Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bye Bye Bowling Trophies

There are two of them sitting on my book shelves - modest little things with no inscriptions. Representing my sole sport achievement, they've been with me for 52 years, lugged from here to there. And I was a terrible bowler.

How did I win the trophies? A team of three splendid bowlers picked me as the fourth for my handicap and endured my poor performance for the sake of higher aggregate scoring. I rode the victory in on their coattails, but they couldn't have won without me. We were in junior high school and there wasn't money for fancy trophies but I was very thrilled to get the two I did. One of them was probably for something like "most improved bowler". 

I was a small and wimpy teenager and couldn't bowl the ball very fast. With time, I learned that accuracy can make up somewhat for speed - one of the better bowlers in the league had a tiny mother who showed me a few tricks. Mostly on how to deliver a kind of screw ball. She showed me how to bowl down the right side of the alley with a twist on the delivery so that the ball would curve in at the end and hopefully hit the strike spot.

But when I made a strike, the pins would topple over very slowly. The ball had to be accurate because there were no pins jumping over or flying up and knocking the others down. My ball had to be strategic and land just right for a "house of cards effect" with the pin drop - and it's harder with 5 pins which we played. Five pin bowling was invented in Canada. The ball is bigger than in duck pin bowling; the pins are slightly bigger too.

My brother-in-law who likes to win at everything he does was very impressed and surprised when he learned about the trophies. He was so surprised that he made the time to come to the alley to watch me. He couldn't believe how bad I was! Jim says I'd drop the ball on the alley with barely sufficient force to keep it rolling down the whole length. You could go get a drink, go the bathroom and come back just in time to see my ball tap one pin, destabilize it and start another slo-mo show as it teetered to the ground. 

Despite my lame game, I had fun and can still remember the bowling alley's festive mood. The sounds dominated the scene - pins and balls crashing; the swooping whoosh of the balls coursing down the alley, the cheers and bravado of the boys after slamming a ball down and getting a strike. The air smelled like french fries and cooped-up feet just released from rented bowling shoes. Various kinds of flirting was on-going - primarily boys showing off. The girls had to take off their boyfriends rings as we wore them with a big wad of tape on the back to keep them on. The tape interfered with the ball grip so they were removed and I can remember seeing them sitting on the table with the score pads. The setting was sort of theatrical with the lane all bright and light but the seating area darker with a desk lamp to light up the score pad. I can remember feeling a sense of drama encompassing the whole scene.

I don't remember anyone owning their own bowling ball. Only after I moved to California did I realize it was possible to bring your ball to the alley and actually own your own shoes. I looked this up on Wikipedia and found that you could not bring your own ball to a 5 pin alley in Canada until after 1990.  There was some sort of lock of ownership on the balls.

Now that I've written this and had a chance to think about it, I've changed my mind about tossing the trophies...they're small and don't take up much storage room. Maybe I'll get another walk down memory lane out of them.  

Monday, July 26, 2010

Family Reunion - 2010

Allie, our youngest family member with mom Sandy
Our annual family reunion was held in Nipomo and Paso Robles this weekend. On Saturday we have the traditional tri tip bbq in Nipomo and on Sunday we gather for the morning and then a pizza lunch in Paso Robles at our cousin's Bob's vineyard. The oldest family member is Uncle Kelly at 90 and we have a new baby Allie who is 10 months. Fun was had at both ends of the age spectrum. Most of the people we see only once a year and it's really fun to get together.

Cousin Bob readying the BBQ

New generation of pizza makers

Our oldest family member Uncle Kelly, 90 July 16th. 
Rolling fields of grapes at Pretty Penny Vineyard
The Pretty Penny Vineyard House 
The great pizza oven

Thursday, July 22, 2010

All that Meat and no Potatoes

We're up to our necks in avocados right now. The heat wave caused a minor fruit drop and we're making a lot of guacamole. Fresh flour tortillas slathered with the stuff and dunked in salsa constitutes the current lunch du jour. Add some fork tender pork and the combination is delicious.

We buy a cheap hunk of pork, put it in a pot with a can of chicken broth, some sliced onions and bits and pieces of produce we have left over. Bring it to a boil, then cover and simmer, checking now and then to be sure it doesn't dry out. Add more chicken broth if necessary. After a couple of hours the meat should fall apart with a poke. Discard the liquid and store the cooked pork in the  refrigerator.

While preparing this small feast a good song to sing is All that meat and no potatoes.

