Welcome Gentle Readers

This blog tends to wander from its main purpose -- updates on my fiction. I do have updates and excerpts of my work. But I also write about my obsessions -- food, friends and pop culture and my weird life in Los Angeles. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Craig, Soup, Writing and Geekiness

Conversations with Craig
I found out today that there are Alsatian bear hunting dogs. This information was imparted while trying to convince me that it was a good idea for Craig to go to Lake Tahoe to kill a 700 lb black bear with the liberal application of explosives. It seems that there's been a call to take down said bear because it breaks down people's front doors, wrecks their kitchens searching for food and leaving basketball sized dumps in their livingrooms. Why dynamite? It seems that bullets either lodge in it's bear fat or bounce off it's giant bear skull. Strangely, the conversation made me realize how much I miss interacting with Craig day to day. We had a lively debate, of course, over whether all the sugar he consumed on Friday could sweat out of his scalp and crystallize into a hard shell while he was running. I'm still dubious. And even if that sort of thing was possible, I still don't see how it's my fault. He didn't have to eat the cookies I sent him on the same day as the boss brought doughnuts. We disagreed on that point as well. It was so good to talk to him.

Soup du Jour
I began my plan for having more soups in my diet with French onion soup. Actually, I began with making big vats of beef stock and chicken stock. The first soup was French onion soup from Julia Child's recipe. I have made this soup two other times. One was from a big book of soup recipes I bought ages ago when I last worked at a book store. The other recipe was from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook. Both recipes were okay, but not as yummy as some I've had at restaurants. The recipe this time was by Julia Child from Julia's Kitchen Wisdom. It was so simple that it was written in a paragraph. I also have a mandolin to finely slice the onions this time. That marvelous device is my favorite thing in the kitchen right now. Anyway, with very little effort, I soon had the required quarts of onions. The rest was slowly cooking them into caramelized yumminess, stirring in a little flower to thicken, some cognac to deglaze and some beef stock and white wine. I also used a bit of vermouth as her recipe called for. I think her recipe worked better for me, because hers was designed for home cooks. It was so tasty especially when teamed up with rounds of baguette and some spreadable cheese or pate or both. I don't like my onion soup with the big cheese topped crouton floating in it. I like my bread and cheese separate from my soup. It may sound odd, but that's how I roll – soup wise. Why onion soup? Onions are very nutritious, and I was craving them. The Docs are telling me to eat what I crave – within reason. Next will be Ina Garten's Vichyssoise with zucchini. That recipe has more calories (that I need, ironically) And I have some protein supplements that mix well with creamy soups that I need to consume. Tomorrow, I'll be trying some zucchini pancakes. I've been making a lot of appetizer type dishes. Meal planning and cooking have been so strange for me. Prior to December, food was all about losing weight, laying off red meat, whole grains and high fiber, etc. Now, it's all about getting enough calories and protein. I've been strongly encouraged to eat lots of meat and eggs. Diet is a four letter word. It just weird.

Writing Old Friends
I met one of my writing goals this week. The short story version of Dancing with the German is off to four literary journals. I really can't stand all that secretarial stuff required for mailing out stories, but I got them out before the closest deadline despite a really rocky week. That accomplishment felt good. Now, I can get back to the research for the script Jon and I are still arguing about. This is timely as I expect I'll be spending a great deal of time in various waiting rooms over the next several weeks. A book and a notepad are good things to have at such times. Now that the story is in the mail, I also plan on writing some scenes from various works in progress. Among them are the next installment of the Soldiers novels, the next installment of the Surrender novels and the next chapter of the memoir. I have no idea what I'll do first. I think it depends on which has the strongest pull in a given moment. I plan to post whatever I write from the Soldiers or Surrender realms. The memoir must remain under wraps until it's actually published. I'm looking forward to spending some time with my fictional characters. It's been too long.

When mentioning some of my writing plans and my cooking experiments, I have been lectured by relatives and some friends about taking on too much. I will take this opportunity to say that doing too much just isn't possible for me right now. The moment I overextend, I get so tired that I have to sit or lie down. It took three days to get that apple pie in the oven last week. I cut the apples up on Friday, made the dough on Saturday and it finally got assembled on Sunday. The onion soup was a two day project even with the mandolin. So don't worry. My body is very much in control of letting me do only what it can handle. It's late on Saturday as I write this. I would very much like to shred the zucchini for the pancakes, but I am at the end of my day. I'm going to have a ginger spice cookie and head to bed.

