Jul 14, 2012


I purchased an Italian glass lamp shortly after I was married in 1984. The lamp is hollow with diagonal swirls. The rounded base houses the bulb and the upper section forms a perfect lampshade that is open at the top. The entire lamp illuminates and casts a welcoming glow — perhaps too welcoming.

As beautiful as the lamp is, it has an unlovely benefit. It attracts and catches just about any winged bug that enters our home. Fortunately, the lamp is opaque and any trapped insects are not visible.

Late last night, I noticed that bugs were somehow getting past the screen of an open window. Within half an hour, at least a hundred gnats and moths gyred around the lamp's brightness. 

I then heard shuffling noises on the back porch. More bugs? My investigation brought me face-to-face with the most rotund raccoon I have ever seen! Being an opportunist, I asked, "May I interest you in some moths?" The raccoon was too busy shredding our trash bags to respond. I gruffly shooed it away, watching it heave its corpulence over the gate before I cleaned up the mess.

After returning to the lamp, I took a long strip of shipping tape and adhered it, sticky-side-out, beneath the shade. By morning, the insects had met their fate either by flying into the hot lamp or finding permanent repose on the tape.

Ah, mountain life...

Jul 12, 2012

Carried Away

I find the above illustration amusing. Where there is food, there are opportunists. Sometimes, things just get carried away.

I, too, have been carried away by special picnic moments. Tonight, my mom and dad went to the first of a series of concerts at a charming old park in Long Beach, California. While living there, this was an anticipated summer activity for me. The Long Beach Municipal Band is top drawer and our food varied from homemade favorites to locally baked pasties to specialty sandwiches and desserts from popular eateries.

Mark Bittman, The Minimalist, is often my go-to-guy when it comes to quick and easy recipes. In 2008, he wrote a New York Times article entitled 101 20-Minute Dishes for Inspired Picnics. What a list! Here are a few examples...
  • BEET SALAD Peel beets and grate them (a food processor will keep the juice contained). Add pistachios or hazelnuts; dress with orange zest and juice, and olive oil. Add bits of goat cheese and chopped parsley.
  • CURRIED EGG SALAD Make egg salad with hard-cooked eggs, mayo, curry powder, Dijon mustard, fresh lime juice, salt, pepper, cilantro, red onion and, if you like, diced apple.
  • GRAPES AND CHEESE Mix feta cubes and green grapes (or grape tomatoes or pieces of watermelon). Add mint, salt, pepper and olive oil. A tiny bit of chopped fresh chili is good, too.
  • THAI GAZPACHO Combine tomatoes and cucumber in blender with lemon grass (only the most tender part), cilantro, fish sauce and lime.
  • Mix peeled, grated carrots with chopped dates, cumin, minced chili, lemon or lime juice, mint or cilantro.
  • Toss toasted pita with olives, parsley and mint, salt and pepper, bits of chopped-up lemon (rinds and all; preserved lemon is even better), chopped seeded tomatoes, chopped seeded cucumbers and chopped red pepper. Take olive oil for last-minute dressing.
  • Toss cauliflower florets with oil, salt and pepper, and roast in a hot oven until browned and cooked; while still warm, toss with curry powder and a handful of raisins. Pour on the lemon juice.
  • Mix cooked couscous with olive oil; add pimentón, cumin, salt and pepper, chopped shallot or red onion, toasted slivered almonds and orange zest and juice. Cooked cauliflower is good, too.
  • Cook a couple of pounds of berries with some sugar and a little water until they break down. Layer in a plastic container with slices of good pound cake. Pour any remaining juices on top. You might want some cream.
  • Slice open a good baguette and fill it with chopped or shredded cooked chicken tossed with fish sauce, chili, sugar, lime, garlic, scallions and Thai basil (or, in a dire emergency, regular).
  • Toss cooked couscous with oil, chopped parsley, chopped black olives, capers, red onion, salt and pepper. Scoop out medium-size tomatoes and fill with mixture. Pack carefully.
Click on Mark Bittman's link for additional inspiration. 

Jul 10, 2012

Does anything rhyme with "orange?"

Does anything rhyme with ORANGE?

The rumor that "orange" rhymes with no other word is incorrect. Orange rhymes with Blorenge (a mountain in Wales) and sporange (a sac where spores are made). "Silver" has the same rumor going for it, but it actually rhymes with Wilver (a nickname) and chilver (a ewe lamb).

Courtesy of