New lyrics for the season:
All that meat and avocados
Tastes just right, like ripe tomatoes
Yeah, we're waiting,
All that meat and avocados

All that meat and avocados
All that guac and chips, oh yeah
Hold me steady
I am ready
With all the meat and avocados

I don't think that peas are bad,
Next to guac they're kind of sad
Even though they are both green,
One is kind and one is mean.
All that meat and avocados

Tastes just right, like ripe tomatoes
Yes, I'm steamin'
Really screaming
All that meat and avocados

The original line, "all that meat and no potatoes", so some speculate, referred to women with big butts and small breasts. Others say it refers to men who are all bravado and no substance. The above version refers to nothing more and nothing less than meat and avocados.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Michelle's company

GoCharmz, our niece's company, made it's first official sale yesterday. Michelle has been working on the business for about 1 1/2 years, designing the product, testing, working on the web site and getting all the elements in place. She has over 9000 "likes" on the Facebook page and her fan base is growing fast.

Michelle with the GoCharmz Tube

The product is a tube which attaches to a scooter. You can affix any of the 100+charms onto the tube or you can use the charms on bracelets or zippers. They have a line of stickers as well which you can, well, stick anywhere you'd like. Her very talented brother did all the charmz designs.

Read all about her in this article: MIchelle

We're moving!

One box at a time, we're getting shifted from one house to the other. The office is almost done - 42 file cabinets (whoops - file drawers) of information on old jobs and old clients bit the dust. After two or three sorts my info is down to 3 or 4 drawers full of information I'd like to use in a sensory handbook - a project for a later day. There's room left in the new house for Richard's grove information and his files.  Pictures are being consolidated but we still have far too many - boxes and boxes of pictures and memorabilia. It's tempting to shove them onto the top shelves and leave them until ?  

We carry over about two carfuls a day, which is a nice pace. I do the packing in the morning and the unpacking and stowing in the p.m. At this rate it will take a month which is just about right. 

Hello Sambuca

The irresistible Sambuca would be my choice if I had to pick only one liqueur to drink for the rest of my life. The tight blend of licorice with basil and rosemary enhanced by the alcohol bite is delightful, appetizing and doesn't get boring. It stays fresh and intriguing to the palate every time I try it. If my throat is sore or scratchy I pour out an ounce and sip it slowly letting it linger on the back of my tongue and the palate. Although many sources recommend it be served ice cold, I like it at room temperature or even warmer, sipped from a brandy snifter or a wine glass with the bowl warmed in my hands. 

The liqueur is enjoying a revival as an ingredient in many cocktails weirdly (in my opinion) named and obviously created for a new generation: black bitch, Freddy Kreuger, dirty nipple, boot-to-the-head, urine sample, brain hemmoraghe. These names evoke pain and torture, not pleasure and certainly not something for which you'd shell out 8 dollars. The flavors in these drinks are just as bizarre and torturous sounding as the names.

I'll stick with the straight stuff.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lurching toward lunch

The hostess scrutinized me with a long hard look as I lurched in the restaurant door, correcting my trajectory just enough to miss crashing into the check-in podium. As she led me tottering along to the table I got a couple of curious glances. Once seated, I took off my glasses...OMG I still had on the "car only" bashed and battered pair I try to remember never to wear in public. Pranged and twisted, lenses scratched and barely hanging together, these glasses work for driving but they look like a joke! Sitting askew on my face they authenticate my current drunk bag-lady look.

For a fleeting moment, I thought perhaps the glances might have been admiring ones aimed at my butt, the subject of some recent attention (goslings on the rear) by fellow book club members*. Of course, I've lived long enough to know better. Apparently the neural connection all of us jack-asses have in common - the one which clouds over actual facts with unreliable information (known world-wide as having one's head up one's butt) is still operational.

Despite the delusions, lunch was good.

*A short story but better told elsewhere. 

Book Club Meeting July

Free roosters! In this morning's paper 4-5 month old roosters are on offer for free. My respect for roosters has increased since reading Birdology, our book club's selection for the month. According to author Sy Montgomery, "the Talmud praises the rooster and its writers advise Jews to learn from him courtesy toward their mates". But the dark side of roosters outweighs this one small strength - there's the damn crowing, the inevitable attacks and for the hens, the "jumping on your clean back with his dirty, scaly feet...whether you felt like it or not". Montgomery pronounced the hen house a "feminist utopia" once it was rooster free. We'll take this cue from the chickens and pass on the free roosters for now. 

