Sunday, December 21, 2014

Country crock. . .

I like a good crockpot, because there's nothing more idiot proof and there is such a good flavor when it gets its simmer on. I've totally improvised many a soup. Thrown in some French onion soup as a base along with pieces of chicken, cut-up potatoes--sweet, regular Idaho, russet, whatever--fresh vegetables and a package of frozen mixed vegetables. I've topped it off with red wine.

For seasoning, I've taken basil from my garden and even mint, or just experimented with the spice cabinet. Salt and pepper to taste. Give it a couple hours and, inevitably, it is delicious.

I've even got a Pinterest board called "What a crock." I've got 149 dishes pinned, from homemade macaroni to fajitas to Indian food to, gasp!, bread. Here's the board if you want to peruse recipes like "Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala."

Now I haven't cooked a damn thing off this board, but I've decided this is my year. I'm going to be a cooking mom. Vegetarian dishes, dishes the whole family will love, which smuggle vegetables into hungry bellies, comfort food and crockpot berry cobbler. It's not that I'm only going to use a slow cooker. But I believe this timeworn, make-sure-you-put-it-on-your-wedding-registry will be the epicenter of my culinary peregrinations.

Holy shit! It's crockpot smothered beef burritos!

Now, before you say, "Oh yeah, I bet you're going to cook all of that stuff. In your dreams. And why don't you pin some more things you're never gonna make". . . (I'm not sure why the hypothetical you is so mean!) I want to tell you something. I believe I am on my way.

Because this last Friday, I turned into an adult. I know, I'm 40. It should have happened a long time ago. Long story short, it didn't. But anyway, my daughter turned one and I decided I would have something very low-key and season-appropriate called "an open house." From 6 to 9 p.m., any number of people were invited to stop on by and admire my baby, present her with some belated frankincense and myrrh, and sample some goodies.

Savannah and her daddy on Halloween

Due to my not getting the word out until the last-minute and because everyone was holiday-partied out, only my immediate family and Brian's came to pay homage to Savannah's first year on earth. But I prepared enough food for two-dozen people. What I am most proud of is that I made really good homemade chili and really good spinach artichoke dip in two dual slow cookers. It was a truly housewifely achievement. Next thing you know, I'll be making ambrosia and bundt cakes and jello in molds.

It was tasty as all get out. And I discovered that, given a lot of leftover spinach artichoke dip, you can get pretty creative. It tastes good on bagels. It tastes good on a slice of pizza. It tastes good on pita chips. And I bet it would taste really good on a baked potato. (I think I'll try this tomorrow.) There seems to be a theme here. It's called carb-on-carb action and it's hot!

Of course, my next step will be to start my diet, and I'm not sure how that will dovetail with my going down the crockpot rabbit hole. (I think you can even ferment your own beer in a crockpot. Perhaps that's a good way to earn a crock potbelly.)

But really, it is a true achievement, the kind that tells me, I'm not just faking it. Oh no, I'm making it.

Here's the recipe I used, from the Six Sisters Stuff website.

Want to join me in further reconnaissance into adulthood? Last one in's a rotten egg!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

You handsome brute! . . .

Feeling sexy because I just "liked" Robert Mitchum on Facebook. It's the sheer orneriness of the guy that gets me: "People think I have an interesting walk. Hell, I'm just trying to hold my gut in." Oh yeah, and the charisma. As my late Great-grandmother Marcia used to say, "Dimple in chin, devil within."

Everybody's got a laughing place. . .

Okay, done with the goth. Onward and upward, mood. . 

P.S. I interviewed Scotty McCreery for the Reno Gazette's Best Bets entrainment section a couple of months ago, and he was A-dorable.

I wear black on the outside. . .

I've got a miserable cold and am feeling sorry for myself. Time to get my goth on.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

On a political high horse. . .or hobby horse. . .

Sometimes, I think so many of us are divided by partisanship.

We think we only respect Republicans or only trust liberals. I just don't like so much of the feeling of us and them. Ultimately, if aliens were to invade (not illegal, gallactic), we'd all band together to make it happen. Didn't you see Independence Day?

Please don't take this a shaming finger, because I only half-know what's right half the time. But I think we Americans are more diverse than we think. We don't have a hive mind. And while we effectively have a two-party government, we do not have a two party country. Not all liberal-minded people (I prefer that to liberals) are Democrats. I'm a member of the Green Party. Not all conservatives (let's change that to conservatively-minded people or, better yet, "thoughtfuls," are Republican. 

I have known many a libertarian and I have also known at least one person who has voted for both a Republican and a Democratic president. I won't try to make myself so hip as to call myself a "post-partisan," but I do feel weary of political conflict.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

True story. . .

I don't like politics much, but I consider myself a patriot. And it's paid off.

One time, I was walking in a shady part of town when this guy tried to mug me. I thought fast, put my hand over my heart and began saying the Pledge of Allegance.

Well, you can guess what happened. We've all been indoctrinated in the k-12 school system.

The guy put his hand over his heart and joined me in the pledge. He actually knew more of the words than me.

It was suddenly just us, two Americans trying to navigate a messed up system, each in our own way, but hanging onto a sense of national unity. We had a moment. We hugged. And then I hauled off and clocked him and ran away.

True story.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I love that feeling. . .

when you find a beautiful new song.

I was on Pinterest when one of the pinners I follow posted this tune "Stay Forever" by Panama.

 Be prepared for models in this video whose swimsuit figures you covet, but also for a transcendent jam that is a mix of modern ambient music and '80s epic-ness a la Echo and the Bunnymen, When in Rome ('The Promise") and Alphaville ("Forever Young)."

Taking a stand. . .

Punish the deed, not the breed.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Flash fiction, for when you want your story quick. . .

Here is a story I wrote several years ago when I was advising a literary magazine at Citrus College and experimenting with the new-to-me concept of flash fiction.

Are you familiar with the term? Just in case you aren't, I've lifted the definition of flash fiction from Wikipedia: "Fiction of extreme brevity. There is no widely accepted definition of the length of the category. Some self-described markets for flash fiction impose caps as low as three hundred words, while others consider stories as long as a thousand words to be flash fiction."

