Kitchen bitchin



Now that we’ve moved to a somewhat bigger house-with cupboards for pots and pans, counter space for ingredients, and a garbage disposal and dishwasher to assist with clean up-I’m running out of excuses not to cook.

Back at the old shack, I used to pretend we were camping, which made the spiders and the dirt more palatable, and my family’s regular diet of takeout burritos and Costco chicken almost justifiable. After all, we were roughing it.

But now that I’ve rescued 300 wedding guests worth of kitchen appliances, cookware, and gadgets from storage, and miraculously found homes for them in our new place, I can no longer plead “unsuitable conditions for food preparation” as a reason not to cook.

I need a new excuse.

See, I’ve got a theory: the cooking gene skips a generation. My mom is an awesome cook. If you ask my son, even her toast is more “dee-licious” than mine. Therefore I was destined to suck in the kitchen.

It’s my Grandma Sylvia’s fault. She was such a bad cook that, according to family legend, she would regularly throw away entire dinners she had ready on the table when my Grandpa came home from work, took one look at the meal, and suggested they go out to eat.

So my mom developed her culinary gifts, at least in part, as a defense against her own mother’s scorched casseroles and burnt briskets. And I never learned to do much in the kitchen because my mom had it under control, and then some.

I am hoping that my kitchen incompetence will give Koss an epicurean incentive. Something good has got to come out of my gastronomic ineptitude-other than a goldmine’s worth of business for Giovanni’s Pizza, that is.

I guess it’s a good sign that Koss is obsessed with the Food Network shows, although most of his favorites seem to involve dangerously fast chopping, strange facts about food, and lighting pyrotechnic cakes on fire, rather than learning any recipes that could be created in our kitchen.

My old kitchen endured a few pyrotechnics-and I don’t mean campfires-but the Food Network will not be filming anything here, unless it’s a comedy.

Despite the scorch marks on my ceiling, I just can’t get all that fired up about cooking. I’ve always been this way. My husband isn’t much help either. He’s fine on the barbecue, as long as there’s only one thing to cook at a time. But it took him six years to master baked potatoes.

Even in our early married days, when we had a nice, big, well-stocked kitchen, and a lot more time on our hands, the most useful “recipe card” we had was the phone numbers of all the local takeout places.

On the plus side, my husband knows I cook like Stevie Wonder. One of my best recipes is to make something awful, have him make even the slightest negative remark-“is this supposed to be the color of veins?”-burst into tears, and voila! No cooking for at least a month.

I wonder if I could send in that strategy to respond to the email I just got titled, “Yippee, another chain recipe swap?”

Yippee indeed.

Not only am I now equipped with pots, pans, and casserole dishes in the new place, but when my neighbor came over to introduce herself, she offered: “You’ll love this neighborhood. We do a potluck every week during Monday Night Football season.”

Oh boy, another cooking opportunity.

I’ll bring the cocktails.

When Leslie’s not slaving away in the kitchen, she can be reached at email . Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on January 30, 2009.

Can we talk about texting



I’m as addicted to my iPhone as the next gal, but when history is happening, I turn off the phone and pay attention.

A group of us gathered at a friend’s store to watch Barack Obama’s Inauguration this week. It was festive, it was fun, it was emotional and it was the experience of a lifetime.

I was proud to be an American-and I was horrified to witness one of the other party guests texting his way through the ceremony. This was an incredible moment in history, something to tell our grandchildren about. He was obviously interested enough in the inauguration to get up early that morning and come to the party to watch it, so what’s it going to take to make him put away the phone for a few minutes?

This guy wasn’t even a teenager, so I can’t attribute his extra long thumbs (otherwise known as texting-itis) to a generational adaptation. My friend Albert is also squarely middle-aged, and yet he texted his way through a concert at the Granada the other night.

What it is up with that anyway?

Are we really so addicted to our gadgets that there has to be a law to stop people from texting while driving? My first reaction when I saw the signs about the new law outlawing texting while driving was a big fat “duh.” But I’m starting to think it might really be needed.

I read in the LA Times recently that Americans now send about 75 billion text messages a month and I’m okay with that.

Really, I am.

Texting is an excellent way to contact a friend late at night without worrying about waking them up. Or it’s a great tool to communicate information without taking time out to have a conversation.

But when real life is going on-especially big, important, historic moments in real life are going on-the cell phones should be turned off. No debate, no discussion, no exceptions, no texting.

