Thursday, March 31, 2011

Malibu is killing me

Is it just because I'm leaving tomorrow? The sky is so blue today, and the sea so sparkly. It hurts!

Besides the obvious allround gorgeousness of the place, here are some other Malibu moments I will miss:

Saying, ‘there goes Cher, off to do her shopping’ every time a helicopter goes past. Several times a week, and my quip still hasn’t got old.
Pepperdine: quite a nice place to jog

The amazing fitness regime TLOML and I have developed: a workout at Pepperdine and a sushi dinner. Mind you, judging by last night’s (unrequested, I promise!) dessert, maybe we had been spending too much time in our local sushi joint. They’ll miss saying ‘Oh, we’ve got something special for you tonight’ when we walk in, and pulling out some exorbitantly priced, still living, sea creature. The way to TLOML’s heart. and and the large checks you frequently present us with...

Predicting which neighbour’s house will fall into the sea first.

The sheer comedy value of watching TLOML secure our perimeter, wielding a large water pistol at the passing seagulls. The range is just a smidge short, but that doesn’t stop him making like a crazy old man and throwing elbows at them between rounds of water fire. Most entertaining.
Anti-seagull weaponry. Poised and ready.

And yes, the all round gorgeousness of the place. The constantly changing colour of the sea and sky, and the way Santa Monica and Catalina appear through mist then disappear. The moon beating a silver path across the water to our deck. It sure is purdy.

To take the edge of my parting woe, I will remind myself of two things I will not miss about Malibu.
1. The dirty looking checkout lady at Ralph's who shouts 'Rosie! I need a pee!' while processing our purchases.
2. Jackasses driving their jackwagons like jacktards, clogging up our li'l street.

Yeah, doesn't really take the edge off much at all. I'll take the jackasses, just give me my beach! NY has a lot to live up to...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Local news for local people

Local news is an acquired taste. To the newcomer or casual visitor, the local freesheet is good only for wrapping fish'n'chips. But within a week or two, the stories of local construction projects, fatal car accidents and library events become utterly, frighteningly fascinating. Pretty soon you start to have positions on local matters you had never previously considered.

Many months after I left London I still check the Camden New Journal for the latest on the controversial 393 bus route (out of interest, I was pro). And to see if my favourite letter writer, a certain Skip Murphy, is still sending his weekly missives. He weighs in on everything from teenage knife crime (I'm anti), the new swimming pool in Kentish Town (I'm pro) and vegetarianism (neutral). Seriously, every single week. I suspect if he didn't write in one week he CNJ would send out a search party.
I especially enjoy the panic stricken stories about local treasures which are under threat, like the scuzzy patch of grass by the railway bridge on Prince of Wales Road. Imagine my horror today on finding that one of my favourite local boozers needs to be saved, and by Ed Milliband no less. Yikes, this must be serious! On closer inspection it turns out to be a classic local newspaper scaremongering. The pub landlord wants to build flats above the pub. Phew! And there I was thinking it was about to be bulldozed. Ah, CNJ, you get me every time.

The Malibu Surfside News is a bit less shouty. The front page is usually about the weather. Weather news in Malibu is fairly limited, but they make the most of any unseasonably warm or rainy spell. My favourite is when they make front page news out the fact it's sunny. In the summer. 'Sun in Southern California summer shocker!'.

Once they've covered off the main weather news the Surfside journalistic team always find room to cover traffic on PCH (I'm against), the lagoon renovation project (ditto), and often Dick Van Dyke's latest antics: winning a Dolphin award for being an outstanding Malibu resident, in last week's edition.

 A side note - where were the Surfside reporters when our Dick was being rescued by porpoises? Probably the best Malibu news story of all time and they did not cover it. Shame! Dick claims to have fallen asleep while surfing and drifted out to sea, only to be rescued and pushed home by a school of porpoises. Silliness abounds.

Ah, I'll miss the Surfside news. Wonder what's in store in NYC's local rags... watch this space...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

From Hemingway to Hollywood: But where are the vegetables?

From Hemingway to Hollywood: But where are the vegetables?: "I'm too hungover right now to actually consider eating, so instead I am watching Food P$rn courtesy of my new favourite show"

Thank you Hemingway Holly, for this edifying video. My favourite quote: "We need to visit a place that specializes in fried carbs". Well, quite.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Some puzzles

Puzzle 1: what shall we do with all these eggs and butter which need eating up?