The above paragraph was written at midnight. By one in the morning, I realized that sleep wasn't working. So I pulled up a Miss Marple movie on Netflix.com and set up my couch-side food prep station. As the end credits rolled, I had finished prep for the soup, the zucchini pancakes and the cheese topping for a pizza. Doing prep or actually cooking whenever I find I can also helps me get things done.

Complete Geekdom

I won't put this on my Facebook as my profile photo, but I do have to share my wallowing in complete geekiness. This is my Na'vi avatar from Avatar I did it at Avatarize Yourself. If any of you decide to join me in complete geekdom, please show me your avatar.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Twisters in Cali and Other Oddities

I know I've had a lot of fun ribbing LA weather people and their doppleganger radar uber technology in a region where the weather rarely changes. But last week, they had reason to get a bit hysterical. Among other things, there were three 'suspected' tornadoes. I suppose they will remain suspects until CSI: Tornadoes gets a VIN number or some tornado DNA. What I'm saying is that there was actual breaking news during the storms. I didn't even mind the coverage preempting my court reality shows. Aside from the violence in this group of storms, there were the fire areas from the summer that were in danger of having a water logged mountain come down on them. I only wished the news had preempted Martha Stewart pole dancing on her talk show. Somehow, the segment had something to do with keeping fit. But I digress. The torrential rains and window rattling thunder were great for hunkering down with some great soups, reading materials and a short story that I had to edit as long as the power held out. More on that later.

Food Fight

I received a lot of very helpful suggestions on augmenting the protein in my diet. Thank you! I've implemented some of them and plan to try others. I'm still losing weight but not as quickly as before, and the Docs think I'm getting what I need to heal and regain my strength. None of them want me to get back to the weight I was months ago, but they don't want me to lose much more. Thus, I am allowed to indulge in things that would have made them frown before. Thus, the vast array of apples I purchased to make fresh juice have ended up in a beautiful apple pie. I made the juice, too. But how much apple juice can two people drink before the stuff goes bad? It didn't have preservatives. I transformed it into a form that will survive longer and will be completely consumed. No one wants to waste good food, right? I've also discovered that Buffalo wings are very tasty with Hollandaise sauce though I can't figure out a healthy angle for that. I'm also letting my inner Soup Nazi free. Since soups are a great way to consume veggies, and I can mix my protein boosters in them. I also get to do my favorite cooking basic – making stock. The apartment smells amazing. The aroma and warmth is especially nice as it has been uncharacteristically cold with the rain. Just lovely. Over the next few days, I'll be trying all kinds of new vegetable soups. I'll be sure to share the reviews.

Slow Starts and Finishes

Many people we know are under the impression that Jon and I are a writing machine, easily weaving plots and developing characters without any creative conflict. Cue Edna Krabappel's HA! Jon and I have always had disagreements about characters and plots. Some of those get quite spirited. Some of those are never completely resolved. In those cases, the judgment goes to the one who created the plot or character. Right now, we're disagreeing over a script that has been long in development. Since I'll be home for quite some time, I've taken on writing the first draft. Starting the script is proving difficult because Jon and I haven't quite resolved who are lead characters are. It doesn't help that Jon doesn't like one of the characters. The other is, by all accounts, a tragedy. We've never written such a character. And since neither of us like films that are downers, we've been trying to figure out how to portray him accurately and still have him be uplifting. The debate rages. Well, it doesn't rage. The debate is more of a brisk simmer. At some point, I'm going to pick a direction and see where it goes. Mind you, Jon does not write scripts this way. He likes to solve everything in his head before writing one word. He's gotten better over the years, but I'm still convinced he'd only ever do one draft of anything if he could get away with it. I've learned that nothing ever sees the light of day as a first draft. That's especially true with scripts, because production realities (money, location, cast) always change scripts – even if the director wrote it. What has worked for us as collaborating pair is that my draft often points to the answers he's looking for to do the shooting script. I know this and he knows this, yet somehow we always end up doing the same dance before we start writing.

