Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Something To You!

Another post beginning with an apology....! I cannot seem to get it together to write posts lately. Lots of stuff happening to share but I just never get around to writing it all down. I think that may be one of my things to do in 2010....more posts.

The image here is from the cover of the 1958 edition of the Cookie Book, which has been put out for the last 80 years or so by Wisconsin Electric Power Company--now called WEnergies. My mom had this one I remember. I got a .pdf copy of this year's edition.

I did make a few batches of Christmas cookies, not as much as years past and in fact, I had one cookie failure. I was trying to make soft, cake-like molasses cookies and followed the suggested substitutions and ended up with a big mess. I made Ribbon Cookies, Russian Tea Cakes, Sugar Cut-Outs and Apricot Rugelach.

Tomorrow I'm traveling to Austin to have Christmas with my Dad, sister and niece. If all goes well, I may get to see Brave Combo while I'm there.

Wishing everyone a peaceful and warm Christmas...or like the boys from Devo say: Merry Something To You!
Here's a little something to get you in a festive mood!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Halloween 2009 Review

It's about time I posted a recap of The Legend of Real Spooky Place--2009.
This year's haunt was another success. About 270 souls passed through the gates of Fartwood Cemetery on Halloween night. Even though the weather was great and the holiday fell on a Saturday, we didn't see the numbers we thought we would. Our friends in other neighborhoods said they weren't very busy either. It doesn't make sense to blame the economy--I would think more people would be out trying to score free candy--but who knows?

As usual, we had a "dress-rehearsal" on Friday night in order to make sure the foggers were OK and to fine-tune the lighting and other things. A few friends stopped by and I made some goodies to munch on.

Meringue Bones
Cat Cookies
Green Slime and Cyanide Cider
Hazmat Chili
(actually lemon panna cotta and raspberry coulis!)

Dale has more and much better photos and video on his site. Click here to check it out

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Black Sunday

Remember that guy or girl in ninth grade who dumped you for your best friend? It's kinda like that.

Or what about that nice guy you worked with for ten years who turns out to be selling secrets to the Chinese? Kinda like that, too.

Mr. Crip doing a little drive-by in Mr. Blood's 'hood? ....yeah like that.

The prodigal returns...except not in a good way. Not to repair the damaged relationship, but instead to break it some more.

What ever way you look at it--Brett Favre returning to Lambeau Field in a purple jersey is just wrong, wrong, wrong. You know it has to be a wrong of epic proportion if Bob Harlan isn't even going to WATCH the game.

The greatest player ever, the storied Green Bay franchise, the amazing 16 year road, with all its twists and turns....should be adding up to a fairy tale ending, not a bubbling cauldron of hurt and animosity. It didn't have to be this way and there is plenty of blame to go around on all sides. I don't think we'll ever sort out the "who did/said what to whom" part of this drama. The reality is that the NFL is a business--a high-stakes one--run by human beings with big egos, agendas, and plain-old human failings. It is just sad that this is what it has come to.

So, is Brett going to be cheered then boo'ed when he comes out of the tunnel? Boo'ed only? It will be interesting to see what happens. My primary care physician tells the story of when he was a student at Michigan and Bush the Elder came to speak....all the students stood and turned their backs to him. I kind of like that expression of displeasure.

Let's hope the Bad Brett shows up--the one that throws all those interceptions, and not the Good Brett that seems to pull something out at the very last second to save the day.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Getting in the Halloween Mood

A scene from Fartwood Cemetery.

This is totally last post was over a month ago! I swear there is some cosmic phenomena that is deleting hours from the day.
The haunt is complete--everything is out and set up and waiting for Friday when Dale will fire up the foggers at the pre-Halloween party. We have held off carving the pumpkins and will do that tomorrow and Thursday in the hope they won't completely rot and disintegrate before Friday night.
To get you into the Halloween mood, here's the podcast I made last year. It still works!
This is the scene in the front window--the pumpkin totem with spiders.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Return of "The Legend of Real Spooky Place"

September is almost over and October is just around the corner. To most people that means back to school, a heavier blanket on the bed at night, colorful leaves to rake, wild fires and football.
Here at Fartwood Manor it means that we've (well, mostly Dale) been fast at work on the yard haunt: The Legend of Real Spooky Place.
This year we are sticking with the Fartwood Cemetery theme and there won't be anything majorly new.....just a lot of tweaking of the existing props. Right now Dale is changing the fence from wrought iron to be more rusty and crusty. The Wailing Tree from last year needs a little patch job from when it blew off the roof where it had been stored over the summer.
We're expecting a big night since Halloween is on a Saturday this year.
If you would like to keep an eye on the progress of the haunt, check out Dale's site, The Gate.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Are You Ready For Some Football?