Puzzle 2: fitting all our gubbins into this little box.    

Puzzle 3: how will they know which is ours?
Puzzle 4: getting 2 sofas, 2 tables, a chair, a yucca, and a snowboard to The Euro's new Venice pad

Answers on a postcard to Isadora Watts, somewhere between Malibu and NYC...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Land of the free

It is a universally accepted truth that service is great in America. Of course, one pays for it. As I have a reputation for being somewhat of a spendthrift, it won't surprise anyone to know that I am happy to pay.

Tip 12.5% to a surly London waitress who's avoided eye contact all night and never brought the tap water I asked for?* No thanks. Tip 20% to a smiley Los Angeleno, who enquired after my health and the quality of the food, and brought a nice sunny vibe to the table? Sure! Worth every penny.

Worth it too is the valet parking. As the badly scratched side of our lesbian Subaru, Ellen, can attest, I am not one for parking. I'm very very very happy to pay a strange man $5 to park her 10 feet away from where I left her. And if they don't give me a funny look for the way I pulled into the parking lot (wonky, stalling, fog lights on for no reason, etc) I'll tip them another $5.

Yup, not much comes free here. But I'm generally happy to pay.

Except where banks are concerned. My Wells Fargo branch has a coffee machine and water cooler, so I can refresh myself while I wait to be served. Except I'm never waiting, because no sooner have I set foot inside the place than I've been greeted in an almost aggressively friendly manner, by some eager young chap who'd like to help me if he can. Nice service. And at the cashier's desk, there's a little bowl of candy. Nice touch.

But this is a bank where I pay to write a cheque from my own account. And in a country where banks still charge you to use a different bank's card in their ATM. Oh, to be in England, where bank service is crappy, but it costs nowt.

*Don't shoot me Londoners! I know it's not all bad. I haven't forgotten Silvie at the Lord Palmesteron! But if I can't exaggerate national stereotypes for effect this blog just won't work...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Blogging about packing is more fun than packing

Though possibly not for you, dear reader.

The boxes are multiplying and filling up.
A box of useful ugly things, and one of sinful things. One of kitchen stuff which I helpfully labelled " LOOK OUT FOR KNIVES!"
The Craig's List inventory is shifting and the cash envelope padding out nicely.

The deck furniture has gone to a good home. Now we have only rocks and TLOML's anti-seagull weapon with which to amuse ourselves out there.

So all in all, good progress. But oh! SO not fun!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How to Eat (apologies to Nigella)

Black cod with miso is yesterday's news. So are sprouts. Truffle oil is having a long moment, all over everyone's dinner, whether you like it or not. Devilled eggs are hot RIGHT now too.

British readers may be interested to know about sliders. These are an incredible invention and will surely travel across the Atlantic soon. They are tiny weeny burgers so named because they simply 'slide' down your throat. In America it is perfectly acceptable to order 3 sliders as a starter. This is effectively like having one regular British size burger as a starter. Interesting. Of course if you do that in LA you have to have egg white-only omelettes for breakfast, salad with the dressing on the side for lunch, and 4 pieces of sashimi every day for a month to compensate.

Also for the Brits I'd like to spend a moment on  grits, biscuits and gravy:

Grits are not those burnt bits you can buy from the kiosk at an iceskating rink. They are a delicious creamy mix somewhere between polenta and oatmeal. I have enjoyed them with shrimp and creole sauce at Eight K - and at the fabulous Erinn V's Christmas party. Erinn sources hers from New Orleans. She's no fool.

Biscuits are not digestives, rich tea, or custard creams. Sadly America doesn't stock those kind. Instead they make dry, 2-days-old tasting scone, serve them for breakfast, and call them biscuits. Biscuits are marginally more palatable when drenched in gravy. (see below).

Gravy does not involve Bisto, or even Oxo. Here it involves a heck of a lot of sausage meat, extra meat fat, flour, and milk. Sounds rank? It is a bit.
American biscuits and gravy

A British biscuit...
...and gravy

Bleu cheese features heavily in LA. Not 'fromage bleu', which would be a pretentious way of saying blue cheese. Not 'blue cheese' which would presumably lack exoticism. No, 'Bleu cheese'. Usually with the capital B too. Note: despite the name, this is rarely French. It's not even half French, not even just the 'bleu' bits... That's just what they call it here.

