Spread Love & Valentine’s

Regret.

It happens every year.

I make so very many cards for my friends and family, and I always wish I made more. Sad face.

I get out all my glitters, stickers, markers, mismatched envelopes and errant note cards that need embellishment.

I feel a little crazy at times (I’m obsessed with glitter) Valentine’s Day is very close to the Christmas holidays. I just barely get my snow and sparkles boxed up, and then, I gotta get going with the glue and glitter. I get really excited about the glitter part.

The other great thing, I mail them! Remember mail?  There’s nothing like a homemade card delivered by the postman, with glitter!!

My envelopes are bumpy from all the shiny things I attach, and I decorate them too, the post office hates that. They never arrive in time, and I send them all anonymously. In the end, I never know if they arrive, except for my kids, they always let me know… “I got your card Ma, so much glitter.” Pish. Never too much.  Sadly, they are actually going to ban glitter, like microbeads, it’s polluting the environment.

Rest assured I will stock up. Martha would want that. She makes lovely glitter.

I especially love and covet German Glass Glitter. Oo la la.

Despite the fact that it’s a made-up holiday, blah blah blah, I’ll jump on any opportunity to spread love, don’t try and stop me.

I don’t ever want to be this guy; the guy that locks up his trash, and banishes poo.

I’d give him a Valentine, but he locks his mailbox, too. (Sad face, again)

So I’ll be over here, making marmalade, gluing glitter to stickers and having fun at the Silverlake Conservatory of Music!

We just hosted our scholarship brunch for families and students last weekend. Over fifty percent of our kids are on scholarship and we’re looking to up that number.

These two are the brains behind the organization.

Flea is forever flitting in and out, taking pictures with students (and their parents) and Jenny Rey runs the joint.

I am so joyous for any occasion I get to spend time with these folks, spreading love and music!

We got into the Mardi Gras vibe at Brunch, with the High Steppers.

That’s my girl, Pinky on the trumpet, she rocked it!  All ages are welcome!

There was a nine-year-old clarinet player in the band!!

Oh, do you want to get into the mix?  I can help with that.

The High Steppers have an appearance on Fat Tuesday, of course.

I’ll bring the fasnaughts!  (That’s Pennsylvania Dutch for Beignets.)

You should come!

And there’s another opportunity next month.

We have our annual Funk Run in Griffith Park on March 29th. It’s a quick 5K.

Race start time is a reasonable 9 AM. It’s a great way to start your day and support music education.

So let me know if you need any marmalade, or drop by and I’ll slip you a jar.

It’s filled with love and L.A. sunshine, and it’s yours for the asking.

Share food, spread love!

Fabulous pictures at the conservatory taken by Gary Leonard.

He never misses an event and gets the best snaps.

We are forever grateful for your dedication, Gary!

How-to: The Potluck Dinner Party

Dinner parties can be daunting to most, but not so much for my circle of friends, we have mastered the potluck party.

Gone are the days of trying to impress, we like to make it easy on ourselves.

But first, the exception.

This was a little party for 6, I was thrilled to be there. This was on  Johnny’s side of the friendship circle. They’re younger and haven’t embraced the potluck schematic.

Our hosts worked entirely too hard.

I don’t mind, I really love being a guest.

Look at this beautiful table. It was so very nice to be pampered.

It was also delicious.

This is how we do our pot luck dinner parties:

We start a text thread with the intended guests.

We decide on a date.

Everyone gets an assignment or volunteers their latest food obsession.

 The host does the main entree, and usually something else. It’s important to take control of the menu, and curate the offerings. It really ups the deliciousness.

In my situation, with a catering kitchen at my fingertips, I usually do  the main, dessert, and my new thing, I make some bread.

These are sweet potato rolls from “Beard on Bread.” Tasty and oh, so easy. I actually had to make them twice. I use my oven as a proofer and I heated it but forgot to turn it off and went to the Farmer’s Market. I came back to a voluminous mass of half cooked dough. Oopsies.

We set the table, fill some water pitchers for the table, and try to remove all the dog hair from the sofa. (Try being the operative word.)

 My friend Gary does personal menus, and it’s super fun. This was a potluck brunch with a crazy delicious mushroom quiche as a centerpiece.

You can see the menus on the plate, so cute.

This is a delightful EXTRA, not a requirement.

Community contributions were smoked salmon and the fixings, vegan potato pancakes with fresh applesauce (I made those), tofu scramble and homegrown cara cara sliced fruit salad. There was also bacon, because brunch.

Gary makes the most delicious puntarelle salad, I can’t get enough. So we had that too, I would have been happy with just that!

I also brought my perfect caneles and imperfect thumbprint cookies.

What’s so delightful about keeping it casual?

Several things.

Your friends will help with dishes, and the dishes they brought will leave with them. (less to wash!)

Guests take care of themselves. They’ll move through the house as if they own the joint, getting their own beverages helping bus the table and making sure everyone tries their offering.

I love when guests take ownership of their culinary prowess, kitchen pride.

So do it, have your friends over for supper.

Assign them their part of the menu, and sweep up the dog hair.

We had our Silverlake posse over last night, we’ve been friends for over thirty years.

We laughed and laughed, talked about the state of the nation, future plans and of course, a little bit about the kids.

We all ended the night with full hearts and bellies and grateful for our time together.

When’s your next pot puck party?

How-to Happy Hour

My mother and her neighbors in Seattle, have a Happy-Hour every night at her house. She has her old-fashioneds, they bring their own booze, and she offers a little cheese and crackers. Sometimes they bring snacks, too. They hang for an hour or two, and then return to their homes for supper.