It's football time again! Yahoo! A lot less drama this year compared to last, that's for sure. This season will be extra special at Fartwood Manor since we finally joined the 21st century and got an HDTV. I have to admit is pretty incredible for watching sports.
This season I have also joined a fantasy football league for the first time--that should be interesting. I'm not too sure how it works, but I hope I can figure it out before I get too far behind.
The little guy pictured above has graced the top of the tee-vee set every fall at my parents' house for something like 45 years. If there is anything like the "family jewels" in my family...this is it.
Imagine my delight when I spotted these shoes in the window of the Vans store! I had to have them. The weird thing is that even though I've lived in SoCal for 29 years...this is my first pair of Vans.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Chile Today...Chile Tomorrow...Chile Everyday!

It's Hatch chile time! I haven't been this excited about a food item for a while. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know I use chiles in lots of stuff. The more, the hotter, the better--that's what it's all about here at Fartwood Manor.

It wasn't until our trip to Santa Fe a couple of years ago that we really discovered the awesomeness of green chile. I swear we ate green chile at The Plaza Cafe three of four times while we were there. Sure, we like the chile verde at El Burrito Jr., but there's nothing quite like a bowl of green chile made with Hatch chiles.

Hatch chiles are basically Anaheim chiles (with a little of hybridization over the years) that have been grown in Doña Ana county in New Mexico. Hatch is a town about 40 miles north of Las Cruces and is said to have the best chiles. It is sort of like the appellation of grapes used in wines in France: this grape grown in this area makes this type of wine. And like in France, it is the terrior that provides the magic that makes Hatch-grown chiles the best. So when I saw a post on Chowhound about Hatch chiles being available in SoCal I knew I had to get me some.

A few weeks ago, Bristol Farms had a big Hatch chile promotion sponsored by Melissa's, the specialty produce distributor. They were going to be selling and roasting chiles at the Manhattan Beach store. I know, I doesn't get any more gringo than getting chiles at Bristol Farm in Manhattan Beach, but you do what you have to bad could it be?

The roasting time was from 4-9 pm, so I got there right around 4 and there were a few people already in line. There was an area in front of the store set up with the roasters and tables where they offered some pre-roasted chiles. Melissa's also gave out CDs and recipe cards. Just before I got there, they had fired up the roasters and promptly set off the sprinkler system....DOH! So they had to move the roasters out from under the patio cover and because of that were running a little behind. That was OK with me, it gave me a chance to chit chat with the ladies in front of me who were originally from New Mexico.

The deal was if you wanted to have the fresh-roasted had to buy the whole case--which was about 30 pounds. I think it cost around $35. That's a lot of chiles, but what the heck....

The roasters were smaller than I thought they would be, but this way one case fit perfectly, so everyone got just what they paid for.
It took about 10 minutes total to roast the chiles. The air smelled so awesome! Kind of made your nose tingle a little bit too. On the way home, the aroma in my car was almost overpowering and lingered about 4 days. I have 30 pounds of roasted what?!?! "Who will help me peel these chiles said Mary-Wary?" Time to enlist Sous Chef Dale and get on with peeling and seeding. It took us about an hour to get it done. Rubber gloves are a MUST. Oh and don't rub your eyes, nose or ANYTHING--or you will be sorry!
After they were all peeled and seeded (for the most part!) I packed them into recipe-sized portions in Ziplocs and stuck them in the freezer.
We had a little green chile frenzy that weekend. First, I made chicken enchiladas with green chile sauce.
Next was a really great breakfast dish of eggs, chiles, sausage and cheese. Super easy to make and it just gets baked in the oven and voila! Instant yummyness. I love to cook, but I really hate to make breakfast stuff--this one was so good I am definitely going to make it again.

