Monday, August 31, 2009

Fire Season

Yesterday reached 105.8 degrees F in Diamond Bar. We are far enough away that the fires are not a threat to us.
But with the acreage charred, the air quality is what you would expect when the skies are khaki beige. Not good anywhere in the LA Basin.
May God be with those whose lives are on the line for the sake of people they may not even know.

These photos are from Acton, California, by way of 'Oregon Sue'. May your friend stay safe and her property be unharmed.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Heat is On

108.9° is what the thermometer recorded this afternoon in my Diamond Bar backyard. That should be a radio station, not the temperature! It is so hot we almost don't need the gas grill to cook. We could just EVOO-up the sidewalk like relief pitchers do in the Kansas City Royal's bullpen to sizzle eggs.

You have to see the pizza peel my husband crafted from spare walnut and cherry.

The sheen on the peel comes from being buffed in butcher block oil.

The hot weather is a good time to hunt around for little improvements. The painted tin sign, a remembrance from a trip, is so much more attractive now that it is held in the carved frame that repeats the center star tones. Before it was framed- it was just this dark looking hole that didn't do justice to the artwork and sentiment.

Jill at Baxter's Frameworks is a doll to work with. I would say that even if she hadn't let me hang around in the air conditioned store as we checked other framing possibilities.

The trio of Our Lady of Guadalupe™ floribunda roses are loving this heatwave. Amazing how deceptively delicate they appear while bearing the full brunt of late August afternoons in Southern California.

Me- I think this is a great time to be in menopause. How would anyone ever notice a hot flash?

Baxter's Frameworks is trusted with all my framing needs. You can find all their info at

The plant below the framed art is Pothos 'Marble Queen'. The graphic gleaming green and cream leaves brighten up low light locales, such as the nearly enclosed porch.

The lovely and luminous Jackson & Perkins rose is a 'cause' rose- 5% of net sales support Hispanic College Fund scholarships. Available through J&P or through better nurseries.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

H.R. 3200 and Common Sense

Once upon a time, after a candidate's forum for City Council in the Diamond Bar Library Community Room, Gary Miller mentioned,

"Lydia, I don't know if you know this, but we have mutual friends and they say you don't like me very much."
In the two decades since, I learned not just to like Gary Miller; I learned to respect and admire him.
I'm not quite sure when he crossed the threshold from smart to wise- but time and common sense forged him into the right man at the right time on an important issue.

Where TV and Radio blasted feelings meant to frighten the audience regarding "Obamacare"- Congressman Miller sent some simple advice in his constituent newsletter- ask your doctor what it will mean to your family if the bill is implemented.

The Health Care Forum he hosted last night at the Nixon Library was truly impressive. In two weeks, his staff was able to secure comfortable accommodations for the first 700 people to request information or to express concern regarding HR 3200. Those on the waiting list were advised.

Information was ample and organized. The actual bill- where else to find it- and a 5 page fully annotated synopsis of concerns was available. Two doctors advised the audience of what the bill if implemented as written would mean to their most special interest group- their patients. They expressed the belief that it would be a great injustice.

Questions were turned over to the audience by way of a lottery. The intensity of belief of both those in favor or and against H.R 3200 America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 made for healthy debate.

Not everyone left happy. Some people require submission to their position to understand that they have been given a fair hearing. What I require is respect and thoughtful deliberation before coming to a conclusion which makes common sense.

The problem with H.R. 3200 is that it is not common sense that the client base can be expanded and costs controlled without both foregoing medical breakthroughs and access to these. It is so complicated, that people who have difficulty working their way through the current system- it is wishful thinking to think this will open up choices to them.

