Thursday, September 26, 2013

Good News x 3!

Life is hard.
Disappointments happen.
Plumbers cancel.

So when good news happens, we need to celebrate it! And today is a day of celebration times 3!

1) The paperback version of my book, Evolution of a Wine Drinker, is now available at Amazon! Feeling the book's 3D heft in my hands, turning its paper pages and seeing its glossy cover have made this writing experience all the more wonderful. It's real now. Yippee!

2) A screenplay that I wrote made the Quarter-Finals of the Final Draft Big Break Screenplay Writing Competition! Who knows what will happen next but I'm pretty happy about the Quarter-Final results! Yippee x 2!

3) I found a plumber who will do the work in our backyard! Actually Mr. Wonderful talked to a friend who recommended this plumber, but no matter! After scouring the entire state for an available, affordable, reliable plumber, we've got one! Yippee x 3!

Good news is worth celebrating and I intend to celebrate all day long. HOORAY!

Have you got any good news you want to share?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Shrimp and Lemon Pasta--Recipe

You spoke and I heard you!

My readers either love shrimp and lemon pasta dinners a lot, or they have spouses who spring hungry mongrels on them with 20 minutes to cook. Either way, I'm happy to share this recipe of Shrimp and Lemon Pasta with you.

Pasta; 16 ounces / or 450 grams (I like brown rice pasta but you can use traditional wheat pasta) 
Shrimp, peeled, tail off; 32 ounces/ or 900 grams (I like a healthy dose of shrimp in my dishes)
1/2 cup white white (Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc or whatever white wine you're drinking while cooking)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (Meyer lemons are delicious)
Parsley, chopped (I like the curly variety)
Cheese Parmigiano-Reggiano or Mozzarella, grated (for topping)

1) Bring a large pot of water to a boil on the stove top. Salt the pot (I use 2-3 shakes of my salt shaker). The salted water adds flavor to the pasta. When the water boils, pour dry pasta into pot and stir occasionally to ensure pasta cooks thoroughly.
2) I keep two bags of shrimp in my freezer at all times for last minute dinner occasions like this. Defrost shrimp in bowl of warm water. When room temperature, put shrimp into a frying pan with white white and cook over medium high heat. The shrimp will shrink absorbing some of the wine's flavors. That's a good thing.
3) Drain pasta. Add pasta directly to the shrimp in frying pan.
4) Add lemon juice to shrimp and pasta. Toss so shrimp and pasta are coated in lemon juice.
5) Dish into pasta bowls, cereal bowl or ice cream bowls, garnish with fresh parsley and grated cheese.
6) Serve. Voila!

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do. If you make this recipe, let me know how it goes!

Bon Appetit!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Dinner on the Fly

"Hello?" I said holding the phone to my ear while juggling four bags of groceries. 
"Let's do dinner at home tonight," the deep voice of Mr. Wonderful said. 
"Sounds great."
"Brian and Chad will be joining us."
"Sounds busy--"
"We'll be there in 20 minutes."
Sounds crazy!

After a long week of work, meetings and extra phone calls to plumbers who could--then could not--do the job in our backyard trench, I was looking forward to a quiet, stress-free Friday night. Clearly Mr. Wonderful had other plans and they included his ravenous 30-something friends, Brian and Chad eating, and yours truly cooking. 

In Los Angeles everyone says "I'll be there in 20 minutes" but everyone knows they're lying. Going from point A in the city to Point B in 20 minutes is--to be blunt--impossible. In fact, getting from the Santa Monica Pier to the adjacent Santa Monica Beach takes 45 minutes, give or take an hour for parking. 

The only exception to this 20-minute rule was Mr. Wonderful driving from the work studio back home. For that one journey, the man had a knack for doing it in 20 minutes. Which meant I had exactly 20 minutes to prepare a meal for the hungry hordes. 

