Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Shiny Refrigerator

 What do a shiny refrigerator and a batch of summer pesto have in common?

                                     Olive Oil

Strangely enough, olive oil is the magic ingredient in more than just Italian specialties. My brushed stainless steel fridge was dirty and stained with fingerprints and nothing I tried removed the ugly smudges. Sometimes water helped when I dabbed the stains, but drying made things worse.  I splashed and patted with both plain and soapy water but when I rubbed the surface the metal got more streaked and smeared. After years of this hit or miss approach I consulted the experts on the Internet. The very first site I checked was Coulter Clean Up. They recommended using olive oil to clean a stainless steel refrigerator. This blew my mind! How could rubbing oil on oily stains remove them? Olive oil was the last cleaning product I expected.  They rubbed it on with soft cloths made from old T-shirts or  household rags. They followed this up with a vinegar rinse. The result looked shiny and clean on their video.  Just to be thorough, I went on to check other sites which recommended water, white vinegar, rubbing alcohol and baby oil in various combinations applied with spray bottles and micro fiber cloths. The vinegar and water solution appealed to me but all I had were balsamic and sherry vinegars and I didn't have an empty spray bottle to apply them with.

After watching all these women wiping down refrigerators on YouTube videos, I was primed to clean immediately.  So, because I had olive oil and a household rag on hand, I followed the directions  of the Coulter site. I took the plunge, doused my cloth with olive oil and started rubbing it onto the metal surface. I did pick up some tips from "Clean my Space" and "SF Gate" which mentioned that you need to do the whole surface at once and that if you have brushed stainless like I do, you need to rub WITH THE GRAIN. I realized then that my former attempts at cleaning and polishing had failed because I had been  rubbing against the grain. Another life lesson!

I rubbed the entire front surface with plenty of oil, then rubbed and buffed vigorously with a clean cloth, making sure I worked with the grain and, just as promised, the surface was restored to its full, gleaming shine. I was thrilled with the result! Five days later my fridge is as bright and clean as ever, since the oil helps prevent new fingerprints from showing.

It's August, so besides cleaning metal appliances with my olive oil I've been making  PESTO . I love pasta al pesto but unfortunately pasta is sky high in carbohydrates, which I'm trying to avoid. So, I decided to experiment with zucchini noodles. I stocked up on medium size green and yellow squash, got out my Japanese julienne slicer and started to shred my zucchini. I pulled the blade down the length of the vegetables and spaghetti-like squiggles fell from the peeler. I was delighted with the colorful result until I energetically raked the blade down the last zucchini, right into my waiting thumb. The cut was fairly deep and bled profusely. Somehow I had ignored the primary rule of knife safety: keep your fingers out of the way of the blade. Life lesson #2 for the day.

Green and yellow zucchini noodles with pesto

After bandaging my thumb, and sipping some red wine, I cooked the noodles in boiling water for about three minutes. They were perfectly al dente and really quite appealing. I dressed them with pesto and grated Parmesan and I had a low carb winner. During dinner we toasted our shiny fridge and our nifty new vegetable noodles. For a great book on the subject, I recommend Peggy Knickerbocker's  Olive Oil: From Tree to Table.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Fourth of July Table Decorations 2015

Sister Ricki did it again with an international Fourth of July theme. She set the table with a Pierre Deux Provencal cloth, Umbrian place settings from Deruta  and American flags. That woman has flair!

                            The guests pose in front of the mirror festooned in red, white and blue

Monday, June 22, 2015

Happy 65th Birthday to Dean---Postcards from the Past

                                                                                                                           photo by Jill Miller  c. 1973

Who's that bad boy--- A work in progress.

                                                                                                                          photo by John Anthony, still dear friend

Young Dean with Rags in Alaska in the late '70s

Sister Ricki & Brother Dean celebrate their 42nd & 43rd birthdays at Acquerello

Picnicking with Ricki, Leah, Taya and Mimi in Marin

The famous soft ball pants. Dean wows his Looney Tunes fans with his amazing athleticism and his flashy pants!