H.R. 3200 is not accurately named. It is not affordable. It will not expand choice nearly so much as it takes this away. In the rush to Utopia- the simple issues which should be addressed-under-served communities, pre-existing condition exclusions and where we have vast agreement- the solutions to those will be lost in the chaos H.R.3200 will create if enacted.
All photos are from my personal files.
Top is Congressman Gary Miller with Shahina
Second photo- my husband, Gerry is walking
Third- Cropped from larger shot- Trisha and Edda in crowded room
Last- Me- Because Trisha would pester me if I didn't put one in of myself.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hanging with Julie and Julia

There is no escaping the ghost of Julia Child. Standing 6'2" in her prime, she was a giant in her time. Now that she is gone, a bitingly irreverent Julie Powell spawned a blog which begat a book that turned into a movie where the Legend Of Julia Child looms large.

Yesterday, I trudged in from three hours of battling renegade blackberries and pepper tree sprouts trying to take the hill behind the herb path. Too tired to face going up the stairs to for a shower, I switched on the TV- KOCE re-runs of Julia.

This is what Reality TV should be: enthralling and energizing . From the tiny specs I've spied- what passes today for Reality TV- is about as real as Silicone breast implants. As satisfying as processed potato-bit chips pressed with artificial flavoring pressed into a can . With Julia- crepes weren't always perfect- on camera- they got dumped in the trash. Quips, like vegetarians for dinner was not to be an expose on cannibalism- leavened things up.

Hot water and a lathered loofah set me free from the cocoon of dirt and I fluttered to experiment in the kitchen.

Thumbing through the July 2009 Gourmet magazine inspired what to do with a leftover lump of dough from last night's pizza. EVOO was slathered over the egg shaped dough, then rolled to the thickness of a deck of cards. Herb leaves pulled from their stems- parsley, thyme and rosemary- which were madly rolled over and over with the pizza wheel into bits of fragrant bits of green. Into a dry froth of freshly grated Parmegiano Reggiano cheese sprinkled gray sea salt and smashed garlic clove, the topping was tossed together to in turn be tossed onto the waiting slab of dough.

The pizza wheel easily created tape-ruled width ribbons of the dough. These were twisted and allowed to rest on a parchment covered baking sheet while the oven heated to 400 F. Twenty minutes later the fresh bread sticks were GOOD- but when they were cool and crisp- they were even better dipped in Marinara sauce spiked with hot chili pepper flakes.

Earlier in the week I hadn't the heart to toss a true rarity- leftover artichoke. Originally braised in EVOO with Meyer lemons, the pairing disappointed my husband's palate. What to do?
The hearts were stripped of their leaves and cut up with equal chunklettes of fresh Mozzarella then bundled into won ton wrappings. Fried in bubbling hot peanut oil for two minutes, a creamy champagne mustard/ mayonnaise dip, they turned out to be as inspiring as they were inspired.

Which is how life should be lived.

Thank you to Tom Carruth for creating the 2006 AARS winner- Julia Child Rose- for Weeks roses- and to Gene Sasse for photographing the lovely bouquet of buttery namesake blossoms at their best- and for permission to use. I wish we lived closer so the food images would be as spectacular.

EVOO is extra virgin olive oil.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Grilling Pizza is Like Being in Labor

"You don't need a fancy Pizza oven to create great Pizza!! " Last Saturday Cristin Fustano demonstrated each step of barbecuing pizzas, treating the 9 am early risers at Roger's Gardens to a tasty inspiration.

This afternoon I arranged my errands to go past Claro's in La Habra. They stock the BEST Pizza dough, fresh marinara sauce- creamy mozzarella cheese. My eyes swallowed all the cookies in the bakery display- my blood sugar went up just looking at it...

At home, the the 'Betty Boop' roses thumbed their flowering faces at what it is supposed to be their August siesta. They radiate their smiles through the deciduous trees which are living umbrellas shading them. I am green onion deep into Julie Powell's book Julie and Julia - just deep enough that I am getting past her overtly salty language and on to shear pleasure of food.

Pieces of the dough were rolled in extra virgin Olive Oil and stretched until no more thick than cardboard.

Gerry grilled one side until the bottom was crisp- 2 or 3 minutes with the lid closed.

The toasted side is flipped over and brought in to have toppings laid upon it.

