Saturday, June 30, 2007

Berries- strange berries

I love this berry stall at the Santa Monica's farmers' market. I love all the farmers there. The central California coast, a few hours north of Los Angeles is where it's at. They go to Europe to search out European varieties of fruits and vegetables and before long all these new varieties start appearing in the farmers' markets in the west side and we are the beneficiary of their ingenuity.
Years ago, I could only read about these new varieties in European books and magazines and Martha Stewart's' books and magazines. I remember Martha Stewart making a berry tart with yellow raspberries. There wasn't any way of getting close to some yellow raspberries or even red ones if Ralph's, our local supermarket doesn't stock them. Today, forget about Ralph's, go to a good farmers' market like the Wednesdays' market in Santa Monica.
Today I'm eating wild blueberries. They're tiny little blue berries that taste very different to the regular blueberries. Years ago I own a copy of Martha Stewart's' book on gardening. She planted some alpine strawberries, that was the first time I was introduced to alpine strawberries. Today it doesn't matter how expensive they are, I never pass up any opportunity to eat some.
This year the apricot harvest is pretty spectacular. I've not seen so many varieties and for so long. Usually, like cherries, they appear for 3 weeks and they're gone. What a treat! I never buy apricots from my local supermarket. I remember, years ago, living in Orange County, the only way of eating a decent apricot was to plant an apricot tree.
The peaches, nectarines and plums are arriving with a vengeance. It's hard to eat everything. Sadly the only way to eat a yellow mirabelle plum is to be in France in late July or early August. Maybe one day I'll see them in my farmers' market here in California.
I look forward to fall when the apples reappear. The apple people, 'Cirone farms' will come back in the fall. I know their name because I'm using the pen they gave me. They must have at least 15 varieties. Is this heaven or what?
Then comes the persimmons and the oranges and mandarins. I'm usually in Italy in the Spring and I eat a lot of mandarins while there.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

La dolce vita

I work very hard, spending 10 hours on my feet, 4 days a week. On days off and weekends, I love to be outdoors in my backyard or around the neighborhood, dawdling around community gardens and farmer's markets. This is another beautiful day, nice and cool ocean breezes being felt and everyone is happy. At the Santa Monica farmer's market I spotted one lone puny punnet of white alpine strawberries for $7, how could I resist. They have become so rare the last 2 years. I did eat some red ones when I was in Palermo in March this year. I love them. In the summer I have cool whip ever ready in my fridge to eat with any and all berries that I can find. Lovely! There are 3 community gardens near where I live, this one is on Main street in Santa Monica. I love Hollyhocks. I just devoured the breakfast I laid out....

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Martha Stewart Living

Not! I looked at my own life and decided to make it into my living news column. I have adequate stores of vignettes that could titillate and excite anyone and me, of all people, because I'm biased. We love to read the tabloids for the latest celebrity gossips, we ignore our own lives. Our own lives becomes boring because we ignore it. We need to give it the attention it so deserves and make it into the masterpiece it should be. If it is not up to snuff, make it so. I guess, it is easier to read the tabloids and watch too much TV instead on working on ourselves.
It is Sunday again, I walked to our corner farmers' market for supplies for breakfast and lunch, came back, got the food ready. I'm happy to be having petit dejeuner at home. The weather here in this corner of the earth is incredible even in the height of summer. My house is sited in such a way that trees shield it from the morning and evening sun, making the inside of the house nice and cool and absolutely pleasant. I love this house. I love the honey colored hardwood floors. It's packed with my books. I can't live without my books. In the garage/office, books lay on the carpet, begging for space on the crowded shelves. I need to buy more book shelves, it's never enough.
Home is where the heart is and my heart is here.
The tomatoes from the seeds I brought back from Sicily is growing nicely. Pretty soon I'll be picking tomatoes from them. I can't wait. I remember eating in a restaurant in Palermo. I had Spaghetti al pomodoro, I squeezed some of the tomato seeds onto a napkin with the intention of drying the seeds and bringing them home to plant. I soon abandoned the idea when I saw a feed and seed store. I went in and bought a packet of tomato seeds. If these seeds pan out, I'm going to bring home some courgette seeds the next trip to Italy. Soon I'll a potted vegetable garden in my backyard.
Included in this collection of photographs is a photograph of a poster depicting an outdoor Paris cafe scene. I bought this poster 7 years ago during my first trip to Paris. All these years it sat all rolled up somewhere among my things. I, finally unrolled it and hung it up. That is my ode to Paris breakfasts.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