And my latest lesson was this weekend at an outstanding goodbye party (thanks M&E, you know how to do it right). Nestled on the buffet next to the crudites and ranch dip was a little tank of weiners, slowcooked in grape jelly and worcestershire sauce. Who knew a slow cooked weiner could be so so delicious? I was so surprised I ate a hundred of the little dudes. Yum.

Now don't say I never tell you anything useful.

The wise man built his house upon the rock

The foolish man built his house on the sands of Malibu, at the bottom of the Santa Monica mountains. And the rain came tumbling down... and then the mud... and then the rocks.

The rain this weekend was crazy. And it sent people a little crazy too. The jackass, who jacknifed in his jackwagon next to us - a result of aggressively changing lanes at 70mph in 4" of water - on the 101 was a message: life is short, and precious.

The torrential rain and ensuing mud slides and rock falls did not damage our humble surf shack. But it was evidence that Malibu is a natural disaster waiting to happen. Poor Cosentino's flower store was hit by a river of mud from Las Flores canyon. Three days after the storm ended there are still firecrews and maintenance guys scraping the mud slick up from Duke's carpark. Madness.

During the storm the waves crashing against the stilts our building rests on made the whole building shake. Either that, or it was the earthquake that shuddered a way a mile or so offshore from Malibu. Yup, like I said, Malibu is a natural disaster waiting to happen. It's basically a string of multimillion dollar homes, battered by waves daily, clinging to the bottom of cliffs which turn into mud slides in winter and fire routes in summer... It's pretty, but I feel like it might not be here in 10 years time.

When we say goodbye to the 'Bu, it just might be forever. But if Malibu does not get swept away by earth, wind or fire, we're coming back on vacation every year.

A rather precarious house.

Sunset from our deck. Which I suspect could be in fragments on those rocks in 20 years time.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


On Sunday we dined at the wonderful Pace's Supper Club. Everything was, of course, delicious. And seasonal and local and cooked with love. And accompanied by the lovely strummin' and a-singin' of him out of Truth and Salvage, my new favourite band. That's just what you come to expect from Pace's Supper Club.

I especially liked the toasted hazelnuts in the cavallo nero. I jolly well love hazelnuts, especially with anything dark green and leafy. It's a rare chef that puts them in with the dark green leaves (I suspect because it takes quite a lot of hazelnuts to be noticed, but hey, understatement has its own charm, no?). Whenever someone does it, I think 'I really must buy hazelnuts and start putting them in salads... or with spinach... or even with cabbage'. But then I forget*.

And I bloody loved the deviled eggs. Pace's were all fancy and came from happy hens and topped with Oregn's finest Transmontanus caviar. Posh, eh?

I love not only eating deviled eggs but also deviling them up myself. TLOML and I had them as starters at a couple of R+D and then at Bar Marmont in the past couple of months, so I suspect they are having a moment. They're the new roast sprouts.

So much did TLOML and I enjoy our fashionable eggs that I decided to make them for the first time on a date night (for which read: 'let's pretend we're being thrifty by staying home and cooking an elaborate $100 bouillabaise accompanied by enough Schramsberg to sink a weaker drinker). I had never made them before and although the basic premise seemed simple enough, I thought it was worth checking a recipe online. I landed on Where else?

This is truly the most comprehensive deviled eggs website out there. (I assume there are others.)  It contains many many many recipes for deviled eggs. Which is sort of crazy as they are all exactly the same except for the bit after 'scoop the yolk out', and before 'put it back inside the white' where she tells you what to mash into the egg yolk. Yeah, steps 1 through 4, and 5 are pretty much a cut and paste job I guess.

Kind of sweet though, as it is clearly this lady's calling to evangelize, educate and just generally spread devilled egg love across the interweb. She has a section on the history of the deviled egg! She also claims to have 'regular visitors'. Which made me snicker the first time but actually, I've been back to the site twice since, so perhaps I am one.

FYI after I read the first 3 recipes I decided not to worry too much about Mrs Devilled and just wing it. Garam masala was a good addition, horseradish not so much, and the anchovy and paprika ones were the most popular of all. None came close to Pace's though!

