Monday, July 18, 2011


Flowering Ornamental Oregano  and Cherry Tomatoes Finally Make an Appearance.  

Well it appears that Beau may be getting better.  He gets regular B-12 shots and a new hypo-allergenic diet of venison and sweet potatoes.  The result is he's not longer suffering from chronic diarrhea, at least it's stopped for the time being.  I'm thrilled.  It only took a year and many trips to the vet. I'm glad I changed vets because the new vet suggested right away that we had to change his diet and start giving him vitamin B-12 shots, just to eliminate a lack of b-12 in his system as a culprit.  Apparently it is.  I'll have to give him shots once a month for the rest of his life, once the weekly six-week treatment of shots is completed. There's more spring in the old boy's step (he just turned eight). A sickly pet is the worst thing. It just makes you feel so helpless.  

He spent Saturday in a few laps, where he likes to be when I have company.  His only sin is a summer excess of shedding.  Well...that's what vacuums are for. 

Between the Republican antics in Washington, the astonishing, but not surprising scandal that is engulfing Rupert Murdoch's media empire, and now the news that Charlie Sheen has landed a new TV sitcom, my last nerve is kaput.  

The debt ceiling crisis is Republican obstruction, plain and simple.  They are willing to take down the entire US economy down around our ears because they hate the idea of a black man in the White House. Disgusting. It's not about the debt ceiling.  They had the ability to stop George Bush's profligate spending and didn't.  Two grotesquely expensive and never-ending wars, a misguided drug program, and a too-cozy relationship with Wall Street with whom every politician in Washington, D. C. depends has crippled Republican credibility.  If they don't fix this, I'll be staring at a fourth round of Wall Street financial blood-letting and my retirement portfolio can't handle any more setbacks. They are going to be forced to restoring tax cuts for the rich and for corporations. It's the only way out.  I hope President Obama holds Republican feet to the fire because they deserve all the bad will they will get if the economy collapses again. 

I'm in no mood to defend Rebekah Brooks, the ousted News Corp editor disgraced in the phone-hacking scandal that embroiled Rupert Murdoch's media empire. But there's more than a touch of sexism in the criticism aimed at her.  The editorials I read all insinuate that her ambition to climb into the rarefied arena of the rich and powerful has cost her dearly.  That's absurd.  There are plenty of people who rise from modest beginnings to great wealth and success and don't break the law to do it. The whole political and financial world has looked the other way as Murdoch has pushed the legality envelope in his quest to be master of the media universe.  His papers and his TV networks fabricate the truth.  He's ownership of so many media properties begs the question of where are the anti-trust protectors out there?  With Murdoch, it always seems to be the greasy wheel getting oiled.  I'm feeling a lot of Schadenfreude as this story unfolds. Right now it looks like his son and maybe even the Prime Minister of England could be facing the unemployment line.  How nice that a few of the powerful of the world are experiencing the pain of not only being out of work, but humiliated in the process.  Tsk, tsk!

The world doesn't always play fair.  Charlie Sheen is going back to work in a TV series as a star who has a major financial stake in the project--an adaptation of a Jack Nicholson film called Anger Management. So he'll be paid millions to basically play himself. Now there's a show I wont' be watching. 

Isn't it amazing the garbage that's out there in the news today!!!???

The rains came back for a few days, making my grass grow and grow. My roses are beset with black spot, which forces me to constantly strip leaves off the bushes.  I new lily bloomed yesterday and was greeted with a torrential downpour, lasting much of the morning and into the early afternoon  Not even Beau wanted to be in that deluge.  It's sunny again on this Monday, but still cool.  While the East Coast swelters, it's currently 75 in my back yard, and the inside of my house is a very cool 67.

The lettuce is growing like it is on steroids!

There are tons of blueberries at the farmer's market, and my four bushes are just beginning to ripen, so I'll make blueberry jam this weekend. 

I've scheduled my driving test for Friday, August 5th.  Wish me luck.  


