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California’s Forgotten Central Coast

Paso from the air

Culinary author Brigit Binns calls the central coast area of California “Tuscany with cowboys.” And she’s so spot on—the central coast’s golden hills, oak forests, rolling vineyards, and limestone outcroppings still have a strong California-Mexico rancho character. If you’re driving through wine country, you may have to stop your car to let hundreds of bleating sheep and lambs cross the road in front of you, accompanied by their sheepherders and working collies. Occasionally you may come across a loose cow or pig that has escaped their enclosure and is happily taking a wander down the road.

The central coast is halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and stretches from the ritzy towns of Monterey and Pebble Beach through spacey, hippie-throwback Santa Cruz, down through hundreds of miles of wooded coastal highways to laid back Santa Barbara. But the heart of the central coast are the small, untrodden beach towns of Cayucos and Cambria, and the vibrant, Mediterranean-like wine communities of Paso Robles, Santa Ynez and Santa Maria. Continue reading

Tucson Non-Profits in Need of Garden Produce

Are you a Tucson gardener with an overabundance of fresh fruit or vegetables? These five food banks and shelters are in desperate need of assistance. Please take some of your backyard bounty to these locations.

Victor Hightower, the kitchen manager at Hospitality House, says, “We will gladly accept almost any food donations, as our needs are urgent and year round. Fresh produce, in particular, is rare and hard to come by, so any would be greatly appreciated!”

Casa Maria Logo

Casa Maria

Kitchen Address:  352 East 25th Street, Tucson

8.30—11.30 am DAILY   More information on how to donate and volunteer.

Grace St Pauls



Grace St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

Kitchen Address:  2331 E. Adams St, Tucson

9 – Noon DAILY

(520) 327-6857

Andrew Gardner, Pantry Team Leader at GSP, says, “Yes, we would take donations of fresh produce from gardeners.  Our level of need is on-going.  We’re open 5 or 6 days a week for three hours a day, and we serve approximately 80 households a week.  The best fruits and vegetables for us would be ones that won’t spoil within a few days.  Our demand for food that needs to be prepared varies as the number of homeless or precariously housed people fluctuates, and some days we serve people that don’t have any access to cooking facilities.  Given that, and that we have limited refrigerated storage space, if there is produce that won’t spoil quickly (e.g. citrus, squash, etc.) that would be best.”

 ICS Logo

ICS Food Bank

2820 W. Ina Road, Tucson

(520) 297-6049

9am -1pm, Mon-Sat.

Pickup for accumulated items available. Please call ahead.  More information about donations.

Hosp House Photo

Salvation Army Hospitality House

1002 N. Main Ave., Tucson

(520) 339-3479

More info about Hospitality House

Tucson NFP

Tucson Neighborhood Food Pantry

1603 S Eastside Loop (22nd & Pantano area)

4-6 pm Tu/Thurs/Sat  More ways that you can help

(520) 777-9629


CandleCage Takes Ambiance to a Whole New Height

If you’re a wine lover, you know how it starts. Everything starts small. A single bottle at a favorite winery you visited. Then the half-case discount. Then the wine clubs. Before you know it, your 24-bottle under-the-counter wine cooler is reserved for “drinking whites” and your collection is stored under the stairs or in the guest room.

For those of you that are graduating to an actual wine cellar—or if, like me, your entire home is an ode to wine—Mark Bloxwich at has a new “must have” for you. It’s big, beautiful, and romantic, like the wines in your closet.

The 5’10” wrought iron floor-standing candle holders are forged in the shape of wine bottles with custom designed iron work on the cage doors. Customers can choose from a variety of bottle shapes and can order custom iron work featuring their favorite labels, quotes or humorous comments. Each CandleCage holds up to a dozen large candles on a shelf the size of a serving tray, illuminating the custom art and lending an attractive (and safe) candlelight ambiance to any room.

Bloxwich came up with the idea originally as a birthday gift for his wife. “I’m terrible at gifting,” he said. “I once gave her a food processor, but she doesn’t cook.” He knew his wife loved candles and wine—particularly New Zealand sauvignon blanc—and so he set out to make her the most impressive iron candleholder and homage to wine he could. “As you do,” he said, “when you have no known engineering skills and you can’t even weld.”

He sought the help of a local welder in Thailand, where they lived at the time, and created the first CandleCage, which his wife still adores to this day. In fact, it was his wife Janette who suggested he make more. “She keeps trying to run off with the prototypes,” said Bloxwich.