Anyhow, here is my first attempt, a little piece called "The Sweets." I think it holds up well, particularly since this is the season of Christmas cookies and all manner of sweet things, not to mention "The Nutcracker Suite.

flickr photo by Aljabri

The Sweets

She liked to fill the coffee filter full to brimming with sugar, brew it and then bitter it up with a spoonful of coffee grounds. He had a sweet tooth, too, and though her cooking—particularly her elaborate preparations of crepes, ganaches, tarts and brule—was legendary, often he would excuse himself, saying, "Sorry, dear, I had a heavy lunch," and go to the garden where he would indulge himself in a light liquid dinner of red-dyed sugar water sucked straight from the hummingbird feeder.

Miraculously, neither Mr. or Mrs. Sweet had diabetes, but they tested their blood sugar twice a day, almost religiously, one might say. If Mr. Sweet's vital sweetness ever fell too low, then Mrs. Sweet knew what to do. She would make a brew of the finest liqueurs—chocolate, orange, anisette and poppy seed—which, witchlike, she would ferment and bottle herself.

"A strengthening tonic is what you need," she would tell her husband in a brisk tone, "and some hot butterscotch pudding, and never mind that carrot I saw you surreptitiously reaching for in your coat pocket." (For, like most wives, she always saw what tricks her husband was about.)

"Alright, dear," Mr. Sweet would say sheepishly, knowing, after all, she was right. For though he was old enough to have licorice-whip-thin traces of hair as white as Devonshire cream in his moustache, he'd never been sick a day in his life. And the Sweets, in general, were models of good cheer, their tempers only threatening to fray a bit, as is the case of the best of us, when their blood sugar dipped precipitously.

—Sarah Torribio

Monday, December 1, 2014

First world problems and the Suburban Lawns. . .

So life is hard sometimes. For me. For everyone.

People like to make fun of any struggle that isn't a life-or-death situation. We discount things.  #FirstWorldProblems, we write ironically.

By the way, despite the supposed irony of the little girl's tears in the above meme, she is actually heartbroken. Didn't you see "National Velvet"?

And a lot of times, it turns out that us ironic folks are having third-world problems--stuff like struggling to pay rent or buy groceries.

And as for us sweating the small stuff, like losing your keys when you're planning to head out early for a holiday door-buster sale, it isn't indicative of a privileged attitude. It's indicative of human nature.

A problem is a problem. And someone in a third-world country, whatever that means nowadays, is likely to be upset if she breaks a nail.

Yes, it is worse to sever one of your fingers in a tree-trimming fiasco than to stub your toe. But still, stubbing your toe still hurts like a mo-fo. Like you are dying. The only thing that keeps me from not yelling out curse words in front of my children (I can usually boast this restraint) when I stub my toe is that I've made up new words to express my pain and outrage: "Floop you!" I admonish the offending object into which I've bumped.

So ironic as may seem for well-fed people with a roof over their heads, our problems trouble us. They bug us. They drive us crazy.

Yesterday, I went a little crazy.

After a hard week and a Thanksgiving celebration to prepare for, Brian and I planned our son's 6th birthday party with a tight budget and schedule. And for a moment, when we had 20 minutes to decorate for a Minecraft-themed party, I almost lost it. I felt like I might go into hysterics.

My headspace was hovering somewhere between that of Cathy of comic strip fame and the mental patients in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

I guess it's all the stress. The general parenting craziness.

Did you know that when you change a year-old baby, no matter how angelic they look, they squirm and fight something powerful? It's literally like you are trying to land a fish. And not just some puny river trout but some kind of giant sailfish. It's a total Old Man and the Sea situation.

Of course, the chaos doesn't just apply to parents. This applies to all of us "adults." Between work and family and social lives and whatever goals we are striving for, we really have to fake it till we make it.

I know, it's a cliche, and an '80s cliche at that. Kind of like saying "No pain, no gain." It takes me back to the days when my mom used to exercise not while watching a video, because we didn't have a VCR, but by listening to a record. (I used to love the part of the record where  Jane's friendly, encouraging voice instructed listeners to lift and tuck over The Jackson 5's "Can You Feel It?")

Yes, the saying "Fake it till you make it" is a cliche. But axioms continue for a reason. Just because we dub them cliches doesn't mean they aren't true.

So with this whole parenting thing,  I often feel like I'm faking it until I make it.

For Alex's Minecraft party, I didn't make my jello, representing water or lava, in time for it to set. We now have a dozen cups of jello in our fridge.

I had licorice representing TNT and pretzel sticks representing logs, but I couldn't get my computer to print digitized labels. And I forgot to put out the Rollos, representing gold, at all. If it sounds like I'm speaking another language, it's because you don't have a relative who plays Minecraft.

Speaking of another language, have you seen this meme? As a non-math person, it makes me laugh.

But we had tons of pixelized blocks and minecraft characters the kids could play with. I brought a lot of crayons and we used the leftover paper bags I used for gift bags to make puppets. There was pizza to eat, courtesy of my dad, and everyone loves pizza. My sister-in-law made a beautiful Minecraft cake. It was raining, but Brian's grandparents, who hosted the shindig, have a nice covered patio. Alex played with kids and had fun and the adults talked. It was a whole thing.

But back to my crisis, which I glossed over. Trying to achieve maximum decoration festivity in 20 minutes, I felt in over my head. I thought I might scream for a moment. I cried. And then I decorated. And it turned out alright. But I truly had an existential night of the soul, for about 15 minutes.

So what's the takeaway from all this?

The party was a success, proving that it is the thought that counts. And I've decided I'm going to embrace the jury-rigged nature of existence. Imperfection. Moments of near-hysteria.
Balls dropped during the big juggling act that is life.

I also have more appreciation for my folks. My mom helped me plan a couple of elaborate Halloween slumber parties when I was a kid and they turned out great. I bet at the time she was stressed as all get-out right before a gaggle of girls arrived ready to party. She probably wanted to make these event magical with limited time and a limited budget. For the record, they turned out great.

