Satsuma mandarins...the perfect winter snack, gift, everything!

Satsuma mandarins...the perfect winter snack, gift, everything!
peel, eat, repeat

Monday, November 10, 2014

Kale - It's what's for dinner

All through the Middle Ages Kale was beloved throughout Europe owing to ease of cultivation, nutritional value density in times of depression and bright, clean flavors. Many countries have major traditionally patriotic culinary dishes such as soups and stew that completely revolve around kale to this day. One of the Three Graces in Greek Mythology was named Kale for her tenderness and beauty, a true depiction of Kale, the vegetable. Across Northwestern Spain practically every village boasts huge community gardens burgeoning with six foot high kale and endless potato plants ensuring plenty of love for their regional kale and potato soup, as well as massive fodder for their dairy cows. Celtic vegetable lovers mix sautéed kale with mashed potatoes for the traditional Colcannon, served with sausage and coins to ghouls on Halloween. Savvy Italian gastronomes grow Cavalo Nero or Tuscan Kale as the main ingredient in Ribolitta. During World War ll, kale was acutely present in every victory garden purposely provoking better nutrition during severe food rationing.   
Perfectly composed leaves and stalks filled with sweet nooks and crannies, curly or flat, light to rich algae deep green as well as purple and red tones, kale is an oasis of beauty and nutritionally unfrugal with health invoking attributes. Anti inflammatory inducing big guns such as sulfurophane allow your liver and other organs and cells to better access and detox creating a fountain of youth effect throughout your body. Vitamin K, C, D, fiber, folate, more calcium than milk cup to cup, iron, and protein the list goes on. It’s good for your brain as well owing to a compound called kaempferol working much like resveratrol in red wine creating feelings of euphoria. Kale and chocolate combined could possibly create world peace and life everlasting.

Slice kale stalks and simply sauté in hot olive oil and garlic adding a squeeze of lemon juice to finish for a time constrained narcotic treat. …Tear sweet kale leaves leaving out ribs into a pile and toss with alluring olive oil and sea salt, place on a foil line baking sheet in one layer and bake 325* for 12 minutes creating luminously crunch chips to satisfy pesky crunch attacks…..Boil fresh capallini and toss copious amount of chopped kale into pasta water a minute before draining. Drain all together placing pan back on the flame to add butter and red pepper flakes garnishing with grated reggiano for a divinely inspired illegally fast anytime meal….Chopped kale tossed with sliced white nectarines, sun gold cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers and feta, drizzled with fresh lemon juice and lemon oil, salt and pepper creates momentary surrender to logic….. Toss whole kale leaves with olive oil and salt and place on a hot grill for a few minutes to mesmerize with a bit of char and serve alongside herb and lemon marinated grilled prawns or velvety wild salmon napped with fresh tomato salsa…..Ensuring a day’s origins with health and energy completely present in every body particle, the addition of a couple handfuls chopped fresh kale to any smoothie guarantees a lusciously smooth, creamy adjustment of any hunger incurred attitude problems for hours to come. Kale – its what’s for dinner.

Fresh Kale Salad w/ Pomegranate Arils and Fuyu Persimmons
1 large bunch kale of any kind, sliced and washed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice and zest of 1 to 2 lemons or 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 cup pomegranate arils
2 Fuyu persimmons, sliced
1 bunch green onions, sliced
Sea salt and pepper to taste or Braggs Amino Acids to taste

Toss kale, tomatoes, fruits and green onions in a large salad bowl. Drizzle on lemon juice, zest and olive oil and toss well. Season w/ Braggs or salt. Let sit a few minutes to gently “cook” the kale for a few minutes or up to an hour before serving. Serves 4 to 6.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

2015 farmers market lovers calendar is here!!

5th year anniversary of the calendar! Yay! Dave's art is better than ever. Available at Mrs. Dalloways in Berkley, Orchard Nursery in Lafayette, Orinda Books, Rakestraw Books in Danville, Kitchen Table in Walnut Creek and once again in all the 3 Gardener stores in Berkeley, Ferry Plaza and Healdsburg. More locations to come. Also available on my website at Also message me at and if possible I will bring it to you!!

