Thursday, September 29, 2016

Our Newsletter Project

Even though it was over 90 degrees in the shade, people were looking through the books displayed outdoors on the 10-cent rack at the Bottom Shelf. The top shelves get the most views; bending down to scan the bottom rows is hard work in the heat. Most of the customers are too old or too young to do the repeated squats necessary to get a full view of all the books. Just like in the grocery stores, the most valuable real estate is at eye level.

Nancy met me with her folder full of ideas for the newsletter. We're both so starved for jobs of value that we jumped on the positions of editor (Nancy) and girl reporter (me) for the Bottom Shelf Newsletter—circulation approximately 90. 

I'm reminded of my job in high school selling advertising for the yearbook. This was a coveted job because you got out of school early to canvas the neighborhood for ads. Young shysters in training, we canvassed maybe once a week and spent the other four days crammed into a booth at the Welcome Inn sharing one coke and one or two cigarettes among 5 or 6 of us. All those blissful unsupervised hours...were we lucky not to have parents hovering over us every minute like the poor kids do now! Not that any of our parents loved the idea of us hanging out like we did, but I think it was valuable time learning to get along with others...sharing one coke and a cigarette or two built character and taught restraint! we didn't have to hang out every day, but that hour or so with my friends was the most important thing in my silly teenage years.
All that was more than fifty years Nancy and I meet in one of the library study rooms—no cokes, no cigarettes, no juke box. We've spent most of our newsletter time figuring out how to use Microsoft Publisher (which we gave up on), MailChimp (gave up on that too) and now Pages— easy for layout, but not so easy or convenient to mail. 

Nancy is brimming over with ideas for content. Our problem will be running out of room for our stories, not running out of material. 
The former newsletter editor has moved to Arizona—not because the job was so onerous, but life changes made this a good time for her to go. She toiled alone on the job. Because there are two of us now working on the publication and we are only publishing every second month, we're trying to kick the content up a notch, adding gripping features like "Interesting things found in books." Here's a few we'll feature in the next edition. 
Business cards make great bookmarks

Hand painted perhaps over the original postcard. It appears to be Chinese.

......and "Hitting the Jackpot" with a valuable book. In our ten cent world, "valuable" takes on a new meaning and a book selling for more than twenty dollars is a big deal....hearts pitter-patter and adrenalin pumps. The most valuable books are often the least likely....arcane titles about subjects of narrow and special interest.  

I'd better grab my green eye shade and get back to work or my editor might fire me!!

Sepia Saturday 344: October 2016: From Here to There - Number 1

The current theme for Sepia Saturday is From Here to There. This post from two years ago incorporates my journey on the Shinkansen bullet train (fast, fast, fast) and a trek of 100 km. using the transportation I was born with - my feet (slow, slow, slow.) We hiked the Nakasendo way from Kyoto to Tokyo. The less interesting parts of the hike we skipped by taking various trains. This train was by far the fastest and most interesting. 

On the Shinkansen bullet train riding to Tokyo, I looked at the catalog in the seat pocket and saw this interesting item for sale.

It looks like a party favor/noise maker, but apparently has some kind of medical application? The man is sweating profusely while blowing on it and the woman seems to be holding her diaphragm. I can't find an American equivalent on line and wonder what it's for? Our Vietnamese friend Diep talks about having "bad air" in the body. Could this be a way to get rid of it? About $37.00.

In Japan, at the Daikokya Inn, we were served a lovely understated but perfect dessert - a small slice of grapefruit gel. Not firm, but barely jelled, served at room temperature. The gel was full of grapefruit vesicles (technical term for the little pieces inside) which added a great deal to the texture. 
Still immersed in all thing Japanese, we recently watched "Jiro Dreams Of Sushi", a documentary about the famous sushi maker, Jiro Ono, who presides over a Michelin 3 star sushi bar, Sukiyabshi, in Tokyo. At 85, he still works everyday and strives to improve his sushi. 
The seats are highly prized and with only 12 stools you have to reserve months in advance. Jiro is, to say the least, a perfectionist. Watching this film inspired me to work on a recipe for that Japanese grapefruit jel to see if I can match it. The take-away from the film is to focus on one thing and do it as well as you can. 

Speaking of doing your best, here's a painting by our little cousin Rowan, age almost-3, entitled, "Shark jumping over boat in Ocean".

