stop me before I volunteer, again

 

I think I have a problem.

I can’t stop volunteering.

A few months ago I was elected head of my neighborhood association.  10 Saturdays out of the year I run the meetings, bring the refreshments and in general voice the concerns of our community to the city.  So far I threw a block party, longwood block partyhelped get some trees planted, advocated for some issues with our local councilmanherb wesson with constituents , and got a website up.

The jewel in my unpaid work history was my mayoral appointment to the Central Area Planning Committee.  Roughly twice a month I am one vote on planning issues that come before us.  I get to go to city hall and I have a laminated pass.  Never has anyone felt so excited to be accepted as a civil servant. Maybe because of all the years of freelancing, I like going to an important building with a clip on badge and working.. albeit with no salary.commissioner Brogdon

I’m also on a few committee’s for my daughter’s school. ( charter, underfunded).  So I take some interest in the school board races.  There are few that do.  It’s pretty un sexy, but in LA we have a mammoth school district and unlike other cities the mayor and the council have no control over them.  So, it’s a whole other empire.  Charter’s, while somewhat apart from regular public schools, still must be granted their charter through the school district.  So, the LA school board is “our” school board as well.   Teacher’s unions tend to not like charters because the teacher’s are outside of the union.  Charter’s are suspicious of teacher’s unions and afraid they will try to shut them down.

My take on all this is that parent’s are discerning consumers of education.  So, charter’s magnets, traditional, private they will be existing with each other. But, we need to put our best foot forward. There are people in our area who would be interested in going to the local public school, but they don’t offer tours.  “Why?’  is what we have heard more than once when calling the school…that sound you here is the interested parent filling out an application for a charter lottery. No surprise, it’s under enrolled.  A mile away a traditional public school does do tours and shows itself well. That school is humming along.

So,  heard some charter parents were rally around one candidate in a special election to be held August 12th.  Good lord, the only thing lamer than having a special election in the dog days of summer would be starting school that day.  OH, that is what LA unified is doing.   I spoke to some of my political mentors about one candidate, George McKenna.  He is a retired teacher and administrator.  Years ago they made a “Stand and Deliver” type movie about his work turning around a tough school starring Denzel Washington.  A friend set up a lunch for us to meet and I went, even though he looks nothing like Denzel.  While not a movie star, I found a charming Southern man who was very thoughtful and earnest about helping children.  Before I could order an ice tea he was talking about trying to get mental health services to students in LA schools who come from troubled places.  It was one of the concerns that reminded me of how vast the LA school system is. By the way since I was a kid I have thought the district should be broken up, but fat chance of that happening.   But, what can happen is for the grip to be loosened a bit on school so that a school can cater to their particular community.  This was something Mckenna and I agreed on. Well, we agreed on quite a bit.  From the good deviled egg appetizer to how a lousy principal can sink a school.

I told him, look the charter’s are scared of you.  He didn’t know why.  “I’ve gone on record as saying if a local school is working, charters wouldn’t exist”.  He was surprised the Teacher’s union backed him because of this.  He believes in traditional, charters, magnets, whatever works for children, not one ideology. I was touched by his sincerity and persuaded by his intellect and experience. He is being outspent. “Can Denzel give you some money?”

“I don’t know how to get to him.” he said.

So, before my after lunch espresso arrived I volunteered AGAIN.

“George, maybe I can throw you an event.” My dear husband was eager to hear about my lunch.  Later we attended a political meeting that a neighbor of ours had invited us too.  On the way out he met George.  The candidate was walking by himself having just thanked the group we were attending for their support and was on to the next.

“You need to go to 5 events a day.” Mark said earnestly.

“I wish it was only 5.” George said in his honey dripping accent.

We walked away and Mark said, “Let’s do grilled cheese.”  He was totally on board.  We must have done at least 3 grilled cheese events for Garcetti.  Now that the famous Thursday grilled cheese nights at Campanile are gone for good, it might be a bit of a draw for folks.  Former council members Nate Holden and Jan Perry who are my friends are also hosting.george mckenna fundraiser

The story has been picked up by a local online publication.  Come by if you care about educating the young, or just want to eat.  Don’t make my volunteering in vain!