While I love crashing out drafts, I really hate editing. I may seem like a level headed person, but I am actually a very neurotic writer with all the insecurities that go with that personality. Editing always makes me second guess every sentence and really question my abilities. With this in mind and that I am more fragile than I've ever been from my illness, I get the brilliant notion to send the first chapter of the memoir out to literary journals and competitions. I haven't done anything like this in twenty years for the simple reason that I hate doing it. Even when the rejections have been constructive and helpful, they are painful to a neurotic writer. But here I am, editing a very personal story with some very helpful notes from dear Sarah and nit-picky line edits from Jon and wondering why I ever picked up a pen. Why torture yourself, you may wonder. I wonder that as well. Ultimately, it's about marketing the memoir. If this chapter gets published or wins a prize, that only helps the book's sales. I want this book to do well, so I have to suck it up and get some eyes on it.

Swords and Bears

Last week's CSI: Miami had no ninjas. The villains were Yakuza though they used a different term. It was a nifty twist on a pedestrian plot. The head gangster was trying to re-claim his long lost son, a teen who had no idea who his parents were, but the desire for fatherhood was not born of love or even the machismo of having a son to carry on his name. Oh no, he wanted the boy's young and healthy liver (and not to have with fava beans and a nice Chianti). It seems many Yakuza need liver transplants due to the types of tattoos they get over the years and alcoholism. I had heard about this on 60 Minutes in a disturbing story about a liver transplant given to a big Yakuza at UCLA outside of the donor list regulations. It was a very clever episode. And it had the bad-ass Horatio Caine (David Caruso) take down at the end. It was good to see his dead eyed shooting once again. It's been too long. There has been a distinct change in the show this season. It has a more pronounced sense of humor, and the addition of CSI Cardoza (Eddie Cibrian) and Walter Benson (Omar Benson Miller) has changed the dynamic of the cast. Unlike adding a cute kid to a tired sitcom, these cast additions have brought a new energy to the series. Cardoza and Benson actually did that joke about running away from a grizzly bear (I don't have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you). That was startling and very welcome. The episodes have become more ensemble driven than Horatio driven. And while I enjoy that, it was really good to see a classic Caine take down.

I'm slower writing the blogs of late. Everyday things still fatigue me, thus I'm a lot slower in my tasks than I used to be.

Stay Tuned!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Avatar, Meat Juice and Brain Rot

Why would anyone put beef jerky through a juicer? What sort of mind thinks of jerky juice? Craig, naturally. He was helping me plan my juicing for the week. Nutrition is the biggest part of my job as I recover from the surgery and get ready for chemo. You wouldn't think eating would be a problem considering all of the cooking I do. However, my tummy and innards have been more than persnickety since returning home. Keeping my protein and calorie intake up has been a surprising challenge each day. Thus, the juicer enters the picture. Lucy, lent me a Jack LaLanne Power Juicer Pro. I have so many fruits and vegetables for that machine that I needed a cooler as an annex to the fridge. I'm working on fruit juice tomorrow. I have more of that than veggies right now. I'm still working on the protein issue. Any ideas out there? No ideas that involve juicing meat products.

Real Movie Magic

I dragged myself off the sofa long enough to see Avatar. I had been working my way up to longer sojourns that a trip to the doctor's office or the grocery store. I've been going stir crazy as I indicate below. But I digress. I will not spoil anything from Avatar as apparently there are still a lot of people going to see it. We barely got decent seats five weeks into its run. What did I think of it? The experience I had during that film is why I go to movies and frankly, why I'm compelled to make movies. And I feel this way despite paying TWELVE DOLLARS for the ticket. Whys didn't you go to the matinee, you ask. THAT WAS THE MATINEE! Yes, I am aware that I'm shouting. I'm still in shock over that. This certainly will cause me to re-think my criteria for going to a theater. I don't think I could shell out that kind of money for a film that was merely stupid fun.

Avatar is not stupid. Nor is just about astonishing 3D animation (believe me, it is the most amazing visual experience I have ever had). The film is clever in ways I didn't expect. The character and plot development actually continue as part of the action scenes (very unusual for US action films). And though it can be argued that many of the characters begin as clich̩ (something I have no problem with as such stock characters are easily recognized) they go on during the course of the film to do some surprising things. And this is the core of the wonderful experience I had watching Avatar. It surprised me. It delighted me. It riveted me. At one point, I wanted to leap out of my seat and cheer. I an extremely jaded movie watcher who has spent a lot of time behind the scenes looking at the inner workings of the magic. Sweeping me up whole like Avatar managed is almost impossible anymore. And I am far from an avid fan of James Cameron though I found him to be delightful in person. Nope, I am no film pushover. Avatar is truly wonderful. It is well worth seeing in a theater Рeven if it's for TWELVE DOLLARS.