And still speaking of doing your best, we hiked in Japan with Zuzu at 4' 11" and Dave at 6' 6". Guess which one was in the front of the pack all the time?

The intrepid Zuzu is currently hiking in the Atlas mountains in Morocco. Leading the pack as always. 

Fire on Camp Pendleton



A small fire...only 50 acres, it was rapidly under control. Still, all that smoke in the sky and the sound of the planes overhead makes me nervous. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

My first Blog and my 10th Anniversary as a Blogger

To celebrate 10 years of 
blogging, here's a look back at my first post, November 2006. 

We just returned from Spain. Barcelona was wonderful and the food splendid. One of our best eating experience there was a three-course tasting menu at Espai Sucre—a dessert only, sweet haute cuisine restaurant in El Born. Espai Sucre means Sugar Space. I read about it in Maribel's Guide to Barcelona—a tremendous resource. Incidentally, Maribel posts regularly on the Fodor's site in the talk section.

After an early (8:00-super early for Spain) light meal of tapas, at Tapas de Taller, also a Maribel recommendation (great razor clams and foie; fried artichoke shavings), we walked from the Barri Gotic to El Born (lively and energetic after 9 p.m.) and the restaurant. A strange little place, they keep the door locked and peer out at you when you ring the bell. It's a bit off-putting, but after making very sure that you understand there is only dessert and you must choose between a three-course or five-course menu, you are invited inside to the very small space—about 8 tables. No menu is posted outside the restaurant, which one would think might help cull out the people not interested in dessert only. We didn't have a reservation but it was mid-week and October; at another time of year, because of the limited space, I'd recommend you reserve. I'd also recommend having a snack only at 5 or 6 and the dessert menu at 9:00, when they open.

The night we were there, 5 tables were occupied. We ordered a couple of glasses of wine—sherry for Richard and a Berenauslese for myself. Our server, a young woman, was very knowledgeable about the wine list and helpful with our choices. The chef, Jordi Butron, we read, teaches pastry classes in the restaurant by day. Far from the sweetness you might expect, the desserts were extremely thoughtful combinations of flavor, leaning to the not-so-sweet rather than the usual dessert flavors. The dessert plates were all beautiful, both the plate and contents; each a brilliant composition in looks and stunning taste combinations—there were foams, freeze dried ice cream, tomato ice cream, olive oil cake, eucalyptus to name only a few. We had a soup of lichee and one of cold tea laced with celery and apple flavors. The final presentation was on a metal serving piece shaped like a "Z" and upon which sat petit fours—about 10 pieces, all of which were both beautiful and delicious. The photo above is from Beavers Barcelona page and shows the brilliant combination of raspberry, hibiscus, rose, tomato and red wine flavors.

While our server was reasonably competent in English, some of the nuance, that is probably pointed out in Spanish, was missing from her descriptions and instructions. Regardless, we thought it was a most unusual and pleasant experience.

Across the street from the restaurant, someone or group of people live in an apartment above the building. We could see something like a lava lamp glowing in the windows and from time to time someone in his boxer shorts came out on the balcony, scratched his ass and smoked a cigarette, peering down into the restaurant. As the service in the place is very refined, it was an amusing juxtaposition of styles. We live in the country and can't even see our neighbors and for us, a peek at urban living and shoulder-to-shoulder layering of lifestyles is what makes city breaks interesting and stimulating for us. They are also what make us very glad after a while to come home to the quiet and privacy of the grove. As I write this a hawk just flew by the window to perch on the corner of the roof.

Something Dirty....

The prompt at written inc this week is "Something Dirty." My nephew Marc, turned 50 recently, and his birthday cake was this clever dump truck scene with dirt, aka chocolate icing, being moved all over the place.

Non Fiction Book Club: "When a Crocodile Eats the Sun"

The non-fiction book club at the library is currently reading "When a Crocodile Eats the Sun," by Peter Godwin, a memoir of the relationship between the author and his father and the relationship of the author to Zimbabwe, his former home and where his parents lived out their waning years. 

I enjoyed the book and learned much about what happened in Zimbabwe to the older white population which stayed in the country when conditions for them became deplorable. Retired from government jobs, many of them saw the buying power of their pensions evaporate in the face of hyper inflation.

Our neighbor Vic MacKenzie and his wife Sue are from Rhodesia. Here is his visual summation of what a Rhodesian is. Vic was a cartoonist for the Salisbury Herald before he immigrated to Canada and the U.S. 