Monday, October 13, 2014

persimmons with a chance of rain

As autumn begins to fully engulf the Diablo Valley, it becomes obvious that the sexy fruits of summer are on the wane departing almost as quickly as the seasonal farmers markets close until spring. Tastes must adjust to winter fruits and vegetables and for this writer that is an easy task to accomplish. Apples are everywhere in every shape, size and flavor palette from tart to sweet pleasing all involved. Grapes are massive in their bulk at year round farmers markets and also come in just as many varieties. Thomcord is a really interesting mix of a Thompson seedless, for the sweet no seed person while it is crossed with the Concord grape reminiscent of childhood snatches off the old lady across the streets grape arbor and jam on your P B and J. Seed less, purple and super sweet, brings complete joy with every bite.
Persimmons have gained enormous popularity in the past several years mostly due to the availability of Fuyu varieties. Persimmons are plentiful the world over being grown in over 30 countries for business as well as pleasure. The Unites States doesn't even measure on the export scale coming in even under Iran. Divided into astringent and non astringent varieties both have equal beauty and magnificent taste value. Fuyu persimmons, flat sort of smashed and squat looking translucent orange orbs calyx intact at stem end, are the non astringent kind eaten crunchy as you would an apple. Many different kinds of non astringent persimmons exist out there but most common ones easily found at farmers markets are Fuyu, Chocolate Fuyu and Jiro. Being a little newer to the party than bosom buddy Hachiya, Fuyu’s and friends can be confusing as the massively astringent ones, mainly Hachiya, need to be eaten when totally soft. Not so there but they are still good when they are super ripe and soft to use for baking in cookies and bars….Cut firm Fuyu’s into crunchy romaine and crisp spinach greens along with creamy chevre, toasted almonds and orange segments for a fabulous holiday salad……Any holiday party is enlivened by a bowl of Fuyu’s on the table to be eaten at will.
Elongated heart shaped Hachiya, astringent variety, is sometimes referred to a God’s Pear or Jove’s Apple going back into history when drought or freezes would brutally conquer an area in Asia where they originated, but these trees would be standing with fruit waiting to be picked. Persimmons are extremely generous with healthy agents for our bodies and have staved off hunger over the millennium. Fiber, vitamins C, K, A and iron are present and willing in every one you eat. Hachiya are full of tannins and will cause brutal pucker up if eaten totally unripe. Leave on a counter or if you are in a hurry, place in your freezer till solid and defrost for instant gratification and yummy cookies. Persimmon pudding is a seasonal treat not to be missed. Days of yore had you steam it in a coffee can on top of the stove but I just bake it in the oven for a heartwarming and tummy tingling treat. In Southeast Asian countries after harvesting, 'Hachiya' persimmons are prepared using traditional hand-drying techniques leaving a mysterious white film on the incredibly sugar sweet slices. In some countries fruits of astringent varieties are sealed in jars filled with limewater to get rid of bitterness. Persimmon trees drop their leathery green leaves around October leaving all the bright orange orbs undressed but gorgeously ready for the autumn party.
Until the rains commence, trails on local ridges are astounding in stark beauty. Spider webs caught glistening in the sun, drops of dew trapped by thirsty silk, coyotes frolicking mere yards from you, hawks actively, noisily, musically seeking love and refreshment, owls topping trees of all kinds including us in their secret language among each other, we live in wonderland. Get out and feel it.
Persimmon Cookies
Makes 50 cookies
1 cup butter or coconut oil
¾ cup molasses sugar (from Trader Joes) or turbinado or brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
11/4 cup persimmon pulp (about 2 large or 3 small persimmons)
21/2 cups wheat flour
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons fresh ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1 cup chopped and toasted walnuts
1 cup raisins (the dried Thompson Seedless grapes from the Farmers’ Market are awesome)