Saturday, July 9, 2011


Cooper, creating mischief in a hanging fuchsia

Out on the patio with friends who had come over to help me clean out the basement, my friend Jay noticed a squirrel who seemed to be very still next to the water fountain.  I looked over and there was Cooper, eyes opened, breathing heavily and very still.  I walked over to him and noticed blood on the leaves where he had just moved.  Not knowing what to do, I went and Googled local rescues and found the Autobahn Society, who referred me to a local rescue agency.  I got a voicemail announcement, so no medical help was available for Cooper.  They recommended that you not attempt to move a wounded wild animal.  We left him alone and an hour later I was back out and Cooper was dead.  The flies were already hovering.  It was so sad.  I had the feeling that he had been injured not far from the house and managed to haul himself back home (he lived in the branches of my back yard Cedar tree) where he died. I didn't want to move him just yet and decided to leave him there overnight.  Saturday morning, I came out and with shovel lifted his stiff body into a paper shopping bag.  I'll bury him in the side yard (dog run) tomorrow.

Cooper has a very pretty squirrel, with an overlay of reddish brown fur over gray.  He had very lively eyes, and with me he had become very trusting.  I'd often find him standing up begging for a peanut at the back door.  He came very close to me to grab a peanut and then dashed off, but only a few feet, to crack open the shell and enjoy the nuts inside.  He finish it off, or haul it off to stash away for a time when he needed it.  He'd often come back two or three times for his supply.  He would often be accompanied by a bunch of crows who also enjoyed peanuts.  None of them were as trusting as Cooper. I'd managed to hand him two or three peanuts, but mostly we kept a respectful if curious distance from each other.

Cooper in the midst of peanut butter 'madness'

Cooper often created a mess in my garden.  Up on my bedroom balcony, he would rummage in the empty rail planters discharging the dirt in every direction, looking for food.  It go so bad that I would have to take a leaf blower up there to blow the debris off of the balcony.  He also loved my strawberries, brazenly enjoying a ripe one as he stood outside my kitchen door daring me to scold him.  He enjoyed my French radishes this summer, leaving gnawed evidence of his visits on the rooted radishes.  But Cooper's favorite treat was an empty peanut butter jar, which I would leave for him. He would manage to squish his body inside of the jar, licking every trace of the peanut butter jar before abandoning it on the patio where he found it. I've posted these photos of him before. He was a lively and endlessly entertaining little chap, and I'll miss him.

The saga of Beau's chronic diarrhea continues.  The blood test for pancreatitis came back low to normal, so I took him off the medicine prescribed and was happy to do so.  The powdered substance didn't agree with Beau--he didn't like it in his food, though he continued to eat and worse, it produced a bad odor (apparently a common side-effect).  But the blood test also revealed that Beau was vitamin B-12 deficient, and as of yesterday, we started him on B-12 shots, which I have to administer every week for the next six, and then maintain them once a month for the rest of his life.  He's on a strict hypo-allergenic diet of venison and sweet potatoes in the form of dry food and treats.  This should clear up the problem, and if not, he will have to undergo endoscopy.  Fingers crossed.  

John Baker, who often helps me get Beau to the Vet and chauffeurs me on various car errands around town, was over to the house last night for a glass of wine in the back yard. We often have dinner on Friday nights, and most often we go to Starkey's a casual bar and restaurant serving a gay clientele here in Portland. Gay restaurants have gone the way of the Dodo bird and for good reason.  In their heydays of the 60s and 70s, gay restaurants were known for their bad food, tacky, overly-familiar waiters (who were often nasty if you complained about anything), and prima donna chefs, who made your life miserable if you had the nerve to send something back. I'd given up on the genre years ago.  Why allow myself to be bullied and snarked at by my own kind? John is a creature of habit--a lovely and loyal friend who would do anything for you.  I know he enjoys Starkey's and endures my endless complaints about the place. I'd cheerfully like to march into the kitchen and bitch-slap the chef--an inept monster who needs to be fired. I once sent back a raw portion of prime rib.  Two minutes later, out it came, looking slightly gray from a quick rotation through the microwave.  I refused it.  The waiter had the balls to be incensed.  I wasn't stepping down. I refused it again. They also do stupid things like serve a martini in a stainless steel stem glass.  Yuck.  I stopped going after that for a bit, but John loves the place. So back I went. The waiters are dumb as stones.  If you ask for well-done French fries, invariably they emerge from the kitchen undercooked. They simply cannot be trusted to get the order right. But I've now made my peace with the place, which is always packed on Friday nights. I make sure I don't order anything complicated from the woefully dated menu--the simpler the better, which means a burger, or a Cobb salad.  I once relented and even tried the pork chops, often an iffy choice, invariably served tough.  Not bad. But they throw cheese sauces on everything. I noticed on one visit someone near our table ordered Chicken Cordon Bleu (so 60s!), or at least I thought it was Chicken Cordon Bleu--that gooey mess looked completely unpalatable.  The average age of the clientele is about 58.  The look of the place and the customers is as embalmed as the menu.  

