Thursday, September 25, 2008

Jury Duty

You won't be reading much from me for the next several days - I've been empaneled on a jury so I'm off doing my duty. I thought about writing reviews for restaurants in Martinez, but if you've been there, you know why I decided just to lay low for a few days.

Thanks to for this cartoon. Hope it amuses.

Back soon!

The Garden's Last Gasp

See that ripe, red, juicy, gorgeous Brandywine tomato? I grew that. I'm proud.

I'd be truly puffed up if I had managed to grow more than one, but one is all we got from that plant this year.

Oh, well... at least it was delicious, as perfectly sweet and tasty a tomato as everI have eaten. It fell off the vine into my palm this morning and ended up simply sliced on our plates this evening. Lovely.

Don't stop there! The zucchini boat in the picture also came from the garden, one of those sneaky ones that hides under those platter-sized leaves until it attains approximate shape and heft of a cudgel. I scooped out the seedy part and filled the boat with a mixture of garlic, onion, fennel, sweet pepper, chicken apple sausage ballettes (new word, I just invented it) and little bread cubes, all sauteed in olive oil before inserting in the boats and baking in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Quite tasty.

Oh, there will be another zucchini or two and perhaps a handfull of green beans but this is the last true offering from the funny little garden I planted this year, all tucked in among the daisies and irises. I noticed some strawberry plants at the market this morning and I must admit I was tempted to plant some of those for next year's garden.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Painterly Soup

While we were painting the bathroom, I made a big pot of turkey soup from the bones of a roast I made for cousin Sherry's combination retirement and birthday party. That's the nice thing about soup - lots of time to paint while the bones simmer with the onion and render their goodness into the broth. Strain out the bones and pick off the meat to return to the pot.

I threw in some green beans and zucchini slices from the garden, frozen white corn, fleur de sel, dill weed, fresh ground pepper and some bright red strips of sweet pepper to cook for just a few minutes at the end. Such bright colors to rival what we are doing in the bathroom - and such fresh flavors.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pausing to Paint

We haven't been eating very photogenic meals lately and here's why. I stripped the '70s wallpaper off our bathroom walls, prepped and taped them, and removed the towel bars and TP holder. My Beloved is wielding the roller. Teamwork.

The color is "Flower Pot."
Being a food blogger, I really wanted "Sun Dried Tomato," but "Flower Pot" seemed kinder and gentler first thing in the morning.

Hope to have a tastier post in the near future.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Picasso Salad

Love these late summer salads that end up looking like art work.

Light green romaine on the bottom, raw zucchini ribbons underneath a round of heirloom yellow tomato, two of dry-farmed red tomatoes and topped with purple onion slivers.

Honest, I didn't arrange it - the face just appeared.

Pablo. Colorful guy. Is he winking?


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Frugal Fishy Lunch

This amazing lunch came about through simple frugality, the urge to use up bits and pieces of several things I had on hand - a good-sized piece of puff pastry left over from making the fruit tarts, half a yellow heirloom tomato, most of a can of sardines and half a lemon after making Jamie's Chicken Caesar, a handful of dry farmed Early Girl tomatoes, half a jar of marinated artichoke hearts and a fennel bulb.

After rolling out the puff pastry and painting it with olive oil, I sliced the tomatoes thinly, settled a school of halved sardines on top of them, nestled slivers of artichoke heart in between, sprinkled fresh thyme from the garden and the lemon juice, scattered sliced fennel lightly, and drizzled some of the marinade from the artichoke bottle over the top. Baked it for about 20 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

Killer lunch! My Beloved and I enjoyed every savory bite.

The only thing I'd change would be to use my baking stone next time, as the center of the crust was soggy on my stainless baking sheet.

A final tip: dry farmed tomatoes
- a new idea to me - are da bomb, so richly flavored and concentrated. Apparently, they don't water them at all once they get started so the fruit is smaller but ever so tasty! I'm going back to El Cerrito Natural Grocery, where I found them, today to snag some more.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Puff, the Magic Pastry

After all these years of cooking and baking, I had never before tried puff pastry. It always seemed too complicated to make from scratch and for some reason I just never tried the packaged kind.

I am a convert of the packaged kind.

Having discovered a recipe for an easy rustic pear tart in Sunset magazine last month and having one last lovely fresh pear from Casa Rancho in the fridge, I thought I'd finally break down and try puff pastry from the freezer case.