Preheat oven to 350* and spray cookie sheets with canola oil or line with parchment paper.
Mix flour, salt, soda and spices together and set aside.
Combine butter and sugars and beat until smooth.
Add the egg and persimmon pulp and beat well.
Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until incorporated.
Add the raisins and nuts and mix until incorporated.
Drop by spoonfuls onto the cookie sheets and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
These cookies are cake like and will seem too soft but pull them out anyway as they will be nice and moist.

more Camino musings

Legs quivering, lungs burning, scaling mountain tops, previously unthinkable to achieve, after an astoundingly steep, rocky climb, we conquer yet another summit. After 350 miles of hiking, we reach the commanding Cruz de Faro. Cross of Light, symbolizing that which is no longer of service to us, can be released to the cross. Worries, troubles, anxieties and anguish can be transferred to a rock, and left under the cross. Accompanying this release of worldly worries, the cross also represents a guiding torch to those who have passed this life before us easing their souls away from sorrow into joyous eternity, leading some to leave a ribbon or gift for those departed loved ones assuring them all is fine down here, no need to worry about us. Traversing the seemingly endless Meseta, plenty of time accrued to transfer cares to our rocks along with wondering how much a rock can absorb. This amazing rose quartz rock, a luminous cross etched in its center, crossed my path, perfect for the long awaited experience of surrender along with a ribbon carried for 350 miles, tying up for Kate and Riley, hoping to ease their worries of family sorrows accumulated in the past year.  
Precariously stepping down the mountain, more difficult than crawling up, the terrain returned to astoundingly beatific, precious villages with winding stone streets, gorgeous stone houses sporting planter boxes overflowing with tender scarlet geraniums delightfully greeted us around every curve. Looking over each valley to cathedral spires in the distance seemed surreal and almost unattainable but there we were looking for shelter and food, a place to wash out our clothes and a glass of wine to complete the day. Scaling two 4200 foot peaks over 6 or 7 hours, we cross into Galicia through the mystical, magical village of O’Cebreiro, imagined or real, images flashed and lost in the same instant of civilizations came before us, guiding us closer to the completion of our journey. Galicia was settled originally by Celts only to be conquered by Spaniards leaving many Druidic traditions intact. Music became laden with bagpipes and kilts were not unusual along with mud made round houses called Palloza’s. As we trudged into Fonfria looking for a nights rest, we came upon the only Albergue available in town and found a room along with a meal. July 25 is the Feast of St. James and we hit it so good. Our hosts had a fiesta planned for the occasion in the manner of the Celts with a Quemate midsummer gathering complete with Aruzo and incantations. Aruzo is white lightning liquor in a pot with apple juice, apples, oranges, peppercorns, coffee beans a whole lot of sugar and some other secret ingredients. Our hostess, Angela of Celtic and Spanish ancestry, holds forth at  the  ceremony, mixing the cauldron and lighting it on fire, issuing incantations meant to release fears holding us back from anything for the year ahead. Lights out, pot ablaze, singing and shouting, we pass a delightfully amazing evening culminating savoring the torte de St Jacques, an almond and orange tart, breathtaking, intoxicating.   
We used every ounce of that ceremony to complete an unkillable distance to Sarria, a brutally hilly, blazing sun day of 20 miles that ended with yet another of these wonderful villages that for some inexplicable reason has 100 steps up, literally, I counted, to get into old town and our pension our evening slumber. Well worth the effort into a village offering traditionally succulent seafood as well as an uncompromising view of town through our window plus the added perk of being shocked awake at midnight by exciting, brilliant fireworks celebrating a local wedding. Sarria represents the last 100 kilometers of the Camino where many people commence their journey as the government awards anyone completing minimum the last 100 km of the trail with the Compostela or certificate of completion. Our trip changed overnight as all the “short timers” crowded the trail as we were following the sunrise out of town the next morning. More people than we had seen in 5 weeks. Smoking, loud, music blaring out of phones accosted us at every turn. Culture shock we needed to get used to. We saw many injuries as people carelessly ran and power walked the 60 miles to get their piece of paper. A few mornings later as we started out with headlamps, chasing the sun, our last day on our path into Santiago arrived. Mixed emotions logically rise to the surface as 35 days of backpacking come to a close. Passing by a huge Albergue, 500 beds, on the outskirts of Santiago, I emotionally tumbled into the enormity of our adventure. Tears filled my eyes as I at last found Santiago in my focus below us. Sorrow and joy, blended into a luscious soufflé of adventure and liberation permeating every cell as our last view of the amazing cathedral appeared on the horizon. Santiago greeted us with live music scattered about the old town along with fireworks and crowds of raucous party people celebrating the last day of July signaling the end of the feast of St. James in the village where his body lies beneath stones in the enormous and hallowed cathedral. After completing the trail with a trip to the end Of The World, Finnistere, on the Spanish Pacific Ocean, with a coastline rivaling our Big Sur’s, as the billowing botefumeiro swayed back and forth spilling incense perfumed plumes of smoke at our final pilgrim mass, I reflected on many wonderful new friends met on the trail with uncountable lessons on survival and endurance in my heart. The Camino De Santiago, a journey for the books and one recommended highly by this unboundingly grateful pilgrim and I vow to use the steely strength I gathered physically and emotionally to embrace new as well as old challenges in my life, overcoming and assisting where I may. Buen Camino.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