This long preamble is because yesterday was Friday and John and I were going out to dinner.  I had seen a nice review for a new, casual dining spot in the neighborhood--The Sunshine Tavern.  I called for a table and they have a no-reservations policy. I hate the whole idea of a no-reservations policy.  It means the potential to wait for a table. We're both over 60 and we're not willing wait, cooling our jets at a noisy bar waiting for a table. The pleasant guy who answered the phone assured me they could take us in 45 minutes without a wait.  So off we went.

My heart sank as we approached The Sunshine Tavern's front door.  It's a soaring, modern space of glass and medium colored wood with rustic tables, a lively bar and a shuffleboard on one side and the open kitchen on the other with a few tables out front.  It's noisy and it's young.  We were easily the oldest diners there.  The first words out of my mouth to the guy with whom I had spoke to earlier were, "this is the reason why I hate a no-reservations policy." But he managed to disarm me right away.  He said there were a number of tables that had just paid and would be ready soon. He brought us over to the seating area right next to the shuffle board to have a drink and look over the menu while we waited.  I appreciated his solution--how rare for a restaurant to have any solution these days to over-crowding. We had barely sat down when he came back to tell us he had our table ready.  I liked that even better.

We ordered a familiar bottle of rose while we scanned the menu.  There were intriguing things along with some things that seemed just weird.  For instance, under appetizers, there is a chicken liver mousse with baguette or pecorino with walnuts and honey.  But then there was this weird combination of gravy cheese fries with pork sausage gravy, which sounds like something you might find at a bad roadside diner. A romaine salad with fried capers, Parmesan and garlic vinaigrette or a wedge of iceberg with buttermilk blue cheese, roasted tesa and and seived egg, variations aside, are also standard fare.  But the chopped salad with piri-piri peppers, rustica, french fries and salami sounded at first jarred---potatoes with lettuce? The waitress was very enthusiastic about the salad and said it also had a brightness from vinegar that worked with the crunchy/sift potatoes.  It suddenly sounded so intriguing that we had to order it.  

The salad was amazing--lots of crunch from the lettuces and radicchio and then the fried potatoes with their crunchy exteriors and soft centers were set off by the bright overtones of the vinegar.  Further salt was supplied by the slivers of salami and cheese.  This was very creative comfort food.  John ordered a perfect medium-rare skirt steak, with shallot butter, Worcester sauce and French fries.  I had classic fried oysters, with French fries (lots of fries tonight), with a delicious coleslaw with paper-thin slices of red onion, and a delicious house-made tarter sauce (impossible to find these days).  

One of the menu items got my attention was fried chicken served with a waffle. I had recently seen the HBO mini-series of MILDRED PIERCE, starring Kate Winslet.  Mildred opens a chicken and waffle restaurant.  The combination seems odd to me, though it's roots go back to the 19th century America. It seems to me to be a rather heavy dish, but there are several chain restaurants that specialize in fried chicken and waffles, including the singer Gladys Knight

We noticed our neighbors mostly appealing plates--one was a strange-looking Monte Cristo sandwich (never my favorite) with a fried egg on top and she also had those strange gravy cheese fries (I noticed in the Oregonian yesterday that one in four Oregonians is obese). But her friend seemed very enthusiastic about her pizza with mozzarella fior di latte, black oil-cured olives and pepperoni.  On the other side, two guys were tucking into a substantial cheese burger on a brioche roll, and a roasted pork belly sandwich with arugula, red onion, chili mayonnaise and fontina (think I'll try that on my next visit).  

Dessert was a shared dish of soft-serve honey-vanilla ice cream with a hard crust of salted chocolate.  It was outstanding, evoking memories of Mr. Softy ice cream cones from my youth with the adult addition of salt to the crunch of dark chocolate.  

I walked into SUNSHINE TAVERN ready to pounce and bounce attitude off of every wall.  I still don't like a no-reservation policy.  It's too noisy.  But the food is delicious and well-priced, the wait-staff is friendly and efficient, and the guy at the door knows how to quickly disarm demanding customers and make them feel welcome.  

The owners of this new casual dining spot also own Lincoln, a highly regarded restaurant in North Portland. I haven't been there, but it's often included in round-ups of the city's best restaurants.  Co-Owner/chef, Jenn Louis, has created an interesting concept of updated and thoroughly modern as well as  familiar foods with big, bold flavors that are very appealing.  I'll be back often and must now also check on Lincoln.   