Eating lunch at Zephyr Cove on our first trip to Tahoe in '93

Happy times at Lake Tahoe on that first magical trip (for a softball tournament)

Working on the beloved gray Astro van on another trip to Tahoe. Say what you want about those shorts!

Cheers! Dean smiles sheepishly after our waiter brought an unexpectedly LARGE beer at a cafe in Florence in the early '90s

The Pollycove string quartet featuring Dean on cello, Ricki on viola, Leah on violin and Taya on flute

The cosmopolitan couple shows up again in Firenze for Dean's 50th birthday! The temperature peaked around 100

Side by side head stands at a yoga retreat in Maya Tulum

Ros poses with Dean on one of our many trips to Washington D. C. How styles have changed!

Myron, Dean and Taya at Cousin Mike's in Anacortes

Ros, Myron, Taya and Dean in Assisi when Dean turned 50

Biking the flume trail high above Lake Tahoe

Hard at Work

The grill master preparing his favorite chicken drumsticks, before he built the deck

Fun times with elderly Rags

More fun times cuddling Allie. I'm so grateful he likes cats as well as dogs.

Dean's a hoot on Halloween

In the vineyards in Sonoma County at the annual Winter Wineland event. Hey, when did all that gray hair appear?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ai Weiwei @Large

You can see from the poster above that the Ai Weiwei exhibit was held on Alcatraz island from Sept. 27th to April 26th. Having seen the publicity and having heard fans like artist Anna Conti enthuse about it, I knew it opened in September. I planned to go sooner rather than later. So....when did I finally make arrangements to attend the show?  Thursday April 23rd, three days before it closed.

It wasn't easy to attend. Since the show was displayed on Alcatraz, art lovers had to reserve space on the Alcatraz Cruise line with all the other tourists planning to visit the prison, and it was necessary to book in advance since the ferries fill up, especially on weekends. I started to check the cruise schedule early in the exhibit's last week and found tickets were unavailable on the weekend and were scarce  during the week. Watching Friday's reservations disappear, I quickly booked for Thursday morning.

We launched from San Francisco's Pier 33 with a full boatload of tourists and a few last-minute art lovers.

Alcatraz Ferry Terminal at Pier 33 with Telegraph Hill in the background

The only way to get there

                               I got goosebumps approaching The Rock---my first visit to Alcatraz


A grim world awaited us as we walked up the flower-lined path and entered the first building. Ai Weiwei had designed ceramic flowers to fill the toilets and sinks in some ancient hospital-ward cells. There were touches like this throughout the prison buildings.

I originally thought that works for @large Ai Weiwei would be exhibited in one isolated "museum" building which one could view and then look around Alcatraz or return home. In reality, Ai's works were installed throughout all the prison buildings, forcing the viewer to experience the artist's vision in an actual prison setting, so his message and protest could resonate clearly in insightful and beautiful ways...

"Every one of us is a potential convict"
Ai Weiwei himself is detained in China for speaking out against the government. He can't leave the country, so of course he never saw this exhibition. He and his assistants constructed the seven pieces in his studio. He then sent three teams to erect the installations in seven rooms on Alcatraz. The National Park Service and the Golden Gate National Park Conservancy and the Fore-Site Foundation hosted the show and volunteers helped install it and take it down. Read about it here.

Cheryl Haines, exhibition curator, consults with the artist in his Beijing studio ( Photo from Fore-Site Foundation)

"With Wind"

The entire floor of the New Industries Building (designed as a laundry and work-space where prisoners could work for money) was covered with portraits of men and women from all over the world who made sacrifices in the struggle for individual freedoms. Viewers could wander around the portraits created with colorful Leggos, assembled to depict faces with remarkable likenesses to the subjects. We only recognized a few...

Martin Luther King

Edward Snowden

We wandered around the various buildings discovering new installations and soaking up the atmosphere of the old, deserted prison. The scope of the exhibit was vast, and the logistics of putting it together must have been monumental. The employees were well-informed and happy to answer  our questions.

