Thursday, August 4, 2011


I met Adam Chester because he's an amazing pianist who provided the accompaniment for What's My Line Live on Stage (for which I became the production photographer.)  Adam's accompanied Elton John's band in rehearsals and sung with him in concert.  A few years ago, Adam set up a website where he posted some of the  1300 letters he's received from his over-protective mother over the years.

I understand over-protective mothers.  When I went off to college, mine handed me a 1 pound bag of sugar packets, so people wouldn't spike my breakfast cereal sugar with marijuana.  I am not kidding.

Adam found a publisher (or a publisher found him) and, just in time for Mother's Day, a selection of the letters appeared in book form as S'mother.  Last night, Adam and his mother Joan appeared on The George Lopez  Show.

I don't give my cell phone number to my mother either.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


I wasn't home last night to see it myself, but Harlan Ellison called me to tell me I was on Jeopardy! reruns. If your local station does Jeopardy! reruns on the weekend, check next week.  I have no idea if they are running all five of my days of regular play or not, but if they are, I'll be on for the next four weekends.  I was disappointed when I seemed to be skipped over between the runs of two other people who were on the Tournament of Champions with me, but I wasn't the only one who got skipped.  I'm hoping that we'll see Col. Dave after my run.  And I'm also hoping that last year's Tournament of Champions gets its two week run during the weekday Jeopardy! reruns this summer.  Original episodes generally end this week or next.

The reason why we weren't home is that we decided to catch Green Lantern last night. Len had seen it already and I decided to give it a try despite the critical hashing because I liked what we saw up in San Diego.  Also, I wanted a chance to see one of Len's characters up on the screen, which he did not see when he went to the 3-D screening.  Sometimes, it just takes two sets of eyes, because Len did not see Walt Simonson in the Valhalla scene of Thor on his own either.

First of all, the movie is getting a bum rap.  It's quite entertaining and Ryan Reynolds is charming. It's not X-men: First Class, but few superhero films are.

We saw Galius Zed in one of the early GL Corps scenes peeking out from behind Hal Jordon, so you can pick up your GL Galius Zed action figure and help pay for Casa Wein-Valada. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


If you want to be noticed, let Neil Gaiman post a link to your blog on Twitter or on his blog. I got 6000 hits within hours of Neil directing people to the photos I did at his appearance in L.A. last week. Then there was another bump of about 1000 hits after he reposted the link in his blog a couple of days ago.

Thank you, Neil, my friend. It's one posting that I know had an audience.

I realized today that I need to start gathering up paperwork for Comic-con.  In two weeks, we'll be on the drive down to San Diego, for five days of business and a bit of fun.  Invitations for evening parties and dinners have started to come in and I find myself wondering what all I will do during the days when the hall floors are just too crowded to contemplate. I tend not to get to many of the larger programs unless we've been given the special wrist bands that bypass lines that are (literally) hours long. Sometimes even those don't work. If Peter Jackson brings anything to the convention  (and he promoted the hell out of Lord of the Rings before it openned), I'd like to see that (but I probably won't get in.) I'd like to see the panel for A Game of Thrones, but that's only likely to happen if George R.R. Martin can get me a guest pass.  Ditto with The Big Bang Theory, where I've only been able to get in the room the year Bill Prady got me a guest pass.  Last year, my girlfriend stood on line for 3 hours and couldn't get into the room. (The nice thing about TBBT is that I can always catch a taping and hang out back stage afterwards here in L.A.)

For outside entertainment, I bemoan the loss of antique shops within walking distance of the hotels. Most of them disappeared when the baseball stadium and new hotels were built.  It is still possible to drive to Ocean Beach or Solano Beach for their antique malls, but the antique-store lined streets in most other areas have been lost to the power of e-Bay.  I miss the thrill of the hunt and immediacy of the kill that e-Bay lacks.

The week could be a good one for meals, if we weren't always constrained by time and crowds. We were in San Diego last month to see "August: Osage County" at the Old Globe Theatre and had a terrific meal at a nearby restaurant, and it was only one of several suggested to us in that area.  While I might be able to go to Balboa Park during the day, an evening trip will not fit into a schedule that includes publishers' parties and other business gatherings.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

How I Spent Tuesday Night

It is great to be a grownup.  Really.  I wouldn't want to be fourteen again unless I could have a good look at what my future would be, because fourteen was just the worst year ever. But it got better. And sometimes I do wish I could let that geeky fourteen year old know just how much better it would get to be. A while ago, I either tweeted or posted to Facebook that if my fifteen-year-old self could know what my present day life was like, she'd say "way cool" (and, probably, "worth the wait.") The first person who expressed agreement with what I was saying, because he felt the same way about his own life, was my friend Neil Gaiman.