Bloxwich eventually hired a Croatian engineer through an outsourcing site to create some proper drawings, and learned that the man’s entire family are engineers who own a small family-run ironworks and factory. CandleCages are now manufactured by hand in Croatia by the family-run business. Bloxwich travels to Croatia frequently to oversee design and production. Each CandleCage costs around $1,200 US, plus $250 for custom art. Orders may include tax and shipping.

The first CandleCages were released in August 2015 to a mainly E.U. audience. They are now available in the U.S. as well, and a few traveling samples are making the rounds on the East Coast.

CandleCages can take up to twelve weeks to arrive at U.S. destinations as they are too large and heavy for air delivery. But as Bloxwich points out, “These are beautiful heirlooms that will last for many generations, so they’re worth waiting for.”

A Well-Stocked Pantry Makes Quick Meals Easy


A well-stocked pantry makes preparing impromptu dinners much easier. In fact, quite a few classic, one-dish meals like risotto or homemade marinara call for basic ingredients like chicken broth or chopped tomatoes.

Here are some good pantry basics for fresh, quick dishes. If you have these items on hand, you will always be able to concoct a delicious meal with any simple cut of meat and a handful of vegetables.

Think of your pantry as having several “bins” for different types of food. You will want to have a supply of starches, canned vegetables and beans to back up your fresh supply, specialty ingredients, and a supply of excellent sauces and high quality spices.

Healthy Starches

My starch shelf leans heavily to rice: brown rice for every day eating (I even eat it for breakfast sometimes), jasmine rice for curry dishes and stir-fry, and arborio rice for those deeply soul-satisfying risottos.

You can also include pasta in your starch collection—linguine, fettucine and spaghetti are all great with impromptu pasta sauces. Penne and rotini work equally well with a pasta sauce or as an impromptu pasta salad with vegetables and olives.

Bread and baking products are also useful for quick meals. Dress up a cornbread mix with cheese and peppers and you’ve got a great combo for chili, omelettes or pork chops. Flour, bread crumbs and panko can be used to make all kinds of healthy snacks—one of my favorites is quick-browned onion rings. Just whip one egg, add enough flour to make a stiff dough (like cookie dough), and dial it back with a spoonful or two of water until it’s pancake consistency. Add some spices and a little panko some bread crumbs for crunch, slice a sweet white onion, drop the rings in the batter and coat them, and then carefully saute them until lightly browned in 2-3 tablespoons of canola, coconut or olive oil. Or avoid oil altogether by broiling them for 5-7 minutes in the oven. You can also batter avocados, steamed asparagus, and sweet pepper slices.

Vegetables, Beans and Broth

I like to make my own homemade broth, but I’ve always found it useful to have a ready supply of broths—chicken, vegetable and beef—on hand. You can make an impromptu soup from leftover rice, lentils and vegetables. Make a quick risotto with broth and arborio rice; risotto is a great way to use up odds and ends from the crisper.

Canned chopped tomatoes and tomato sauce go into pasta sauces, the crockpot, and make quick bruschetta toppings for bread, meats and omelettes.

I always keep a selection of dried and canned beans on hand for bean salads, soups, crockpot cooking and side dishes. I’ve used this quick salad when entertaining: Drain 1 can kidney beans, 1 can black beans, 2 cans corn niblets. Mix with 4-5 sliced green onions and ½ bunch of cilantro, chopped. If you like, throw in some colorful chopped sweet peppers or a few olives. Dress with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This is a hearty salad that feeds a lot of people!

Other canned vegetables that might come in handy are beets, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, hot peppers.

Specialty Ingredients

With these ingredients, you can always whip up a stylish salad, pizza, or pasta dish: sundried tomatoes, preserved artichokes, several types of olives, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chopped garlic, chili oil, Worcestershire sauce (dark and white), hoisin sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and capers.


Of course you’ve got to have the trifecta: Sea salt, whole peppercorns, and red pepper flakes. And there are so many variations—Hawaiian pink salt, French grey salt, Tellicherry peppercorns, lemon pepper, garlic pepper. And in the hot family, there’s cayenne, Hungarian paprika, and hundreds of spice blends to tingle your tongue.