 

 

 

More Summer trip…

Slow down summer!  My hair has been in a dirty ponytail for weeks and I don’t have to be anywhere before 9.  This is living.. So the trip I mentioned a few weeks ago continued up to Mendocino.  North of SF you see a lot more green and drivers let you change lanes on the freeway.  Definitely out of LA.  I like it aesthetically up there more, though when I have lived in No. Cal.  I did miss the dynamism of LA.

We stopped for lunch at a small, old town, Hopland.  So many towns up there you could scamper around and make a trip out of.

Hey, look there, another pretty spot

Hey, look there, another pretty spot

Eventually we got to our prize, Dr. Dean’s home.  Many acres of nature and fun.  The smell is always striking as is the quiet.  The constant noise we experience in cities makes us deaf and crazy, yet I don’t notice it till I’m far away.   There was a fawn born on their land days before our arrival.  Breathtaking to see such a deer and we hoped her mom would be able to protect her from other wildlife…not always the case.baby deer

This doesn't look like La Brea avenue

This doesn’t look like La Brea avenue

Last time we were there they were hollowing out a great old redwood stump for their grandkids to play in.  This trip it had been masionized.

What you doing under there?

What you doing under there?

The kids loved it and it was no surprise when I saw recorded on the Edell’s DVR “Extreme tree houses”.

Rex wants them to put in an elevator.  One morning he got up early to speak to the carpenter working on it.  He was trying out his favorite joke.

Rex: “why are you under there?

carpenter: “I’m working.”

Rex: “But, Why are you under there?”

It took a while but finally pay dirt.

Carpenter:  “Under Where?”

Rex “I got you to say underwear!”

Trying to be a good guest I made an error that is causing me discomfort still.  I decided to repair the wood borders of the path to their river spot.  I moved a bunch of sticks that had been the border of the path, but had moved during the winter.  I went near one shady spot at the base of a redwood to pull up a longer downed branch to make a border and then felt pain.  I looked down and there were yellow jackets all around me.  Mark had been stung on an off beaten trail the day before and Dean’s wife Sharon had told us the best thing to do is run.  I did just that.  Into the river.  I pulled out a stinger when I got there.  It was much worse than a bee sting.  My arms and ankle swelled and got flushed.  The cold of the river worked as an analgesic.

safely away from yellow jackets

safely away from yellow jackets

I sipped a beer and tried to calm myself.  It felt bad.   By dinner I was a bit better and Sharon gave me two Benadryls to help.  Before desert I was face down.

Dean: “You can’t handle that!  I knew you when!”  Sure, in my twenties my ability to process foreign substances was far greater.  I crawled to bed.   “Get up” Dean exhorted me.  “We got s’mores ready for the kids.”

Okay, I staggered to the gathering, but after shoving one melted marshmallow in my mouth I limped off to bed and sank.

A week later back home the swelling returned.  My hair follicles burst upward and the itching was intense.  A non drowsy antihistamine helped, but now back to acupuncture and Chinese herbs, which is the biggest help for my annoying skin.

Another way we try to be good guests is we cook.  Well, easy when you travel with Mark Peel sure, but I jump in as well. It’s easy with Sharon’s garden and she went to Fort Bragg and got a whole, fresh wild salmon that Chef Peel did his handiwork to.  You don’t get salmon like that everyday! Melt in your mouth.

great dinner.. before I passed out

great dinner.. before I passed out

There was a cauliflower dish I am refining I enjoyed and one morning made these scones. Some mornings you need something fresh baked!  They have yogurt in them so they are a little less decadent than a normal scone. I put orange zest in them, but I want to tweak some more and add more orange flavor and some whole wheat flour.yogurt scones

Better than a bottle of wine as a host present, Mark brought the fixins to make a tree swing.  I swooned when he put ours up.  Using a sling shot and some creative thinking he did the same for Dean and Sharon.  He spent days searching for the perfect tree.