I made some green chile cheeseburgers too, but they got scarfed down so fast I didn't have a chance to take a picture. Somehow, I have a feeling there will be another photo op soon. Once cooler weather arrives I will try to perfect my chile verde recipe and I would like to make a sauce of some kind. I will definitely be exploring some of these links I found on Chowhound: links A links B.
I also found this amusing report of another Hatch chile safari from my go-to-guy for all things Mexican, Gustavo Arellano. I guess it sometimes pays off to be gabacho.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I've Got Hang-Ups

One of the things I'd had my eye on for a long time is this Hang-It-All coat rack which was designed by Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller in 1953. Its whimsical design fits perfectly in the studio, where we will use it to hang our coats and stuff. Dale's already got his Irish caps and cane up there. I wish the wall color came out better--it really is a beautiful aqua-y shade of blue.

On another note, I've noticed that the blog is getting a lot of hits lately. I really have a following? What's up with that??!?! Of course I immediately fretted over the fact that I haven't been posting nearly as much as I want to. I still haven't posted about my trip to SanFrancisco in June! Yikes.
It has mostly been because of the work thing, which I thought was beginning to get under control, but the projects keep on coming in. I'm definitely not going to complain about these problems of abundance--but it sure would be nice to go back to 8-hour days. And back to the gym.
And I now have Facebook. I sort of resisted for a while, but after my niece's wedding it was a logical decision as a place for posting photos and stuff that was accessible to many people. Sad to say it really fits my short-attention span lifestyle of late. It is just less time-consuming to quickly put up a photo or write a few sentences about what crazy-ass thing happened that day than it is to write a cleverly-written post.
Anyway, thank you readers for continuing to read this 'lil blog....I'm still having fun!

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I've been pretty good lately on hitting the farmers market for the majority of my produce purchases. I have been going to the market in Palos Verdes rather than Torrance because the PV market is on Sunday morning and that has been more convenient for me. It is smaller, but I can usually get what I need.
I know its supposed to be about supporting the small farmer and all that. But sometimes it freaks me out on the prices. For instance, right now is the height of the peach season. Lots and lots of peaches are out there. Peaches are selling at the farmers market for around $3/lb. These two peaches were $3.10. That's $1.55 per. Ouch.
I just ate one and I will say it was excellent.....perfectly sweet, not sour at all. A beautiful treat. Comparatively speaking....probably worth it. I don't think I would complain about paying that much for some ice cream or a pastry. But something is just weird about paying $1.55 for a peach.
Maybe that's really how much it costs to produce a good peach.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Solving California's Money Crisis

You have probably heard by now that California is in a world of hurt due to a budget crisis. I don't want to get into a long story about the why or how it happened, but it pretty much boils down to: more money is going out than is coming in. When that happens, you gotta start spending less money.
Last week the Governator OK'd the budget and there are big cuts all over the place in addition to the cuts already made. Furlough Fridays for state workers, less hours at the DMV, programs and funding cuts--you name it.
California State Parks were one of the areas that didn't fare well in the budget cuts. So much so, that some State Parks will probably be closing. Only 13 of 279 of the parks are self-sustaining, the rest rely on the state for funding.
One of the things being suggested is partnering with industry as a way to regain the necessary funding. With that in mind, those two clever guys--Dale and John--put on their thinking caps and came up with these possible partners for some of the California State Parks. They included some National Parks too just in case Uncle Sam tries to do the same thing.

Terminator billboard on Half Dome

White and Day Death Valley

Fresh Step Kitty Litter presents Will Rogers State Beach

Red-Bull-Wood National Park

Banana Boat Aloe Vera Gel presents Joshua Tree National Monument

The Devil's Post-Fruity-Pebbles-Pile

Zales' Colma Gold Discovery Site at Marshall's Mill

Sucrets Mono Lake

The Southern California Edison Reddy-KiloWatts Towers

McDonner's Lake

Yoplait-semite National Park

Shasta State Park (no name change necessary!)

Morton Salton Sea

Burger King's Canyon National Park

KCBS-TV Channel 2 Islands

Kraft Catalina Salad Dressing Island

Manzanar, presented by Toyota

Rio Honda Park (no name change necessary)

Malibu Barbie State Beach presented by Mattel

San Onofre State Beach presented by the NRC

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Here's another summer staple at Fartwood Manor: Cold Soba with Chicken. I could eat this every day. Rather than the traditional way to eat cold soba--in which the chilled noodles are presented on a little bamboo mat and served with a soy/ginger dipping sauce--this is a one-dish affair that includes spinach and grilled chicken that was briefly marinated in a little of the sauce, then everything gets tossed together with a little more of the soy/ginger sauce.
The original recipe calls for udon noodles, but I'm not a big fan of cold udon--to me those are soup noodles. Most of the time I grill the chicken, but today I cooked it in a grill pan.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Salad Days

