Friday, January 30, 2009

I Love Words: Saucebox

Word: saucebox

\ˈsȯs-ˌbäks, ˈsas-\



a saucy impudent person

(Some folks may want a definition for 'impudent,' so here you go: 1 [obsolete]: lacking modesty; 2: marked by contemptuous or cocky boldness or disregard of others : insolent.)

I'd actually never heard this word before until I read it recently in an Editrix post (Thanks, Ed!). Love it. Apparently, it's the precursor to saucy and sassy, two other favorites. Sassy reminds me of my pubescent days when I had a subscription to the eponymous magazine - such a great publication for young girls because they employed healthy (not anorexic), unconventional (read: normal!) female models and highlighted topics and people who were hip and smart instead of what the common fair focused on (i.e., diets, diets, diets, omgBOYS!, gossip, sex, Sex, and SEX). Of course, this was before they were purchased by a big conglomerate and morphed into just another teen rag ('Stepford Sassy' as writers at Bust [a great magazine, btw] and the authors of How Sassy Changed My Life called it.)

Words like sassy and saucy went on to inspire my young adult life as well. Case in point, this campy photo captured by my cousin. Saucy, very saucy. (No, we're not really hitchhiking. We're just being silly in a field in the middle of nowhere.)

As a result of my saucebox research I found out that it is also the name of what appears to be a pretty cool restaurant in Portland, OR. Will have to check it out if I ever get up that way.

Other "I Love Words" Posts

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cheap Date: Tiny Vaudeville

One of my favorite non-profits, Valencia 826, had a benefit show for their L.A. branch at the Echoplex in Echo Park Monday night and me and the DH went to check it out. They were calling it Tiny Vaudeville and it was basically a very hip, clever, and entertaining variety show consisting of actors, comedians, singers, and a headlining band. They're hoping to make it an ongoing thing, featuring new acts the last Monday of every month. If you're interested in checking it out next month (2/23), you can get tickets here. Or you can be a cheap date, like me, and wait to see if they show up on

What exactly would you be supporting? I'll let the founder of 826, Dave Eggers, tell you himself:

Yes, I still have a mad crush on Eggers. In fact, here are those autographs I mentioned in an earlier post in which I divulge that crush.

But, in all seriousness, I think I found a natural affinity for this organization because I'm an editor of textbooks, a former tutor, and someone with a lot of teachers in my family, and because I grew up in an area plagued with economically challenged families and schools. I just really love what they're doing and how they're doing it.

If you do go to Tiny Vaudeville, there are a couple of decent restaurants with reasonably priced menus in the area and lots of good authentic Mexican food counters and stands. We tried Masa and were pretty pleased. When we get down that way again, we may try Taix or Rodeo Mexican Grill. (All are on Sunset.)

Other Cheap Date posts

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Examined Life

We've been recording and watching lots of Inside the Actors Studio lately. It's a great show, but it's difficult to watch and not think of Will Ferrell's send-up of the show and its host James Lipton . . .

If you love Ferrell as much as I do, you'll also love this . . .

But I digress . . .

One installment of Inside the Actors Studio we really enjoyed was their 200th in which they mix things up a little bit and have Dave Chappelle (one of their all-time best guests) interview James Lipton (usually the host). It was the first time Lipton sat on the other side of the desk, and it was weird to see him without his enormous stack of blue note cards (those cards, by the way, are the result of 2 weeks [14 non-stop days] of researching and preparing for each interview he conducts). In the interview, Lipton says, in the course of writing his own (recently published) book (Inside Inside), he realized he hadn't examined his own life as closely as, for years, he had asked so famous actors to.

The Lipton interview got me thinking about the Socrates quote: "The unexamined life is not worth living." So, in this month of resolution-making and reflection, I thought it might be interesting to subject myself to a bit more self-examination by answering the short series of questions Lipton asks every actor at the end of his interview - a list of questions originated by Bernard Pivot (and apparently based on the 'Proust Questionnaire'). They're not the serious, soul-searching "What would you want your obituary to say?" kind of questions, but they are interesting in their own right.

So, here goes:

What is your favorite word?
Namaste. The way my first yoga instructor defined it to me was "the light in my heart, the best of what is in me salutes the light in your heart, the best of what is in you." I know it's a little too hippie for most people, and I don't exactly go around saying it. I just like that it exists and I do like saying it at the end of a yoga class. Much nicer than salutations like 'hello' and 'goodbye,' don't you think?

