LCF update May 2019

LCF Update May 2019

First, thanks so much to new subscribers, and welcome to LCF Update May 2019, a monthly thing I do. You are deeply appreciated.

Meanwhile, following my Greek cuisine extravaganza, where have I been? (Below is a hint. OK, probably not very helpful. Germany.)

LCF update may 2019: cake in Germany

And….I’ve been thinking. Which has led to some re-evaluation, which in turn occasions a little bit o’ history.

LCF Evolution: The Big Bang

Back in 2014, I had an idea for a blog: Nanette’s Feast, dedicated to dinner and a movie.

But not just any dinner and a movie, as in that old TV show where you watched something like “Mystic Pizza” and ate…pizza!

I love the cuisines and cinema of the world, and I wanted to celebrate them together. The idea was, you’d make a fabulous dinner with someone you love, then watch a movie that complemented the dinner rather than trying to duplicate it. Obviously, given the site’s previous name, I’ve seen Babette’s Feast. But I sure as hell don’t want to eat that feast, complete with birds that still have the bones in them and turtle soup.

Babette's Feast

Nanette’s Feast may have been a nice idea, but I had some factors against me. For one thing, I did NOT, under any circumstances, want to become a food photographer. Food blogs were well underway by 2014—not like today, but there were plenty, and they were straight up food porn. I took half-hearted pix, and relied heavily on screen shots from movies to illustrate my posts. The pairing was more important to me than the recipes, but all that anyone seemed to care about was the recipes accompanied by gorgeous photos.

And the truth was, I continued to be fascinated by world cuisine and world cinema. Around this same time, I had begun to anticipate with bated breath the annual New York Times 52 Places to Go list. I wasn’t traveling much then, but I realized I could get to those places with food and movies. So I started using the 52 Places list as my jumping off point.

LCF update may 2019: atacama desert sunset
Steve and I went to the Atacama this year, mainly because I’d first read about in 52 Places.

There is such a thing as having a niche that’s TOO niche-y, and I had dug into one of those pretty deep. And….absolutely nobody cared. I tried lots of things to get the word out, but it just wasn’t clicking. People who read the posts told me how well-written they were, how fun they were, but they weren’t going to follow my carefully conceived date night plans or bookmark me to get inspired or read me religiously. Netflix and chill extended to making the easiest possible dinner, i.e., a plate of microwaved nachos, and immersing oneself either in a non-demanding movie or in the Golden Age of TV that we currently find ourselves in. Nobody really gave a shit about movies set in St. Lucia or filmed in Mozambique, with some sort of dish to match.

Bollywood films are increasingly being made using the Alps as stand-in Himalayas, so Indians are flocking to Switzerland and, in this case, Liechtenstein.

Meanwhile, it was increasingly evident that I had to up my game photography-wise. Then a few people who I had taught to cook told me I should be teaching other people how to cook, and bloggers were insisting that courses were the wave of the future. It appeared that what people wanted was food, recipes, and lots and lots of pictures. I complied.

LCF: Moving Ahead

I changed the name, look, and logo of the site. Le Chou Fou, French for the crazy cabbage, came to me while I was in Germany, where I get to travel frequently. (We’re not that far from France, and Le Chou Fou is a lot more fun to say and write than Der Verückte Kohl, which is crazy cabbage in German and doesn’t even rhyme, for heck’s sake.)

A farmer’s market in Amsterdam. Not a cabbage in sight, but check out that rhubarb.

Which brings us to now. After thinking for a solid month, I realized I have more to offer than food. I’ve stopped looking at trying to make LCF the Next Very Small Thing (but at least a thing). I don’t want to be the 46th million food blog. I want to go back to what I love: Learning about the world, in person, and when that’s not possible, through food and movies.

Speaking to the in person part, I get to go to a lot of cool places. As for the through food and movies part, there are a lot of places I would love to go, but just ain’t happening. The ‘stans have always fascinated me, as has Iran and much of North Africa. I love the culture, the food, the history, and I imagine the people are pretty amazing, too. But, for fairly obvious reasons, those are pretty much off the table, for now and likely, always.