Sample Foodcycle Letter to Non-Profits

Happy Volunteer

To initially search for hunger non-profits in your area, try using search terms like food bank, homeless shelter, women’s shelter, soup kitchen, and table ministry. Keep in mind that large food banks probably receive truckloads of fresh produce from large distributors like Feeding America. But smaller non-profits like shelters and table ministries often have a huge need for fresh produce, eggs and meat!

You can call or email, but non-profits are by their very nature, busy folks. They’re out there in the world actually doing good works–which means it can be very hard to speak to a decision maker by phone. Also, National Foodcycle Week is a new concept, and who likes to have a new idea plopped in their lap and then asked for a yes/no answer?

Happy KidFor those reasons, when communicating with non-profits, I find it faster, easier, and more organized to send an email explaining National Foodcycle Week, and listing the questions that will help us feature them and bring in the donations they really want or need.

Tip: If you cc: yourself on every email and then store the copies in a folder, you’ll have a record of everyone you contacted.

Here’s a template letter that you can use to send to food banks, pantries, churches, kitchens and shelters. Feel free to introduce yourself in the letter and customize it however you like.


Continue reading

How to Host a Foodcycle Event in Your Town

Would you like to host a Foodcycle Week or Event in your home town? It’s really very easy!

Loose veg
Five Steps to Start Your Own Foodcycle Week
  1. Contact us and we’ll supply you with a four-color flyer that you can customize to include the name(s) of the non-profit(s) that you’d like to support.
  2. Prepare a list of your local food banks, soup kitchens and shelters. Search online and just cut-and-paste the search engine results into a word processing document.
  3. Call through the list and ask each non-profit the questions listed below.
  4. Now just customize the flyer to include the name, address, phone number and website of each non-profit. Share the flyer with your friends, neighbors, school parents, coworkers, and church.
  5. Share your plans on Facebook, Twitter and other social media!
Questions to Ask
  • Will you take donations of fresh produce from gardeners?
  • What is your level of need–occasional or urgent?
  • Do you have special needs at certain times of the year, like holidays?
  • Is there any particular type of vegetable or fruit you need?
  • Are there certain days and times that you are open to receive produce?
  • Would you like me to email you a flyer to share with your mailing list?
  • Who am I speaking with, and what’s your position?
Want to Go Big?

That’s really all there is to it, but if you want to really go big, here are some other ideas:

  • Ask vendors at your local farmer’s market to hand out printed flyers
  • Contact local garden clubs and ask them to email your flyer to their members (you can find local garden clubs on Facebook)
  • Ask your local garden centers and home supply stores to hand out printed flyers and share your flyer in their customer newsletters
  • Create a press release or write an article and send it to your local newspapers, radio stations and television anchors. If you don’t know how, contact me ( and I will send you a custom press release for free.

And please remember to take LOTS of photos! Share them on social media and send them to me. I’ll share them here on my blog and my social media!

Garden veg


Learning Wine Varieties

Zin cheer

Just as a vanilla-colored Queen Anne cherry differs from a blood red Bing, winegrapes vary in color and flavor. Each type of grape has a distinctive flavor, and depending on where and how it’s grown, certain characteristics of the grape will become more pronounced. Winemaking techniques will also affect flavor, adding aspects of spice, pastry, or butter, and the amount of time a wine spends in oak will impart additional aroma and flavor to the fruit.

Basic wine varieties

White wines

Malvasia Bianca—A light crisp wine with floral aromas and a core flavor of grapefruit. Good chilled and served with salads or spicy seafood.

Sauvignon Blanc—A light wine with grassy aromas like fresh-mown hay or clover, and flavors of tart apple, kiwi, or citrus. Very good with summer time appetizers, green salads, pasta salads, and minimalist seafood.

Pinot Blanc—Similar to a chardonnay, pinot blanc has a deep blond color and creamy mouthfeel with a definite pear flavor.

Chardonnay—A pleasant workhorse of a wine, chardonnay has fruity aromasand a core flavor of apples. It’s made in a range of styles from those with minimal oak and bright fruit, to heavy oak or butter styles. It goes with a wide range of food, from hors d’oeuvres and salads to light meats and spicy pasta dishes.

Viognier—A tropical powerhouse, viognier is intensely fruity, and sometimes has a grassy finish. It generally has a high alcohol content, which in turn gives the wine a heavier mouthfeel that also appeals to red wine drinkers. The combination of high alcohol and fruit salad flavors sometimes makes the wine seem slightly sweet, even when it is technically dry. Served chilled, it can stand up to very spicy dishes.