Mark Peel, Tree Swing maker

Mark Peel, Tree Swing maker

On the trip I didn’t let my damaged skin get me down.  It’s always hard to leave their paradise, but a dose of reality in the country marked our departure.  They are off the grid so we took some trash to the dump for them when we left.  The chain smoking ladies in pajamas and their tatted up men folk dropping of their waste showed us we were not at Kennebunkport. (Note: file that character away for a sketch one day)

Caught lunch on the way

a place this cute has to be good

a place this cute has to be good

and then a big, good smelling whiff of nature when we rolled into Marin County to stay with our friends and my god daughter.  Next day headed to Santa Cruz, saw another friend and then took the kids to Santa Cruz beach Boardwalk.

skee ball queen

skee ball queen

Back when I was a little kid we use to “summer in Salinas”. ( Yeah, not the Cape)  We would spend a couple of weeks with my cousins after our Yosemite camping trips.  My folks barely slowed the car as they push us out and speed off to Monterey for a couple of nights of child free time.  At the time I thought, “Why do they need to leave us behind?”  Now, of course, I get it!

My cousins were hilarious and we loved going to the boardwalk.  It could never be built today.  Coastal commission, what have you , so it’s great to walk on it’s creaky boards and smell the frying of corn dogs.  When I was little — I was the youngest of all the cousins I tripped over a $5 bill.  The cousins and my sisters surrounded me.  “If you don’t buy us tickets with that money we all have to go home.”  Oh, sure, I don’t want to go home.

Cut to I’m playing skee ball with my kids and you have to spend about $800 in tokens to earn enough tickets to redeem for a fruit shaped eraser.  The kids were a few tickets short when I — NOTKIDDING-  FOUND A $5 BILL!!  I bought tokens and won a few more tickets for my kids.  Still not enough for a back scratcher though. One thing that is different so many years later… the rides where I have to go in loops make me VERY ill.  I can feel the plaque on my brain crumbling.  I’m sure I’ve sped up aging on a tilt a whirl. Mark and Rex are the daredevils in the family.

father son bonding

father son bonding

We stayed so late we couldn’t make it far down the 101.  So our one non coach surfing night was in a hotel in Salinas.  You know how I said you can find so many towns in Sonoma and Mendocino that you could explore and enjoy?  Salinas not so much.  35 years later and gentrification never stopped here.  I found a good little coffee place down town, but most of the patrons looked like they would have been friends with my uncle.  The only hipster in the place was the barista.  There were empty store fronts nearby.  I once asked my cousins, “what do you do in Salinas?”  They replied, “Go to Monterey.”

We stopped back at Vines on the Marycrest and I stocked up on more wine.  I had given out most of my host presents and now I needed a gift as I went back to the noise of the city.  For the smell maybe I should tape a piece of lavender to my upper lip.