But I can go anywhere with the right cookbook, blog, and/or movie.

LCF Update May 2019: Next Steps

Over the summer, I’ll be changing things up ’round here. If you’ve bookmarked some recipes or how-to posts, they’re not going anywhere. In fact, they’ll probably be a little easier to get to. The big change will be an expanded travel section, with more worksheets to help you prep for a trip. What should you look for in an AirBnB kitchen? What can you cook in one? (Not much, most of the time, but a little bit.) Below, a typical AirBnB kitchen cabinet.

LCF update may 2019: airbnb kitchen

What should you pack, besides goody bags for flight attendants? How do you get the most out of a trip? And I’ll continue to post recipes from places I have and haven’t been to, or haven’t been to in a while.

We went to a bunch of amazing churches this trip, most of which were empty. I loved stretching out for 5 or 10 minutes to study the ceilings.

Finally, I’m most excited about offering my trip planning skills, for an unspecified time, for free. I’ve gotten pretty good at putting trips together, and want to see if I can help other people figure out the best way, based on what they like, to spend their time.

This was on a Black Forest hike called “The Goat Path.” I don’t quite get the stacked stones thing, but still, it was pretty cool to turn a corner and see about a million of them.

If you have an upcoming trip and want a little help figuring out what to do, please give me a shout. All I ask is a download of your experiences and your opinion of whether I helped you or not.

A collection of Buenos Aires treasures, including a coffee cup from our favorite cafe, All Saints, that says, “Nancy! Marry with Us!”

So that’s what’s up, my friends. Watch for an upcoming post on AirBnB kitchens, as well as some reports on what I’ve found out in close to two months of tooling around in Germany, Switzerland, London, and….Liechtenstein! It’s tiny, but it DID provide me with my 28th country on that list (only 159 to go, har har). Look, I keep count, because I’m a hopeless nerd, but also because it makes me happy. I mean, I still haven’t done even a third of Europe, so I’m not feeling hugely cocky or anything.

And I’m completely serious: Lemme know if I can help you plan a trip.

Summer is here. Let’s enjoy it.

The Spring Feast Planner

Have you signed up for our email list? (It’s easy; fill in the form in the green square on the right side of the page.) Do it, and get the Spring Feast Planner (as well as the worksheet “Know Yourself as a Cook”) for free. As well as my heartfelt thanks.

spring feast planner

Through my childhood, we had a lot of big holidays. The holidays were fun, but I never liked the food. For one thing, my mom was a classic Mom-of-Baby-Boomers cook, wedded to the Glamor with a Can Opener approach. For another, at our house, holiday tables groaned with a big old slab of meat: ham, roast beef, turkey. The sides weren’t particularly interesting or important.

Well, when I began to cook it myself, I realized I could change all that. And, in April 2004, Bon Appetit, the magazine that was one of my primary cooking teachers and which I continue to love, featured a Greek Easter feast. I loved everything in it—except for the lamb. So I skipped that, and decided I was doing my own Greek Easter.

Well—not by a long shot. I recently spoke with my friend Callie Floor, of 100% Greek descent. “Easter is THE most imporant holiday of the year for Greek families,” she told me.

“What are the essentials?”

“Lamb and red eggs. And the bread with the red eggs.”

“What about spanikopita? Pastitsio? Baklava?”

Nope, it turned out. The lamb, representing Christ, and the eggs dyed red to represent his blood, are the two essentials. “And we’d usually eat it at, like, 3 in the morning,” she told me, due to a midnight mass the day before.

OK. So I wasn’t doing Greek Easter. But….I was (and still am) doing some sort of spring feast. Hence the title of my new party planner, which I’ve been working like mad on. It’s late for western Easter—as I write this, it’s April 18, 2019, and the holiday falls on Sunday, April 21. But I’m pretty much on time for eastern Easter, on the 28th this year. And, since a lot of folks like lamb for Easter, the planner easily allows you to add it in. It’s got all the recipes, with links to the related web posts if you want more pix (and, in the case of Spanakopita and Greek Easter Bread, video). There’s a scheduler so you can make about 80% of the meal ahead of time, something I always dig if I’m having some big celebration.