Sadly, my sentimental favorite, Pepperidge Farm, has gone to using (ick) margarine in their puff pastry so instead I plumped for DuFour brand, new to me but made with real butter. I rolled it out, lined up lovely pear slices on it, brushed with melted Meyer lemon marmalade (the original recipe called for orange marmalade), brushed the edges with egg wash, sprinkled it with just a little turbinado sugar, popped it in the oven and, alakazam! - a beautiful pear tart. Drizzled with creme fraiche.

And forgot to photograph it before it vanished into thin air - presto!

What's a blogger to do? Of course, I made another the very next day, this time with mixed fruits - the last Gravenstein apple from Chilebrown, a nice ripe nectarine and some strawberries - and this one was just as delicious as the all-pear version.

Puff pastry is kitchen magic and I'm a newly initiated wizard.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

In Defense of Mayo

Recently, the subject of mayonnaise has taken on the tone of Obama vs. McCain.

What did mayo do to earn such vitriolic attacks in the blogosphere?

A fairly bland, innocent sauce, it seems inoffensive to me but several blog posts I have read recently talk about mayo as if it is solely responsible for all the obesity and lack of taste in this country.

I understand that too much mayo is not a good thing, that it clogs arteries and coats taste buds equally well when used to excess.

Used sparingly, however, I think it improves lots of foods. For example, fresh, ripe tomato slices are great with a tiny dab of mayo and a generous sprinkling with freshly ground pepper. Belgian fries are sublime with the lemony mayonnaise served in that country. I make a dynamite creamy Caesar dressing using just a tablespoon thinned with lemon juice and mixed with garlic and anchovies. I like it on sandwiches to keep the bread from getting soggy. It is the foundation for great curried deviled eggs. I could go on all day but I don't really need to - I'd just like to ask, what is it about mayonnaise that turns you off?

What did mayo ever do to deserve such scurrilous attacks?


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Jamie's Chicken Caesar

In case you missed the Jamie at Home show where he made this dish, I wanted to bring it to your attention. It is one of the three or four most delicious things we ate this summer.

It's the best Chicken Caesar salad you are likely to find.

Start by tearing up bread into bite-size chunks (Jamie used ciabatta - we've used leftover sourdough baguette), enough to cover the bottom of a roasting pan. Lay a single layer of whole chicken legs with thighs attached, skin side up, over the bread pieces. Lay strips of bacon across the legs and slide the whole thing into a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. When the thickest part of the thighs are pierced, the juice should run clear.

While the chicken and bread are roasting, prepare a Caesar dressing and wash the light green Romaine lettuce leaves. I deleted the show by mistake before I could write down his dressing so I made one from (my sometimes very faulty) memory. I crushed one big clove of garlic and mashed up one small anchovy with the back of a spoon (you can use a small sardine in lieu of the anchovy if you truly hate anchovies) mixing them in a small bowl until the garlic and anchovy are one rather divinely smelly paste. I added the juice of one half a large lemon and about a tablespoon of mayo, mixing all together. This makes about the right amount for two plates of the salad.

When the chicken comes out and is still hot, separate the meat from the bones. Dress the plate by adding a layer of the (now crunchy and deliciously chicken-y) bread, then a layer of chicken meat, then the salad on top, tossed with the dressing before mounding. Sometimes the bacon gets too well done to enjoy but if it's still good, you can crumble it over the salad or simply lay the strips on top. Grate a little good aged Parmesan cheese over the whole lovely pile and you've got a meal fit for the proverbial king - or emperor!

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I'm No Philosopher...

I'm no philosopher. As an adolescent, the nuns in my Catholic school despaired of me. I only took one philosophy course in college, then retreated thankfully to studying easier stuff like biology, chemistry and statistics. I have occasionally read a work about philosophy or religion but I seemed always either not to understand them or, if I do understand them, not to agree. The single exception is a slim volume of "The Way" by Lao Tzu, to which my first husband introduced me; it seemed actually to make some sense. So, recently, when a young friend of mine gave me this book, I was reluctant to crack the cover. I'm not really even sure why I did give it a try - it's on Oprah's reading list and, as I have never had time before or since retirement to watch Oprah, I was inclined to pooh-pooh it (and possibly her).

It's a good book. It's a very good book. In simple language that anyone can understand, Eckhart Tolle explains what consciousness is and how once you start on the road to being conscious, it expands your life. Drawing from religions as diverse as Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism, Tolle shows how each has at its foundation people who saw the importance of "presence," and expressed it beautifully, each in his own tradition.