I first met and photographed Neil before he was the super-star author he has become. It was at the 1990 World Fantasy Convention in Chicago. I was in law school, but I was still actively adding photographs to the growing exhibit of professionals in the field of science fiction, fantasy and horror that's traveled farther than I have.  So I took the weekend to fly to Chicago to have some time with Len Wein and to add to the photographic collection.

Len introduced me to Neil, who was building a nice career with the Sandman comic books he was writing for DC Comics.  Len had been midwife to the influx of British writers at DC, starting with bringing Alan Moore in to write Swamp Thing and following that as Alan's editor on Watchmen.  Neil came along a few years after, a fan of Len's from reading his run on Phantom Stranger, and one of the first stars of DC's Vertigo imprint.

In the first portrait of I made of Neil (below, in 1990), he reminded me of a young John Lennon.  

Maybe it was just the accent. Love that accent.

The following year, Neil won the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story with the Sandman story "A Midsummer's Night Dream." The rules for the Awards were immediately changed so that a comic book could never win again.

Over the years, we'd meet up at various conventions or signings, and keep in touch by e-mail or social media.  Neil morphed into a rock god, requiring body guards and the use of aliases to stay at hotels. Around 1999, I got him to agree to be my master of ceremonies at the 2001 Nebula Awards I produced in Los Angeles, which, by coincidence, was the first one at which he was nominated for a Nebula Award. A year or two later, he won the Nebula Award for best novel for American Gods.

Which brings me to Tuesday night.  Neil was in town for an appearance on the 10th Anniversary Tour for American Gods. I ordered four tickets as soon as I heard about it, which got us second row seats.  I invited one of the girls from the barn, who had recently gushed about Neil's episode of Dr. Who, "The Doctor's Wife," and who had asked me to pass on to Neil how much she liked it ("best episode of Dr. Who ever!") I figured it would give me the same kind of kick I got from introducing my girlfriend's granddaughter to Stan Lee last year at Comic-con to introduce Jenni to Neil. (It did.)

For reasons unknown, the local organizers of the appearance chose to make all tickets will-call (though, thankfully, they did assign seats so it wasn't festival seating.) This is not the best arrangement when there are some 1800 seats in the theatre, and, as you can see from the photo below, most of them were filled.  Ticket distribution started at 5:30, there were people buying tickets at the door, and the show started an hour late.
Besides Len, my son Michael, and Jenni, we picked up Susan Ellison, wife of Harlan, to take to the show.  She and I stood in line while the others went off to get some dinner, which turned out to be a good arrangement. I saw Neil's limo pull into the parking lot just as Susan got her tickets, so we walked around the theatre and found him.  He looked at us and asked "did you get your back-stage passes?" Uh, no. "They were supposed to be with your tickets." Oh. Fortunately, Neil's assistant for the evening got them for us while we stood around talking to Neil and waiting for Len, Michael, and Jenni to get back.  We had a nice chat with Neil, actor/comedian Patton Oswalt, and Zelda Williams (Robin's daughter) back stage and then headed in to our seats for the show.

And we waited. And waited.  Susan, who bought her ticket separately from ours, was way in the back of the orchestra.  Eventually, Len went back and brought her up to our row where there were a number of empty seats.
 And we waited some more.  The 8 P.M. start time kicked off at about 9 P.M. The audience was grateful.
 Neil and Patton chatted for a while. Neil talked about the inspiration for American Gods and alluded to things that might be in American Gods 2.
 Then Zelda Williams came out.
 The three of them did a dramatic reading of an early passage of the book.  It was unforgettable.
 Patton Oswalt and Zelda Williams reading from American Gods.
After the show, we all went back stage again.  I wanted to make sure I got a photograph of Jenni with Neil (below.) Jenni told me that it was the best night of her life and that Ace would be the most spoiled horse ever because of it. Gratitude is lovely.
Wil Wheaton showed up back stage with his wife, whom I had not met previously. Wil looked at us and exclaimed "I should have known you'd be here!" He's not at all like the "Evil Wil Wheaton" from The Big Bang Theory, which is why that character is such a hoot. Wil had also been back stage at the Craig Ferguson show that Neil had taped before heading over to the Saban Theatre. I didn't think it was possible to do both shows, but that was before the time between them increased by an hour!

