Prosaic adventures in Italy

More on that Europe thing. No, not the humanitarian crisis, just my little trip.. right before the pudding hit the fan.  There are the instagramable moments when you travel abroad, but there are more that are not.  So often travel is more about all the little bits inbetween the “Hey Facebook friends, look where we are” moments.

So, beside Milan expo we stayed in a villa ( we were lucky to be asked to be there) North of Milan in the Lombardy region.  The first 3 days we were very jet lagged and their was a wicked heat wave. jet lagged with kids So despite the fact that we were in Italy. We barely moved.  The kids and I in particular stayed low and I perfected my Cacio de pepe.  ( buttery spaghetti with parmesan and black pepper)italy with kids


I did spend a fair amount of time in Italian grocery stores.  Most excitedly I learned there Rex is a supermarket tycoon!  Rex supermarkets in Italy

The non fancy grocery stores have such nicer food than we have in US markets.  They don’t have has large a variety, but what they have is great.  Fresh pasta galore, great meats, Vitello tonnato at the ready.  Yum.  They do organize things differently.  We were all confused that toilet paper and paper towels where on opposite sides of the store.  To us, it’s all paper.  To them they probably think, oh, gross, why put your hand towels next to butt towels.

Because of heat and jet lag I wanted to lay low the first day, but had to rally. Mark and I and his business partner needed to go to a chef event associated with the expo.  My luggage had been lost (found a day later) so I borrowed my sister in laws shoes and dress.  My feet are smaller so combined with cobblestone sidewalk I went down.  Hard.  A kind woman came running up as I lay spread eagled on the ground and she asked in English “Are you okay?  Do you need some water?”

Are American’s known klutzses? Is that why she spoke English?

We naively drove and drove around the expo for about an hour looking in vain for a place to park.   Well laid out highways, big, new asphalt parking lots.  But, no room at the inn for us.  This is a “sustainable” event which made parking unattainable.  We were told by guards the only parking must be made by reservation online.   I thought, oh, but SURELY, like would happen in the States, there is some scrappy entrepeneur who will flag us down and sell us a space on his brother in laws lawn for $40  ( exactly what happened to me once when I tried to go to a Trojan game).  After an hour we would have paid anything.  We couldn’t figure it out.  We finally sort park/abandoned it in a corporate area, and grabbed a cab.  Luckily we weren’t towed. When we got to the Expo I blabbed to every English speaking Italian I could pigeon hole “what’s with making parking so hard?  Why is no one trying to turn a buck here?”

They shrugged, “It isn’t done.” (one of those I am so AMERICAN moments)

The next time we went we made a reservation, but the parking was more than a mile away with Rex’s little legs and my little crankiness it was not ideal

parking for expo milano

now this is a parking structure!

The third time was the charm  I searched and searched online and found a parking lot that promised a shuttle to the expo.  When we finally found the lot it looked like it was semi abandoned space ( good I thought, it’s these kind of areas that have reasonable priced parking.) Manned by two immigrants… I think East Asians (Yes, scrappy Immigrants, this is what I’m use to).  “Where is the shuttle?” Over there they kept gesturing.  Apparently,
“shuttle” must be Italian toward “walk that way”.  We used our divine trust in enterprising immigrants and walked.

Seriously, this is the way to the big international event?

Seriously, this is the way to the big international event?

It looked like we were headed toward a freeway.  But, lo and behold, once we rounded the top of the ramp.  There was the entrance to the expo! Eureka.

When the heat broke we did explore Lombardy.  Major highlights:  A cooking class with a real down home Italian chef.  A wonderful woman named Giovanna.  I highly recommend her class if you are ever in the area and in general it’s a great thing to do so that you feel connected to where you are.  cooking class in lombardyOur group of family was a diverse group of professional chef, Mark to Vivien, to a friend of my niece who can’t boil water.  We all enjoyed it and learned.  The great thing too about cooking is while there was a language barrier between our teacher and us, it didn’t matter.  We spoke a different language.

Watch out Food world.  Vivien was very good

Watch out Food world. Vivien was very good

Then we sat in her lovely garden and ate the food, drank wine.  Perfecto.

Our day in Lake Como was also a perk.  So many places in Italy are over run with tourists but not here.  We took a boat up and down the lake.lake como with kidsThe wind, the light rain starting as we looked out on the vista. It was exhilarating.  Everyone always looks better with a wind machine. mark and daphne in italy

But, you look even better as an action star! how to be an action star

Speaking of stars.Yes, I did see George Clooney’s house. But, I’m not saying where it is.  I’m a degree away from someone who once stayed there.

