Monday, March 31, 2014

Dressing in the dark

This morning around 6:45 I got dressed quickly to take Jack for his morning walk.

Ooops! It wasn't until I got halfway down the street that I realized I was wearing two different shoes!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sun lover

This little lizard is enjoying the afternoon sun in our garden.

Friday, March 28, 2014


Since our son came home, [The Man I Love] and I have been the beneficiaries of his enthusiasm for cooking. Some of it was timing - we were both down with bad colds when he arrived, so he kindly fed us with delicious meals when, if we'd been on our own, we'd have been eating chicken noodle soup from cans.

But he's also just interested in cooking. He's been using fresh ingredients found at our local farmers' markets, which are inspiring to any creative cook. So when I get home from a long day at work, I find him in the kitchen, with the evening's menu planned and dinner on the stove.

Really, though, c'mon.....

Stuffed squash blossoms AGAIN?

Fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with herbed goat cheese, baby kale salad with walnuts and Asian pear.

I'm a lucky Mom.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

No cows allowed

Not an inflatable cow!
My job can sometimes be funny. I just got off the phone with a guy who wanted to put three giant inflatable cows on the public beach as a promotion for milk.

I had to tell him this wouldn't be allowed for multiple reasons - municipal code prohibits inflatables in public parks and beaches; the beach's use guidelines prohibit events where the main purpose is promotional; and probably a couple of others I didn't look up.

But it was a heckuva conversation to have, discussing which county, state, or local municipality might allow displays of giant inflatable cows. Whoever said being a petty bureaucrat would be boring?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Breakfast at Bob's

It's nice to have a daily routine, and when you change jobs - and work locations - it takes a little while to get into the groove.

On my new commute, I pass a neighborhood grocery store on Ocean Park Boulevard, Bob's Market, and it's become a good place to stop on my way in if I need something to augment the lunch I packed at home.

It's a cheerful place, with brightly colored coin-operated ride toys at the front door. Tom the cat on a motorcycle! While I never see anyone riding them, they look cute. Kids from the nearby middle school come here in the afternoon for snacks.

They have a good sandwich counter, nice produce section, and a case with pre-packaged healthy lunch things like quinoa salads, wraps and sushi.  I haven't ordered a sandwich yet, but maybe some morning I'll make the time.

What I usually do is grab something for breakfast. I bought a box of granola that I keep in my desk drawer, and swing by Bob's for a container of yogurt or some juice. 

At 7:30 in the morning, the place is humming with workers stocking the shelves and the deli-men preparing for a later rush of customers. The cashiers are sweet and friendly. It's a good thing, breakfast at Bob's.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Cold comfort

Cold noodle soup - Dongchimi gooksu
Our southern California climate can be unpredictable. One week it can be cold, and the next a hot wind blows in from the desert and temperatures rise. Though the marine air tempers the heat by beach, over the mountains in the Valley it can be 90 degrees in March.

Such dry heat can sap the appetite. When the Santa Anas blow, we need something cool and refreshing to nourish us.

Cold noodle soups and salads are a staple of Korean cuisine, and there is a surprising variety of different tastes and styles, ranging from smooth and creamy to intense and spicy. Here's a sampling of good dishes to help beat the heat.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Ugly orange

What is it?

These ugly, top-knotted wrinkly lumps are Sumo oranges. A cross between Satsumas and ordinary oranges, the variety was developed in Japan and became very popular in that country and in Korea, where they are often given as gifts.

We found these in a Koreatown supermarket, and had to try them.

Their funny, crinkled skins peel like a charm and the fruit inside is candy-sweet!

So get ugly!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Pizza, anyone?

Mmmmm! Delicious looking, huh? Slices of....what's that, Canadian bacon, maybe?

No, this is a creation our son made the day I came home with my fresh market box of vegetables, including some beautiful fat red radishes.

He pickled the radishes, in a sweet-sour brine. Then he blended some cotija cheese with a little buttermilk. This is a pickled radish, caper, and cotija-buttermilk pizza!

Surprisingly beautiful and delicious.

What lies beneath

Our long septic tank nightmare continues. The concrete that the main tank is constructed of is so old it's crumbling. Felipe has lined it with new concrete, and has put in a filter that will keep the feed to the leach tanks clean. He is also swapping out the old, too-narrow manhole for a larger, up-to-code one.

