Sunday, June 22, 2014

Dinner Inspiration

"What do you want for dinner?" I said making two eggs sunny side up.
"Can I decide after breakfast?" Mr. Wonderful said sipping the first espresso of the day.
"That depends."
"On what?"
"On how long it takes you to finish breakfast."

Of all the seasons I love summer the best. Reason? A gajillion of them including: School is out; The sunny days are long; and the only way to cool down is by eating ice cream every night. With perks like these who wouldn't love summer?

I also like to eat. CORRECTION: I love to eat. And drink wine, and water ski, swim, run on the beach, collect seashells, gather sunflower bouquets, read books by the pool, and-- But I digress.

With so many summertime activities happening right now, I find that deciding what to make for dinner gets pushed to the proverbial back burner. Therefore it's become a personal tradition that every summer I treat myself to some outside inspiration for mealtimes.
One summer I only made meals from Gourmet magazine. I had been a subscriber to the now defunct paper-copy of the magazine for several years but because of my grueling work schedule never got around to making any of their delicious-looking recipes. So rather than eating, I would just page through the monthly periodical drooling over the food photographs. It was real food porn. But before anyone accuses me of getting Gourmet for the sexy food pictures, I say I subscribed for the articles. I swear.

There was another summer where I was inspired by the raw food movement, which declared that raw food has 16 gazillion times as much nutrition as its cooked-food cousins. Then and there I decided to eat only raw vegetables all summer. By the Fourth of July I couldn't look at another leaf of raw kale. By the way, eating a raw diet helped me lose weight because I just couldn't stomach the thought of eating another raw potato.

One summer I only cooked French food. I prepared toutes les choses: from Salade Nicoise to roasted peppers to "Voulez-vous choucher avec moi ce soir?" That summer Mr. Wonderful and I had a lot of fun.

This summer I'm going Greek or at least I'm cooking Greek with the new cookbook It's All Greek to Me by Debbie Matenopoulos. A Greek-American, Debbie is a TV personality with lots of charm and even more old Greek family recipes. Last night I made Lemonati kai Regenati Kota AKA Lemon and Oregano Chicken Legs. It was delicious!

So Mr. Wonderful better finish his fried eggs so I can plan dinner. Hmmm maybe tonight it will be Spanakopita...

Friday, June 20, 2014


It’s been nice.
It’s been real.
Everyone shout:
School Is Out!

After nine long months of books, bags and test papers the school year is finally over! Yippee! Although I haven’t attended school this century, I am thrilled that high schools, elementary schools and preschools are out for the summer!

“Good-bye, school!” I said setting the bagged groceries on the kitchen floor.
“You sound like a grump,” Mr. Wonderful said putting the fruit into a bowl.
“Actually I don’t mind the schools, just the kids.” 
“Correction, you sound like Harold.”

I enjoy my neighbors but saying I sounded like Harold? That was a serious accusation coming from the man who promised to love, honor and not-compare-me-to-octogenarian-men until death do us part. Our 86 year-old neighbor Harold was known for several things including: Having a gem of a wife; Flying the U.S. flag and; Complaining about life. 

Among his life complaints were gripes about the school kids who walked through our neighborhood on their way to—and from—school. He specifically said they were “slobs”.

“They throw their garbage on the ground,” he said one day pointing at an empty bag of Doritos in my native California plants garden. 
“That probably fell on the ground accidentally,” I said retrieving the single serving-sized bag. Then I proceeded to explain how I’d seen papers accidentally drop from a kid’s backpack without the kid noticing. “It was an accident,” I said.
“Not everything is an accident.”
“Because those kids are just slobs,” he said straightening the flagpole in its harness and retreating to his house.   

Having watched our neighborhood street since moving into The House, I had grown to agree with Harold about the slob label. Sure some kids dropped things accidentally like “Angel” who wrote a love letter in pencil on lined notebook paper to “Mi Amor”. Based on the sweet things in it, it’s clear “Mi Amor” dropped this love letter by accident. But other kids were just slobs—which showed in their untied sneakers, wrinkled clothing and serious cases of bed head. If these teens didn’t care about their own personal hygiene, why would they care if they dropped an empty Doritos bag in my garden?

By June I was tired of picking up after them. I was tired of them—intentionally or not—dropping debris in the street, which blew into my garden. I was tired of them not respecting my plants. In short I was tired of kids. I had become a grump, just like Harold.

The next day I was outside trimming my California Sage plant when a trio of teens walked past my garden. Behind my sunglasses I rolled my eyes. Here we go: three more garden-polluting slobs.