I said how I wished we’d find a good wine store.  Mark found an enoteca online.  Charming place that gave me MANY tastes. enoteca in lake como I wanted to take some wine back to the house where we were staying with many others, but I didn’t want to schlep back to the car.  Then they said one of the workers could bike it back to our car.  Oh, well, then I’ll buy a case.

Vivien guards  the wine

Vivien guards to the wine

When it comes to wine I’m an old world sipper.  The California wines that were big, bold, oaky, buttery 1990’s wines.. NO thanks.  I’ll take a dry, crisp, mineral vino.  I like Italian wines.. but I LOVE French wines.  Of course, lot’s of California wines have improved since the old buttery days.

Another moment when I felt my Americanist come over is when I was driving in Italy.  Stick of course, small, winding roads.  Our Tom-tom would say every few Seconds “make a right in 400 meters, go around the roundabout, make a left in 500 meters, make a right in 300 meters, go around the roundabout.”  I think round abouts a great idea, but I was muttering, Ah, my kindgdom to just be able to gun it down a long straight away!  The 101 heading into Ventura!  The other problem with the small, windy roads was some of us got car sick.  Then I’m trying to spot from the road what looks like the “Italian Target” so I can get a change of clothes for the sickie.

Yeah, I guess there are moments that are not instagramable.


Home from Epic trip

I didn’t think we would be able to take a trip like this. perfect italian villa But, certain forces conspired to help us have an Epic European trip.

Look ma I'm in front of the Duomo in Milan, oh yeah Ma, you are taking the picture

Look ma I’m in front of the Duomo in Milan, oh yeah Ma, you are taking the picture

I’m going to pick out one part today.

My darling husband spoke at the USA Pavilion about dining trends in the USA,front of usa pavilionedible garden at usa pavillion

My wife told me to wear this shirt, wait that's not what I was talking about!

My wife told me to wear this shirt, wait that’s not what I was talking about!

at the Milan Expo. In THE Milan, you know, the one in Italy.  By the way the Expo is an underated attraction. Sure there are some odd translations here and there, but it’s a coming together of countries across the globe to entertain, feed and educate the world… well, mostly Italians in this case, but I felt really lucky to get to be one of the people there. This is what the world’s fairs of old have morphed into. Remember “Meet me in St Louis”?  This was Meet me in Milan.  Every five years a country hosts and the host country picks the theme.  Last time it was China and the subject was “Clean Cities”.  Which I know if very important, but sounds as sexy as a flushing toilet.  The Italians hosted and they picked food, or rather feeding the world.   I had assumed in our jaded, TV, social media age the quaintness of the world coming together for education and recreation would be over.  But, oh no.  It felt like the United Nations meets Disneyland.  It runs through October and just in case you can get there I would advise you go.

spoiler alert: it will affect the food supply

poster for Expo

We visited different countries, ones that we know, France.. great food, natch.  Holland… which had a ferris wheel restaurant.

why didn't we think of this?

why didn’t we think of this?

The most charming, whimsical eating experience I’ve ever taken part in.  The kids and I got in, thinking it just and old ride and then the lady said, “no, would you like some wine or beer?”  Well, yeah, sure.  I sipped Rose as we went around, next round we got Rex a grilled cheese, then another round or two a sweet crepe.  It went very slowly. We loved it.  Another little food truck at the Holland area was offering “Silent Disco”, okay, what is that?  Dancing with myself! I love the irreverence.silent disco

funniest sign at expo

is that what the kids are calling it now?

Each country had a different take on the theme of feeding the world. USA took it seriously.  As we walk up there entrance of usa pavilionwas President Obama on a loop saying we have to figure out how will we feed 9 billion people by 2050?  I got choked up.  From seeing homefolk abroad and the enormity of that proposition. Then you walk at your pace to different  areas where there are video presentations from chefs, farmers, etc talk about how they are trying to create food that is sustainable.  It was educational, and important, yet I couldn’t help but be amused when I saw that USA had one of the odder translations at the Expo

We went to places we’ve never been, Turkey ( best tasting rice), Estonia ( one of our faves… when do we go), Poland, Russia ( impressive, but we were NOT going buy the Putin T shirts), Bolivia ( a mini pavilion in the are with countries who didn’t speak the mega bucks) and places we are unlikely to ever go, Iran, Zimbabwe.