We got home in time to tape the segment--too late for us to actually watch that night--but here it is for you to enjoy. Ferguson is quick and amazingly well versed in things literary. He must be one of us because he knew what Cthulu was and who wrote it. The awkward pause at the end of the set is priceless.
 I realize that Neil has helped build his audience by careful use of blogging and Twitter, but the evening made me think that this must have been like it was for Americans to attend an evening with Charles Dickens or Oscar Wilde. It was really quite thrilling to realize that writers still can still have an avid following and Neil has really earned it.
[American Gods is about to start production as a television series for HBO from Tom Hank's Play-tone production company. Neil's books Stardust and Coraline have already appeared on the big screen, but they make excellent reading. His Graveyard Book has won many awards and is a lovely read. Maybe, someday, the script that Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio wrote for Sandman will make it to the big screen,]

Thursday, June 23, 2011

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the high point of my niece Kristina's recent visit was a series of riding lessons at Total Equestrian Experience. As you can see from this photograph, she's got the kind of body we'd all like to have for riding. This was the only day she spent in the western saddle--other lessons were in a proper dressage saddle--but it got her quickly to the sitting trot and to the experience of a horse who decides that it is time to take off in a canter.  I was busy helping someone with a camera, so I missed that little event, but she rode right through it.  The horse is named Wizard and he's a nice quarterhorse.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Buck the Movie

I finished reading The Faraway Horses a few weeks ago and was deeply moved by Buck Brannaman's life story. He overcame an abusive father to become one of the premier practitioners of natural horsemanship, learning from the Dorrance brothers and Ray Hunt.

Buck did clinics at Pierce College before I started learning to ride here, and, unfortunately, has not been back since I bought my boy (there haven't been any clinics here at the sinfully underutilized, taxpayer-built facility for about five years--ever since the school kicked out the boarders.) 

I feel fortunate that I was able to attend or watch a number of clinics here with the amazing Harry Whitney, but I would like to attend a clinic with Buck.

The next best thing is to see the wonderful documentary Buck, which opens in Los Angeles and New York tomorrow, and opens wider next week.  The film won the viewers' choice award at Sundance and when you watch it, you will understand just why.  It's not just about a relationship with horses, it is about all kinds of relationships.

I was lucky enough to attend a screening of the film on Tuesday night which had a Q & A with Buck after the film was over.  I was very surprised that I did not recognize a single face in the audience, but it was a benefit for Homeboy Industries, so the tickets cost a bit more than your typical night at the cinema--but not all that much more for a date these days.  My friend (and superior horsewoman) Melinda Snodgrass had come into town that afternoon and my newly horse-addicted niece Kristina was staying with us, so they got to come along with me.

I arranged to have Kristina take riding lessons while she was visiting.  She went to Ireland a few years ago and took a few there, and I got her to the barn last year when she came to see me compete on Jeopardy!.  This year, she was in California for three weeks and managed to get a lesson most of the days she was here.  Being tall (around 5'8"), weighing slightly more than the average feather (perfect for the working actress she is), and, as described in a recent review, "leggy", she has a much more perfect body for riding than her doting aunt (who thinks it is a good skill for Kristina to add to her acting resume.) 

Kristina immediately applied concepts from the film to her new skill.  She was able to describe how the two horses she was riding in lessons mirrored or responded to what she was doing in the saddle and on the ground with them.  I was very pleased.  I'm sorry she probably won't be able to take any more lessons until the next time she comes out to visit, but now she knows she can mount from the ground (oh those legs), post and sit a trot, and control a horse who decides it is time to take off (even though she hasn't actually learned the canter yet.)  She'd look spectacular in a dressage arena, but the one lesson in a western horse had her declare "I could sit this trot all day long."  That's how I feel about Ace's trot.

Melinda decided that her Lusitano stallion Vento would really enjoy the cow work that Buck does in his clinics with more advanced riders.  I'd love to watch that clinic.  If I were an advanced rider, I'd put Ace into one.  He has no fear, and an appropriate amount of curiosity, about cows, both from his early days in New Mexico with Melinda (who bred him) and when he was boarded at the college (which does still have an agriculture program, though most days it looks like it is being dismantled.)

In response to the Q&A, Buck said he's doing a clinic out here next year.  I'm staying alert to find out when that will be, because I'd love to attend it.

If you happen to live in Los Angeles, Buck Brannaman will be in attendance at the 7: 30 P.M. showing of the film on Friday, June 17, at the Landmark Theatre in the Westside Pavillion on Pico Boulevard and at both the 7:00 P.M. and 9:30 P.M. shows on Saturday, June 18 at the Arclight Theatre in Hollywood (which has reserved seating.)

If you don't live in L.A., you can check out this link for other places the film is playing.  Do not miss it.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Pet Peeve

I think I have become an old fogie.  Over the past couple of days, I've become increasingly irritated with much younger individuals, for whom I am a customer, calling me by my first name or by faux endearments like "sweetie" or "honey."  I'm more pissed off than I was when Kurt Stoutenberg decided to call me "Toots" one day in high school.  (Tootsie was an archaic phrase even then.)

