The One About The Dog Who Climbed The Tree

(or, Why Evelyn is Not A Documentary Filmmaker)

You probably won’t believe that our dog climbed a tree and ended up 12 feet above the ground.  If we didn’t have a witness, I’m quite sure there would only be two of us that believed it.  Since Benjamin’s cousin was here and saw it with his own eyes, there are three of us.

There are no pictures, because, well, I was suppressing the overwhelming urge to scream the whole time.  I didn’t want her to think I was in distress and try to run towards me.  And it was so horrifying to me that I really didn’t want to see proof of it again.

Chloe’s been having fun in her new backyard but this was a whole new situation altogether.  I kept asking if I should call the Fire Department.  I wonder how many times they get a call to rescue someone’s dog out of a tree?


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The One About the Millennial Approach to National Security

millennial 2A few years ago, I attended a seminar that was geared towards helping people who sell products or services know their audiences better, based on their age group.  We heard from social scientists who have spent a considerable amount of time studying members of The Greatest Generation, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and now Millennials.

So to be honest, I’m not surprised that Edward Snowden, the person who took it upon himself to reveal top secret intelligence gathering techniques of the National Security Agency, also known as PRISM, is 29 years old.  Millennials, I learned, are a group that feels strongly about community.  They work well together in teams, believe that groups come up with more desirable results, and are less concerned (as a general rule, there are exceptions, of course) about individual accomplishment than older cohorts.

And they invented crowdsourcing.

Edward Snowden, a high school dropout with top secret clearance (um, hello? anyone else see an issue here?) decided to crowdsource the concept of security surveillance.  Metaphorically, he posted it on Facebook to see how many “likes” it would get.

I believe it’s fair to note that he’s a high school dropout, and to remind you that high school seniors study US Government in their last year of high school.  This might be where Snowden would have learned that we live in a REPUBLIC, in which we elect representatives to make policy decisions for us, and not a direct democracy, in which everyone gets to decide every issue one by one (well, in California we have direct democracy on many things – you can see how well that’s worked for us….)

millennial 1By the way, you can see “how Millennial” you are here.  My score came up 29 out of 100, making me older than Gen X and younger than Baby Boomer.  Damn I’m predictable.

I wrote another piece about some ladies’ advice to me about our previous pooch awhile back.  I guess we are all pretty predictable!


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The One About Wines – JHU Alumni Trip to the Hudson Valley – Part II

20130519-142827.jpgJonathan Palevsky followed yesterday’s lecture on Old World wines with another today about wines of the New World, including the US, Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. [Palevsky hosts WBJC’s “Word on Wine” radio commentary weekly on Thursday – click here for more info!]

He told us about the Hungarian man, Harasty, who brought vine clippings over from Europe in the 1940s and planting them on land that was later purchased by Robert Mondavi Sr. Mondavi was the first to bring the German way of labeling wine by the varietal, not by the region, as French wines are labeled.

Palevsky discussed the 1976 world blind wine tasting event in which the French snickered about the American wines that eventually beat them – both reds and whites from Napa. This was a revolution in the industry and put the US on the winemaking map.

We learned about how white Zinfandel – of which six times more than red Zinfandel is sold – is made, and why it was made to begin with. In the mid 1970s, American producers began making white wine with red grapes as white wine’s popularity grew and Americans had a taste a bit more on the sweeter side. White Zinfandel is made from the same Zinfandel grapes that can create a big, fruity, sometimes spicy flavor. Winemakers drain a bit of the juice out if the barrels and let it ferment less time than the juice still sitting with the skins, so the juice stays sweeter and does not absorb the skins’ color. Almost 10% of the wine sold in the US is white Zinfandel, and not surprisingly, Gallo is the major producer of it.

20130519-142626.jpgPalevsky spent a little bit of time on my favorite wine producing region, Australia. “Love it or hate it,” he said, “you have to recognize the sheer audacity of Shiraz.” Shiraz is Australia’s signature wine. It’s “huge bodied, enormous jammy upfront fruit, maybe a little bit of eucalyptus,” he said. Most Shiraz is flavored with and aged in American oak.

I spent a little bit of time in the McLaren Vale in Australia a few years ago and have definitely developed an affinity for wines from that region. I particularly like Sauvignon Blanc from Australia or New Zealand.

It’s a drizzly spring day so we toured the inside of the winery and looked out over the rows and rows of grape vines, and then enjoyed a tasting-sized flight of six wines and a box lunch before leaving Millbrook, the Hudson Valley’s flagship winery.