I haven't read the first book Tolle wrote, "The Power of Now," but this one is really useful, very simply written and yet presenting very complex concepts. I can't explain it nearly as well as he does - all I can do is recommend that you get a copy (it's in paperback now) and read it. I had to take it in little bites as the ideas were simply expressed but not simple ideas. I'm glad I did; I actually think I might enjoy philosophy if it were always so well expressed.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

He Loves Me!, Part Two

In the same shipment with the Dakin Bacon, My Beloved also sent me this box of 50 packets of Westminster Oyster Crackers. We ate these in Michigan this summer and loved them. We also found them here at the Lobster Shack last month. They are the best. Light. Crunchy. A little salty. They are addictive, kinda like MB.

Have you ever heard anything so sweet? I didn't think so.


Monday, September 15, 2008

He Loves Me!, Part One

At the risk of being scorned like poor Sally Field, who took such a drubbing from the press for her remark upon receiving her Academy Award, I'll paraphrase her by saying, "My Beloved loves me! He really loves me!"

I know this because he orders bacon to be delivered to me when he's out of town on business. Sometimes he sends flowers, too, but this time it was cob-smoked bacon from Dakin Farm. Vermont bacon. Is it any wonder the guy makes me feel swoony?

Two packets of this bacon arrived on our doorstep this past week, packed into a box with another surprise, about which I will write tomorrow.

This bacon is deeply smoky and lightly salty. I used some of it to make Jamie Oliver's chicken Caesar salad, the one with chicken legs roasted over torn up bread and topped with his Caesar salad. The bacon was so smoky that its flavor invaded the chicken and improved what I thought was a virtually perfect dish.

I made it for My Beloved's homecoming - to show him that I'm nuts about him, too!

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Payoff

I feel a little guilty. I was raised Catholic, so that's not surprising but, geez, all I did was pick up a sleepy young Englishwoman at the airport and give her a bed overnight, not nearly enough effort to deserve a gift of beautiful bread generously studded with raisins, moistly crumb-y in the center and flavored with spices.

Young Naomi has shared her mother Judy's recipe for the bread with us, first the official one that comes from some long-lost cookery book in England, then later her own tips: here goes!

Judy says: "Soak overnight 1 cup of leftover tea and 1 cup raisins (this bit is crucial for making the raisins really soft). Then add 1 egg, 2 cups of self-raising flour, spice and sugar to taste. Mix and scrape into small-ish loaf tin. Cook 300 degrees F for 1 hour."

Naomi adds: "I usually mix in a few more raisins, and sometimes some more tea, too, if I want a gooey consistency. I've found self-raising flour isn't always enough to make the bread rise, so often add a teaspoon of baking powder too. Usually just a couple of tablespoons max of sugar is sufficient. Normally I use just mixed spice, but for the one I made for you I didn't have any so instead combined some freshly ground all-spice, cloves and a dash of nutmeg. I find 1 hour is usually too long...instead I leave it in at a slightly higher heat (350) for 40 mins or so (check after 30).


I didn't feel so guilty that it kept me from gobbling up the lovely bread, of course! At this rate, I'm going to be meeting every flight from England, holding a sign that says "Bed and Breakfast in Return for Cherished Family Recipes."

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ingenue vs. Siren

We've been having plain sliced peaches for dessert for weeks, which is not exactly a hardship, I admit, but we liked yesterday's black and white dessert so much that I decided to try a riff with peaches.

I used the same Bellwether Farms fromage blanc to fill the middle of halved, pitted peaches and they were delicious as well as deliciously easy.

Note that some of these peaches are darker than others - those are the rest of the smoked peaches we made a few days prior. My Beloved and I can't decide which we preferred - the smoked or the fresh peaches. Both were equally delicious, but quite different.

The fresh peaches and the fresh cheese are naturals together - simple, straightforward in a no-nonsense, stand-up kind of way. The smoked peaches were softer, slightly sweeter, more complex, darker, if you know what I mean - the difference between a light romantic comedy and a film noir drama (with a happy ending).

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Black and White Dessert

Velvety black mission figs stuffed with fromage blanc from Bellwether Farms make a great dessert on a hot summer evening, sweet and savory in the same bite. Eaten on the deck with a view and a light breeze, it may not be heaven but you can see it from there.

