Sunday, September 30, 2012

An Early- Fall Birthday Dinner

Recently we celebrated Lovely Daughter #1's birthday with a special dinner at our house. "What do you want to eat?," I asked. "Fresh and seasonal and warm, please!," came her answer.

So she and I used caramelized onions, goat cheese, and figs to craft a delicious fall tart:

On a thawed Pepperidge Farm pastry dough rectangle, we placed a layer of caramelized onions, dotted it with goat cheese, and topped it with fresh figs, cut in quarters:

We made two tarts--one for dinner and one for her to take home. A sprinkling of cracked fresh pepper and a simple tucking-up of the sides and corners, and into a 350-degree oven they went:

 They took about 15 or 20 minutes--we pulled them out when the dough looked very puffed and perfectly golden:

As a finishing touch, LD#1 drizzled over a fig-infused balsamic vinegar reduction straight out of the bottle:

Ohhhh, yeah, baby!:

We were thrilled with the way the tarts looked and smelled:

As a side dish, LD#1 threw together a simple salad of corn freshly cut off the cob, and diced bell peppers, green onions, and chopped heirloom tomatoes:

The tart, the salad, and a glass of white wine, and we had the makings of a lovely birthday meal:

Which, of course, ended with cake and candles and a wish made before blowing them out:

Happy birthday, LD#1! You are a terrific cook and an even more wonderful daughter.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Thank You, Mr. Dunse

 When I was in high school, I took several studio art classes from Mr. Dunse.

An odd little man, he was sort of short and round. Wore funny black eyeglass frames. Tended to whistle like a teakettle as he bustled around the room.

Once he asked the class what day it was, and when we replied it was a Tuesday, he tweedled off, muttering "Toooosday, Toooooosday!" under his breath.

Years later, it became a joke in my little family. Ask my kids about "Tooooosday," and they'll laugh, but they may not recall why it's funny. It's funny because of Mr. Dunse.

This is a photo of him from my high school yearbook. It makes Mr. D. look pretty good:

I'm sorry to say that usually, he looked more than a little like "Wormtail," the character from the Harry Potter films:

ANYhow, Mr. Dunse is the person who taught me that a large field of a quiet color, like tan or gray or beige, is neatly balanced by a small field of a powerful color, like hot pink or turquoise. Case in point, this elegant bathroom:


Cover up that turquoise vase with the roses with your finger, and look at the photo again.

Really blah, huh? Thank goodness for that little bit of color.

When it comes to studio art--or interior design--you don't need a lot of intense color to make an impression. Just a tad, well placed, enlivens a whole room.

For teaching me that lesson, I thank you, Mr. Dunse.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Paddling the L.A. River

One of my favorite things I did this summer was to paddle the L.A. River.

Yes, Los Angeles has a real river! It's not just a bunch of concrete drainage ditches built to control flash floods. In the summer of 2011, a group called Paddle the LA River began offering the public the opportunity to traverse a 1.5-mile section of the river that has been restored to its almost-natural state. This piece of the river has a gravel bottom, water-loving trees and bushes, and abundant wildlife. The only way to see it up close is in little kayaks:


The group takes only a dozen or so lucky individuals downriver at a time. Signup is by lottery online; the available dates for the entire summer fill up within moments of the openings being posted.

 photo: ca paddle

I messed up a bit and hit the "buy" option for one ticket, not two, so The Hubby and I decided I'd do it first. If it was good enough, he'll do it with me next summer.

It was fantastic! We started out beneath a highway overpass, where a bridge throws cool shadows on the shallow water. We got our safety talk, hopped in our little kayaks, and did some practice paddling, turning, and slowing. To make sure we didn't kill ourselves, two members of the L.A. County Swiftwater Rescue Team accompanied us. To make sure we didn't kill the river (heh!), two members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also came along (the Corps has jurisdiction over the river).

 photo: US Army Corps of Engineers

But honestly, all the safety precautions were like wearing suspenders with a belt. Most of the river flowed at a  placid rate, like this:

 photo: US Army Corps of Engineers

Over the course of the 2.5-hour trip, there were a couple of places where rocks and concrete chunks impede progress, so the nice folks of the Corps and the Swiftwater Rescue got out and pushed/pulled our little kayaks through the narrow spots:

  photo: US Army Corps of Engineers

 photo: US Army Corps of Engineers

photo: US Army Corps of Engineers

We saw little fishes, turtles, white Egrets, and juvenile Great Blue Herons flapping gawkily about. It was  peaceful and quiet--no loud sounds at all. If we pricked up our ears, we could hear the shushing of traffic in the distance. But mostly what we heard was the water rushing, our oars dipping, and people calling to each other and laughing with delight.