We actually navigated our way across northwestern Spain by scallop shells and yellow arrows placed hither and yon by a team of international Camino freaks that volunteer throughout the year. Walking along wondering about your direction and if lost is a possibility and they appear, a rock or ancient stone marker or even a tree trunk on the far side of the road with a yellow arrow painted on it, saved. We spent a good deal of time looking for markers by sunlight or headlamp as we headed out before dawn most mornings beating the heat, especially amazing walking under the super moon.  The Camino always provides. Castles and monastic ruins appear around many a turn in the trail, each village boasting churches beyond plentiful with astounding amounts of riches displayed on enormous alter pieces painted with gold and embellished with carvings, jewels and gem stones, statues and paintings, depicting various scenes of religious deities over the millennium, precious even in decay. Initially it caused uneasy ghoulish visions of poor slaves and serfs dying after short horrible lives to provide the labor making it possible to build these enormous houses of worship, but chains of history along the Way provided a deeper understanding into the culture surrounding the anvils of circumstances in the villages. We do it different here is my short story although insight into relationships between many forms of religion and people over centuries along the Camino de Santiago is fascinating.
A special 7 day segment of the Camino described as the Meseta, a high plain that we climb several thousand feet to get to, but once ascended unfolds into unrelenting flat wide, gravel paths, brutal underfoot going on for miles with little to no shade or villages, only endless fields of dry barley, disorienting us to where we would light next. Until now we had been climbing mountains and traversing valleys, lush and green filled with water and flowers and many a village to rest in taking off shoes and back pack to enjoy chocolate and diet coke before moving on again. These brutally long incendiary stretches actually are referred to as the “soulless senda” in map books. One of the flat paths unexpectedly, gloriously escorted a wide canal that was used a thousand years ago to move grain and agricultural products throughout the region with old locks beautifully still in place. Churches and villages on the Camino are totally centered on the pilgrimage and most have special pilgrim masses daily, crescendoed by pilgrims called front and center for personal hands on blessings from the priest. We gratefully received any and all help we could get.
Food is mostly the same along the Camino with a few standout dishes, but most of the time it is a pilgrims menu that someone at sometime decided was a splendid idea and on an the albergue (hostals) circuit once sold on a commercial idea, hospitalieries all seem to follow as it a financially profit driven venture by locals deriving their annual income from pilgrims. Typical menu is 3 courses for 8 to 10 euro. Choices are relentlessly similar and consist of what someone somewhere decided all the international pilgrims would want. Spaghetti from Italy, creamy thick mayo weird salad Russe from Russia, way over cooked mash of peas and other canned products from UK, French fries from France!, and the one we ate every day, salad mixta with lettuce, canned tuna, white asparagus and tomatoes, we think from US. Sometimes olives or hard boiled eggs, possibly carrots, but the protein was valuably high. Second courses are just as bizarre with even vegetarian dishes containing some sort of pork product. We found luscious fruits and nuts from the Mercado with pleasant shop keepers.
One particularly difficult walk, ridiculously longer than we had anticipated, stretched the performance of my 3 liters of water, reduced to a frightening gurgle sound, with about an hour of blazing sun ahead to the next village. I had been keeping my head from insanity of boredom by looking for the perfect heart cloud in a sky abundantly fluffy bellowing with pure white clouds, to snap a picture of and send to my friend Jackie Hopkins as I had been thinking about her Kate all day and she loved heart clouds. Growing more agitated and parched by the second as I had no more water, which I willingly admit is a security blanket on a good day for me, and that sky would not perform for me, when out of nowhere, on our walking trail, this dude in a minivan with loud music and a huge smile rolls up and hands us all a bottles of ice cold water. Those bottles were painted with big pink hearts. Got it after all, just her way and not mine. Goose bumps covered me into the village as I felt her looking over us pilgrims trudging to our next destination. We spent a wonderful night in his albergue amidst rabbits and chickens, well fed and thoroughly quenched.

