Shatner's wardrobe from some Star Trek movie. As you may be able to note, since I have no idea which movie, I am not a Trekkie.)
And, to answer Rachel's question, Did she ever look so young? Yes, and here is proof. Interestingly, I still make that face for photos. Oh my god, there are those pleated shorts again, and this time you can see the black workboots with socks.
Since no one asked for it, let me follow up yesterday’s post of our arrival to riot filled Los Angeles 15 years ago with what happened next.
Our first full day in Los Angeles. Since we were staying at the Radisson Bel-Air hotel, we decided to take advantage of the amenities and went to lay out by the pool. There we were on a plateau behind the hotel, looking out over the city as it smoldered (literally, not figuratively) and we felt the guilty decadence of sunning ourselves while Rome burned below. Even if you weren’t looking, you could still smell the smoke in the air.
We checked out by noon and we were heading towards our friend’s house to stay. But we knew we couldn’t’ show up empty handed. We pulled into a grocery store. Hysteria lived inside.
We made our way around and picked up a few things we thought would be nice then got in line. Every check out counter was open and there were probably about 20 people in each line. People had come in twos and one person got in line as the other shopped and brought things to the line person. (Mental note to selves, learn this trick.)
The woman in front of us had one item in her basket. Now four. Now ten. Our line was getting longer without anyone moving. Then the man with the woman in front of us came up and exploded , first to the woman then to everyone in line, “THEY DON’T HAVE SPINACH! HOW CAN THEY NOT HAVE SPINACH?! DON’T THEY KNOW I AM ON A LIMITED DIET!?! WHAT AM I GOING TO EAT!!!?” The calm woman told him to get what he could. Go look for spinach in the frozen section. He left and came back with frozen spinach. The woman looked back at us, shrugged and smiled. We smiled back. (clearly we were not from LA) Then the two of them glanced down at our provisions.
“I want to go where you guys are going,” said the man looking at our cart filled with nacho chips, sour cream, cheese and a 12 pack of Corona.
The woman added, “If that’s all I had to get for an emergency, I’d have skipped this madhouse all together.”
We explained the had just arrived yesterday and we were staying with friends who had told us they had everything they needed.
By now the couple in front had finished checking out. “Well, welcome to L.A.” they said as they motioned back to the madness that had not dissipated behind us and they headed out of the store.
We did make it to West Hollywood. The National Guard was deployed to Los Angeles. I don’t think the one had to do with the other. The riots did subside.
Our life in L.A. began. In the first year and half we saw the National Guard deployed a total of three times. Once more for the second Rodney King beating verdicts and once for the Northridge Earthquake.
We found a house that was tiny with a rent that was large. But since people were fleeing the city the rent had dropped a whopping 3%. From a house overlooking the water in Bellingham, to a house across from an elementary school and our rent had nearly doubled for the privilege.
We took each disaster scenario in stride. We did learn the “one in line one in store” trick to shopping in pandemonium.
Now 15 years later I get to be the welcome wagon.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
Last Monday was our 15th anniversary of living in Los Angeles. How can I be so certain? Last Sunday was the 15th anniversary of the L.A. riots. We arrived on day two of the riots. Happy Anniversary!
It’s strange because it’s not something I would normally focus on. But it did get many of us talking about what we ourselves were like “way back when”.
First, a quick re-cap. Lyle wanted to go to school at UCLA for graphic design. We came early and pre-scouted. Then went back to Bellingham, WA, loaded up the car and drove South. We stopped at my grandmother’s outside of Sacramento and spent the night. On Wednesday April 29, 1992 we watched the riots break out in Los Angeles from the safety of my grandmother’s television 350 miles away.
On Thursday April 30, we woke up with our plan in place to drive to Los Angeles and stay with friends in West Hollywood. We watched the news. We got out maps and we discussed that the riots were something happening “down there” but we weren’t going all the way “down.” Just as far as West Hollywood. We’d have no problem.
We headed out after lunch.
We drove South on I-5. As we approached the final hill to climb over to L.A. we decided to turn on the radio and see what was going on.
What was going on was all hell had broken loose. The news station we were listening to was based one block away from Hollywood and Vine. I kept telling Lyle that the riots were far away from our destination. I’d pull out my trusty Thomas Guide and say, “The radio is talking about this intersection on Map 652, but we are going here in West Hollywood on map 793. See, FAR away...”
Now as we listened to the radio station (KFWB) talk about what they could see from their window I pulled out my Thomas guide and said to Lyle, “I’m sure it’s not that close. See, the radio station is located here on Map 792 and we are going here on Map 793... oh. my. god.” I was sick to my stomach, “Pull over. Pull the car over. We need to call our friends.”
So we phoned. We heard that one of our friends had driven home via the 10 freeway which runs South of downtown and through some of the most affected areas. She was running low on gas and could see fires breaking out on both sides of the freeway. She was terrified but made it home. We learned there was a curfew starting at dusk. Our friends said that things seemed good where they were, but then again, this thing was moving so quickly and unpredictably that though they felt comfortable telling us to come it would probably be best, if we could, to find a place to stop and come in the next day during daylight.