It’s a beautiful thing, and one that renders me forever grateful. Chef Ma is ninety, and it’s comforting to know her neighbors are with her daily, in all kinds of spirits!

In 2016, I started a monthly happy-hour here on Mccollum Street in her honor.

I’m happy to say it’s been a huge success.

It has substantially raised our vibration on the block!

For starters, we all know each other now, and we do stuff together, like check out the new local restaurants up on Sunset Blvd.

We walk!

After two years of hosting solely at Cottage Cook, I stopped.

Nobody noticed till March. First it was my Johnny.

Him: ” When’s the next Happy Hour?”

Me:  “I’m not doing it anymore.”

Him: “Why?”

Me: ” I’ don’t feel like it, it makes you grumpy, nobody helps and why bother?”

Him, with a bit of a whine: ” but I like the results.”

Me: shrug.

Then the neighbors started piling on. Asking me what happened, are we ever gonna do it again? Can they help? Suddenly there was a gaggle of neighbors outside on my corner trying desperately to resurrect the ritual. (Maybe I swooned a tad)

Someone suggested rotating houses and that was all I needed.

So I hosted in March (they are always the third Friday) and put out a sign up sheet.

And just like that, Happy hour was re-instated.

The week before, I deliver the flag and the lawn sign to the host.

I also do a print out of the schedule with hosting addresses and circulate it to the entire neighborhood. Many neighbors do not come, but the ones that do show up with gusto, libations, snacks and stories. These are the folks that are responsible for up-leveling our community vibe.

Last year we came together and cooked for a neighbor who needed us. She wasn’t a regular happy-hour attendee, but we all knew her and wanted to help.

Every three weeks for several months, we got together in my home kitchen and stocked her fridge with family favorites to make her life a little easier.

Neighbor (and now friend) Dana, got to show off her skills. I loved her labels that came so easily for her. The just fell out of her talented hands like magic.

So last November, I put out the sign-up sheet again. I made the flyers. I hosted November and December  so I could  encourage sign-ups.

A couple of regulars missed the sign-ups and several new hosts stepped in!

We’ve expanded two blocks in either direction, and just this past Friday we had a rousing good time at a new house on a new block.

Turns out, every hosts worries about the same thing.

Do I have enough food? Do I have enough booze? Will anyone come?

And you know what? It works out every time.

We all meet new people (and dogs)  in the neighborhood, and spread love.

Every single time, it’s a beautiful thing.

Let’s Have a KiKi Christmas 2019

“A kiki is a party
For calming all your nerves
We’re spilling tea and dishing just desserts one may deserve
And though the sun is rising
Few may choose to leave
So shade that lid
And we’ll all bid
Adieu to your ennui”

The Scissor Sisters “Let’s Have A Kiki”

It’s my thirty-fifth holiday season as a caterer.

WOW MOM!

I thought I’d drop a little advice on you, for making the most as a host in the upcoming months.  Let’s turn every party into a “KiKi!”

I love Christmas, mostly because glitter, but everything else, too.

Our holidays over here on McCollum street are homegrown, and we sure have fun.

We have a Christmas Eve feast with our extended tribe and then go caroling in the streets of Echo Park.

We are phenomenal. We don’t look like this.

I mean, seriously.

That is an actual snap of carolers for hire in Los Angeles. They were singing at one of my parties. Have you ever seen me sing?

I’m on the right…in the middle row…honestly…

It’s frightening.

Tip #1: Somebody, quick, pass me a cranberry cocktail!

In order to make a fancy large ice cube, you gotta freeze the bottom layer first, to secure the fruit or whatevs at the top of the cube and allow two days for the entire process, and a proper freeze.

Do you see the secure cranberries?

Tip #2: Another way to entertain with food that people love… SOUPS!

You can make a pot of soup with some crusty bread, and then curate a potluck around it.

Always, always tell your friends what to bring exactly.

It’s not being bossy, it’s being smart, with attention on delicious.

This is my sunshine ginger soup from my cookbook, with a chubby crouton.

Tip #3: Here’s a good one – Twelve Days of Appetizers!

Get all your buddies to bring an appetizer, invite twelve people, set out the bar and pre-heat the oven.

Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy!

Or call us, we love appetizers…

Cranberry Wonton, Mac & Cheese Bites, Pigs, Empanadas!! 

I’m not a fan of “Just Dessert” parties, because I eat myself into a coma. But I would love to give a shout out to my favorite autumnal delight.

Tip #4:  Try Caramel apples.

I did these with the little local apples, so cute.

Tip #4(A): I also like chocolate covered strawberries! Easy to procure and they don’t melt in the winter!

Tip #5: Don’t underestimate an old fashioned cookie exchange… Martha can help with that.

Tip #6:  For heaven’s sake, pull out all the sparkle!  It’s the most
wonderful time of the year!

Here’s a snap from our party –  I couldn’t do it without the help of all the kids, their mates and the hubs.

Our house is small but mighty when it comes to entertaining eighty people,  we make it work!  So sing a little song, drink a little drink and eat well this holiday season!

Holiday Menus 2019

We are getting there! The nights are cooler, the days are shorter. Let’s get ready for an L.A. winter and celebrate!

We love the holidays over here in the commissary, because… Parties!

Now listen to me, we make everything! These are simply my favorites of all time. I switch it up every year but winter for me is all of the following: roasted chestnuts, hard squash ( heirloom preferred!)  cranberries, brussel sprouts, and slow roasted meats.  How about you?  Do you see your favorite? Lest we forget…

Sticky Toffee Pudding!  Let the gaiety begin!

(then give us a call and book that date!)