Camino De Santiago Pilgrims Salad Mixta
1 pound mixed market greens on a large beautiful platter. Add a couple quartered hard boiled eggs. Toss on some grated carrots and good handful Greek olives. Slice on generous cucumbers and lots of halved cherry tomatoes. Flake on a can of tuna. Drizzle with good olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Crack sea salt on and share with, bread, loved ones and icy cold Albarino!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Sitting around a nice house party at Stephanie’s last September talking about doing this 500 mile back pack/trek/walk/hike called the Camino de Santiago over the French Pyrenees and into Northwestern Spain to the coast at Finisterre was one thing but almost a year later donning the beastly pack and boarding a plane in San Francisco leaving our homes and families for 6 weeks was quite another. Arriving in Paris, we had 19 hours for walking, sitting in cafes and window shopping, not putting anymore weight at all in the pack, before catching a train to Bayonne and winding our way by bus to the beautifully sweet mountain hamlet of St. Jean Pied de Port where after an amazing communal supper and communal sleeping we would begin our 500 mile or 785 kilometer jaunt ending eventually in Santiago Spain. St Jean is literally the foot gate over the mountains and the trail has been used for centuries by pilgrims seeking penance and joy, war criminals and heroes stealing through the freezing nights to save the world and sheepherders grazing their herds.
Our first few nights were spent in albergues where bunk beds are arranged in 4 to 8 or so in a room and bathrooms are coed and shared by many. Took these not spring chickens a minute to get used to it donning shower shoes for sure. Dining was a family affair with all the pilgrims staying at the albergues sharing a meal at long tables. We met more people than carter has pills and made so many hard and fast friends that a bed or couch awaits in most European countries should the need arise. We figured out the back pack score pretty swiftly and sent a big box of stuff from our packs home the morning before we started walking with no regrets at all. Our first day was short but brutally steep climbing about 3000 feet in a few hours time. Constantly accompanied by unending mountain vistas with sheep and goats aplenty, breathtakingly lovely with air as sharp as a knife blade, as we trudged anaerobic, red faced and puffing regardless of months of training to our goal for the day. We heaved our bodies with our 23 pound packs onto the deck of our insanely welcomed albergue in Orison for the evening being greeted with ice cold mugs of local beer and salty peanuts. Sitting there with only the Pyrenees in all their amazing foxglove, hydrangea and fern filled craggy but lusciously green glory before us, fog creeping fingers slowly between valleys, all knowing of the communal meal awaiting us, a gal met my gaze and we recognized each other from Kelly Duarte’s Halloween party in  Martinez. Michele Matson lives in town and her hiking partner and long time friend Jamie Kruse was born and raised in Martinez and her dad was the mayor for several years when she was growing up. My mom was not surprised I ran into someone I knew in the French Pyrenees in a place you can only get to by hiking there.
We found our bunks, did our laundry, took showers and settled into our first real night on the trail eating Basque food and drinking local wines with 30 other pilgrims, most on their first night too, very festive, listening to sheep and night birds as well as pilgrims snoring, until falling gently asleep filled with the knowledge that the next day would bring the most strenuously brutal hike of the entire trip cresting the Pyrenees and ending up at an 11th century monastery in Roncesvalles Spain.
Flan de Cafe
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup low-fat milk
1/2 cup espresso coffee
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
20 whole coffee beans

