Saturday, November 30, 2013

New Purchase

With all the busy-ness of Thanksgiving and Black Friday, I gave myself a treat and bought a new bud vase.

It's the perfect vessel for this lovely bouquet I received from Flower Fortunes!

It makes for a bright light on a gray day!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Coming, Going, Gone!

Face it: Thanksgiving is the best holiday! 

There aren't any lines, gifts, or gift returns. At least there shouldn't be. 

Instead Thanksgiving focusses on being with family and friends, eating, drinking and beating everyone at Pétanque! I do admit that I have a home court advantage.

Every other day of the year you can hustle, work and wish for what you want. But on Thanksgiving you take stock and give thanks for what you already have. 

Like good food.

A dressed turkey.

A cooked turkey.

Not dropping the turkey.

It's best to enjoy Thanksgiving for what it is. Because just like that--poof!--it's over! 

I'm thankful for my family, friends, readers, fellow writers, beating everyone at Pétanque, and my home court Pétanque advantage! Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wines for Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving turkey? Check!
Cranberry relish? Check!
Wine? No check!

You don't have your wine picked out for Thanksgiving Dinner yet? Before running around like a turkey with its head cut off, do yourself a favor and check out these Thanksgiving dinner wine ideas.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sprucing Up the Palm Tree: BEFORE and AFTER

"The palm tree looks bare," I said pulling on my gardening gloves.
"Palm trees are bare," Mr. Wonderful said looking up from his manga comic book.
"The tree's so tall you can't see its foliage."
"Palm trees are tall."
"It looks like a utility pole."
"Palm trees are unity poles!"

Mr. Wonderful was good and correct at many things especially digging trenches, breaking up concrete and reading a whole 20-volume manga comic book series in 2.6 seconds. He was also correct that our palm tree was a utility pole since the cable company had attached its cable to it with a hook and nail. And yes my spouse was correct that our Mexican Fan Palm tree was tall; 70 feet, to be exact. And oh, alright! He was also correct that palm trees were void of foliage unless you craned your head back, grabbed a telescope and looked at Venus and then a little to the right. 

But still! Such a tall, bare utility pole could be beautiful if I just added some colorful foliage to make it look more like a tree and less like the leg of an elephant. Albeit a very tall elephant. 

My first thought was Bougainvillea. Who doesn't love the fuchsia pink petal-like leaves of that gorgeous plant? Just imagine I'd have a palm tree wrapped in a pink confection like a princess or upside-down stick of cotton candy. Of course I'd have to fight the thorns because every thing of beauty has a sharp side, like roses, cacti and pop music stars with their security details.  

On second thought, I could go with green ivy. Ivy grows everywhere and up anything, if I really wanted something at my eyesight to look at, I could wrap my tree in ivy and presto! Get a lot of leafy foliage to look at. Of course the tree would resemble the Jolly Green Giant, or worse, a verdant version of Chewbaca from Star Wars. Grrrrrfff!

On third thought, I could go with something cool and laid back. Cool as in blue-colored and laid back as in low maintenance. That's it! I had me at "low maintenance".

I opted for Senecio vitalis "Serpents", which is just a fancy Latin name for Blue Chalk Sticks. I planted the little blue succulents around the base of the tree and ran a drip hose around them. Just because they're succulents doesn't mean they don't need a little moisture. Then I showed Mr. Wonderful.

"The palm tree's still bare," Mr. Wonderful said looking at its trunk.
"Palm trees are bare," I said taking off my garden gloves.
"The tree looks like a utility pole."
"Palm trees are unity poles!"
"The little blue things around the base are cool."
"You like them?" my heart skipped a beat.
"They're cool looking."
"And they're low maintenance."
"Cool," he said patting my shoulder.

Cool and colorful indeed!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Big Success!

"Are you going to forget what to do?"Mr. Wonderful said putting the box of books in the trunk.
"Nope," I said clutching the car keys.
"Are you nervous?"
"Have you ever done this before?"

All week the calmer I was, the more nervous Mr. Wonderful grew. Until now, the night of my first book signing, Mr. Wonderful had morphed into a mess of nerves acting like a skittish colt before running the the biggest race of its life at Churchill Downs, and I was like a Zen Buddhist monk saying "Om"and eager to get a glass of wine in my hands. Because that's what Buddhist monks do, they say "Om" and hold glasses of wine in their hands.

This week was the very first event for my book, Evolution of a Wine Drinker. It took place at V Wine Room and included me reading an excerpt from my book, signing copies of the book and pouring glasses of wine for friends and attendees.

While Mr. Wonderful was home pacing in the pasture, I was living it up with a wonderful night of sharing my book with some funny comedy friends, some charming wine group friends and some new newly-made newbie friends. It was wonderful!

