Thursday, November 10, 2011


I'm trying so hard to walk away from this blog. I don't want to delete it - all my favorite things are on here and it's a piece of me. But for the life of me I can't figure out a way to copy it without losing my header. And my three columns. So it sits private and sometimes it hurts people's feelings. Well, not really, but I get email from people saying, "Please let me in" . . . they get that snarky message saying "you have not been invited to read this blog." Like it's personal. I swear it isn't.

One day a few months ago I was eating my lunch at my desk. I'm fairly certain I could tell you what lunch was since I've eaten the exact same thing for just about every day for the last year or more. I digress. I looked at my statcounter and saw someone in my office was reading my blog - like at that very second. REAL TIME. And the two (or three) people I know at my office, well, it wasn't them. I've blogged about my privacy issues before. That did me in. Nail in the coffin. For the one millionth time, I swear I'm quitting.

No segue...

I went to See's candy to take advantage of a $2 coupon. I am that cheap. I had to spend $25 to save that $2, but by golly I was going to do it. So I bought two one-pound boxes to put away for the holidays. I needed two more, but I needed to come back another time to save that $2. I will spend that in gas. This is part of getting old. Know it.

When I entered the store I was the only one in there. I was close by the cash register hoping to score some half price marshmallow pumpkins for my spouse (no such luck) when the woman gave me my sample. It happened to be their mocha cream, one of my favorites. I left my sample on the counter and turned the corner to hand pick each piece to go inside my two boxes. An older woman (maybe in her 70's) came into the store, browsed a little and then walked over to the cash register area and scooped it up. My mocha cream. Later she stood in line next to me and accepted her free sample from the saleswoman with a smile on her face. I wish I could explain her guilty look. She had one. I paid for my two pounds of chocolates and was jumping for joy (inside) over saving that $2, but I couldn't help myself. I slipped a note to the extra sweet cashier. It said, "She ate my sample." Can I tell you, we laughed and laughed and laughed. It was like therapy. She said, "You have no idea what I see here. People eat candy off the floor." It amused me for the rest of the day.

No segue...

I came down with a little stomach virus this weekend. It slammed me. I had a light breakfast Saturday morning and took out my ironing board. A small pile was all I had to do. It hit (that virus), so I gave in and turned the television on in a way I haven't in a very long time. I watched movies and covered up in thick down comforters.

If you haven't seen The Joy Luck Club in a long time, rent it. It is such a (good) reminder of how complicated lives can be. And it made me think . . . if you ever think you really know your mother, watch this movie. It will make you rethink everything. We probably never really share everything.

Little Women? Do it. I know it isn't the real Orchard House, but it made me feel like it was.

Home Alone. If only for the music . . . but to me, so much more.

Eat, Pray, Love. I have to admit there are parts of the "eat" journey that just plain bother me. Julia Roberts eating Napoli pizza, large bowls of pasta and gelato? My own personal issues with food (loving it too much) kind of get in the way of this part of the movie. I'm 99.9% certain Julia hasn't really eaten very much since she saw herself in Mystic Pizza. It doesn't seem truthful to me. Sometimes I have difficulty suspending disbelief while watching a movie, even though I know it's pretend. Best example? Cher playing a lawyer. I could be wrong, but I have a vague recollection Julia may have admitted she calorie restricts (strenuously) to her BFF Oprah. So as much as I enjoyed the "eat" part of her journey because the food was beautiful, I had difficulty finding her likable in that part of the trilogy. I just know she didn't eat that pasta. Issues. But Javier . . . I love you.

No segue...

I've blogged before about thinking about loved ones who have passed away on their birthdays rather than they day they left this life . . . but my Mum . . . it's a little different for me. Being there with her was a deeply beautiful experience. There really aren't words. A couple of weeks ago was that day. I smiled when I got up that morning. My Mum had a favorite comb. I loved to tease her about it. It was ancient, the kind of plastic bendable comb that had smaller tines on one side than the other. She was a little bit of a braggart about it when I teased her because it was over 50 years old. I don't use a comb, but if I did I'm pretty sure I wouldn't know where it was in much less than a decade, never mind five decades. One year she put it in an empty bracelet box and wrapped it up and gave it to me for Christmas. More laughter. One Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago I took it out of the box . . . and I used it. And that's when I realized... no wonder she hung onto this for so long. THIS is a good comb!