And seriously, Greek food is superb for parties. Vibrant, veggie-centric, sunshine-y, and comforting. So you can pretty much bust this one out any time you want a good party.

The Menu

Appetizers/Noshables: If you want, create a mezze platter with olives, cheese, dip like hummus, taramasalata, skordalia, or tzatziki, and/or a mix of marinated and fresh veggies. I don’t include this in the planner, because honestly, there’s already a ton of food. But it’s certainly easy if you want to throw one together. Here’s a lovely example.

Greek Salad

Moussaka or Pastitsio

Roast Lamb with Steamed Green Beans (if you like lamb, I’m assuming you know how to either roast it or google a recipe)

Greek Easter Bread

Dessert: Spiced Lemon Walnut Rosemary Cake, which you can supplement with Baklava, as well as lemon sorbet or vanilla ice cream

spring feast planner dessert

If you’ve subscribed, you’ve already received the Planning Guide, which includes a shopping list and timetable. If you’d like that, well, my friend, please consider subscribing. (Once again, it’s easy; fill in the form in the green square on the right side of the page.)

And whatever you do, may your springtime be filled with joy.

LCF Update April 2019

Jump to LCF Update April 2019 watching recos and reading recos.

Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, as Dad used to say. If you don’t know the second line of that little poem, it’s “I wonder where the flowers is?” My dad was a drummer, and he loved the rhythm of language.

daffodils for the LCF April update
April in Amsterdam: Chilly, but vibrant

Big news this month is a very late Easter/Passover season. I love the rituals and stories that unfold over this week. Whatever your beliefs or lack thereof, I hope the simple beauty of the ideas finds its way to you in one way or other.

Dad: A Brief Reminiscence

Dad studied Passover in particular. He even wrote his own version of the Haggadah, the story of Moses and his delivery of his people from Egyptian slavery.

He called me and said proudly, “I wrote a rap.” It was about as rappy as Dr. Seuss, and you can make your own determination as to how The Sneetches stacks up against NWA (short) or Will Smith (pretty close). Dad’s Haggadah Rap contained the refrain, “But the children of Israel down in Egypt Land were safe in the palm of God’s mighty hand.” Dad himself had mighty hands; he’d been 6’6″ in his prime, until age shrunk him. But it didn’t shrink his hands. In any event, I loved that he chose that particular metaphor. To this day, I associate the word “safe” with my hand in my dad’s, or with his arms around me.

Right before he died, I was talking to him, and he was holding my hand. He said, “Your hands are small.” I said, “That’s only because yours are so big.” He said, “Too bad you didn’t get big hands like mine. Then you could have played the piano.”

Dad, by the way, used to drive me to my piano lessons. Even with breath and words were at a premium, he made sure I’d smile.

Coming Soon: Spring Festival Party Plan!

Like Thanksgiving, I never enjoyed Easter until I began to cook it myself. And Easter was particularly rough for me because I don’t eat lamb or ham, and they seem to be the Easter requirements, with the former also pretty much de rigeur on the Passover table.

But when I discovered Greek Easter, I perked up. First off, Greek cuisine is the bomb. The palette runs through the spectrum with giddy joy: brilliant tomatoes, fire-colored peppers, brilliant green herbs, ending in deep eggplant. The dairy products conjure up images of adorable lambs and goats frisking around as their moms provide the rich milk for feta, halloumi, and labneh, the ultra-thick, downright decadent cream.

labneh for the LCF April update

A trip to my local Middle Eastern emporium provided heaps o’ fun, including the above and….what could these be?

Yep, that’s my phone shadow in the bottom left corner.

They’re fresh almonds! So cool!!

I’ve already dropped the Greek Salad and Spanikopita recipes. I’ll be cranking about 4 more treats in the next few days and putting the final touches on the big plan. The truth is, if there ain’t lamb, it ain’t Greek Easter—all to be explained in yet another upcoming post, courtesy of my good friend Callie Floor, who grew up in the tradition. But a springtime table groaning with Spanikopita, Moussaka, and delectable Greek Easter bread on the side: count me in, and make the festival about whatever you like.