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The One About The JHU Culinary Institute Visit – Wine Talk


“Everything that needs to be said about wine has been said already,” said Jonathan Palevsky, program director at WJBC, Maryland’s classical music radio station and host of its show, “Word on Wine,” to a group of JHU friends and alumni gathered at the Culinary Institute of America in Poughkeepsie, NY. But assuming that his audience had not read all of the thousands of books that have been published about wine, he pressed on, taking us on a whirlwind tour of France, Italy, Germany, Spain and their respective wines.

Palevsky compared the difference in taste between French Burgundy and Bordeaux to the difference between New York and Los Angeles, and let us in on the secret that Dom Perignon was actually the person who tried to figure out how to remove the bubbly from wine!

He talked about many different types of wines, and the grapes from which they are pressed, as well as some pairings. “My favorite pairing, by the way,” he said, “is wine with nothing.”

Palevsky expressed admiration for Chardonnay – not my favorite wine by the way – telling us that Chardonnay is blended into many different kinds of wine, including champagne. Good vintage Chardonnay can be kept for years, he said. “In a lousy vintage, just drink them now.” He referred to pinot noir as “the problem child of the wine world.”

Wines labeled ‘Gran croux’ come from a single vineyard. Wines labeled “village,” (best to say that with a French accent, like ‘vee-lajh’) come from different vineyards in a region.

When he moved on to talk about Italian wine, Palevsky told us that moscato is only 5.5% alcohol. “Perfect for breakfast,” he said.

Pinot Grigio is the top-selling wine by the glass in the U.S. – it’s medium body, medium fruit, medium flavor, medium color. “It’s the high fructose corn syrup of wine.”

Super Tuscan is a mixture of indigenous grapes and non-indigenous grapes. In the early 1900s, Tuscan vintners who wanted to blend sangiovese, cabernet and merlot grapes could only get the designation of ‘table wine’ for these blends. So in an early display of marketing genius, they came up with the name Super Tuscan so they could sell their expensive product with a more impressive name.

It’s hard to give a lecture on wine when your audience is not actually tasting, but Palevsky’s clear expertise and love for his topic made this an entertaining opportunity. Tomorrow we’ll be tasting wine at a local winery, so I’m looking forward to putting my new knowledge to work!

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The One About A Cool Life Transitions Event for Women

Hello women friends!

I am co-hosting an event this coming Sunday, 4/28 sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women.  The event is called Sunday Salons: Life Transitions Workshops for Women, and there will be three different moderated breakout sessions geared towards women in different stages of life.  The groups, roughly, are “twenty-somethings,” called “Quarter Life,” geared towards women just finishing college and/or getting their career started, “Sandwich Generation,” geared towards women dealing with balancing marriage, kids, careers, aging parents, etc., and “Third Chapter,” geared towards women who have (or are just about to) leave the workplace, lost a spouse, etc.

If you are interested in coming, the workshops go from 10 am to 2 pm on Saturday.  More information is here: and tickets are available here:

The event costs $15, with lunch included (certified Kosher).

The three flyers below have more information as well (click to enlarge).  Hope you can make it!!Quarter LifeSandwich

Third Chapter

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The One About Stumbling Onto a Jazz Concert in Ohio

It must have been my lucky day, and I didn’t even know it.  I was on day 11 of a 12-day college touring trip – I was tired, had already smashed my iPad and procured a replacement (still had bruises on both knees from the fall that precipitated the aforementioned smash), and in the middle of Ohio.  Showing up for 6:30 am breakfast and 7:15 am bus boarding for four days straight is not as fun as it sounds.

So I couldn’t have been happier to arrive at Marietta College, in Marietta, Ohio, famous for its petroleum engineering program, to be handed an agenda that detailed our afternoon at Marietta, which included a welcome from the college President, student panel, college tour, dinner and optional evening concert by Chris Brubeck and his jazz trio, Triple Play.

Brubeck Triple Play

A student took this photo for me. L-R: Chris Brubeck, Joel Brown, Peter Madcat Ruth.