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


In one of the worst-timed premiers for a TV show, Disney and HG TV have collaborated on MY YARD GOES DISNEY, which is so bad, so tone-deaf, so wrong in its approach that I can't even watch a complete episode.  Here's how HG-TV describes this new entry:

In each episode of My Yard Goes Disney, lucky homeowners get a jaw-dropping makeover inspired 
by Disney Parks that's worthy of major family playtime.

At a time when the country is bogged down in the worst recession since the Great Depression of 1929 and with millions out of work, the timing of this show couldn't be worse.  Viewers are treated to the spectacle of middle-class families, spending $thousands of dollars to create a Disney-like theme park for their ultra-spoiled children in their back yards. Suddenly large yards of homeowners are invaded by battalions of workers, digging swimming pools, building castles, railroads, and other nonsense, so that their "adorable" kids can experience the Disney profit machine in the comforts of their homes.  I sat there slack-jawed at the mind-numbing insensitivity of the concept.  What sort of message is Disney and HG TV trying to send here.  And people complain about the wretched excess of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills!

I went over the HG website looking in vain for something more substantial here, such as Disney and HG donating services and materials to a worthy family, but no such luck.  It's all-out consumerism with a capital C and is obscene.  Disney even promotes visits to its theme parks on the HG website page for the show.

I expect a certain amount of programming insanity with programs such as Cupcake Wars and various down-market programming such as cake decorating contests over at the Food Network.  HG, which owns the Food Network, has remained above the fray when it comes to tacky programming.  But MY YARD GOES DISNEY represents a new low in programming.  I'm surprised that either Disney and HG are slumming in this kind of collaborative consumer excess.  Shame on both of them.


The July 4th weekend was off to an ominous start with the sad news that two friends, ages 49 and 62, lost their jobs recently. I'm mentioning their ages, because as Washington, D.C. dithers over the debit ceiling with Republicans demanding cuts in Social Security and Medicare, it's more than time to mention the dirty little secret that nobody mentions.  Once you reach a certain age in the United States of America, corporate America doesn't want you. There's no incentive to keep you there.  It is assumed that you will get sicker as you age and therefore cost the company in terms of productivity and insurance premiums--all of it untrue.  What is true is that senior corporate workers generally tend to make more money than younger employees, so by ridding themselves of this more expensive workforce, companies save more money.  

We also have fewer jobs to go around, and that favors younger workers--and that, I suppose is fine.  But what are people expected to do in-between the time they get laid off, and retirement age?  I don't hear anything about this in the national conversation.  Jobs are scarce and many people of my generation are sinking towards retirement, their next eggs exhausted from having to keep the roofs over their heads until a new job or social security arrives.  That means a leaner retirement than previous generations who didn't have to worry about an honorable retirement after a full adult life of employment.  

My 49-year-old friend spent approximately eight months searching for a new job and when he got it, found himself in the middle of office politics, not of his making, and was out on the street again after a mere four months.  It took six months to get the job he's just be let go from.  He's been in the position for approximately two years.  My 62-two-year-old friend worked in the fashion business in sales and marketing and found herself "over the hill" in her mid-40s.  She got a job working for a magazine and was happy doing that for nine years and then in a budget crunch got let go.  It took her eight months to find work, this time at a publishing house.  It lasted over six years, until a budget crunch eliminated her position--a mere three and a half years before she is set to retire. 

Another girlfriend has been out of work a year and a half now.  There are no jobs for this hard-working PR executive who had a very nice career for many years.  She still has seven years to go until she can retire and she's terrified she will only have her social security to fall back on when she does retire.  

This is not a question of retraining.  And a year and a half of unemployment insurance is not going to help.  Rather than the cut-cut-cut mantra of the Republican party, Washington would be better advised to sit down with the banking and corporate community and figure out ways to put America back to work. Stepping off my soapbox now.

Rhubarb syrup made from scratch.

I was out in the garden, on my knees planting New Guinea Impatience over the 4th of July weekend. Of course once you start, you notice so many other things demand your attention. I decided  to re pot a jade plant that was outgrowing its pot in my bedroom, and then, added newly rooted coleus to my balcony planters.  

Summer blew into Portland at last this weekend.  Even July 4th was brilliantly sun-shiny with gorgeous clear blue skies and a few lazy clouds.  This means one has to tend to the garden with diligence--no slacking off.  