*Now I've held the hazelnut thought in my head for two whole days, I almost think this time I could act on it before I forget.
Sadly however we are not buying store cupboard items so much as trying to dispatch them to the Euro. It's very convenient of her to move to LA within a week of our planned departure. 'Rusty bike, need it...? 7 mismatched wine glasses...? How about this dying hydrangea...?'
I suspect she will arrive with only the mongrel Louis Vuitton bag full of Louboutins and a bottle of Veuve Cliquot to her name, so she'll be glad of our stuff. Until her first jaunt down Abbot Kinney, when she replaces the lot with something far more fabulous. Her loss will be Goodwill's gain.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Unseasonable rainy season style rain

When is rainy-season style rain not rainy season rain?

When it occurs outside of the rainy season, silly.

Before I moved Stateside to be with TLOML he debated relocating back to his former stamping ground, San Francisco. I was tempted, as San Francisco is, unlike LA, an actual city with a beating heart and public transport. I did some hard thinking. In the end, LA won, because it has beaches and famously good weather. And if one's going to abandon dear dear London for a year. one needs a beach and plenty of sunshine to ward off homesickness.

It wasn't until the decision had been made that I discovered LA has as much rain in a year as London. Horrors! But TLOML clarified that it is quite unlike the rain in London, which spitter spatters down willynilly throughout the year, the clouds not pausing to consider whether it might be considered summer down on the ground.

No, in LA, I was told, the rain all occurs within the 'rainy season' in January and February. Ah, the rainy season! What a good idea. Herd all the rain clouds up and release them over a short window of time. So much more predictable and manageable.

When we had torrential rain for 3 days in late December I commented 'I guess the rainy season came early this year.'
'No,' insisted TLOML. 'This is not the rainy season yet.'

Hmmm. And when the sky chucked newsworthy buckets of rain down on us on Sunday, I said 'Wow, this is some rainy season rain.' Only to be told 'It's March. The rainy season's over.'

So I ask you, when it rains in a rainy-season style, outside of the rainy season, is it just regular old rain? 'Cos it sure as eggs is eggs did not feel like regular old London style rain to me.

PS One might ask the same question about the legendary June Gloom (a marine layer of misty cloud that sits over LA). When it's gloomy in May, or July, what is that called? Which reminds me of an observation a Fog City friend of ours made, when we were debating marine layers, smog, and the haze that sits over the Valley.

 'Like Eskimos for snow', he mused, 'Los Angelenos have more words for poor air quality than anyone else on earth'.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Pizza wars: 'sports' fights gourmet

The art of the perfect pizza is a subject that consumes millions of inches of recipe book print, and gazillions of, um, bytes, or whatever the interweb is made up of.

I know because I've googled it. Ever since I first amazed TLOML when we decided to have home made pizza and I reached for the bag of flour, and not the Boboli crust, I have been straining to perfect it. I mean, if he was that delighted with a stodgy dough that didn't rise baked in a lame metal tray, imagine how much more he'd love me if I produced a really cracking pizza.

So for over a year now we have been working on the perfect pizza. I have been in charge of dough, trialling every recipe from the over-researched, underwhelming Peter Reinhart's 'Napoletana' recipe to the one on the back of Fleischman's quick rise pizza yeast. TLOML was in charge of stretching, pressing, or rolling the dough. I was convinced the proper Italian way was to toss it, only to be confounded by evidence to the contrary in a dirty but fantastic pizza place near the station in Rapallo. The rolling pin works. Early on we invested a whopping $20 in a pizza stone and peel for easy assembling. We worked out the best way to get the oven superhot: switch it on an hour early and put the skillet lid over the stove-top ring that leaks oven heat. And I have to say, after a few false turns (I'm talking about you Wolfgang Puck) I think we've pretty much arrived at the best home made dough. The one on the back of the packet, funnily enough. You absolutely have to make 2 thin crusts with it though, just one is way too thick.

So much for the dough, what of the toppings? Here's where the hot debate comes in. TLOML favours what we (I) call American style. Thick with sauce, cheese, onions and peppers, garlic, jalapeno, an extra layer of cheese, and as much meat as will stick. I like what I call a European gourmet style. You know the kind, thin on sauce and cheese, and just one or two choice toppings.