Last evening was gorgeous here in Fallbrook - the reward for enduring a very hot afternoon. We feasted at the Book club meeting last night both on the food and conversation. The creative cooks were inspired by the egg theme. Laurie prepared Beluga lentils (lovely tender little morsels - for more info see the website  with spinach and eggs; Rox contributed a frittata; there was a foccacia (I didn't catch the source); Beth brought a lovely flaky dessert pastry with various fruit and cheesecake fillings; Susan presented stuffed celery on a plate graced by a beautiful ceramic chicken. The Book club food phenomenon is ceaselessly surprising. One minute the table waits, covered with a cloth, wine glasses arranged down the center - a blank canvas. Turn your back for a second, people start arriving and the table is suddenly crowded with delicious dishes. There are no work assignments yet tables are set, dishes are cleared, plates are passed, glasses filled and above all the easy, interesting conversation flows. We drank a good chilled white wine and a couple of bottles of red.

The group agreed that Birdology was fact filled but not well written. Everyone came away with a scrap or two of new fact from the book, but little reading satisfaction. Several people thought that taken chapter by chapter it might make a good magazine series. None of us understood the inclusion of the chapter of hawks and falconry. While thematically correct it seemed inconsistent for the author who loved animals and birds to get so involved in blood sport. Actually the author herself seemed puzzled by her own fascination.

Laurie was surprised to learn that birds do not have a sense of smell. As children, she pointed out, we were all told not to handle birds, in particular, small birds because the mother would reject them if they bore a human scent. The subject of smell and the ability to perceive smells followed.  Rox waxed eloquently about growing up in the San Joaquin valley and knowing her location, even with her eyes closed, by the aromas in each area: packing houses, groves etc. She regrets that her sense of smell is less keen because of allergies. On the subject of smell, Laurie brought a bunch of beautiful aromatic basil that she'd grown from seed - heady stuff which made the room feel like summer. Beth had a stinky tale to tell*.

A fascinating corollary story was told by Rox whose favorite chapter was on pigeons. She started by explaining the small pigeon statue perched on the table. After her grandfather died, she was asked if she wanted something from his house. He had trophies which she admired, which were awarded for winning pigeon races, but as she couldn't travel with a large trophy she requested the pigeon statue topper from one - what a great unique keepsake. Her colorful grandfather, from Belgium, was one of the first people to race pigeons in the US and she has been researching and collecting information about him. 

The indefatigable Beth, though exhausted and dehydrated from dragging and burying a dead goat earlier in the day* seized on the opportunity to give us a demonstration of the egg separator "Bugger Boy Boris". She brought two pale greenish blue eggs from her neighbor's araucana hens.  The two fresh eggs had fragile yolks and didn't work well in the demo but Barbara found an antique beauty in her refrigerator dated, "Enjoy by 1/11/10". Well, we really enjoyed it on 7/14/10. Beth cracked that well-aged baby into Boris' skull and the thick, viscous white oozed through his ceramic nostrils in an appropriately disgusting fashion; one large clump, like a quivering transparent sausage hung on for a spectacularly long time. We laughed and laughed again while Beth read us the punny copy from the instruction sheet packed with the BBB. Kathy remarked that Bugger Boy Boris reminded her of a seat mate she'd had in elementary school!

The section on crows was discussed - I forgot to mention a TED lecture I saw and enjoyed which is available here:
We all agreed that crows and ravens get a bad rap and none of us mind the "murders" we have around Fallbrook.

In our grove I'll hear the whoosh of a crow or hawk's wings occasionally as they take a low swoop overhead which is always a thrill.  I try to imagine what was described in the book about passenger pigeons being so plentiful a century ago that when a flock flew overhead the sky would darken from horizon to horizon for hours and the roar of wings sounded like the winds of a hurricane. It must have been amazing!

*Contact me by email for the whole story which involves rappelling, ravines, devil worship, mountain lions, respirators, picks and shovels for starters.

Photo credits:

Monday, July 12, 2010

Orangecello from Sicily

When a good friend died last year, his widow gave me some of his liqueurs. Nick had been a bartender at the Brown Derby in his youth and was a superb mixologist, always ready with a drink surprise. We miss him and I think of him every time I look at the liquor shelf.

The bottle of Caravella Orangecello is particularly beautiful. It's a 750 ml. smoky glass bottle and the label is a sunny yellow and orange. It's described as "from the fragrant orange groves of Sicily in Southern Italy". The label suggests a couple of drinks to make with it including a martini (I hate the comic book martinis) and a Cosmopolitan which I loathe - for the name alone. 

