Oddities and Obsessions

tomato-plantYou had the nice. Now here’s the not so nice. I recently wrote about finding peace, love, and deeper friendship through agriculture; specifically, growing tomatoes with my friend Mark. Peace, love and light through Heirlooms. It was a lovely piece. Upbeat and cheery, not too “come to the commune”. Just right for a lazy morning read over coffee.

That was before. Before death and destruction arrived. Before my nightly ritual of spraying Simple Green natural product detergent and decorating the chicken wire fencing with sheets of fabric softener got upped to saving the fort status. Before the arrival of …The Squirrel from Hell.

At first I thought my nemesis was a rat. A canyon rat. Can’t be helped here in the canyons there are actually hill mice (rats to my mind) and we do have to deal with them. So I set about dealing with this one, or two with all of the tools I could muster thanks to Google. SOS aka Brillo pads around every single crevice of my planter that I thought they could squeeze through, was my particular favorite.

The blue grey fat squares mixed nicely with the white sheets of fabric softener which I also was led to believe would do the trick. When our weekly housekeeper came and wondered where her supplies had disappeared to I casually said, forget laundry, forget the dishes, I‘ll take care of you come harvest time!

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grizzlyadams1974.jpg Does anyone remember Grizzly Adams, the movie and tv show from the 1970s about that woodsman who was wrongfully accused of a crime and set off to live the life of a trapper somewhere in the mountains? Of course you do. All God’s creatures loved him and he ended up with that cute little bear companion named Ben.  I remember it too, and boy did I love it (this may explain a certainly affinity I have towards bears but this is so not the place to address this and besides, I’m married and all that happy stuff.)  I remember thinking how thrilling it must have been for Mr. Adams (played by Dan Haggerty) to do what he wanted to without being bothered by anyone. I also remember how hard it must have been for him to do without ZOOM (or any other TV show for that matter), Tang, Atari and Toughskin Jeans from Sears.

But my biggest concern for Mr. Adams was food. What did he do? Did he have to learn to kill his own food? And what about foraging for nuts and berries? And how did he know what was safe and what was off limits? Did he have the internet? There wasn’t even an internet in the 70s so, what, did he have access to all those encyclopedias from the grocery store that you’d buy each time you went for milk and eggs? And whose bright idea was that, anyway? You don’t go to the Library for chuck steak, why would you buy books other than Mad Magazine at the grocery store? Huh, Mom? Someone answer me please I have been alone for 6 days and my dogs are starting to ignore me please anyone Grizzly Mr. Haggerty anyone please!!!!!!!!!!!

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chef jeff blandIn celebration of National Tartan Day (yep, there is such a thing), we are sharing an amazing recipe by Scottish Chef Jeff Bland to help capture the spirit and character of Scottish Americans and recognize their many contributions to our culture and our way of life. Personally we with we were in Scotland eating this at his Michelin-starred restaurant, but this should be the next best thing.

Loin of Perthshire Venison with Wild Mushrooms, Creamed Potatoes and Chestnuts.

Courtesy of Chef Jeff Bland at The Balmoral in Edinburgh

(8 portions)


1kg Boneless trimmed loin of Venison
300g Fresh wild mushrooms
650g Maris Piper Potatoes
75g Chestnuts (peeled and cooked)
12 baby leaks
1 carrot (cut into 16 ribbons)
2 cloves of crushed garlic
50g Shallots
1 glass red wine
Oil (for cooking)
Butter (for cooking)

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1stpastaLast year at this time I wrote about eating pasta twice a day every day we were in Umbria. It seemed impossible to think about a lunch or dinner without beginning it with a bowl of spaghetti, ravioli, gnocchi or strangozzi.

Well, we’re here again, thank god, but I’ve cut my caloric intake in half. Well, I don’t know if that’s exactly true — but the intent is there.

My lunch — every day — is made expressly for me by Jill, my newly-inspired kitchen magician on her Italian-version Nutribullet. Yes, every day she brings me a large glass filled with the extractions of various raw vegetables, fruits and nuts. She’s gotten very creative, adding fresh ginger one time, red pepper another, mint a third. It’s a health-conscious festival!

And for dinner, I’m Hoovering in the pasta just like in the old days. The first night we went, as we always do on the first night, to the Palazzaccio, where I had their spaghetti alla benedettina, which is in a wonderfully subtle tomato and fresh bay laurel sauce.

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First of all, I thought, no, assumed, I was popular, and all kinds of people were going to be asking to take me out to celebrate. I didn’t throw myself a party which I often do, so then I was thinking that some of my party regulars will get that I’m wanting to celebrate with every one of them individually, or in small groups. I’m not popular, I’m delusional.

It started kinda great. Two days before my birthday Robin and Libbie took me for a celebratory dinner at the Palm. Then on my birthday, I woke up to an email from Huffington Post saying the piece I wrote had been posted that day. Which I thought was a great sign because the story I wrote is all about my fear of dying at a young age like my mother. Then a small group of girlfriends met me for lunch on the patio of the Malibu Hotel where I was spending the weekend.   We ate, laughed, and I received some lovely gifts and amazing sentimental notes that I will always cherish. Libbie is re-gifting cards to me from our long friendship. So, there was this loving thing I wrote to her in the 1970’s about how beautiful she is and how much I love her, and on the other side she wrote an update to me. Kimberly wrote a card with words that made me cry (Libbie’s card made me cry too). It was going smoothly.

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