Friday, November 27, 2009

First Thanksgiving in Portland, OR

I've had so much to be thankful for in the past year with this big move to Portland. So for Thanksgiving I wanted to be surrounded by my "new family." My old friend Tricia had called me right after I got to Portland in July to ask if she could come for a visit at Thanksgiving. Of course, I said yes. And then I wanted Jean-Francois, a friend of many years, who I first met in New York at least thirty-some years ago. John Baker, a Portlander I've known since the early 90s, was invited. And for my newest friend, I asked Kent Watson, who is executive director of a publishing trade association I joined out here. Kent was a good sport to be the brunt of teasing by a bunch of gay men. J-F brought his partner, Jay and John brought his partner, Darren. To keep Beau company, John and Darren brought along his favorite girlfriend--the lovely Penny (a two-year-old Chocolate Lab who makes Beau forget what a super slacker dude he really is).

Preparations began several weeks ago when I attempted to find turkey parts in my local markets for my turkey stock. No such luck--not at Safeway, Trader Joe's, or Fred Meyer. I called around the to the few butchers in the area and nothing. I finally found turkey wings at New Seasons Market, and this year's stock was incredibly flavorful with its onions, leeks, celery, carrot, parsley, clove, and pepper corns. I asked Tricia to bring out NPR's Susan Stamberg (by way of Craig Clairborne's NYTimes recipe from 1959) recipe for an unusual and really delicious frozen cranberry side dish (uncooked cranberries and a small onion are chopped together before you add sour cream and prepared horseradish. You then freeze it and let it thaw for an hour before you serve it. No sugar, and really delicious-it's an unusual cranberry preparation). I made Claiborne's classic cranberry-orange relish with almonds, because--it's the only cranberry recipe I've ever used.

Tricia is wheat intolerant, which set off a quest to find a cornbread mixture without flour that didn't require sugar. The Oregonian was helpful with a suggestion for something called Pamela's Cornbread mix. Only it was out-of-stock everywhere I went. We finally settled on Bob's Red Mill mix, which is delicious, but a bit on the heavy side. The rest of the stuffing recipe (a variation on stuffing I've made for years), had leeks, sausage, mushrooms, celery, parsley, fresh sage, thyme, salt, pepper, eggs and turkey stock. It was just a tad bland, but improved in flavor with an overnight sit in the refrigerator. The gravy had to be made with cornstarch instead of flour, but it was delicious. I also roasted Brussels sprouts, and of course, we had to have mashed potatoes. I once found a recipe on a woman's magazine for something called "Grand Champion Dill Loaf," a fragrant and impressive bread that you braid, which looks like a cross between a brioche and challah. I've baked it unbraided, added scallions instead of white onion, and changed many times over the years. Lately I've taken to turning the dough into individual rolls, which as a vehicle for a perfect turkey sandwich.

Jean-Francois called on Wednesday morning with an offer of a honey-roasted baked ham. "Okay," I said, wondering how I was going to get all this food on the table at once. I'm an Thanksgiving veteran, but I hadn't cooked for this many people in years. He also generously announced the addition of a cheesecake! I always make a pumpkin pie, and again because of Tricia's gluten-free needs, I decided to make pumpkin ice cream with toasted pecans (Tricia's helpfully suggested sauteing the pecans in butter and salt--a great call--and after the tally of calories in this meal, certainly not caloric overkill!).

Years ago, I watched Julia Child remove the carcass from a small turkey (no more than 14 pounds). She then broiled it for 45 minutes and roasted it an additional 45 minutes. The result is a perfectly cooked turkey that is a snap to carve and with breast meat that is incredibly moist and tender. Most people look at it with dismay, preferring the look of a traditional, picture-perfect bird that is uniformly dry, but does have it's photogenic qualities. My mother was appalled that I would abandon tradition no matter what the results. I've been preparing my Thanksgiving turkeys this way ever since. I now remove the thigh bone, which facilitates the carving of the thighs. There's very little waste, and I've got the carcass for turkey soup.

