Thursday, March 26

Tijeras Creek

I am so fortunate to live in an area surrounded by six public golf courses within 20 minutes of home. Some I like to play more than others, but it’s still great to have variety. Just to give you a sense of relativity, when I lived in the desert there were something like 30 public golf courses I could choose from. (There are 125 altogether, mostly private.)

For those of you who don’t know how to pronounce our strange Calispanish words, it’s “TehHAIRess.”

This is Tijeras Creek, one of my favorites. I played it yesterday for the second time. The first time was 15 years ago (I have been an avid golfer for 20+ years). It was a beautiful spring day and the weather was perfect.

This is #10. I had no idea what I was getting into on the gnarly back nine, which is worlds different than the resort-like front. My tee shot rolled into that sand trap next to the water and it was all downhill from there. I took a 9x. 9 is the most strokes I can take on a hole based on my handicap index and “x” means I gave up and picked up my ball.

See what I mean? Wicked. This is the creek that JJ fell into when we played here 15 years ago. We never did get the green slime out of his clothes and he gave up golf shortly after that.This is a par-3 downhill, I actually landed the green and then 3-putted for a bogey. The greens had recently been “punched” (aerated) and putting was impossible.

On the way “back” we saw many vistas of Saddleback, and the foreground is what is called “Chaparral.”

4.5 hours later, we arrive at #18. The clubhouse is in the distance. I got 5 on this par-4 hole. That’s bogey. Bogey is good. 1-DSCF1416
Score for the day: 105.

Oh, and here’s a cut/paste from a post a few weeks ago.

This is #16 at Arroyo Trabuco, a short par-4. I can easily make par here…but I never have. I did it! I made par.

Tuesday, March 24

Meanwhile Back at the Ranch

I say that because we live on a ranch. Although it is being developed parcel-by-parcel for residential/commercial use, it is still a working ranch with cowboys and cattle. I could hear them mooing across the valley the other day. No lie. Mooing is a strange thing to hear in the burbs, so I got out the binoculars, and, sure enough, there were cattle grazing over there.
Image from Rancho Mission Viejo.

We’re only a couple miles from Mission San Juan Capistrano, the crown jewel of the missions. The missions were primarily designed to convert the natives to Christianity. Father Junipero Serra founded 21 missions in California in the mid 1700s. It’s a very long story, more than anyone has the time or attention span for.

This is what’s left of ours. It’s still very beautiful and you can go inside.

You may have heard about the swallows?

The miracle of the swallows of Capistrano takes place each year at Mission San Juan Capistrano, on March 19th, St. Joseph’s Day.

As the faithful little birds wing their way back to the most famous mission in California, the village of San Juan Capistrano takes on a fiesta air and the visitors from all parts of the world, and all walks of life, gather in great numbers to witness the “miracle” of the return of the swallows.

At dawn on St. Joseph’s Day, the little birds arrive and begin rebuilding their mud nests.

True? Sort of. They do come back each year, but they do not arrive en masse like the legend says. Or at least I’ve never seen it and I’ve lived in these parts for more than 20 years. We had more swallows on the central coast than we do here. So they are everywhere, not this one place, and not this one day. But it’s a nice story.

To celebrate, and bring in tourist dollars, we have an annual Fiesta de las Golondrinas, which translates to Swallows Festival. parade-2-2009

It was a very nice parade celebrating our Mexican and American heritages, and the spirit of the Wild/Old West, which is also a big part of who we are.

Okay, enough of that.

Next up are a couple of photos I took while golfing yesterday.

These are California Poppies, our state flower. They grow wild up and down the state, often turning whole hillsides alive with color. It’s something to see. And when you see them growing wild out of nowhere, it’s really neat. At least *I* think so.

We were looking for Danielle’s ball when I snapped the above photo. And then we saw this:

(color enhanced) It’s just a little guy, only about 18 inches long—it looked like a stick—but as we drove past it in the cart it coiled back. Our neighbor’s dog was bitten by a rattlesnake last week in their back yard. (He’s fine.) There are signs all over the place warning you about rattlesnakes and mountain lions, but until you see one you just don’t think about it. It’s wild out there!

I stole this image from Cheryl. She took it with her phone at lunch Sunday. It’s a great shot with the crab legs in the foreground.

That’s all for now. Very busy days (and nights) here on the ranch.

Tuesday, March 17

A Day in the Life and Ribs

This is retirement life. All these activities took place within a 24-hour period. You know that commercial, right? What’d you do all day…oh, the usual.

JJ plays Bocce. The guy on the right (Bob) is in my golf group.