My contemporary friends, like Audrey Price or Gloria Benson, and I do call each other things like that.  They are real endearments between old friends.  And I sometimes use the term when talking to much younger people who are part of my life. 

But the stranger behind the cash register who is younger than my son and the girl delivering food to my table at Daphne's today don't know me from a dish towel.  The problem with saying anything to them directly is they've got control over my food.  And I've heard stories...

As for the other problem, it is compounded when the person on the other end of the line is clearly outsourced.  I refuse to believe that it is impossible to find minimum wage workers in the U.S. to take care of customer service lines.  I've got a kid in the spare bedroom who'd be good at it and he speaks English without a thick accent from an unidentified place in the Far East.  Keep those jobs, and the tax revenue here.  At least if you could hire illegal aliens to do it in the U.S., it would improve our tax base.

The other night I took on PayPal who has decided I need to be "verified" after using their services for probably over 10 years and almost $10,000 worth of purchases.  If I don't get "verified" before I spend another $500, I will no longer be able to use my PayPal account.  Getting "verified" means I give them a bank account number and they deposit money into the account to make sure I am real.  Right.

As if I want to give anyone that kind of access to my checking or savings accounts when every week some bank seems to have had their accounts compromised.  Several years ago, someone got access to my checking account information, had checks printed, wrote a check to cash, and then wiped out my account.  The money was returned (although one credit card company refused to reverse the fee for the check that bounced when my account was closed because they did an electronic transfer rather than cash the effin' check I had sent them and told my bank was still outstanding) by the bank almost immediately, but it was not fun for me.  And I couldn't get the police to do anything and the bank refused to give me information about whose account "my" check had been deposited to to go after those people.

So back to the other night.  The first person I talked to took my information and punctuated every sentence with my first name.  We had a lousy connection, which was echoing back to me, and that made it even more difficult to parse the conversation through the young man's accent.  But it was quite clear that he had no explanation as to why someone whose account has never presented a problem should have to give up other account information.  My alternative was to open a PayPal credit account.  I do not need another credit card.

I finally had enough and demanded to speak to his supervisor, but not before telling him that I was not satisfied with his performance and I particularly did not like being called by my first name by a stranger who was half a world away.  He informed me, Christine, that such was the policy of his company, Christine.  In other words, I guess, his script required him to refer to me repeatedly by my first name.  No exceptions.

His supervisor, when he finally got around to picking up the line, was no better except that he did refer to me as "Ms. Valada," when I informed him that I was not happy about him calling me by my first name.  He could not offer a viable work around on the PayPal verification issue.  I finally said that I needed PayPal less than they needed me as a customer, so I would simply stop using PayPal when I hit that $10,000 purchasing limit.  Bye-bye.

I am still not comfortable calling the parents of friends by their first names, even if the parents might be closer to my age.  I'm rather uncomfortable--and always have been--when my contemporaries or older tell my son to call them by their first names.  I think there is still room for a little bit of formality and deference in the world.  And I have earned it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Let the Good Times Roll--Someplace Else

Happy Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday.  I've never been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.  I used to want to go, but spending Halloween there about 15 years ago cured me of the idea of going back for the city's biggest party.  Our friend George R.R. Martin once floated the idea to Len that he should join George's krew, but thank goodness that went nowhere.

I'm perfectly happy to honor the holiday by making appropriate food at home, but I hate crowds, particularly inebriated crowds.  We won't be going to West Hollywood tonight, either, but I am planning on making a batch of beignets.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Yes, It Does Snow in Southern California

Here in Southern California, we've had some strange weather.  Last week, there was actually snow and slush on the ground in Burbank when we went to see Cavalia under the big white tent.  Today, the winds were knocking over 18-wheelers on some of the highways.  Yesterday it was in the 70s.  Don't like the weather?  Wait 10 minutes.  I am hoping that the weather stays dry for the next couple of weeks (although today is not promising.)  We've got things to do that require good weather and I don't want Ace to miss another horse show on Sunday because it gets rained out.

It looks like we've sold the old (rebuilt) house. Now we are trying to get the garage emptied so we can close by the end of the month.  We spent a lot of time there on Saturday, clearing space so the inspector would be able to walk through. But there's a lot more to go.  We've also gotten a couple of unexpected surprises.  The inspector said there was no retrofitting of a gas shut off valve when the house was rebuilt, and I was certain that had been done.  Plus, he turned on the pool lamp, which did not stay lit, and we had paid for that to be repaired.  Details, details.  It will get done.