Not much sauce. The cases of the Italian sausage marinated in red turned the purple of eggplant. Pepperoni. Black Olive, green onion and red bell pepper. Freshly grated hard mozzarella and slices of fresh were sprinkled with Romano and Parmesan. From the garden, a shredded chiffonade of basil lifted the taste very close to the altitude of heaven.

The pizza is carefully slid back on the grill- the lid is closed until the cheeses are bubbly.

The puppies love it when daddy barbecues- they are allowed to play on the lawn as long as they stay in sight when we see and hear no signs of stalking predators .

The the crust crunches ever so slightly under the pizza wheel I forget for a few wonderful moments that this is not the low-carb eating which made the glucose meter convince my doctor that I have slid down the Diabetic pole to pre-diabetic in less than two months.

Eating Pizza for me is like being in labor. Anyone can do it... Absolutely wonderful... The results are so GOOD... you might want to cry. However, that doesn't mean I would recommend "doing it" too often.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Summer's Sweet Surrender

With nature at its peak it is easy to understand how summer became synonymous with romance.

Sunset. Time slows as daytime fades to evening. This is the first summer for the 'Renae' tree roses to cascade their pink blossoms as if a living bridal bouquet. Posted in large pots, they frame the view. They will never get so large as to block it.

Peer through the 'Betty Boop' Roses and you will see our oldest son, Trevor. Planting a short tree form rose between two standard bushes- their arms lock together to form a nearly ever-blooming hedge for a mom to take a paparazzi shot of the only oldest son she'll ever have.

Except one week of triple digit days, this has been a very pleasant summer. The morning temperature stretches awake from 60 degrees, rising to the neighborhood of 90 degrees.
A sprinkling of worm casings, and the lawn is such a glorious emerald green I can't blame the bunny forsaking the dry brush for the tender lawn.

We had a surprise visitor last week to the garden. A weasel was sneaking around the backyard. I asked it to hold still while I grabbed my camera, but it didn't bother to stick around, marking its travel with its musky scent.

As summer passes, I am spending an inordinate time preening, plucking, observing and thinking in the garden. As much as I want to, as need to. Watching the bees as sage is trimmed and mint pulled in great bunches, I wonder why there is so much worry about bees disappearing- just plant what they love- and they will come. I observe the response of the lawn to worm casings watered in and I wonder how legislators and judiciary don't fall over themselves to get more water to Southern California.

That is what is special about summer. Life is simple. It is easy to fall in love. And to stay in love. Slow down and realize this day will never come again. Press the romance of summer into your soul with the sights and scents that simmer and shimmer under California sky.

Thank you to Tom Carruth for unhesitatingly recommending the Renae Roses for this special situation. They are so ultra romantic!
The taller tree roses are difficult to come by. Growquest Growers are the only supplier I know of with a ready supply-

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Measure of a Man

The "Measure of a Man" is not just the title of the first song on Jack Ingram’s CD “This is It”. It is also who Jack Ingram is.

I almost didn’t buy tickets to the Go Country 105’s Summer Under the Stars Concert last Sunday. Like everyone else, I am on a budget. But everyone should have a passion. The man who Jack Ingram is makes me passionate about his music.

Come behind the scene at the Greek Theater and see what I was fortunate to observe once Jack was done rocking the house like I haven't seen since the Beach Boys in 1974.

Genna is nine years old and knows all the words to all of Jack’s songs. She has this wonderful mommy, Shelley Weinstein, who had the best time on their girls’ night out. Shelley doesn’t think of herself as a country western person, but throughout the concert she was thrilled to watch her daughter jumping up and down, smiling- clapping, singing and - oh yes- screaming! Between songs her daughter said, "Thank you, so much Mommy! " over and over.

As good as the show was- watching Jack spend time at the Meet and Greet with the little girl who was thrilled to be seeing one of her heroes up close- the genuineness of his humanity came shining through.

