Thursday, August 16, 2007

The World's Smallest Horse

Alison, who has been volunteering one morning a week at the Shea Therapeutic Riding Center here in San Juan Capistrano, told me that yesterday she saw the world's smallest horse, Thumbelina.

When she described it to me, I was pretty amazed, I must say.

Here are some facts about Thumbelina, from her very own website (where you can click on the Gallery button to view her beauty shots!):

• Thumbelina is a dwarf miniature horse.

• Thumbelina was born on May 1st, 2001 on Goose Creek Farms, a miniature horse farm
near St. Louis, MO.

• Goose Creek Farms maintains a herd of about 40-50 miniature horses and is owned by
Paul and Kay Goessling.

• At birth, Thumbelina stood about 11 inches tall and weighed about 8.5 lbs.

• Today, Thumbelina is a chestnut mare that stands 17 ½ inches tall and weighs 58 lbs.

• Thumbelina eats one cup of oats and a handful of hay in the breakfast and dinner.

• Thumbelina prefers to sleep in the dog house instead of her stall.

• Guinness World records certified Thumbelina as the “World’s Smallest Living Horse” on July 7th, 2006.

• Guinness has since certified Thumbelina as the smallest horse in history since they can find no record of anyone ever claiming to have a horse smaller than 17 ½ inches tall.

• The Thumbelina Charitable Foundation was established on January 2nd, 2007.

• The Thumbelina Charitable Foundation was created to channel the world’s affection for Thumbelina toward worthy children’s charities and the missions for which they strive.

• The Thumbelina Children’s Tour was launched on May 1st in Louisville, KY during
Derby Week.

• The goal of the Children’s Tour is for Thumbelina to visit sick and needy kids across the US and to raise $1M for children’s charities.

• The tour will run from May to November 2007.

Until next time...


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Attention All Foodies

When composer Craig Bohmler told us he was headed to Santa Fe, New Mexico, we recommended our favorite restaurant there: Santacafe.

All right, it's hard to call it our favorite when we haven't been back to Santa Fe in several years, but it was definitely the best food we ate there on a few visits. And since we purchased their cookbook (East Meets West) and have been preparing several of their dishes on numerous occasions, it's natural that we still feel attached to it!

Well, an e-mail from Craig confirms that not only is it still there, but still superb. I quote:

WOW!! We had the stuffed poblano pepper with quinoa* and the spinach/shrimp potstickers, calamari and then that yummy desert you served us! It was a great meal and impeccable service, so thanks for the recommendation.

The dessert he's referring to comes from their cookbook, and is called Asian Napoleon, frying wonton wrappers as the pastry instead of pastry dough, layering a lemon custard whipped cream between each wrapper, and surrounding it all with a raspberry coulis. During Craig's visit here, strawberries were in high season so I made a strawberry coulis. In the autumn, I typically make a cranberry coulis. A little confectioners sugar on top and a mint leaf garnish the dessert.

Speaking of cookbook recommendations, I've just made about a dozen dishes from a 25 year old cookbook we received free at a special promotional event in St. Petersburg, Florida, when I was working there. The Sheraton World Cookbook(Sheraton hotels--not Mimi Sheraton) is a compilation of favorite recipes from chefs at Sheraton Hotels around the globe. Over the years, we've tried some of the dishes and always liked them.

Well, I've been on a cooking rampage, and been plowing through recipe after recipe in this book, and there hasn't been a dud in the bunch. They are consistently good and, for the most part, not too complicated. We've had south Asian, middle eastern, north and south American and European dishes.

I believe the book must be out of print, but when I did a search, I found one on eBay, so I suspect you might be able to find one.

Bon appetit!


*PS--you notice Craig had quinoa at Santacafe? If you've never had it, it's a must. Remember when, a few years ago, couscous began taking the place of rice. The current trends I see are Israeli couscous and quinoa. Quinoa is a great starch--not truly a grain, but rather a nut, I've read. It needs to be rinsed a few times before cooking, but has a distinctive flavor that is well-tempered by strong main courses. Try it.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

"Quirked Around?"

I just received the September issue of Atlantic Monthly, which has an article by that title about public radio’s This American Life, a program I listen to occasionally and am fond of.