And you've got to be able to laugh at it all, in retrospect. Woody Allen once said "Tragedy plus time equals comedy." The big stuff takes a lot of time to marinate into humor. I think it's still too early to crack Titanic jokes or 9/11 jokes and it probably always will be.

But sometimes the little stuff takes just a few hours to recover from, or even minutes. Like the case of a thrown-together children's party. My freak-out was a little internal earthquake. The ground stopped shaking pretty quickly.

And as always, my pondering has brought me back to my favorite subject: music.

I would like to share a song, maybe you've heard it, from 1981. "Janitor," by the Suburban Lawns. The subject matter is seemingly profound: "All action is reaction. Expansion and retraction. Man the manipulator. Underwater, anti-matter. Does it matter? Nuclear reactor. Boom, boom, boom, boom."

But despite the implied threat of nuclear destruction, the song is fun and funny, with a great, danceable beat and surfy guitar.  (This is the same band who had a minor hit with a tune called "Gidget Goes to Hell.") Lead singer Sue Tissue's voice ranges from nearly robotic to a spot-on imitation of Betty Boop. The song was a party on vinyl, and translates just fine to digital.

As soon as I caught my breath and realized I wasn't going to die if my party wasn't perfect, the song began to spin on my mental record player. Call it musical OCD, but it gave me a moment of perspective in which I could ask myself—about the lack of jello and printouts and the terrible weather—"Does my current lack of togetherness matter?"

Nah. It doesn't matter.

—Sarah Torribio

Saturday, November 29, 2014

I dunno. . .

I'm going to tell you a secret. And it's probably not good for business.

I have not yet figured out what this blog is about.

A blog, by definition, is something you put out there for people to read, quick and dirty. There is some onomatopoeia going on, because something about the word sounds unplanned and uncontrolled. Blog. It's like the sound you make when you are yacking up an evening's worth of hors d'eouvres and booze after a party you took too far.

You take in a bunch of life and then you sick it all out: "Blaaaaaagh!"

It starts with finding a niche: food blogging, mommy blogging, political blogging, craft blogging, fashion blogging, music blogging. . . You might want to update fellow Dr. Who fans on the latest twists and turns of everyone's favorite British sci-fi import (I have to admit, I don't watch the show. When it comes to the good doctor and his inter-galactic travels, which traverse the time-space continuum, I'm totally re-Tardis.).

You can also post pictures of baby animals that make everyone go "squee." Give folks a dose of the bonding hormone oxytocin or a glad grab-bag of serotonin, the kind of happy boost that tells them to "hang in there" as surely as a poster with a kitten dangling from a tree limb by its claws.

Or you free-ball it, eschewing a specific topic, as in my "Battlestar Eclectica" concept. You can see it three ways. One, I am giving myself freedom to explore diverse topics. Two, I am copping out. Three, I am giving myself just enough rope to hang myself.

Regardless, if I am to have a blog, I need to post something.

One of the agreed-upon qualities of a blog is that you keep it regular. You make your blog a thing, like the LA Times is a thing. No, not quite like the Times, because you can skip a day or a few in your bog. But if you go a couple weeks or a month or more without posting, it's the equivalent of hanging up a "Going Out of Business" sign.

At the same time, you don't want to put something up in the blogosphere that has no meaning--nothing in it to make someone think or laugh or feel something. Because then, it's no better than an empty fast food bag tossed by the side of the freeway. It's clutter than can serve to nourish no one. It's worse than nothing.

So I'm going to pick a substantive topic. I'm going to talk about Ferguson.

There is protesting going on across the country over the clearing of a police officer of  wrongdoing in the shooting death of Michael Brown. In many cases it's peaceful, impassioned and idealistic. In some cases, it's thuggish and opportunistic. In some areas, both types of protests are going on.

There is also a lot of dialogue going on, in workplaces by water coolers, at family reunions, and on social media sites. I'm scared to even look to see what they're saying on Fox News.

Some say justice has been served and others say a mockery has been made of justice. Some people say there's no racism involved at all in this situation: If you misbehave around an armed policeman, you can expect to get shot. Others say police are using too much force, and that you don't know what it is to fear cops until you are black.

And then, there are a few people who are withholding judgement. I am among them because I honestly can see both sides.

I think that police out there have a lot of adrenaline going--they don't want to die--and they have firearms. And they are often in real bodily danger. Add aggression or perceived aggression, wrongdoing, lawbreaking, an altercation, you name it and it's a recipe for those weapons being discharged. Might that tinderbox pose more of a problem if you are black? I think they might.

In high school, I had a friend who was a big, goateed Mexican guy. When most people get pulled over for speeding, there's one cop involved. He had several show up once, because even as a teen, he was a bad-ass looking mo-fo.

I had a girl at my suburban high school who was in my honors classes. This was a college-bound black girl. Her parents bought her a new red sports car and she drove in her new ride with another friend, also black, also one of my classmates, to the mall. When the girls left, they were followed all the way to her home because, it turned out, police thought she might have stolen the car.

And this is in southern California.

So I'm going to say this: I don't know. I don't want to bend over backwards, being a knee-jerk liberal who is filled with guilt over the sins of white Americans past and present. But I don't know what it's like to be black in America.

I learn about race in all kinds of ways, including in a book I'm currently reading about Richard Pryor, "Furious Cool," which describes the racial atmosphere in the mid-1930s when he was born through the 1960s when he first came to prominence, and beyond. He thought there was a lot of prejudice in the United States. And he was a smart guy, who had friends of all colors and dug white women. (It happens. Some people have preferences.)

So lots of people are saying it's hard to be black in America. From what I can tell, it's also hard to be a cop in America. And I want cops in America. Not too may of them, because I don't want too many tickets! But if I were walking down a dark alley and someone was after me, I'd want nothing more than to see a police officer. Okay, maybe I'd rather see Hagrid from "Harry Potter," but a cop is a close second.