It's finally summer here and the heat is on--not like Portland, but just about right for me. So that means I'm in a salad sort of mood, but I wanted something more substantial than just some mixed greens. Chicken was on sale too, so I knew that would be an ingredient.
This is a Vietnamese salad called Goi Ga. It has poached chicken, cabbage, carrots, onions and herbs tossed with a dressing made with chiles, garlic, lime juice and fish sauce.
I used two recipes for inspiration. One is from Leite's Culinaria called Poached Chicken and Cabbage Salad with Vietnamese Coriander. I also consulted Wandering Chopsticks to get her Goi Ga recipe. Both recipes were different, yet basically the same. I used the salted cabbage from the Leite's, but I liked the way Wandering Chopsticks soaked her onions in vinegar first. I also followed WC's technique of using the mortar and pestle to make the chile-garlic paste for the dressing. Both recipes called for the Vietnamese herb rau ram, but I wussed out and used mint and cilantro. Even though it is a pain in the butt, I made the fried shallots. You wouldn't think so, but these pretty much make the dish. The contrast between the tangy, light salad and the smoky funk of the shallots is incredible.
A great salad for a warm summer night.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


I really like beans and I'm always on the lookout for good ways to prepare them. I do use them in a few salads, but it seems that cooked beans are more of a dish for cooler weather. So when I came across Tuscan Beans in Summery Tomato Ragu I was excited to try it.
The dish is really easy to prepare--you just have to remember to soak your beans ahead of time--and uses ingredients that are almost always on hand. I will admit it is not a "cool kitchen" dish, since it does go in the oven at some point. I used Great Northern beans--but I would love to try cannelini beans sometime
The mellowness of the beans offsets the tangy tomatoes well, and the cheese that is sprinkled on top adds a wonderful undertone. I served this as a side for some grilled steak and garlic-sauteed wild arugula, but I think the beans with a big salad or a pile of sauteed greens would be more than enough to make a nice meat-free dinner.

Monday, July 20, 2009

July 20, 1969

Forty years ago today, I sat at a picnic table at Potawatomi State Park in Wisconsin and watched as Neil Armstrong left the lunar module and made the first human footprint on the moon's surface.
My family left Milwaukee that morning on a two-week camping trip around Wisconsin. My folks felt it was too important of an event to miss, so we brought along our portable tee-vee so we could watch the moon walk.
I grew up in a pretty "Space Race/New Frontier" sort of atmosphere: my birth year coincided with Sputnik's launch. The silver-y snow suit I wore as a toddler was a "space suit". I remember watching John Glenn's orbit and asking my mom a typical six-year-old's question: "How do they go to the bathroom?" (Answer: "They take a pill"....good one, Mom!). Many years later, I remember sneaking out of work, to a co-worker's van, in order to watch the first Space Shuttle liftoff. Even now, I find it exciting to hear the sonic boom of the Shuttle when it makes a landing at Edwards AFB.
Dale grew up in a aerospace family--his dad was on the team that designed and built the AESEP and ALSEP modules for the Apollo program, as well as taking part in the development of the Lunar Rover used in later Apollo missions.
Here are a few of the mementoes of his:

How exciting that must have been, to be involved in such an historic endeavor? The South Bay (that's what the area where I live is called) is home to a number of aerospace companies. Sunday's Daily Breeze had a good article on what it was like back then, working on these early space programs. Everyone felt such a sense of duty and excitement.
Times are different now, so many things have shadowed the space program. Sure, our country has too many problems and not enough money, but I really do think we need to have something like this lofty goal--not just to be "the first"-- but something to capture the imagination and inspire people and now that the Shuttle is winding down I hope that we find again that compelling sense of purpose to pursue the exploration of space.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Crazy Carrots

Check out these awesome carrots I got at the Torrance Farmers' Market! I was so excited to get them home and prepare them. I thought it would be best to keep it simple, so I would be able to tell if there was any flavor difference between the three colors. All I did was toss them with olive oil, sea salt and some avocado honey (dark and robust) and roast them in the oven for 30 minutes. If you've never roasted carrots--please try it. You will love the deep, sweet, carrot-y flavor.
They were pretty good as carrots go, but I couldn't really taste any difference between the colors. The red carrot was only red at the surface--the inside was a dark orange.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bonne Fete Nationale!