Daytime Wasteland

While going to the movies this past weekend was a real treat, daytime television is driving me insane. Admittedly, this state of affairs in partially my fault. I could choose to not look at the telly and spare myself. This is not so easy to do. Even though I'm now able to focus enough to read and write, there are long stretches of the day when I'm trying to get some mindless rest – even a cat nap here and there. The banal inanity of daytime fare often puts me to sleep or at least in a state of mindless stillness for a while. Despite the usefulness of such fare, I must decry some of what assails my brain daily. Since they are at a louder volume, it's the commercials that break through the fog of stupor or even sleep. Some of the products are a necessary service, I suppose. If I had a structured settlement and needed cash now, JG Wentworth's annoying refrain would probably be just the ticket. But I don't, and it's annoying. But more puzzling are the ads for things that no one knew they needed like a panty won make a woman's butt bigger (very puzzling considering all the diet and exercise products to make the butt smaller). The tastefully named bootypop ads are very disturbing to wake up to. I can't imagine that looking natural in real life. Other ads are for people who seem too stupid to function. There are products for those who can't use bar soap or a pump soap dispenser or toothpaste without an eruption of goo, and there are products for those who can't bake brownies without disaster. I'm waiting for the product for those who can't turn door knobs without dire results. These products cause me to be greatly concerned about the decline in mental ability in this country.

Further evidence of this decline can be found in the bounty of reality court shows. I admit to watching Judge Judy and the People's Court. I even take an occasional gander at Judge Mathis and Judge Joe Brown. They hold the same kind of strange appeal as the Jerry Springer Show. In short, I watch because I can't believe that people get on national TV and reveal their lives and foibles as freely as they do. It is astonishing how much people are willing to lay bare on these programs for a very small amount of monetary compensation. I've seen at least two instances where one or the other of the opponents admitted to a criminal act connected to their cases. The problem with that is that though these judges appear to be TV characters, they are still officers of the court and certified arbitrators. They have to report that stuff. Thus, a plaintiff or defendant may win their point and their cash that day only to be arrested shortly thereafter. Amazing. The oddest of these shows is Street Court with 'Judge Mazz' who takes justice out onto the streets. I think it's more likely that he doesn't have money for a set. And if viewing these shows isn't strange enough, one day, I was watching Judge Judy and saw someone I knew! She assisted us in casting Demon Under Glass. In this case, she was the defendant and she won her case without embarrassment or self-incrimination.

Why not watch the news, you may wonder. Well, I tried that. If the bad news wasn't depressing me, the stupid news was making me crazy. On a day when all manner of disasters was happening, The Today Show spent more time on Man Purses than it did on the major national story of that day. You decide if this topic deserved so much time. CLICK HERE. I do get small respites from this inane fare on the Food Network or other channels. I have become thoroughly involved in the adventures of Gordon Ramsay on BBC America. First, I got hooked on Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. I've now caught up on all of those. Ramsay is a chef on steroids. He's profane and arrogant but fascinating to watch, because his arrogance is justified. He's a hoot. I also watch his prime time series, Hell's Kitchen. And I've found some fun things on the History Channel and Discovery ID where many of the true crime shows live. But these shows require attention. It's harder to drift off while my brain is engaged. I may have to find something else to help me sleep. I swear this type of programming is draining my brain.

CSI: Pandora?

I was going to write about the intriguing changes on CSI: Miami this season. However, the new episode airing tonight either has Ninjas or the Yakuza. I want to see how this unfolds before I make comments. However, I will say that while watching Avatar, thoughts of CSI:Miami did come to mind. I wondered how quickly they would erect the entire Pandora command center in order to find a VIN number on a fish scale as fast as possible. The sets aren't far off from that now.