My mother was smart, and not just about combs. She had a tremendous vocabulary and a memory like none other. She had many letters and initials after her name representing her various educational achievements. This time of year I think what she was the very best at (besides packing the best school lunch one could ever hope for) was making holidays magical. My life has been a quest to match her pursuits in that arena. I do believe I will most probably never live up to her example. But that's okay . . . because it was an outstanding gift.

Go bake something.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Pumpkin muffins for the first day of Autumn...

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 can pumpkin puree (15 ounces)
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
Turbinado sugar

Preheat the oven to 400ยบ. Combine all dry ingredients. Beat the eggs, sugar, pumpkin, and oil until smooth. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well. Sprinkle turbinado sugar on top for a delicious muffin crunch. Bake in muffin tins for 16-20 minutes.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

when autumn leaves blow through my window...

The entire blogosphere is talking about the arrival of Fall and pumpkin things and apple desserts . . . and it happens to be 102 degrees in Las Vegas today. Whatever. This is the only bone I have to pick with this city I call home. If not for the Autumn season and everything that comes along with it I would have no beef with living in the desert. I love the dry heat and I've made peace with what holidays feel like living here . . . my holiday cues are no longer triggered by cooler temperatures. I have adapted. That is until I anticipate that first day of autumn (tomorrow). Then I want foliage. And cooler temperatures. Apple cider and EVERYTHING pumpkin. I crave all things that scream toasty warmth like those herbs (you know the ones), roasted things and baked goodies made with nutmeg and cinnamon. Right this very second I am sighing.

These things help:

Caramel Apples. Do it. You won't regret it.

Apple Crisp. Bridie and I are on the same page when it comes to this. Nana's recipe.

Apple Cake. Thank you, Anna Mason. Are you still alive?

Pumpkin Cheesecake dangerously close to the one at Cheesecake Factory.

Butternut Squash Soup. 'Nuff said.

My grandmother's Chili Sauce. It has no resemblance to anything 'chili' . . . it's like a relish. The way this makes my house smell is a Fall memory.

Weight Watchers Crustless Pumpkin Pie. 1 point for 1/4 of the pie. Small scoop of Fat Free Cool Whip? Yes, please.

Just Chicken Pie. Perhaps we could re-name this little gem of a recipe and just call it "Dave's Nemesis". It is his source of ruin.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

time tricks...

Was I really here just one week ago? This deserted Crystal Cove beach was the best.

The Blue Cottage at Manzanita Cottages in Laguna Beach.

Floor to ceiling screens . . . can you peek into the tiny turquoise and red kitchen?

After a decade the wishing well is finally fully functional . . . well, it has water in it and it bubbles.

My favorite Laguna word? Lush...

The peek out our front door twoard the yellow cottage.

My wish? To go back...

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thursday musings...

Arrrggghh...I've played 68 games of Scrabble against the computer and won 67. The stats tell me I've won 98 percent of the matches, but now my competitive nature just wants to see 99 percent. I've just figured out I need to play 32 more games to see that number (math isn't my forte) ...and that's if I happen to win all 32 games. Not likely. I'm driving myself crazy - crazier than I already am.

Today is Thursday, which means we are winding down. Sigh...

If I'm lucky enough to be alive in 2012 I will come back to this place that I love, the place that causes me to reflect, feel gratitude and recharge. I don't think about lawyers committing malpractice when I'm here, no six million dollar judgments nor new rule changes about computation of time. I don't think about picking up dry cleaning or about how my house needs to be painted. What I do think about is being better, that lesson I'm teaching and what I want to communicate...the women in my Ward who spontaneously pop into my head at random moments, my family and how I wish we could be together more...and new babies joining us.

No segue.

Last night we went to Cafe Zoolu. The swordfish was superb. I laughed when I went back to that post I just linked to ... my last sentence actually says, "I feel rejuvenated and ready to tackle life, and more." The very next afternoon I landed in my Bishop's office and life changed dramatically. I can't believe my narrow minded New Englander persona is sharing this, but change is good. I mean it.

Today was memorable. A good day. We felt adventurous and drove a few miles up the road and went to a tiny beach just west of Pacific Coast Highway. Very very close to Crystal Cove, but deserted and without the hippie vibe. I read and dozed and read some more. Then I did something very out of character and went in the water. The surf is rough right now and I was close to being knocked over more than once. I proclaimed I was going to Costa Azul and renting a wetsuit for my last full day at the beach tomorrow. It was going to be a boogie boarding day. Later a paddle boarding man approached us asking if a young girl in the water belonged with us. When he found her father (or grandfather) he said, "I just saw a shark longer than my paddle." So, well, my plans have changed.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Catcher in the Rye, dolphins and concentration "issues"

The first time I ever blogged (2005)was from the chair I'm sitting in right his very second. Right here in the Blue Cottage at Manzanita. It makes perfect sense to me because the ocean causes me to reflect.