Thursday arrived with a typical Portland rainy season monsoon. It rained all day long. But dinner was lovely--up there with the very best of previous Thanksgiving feasts (though I did miss my New York family--Karole, Laurele and Carl, whom I've been sharing Thanksgiving with since 2000). We were awash in Oregon Pinot Noirs. No drama, lots of laughing and eating and drinking, and enjoying the antics of the dogs, sharing stories, teasing and making fun of each other. My kind of Thanksgiving. A very special day.

We had unusually gorgeous weather all week (by Portland standards). Tricia rented a car, and she drove me to markets, we antique-shopped in the Sellwood area of town, and spent Wednesday vi sting Powell's main bookstore downtown, and then window-shopped our way through the Pearl district with it's beautiful boutiques in amazingly dry weather. Gordon, the gut who trims my huge laurel hedges, took advantage of the dry weather to get the job done, give my huge cedar tree in the back yard a trim and cut back the holly tree which was threatening to strangle the side of my house.

Tricia left at 5:15 am on Friday morning to return to New York. I got up with her, to pack some turkey and ham for the plane, and with a deep hug, sent her off in the dark for the airport. I put away all the dinner dishes from the night before, answered e-mail and took Beau out for a long walk because daylight brought the most amazingly beautiful day--a gorgeous winter-blue sky with cottony clouds lazily drifting by. Beau dragged me through puddles from the previous day's storms, stuck his nose in every bush and shrub we passed, thrilled to be out in the sunshine. Back at home, I decided to take a long nap (something I never do). I woke up ravenous and ate a big breakfast. To this indulgence, I added a long stay on my couch, watching movies--Paul Rudd's sweetly sly and funny performance in I LOVE YOU MAN, then Janet Leigh with Robert Mitchum in HOLIDAY AFFAIR.

Is anyone paying attention to THE GOOD WIFE, the TV series starring Juliana Margulies? I missed Tuesday's episode because of the final of DANCING WITH THE STARS (a cheap and guilty pleasure--I picked Donnie Osmond to win and it was the right choice). I went on the CBS website to get caught up. This is a very well-done show, a complex show that is at once a smartly written legal drama that has a fascinating and topical backstory. Margulies plays the wife of a disgraced big city DA (Chris Noth), who may or may not have been set up to be blamed for corruption. What taints his guilt or innocence is that he's also been caught in an affair. Margulies plays the shell-shocked political wife, who is now stared at and judged by the media and the public, who goes back to work in a law firm while her husband languishes in jail trying to establish his innocence. Some of the cases she's working on are impacted by her husband's knowledge of them. Margulies leads an excellent ensemble cast as the politico's wife, humiliated by her husband's fall from grace and his betrayal. Good to see Christine Baranski back on TV too as a smartly sharkey senior partner who likes to think and projects herself as a supportive mentor of the younger female colleagues in the office.

Tricia bought Norah Jones' new CD, The Fall. It's a strong collection--a little country. She's not someone I always like--but this new effort has been playing constantly all weekend.

My day of sloth is over. Time to go outdoors and prune a neglected shrub.

My first Portland Thanksgiving was pretty special. I hope you all had a spectacular holiday too!

Time to unpack Christmas!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

HOUSTON (after Sarah Palin and Lou Dobbs detours)

Top Photo: Christine Goerke as Otrud in Wagner's LOHENGRIN with Richard Paul Fink as Telramund in the Houston Grand Opera production premiered on October 30, 2009. Photo courtesy of Houston Grand Opera

Below: Christine Goerke backstage at the Houston Grand Opera with Ginny Gehab following the final performance of HGO's run of LOHENGRIN (11/15/09)