Stay Tuned!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Holiday Blog Delay

I'm a little off-kilter this weekend. I may have onverdone during my outing to see Avatar. Thus, I'm moving rather slowly today. The blog is underway, but probably won't go up until sometime tomorow. Worry not, it's really zany and worth the wait.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Pasta Fears and Noodle Mutilation

I don't know why, but I've had a fear of making lasagne. Perhaps it was because my cousin's was so good, I didn't think I could ever top it. Maybe it's because the list of ingredients is so long. I've tackled making a baguette but not this particular pan of pasta and sauce. The baguettes were more like bread sticks...dense, rock-hard bread sticks. We're still trying to figure out where that went wrong. But I digress. I got a craving for the dish once my appetite returned (I actually craved bacon first – still do, but that's beside the point). The frozen variety wasn't cutting it for me anymore. I decided enough was enough with avoiding the recipe. There was plenty of time to experiment. I even have someone that can share the big pan of food. Jon loves pasta, but the average lasagne recipe yields way too much food for two people even with freezing some of it. The time had come. Oh, and don't worry about my over doing in the kitchen. I'm taking breaks between each step and doing as much prep as possible sitting down.

The first thing I realized as I tackled Tyler Florence's recipe for The Ultimate Lasagne, is that all that time I spent getting coq au vin and beef bourguignon right came in handy. I can prep Mirepoix in my sleep now. I really enjoy chopping the veg and the herbs. It's like meditating, I suppose. The rest of the recipe involved steps I've done a lot lately like browning meat and reducing sauces. The only thing that set me in fits were those danged noodles. They were big and hot and slippery and annoying. I broke a quarter of them getting them in the hot water. The cooked ones weren't very cooperative either. Jon pointed out that a relaxing past time shouldn't involve angrily muttering at cooked pasta. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

I will take a time out here to sum up my feelings about the 2009 Football season for the Philadelphia Eagles. Sigh. Early on, I had the mind set that the team was not going to do very well. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised at how the regular season finished. I felt that any headway made in the playoffs would be a delightful bonus. I wouldn't mind them losing two weeks in a row to those accursed Cowboys if the losses had been less lopsided. The Eagles aren't that bad and, more importantly, the Cowboys haven't been that good. Thus, the season ends for me with a sense of dismay and supreme annoyance. I take solace in the remaining playoff as there are a lot of really great teams. The games should be fun to watch. My only hope is that one of those exciting teams crushes Dallas' ambitions in the most humiliating fashion possible. In other football related musings, I was not that disappointed that Temple U lost its first bowl game in forever. I was shocked that they got to go to one in the first place. I was never a big booster of the team as I thought the University's money would have been better spent in other areas. But for Bill Cosby's sake, I was glad they finally made it to the big time. Maybe next year.

The lasagna is now in the oven. The kitchen is a mess, and I am quite certain that my handling of the noodles would get me a stern reprimand from Mr. Florence. It couldn't be helped. Things just went sideways when I was trying to wrangle the hot, steamy noodles. Then, they got more tangled as I tried to find ones that I could use in the pan. The end result looks okay and the meat sauce tastes good enough to eat out of the pot (which I've been doing though I spoon it out into my little tasting bowl). The apartment smells wonderful. I think it will be delightful. Sometimes, delicious cuisine is not pretty.

One of the great things about the blog in the past couple of months (aside from the great support I've received from you all during the illness) have been friends and readers sharing their recipes and cooking tips. I mentioned writing a recipe from an experiment by a good friend of mine. As it often happens when you really want to make something, Nick was missing a key ingredient. Going out for some smoked pork for his collards was unappealing. He found that he had hot Italian sausage in the house. So he took the sausage out of the casing and browned it with some onions and garlic, quickly sauted the greens then added liquid to braise. He used water. I use chicken stock. The result was a spicey soul food dish with an Italian twist. I replicated the recipe with my own tweaks. It turned out quite nicely though I can't eat something that spicey too often even though a nice piece of buttery cornbread works to cut the heat. I enjoyed the experiment. Moreover, it was really fun to chat back and forth about food. I'm always looking for new ways of making chicken or roasts or soups, so if you have a favorite recipe, do share. As I've said, I have lots of time to experiment.