The best applications for the Orangecello that I've discovered are a sprinkle over fresh fruit - almost any fruit - and a drizzle on French Toast, just after the maple syrup. Leave it at room temperature for these applications. For any other application, keep it ice cold.

I wondered about the 7 pointed star on the label and looked it up. It appears on the Australian flag (one for each state and two for the territories); on the seal of the Cherokee nation; and as a symbol of the Trinitarios gang of New York City. This star has a "c" in the middle which makes it slightly different.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I'll have the ear plugs please

"Unquiet meals make ill digestion" William Shakespeare

I guess restaurants were noisy in Will's day too! We ate at a restaurant in Temecula on Friday where the noise was incredible -  music from the bar, people talking, dishes clattering, cell phones ringing, kids crying. We couldn't talk, couldn't think and certainly couldn't enjoy our food. 

Once a restaurant starts to get noisy, the noise itself begets more noise. Everybody starts to speak louder. The waiters were yelling at each other and at us. With my hearing disability which combines deafness and acuity, I was toast. We hesitated when we walked through the door and usually we turn around and leave if the noise level is high. But we were hungry and the restaurant was convenient and so we suffered. 

When I worked on restaurant concepts noise was frequently a design factor. Johnny Rockets with their juke box and singing servers cultivated the noise to create the ambience they were shooting for. It can be an important component of a vibrant and exciting atmosphere. Noise means action and energy but in my opinion it has a negative effect on flavor. All sensory experience is enhanced by concentration and noise is distracting to say the least.

Some level of masking music is perfectly acceptable to me as long as I'm not under a speaker. "Background music" should be just exactly that - in the background and an enhancement to comfort and conversation -  not the main event. 

Drink a glass of wine standing at a crowded noisy bar; then drink the same glass of wine in a quiet environment with all of your focus and they are two entirely different experiences. 

Friday, July 09, 2010

Celery Stalks at Midnight

It was a damp sort of midnight. One where you know the car is going to be dripping in the morning and the sidewalks will be wet. The dew was heavy enough to feel almost like rain. But it was spring and with the air so soft and balmy, we cranked the windows down.

A flood of aroma filled the car, so heady we almost swooned. Breathing deeply, he said, "It's garlic". As he slowed the car, I was leaning out the window trying to catch a glimpse of the plants in the fields, sniffing all the way. "No's dill or something, maybe basil?". "Wait a minute, he said, It's celery!"
We wanted to stop the car, get out and roll in it, wear it, eat it up.

A stalk at a time, it doesn't smell like much. We double checked ourselves in the supermarket the next day. Even the big bin displays only emit a minor aroma. You'd hardly feel like wearing it! In great field-size patches, with the temperature just right, it's stunning - like perfume and  food and wine all mixed together in one marvelous snootful.

It was a genuine nose thrill, that field - and the smell lingered on and on. Next morning, you could still catch a little trapped in the upholstery, the glove compartment, the drink holder. Every time we shifted positions in our seats a little puff would waft on by. Memories of celery-rich dishes were conjured up - turkey stuffing at Thanksgiving dinner, Waldorf salad, cream of celery soup, crudites, Blood Mary.

By day celery just sort of lies there but by God it's true. Celery does stalk at midnight. Here's a link to the jazzy tune and the lyrics are below if you want to sing. Celery Stalks tune

Celery stalks at midnight
Lurking in the moonlight
What's this funny nightmare
All about.

Celery stalks at midnight
Mounted on their broomsticks
Lighting through the tree tops
In and out.

It's like a bad dream
A crazy kind of nightmare
Must have been something that I ate
No doubt.

Celery stalks at midnight
Lurking in the moonlight
What's this very funny nightmare
All about!

If you have celery to use up here's one way.

Stuffed Celery

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice
8 oz.dried beef, chopped 
1 bunch celery

In a small mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, horseradish, black pepper and lemon juice. Mix until well blended. Stir in the chopped beef, cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Remove leaves and ends from celery and cut stalks in half. Spread the cream cheese filling in the stalks. Sing and dance. Serve at midnight. 

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Arrivederci Backowsa

The biffie, backhouse, port-a-potty - whatever you choose to call it - is going (pardon the pun) at last. For two years the thing has been resident in the driveway and has served its purpose. Ugh. But now we're saying goodbye, good luck and good riddance!

I worked with an Italian man years ago who told me that as a child, in his family "backowsa" was the Italian word they used for toilet. Many years later in conversation with other Italian speakers,  he realized "backhowsa" was his Italian families fractured version of "backhouse".  And so new words get incorporated into the language.