Only four of us stayed for the concert, from our group of 28 counselors.  It had been a long three days, with a lot of criss-crossing across Ohio to visit six colleges.  But for those of us who stayed, what a treat.  Chris Brubeck plays the piano, trombone and bass guitar (fretless bass, he informed us).  Joel Brown, who chairs the Music Department at Skidmore College, played the acoustic guitar, and Peter Madcat Ruth, well, he plays everything else.  Every key of harmonica you have ever seen (and let me tell you how amazing it was to watch him switch from one to the next effortlessly, without skipping a beat), various percussion instruments, and something called the jaw harp, which I’ve just learned has various other names.  (Click here for a description, which really doesn’t tell you much unless you scroll down to the “See Also” section and click the play button to hear a sample of what this freaky instrument sounds like.)

Triple Play wowed the Marietta College crowd, which included students and community members, with jazz, funk, bluegrass and of course a few Dave Brubeck tunes.  It was a wild ride, two full hour-long sets, and afterward I bought a few CDs and had the guys sign them.  These guys are INCREDIBLY TALENTED!!!!

If you are in the LA area, Chris Brubeck will be playing at the Hollywood Bowl on Father’s Day, as part of the Playboy Jazz Festival.  GO!  You will not be disappointed!!



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The One About Driving in L.A.

Radical thought for the day:  It’s more important to pay attention to what is going on in front of you than behind you, when you are driving.

I was behind a Prius on Mulholland Drive yesterday, for what ended up being an eternal stretch between Coldwater and Laurel Canyons.  I have often wondered if Priuses have gas pedals at all.  This driver was lollygagging along, maybe 20 miles per hour, hitting the brakes on every curve, car in front of him nowhere in sight.  I thought I couldn’t get more fed up with him when he stuck his cigarette out the window and flicked the ashes.  “You are going to set us all on fire!” I said to myself.  OK not to myself, out loud.  With the window open.  Actually really loud.

So putt-putt we kept going, and yeah, I was tailgating him.  And yeah, he did the slam-on-the-brakes thing and I was not deterred.  “MOVE,” I thought, this time actually inside my head.

And then he whipped out his iPhone.  [I continue to wonder what all of the people who have taken a picture of my license plate do with that image.  There must be dozens, hundreds of them.  What good does that picture do?]  And he stuck it out his driver’s window.  So I darted to the right side of the lane, hoping to reduce his ability to capture my license plate.  Then he moved the phone to the middle of his car, and I darted back to the other side of the lane.  Then he stuck it out his sunroof.  We played this game for a few moments and then it occurred to me that he wasn’t trying to take a picture of my license plate, HE WAS VIDEOTAPING ME driving behind him.

So after a few minutes of this foolishness, I determined that  he was never going to drive any faster, that he was clearly spending way too much time focused on what was going on behind him and I would wave the white flag.  I pulled aside and let the car behind me go ahead of me.  Enough already.

The car behind me pulled ahead and I got back right behind him.  Having been behind me as I moved back and forth (but always inside the lane!), this next car thought I was the asshole, and he pulled BACK over to let me BACK in front of him!  No!  I resisted, and then let two additional cars in front of me.  I really just wanted to get where I was going at this point.

Finally close to Laurel Canyon, Prius driver pulled into a swanky private drive and continued to videotape the procession that passed him, including me.

And so I return to my thesis:  it’s more important to pay attention to what is happening in front of you than behind you.  If everyone in L.A. would just look up from their lap and follow the car in front of them, I am pretty sure we would all get where we are going much faster.  While I was not the paragon of good driving during this episode, I was not the one breaking the law and photographing/videotaping while I was driving!!!!!!

I know you have your own stories to share – here’s your chance!  Comment below. 


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The One About Networking

Networking – we all do it, and many of us hate it.  But if you’re a small business owner, or if your job rewards you for bringing in new business, it’s a staple in your life.

Networking is an art.  People don’t do business with people they’ve just met once – they need to get to know you.  They need to trust you.  And you need to really stand out as the master of your craft, product or service.

So you go to your local Chamber of Commerce, or some affinity group, in the hopes of networking and building relationships.  I’ve made some good friends and served briefly on the board of the Los Angeles Jewish Chamber of Commerce, and I go to a few women’s networking groups as well.

About two years ago I was introduced to an organization whose structure was a bit different for me:  the two people with the title “Managing Director” were actually owners of the Los Angeles franchise of a national, for-profit networking group.  They held events and seminars that helped members grow their businesses.  It always struck me as odd that someone owned this so-called networking group.

Last week I went to another group with this same structure, and the person who owned the local chapter invited someone higher up in the organization to be the guest speaker.  While the people attending the meeting were very interesting, the program was nothing but a pitch for the group.  Interestingly, no one has followed up with me about membership.