We usually go for American style, as I fear incurring TLOML's wrath / really like ingratiating myself with him in the kitchen. Last night, crowing over our dough success, we decided to make 2 pizzas. One American, made by TLOML and rebranded 'The Sports Pizza'. He objected to mine being called European Gourmet since Gjelica and Madeo and many other LA restaurants make it this way. One, no longer known as European, simply 'Le Gourmet'.

The Sports Pizza
Le Gourmet

You know what...?! Both were damn good. The debate would rumble on - except that we are about to move to NYC, home of the perfect pizza, leaving the pizza peel and stone in the capable hands of The Euro.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The conference call of a thousand cuts

I should probably qualify that headline. The call itself was not about, or subject to, any cuts. The call was simply rumbling along in the background - ah the joys of a speakerphone on mute - while I did some wardrobe analysis.

Hence the thousand cuts.

In New York we will be living in an apartment that is, in its entirety, roughly the size of our total Malibu closet space. TLOML is saying things like 'I'm just going to Goodwill all my clothes except two pairs of jeans and two tshirts'.

I am making weak promises like 'I'll pack everything really neatly! I'll rent a storage space nearby!'. I hate getting rid of clothes. I rarely do it, and the odd time that I do, I inevitably rue that day when, two years later, the unlikeliest trend revives and I find myself hunting for that pair of M&S 'gardening trousers' in bright turquoise. God I miss those trousers.

But despite my dread of disposing of something dreadful I later realise is amazing - I have to admit it was probably time for a few wardrobe cuts to be made. So during the course of another long boring teleconference I set about it. As usual in these forays into the closet depths I rediscovered some long-forgotten gems. Hello red leather obi-style belt! Hello gold sparkly vest I have owned since I was 16!

And goodbye, jeans I fitted into for one brief summer after a bout of food poisoning.

Here are the results. Do you think TLOML will be pleased?

Coming to NYC

Well, I'm hardly not going to take my hi-tops, am I?

Yes, all 175 tops. And yes, I'll need all 3 grey cardies. And the magician's jacket.

Also coming for spring in NY

Some vital colour blocking t-shirts in this section

All the belts are coming

And the scarves

Also coming to NY for our 6 mths sojourn: the furry hat, in case of a cold snap, and several bikinis in case of a heat wave.

Dresses. Coming to NYC.

Capsule outerwear. Coming to NYC.
Going to LA Goodwill.

Harumph. Probably not. Heigh ho. We're off to Nobu for the first of what will undoubtedly be many 'farewell' dinners. In fact we're going with 2 of our fave LA friends on Friday, so we thought we'd go tonight to 'save the phone call' to book that table. Yup, we're in trouble, in the middle of an official thrift kick and going to Nobu to save on phone bills....

Monday, March 14, 2011

Why Team USA beat Britain in sports. The word according to TLOML.

Today whilst sitting on the deck watching a lot of dolphins kill for their lunch, I munched my way through so Soreen, or 'sticky bread' as my family call it. I bought the Soreen after my adrenalin-pumping bike ride, whilst on the hunt for toffees for TLOML, in the nasty English shop in Santa Monica. (I don't like it because when I asked in their so-called English pub bar if they were showing the Ashes, the Irish bar tender didn't even know what sport it was).

Anyway it struck me that TLOML has probably never tried Soreen. I offered him a piece of 'delicious, healty malt loaf', and he said no. So I buttered him a little taster sized piece, and presented it, saying,
 "Sometimes 'no' means 'I don't realise how amazing what you're offering me is, and if I did, I'd say  
 "Okay" he conceded, and took a bite. "Oh man, this is dirrrty. There's no way this is healthy".
I immediately turned to for proof that it was, as I had always believed, a health food. After all it has a picture of grapes on the packaging.
 "Soreen Original fruity malt loaf is suprisingly nutritious and low in fat" I quoted.
 "It tastes like a sticky cake," TLOML countered.
 "97% fat free!"
 "Till you slathered it in butter..."
Undeterred, I informed him, "The website says many sports persons rely on Soreen's malt loaf range as part of their balanced diet because they are packed full of carbohydrates and a great source of energy."
 "British athletes? Or American?"
Hmmm. I had to admit Soreen is not likely to appear in Michael Phelps' lunchbox. But I bet Floella Benjamin and Steve Crane had it for breakfast every day.
 "Exactly. Maybe that's why Britain is so bad at sports,"  said TLOML.

