Found in trash: The Team Todd Black Book

Now that everyone has succumbed to green marketing, I won't look like a dirtbag when admitting to rummaging through people's discarded house wares. On this occasion it was a a Studio City tudor if that makes it classier.

In the trash I found the weirdest slice of L.A. life; the Team Todd Black Book. Never heard of it? Of course you haven't. It's a homemade spiral notebook created by "Team Todd" (?) for their friends and family. In it contains Best Of lists from around the world. With overpriced and obscure listings, it was a show-offy, annoying homemade gift that ended up in someone's trash bin.

But it was hilarious. Here are some of my favorites:

1) Best Swans
Noted requirement: Must have an inland pond of adequate size and surrounded by abundant vegetation
What they're really saying: I have an inland pond of adequate size surrounded by abundant vegetation!!!!!!

2) Best Potpurri in Florence
(Santa Maria Novella - Probably the only potpurri they bought in Florence, so they listed it)
What they're really saying: I went to Florence!!!!!!
My issue: Who still buys potpurri?

3) Best Rhinestone Sneakers
(Tracey Ross)
What they're really saying: I have rhinestone sneakers!!!
My issue: They cannot be the best rhinestone sneakers available simply because they're the only rhinestone sneakers available.

4) Best Magic Store in Barcelona
(El Rey de la Magia -Probably the only magic store they went to in Barcelona so they listed it)
What they're really saying: I went to Barcelona!!!

5) Best Doggie Perfume
(Oh my Dog!)
What they're really saying: Oh I'm sorry. Did your dog not have a signature scent???
What I'm really saying: You're an a-hole.

People? If you can afford rhinestone sneakers, then why act like the smelly kid in class who stuck you with homemade macaroni necklaces during Secret Santa? Everyone hates the homemade gifts. A candle or a bottle of wine would have sufficed, because nobody cares that you've studied yoga in India or bought a $400 swaddle blanket.

Now, while their friends and family may have chosen to toss it out, I keep the Team Todd Black Book in our livingroom as a converstaion piece. I've doggy-eared the most ridiculous pages, like the swan one, or where they are tacky enough to list the actual price they've paid for renting private islands. It's a true anthropological study on the desperation to be envied, and people really get a kick out of it.

Are we allowed to admit that earthquakes are a little exciting?

I know that earthquakes are deadly. I know that they nearly caused San Francisco to burn down, and total devastation in third world countries. But they are also a little exciting, no? When the Japan quake spurred speculation that "the big one" was coming to California, most notably on the evening of the supermoon, I held my breath in anticipation. I think we all do to some extent, but don't talk about it.

With strict building codes on our infrastructure, a big rumble usually leaves the landscape unchanged. We scour the web and news programming for some hint of drama, but it's always one broken window and 9 million grating car alarms. We should be grateful, but smart enough to know that this won't last forever. One of these days, the San Andreas fault will deliver a swift reminder of nature's power.  So we keep sneakers in our car, in case disaster strikes while driving. We keep supplies of water and food, in case the power is knocked out.

eFood's Beef Stroganoff
...Or do we? I know I do, and I have a special offer for my lovely readers. Once you throw those sneakers that smell like corn chips into your trunk and stash some water bottles, I urge you to visit eFoods. For nourishment during natural disasters, just add water. These emergency-preparedness packs aren't like the old powdered milk you get while camping, or chemical-laden astronaut food. This company understands the discerning palate, since The Food Network has apparently turned everyone into a foodie. You can get Cheesy Chicken Casserole. The first ingredients in their Tortilla Soup are black beans, red beans, potatoes and cheddar cheese. It also boasts red peppers, garlic, sea salt and carrots. 

Have I caved and enjoyed these dishes outside of a natural disaster? Or course I have. It's perfect for camping trips and it's really tasty. Besides, I should sample all the flavors, so I can make informed choices. Now is the perfect time to stock up on their foods, as they are offering a sale to my readers in remembrance of the Japan quake and tsunami. March marked the one year anniversary.

the aftermath of Japan's quake and tsunami
You'll feel less guilty admitting to the excitement of a quake if you are prepared for one. Have food security. Be the Sean Penn of your potentially Katrina-esque neighborhood.  Stay safe and bon appetit!

Note Sean Penn's cases of water bottles. Just sayin'!


All Hail the California Craftsman!

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Many people in Los Angeles gripe about the lack of architecture, and they are in their own right. What other town could inspire the website Ugly Persian Houses and have tourists around the world aghast at our mismatched and chaotic strip malls?