And today, a friend who is also involved in the college admissions process and I attended a meeting for a women entrepreneurs’ group.  We each paid $75 for this meeting, held from 11:30 to 1:30 today (hello, does that scream LUNCH TIME to you or is it just me?) at an office building in which they did not validate parking.  When we arrived, there were 7 of us in the room:  the two “Managing Directors” (owners) of the franchise, their administrative assistant, my friend and I, plus two more people:  a manicurist in the process of transitioning to selling life insurance, and a custom frame store owner.

There were two cocktail-sized plates on the table with about 8 (as my friend described them) 2×2 sandwiches stacked on them.  There was a basket with cookies.  And some bottles of water.

We each took a few minutes to introduce ourselves, and then the sales pitch began.  Despite the fact that the Managing Director who did most of the talking started by saying that people hate to be sold but love to buy, from the moment we walked into the room, she was selling us this group.  She wouldn’t tell us how many members the group had (ie how many people will I be networking with, if I attend a meeting that has more than 7 people at it?) and when we presented our business challenges for input from the group, she was the only one who spoke and her answer was always that we needed coaching, which you receive for “free” with your $290 membership fee and $16.95 monthly dues to this organization.

She clearly realized that it was ridiculous to have people pay $75 for a not-quite-lunch meeting with four people, because she immediately offered us a $30 discount on next week’s meeting, which she claims will have 60 people in attendance.

I left a few minutes before the meeting ended because, well, I was tired of the hard sell.  The structure really irks me;  I think networking, which is forced to begin with, should be as organic as is possible under the circumstance, and I don’t think a structure in which someone owns the group has the best interests of its members at heart.  If you make money from every single person who joins, you can’t truly be looking out for all of them – you are looking for your own bottom line.

So I drank at least three bottles of water – $25 apiece as far as I can tell.  And then I came home and ate lunch.


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The One I Never Wanted To Write.

Squirrels of the Westside, you can relax now.  Madison has left the building.

This is Madison.  

I met her on March 6, 1999.  I was 27 years old and apparently I did not yet have a gray streak in my hair.  It was a Saturday.  I went to the West LA animal shelter and walked down the middle of the row of female dogs.  She was the only one who came running out and licked me through the fence.  I said, “I’ll be back for you,” because her card said that she had not been at the shelter for 7 days so she wasn’t yet available.  The shelter was closed on Sunday and Monday.

I learned how to adopt a shelter dog before I figured out I could paint my walls!

I showed up right when they opened at 8:30 am  on Tuesday and claimed her.  I didn’t get to pick her up until the next day, as she had to be spayed.  It being 1999, shelters didn’t tell you that you were getting a pit bull, so I thought I was adopting a “lab/dalmatian mix.”  For the next month, when I walked her, people would say to me, “Oh, what a cute pit bull you have!” And I would say “no, no, no, she’s not a pit bull.”  Little did I know.

Madison was quite the handful when she was a pup.  We failed puppy class twice.

Madison sunning herself on my patio in Santa Monica.

When I was building the little brick planter you see here, I had an unopened bag of mortar in my atrium, and I came home one day to find her with her nose in the bag, her black face covered in gray.  All I could see was the whites of her eyes.  She looked at me with that guilty look – “Mom, I didn’t mean to do this!” and I whisked her off to Petco for a bath.  “Wash her before she hardens,” was my special request.
Madison bounced off the walls with energy for the first five years.  I distinctly remember returning from one of our many 2-4 mile per day walks when she was about five, and running into one of my neighbors in the alley behind my condo.  After we spoke for a few minutes, Madison sat down and just waited for us to finish.  “How did you get her to calm down?” my neighbor asked, because everyone knew what a rambunctious puppy she was.  “I waited five years,” I responded.

Madison liked paying taxes about as much as I do. Picking up our tax return, 2005.

For two thousand, four hundred and fifty days, I had Madison all to myself.  I was the only person she had to share the bed, the couch, the chairs and everything else in the house with.  I was the only person who carried around as much of her dog hair on me as she had attached to her.  Then in October of 2005, that all changed when Benjamin came into our lives.  Madison had no idea that she would ever hit the jackpot twice in one lucky lifetime.
We were a package deal, I told him, and I’m quite sure that I was not the most enticing part of the package.   I can’t tell you how much he loved her but it sure looked like an 89 on a scale of 1 to 10.  I wish I could upload the 22-second video of him and her sharing a few spaghetti noodles, á la “Lady and The Tramp” to illustrate this point (but I can’t figure out how to do this).
Always happy to be fed from the table, Madison was about 8 when the whole dog-food-made-in-China-has-melamine-in-it scare came along, and I threw