Sarah Palin, that odious soccer mom---the woman who revels in her very ordinariness as though that were a badge of honor, is back and I’m just as sick of her now as I was when John McCain lost his mind and invited her to be his Veep during the last Presidential Election. Why are we supposed to be impressed with her “aw shucks; you betcha” persona while she looks down her nose at those she considers snobbish and out-of-touch with the common folk. Well excuse me, Miss-I-can-field-dress-a moose! The media is falling all over themselves trying to get their moment of reflected glory as this opportunistic woman butchers the language with her malapropisms, while she tries to convince us she’s the girl-next-door. I’m not buying it. She’s as opportunistic as any oily politician that has come down the pike and is considerably dumber. Tiny Brown scolded the media who are lapping up Pallin’s every utterance after “three months of health care.” I’ve got a theory about all this attention. Everyone saw how effectively (or was it just dumb luck) Katie Couric was able to show Palin as the house of cards she is, and it did her career a world of good. So not to be outdone, Oprah, Barbara Walters, The New York Times (first Mitchiko Kakutani in her review, and today Alessandra Stanley in her evaluating Palin’s appearance on Oprah) and others are lining up to see if the Couric effect can add some luster to their own sense of importance. As usual, the shallow media wants razzle-dazzle over substance, and as usual, show how desperately they will show their celebrity preferences over real issues. Worse, Ms. Palin’s pack of homilies will probably sell like hotcakes to those dumb enough to swallow her BS. I say they are welcome to her.

The best news to me last week was the news that Lou Dobbs had finally left CNN, apparently forced out over his insane obsession with immigration and his embarrassing crusade in support of the birthers who believe that Obama is not truly an American citizen, and therefore unqualified to be President. Dobbs initially showed himself to be a thoughtful supporter of the mis-represented American voter, but he overreached, alienating viewers with his extreme views on immigration (which not even George Bush supported). But I do think the Obama citizenship legitimacy issue was truly reprehensible and he continued with it long after it was obvious to everyone else that this story was a non-starter. I think he offended a lot of CNN viewers, who prefer a moderate views over those expressed on either MSNBC or over at Fox. So we now see Bill O’Reilly courting him over at Fox. The last thing they need over there is another aging blowhard with bad hair.

These distractions keep us off the real issues like health care and jobs.

I had a perfectly wonderful weekend in Houston. I flew into the city on Thursday evening and no sooner got to the hotel when Val Suan, my opera pal rang me up. Val lives in Houston. We met when a San Francisco friend suggested a week-long stay in Santa Fe, where we rented a townhouse and went on a five-performance opera binge some five years ago, and have remained friends ever since. Val had made a reservation at one of Houston’s finest restaurants—a converted Lutheran church, now named Mark’s (after its talented chef). It’s a bit too high end for me these days, but we had a thoroughly wonderful time, eating a thoroughly stylish meal, which included grilled shrimp and with crabmeat and asparagus. Val is as dramatic as the opera personalities both onstage and off, that he loves. So you’re guaranteed to be noticed whenever you are in his presence. We had a fine time getting caught up. He then dragged me to the local watering holes before dropping me off at my hotel.

I was in Houston to take in a performance of Wagner’s LOHENGRIN, an opera in which Christine Goerke was starring in. Christine and I are friends for some twelve years now, and I’ve long had a deep admiration for her enormous talent. She was singing her first big Wagner part in her career, and getting Otrud, the sorceress in this opera under her belt had been a goal. Her reviews were stunning—about the best in the cast. I was coming for her last performances (last performances of a run tend to be the best. The singers are relaxed after long weeks of rehearsals, performances, etc. The last one tends to be loosey-goosey with the singers often giving their best but having a lot of fun on-stage without letting the audience in on the joke. Experienced opera goers tend to notice these things, such as the tenor singing in Pig Latin when he should be seriously intoning recitative in German or Italian. A favorite bit is to try to break each other up. But before the final performance, I had other social obligations.