6 individual servings in ramekins.
Set ramekins in a large glass baking dish (9-inch x 13-inch).
Heat 4-5 cups of water in a pot for the water bath.
Put a heavy skillet or saucepan over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup sugar. With the back of a wooden spoon, keep sugar moving constantly until sugar is completely melted, and of a rich medium brown color (caramelized).
Carefully spoon caramelized sugar into each of the 6 ramekins or large dish.
Pre-heat oven to 325F (162C) degrees.
Scald milk and cream in a saucepan. Remove immediately and stir in the coffee.
Meanwhile in a mixing bowl, beat slightly 3 eggs. Mix in 1/4 cup sugar.
Stirring constantly, gradually add hot cream mixture to egg yolk mixture. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Blend in vanilla extract. Ladle mixture into ramekins.
Pour in hot water until there is about 1/2-inch of water in the baking dish for boiling water bath. Fill about a third way up. Bake uncovered in water bath for 50-60 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean when inserted half way between center and the edge of dish.
Note: To ensure the custard does not over-cook, check doneness after 45 minutes, then every 3-5 minutes.
Remove ramekins from the water bath. Set on a cooling rack until lukewarm, then chill thoroughly in refrigerator.
Un-mold by running a knife around the inside edge of baking dish. Place a small dessert plate on the top of the ramekin. With one hand under the ramekin and the other on top of the place, turn over. Tap the ramekin and the flan should drop onto the plate
Garnish with the whole coffee beans and serve.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Walking the Camino de Santiago....that's right, a long one for sure

Well after about a year of planning, waffling, making up our minds and sticking to it and training, with absolute and complete joyfulness I can say that the time has finally come to get on that plane and start walking. Along with a couple of my friends, we are going to walk the Way. We start walking on Friday, June 27, 2014, after a long plane ride and a sort of long train ride through some pretty amazing country. Prepared is probably an understatement. We have been training for months, walking the hills of Briones, Mt. Tam and Tilden, to name a few local areas to hike. Eschewing all sumptuousness and luxury, we are packed and repacked in our backpacks and have all the latest and greatest of minimal quick dry, ultra light ( sometimes sort of ugly) clothes. I have cut my bar of soap in half to reduce weight but the make up still is packed....we'll see down the road how long it takes for me to throw it away.Everything is limited in that there pack and it is still heavy but never more than I can handle and after wearing it full for a couple of months already all is good. So I say here and now before beginning up the Pyrenees.

I have been told that this is the trip of a lifetime but I am making travel a reality in my life and I say it is the first in a long series of trips in a lifetime of really amazing journeys. Adventure and physicality are staples in my life especially as more suns circle our earth and full moons pass by. Our story starts in St. Jean Pied de Port at the base of the Pyrenees in France. The trail of Napoleon winds up the mountains and down the other side into Roncesvalles, Spain, in the Basque country. From there we meaner 400 plus miles to end at the Compostela de Santiago in Santiago, Spain. Future blogs will hopefully fill in those blanks in the blithe mention of walking 490 miles.We complete our journey traveling to the Western most point in Spain, Finisterre. We will be aiming for 15 or so give or take miles a day for about 33 or 34 days to complete the ridiculous aforementioned number of miles  along incredibly scenic Basque routes through North Western Spain.