It was triple digits in Los Angeles today and low 90's on the beach. Perhaps this is the warmest beach day I've ever felt here in Laguna. Despite the warm temperatures the beach was extraordinarily quiet. And lovely. Those dolphins appeared to agree.

My spouse put on the wetsuit and went out in the rough surf while I sat back and revisited the life of Holden Caufield.

Eventually, just like always, I look up from my book and out to the ocean . . . and my mind starts to wander. The ocean sweeps my thoughts away and soon I find myself in a place I never thought I would be. Simply by glancing up.

I remembered reading a scripture last week with a warning about rationalizing sin. It was complete with examples of that rationalizing - I sat up and really took notice. Soon I was thinking about pop culture and the vocabulary of a language and how it's acceptable to say, "I have issues", or "they have issues" or "she has an issue with her." And that's when I thought . . . is that an excuse? It is rationalizing? Maybe it's simpler to claim "issues" (and easier) than admitting a hard heart? I couldn't stop there. I kept thinking about President Benson's talk, Beware of Pride. Does the lexicon of the expression "issues" make us feel better about that enmity President Benson talks about? Is it that rationalizing we know so well, more of that "it isn't my fault" explanation? And if it is, isn't it that enmity toward God President Benson talks about - is that what's really going on? Are we really saying our way is better . . . that we're entitled to feel hostility (or whatever we are talking about) because of "issues". That's when I decided to "ctrl-alt-delete" the expression "issues" from not just my vocabulary, but my psyche. Because a day at the beach has me pretty convinced it's a very thinly veiled rationalization of sin.

Too much, I'm certain of it. How about giving me the benefit of the doubt? I had to get it out there.

And for just a little bit of levity, later I thought about the Prius and how I laugh when I see one. I want to blame Michael Scott and The Office for that ("The Prius is silent if he keeps it under 5 miles per hour".) Then I realized I am rationalizing my judging.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What if this is the last time I ever come here?

The last couple of days haven't been beach days. That didn't stop us from going to the beach . . . but the clouds were everywhere. The surf has been extra rough and with a late high tide and those cloudy skies people went home. Except for us. We stayed. Later we took a drive up Pacific Coast Highway to Newport Beach, making our standard stops along the way. Then to Balboa Island to Ho Sum Bistro, my new beach culinary obsession. We walked and popped into a few resale boutiques, then down to the marina area. Then we talked about why we like Laguna best...

Now it's the day after Labor Day and everyone is gone. There is no hustle here and the sun is shining brightly, so we are headed to the beach with our books and our backpack chairs.

Read Long Drive Home. Later we can talk about it. I haven't stopped thinking about it. I'm 80 pages into a David Baldacci book - I've made the decision to walk away. I'm about to revisit The Catcher in the Rye and A Separate Peace. I threw in a little Joyce Maynard in (sort of) keeping with the theme.

No segue...

One of the things I love about Manzanita . . .if I wake up in the middle of the night and lay still . . . the ocean lulls me back to sleep. We are four blocks away, but without traffic you can hear the sea. I see the wisdom in those sleep machines playing ocean sounds.

No segue...

Last night (in my dream) I saw the computer fighting against me to win Scrabble. In my dream I wasn't putting a word down . . . the computer was scrambling to put down letters as fast as it possibly could. I woke up feeling a little smug. I don't recommend that...

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

When I'm 64

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A Beatles Happy birthday (and you're 64...)

When I get older losing my hair,
Many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine?

If I'd been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door,
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

oo oo oo oo oo oo oo oooo
You'll be older too, (ah ah ah ah ah)
And if you say the word,
I could stay with you.

I could be handy mending a fuse
When your lights have gone.
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride.

Doing the garden, digging the weeds,
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

Every summer we can rent a cottage
In the Isle of Wight, if it's not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
Grandchildren on your knee
Vera, Chuck, and Dave

Send me a postcard, drop me a line,
Stating point of view.
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, Wasting Away.

Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

la la la laguna...

Is there anything like the sea? Let me answer that question. No. No, there isn't. A week of lazy days, excessive reading and sitting in a beach chair until sunset.