Other white wines to try include pinot gris, roussanne, marsanne, and semillon.

Red wines

Pinot Noir—Although lighter in tannins than other red wines, pinot noir is packed with flavor. Its core flavor of pie cherry is accompanied by flavors and aromas of mushroom, hay, cinnamon, pastry and oak. Its gentler mouthfeel and intriguing flavors make it a versatile food wine, good with a wide range of dishes.

Sangiovese—A native of Italy, sangiovese can be slightly heavier than pinot noir, but also has a core flavor of pie cherry or wild berry, with earthy tones and a hint of spice. It ranges in style from light red and slightly tart to heavy spice-and-earth wines. Some producers blend in cabernet to give it mainstream appeal, but I love its brick red color and dancing gypsy flavors.

Merlot—A popular red wine with food, merlots range from light fruity styles to heavy, mountain-grown fruit with intense color that make deep, plummy wines. Softer and fruitier than cabernet and syrah, merlot is a great red wine for sipping and good with a variety of foods.

Zinfandel—The wild child of America, zinfandel is not widely produced in Europe. Its history is shrouded in confusion, but there is nothing confusing about its flavor. It has a standout core of raspberry and black pepper. Styles range from old vine zins with a brick red color and heavy peppercorn, to purple powerhouses with jammy plum flavors and very high alcohol. Generally served with red meats, grilled vegetables and pungent cheeses.

Cabernet Sauvignon—Cabernets and syrahs are heavier reds that age gracefully. Cabernet has a luscious mouthfeel with a core flavor of black cherry or plum, and hints of licorice, herbs or violets. The best cabernets are not over-oaked, so you can taste the layers of flavor and enjoy its intriguing bouquet. Its rich, delicious flavors are great for sipping and relaxing, and also excellent with red meats, rich sauces and potatoes.

Syrah—Machismo flavors of blueberry, beef, smoke and licorice, this robust red wine is great with hearty cuts of meat, grilled lamb, and blue-veined cheeses. Australian producers call it shiraz.

Other popular red wines include cabernet franc, petite syrah, mourvedre, grenache and barbera.

Sparkling wines can be made from either red or white varieties, and sometimes red and white are blended together to make a sparkling rosé.  Inexpensive and delicious Italian sparklers can be found in most wine stores — ask for Lambrusco (red) or Prosecco (white).


John Riggs, Red Wing Ranch

John Riggs“There is truth in following your dreams. There is truth in believing in yourself. ”

Today John Riggs stopped by to drop off some research materials for Red Wing Ranch, and we got to chatting under my pomegranate tree, and as always he blew me away.  These comments were not rehearsed, they just bubble up out of John. This is really how he talks.

John is building an eco-community in Willcox, Arizona centered around a vineyard, winery, equestrian center, resort and horse rescue ranch. Of the 1,000 acres set aside for this project, 75% will be dedicated to wildlife preserves and corridors. Equestrian trails lead out into the Chiricahua Mountains, and grass fed beef will graze the mountain pastures surrounding the project. The remaining acres will be developed into a string of smart eco-villages, some in traditional but friendly cul-de-sac neighborhoods, and some as cohousing neighborhoods, where everyone participates in growing food and maintaining their community.

What I learned today is that John grew up outside of Willcox on one of the many Riggs Family ranches in southern Arizona. His mother contracted polio when he was 7. Determined to get an education, she pursued a degree in architecture from her wheelchair, remotely.  And when I say ‘remotely’ I mean there was no transportation, there was no internet. His mother educated herself through correspondence courses. John learned drafting, drawing and building by drawing and playing with Lincoln Logs at her feet. “I always liked doing things with my hands,” he said. “And Mom encouraged that in me.”

The family ranch was 30 miles outside of Willcox, so his mother designed a home she hoped they would build in Willcox by the time John was in high school. But she passed away when John was 12, and the house was never built. John attended a one-room schoolhouse through eighth grade, and he was the only student in his grade. When he was ready for high school in Willcox, he stayed with an aunt “on a somewhat irregular schedule.”

When I said oh gee, I remember riding the bus to school from the countryside, he shook his head and said, “There were no buses. The elementary teacher’s husband had a station wagon and he would drive around and pick us up.”

This is the one room schoolhouse where John Riggs attended school. It was built by the Riggs Family.