Going through the garage is sort of like having Christmas in March--or going on an archeological dig.  I found a box and unwrapped one of the contents.  It turned out to be a miniature prop from Raiders of the Lost Ark Len had been given by actor Billy Mumy many years ago.  We thought it had been lost in the fire, but it had been packed away a few years before that by my sister when she helped with party prep one year.

I found two brass spigots in the shape of Mickey Mouse, which had never been taken out of the bag that came home from Disneyland the first month Len worked for The Mouse in 1989.  They had fallen on the floor and been covered with grass seed from a bag that was eaten open.  We're planning to replace the outside hose bibs with them.

I just picked up three more boxes that my sister packed up and will open them at our house tonight.  Some of the stuff might be ripe for donation to the Southern California Golden Retriever Rescue yard sale coming up, and some might be put up for sale on E-bay.

Yesterday, I took the time to go to the Pasadena City College swap meet.  I've been wanting to go for months and I knew I couldn't go next month, so, when I woke up at 4:30 and couldn't get back to sleep, I headed out early.

PCC doesn't set up as early as the famous Rose Bowl swap meet, but it also doesn't have an outrageous entry fee.  I like free.  When I arrived around 8, many of the dealers where busy unpacking their wares.  The swap meet is held on the eastern edge of the school, in two parking lots and on several levels of a parking structure.  If I'm by myself, I can do the whole thing in little more than three hours.  I do it mostly for the walk.

My mental wish list generally includes jewelry with a horse motif, pieces of Nambe or the china and silver I collect, and cookbooks.  Yesterday, I was also looking for a gaming table with an inlaid chess board (to display my Lord of the Rings pieces) and an Irish clay pipe, which Len needed for a prop for his improv class.  Pipe-1, table-0.  Len was thrilled I found the pipe and asked where I got it.  I told him I mugged a leprechaun. 

I also managed to find a signed sterling silver horse in a trot pose, a Pegasus, and a faux red cameo of horses pulling a chariot with a woman (or goddess) driving.  I'm hoping it will clean up a bit.

Monday, February 14, 2011

RIP Lois Lane

Joanne Siegel died today at the age of 93.  She was married to the late Jerome Siegel, the co-creator of Superman with Joe Shuster.  Joanne was the model for Lois Lane.

I met Joanne at a memorial service for Jerry Siegel in 1996.  Jerry died only a few weeks before my article in the Los Angeles Lawyer magazine about the rights of comic book creators appeared.  I had so wanted to talk to both Jerry and Joe when I wrote the first incarnation of the article while I was a law student and had come to the realization that the two men were fast approaching an opportunity to relitigate their rights to the Superman character.  Unfortunately, that was in 1992 and Joe died about then and I had no convenient way to contact the Siegels.  I was also concerned about the question of rights when the property was co-created and there was no spouse or children to claim the reversion for one of those co-creators (Joe.)

After my article appeared, I heard from Joanne's son-in-law and met him at at Beverly Hills Bar Association lunch one day.  I also got a call from Joe's nephew, but a nephew does not have the same rights that a spouse or a child has under the reversion of rights which can accrue to a copyrighted property created under the Copyright Act of 1909.

I admired Joanne for going forward with action to reclaim her rights to Superman after Jerry died and the reversion period kicked in.  I admire her even more for putting up with more than a decade of litigation which has yet to be resolved.  I am sure her daughter will continue the fight.

Comic book companies cheated young creators like Jerry and Joe (while wiser men with better advisers managed to negotiate better contracts) and continued to lie and cheat creators until the 1980s when they really couldn't get away with it any more.  By then,  people talked to each other and young creators had access to organizations which made them a little more savvy about their rights and business practices.  Paul Levitz at DC made a concerted effort to improve contracts, creators' rights and royalties, and even reached back to improve the participation of creators of older properties.

Nevertheless, there are a few very valuable properties created under the 1909 Act that will be subject to reversions and the Siegel cases combined with Joe Simon's efforts to reclaim Captain America will help those creators--or their widows or children--get a fairer shake for the remainder of the copyright term.  I hope Marvel/Disney is ready for that, because Marvel never made any effort to atone for its greedy ways.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Santa Anita Morning

Today was the presentation of the first Secretariat Vox Populi Award given to Zenyatta's owners.  Not surprisingly, the promise of getting Penny Chenery's autograph beat out spending the morning working at the old house.  I got up and headed over to Santa Anita Racetrack this morning, beating my friends Erin and Kay by more than half an hour, even though I got off the freeway at the wrong exit.  I got there before the gates opened, so I spent the time in line, talking to a nice man who gave me a ticket for free admission to the park.

