Sunday, July 31, 2016

Words of wisdom - July edition

There is no pillow so soft as a clear conscience. –French proverb

Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader – not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon. –E.L. Doctorow

It’s no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. –Krishnamurti

When you laugh you are not afraid. When you are not afraid you are free. –Gregorius Nekschot

A well-developed sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life. –William A. Ward

What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Should he keep back his opinions, at such a time, for fear of giving offense, he should consider himself guilty of treason towards his country. –Patrick Henry

A politician divides mankind into two classes: tools and enemies. –Nietzsche

If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters. –Alan Simpson

Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own, instead of someone else’s. –Billy Wilder

I think there is only one quality worse than hardness of the heart and that is softness of the head –Theodore Roosevelt

To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize. –Voltaire

Wonder. Go on and wonder. --William Faulkner

Resolve to be thyself; and know that he who finds himself loses his misery. --Matthew Arnold

The greatest waste in the world is the difference between what we are and what we could become. --Ben Herbster

You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result. --Mahatma Gandhi

The soul that perpetually overflows with kindness will always be cheerful. --William Godwin

Being happy doesn't mean everything is perfect. it means that you've decided to look beyond the imperfections. --Anonymous

Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night. --Edgar Allen Poe

The writing life: frustration, fear, independence, exhilaration, worry, adventure, a sense of the unknown. --Mark Rubenstein (on Twitter)

The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it. --Chinese Proverb

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Fire in the twilight

This was the sky in Marina del Rey yesterday, late afternoon. This was taken from my balcony, looking northeast. The smoke from the Sand Fire made its way all over Southern California yesterday. People on social media were posting all kinds of apocalyptic photos from all over the Southland. Keep in mind this fire is about forty miles away from me. I can't imagine what it must be like in Santa Clarita.

The skies are clear now, so hopefully that's a sign our awesome firefighters have this bad boy under control. Last I saw, the fire had consumed 22,000 acres, was only 10% contained and had destroyed almost twenty homes.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

South Park turns 20

I love South Park. This show is what happens when a network leaves its creatives alone to do what they do best. I hope Matt and Trey do this show forever.

We went there and didn't even get sued.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Writerly memes

Part of my collection that I've amassed in my journey through the internets. If you see your work here, let me know. Happy to give credit where credit is due!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

This is actually pretty brilliant. As in I wish I'd thought of it first.

Courtney and Liza are the brains behind the inaptly named Delicate Estates. Their slogan is "Cards are better when they're attached to alcohol". 

The really genius part is, they're not a winery. They just sell the labels. You attach them to the wine of your (or the recipient's) choice and voila - instant awesome message on a bottle.

And because the front of the labels aren't awesome enough, check out a couple of the backs:

Like I said, genius. Now all they have to do is print up labels. I hope they make bank.

H/T to Tasting Table for the heads-up. Images snicked from the Delicate Estates website.

Friday, July 15, 2016

It's research!!! Honest!!!

In case you were wondering why I use a search engine that doesn't track me.

No really officer, my editor said I have to actually show my character stabbing a guy in self defense, rather than just inferring it. Honest. See: Stab Wounds. Told ya.

I think one of my neighbors is unhappy with our new internet provider

Spotted this on the drop-down menu for local networks:

Unfortunately, our previous provider (Bel Air Internet) sucked donkey balls, so a change had to be made.

