Oddities and Obsessions

redwoodcity.jpgSo I’m playing tourist, mooching off my galpal Corinne’s retired Redwood City, CA dream life.  Boy, has she ever set herself up well in her hometown, recently redeveloped into a vacation paradise ideal for a freeloader like me.  Not only is her late parents’ house, in which she grew up, replete with a view of verdant hillsides and well-tended homes – and a large garden full of a festival of fruits in rotating seasons of ripeness – she’s got the sensuous cuddle cat and the darling ditzy dog, and the friendly, easy kind of community about which we all fantasize when things start to sloooow down.

Redwood City has Zydeco dancing for free with a great Cajun group in the renovated town square on Friday nights all summer, in a great contrast of stately buildings and Southern hoedown hick apparel.  It features screenings and dance classes at the local community center every week all year long. People actually picnic in its parks.  It’s got great walking areas, fine dining, funky shops with great one-of a-kind finds, a train station, and, holy shades of civilization, all the familiar franchises plus a Whole Foods with slightly different fare from local farms than the Los Angeles local branch.

They sell ostrich eggs.

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cumcumber-tomato-and-garbanzo-bean-saladThis salad makes a regular appearance at my house. It looks very summery but I serve it all year long, assuming I can get decent tomatoes.

It's almost not even a recipe because there is nothing to putting it together. Some light chopping, opening a can and pouring the seasoned rice vinegar over the top. But it's so delicious, so flavorful. In fact, this would be enough for me to call it a meal. However, I have a husband who claims it's not a meal without meat. So yeah.

I always have these ingredients in my house. I often run out of lettuce but these ingredients are around...always.

The seasoned rice vinegar is the key (not the regular). It's the perfect dressing and it's so low in calories compared to salad dressing. No oil is needed either. Give it 15 minutes to marinate and you are done. I won't tell you how good it is with crusty garlic bread.

Cucumber, Tomato and Chickpea Salad
Serves: Serves 4


2 large vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
1 English cucumber (this is the one without the seeds), chopped
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas (Garbanzo beans)
2 Tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1 cup chilled seasoned rice vinegar (more or less if needed)
freshly ground black pepper


In a large bowl gently toss together tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion and chickpeas with seasoned rice vinegar. Let sit for 15 minutes to marinate, stirring a couple of times. Season with pepper and serve.


Cathy has her own vineyard and winery in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  She is a food writer for Davis Life Magazine and blogs daily about wine, food and everyday living.  She lives with her husband and two sons.  You can visit her at noblepig.com.

postcard-chicagoHave you ever met a famous person and felt let down?  I have.

Years ago, I was obsessed with an actor in a series of television commercials.  Obsessed.  I stopped what I was doing to watch his overly aired ad.  I was in love.  He not only had charisma, but attitude.  Not hot like Johnny Depp or anything, but he possessed that je ne sais quoi.

I just HAD to meet him.  There had been a lot of publicity about him and I knew one thing — he lived in Chicago.  Well, I just happened to be in that very city.  So, I made a few phone calls.  I was an actor in commercials, he was an actor in commercials.  I knew people.  Those people knew his people.  Someone pulled some strings.

A man from a huge ad agency would be picking me up at my hotel.  My actor lived outside the city.  A 45-minute drive.   Some really nice person I didn’t even know was willing to make the introduction.

I’m beyond excited.  I got all geared up, couldn’t sleep the night before.  I never cared much about how I looked, yet I dressed my best.  Put on a little makeup.  I was ready early, waiting for the car in front of the hotel, over-the-top excited.  It would be magic when I met my crush live and in person.  We would run into each other’s arms and he would insist on living with me for rest of his life.  I’m talking non-stop to this random ad agency dude the whole ride out about my deep infatuation.  He’s humoring me, pretending to be in rapt attention.

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 Charlotte Dean

I was reading the waffle recipe that comes with the Toastmaster Waffle Iron and it says that you put ½ cup of batter in your waffle iron to make a 9-inch round waffle.  Seems simple enough. 

About three years ago, I was in Nashville at a weekend songwriting workshop. I stayed at a hotel that claimed to be next door to a Waffle House. To me, when you say “next door,” that means you can walk out one door to the sidewalk then walk up a path to another door.  That’s “next door.”  To get to this particular Waffle House from my hotel I had to hike up a short hill to the highway, walk about 50 feet to the next clearing, then down the same short hill to get to the parking lot of the Waffle House.  Clearly it wasn’t designed for foot traffic from the hotel. Then again, I didn’t really stay in Nashville long enough to explore this design further.

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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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