The real pain of the summer garden is the watering.  How I wish I had a house that had a sprinkler system installed (it's very expensive) and on a timer.  My friend, Trish who does have an important garden, has this kind of system, which she treated herself to this year. But I must water on my own. I just gave the grass it's first drink and it heaved an audible sight of relief.  Between Beau's daily waterings and the lack of the hose getting anywhere near that small patch (and I do mean patch) in my backyard, it was looking sad. When my brother Scott was here in the early spring, we re-seeded the empty patches, which is like trying to grow hair on a bald man.  Rogaine will take you only so far. The spring rains were doing the watering chores and there was some sprouting (like peach fuzz on a bald pate), but it was pathetic.  Meanwhile the grass that was there was growing out of control.  Beau wouldn't even walk in it because he'd disappear. 

About three weeks ago, I made the decision to mow it. But the grass was so high, I feared it would clog the mower. So I took the weed whacker to it and within 30 second the machine turned off by itself, the plastic thingies that "whack" the weeds, twisted on themselves and were snarled up in the mechanism.  I had to hired a professional mower! 

My friend, Robert came over and gave me a two-hour lesson on how to operate the mower (didn't know how to use it), the weed whacker (there was more string underneath a cap--WHO KNEW?), and the leaf blower (it has a clutch or a choke, or something like that).  I shouldn't be allowed to operate heavy machinery. 

The week before, we had a farmer's market open on my birthday.  Trish and I went to check it out.  The vegetable vendor who can be found in her local farmer's market in Hollywood, was there on Sunday.  He's got great prices. I found a big bunch of Italian parsley for 50 cent!  He was selling gorgeous ruby red rhubarb and I bought two pounds at $1.75 a pound--it's $3-4.00 everywhere else.  

Back at home, I opened this gorgeous new cookbook that I'm reviewing called HEARTLAND, and there was a recipe for Rhubarb Syrup. The header on the recipe suggested the syrup was great for pancakes, French toast or waffles, but that didn't interest me at all.  What I was interested in was using the syrup as a basis for a Country Girl Cosmo or a Margarita.  Since I already had the vodka in the house, I went with the Cosmo.  The syrup has beautiful color and was easy to make. I froze half of the syrup for future use, and made the cocktails on Sunday when John came over for dinner.  It's a pity they call it a Country Girl Cosmo--makes it sound like such a sissy drink but it is anything but.  Yes the ladies will love the color, but it's got a good kick to it.  In addition to the rhubarb syrup, it has a tiny trace of orange extract, and lime juice. 

Country Girl Cosmos made with Rhubarb Syrup

Beau's diarrhea is back with a vengeance, and frustrated with my vet and angry they couldn't see us last Friday, I found a new vet, which is a bit of a schlep since it's about 20 minutes south of my home, but we may have an answer this week. The vet thinks it might be his pancreas that is giving him troubles. And I may put him on a total hypo-allergenic diet of duck and potatoes or bison and potatoes.  Beau woke up from his nap on Wednesday and he could barely walk and was listless all day Thursday.  Friday morning, he wouldn't eat and that alarmed me. Because it was the start of a holiday weekend, we couldn't get a vet to see him. The vet bill is its usual horrendously high self. I spent nearly $300 at the vet in March and this new bill was over $400--$274 of it was a blood test to determine if the problem is pancreatic. By Friday night, Beau was out of bed and demanding dinner. It was like nothing had happened to him. Other than the diarrhea, he's been his usual ebullient self. 

I brought him with me to Trish and David Hamilton's house for dinner on their lovely terrace.  It was a magical night weather-wise, and Trish grilled salmon wit peaches, and served it with a wild rice, fennel and grape salad and a mixed green salad.  We finished dinner with a rhubarb crisp, coffee and a delicious bottle of Oregon-grown pinot noir (a lot more drinkable than any California pinot noir I've ever drunk). Beau has little patience for the Hamilton's French Bull Dog, Porter.  I love this impish, always-in-trouble two-year-old dog.  Beau will start telling Porter off and chest bumping him.  I finally put him in my lap where he stayed as long as my thighs held out, before he moved over to Trish's lap. 

It is often said that summer doesn't really arrive in Portland until after July 4th.  Certainly that was true in 2010 and now this year.  We're do for another three days of this glorious sunshine.  So let Portland summer #3 commence.