While the men throw the balls, the girls do this. 1-IMG_1617

The next morning is Book Club. I was trying to be surreptitious with the camera so I took this just as the group was breaking up. We read “Secret Daughter” which was very good, it was a story about India and motherhood and the culture of only keeping boy babies. A book club is neat because everybody seems to pick up something about the story that you may have missed. 1-IMG_1618

At the same time Book Club was going on, Bridge Club was happening down the hall. Alas, I cannot be in both places. It is St. Patrick’s Day, hence the weird green clothing. 1-IMG_1619

Selfie. Sort of—it’s taken in the mirror. This was the best green I could muster. We are off to “Taco Tuesday,” but it was outside the 24-hour photo period and I left the camera at home. Maybe next time.

I promised you ribs. I make outrageous ribs, and they are so simple and easy (and amazing) you won’t believe it. I made them right after I took the above photo and we ate them after we got home from Taco Tuesday at the club.

Start with a vacuum pack of ribs, baby-backs are great but I never seem to find them. These are just back ribs. I season them with basic BBQ-style seasoning. Like Emeril’s seasoning for example. I do not pull off the membrane like recipes suggest—that is just way too fiddly—I slit it at each rib and it goes away somewhere and disappears, bada bing.1-IMG_1621

You could put some liquid in there if you want, a little pineapple juice is nice, or Jack Daniel’s, but you don’t need it. It’s fine with or without.1-IMG_1624

I wrap the whole thing up in foil and put it in the oven at about 300 for a couple hours. I knew I’d be gone a long time (2.5 hours) so I set the oven at 285 and went out the door. When I came home, it looked like this. Tender and completely cooked but not falling apart, and all the flavor is in there. Why people boil them is beyond me. 1-IMG_1636

I cut the ribs into 2-3 rib sections and put them on the grill to finish them. I don’t use any sauce while grilling because it just burns. I only pass the sauce at the table. I like my ribs Memphis-style, which is “dry.” Just a little sauce is all you need and you can get very creative with the sauces. Carolina honey, sweet ‘n spicy, maple-Jack Daniels…NOW they’re falling-off-the-bone good and full of flavor.

Sorry for the meat porn, Sue.1-IMG_1638
So delicious. And a total no-brainer, they cook themselves.

Tomorrow I play golf, so I’d better go get my beauty sleep. Life is goooood.

Friday, March 13

What’s in Your Food?

I have been grain-free for almost one year. I woke up this morning and my chest was tight, a little reminder of the asthma I had for 25 years. (I no longer have asthma since I quit eating wheat.) I even had to use my inhaler, which made me jittery for most of the day.

JJ asked, “Did you eat any wheat yesterday?” Nope, I had 2 scrambled eggs, I ate a G-F (gluten free) protein bar on the golf course, then for dinner we had steak and salad (homemade marinade, homemade dressing). That was ALL. So I couldn’t explain the wheezing and achy joints. JJ said, “What was in that stuff you marinated the meat in?” It was my typical concoction of Worcestershire and teriyaki, lemon, garlic, and olive oil. I checked the labels. Sure enough, teriyaki contains wheat. I knew that, but I used such a negligible amount, and I rinsed it off before I cooked the steak. But it was enough to trigger a reaction.

I have a cast-iron digestive system and I don’t have celiac, but still I have to be SO CAREFUL! We rarely go out to eat anymore and I have to read every stinkin’ label because wheat is in everything—today I found it in canned beef broth. We don’t eat processed foods and we don’t eat grains at all. But I do cook with broth and spices, and those are places where wheat hides, even if it’s not listed on the label.

American wheat has been hybridized over the years to be resistant to pests, easier to harvest, and increase yield tenfold. The gluten content is off the charts and it’s why bread and pasta cause many people to have chronic health problems today.

But wait. There’s more.

Common wheat harvest protocol in the United States is a pre-harvest application of the herbicide Roundup or other herbicides containing the deadly active ingredient glyphosate. It causes the plant to die, releasing its seeds easily. Boom.


This has become routine over the past 15 years. It may not be the gluten, but the glyphosate, a toxic poison, that is slowly killing us and causing a myriad of increasingly prevalent health problems like autism and Alzheimer’s. LEARN MORE

We consume an enormous amount of wheat. Cereal or toaster waffles for breakfast, a sandwich or pizza for lunch, pretzels for a snack, and lasagna with garlic bread for dinner. Throw in a couple of cookies for a nighttime treat. That’s a lot of wheat in just one day. And corn, from which HFCS is made, is in practically every item on the supermarket shelf.

Could wheat be making you sick? Do you have any of these symptoms?

  • Joint pain
  • Itchy rashes
  • Canker sores
  • Asthma
  • Depression
  • Chronic sinus problems
  • Irritable bowel (IBS)
  • Migraines
  • Forgetfulness/attention deficit disorders

Could going wheat-free make you feel and function better than you have in years? It’s worth trying.

Saturday, March 7

Around Here

Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s Party!”….Robin Williams

Spring is definitely in the air around here. As if we ever had a winter. But things are waking up, and we’ve had some rain, which makes things green (we don’t see a lot of green in these parts). This is a view from the front of my house. The yellow is wild mustard.

