Sunday, November 28, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Our dear friend Jane, in from NY, suggested a walking tour of Chinatown. So we did. It was great fun.
This site has self-guided walking tours of other neighborhoods - we live here and there are places we've never been (Alcatraz, Musee Mechanique) and places we'd like to explore more. (Coit Tower, North Beach)

There were ice skaters in Union Square...
...and a ginormous Christmas tree,
there were festive windows...
...and some artsy displays.
A bit disconcerting to discover the twin to my treasured sewing machine among this display of the antique and obsolete.
The view from our hotel was spectacular -
especially looking down.

Even the Police horses were decked out...

...and the pigeons looked better than usual. Feathered rats, we call them. But they do match the planter. They reminded me of a Ron Morgan flower arrangement. Only he would not use something as plebian  as a pigeon.
Union Square blazed at night. There was magic in the cold night air...
And one raging disappointment. We used to love the Clift Hotel - the beautiful and historic Redwood Room, the elegant lobby...
Eric told us it had been redone and was supposed to be fabulous. Not! It looks like a cross between a disco on acid and a prison. It is cold and ugly and creepy. We could not get out of there fast enough!

We also went to Cavalia with Wally's grandson. It's a cross between the Spanish Riding School and Cirque du Soleil.  We had wanted to take him to Disneyland; his mother said he didn't want to go to Disneyland but he wanted to go to Cavalia. So after the performance I asked him "Lincoln, why did you want to see Cavalia?" and he answered "What are you talking about? Because you made me!" 

There are no secrets with eight year olds. This one is a treasure. We had a blast. If you go, take a kid. Although now that I'm thinking about it, many things are better when experienced with a kid...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Road Kill Turkey

Eric brined it - in orange and tangerine juice, spices and alcohol. I am waiting for a copy of the recipe - I will post it when I get it.

He roasted it on the spit on John's multi-gazillion dollar barbecue - a friend gave him the barbecue as a gift; they had to re-design the back yard to install it, and it cost the earth and took months. But it is fabulous and has changed the way they live in their garden.

One leg of the turkey kept hitting the grill as it went around, so Eric nicknamed it the road kill turkey.

It took both Eric and Zack to muscle it in the house. How much have we really evolved from when we lived in caves? Did a cave man ever have a more satisfied smile? I have heard the Pilgrims really ate eel - so are we celebrating a more ancient tradition?
It was very brown...
and so delicious we picked at the parts that didn't show and nibbled and giggled. I'm not usually a turkey fan but this was fantastic. 

I saw a friend and her daughter biking as we were heading out to turkey dinner - she told me her mother-in-law had been ill and the thought of her MIL's son and daughter and their families sitting down to dinner at her table while her MIL was in the hospital was too sad to contemplate. So she made a reservation at a restaurant. As it turned out her MIL was well enough to join them, and they had a very relaxed and thankful Thanksgiving. Not cooking for three days and then contemplating a mountain of dishes, some in need of atomic powered cleaning, some that you only get out once a year and have to wedge back in the back of the cupboard like a chinese puzzle - if you look at it like a foreign anthropologist this holiday is one weird event. 

So I have a Thanksgiving resolution. To use the things I treasure every day, pots and pans, platters and silver, truffle salt and strainers

And to tell the people I treasure that they are the reason I cook, breathe, talk, smile, get up in the morning.

I love you. You know who you are.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

winter days and nights

My mom called me last night as I was trying to get the groceries in the house and not let the dog out.
"Oh, honey -have you seen the sunset? Go outside, it fills up the whole sky!"
It did. It was spectacular, and the harbinger of a record-breaking cold night. Some plants took it in stride,
this pansy, for instance. Some died.
We have had record-breaking cold. Not expecting a lot of sympathy from those of you who live in Montana - Helena had a high of 2 and a low of minus 7 yesterday, and we are complaining about a little frost. But the bird bath was frozen this morning, and the goldfinches were confused.

Ann and I spent the day with Pam and Nora decorating for Thanksgiving. Last year Pam and John hired movers to stash all their furniture in the garage, put three long tables end to end in the living room, with a hundred votives and zillions of fall leaves down the middle. Everyone at one long table - brilliant. Gorgeous.

This year there is a smaller crowd. The furniture stays, the table is colorful (and set) and in the dining room. We cheated a bit - Ann and I bought a flower arrangement from the divine Ron Morgan, one of the creations from his last Monday class. We fizzed it up a bit with some burlap ribbon, then spread more leaves and persimmons and berries down the table that Pam had covered with a colorful rug. 

No white china and napkins for us this year. The table looks like a celebration. It has all the colors of last night's sunset, and  the art in the dining room.  Couldn't have planned that - well, maybe you could have, but it is a happy accident for us.

At the first Thanksgiving where Ian was old enough to talk, the family was going around saying what they were thankful for - good health, peace (at least here) and prosperity, the usual thoughtful outward-looking stuff. When they asked Ian what he was thankful for, he said "Parmesan cheese! -the kind from Italy."

