halibuttacos.jpgBuying fish used to be easy. You'd go to the seafood store, look in the case, select your fish, and go home to cook. Nowadays, it's a lot more complicated. If you're pregnant, you need to avoid mercury-rich fish; farm-raised fish are good, except for when they're bad; some species which are endangered still show up on the menus of restaurants. All of this leads to confusion and often frustration on the part of many consumers.

What should you do? Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch website. The Seafood Watch program "helps consumers and businesses make healthy choices for healthy oceans" by guiding you through these murky waters.

The folks at Seafood Watch share their "seafood recommendations" which are organized by geographic region, teach you about pressing ocean issues, provide sustainable seafood recipes, and even show you how to get involved in the cause. Best of all, you can acquire an app that will help you when you're in the market shopping for fish.

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summer-dinner-party.jpg There are as many ‘personal chefs’ in Palm Beach as there are swimming pools.  I see them in their white chef coats and Mario Batali crocs at Publix Super Market chatting each other up as they fondle the passion fruit.  I have had to resist the urge to run up to them and say, “I personally know Wolfgang Puck … personally!”

Palm Beach residents love to dine together.  Restaurants flourish, but elegant dinner parties reign! They always have.

So, what does one do in a town where an intimate sit down dinner is for forty people? If one is a Texas DNA challenged, Left Coast Malibubi, “Y’all come on over and I’ll cook up something” works. During the season of Madoff, a small home cooked dinner - while not the rage – does earn a few sophisticated nods of approval. Besides, it gives me a certain pleasure to psychically push aside the personal chefs at Publix so that I too can fondle the passion fruit with the same sense of authority!

Trying to find something different that is relatively easy to do at the last minute and actually tastes good is the goal.  I have gone through the various BBQ and Mexican dinner menus, all of which were adored by my if-I-see-one-more-beef-tornado-on-my-plate-I-will-scream friends. And, I do relish their fawning looks of gratitude over the unexpected but delicious déclassé fare!

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wizarddorthyAh, we’re off once again to see the wizard, played by, in his newest incarnation, James Franco. Apparently, according to a recent story on NPR, there are 8 other Oz-related projects in the works, and I suspect that the reason for this recent surge in interest has to do with the boom in dystopian literature and film. The 1939 film adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz was a dreamscape antidote to the Great Depression, The Hunger Games of its time, as its central character, the unsinkable Dorothy Gale, and her little dog, too, took off to have a series of adventures— only to be quite happy, at the end, in true Hollywood romance fashion, to return to the home that she was once so desperate to leave. Like Katniss Everdeen prepping for the opening ceremony on the eve of the hunger games, Dorothy cleaned up nicely at the Emerald City Beauty Salon, and like Katniss, Dorothy was plucky and brave.

Unfortunately, Dorothy is what’s missing from Oz the Great and Terrible, for this is a prequel. And this version gives us something quite different: one part buddy film (the main buddy being a monkey—surely viewers can’t help but think of the 2011 Rise of the Planet of the Apes, in which Franco spent a good amount of time with a chimp), and one-part Updikian Witches of Eastwick. The 1939 MGM musical and the current film are, of course, only two among many adaptations, which began shortly after the novel’s publication in 1900. Baum himself wrote two versions for the stage. And when there are remakes and sequels, a blockbuster prequel is sure to follow, so this latest development shouldn’t surprise us. (There is a rumor of a sequel to this prequel— let’s not go down that yellow-brick road for now).

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originalcheeseThree years ago, I walked into one of LA’s many Whole Foods stores and saw a pint box of Del Cabo Organic Cherry Tomatoes for $4.99. Wouldn’t buy those here, I thought, because Trader Joe’s always has them for $2.99. Three days later, I was in the 99¢ Only store and, I swear on a stack of tomato crates, they had the same box of cherry tomatoes for, yes…99¢. Of course you can’t possibly rely on dollar stores for your grocery needs, because their stock is limited, constantly changing, and rarely of the Del Cabo quality. But finding these upscale tomatoes at the discount store where I go to buy gift bags and sink stoppers really drove home the point that prices for the same foods can vary wildly depending on where you shop.

Soon after this accidental lesson in comparative pricing, something else happened which cemented my conviction that shopping around can pay significant dividends, especially if you’re on a fixed budget:

I had a delicious sheep’s milk brie, called Brebirousse d’Argental, at a friend’s party, so I asked where he’d bought it. The answer was a local, artisanal cheese shop, the only one for miles and miles. I drove there the next day, but when they said the Brebirousse cost $48 a pound, I nearly choked. (“I’m sorry,” I thought, “did I say caviar? I meant cheese.”) I left the store empty-handed but determined to find this oozy, aromatic mass at a price I could afford. And I should say that I really enjoy this kind of a challenge; it’s a treasure hunt to me.

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female_mannequin.jpgEvery time I see a naked mannequin, I just want to stick one finger out, point, and yell “NAKED MANNEQUIN!”

I can’t be the only one, and I certainly can’t be the only one who has wanted to dress that naked mannequin up in a summer outfit just so I could invite him or her—or it—out for tea time in Central Park.

Yes, certainly, we’d have a tea party as lovely as the Mad Hatter’s on a blanket spread out on the Great Lawn. Although, I’d leave the invite for the Red Queen behind, because she’d surely be too delighted with how easy it would be to “be off with it’s head—that is, if the mannequin I window shopped for on 5th Avenue had a head at all!

But we’d sit for hours in the sun…me the Mad Hatter, and the mannequin, the Alice to my imaginary Wonderland-ah yes, it’d be the perfect tea party for two. Both of us, pale, and in serious need of SPF 50, we’d sprawl out across my blanket, and we’d laugh about the kids swinging and missing in their game of wiffle ball, and we’d compliment the jazz performers we could hear off in the distance, and above all, we’d share stories.

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