CSI: Potato

Too bad there aren't any CSI's left to rip from this headline:

Arraignment In Case Involving DNA Found On Potato Scheduled For Wednesday

A Naugatuck woman charged with setting fire to a Prospect masonry company after, police said, she was tripped up by a potato she stuffed into a van tailpipe will face a judge Wednesday.
Willow Martin, 19, of Naugatuck, was charged Tuesday with second-degree arson, third-degree burglary, possession of burglar's tools, first-degree criminal mischief, attempted first-degree criminal mischief and five counts of conspiracy. She was held on $110,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday at Superior Court in Waterbury.
Martin and Breonna Constantino, who were the best of friends while dancers at the Hollywood Connecticut Strip Club in Southington, had a falling out over money, according to an arrest warrant.
Martin and Constantino traveled to Wildwood, N.J., last summer and Martin loaned her friend $1,200, according to the warrant. Constantino was slow to repay the debt and that angered Martin so much that she set fire to MTM Masonry on Waterbury Road in Prospect, a business owned by Constantino's stepfather, according to the warrant.
The big break in the case? A potato stuffed into the tailpipe of a van belonging to MTM Masonry's owner. When he was notified of the fire at his business about 5 a.m. Sept. 15, and prepared to drive over, he found the tuber in the van's tailpipe, pulled it out and brought it along. He gave it to police, who had it analyzed for DNA.

The DNA actually belonged to Martin's then-boyfriend, who ratted her out. Do read the whole thing, it's hilarious. I can say that because no one was injured.

The sad part is that she's facing ten criminal counts over $300-$400 left on a personal loan of $1,200. I hope it's worth it.

Criminals are so dumb.

H/T to DP Lyle on FB.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

When you need to feed a small army

That's a lot of pancakes. Time to man up.

You shouldn't be eating that Bisquick crap anyway.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


I've had to sit on this news for a couple of weeks at the request of Sisters in Crime Los Angeles until they made the official announcement: My short story "Crime Drama/Do Not Cross" was among those accepted for SinC LA's next anthology, LAst Resort. I got the news on my birthday. Best birthday present EVER. This will be my first time being published and I'm still pinching myself that it's happening.

The anthology is scheduled for release in April 2017. Of course I'll keep you posted on its progress and of course, where to order your copy.

Here's how I got the glorious news:

From: SinCLA President
Sent: Friday, June 24, 2016 5:25 PM

Dear Melinda,

Bravo! Your short story, “Crime Drama/Do Not Cross” was chosen for inclusion in the 2017 SinC/LA Anthology LAst Resort.

Terms for inclusion in the anthology include your agreement to make reasonable revisions that may be requested by the editors or the publisher. You will be contacted soon by an anthology editor to begin the editing and polishing process preceding final submission to our publisher this Fall.

This may be tough, but we ask that you keep your good news a secret from print and social media until July 10 as we plan to announce the names of our editors and the complete list of contributing authors at our chapter meeting. I hope to see you there so we can celebrate together!

LAst Resort release is scheduled for April 2017.

Thank you for your submission!


Rochelle Staab
President, Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles

They made the official announcement at their meeting in South Pasadena Sunday. Out of sixty entries, sixteen were chosen for inclusion. My editor is award-winning writer Matt Coyle. You can find more information about LAst Resort  here.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The end of Food Network Star recaps

After going back and forth the past week about whether or not I wanted to continue to recap Food Network Star, I've decided that as much as I hate to flake out on a project this show has just become too aggravating to continue. With the results of the past couple weeks and how annoying some of the remaining contestant(s) are, I've decided that continuing would be a waste of my time. I've got a project now that is much more important and worthy of my time, which I'll address in a future post.

The recaps take hours to do, sometimes a large chunk of the day, which I hadn't anticipated. I just have too many other projects I could be working on to justify wasting that kind of time on a show I've come to loathe. I guess I just needed a big fat reminder why I've only watched the show once or twice out of twelve seasons. Considering how few Food Network "stars" the series has actually produced, apparently I was expecting too much in terms of the quality and watchability of the contestants.

So now on to bigger and better things!


Monday, July 4, 2016

More pan obsession

Decided to put the birthday pan to work. To review, I got this for my birthday:

And the results were fantastic.

I really need to break down and invest in plain white dishes for pictures. As you can see above, the plate is cute but totally distracts from the cake. I'm strapped for space, so storage is an issue, but this cake is so cute it needed a plain plate so it could stand out. It's what we used in culinary school.