Reader, I could not argue with him. But the good news is, I get the entire Soreen loaf to myself. Good times.

The crapness of Britain at sport is something of a recurring theme. The World Cup didn't help.

Yesterday TLOML and I were involved in our weekend jog round the track at Pepperdine University, where a baseball game was going on. I was laughing at the media set up (loud music, big screens with head shots of the players) and the merchandising for sale. Bear in mind that Pepperdine is, at best, a third tier university (with an incredible Malibu bluffs campus). I mused that even at a big university sporting event, like the Head of the River race in Oxford, or the Oxford vs Cambridge Varsity rugby match, you'd be hard pressed to buy merchandise. You'd probably have to leave a cheque in someone's pigeon hole and wait 10 days for your order to arrive. 'It's crazy how much money and focus there is on American college sport' I said, 'compared to England'.

"Exactly. Maybe that's why Britain is so bad at sports,"  said TLOML. And as usual, I was forced to agree.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Death wish PCH

I went for my regular weekend pootle into Santa Monica today. This involves 20 minutes on PCH aka the road of death. And 20 minutes on the bike path along the sands of Santa Monica.

On a sunny Saturday, the bike path is almost more dangerous than PCH. Typical hazards include simple-minded, granite-thighed roller bladers swooshing from side to side across the entire bike path, usually with ipod plugged in and baseball cap pulled down, as if seeing and hearing aren't at all important senses to engage whilst hurtling down a narrow path at 15 miles per hour. There are also the giggling tourists, pedalling along all recumbent on those so-called fun cycles, looking googled eyed around them and nearly steering off the path as if they've never seen a beach or been on a bike before. Grrr. The worst of all - because you're not really allowed to shout at them - are the small toddlers who appear out of nowhere to stumble and lurch slowly across the path.
'Fun' for some cycle
Yup, give me the chumps on 'apehangers', the RVs and Hummers of PCH any day.

What made it worse today is that my bike bell has rusted up, which happens to anything vaguely metal in the salty damp air of Malibu (coathangers, necklace clasps, etc). So instead of doing my usual gentle 'ting ting' I had to resort to trilling a rather British 'excuse me' to the idiot peds/ funcyclists/skaters in my path. And for the alarming toddler who appears from nowhere, I reserved a panicked, strangled, high pitched (but still rather British) 'LOOK OUT!!!'. Sometimes with a 'sorrreeeeeeeee' thrown over my shoulder as the child bursts into tears of pure fear.

Bad luck for The Euro, who is taking care of my lovely purple bike with faux leather Western style stitched handle bars and seat, and a rusty basket on the front. It now comes with no means of alerting potential roadkill. She will be careering around Venice in it swearing in 3 languages to clear her path, I'll warrant.

For more on bike bell etiquette, read this quite amusing article from The Guardian's resident cyclist.

Friday, March 11, 2011

If we can make it there...

Eastbound and down, loaded up and truckin'
We're gonna do what they say can't be done
We've got a long way to go, and a short time to get there
I'm eastbound, just watch old Bandit run

In the space of 5 days, TLOML and I made the following judgements:
The Port Authority bus terminal. That's some vibe.

  1. Paying $4k a month for a huge apartment on the same Hell's Kitchen block as the Port Authority is a great idea.
  2. Paying rather less, to live somewhere rather smaller in Hell's Kitchen, is smarter.
  3. A short-term lease in boring but central Murray Hill is the best choice for us.
  4. Living in a damp, rat infested windowless dungeon in the East Village, for $3800 a month, where our meth-head would-be neighbour was asleep on her doorstep at 12 noon, is a bad idea. Despite its proximity to Katz's and Porchetta.
  5. Living with an old lady's tchotchkes and redundant piano is worth it for the money we'll save, and the Chelsea location.
  6. A posh building in Gramercy Park with lots of space and a nice doorman is the best place to be.
  7. We absolutely can afford to pay 5 months' rent in advance for a charming, bijou pad in leafy heart of the West Village.
  8. We should stay in lovely sunny beachy Malibu. TLOML can just commute to NY. NY can stay a 6 hour flight away, and we can stay here, on the beach, with Geoffrey's and Malibu Seafood, and the potential of sighting Dick Van Dyke in our local Ralph's.
  9. We should sign a 10 month lease on a small Chelsea apartment we have never seen, in a lovely shiny building we have never seen...