Jim and Ginny Creed have been friends since I first met Christine. They traveled to London for Christine’s Covent Garden debut, which is where I met them, and we bonded on that trip. Jim is a psychiatric physician and Ginny is a nurse. She also teaches. They count a number of world-class singers as friends, and will travel to New York or Santa Fe or elsewhere to attend their performances. They are generous and warm friends. They also live about 90 minutes from Houston and attend opera in Houston often. They made arrangements for a car to drive me to their home in Beaumont, which is what I did on Friday. Their home is beautiful and comfortable and they share this large space with three dogs, two cats and a parrot named Boomer. We had a lovely visit which included dinner at Pappadeaux’s a popular local restaurant with branches in several Texas cities that specialize in very large portions of well-made seafood. They serve an excellent, subtly spicy shrimp gumbo. I then dug into a perfectly cooked planked salmon filet with asparagus. The portions are huge, and this enormous restaurant is very busy. To have such well-cooked seafood shows why the place is so popular. It’s rare for a kitchen to stay the course when it is so busy.

The next day I got a good tour of Beaumont and it’s beautiful historic neighborhoods, and the downtown district with its Art Deco buildings. Our visit was too short indeed as the car came by after lunch to whisk me back to Houston. I had a dinner party to attend for a friend’s birthday, but first I had to find a birthday present. Val picked me up and took me to a local Barnes & Noble so I could get the birthday girl a cookbook. I got her Rose Bernanbaum’s new cake book. I had enough time to get back to the hotel to change for dinner as Val drove me around the River Oaks section of Houston where all the rich swells live. I must say it was impressive.

Dinner was to be a celebration with Christine and her husband, Jim and her close friends and sponsors, Mike and Ginny Gehab. The Gebhabs have been a strong and loving influence in Christine’s life—really like second parents to her. They are big opera lovers (Ginny was a soprano). We’ve spent lots of time together in New York, Seattle, San Francisco and now Houston when we’ve come to cheer our girl on in performance. Tonight was a dinner to honor Ginny’s 60th, and it was a lot of fun. Christine had discovered Voice—a beautiful restaurant in the Hotel Icon (a converted bank building) in downtown Houston. It was a great choice for a party. Ginny’s sister Helen was they’re along with another family friend and we shared a champagne toast. Ginny loved her book, so it was a good choice.

It wasn’t a late night, as Christine had to get a good night’s sleep in order to be in good shape for the performance tomorrow. Val was going to the performance as well and suggested brunch at a local favorite restaurant.

Val arrived at 11:30 for our brunch at Backstreet CafĂ©. I’m not a brunch person. Everything is too fussy. I’d rather eat a ham sandwich than plow my way through Eggs Benedict or French toast. Backstreet does have those dishes, but they also serve lots of other interesting entrees in their beautiful backyard dining area and so I inhaled a delicious thing called crispy lobster, which meant chunks of lobster meat are dipped in a tempura-like batter along with onion rings and fried and served on a brioche bun with baby arugula and a spicy mayonnaise sauce. This was a heavenly sandwich. A bloody mary and a cup of coffee set me up for the long Wagner opera ahead.

The Houston Grand opera has a fine stage and an auditorium that seats about 2400 people. Reviews had been uniformly excellent praising the cast and the conductor, and not being harsh on the production or its director, as the production updates the opera to the 1930s. As I would discover, the house’s acoustics are excellent and flattering to the voices. Patrick Summers the music director of the Houston Grand Opera directed a superb performance of an outstanding cast—probably the best I’ve ever seen in this work, but Chistine's volcanic singing and strong acting provided her with the means with which to steal the show. Clearly she’s meant to sing Wagner—her large sound ricocheted throughout the large hall. She was thrilling. The audience gave the cast and conductor a standing ovation and for a change, this overdone tribute was well deserved.

We got backstage to offer lots of praise to our diva, but she had a plane to catch. Her father-in-law died on Saturday and she had to get home to sing at his funeral and support her husband.

This left time for Val and I to have a final supper (four and a half hours of Wagner can work up a very large appetite. He took me to Barnaby’s a colorful diner serving really good comfort food in the Montrose section of the city. I took on a really ginormous Cobb Salad, which I’m ashamed to admit I managed to eat most of.