couch surfing road trip

WHEN KIDS TAKE PICTURES   I go to a restaurant and I want to eat in peace and not be thrown out so I give my kid my phone.  Later I find many, many photos on my phone that I delete.  But sometimes there is a gem.  Perhaps I should an curate art show.  “Shots my kid took that were actually good.” I bet, you have found some good ones as well?  By the way… Who puts Venetian plaster on a ceiling? When you travel as we just did, you do go to restaurants more than at home.  So it’s good to have your batteries charged. The ones in your phone, for your human battieries, you get out of town.  But, when you are watching the dollars, HOW?  We did a couch surfing through California trip.  It helps if your friends live in cool places.  Our first stop is with the Abascals at their Vines of the Marycrest winery.  Victor family knew my family so when our kids play we are gazing upon  a third generation friendship.  They live in Paso Robles and we speed up the road so we could get to the town square in time for Paso’s first concert in the park of the summer. vines of the marycrestI love this picture, except I’m not sure why I have my hand like that.  Perhaps my hand wanted more wine since it’s pointing in the direction of Vic’s winery.  We are Culver City kids and he planted his first vines on our hill at the top which is called Marycrest Manor. Objectively, the wine is great and I’m a wine snob.  You can’t find it in stores unless you live in Paso, so order some!   We use to serve one of his reds, “Heart of Glass” at Campanile when it was, well, you know… open. The most recent vintage of Heart that I tasted has a great smokey taste to it. Now, in general I’m not a fan of California wines.  I tend to like the taste of old world wines more.  More restrained.  Victor has found the balance of restraint with the fruit flavor we get from our California reds.  Plus, his rose’ “Summertime” is so good I bought a case and passed them out like Johnny Appleseed as host presents to all those who put us up for the night.  Another reason my first stop is his place.  I’m a white wine nut, usually French whites, which, I use to be surprised by, are often cheaper than California whites.  I like the dry, crisp, mineral nature of them.  However, once again Culver City boy has made a white I love.  Appropriately titled, “At Last”.  You can see he likes music.  None of the overly fruit, buttery Cal syrup I can’t stand.  Goes great with fish, cheese, the leftovers I’m eating right now standing in front of my fridge.  Oh, we’ll skip that. I love the dry air up in Paso there and we walked the vineyards before hitting the road to San Fran which has cold damp air that I don’t love.  vines of the marycrest All 26 acres was covered in almond trees and Victor took them out himself.  So, you could buy some crap wine that has the muscle to get into  a supermarket, but why?  Often for the same price you can buy quality stuff from people who don’t have the marketing budget.  Please, don’t tell me there is good wine at Trader Joe’s.  There isn’t. vines of the marycrest moms who love wine   Back in the car the next day.. if I’m not driving I watch a movie with the kids.  “Nanny McPhee” is good.  Guess Rex had seen enough.colin firthroad trip with kids There is never enough time to see all the friends I want to in Nor. Cal.  I lived there for 12 years.   We had expensive dinner in SF.  It was good, largely seafood, but I was surprised at the cost.  No wonder I cook at home more often than not these days.  The problem is where to source good ingredients.  My local markets fish, eh at best.  I just got ground beef that was neither smart, but certainly final, the final time I buy meat from them.  I digress. We save on a hotel though.. a friend left the keys to her SF pad for us ( she was in Tahoe).  My kids were so charmed by the small balcony and little back yard. san fran with kids I think Rex started to go nihilistic urbannihilistic child I tried to explain that this was a good amount of space for the City, but they didn’t care.  They perched themselves on the tiny metal balcony and watched people go by. Time to head back to the country…. ( Next post)

Who says I don’t cook?

mark peel and daphne brogdon cook

we had fun and worked off each other well

A few weeks back Mark and I were guest on Hallmark Channel’s “Home and Family”.  It’s a great domestic oriented morning show.  No trash stories, helpful and fun.  Wish it was on my cable carrier.  Anyway,  We did a Chicken Thigh Throwdown. Everyone thinks Mark is nightly making me great meals. My standard line was, “sure, if I went into his restaurant.” But, at home I do most of the cooking and since we don’t have any restaurants anymore and my work has been…meek.. the last couple of years I’ve been cooking more than ever.

Mark getting his mic...I hope

Mark getting his mic…I hope

IMG_0165

 The idea was Mark would do the “restaurant” or fancy version of chicken thighs and I would do the easy, your family will eat version.

mark peel and daphne brogdon cookAs someone who made her living for years as a TV host I really appreciate a good host.  Christina Ferrare and Mark Steines are great and improvising and brought out the best in us.  It was the first time Mark and I have cooked together out of our home and it was a lot of fun.  In case you want to try either dish, here are the recipes.  Enjoy. http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/homeandfamily/recipe/markpeeldaphnebrogdonchickenthighthrowdown

…and I played the wife

Mark was asked to be on a chef competition show.  He was a bit wary as Top Chef Masters was NOT his favorite experience, but his manager ( me) said he should do it.  It’s “Knifefight” on Esquire channel. Use to be G4 channel and before that I am sure it was two other channels before that.  He had been a judge on an episode on the last season with Exec. Producer Drew Barrymore next to him and had a good time.  (“She took my card!” Um she is never going to call you dude.  She didn’t)

Mark clapping behind his new BFF

Mark clapping behind his new BFF

“Knife Fight” is more irreverent than Top Chef with it’s super serious, jib shots of chefs waiting to be judged with the dum, dum, dum music and the “Go pack your knifes” blow off.  It’s demoralizing.

this sucks

this sucks

The producer of “Knife Fight” asked who Mark wanted to compete against and we both said, “Sal Marino”.  He is our friend and a great chef, unsung really.  Owns Il Grano. They would have fun.  It’s shot at Gorbals where the chef/owner/ Ilan Hall is the host.  He is a nice guy.  Also, it’s a shorter shoot than Top Chef which drags on and on with them plying the chefs with cheap booze in the hopes of some “Big Brother” meltdown and for no pay.  All unscripted exploits the hell out of people in general.