It was easy, quick and pretty. All I did was halve the ripe, sweet figs and arrange them on a plate, spoon a generous amount of fromage blanc into a sandwich size plastic bag, cut off a tiny corner of the bag and twist, squeezing the cheese into the corner and out onto the figs.

Easy as falling off a log but I didn't tell My Beloved that.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Heat Wave

We had a heat wave - in fact, two heat waves, so far - here in Northern California. September and October are our warmest months and this year we've already had more than our share of hot days.

We have learned to open all doors and windows at night, then to close up the house early in the morning to keep that cool air inside but, even so, by dinner time, it's too hot to turn on an oven or a burner.

However, the idea of raw pork was shudder-producing, so we decided to barbecue our dinner to beat the heat. The bone-in chops went right on the grill, but away from the direct heat of the fire, giving them a smoky-but-not-burny flavor. The corn, ditto. Delicious, both of them. But the hit of the evening was the peaches.

I "planked" the peaches, cooking them over the direct heat of the fire but shielded by a cedar shingle*, the thin end of which smoldered and smoked, lending its flavor to the sizzling peach halves on top. They were a killer accompaniment to the pork, made sweeter by the concentrating heat of the fire but still with that peach kick that keeps them from being cloying.

Good meal for a heat wave.

*If you want to try this, be sure to ask your local lumberman for untreated cedar shingles - you don't want fire retardant in your food.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ducky Beans

While strolling the Marin farmer's market a few days ago, we visited our favorite Basque stand where they sell wonderful sausages and pate' - this time we were talked into trying some duck breast proscuitto that the proprietor had made. I was thinking of yet another way to use up some of my peaches but when I have unusual ingredients in the house they tend to spark new ideas.

I made tiny, dark purple lardons from a bit of the duck breast, rendering the fat by sauteeing before adding some fresh green beans from the garden, perhaps a day or two past perfect size, so I sliced them on the diagonal. After tossing the beans in the duck fat, I added just a tablespoon or so of water to the pan and butter steamed them in the duck "butter."

The fresh green flavor of the beans lightened the earthy darkness of the prosciutto and each made the other better, tastier, more complete.

My Beloved has a way, when he tastes something he really likes, of just meeting my eyes and then closing his - his way of signaling that he's having a near-religious experience. Language is suspended for the moment by simple savoring. I love that.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Bobbie's Swiss Chard

I never eat Swiss chard without thinking of Bobbie Davenport. She was my mother's best friend, my second mother and my kindred spirit.

Bobbie loved animals. Oh, she adored her family, too - my "other" sisters and brothers and her husband, Butch, about whom I will write at some other time - but she was known all over her area of Michigan as a lover of animals of every description.

Over the years, the Davenports kept as pets a blue jay, a fox, a woodchuck, some crows, squirrels and rabbits, lots of baby birds fallen from nests and several raccoons - one of which crashed her daughter's wedding and nearly stole the show - not to mention countless dogs, cats and a couple of horses. As an animal lover myself, it's no wonder she was my hero and my mentor.

She lived most of her life in a sprawling, welcoming house with thick field stone walls, enormous beams and wide plank floors, fashioned from an old barn. It was to that house that I and my family came frequently for visits during our peripatetic life in the Navy. It was our base, the place that never changed in a life of constant flux. Her children were roughly our ages, so we all got along well when we weren't fighting like true sisters and brothers.

She knew how to raise just about any wild animal baby to an age when it could be released to survive on its own - and she was admittedly a little, er, eccentric. She solidified her reputation for kookiness when they had a fire which took the whole second story off their house. The phone rang while the fire brigade was still there and a woman asked for instructions on raising a wild foundling; Bobbie sat down and proceeded to give her the recipe for the "squirrel milk" she used for many of her wild orphans, interrupting to return to removing possessions only when the woman became chatty about how cute the baby was, saying calmly "You'll have to excuse me now - my house is on fire."

Bobbie had a big vegetable patch out beyond her lovely flower garden and in season it yielded all kinds of fresh produce. Corn, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, spinach - it all came to the table and was devoured by the hungry hoard. But, no Swiss chard. Oh, she planted and tended it, weeded and watered it, but try as she would, year after patient year, she could never keep the Swiss chard away from the woodchucks.