Strangley there was a big pavilion for Sudan.  I didn’t get to it, but I was curious.. how are they feeding their people with civil war?  But, that’s what’s interesting about the Expo.  You get a lot for your travel dollar.  A sampler of countries and culture.  I said the the man I bought tea and spice from in Iran Pavilion, “I feel like I’m doing something illegal to be here.”  He said, the government is not the people, that Iranian people love Americans.  I didn’t want to belabor watching the hostage crisis as a child.  Let’s move on.

Russia had clearly spent some rubles on their pavilion.

Back in the (former) USSR

Back in the (former) USSR


russian pavilion

cool mirrored over hang at entrance to Russian Pavilion

By the way, USA was the only pavilion that was privately funded ( Source: USA pavilion).  Russia showed off it’s grains and grain based beverages if you know what I mean.  There was a line to sample some Russian delicacy they were handing out.  I thought of making a joke about Soviet era bread lines, but thought better of it.  Makes me seem older than I am the way  I know history.  Rex really wanted to go to the top of the pavilion which was hot, so we didn’t stay long.  The roof top was partly given over to a Sky bar like cocktail lounge where the vodka was of russian pavilion


We were most moved by the former Soviet bloc countries.  There is an earnestness there.  As if they are saying , “We survived Nazi’s, Soviet Union and now we are HERE!”  They really celebrate their food, dance, customs.  The Polish were very smart.  They thought of EVERYTHING.  People will be tired, okay, big couches in front so people can relax.  While there a stage with music and stunts by off road cyclist, which is a big deal in Poland.. who knew?  Everyone will want to charge their phones.  Free charging stations.  Free cotton candy made to order.

forget the jokes, the Poles are smart

forget the jokes, the Poles are smart

That’s before we even walked in!  There was a beautiful upstairs garden surrounded by mirrors. Showcasing what grows in Poland.  Rex went twice, “mommy, this is enchanting.”  It was. IMG_3678 Mark noticed we were there just in time for a Chopin concert by an award winning Polish pianist.

go Poland

go Poland

We listened entranced.  Later the same spot was used to show wordless videos of different Polish chefs cooking.  It was probably the most beautiful food photography I’ve ever seen.  Rex and I didn’t want to leave and only did so because Viv and Mark were downstairs in the cafe waiting for us.

getting lots of ideas in case there is a season 3

getting lots of ideas in case there is a season 3

They had a 3-d movie of the history of Poland in about 8 minutes they covered over a thousand years.  Spoiler alert, lots of wars.  They showed what they produced, great water, grain, vodka.  They had beads for the kids to make bracelets.  They had a Chocolate Village!

I can smell it now

I can smell it now

It was good propaganda… We walked out impressed and ready to fly to Poland. Lord knows they have been through a LOT and keep trucking.

I know what you are thinking: How was the Estonia pavilion?  Swinging good time!

Swings that go in and outdoors

Swings that go in and outdoors

Did you know that swings are big there?  Well, they had swings on every level.  One way you were indoors, the next you were out.  Great little sandwiches at their cafe too.  Plus, they know sometimes you just need to crash. an Estonian an Estonian


From there we went to the Vatican pavilion. It was small, but was basically pictures and videos of the poor throughout the world.  While one can feed their face at the other places The Vatican asks us to consider those who do not have enough food.  Then you get a complimentary pope magnet when you leave. My kids curled their lip at it.  I had made them finish their cotton candy before they entered and all they got was this dudes blessing?   Um, did you see that kids don’t have food..?  Okay, let’s keep moving

In Zimbabwe I spoke to a nice man there about his country.  They had a yummy soda that was from some plant they have there.  They also had some hand cream.

“why is it all written in Italian?”

Him, “No one was going to buy the Zimbabwe cream, but our ingredients manufactured in Italy, people like that better.”  Makes sense. We show how we are ready to embrace the culture for a few minute and not get into the into any dictator talk kids love zimbabwe at milan expo

They were in the area with smaller pavilions.  Next door was Bolivia

talk about your instagramable moment!

talk about your instagramable moment!


