Sunday, July 5, 2015


Olive trees on the hillside
Last night, as for many July 4th evenings, we celebrated the holiday high on hilltop in Malibu, with a view of the Southern California Coast stretching from Broad Beach to the Palo Verde Peninsula.

We sat beneath pepper trees, feasting on delicious food, including our hostess's famous dessert, Pavlova, a treat from her native New Zealand.

The remains of the Pavlova
From our viewpoint, we could see three fireworks shows - a show at Broad Beach, one at Malibu Colony, and one directly before us, off the eastern edge of Point Dume. These are "private" fireworks shows, commissioned by the wealthy celebrities that live in those places. We felt we had a front row seat!

There was just a touch of fog along the coast, a haze in the air that dampened the sounds of the fireworks. The party included several small girls who shrieked and ooohed and aahhhhed with every starburst.

We've been celebrating the 4th here for at least ten years. Our hosts' son was our son's classmate and best friend in 5th grade, and it was bittersweet to reminisce with them, as our days in Los Angeles wind down.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Counting down

Wow, it's really happening!

In a couple weeks, the movers are coming to pack up our belongings and move them into storage. So soon, we'll be out of the house we've lived in for almost 19 years.

We're still going through everything and determining what to actually keep and what to discard. We have to divide the things we keep into two categories - keep in storage, or take with us to New Orleans.

The stuff we're getting rid of - some of it is trash, but much of it is good stuff that we just don't want enough to want to pay to store it. So we're exploring ideas of donating, selling, and giving things away.

Looking at my work calendar, I have just eight more days at work. We've already offered my job to someone within our organization, so on Monday I'll start training her. After that, she's leaving on a previously-approved vacation, so by the time she returns I'll be gone.

After the house is emptied, we'll have cleaners come in, and we have a couple of days for any emergency issues. Then we fly out to New Orleans.

Jack, of course, is coming with us, and part of the many logistical issues we have to handle is getting him on the plane. We have a travel kennel, and we've been giving him his morning treats inside the kennel, closing the door and letting him spend a few minutes inside. So far, he's pretty comfortable with it.

I had a whole "bucket list" of things I wanted to do in Los Angeles before leaving, but it feels like time is just racing along! Oh well. I'll be back someday.

This blog will, of course, continue! Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Jiggery pokery

The job I've held for the last two years is one where I'm charged with strictly interpreting certain laws and policies.

And one of the things I've had to get used to is that policies are different from laws. You can appeal policies; you can make exceptions to policies, you can negotiate policies. You can't do that with laws.

In many ways, that's been a plus. When someone presses me with, "Well, can't you make an exception?" Or "Would it make a difference if we....?" or "Who can I speak with to get a waiver?" it's a quick conversation-ender to be able to say, "I'm sorry, but this is in the ordinance. It's a law."

There's a comfort in that. I can't get bullied. I don't ever make promises I can't keep. I don't go out on a limb for someone because I like them, and I don't have to feel bad for not going out on one for someone I don't like.

After two years I've gotten familiar enough with the laws I work with to figure out how they can be manipulated. I don't mind telling people how they can change their plans so that the law doesn't apply to them. This is always a good solution, but people have to make that decision themselves. And once they no longer need my services, I don't continue working with them, because now they are out of my jurisdiction.

But this week I ended up getting more involved than usual with, by coincidence, TWO situations. In order to solve one client's problem, I had to advocate for them with another client, to negotiate away a privilege that the second client didn't really need. For the first situation, it was because the poor woman had been jerked around by others so much that she was near tears. For the second, it was because although they were nice, the group I had to help was very powerful in our local political sphere, and I feared the uproar that would come if I said "No."

In both situations, my subtle manipulation was a win-win for all parties involved, without breaking any ordinances.  But now that it's all settled, I feel uncomfortable.

One of the things that makes me uncomfortable was how easy it was for me to engage in this jiggery-pokery. I was actually good at it. And my superiors gave me great praise. But it was also stressful, being a go-between, engaging in persuasive wheedling on the phone, biting my nails waiting for someone to respond to me. My stomach was actually tense.

I can see what a slippery slope it is for those with political power. One day you're the hero who solves everyone's problem, and then next day you're stepping over the line.

I'm glad I'm getting out.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Shoe shopping


I fell in love with a pair of cute shoes;

I thought I’d wear them forever.

But I see now they’re out of style.

Scuffed, battered and run-down.

In fact, they never really fit me;

They pinch my toes, they strain my back,

They rub me in the wrong place, and I hurt.

I'm thrown off-balance, I teeter and fall.

Maybe I’m just too old for heels.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Done deal

I'll miss this view.
It's a done deal. Our house is sold. Escrow closed Friday, and today the money is in our bank account.

Escrow dragged on a little slower than we would have liked, but our realtor told us not to be surprised, since we were trying to go pretty fast. It was a nail-biter at the end, but now it's done.

Now for the next phase - moving out. We negotiated the right to stay in the house after close of escrow. Now it's time to pack up, clean up, arrange for storage, close utility accounts, arrange for shipping, etc.

We fly to New Orleans in a couple weeks. Jack is flying with us, so we're getting him used to his kennel and getting his papers in order.

Next chapter coming!