When the gates finally opened, I headed over to the line for purchasing the poster of Secretariat and Zenyatta.  I was well ahead of where Kay, Erin, and Erin's sister Maureen were able to join it.  We decided that one of them could come and join me without too much trouble, but three would be a problem.  Kay came up to me and I greeted her with "so you found the restroom?"  Nobody made any objections, so I had someone to talk to for the hour we had to wait.

Eventually, Penny Chenery and Team Zenyatta arrived to applause.  The line weaved around the barriers and I was lucky enough to get a few good photographs.  I'm glad I decided to use the SLR rather than the point and shoot.
Zenyatta's owner Jerry Moss, jockey Mike Smith, and trainer John Shirreffs.
 Scretariat's owner, Penny Chenery, with Zenyatta owner Ann Moss.  Note Ann's "Z" pin.
 Jockey Mike Smith signing the lithograph portrait of Zenyatta.
Penny Chenery got out of a golf cart and walked to the signing tent.  Someone said "isn't that great that she's walking." I said "she's 87 or 88, she isn't dead."  When I saw the movie Secretariat, I pointed her out to Len in the Belmont Stakes shot.  I have no idea how I knew what she would look like almost 40 years after I saw her in the winner's circle on TV, but there was no mistaking her.
 Dottie Shirreffs writes the entries for Zenyatta's on-line diary, which I enjoy reading. 
 The very beautiful Ann Moss.
 Jerry Moss.
Kay watches John Shirreffs autograph the poster of Secretariat and Zenyatta.
Kay picks up her posters. We were lucky to be able to buy two each, so Erin and Maureen could have copies. They were in position to be able to buy them, but the autographing would have ended before they got to the tent.

I decided not to stay until the sixth race for the actual ceremony, figuring I'll be able to catch it on line somewhere and have a better view of it that way.  But I had to stop at the gift store before I left--Santa Anita has a great gift shop.
I noticed copies of Secretariat's Meadow and then I realized someone was signing books--Penny Chenery's daughter Kate.  I was suddenly very happy that I hadn't ordered the book from Amazon.
Kate Chenery Tweedy signed my copy of Secretariat's Meadow.  She described herself to another customer as "I'm Penny's rebellious hippie daughter Kate."  It must be funny to think of yourself as immortalized that way on film, but she definitely had a sense of humor about it.  Another customer pulled out a photograph of his horse--a descendant of Big Red.  Kate said they're encouraging people to send photographs of Secretariat's progeny for a website.  That will be worth checking out.

I also picked up a tee-shirt like the ones that the gift store staff were wearing:
I like the reverse as well:

Secretariat and Zenyatta are definitely racing royalty.  Watching them run is something I will never forget.  My poster is now ready for hanging.

Friday, February 4, 2011


All over the country, people are planning what to eat on Sunday afternoon while the Superbowl is on.  I've given some thought to it, and will expound on Into the Kitchen, but I'm more concerned about what to do tomorrow.

Equine Affaire is this weekend at the Los Angeles County Fairplex.  It started yesterday and runs until Sunday. I haven't missed it in years. It's a great place to go shopping, and if I time it right, I can also hit the enormous Broken Horn Saddlery on my way out there. 


Penny Chenery will be at Santa Anita Racetrack tomorrow to present Jerry and Ann Moss with the Inaugural Secretariat Vox Populi Award for Zenyatta's amazing effect on the popularity of horse racing during the past year. Zenyatta's already in Kentucky awaiting her first breeding to Bernardini, so I've read she'll be there on camera.  There's a gorgeous poster of portraits of Big Red and Zenyatta that will be sold, and Ms. Chenery and the Mosses will be signing prior to the ceremony. I am so tempted to go, even though I hate crowds. Besides, Santa Anita has a great gift shop where I've purchased some fun jewelry in the past.


What I really need to do is go back and finish the last load of boxes to empty the old house, so that will no longer be hanging around my neck like a millstone.  I want to be finished with that annoyance, so I can enjoy the new house.

Decisions, decisions.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Putting Christmas Away

I got most of the decorations off the live (but now quite dead and dry) tree in the living room last night.  As I suspected, I missed some and saw a Batman hanging this morning.  I'll have Len do the last check after he gets one of the Wolverines and the tree topper down.  I was too lazy to get out a step-stool out last night, and I was getting annoyed with being stabbed by needles to take them down myself.  All of the lights are down and I'll have to test them before I put them away.  No use keeping things that no longer work and at least one of the complex strands was not working on the tree.