I went for 3 days and didn’t scratch the surface.  The kids were with me for 2 of the days and they loved it.  While there were bigger message in some places, a lot of pavilions featured their local cuisine more than weighty issues.  Rice from Turkey, is a winner.  Best I’ve ever had

Hmm, Turkish rice

Hmm, Turkish rice


Turkey had a pretty outdoor pavilion,

Turkish Delight

Turkish Delight

though the first day I was there it was 100 degrees

it's so hot

it’s so hot

and I ran to..well, crawled to the French pavilion which had air con and the best beet soup I’ve ever had.

We all enjoyed the Iran pavilion.

Undercover in Iran..pavilion

Undercover in Iran..pavilion

Though their exhibit was wanting.. some herbs, a little music, yawn, but they had a great shop and we got cool spices, tea and cross cultural connection.  I said to the nice man working there, “I feel like I’m doing something wrong by being here,”  He seemed optimistic about US Iran relations improving if the Nuclear issue was soon to be resolved ( full disclosure.. I have next to no opinion on it).  “Iranians love Americans.”  I told him how I love the Iranians in LA.  Nice people, great tea, good sports in soccer ( I left out that I hate the remodeling some have done in Beverly Hills).  It was a people to people moment like Eisenhower had once envisioned. eisenhower people to people

Which is really kind of why the Milan Expo is so great.  Because I don’t have the time, money, energy, shots to go to all the countries represented here, but I get a little taste of them.  Well, actually since I think I ate my weight in food while I was there I also got to taste the diverse, delicious food of our world.  Hopefully, it will sustain us.


The Mayor comes to dinner

I can’t even say, “guess who?”

I’m SUPER excited to share that the Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti will be joining me this Sunday on Daphne Dishes.  As some of you know we ( more Mark) has known his family for years.  I volunteered a ton on his campaign.  His parents, wife, daughter, all lovely, warm down to earth people.

Gil, Mark, Sukey, Amy, da mayor, me

Gil, Mark, Sukey, Amy, da mayor, me

So when Daphne Dishes got picked up for a second season I thought.. oh, dream guest list!!  When I approached I said I wanted it to be about the incredible diversity of food that is available in LA and how it inspires me in the kitchen.  Well, they got that pitch, The Garcetti’s are big booster of LA’s food scene, high brow and everything in between.  It was VERY hard to decide what to make. Not just because I had to make the Mayor a great meal, but because LA has So Many influencers it’s hard to narrow down for a 22 minutes.. or whatever it is …show.

When I was working on Eric’s campaign was when this show was being talked about, developed, slowly, slowly.  I would periodically update him on it and he was always excited to hear about it. I  clearly remember one day I was sitting in his kitchen calling voters and he had come home from an event.  Amy was calling from the living room, many volunteers strewn around the place and I popped my head up and said, “Eric, Food Network says they are going to do a pilot with me.”  He high fived me and wanted to hear more.  Well, cut to second season and he and his family remember their friend.  I really appreciate the support and since he is a very busy guy we said whenever you can fit us in we will make it happen.  It ended up being at 8:30am in the morning. But, you know what it worked!  We all enjoyed the meal and Amy and I are making plans for them to come over again when they have more time and I’ll make them the same meal, but without the camera’s.

He and his parents are from LA, so they all have memories of their favorite foods from growing up here.  Gil talked about going to Grand Central Market with mom when he was a little boy. Of course, that’s where Mark’s Bombo is now.  That’s where I  shopped for the food to make a great LA centric meal for LA’s number one fan.  desert for garcetti


Watch the show and tell me what your faves are.  I concluded the meal with a Very Berry LA Tart!


Daphne Dishes RETURNS

Second season baby!


That’s right, I’m back!!  More recipes, more kid hi jinx, more tips and tricks from the kitchen.   I’m super chuffed that Daphne Dishes

selfie on set

selfie on set

is returning to the Food Network this Sunday at 11:30am.  I will be live tweeting PST from my screening party. @daphbrog

First Episode is fun.  We do a back yard movie night.  Culver Crest Chicken! culver crest chicken Oh, yeah.  Find out the secret (ground fennel seeds), why I named it that, oh so much.   I’ve long wanted to have a movie night in my backyard and finally get to. It’s so much easier when  PA goes to pick up the equipment.  If only life was always like that. Although I don’t miss the bender board that blanketed the floors of my house while we shot.  Note cardboard and blue tape below.  Little known fact, cardboard floors don’t feel great on bare feet.

