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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fall Weather Inspires My Send-A-Friend Comfort Food Program

The Fall weather is slowly nestling its way into the northern California foothills. As the cooler temps slowly thaw the damage from my fried "90s plus" noggin, I put on my slightly wilted Martha Stewart hat (and apron to match). In my usual Martha-on-crack cooking frenzy, I whipped up a tasty vegetable lasagne yesterday (in between writing assignments). As a result of my Facebook post announcing my culinary masterpiece (it was quite delicious, I might add), friends surged my Wall begging and pleading me. They wrote messages such as: Convict an anodyne with passion (oh wait, that was something I wrote for an article). They asked me to Fed Ex the veg-lasagne their way. I wish I could wrap up my culinary delights and mail them to my friends across the miles. I love to cook for friends - red wine, hearty food and lively conversation - it's the Siciliana way!

Then it hit me! I could start a new phenomenon: The "Send-A-Friend Comfort Food" Program. I really needed this brainstorm in college (the million packages of Top Ramen didn't quite make the Julia Child mark). For all my kitchen-phobic friends (aka LAZY), I would enroll them in this specialized program in which they would receive one comfort food dish every other month. For an extra fee, I would make "personal home deliveries" to those friends residing close by to me. For those wanting me to travel long distances, they would need to provide me with a lear jet and/or a rock star bus (fuel and hot male kitchen staff included).

However, I decided to implement "qualifying" rules as to who was deserving and not-so-deserving of my new calling as personal-sous-comfort-chef to The Stars (I mean, My Friends):

1. If they make ONE complaint about any meal I send, they are automatically deleted from the database and they will never make my A-List again! (EVER!)

2. All friends will be scanned and any picky-eating habits will raise red flags (a probationary period might ensue).

3. If they post any pictures of me from grade school on Facebook or other incriminating pictures, they are automatically kicked out of the program.

4. If they have picky family members and they complain, their ungrateful spouses and kids are disqualified from the program. No questions asked.

5. If they think a sandwich is a meal, well, that's a given - not gonna go there.

6. They must know the secret handshake AND they must recite how James Bond likes his martini. If they cannot abide by these above rules, then as the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld would say: NO SOUP FOR YOU!

Anyone for some homemade Mac-n-Cheese?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Starting Over - When Natural Disaster Strikes...My Hometown

For those who haven't been following the news, a big fire hit my hometown (Auburn, CA) and luckily, I am safe and sound (and so are my family and friends). This isn't a rant or rave today but a heartfelt thank you to all the brave Cal Fire crews and the fire and police departments (and EVERYONE!) who pitched in to save lives and property last Sunday afternoon.

I encourage everyone to donate (in whatever way you can) and to please remain safe. There are fires raging across California right now. I know people who had to evacuate from their home for the second time (thinking of you, Lori, and your family - stay safe!)

I've recently heard insensitive comments from non-Californians about the California fires. They have no idea what it would be like to lose their home and all the memories tied to their homes. I think this comes from a) ignorance b) fear and c) just overall insensitivity and the "Oh it can't happen to me" syndrome.

A home is more than just possessions and I think people tend to forget that. Yes, insurance money can help you rebuild but it can't replace memories where people lived for 30 years or even two years.

I also thank my fellow Auburnites who are rallying together to help those in need who lost everything. I also want to thank the news crews who risked their own safety and reported on the fires (way to go, Mike TeSelle!).

I'm very grateful and thankful that I have a roof over my head today and that I didn't have to evacuate. When natural disaster strikes this close to you, it's a huge wake-up call and reminder as to what is truly important in your life.

For those who are oblivious and in denial about the dangers of fire, it's time to wake up and smell the fire (literally!) If you live an area where wildland fire is a risk factor, you can't be complacent. There wasn't any time to prepare for this fire that swept through Auburn but it gives people in this area a HUGE reminder as to the true danger of fire.

Last year, I wrote a story for the Placer Sentinel about last year's fire season. I learned a LOT about wildland fire. I view fire in a completely different way now (and also realize the hard work and danger that goes into fighting wildland fire). The Auburn fire could have been a LOT worst and people need to recognize the quick response from all emergency services crews. Yes, homes and businesses were lost and the devastation is very sad, but many homes were saved (including some of my friend's homes). When you add wind to wildland fire, it's scary (as many of us witnessed).

Auburn had a huge wake-up call on Sunday, but the town will rebuild. I admire the strength and bravery of those who lost their homes and evacuated with only the clothes on their back. I'm not sure I could be that brave but there is one thing about Auburnites - they have a fighting spirit and they will bounce back eventually from this devastating tragedy.

For those who are absorbed in your own bubble worlds - whether you live in urban or rural environments - natural disaster can happen and could happen to you and your family. I'm not writing this to scare people into being paranoid. The elements are sometimes stronger than us humans - and we need to be prepared.

My heart goes out to my fellow Auburnites, the families of the firefighters who lost their lives last week in the So. Calif. fires, and my friends who face more evacuations down in the southern half of the state.