I was so thankful to the gals who spearheaded the event, V Wine Room for hosting and to everyone who came out for it! Thank you all for your support!

I was especially happy that my dear writer friend Gayle Carline could come. She'd driven six hours in her work clothes to get there. Okay, maybe it just felt like six hours because driving anywhere in Los Angeles feels like six hours. As a fellow writer, I appreciated her words of wisdom.

"If you're nervous, drink a glass of wine," she said.
"What if I'm not nervous?"
"Then still drink a glass of wine!"

I embraced Gayle's advice wholeheartedly. In fact I embraced my friends and everyone who attended.

Back at the house Mr. Wonderful met me in the driveway. I guess he'd been pacing the length and breadth of our property the whole time I'd been away.

"Did you forget what to do?" he said lifting the box of books out of the trunk.
"Nope," I said clutching the car keys.
"Were you nervous?"
"Will you do it again?"

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Gazillion and One Things!

"The stucco guy is coming today," I said tapping my pencil and reading my to-do list.
"Yes," Mr. Wonderful said putting another coffee pod in the espresso machine.
"I have to buy Thanksgiving decorations for the house."
"Walgreen's is selling Christmas merchandise already."

I loved my spouse but Mr. Wonderful's "shock" at the ever-encroaching Christmas shopping season was over the top. But that's because I knew his reaction was feigned and honestly? I'd already had my morning teapot of caffeine. He just didn't understand why I was so worked up about the retailers this year. I explained to him how everything had a season and the coo-coo crazy, rush-rush of Christmas shopping, office parties and buying/returning gifts would arrive soon enough. But since it was still November, we should enjoy this time for its autumn leaves, brown turkeys and red wines. Actually red wines were apropos all year long. I'm very accepting of red wines. And white wines, Champagnes, Amarettos, Calvados and hot toddys with rum. 

Don't get me wrong, I loved Christmas, St. Nick, reindeer, Tiny Tim and thinking of others but I didn't want to do all that until after the turkey was stuffed, cooked and eaten, which by my calendar, was still a week a way.

Plus, the truth of the matter was that since Mr. Wonderful and I were hosting Thanksgiving Dinner at our house this year, I had a gazillion and one things to do for Thanksgiving (don't forget that "one thing"!) before I could even get to Christmas. Hence my admonition to keep the Christmas season curtailed until after Thanksgiving Day. 

My Thanksgiving preparation plans included: 1) Writing up a food list that would be as long as Santa's Naughty and Nice list; 2) Writing up a list of drinks for the day including before dinner drinks, after dinner drinks and making-dinner drinks for the chef (make it a double!); 3) Driving to the respective food and drink stores to do reconnaissance; and 4) Finding decorations to put in my house to celebrate turkeys, cooking and Pilgrims when all that was available were Christmas wreaths, Christmas ornaments and Christmas Eggnog with hot toddys. Okay, that last one was fine in my book. 

I also had the stucco guy coming to the house to repair the gaping hole in the exterior of the house. I had to get that hole patched and painted before Thanksgiving dinner and with less than a week, I was running out of time.

"It's just another day," Mr. Wonderful shrugged.
"Thanksgiving is another day like a Tesla is 'just' a car," I said pouring more tea.
"You're acting frantic," Mr. Wonderful said as I downed a third pot of Gun Powder Chinese Green Tea.
"Don't you understand?" I said, my face twitching from all that Gun Powder Green Tea. "I have a gazillion and one things to do before Thanksgiving! And I can't forget that one thing!" Then I grabbed paper, pen and shopping bags and marched toward the door.

With the door wide open we both watched as another element of November happened outside: it started to rain. A lot. A monsoon-like downpour. This would not be a problem in the rest of the world but if you live in Los Angeles you either never learned or have completely forgotten how to drive in the rain, which meant that: 1) Driving to the grocery store for reconnaissance Thanksgiving shopping was impossible (unless I wanted to end up in a fender bender in the street); 2) Driving to the wine shop to buy the Turkey Day beverages was a no go (unless I wanted to end up in a ten car pile up in the parking lot); and 3) The stucco guy couldn't repair our gaping hole today. Argh! I had a gazillion and one things to do and now I couldn't do any of them!

"Want to go for a walk?" Mr. Wonderful said.
"In the rain?" He pulled his golf umbrella from the closet and we went out in the rain. We saw the brown leaves scattered on the ground like fairy dust, we saw bare-limbed trees reaching for the sky and directly over our heads we saw the garnet and gold colors of the umbrella. I squeezed Mr. Wonderful's arm. I had a gazillion and one things to do before Thanksgiving but right now I had remembered to do that "one thing": Enjoy this time.

Friday, November 15, 2013

She Did It!

