Traditions: Saturday Salsa

DSC_0822It’s a bunch of tomato-y goodness: peppers, onions, tomatoes, tomatillos, serranos, cilantro. …

But it’s more than all that.

It’s tradition.

It’s fall, it’s football, it’s baseball, it’s beat-up-coffeetable, it’s watching TV from the floor, it’s Sunday brunches, it’s gold bowl, it’s Saturdays, it’s Sundays.

It’s Superman’s salsa.

He’s been making this concoction since we got married or so. He started putting it together himself, then kept adding and refining until he got it just right – just the right number of Serrano chilis, just the right amount of El Pato tomato sauce. And now it’s perfect.

He makes it every “big game day.” So he’s been making it a lot lately (as our Angels are in the playoffs, our UCLA is playing again, and pro football is back on every Sunday).

He gets up on Saturday mornings, throws on some shorts, runs across the street to the supermarket and gets a million of those little vegetable baggies and fills them up with all the secret ingredients. The supermarket checkout lady knows him, and knows he’s the guy who buys tomatillos, because no one else is sure what tomatillos are used for. Continue reading

Sunday Drives

100_36632Ah, Sunday drives. If you can find two words in the English language that more abruptly call to mind gargantuan Cadillacs, clean-cut hair styles, and slow cruising, let me know.


Sunday drives were a big part of my growing up. I spent countless weekends in the backseat of some Pontiac or another, sliding around with my brothers on the vinyl upholstery, listening to Karen Carpenter on the radio and smelling my mother’s Jean Nate.


My parents were both from Ohio. They grew up there, trudging through the snow (uphill, both ways, of course) and working at various gas stations and five-and-dimes throughout their teens. But about a year after they got married, my dad jumped at a great job offer in the aerospace industry and they moved to California. They drove the 2,500-or-so miles when I was 6 weeks old – two young 23-year-olds, eyes open wide, amazed that they were permanently in a land of squawking seagulls and 70-degree temps. And their amazement at the west coast ultimately resulted in regular weekend awe: every chance they got, they’d get out their maps and explore.


All through the late 60s and early 70s, we drove. My parents and I, then later my two brothers, would drive to Newport Beach in a Pontiac Catalina and watch the waves crash on the jetty. Continue reading

Countdown to the Super Bowl

football-hashmarksSome people may shake out their Steelers jerseys. Others may scan the position breakdowns. Others may scour sports blogs or review point spreads. But I do none of these things. I have more important things to deal with: like what type of chips I should bring and whether I should chop or mince the onions for the artichoke dip. …


Here’s my own personal Super Bowl countdown:


  • 4 days before: Review complicated process for buying betting squares; discuss with coworkers; decide to buy two squares, even though my money would probably be better spent on the artichoke dip.
  • 3 days before: Double-check with sister-in-law about what she wants me to bring to the party. E-mail Lauran from the book club to get the mac-in-cheese recipe that I will probably be asked to bring.
  • 2 days before: Pick up brother-in-law at John Wayne airport. Note that he misses Christmas; he misses Thanksgiving; but he never misses a Super Bowl with his brothers.
  • 1 day before: Scour the e-vite sis-in-law sent to find out who the players are. Skip names like Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger; look instead for party guest names. (Did you really think I cared who the quarterbacks were? Stay with me, here, people. …)
  • Day of: Ask my son (for the fourth time) who exactly is playing again? File into brain the fact that the Phillies is a baseball team, not a football team. Stand in kitchen with brother-in-law while he makes gumbo and manage to not bring up once that I don’t even know what state the teams will be playing in. Scoop up chip bags, artichoke dip, mac-and-cheese, and gumbo into car with hubby/ kids/ bro-in-law and head toward fun guests and great conversation at Super Bowl party. Have great time. …


What about you? What does your big countdown entail?



The Rose Parade and Other New Year’s Things

Well, it’s a ridiculously beautiful day here in So. Cal, and I’m sitting here watching the Rose Parade on TV, even though it’s only about 50 miles away from us. You’d think I’d manage to get there one of these years. In years past, I’ve actually collected my family into the car and forced them to drive up to Pasadena after the Rose Parade, when all the floats are on display on Colorado Boulevard. They line them up in rows, and you pay a little admission fee (I think it’s $7 per adult nowadays) and you can wander the aisles and look at the floats up close. I used to go when I was a child, with Ann Marie and her family (when admission was probably a quarter). And even though we were just two giggly 11-year-olds, I recall being truly flabbergasted at seeing the floats up that close: The painstaking work involved at lining little fennel seeds up in 48 rows just to make an eyeball iris is absolutely stunning.

Anyway, I keep dragging my family up there, not to see the actual parade but to see the floats afterward – I don’t know if I just want to recreate the wonder I experienced as a child, or (like Ann Marie’s mom) do my kids the favor of introducing them to amazing work of people with flowers. But the point is, we never quite make it. Continue reading

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