Sunday, November 30, 2008

Terminate With Extreme Prejudice

EW-EW-EW is all I can say about these really icky and gross termites!  This is called a termite swarm and it is bad news.  These suckers came out of the hot water heater closet in search of mates. I had to call Dale's Dead Bug to come and spray. Now their shriveled corpses litter the walkway.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Living on the Tower of Babel

This note was in the window of a shuttered strip mall business. It was a sort of 99-cent store.
I wonder if Prozac works for "economical depression"?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Oui, On Peut!

I saw this video link on Let's Polka (dot) Com. What an expression of joy and hope!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. Whether you're cooking up a fabulous feast yourself or going over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house--or even enjoying a festive dinner at Dennys in Kihei--I hope your wine is chilled, your stuffing oyster-free and your turkey perfectly cooked.  And that you enjoy it all together with those you love.
We take the low-key approach here at Fartwood Manor--later today we will continue with our tradition (year 2) of enjoying the fine dining offerings of The Mermaid in Hermosa Beach. We had a great meal last year, so why not try it again?
My big plan is to take advantage of my four-day weekend by finally painting the new windows in the kitchen. I painted the exterior right away, but hadn't gotten around to completing the job on the interior. Once this part is done, I will be able to make a post of the completed kitchen. Wow, only four years in the making.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Something Else We Don't Need

Crayon with 100% more wax! Mmmm..mmmm...mmm
My favorite flavors are blue-green and periwinkle.
At least it doesn't have HFCS.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

November 22, 1963

Today marks a tragic day in America's history--it is the 45th anniversary of the Assassination of John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States of America.
"Where were you when Kennedy was shot?" is something I have said and have been asked uncounted times since that fateful day. It is a touchstone to a critical point in time.
I remember clearly where I was: I was in the first grade at St. Florian's. It was after lunch time and the whole school went over to the church and we said the Rosary. After that, we were sent home. I came in the house and told my mom that "Sister Isaac says the world is going to end." I don't remember though, being alarmed at such a statement.
The next few days were a little more unsettling: adults crying, watching the funeral on the tee-vee and this immense feeling of grief and sadness was everywhere. On a personal level, I was really sad that Caroline, who was my age, lost her daddy.
A shining light had been extinguished and the promise of a New Frontier just faded away.
As I got older, I became interested in the circumstances of the assassination. I don't believe a thinking person can accept the Warren Commission's explanation of the way things went down. In that spirit, Dale and I took a trip to Dallas in 2005 to see for ourselves.

It was a spiritual experience to say the least. The moment I entered The Sixth Floor Museum, which is housed in the Texas Book Depository, I cried like a baby. It was a surreal experience to be there and also to walk on "The Grassy Knoll". We also went over to Oswald's old neighborhood and actually saw the house where he supposedly posed with the rifle in that famous picture from Life magazine. Some people go to Gettysburg or Philadelphia, I went to Dallas.

Forty-five Every day there are fewer and fewer people you can ask the question "Where were you when Kennedy was shot?" It is up to us to keep the memory alive.
If you want to see more photos of our trip, click here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bubbler Sighting

I was a little early for the cooking class on Saturday, so I walked around the block and checked out the Los Angeles Public Library. I've never been there. It is like a little oasis in the middle of downtown. I didn't get a big chance to explore much, but I did see this awesome bubbler.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cooking With Chiles

The reason I was in downtown Los Angeles Saturday was to attend a cooking demonstration put on by my two most favorite chefs in the world--Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken of Border Grill and Ciudad. The topic of the demo was "Cooking with Chiles".
I'm really happy with my skill level when it comes to most aspects of cooking--except for chiles. I use chiles of all types often, but somehow I'm never quite secure in the knowledge if something will be too hot or not hot enough. I was hoping to discover the key to chile understanding. Something along the line of when Homer Simpson eats The Merciless Peppers of Quetzlzacatenango.
Participants were offered Mojitos as we waited for the class to begin. Just the thing on a hot day. The seating was assigned, and I totally scored a front row seat. The Mojitos kept on coming.
The chefs began the class talking about their backgrounds and then started with the first recipe: Jamaican Jerk Rum Punch. Rum is infused with a jerk mixture of cinnamon, allspice, peppercorns and habanero peppers, then added to a citrus juice blend. Pretty tasty with a definite kick from the habanero.
As the chefs demonstrated the recipes, they talked about the chiles being used and showed how to prepare them. They also showed us some other interesting ingredients, such as Oaxacan String Cheese. I'm definitely going to get some of that. Another item new to me was bacalao. I'd heard of it but never used it. I pretty much knew all the chile stuff, but there were two types that were new to me: marash chili--a dried, ground chile with a sweet flavor and some Korean chile threads.
We were served each dish as it was being demonstrated. The food we were eating was prepared in the main kitchen, but was the same as what was being demonstrated.