The woodchucks loved the chard and gobbled it up as soon as it poked its tender leaves above the ground. Bobbie railed at the woodchucks each summer, threatening darkly to get her rifle out and end their miserable, chard-stealing lives. We children, of course, thought that was hysterically funny, coming from the world's most dedicated animal lover. Our smothered giggles just made her even angrier. We were secretly grateful to the woodchucks for sparing us from the dreaded Swiss chard.

My Beloved introduced me to my first Swiss chard - we never got any at Davis Lane because the woodchucks always won and Bobbie never did carry out her dire threats. His version is the one I make most frequently, a simple preparation of softening garlic chips in butter in a wide pan and adding the washed Swiss chard with just the water clinging to the leaves, tossing the leaves until they relax and go soft in the buttery pan before serving.

Each time I make Swiss chard, this summer from my own garden, I remember Bobbie Davenport and the summers we spent with her, raising baby animals and cursing the woodchucks.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Fall Colors

Who says the Left Coast doesn't have spectacular fall colors?

This amazing display of peppers was at the Marin farmer's market last week.

Take that, Vermont!

Sunday, September 7, 2008


The most recent Sunset magazine ran a quick and easy recipe that was easily the most delicious thing I've eaten this summer - halibut kabobs with bread chunks and pancetta.

All you do is cut halibut into 2" chunks, do the same with some nice artisan bread (Sunset recommends ciabatta; we used leftover sourdough baguette) and toss the fish and bread in a little olive oil into which you have snipped fresh rosemary.

Let them stand in the herbal oil for about five minutes, then thread them onto skewers with bacon running over, under and between each piece (the recipe called for thin-sliced pancetta but I didn't have any in the house). Grill for about 7-10 minutes and devour!

Sheesh, I hardly had time to take a quick-and-dirty picture before we devoured these!

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

An Abundance of Peaches

My neighbors love me this year. I am building good karma by giving them dozens and dozens of peaches. In contrast to the rest of my garden, which hasn't exactly been a cornucopia this year, our peach tree is laden with fruit and drops at least a dozen peaches a day. So, I give them away, eat them fresh with every meal, and still look for new ways to enjoy peaches.

Trolling the internet for recipes, I came across this one for a peach cake - and now I can't recall where I found it! Senior Moment - sorry! If this looks like your recipe, please let me know and I'll credit you with copious apologies.

Anyway, it's basically a single-layer, very buttery spice cake baked with fresh sugared peach slices on top. As it bakes, the peaches soften and the cake batter rises to surround them. The recipe calls for a springform cake pan but I couldn't find mine so I made it in this fluted pan with the removable bottom and the batter was thick enough that it didn't leak through.

The recipe called for walnuts in the batter, too, but I forgot to add them so I sprinkled some on top instead to crisp as the cake baked and I did like the interplay of the lightly crunchy nuts and the soft peach cake.

Because my peaches are not all that sweet, I sprinkled the top lightly with maple sugar instead of the powdered sugar the recipe recommended and that was a home run - really a nice flavor complement to the fruit.

Next time I go out into my neighborhood giving away peaches, I hope I can find the recipe and include that with the peaches, too!


Friday, September 5, 2008

Peaches and Cheese

Since our peach crop came in with a rush in these warm late-summer days, we are eating lots and lots of peaches. For breakfast, on granola. For dessert, in cakes and cobblers. I haven't figured out how to showcase them as a main course yet but I'm working on it - maybe smoked with roast pork... I'll let you know how it turns out.

Perhaps my favorite way to eat them, so far, is simply peeled, sliced and eaten plain with a dab of chevre on the fork. The meltingly sweet-tart fruit and the tangy chevre excite nerve endings on my tongue that don't usually sing together so the tune is a little ragged but attention-getting. I could write a song about the combination of chevre and peaches.

Cheese and peaches, peaches and cheese,
Dance on the tongue, sweet-tart as you please.
Down in the garden, dropping each day
More and more peaches are falling away
From branches still laden with fruit
Cheese made from goat's milk will surely suit
To enhance the flavors of both fruit and cheese
So please give me even more peaches and cheese!

Okay, okay, I can hear you groaning out there. Enough bad poetry for one day!

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Musical Fruit

This summer, we are playing Musical Fruit. Several area food bloggers and friends have gardens this year with some overlap in produce but we each have a surfeit of fruit the others don't have so we are moving bags of lovely local produce from one house to another. Like the old game of musical chairs, except nobody loses!