Still, coming home always feels good. My house that I love, my bed, my cookware. Life is good.

A package was waiting for me from my cousin Jerry. It was so curious. Meticulously wrapped, boxes within boxes. Inside was a vintage Orrefors crystal vase. It was unusual. And then I read the note...

Dear Patti,

Laura and I got married on July 2nd, 1988. We received this beautiful vase from Min on that day. For various reasons this vase has had flowers in it for 23 years. Marianne is one of those reasons. It has never been empty.

So it is with great pride and pleasure that Laura and I hand this off to you to present to Bridget and Philip in celebration of their wedding. It is now officially a family heirloom. I can guarantee another 23 years of a strong marriage just by keeping flowers in this special vase. This is as clean as we can get the vase. The character marks represent all the wonderful memories between our families, from Lowell, to Minneapolis, Washington, DC, Dayton, Raleigh, Ft. Lauderdale and now home to Las Vegas.

With much love,

Jerry and Laura.

A beautiful welcome home. And the vase looks exactly like something my sister would have chosen...

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Blueberry Waffles, Mixed Berry Pancakes and Strawberry Fields Forever...Imagine!

I just saw Christopher Plummer sitting on the bench outside my hotel. Clare, the Sound of Music fan that she is . . . she knows this celebrity.

After breakfast we went up to Central Park. I really wanted to walk through the park before leaving, weather permitting. We had the cabbie drop us off at the Dakota Building so we entered through Strawberry Fields. It makes you want to just sing, doesn't it?

The IMAGINE mosaic drew quite a crowd.

There is always a crowd outside the Dakota, night and day.

Scenes from Central Park . . .

And on Lexington Avenue . . .

Over to 30 Rock...

And inside St. Patrick's Cathedral...

WICKED is tonight. I'm off to wander the streets of SoHo. Later...

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Walt Disney? Is it you?

This picture pretty much sums up the day. If you add rain...

We hopped a ferry and went to Liberty Island and then Ellis Island. The rain began as a light mist. It even felt good, like refreshing. But later I found myself on the downtown loop bus on a two hour journey, the top of a double decker bus . . . and it wasn't a light mist any longer. My deck shoes are still wet.

Remember that doughnut I told you about?
That creme brulee doughnut? I am still dreaming about it. Tomorrow I'm considering going to Dean & Deluca to see if they have one . . . they sell doughnuts from Doughnut Plant. I can't stop thinking about it.

Tonight we went to Artisanal Bistro. I saw Artisinal's Chef Terrance Brennan on Rocco's Dinner Party . . . after I saw Rocco talk about the cheese fondue on The Best Thing I Ever Ate. That's where we ended up tonight, right on Park Avenue. We started with the Gougeres. They were light and fluffy pillows of cheese and pate a choux all mixed together. Gone in seconds.

Next was the fondue. We stuck with the classic Artisanal Blend. It arrived bubbling with our choices of what to put on the tip of those fondue forks, Beef Tips and Fingerling Potatoes. Take a peek. This was no ordinary cheese fondue.

My Mussels Frites.

Clare's Heritage Pork Chop with Rhubarb and Bulb Onions

The finale? The chocolate fondue complete with berries, bananas, apricots, madelines, cookies, homemade marshmallows.

The Fromage Cave was free, so I snapped a few pictures.

My pants are tight.

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Polar (not really) opposites...

We toured Harlem where boys threw water balloons at us. That happened. Fast forward walking down West 22nd Street right past Ethan Hawke and his son eating ice cream. My cousin said, "I don't know who that is." Reality Bites?! Nothing.

We went to dinner at the Red Cat. I saw Ted Allen talk about the deep fried bacon appetizer at this restaurant, so off we went. We opted out of appetizers. Novel idea, no? This is my Organic Chicken with Portuguese Rice, Linquica, Peppers and Green Olives. It was pan seared (probably with something heavy pressing it down) so the skin was extra crisp. The Portuguese flavors were spicy and fragrant. Loved it.

This is Clare's Grilled Salmon with Sugar Snap Pea Vinaigrette with Mashed Potato.

Here is her Pistachio Semifreddo, a creme fraiche brownie on the bottom. The waiter poured hot fudge over the top when he delivered it to the table.

My apple beignets with cinnamon caramel and vanilla cream. Oh that cream.

Look at the apple on the inside . . .

It's supposed to feel a little less like a steambath here tomorrow. There's always hope...

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