Heading home today. This was my third or fourth visit to Houston over the years and I must say the city made more of a positive impression on me than in previous visits. Like most big American cities, the consistency and quality of the food served in its restaurants has improved significantly. Architecture is not this city’s strong suit. They like modern and flashy—I call it Texas-style LA. But the arts are alive and well here for that the city gets my gratitude.

I missed Beau, who was staying with friends. My first trip away from Portland since I moved there in June. Had a great time, but I’m glad to be coming home.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Apoli Stops by for Another Visit

Apoli, the neighbor's adorable back and white cat showed up for a visit, stalking a squirrel in my back yard. I saw him underneath my giant Cedar tree and quietly opened the door, coaxing him in for a scratch. He came over immediately, and Beau roused himself from his afternoon nap (he'd been for a very long walk this morning with me to the doctor's and back and fell gratefully asleep the minute we were back home). Beau likes cats, and he an Apoli seem to have struck up a very nice relationship, which I finally managed to capture on film. Just as this lovefest was happening, enter Mr. Squirrel, brazenly coming closer to my door. Apoli, sprawled on his back on one of the steps pretended he didn't notice Mr. Squirrel (which of course the squirrel wasn't buying). I struggled to get the right picture of the squirrel as he inched his way closer to the door. But Apoli wasn't being patient, (and knew it instantly) as Mr. Squirrel bolted back to the safety of the tree when Apoli made a half-hearted attempt to chase after him. Here is Beau and Apoli checking each other out and another of Apoli pretending to lay supine in my step.

I'm off to Houston tomorrow to see Christine Goerke sing her first major Wagner role--Ortrud in LOHENGRIN at the Houston Grand Opera. Can't wait. She has received outstanding reviews, my favorite being from the Houston Chronicle which said: "Yet it is Goerke who sets the stage ablaze as the tirelessly scheming Ortrud — the most volatile role. The power of her voice, her fiery rage and intense determination make her a memorable embodiment of evil. In any medium, nothing boosts a show’s potency like a juicy villainess." Should be a lot of fun!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Philip Glass in Portland/Sheets of Rain

From Thursday on , we were warned that a big storm was heading to Portland from the coast and that we could expect two inches of rain. Well the rain came on Thursday night where it could little harm. Beau and I managed to walk to the doctor's office for more therapy on my shoulder on Friday morning. It was a beautiful day and stayed that way until we settled down to have a late supper in a restaurant in Portland's trendy Pearl district after the opera on Friday night. And then it poured. But first...

The big news was that Philip Glass, one of the most accessible of "classical" composers was here this week in advance of the opening of his 1993 opera, ORPHEE under the auspices of the Portland Opera. Based on the celebrated film of Jean Cocteau Glass's libretto is set almost verbatim to Cocteau's screenplay. This is Cocteau's version of the famous Orfeo legend which has been the subject of many operas before, most notably Gluck, Monteverdi, and Jacques Offenbach. I arrived at the Keller Auditorium where the Portland Opera performs and was dismayed to find myself in an all-purpose auditorium that seats nearly 4,000 people. Crap--it's a barn like the Met in New York, but the Met has superior acoustics. Worse, Glass has written a chamber opera, which means it had no business (other than the depressing mandate of finances and corporate sponsorship) being presented in such a huge space. So Glass's adaptation of Cocteau's film is swallowed up in the vast surroundings of the Keller barn. All sense of intimacy was robbed from the piece which is based on a staging for the much smaller Glimmerglass Opera in upstate New York.

Cocteau's interpretation of the famous story gets complicated and in the midst of Orphee's trials to bring his dead wife back from the Underworld--TWICE--he manages to fall in love with an enigmatic spirit from the Underworld named The Princess. In the end, not only is Eurydice restored to Orphee, but she's also pregnant. Cocteau it seems is not to interested in explaining how such a loving husband can love another as many of the adaptations have suggested. According to the program notes, Orphee, who is a wildly celebrated poet, has sold out for his conventional life, which stifles his creativity and originality. So we get Cocteau's fascination with immortality--"the relationship with between death, mortality and art."

