Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Buoys Are Back In Town

High Season is soon to arrive here on the Costa del Sol and the city of Fuengirola is showing signs. Repairs are being done. The city is getting a fresh coat of paint. The restaurants along the beach (called "chiringuitos") are mostly open again after being closed up tight for "non-season." The lifeguards are back, although right now only on weekends. And the buoys are back to clearly define swimming areas from boating areas. (Click any image for a closer look.)

THE DIFFERENT COLOR BUOYS DEFINE A "LANE" THAT DIRECTS PEDDLE BOATS
AND OTHER SMALL CRAFT FROM THE BEACH.

In parts of the United States, the word "buoy" is pronounced "BOO-eee." In other parts of the States, it's pronounced exactly like the word "boy." So, yes, the buoys are back in town.

YELLOW FLAG LAST WEEKEND. IT DIDN'T LOOK ROUGH TO ME.
SAND-FILLED BOAT NEXT TO A CHIRINGUITO.
USED FOR SMOKING SARDINES AND BETTER DELICACIES (ALL ON SKEWERS)
A VENDOR SELLING POLYSTYRENE FOAM AIRPLANE/KITES.
TOO BAD, THEY DON'T COME AS A SET OF NINE.

You had to know the song was coming...

Monday, April 28, 2014

Poison And Chocolate Clouds

In "The Story of Babar" by A.A. Milne (which was based on "Histoire de Babar" by Jean de Brunhoff), the king of the elephants dies after eating a poison mushroom. That was the first time The Kid Brother heard about poison mushrooms. Or I could be making that up. Maybe that was the first time I heard about poison mushrooms. More likely The Kid Brother saw it on an American television Western in the 1960s. You know, some outlaw escaping through the desert scrub and desperate for food and water. Hmmm... What's this? Ah, mushrooms!

NON-POISONOUS MUSHROOM HERE IN SPAIN.  BUT THE PRICE COULD CAUSE INDIGESTION.
(THE EURO IS ONLY THERE FOR SIZE COMPARISON.)

What matters is that, when The Kid Brother was still just 'a kid,' he heard about poison mushrooms. From that time on, he has not eaten one single mushroom. I thought he just didn't like them. It wasn't until the mid-1990s when The Kid Brother was visiting us in San Diego that I discovered the truth. He and I were out for lunch at Seaport Village on the waterfront. I was about to bite into my giant Portobello mushroom burger and he looked at me from across the table with panic written all over his face.

"That's not poison, is it?!?" he blurted.

And then I understood. When The Kid Brother is told something, it sticks with him for the rest of his life. And, if a mushroom can be "poison," how is he supposed to know when one isn't?  When he was 12, The Dowager Duchess told him that chocolate was bad for his skin. He hasn't had chocolate for 42 years. That's will-power — well, OK, that's really obsessive-compulsive behavior... but still. Anyway, to be more precise, The Kid Brother hasn't had chocolate-colored chocolate in 42 years. White chocolate apparently doesn't count.


The Kid Brother works in a large store, part of a national chain. Way back when, on holidays, our sister Dale used to always buy us special goodies. The best were the solid chocolate Easter eggs, and jumbo Easter bunnies. And gigantic Santas and reindeer, also of solid chocolate (no hollow chocolate from our sister). The Kid Brother thought they were the best, too, until he hit 12 and The Dowager Duchess shared that unfortunate information. A couple of weeks ago, I told the kid brother to pick up a big, solid chocolate Easter bunny for me this year. He had told me his store was completely stocked with Easter sweets.

"No way," he snarled, "I don't eat chocolate!"

He was unmoved when I said, "Well, I do!"

"You need to stop!" he snarled.

So, no solid chocolate Easter bunny for me this year. As the Kid Brother would say, "Sheesh!"

IN THE 1970S, WAITING TABLES AT A SUMMER CAMP IN RAMAPO, NEW YORK.
I DON'T KNOW WHAT'S ON THE TRAY THE KID BROTHER'S HOLDING, BUT
IF HE COULD SERVE THAT SLOP, YOU'D THINK HE'D SERVE ME SOME CHOCOLATE!

