Sunday, July 27, 2014

Surf and turf

Last year, when we visited the Jolly Oyster food concession at San Buenaventura State Beach for the first time, it was a chilly weekend day in August, and business was slow. But this weekend it was another story - the sun was out, and the place was hopping.

An array of picnic tables with umbrellas are scattered on the grass, where a trailer and a food truck park. One sells clams and oysters you can get by the pound, and cook them yourself on the charcoal grills (bring your own charcoal). Some families bring elaborate picnics, with burgers grilling away, and sit down together to shuck oysters for starters. A boom box plays reggae and old '80s rock.

There's a bike and surrey rental stand next door, and the park's strange post-modern restroom complex, all of which puts the Jolly Oyster at a good location to attract passers-by.  The park's liberal rules allows guests to bring their own wine and beer to picnics, making for a convivial crowd.

Friday, July 25, 2014


A shot of mezcal and a sangrita
At Los Angeles' great Oaxacan restaurant, Guelaguetza.

Our son ordered a cocktail called the Garre de Tigre - Reposado mezcal, house syrup, freshly squeezed lime, Oaxacan spicy salt.

Holy mole! That thing is huge!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Full House

We're having visitors! Friends from the UK and also family. Many adventures on tap for the weekend!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Polish Triangle

Podhalanka, with Greg out front
Podhalanka is a little dive of a joint, on Division Street right in the heart of Chicago's historic Polish neighborhood.

In the same block as the Chopin Theatre, it looks like it's been here forever. Go inside, and it reminds you of someone's grandma's parlor. There's a long bar down one side, formica tables and cheap chairs ranged down the other side, laid with flowered placemats. Funky prints on the wall, Christmas lights. The Polish flag. A blunderbuss hung on the wall for decor; odds and ends.

The waiter introduced himself as Greg, put three menus in front of us and then asked, "Your first time here?" We said yes. "Are you hungry?" he asked. We said yes.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Bronze cell phone by Rick Oginz

Yesterday, just before leaving work for the weekend, I checked some directions on my phone. I leave early on Friday, and I had a dinner date an hour after clocking out. I needed a pedicure, so I thought I'd find a salon near the restaurant where I was going.

I found it easily, parked and went in. The ladies were welcoming, and even complimented my color choice as I settled my feet into the soothing tub of hot water. I rifled through my purse for my book to read, and also to check the time on my phone.

My phone! It wasn't in my purse! and then it popped into my mind, an image of my phone where I last left it - on my desk at work!

It was the weekend, and I'd be without it. I couldn't even call my dinner date if my pedicure ran too long! "So sorry, ladies, I left my phone at work." I leapt out of the tub, and one lady brought me a towel to dry off. I crammed my damp feet into my sandals and high-tailed it out of there to my car.

I kept thinking who would still be there. Amanda and Johanna and Steve get off at 5:00; the Public Landscape folks sometimes stay later. I watched the clock in my car. The traffic light at the complicated Cloverfield and Olympic intersection took three long minutes, and then at Pico at least two minutes clicked over on the digital clock in my car. Cloverfield south of Pico is lined with speed bumps, and the BMW in front of me was extra show going over them. Then we sat waiting for the left turn light on Ocean Park.

It was 4:56. I watched a skater zoom by; a man on a blue bicycle croseds the intersection, going east on Ocean Park. Finally we turned, passing the blue bike mid block, but we caught the light at 25th, and he pulled along side. When the light changed, I moved to the turning lane, but the bike was right beside me, and I knew I'd lose the little gain I had on him at the driveway - so I stopped and let him pass in front of my car.

My coworker was in the driveway, turning out, and when I tried to pull in I had to wait for a jogger to pass across, running between our two cars. Once he passed, she turned out into traffic and gave me a happy wave. It was now five o'clock; the door was locked, and my only hope was that someone in Public Landscape was working late.

Knock Knock Knock. Wait. Knock Knock Knock. Wait. Knock - "Oh, thank you so much!" It was Matthew, the City Arborist. "I left my phone on my desk," I told him. "Thank you! You're a lifesaver!"

I got my first cell phone around 1997, through AAA, with the thought that it was good to have in case of an emergency in the car - and indeed, a month or so after I got it, I had a flat tire on a deserted stretch of I-5, and I was able to call for help. It was a small plastic block-like thing, and all it did was phone calls. Later, I got a flip-phone that took blurry photos. My husband noted with some annoyance that I never seemed to keep it charged. Then a Blackberry - and now an I-phone.

How did this little thing become so indispensable?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Chalk it up

When we arrived at home in Topanga, we were greeted with this beautiful mural our neighbors' kids chalked on the fence adjoining our driveway.

Click to "embiggen."
Here's the Santa Monica Pier. There are jellyfish in the surf!

Here's our wonderful Topanga mountains, with hawks and birds and bobcats.

What a lovely welcome home!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Farewell, Stranger

Musician Charlie Haden died this past week, on July 11th. His music has been a comfort to me, at times of loss of people I cared about.

It's only appropriate to listen to his version of "Wayfaring Stranger," to commemorate him.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

My kind of town

Click all photos to "embiggen"
This is my kind of town, Chicago is
My kind of town, Chicago is
My kind of people too
People who smile at you

The rooster's name is Garfield
And each time I roam, Chicago is
Calling me home, Chicago is
Why I just grin like a clown
It's my kind of town

Selling hot dogs can be big business
My kind of town, Chicago is
My kind of town, Chicago is
My kind of razzmatazz
And it has, all that jazz

And each time I leave, Chicago is
Tuggin' my sleeve, Chicago is
The Wrigley building, Chicago is

The Trump Building. Because Trump. (We hear the lower floors leak!)
The union stockyard, Chicago is
One town that won't let you down
It's my kind of town

              - "My Kind of Town," Lyrics, Sammy Cahn, music, Jimmy Van Heusen; 1964

Friday, July 11, 2014

Play ball!

Max got a great shot of a pitch at at Cubs game at Wrigley Field today. Click to "embiggen."

"Ain't this the kind o' weather
For smackin' leather
For playin' baseball
The kind o' weather makes a man
Hit like hell!


Let's go, you sons o' bitches!
Let's see some pitches!
Let's play some baseball!

A fine upliftin' atmosphere
Bring yer children here
Teach them baseball
The game all true Americans
Do damn well!
It's like the Constitution
The Institution
Of dear ole baseball,
Where every man is treated the same!

What a...what a...what!"

 - excerpts from  "What a Game," from the Broadway show, Ragtime

Pretty in Pink

A veritable quinceanera on a plate, "The Gold-Plated Hug" dessert from Rick Bayless's Chicago restaurant Topolobampo looks like a Barbie-World dream.

A cajeta-ganache tart flavored with two chiles and sweet spices, it is topped with chopped fruits, edible flowers, and chips and shards of prickly-pear meringue. And gilding. Pretty sweet!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Gardens at Cantigny

On the Fourth of July we visited Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois. The park is the former estate of  Robert R. McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune. The park includes the main house and gardens.

We enjoyed strolling through the gardens, which were in full bloom for the summer.

The park also includes a World War I museum, complete with displays of vintage tanks. No longer menacing weapons, they are now as popular as jungle gyms for kids to climb on.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Fireworks across the river

Click to "embiggen"
Not, apparently for the holiday - these fireworks are to celebrate a victorious athletic contest! Here in the Fox River Valley.