The pan came with what is the simplest recipe I've ever seen for a pineapple upside down cake. The mini-cakes themselves are actually pretty substantial, one alone could be a meal. And most importantly, in addition to being cute as all heck, they're delish!

Almost dreading my next trip to Sur La Table, where we got this pan. Not sure which one I'll get next, but I think it's inevitable there will be more. At this rate I'll be single handedly supporting Nordic Ware.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Food Network Star - Good Mythical Morning (Week 6)

I really wanted to be on top of these recaps, but real life has intervened. I was hoping it would get easier and faster to recap as the number of contestants dwindles - after this episode we will be down from the original thirteen to only six remaining. This episode shot that hope out of the water. I'm embarrassed to have to admit this is a week late - this recap is for last week's episode. But, it's finally done.

After being in the bottom three the past two weeks, Rob states that he's going full-on lunch lady. I hope that means a return to the Rob we saw the first few weeks, and not manipulative foreshadowing. But I think we all know how this works by now.

For the first challenge our guest judge is Duff Goldman, baker and baking show host. Erin is beyond stoked to see him; apparently she won a baking show championship, so she's in her element. Hopefully this means we'll get to see her shine, and isn't manipulative foreshadowing.

The topic is edible art. Giada points out that most of these creations are sweets, but today the chefs must create savory edible art, and Erin's bubble is burst. They have 45 minutes. Go!

Tregaye is making a Fish Tail Corn Cream Salad that will look like a fish. So far it looks pretty clever. Rob admits he doesn't know much about edible art, but he's making turkey meatloaves that will look like turkeys. Joy's mind goes to what she'd make with her kids and the result is a Mac and Cheese Funny Face Plate. Erin is making Meatloaf Cupcakes with Mashed Potato "Frosting". Well played, Erin.

Per Ana, it's always bikini season in Miami, so she's whipping up Bikini Benedict with Spanish Chorizo. She's using tortillas cut into triangles for the bikini tops and grill asparagus for the straps. She's made extra eggs because they're standing in for breasts, and, "I wanted to make sure 'the girls' match, because there's nothing worse than lopsided...eggs." She also seems a lot more comfortable on camera while in action.

Damiano is making risotto and stuffing it into radicchio leaves to create flowers and so far the plate looks pretty good. Jernard admits edible art isn't his thing. He's making Cajun Pork Lollipops, with a potato spear as the stem of the meatball. Ana isn't impressed and I have to admit I'm not either. Jernard points out that sometimes art is abstract, and he's hoping the judges see it that way.

With only a couple minutes left, Rob's mini-meatloaves are scorching in the pan. Rob: "I'm screwed." He starts cutting off the burned sides, but he still has to plate. Duff then tells them that they are going to shoot one-minute spots describing their dishes.

Erin is up first. She uses the term "old-fashioned" several times in her spot. She probably could have done a better job of selling it, although it really does look like a cupcake. Duff, having watched her bake for eight weeks on the other show, tells her he knows she can bring more. The judges agree that the dish looks amazing, but the meatloaf is tough. Bobby tells her she needed to put vegetables in it, as they create moisture.

Jernard's meatball lollipops don't look like much, but his presentation is off the charts, getting a shrieking laugh out of Giada. He may or may not actually make these at home and rock them around the house, but he sure sold it. Duff: "This is a show I want to watch. This is how big dudes get sexy. That was amazing." Giada allows that the dish isn't all that artistic and they seem meh on the taste.

Ana starts off great. "Hi guys, I'm Ana from Miami where it's always bikini season, so that's the inspiration for my Bikini Benedict." Then she stumbles badly in describing it, forgetting at least one of her ingredients. She does recover and wraps it up well. Bobby wants her to smile more. Duff loves the bikini. Bobby: "And it's really good, too." Ana: "It's like I'm close, but no cigar...and I need the cigar." That's how I feel about her and I think the judges do too.