View of the Leggo exhibit from an upper corridor

An old prison electrical junction box

View from the Gun Gallery of a massive Ai Weiwei construction entitled "Refraction"

A prison path with a view of the Bay Bridge in the hazy distance

When we'd had enough of prison life, we wandered down to the dock, took the ferry to San Francisco and, at Dean's suggestion, hailed a pedicab back to Bart. We did it! We can cross Alcatraz off our bucket list. We're home FREE!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Palm Springs Jaunt

Hello to Palm Springs---capital of mid-century modern architecture

Last week we took a four day mini-vacation to Palm Springs. After a three hour delay at SFO due to fog and an hour and thirty five minute flight, we landed in the desert, greeted by temperatures in the mid-nineties. After securing a list of must-do activities from the friendly car rental staff, we drove toward town in search of Sparrows Lodge.

Unmarked sign for Sparrows Lodge

Dean having breakfast in the "barn"
Formerly called the Red Barn, a '50s hangout for Hollywood celebrities, this stylish lodge has been remodeled into a 20 room rustic hideaway renamed Sparrows Lodge. We entered through the beautiful pool area, flanked by guest rooms, and registered in the open "barn" which serves as office/bar/breakfast area. Though many guests are from the L.A. area, we befriended couples from Brooklyn and Rhinebeck. They convinced us that the Hudson River Valley would be a super vacation spot.
PS: No one under 21 is allowed at Sparrows, but dogs are welcome!

The rooms are rustic-chic with exposed wood-and-stone interiors and exotic Bali bathrooms with open showers. There are no TVs on the property, so the atmosphere is quiet and relaxing. And fortunately for Dean the pro basketball playoffs didn't start until the following week. With the San Jacinto mountains as a backdrop, we spent lazy afternoons reading on our lounge chairs. When temperatures soared into the hundreds, the staff turned on misters installed around the pool to cool the outside air, and handed out icy fruit popsicles. Swimming in the crystal-clear pool was delightful.

Bali bath with open shower

Between swimming and lounging, we saw a few of the recommended mid-century desert marvels which make Palm Springs so interesting, and differentiate it from the endless sprawl of condos from Palm Desert to Rancho Mirage.

We passed the classic Palm Springs Visitors center, originally Frey's Tramway Gas Station, here  on our way to Palm Springs aerial tramway. When it was built in 1965 it was the first landmark for tourists driving in from Los Angeles on Highway 111.

A view through the vines of the restaurant at the Parker Meridian Hotel

We snuck a peek at the Parker Meridien. The hotel was originally established in 1959 as a Holiday Inn. In fact, it was California’s first. In 1961, the non-descript concrete and cinderblock property was purchased by singing cowboy Gene Autry for the main purpose of lodging his newly acquired baseball team, the California Angels, during Spring Training.  He changed the name of the site to Melody Ranch (it was also often called The Autry Hotel) and added a few luxury touches, like a second pool, tennis courts, a bar, and a couple of restaurants. We loved the mid-century, eye-popping decor.

Then we traveled on streets named Bob Hope or Dinah Shore Drive to the Coachella Valley Preserve for a desert hike under a scorching sun. Here the San Andreas fault can be viewed at close range. This is definitely earthquake country!

100+ degrees and still smiling!

And on our last day we took the aerial tram straight up the mountain to view Palm Springs from about 8,000 feet. At that altitude it was cold and windy.

Late Friday afternoon as plane-loads of tourists were arriving, we flew out of scenic Palm Springs airport with the majestic San Jacinto mountains in the background

Palm Springs Airport with San Jacinto mountains in the background

Oh, and I almost forgot, the culinary highlight of the trip was a DATE SHAKE! We drove to Indio to find a roadside stand selling the date shakes I remembered from a long-ago trip to the Coachella Valley, but Indio was quite desolate and there were no date stands or shakes to be found. Finally I checked online and we struck gold at a chocolate shop called Palm Springs Chocolate and Fudge, on Palm Canyon Drive. The shake was made from date paste, milk and ice cream and it was delicious. We were told that some shakes are made from date crystals in place of real dates—they're inferior. And the best date variety is medjool. Since they sell dates at the Berkeley Farmers' markets, I'm going to experiment with making my own shakes soon.

Date Shake