What is your least favorite word?
'Strategery' (and words like it) - In my mind, it symbolizes a lot of what I hated about the last 8 years of government and politics in the U.S. I realize a lot of people were bothered by this, but I would venture to guess that it probably irks me more than your average Jane because I happen to make my living as an editor. Word butchery has the effect on me that nails on a chalkboard do on most people. I'm looking forward to not having to hear 'strategery,' other butchered words, and non-words come out of my president's mouth in the years to come. Yay, Obama!

What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?
repartee, a very well-written book, poetry, art, jazz, the majesty of nature (especially the ocean)

What turns you off creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?
insincerity, inhumane treatment of others, willful ignorance, arrogance

What sound or noise do you love?
violin, babies' laughter

What sound or noise do you hate?
small dogs yipping incessantly

What is your favorite curse word?
There's most-often used - 'Jesus Christ' or 'son of a bitch,' probably because that's what my mother would (infrequently) say (i.e., those are the swears I heard most often growing up). My sister likes to tell the story of when she asked me at the age of five what curse words I knew. I struggled to come up with three or four. When pressed for more, I thought long and hard and was proud of myself for adding 'bullshit' and 'asshole' (after having already offered up 'shit' and 'ass'). Now, I like curse words that are common in other countries but seldom used in the U.S., like 'bollocks.'

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

What profession would you not like to do?
I think Lipton had the best answer to this one - an executioner. I whole-heartedly agree.

If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
I don't believe in god(s); I'm an atheist. That said, if I'm wrong in the end, I don't know that I'd necessarily want god to say anything to me. I think moreso what I'd desire would be to see pure love and unconditional positive regard in his/her eyes and to be welcomed with a hug.

How would you answer these questions? In the comments section, write your own answers or provide a link to your blog where you've posted your answers.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Meatless Monday: Neiman Marcus Popovers & Strawberry Butter

In a former life, I was an acquisitions editor for a textbook publisher. While at a convention in San Francisco one of those years, I was looking around for somewhere to take one of my authors to lunch and discovered The Rotunda. I was surprised to find out that it was located in a department store (Neiman Marcus), but it had been rated very highly in the reviews I read and the menu sounded really inviting. I decided to take a leap of faith and was not disappointed.

The Rotunda lunch was memorable for two reasons. Reason #1: As my marketing manager friend S- and I sat there having a great conversation over a delicious lunch with my author friend Dr. H-, we noticed Dr. H- quietly wave the waiter over and start whispering to him and subtley motioning to us. I thought he might be slyly trying to pick up the check, so I tried to pleasantly and politely interject. When he realized he wasn't going to be able to keep his secret, he calmly pointed to the back of the booth, right between S- and me, and there, I kid you not, was THE biggest grasshopper I've ever seen. You know, just hanging out there on the back of the seat between our shoulders.

Now, I'm not very good with insects when they're in the proportions that nature intended, so, needless to say, I was more than a little taken aback when I turned my head and Jumbo Jiminy in all his orthoptera awfulness was staring me in the eye. Okay, maybe I was a little more than "taken aback." Closer to the truth? I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I did indeed let out a yelp and jump from my seat . . . to the annoyance of a woman seated very close to our table. She said in a very snarky tone, "It's just a grasshopper. . . . You know, they're actually good luck." I mean, come on! Even if I were okay with insects, that was the last place I would have expected to see one - in the middle of the city, in the middle of a restaurant, on the third floor of a department store! And, again, this thing could have easily scored a role opposite one of those giant ants in a Creature Double Feature movie. Anyway, the waiter quickly collected our party crasher (and, I like to think, kindly escorted him to the door where he released him without squishing him) and we got back to talking business.

Reason #2: The popovers . . . Ohhh, the popovers . . .

Neiman Marcus Popovers

Strawberry Butter
  • 1 pound unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups strawberry preserves

Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the preserves and beat until well combined. To serve, spoon or pipe into one-ounce ramekins or bread-and-butter plates.

*If you're looking for something a little more hearty this Monday, is featuring chili recipes on their site today.

Got any favorite vegetarian or vegan recipes?? Please share!

Other Meatless Monday posts

Monday, January 19, 2009

Meatless Monday: Spinach Mushroom Pasta

In a previous Meatless Monday post, I extolled the virtues of a great searchable recipe database. I mentioned a few ways you could use the search features, but I failed to mention one way that can be a real life-, er, meal-saver - you can search by ingredients you have in the kitchen and see what comes up.