Damiano nails his presentation, which includes picking up the risotto-stuffed tulip/radicchio and taking a big, messy bite at the end. The dish itself also scores with the judges. Giada points out that the radicchio really does look like a tulip. I'm not a big risotto fan so I probably wouldn't enjoy eating it, but it is really pretty.

Rob starts off really well, pointing out that kids like to eat and play with their food. "I'm a giant kid, and I'm gonna go in like Godzilla, baby." He starts chowing down (messily); the problem is he never described or showed his design. As the last few seconds of his presentation wind down, it's just dead air. Erin: "Awkward." Bobby agrees, telling Rob he started out well, then got lost. Duff recognizes the design as a bird, although he's not sure what kind. He is impressed with the amount of veggies on the plate, giving the kids a nice healthy lunch. Giada's meatloaf is burnt and dry.

Joy takes the mom approach, wrapping with, "This M-A-C will make you an M-O-Y." It takes everyone a few seconds to realize MOY stands for Mom of the Year. Bobby tells her she sounded like she was reading off a teleprompter. Duff loves the design. "If I was a little kid, I would be like, aw this is awesome!" Bobby tells her the mac and cheese was really good.

Tregaye belts her presentation out of the park. Bobby describes it as fun. I don't know if I'm still sour on her from the first few weeks, but I still feel like I'm watching someone perform, rather than being herself. I'm not sure I'd recognize her dish as a fish, but the judges like it - especially the sliced radishes standing in for scales, and it tastes really good.

Giada congratulates the contestants on their creativity. My top two: Damiano and Tregaye were the two obvious winners. The judges agree. Duff, who comes across as a really nice guy (I haven't seen his shows) compliments them on a job well done and heads out. Bobby tells them to get some rest - they've got a huge challenge awaiting them.

When they return, Bobby brings up the importance of mastering social media. He intros the YouTube series Good Mythical Morning, which I've never heard of, but which has almost 10 million subscribers. Giada brings in the hosts, Rhett and Link, who introduce themselves as the Bobby and Giada of the internet. The contestants have to do a segment from GMM called "Will It?" For example: A banana - will it burger? They take a traditional food and pair it with an ingredient not normally associated with it to see if it will work. Another example: Pork brains - will it pizza? Erin looks like she's going to throw up. Or, caviar - will it donut? Tregaye: "Lord have mercy."

To come up with the combos, the guys introduce The Wheel of Mythicality. They have some covered plates with ingredients, which the chefs will get by picking numbers, then they will spin The Wheel of Mythicality for the "Will It?" part of the equation. None of them seem terribly thrilled with the whole idea. It's about to get worse for them. Here's what they ended up with:

Joy: Kimchi (which started stinking up the studio as soon as it was revealed)/Bread Pudding
Ana: Radishes/Eggs Benedict
Rob: Hummus/Cheese Calzone
Jernard: Ahi tuna/Patty Melt
Damiano: Cantaloupe/Spaghetti and Meatballs
Erin: Canned sardines/Quesadilla
Tregaye: Octopus (and she damn near barfed at the sight of it)/Mac and Cheese

Man, I really do not envy the contestants right now.

I gotta say, Rhett and Link were hilarious and completely comfortable in front of the camera during this segment, which had Giada in tears from laughing so much. Forget the contestants, just give these guys a show on Food Network. I have got to check out their show on You Tube.

Tregaye is repulsed by the octopus. Ana just made eggs benedict for the previous challenge and she doesn't want to repeat herself, so she's making crab cakes and a spicy Hollandaise sauce. She's worried that the strong flavors will overwhelm the radishes, so her plan is to include them in every aspect of the dish. Not sure how she's going to pull that off, or if it will work. Rob suggests she make it in the shape of a bikini.

Speaking of Rob, his plan is to replace ricotta in the cheese calzone with the hummus. He's also using egg roll wrappers instead of dough and deep frying them, because kids love fried stuff. Rob: "I always say I'd eat my foot if it was wrapped in bacon and deep fried." This cracks up his fellow chefs.