I was going to do an epic treatise on Daytime TV and how it's driving me insane, but that will have to wait for next time. Meanwhile, I will leave you with my new favorite quote for the week. This is from CSI: Miami. What would cause the biggest pop star in the world to burst into flames? Yes, the new shows are back.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Fresh Starts and Kitchen Magic

Craig's ingenious lady gifted him with entry in the LA Marathon for Christmas. The event is in March, thus the window for training is very short. Drastic measures will have to come into play for him to be ready. Which was the point of the gift. It was a ploy to get Craig to stop smoking and eating all of those carne asada tacos every day at work. Craig recognized this, but he cannot let a challenge go unmet. Thus, after a few days of two fisted smoking (yes, I mean a cigarette in each fist), he began training with a wheezing 10 mile run. I think that was a pretty good start for someone claiming to be gorging on turkey every day during the past week. Still, I gave him no sympathy for nearly hacking up a lung. And though I'm not at work, I may still tempt him with a hot breakfast sandwich delivered by Jon. I like poking the bear when he's in training. Craig in training is a fascinating mix of crankiness and hilarity. I will make sure to provide updates.

Cookery Bookery

That's my new favorite phrase. Julia Child coined it to describe her work on her first cook books. It doesn't cover just the writing of the book but all of the research and experiments with recipes. The phrase sounds magical to me somehow – like she was conjuring something more than writing or cooking. Her memoir, My Life in France, was certainly magical for me. It was not just because she was detailing life in France (though I devoured every word and savored every description). I was delighted by Julia's life and her passion for food. I won't go into great detail here. There is no way to do that delightful narrative justice. I heartily recommend reading it for yourself. Click on the title for a link to buy.

What struck me so profoundly in this book was how late in life Julia began her amazing career with food. She was in her 40s when Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published. That was only the beginning of a very long and successful career as a TV chef. For those of us facing ever bigger birthdays, misgivings about choices and timing come up more and more often. Should I have started down this road sooner? Why didn't I take that risk? I shudder at the opportunities I let pass me by in my undergrad days. Those thoughts can really plague one's mind, especially when one is in a situation where there is a lot of time to think. Julia's book was a potent antidote to such musings. She could not have achieved the level of success had she started earlier in life. She needed all of those years of life experience to have the drive, diligence and patience necessary to graduate from culinary school and take on the massive amount of research necessary to produce that cook book. Thus, I was inspired and uplifted. Naturally, all that talk of food made me want to cook some new things. She had some tips in Julia's Kitchen Wisdom that solved problems I'd been having with some recipes. And I was reminded that I wasn't mature enough in my 20s to try to make it in the entertainment industry here. Frankly, my writing wasn't as good as it is now. I needed life experience to have characters with any kind of depth. Also, the industry is very different now. Independent filmmakers are far more accepted now than they were in the 80s. A studio or heavy connections aren't as necessary now as they were then. I am here at the right time with the tools and perspective to make it. Thank you, Julia, for a timely reminder.

It will be a while before I can tackle some of those recipes. I am often admonished to no push myself to hard or too fast. However, that hasn't stopped me from my foodie activities. I advised three people on recipes last week and even wrote one for a talented cook I know that I'll be posting in the food blogs I frequent. It's a very spicy variant on collard greens that I think those chefs will enjoy. It was very tasty but on the outer edge of heat for me. He could tell me what he used to make the dish, but not the quantities. I did a little experimenting of my own and came up with a written recipe for him. That was fun.


All in all, the double ought decade was not so horrible. That's from a strictly personal viewpoint. Globally, well, it's good that it's over. And hopefully, the next one will be better. Personally though, the positives far outweigh the negatives. We've been to France twice (and to the Riviera as well). Those six glorious weeks gave me a lifetime of memories. I visited beautiful Vancouver, a city so breathtaking that it is gorgeous in cold, rainy February. I saw Springsteen perform on both coasts. During the East Coast concert, I drank lovely champagne served with a delicious strawberry. We helped save the Stone Pony from demise (this claim is from my friend and muse, Kim. I choose to believe her). Oh yeah, we made a feature film and a number of shorts. These projects had us working with some really talented people. And I finally became a novelist. I've re-connected with dear friends and made deeper connections with my family. Even this blog has brought me so many lovely friends and some interesting opportunities. The decade was not without personal disasters, frustrations and disappointments, but I gained so much more than I loss.

And I am ready for an even better decade.

Happy New Year!