Shelley thought for sure Genna would fall fast asleep on the way home. ”No way! She played her new CD's and sang all the way home and then insisted on stopping at Grandma's house so she could show her all the memorabilia she got. What a night. I wish she could be that euphoric always.”

Jack is always good to his fans. He could teach etiquette to upcoming celebrities (maybe that would be a GOOD reality TV show). Or he would be a consummate restaurateur. He greets everyone with warmth- making us all feel special.
Sharing with him the list of his concerts I have been to- he remembered our first conversation. I was the editor of my Diamond Bar hometown newspaper- and about the first column I assigned myself was to write about what Jack’s music meant to me- I don’t just remember what Jack said- he remembered what I said.

I could write a book about why the music of Jack Ingram is special- but this is just a blog. So here’s my "Cliff Notes" version. Jack’s music- and his performance- exude a life of their own. Just like a person- there is intelligence, personality, spirit and physicality- which we should celebrate- because that is how the good Lord made us to experience life.

Before Jack came on, the Eli Young Band opened. More than a garage band- they are just beginning to break into the big time.

Following Jack, Rodney Atkins made me ashamed to think I ever disdained country music. The evening was perfect. It might have been headlined “hard times and hope” for the respect and love shown the audience- which Rodney closed with the song I want played at my funeral- If You’re Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows).

This was my seventh time to see Jack- four more times than The Rolling Stones. If God is willing, it won’t be the last time.

For information on Jack and the new album to be released August 25th go to

Eli Young Internet Headquarters are at
If you go to his website, you can pre-order his soon to be released autographed CD.
Thank you to Shelley Weinstein and Genna for allowing me to take photographs and share their story. Thank you to my husband for reading his camera's instructions so he could take pretty good photographs to share and remember with.

And thank you to Jack for every performance- from that first time a young woman and I watched you sing "Never Knocked Me Down" - it was her rallying cry- she was not going to give in to cancer without a fight- through the CMA's belated recognition of you as "Newcomer of the Year" speech. When I left my job as editor to write- when I broke my arm and the writing plan flow was slowed a year- that speech helped me "Keep on Keepin' On". My byline is on the cover story for the newest Western Art and Architecture.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Summer Social Season

August in Southern California has turned into the social season. Probably because it is too hot to do much else. Unless, of course, one of these parties is at your house.

August is our month to host Mt. Calvary Lutheran's Pinochle club. Having a party is great incentive to polish up a bit. Not just the house. The garden. Because this event is important to my husband, I can also shop a bit more freely before I get "the look".

The morning before the main Victorian feeder came down for rehabilitation, renovation and a fresh coat of paint- there was a bright yellow oriole feasting at nearly the same time as three of the largest scrub jays. The next day, some feathered friends stood on the now barren post, a bit confused as to why their banquet wasn't serving. Not that there isn't any lack of food growing all around. But from their "looks" this is an inconvenience for them. If we want to keep their patronage- we better get that feeder back up soon.

A couple bird baths have become plant stands for succulents, or as in this case, to serve as plant stands for orchids. But the pot never quite looked grounded. So off to Roger's Gardens in Corona del Mar for the solution;scoops of tumbled glass in shades of blue and green.

In case any water builds up- a disk of Mosquito Dunk rests under the pot to prevent the spawning of the buzzing biters.

Mosquito Dunks are non-toxic to birds and animals. Ask for them at your favorite hardware, nursery or pet store.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Playful Picasso

How does one describe the work of Leslie Codina? If Picasso sculpted clay totems when he was in a playful mood, these are what he might have designed. Clay totems of gigantic beads of stylized organic shapes painted in imaginative colorways and fired to strengthen.
Leslie and her husband are expecting their first child in two months. That is going to be one lucky child- raised with love and creativity.
This photo is of Leslie's new installation at the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia. To learn more about Leslie's work and this funtastic permanent display- link to this page of Thousand Oaks writer Debra Prinzing's blog
Photo by Gene Sasse. Used with permission.