Chilebrown and Ms. Goofy gave me apples, chilis and tomatoes; they got two nice bags of peaches. Cookiecrumb brought me pears from her overabundant tree; I gifted her with more of the peaches from my own Type A tree, and included some extra bay leaves from the box of spices Sam and Naomi gave me when they came to dinner. I sent S & N home with a bag of peaches, too, by the way. My neighbors always give me cheerful greetings and occasional baked goods - so, this year, each had a surprise bag of peaches hanging from their doorknobs. Cousin J-Yah gifted us with pears and strawberries - bet you can guess what we reciprocated with.

These are some of Chilebrown's tomatoes, simply dressed with fresh mozzarella, a crumble of chevre (we loved the mild/tangy combo of cheeses) and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette. I'm making a tart today with Cookiecrumb's pears. We devoured J-Yah's strawberries fresh with a little fromage blanc. I hope they are all having fun, too, with my musical peaches.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Windfall Profits

Today, when the oil companies are making huge profits off our sorry selves, I was annoyed until I realized that I made windfall profits of my own this year.

I invested nothing in my huge crop of peaches except the occasional dousing with water from the shower. No fertilizer, petrochemical or otherwise. No pesticides whatever - it seems that bugs don't bother with peaches' fuzzy skin. The energy came direct from the sky in the form of abundant California sunshine. Even the tree itself was a gift.

So, I guess I can't complain much when I fill the tank of my reasonably fuel-efficient car. My kind of windfall profits are even better than Exxon's.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Meaty Lunch

When I make this lunch for My Beloved, I always get a growl of appreciation - he loves raw beef!

It couldn't be easier. All you do is cube a fresh and tasty but tough cut of grass-raised beef, such as bottom round, and whack it up in the food processor in one-second bursts until it becomes chopped steak.

He could live without the multicolored cherry tomatoes and the lettuce leaf but I insist on the niceties of civilization, even when he eats beef that still has a blood pressure.

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Monday, September 1, 2008

Dad's Birthday

I guess you could call me a "Daddy's girl," although both Dad and I would have cringed at that description. Much too twee for us. We shared a corny sense of humor and delighted in naughty jokes, once I was old enough that he thought I might have heard a few before. I miss the silly laughter.

We also loved arguing about politics in the evening
over drinks on his lanai. He always said I was a tree-hugging, liberal hippie freak and I told him he was slightly to the right of Ivan the Terrible - you can imagine how spirited our discussions were. With deep mutual respect, we still enjoyed sneering at one another's political views as Mom sat by, rolling her eyes to heaven. I miss those wrangles, especially in election years. I know he'd have voted for McCain as he admired the man when he was a junior officer in Dad's command; I'd be in the booth canceling out Dad's vote come November.

Neither of us had any musical talent whatever but we enjoyed listening to music. He kept his stereo equipment in an old blanket chest with the wires running through a knothole he knocked out of the back; each evening after work when we were growing up, he'd put on a record and make a martini for himself and my mother, and they'd have a quiet cocktail hour before dinner. His selection of music ranged from Fats Waller's stride piano to Martin Denny, broadway musicals, early jazz and some classical. To this day, I can sing (very badly) all the words to "Two Sleepy People" and "Your Feets Too Big," and all of the Ella Fitzgerald Sings Cole Porter and South Pacific albums. I miss that music.

Dad loved raquet sports and played tennis nearly every day of his life. He was the Hawaii State tennis champion for his age group at 75. He maintained that he won that title because all the other competitors came to the matches on canes and walkers; that self-deprecating charm was as much a part of him as his warm brown eyes. I miss those eyes.

He bought his first computer at age 83 and used it frequently for email and word processing, although he cursed his Macintosh roundly whenever it crashed or refused to do his bidding. He bought the same kind as I had so he could phone me for instructions whenever he got stuck. He had the Irish gift of gab and could make even silly little incidents sound like fun. One time, when he hadn't printed anything in a long time, he turned on the printer to find that a whole colony of Hawaiian ants had taken up residence in his printer and came streaming out, carrying their babies over their heads, when he turned it on. We had a good chuckle over that one.

My Dad went to heaven 10 years ago, shortly after his 86th birthday; today would have been his 96th.

Happy Birthday, Dad. Save me a place on the Heavenly Lanai - I need a few fresh jokes, we still have some political issues to argue about, most modern music just doesn't do it for me, and I haven't had a gin and tonic since you left!