So what's the answer? I don't have an answer at present, other than to try not to spout too much hate and to try to understand people different from me. Cops are different from me too, you know. I wouldn't want to have the responsibility of carrying a gun. I don't like uniforms or taking orders. And I'm not particularly brave. I'm a lover, not a fighter. No, more particularly, I'm a writer, not a fighter.

I think it's sometimes it's okay not to have an immediate, sure opinion—to not be always be the person getting mad and blowing off steam via facebook posts and lumping people into groups as if they were all the same.  As if all black people are currently out raging and looting or as if cops are all smiling now, knowing they can get away with murder.

We need some people, I think, who aren't quick to anger. People who are willing to read and listen and watch and learn.

When you do that, you see that conflicts between factions of people are bad any way you look at it. You see that its causes aren't as simple as there is an "us" and them, and "they" need a reality check.

Maybe with some mulling over, we can find some solutions. Because black people aren't going way. And cops aren't going away. Nor is the percentage of bad apples that exist among all people, and the larger percentage of people with good intentions.

We're gong to need some justice system reform. We're going to need some communication reform. We're going to need attitude reform.

I don't have any great ideas yet. But if my slow-cooker of a mind does strike intellectual gold,  I'll let you know.

In the meantime, I'll be living among a mixture of us and them, none of whom has a hive mind. I'll be living somewhere that, while there are black and white people, there are no black-and-white answers.

And yes, I'll be listening to the Monkees:


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I recently had a culinary epiphany. . .

Have you tried the delightful mustard produced by the landmark Los Angeles restaurant Philippe's, which opened in 1908 and which boasts—along with a number of other eateries—that it is the place where the French dip sandwich was invented?

flickr photo by Imperpay

I believe Philippe's side of the story, because they do it up right. We're talking slices of beef served on a crisp French roll dipped in an au jus that is literally the nectar of the gods. (If you're a vegetarian, there's lots of sides and I'm sure you can get a pretty good cheese sandwich there.)

Here's the story of how bread, beef and au ju formed a menage a trois of deliciousness, changing forever the face of the hot sandwich industry. The restaurant website explains that "Eureka!" moment:

One day in 1918, while making a sandwich, founder Philippe Matthieu "inadvertently dropped the sliced French roll into the roasting pan filled with juice still hot from the oven.

The patron, a policeman, said he would take the sandwich anyway and returned the next day with some friends asking for more dipped sandwiches. And so was born the 'French Dipped Sandwich,' so called either because of Mathieu's French heritage, the French roll the sandwich is made on or because the officer's name was French. The answer is lost to history."

It's easy to get lost in history at Phillipe's.

flickr photo by Mike
You order your food cafeteria-style, a tradition that largely has gone by the wayside since the closure of the historic Clifton's cafeteria.

Come to think of it, there is some pretty good and cheap cafeteria dining at Ikea. On the next cold winter's day, when you can't think of what to do with yourself and your kids, you might want to ponder hitting up the Ikea.

Going through the store gives you decorating ideas, even if you don't much money to spend, many Ikeas have a play place where you can drop off the little ones, and they have some cute gift items there that are pretty cheap. And the prices for comfort food like Swedish meatballs and macaroni and cheese in the cafeteria are great.

But I digress.

Philippe's is old-school in so many ways. There is sawdust on the floor, you eat on these long communal tables, they only take cash and their coffee is 45 cents. Every table is equipped with Philippe's "Hot But Good" mustard. It is heavy on the horseradish and, if you use enough, it will clear you sinuses. Once you get used to it and even come to love it, as I have, the extreme heat is actually a bit of a high!

You can buy this kick-ass condiment in person at the restaurant (101 N. Alameda St. in Los Angeles) or you can stock up online on the Philippe's website.  It's $5, making it an affordable gift to your self or to someone on your holiday shopping list.

And now, it's time for me to toot my own horn, sharing a recent culinary epiphany I had, thanks to the inspiration of Philippe's amazing mustard.

I had just fried up some chicken tenders when it occurred to me that honey mustard dressing is one of the best dipping sauces around. I found some clover honey, mixed it up with the mustard and, wow, that was some gourmet dipping sauce. I'm going to try it on a salad next.

 I like to imagine that the judges in the kitchen of the reality cooking show "Chopped" would exclaim over my creation.

Now, I think your best bet is to go with the real-deal Philippe's mustard, but I did, while writing this blog, come across a recipe on that purports to be a perfect recreation of Philippe's mustard. It seems like quite a bit of work to my thinking, but you may want to give it a try.

4 Tablespoons Dry mustard powder
1 Tablespoon White Wine Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Flat beer
1 Clove Garlic
1 Teaspoon Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Turmeric
1 Tablespoon Olive oil -- optional

Whisk together dry mustard, vinegar and beer. Use a garlic press or
large pair pliers to squeeze the juice from the clove of garlic into
the mixture. Stir in sugar, salt and turmeric. To make mustard
smoother and less hot, add olive oil to taste.

What have you been cooking lately?

—Sarah Torribio

Need a boost?

I sure do. I've got so many stories due for the newspaper we're putting together, I may just explode. However, I just came across a song that I forgot I love. "This Ladder is Ours" by The Joy Formidable is an epic rock song—total lightning in a jar.

Throw on your headphones and blast this business if you are at work. If you're at home, this is a song to play on repeat as you're cleaning the house in preparation for Thanksgiving.

And who am I kidding? Of course I'll get my work done, because I'm a fear-based creature who lives in terror of missing deadline. And because I'll be playing this joint on repeat!

*PS-I don't own the rights to this songs, I'm just showcasing them. If you have money, when you have money, spend some of it on good music!

—Sarah Torribio

Sunday, November 23, 2014

If you have a child, age zero to seven. . .

maybe even eight, I recommend that you purchase HBO's "The Poetry Show" from the network's "Classical Baby" series. There are all kinds of kid-friendly poems set to animation and read by famous people with cool voices.