Added to ornaments that need replacing is the NASA lunar excursion module--that little go-cart with an astronaut.  The dish antenna broke off last night. I have a spare of the Eagle, but not the go-cart.  I'll also be searching E-bay for a new Worf and a new Yoda, thanks to Riley.  The blown-glass Dark Knight I dropped and shattered last night already had a duplicate (hooray.)  Tonight I'll sit at the kitchen table and put things back into their boxes for the next 10 months.  It is a time-consuming process to put Christmas away.

Does anyone know where I might be able to find the things that go into the top of a glass ornament which has a metal loop and collar.  I have no idea what they are called, but we have a number of glass bulbs from Len's days with Disney that have lost those parts over the years.  Not sure how that happens, mind you.  And these are kind of large, so my plan to replace them with pieces from plain ornaments didn't work.

The horse tree has not yet been undressed.  I'm still trying to purchase a Zenyatta ornament, but nobody has them and word is they won't be restocked until the fall.  At least they'll be back in production so I don't have to spend $80 to buy one.  My friends and I are planning to go to Santa Anita Race Track in early February for the ceremony where Penny Chenery, owner of Secretriat, will be giving the Mosses a new award because of the way Zenyatta had a positive effect on thoroughbred racing.  She's been a personality directly out of the Secretariat handbook, so it is appropriate she gets the first one.  Hooray for the Queen.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Last Day of Christmas

I'm coming off a nasty cold which threatened the success of our 12th Night/housewarming party.  The good news is that it did not succeed, but only because some lovely people came into the kitchen and pitched in to get all my food and drink out and keep the wine glasses clean for more guests.

We had just under 100 people, which would have split the seams of the old house.  Fortunately, there was no appreciable wind that night, so people seemed quite happy to go and stand out on the patio to talk.  It was a bit too cool for those of us recovering from colds, but other people were fine with it.

As in past years, I took amusement from watching people react to meeting someone they never in their lives thought they would encounter.  Particularly folks who had a dawning realization that the tiny white-haired woman they were hustling around my kitchen had been a teen-aged folk prodigy.  Or when the TV exec who was a huge Jeopardy! fan discovered that I had been on the show six times and that there were two other Tournament of Champions competitors in the house--and she had never met anyone who had been on the show before.  Yes, we throw those kinds of parties.

The puppies managed to escape from Michael's room a couple of times, but we headed off any attempts to get out the front door.  Dexter did a quick retreat when he stuck his nose out and our friend Ed, veteran of a K-9 detail in the service, let him know this was not acceptable. Dex even shut the door behind himself, which the babies did not do voluntarily.

I can't say I have partied to almost 3 a.m. anytime recently, but that's when the doors shut and Len and I stumbled off to sleep.  If only we didn't get a wrong number ringing at 10 a.m. on Sunday.  I'm almost finished with the pots and pans, but what I don't get, my cleaning lady will handle tomorrow.

I'll be taking down the three trees this weekend, and will try to store the ornaments so next year it will be easier to find those for the "specialty" trees.  I've got lots of boxes, color coded for the holidays.  Putting things away requires nothing but time.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Racing Stripes

Ginger has a love-hate relationship with the dogs next door.  Sometimes, she'll go out and commune with Bella, whose cage is right up against our fence, with no drama.  Other times, it's a bark-fest, with Ginger getting the last word in because poor Bella wears an anti-bark collar.

Unfortunately, the chain-link fence is old and Ginger does try to go through it.  This has resulted in some nasty wounds, and what looks like permanent scarring.  I think I should probably suggest that she do ads for the car company or insurance company with similar logos.
It doesn't appear to have any effect on her abilities to smell.  Last night, as we got ready for bed, she got a whiff of something in the air.  It was one of those times when we really wanted her to be able to tell us what was up.  Her nostrils flaired and she did slow arching searches of the air.  I guess she was trying to figure out vectors.  We have no idea what had her on alert, but she finally curled up without explaining it to us.  Since the house didn't burn down around us, we can rule out fire.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Off to a New Year

We had a wonderful holiday, which did not include emergency visits to doctors for either Len or me this year.  No broken bones, no organ failure.  We plan to keep that the case for the rest of the year, despite the nasty cold Len caught.

I had 12 days off from work, which did not include riding Ace or caroling with the horses or getting much work done on the old house, all due to rain.  Yesterday, we starting having trouble with our driveway gate. When I finally got the thing to close, I kept my car in the driveway so we'd be able to let the dogs out back  It would be most annoying to chase them down the street.
This year, I decorated what I called the Chanukah bush, a white, artificial stick tree, with blue ornaments.  It went up a couple of weeks before we went off and bought our real Christmas tree, aka "Geek Tree" (above.)  That's the tree that's got ornaments related to true fan-boy geekdom: Star Trek, Star Wars, comic books, and various science fiction and fantasy works.  We have the added delight of ornaments of characters created by my husband (Wolverine and Storm) and this year the Hallmark comic book ornament of Hulk #181 even has his name in it. (If you double-click the photo, it should enlarge to give you a better idea of the decorations.) I miss having high ceilings so I could have a 9 or 10 foot tree, but I love having more space. 