"She did it," I said reading my computer screen.
"She who?" Mr Wonderful said looking up from his graphic novel.
"She made it."
"Made what?"
"It worked!"
"Worked what?!"

We married each other, bought a house together and were fixing up said house together yet Mr. Wonderful just couldn't get on the same page with me. It was totally clear what I meant and as my spouse and the man who promised to love, honor and read my mind, he should know exactly what I was referring when I looked at my computer screen.

"Are you watching a cat video," he said, a forefinger saving his page in the graphic novel.
I waved him over and showed him what had grabbed my attention: my friend Gayle Carline's blog post. When New Yorkers think of Southern Californians, they think of an air-head, surfer type, which is the polar opposite of who Gayle is. Like totally, Dude.

First off, Gayle is not a dude. Second, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th, she's smart, funny, a talented horsewoman and uber busy writer. She writes a weekly humor column for the newspaper as well as a light-hearted series of mysteries set in Orange County. Seventh, she's gutsy because after I posted a "miraculous" chicken and rice recipe on my blog, this blonde dame with moxie tried it. Gayle made my recipe!

"How'd she do?" my spouse asked patting his empty belly.
"You'll have to read here to find out!"

Congrats, Gayle! Thanks for making it and reporting back!

If anyone else makes either the chicken and rice or my shrimp and lemon pasta recipes, please let me know! I'd love to hear--and see a picture--of how they turned out!

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wine Tasting & Book Signing!

If you love comedy, wine and books--or even if you just "like" them--and you'll be in Los Angeles next Tuesday, you are welcome to a special Wine Tasting and Book Signing event!

What: Wine Tasting of red wines AND a reading from my book Evolution of a Wine Drinker in one night!

Where: V Wine Room; a classy, fun wine room that is housed in Charlie Chaplin's former actor's studio. If you want more Little Tramp facts, ask V's owner, Mikey!

V Wine Room
903 Westbourne Drive
West Hollywood, CA 90069

When: November 19, at 7:30 PM.

Who: You and Me!

Just in case you need a little nosh, V Wine Bar also has food items on the wine menu!

This is going to be a fun night of comedy and wine!

I hope to see you there! PROST!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Chicken and Rice--Recipe

Food. We have to eat it three times a day; but that three times a day adds up to hours of slicing, dicing and preparing meals. My goal is to cook a healthy dinner as efficiently and quickly as possible so I don't feel put upon and Mr. Wonderful has something good to eat when he comes home. I made this recipe for him, his three colleagues and me. I also had a little interspecies help from Jackson.

Rice; 2 dry cups (plain, not Jasmine or any other flavored rice)
Water; 4 wet/fluid cups for the rice (American measurements are so confusing) 
Chicken legs; 10 (they cook faster than chicken breasts and aren't too large so guests can eat one or two without feeling piggy. Or maybe I'm talking about me feeling piggy?) 
Soup stock; 2 cubes (Use to flavor the rice. I use the low salt or sea salt stock varieties)
Bread crumbs; 1/2 cup (In advance, I grate hardened rice flour bread or rye flour bread and store the crumbs for just this type of impromptu dinner. Plus I like knowing all the spices used in the bread crumbs--in this case zero)
Onions; 2 diced 
Celery; 6 stalks diced
Carrots; 5 peeled and diced
Ground coriander; 2 teaspoons
Cumin; 2 teaspoons
Saffron; 1/2 teaspoon. (This will color the rice yellow and is purely used for cosmetic purposes and therefore not necessary since Saffron is expen$ive)
Salt; a couple shakes.
Parsley; chopped (I like the curly variety)
Red wine; 3/4 cup for the pot. The rest for you and your guests. 

1) Bring a pot of the water to boil on the stove top with the soup stock cubes and saffron. Once water boils, add rice. Bring rice to a boil then turn to simmer. 
2) Heat olive oil in Dutch oven over medium high heat. 
3) Open a bottle of red wine and pour yourself a glass.
4) Pour bread crumbs into mixing bowl and coat drumsticks. Put drumsticks into Dutch oven. Chicken needs time to cook, but once both sides of drumsticks are browned, add salt, onions, carrots, celery, coriander and cumin. Cover.
5) Add wine. Cover. The moisture will help imbue the chicken with these flavors and help cook it. 
6) When the meat is falling off the bone, dish into shallow bowls, garnish with fresh parsley, stir rice and dish up.
7) Serve. Voila!

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do. If you make this meal, let me know how it goes!

Bon Appetit!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Working a Miracle, Again

"Perfect timing," I said answering the phone wearing my suit and heels. "I just walked in the door." 
"I'm leaving the studio now," Mr. Wonderful's voice sounded over the phone. "And I've got some friends with me."
"What if I meet you halfway and we all eat at a restaurant?"
"These guys miss home cooked meals."
"Invite them over next weekend and I'll make them something fabulous."
"They heard you can make dinner in 20 minutes and want to see it."