For instance, Susan Sarandon reads "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost; John Lithgow reads Edward Lear's "The Owl and the Pussycat" and, I know, this is a controversial one--even in my mind--but Gwyneth Paltrow reads "How Do I Love Thee?" by Elizabeth Barret Browning.  (Don't worry, it's all loving annunciation and no GOOP!). Andy Gardia reads "Mariposa" by Frederico Garcia Lorca and  Gertrude Stein and William Carlos Williams read their own poems.

There are interviews with little kids talking about or reading poetry and from the earliest age, both my kids--Alex, six on December 2, and Savannah, one on December 18, have been transfixed by the kids. The kids talking about are engaging to watch for adults, too, particularly one precocious boy with an English accent who thinks and talks like an adult:"

". . .all poetry is musical, I think. Because it all has a beat, it all has a rhythm."

The best part about it is you will find your mind, no doubt packed with lots of TV jingles and pop songs but not too many poems, retaining some of these poems as you watch the DVD as a family over and over. I can now recite "The Owl and the Pussycat," for instance, to my kids at bath time or bed-time. Now that is extreme parenting! (Step by step. I will one day be a Waldorf mom. Or maybe a Waldorf grandma.)

Here is the show, for your enjoyment. I don't own the rights, this is for education only, and I can't promise it won't be taken down at some time from YouTube. If you can buy it, I do recommend you do so, because it's ever-so-worth it. And so are all of the "Classical Baby" movies--not at all cloying like some of the Baby Einstein and teaching kids about music, dance and art as well as poetry.

Bravo, HBO!

So I've got this screenplay. . .

that I need to finish and that I keep working on and working on, and not finishing.

So for me, the biggest thing I need to learn about in writing is to finish. Crossing the finish line.

Sure, I've done that with lots of songs and lots of poems. I've done it with lots of articles. But never a book, a screenplay, a stageplay, something like that.

So I immerse myself in creativity, by what I'm reading what what I'm watching.

The combination of reading Sting's autobiography "Broken Music" and watching a documentary on Mel Brooks called "Make Some Noise" and of hearing two speakers talks about politics via my job (Oe on Putin and Russia, the other summarizing the global political climate in the US, Eastern Europe, Asia and the Middle East in 45 minutes has got to create some kind of brilliant frisson. If I were laboratory equipment, all of the ideas and impressions I have soaked in of late would be some kind of vivid liquid, percolating through a test tube and over a Bunsen burner.

It's not fun, having a story in you that won't come out, and which is blocking the doorway for all kinds of other queued up stories. It causes extreme pressure. Sometimes it feel like the inspiring "fire in the belly" inspirational speakers talk about. Other times it just feels like bile, resentment at my relative lack of success and jealousy of others."

But when I  read about creative people who have found success, they have one thing in common. They work hard. They work their asses off. We're talking focus.

And so, when I start to whine inside my mind, I set myself to work, 20 or 40 minutes at a time. I also think of The Smiths song, "You Just Haven't Earned It Yet Baby." Here are the lyrics. . .

If you're wondering why
All the love that you long for eludes you
And people are rude and cruel to you
I'll tell you why
I'll tell you why
I'll tell you why
I'll tell you why

You just haven't earned it yet, baby
You just haven't earned it, son
You just haven't earned it yet, baby
You must suffer and cry for a longer time
You just haven't earned it yet, baby
And I'm telling you now...

If you're wondering why
When all I wanted from life was to be Famous
I have tried for so long, it's all gone wrong
I'll tell you why
I'll tell you why
I'll tell you why
I'll tell you why
But you wouldn't believe me

You just haven't earned it yet, baby
You just haven't earned it, son
You just haven't earned it yet, baby
You must suffer and cry for a longer time
You just haven't earned it yet, Baby
And I'm telling you now...
I'll tell you why
I'll tell you why

Today I am remembering the time
When they pulled me back
And held me down
And looked me in the eyes and said
You just haven't earned it yet, baby
You just haven't earned it, my son
You just haven't earned it yet, baby
You must stay on your own for slightly longer
You just haven't earned it yet baby
And I'm telling you now...

You just haven't earned it yet, baby
You just haven't earned it yet, baby

And I realize that the song is a perfect description of where I am. I've worked hard. But not hard enough. Because working hard enough means finishing.

—Sarah Torribio

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pass it on. . .

I know, it's been said so often that it's almost a cliche, but tradition is important to kids. Something that's done, just the way it has always been done,  adds stability in a shifting world.

I have recently taught a rhyme to my son, which my mom taught to me and her mom taught to her. It's a nonsense rhyme and part of a suite of many rhymes and songs our family passes on, and which help people bond at a family reunion or pass time in the car. Here goes:

One dark night when the sun was shining bright
Two dead boys set out to fight
Back-to-back they faced each other
Drew their swords and shot one another
A deaf policeman heard the noise
And saved the lives of the two dead boys. 

I'm not one of those bring it on capable moms. It's always amazing and overwhelming to me, all the things people have to do in a scarce amount of time, often with a scarce amount of money. Along with working my job, we've got to get me and both our children to doctor's appointments in the next week. I said I'd cover a story for the newspaper where I work on Friday and my mom is hosting a music party on Saturday and, in general, I think the weekend is already filling itself up with plans.

So how do you find room for tradition in the middle of all of this. Luckily, traditions can be easy--short and sweet, cheap or free.

So every couple of months, I quiz my son on the words to this rhyme.
Oh yeah, and then there's the puppet.

My  mom is a puppeteer, and I always have sworn I would never be one. I'm not embarrassed anymore by the fact that any of my friends who visit are likely to, at one point, meet one of the puppets, as fully animated by my mom. It's just not my bag.

But every once in a while, when my son Alex is having his bath, he will receive a visit from a little washcloth that I turn into "Ghosty." Ghosty is a baby talking ghost who's always asking Alex if he is scary yet. He says boo in a soft baby voice, etc. Alex sometimes advises him on how to be scarier. I know, I've just revealed myself to be a madwoman. But it's a tradition.

What are your little traditions that bring a smile each time they come around?