producer Craig attempts to direct Rex and Vivien.  Good luck

producer Craig attempts to direct Rex and Vivien. Good luck

Some sweet friends came on the show and Vivien and two of her best friends make their own movie.  All their own idea.  Watch out Sundance. These first 3 shows my gut hadn’t turned on me yet, so I’m happy but chubbier cheeked.  I’ll be interested to see if we can detect changes throughout the season.   I hope you like it.

dangers of antibiotics


When you are shooting a cooking show imagine not being able to eat.  No, this is not the Giada de Laurentiis story.  While shooting the most recent season of shows I developed a very unattractive condition.

the day my health took a turn.  shooting at Grand Central Market and looking for a bathroom every 5 minutes

the day my health took a turn. shooting at Grand Central Market and looking for a bathroom every 5 minutes

So, you read about the dangers of anti biotics .. but I figure that will happen to someone else, like aging.  But, low and behold I had an intestinal distress that was a cross between a trip to Mexico and labor.  It went on and on.  I’m more the “Oh, why go to the doctor, it’s just a virus type”, but finally relented after we twice had to stop shooting early. I was not in DaphMasterFlash form.   I kept thinking it would get better.  It didn’t.  The doctor on call said that he suspected I had gotten C-Diff.  It’s a bacterial infection you get when  the antibiotics you took 3-4 weeks before for something else kills your good bacteria in your bowel. ( I had taken two courses a month previous for Strep)  Think of it like your bowels are a trash compactor, but the C-diff caused an electrical outage so the trash can’t be compacted and just flows out with grinding pain that makes it difficult to stand in front of a camera and talk about food.

How to diagnosis?    One day we started shooting later while I high tailed it to UCLA Medical to give 7 “samples”.  The most revolting thing ever.

How to feel better?  Stop eating.  That’s what I did.

still not knowing what I had I read my script with a kaopectate chaser.

still not knowing what I had I read my script with a kaopectate chaser.


We had a lot of shows to do.  I had to keep working. I had sweet friends come and guest star on the show.  I was making great food.  One night I made a really fantastic, fancy meal for the show and was feeling ok, so I ate it all. It was a fun night.  The next day we had off and I couldn’t get out of bed.  Except to go to the, well, you know.

Let's live for tonight!!

Let’s live for tonight!!

Two days later they called and said to hurry up and start taking Flagyl to get rid of the C-diff. I had had ELEVEN days of… D-stress… if you know what I mean.   I have to eat very simple, bland foods and not drink at all.  If I have protruding collar bones by the end of this it will have been worth it.  The last days of the shoot I was feeling a bit better, but weak.   I would sit on a stool while we talked through what we were going to shoot.  When it was time to get on camera they would pull the stool away from me and I would bring it!  I felt better performing.  I was so focused on the job it got my mind of the grinding, labor like pain I was in.

behind the scenes:  while I made great food, this is what I was eating OFF camera.  Green tea, pro biotics, pedialyte

behind the scenes: while I made great food, this is what I was eating OFF camera. Green tea,bananas, pro biotics, pedialyte

The medicine made me dizzy . As soon as the shoot was done I went down for 48 hours and put myself on healing with funny movies.  My faves so far to wipe the tension off my face and put on a smile: “Hot Tub Time Machine”  ( My generation)  “The Wedding Ringer”. Basically, if it didn’t have dick and fart jokes, I was not interested.  (Not as good “Admission” with Tina Fey and “It’s Complicated”, both need 30 min cut and a better script. ) Also caught up with all the Jane the Virgin’s. Please, do yourself a favor and watch it.  From the start.  So funny and has satire and magical realism, all my faves.

The good news is I had put on some Grief Pounds, so I’m psyched that I have lost 9 lbs. B

Okay, so be careful with your gut… and wash your hands.

Let’s try something new…

So, haven’t posted lately because Mark and I are consumed with opening a NEW eatery.  It’s the first time he has done a fast casual concept.  I give you a news links HERE  Please like it on FB or instagram.

He has been working VERY hard.  Excited for it, but already wondering how this will impact our lives!  I’m very proud of my sweetie.  I helped get things in line the last year and half, but now it’s all him and he takes it very seriously.

If you are in LA, check it out!

trying out the fried chicken.  They like it

trying out the fried chicken. They like it

New Eatery!