LCF Update April 2019: Watching Recos

Steve and I did a double whammy finish last night of one of our favorite shows and a new favorite. Both were season finales, with, we grant you, very short seasons.

The first, Catastrophe, has been a joy and a wonder—and we wrapped it up last night, watching the fine and lovely finale. True, the language is raunchy as hell; Catastrophe is not for the prim. But it is also one of the best explorations of what it likes to make a relationship work that I’ve ever seen. Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan play two characters named Rob and Sharon, who end up in a kind of why-the-hell-not? marriage. Love is not even mentioned for a good while. They fight, they have a lot of sex (the talking is more graphic than the showing), as well as at least one kid, and they are both superbly, supremely hilarious and touching. I’ll miss it. Yet now that it’s over, I have to say it ended in exactly the right way.

Ricky Gervais’ Netflix show, After Life, is equally wonderful, and fortunately coming back next year. Gervais uses his, shall-we-say, “thorny” personality to unexpectedly fine effect as a grieving widower. I’ve seen him snarky, bitter, and pissed off plenty of times, and honestly nearly avoided the show because I’m kind of tired of it. But he adds a layer of grief under everything, along with a struggle to be at least a little bit of a decent person. It results in an honest, raw expression of mourning. And anything with Penelope Wilton is going to be extra special. Caveat: If you are uncomfortable with characters expressing a complete lack of belief in God or in an afterlife, either prepare to be uncomfortable or skip it. But I hope you’ll give it a whirl.

LCF Update April 2019: Reading Recos

On the book front, S and I have been listening to Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence. (Helluva subtitle; deeply grateful for cut and paste at the moment.) Pollan reads the book himself, and, as an audiobook, he paces the information, which is pretty dense, in an optimal way. It’s amazing to find out the ways that psychedelic drugs have been used to treat, with great success, conditions from alcoholism to anxiety over terminal diseases. It’s also pretty frustrating to learn about how Timothy Leary basically and almost single-handedly knee-capped a promising area of psychiatric medicine, and did it primarily out of self-interest—at least, that’s my takeaway. Doesn’t narcissism suck?

I crashed through Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America, Eliza Griswold’s powerful, closely-observed report over a Pennsylvania family who had the misfortune of being 1500 feet downhill from a fracking pond. Griswold manages to make the arcana of fracking understandable, both from a technical and a deeply personal standpoint. I read the 300-page book in about 4 days; it was that hard to put down. (I’m not a super fast reader.) Fracking, uncomfortably close to home for a while, appears to have slowed in Michigan. If things heat up, I’m much better equipped to fight, thanks to this book.

I also finished two novels this month, and, unusually, I loved them both. Assymetry starts with an Alice in Wonderland riff, and before it gets tiresome and gimmicky—which it could—author Lisa Halliday moves on. Her writing throughout shows remarkable discipline, precision, and a lithe spirit.

Cherry, by Nico Walker, chronicles a descent into what the author describes as “The Great Dope Fiend Romance.” Autobiographical, the protagonist begins as a smart but aimless teen who ends up in the army, unexpectedly gets sent to Iraq, can’t get a whole lot done afterwards due to PTSD, and turns to bank robbery in order to support his habit and his girlfriend’s. There is wonderful spare prose poetry here, unsentimental; he fails to romanticize an iota of his experiences. At one point, the soldier sends his girlfriend a documentary, one of the few he can access in Iraq, that delights him. She hates it. “I thought the world of those penguins,” he says. So many layers of regret in just those few words. Great stuff.

Enjoy the spring, friends.


Cookiepalooza 2018

Jump straight to the Cookiepalooza 2018 recipe links.


I will start by admitting that I love the idea of making cookies. I like the aftermath of making cookies, despite the temptation factor. (By the way, November and December are the essential months to get your 10,000 steps in by hook or crook or….whatever. Because: cookies.) 

But I don’t really enjoy making cookies. They seem like they’ll be so simple. Cream some butter and sugar, throw in an egg, add the dry ingredients. Voila! Cookies!

Except…..cookies. You gotta then actually form the damn things. 