Despite their "bad rap", Erin loves sardines and wants to showcase them in her quesadillas. She sounds positive, but a shot of her flipping a quesadilla shows it a lot of the filling spilling out.

Poor Joy is overwhelmed by the stench of her kimchi. And bread pudding? She got hosed. I don't know how anyone could pull that off. The stuff is literally bubbling. I'm not sure what the bread pudding connection is except for the challah bread, but she's rolling the mixture into hush puppy balls and deep frying them.

Poor Tregaye is struggling to fabricate her octopus. I feel bad for her - if she can make this work then she deserves the top spot this week. But eventually her ego kicks in. "Look, I'm disgusted by this octopus, I'm not gonna lie. But as the queen of food fusion, I can't be afraid to fuse anything together. I have a title to uphold." I wish Bobby would give her the same smackdown about repeatedly referring to herself as "the queen of _______" the way he did with her repeated use of "whimsical", because it worked, and the whole queen thing is as annoying as the whimsical thing.

Damiano has Tregaye and her octopus on one side, and Joy and her kimchi on the other. He's not happy about being surrounded by the stench. He's wrapping cantaloupe melon balls with prosciutto to serve as the meatballs in his dish.

Jernard got a really big, gorgeous hunk of tuna. He's slicing it for a Louisiana-style patty melt with ahi tuna. "Right now I'm attempting to do the unthinkable, and that's marry cheese with fish." He's right - it sounds disgusting. He's making a Creole remoulade to go with it, but there's a malfunction with the blender and a lot of it runs out over the base. He's doesn't have time to make it again and will go with what he was able to salvage.

Having finished their dishes, the contestants now need to shoot a three-minute segment for Good Mythical Morning with Rhett and Link in which they need to sell their awesome dishes to Rhett and Linc.

Tregaye: In her spot, she announces, "The queen is here!" Now that she's done it on film I'm really, really hoping Bobby gets after her for it. Oh, and " on fleek" which she also uses repeatedly and which I'm now officially tired of hearing. Tregaye: "Do you know what I'm fleeking?" Stop it, just stop it. But the hosts and judges both think she did a great job on camera and they like her dish.

Damiano doesn't gel with Rhett and Linc when they keep insisting that the "meatballs" look like eyes and the way it's plated makes it look like a face. He also doesn't get around to discussing the dish until the very end, just as he's taken a huge bite. So he shoves the food into one cheek and keeps going. The clip makes him look devoid of humor, but of course Giada is laughing and squealing like it's the most awesome thing ever. I can't wait until she has to tell him he's eliminated, which I'm beginning to think isn't going to happen, and not because he's the strongest contestant. The judges like his dish, but Bobby thinks he took the easy way out of the assignment. He was hoping the melon would be incorporated into the spaghetti. To my great surprise, Giada agrees, telling Damiano that he didn't take a risk of blending the cantaloupe and spaghetti. But then she says it's a fantastic dish. Okay.

Erin: "Bobby and Giada told me that I need to bring a little more spunk to the table. Buckle up buttercup, cuz, I'm bringin' it." She starts off by insisting she sit between Rhett and Linc so she can be the Erin part of "an Erin quesadilla". Turns out they liked that she did that and Giada told her she "brought the spunk today". Unfortunately Giada also didn't think she sold the idea of a sardine quesadilla. Bobby seems overwhelmed by the taste and not necessarily in a good way, but the GMM guys think it's a good dish for people who like sardines.

Rob scores a hit when, while describing his dish he mentions fennel, and one of the hosts asks if he means a funnel, that he cooked in a funnel. Rob: "No, I've drank using a funnel, many times in my younger days." He seems very comfortable, but as Tregaye points out (and like most of the contestants) he doesn't start talking about his dish until the very end. But when prompted to do so, he crashes and burns, unable to describe the taste. He's prompted to take a bite, but doesn't say anything about it before he runs out of time. Not only do the judges ding him for not talking about his food, but one of the GMM guys suggests that, "It did seem like he didn't want to eat it." But the food itself is a huge hit. Rob seems to feel like he dodged a bullet, but Giada dings him for underselling such a great dish.