I acted in steps:
1) First, I put the groceries away, aka I dumped the bags into the fridge.
2) Then I counted the mouths to feed. We would be just four adults but three men's mouths equals nine women's mouths. Suddenly I was cooking for 10.
3) What fed a lot of people? Pasta, of course! Luckily I keep a stash of pasta on hand at all times. Tonight was no exception. Congratulated myself on being so organized.
4) Put pot of water on stove top to boil said pasta.
5) Searched pantry for pasta sauce. Found none. Cursed pasta sauce hoping it would magically appear in pantry if I cursed enough. (It didn't.) Cursed myself for being so unorganized. Remembered seeing eight tomatoes growing in the backyard that morning. Ran to veggie patch only to discover The Squirrel had eaten all eight of my tomatoes. Cursed The Squirrel for making my life harder and for eating enough tomatoes for 20!
6) Remembered I had a lemon shrimp pasta recipe. 
7) Defrosted shrimp, cut parsley, squeezed lemons. Cut finger. Cursed The Squirrel because all this was his fault.
8) Checked clock. I had five minutes until their arrival! Set table, uncorked wine, set out two bowls of nuts to nibble on.
9) Sprinted to closet, changed clothes--six times.
10) Dumped everything into pots and pans while using my left left foot to put on lipstick.
11) Mr. Wonderful walked through the front door with two famished friends in tow.
12) I dished up the food and the 10, I mean four, of us sat down at the table outside, under the stars.

Watching the men eat and hearing them marvel over the flavor of the food, warmed my heart. They raised their glasses and toasted to the cook. I smiled and thanked them before adding:

"Twenty minutes ago when my husband said he was bringing two friends home for dinner, I told him: 'that sounds… perfect'."

And it was.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thursday Throwback

"Guess who this is?" I said pointing to the computer screen.
"Your friend Peggy--" Mr. Wonderful said looking at the picture.
"Anything else?"
"Kennedy, Peggy Kennedy."
"That was her name, yes, but what's she holding?"
"... Jackson?"

There it was in black, white, yellow, cyan and magenta: a picture of my dear friend with her little kitten that grew into our huge cat. Peggy had found him as a wee one on the "24" stages, adopted him and named him in honor of Jack Bauer.

How fun to have a picture of our eight year-old cat when he was so itty-bitty. Since our feline was now hitting middle age in cat years, we could look back at his early, youthful days in this picture and smile, mostly because this is one of the few photos I have where Jackson is not sleeping. But all that sleeping he did made sense. He was an old cat. Ahhh, yes, this kitten picture is perfect for Throwback Thursdays.

Then I looked closer. The picture was taken in October of 2007, which meant Jackson wasn't eight years-old, but was just now turning... six. Six! He was still so young, which meant all that sleeping he did was because he was still growing, like a hungry teenager with attitude!

When is Jackson going to college?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Trench Warfare

"How's it going down there?” I said standing on the edge of the pit. 
"Slowly," Mr. Wonderful said tossing soil with his shovel.
"The Army's best work is done slowly." 
"This is glacially slow."
"And you're doing a fine job, soldier."

Wartime is loud but also, it is surprisingly full of silences: like those moments when soldiers get lost in their thoughts to contemplate life, death and when will all this interminable digging be finished?!

I knew something about war. As the general leading the work on this corner of the Western Front of California, I especially knew it was hard leading an army of one. Here I was on the edge of the empire trying to inspire a lone Doughboy to dig a trench. I tried various techniques. I told him the trenches would: 1) Be our defensive weapon; 2) Keep the enemy at bay and; 3) Serve as an electrical conduit for my clothes dryer, because every general needs a clothes dryer. Governments have toppled for much less. Ask the Romans.

The digging had started to remove concrete, graduated to deleting a sarcophagus and now had progressed to digging trenches to run from the main house to the guesthouse. The trenches had to be two feet deep and two feet wide in order to allow for new water pipes, gas pipes and electrical conduits. As we say in the Army, it wasn't KP duty.

"I can’t dig anymore,” Mr. Wonderful said tossing his shovel out of the pit. 
“You can’t or you won’t?” I said standing over him, firm in my boots.
“Winning the war means digging, soldier.”
Private First Class Wonderful crawled out of the pit and plopped on the ground. The soldier was exhausted. I jumped into the trench and seized the shovel. Enough talking about leading. I should just lead, by which I meant shovel.

The whole day I dug, burrowed, dredged, exhumed, hoed, mined, quarried, scooped, tilled and forked out, over and under until I had dirt in my ears, nose and throat. I flung the shovel out of the pit and climbed out.

"Looks good," Pfc. Wonderful said brushing the dirt from my uniform.
"Son," I said "That's how a general digs."
"Like a gerbil?" he said pointing to the dirt under my fingernails.
"Quiet or I'll demote you for insubordination!" Private Wonderful rolled his eyes. I would have demoted him, but the glass of water he handed me made me reconsider it.