“Is your garden drought tolerant?” I looked up to see that the teens had stopped in the street and one 16 year-old boy was moving his lips.
“What’s it to you?” I said adjusting my wide-brimmed hat like a grumpy person who even hates the sun.
“It’s just, this summer I’m working at a garden center that specializes in drought tolerant plants and you have a bunch of them in your garden.” He didn’t call it a “yard” but a “garden”. Hmmm, maybe this kid knew something after all.
“As a matter of fact they are all drought tolerant plants and these plants are specifically California Natives.”
“Cool,” he said nodding.
“This is California Sage.”
“I’ve never even seen this plant before.”
“There are so many plants in our environment to discover,” I said smiling behind my sunglasses and under my hat. 
“I hope I can learn about a lot of them at my summer job,” he said with a smile.
“I hope so too.” Someone coughed. 
“Dude…” his friend said from the street.
“Well I have to go. Good-bye!” and the young man bounded off after his friends. 

What an un-slobby, smart, young man. I hope it’s not good-bye as in “forever” but good-bye as in “for now”. Happy Summer, kids!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Big Guy

He explained algebra to me, taught me to play tennis and introduced me to the theater. He was a wonderful dad. What can I give him to repay all that?

A hug. And a wish that he--and all dads--have a Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Visit

"They'll be arriving in two hours," I said scrubbing the kitchen table.
"Are you ready?" Mr. Wonderful said lifting his cup and saucer as I wiped the space under it.
"I guess. How about you?"
"Sure. What about the cat?"
"I haven't seen him all morning."

Before visitors arrive I go into overdrive. I clean the house, floors, walls, ceilings, sheets, towels, windows, cars (inside and out) and even wash the leaves of my plants. The Santa Ana Winds always does a number on my outdoor Jade plants lathering them in dust. So before my family came for a muti-day visit, I was so busy cleaning, looking into tourist attractions and Swiffering my garden plants, I hadn't even noticed where my cat was.

I needn't have worried.

While I was uber busy preparing for my family's visit, Jackson was doing what he did before guests arrived: sleeping. Which is very similar to what he usually does when guests are not arriving: sleeping. In fact the only way I know that my cat is content is when he is doing one thing: sleeping. 

But his sleeping soon ended. Before the "Dong" had sounded after the "Ding", Jackson had leapt four feet into the air and scurried into the guest room much like a "Tom and Jerry" Warner Brothers Cartoon--specifically an episode where Jerry is chasing Tom. He even ran on his hind feet to take cover behind the curtains. 

Maybe I should have worried? 

I opened the front door and my family poured inside. After hugs and kisses I showed them around The House. Forget the pool and the DIY work we'd done, they only had one question.  

"Where's Jackson?" they asked with bright eyes and smiles. These animal lovers couldn't wait to hug and pet our feline.
"Maybe he doesn't exist?" someone said. Jackson not exist? I couldn't make up an emotionally fragile, scaredy cat like him. Aha! I'd show them! But would I freak out my cat by bringing strangers to see him? After all he had hidden himself to avoid contact with strangers. Like a cornered wild beast, would he lash out against them? It was a risk I had to take. Besides I had to show them how I had cleaned that room's ceiling, too.

I led them into the guest room and pulling aside the curtain I revealed our tuxedo cat.

"Jackson!" my family said in chorus.
"He exists!" the doubting family member said bending down to pet him. Several hands stroked his fur coat. The cat didn't flinch, he didn't bite and he didn't leap into the air like a cornered beast. He accepted their love and affection because he recognized their fondness for animals. 

Jackson hiding behind the curtain? I needn't have worried. Thankfully.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Because Sometimes--

Because all work and no play makes for a dull girl.
Because celebrations are important.
Because birthdays happen just once year... usually.

There were plenty of reasons not to start another back-breaking, DIY home-improvement project this weekend. But the biggest was that I had plans to celebrate my birthday with my friend who was celebrating her own birthday. Weeks ago we made made reservations for lunch at a fancy restaurant where I would buy her meal and she would buy mine. It was a classic outdoor, Hollywood-style affair complete with a Pimm's Cup cocktail, red velvet cupcakes and a lot of snort-filled laughs. What a great gift!

If back-breaking, DIY home-improvement projects had less backbreaking work and more red velvet cupcakes I could do both on the same day.

In the meantime, taking a break for one day to celebrate each other was worth it. After all, birthdays happen just once year! Usually.

Happy Birthday, Friend!