out all of the cans and bags of dog food I had in the house and just started cooking for her.  Because life always takes you in directions you never expected, learning how to make nutritionally balanced food for her went from being a hobby, to a passion, to a business.  Always my best customer, Madison would stand in the kitchen with drool pouring out of both sides of her mouth when I made stir-fried broccoli.  Yes, just broccoli.  She was a vegetable-loving pooch.
My parents were quite smitten with Madison as well – they referred to her as their “grand-dogter.”  We would send her to their house whenever we went out of town, and she would come back a pound or two heavier.  Grandma always had an egg yolk or two in the freezer, labeled “M.”

The reason for this post, of course, is that we are no longer blessed to share our lives with her.  After 13 years and 18 days (with me) and 6 years, 4 months and 5 days (with Benjamin), Madison left this world.  She had cancer, and while

 they told us it was the mildest case of lymphoma they had ever seen, in fact, the cancer had spread to her bones.  So while we were treating her for what we thought was arthritis, her bones were getting weaker from osteosarcoma.  On March 28th, she finally told us that the pain was too great.

Losing a pet is unbelievably hard.  I can’t even begin to put it into words.  I’ve expressed condolences to so many friends, but until now, I had no idea what they were feeling.  We were there with her when she passed, and for the first few days, I had to fight to remove that last image from my brain.  I would so

much rather dwell on the fact that Madison excelled at being a dog.  She was an excellent sleeper.  She could take up any amount of bed space available!  She could leave you dangling off the side of a king sized bed.

She was an excellent kisser.  You could not escape from our house without being kissed.  When she was a puppy, I used to describe her as “aggressively friendly.”  She REALLY wanted to kiss you.  And G-d help you if you opened your mouth anywhere near her – her tongue would go right in!

My favorite picture of Madison ever, taken by Erin Searcy.

She was an excellent squirrel chaser, at least when she was younger.  She caught four in her lifetime (two actually survived the encounter!).  As she grew older, she became more of a squirrel observer.  (see the post about how harmless she was)

She was an excellent eater.  She would take food so gently, you would never know she had a superstrength pit bull locking jaw.

Madison taught me what unconditional means, which is really what dogs are for.  No matter how long I was out of the house, or out of town, or whether I yelled if she did something bad, she always gave love unconditionally.

The other day we had some friends over for dinner, and I braised chicken in a large saute pan.  It was the first time since she’s been gone that I truly felt her absence.  For the last 13+ years, I would have put the pan on the floor for her to lick before washing it.  But there was no reason to do that now.  What a strange, empty, feeling I had cleaning up that night.

Whenever you tell someone that you’ve recently put a dog down, they express condolences, wait a moment, and then ask you if you’ve gotten a new one yet.   I’ve been told that adopting the next one will make me forget the pain of losing Madison.  I think there’s actually a pool at Benjamin’s office about how long it will take.

It’s hard to imagine that there will be a time when I won’t think about her every hour.  I know that time will heal this wound, and that there will be a next dog.  But there will only be one Madison.

Good night, sweet beast.


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The One About Black Bean Brownies

Well my last post generated a bit of controversy and lots of comments.  I’ll go back to cooking and recipes and leave my non-parent critiquing of other people’s parenting to the side, for now.

I have heard about using black beans in brownies for years.  I will admit I was skeptical.  So skeptical, in fact, that I made TWO black bean brownie recipes the other day, to compare and contrast.  The first ones came out SO BAD that I almost did not make the second recipe.  This recipe is simply horrible.  Do not try it.  Just trust me.  They were not chocolatey.  They were not delicious.  They tasted like wet sponge.  I threw the entire batch in the trash.

This recipe, on the other hand, came out amazing!  They are like the winning lottery ticket that I almost didn’t buy.  They are chocolatey, and gooey and fudgy inside.  These are Melissa Costello’s version – she runs the 30-day vegan cleanse sessions which I did last summer.  They are gluten-free and sugar free.  It’s possible that I may have added a few tablespoons of brown sugar, because the first recipe was so not sweet.  I also used regular chocolate chips and Melissa has you use grain sweetened or vegan chips.  Other than those minor changes, I have to tell you – make this recipe.  Make it now.  You’ve been looking for a great brownie recipe.  This is not a great black bean brownie recipe, it’s just a great brownie recipe, period!!


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