With the trench finished the next step was up to me. I had to contact and secure a plumber to install the new gas and water pipes and delete the old ones. Compared to digging trenches, using a crank phone to dial a few workmen would be a breeze. Or as we say in the Army, it's totally KP duty, dude.

First, I dialed the plumber who'd done the inspection on The House when Pfc. Wonderful and I had moved ourselves into this farmhouse property among the countryside's fields, orchards and BMWs. The plumber said he didn't have time to get involved in the warzone.

Next, I checked where I learned by reading the consumer reviews that one plumber could be the best thing since sliced bread and the worst things since stale bread. It was as if every plumber was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; both an angel and a devil. War was hell enough without hiring a potential satan.

Then I went to Angie's List because that brigadier general knows how to organize an army of reviewers and keep them honest. The reviews were good, there were plenty of plumbers to choose from but they didn't call me back, not because they were rude but because they were so busy working for other generals up and down the Western Front.

I asked advice of a neighboring general, Gen. Harold Haroldus. He'd earned his stripes in the War of 1812 so, he'd seen his share of war zones, trenches and plumbers.
"Angie's list always worked for me," he said shuffling back to his barracks.

Drat! I already tried that! I looked around the campground and noticed Gen. Jerry Jeroldus. He'd tricked out his trenches with barbed wire, or were they rose bushes? No matter, the man was very clever, he must have an answer.
"I have a great plumber," he said adjusting his general's hat. "He replumbed my entire house."
"Tell me who," I said with pen, paper and ink pot in hand.
"He moved to Florida and bought a yacht. Evidently he made his huge fortune replumbing my house."

Drat! Were there no good plumbers left on the Western Front? I noticed General Charles Charleson surveying his camp. I marched over and asked him.

"I've got one. The best," Gen. Charleson said. I made note of the plumber's name, rank and serial number and called him up. The plumber came out to the property and agreed to to do the work for a fair price. Yes!

"See, soldier," I said to Pfc. Wonderful. "That's how we do things in the Army." Wonderful didn't hear me because he was on KP duty.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Book Teaser

Do you like teasers?
Do you like books?
Do you like wine?

Well, today's your lucky day because you can read a Teaser excerpt from a Book about Wine. Mine!

My book, Evolution of a Wine Drinker, is being featured on this Writing about Writing website hosted by the lovely and talented Damyanti.

So grab a glass of wine and check it out!

Thanks and CHEERS!

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Big Dig

“I’ve got your shovel,” I said hoisting the tool.
“Okay,” Mr. Wonderful said lacing his boots.
“I’ve got my hammer and chisel.”
“I’ve got our pith helmets.”

It was a new day on our expedition and I was thrilled because I love beginnings. Actually today’s project was not so much a new beginning as a continuation of what we’d been doing for several weeks. But that’s how it goes on archeological digs. Each expedition is composed of smaller expeditions, each “Big Dig” is comprised of smaller digs, and—as my esteemed fellow archeologists say—each clump of earth is made up of beaucoup muddy dirt balls. 

Luckily I was not digging alone. My trusty assistant, a bloke by the name of “Wonderful”, was working this dig with me. Actually he’d been working for me since I’d found him on a gig some years back and I kept him around because—as my esteemed fellow archeologists say—if you find a man who likes to work, make sure he never leaves you.  

Our Big Dig was located in the hinterlands of California, specifically, the Valley, specifically, the plot next to an ancient watering hole, in other words, my swimming pool. On this Big Dig we’d already discovered a sarcophagus, near impenetrable concrete and endless back pain. But it was a new day and I was thrilled to see what today’s digging would reveal!

“Don’t get your hopes up,” Mr. Wonderful said grabbing a shovel. I hired the bloke for his brute strength but it didn’t stop him from having opinions. But as my esteemed fellow archeologists say about their assistants—opinions, shaminions.

Indeed all that mattered to me was history, ancient cultures and discovering the truth. So I grabbed my tools and got to work. While the Wonderful bloke did the digging I, armed with hammer and chisel, chipped away at the bricks to remove them and get to more dirt for us to dig more, which was more than exciting! Since the bricks had covered a significant portion of the dig site since ancient times, specifically, the 1950s, who knew what we’d discover!