And here is Vic's satirical cartoon about the history of Rhodesia. 

And one more cartoon:

Vic has posted a lot of his wonderful work on his website if you want to read further. 

You couldn't ask for more interesting, charming neighbors. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Fashion Update

Went to Macy's for new shoes and saw the latest fall stuff on display. If I were a literal person, I'd think bald heads and bowling ball necklaces were in fashion.


Pixma Skulls














Sepia Saturday #343: Work and Play. Work!! Work!! Work!! Number 4

The first thing directors say to you is "Relax!" Right—it's great advice and everybody does better on camera when they are natural and "just like they're talking to people in their living room." But that's easier said than done. On this occasion, the "California's Gold" television show was filming at Lawry's California Center in L.A. I was the Product Development Manager and was chosen to give a tour of the R&D facilities which were famous in food circles at that time. I was nervous and trying to erase the rictus from my face and replace it with a genuine smile. Sweat was trickling down my arms and I was worrying that huge stains would appear on my jacket. I don't remember much about the taping. I don't believe my part made it off the cutting room floor. I vaguely remember briefly meeting Huell Howser, the lovable star of the show. 
Huell Howser at Nisei Week 2007.

I'm standing in front of the "altar" which we used for product evaluations and meetings. I don't think anyone ever used a mixer on it as each food scientist worked in a "bay," two of which you can see behind me. I think the director wanted the mixer there as a prop...maybe that's what had me so nervous—I thought it looked in a suit with a mixer?? My cue cards were sitting on the corner of the altar too —I can't read them, but as I recall I didn't have too much to say and probably didn't say it well. 

Working at Lawry's was an excellent experience and totally happy. Our R&D center was in a beautiful garden location which conveniently incorporated a bar, where we could wander down after work and have a margarita and enjoy the mariachi music. We worked hard and played overused expression, but we did and the final photo shows me in the turquoise dress and co-workers having a staff meeting. I'm in contact with that whole crowd and we see each other often.

Lawry's California Center
La Barbacoa

R & D Staff Meeting.

Later on in my career, I started a consulting company, Food Smarts, and had as a major client, the California Egg Commission. Gawd...I made a lot of popovers when I worked for them. This photo is at a trade show, one of many each year, where we made and gave away thousands of popovers. My contract was for promotion of eggs in foodservice and manufacturing—we worked with anyone in California who wanted to use eggs in a commercial product be it baked goods, frozen foods, candies and in foodservice. I loved the huge popovers and wish I had that big photo. 

I bet you didn't know 1996 was "The Year of the Omelet." The Dow Jones average was 6448. My nest egg would have tripled if I'd just bought an index fund and left it alone. Mad cow disease broke out in Britain and for once I wasn't working for a company in the eye of the storm. (When I worked for Lawry's, salt was killing us all; when I worked for the egg commission, it was the cholesterol crisis). When I was feeling sorry for myself, I'd look at this poster, which I had hanging on my office wall. I'd remind myself that it could be worse, working for the Lard Information Council. 

How did I stand there (see photo below) with a straight face under that self-important banner, which declares "1996—the year of the Omelet" giving out data disks with formulas for manufacturers...the little egg-yolk yellow disks which we thought was the ultimate in tech-savvy promotion. The better question did I stand at all in high heels at trade shows for 8 - 10 hours a day. 

With David Will in Las Vegas
This particular photo was taken in Las Vegas at the annual Pizza Exposition. We were promoting breakfast pizza. My cohort David and I decided, after drinking a little wine the night before, to show up in the booth in the morning in our pajamas to serve the breakfast pizza; we rushed over to WalMart and bought a couple of pairs of silly, colorful PJ's and big fuzzy slippers. We thought it was hilarious, but surprisingly few people noticed, which is a social comment of enormous import as it belies the state of wardrobe at that time in Las Vegas. Or maybe people noticed but didn't think it was as funny and David and I did. I do remember one woman asking us if we realized we were in pajamas. David and I both responded in the same way. "Oh my God, thanks for telling us!" Later in the day, when it ceased to be funny even to us, we changed into civilian clothing and acted like adults for the rest of the show. 

It's hard for me to believe so many years have gone by—hard until I think of standing for 5 minutes in high heels—never mind a twelve hour day afoot.