I thought the season's over for peonies until I walked into Ralph's supermarket and saw these. How can I resist? These were perfect, huge and glorious. I had to leave them in the house while the house was being fumigated. I've been back into the house with no gas for 3 days. The gas company came out yesterday, turned on my gas and lit all my appliances. Finally I can have a warm bath, I've been having cold showers for the past 3 nights. I've been hungry because I ate out of cans. Finally I can cook a decent meal. My stomach is growling right now. I stayed at my brother's house in Arcadia the whole weekend. That was good, it gave us an opportunity to reconnect.
So life has gone back to the way it was.... go to work, get paid, pay the mortgage and buy the groceries, watch the stock market going up and down....
Life is so daily. We don't have to move to a remote farm, we don't have to move to Europe (I've been reading a lot of books about people moving to Europe). Life can be daily wherever we are. Colette and Anais Nin, both have the knack of making daily life into something extraordinary. Their observation skills are so keenly honed. We need to use a different perspective to view our own lives.
I'm trying to reconnect with daily life again. I went through my library- the massive volumes on travel and the massive volumes of Americans who are expatriates in a foreign country, what did I pick to read again...
The re-enchantment of everyday life - Thomas More
Walden - Thoreau

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


While most areas in Southern California sizzles, my neighborhood will remain most pleasant. Temperatures rarely get up to over 80 f. I love this neighborhood. I had my house fumigated over the weekend, they had to turn off the gas. Today after 4 days of coming home the gas man still hasn't come to turn the gas on. I've been having cold showers the past 3 days. I hope he comes today.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

my house

I shall be taking this week off. I'm getting the house ready for fumigation. I've already clean out the freezer and am in the process of packing up all the food stuff. I've moved all the pots and what nots in the backyard so they wouldn't be in the way of the exterminators. Home ownership is a lot of work and a lot of bills. My contractor is going to get rich off me. I just had him over to replace some rotted wood in my kitchen deck. Oh well, cest le vie.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


I was reading a newspaper article about how so many live without modern gadgets. A lot of us does not subscribe to cable, I don't, a lot still don't have cellphones. While I don't have a lot of the latest, I have some. I feel some are not luxuries but necessities to make life more comfortable.

Cellphones, I have one I signed up 7 years ago, the contract ran out years ago, I just pay $30 a month just to have it for emergencies. It's hardly used, I do have a new cellphone with all the bells and whistles.

A laptop, I recently replaced my PC with a laptop fitted with Windows Vista.

Digital camera, I recently replaced my 5.1 Gateway with a 10.1 Sony Cybershot. My goal is to get a SLR, maybe a Nikon so my interest in photography is getting serious.

I still have a cheap and portable CD player and am listening to Edith Piaf singing La vie en rose.

That's all I have, very basic, enough to help me in my hobbies- writing my blog. Why this write up on gadgets? I saw the ad on TV for the new Apple iphone that's going to be released June 29, 2007. It looks really nifty, I've never looked at ads and think I want one. When I saw the iphone, I did feel like I want one. Apple hopes to sell a lot of iphones and repeat the success of their ipod. A few months ago, I bought some Apple stocks, it has gone up everyday. It is so exciting, reminds me of the good old days when Microsoft stocks went up everyday and split every few months. I am where I am financially partly because of my Microsoft stocks. I liquidated before the dot com crash and made a lot of money. I have repurchased Microsoft stocks and still own a huge chunk. When I watch ads on TV I'm assessing the products and I'm more interested in owning the company stocks.