The menu items:
Tortilla Soup
Seared Shishito Peppers with Oaxacan String Cheese
Chile-Rubbed Black Cod with a Spicy Cilantro Sauce and Preserved Lemons
Poblano stuffed with Bacalao Saffron Mashed Potatoes
Mayan Spiced Hot Chocolate
Aji Amarillo Ginger Pot de Creme
Chocolate Cinnamon Churros

The cod was rubbed with the marash chili, then seared and then served over the stuffed poblano. Fish and mashed potatoes....can't get better than that! It was insanely good. The tortilla soup was so smooth and creamy, but didn't have a drop of dairy in it.

Throughout the demonstration, the chefs kept up a lively banter--they were hilarious and kept pitching their various products, like glassware, books and pepper grinders. They obviously love what they do and it shows.
After the class was over Chef Susan happened to stop by my table and said hi to me and my three table-mates. I was pretty excited to finally meet one of my idols and have a chance to tell her how she and MarySue inspired me to move to Maui and try my hand at cooking professionally. I didn't cry or anything, but I don't think I made a really great impression either. When she asked if I was still cooking, I said's not a good job for when you get old. Since we're about the same age, I guess it could be inferred that I was implying that she might be too old for it, too. Which is totally not the case. I started my cooking career at 34, had no formal training, started at the bottom and would probably be still doing prep work when I was 60. She, on the other hand is a super-star chef with many brilliant years ahead. I should just learn to keep my mouth shut. 
The class was great and I will definitely attend another.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Don't Drink The Kool-Aid

Thirty years ago today, Jim Jones and company didn't take the Pepsi Challenge and drank the Kool-Aid instead.

The fire thing is almost under control. Cooler temps and weaker SantaAnas (the hot, dry wind) are allowing the firefighters to get the upper hand. Today people are being let into the fire areas to see how their homes fared.
For my far-flung readers, here's a map to give a little perspective. From my home north to the Sylmar fire is about 40 miles and almost that far to the Diamond Bar fire to the east.

Monday, November 17, 2008

On This Day in History

Twenty-eight years ago today I left Wisconsin and moved to California. It seems so long ago, yet just like yesterday.
Why did I move? Oh, mostly because of the weather. The winter of 78-79 pretty much sealed the deal in that aspect.
Another impetus was the shaky economy of the Rust Belt at that time. I had a good job and had survived one round of lay-offs, but (as I learned later) would have probably been gone in another 6 months or so. The company eventually folded. My boyfriend at the time had just earned his journeyman card as a machinist and was recruited by Northrop Company in Hawthorne, California.
Reagan had just been elected, the hostages were still in Iran, the Cold War still going strong, and the aerospace companies were in a hiring frenzy. With the promise of a job and moving expenses covered we hit the road to adventure.
Looking back, I shake my head at my optimism. Wow, what a risk. I moved here with $600 in my pocket and my AMC Pacer, which I think I was still making payments on. My parents gave their blessing, but I'm sure they were terrified. I guess I always knew I could come back if things didn't work out. I was a hard worker and had a good head on my shoulders and I just felt I could make a go of it.
Once we arrived, we stayed for a few days with some Milwaukee friends in Manhattan Beach, and eventually got a place in Redondo Beach. In mid-January I started a great job and was making three times what I had been in Milwaukee. Never mind that the rent was twice what it was in Milwaukee. I figured I was still ahead, since I wouldn't be having to pay for heating costs!
On the whole, I think I am happy with my choice. Of course I miss being with my family. Phone calls and letters are nice, but it isn't the same as being there--to celebrate, to cry, to get hugs. But I have had some awesome experiences and opportunities here that I might not have had otherwise. I mean, come on...the Olympic torch passed in front of my house in 1984!
I've already passed the mark of living in California longer than in Wisconsin, but I will always consider that my home.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

How Could Hell Be Any Worse?