Friday, June 26, 2015


I took a photo of this rainbow on another June day, but today it feels like there are rainbows everywhere you look!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The eggs and I

I love fish eggs. Just think of them. Such small beads, translucent tiny globes, bright jewels that break on the tongue and release the pure essence of the sea.

Caviar is the first thing that comes to mind when considering fish eggs. Traditionally, this refers to the roe of wild sturgeon in the Black and Caspian Seas, rare and costing almost $200 an ounce.
At that cost, I think I've only tasted real caviar perhaps once or twice in my life.

But you don't have to break the bank to enjoy fish eggs - there are plenty of other, less expensive varieties of roe to try.

Japanese cuisine prizes fish roe, and tobiko, or flying fish roe is one of my very favorite roes. Americans have become familiar with it in sushi bars, where it's used as a garnish for fancy rolls  Its tiny eggs are firm and pop nicely in the mouth. Naturally orange in color, it can be dyed with natural ingredients, such as squid ink black, beets for crimson, yuzu for golden, or wasabi to make it green and give it a spicy tingle.

It's not just for sushi, either. I saw a recipe online for tossing tobiko and shiso leaf with spaghetti, I'm dying to try it!

Manhattan's Lower East Side purveyor Russ and Daughters makes a fine sandwich using wasabi tobiko called the Fancy Delancey - smoked tuna and dill-infused cream cheese on a bialy, with a generous layer of wasabi tobiko.

I had a craving for tobiko the other day which drew me to a Japanese market nearby in West Los Angeles. They had packaged sushi, with volcano rolls frosted with tobiko, or boxed assorted nigiri-zushi with a single tobiko gunkan-maki in the center.

But then I saw it. There, in the refrigerator case, was a small plastic container of tobiko. Pure. by itself.

How could I resist?

It was such a guilty pleasure to sit alone and chopstick up mouthfuls of roe. Though tobiko is briny and tastes of the ocean, there's also an underlying sweetness I can savor when I eat it like this, all by itself without rice or other ingredients to get in the way. There's also a slight bitter finish that makes me crave the salty-sweetness of another bite.

And of course, there's the sensation of the little beads bursting in my mouth, between my teeth, a pop-crunch that's simply addictive.

Such little eggs! It makes me feel so greedy!

Now, go away and let me feast!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Bites and nibbles

One of the nicest things about Korean cuisine is the array of banchan, or little dishes of goodies, that are served with the main entrée.

At restaurants, these come free with the meal, and are the chef's choice - they may vary from day to day. I've never been able to determine whether the banchan selection is based on your chosen meal, or whether it's whatever the kitchen happens to have that day.

Banchan are perfect for eating with rice, but they can be eaten by themselves, too. It's not rude to tuck right in while you're waiting for the main course. At the table, the little dishes are to be shared, and most people eat communally, directly from the little plates.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Hobby horse

Detail from Children's games by Pieter Breugel the Elder, 1560, Wikipedia
Some communities have very finely tuned areas of sensitivity, and the community where I work is one. Many people in our little beach town are very, very concerned about the treatment of animals.

In recent years, a children's pony ride concession, which was a long-standing attraction at one of our farmers' market, became targeted by people claiming the ponies were being treated cruelly. I have no opinion on pony rides myself, but the result of the activists' efforts were to shut down the pony ride by failing to renew its contract, and have the City ban any future pony rides at the market.

Back in 2007, the City's squirrel abatement program in the parks came under fire. Not because the City was killing squirrels - they already knew that wouldn't fly. But the abatement program called for chemical sterilization of squirrels. Activists protested, claiming such interference with the squirrels' reproductive rights was cruel.

This year, I spoke with a local school PTSA leader who wanted to know what permits might be required to do a fundraiser called Cowpatty Bingo, which involved cows doing what they do best.  Later, I heard back from him that they'd abandoned their plans. Some of the moms were concerned that such an activity violated the cows' dignity.

So today, I received a call from far up the food chain, our department director. An outraged citizen had contacted her regarding a newspaper ad for a children's event put on by the local Jaycees in a City park. The event, titled "Frontier Days," will feature "a day of family fun! Wear your best Western wear! Tots to twelve years old! Face-painting, water balloons, and pony races!"

"I am very disappointed that the City is sponsoring an animal act in a City Park," read the email. "I was under the impression that there is an ordinance prohibiting animals in parks, except for dogs on leashes. The City recently banned the exhibition of exotic animals in P_____ Park and also ended the pony rides at the [redacted]Farmers' Market on Sundays.

As you know, many residents objected to the pony rides on ethical grounds. Now many more farmers' markets are eliminating pony rides from their activities. So, this announcement about having pony races at "Frontier Days" takes me by surprise. 

Is it too late to cancel the pony races?"

Hence the urgent call from upstairs. Apparently, certain City Council members' phones were ringing, too. I was directed to get to the bottom of this.

It didn't take long. One phone call to the event organizer. "Oh," she said. "They're ponies on sticks. You know. Toys. Stuffed ones?"

"You mean hobby horses?" I asked.

"Oh, is that what they're called? Yeah. The kids are going to ride them around."

Another impending crisis averted.

I think someone's riding a hobby horse, but I'm not sure it's the kids in the park!