So, I trucked down to watch the shoot and then ended up being part of it.  That is if they show my back shucking peas.  It was fun to see both Sal and Mark cook.  They had one hour to cook with the surprise ingredients.  Great to see them both in action.  I can’t say what they made ( or Drew Barrymore will come and beat me)  and I didn’t get it to eat it, but it looked fab.

Maja, Sal’s wife, was also there.  She is my friend so it was a fun outing.

...they all laughed, except for Josiah in this picture

…they all laughed, except for Josiah in this picture

The chefs had known each other before, but we all became good friends when our daughters were going to pre school and they became friends.

With a judge on the show Chef Josiah Citrin who helms the BEST French restaurant in LA, Melisse

With a judge on the show Chef Josiah Citrin who helms the BEST French restaurant in LA, Melisse

As the shooting went on they were placing Maja and I for reaction shots.  So when it finally airs, think May, you might see my “wife” visage.  In the meantime, it inspired Mark and Sal to finally cook together for real.  This weekend and next Mark is going to jam with him at Sal’s restaurant.  A special menu they collaborated on.  It’s going to be good.   I will play the wife and eater. MORE INFO HERE

Skipping the Super Bowl

Couldn’t care less about the Super Bowl.  I don’t think I’ve watched since the Janet Jackson episode.  That one I was at gathering in San Francisco and I was so irked with the placid, fleece wearing group of watchers.  They lacked dynamism and reinforced my decision to move back to LA where the quality of life can be harder, but people have more pep.flag football

Instead of rooting for big corporations to injure young men’s bodies I’m hosting a seminar on Sparkling wines with two other moms from Vivien’s school as a fundraising event. A sommelier wine friend of mine is educating us while we get soused.   We didn’t mean to do counter programming, but after checking for religious holidays, national holidays who knew we had to worry about football?  Two ladies dropped out and I was left to think… why?

Isn’t it kind of a feminist issue the amount of time, money, energy that is put into propping up sports which offer NO advancement to women?  One dad chided one of my co host for holding an event on Super Bowl night. We have to watch all your action movies on date nights and feign interest in football?  Would he reschedule his beer night for figure skating finals?  What message do we as moms send to our daughter’s if we follow along the hubby to watch his game of men?  Shouldn’t we be going to a Take Back the Night rally?  Or in my case, Take back the wine lounge.

I’ve gotten into the particulars of a game when I was being paid to understand football for a show I hosted.  But, otherwise the enjoyment of Super Bowl parties is lost on me.  Let’s sit around, drinking beer and eating mediocre food, no one looks good, not much conversation is going on and watch a TV.  If I liked football I’d watch from home.  Of course some women on their own enjoy the game.  But, plenty don’t and feel they need to cozy up to their dude.  I’d the like the time back I spent sitting next to some dude I thought was Mr. Right on his couch eating pizza and acting like I gave a shit.

If you don’t like Football don’t pretend.  The Football Industrial Complex doesn’t need you.  Thoughtful feminist who think for themselves and raise girls to not fixate on men’s needs do need you.

 

Gone Wrapping!

Other than popping ibuprofen for cramps this week is all about wrapping and cooking.

Wrapping because the kids are out of school shortly and then wrappings gets complicated.  I’m running out of of space above 6 feet high that I can hide stuff.

Cooking because I got one of those organic produce deliveries and I know from past experience that if you don’t use the farm fresh wonders fast I will have a moldering box of vegetable matter.

“What is it?”

“um, think it WAS a radish.”

So, last night I chopped up the kale, mixed with olive oil and kosher salt and popped in the oven at 300 for about 12 minutes.  It’s a tasty snack, but you must be alone to eat it as they 1) crumble and 2) get caught in your teeth.  So I looked like a hillybilly when I was done.