Look, I don’t even attempt to come up with baking recipes. Cooking is one thing; it’s intuitive and in some ways, the less precise you are, the better. Baking is an altogether different bête.

That’s why people are generally one or the other: great bakers or great cooks. Yes, of course annoying pastry wunderkinds exist. But that super detail-oriented, tedium-friendly approach necessary for perfect swirls of icing and caring about things like crumb size….well, it ain’t me.

(Weird but true: Mom was one of the least detail-oriented people I ever knew, yet a dandy baker. I shall never understand this.)

Anyway, when it comes to baking, I slavishly follow recipes. Every year, all the magazines go crazy with page after page of cookie goodness, and every year, I’m all, whoa, cookiepalooza!! This week, I decided to make the first two recipes each from Bon Appetit’s and Cooking Light’s respective December issues. Cooking Light’s, by the way, features this complete bummer of a cover. 

And they still keep pestering me to re-up my subscription. So strange. 

Anyway, here’s the report, with links. Notice that if you go to the links, their cookies are TONS more beautiful than mine. Explanations below. Grades are my opinion of the recipe, but as one professor used to say, grades are completely subjective. Please pop on over to the originals and give them a whack on your own.

Cookiepalooza 2018: Snickerdoodles with cornflakes and toffee


I completed this Bon Appetit recipe first. The resulting cookies are good, though not quite delectable enough that I’d make them again. Probably I should have used Skör bars like they suggested, but screw that, because I don’t even know where you get those. Also, you were supposed to sprinkle them with something called disco dust, and I refuse to spend 4 bucks on something called disco dust. I would rather just go the the disco already. Anyway, there’s not much to report with these. They’re fine, and I probably did something wrong, because they really seemed like a great idea. Crush the cornflakes more and you may have better luck. Also, when you jump to the link you’ll see that theirs are WAY prettier. Sigh.

Grade: B

Cookiepalooza 2018: Two-toned Chocolate Shortbread


Ok, these were called “Zebra-Striped” in the original recipe. Guess who didn’t read the recipe carefully? Yep. I dumped all the dry ingredients in one bowl in one giant cookie assembly line of dry ingredients, then went to make them and swore loudly and with great despair. Because the originals are GORGEOUS. Seriously, click that link and check them out. Mine: not hideous, but not so special.

Rather than toss the whole thing—a thought I did entertain for a minute—I scooped out as much of the cocoa powder and about half the flour. Fortunately, they don’t have baking powder or anything. I ended up with these kind of two-toned chocolate critters. And by heck, they rock. I didn’t roll them in exciting sugar because, again, hell with that. I imagine you’re getting the picture: When selecting a talent, I did not go to the front of the baking line. Nor the bedazzler line. I was too busy running around to a half dozen other lines like an insane person, thus emerging as the hodge-podge that is moi. And which my friends assure me is Super Delightful. 

Anyway, even with the mishap, these turned out quite wonderful, super buttery, and really, how much chocolate is too much? Will this ever be answered? No. It will not. Also, getting these guys into that cool swirly thing is surprisingly easy.

Grade: A

Cookiepalooza 2018: Chocolate Peppermint Thumbprints


Look, these totally worried me. (Original recipe over at this Cooking Light link.) For one thing, I made them in my big-ass mixer which weighs, I swear, one thousand pounds. I kinda hate that thing. It is SO hard to control the mixing. You just kinda have to hope for the best and stop and start it and scrape and do it again and again and I’m exhausted just at the memory. 

The dough emerged crumbly. I pressed it together so I could get a thumbprint. You know what? These taste really aces. You fill the center with 2 parts melted chocolate chips to 1 part melted tahini, and let me just tell you the recipe tells you to make twice as much as you need. Which is great, because: homemade Nutella, but it’s not Nutella. 


Interestingly, Bon Appetit also has a cookie with a tahini/chocolate mix, so it’s an idea that’s making the rounds. Or they’re working with the same group of recipe creators who are all, ok, how can I make this just different enough? The BA version is more like the Linzer cookies below, but with the tahini spread peeking through the window. Meanwhile, they also have a thumbpring cookie, but they put a pecan in theirs. I think candy is more fun.