The other day, I didn't have time to run out to the grocery store and the dinner hour was fast approaching. So, I took a peek in the fridge and saw that I had some spinach and mushrooms on-hand. I thought they might be good together in a pasta dish, but I wanted to venture out a bit and not fall back on my usual preparation methods (a little evoo and garlic). So, I went to the search engine and ran an 'enhanced recipe search.' I typed 'spinach' in the search window and then chose 'pasta' under 'main ingredients,' 'main dishes' under 'courses,' 'quick/easy' under 'conveniences' (figuring quick/easy would also mean less ingredients), and 'meatless' under 'dietary considerations.' After pulling up the results for that search, I typed 'mushroom' in the 'search within these results' window and VOILA! This recipe and 5 others came up. I scanned them quickly to check ingredients and preparation requirements and this one looked perfect . . .

Spinach Mushroom Pasta

One substitution that I made, that I would recommend, was swapping out the cream cheese for Neufchâtel. Used for centuries in Europe, the American version can be found pretty easily in most U.S. grocery stores nowadays. It's substantially lower in fat and, because it's softer in consistency, it's also easier to work into a sauce.

Another good substitution recommendation would be to swap out the spinach for kale. If you do though, keep in mind that you'll want to add the kale to the sauté pan with the mushrooms earlier than you would spinach because it takes longer to wilt.

As with most recipes, this one instructs you to "season to taste with salt and pepper." I would advise not being shy in seasoning - a fair amount of salt will really bring out the flavors of the vegetables, and a generous sprinkling of fresh cracked pepper will balance the creaminess of the sauce with a nice little kick.

Got any favorite vegetarian or vegan recipes?? Please share!

Other Meatless Monday posts

Monday, January 12, 2009

Meatless Monday: Butternut Squash Gratin with Blue Cheese & Sage

WARNING: This is yet another Meatless Monday post about squash. . . . Hey, if I'm going to have an addiction, at least it's a healthy one - I don't have to feel guilty about eating it to my heart's content and I also don't have to feel guilty about getting you hooked. Oh, and you will be hooked after you try this next recipe. HEV-UN!

Butternut Squash Gratin with Blue Cheese & Sage

And I thought squash with goat cheese was good! This makes an amazing side dish and works well as leftovers (provided you reheat it in a conventional oven - the bread crumbs lose something in the microwave).

Got any favorite vegetarian or vegan recipes?? Please share!

Other Meatless Monday posts

Monday, January 5, 2009

Meatless Monday: Dairy Salvation

You may have noticed that I've missed a few Meatless Monday postings in a row now. What can I say? Life intervenes. In this case, 'life' was preparing and traveling for a graduation, a baby shower, and several holiday celebrations in three different states. Very enjoyable, but it did require lots of shopping (and shipping) far in advance of the holiday and pulling work I would have done during vacation into the weeks that preceded it so I wouldn't miss any deadlines, and that left little time for writing blog entries ahead of time which I could have scheduled to post while I was gone. Technically, I could have done it, but it would have required stretching myself thinner than I like, which would have defeated the whole purpose of my becoming a freelancer in the first place. . . . Sooo, long story short, I haven't forgotten about Meatless Mondays and you'll be seeing more of them in 2009, starting with this one:


During all the working, traveling, and holiday planning, my husband Matt and I came upon a food dilemma:

When you're about to go on vacation, what do you do with all the dairy products in the refrigerator that will go bad while you're gone (short of just throwing it all out)?

He came up with a couple of great solutions:

Homemade Ice Cream
I bought Matt an ice cream maker back when we lived in Pasadena for either his birthday or Christmas one year. It's what Matt's cooking idol Alton Brown would refer to as a dreaded "unitasker" and we don't use it all that often, but I would argue that it was still one of the best kitchen appliance purchases we've ever made. While we packed for our trip, the milk we would never finish before we left churned away in this puppy. When it was done, we popped it in the freezer. Then, later that month, we returned to delicious ice cream! Some of our favorite ice cream recipes have come from a book by the masters themselves - Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book.

And ice cream can be just as fun to make as it is to eat. For Christmas, I got two of my cousin's boys an ice cream maker in the shape of a ball. Kicking it around churns the ice cream!

Jilted Eggs

There are so many recipes online for easy egg dishes, but this is one of our all-time favorites. There are very few ingredients and they're all pretty basic, so you'll most likely have them all in your refrigerator. The prep and procedures are quick and no-fuss too. Once you throw the ingredients together, you can just pop it in the oven and set at timer, which is perfect for when you've got a lot of other things to do (like put vacation holds on your newspaper and mail). It's also easy to reduce or increase the number of servings.

Alternatives: The recipe notes that you can use individual custard dishes in lieu of a casserole dish. We've found using a tin for large muffins works really well too. And, if you don't have English muffins, regular bread also works just fine.

Got any favorite vegetarian or vegan recipes?? Please share!

Other Meatless Monday posts