I've got a new one in the works. My mother-in-law always decorates every room in the house for Christmas, and she switches out her collection of children's books for all Christmas books. I think I'm gonna get a good collection of holiday books going, by scouring thrift stores and Friends of the Library sales, and keep them in a big basket near the tree.

photo courtesy of

Yes, I do have it in me to do this whole parenting with meaning thing, one tradition at a time.

—Sarah Torribio

Friday, November 14, 2014

This is un-pre-ce-dented!

I have a friend who is a Hungarian artist, half-Gypsy and a Pisces to boot. She's very talented and, needless to say, very dramatic. When something amazes her, she will often say, very slowly, "This is un-pre-ce-dented!"

I'm thinking of that now.

Let's start here. I'm a liberal. I'm so liberal I'm conservative. I'm an environmentalist who wants to increase my garden produce production to minimize my family's GMO intake. I'm registered with the Green Party because I feel it's the most elven of political parties.

And yet, credit must go where credit is due. So I'm going to do something "un-pre-ce-dented" (I'm saying that in an Eastern European accent). I'm going to give George W. Bush kudos. I'm going to declare his recent avowed stance classy.

And now, here it is, the missing link between my left and right wings, a link to an article in Business Insider explaining why President Bush refuses to criticize President Obama.

"I don't think it's good for the country to have a former president undermine a current president; I think it's bad for the presidency for that matter," Bush is quoted as having said.

Well played, Mr. Bush. May you continue to pleasantly surprise me.

—Sarah Torribio

I love GloZell. . .

I came across this vid today via a friend's FB post, and it got me laughing. I love this lady!

Would you like a bump. . .?

No, I'm not offering you a snoot of cocaine. If you, like me, however, have a bad case of the Friday's I'd like to offer you a musical boost in the form of Bear Hands' highly enjoyable "Giants." Sometimes we all need someone to tell us, "I am loving you more," especially accompanied by a good beat.

Thanksgiving. . .

This month, I'm grateful for cats. Wait a minute, that's every month.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

I put the "bitch" in obituist. . .

So I'm an obituist. Seriously. That's the word for someone who writes obituaries. It's just one of my beats at the community newspaper where I work. I do education, kids pages and regular features, including cultural stuff like art and music and books.

Back to my life working on obituaries. It's not as morbid as it sounds. Come to think of it, probably being a mortician isn't as morbid as it sounds! It's a job. And it's one I take seriously.

Obituaries don't always get me down. Sometimes, in fact, they lift my spirits. If someone  has managed to live a decent amount of years and has, in that time, did much and enjoyed much, I do feel like the story is a celebration.

Working on an obituary gives you perspective. In fact, to quote "Spinal Tap," it's "too much! There's too much f&#@ing perspective now.

I have a friend, Brenda, who did the Courier obits before I took on the job. She once went to an obituary writer's conference in Las Vegas, Nevada and the obituists present were highly eccentric. There were had drinking cowboys and all manner of characters. Perhaps one day she will record her experience, because it would be a great story--even the backdrop for a movie or a mystery.

So sometimes I joke to my boss that I'm going to become very eccentric. I will wear a shawl and a cowboy hat and lots of turquoise, and when someone comes to my desk to talk about an obit, I will first let them know that "this is a safe place."

But while I can make a joke or two about my gig, I know it's a hard time for the bereaved. We work together and do it up right.

All of the names and all of the lives start to blend together for me sometimes. I've written about dozens of men who served in the military in World War II and then went to school on the GI Bill. I've written about homemakers and woman professors. I've written about people who have invented things, had 7 successful careers, helped break racial barriers, were openly gay, committed suicide.

But what doesn't blend together, what I do remember, is the little details. And because of this, I have come to the conclusion that the little things we do--our habits, our preferences, our small choices--are what is most important.

Little details I remember offhand from obituaries.

*She collected bells and was a member of the American Bell Association.

*She became a santeria priestess.

*When the family lost their cat in the middle of a move, he traveled 8,000  miles to retrieve the family pet.

*She and her husband enjoyed ballroom dancing.

*He met his wife when she was volunteering as a taxi dancer for World War II soldiers.

*He liked jazz, particularly Miles Davis.

*Anyone who visited her house left with a can of preserves.

*Being married to a career military man, she moved constantly throughout her life. But she always managed to make every place home.

*When a grandson asked his 100-year-old grandmother what it's like to have lived so long and seen so many changes, she said, "Oh honey, it just all went by so fast."

And today, I came across something that brought back a posthumous memory of my own grandmother, Bobbie McCarty. It was a "pin" on Pinterest featuring Edgar Allen Poe's "Annabel Lee." My mother has often told me how she loved to recite this poem, and it always made her cry. And she had a very musical voice--you've never heard anyone who said so many words in such an enthusiastic lilt. She covered every note in the musical scale.

And here, submitted for your approval, is the poem she so loved.

—Sarah Torribio (that's the attribution for this blog, not for the poem!)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tom Waits. . .

I just came across a hilarious quote by Tom Waits.

I agree, and I'm trying to improve myself as a writer, because you've got to look at the man in the mirror first.

But I'd say this is also true in a broader sense. Bad information is ruining our suffering and is, in part, the cause of our suffering.

We are every day inundated with horror. A coworker read aloud a news story today about a man who decapitated his father and used him as a TV table. I mean, we were shocked but not shocked enough. It's like, that kind of story is so bad, our heads should explode upon hearing it, or we should projectile vomit. But none of that. We changed the subject within a minute.

And there's so much more swill out there besides real-life violence. There are people telling us that youth and beauty is all that is important, and that we can buy those things. There are people telling us that we should hate people who have different opinions. You know, like liberals at conservative throats. Come one, liberals and conservatives together isn't an oxymoron. It's a family reunion. Get over it!

And then I read these little snippets of information that literally suck the smart out of me. Kendall Jenner has a new look. How about a new thought? Kim K. is posing nude, well, more nude than usual.

And then big things are happening all over, like schoolgirls being kidnapped and sold and the Cold War seeming to heat up again in Russia and its environs.

Oh yeah, and the polar bears are melting, or is the polar ice caps?