The bougainvillea seems to like it here. It is filling in nicely.1-IMG_1609

I still play golf every Wednesday. This is #16 at Arroyo Trabuco, a short par-4. I can easily make par here…but I never have. Yet. More women have joined our golf group. There were only two of us ladies in the beginning, now there are eight. Yay!

We are constantly busy—there is so much going on in our little enclave of active seniors. The bridge players have finally come out of hiding so now we have a whole bunch of people to play bridge with. Jim has joined the bocce ball team. They started a Zumba-style dance class twice a week but I can only go on Fridays because that’s the only day in the week that isn’t spoken for.zumba_img_gold
(image shamelessly stolen from the internet)

They have broken ground on an assisted-living facility on the other side of the hill in the orange groves…won’t that be convenient when the time comes. Have I mentioned how much I love it here?

We are steadfastly sticking to our diets, although we aren’t losing much weight…the scale does creep downward, but ever. so. stubbornly. Macy’s was having a huge weekend sale and we were at the door when they opened Friday and scored some great deals. We badly needed new clothes—clothes that fit. I am between sizes. Another 6 pounds and I’d be right on the money, but noooooo. I got the larger size, which is a little too roomy. Pout.

We saw The Second Best Marigold Hotel. I liked it because of the Bollywood music and spectacle (I love Bollywood). Of course there was a wedding… The movie centers around a bunch of 70/80-somethings riding past gaily decorated elephants in Jaipur on motorbikes, with impossibly perfect hairstyles and beautifully flowing gauzy garments. It’s always a delight to watch Maggie Smith and Judi Dench onscreen, but there isn’t much to the story beyond these horny geezers mired down in the same problems a bunch of frat boys might have: How to get laid before I die, does she like me, should I go for it I don’t know…you get the idea. If you haven’t seen the first Best, you should; it’s delicious. It’s running on PPV right now.
Now, what the heck does that mean.

Speaking of Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey is over already!!

Nothing to report in the studio. Maybe tomorrow?

Sunday, March 1

In Like a Lion

Well, not exactly. March came in with a light drizzle, more like a kitten. But still, it is weather. We get a little rain around here and the local TV stations go on “Storm Watch.” It’s laughable.

Life perks along here on Planet Rian. We had a dinner party last night and, as usual, I did not get any photos of the food. Picture salmon with panko and parsley on it, scalloped potatoes that were oh-so divine (recipe below), and perfectly roasted asparagus. For dessert I made chocolate-dipped strawberries on a little nest of fresh raspberries. Here’s the gang:

Cliff and Barbara, left, are our next-door neighbors. They are the best neighbors ever. JJ, at the end of the table, poured some beautiful pinot noirs from his collection (and the food was designed to complement them). JJ is the best husband ever and a great host. On the right are Linda and CB, who brought me into the best golf group ever, and Linda and I play golf together nearly every Wednesday.

I learned something new! Have you ever “peeled” a mushroom? I had never heard of such a thing. But we had the best mushrooms at a neighbor’s recently and I asked her how she did them. She peeled the mushrooms! No way! Here’s how:

Here is your average button mushroom with the stem removed. There is only a tiny hole for the stuffing, and often requires two bites. I used to try to cut this off and it was fiddly and yielded a mangled end-product.

I didn’t know how to go about it, so I just tried peeling one. Look how easy the skin pulls off! Unbelievable. Mushrooms are like little sponges, so if you wash them they get soggy. And really messy to eat.

Wa-LA! A tiny, one-bite mushroom that is easy to stuff!

Did you notice the flowers on my table? I usually don’t put fresh flowers on the table because they are tall—and I didn’t have a short vase, until JJ bought me these two tiny vases (on sale!) at Pottery Barn.

And, since the theme was “Celebrate Spring,” tulips were in order. Aren’t they sweet?

Here’s the recipe for scalloped potatoes. Lordy, these were good.

SCALLOPED POTATOES (from Epicurious)
Serves 6

3 pounds (about 5) Yukon gold potatoes
3 TBS butter, cut into small bits (I used more)

Salt and pepper
1.5 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
Grated nutmeg

Peel and thinly slice potatoes. Layer in baking dish, overlapping slightly—sprinkle each layer with salt and pepper, and dot with butter.

Combine the milk and cream, and nutmeg. Pour over potatoes (I added more butter to the top). Cover loosely with aluminum foil. Bake at 350 for 1.25 hours (mine took 1.5 hours but I think my oven is slow). Remove foil and continue baking until top is golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

This can be made a day ahead (that’s how I roll) and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before baking.

That’s all the news for now. Today is a wee bit blustery and cold, so we’re wearing our fuzzy slippers and hunkering down.