This is the first of three operasthat Philip Glass set to a Cocteau film--the others being La Belle et la Bete and Les Enfants Terribles. Most of the important music here has been assigned to the orchestra and the first act takes some time to get going. Or course Glass is famous for his repetitive sound pictures, which can be hypnotic, and there are lots of spikey, jazz-oriented tunes assigned to the players while the singers are assigned short, enigmatic phrases that go nowhere. Only in the second act with the love duet for the Princess and Orphee does the music really take on a mesmerizing, soaring quality. There is also a nice aria for Heurtebise, the Princess' chauffeur, who has a crush on Eurydice. Overall the singing was expressive but not very memorable. Ryan MacPherson's musically contoured tenor has an individual timber and he was consistently interesting to hear. He's also a fine actor. Lisa Safer, a veteran soprano I've enjoyed hearing New York and Santa Fe, has a light but penetrating sound, and she looked good in her full length fur coat. She did well in the duet, but her singing is not memorable. Philip Cutlip made for a handsome Orphee, yet his baritone lacked color. Georgia Jarman's Eurydice's provided a smooth and attractive soprano who should have had something more to do than sulk. The reduced orchestra was under the lithe baton of Anne Manson. Still the size of the house mitigated against the orchestra's ability to make an impact and much of the effect of Glass's intricate and undulating music patterns.

I had dinner this week at Belly Timber, a Victorian slang expression for "food of all sorts," which is not too far from my home on SE Hawthorne and 32nd Avenue. This good looking restaurant is housed in a gorgeous yet understated Victorian house on the corner of Hawthorne and SE 37th Avenue. The restaurant has a spare interior with stripped down decor--no tablecloths and very simple china and flatware. The menu is spare and consists of foods from the Pacific Northwest, but the cocktail list on offer is substantial. The chef has previously cooked at Merriweathers (a beautiful restaurant with so-so food in the NW area of the city), Nostrano and others. For wine we chose a Cotes de Ventoux while we perused the menu. Belly Timber offers small plates but we were interested in a simple dinner. We selected a good salad of mixed greens with thin slices of pear and toasted pumpkin seeds. The lemon and oil dressing was perfectly balanced. My friend ordered the steak with smoky french fries. The fillet looked beautifully cooked but it was the fries "what done us in." These crunch, starchy golden fries were very lightly dusted with smoked paprika, giving them a smoky flavor. They were addictive.

I wanted to try the pan-roasted cod with bits of cooked octopus, on a bed of fennel puree with a sauce of blood orange--a solid dish. On a Wednesday night, we wondered why the restaurant didn't have more patrons--I guess it is a sign of just how bad the economy has hurt this area of the country.

My reaction to the outstanding food scene in Portland is the sheer consistency that is on offer here everywhere. Even in a lowly greasy spoon you'll find more quality of ingredients and a level of skill in food preparation that would be hard to match in most American cities. Does it reach the sublime highs that a great restaurant in New York can achieve night after night. Maybe not. But I haven't eaten a bad sandwich here and you can be served some terrible sandwiches in New York. The food cart scene is livelier here than in any other city I've been to, with carts offering a wide variety of exotic fare. I've only been to one restaurant serving high end dining and it was very good (Sel Gris) indeed. But Portland restaurants have a lot to be proud of.

Last night I had company over for dinner. I was testing a recipe from a forthcoming cookbook by one of my favorite cookbook writers--Michele Scicolone. Unfairly she is best known as the writer of THE SOPRANOS COOKBOOK, which was a bestseller. I've been collecting her books since the late 80s when her ANTIPASTO TABLE was published when I was at Morrow. Her recipe for roasted cauliflower made me rethink vegetables entirely. The new book is THE ITALIAN SLOW COOKER, where she applies her considerable skills as an outstanding creator and interpreter of Italian recipes to the popular slow cooker or "crock pot" machine. I had one of these devices in the 70s and adapted many of my own recipes to it with considerable success. But at heart if I'm looking for an easy way to enjoy these slow-cooked dishes, I prefer the faster method of the pressure cooker, which is equally effective. But if Michele Scicolone is aiming her energies at the slow cooker, I'm going to pay attention.

