Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Loving my crooked neighbors with my own crooked heart

Monday I left my apartment at 8am, darting to the airport to board a 10am flight to Palm Springs for the day to represent my winery at a small tasting event. It was a long day, but a fun way to break up the monotony of a normal work week. When back to the airport at 6pm to board my first flight of the two-legged journey home, I checked a voice mail from my next door neighbor, which announced that they were making a 5 pound leg of lamb for dinner, and did I want to come over?

DAMN. THE. LUCK. I wasn't due to land back in San Francisco until about 10pm, so was doomed to a very rushed fast food airport dinner, at best. I returned the call, having to decline the invite, or so I thought.

"Well," my neighbor cheerily replied, "I'll be up all night working on a document for work, so when you get home come on over for a lamb sandwich if you want." I practically teared up at the relief of not having to stuff a very unappetizing Burger King meal into my mouth during my thirty minute layover.

So at 10:30 my weary body climbed the stairs of their porch and I knocked on the door. The house still smelled like lamb, and five minutes later I had sunk down on the couch, lamb sandwich and glass of red wine in hand. My neighbor took a much needed work break, and flipped the TV to a recorded episode of the Colbert Report, and we chatted while I ate, relaxed and happy.

I don't remember the exact context, but somewhere in the show there was a quote about "loving your crooked neighbors with your own crooked heart". That night, as with many of the nights of the last year living here, I felt so grateful for the block that I moved onto, and the wonderful friends I have found in my neighbors. To be welcomed in, taken care of after a day of weary travel, was indescribably valuable to me that night. And this was not an unusual occurrence around here - this is just how we roll. We really do love and take care of each other on this block.

It's awesome to feel so at home at home.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


There I am, sipping coffee and innocently checking my email this morning, and suddenly this image pops up on my screen, courtesy of the MZ Wallace list that I am on:

It's just not fair, internet. Because now I want one. Bad. Look at the beautiful fall plum color, and the chic woman inspecting pumpkins... That could totally be me! I love plum colored bags and pumpkins too.

Sigh. Does anyone have $345 I can borrow? Actually, no wait. I already have one MZ Wallace. If I'm going to borrow $345, I'd probably use it towards a Rebecca Minkoff instead...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Batton down the hatches

Yesterday the weather in the Bay Area was miserable. The first big rain of the season, complete with huge winds, occasional floods and power outages swept through the area. Luckily, we were all ready for it since for the three days before the meteorologists had been warning us as if the Apocalypse were coming. So late Monday night, after putting my mother and her friend onto their red-eye flight back East, I came home to snuggle into bed for the night, letting the sound of rain on my skylights lull me to sleep.

The next morning I awoke to everything that the weathermen had been predicting. The weather outside was absolutely gross, so I took advantage of my flexible sales job and called it a "work from home" day, and set about to do the only proper thing on a day like that - I made chili.

I got my basic recipe from my mother, and over the years have adjusted it a bit to fit my own tastes, following ideas that I've gotten from other sources. It's made in a Crockpot (my all time favorite kitchen appliance), and makes your kitchen smell like heaven. During the fall and winter I make it a habit to always have the ingredients for it on hand (meat safely in the freezer) for days like yesterday when the last thing you want is to have to run to the store. Oh, and it's best served in big bowls, pasta bowls if you have them, while sitting in front of the TV, blanket over your lap, loved one by your side.

Here is the basic recipe, and at the end are the substitutions/add ons that I've been doing lately. Feel free to adapt it in your own way, and portion off any leftovers into tupperware containers to freeze - it works beautifully.

Crock Pot Chili

1 ½ lbs ground beef

1 med onion chopped

1 can dark red kidney beans

1 can light red kidney beans

1 can red kidney beans

1 large can crushed tomatoes

1 (16) oz can tomato sauce

1 (16) oz can stewed tomatoes

1 small can chopped green chilies

¼ tsp garlic powder

4 Tbsp chili powder

½ tsp black pepper

2 shakes crushed red pepper

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp vinegar

Brown beef with onion; drain well. Combine beef with all other ingredients in large crock pot. Simmer on low heat all day (at least 8 hours). Serve with crackers or corn chips. Top with shredded cheese.

*For the last few years, I've been using a pound of ground turkey and a log of breakfast sausage instead of ground beef. Just using turkey works just fine, and once I even used two packages of veggie burger crumbles to accommodate a vegetarian I was cooking for, and it worked great!

*If I have it on hand, I'll add about half of a dark beer. Nothing lighter than an Amber. If I do this, I usually only use about half of the crushed tomatoes, so that there isn't too much liquid.

*I add about a tablespoon of curry powder

*I serve it with cheddar cheese, sour cream, and Chipotle Tobasco as condiments.

*Homemade cornbread or Fritos on the side are a must.