But we will always have the California Craftsman. Not only are these masterpieces gracefully spotting our landscape, but we can boast that it's native to our land. A little earthy, a little Japanese, a little Cape Cod and immeasurably majestic, these homes have customarily dark wood exteriors contrasted by bright, sun-filled rooms. I've always been in awe of the oversized doors, art deco windows and light fixtures, tapered columns and giant porches.

This post is in celebration of not only the California Craftsman, but for one of the most breathtaking dwellings I've witnessed in Craftsman Heaven; a.k.a. Pasadena.


72 & Sunny

L.A. Story is one of my favorite films. In it, Steve Martin commented on the landscape; "If you shut off the sprinklers, everything dies." While he portrayed a weatherman, he felt the job was useless and insisted on prerecording "72 and sunny" forecasts on days he wouldn't be at the station.

People outside of Los Angeles covet our sunny weather, but forget we must suffer the consequences: no greenery. We live in a desert and those who can afford it cover it up with sprinkler systems and state-of-the-art landscapers. I'm lucky enough to have land, but not rich enough for all the bells and whistles. People with Green Guilt insist we "go native," because they are convinced we have a water shortage (um, 2/3 of the earth is water people - it's called a desalinization plant. Say it with me: dee'-sal-in-izz-ay-shun). But it contradicts other Green Guilt Directives, whiiiiiich says we should grow our own vegetables. Whiiiiich takes water. Is all I'm sayin'.

But I digress. I let my backyard "go native" for my greyhounds, and those retired racers still run in circles like they're at the racetrack. In the summer, my backyard is a straw-filled dustbowl. But around our patio are fruit trees, a jade garden and plants like tomatoes and pumpkins. Still, I needed creative inspiration to make the patio a seamless transition from indoors to outdoors, like a forest lounge. Kidnapping an interior designer for Anthropologie is out of the question, (damn DNA forensics!), BUT I did stumble upon The Urban Seed in San Diego.

This place has the rustic chic of Anthropologie, and perfectly balanced the comfort of indoors to the breezy greenery of the outdoors. The transition wasn't stark like a Wal-Mart patio set, but soft-edged and elegant without being stuffy. With minimal upkeep, their place looks fabulous and they have endless advice for making my backyard desert into an oasis. An oasis green enough even to stave off the lost souls who fell for Green Guilt. God help them.


Dim sum & then some

I've been covering the lunch truck boom ever since Kogi put glorified roach coaches on the map. But less roach, more coach. Unless we're talking the Munchies truck - and that's a different roach altogether.

It would be irresponsible to cover life in Los Angeles without mentioning the phenomenon, especially if you love good food.

The Dim Sum Truck is well-established in the area, but I was constantly distracted by India Jones and my personal House of Worship on Wheels: The Grilled Cheese Truck. That is until the Dim Sum Truck unleashed new inventions of pasta-wrapped deliciousness. They are adding Americanized dumplings to loop in people like me, who are over that steamed pork and cabbage business.

Introducing baked potato dumplings stuffed with tater tots (my secret white trash indulgence), bacon, chives, and cheddar; all served with sour cream sauce. They're also serving up cheeseburger dumplings with grilled onions, American cheese and ketchup.

It was all very abusive and wonderful. So go forth and multiply. In pounds. To make me feel better.


The best thing about Los Angeles

...is getting out of Los Angeles. I've said it before and I'll keep saying it. It was nice to go down south to Richmond Virginia to hear the rattling cicadas, see the wrought iron balconies and dip in the James River. See the below pics and enjoy what we can't have in Los Angeles...

We are without:

A river bigger than a trickling creek down cement walls:

New Orleans-esque porches with wrought iron and hanging ferns

Restaurants in spaces over 100 years old

Brick walls and busts of Poe

Dead actresses that won't need 900 years for their silicone breasts to decompose - this is Poe's wandering actress mom

Irish bars that aren't shoulder-to-shoulder packed with alcoholics using Ireland as an excuse to binge drink and yell "Whooh!"

GREEN. It's a color, not just a marketing scheme.

Churches where colonial dudes shout "Give me liberty or give me death!"

Classy and architecturally respectful columns, unlike the tacky ones featured in L.A.'s Ugly Persian Houses

Spooky railroad tracks straight out of Fried Green Tomatoes

Old bridges

Dramatic weather and breathtaking skies (that don't need a beach sunset to be stunning)