This is the one room schoolhouse where John Riggs attended school. It was built by the Riggs Family.

John remembers clearly that the high school library had one book on architecture. Just one.

“I already knew I wanted to be an architect,” he said.  “I was among the freshman class of the first School of Architecture at Arizona University.  There were 54 students in that class, and 7 of us graduated.”

John founded the first Tucson architectural firm, Architecture One. He has designed and developed over 2,000 properties, from homes to university complexes. His design style reflects and honors the Tucson desert and its sky islands, always incorporating elements of the land, sky, botany and wildlife that he knows and loves.

John has been working on his plan for Red Wing Ranch for 10 years. He has a personal and abiding passion for preserving his family heritage and a way of life that many have forgotten.

The Tejido Group at the University of Arizona has created a gorgeously illustrated hardbound report for the first cluster of housing, called The Mare Pasture.  Housing development plans include edible landscaping, community gardening, hydroponic farming, wetland preserves, footpaths, solar-powered golf cart transportation, solar-voltaic power, waste water processing through wetlands, and protection of  Native American ruins on the site.

I think we can all safely assume that if John Riggs says this is his dream, it will come true.


Dumped for a Diva – Dealing with Midlife Crisis


Everyone is familiar with the concept of the mid-life meltdown. Males are particularly susceptible and we all seem to know someone who has dumped an adoring wife and family to start life anew with a twenty-year-old diva. Being dumped from a long-term relationship for a younger woman is an excrutiatingly painful breakup process. Generally, the dumped spouse is taken entirely by surprise. And the husband finds fault with minor character traits in his spouse in order to justify his choices and his behavior. The abandoned spouse suffers shock, damaged self-worth, abandonment, and fear—made all the worse by the daily reminder that she was so quickly and easily replaced by someone that, ironically, she once was—a vital, youthful, twenty-something babe.

Dr. Debra Mandel, author of Dump That Chump and Healing the Sensitive Heart, addresses some of the causes and symptoms of an approaching male mid-life crisis.

“For men, mid-life is often a time of self-reflection and re-evaluation of successes and failures,” says Dr. Mandel. “It’s often a time of crisis because they base their entire self-worth on whether or not they believe they have made mark in the world. Those who are secure within themselves and have healthy self-esteem will pass through this developmental milestone without too much stress or chaos. However, those who feel they have fallen short of their own expectations or projections may go through what’s commonly known as a mid-life crisis.”

“During this stage, it’s imperative for a man to take an honest inventory of himself and re-create his goals for the future, hopefully to include more time with his wife and family and to make room for new activities that create physical and emotional closeness. However, more commonly a man in this crisis will distract himself from the task at hand and focus more on making himself feel younger instead of embracing the aging process. Sometimes these distractions are relatively benign, as in the guy who decides to get in the best shape he’s ever been in and climb Mt. Whitney, but for others these distractions can add insult to injury, as in the guy who cheats on his wife with a woman half his age so that he can feel like a stud once again.”

While it is possible to feel younger and more vital at any age, it is almost impossible to achieve that state if one is in a state of denial. “Sadly, those who don’t face the crisis head-on and deal with the internal work will often end up dumping their intimate partners on a perpetual quest for reversing the aging process.”

“Women who’ve been dumped by a guy in a mid-life crisis would do best to avoid personalizing what isn’t personal. In other words, unless she’s been a poor relationship partner in the marriage (if she’s been emotionally unavailable, has been excessively critical or judgmental, has been withholding), then she must recognize that she is not responsible for his decisions or choices. She should hold her head high and allow him to look like the fool. She can be forgiving and encouraging of him to find his way but not allow herself to get trampled on or treated like a doormat.”

“Sometimes, if he’s really worth it, a try at couples therapy may be useful, to help him find his path back to actually healing the crisis rather than giving in to it.”

When asked how to avoid the trap of anger in this situation, Dr. Mandel advises, “Anger is essentially a secondary emotion used to protect ourselves from the primary and more vulnerable feelings of hurt and sadness. Anger is only useful in the moment that we are being offended or assaulted to serve our fight-and-flight reactions when there is real danger. Otherwise, it’s wasted energy and it’s like swallowing poison and waiting for the other guy to die.”