It is all about money, without money, life would be very mean. As Stuart Wilde says, 'the trick to money is having some.' It is the name of his book. I gave my copy to a friend, I need to replace it. It was by accident I found out about this book. It was at a bookstore in Whistler, the ski resort in Vancouver that I bought the book. While skiing there one year, I was browsing in the bookstore at the resort base and this book had fallen off the shelf and was lying on the floor. I thought, what an unusual title, I bought it.

I was reading a 'Town and Country' magazine one time and it featured the best of everything in the world. Whistler was their pick for the best ski resort in the world. I thought, let me experience skiing in the best ski resort in the world. It is just 2 1/2 hours flight time and our US dollar was so much stronger than the Canadian, that was 6 years ago. Prior to that, I've only skied Utah. I was impressed with the layout in Whistler but in skiing there are a lot you can't perfect, the weather for one. Utah weather is far better, it is warmer and the snow is tons better. In Whistler, the mornings are OK but in the afternoons, the clouds come in from the ocean and visibility becomes diminished and it gets much too cold. Besides it took 2 hours to get to the resort by bus from the airport. In Utah, most of the resorts are just 45 minutes from the airport. I've left Los Angeles in the morning, fly to Salt Lake City, pick up a rental car and I'm skiing at 12 noon!

I thought this was about gadgets but it digressed into ski resorts.... Oh well.....

I have gadgets in my kitchen. I have a commercial stove, so large I can roast 2 turkeys side by side on the same shelf. I LOVE IT, even though I cook for just myself.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

inspiration 2

I've signed up for an online class on 'creative writing'. It would be nice to have someone critique my writing. As the instructor of this class said, '....we adore our own writing...' Sometimes I read the pieces I wrote and I feel pleased with myself. To be able to write more than a paragraph is an achievement for me. Who knows if it's even good. It's time to raise the bar, not just to write but to write more inspiring pieces. To inspire I need inspiration.
Who is afraid of a blank page? I am. Steve Chandler said, 'write something, write badly, just write...' He also said, 'write daily'. I am trying. I find reading helps a lot. I have a few books that never leave my side. I'm constantly referring to them, to read what's written in them and to see the pretty pictures, the colors and the quotations. It helps a lot.
Sara Midda's book, 'South of France, a sketchbook' is always by my side. It gives all the quotations ever written about Provence from artists like Van Gogh to travelers like Tobias Smollet. I love her watercolors and reading it helps me get exciting about writing. From 'South of France', I quote,
'January - February 1888 - Monet at chateau de la Pirede in Antibes, paints 36 canvases at this time- writes to Rodin: I'm fencing and wrestling with the sun. And what a sun it is. In order to paint here one would use gold and precious stones.'
Another book I'm in constant touch with is Eric Maisel's 'A writer's Paris.' "We must maintain illusions. We must maintain the illusion that what we create matter and that we are not pointless, discard able energy packets but creatures every bit as valuable as our best sentences seduce us into believing that we are."
It matters to me. To create matters to me. To be inspired to create matters to me. We are creative beings and need to create even though we're the only ones who love our own writing or our own drawings.
I found this guy selling lavender out of his SUV at the Santa Monica farmers' market. I thought it was pretty priceless. The whole place smelt so good, reminds me of the lavender fields in Provence a few years ago. We happened upon a field that was being harvested, as the machine went over the lavender, it emitted a perfume that scented the whole valley. We took the little narrow gauge train from Nice to the haute Provence and from the train we could see lavender growing all over. It was very exciting. Provence is a very inspirational place and every artist knows that from Van Gogh to Matisse.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Reading and writing