We just announced the name of Mark’s new eatery: Bombo! bombo This will be his first ever fast casual concept after a lifetime of winning praise and awards in the fine dining realm.  After Campanile closed.. or as Rex calls it,  “your cooking job”, we talked at length about what he wanted to do and how it needed to work with our life as a family.  Our dearly departed Tar Pit was a cocktail driven place so the hours were terrible for a family with young kids.

We also felt strongly that fine dining while not completely over was played out.  In post recession America even if you have money most don’t want to flaunt it.. at least not in a restaurant.  Even if people in LA still spend $100 on dinner they want it to be in a relaxed environment while they were jeans.  A few strong fine dining places can withstand this Age of Casual, but not a lot. They’ve been dropping like flies.

Plus it was played out for Mark.  He wants to cook.  He likes cooking for people, not necessarily rich people or having the artifice and overhead that goes with a ‘fancy’ place.  So in my capacity as his business development manager I started thinking locations.  Areas of town, and then where within those areas.  Eventually our search landed at Grand Central Market in downtown LA.  Built in 1917 it’s been getting a lot of press lately as they revamp it.  It combines many elements of LA’s culture.  Latin, Asian and now celebrity chef driven.  Bombo is going to emphasize seafood, but not just seafood.  There aren’t many places in LA that you can get reasonably priced seafood outside of  a sushi joint in a mini mall.   Mark was keen to work with steel jacketed steam kettles.

something like this

something like this

They are pretty and will be prominent in our design.  They will allow him to cook things quickly using his 4 broths as his base. Cut to a montage of financing, design, approval for permits, negotiations and now we arrive at the moment where we have announced the name.  It’s inspired by the kettles as Bombo is Spanish for bass drum, as well as used loosely to indicate a kind of musical energy, excitement.  Also, we liked how it sounded.

So I’ve been setting up pop up nights for Mark where he can try out his new dishes on real people, not just me in our kitchen.  It’s great for focusing him and I like it because a couple of times there was a critique  I wanted in a dish, and the public backed me up.  Hurumph.  But, really he is making some tasty dishes, reasonably priced, but still flavor packed like his food at Campanile was.  Tonight he starts a trio of Tuesday nights at our neighborhood favorite, Rascal.  If you are in the area come by.

Our friend Eric, Mayor of LA, stops by our pop up in Nov.

Our friend Eric, Mayor of LA, stops by our pop up in Nov.

After a couple of under eventful work years both of our projects are debuting roughly around the same time.  If “Daphne Dishes” gets a second season maybe I can make something at Bombo for the show. It’s been a great partnership, we both assist and advise each other.  Almost ten years of marriage and it all seems to be working well. (knock wood)mark peel daphne brogdon

potluck ransom

I love pot lucks.  I like hosting pot lucks. However,  rules must be observed.  Put your name on your stuff.  I can’t run everyone down

” did you leave the powder blue bowl?  The Winnie the pooh platter?  The silver pan?  Were you even here?”

I’m fine with hosting class parties.  I like to.  If not we end up in some gross LA city park with porta potties and bums sleeping next to the kids while they play capture the flag.  I don’t mind the set up, clean up.  We have a big backyard.  I just want people to take their shit with them when they leave.  The one night stand is over, get your crap and get out.  You never wanted to hear from that dude at the club you bedded after a few too many did you?  No, I don’t even remember his name.  But, he kept calling me “lips.”

After grilling our room teachers with the rules before our class party what happens?  One room parent has been emailing me about her serving spoon.  More than once.  I would have prefered if she had just shown up at my door and said “do you mind if I rifle through your kitchen and see if I can find over grown spork?”

She is a nice person, so I finally did hunt around for it after the last email.  I thought I would add a little drama into this potluck tension.  I sent her the following:

“Today’s newspaper let’s you know your spoon is alive as of today.  But, if you don’t follow my instructions it is in danger.”

potluck ransomeI should have told her that she needed to drop of a entrée that would feed ten if she ever wanted to see her spoon again.  No vegi platter.  No one ever eats the raw cauliflower.

But, instead this morning I handed to the other room parent and said, “your girl wants me to put this in her kid’s cubby.  I’m not even sure who her kid is let alone run her cubby.”

She got it.  “She didn’t put her name on it like you asked?  I’ll take care of it.”  Later I saw her leaving a message on her cell phone, “Hey, I’ve got your crummy spoon what do you want me to do with it?”

It’s still better we hosted.  If you leave something in the park, would it be there if you went back? Would you still want it?


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 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 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.