San Geraldo had pity. While in the supermarket last week after Easter, he found a box of "Nubes de chocolate con leche," which translates to "Clouds of milk chocolate." Marshmallow chicks dipped in milk chocolate. They were surprisingly good. But a dozen milk chocolate clouds disappeared into thin air — as clouds will do. So, there's still room for those after-Easter, half-price solid chocolate bunnies. Just a thought.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Betty Crocker, Sara Lee, and Cardamom

In 2000, while we still lived in San Francisco, San Geraldo's second-cousin, Inger, and her family visited from Norway for a month. Linda and Tom decided to come for a brief visit at the same time so they could meet Inger, Jan Olaf, and their three incredible kids (ranging in age from 16 to 20 at the time).

Inger is a trained and exceptionally talented cook. (When she was a child in Bergen, Norway, many girls were sent to what Inger refers to as "Housewife School.") One morning, while San Geraldo and I were at our jobs at the University of California, Berkeley, Inger and Linda were alone in our well-stocked kitchen. (Click the photos for a better view.)

THE SAN FRANCISCO KITCHEN: THE BIG, BLACK, BALL OF FUR,
CENTER SCREEN, IS ONE OF OUR ORIGINAL "BROTHER CATS," DOBIE.
A GREAT KITCHEN....
EXCEPT THAT SAN GERALDO NEVER COOKED AND I DIDN'T CLEAN.

Inger was putting together the makings for something and, after searching in vain through the cabinets, asked Linda if she knew if Jerry (aka San Geraldo) had cardamom.

"Card-a-what?" asked Linda.

"Cardamom," responded Inger.

"What's that? asked Linda.

"It's a spice," said Inger.

"Well, what's it for?"

"For making sweet rolls," explained Inger.

Linda snapped, "Oh, I buy those!"

Inger laughed, but thought Linda could have been joking. She said, "But, you really don't know what cardamom is?"

Linda said, "Nope. And I'll bet you Leann [the other sister] won't know either."

Inger insisted, "Oh, but Jerry says Leann cooks and bakes. She has to know what it is."

Linda picked up the phone and dialed.

Linda didn't even say 'hello.' "Hey, Leann, what's cardamom?"

Inger was listening in and could hear Leann answer with her own question, "Is this a joke?"

"No," said Linda, "Do you have cardamom at your house?"

"What is it?" asked Leann.

"It's a spice," said Linda.

"Well, what's it for?" asked Leann.

"For making sweet rolls," said Linda.

To which Leann snapped, "Oh, I buy those!"

NOTE: When we got home from work, Inger told us the story. It turned out Jerry did have cardamom ... And he knew how to use it.

THE CARDAMOM WAS IN THE CABINET TO THE LEFT ABOVE THE GAS RANGE.

Linda used to always refer to herself as Betty Crocker (obviously, she was being ironic). (Click here to read more about Betty Crocker and her questionable connection with Linda.) Inger of course had never heard of Betty Crocker and finally demanded of Linda, "But I would like to know what this Betty Crocker looks like!"

Linda framed her own face with her open hands and beamed, "See?!?"

Inger now refers to herself as the Norwegian Betty Crocker.

(Click here if you weren't around to read my original sweet rolls story.)

LINDA (LEFT) AND INGER.  THE [OTHER] TWO BETTY CROCKERS.  SEE?!?

And as long as we're on the subject of baked goods,
here's Liza Minnelli singing about another American favorite...


Friday, April 25, 2014

Who's In Charge Here?

In our house, the cats are very obviously in charge. Fortunately, our two grand-nieces and one grand-nephew in South Dakota (Tom and Linda's grandchildren) are being raised differently.

Linda and Tom quite often take care of the kids when their parents are traveling or need some extra help. They adore the kids and the kids adore them. Linda was a second-grade teacher for more than 34 years and she can handle anything. She finds every moment with her grandchildren a joy and she never runs out of energy.

Bennett, at 10, is a breeze. Eloise, at 6, has become very responsible and cooperative, as well. The youngest, Alice, is 4. She was named for her great-grandmother (San Geraldo — and Linda's — mother). The original Alice was more than a little spunky. And so is her namesake.