I know, this is a rant. It's a negative rant. And it's not helping me or the reader.

But the truth is, I just want to find out the good stuff out there. I want to find out that I'm wrong about lots of things--that I have more control over my life and the world than I think and that things matter less and more than I think. I want.. . .

an epiphany.

But while I'm looking for said epiphany, I want to get some information that makes me happy. And dammit, it makes me happy that a goat and an orphaned baby rhino can be best friends, and that said rhino can try to emulate the playful leap of the goat. Apparently I'm not the only one because this business is going viral!

That kind of information proves to me that, while things may be messed up, and it may not always be the wonderful world Louis Armstrong sang about...At least some times it's a pretty cute world.

--Sarah Torribio

Song of the Day: The Bells" by Lowell

I found a new song that I like on Pinterest. It's energetic. It's upbeat. It's a little off the wall. It's a song called "The Bells" by Lowell.

Here's the vid of this tune, which I—to be simple and also boast my musical cleverness—categorize as Björk meets Harriet Wheeler of The Sundays. Plus she kind of gets a little discordant at the end a la Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. She's Canadian, by the way. 

 >> previous song
                                                                                << next song

I'm a frustrated Disneyphile. . .

Here's the thing. I'm coming up. Every day I'm hustling and every day I'm shuffling. But I can't afford to take my 5-year-old son to Disneyland at this juncture. And I want to.

Now I can spend a lot of time railing about the high prices at the Magic Kingdom, and suggest that Walt Disney is somewhere rolling in his grave. Or I can just shut up and save my money, that I may eventually say, "Shut up and take my money." I probably will settle for the latter, because a boycott by people who can't afford Disneyland is not likely to be effective. Also, because I love the place. I mean I really love the place.

I'm 40 and have lived in southern California my whole life. For much of my childhood, I went to Disneyland as much as once a year, and occasionally twice a year. I went to Disneyland when the ride Adventure Thru Inner Space was still intact, and man do I miss that one. For those who don't recall this particular attraction, they shrunk you. Yeah, you got shrunk. First to the size of a snowflake. Then to the size of an atom.

No shit. You knew it was really happening because while you were waiting in line, you could see the poor bastards who had gone before you, exiting the ride through a plastic tube, looking a bit plasticine themselves, quite a bit smaller than Barbie and Ken.

 Here's a site called describing the atom-stirring experience.

When I was very small, I wanted to live in the clock tower of "It's a Small World."

 Later, I wanted to live in the quiet little cabin at the start of Pirates of the Caribbean, just me on a rocking chair amid the artificial bayou, plunking solemnly at the banjo (what a lonely sound) and watching the fireflies dance.

Considering I also fantasized about living alone in a library and in a shopping mall, it seems like there was something going on. Perhaps I've got one toe in the kingdom of Asperger's syndrome, and I just wanted some kind of bad-ass retreat where it could be me and my thoughts, sans too much stimulation, along with perks like going on all the D-land rides, "shopping" for a new outfit every day and reading every book ever invented. You know, make introversion an extreme sport.

By the way, I know it's kind of ghetto, but if you can't go to Disneyland there is a way fake it till you make it. You can experience the majesty of the Small World ride by going on a virtual ride, because people have pirated it, sort of. They've taken action vids of various Disney rides and while the experience falls sadly short, it's better than nothing? Care to give it a spin?


Now, had my misanthropic desire to live alone at Disneyland been a real option, I think my best bet would have been Pirates because man, I love the smell of that water. Who knows what I'm talking about? It's like a mixture of chlorine and mildew, lovingly stirred by the movement of boats, occasional cannonfire and perhaps a drunken pirate's dirty toe. 

My friend and co-worker Jenelle, a Disneyphile who actually goes there a lot, and I have discussed bottling the scent. Another co-worker suggested the name "Dank" for our scent, but for the THC-loving community, that has another connotation. I'm thinking a hip acronym like POC. 

Anyhow, I'm just a Disneyland lover who has "fallen off" the middle class, as you would say. And I want to get back there, so I don't worry about bills and so I can take my kids to Disneyland. 

I wanna eat at the Blue Bayou Cafe. 


 Yes, I'm  that wistful. 

I wanna hear the ominous sound of possums singing "Everybody's Got a Laughing Place" in minor notes on Splash Mountain, which means things are about to go shithouse and you're going down a precipitous drop. And Uncle Remus isn't going to save you, because he's not represented on the ride. Nor will Brer Rabbit, because he's used to getting in a whole mess of trouble.

And I want us all to get matching, name-emroidered Micky Mouse ears. And I want us to watch the sun go down on Radiator Springs. And I want to still feel kind of bitter than the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse was turned into Tarzan's home (ages ago) and inwardly rail at the political correctness of putting plates in the hands of the wenches the pirates were chasing. Why whitewash the situation? Those guys were looking for booty, and by booty I don't just mean pirate treasure. 

So I'm just going to put this out there into the universe, using The Secret. I wanna go to Disneyland. No, let me be more pro-active: I will go to Disneyland sometime in 2015. 

It's my birthright as a southern Californian and as someone whose inner child is often my outer being. And I won't even add the guilty hashtag of #FirstWorldProblems. This is one of those #MyWorldProblems. This is a #SmallWorldProblem. And I will not rest until I solve it. 

Who's with me?

—Sarah Torribio

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Techno Ray Bradbury. . .

I think "The Veldt" by Deadmau5, a progressive-house music producer whose real name is Thomas Zimmerman, is very pretty. It's also rather upbeat, as far as DeadMau5 songs go. 

It has this hypnotic keyboard riff and beat that really transports you. 

But did you know the song is actually an homage to a pretty dark short story by Ray Bradbury, "The Veldt," which was originally published as "The World That the Children Made." Have you read it? 

It's about this family that lives in a completely automated house, created by The HappylifeHome company. As the Wikipedia description says, the house is "filled with machines that do everything for them from cooking meals, to clothing them to rocking them to sleep."

But you know, there's an ironic truth: Life's tough when it's too easy. 