One last thing: I decided to grind the candy canes in my little spice grinder and ended up with this sort of peppermint dust. While the busted candy canes look prettier, I like that there are no tooth-chipping surprises this way. 

Grade: A

Cookiepalooza 2018: Linzer Cookies

Ok, these were the simplest to make. Like the shortbread cookies above, the originals win cookie beauty pageants. Click this link and see what I’m talking about. But these were also the biggest pain in the ass to make. Lots of rolling. Then baking. Then cutting those little holes out after rolling out the top cookies, and I don’t have a one-inch cutter because: I didn’t check. I mean, doesn’t everyone have one of those? No. Everyone does not. I used a 1/2 teaspoon and a knife and you can see these are not pristine. The asymmetry, however, is intentional. It gives the cookies “a more modern look” according to Cooking Light. Dude, I so want to be modern. 


I also ran out of jam, but I had….my trusty leftover fake Nutella! Hooray!

These are pretty swell, though I do have to know them down to a B+ primarily because I like super gooey cookies, and of course that’s not going to work in this case. Oh, I also forgot to sprinkle them with powdered sugar, because that makes a mess and to hell with that. 

Anyway, the recipe yields a lovely lemony sugar cookie that really isn’t anything like classic Linzer dough, which has ground almonds, not almond flour, and a sieved hard-boiled egg yolk mixed in for some reason. All that said, I pigged down a few. My son said these were his favorites.

Grade: A-

Cookiepalooza! 2018: Recipe Links

There you have them. Here are the links all in one place. And if you do pop over, explore the approximately 9 billion other cookie recipes as well. And you know, try at least one. This time of year, everybody loves a cookie. Even my carb-phobic husband. Ha! Gotcha, husband.

Snickerdoodle Party Cookies from Bon Apetit

Zebra-Striped Shortbread Cookies from Bon Apetit

Chocolate Peppermint Thumbprints from Cooking Light

Almond-Currant Linzer Cookies from Cooking Light

Also, the following sites are particularly wonderful on the cookie front. Over at Half Baked Harvest, Tieghan routinely blows minds. Lindsay at Pinch of Yum delights continuously (and check out her button-cute new baby, Solvi). Finally, Chocolate Covered Katie comes up with all sorts of original ways to be vegan and delicious.


Flight Attendant Appreciation Day

Flight Attendant Appreciation Day is long overdue, in my book. In fact, I’ve decided to basically declare it every day I fly. Allow me to attempt to persuade you to do the same.

First, a step back. I grew up in an era where being a stewardess was about the coolest thing you could be, next to “movie star” and “ballerina.” Alas, even before I reached my full 5’10”, I suspected I would be too tall. Stewardesses needed to be “between 5’2″ but no more than 5’9″, weight 105 to 135 in proportion to height.” But golly, it seemed glamorous.

For this and many more fabulous photos and lore, visit this link.

The draconian weight standards have been abandoned, although there appears to be a height cap at 6’1″ just so attendants of any gender can make it down the aisle. (I’ve scraped my own noggin on the ceiling of a smaller commuter jet more than once, given that with shoes I’m over 6 feet.) But getting rid of the weigh-ins didn’t exactly make being a flight attendant any easier.

Consider the schedule: rough and erratic, with lots of holidays spent en route to….somewhere. The pay: not great by any standards. 

Now add on the fact that flight attendants, unlike pilots, have to deal with more than their share of registered assholes. Pilots get more respect from their employers, and basically live in the cockpit, which is of course where we want them. FAs, on the other hand, have to field  questions from people who never listen. They deflect anger over things they cannot possibly control, like weather, equipment issues, other people’s crying babies, and the ground crew not providing enough sandwiches. And they clean up the nasty in-flight bio-mess as it occurs. I fly a lot. And most people act pretty chill. But man, one hissy fit clouds up the sunniest skies. It’s no wonder this happened.