I am currently reading this book, 'Unlikely places - the Lonely Planet story.' I'm reading 10 books at the same time. I bought a stack of books, old and new; usually I have one or two to read; but for some unknown reason I have ten to read. Going back to the Lonely Planet story, some parts are so amusing, I find myself chuckling aloud. When was the last time a book did that to you? I can't remember; I've read some great books. The Lonely Planet are the publisher of the Lonely Planet guidebooks and this is the story of how Tony and Maureen Wheeler got started; a mimeographed copies of their first guidebook came out more than 30 years ago. I read that that was how Rough Guide got started, a typewritten guide was the first Rough Guide. Tony Wheeler was humming a song by Pink Floyd, there were lyrics which he thought said, 'lonely planet' but Maureen corrected him saying it was actually 'lovely planet'. He preferred 'lonely planet' and that became the name of their business. The rest was history as the story goes.
It is very inspiring; the world is so much better because people dared to do things; start new business and have new business models.
I'm indebted to these guidebooks whether they be Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, Rick Steves or my favorite, Lets' go. My first few forays to Europe was without a guide book. The later trips were aided by guide books and I can see the difference. Unfortunately being American, with so little time off, I can't linger very long in any place. I have to make whistle stops and have too many things to accomplish on any day on the road. I did take 4 1/2 weeks off last year. Do I have that much vacation time? No, I'm taking 5 weeks off this year. I'm taking leave without pay. It requires brutal budgeting; it's not just the expense of the trip, it's a few weeks without a big paycheck. I'm paid a lot of money. I haven't been inside a mall in years; don't know what one looks like inside anymore.
Books are dangerous. They're the origins of ideas which begs to be carried out; whether it be a revolution or simply travel. In my case, travel and my whole life revolves around travel. If you want your life to change and be changed forever, read some books.
While continuing the reading of the 'Lonely Planet story'; it documented their early days to the present; the rough early days - made me feel inspired to continue work on my half finished project, the book I'm writing on Sicily. I am going back in October to finish seeing the rest of the island and thereby to finish the manuscript. But I could still work on the project here and now. I wrote every night while I was there in March. It's in the garage office somewhere. I have to look for it, dust it off and resume work. I'm inspired again.
I've been inspired to use my new Sony Cybershot 10.1 megapixels camera too. I was scared of it, I don't know why, all I have to do is to plug the memory card into the universal card reader like I did for the old Gateway 5.1 megapixels camera. I was scared because the memory card is different. Well, it just fits in a different slot. I'm OK now with it. Hooray!