ORIGINAL ALICE AT OUR HOUSE IN GUILFORD, CONNECTICUT, 1992.

You know how Dudo and Moose tend to ignore San Geraldo when he calls them to come inside? And how they immediately come in when I call them? Well, that's kind of how it is for Linda and Tom.

ORIGINAL ALICE WITH BIG SISTER MILDRED AT THE SAN DIEGO ZOO IN THE 1980s.
MILDRED WAS DEFINITELY NOT A GOOD INFLUENCE.

One day, Alice was playing in her sandbox. Tom called to her and said she needed to come inside for lunch. She ignored him... Three times...

In frustration, Tom muttered to Linda. Linda walked to the door and said, "Alice, Grandpa told you to come inside. Get in here right now."

Alice quickly brushed the sand off her clothes and walked inside as if it was the first she'd heard of it.

ALICE THE YOUNGER.

One day last week, Tom was on his own with the kids while Linda ran some errands. It doesn't happen often (Tom being left alone with all three, that is). Tom heard the kids arguing heatedly in the den. Then he heard Alice say, "Grandma's not here. So, no one's in charge of me!"

Tom walked into the den and told Alice that he was very definitely in charge. (But we all know the truth.)

TOM ON THE TERRACE NEXT DOOR LAST MONTH.
(I THINK HE MIGHT HAVE BEEN TRYING TO GET ME TO COME IN FOR LUNCH.)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Cooperative Cats

I haven't shared news lately about the cats and I'm sure you've all been missing them. Moose will soon be a lap cat. I work with him (force him) every day to sit on my lap. During our most recent attempt, he sat for an entire minute and I didn't even have to hold him in place. Slow but sure. It worked with Dudo. (Click any image to see their gifts close-up.)

DUDO LOUNGING ... WHERE HE'S PERMITTED.

After seeing Linda and Tom daily for a month followed by cat-lovers Matt and Lindy, both cats are much less shy around visitors. It helped that whenever Linda or Lindy came into the house, they gave the boys a treat. Our neighbor Jean is now doing the same. Funny how that works. I had taught Dudo to beg for his treats. Lindy taught him to do one spin on his hind legs. One day, he did it three times in a row, one for each small treat. When Lindy tried to get him to do it a fourth time, he balled up his little paw and punched her.

"JUST GIMME THE DAMNED TREAT."

Both cats now immediately come when called. When I say, "Musy! Dudo! Do you want a treat?" they come running. OK, no surprise there. But when they're on the terrace and I call them inside, they come in without hesitation. Still, when San Geraldo calls them inside, they usually ignore him. Don't tell him, but I've actually caught them laughing. Interestingly, when San Geraldo calls out, "Musy, is it time for our nap?" Musy does come running.

THE NEXT "COSMO" CENTERFOLD?

Moose and Dudo both clearly understand they're not permitted on the narrow wall of the terrace. They're allowed to sit in any of the four recessed curved wells along the wall (see the previous two photos of Dudo).

ALL I SAID WAS THEY "UNDERSTAND."
(DUDO BREAKING THE RULES AND MOOSE DOING A LOUSY JOB AS LOOK-OUT.)

Read the rest of the captions to see all the other wonderful ways the boys have grown.

MOOSE HAS LEARNED TO SLEEP ATOP THE THROW COVERS,
JUST LOOK AT ALL THE HAIR (TO HIS RIGHT) THAT DIDN'T GET ON THE SOFA.
ON THE OTHER HAND, MOOSE HAS PERFECTED SLEEPING UNDER THE COVERS. 

DUDO WILL STILL DO ANYTHING TO GET ME TO PLAY WITH HIM.
AND I USUALLY CAN'T RESIST.
BEST OF ALL... DUDO NOW ANSWERS THE DOOR.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Warning: Not Appropriate For Easter Sunday

There is a four-letter word in this blog post. A word of which My Mother The Dowager Duchess will not approve. But I'm not the one who said it... the first time.

If, like the Dowager Duchess, you are offended by "dirty" words, read no further.

If, however, also like the Dowager Duchess, you hate to miss anything, read on.

TO MAKE THIS A BIT SWEETER... THIS WAS MY DESSERT ONE NIGHT LAST WEEK.
SAN GERALDO JUST WATCHED.