It's true. I had made a delicious shrimp and lemon pasta dinner in a mere 20 minutes for my spouse and his two work colleagues--Brian and Chad. Which to be honest, was a heaven-sent miracle. Evidently, the news of this miracle and its lemony flavor-fulness spread from those two men to all my spouse's contacts at the studio. Miracles are amazing but they do have a downside: after you do one, people start to expect them. All the time. And clearly tonight was no exception in the miracle expectation department.

Miracles also have an upside: after performing one, it's easy to perform it again. After making that shrimp and lemon pasta dish, I could now do it with my eyes closed, which--hey!--would be either another miracle, divine intervention or a serious kitchen fire hazard. Then I got the bad news.

"I'm bringing Brian and Chad," Mr. Wonderful said.
"Oh," my smile faded.
"Frank's coming, too. And he doesn't eat seafood or gluten."
"Oh," my heart sank.
"See you in 20, no, 19 minutes." Then my spouse hung up.

Here's the thing. I'd already served the miraculous shrimp and lemon pasta dish to Brian and Chad so I couldn't make that for them again because what kind of miracle would that be? In the New Testament, Jesus performed 37 miracles such as 1) Healing the sick, 2) Making the deaf speak, and 3) Turning water into wine. In other words, they were all different. Which to be fair, is part of the definition of a miracle: you do something amazing once and that's amazing but then it's a done deal. If you do the same miracle a second time, it's no longer a miracle, instead it's just well-rehearsed like a Shakespeare play, a Penn and Teller performance or a "reality" show. 

Besides, even if I had wanted to repeat that shrimpy miracle, I couldn't because of Frank's dietary limitations. Nope, it had to be a new miracle and I should have started it a minute ago.

Miracle #2 happened in steps:
1) Scanned the pantry for gluten-free (GF) items. Discovered I had lots of GF food like: peanut butter, Jell-O, a stick of butter and some rice. 
2) Jackson the cat heard me open the pantry--where his food is kept--and sauntered into the kitchen to meow for some food. 
3) Grabbed the rice, put a pot of water on the burner.
4) Needed to add some fat to the rice and my options included said peanut butter, Jell-O and butter. Played Rock, Paper, Scissors to decide which to use. Butter won.
5) Jackson sniffed the butter and meowed for some food.
6) Scanned the refrigerator for something to go with the rice. I nixed the salmon filets, the halibut steaks and the tin of salted anchovies. Cursed all fish for being so tasty that I bought and stocked a lot of them in my kitchen to the detriment of other proteins. Cursed self for not having more options. Looked at clock and saw I had 11 minutes. Cursed the clock, time and miracles! Asked for some help pulling off this second miracle.
6) Jackson joined me at the refrigerator, sniffed its contents, and stretched up to the second shelf where he noticed a package of chicken legs and meowed for some food.
7) Of course! I praised my brilliant feline for having the best nose west of the Atlantic Ocean and grabbed the chicken legs. Rolled the chicken legs in rice flour bread crumbs, put them in a Dutch Oven with sliced onions, celery and carrots and more butter on the stove top.
8) Set out a bowl of Lucques olives, another bowl for the pits, and toothpicks. Set the table for five, grabbed a bottle of wine and uncorked it. 
9) Raced to bedroom to change out of my suit and heels. Scanned closet and discovered I had more GF foods in my pantry than I did clothes in my closet to wear for a second miracle. Looked in the mirror and debated changing said clothes. Then decided… nah.
10) Returned to the pantry and opened a tin of cat food for Jackson who meowed and rubbed against my leg. 

Just then, Mr. Wonderful entered with three famished pals. They commented on how good things smelled, how good the wine was and when they actually ate the food, how good the home cooked meal was. The three guests congratulated me on another miracle. Brian and Chad were especially appreciative since they had now witnessed a second miracle in my kitchen. They all deemed the meal delicious. 

I accepted their praise with a gracious smile. Knowing all along, I couldn't have managed it without serious interspecies teamwork from my little, furry helper, Jackson. The cat jumped on my lap and licked his chops. All around it was a solid second miracle. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Wine Country Style

One of the things I enjoy about visiting Wine Country is its style. I love the organic produce, beautiful architecture, luxury cars and of course all that delicious wine.

Since buying a limo or a château is outside my budget, I thought of some more affordable ways to bring home that Wine Country style.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Daylight Savings

Daylight Savings happened in California last Sunday--we fell back one hour and finally joined the rest of the world. But Jackson is not a fan of this early morning sunshine.

I hope he gets used to it before March when we change back!