Most of those judgments were firmly established after much discussion, sometimes involving financial spreadsheets, decision making matrices*, and careful poring over maps. They were then reversed, some almost immediately. Talk about a whirlwind. We were like country fools being pulled this-a-way and that-a-way by the bright lights and hustle and bustle of the big smoke.

Judgments 4 and 9 were made in mere moments. And they still stand. I guess sometimes you just have to go with your gut.

Now we have 4 short weeks to drink the contents of the wine fridge, dispose of the inessentials (lucky LA Goodwill) and pack the rest.... Yikes.

*I love using the tools of my consultancy trade ouside of work. Witness the colour coded (for location and the type of activity, obv.) post-it itinerary I created when my dear friends Soph and Tom came to LA for 5 short days. Pity TLOML when I Gant chart the heck out of our wedmin...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Taking liberties with Gwyneth: a happy accident.

Keen to indulge TLOML's love of clams, and because I have a girl crush on Gwynnie (Gwyn haters, you're just jealous), I decided to try her spaghetti alla vongole recipe from Epicurious. So far, so standard Tuesday night in Malibu.

Then bad things started to happen.
First, Ralph's was out of clams. No clams in stock = unhappy TLOML. Resourceful  as ever I bought squid and scallops instead and decided to call it spaghetti alla squid and scallops.
Back at the ranch, at the first step of the recipe, instead of adding a pinch of red chilli flakes, I rained a shower of red chilli flakes over the pan for many long seconds, till I noticed I had the jar open on 'spoon' not 'sprinkle'.
One side is for sprinkling lightly, the other is for dolloping huge spoonfuls out of.
Angsted by this I stirred some past-its-best yoghurt in, to calm it down.
Rather too late, I realised we only had enough spaghetti to feed a small child. TLOML is not a small child. And neither am I. Put us together and you need enough spaghetti to feed 2 big greedy gutses (plural of 'greedy guts', anyone?).

So far, so Bridget Jones-esque cooking disaster. But wait... my tale is not yet fully told... We were hungry, so we dug in regardless. Oh yeah baby! It was the best, hot, spicy, salty, sexy squid and scallop pasta EVER - and without too much pasta so we could have second and third helpings without feeling greedy.

I think this is what's known as a happy accident.

In case you're interested, here's the recipe.

1) Put your pasta on, with a bit of olive oil in the pan to stop it sticking. The sauce will take about 15-20 mins.
2) Sweat 2 cloves of garlic, a shallot and a handful of fennel, all thinly sliced, in a dollop of olive oil. And more than you'd think of those good red chilli flakes - about a tablespoon I think.
3) Mush in about half a tin of anchovies, till they break up and make a sort of paste
4) Add 8-10 cherry tomatoes, squished with your hand so they are a bit 'open'. Simmer away till they are breaking down.
5) Add 1-1.5 cups of white wine (I poured my glass in while cooking, as I didn't like it, so it's hard to be precise). Simmer to reduce for about 5 mins.
6) Panic that you've made it too spicy, and stir a dollop of yoghurt in.
7) Throw in whatever random seafood your local supermarket provided. Baby squid and scallop were wicked, I bet prawns would work out pretty well too. Cook till it's, well, cooked.
8) Then add your pasta and stir it through.
9) Eat and smile.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Have pillow, can travel

Heading to LAX. Musing. What is this trend for getting onto a plane as if one were getting into bed? Okay, for a long flight, if you're flying coach, I suppose you might want one of those neckpillow things. At a push. But do you need to travel in your actual pyjamas? It's madness. Surely that's what Pajama Jeans were invented for? Or, indeed, actual jeans. I'm firmly of the belief that brushed flannel PJs are indoor clothes.

And those women who carry big bed pillows with them... yes, you, waiting to board the 2 hour flight to Denver... come on! Can't you just sit in a chair for 2 hours like a regular person?!

How about the people who buy a great big dirty Macmeal and scarf it, slobbering away, and leave the smelly carton and napkins squished in the seatback pocket for the remainder of the flight. Eat stinky junk food at your peril if I am nearby. I will order the United 'Lite (sic) Snack Pack' and unleash the aroma of tinned tuna to passengers as far as the eye can see. Ha!

Oh dear, I feel my travel-induced misanthropy setting in. Deep breaths Isadora, deep breaths.