Gotta love that kid.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Edible Valley

The Santa Ynez Valley - Intimate, still unspoiled (despite the movie Sideways). Check out Longoria and Alma Rosa for wines made with great attention and some unusual grapes (and yes they still make your old favorites, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay).  Rick Longoria makes a great Albarino and a Tempranillo from the Clover Creek Vineyard and they are incredible. Albarino is like a cross between Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, Tempranillo is a strong dose of Spain. Red.
Went for a hike thru the vineyard with Mr and Mrs Clover Creek...
...and up the hill behind. 

There are not many places in the world I could live happily - this is one of them.  I was talking to my mom about this today - your heart has to feel at home or you never will. When I come over the hill to my house I feel peace settle on me like a blanket. I feel it here too.

There is a great new restaurant, Root 246. Bradley Ogden was there taking a victory lap in the very urbane dining room. There is a huge covered patio with a fireplace, heaters and inviting chairs, just perfect for an after dinner curl-up with a brandy and a good friend.

I was surprised by the amount of food in the landscape. This is a dry area but there were pomegranates - 
and olives. Lisa's dad, Renzo has promised to teach me how to make home-made olives. His were the best I have ever tasted and I am an olive hound. (I even wanted to name our new dog Olive after the book Olive The Other Reindeer but I was overruled).

One of the pomegranates was even smiling... an I need an Orthodontist sort of way.

And of course the grapes. Bread may be the staff of life but you need something to wash it down with. Of course you could always try this instead - recommended by Ellen's Danish Pancake House in Buellton. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Flower Market

Long before dawn we were at the San Francisco Flower Market, my neighbor Leslie, one of the Pinks (thing one) and I. 
It is one of only 5 grower owned flower markets in the US. It is ginormous. It is fragrant, frenetic, breathtakingly beautiful and occasionally strange. Worth getting up at O-dark-hundred? Leslie probably has something to say about it on her blog, The Three Pinks. Take a look below - you be the judge.

Thing one fell in love with these cockscomb.
We looked at baskets and vases, ribbons and huge packs of tissue - a lifetime supply for any normal person. It feels a bit like being in a kid's storybook. Long musty aisles in dimly lit stores full of antlers and ostrich eggs. Next door are brightly lit cages stuffed with branches and blossoms. 
Thing one was thrilled with her loot.
The gorgeous pink and green bag did not come from the Flower Market, it is from Mixed Bag Designs. The best thing about them? They stay open when they're empty, so you can load them without a fight. If you've ever tried to hold a bag open with one hand while trying to wrestle your purchases into it with the other you know what I'm talking about. I use them at the grocery store, at the farmer's market, at the department stores when I remember. And at the Flower Market.

Wrapped up our treasures... 
Left the weird and wonderful behind...
And came out of the huge warehouses just as the sun was coming. up. I don't know about The Pinks, but I had a blast.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Things are bigger in Ventura. This cactus, for example -  it's thirty feet tall.
This giant Bird of Paradise dwarfs its owner...
...and this spider that almost ended up in my hair was huge!
A good part of her web did end up in my hair - she was not amused. "Pregnant and I still have to rebuild my web - really!" 

I rescue snakes, I love that we have a king snake in our yard - very shy, but sometimes we see him sliding smoothly along the base of a step, or around the bbq. I find garter snakes under rocks and boards and carefully put them in a safe place, away from the birds and the little boys.But I'm not a spider fan. In fact I wrote a story...


I had my arms full of the groceries I was bringing in from my car when I saw him - a big hairy black tarantula, waving his legs in distinctive creepy tarantula fashion.  He was on the back door mat, heading for the kitchen door. I expect he would have knocked politely if I had not screamed. I don’t know if spiders have acute hearing, but my scream shook the walls and vibrated down the street.

From the safety of the street I called my mom - not home. Rats. She is tarantula fearless. She hangs her bath towels outside to dry and frequently has an eight-legged hairy hitchhiker on her bed when she's folding the dry towels. She scoops them up and gently sets them outside. But she wasn’t home.

I called Wally. He was at lunch with a friend, and was unsympathetic. 

“Just pick up the doormat and drag it outside.” Ah, but that would mean being in the same county - the same room -with the hairy beast.

“He won’t hurt you.” Yeah, but I might hurt myself trying to get away if he so much as twitched.

He refused to come home from his lunch date to rescue me. In normal circumstances I am a most capable person - we were all girls; we learned to install garbage grinders (when we  were expecting dinner guests in an hour, but that is another story.) We learned to hang drywall, and to paint, to rewire lamps and light switches, to move furniture and catch mice. But this was too much. Even for me. Drag the mat? Is he kidding?

“Just leave it until I get home.”

Yeah, and wonder for the rest of my life every time I go into the garage if the hairy beast was about to drop from the rafters down the back of my neck. Nope. I did what any self-respecting capable woman would do.

“Honey, I’m checking in to the Lafayette Park Hotel. A suite. And I’m calling a realtor - the house will be on the market by the time you get home.”