It's Bastille Day in's a little video of the big military parade.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

On The BBQ Trail

After all the wedding vows were taken, all the dances danced, all the bratwursts grilled (and eaten), and honeymooners sent on their way.... Dad joined Dale and me on a mini road trip down to San Antonio-- about an hour's drive south from Austin. That is if you don't stop for Texas BBQ. We stopped. Often.
The area between Austin and San Antonio is one of Texas' prime BBQ zones. I've been to Texas a few times, but so far never had a chance to really explore all the famous places I'd been hearing about. For the trip down, we took highway 183 to our first stop: Lockhart, BBQ Capital of Texas and home to Smitty's, Black's and Kreutz Market. Since it was pretty early and my companions were not looking too favorably on having BBQ for breakfast, I narrowed the choice for this stop to Black's, which claims to the the oldest BBQ restaurant in Texas owned by the same family.
We parked the car near the main square and followed our noses.

Instructions on how they do things down in Lockhart. Pretty easy to follow.

Since the meats are all sold by the pound, you can just order what you want, in the quantities you want. I chose a pork rib, some brisket and a sausage. Since this was stop number one, I didn't want to get too overloaded. Rounded out with a little coleslaw and a devilled egg.

Everything was really good. The sausage was not fatty at all. Texas BBQ differs from other types of BBQ like Carolina or St. Louis style in that it is not served with a sauce. Most places have some sauce, but you have to add it yourself. It is all about the smoke and the meat in Texas.

Yes, Virginia, there really IS a jackalope.

Lockhart is the county seat of Caldwell County and boasts this ornate courthouse on the square in the heart of the city.

Next stop--Luling, home of the world-famous Watermelon Thump as well as home to City Market, another great stop on the BBQ trail.

City Market was a little different than Black's in that you actually entered the smokehouse to order your meat. Not as many side dishes either. No frills....the food comes on butcher paper and I had to go ask for a fork. Again, I had pork ribs and brisket--both good.

My dining companions finally perked up and had some good looking pork ribs too.

A local Luling artist transforms these pump jacks into works of art. There are something like 20 of them throughout the town. This one honors the Watermelon Thump.

This jack was in the back of a Dairy Queen.

Next stop--San Antonio....and The Alamo!

I've been a big fan of "King of the Hill" for many years. One of the recurring themes is that of The Alamo and how important it is to Texans. One episode, Hank Hill did an Battle of the Alamo re-enactment, and last season, Hank even made a backyard bar in the shape of the Alamo.

San Antonio's big event is called "Fiesta" and it was going on while we were there. That meant there were many events going on around town, including one that afternoon at The Alamo put on by The Daughters of the Republic of Texas. Because of this the visiting hours were shortened and we only got to spend a short time inside. Dang...I really wanted to see if there was a basement! We met one of the Sons of the Republic of Texas and chit-chatted with him for awhile. He sure knew everything there was to know about The Alamo and Texas in general. When we came back later that evening, we saw they had presented these wreaths, which were still on display.

The Riverwalk was pretty neat, but it too was the site of a Fiesta event, so we couldn't really experience it like we wanted to. That evening was one of the main Fiesta events--a Boat Parade-- and all the walkways were lined with reserved seating. One restaurant was selling a seat at a table for $75! We came by later and got to see a little of the parade from atop a bridge.

Since we couldn't hang out on The Riverwalk, we hopped a bus and went to El Mercado. This was another open air place with restaurants and shops and here too, was another Fiesta event...there were three stages with live music going on and the place was packed. We were pretty hungry by this time so we stopped at Mi Tierra Cafe. This place looked like a total tourist trap and I wasn't expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised with the nice dinner we had. This photo is only a tiny glimpse of the over-the-top decor going on inside.

When I go travelling, I like to stay in historic hotels, if I can. We chose The Menger for our stay in San Antonio. It has a great location-- "across the alley from The Alamo" and it was built in 1859. The lobby is gorgeous.

Here is a neat sign.

We had to head out back to Austin the next morning and we were all just too "touristed-out" to make any stops along the way. I had planned on stopping in New Braunfels for more BBQ and I guess Barney Smith's Toilet Seat Art Museum will have to wait for my next trip. San Antonio has a lot more to explore--we only scratched the surface.

We kept hearing "Y'all come back" and I'm sure we will!