Yep, everything's on fire again. It's not like there's even a fire "season"'s a constant battle lately. Global Warming? Most definitely. An influx of people living in previously uninhabited areas --where wild fires used to burn just trees? Yeah. Diabolically insane cretins with matches? Sadly, yes.
Yesterday morning, I took Metro to downtown LosAngeles. Here's the view looking north from the Redondo Beach station at 9am. This is just the beginning of the Sylmar fire.
By the time I returned  a few hours later,  3 more major fires had erupted, this time to the east. As I waited on the platform in Watts to transfer back to Redondo, the sky was completely orange in all directions and smelled strongly of smoke. I'd been battling a funky respiratory thing the last couple of weeks--I could really feel it. My car was covered in ashes. As I drove home, Bad Religion's song "Los Angeles Is Burning" played on the radio....."palm trees are candles in the burning wind..."
At home, Dale told me the sky had been so dark earlier, it was like twilight.
This morning, the sunlight was stained orange and everything was covered with ash. It reminded me of cane-burning on Maui.

****post update****
I just re-read my post...  It is way too "waa-waa-waa-all about me" sounding. My total sympathy to all those that lost their homes (and lives) in these awful fires. I sound like a total jerk complaining about some ash on my car.

Friday, November 14, 2008


This was in AnnArbor, Michigan. Pretty clever, eh?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

R.I.P. HellCat

We lost HellCat on Monday.  At least we think we did, although we have not discovered his body yet. HellCat had been ailing for about two months--mostly we noticed he lost weight, but the last week or so, he was really weak and slept a lot, so we figured something was wrong.

The story of Hell Cat of the Pacific, to use his full name, begins when we moved into Fartwood Manor five years ago. At the same time we were moving in, the guy across the street was moving out, and abandoned his cat when he did.
We would see this little cat wandering around....he was pretty small and had a pronounced limp. My neighbors were feeding the little guy and one of them had a little "cat house" on her porch where he slept. Pretty soon he started hanging around our house too. 
We started calling him HellCat, while the neighbors dubbed her Starkesha. We couldn't really figure out what the gender was. The limp we noticed was due to one front leg being shorter than the other, so when he'd sit on his haunches, his paw would be raised. His tail was shorter than average too. But he had the prettiest eyes! It looked like he was wearing eyeliner.
As far as cats go, HellCat was lacking a little in the brain power, but that just added to his cute personality. Since he was semi-feral, he wouldn't let us pick him up and barely tolerated petting. Mainly he'd show up for food and hang around in the yard. He would just appear at the patio door and just sit there and look in the window until someone noticed him.
About two years ago he was bold enough to come into the house. Any time I would cook chicken, he would come running and yowl at the door, then he would sit under the butcher block while I did my prep. During the winter months, he'd come in and we'd let him sleep inside. He just started wanting to do that again recently.
In early October we noticed he was skinnier than usual, but then looked better a few weeks later. But last week he went downhill fast. This weekend he would come in the house in the morning and sleep all day and hardly ate a thing. He was so weak. On Monday, Dale came home for lunch and saw HellCat laying in the sun at the neighbor's house. That was the last time any one saw him.

Here are a few photos showing the many faces of HellCat of the Pacific.

King of the Garden--
I never saw a cat sleep on his back before.
Asleep in the house
Really sick on Saturday
Striking a sexy pose

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sunday Supper #4

Now that cool weather is finally here, I've been craving fall foods. Acorn squash is high on the list of fall ingredients that I enjoy.
I've never done anything with acorn squash except bake the halves with brown sugar and butter, so when I saw this recipe I was inspired to try something new. 
Southwestern Stuffed Acorn Squash comes from Eating Well magazine. This was a great dish for a cool fall evening. The slightly spicy filling pairs nicely with the sweetness of the squash.
I followed the recipe pretty much as written, except I skipped the bell pepper, used plain ground turkey and added a couple dashes of ground chipotle powder instead of the Tabasco. Oh, and shredded Mexi-cheese instead of Swiss. 
Totally yummy and easy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wireless Rice Cooker