Author Michael Hirschorn’s thesis is that Americans have become seduced by “quirk,” which he describes as “indie sensibility.” (I call it Sundance disease, a hip obsession with the new and different.)

Hirschorn says that “as an aesthetic principle, quirk is an embrace of the odd against the blandly mainstream,” and cites examples of this, like the films Napoleon Dynamite, Garden State and Little Miss Sunshine. (I liked two out of those three, failing to understand the hoopla over Garden State).

And he attributes quirk’s founding to David Byrne in 1985: “halfway between his ‘Psycho Killer’ beginnings with the Talking Heads and his move to global pop.” (I’m not ready to concede this point, I’m afraid.)

Interestingly, he chooses This American Life as a prime example of “quirk” and he characterizes its host, Ira Glass, as “the avatar of contemporary quirk.” To Hirschorn, “Quirk is odd, but not too odd. That would take us all the way to weird, and there someone might get hurt….Correctly deployed, quirk yields unexpected treasures.”

Ultimately, his point is that “quirk” has its limitations: it’s also too “easy to achieve: Just be odd… but endearing.” And it’s far easier to make it work in short spurts, (like the sound-bite stories retold on This American Life), than in any sustained narrative form—where he believes it just gets tiresome.

That may be true, but it’s no less true that experimentation is practically an instinctual human desire and that artists crave to find a way to stand out from the crowd. The cutting room floors and garret wastebaskets are evidence that, more than not, the attempts are failures. But from the trial and error of a few brave (maybe foolharty or insane?) souls emerge some fascinating, different and, well, quirky things.

Until next time…


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Siren Song of the Coyote

For some time now, we’ve noticed that when emergency vehicle sirens are heard in the Capistrano Valley, within moments packs of coyotes begin yipping as if answering the call.

But today, Alison pointed out, for the first time, we first heard coyotes and then moments later emergency vehicle sirens echoed in reply!

How ‘bout that!

I once directed a workshop production of Sam Shepard’s True West many years ago. I later produced the piece at the Laguna Playhouse featuring artistic director Andy Barnicle as Austin, who hangs out at his mom’s vacant SoCal home (she’s on holiday) where he’s trying to hammer out a screenplay. The unexpected arrival of brother Lee, a cocky and violent drifter, provokes one of the sharpest, funniest and scariest dramas this great American playwright ever wrote.

I bring it up because I recall there being some sort of author’s note in the script alerting producers and directors that western coyotes don’t actually howl as they’ve been stereotyped to do. Instead, they are more like dogs with high-pitched yapping.

I thought nothing much of that until I arrived in San Juan Capistrano where we live adjacent to open spaces and hear the siren song of the coyotes in the hills above and the valley below us, day and night.

It’s awe-inspiring in its way to hear them from our home daily, but it’s also hilarious when the sounds of civilization can be so close to the natural sound of the coyotes that they feel compelled to respond.

Until next time…


Monday, August 6, 2007


I had to laugh when I read the following editorial in today’s New York Times:

Today’s paper was slimmer than usual—trimmed down to meet so-called national newspaper size guidelines. The Orange County Register did this some time ago, too. It’s primarily a means of saving money while still pretending not to be a tabloid.

This time of year, of course, the papers are slimmer than normal anyway. With readership down due to vacations and retailer advertisers biding their time for the back-to-school and Christmas season rush, the pages are fewer and fewer—even on Sundays.

Newspaper readership has been declining for some time anyway. One article I read the other day attributed it to television and radio news, but I believe the internet has far more to do with it. Instant news at your fingertips 24/7 means you need never be out of touch, and all the papers have their own websites, so you can get it free.

Much has been made of the “tactile” nature of newspapers as a means of suggesting they’ll never be obsolete. We reportedly crave the ability to hold a newspaper in our hands, sitting wherever we like. I can't say I've ever felt a need to consummate some sort of physical relationship with a newspaper--something unwieldly that gets ink onto my hands.

That being said, some traditions (should I say “habits”?) die hard, and I still subscribe to the New York Times and OC Register, trudging out to my driveway each morning to pick them up and plopping myself into my favorite chair to read them over morning coffee. I do wish I could slim down as quickly as the newspapers have, though.

Until next time…