After that, he will replace the D-box that feeds to the leach tanks. There are four deep pits in our back yard; the stones of the patio have been lifted up. We've turned off the sprinklers for this area, so the roses are not being watered. That and the fact that their roots are exposed now will probably kill them.

We'll wait till it's all done, then figure out what to do with the garden.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Thematic photographic - Technological

Carmi at the blog "Written, Inc." hosts a photographic get-together, based on a weekly theme. This week's theme is "Technological."  Carmi says the theme, "celebrates all that is techie. If it looks like, feels like or even suggests some form of technology, we hope you'll share it."

This is a backstage look at a law enforcement mobile command post vehicle.

Don't let the casual dress of the men operating the unit fool you - it's a highly sophisticated technological marvel, used to coordinate communication and response during law enforcement operations.  I had a rare chance to be on the scene with my camera, and got to take a look at it in operation. Pretty impressive!

Monday, March 17, 2014


We just had a big jolt here at the house.

About 6:25 am, sitting here at my desk, I felt a sort of shift, accompanied by a creaking of the house, then a big JOLT, and another sharp bounce. I heard the deck timbers creak; the dog came running back into the house, and then all was still.

I don't see anything that might have fallen of the shelves - I didn't hear anything fall - but we're going to wait until it's light out to inspect things.

On the radio, they say its a 4.7, centered somewhere around Sherman Oaks.

UPDATE: they downgraded it to a 4.4. Still.....!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Downtown gala

Sculpture at the Gala
We attended a gala for a local arts organization this weekend.

It presents innovative, often experimental performing arts and music in a beautifully designed black-box performance space located in the amazing Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Frank Gehry. This building is quite rightly one of the crown jewels of Los Angeles' cultural scene.

Along with the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion, the Mark Taper Forum, and MOCA, the museum of contemporary art, and other cultural facilities clustered together in downtown Los Angeles, the Concert Hall is part of the Grand Avenue Project. A massive development conceived by LA's movers and shakers, the project aims to transform this part of downtown into a vital, pedestrian-friendly site, with parks, housing and activities.

Walt Disney Concert Hall from upper Grand Avenue
To see the hall on the street is something, its curved and silvery shapes break through the rectangular urban landscape and proclaim - "something interesting is going on in here!"

But when you attend an event here, you don't see that at all. When you drive to Disney Hall - as most event guests do - you exit the freeway at 4th Street and glide through curving ramps of concrete and the foundations of skyscrapers, watching anxiously for the directional sign leading to a turn-off lane. This lane puts you in the bowels of Grand Street beneath the Music Center. It's a dark tunnel, punctuated by garage-like openings, dotted here and there with orange and white A-frame barricades and traffic cones.

Lower Grand Avenue beneath the Music Center
To get to Disney Hall, you follow a small sign that beckons you into what looks like a dark dead end; then you turn into a parking garage.

You park and look for the way out. On an evening with a Philharmonic performance, you might see scores of suited gentlemen and dressed-up ladies, high heels click-clacking on the concrete ramps, walking through the rows of parked cars to a central escalator. Concert-goers rise up into the main hall lobby; guests to the small venue follow signs back into the parking garage, and enter the theatre from there.

At the end of whatever transformative experience one has in these beautiful temples of art and music, one leaves the same way, through the echoing parking garage and the dark tunnel. Last night, I never saw the exterior of Mr. Gehry's celebrated building, though I was standing inside it. This architectural marvel, for all I saw of it, could have been a concrete bunker.

Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City
In Mexico City, the Palacio de Bellas Artes welcomes visitors into its echoing hall from a plaza that serves as a gathering place for everything from protests to street performers. A park nearby is busy with families, strolling and playing even late at night.

How wretched and shameful is it that in Los Angeles, the pathway for our city's arts patron is so ugly and disconnected from life? How can the arts ever hope to connect with people if they have to sneak in through the loading dock for access?

Whether you are an affluent season ticket holder from the Westside and Beverly Hills, a student purchasing discount tickets, or a new audience member responding to outreach efforts, if you drive in, this shabby tunnel will be your welcome to the place.

Disney Hall on upper Grand Avenue
Streetside, it isn't much better. The broad empty avenues and outscaled concrete plazas render the cultural palaces nearly unapproachable by foot.

Last night as our car emerged onto 4th Street from the tunnel, our headlights flashed across the huddled figures of homeless people, sleeping beneath the concrete overhang. Here's one way, I guess, that the arts complex serves this population - providing shelter from the cold night.