In the after-Christmas sales, I purchased several more artificial trees, so now there is a tree with horses in my office (I'm desperately seeking a Zenyatta ornament, but would prefer to not pay a fortune) and a tree with some of our sentimental favorites is decorating our bedroom.  It has many Disney ornaments, particularly from Beauty and the Beast, and things which we received for our wedding and anniversary, which is December 25.  I found a lovely "First Year in Our New Home" ornament to hang on it.  It made Len a little weepy.
That's the horse tree, above. Finding a way to secure the tree-topper was challenging. I like it, but it doesn't really work well.  I picked up a number of the Breyer Thoroughbred ornament series over the past few years, and they survived the fire. I've picked up a few other Breyers, including the porcelain Arabian that looks like Ace, and some of the "Painted Ponies" ornaments.  The stuffie on the bottom with the song book sings "We Three Kings" as "Neigh, neigh, neighayay...." You get the idea. 

On Christmas Day, we celebrated the holiday and our anniversary with our friends Karen Bodner and Michael Olecki, as we have for most of the past 15 years.  Karen and Michael O. (to distinguish him from my son Michael B-V) come over, we make brunch, we eat, and then we open presents.  For the first time ever, we weren't frantically cleaning up to make space for everyone.  And everyone could hang out in the kitchen for excellent conversation while bacon and eggs were made to go with the goodies Karen brought along.
Here's Michael O. making mimosas to go along with the sticky-buns Karen baked.  She also brought the shrimp, lox, and poached salmon on the table.   
Len's favorite part of brunch is bacon, which he probably should not be eating.

Looking at the back yard reminds me of getting letters from my pen-pal in Australia and being amazed at the idea that Christmas could include swimming and a green landscape.  It was too cold for anyone except Ginger to consider getting wet (she did, causing Michael O. to dub her our "mermaid"), but it was shirt-sleeve weather.  The rest of my family was getting snowed in back east.  I think I've grown to like the idea of Santa arriving via surf board.  I certainly do not miss driving in snow.

After our first anniversary, I declared I would never work that hard on my anniversary again and we would be going out for dinner the next year.  For most of the years we've done this, we've had dinner out, usually with a movie before we eat.  Often it has been "Jewish Christmas" which means going out for Chinese food.  As opening presents crept later into the day (this year, brunch wasn't over until almost 2), finding a restaurant operating late got harder.

Last year, I decided if we didn't do a turkey, cooking Christmas dinner wouldn't be that complicated or take that much effort.  Besides, Karen enjoys cooking as much as I do (she's a recovering lawyer who went to baking school in the past couple of years.)  Last year, I did mussels followed by baked salmon.  This year, I suggested lobster, which takes almost no time at all.  It was fabulous, although keep lobster alive for 24 hours--Gelson's was closed on December 25--was interesting.  Especially since the refrigerator in the kitchen died for the FIFTH time since we moved to the new house.

Unfortunately, Len won't let us do lobster again next year.  He doesn't like food that looks like itself, even if he isn't the one wrestling with it.  He thought he could deal with it, but he couldn't.  Sigh.

Since the house was our big present to ourselves this year, we tended to give each other books and DVDs.
Here's my son Michael opening one of his gifts.  The dogs got us a new video game system, replacing the blu-ray player that's not worked well.  I don't know how the dogs got hold of a credit card, but they used it wisely. I'm not sure why they didn't let Ace in on the gift.
Riley, who turned 11 months on Christmas, kept trying to eat the tree. Except for chewing up the Hallmark Yoda, which fell on the floor, he didn't take down any ornaments.  Ginger and Dexter just left things alone.  Good dogs.  (Ginger's on the chair and Riley's sleeping on the floor, probably because he couldn't find a human to curl up with.)

We're a few days away from our big holiday party and we are just ecstatic to have enough room for the folks who've accepted.  One year in the old house, it rained and folks were squeezed in like sardines.  Not this year.  I've got a room for folks who want to play board games and one for those who'd like to play video games.  Plus there will be lots of room for food on the kitchen table and counters and plenty of room for drinks on the patio (covered, in case there is rain.)  The timing has worked out so several friends from other parts of the country will be able to attend, making things extra special.

Since I'm planning on a year that will be better than last year was, I wish the same to you as well.  Have a happy and prosperous new year.