While we were traveling in Syria our friend Abdul speculated that the crescent moon on the front of the backhouse door might be a kind of subtle slap at Arabs. I've done a little Googling and can't find any associations of the symbol with this. Most sources say that the crescent moon stood for women while the men's outhouses sported a star. Men's outhouses usually fell apart or became impossible to use, so everyone eventually used the women's and the crescent came to mean "outhouse" - for everyone. 

Our Australian friends call us Seppos from time to time. Why? During WW2, when the American troops set up a camp anywhere the first thing they did was dig a latrine. So our friends say is how the expression started. Looking the origin up on line I found that it has a cockney origin. American were "yanks" and the Brits rhymed it with septic tanks which in Australian baby talk slang (sorry guys) morphed into Seppos.

My friend Beth was responsible for the port-a-potties at an event and always unique in her approach, she decorated them with handful of herbs. I admired this creativity which is typical of her - she will make the extra effort to do the very best job she can - no matter how shitty it is.  

Which brings to mind (why?) the famous brick shithouses that some women apparently resemble. This horrible sounding but complimentary expression had its origin in the fact that the brick back house was  outstandingly well built in comparison to the flimsy wooden variety. Ergo, if she is built like a brick shithouse then she is fantastic. 

Does "having your shit together" have it's origin in having a neat and tidy backhouse?

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Warning: Girl with the Dragon Tattoo contains smoking

Our book club read and enjoyed this book. I thought it would make a good film and have been watching for it. Released a few months ago, the reviews for this Swedish work are generally good - 87% on Rotten Tomatoes. Turns out it's scheduled for video release soon so we can order it from Net Flix. I was surprised at the rating information from the Washington Post review.  "'Smoking"?  I've never seen that warning for a movie before and it's listed right after rape!

It's probably not a bad warning for a movie intended for a younger audience. But this one? 


** Unrated. At area theaters. Contains obscenity, violence, grisly crime scene photos, nudity, sex, rape and smoking, all in large quantities. In Swedish with English subtitles. 152 minutes.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Burning your bra

A really hot chicken, my mother at 85 burned her bra - two generations after it was the "in" thing to do. On NBC this morning they showed a segment on kitchen fires and how to handle them. My mother and sister's oven fire caper came to mind.

Eilleen was visiting mother's house in Winnipeg and decided to roast a chicken for dinner. She turned my mom's oven on and stuck the chicken in to roast. They were doing the usual pre-dinner routine, chatting away, probably having a cocktail, when they realized the house was filling with smoke. Eilleen ran to the kitchen to see flames coming out of the oven. She called 911 and she and mom ran outside. Several minutes later, sirens screaming, the fire department arrived, crashed into the house and extinguished the fire.

The fireman came out a little later holding the unfashionably blackened chicken and the remains of a bra by a shred and said, "Ladies  - you'll be eating somewhere else for dinner tonight!".

Mother, it turned out, had been keeping her underwear in the oven and forgot to inform Eilleen about her unconventional storage arrangement. As she didn't use the oven at that point, it seemed logical to her to use the space for something else. Why not groceries or plates or cooking equipment? I'll never know.

Oven Fire Safety Tip Number 1. Keep your Maidenform out of your General Electric!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

But can you make a margarita with it?

At the ENT's office Thursday at UCSD, I snagged the huge volume of New Yorker cartoons that lives in the waiting room. Usually someone else has it and I watch them laughing; enjoying the humor second-hand as it were. Today, I got to laugh first. You can laugh as loud as you like in that office without disturbing anyone because many of the patients are deaf or partially deaf.

When people check in the receptionists have to repeat almost everything.  It's beyond me why they don't speak LOUDER IN THE FIRST PLACE. Or have an amplification system. I was unnecessarily distracted by the snippets of fractured conversation I could hear. "You want me to do what with my hair?" No, Mr. Jones - we just want you to sit in the chair.

I checked out the BAHA (bone anchored hearing assistance). They put a simulation head piece on me and the doctor spoke softly into my deaf ear. I could hear him but he sounded like an weird alien speaking into an echo chamber. Directional sound is not usually improved with the BAHA nor are the problems associated with too much noise (hyper acuity) and tinnitus. Is it worth the surgery to get the alien speaking in the left ear? The surgery, which they say is easy (easy for who?), consists of having a hole drilled in the skull and a titanium screw piece inserted. The bone and titanium fuse, just like a tooth implant, and after three months you can wear your BAHA device or screw on various attachments like a phone assist unit or an MP3 player.

The margarita blender attachment is still in the prototype stage.