“We can avoid anger traps by taking a deep breath, exhaling the anger and asking ourselves what other feelings are going on and then dealing with those feelings. Of course it hurts to be dumped, but it hurts a lot worse to stay angry and not move on. Do the grieving, recognize what you have responsibility for and make changes in yourself when necessary to prepare for a better relationship in the future.”

“Also,” she warns, “keep in mind that a mid-life crisis rarely comes out of the blue. Usually there are a few warning signs along the way and these are opportune times to try to prevent disaster before ending up in divorce court.”

Here are some of the warning signs:

  • He starts spending more time with his friends.
  • He starts making new friends and doesn’t include you.
  • He takes up a new hobby, often a riskier one than usual.
  • He starts obsessing about his appearance and doing things to make himself younger.
  • He seeks more attention from the opposite sex.
  • He becomes less interested in your opinion and more interested in the opinions of his juniors.

“If you see any of these signs, try to have a conversation with him letting him know that you’d like to be there with him through this time and how you can make your relationship stronger. Offer to try new things with him, tell him how sexy and vibrant he his, and make him feel special.”

The Healing Power of Food and Friends

In the aftermath of a divorce or loss it is tempting to retreat from the world in order to hide one’s sorrow from our friends and family. And after a separation, a couple’s friends tend to split up according to their loyalties.

“In my case, my ex-spouse kept the house and business, and since most of our friends were also industry associates they have gravitated to him, and I stopped seeing or hearing from friends just when I needed comfort the most,” says Marta in San Francisco, California (US). “Fortunately a few acquaintances had decided to start a monthly dinner group. They insisted I attend, and although I was reluctant at first, I am very glad I did. I have met some interesting people, been offered wonderful opportunities, and I had the chance to unload some woes on kind ears.”

Cooking and sharing meals as a form of emotional communion is a two-way street; it benefits both the giver and receiver. People enjoy turning to food as a way to connect with friends and neighbors after a divorce, separation or loss. One does not need to be an accomplished cook to use food as a healing connection—even sharing a simple meal of take-out Chinese can be therapeutic.

But if you can cook—or you have always wanted to learn how—conjuring up a warm meal can be very healing because it fills a void; because it employs the mind; and because it is a way of recreating past memories and experiences.

Linda in Brooklyn, New York (US) says, “I was awake at 3:00 in the morning trying to be with my grief when I turned on the television and saw an old rerun of Julia Child. I have been obsessed ever since. I’ve always found baking to be very meditative and calming. I enjoyed being able to create happiness for myself and my friends, and have a focus.”

Abby in Exton, Pennsylvania (US) said, “Everyone thought I was nuts, but were it not for the ritual of weighing ingredients, creaming butter with sugar, cutting parchment paper, and hovering near the oven to make sure I turned things around halfway through, I would have had a nervous breakdown.”

Irma Rombauer self-published the first Joy of Cooking in 1931 with the small insurance payout she received after her husband committed suicide during the Great Depression.

In her book, Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life, New York Times food writer Kim Severson reveals her professional and personal struggles, which included failed relationships and alcohol addiction.   The only thing she could always rely on was her “ability to go to the kitchen, turn on the stove and feed someone.”

Even if you are a hopeless cook, allowing your friends to feed you can be a boon for them as well. It lets them offer support and sympathy without being intrusive, and it reassures them that you are going to be all right.

Ken in Seattle, Washington (US) says, “We’ve kept our friend going. I don’t think he’d eat anything at all if it weren’t for dinners at our place. That’s how we knew there was something wrong, in fact—we hadn’t seen either of them in a while and then he showed up at our door, alarmingly thin. Making sure he gets fed has been good for all three of us.”

In her book The Relaxed Kitchen, author Brigit Binns talks about discovering that her husband was cheating on her, her subsequent flight (literally and emotionally) from Spain to Los Angeles, and the difficulty of starting a new life in a strange place, alone. “I attacked the chore of fitting into a culture I’d left behind ten years before. Bagged salad greens and cordless phones seemed like magic. I hadn’t been on a date in ten years.” Binns set about turning her back patio, a simple concrete block and cement space, into a shady venue surrounded by potted bougainvillea and tomatoes where she could entertain and cook for friends.

But one need not be a gourmet cook to enjoy the preparation and communion of food. Keep the menu simple. Choose dishes that can be prepared well ahead of time and served cold, or gently warmed. Buy prepared dishes from the market to supplement one or two homemade dishes. Then relax and enjoy the company of your friends. And remember, they need you as much as you need them.

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