Flight Attendant Appreciation Day: How to Be a Model Passenger

Despite the rather glorious entertainment value, I beg you not to inspire someone to exit via the emergency slide, lofting a bottle of champagne in each hand. Smile at your flight attendant. Lift your face from your phone for the 2 freaking minutes it takes to go through the safety demonstration. Because no matter how many times you’ve heard it, you haven’t heard it as many times as the flight attendants, and they’re still engaged.

If nothing else, apply a little bit of common sense and thoughtfulness. Give good feedback online. Be prepared, particularly when you’re bringing kids with you. This post from a flight attendant offers an inside view from that side of the aisle. (The comments provide overwhelming ugliness, btw; one even says the writer should stop lamenting his “cast” in life. First, it’s caste, idiot. Second, the caste system is considered to be a hideous remnant of a time in which certain people were, simply because of the accident of birth, destined to lives of unmitigated drudgery and pain while others scooted around in their high caste privilege. Third, isn’t the guiding principle of every belief system on earth “don’t be a dick”?)

Flight Attendant Appreciation Day: The Extra Sky Mile

I recently asked a flight attendant how she felt about people who drop off chocolates, something my mom routinely did when she flew. I’ve thought of it but always felt it was a bit weird. How do you time the drop off? Is it weird to give food in this day and age? And kind of bribe-y? “I don’t eat the chocolates,” said the FA, “but some people do.” She told me the nicest things she’d received were small containers of hand sanitizer or wipes, Starbucks gift cards (for one coffee), or just single dollar bills so they can tip drivers.

Caveat: this concept of tangibly thanking people for doing a hard job gets some ugly heat (just google it). “Why give someone a present for DOING THEIR JOB???” shout the commenters. Yo, shouters. Ever spoken to a flight attendant? or worked in the service industry? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

I tip baristas, who are just doing their job, for the same reason. They work hard while I’m out spending too much money on coffee.

This post from CN Traveler argues my way. Huzzah!

In other words, if you want to go the extra mile, do it.

Flight Attendant Appreciation Day: The Swag

I stopped off at Big Lots and picked up the following: mentos, small lotions, lip balm, single facial masks, little packets of matcha tea. Everything was in an individually sealed packet so the FAs wouldn’t have to worry about the motives of this random smiling tall woman bearing gifts.


I divvied the swag up between a couple of ziplocs. It seemed a little excessive to be awarding swag on my first short flight, and this was also my first flight attendant appreciation day rodeo. So I figured I’d save the extras for upcoming trips, and try the concept for my SLC to DTW journey.

Total cost to me: about 6 bucks a bag—one hell of a lot less than I spend on crap at the airport, which I didn’t spend because I was prepared. (I took my own advice and brought my own damn food this time.)

Above all, just be kind. You’re flying! It’s a miracle. You’re going someplace fun, or your company is paying for you to not sit in your office. Or a plane and its crew are getting you somewhere you really need to be, safely and in relative comfort.

I’ll report back on how my initial foray goes over. And I warn you: if you leave me nasty trolling comments, no one will see them but me, and I’ll just think you’re a dick. Thoughtful comments are, of course, always welcome.


Palm Springs: Mid Mod Mad

I came to Palm Springs to visit a friend, and not because I am midmod mad. I know a lot of people who are, and I like the midmod ascetic quite a bit. But unlike my sister Becky, who tosses about phrases like “Sputnik lamp” and “kidney table” like so many bougainvillea petals, I enjoy midmod—that’s mid-century modern, for those of you who haven’t ever seen the truly glorious Atomic Ranch magazine. I just don’t freak out at the possibility of seeing clean lines upon clean lines, decorated with spiky plants.


The domestic architecture is stunning, with house after house a variation on the themes of straight lines and color pops…


My friend lives in the same neighborhood as the house Sammy Davis Junior had built for himself. It’s an easy walk from the Racquet Ball Club, one Mr. Davis could stumble down when drunk off his butt. (That, btw, is not gossip but an actual directive from Mr. Davis to his builders.)

Then there’s the downtown, which time warps me back to the California of my youth. My pal drove me by Suzanne Somers’ home (big gates, boxy) and once bumped into Barry Manilow emerging from the back of a grocery store. There are stars in the sidewalks of the main street Palm Canyon Drive, people like Monty Hall, Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter, and a woman whose name I forget but who was “Hostess to the Stars!” There’s a  statue of Sonny Bono that I thought was of Pat Boone, causing my friend to howl with mirth. But…really? That doesn’t look anything like Cher’s ex, does it?