I made her Beef in Barolo on Saturday evening, which was a resounding success. Using a three-pound chuck roast, I browned it in olive oil, and then sauteed onions, garlic, before adding a cup of red wine (I had an open bottle of Shiraz--Barolo is just too expensive and it was okay with the author), and bringing it to a simmer. The recipe required a cup of beef broth, two cups of crushed tomatoes, a sliced stalk of celery, some sliced carrots, salt, pepper, a bay leaf and a pinch of clove and six hours of "slow cooking." Fall-off-the-bone tender, it was excellent with oven roasted potatoes, green beans with lemon zest, and a blueberry tart to finish the meal. This is an excellent start to a fine collection and if you have a slow cooker, this is a good cookbook to have.

Back to the pretty much poured for most of the weekend. Saturday it didn't get started until around 12:30--just as I was getting out to do some marketing for Saturday night dinner guests. I walked to the market, and as I left Trader Joe's the heavens opened up full blast and by the time I got home, I was thoroughly soaked. It continued to rain for most of today, stopping long enough for Beau and I to sneak out for a quick walk at 3:30. So we stayed inside where it is very warm and toasty. Tonight we're settling in for a final episode of Season three of Mad Men. It's been a dismal season of Dancing with the Stars (what stars--I think I'm rooting for Donnie Osmond!), and Top Chef was a snore. I snuck back to network TV and discovered Glee, which is a huge amount of fun and there's lots of performing to admire in between it's clever plot. The other surprise show for me has been The Good Wife, with the estimable Juliana Margulies as a lawyer who goes back to work for a big Chicago-like law firm after her DA husband is sent to jail. Was he set up? In the midst of this, the wife is forced to live the nightmare of watching her husband's sexual indiscretions revealed and has to go through the humiliating process of "standing by her man," as their married life falls apart. She at least had a high-powered career before she got married. Rejoining the workforce, she's a junior associate in a big corporate law firm where she's on cases that have a lot to do with an over-zealous ADA who may or may not have been a big competitor to her husband. Is her husband giving her insider information? The show has strong writing, and it far more involving than your standard legal drama these days. Chris Noth plays the disgraced husband cooling his heels in jail while his wife now brings home the bacon. The cast has additional depth from the wonderful Christine Baranski who plays one of the firm's senior partners, who may or may not feel threatened by the arrival of Marguelies. The show's first season is well worth your time.

This gorgeous orchid was found at Fred Meyer for $9.95! And this Buddah guards my backyard garden.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

It's a Jungle Out There

I mean in my backyard. Apolli, my neighbor's cat (who is adorable) dropped by for one of his periodic visits this morning. He and Beau get along uncommonly well. They sniff each other, bump noses, jump back from each other, and move in separate directions, but both remain very calm. They are mostly curious. I went to feed my friendly squirrel his peanuts but he wouldn't drop down from the side fence where likes to perch whenever he's not in my cedar tree. I can usually throw him some peanuts which he has to grab before very aggressive blue jays come swooping down to steal the peanuts. I finally coax the litte guy down from the fence, but the jays get there first, and then Beau waltzes into the backyard and the squirrel loses his nerve and bolts. No peanuts and then I turn around and Beau is cracking open a shell and extracting a peanut! Oh--the sparrows are eating me out of house and home. I just filled the bird feeder. I don't know if I can afford these critters! Beau looks like he belongs in one of those Martha Stewart features with that animal guy--Mark what's-his-name--who has dogs and cats and birds and chinchillas and hamsters and rabbts all cavorting around together in harmony. I just took this photo of him looking for peanuts just inches away from the squirrel--both of them not at all concerned with the other.

Because the weather has turned cool, I brought my hibiscus plant into the house where, as you can see, it is thriving beautifully. And my colleus are doing well too!