Ancient is our path trod my millions over the millennia, humans alongside spirits guaranteeing great company on our journey. Hikers from around the globe looking for spiritual healing, reasons abounding running the gamut, countless inspirations and prompts for one foot in front of the other across the miles to rest in the comfort of local albergues or hostels catering specifically to the pilgrims of the Way. Nightly sharing of meals and bunk beds await. I am taking ear plugs but my experienced Camino friend says that you are so bushed by the end of the day that you won't need anything to block out the snores of a few hundred be mates.

so I will try my best to share the history and beauty of my path roaming in and out of wifi and charging stations for my iphone to get it all down. Maybe I'll even learn how to get photos on!! Yay. Anyhoo, till then I offer and proffer the time honored greeting"Buen Camino".

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

RIP Katrina Katrina the wickedly lovable beer barrel black cat with yellow eyes that loved anyone who hated her and hated anyone that bestowed worship passed away today due to her sweet little fickle heart giving out. We don’t really know what happened and a kitty post mortem was not in the cards but we do know it was crazy fast. Is it harder when you know for a long while and keep her comfortable and love her like crazy for the little while left to pet and give her way too many treats prompting some to mention maybe a pound could come off behind their hand or to one day notice short breaths and take her to the vet and she dies right there? I know for her it was the way we all would want to go for sure but it was a shocking, breath taking, confusion causing few days for Luke and I. Katrina was 9 years old when she died. Actually pretty young I guess. Most of our other kitties lived twice that but they were also a different breed and had pretty decent starts to life. Katrina was brought to us in a little tiny cardboard box, rescued lying next to her dead mother in a parking lot. We bottle fed her and she thrived, or actually blew into our lives like a hurricane, prompting her name. She was what I call a curtain climbing madwoman kitty. Always entertaining and as she slowed down after a couple years, one of her favorite pastimes besides chasing wildlife in her own wildlife territory was to sit on the arm of the couch and stealthily claw swat in nanoseconds all that passed by her place of relaxed attention. She leaves behind her little sister kitty Trixie, who is lost without her nemesis as well as us and an extended group of close family and friends that will miss her. May the angel on your stone watch out for you and bless you in repose. xooxoxox

spring has sprung!