There are crazy, swoopy Jetsons-type buildings, like this bank.


Palm trees with hula skirts….

When you keep your eyes open, you find little visual amuses bouche all over the place, like this steel fence thing….


…and LOTS of kitsch.

Typically, when I’m someplace new, I walk around and just try to observe and pick up any particular vibe. But, as my friend told me, Palm Springs is shopping, eating in restaurants, midmod architecture, and gay bars. And that’s all good, but none of those things are so much my thing. Now my friend had told me about the Palm Springs museum, but I just wasn’t feeling a museum, because I really wasn’t feeling Palm Springs. It just seemed so….I dunno, people don’t really stride anywhere with purpose. They’re kinda like shoppy versions of people around the slot machines in Nevada casinos.

But then…..I walked past the Palm Springs Museum Architecture and Design Center, which is right on the main drag, and thought, well, come on, Bauer. At least check it out. Maybe it’s free. And since it was only 5 bucks (close enough), I took a gander.

Man, what a cool building—which, alas, I didn’t take a good picture of, because I was kind of swoopy architectured out at that point. The docent explained that the building had been a bank, restored to truly dazzling midmod glory. The main exhibit featured reusing materials—saris, in the case of these works by artist Christina Kim.

It’s the detail of the work that takes it beyond a display at Anthropologie.

And naturally, a gift shop.

Well, ok. I’d gotten a little more open to doing a museum, and the admission at the design center gave me 5 bucks off going to the Palm Springs Art Museum proper. It’s massive…

…and a genuine treasure inside. First stop was the downstairs gallery, which featured some pretty swell contemporary work for sale, including this crazy painted tansu, apparently a Japanese version of a credenza.

Titled “The Fox and Persimmon Tansu” and created by artist Georg James, this featured some of the most ridiculously amazing trompe l’oeil I’ve seen. I mean, those aren’t drawers. That’s a painted flat surface.

The gallery is flanked by two separate sculpture gardens. My favorite, the Elrod, could charm the most manic Type A into a puddle of bliss.

The current main floor exhibit, “Unsettled: Art on the New Frontier,” deals with colonialization, displacement of indigenous people, and American mythology as relating to both. This piece, “Erasing the Border,” is represented on the exterior of the museum. By Mexican artist Ana Teresa Fernández, it’s a joy to behold, big and powerful, and accompanied by a film where a woman dressed like the one in the picture paints over a fence.

This massive arrangement of spices in bowls, “Campo de Color” by Bolivian artist Sonia Falcone, beautifully introduces the film beyond it. A docent came over while I was looking at it. “Can you smell the spices?” I inhaled. Faint turmeric, pepper, a little coconut. “It’s never overwhelming,” said the docent, “but it’s there if your nose knows to look for it.”

Leaving those behind, I headed to the second floor and stopped in my tracks.

I’m not a Chihuly fan. I think his stuff is massively kitschy and I just don’t feel all that yellow. But seeing this piece in a midmod setting—be still, my heart.

If all Chihuly pieces were displayed singly and against this type of architecture, I’d be a big old fan. I mean, here it is again with a little more architecture in the shot. I seriously have about 30 pictures from different angles, I was just kind of blown away.

Also a delight to see a work from Azerbaijani artist Faig Ahmed. I’d seen one of his works at ArtPrize in Grand Rapids.

He creates a carpet design, manipulates it in Photoshop so that it looks like it’s melting, then has weavers reproduce the new version.

It’s like a waterfall of color, and such a fresh way to visualize this ancient art form getting poured into the 21st century.

There’s tons more cool stuff in the Museum, and I left with some bounce restored to my step. But it was a slow step. Appreciate Palm Springs at a saunter; it’s not for the power sightseer. Just suck up that bone dry, crisp blue air, feast your eyes on the surreality of it, and realize that sometimes, staying on the surface is the best way to swim. Especially when the surface shimmers like this one.