One of the tasks I do in the course of a day is to gather data on the electronic components I use on the circuit boards I design. The client gives me the part numbers for the components, but it is up to me to get the actual data. All the vendors have websites where this information is available.
So, the other day as I was searching for a part from Nordic Semiconductor, I came across this article about a WIRELESS RICE COOKER--I just about spit my coffee on the monitor. WTF?!
The Cuckoo (aptly named) rice cooker from Korea comes with a USB dongle that plugs into a PC, where a wireless link to the rice cooker is established. The owner can then go to Cuckoo's website and download recipes directly to the rice cooker. The cooking parameters are automatically set on the cooker. The rice cooker can even send back data to the PC on the status of the cooking.
Sure, technology is great. Yeah, this is innovative. But come on.....a wireless rice cooker?! How many recipes are there for rice? I'll tell you---exactly ONE. Water+rice. That's it. Of course there are many different kinds of rice that need different cooking times and water-rice ratios, but I think most regular rice cookers have that all figured out already. I still cook rice on top of the stove, and that works just fine for me.
What makes this thing sort of bogus is the fact that you still have to put the damn rice and water INTO the cooker anyway. So, while you are there, you might as well turn it on, hey?
Oh, and yeah...since it works from a PC, it will probably give the "blue rice cooker of death" right before your big dinner party.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday Morning Coming Down

Say what you will about Michael Moore: truth-telling genius sticking it to the man or angry white guy with a chip on his shoulder--he is nothing if not provocative. He can definitely spin it with the best of them.
So when I saw this comment he wrote on Obama's election I thought it was pretty cool and not something I would expect from Mike. He writes that this is a "pinch me" moment in history and the beginning of new opportunities for growth and creativity. But the thing I liked best was the part he wrote about not gloating it over the Republicans in your life. That idea hit a little close to home for me. Let's just say I've been a teensy bit angry the last eight years and Tuesday night I felt not only jubilation in victory but also the vindication that comes from seeing a long-deserved smack-down.
So I'm going to take a cue from MY President-Elect and Mike Moore and try to be a gracious winner. Hopefully Obama will get the health system crisis solved soon and I can afford to get some Valiums to help me out.

Here's what Michael had to say:
Subject: Pinch Me ...a message from Michael Moore
Date: Wed, 5 Nov 2008 06:48:22 -0500

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008
Who among us is not at a loss for words? Tears pour out. Tears of joy. Tears of relief. A stunning, whopping landslide of hope in a time of deep despair.
In a nation that was founded on genocide and then built on the backs of slaves, it was an unexpected moment, shocking in its simplicity: Barack Obama, a good man, a black man, said he would bring change to Washington, and the majority of the country liked that idea. The racists were present throughout the campaign and in the voting booth. But they are no longer the majority, and we will see their flame of hate fizzle out in our lifetime.
There was another important "first" last night. Never before in our history has an avowed anti-war candidate been elected president during a time of war. I hope President-elect Obama remembers that as he considers expanding the war in Afghanistan. The faith we now have will be lost if he forgets the main issue on which he beat his fellow Dems in the primaries and then a great war hero in the general election: The people of America are tired of war. Sick and tired. And their voice was loud and clear yesterday.
It's been an inexcusable 44 years since a Democrat running for president has received even just 51% of the vote. That's because most Americans haven't really liked the Democrats. They see them as rarely having the guts to get the job done or stand up for the working people they say they support. Well, here's their chance. It has been handed to them, via the voting public, in the form of a man who is not a party hack, not a set-for-life Beltway bureaucrat. Will he now become one of them, or will he force them to be more like him? We pray for the latter.
But today we celebrate this triumph of decency over personal attack, of peace over war, of intelligence over a belief that Adam and Eve rode around on dinosaurs just 6,000 years ago. What will it be like to have a smart president? Science, banished for eight years, will return. Imagine supporting our country's greatest minds as they seek to cure illness, discover new forms of energy, and work to save the planet. I know, pinch me.
We may, just possibly, also see a time of refreshing openness, enlightenment and creativity. The arts and the artists will not be seen as the enemy. Perhaps art will be explored in order to discover the greater truths. When FDR was ushered in with his landslide in 1932, what followed was Frank Capra and Preston Sturgis, Woody Guthrie and John Steinbeck, Dorothea Lange and Orson Welles. All week long I have been inundated with media asking me, "gee, Mike, what will you do now that Bush is gone?" Are they kidding? What will it be like to work and create in an environment that nurtures and supports film and the arts, science and invention, and the freedom to be whatever you want to be? Watch a thousand flowers bloom! We've entered a new era, and if I could sum up our collective first thought of this new era, it is this: Anything Is Possible.
An African American has been elected President of the United States! Anything is possible! We can wrestle our economy out of the hands of the reckless rich and return it to the people. Anything is possible! Every citizen can be guaranteed health care. Anything is possible! We can stop melting the polar ice caps. Anything is possible! Those who have committed war crimes will be brought to justice. Anything is possible.
We really don't have much time. There is big work to do. But this is the week for all of us to revel in this great moment. Be humble about it. Do not treat the Republicans in your life the way they have treated you the past eight years. Show them the grace and goodness that Barack Obama exuded throughout the campaign. Though called every name in the book, he refused to lower himself to the gutter and sling the mud back. Can we follow his example? I know, it will be hard.
I want to thank everyone who gave of their time and resources to make this victory happen. It's been a long road, and huge damage has been done to this great country, not to mention to many of you who have lost your jobs, gone bankrupt from medical bills, or suffered through a loved one being shipped off to Iraq. We will now work to repair this damage, and it won't be easy.
But what a way to start! Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th President of the United States. Wow. Seriously, wow.
Michael Moore