So we proceeded towards Los Angeles. Like something out of post apocalyptic movie there were no cars on the freeway. Us, and maybe 4 others headed South. Headed North we saw the same sparseness. Never more than 5-6 cars anywhere. We turned our mirrors so they wouldn’t shine light on our glowing white faces. Seems so silly now. We were so far North in Valencia near Magic Mountain. Nothing was going to happen there. But we had no idea where L.A. actually started and suburban white flight had landed.
We scanned every motel and hotel from the hi-way. No Vacancy. We kept moving forward.
We threw out that we would keep going towards WeHo and if there were no hotels then we were supposed to make it tonight. If we found a hotel, we were supposed to stop.
We continued to listen to the radio station when they broke into the newscast for a special announcement from the owner. I can’t remember the exact wording but the it went something along the lines of, “KFWB has been broadcasting 24 hours a day for 25 years and we have never gone off the air, until today. From the roof of this building I can see the fires and looters. For the safety of our employees I am shutting this station down. It is a sad day indeed.” He started to ramble off on the state of the world and the tragedy of violence when in mid-sentence the radio went to static.
We had mapped out a route to West Hollywood from the 405 freeway, exiting onto Sunset and driving through a residential area of Beverly Hills. We suspected this would be the least likely to attract anything untoward. When we exited the freeway there was a Radisson Hotel on the corner. Lyle had worked for a travel agency connected with the Radisson hotels. We had stayed there earlier in the year and received the family discount rate of $35 a night. “Maybe?” I said and jerked my head towards the hotel. “Doubtful” responded Lyle. We were so tense we had stopped using any unnecessary words.
We pulled in and made our way to the check in desk. It was pandemonium. My heart is beating faster as I write this and remember how the way people were behaving in this hotel lobby made me more afraid than anything I could have imagined listening to the radio. If these people so far removed from the affected areas were so freaked out, what did they know that we did not?
Lyle approached the desk clerk told him he knew it was a long shot, then launched into our sob story. “Left Sacramento this morning... had no idea... been driving all day... freaked out to drive to friend’s house... student... employee ID... know it’s impossible...” Then came the puppy dog eyes.
He told us they had three rooms left, no just two rooms now. He’d probably loose his job, but he was going to do it anyway.
Finally, NOT SHIT.
We checked in and phoned our parents. You know that phone call where the first words out of your mouth are, “I’m okay.” We had to make a couple of those. I cried. Lyle cried. We watched the final episode of the Cosby show. Apparently a riot was not enough to pre-empt that.
We were hungry. We hadn’t eaten all day as we kept saying we’d eat when we got there. Now here we were in Bel-Air at the Radisson and we needed to find the nearest store. We looked one up in the yellow pages (all of this is so pre-cell phone!) and we called a little store in the Brentwood plaza.
“Hi, are you open?”
“Don’t come here! We have guns! We’re not open! We’ll shoot you!!!” and they hung up.
We made our down to the hotel restaurant. Keep in mind that Lyle was going back to school, neither one of us had a job in our new city and had given up our old jobs to move. We had serious budget concerns. I knew I need a drink. After looking at the prices I was only going to get one. We had dinner. Each of us got a salad and we split an entree. One cocktail each. No dessert. It was $80. “Well, that was our budget for the week,” I told Lyle as we walked up to the rooftop patio of the hotel.
There was an interesting article I found on the riots, but the link doesn't work, so here is the summary that I found quite fascinating:
We stood on top of the hotel and watched as hundreds of fires burned in the distance. If you didn’t know better it could have looked pretty. But we did know better and for us it was very sad.
The Los Angeles riots ended after five days, leaving more than 50 people dead, thousands injured, and almost $1 billion in property damages. A Federal aid package of $100 million in disaster assistance was given to riot victims, $200 million was designated to rebuild damaged areas, and $400 million was made available in loans from the Small Business Administration. The Los Angeles Community Development Agency approved $200 million in emergency relief for small businesses and homeowners. Rodney King eventually sued the city of Los Angeles for $83 million dollars, but the city rejected the suit. The four police officers who had been acquitted in the beating of Rodney King were reindicted, this time for violation of King's civil rights. Two of the officers were found guilty. King was awarded $3.8 million dollars. Daryl Gates, chief of the LAPD, was replaced, and the LAPD undertook to improve its relations with inner-city residents.
From beginning to end, the riots were a media event. The repeated airing of the beating of Rodney King, on top of deep-seated grievances in South Central Los Angeles, effectively prepared the way for violence. News of the acquittal of the four police officers involved in the beating of Rodney King set off rioting by African-American, Hispanic, and some white residents of South Central Los Angeles. Televised images of street scenes acted as guides to looters and helped to propel the rioting. The impact of videotaping was particularly noteworthy; it was through this medium that images of the beatings of Rodney King and Reginald Denny were seared into the nation's psyche. Reporting in the Los Angeles Times seems to have been more restrained than television coverage, but both broadcast and print media engaged in controversial and sensationalized reporting. Such coverage led many people across the nation to fear that the lawlessness in Los Angeles might spread to their neighborhoods.
I told Lyle if you squint your eyes, all the fires linked together to spell out “Welcome to L. A.”
What you can't see is we both have on big black work boots with those shorts.
I 've gone full circle and returned to the V-neck T-shirt but not pleasted shorts.
(The Terminator pic at the top of the post is me in the actual costume worn by Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator. The back of the leather jacket even had bullet holes in it.)