The parents become complacent, allowing their children to be entertained in a self-contained nursery, one equipped with some remarkable technology. Whatever the children can imagine, they can conjure up in the room. It is, I guess, an early description of virtual reality. But the line between virtual and reality is, unbeknownst to the parents, frighteningly thin. 

The children, who have gone a bit Lord of the Flies on their own, have used their wild young minds to turn their nursery into an African veldt. 

No doubt about it, it has an untamed beauty. Ray Bradbury, who is known for his consummate imagery, describes the place thusly: 

"Now the hidden odorophonics were beginning to blow a wind of odor at the two people in the middle of the baked veldtland. The hot straw smell of lion grass, the cool green smell of the hidden water hole, the great rusty smell of animals, the smell of dust like a red paprika in the hot air. And now the sounds: the thump of distant antelope feet on grassy sod, the papery rustling of vultures." 

The veldt is complete with wild animals—including lions who can be seen dining on some kind of carcass. Surely it's just their normal prey they're munching. But then what was that scream a while back? 

How are mom and dad going to get out of this one? Or will they get out at all? You can read "The Veldt" here.  

Anyhow, between the title and the lyrics, it is obvious that DeadMau5 is something of a Ray Bradbury fan. 

The Veldt
Happy life with the machines scattered around the room.
Look what they made; they made it for me. . .happy technology!
Outside the Lions roam feeding on remains. . .
We'll never leave, look at us now;
So in love with the way we are here!

The world that the children made. . .
The world that the children made, here!
The word that the children made, here!
The world that the children made.

Every night they rock us to sleep, digital family!
Is it real? Or is it a dream? Can you believe in machines?
Outside, the beating sun, can you hear the screams?
Well never leave, look at us now.
So in love with the way we are here!

So yes, as it would turn out, the song is kind of creepy. But I also find it to be lovely. What do you think?

—Sarah Torribio

Monday, November 10, 2014

I made this. . .

Oops. Wrong upload. I didn't make that, although it is quite an accomplishment, one worthy of pinning on a cute-spiration Pinterest board or posting to give your FB friends an "awwww."

I made this song. It's called The Fall. I also made a bunch of other songs. And then I chickened out, got busy, stopped making music. But I made a vow to myself, one day when my judgement was poor, that I would put myself more "out there" in every sense of the word.

And so, I give you The Fall. Prepare for sex, rock 'n roll and biblical undertones, of the subversive ilk. And a pretty good beat. Feel free to download this song, which you can find at this link

—Sarah Torribio

I would like you to have a transcendent experience. . .

Whether you call it turquoise or aqua or blue-green, it's a beautiful color.  And I'm going to invite you on a walk through my aqua love-garden.

First, here is some meanings attached to the color aqua, according to

The Meaning of Aqua: 
Aqua is a Feminine Color and is composed of Blue and Green. It can range from pale Turquoise to dark Teal. Aqua is an Earth color- rejeuvenation, releasing, play and receiving- with true North North-East as it's direction. Aqua moves in the mental body especially the will and thoughts, the reasoning of why we do what we do. It is excellent for workoholics who feel guilty no matter what they do. Aqua releases guilt and frees the ability to receive with out pretense. Aqua is refreshing and comforting. It is the Oil of the reasoning and the will of reasoning—why we choose. Aqua wants to have a balance of giving and receiving, work and play, mine and yours. It is the best color when you need to find some play time and stop beating yourself up for not getting everything done.

The Aqua Personality:
Aqua people thrive on distractions. They like to be having playtime and not being blamed for anything, and can quickly become dejected and sad if the rain falls on their parade and, of course, it will be your fault. They can easily turn to self-martyrdom.

Wearing Aqua might be feeling like they just need some playtime and they are going to take it; or they may be feeling that no one ever let's them do anything and so they have the right to blame others for the slightest shadow in their day. Wear Aqua when you want to present a carefree appearance and remember, Aqua is needed by all! Decor with Aqua: Aqua in home decor or clothing is soothing and pampering. It will show relaxation energies and promote a feeling of calm regeneration and laughter. Great for bathrooms and garden rooms and even playful bedrooms, it stimulates sharing, giving and playful or soothing touch as in loving or therapy and massage. It lightens the emotions with other colors calming the space. Aqua is light, restful, and freeing.

Now, I think you should listen to something chill. Perhaps Bombay Bicycle Club's "Luna," or, even better, M83's "We Own the Sky."

And now, you're ready. I give you, my Pinterest board, called "Aqua Velva." Click on the screen shot below for a well-deserved color bath. May you feel soothed and pampered, and more than a little playful. And may the odds be ever in your favor.

—Sarah Torribio

The rare mom blog. . .

I'm not normally someone who gives a lot of parenting advice, because I have more of a fake it till you make it sense of my judgement. But I do have a few things I'm fairly sure of, and when such things I occur to me, I will share them, tentatively--maybe with a question mark at the end.

There's nothing wrong with throwing chocolate chips in your 5-year-old's Cheerios? (Guilty as charged.)

A five-year-old is old enough to hear about the educational struggles of African-Americans, including the fight to integrate schools during the Civil Rights Era? He's also ready for the story of Nobel prize-winning Malala Sousafzai, a Pakistani teenwho was shot for her educational advocacy, recovered, and now is a worldwide spokesperson for the importance of educating our girls? (I have told him both stories when he declared he didn't like school, for no reason, bye-the-bye, other than the fact that he wants to stay home all day long and play Minecraft.)

But I think I can leave the question mark out of this one.

For those of you pondering having children, this is a certainty: Your weekends will fill themselves up with gatherings of family and friends. One Saturday you'll have a family reunion. The next Saturday you'll be invited to your kid's classmate's birthday party.

Go to all of these things. Because they're already more fun once you're actually there, and they're important for your children. The more people, relatives and friends, who consistently over the years wish them well and support them,—and the more time these people are seen, the better their sense of security in the world.

In my next mom blog post, I will tell you how to make your own gluten-free peanut butter, using a can of unsalted Planter's and a stone metate. You will hate me and I will judge you!

—Sarah Torribio