San Geraldo and I were out for dinner last night at Meson Salvador. We went early to avoid the Holy Week crowds and noise and were surprised when Tynan and Elena came in a short time later. They had the same idea.

As usual, the stories and conversation were non-stop. Tynan happened to mention a friend of his from back in the north of England. Honestly, I don't know what the point of the story was. Of course, with Tynan, there's a good possibility he didn't know the point of the story either.

Apparently, Tynan's northern accent (from Derbyshire) has softened over his many years in Spain. But many English speakers here (unless they're from northern England) still have a hard time understanding him. Tynan told us that an old friend from Derbyshire posted a message on facebook to one of his neighbors (who was missing a goose). The message read:

"If you're wondering what happened to your goose, nobody stole it. A fox ate it.

From the opposite side of the small square table, San Geraldo, with eyebrows raised, stared at Tynan and said:

"You fucked Satan?"

Friday, April 18, 2014

Four* Semana Santas

This is our fourth [*oops... only our third] Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Spain and our first time to experience a little bit of it in Málaga. We were spoiled in Sevilla — with our corner apartment and its seven balconies overlooking a historic plaza and an ancient street (click here for the last in the series of posts from our first Semana Santa... and for a view of the balconies). All I had to do was step outside or downstairs for our very personal view of several of the Semana Santa processions.

THE RED ON THE PAVEMENT IS NOT BLOOD.  IT'S WAX... I'M PRETTY SURE...
(CLICK ANY IMAGE.)

Here in Fuengirola, the processions are smaller and I actually have to walk "among the people." In Málaga, many of the processions are large and extravagant, but I'm required to share my space with thousands of others. So, I guess I'm jaded. I caught one very small procession of Málaga's 42 processions throughout the week. But I had a great time just wandering around the city taking pictures of the crowds and the preparations.

READY TO BE "PROCESSED" LATER IN THE DAY.
VERY CLASSY FOR A STORAGE UNIT.
CHEAP SEATS 3 HOURS BEFORE A SMALL PROCESSION ON CALLE CARRETERÍA..
THE EXPENSIVE VIP VIEWING AREA ON PLAZA DE LA CONSTITUCIÓN.
CALLE MARQUÉS DE LARIOS, THE PEDESTRIAN MALL. NO SHOPPING ON HOLY THURSDAY.
YOU CAN'T SEE THE PLAZA FOR THE TIERS.
SAN GERALDO... SMARTLY MAKING HIS ESCAPE.
FOUR HOURS BEFORE THE NEXT "SHOW TIME" ON CALLE MARQUÉS DE LARIOS.
THE CATHEDRAL OF MÁLAGA.
THE ADORNED BISHOP'S PALACE (CATHEDRAL FENCE AT RIGHT).
BUNTING EVERYWHERE.
FOUR HOURS BEFORE THE NEXT PROCESSION ALONG ALAMEDA PRINCIPAL.
I LOVE THE GERANIUM "GUARD RAIL" ON THIS BRIDGE (PUENTE DE TETUÁN).
THE BEST "PROCESSOR," WHILE I WAIT BACK ON CALLE CARRETERÍA.
RESERVED CHEAP (AS IN "FREE") SEATS.
AFTER SITTING COMFORTABLY ON A LEDGE FOR AN HOUR,
I CAN SEE AND HEAR THEM COMING.
BUT I DON'T THINK THEY'RE FROM FRANCE.
(CLICK HERE IF YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT.)
IT WAS DEFINITELY NOT A DANCING BEAT.
I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO SAY...
COLLECTING WAX.  (I WAS TEMPTED.)
HE LOOKS A BIT RUFF...
WALKING BAREFOOT TO ATONE FOR HIS SINS...
TWO EAR PIERCINGS, COOL WRIST BANDS, AND INCENSE...
A MOMENTARY BREAK.

AND BACK UP ON THEIR SHOULDERS.



PRECEDING AND FOLLOWING EVERY HOLY PROCESSION... BALLOONS.
STILL MORE THAN AN HOUR TO WAIT BACK ON ALAMEDA PRINCIPAL...  I WENT HOME.