Sunday, June 03, 2007


I went through the used books I bought yesterday quickly. Most of the time, the preface and or the introduction is very interesting. It gives the author's background, the reason for the book and the process. It is like a director's cut and is very interesting and insightful.
From the book, 'So you're going to Paris - and if I were going with you these are the things I'd invite you to do', by Clara Laughlin. From it I gather it is a guide book; she's supposed to be the 'Rick Steves' of her time. The book was first published in 1924 and all told, had 2 subsequent reprinting. Those days they travel by steam boat over the Atlantic.
'Since our second preface went into print and circulation I have had so many weeks during two Springs and Summers in Paris, to ferret out new suggestions for you, learn how the older ones were serving you. We seem to be such a family- you readers of these books and I! - because of your delightful attitude toward our adventures together.'
Some of her advice then is still applicable today.
2) Go abroad to learn how things are done outside America, not to declaim to others how much better everything is done at home.
19) Keep promising yourself as you travel that you're going to read about the trip when you get home. And when you get home, KEEP THE PROMISE.
I've always heard about Anais Nin and her diaries and her relationship with Henry Miller. She never wrote anything other than her diaries. Some people question the wisdom of that. I started reading the only book I ever bought of hers, 'The diary of Anais Nin Vol 2 1934-1939 and I'm enthralled. She is a fascinating woman, so full of life and her life opens up in her diaries. Wow! Have you read Anais Nin?
'January 1937 - I mastered the mechanisms of life the better to bend it to the will of the dream. With hammer and nails, paint, soap, money, typewriter, cookbook, douche bags, I created a dream. That is why I renounce violence and tragedy. I have made poetry out of science, I took psychoanalysis and made a myth of it. I mastered poverty and restrictions; I lived adroitly, intelligently, critically; I sewed and mended, all for the sake of the dream.'
'The Little Madeleine' by Mrs Robert Henrey is a tale about the real Madeleine, growing up in Paris in the 1900's; of the struggles of the poor French people who moved out of their villages to struggle in poor Parisien neighborhoods. It is not the same as the cartoon of the cute French girl, little Madeleine. Another fascinating book.
'A life of her own' by Emelie Carles is an English translation of the French book, 'Une soupe aux herbes sauvages (A Wild Herb Soup) about Emelie Carles, a French girl born at the turn of the century in the harsh, primitive land that was France's Appalachia of the time.
'With the first nice day of Spring, when the mountainside is drenched with melted snow, I like to stretch out on my deck chair on the terrace beside my house, Le Vivier. A little while later, down by the river, I make good use of my walk gathering the plants I will need for my soup of wild herbs. I don't have to go far. I need only bend down. This one is rib grass and over there, wild sorrel, tall drouille with its broad smooth leaves, nettle or salsify, dandelion, lamb's lettuce, a small creeping thistle we call chonzio, a milky plant, sedge, yarrow, chalabrei with its broadly scalloped leaves and white flowers, tetragonia or wild spinach, some langue bogne of the light pink flowers and slim bright green leaves, a sage leaf and a sprig of chive. Then I add a touch of garlic, a few potatoes or a handful of rice and I get a rich and delicious soup. To make it come out right, you have to watch the proportions. Not more than a bit of each herb is required; no single one should stand out, for if it does the soup may prove inedible - too bitter, too acid or too bland. Such is my wild herb soup. All my life I have lived where I was born, in the mountain country around Briancon. And now I have so many different things to tell, funny, picturesque or cruel, that from the beginning to end, they serve as the ingredients for another kind of wild herb soup.'
Wow! What incredible people these were! And in the days before modern technology.

inspiration 1

While Europe inspires me most, I can't be there all the time. I have to let my back yard inspire me. So I drove to the OC, Orange County, to a little city call Orange. I knew it because I used to live there. There's a great used bookstore there; I've spent a lot of time and money there. They have two locations in the OC, in the city of Orange and in Huntington Beach. They have a website also, ebookman. I was early; imagine waiting for a used bookstore to open, only I would but there are others; I'm in good company. I love this used bookstore; it's bigger than most and they are always expanding.
I found a stack of books on France including one printed in 1924 called, 'So you're going to Paris - and if I were going with you these are the things I'd invite you to do.' Talk about a very long title, it's a no no in today's publishing world. This book was revised and printed three times.
I actually wanted to read Anais Nin and Henry Miller. I asked one of the girls working there who was busy re stacking books, 'where is Anais Nin and Henry Miller?' She showed me where their books were. I bought 'The diary of Anais Nin Vol two 1934-1939.' When I finish reading this, I'm going back to the Bookman for more. It's been a great morning, I scored some great used books.
I used to live in this little city. It is a great place to go antiquing. There are lots of antique malls and garden shops. My favorite haunt is the 'Victoria company' owned by my friend, Donna. She let me photograph her shop but not her. I told her the pictures will appear on my blog and I'm going to tell everyone to go antiquing in Orange and to visit my friend, Donna at her very delightful little store that is crammed to the rafters with great stuff. A lot of the things I have in my house came from her store. She's been there for years and I've shopped at her store for years even though I don't live in the OC anymore. I still make the trip there from Los Angeles where I now reside.
I can't wait to read all my books. What a beautiful and inspiring day it's been.