My oldest sister was born on April Fool’s Day so we were all well versed in silly trickery and jokes on her special day, not particularly at her, but at us all. Coming from a family with endless siblings, we entertained ourselves well and constantly with pranks and jokes abundantly present at most times. The boys were the worst. Whether a brother, cousin or uncle, they had a tendency toward the gross fetes with a wicked twinkle emanating from the eyes and flowing outward. A frog down the back of a tee shirt or rubber snake shenanigans…. The girls expressed sweeter mischievousness in the forms of hiding a favored bra or locking the bedroom window so you couldn’t crawl back in come dawn. Even so we always loved the beginning of April. Walking the hood most evenings with my mom, we love looking at all the Easter yards overflowing with pastel colored flowering trees and bulbs. Pink camellias, tulips, lilac scented breezes and the promise of the pool opening soon, spring is hard core here with summer just around the corner. Since we are in a drought officially in California water conservation is a big topic. Nonetheless it is still a good idea to get that summer garden in along with an efficient drip system to keep it going. Relaxing as it is to stand outside come dusk and check out your babies while watering them with a garden hose, it uses a lot more water than is needed. As I sit here penning this missive on March 14, the gardener guy on PBS is telling me it is ok to put my tomatoes in. Seems early but these are strange weather days indeed. Farmer’s market tables are literally bowing under luscious piles of asparagus, leeks, spring garlic, potatoes, amazingly sweet, oh so dainty spring onions and so much more. We are picking greens from our gardens and sautéing them with the garlic or adding them to protein shakes like there is no tomorrow. After a long winter of broccoli and cauliflower, moving into asparagus season is almost illegal in the pleasure gained from a simple steam and crack of sea salt or sizzled on a hot grill drizzled with lemon oil. Carrots are crazy in season now as well. In conversations where carrots are mentioned, visions of those bizarre orange baby thumbs prolific in the grocery likely come up. Not a good representation of this amazing taproot family boasting parsley, fennel, dill and cumin among kin. Gently excavating your home grown carrot from loamy earth, devouring warm from the sun can be a religious experience. Next best is purchasing at your farmers’ markets with perky chartreuse fringe intact plainly displaying degree of freshness. Recognizably comfortable orange inside and out, carrots also come in purple, white, yellow and red with shades bordering on fluorescent dazzling eyes as well as sweetly captivating tongues. Reunite relatives by slicing carrots thin, tossing with toasted, ground cumin seed, olive oil and lemon completed by showering with finely chopped parsley and crumbled feta. Jazz up crudités by grilling slices of variously hued carrots, spring onions, asparagus and peas napped with tarragon and chive vinaigrette or a yummy homemade hummus dip. Have I mentioned carrot cake frosted with honey-vanilla cream cheese icing? Perfectly healthy treat! The local hills have all greened up with wildflowers abundant and showy along the trails and in the canyons beckoning road weary travelers to enjoy the magnificence and peace our ridges have to offer in the simple joy of a walk. Happy Spring! Carrot Ginger Soup 5 carrots, chopped 1 onion, chopped 1 clove garlic, chopped 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped 4 cups stock 2 tablespoons rice vinegar ½ cup crème fraiche Salt and pepper to taste Sauté carrots, onion and garlic in olive oil in tall soup pot for 5 minutes. Add stock and vinegar and simmer until carrots are tender. Puree and season with salt and pepper. Garnish w/ crème fraiche. Makes 6 cups.
Taking off to a location thousands of miles away, in a different time zone, different season, traversing in a few modalities of vehicles and arriving after many hours, regardless of how it may present itself initially in your stress filled frontal lobe, is beyond exhilarating for me. Recently returned from a whirlwind trip to New York City. So fun. Pre senior girl friends gone wild. Becoming an annual tradition, the St. Patrick’s Day parade in the city is just dang fun. I have so many generous and amazing friends and Gigi is the NYC pusher girl while Sheila is the home base. Can I just say how incredible it is to actually have a home base in that city? Thank you Sheila!! We covered all the bases in a compressed period of time. Amazing jazz from David Hazeltine at Smoke jazz club, the Met, the all important and massively inebriated parade of St. Patrick, a great show, the miles of subway, great food and friends. I love that subway system. I love all the walking, miles of walking. There may be no better place on earth to watch people from every race and nation carrying on with everyday life. We were even in front of the Plaza Hotel with our friend Eloise. Eataly in Chelsea, a cooperative project between Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich and many other amazing food players, is one of my favorite places to end my trip. Amazing rich Italian chocolate bunnies for my young man’s Easter basket, yes he still gets one, unbelievable cheeses, pasta, produce, oils, vinegars, the sweetest, freshest pesce, grossly accroutred butcher counter, coffee, vino, it just goes on and on. Three restaurants beckoned us and we chose the all fish one….scallops perfectly browned on top and bottom, an art to achieve, nestled on a mountain of mixed expertly sautéed wild and domestic mushrooms drizzled in a lemony sauce, divinely inspired, deceitfully filling every nook and cranny leaving me in a narcotic haze yet acutely present of my taste buds softly sighing with joy. Cocktails at Sirio’s on 5th avenue, watching the parade behind the incredibly luxurious glass of the Hotel Pierre, avoiding face freezing temperatures while ceremoniously sipping Jameson, again, and giggling waxing ecstatic with the pure pleasure of a brilliant vacation is really an inspired way to take a break from strolling the parade route even if just for an hour or two as that particular parade goes on forever and no matter how many breaks you take you can still pick up anywhere you choose to. Irish pubs are a must for this trip. For some reason, and trust me this rarely ever happens any other place or time, these pubs are full of handsome Irish men who totally appreciate the virtues of a California gal. So fun to flirt and kiss the Irish on their day. Again another fabulous trip to a far off land, leaving life at home, at a standstill and coming home to sun, a garden perched on the edge of breaking out in full glory of spring, squirrels racing in circles on the roof, jumping from tree to tree as two very happy cats, their rock has returned, salaciously gazing but rarely chasing as they lay in sun filled hiding places especially chosen for this purpose, Cheshire in their leisure comes to and end. Already looking forward to next year.