Ana is doing well with the hosts, one of whom once dated an Anna, who is now a lawyer. Ana: "I'm a lawyer." The hosts are surprised by that. The flirtation route seems to be working, so she goes all in, ending up describing her dish in loving detail with one of the host's arm around her. The interview is a win, but the dish doesn't really highlight the radish. In fact, Giada thinks the most memorable part of it is the crab cake, and Ana's dish is the first to not answer the question of "Will It?"

Jernard gets called on combining fish and cheese and just eases through it smooth as can be. Even the hosts admit he sold it. When they tease him about taking two bigs bites of the sandwich at once, he boasts, "I'm a big guy. Look at this, I'm still growing." Bobby compliments him on the confidence to sell such an unusual combination. The judges love the dish. Jernard is so stoked that he does the splits, damn near anyway. He claims he could do it all day long because his wife made him take yoga and pilates. Again, would love to see him with his family, because every time he mentions them I learn something new about them.

Joy is personable, but she doesn't really explain how her hush puppies count as bread pudding, nor does she really talk about them at all once she launches into a story about how she once worked in stage shows on cruise ships. The judges agree she started well, then got off track and never got back on. The consensus is that the dish should be a lot spicier and that toning down the kimchi flavor was a mistake, and we have our second fail in regards to "Will It?" for the evening.

As the contestants gather to see who will live to cook another week, Rob is aware that he hasn't been bringing it. "Presentations are just not my strong suit lately."

The judges single out two contestants who made their guest spots look easy. My feeling is there was only one who knocked it out of the park and that was Jernard. As far as who would be the second, I'd go with Erin because although her dish didn't get raves, she was proactive in how she handled her interview. But knowing how the judges think, I think their second choice is going to be either Tregaye or Damiano. And I'm right, it's Jernard and Tregaye. Although I didn't like her interview or her continuing reliance and overuse of trendy buzzwords, she did a hell of a job with the octopus.

For the others who are safe, I'd call Erin for sure, and probably Damiano because although I thought his interview seemed contentious and humorless, but I also know he doesn't seem to be able to do any wrong with Giada. For the bottom three, I'd have to go with Ana and Joy because they were the only two that didn't score a "Will It?" (and Joy's interview got so far off track) and Rob because his interview was a disaster and he couldn't muster the excitement to sell his dish.

The judges throw a curve and leave only a bottom two. I would have gone with Joy and Ana, but the judges save Damiano (told ya), Ana (big shock there) and Erin. The judges bottom two: Joy and Rob.

It's the first time Joy's hit rock bottom, but I think this is the third consecutive week that Rob, who initially seemed unstoppable, has been here. As the judges mull over their decision. Bobby is frustrated with Rob because despite being a early favorite due to his personality and likability, he doesn't seem to be growing over the course of the show. Giada: "I want to see these people blossom and develop." Bobby: "We're past the halfway point. He should really be flourishing."

As for Joy, Bobby notes that she's usually comfortable in front of the camera, but the Good Mythical Morning interview really got away from her. He also thinks her food has been shaky, which I find surprising because she's delivered some great stuff. Giada: "She knows how to execute certain things really well. But if you take her out of that, it might be rough." Again, funny because I feel the same way about Rob, that he does great until you take him out of his comfort zone.

My choice for elimination: Rob
The judges choice for elimination: Rob

Rob is disappointed, but handles his elimination graciously and tells his fellow contestants, "You will see me again." Unfortunately for Rob, he was also bounced out of Star Salvation, so it appears his Food Network journey has, in fact, come to an end.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Sparkle brighter!

I love this!

Thanks to Crave Local Network on Twitter.