photo: US Army Corps of Engineers

At the end of the trip, we took the kayaks out just above the entrance to the Sepulveda Basin Dam:

photo: US Army Corps of Engineers

Seeing a piece of this much-abused, chained-up river so close to its natural state was fantastic. It was Nature, right in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the nation. This trip was one of the most unusual things I've ever done--and only a handful of the over 6 million people in Los Angeles have ever had the chance to paddle the L.A. River.

I'm going to sign up again next summer, and next time, I'm bringing The Hubby with me!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Please, Can It Be Tea Time?

For me, summer is iced-tea and iced-coffee season. I never drink hot tea in the summer. But after months of iced drinks and hot weather (and no end in sight to this endless summer), I'm pining for fall and a nice, hot cuppa.

Maybe I can shove summer out the door and usher in fall by drinking hot tea....I wish!

(I love me some good blue-and-white junk-shop china. My sweet mother picked up this pitcher in the resale shop at her retirement village for mere pennies. Thank you, Momma!):

So, yeah, it's 90-plus outside. Tough petunias. In my kitchen, just for 15 minutes, it's a brisk day in Autumn.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

More Than Half a Loaf

Some people would look at this and say, "Oh, nuts. Not enough people ate the challah!"

I look at this and say....

Whoo hoo! I'm making Bread Pudding!

Umm yummm yummmm yummmmmm.....

Monday, September 17, 2012

Grateful, Part 3

Earlier this year, I wrote about how Lovely Daughter #2 lost her beloved first (used) car--the one she'd had since she was 16--in an auto accident.

And then a few months back, LD#2's replacement car was vandalized. Key (and highly expensive) elements of its inner workings were stolen. She was left with a pile of scrap metal shaped like a car.

(Luckily, LD#2 went on to grad school in a city where a car isn't really necessary.)

And then bad luck returned. A few weeks back, Lovely Daughter #1 was in a car accident (she's fine, thanks!). But the sweet little (used) car she'd driven and loved for almost precisely 10 years sustained mortal wounds. LD#1 felt great sadness. Her little buddy, her ticket to freedom, her silent partner in so many important chapters of her life, was no more.

Happily, this past weekend, LD#1 found a new (used) little buddy:

It took much less pain and time and drama and annoyance than used-car shopping often takes.

Yet once again, I'm so grateful that she was able to find a car fairly quickly, and that she loves it already.

She is so very happy with this new (used) buddy. Next step: giving it a name. We name all our cars, in this family.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Couple of Ring Tips

I went to the dentist this week for a regular checkup. I always bring with me the mouth guard I wear at night to prevent me from grinding my teeth. At each visit, the dental technician pops the guard into an ultrasonic device and gets it cleaner than I ever could at home.

And, as usual, I gave them the rings I wear on a daily basis so they could clean them, too:

The same machine cleans them all beautifully.

All the little crevices that fill up with hand lotion and dried-up soap (and whatever else I get my hands into) come out perfectly clean and free of gunk. My rings look like new!

If you have a little trouble getting your rings off, spray your fingers and rings with Windex first.

My jeweler taught me this trick. Something slithery in the chemical makeup of Windex helps tight rings come right off.

So visit your dentist regularly for beautiful teeth--and beautiful rings!

You'll be glad you did, on both counts.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I (Heart) San Francisco

To get to the family wedding in Northern California last weekend, we drove through San Francisco coming and going.

Oh, how I love SF architecture! Even when it's new (or new-ish), it's interesting-looking:

And when it's old, it's positively beautiful:

 Look at the trompe-l'oeil painting to the left and right of the arch:

I have no idea what the story on this crazy-looking Moorish fantasy is, but I bet it's intriguing:

Sometimes it's little things that make SF buildings so distinctive, like a touch of gilded paint:

Or some distinguishing plaques:

Or candy-box colors:

I love how SF houses play angles and curves off each other:

And, of course, I found a pug:

Ten-year old "Maximo" is the cherry on top of the sundae that is San Francisco.


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