What planner, what traffic engineer conceived such monstrosity? Did they really intend to create such a glaring symbol of the void between the city's creative establishment and its citizens? To confront guests with the city's harsh reality, after their interlude in fantasy?

The desserts were wonderful, though!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Spring flowers

Last weekend, the monster wisteria growing over our shade structure burst into bloom. Over the week's time, it has burgeoned further, huge lavender racemes of flower dripping down. The vine masses over the structure's roof and twines onto our deck railings.

Its rampant stems wrap through the branches of our jacaranda tree - the wisteria blooms are the same color as the blooms that will grace the jacaranda in two more months.

In the house, the air is filled with the scent of blooming wisteria.

This morning the ocean mist filled the canyon, while the sun pinkened the sky.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Back at work

That cold really kicked my butt. I'm back at work, tackling the backload that built up while I was out. Sorry for the light posting.

Thursday, March 6, 2014


I am sick with a bad cold, but this morning the sun is bright and feels warm and good on my skin as I sit in a rattan chair on the deck and look out over the beautiful canyon, hazed with ocean mist.

I am reading "Vanity Fair" - a 500 page magazine my husband bought from the supermarket a couple weeks ago, because it's the pre-Oscars edition. I haven't had time to read it until now, four days after the Oscars. But now I can, because I'm home sick from work and have finished my library books.

I'm reading the editor's letter, penned by Graydon Carter, a man with an extraordinary hair-do that includes both a pompadour and a flip. In the photo, he leans his chin on his hand and smiles cunningly at the reader - it's like we're sharing our little secrets.

In the letter he discusses what he calls a "brouhhaha" that has arisen between his magazine and a Hollywood star. I had no idea such turmoil existed, but according to Graydon, it has taken the world of Hollywood and celebrity publishing by storm.  He describes the germ of an idea that began the conflict - curiosity that "people" seem to hate such a beautiful and accomplished celebrity.  Was it envy?  Did people think she was flaunting her wealth and privilege?

Then he tells how he went online and visited the star's website. "To be frank," he writes, I found it no more elitist or out of touch than many women's magazines."

I sit there in my day-old pajama pants on my Topanga deck, sucking cough drops. I have waded through 128 pages of ads for Gucci, Calvin Klein, and Chopard jewelry before getting to Mr. Carter's message to his readers. The page it is printed on faces an ad for a Louis Vuitton bag, one that, according to the Louis Vuitton website, is priced at $5,200.00.

Mr. Carter goes on, "the thing is, because [the star's website] reflects the vision of a single woman, and one with a privileged upbringing, a close family, an Oscar.....I realize that it might be a bit much for most working moms, no matter how content they are or successful at making their lives work."

Behind me, in my house, two Latina women are at work cleaning the kitchen. Our regular cleaner has been in an automobile accident, and her sister and her friend are taking care of her clients while she's recovering.  Rosa needs to keep her business going, even laid up. My Spanish is not good enough to ask Rosa's sister about insurance coverage, and even if she wanted to share these private details with me, her English is not adequate.

I speak to Rosa on the phone, and she's a little groggy from pain medications. She can't walk for another two weeks, and her car was totalled.  She doesn't say it, but I can only think with such leg injuries she will need physical therapy. It will be hard to start cleaning houses again, especially in hilly Topanga, and in a house like ours with many stairs.

It wouldn't be fair for me write this without visiting the movie star's website, so I do. She has great style. No Vuitton bags, but there's a Fendi bag I admire, for about the same price. She lists some favorite restaurants of hers, including some I've been to - some I've featured on this blog.

I have a job that allows me to stay home with a cold, with paid sick leave. So I can sit on a sun-washed deck and read about a personal cat-fight between a movie star and a glossy magazine editor. And read him concede that ordinary working moms might find a blog written by a privileged woman to be "out of touch."

And then I give that a second thought.

There are people like Rosa who can only depend on her family network to carry her through a time of medical crisis.  A simple accident can mean disaster to people who struggle to make their lives work.

I'm not sure what to do. I add another twenty dollars to the customary check to pay her, but it doesn't seem like much.

Just think what the price of a Louis Vuitton bag would mean.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Bradley arrivals

I'm waiting at Bradley International Terminal to pick up our son who is arriving from Tokyo.

The terminal is oddly quiet, since the last arrival was over an hour ago. The usual throng of arriving passengers and those awaiting  them is not present. 

Our son's flight just touched down, and he'll have to clear customs before I see him.

UPDATE: Here he is!