Check out the style statement, ladies.

Nah. Not the movie star, the great boots and fabulous hat.

I’m talking about the collection of Flow Blue plates you can see through the window.

Just kidding. But I bet if you’re the kind of antique dishware lover that I am, the plates jumped out at you.

However, I really am talking about the chic Western look. Gotta love it.

Note to self: Next time I’m in Santa Fe, I’m buying some turquoise boots at Back at the Ranch. Very, very cool, especially with that little snakeskin touch at the toes.

I suppose you could wander around NYC looking like this and no one would bat an eye, but then you could probably do anything in NYC and expect the same reaction. The San Francisco Bay Area not so much. A little too Texan, if you know what I mean. Here, though, it’s the perfect party outfit.

Anyway, I love the red-hot cowgirlness of this get up. It just shouts “Life is a Blast!”

Ms. Huston’s ranch is a little over an hour’s drive down the mountain, through a valley and back up a pass from my place. As the crow flies not so far.

Architectural Digest did a spread on her digs the exact month I moved up here. In the evenings, I’d find myself turning the magazine’s glossy pages, staring longingly at her fixed up buildings and landscaping, wondering if I’d ever get all this done.

Guess I did.

If you’ve been following my progress all along, you know how much work it’s been. I think I deserve the damn boots, don’t you?

Here are a bunch of photos of Huston’s ranch from the Architectural Digest shoot . . .

It feels like the “old California” up here— a mixture of cowboys and Indians and the old Mexican Californios. They say the Mexican ranches were so vast, and their inhabitants rather lonely, that the arrival of a visitor was the cause of week long celebrations called Fandangos. They say you could travel from rancho to rancho for months and be feted this way.

Think Gone With the Wind and the barbecue at Twelve Oaks only way more fantastic.

Anyway, it’s springtime here and time to take a drive though the back roads over to the Mineral King area, around where Angelica Huston lives.

I’ve got an idea for a story set around there. It came to me when I was sitting in that endless County Planning Commission meeting about that stupid Cemex strip mine. My large animal vet got up to speak and pleaded with the Commission to come up with a general plan for mines in the county. “The way you’re going about it now,” he said ” you’re dividing families and neighbors. You’re pitting them against each other.”


A place. A bunch of people. A plot.

As Tolstoy said, ” . . .unhappy families are unhappy each in their own way.”

So, I started to think about these families, who they might be and the ranches and orchards they live on. I thought of movie stars like Ms. Huston, about her father—the great film director John Huston whose family was from around here. I thought about how he made the stunning movie Chinatown about water resources, about corruption, about unhappy families, and about the west.

Look, it was a long, long meeting. I had a lot of time to ruminate.

Well, the families in my story are unhappy, and they are unhappy “each in their own way”, but it’s in a western way.

It’s all about the land and what you’d do to hold onto it even though its rugged and wild.

Then again maybe that’s just the point. You hold onto it for just that reason.

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My Deluxe All Clad Slow Cooker: Or How I Got Chapter . . .

Posted by admin on Thursday Mar 8, 2012 Under Uncategorized

. . . Ten of Palace of the Blue Butterfly proofread and posted.

There are days like today when the cows broke down the fence around the house, and I had to herd them all off the lawn (think Dale Evans meets Keystone Cops) when I realize why writers live in studio apartments in Brooklyn. No ranch tasks. Plenty of takeout food.

But then you’re in Brooklyn, which I hear is the end-all and be-all of cool, just pas pour moi as I like to say while I’m rounding up livestock.

Brooklyn SkylineOkay, so no one can really see me living in the big city, right? Still, takeout every now and then would help.

Well, Dave’s mom came to the rescue and bought me an All Clad Deluxe Slow Cooker for Christmas. How have I lived before now?

I used to look at Slow Cooker recipes and think, ” If I have to go to all the trouble of browning everything—and you do, really, you do— in one pot, why don’t I just stick that pot in the oven and call it a braise?”

And then I got the All Clad Deluxe in which I can brown everything, stick the insert into the unit, and six to eight hours later I have dinner. Everything all cleaned up except a couple of plates. I get to enjoy a martini in front of the fire with Dave and not worry about making more than a salad.

The machine required the right cookbook, and after much searching, I found it—The Art of the Slow Cooker by Andrew Schloss.

Right now, I’ve got a wonderful smelling and tasting red lentil soup from that cookbook bubbling away. I know it tastes good because I cheated, lifted the lid and had a spoonful. I couldn’t resist—all that cinnamon, coriander and cumin wafting through the house.

Most Slow Cooker Recipes are pretty grim. You know— a can of mushroom soup, a package of dried onion soup, a slab of frozen meat.

Not this. There are some meat recipes, but there are some great soups, too, and techniques that could be adapted to vegetarian cooking.

Here’s one I made the other night that just soothed my cowgirl soul and gave me time to proof and post one more chapter.

A Wonderful Vegetable Tagine Recipe

From Art of the Slow Cooker (Chronicle Books, paperback with color photos, $24.95), by Andrew Schloss

Makes 8 servings.


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 leeks (white and light green parts only), thoroughly washed and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1 small rutabaga (about 8 ounces), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice ( I couldn’t find so omitted)
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices (didn’t have, so they got omitted)
2 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
2 tablespoons minced gingerroot
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, preferably ground from whole seeds toasted in a dry skillet
1 can (about 28 ounces) diced tomatoes, preferably fire roasted, with their juice
1 can (about 15 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 large butternut squash (about 2 pounds), stemmed, peeled, seeded ( I used two because I didn’t have rutabagas and such) cut into 2-inch chunks
1 stick cinnamon
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oil in a large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, rutabaga, carrots, parsnips and celery and sauté until the carrots are barely tender, about 4 minutes.
Add the ginger, garlic, turmeric, thyme, salt, pepper, coriander and cumin and stir to disperse; cook for 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes and chickpeas and heat to boiling; set aside.
Put the butternut squash in a 5-to 6-quart slow cooker. Pour the contents of the skillet over the top, and submerge the cinnamon stick in the sauce.
Cover the cooker and cook for 4 to 5 hours on high, or 7 to 8 hours on low.
While the tagine cooks, mix the honey, lemon juice, and hot pepper sauce in a small bowl. When the tagine is done, remove the cinnamon stick, drizzle the honey mixture over the top, and toss gently to disperse.
Scatter the cilantro over the top and serve.

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