“We won’t find anything,” Mr. Wonderful said tossing earth over his shoulder. 
“Don’t be so pessimistic,” I said just before I heard a clank. He stopped shoveling. We exchanged looks. “Keep digging!” I said diving into the hole he was excavating. His shovel pushed deeper. Perhaps it was an ancient relic? A piece of Native American pottery? A moneyball lottery jackpot?

Mr. Wonderful held up a shard. 
“A-Ha! Glass from an earlier tribe,” I said rubbing it clean of dirt.
“It’s broken glass.” 
“But look at its pattern,” I said lifting it to my eyes.
“It’s from a Coke bottle,” my assistant said with a shrug. I looked closer and recognized the distinctive Coca-Cola lettering, its cursive font, its 3D relief. It’s unfortunate when the assistant’s opinion is correct. I tossed the glass in the recycling bin.

But there was more digging to do as well as hammering and chiseling, and major back-paining so Mr. Wonderful and I pushed on. That’s the thing about archeology, you never know what the earth is hiding. You just have to keep working. So we did, only stopping when we heard a scrape.

“What’s that?” I said racing over to Mr. Wonderful’s hole. I thrust my arm into the soil and revealed a white shard of glass. “Look!” I said blowing the dirt off it. “A piece of pottery of an ancient Indian tribe!”
“It’s a shard of a jar.”
“Ancient peoples needed pottery—”
“It says ‘Pond’s’.” I looked carefully and noticed the distinctive white glass of the ancient cold cream container as well as the brand’s name. It’s horrible when the assistant’s opinion becomes fact. I tossed the junk into the recycling bin. 

Perhaps we weren’t finding significant archeological treasures because or our respective jobs? I convinced Mr. Wonderful to wield the hammer and chisel while I shoveled earth. While I knew discovering a Roman relic or a second King Tut’s tomb was out of the question in our California soil, I was confident we’d find something Indian. After all, Los Angeles had been home to indigenous people for centuries before Hollywood starlets showed up. In order to find their relics I just needed more time, more digging and a full bottle of Advil.

As I inserted the shovel in the soil I felt something firm. It wasn’t rock hard but it wasn’t pliable like the soil. I dropped to my knees and dug with my hands—like a ravenous gopher—pushing the earth left, right and out of the way. Then I saw it in the sunshine—lying before me—a brown Indian relic! 

“I knew an Indian element was here!” I said leaping to my feet.
“It’s ‘Indian’ alright,” my assistant said. “A toy Indian.” My digging had unearthed a plastic figurine of an Indian warrior. It stood two inches high and resembled the toy kids in the 1950s played Cowboys and Indians with. I didn’t like it, but my trusty assistant’s opinion was correct again. 

Today’s Big Dig revealed the truth about the ancient peoples of the 1950s alright: 1) They liked soda pop; 2) They cared for their skin; 3) They threw everything into holes they dug in the backyard. Which is exactly how we are today, except the latter feature has changed, I thought setting the toy Indian on the table. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Pepe & Lucas

"What vibrant colors," I said watching the computer screen.
"Hmm," Mr. Wonderful said standing behind me with arms crossed.
"Super music."
"I love the characters."
"This is great!"

I knew Mr. Wonderful was talented in the Home Improvement Department, the Drinking Wine Department and the Making Life Interesting for Me Department. But the animated short he co-directed about a mime and a clown, Pepe & Lucas, proved he had even more talents. Specifically directing, animating and storytelling. Somehow he didn't see things the same way. Perhaps this was due to the curse of the talented director, or the scourge of the clever animator, or the regular doubts every working artist on the planet suffers from. Luckily I was present to remind him of some important facts.

"This animated short film of yours made the long list for the Academy Awards this year," I said.
"And it won the best animated CG short at the Houston Film Festival this year."
"And it makes me laugh." 
He dropped his arms to look at me. "Now that's good to hear." Then he smiled.

Don't take my word for it. Here's a trailer for the short of Pepe & Lucas

Does it make you laugh?

P.S. I don't know when the full seven-minute animated short will be shown in theaters but at least we have the trailer to watch now!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Happy Labor Day!

It's Labor Day, which means it's a day for contemplating work, workers' rights and having a good old time!

Mr. Wonderful and I are celebrating all these things while attending a barbecue, driving the convertible in the sunshine and NOT working on The House! GLORIOUS!

Wishing you a labor-free Labor Day!