Monthly Archives: January 2013

Finishing the Hat

Finishing the Hat.


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I find that my dearest of the Jane Austen novels remains Persuasion. Delicate and insightful, biting and awfully funny in a restrained way startling you with unexpected drama that arises naturally out of the characters and their flaws and strengths. But thinking of the beginning I find myself considering how it fits, as so often Austen does, into a commentary most current and urgent.


Anne Elliot the daughter, the Elliot family’s man of business and the nosy neighbor sit down with the man “of means” Sir Elliot, who needs for the first time in his life to live within those means.  But it’s not simply that he needs to live a reformed life that fits his assets – he needs to live well below his old style, such that he can repay the debts he has incurred. He must retrench.


This is a reflection we might take for ourselves. We need to deal with retrenching in terms of our lives and our planet.  We have so far overspent we need to seriously re-budget our lifestyles and expectations – well below what we now take as expected. This may be as unwelcome a thought to us as retrenching was to Sir Elliot, but if we wish to have our next two or perhaps more generations experience reasonable comfort, we must consider and act upon this unwelcome assessment.


I live in a small city so I take the bus instead of driving. Our family tries hard to do no more than one shopping run a week, to organize our needs so we aren’t dashing off for missing components of dinner or the screws to hang my next show of paintings. We grow a part of our food, probably not enough, and make efforts to conserve on our utilities and water. Yet my profile, trimmed back though it is, still would require many earths for everyone to live as I do. As I keep reminding myself… we only have one.


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Ghosts in the Yard

            If your headlights rake across my yard tonight you’re going to see ghosts, some in plaid, some blue and others in floral jammies. It’s not what it seems. It’s the weather we’re having. Global temperature shifts have derailed the normal Jet Stream pattern and So Cal is freezing. Twenty seven degrees Farenheit last night, I kid you not.

            That means one thing to me. As the shadows stretch across the lawn I go out with all the old sheets and blankets that are no longer bed-worthy, and swaddle or tent my tender plants. Thank goodness most are weather hardy, but I am still picking hot peppers off my jalapeno, habanero Thai and Serrano plants and I want to coddle them into continuing. They get some fine soft blankets of long memory. My neighbor across the street asked if an electric blanket would be my next effort.

            I also tent the papaya, orchids, young snowpeas, cycads, Szechuan Peppercorn, Pandorea, Tibouchina and the Greyia. All teetering on the edge of their temperature tolerances in a year like this, all loyal performers. As said, I’m glad that most of my citrus and vegetables are frost hardy, but there’s still work to do.

            Past years with younger exotic plants I had much more scuttling about to do. The ghosts looked some years like a convention, shapes leaning in together as though to share some secret or an improper joke. The super vulnerable exotics became lanterns, with lights strung under the tenting sheets, extension cords running back to the house. It was a spectacle. Plant lovers unite. The shadows grow long and the hour has come for all good souls to come to the aid of their plants.


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Nigerian Schoolboys

Nigerian Schoolboys

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January 12, 2013 · 12:30 am

food to make a cat weep

It’s chilly. Time for an oven-stewed/roast chicken and stuffed pasillas.

Take a small chicken and pepper it well. Salt lightly. For a low-cholesterol diet I skin the bird first — I am not looking for crispies, but if you are fortunate enough to skip the step, feel free! Marinate it in about one cup of unflavored yoghurt (I use the Greek fat free type) mixed with a half cup of seasoned rice wine vinegar and a large onion sliced thin. Add about eight mashed pickled jalapenos, Mexican style. (I make my own and they should be sweet-hot for best effect.) Taste before you put the chicken in. This should be a sweet sour hot flavor between the vinegar and onions and jalapenos with the yoghurt having a balancing effect. I like the chicken to marinate in the fridge for about half a day, but if you’re in a rush it will taste good even assembled at the last. Before cooking it in a 325 Farenheit oven I  turn the bird breast down, which helps the white meat stay succulent.

Most birds take about an hour and three quarters in a heavy enameled lidded pot. Here again it depends if you want the roasted effect or a stewed version. Lid on with the heavy pot will give you stewed and is the best method if you’ve skinned your chicken. Lid off is fine for a roasted effect.

Some like the meat just cooked through, I like it falling off the bones. At the end of cooking I will thicken the sauce that has formed and add perhaps another three or four pickled jalapenos. If I have plenty of time the best way to thicken the sauce is to reduce it — there will be quite a lot of juice in the pot, but if you take it down to about half or one third the original volume it will have great flavor. I find this dish salty enough because of the pickles but this is a good time to check and see if you want a dash more. This is fine with rice and a side dish of guacamole, accompanied by corn and goat cheese stuffed pasillas…

Oh, you wanted that recipie too?  Take about six good sized fresh pasilla peppers, wash and dry, then scorch the skins over your gas burner. If you have a daughter like mine she will come into the kitchen and make faces about how it stinks. Sometimes the cats complain too — have you ever seen a cat cry? Well, I have. Tears. Really.

Scorch the peppers until well-blistered and blackening with the structure going tender, then wrap them fast in a hand towel so that they can steam for about fifteen minutes more. Unwrap and wash off all the black bits under running water. (Do not rub your eyes or lips of any sensitive part of your skin without washing thoroughly first with soap to remove the essential oils that carry the capsaicin.) Slit open the peppers and remove the seeds. Don’t worry if they tear — it will not matter. You can keep the little tops on them if you think they should be well-dressed.

Now I have heard rumors that you can roast the peppers in a very hot oven until they blister, but I have never tried it. I like the smoky taste this method gives.

Mix together about a half cup of soft white goat cheese with an egg and three cups of frozen corn (thaw the corn slightly first or your fingers will complain,) and use this to stuff the scorched peppers. If you like you can process the mix in a food processor. You will need to add about a quarter cup of milk if you do the processing and don’t overdo it– the kernels are best fairly intact. Place stuffed peppers in a greased baking dish and bake alongside your chicken for between forty minutes and an hour of the cooking time.

Let your cats have the gizzard and heart to pay for their tears.


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A New Year’s present to you!

In case you missed the chance in November, here you are! My novel Night Must Wait is a free Kindle download today through January 3! Just go to If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download a free Kindle app. here for your computer:
Once you download the Kindle app., you can buy ebooks and read them on your computer without actually owning a Kindle.

Pass it on to anyone you know!

All my best wishes for a healthy and happy new year!


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