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Barack Party Weekend

I put together another podcast--this one celebrates Barack Obama's victory last week. I'm still kinda high from it actually.
Some old songs, some new songs and some songs that just make me feel good. I hope you enjoy it.
Thanks to fellow blogger Another Monkey for sharing the cool banner.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Happy and Proud!

Wow! Is this awesome or what?!?! A new day has dawned. My heart is light and full of hope. I feel as if I had been wearing a heavy, heavy overcoat and lead boots....and poof...they disappeared and now I'm light as a feather.
Once again I can be proud to be an American. Once again America will stand tall in the eyes of the world. Sure, there's a lot to do and lots of sacrifices to be made, but now it will be worth it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Special Election Night Live Blogging!

This is so cool......Fellow blogger Goldenrail of "Garter Skirts and Legos" is live blogging from a US Embassy-sponsored Watch Party in Abuja, Nigeria. Her comments are interesting and informed and really underscore just how important this election is--not just to Americans, but to the whole world. Check it out!


Here's hoping that kindness and sensibility prevail over the horror show of the last eight years.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Fartwood Manor Halloween Photos

My Mac-O-Lantern, the last pumpkin to be carved, so it is relatively mold free and stable.

We had two great nights at the Fifth Annual Fartwood Manor "Legend of Real Spooky Place". Thursday night was preview night. We run the lights, sound and foggers, just to make sure everything is go. This also allows people who have something going on the 31st a chance to check it out. Various neighbors and friends stopped by...even the previous (once removed) owners of Fartwood Manor.
Friday night was great..a constant stream of kids and fun costumes. A lot of princesses this year. The estimate was over 300 kids. But we still have some candy left. A couple kids told Dale they were too scared to come in last year, but were proud to muster up the courage to enter this year.
Dale put up a nice photo page, so go and check it out!

The tree, while impressive, needs a little re-tooling to make it more stable.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

TreeHouse of Horrors XIX

Be sure to watch! This is the one where Homer tries to vote!

Here's a neat little video retrospective (and shameless plug)
TreeHouse of Horrors Retrospective

Astro Weenie Pumpkin

I'd been itching to make one of these ever since I had seen it on Charles Phoenix's site. I finally got my opportunity when we had the Fartwood Cemetery open house on Thursday.
In the Fifties and Sixties, these edible topiaries were all the rage. Most of the time they were done for Christmas and used a conical Styrofoam base to make a Christmas tree shape.
I used a white pumpkin and all sorts of pickled goodies, tomatoes, cheese, and of course.....Lil' Smokies!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Smile Time is Over!

What do you get when you mix a carved jack-o-lantern with 90-degree weather? A big bloody mess is what!
Of 7 pumpkins, we ended up with exactly two last night that were OK to light and put out.
We had a great turnout last night--321 or so kids passed through the gates of Fartwood Cemetery.
Pics and story to follow later--I've got pumpkin guts to deal with at the moment.