While they were cooking I chopped up the mountain of red chard that had arrived. Must attack the chard.  First the stem. cutting chard Then saute with onions, garlic, olive oil.making chard

After about, hmm, 10 minutes.. time stood still has checked on my kale, then I add the pieces of chard leaf.  First I thought there is no way I’m getting all of it in this pot, but gradually it worked.  Which is another reason  I must tackle these produce boxes quickly, my fridge CANNOT hold them.  I’d have to swap out something that is really needed around here in order to make room like, milk or that jar of pickles we’ve had for 2 years.

It was done and it was fine.  But, maybe it’s the Christmas spirit, but I thought, this needs CREAM.  basic sauceSo I made a quick sauce, flour, butter and a cup of half and half. Whisk.  I calculated the calories and was briefly appalled… but then I thought, hey I’m only going to eat of fistful of this dish, not the whole pan.

creamy chard

it cooked down a bit after this point

transferred the chard into the creamy sauce, cook a bit with a few pinches of nutmeg.

I ate a bit and had tons left over for the larder as well as my soy sauce, maple syrup chicken thighs the kids had raved about at dinner time.chicken and chard

With it’s green and red look I’m going to make it for Christmas dinner, but I think I will add a little more of something.. thinking smoked paprika or chile powder.

Next I started to cut up the squash to roast, then realized the kids were nodding off  So, I stopped to wrap!

I love this Christmas stuff

My nose is running, I’m tired and have skin so dry I could plant corn in the cracks, but I do love this time of year.  It’s all because of my 4 and 8 year old.  christmas kidThis precious time where they

1) Still want to hang out with me

2) Still believe in Santa Claus

3) are open and excited and haven’t become cynical jaded f*cks.

That time will come, but till then I’m loving it.  I love sharing them with my mom

kids, Aunt Cec, mom, niece Lily

kids, Aunt Cec, mom, niece Lily

best gingerbread house

The four at home in front. maybe I should have asked for a little guy just off the plate to represent Oliver in college

and going to holiday teas, church Christmas boutiques, (my splurge here from the Solvang Bakery) Last year my splurge was piano playing miniature teddy bear. What can I say I’m weak for Christmas kitsch.

Mom, are you sure we can't eat it?

Mom, are you sure we can’t eat it?

personalized gingerbread house

Making hot chocolate, buying our tree.  They insisted on flocked this year. decorating a flocked treechildren decorating christmas trees I have bought ONE gift so far and need to do my budget of what is possible, but in the last few years I’ve just come to accept that anxiety at what I’m putting on the credit card is as much a part of Christmas time as hot apple cider.  Oh, by the way Christmas bazaars, this year no one has had hot apple cider.  What gives?  I’m calling Fox News.

Christmas time goes so fast that one really has to have everything staged and ready to go.  I’m pretty good, but still trying to dig out my Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra holiday CD’s. Good I have spotify, but I have to skip a lot these modern ballads.. blech.

children's christmas

Thanks for the Mick Jagger pose Rex

One reason I have been looking forward to Christmas is so that Vivien can finally wear this exquisite dress that Mark’s cousin Vicki made for her.  She visited us earlier this year and we went fabric shopping. She went back to Oregon and then sent us this picture perfect dress.  Red velvet, green silk sash, ruching on the shoulders. homemade christmas dress A one of kind.  Years from now when Vivien is off clubbing or running her medical practice I will be clutching this dress, shooing  my cats away from its beauty.

kids and santaDear Santa, let this sweetness last as long as possible.teddy bear tea

 

crispy garbanzo bean snack

If you are like me you love throwing crispy, little greasy things in your mouth.

What shall I snack on today?

But, what if you’ve grown out of potato chips, pork rinds and want to wow your college educated friends?  I look to garbanzo beans.

They  are not great for carb counting, but they have fiber and protein.

Fry the bacon for son’s breakfast

Leave the bacon grease in the pan.  Take the garbanzo beans that you drained from the can.  Ideally, they have been left to dry out over night in the fridge.  Mix them in the bacon grease.

Yes, add some rosemary. In my case stolen from my neighbors yard.

Now that his bacon is consumed, Rex wants to help. We sprinkle kosher salt on the beans, grease and rosemary.

put in pan and bake for 20 min at 400 degrees.  Longer if they didn’t drain overnight.  But, watch them.  I can get cocky, leave them and they are charred nuggets.  

The kid loves them too!