Even small, insignificant moments in real life should take priority over texting. I can’t remember the last time I had dinner with my teenage nephews and they weren’t texting under the table.

On occasion, I used to have to say, “Hey my eyes are up here,” to keep leering eyes from staring at my cleavage. Now I have to say, “Hey my eyes are up here,” to stop them from staring at their cell phone screens.

Granted, that may be more of a comment on the current state of my cleavage than anything else, but still, I think we need some simple text-etiquette lessons.

If there’s something significant going on that you’ve gathered together with others to experience, then put away your cell phone. This goes for presidential inaugurations, rock concerts, movies, and dinners with families and friends.

If you’re operating heavy machinery, then focus on the ten tons of steel you’re controlling, not the three ounces of plastic keyboard that can easily wait until break time.

It’s none of my business if you want to spend a significant fraction of your 1,440 minutes a day checking the number of pokes and prods you got on Facebook, but that’s not how I want to spend my time. So, if there’s another person across from you-especially if it’s me-give them your attention, not your cell phone.

And not your land line either, for that matter. It really irks me when I go to the trouble to go to a store, in person, and the person working there stops helping me to answer the phone.

It also really irks me when I go to the trouble to have dinner/lunch/coffee with a friend, and the person stops our conversation to answer the phone or respond to a text.

Yes, I understand that there are emergencies with kids and work, cars that need to be serviced and deals that need to be closed, and if you really need to take the call or respond to the message then I’ll still be your friend, but the proper response to such an interruption is, “excuse me.”

Even “xq me” is better than simply treating the flesh and blood people you’re with as less important than whoever is trying to connect with you on the phone.

So in answer to that text you just sent me, “Y r u mad @ me?” I’d really like to look you in the eye and say, “because you’re being rude,” but hey, my eyes are up here.

When Leslie’s not ranting about cell phones she’s really a very pleasant person who can be reached at For more columns visit Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on January 23, 2009.

Surviving the move



I’m not a pack rat-I’m more of a pack mule.

But as we move to our new nest this weekend, I’m determined to shed some of those splintery twigs and raggedy feathers I’ve been hauling around for too long.

With that end in mind, this week I’ve been playing a not-so-fun game of “What in the world was I thinking?” as I struggle to pack up all of our worldly possessions and move about a mile away from the shack we’ve been residing in for the past eight years.

You would think that living in extremely tight quarters would have already inspired me to downsize considerably. You would think that a person who lives and works in a seven square foot space-that she has to share with a husband and small child, who also have a little bit of stuff-would realize that keeping five copies of every issue of the newspaper she worked for four years ago is a little bit impractical-not to mention a fire hazard.

You would think that a person like that might have thrown away the double prints of the blurry outtakes from her son’s first birthday or the once funny cards from her own 30th birthday. You would think that a person like that might not have kept the snack schedule from the 2004 t-ball season, the takeout menu from a favorite Thai restaurant that’s been shuttered since 2005, the Axxess Book catalog from 2006, and the cell phone charger from 2007.

Getting rid of those things years ago would have been logical. I also should have gotten rid of the twelve years of scrapbooking magazines I’ve had taking up shelf space, the unflattering day glow green sweater I wore once, and the really cute brown boots that make my feet scream-and not in a good way.

What in the world was I thinking keeping all of this stuff around?

It’s long past time for us to move. I would never have agreed to move into the shack in the first place if I thought it would take eight years to get out. Then entropy and poverty set in. Plus the rent was cheap and the school district was good and until recently, we were winning the battle against the termites and all of the ancient light fixtures were still working and the shower wasn’t leaking onto the floor of my closet.

What in the world was I thinking keeping all of this stuff around?

Somehow it took getting a demolition notice to get us moving. And when I say moving, I mean moving with a really quick deadline, to get me to get rid of all this stuff. I guess I’m just a deadline-driven kind of gal. I like deadlines. I never miss a deadline. Seriously, ask my editors. I might ask for an extension every once in a blue moon, but I NEVER miss a deadline.

Deadlines give me structure and discipline and a reason to get out of bed. I just have to think of moving like a deadline for a really huge project that I’ll be really happy about once it’s over.

Of course, unlike finishing a magazine article, a book, or even filling out insurance forms, I’ll have less money when I’m done moving-not to mention even more work to do once I get to the new place.

Let’s face it, I’ll be happy to “have moved,” but moving itself is pure hell. It’s as if some masochist combined the worst elements of torture, dust allergies, scavenger hunts, paper cuts, and physical aches and pains into one brutal, emotionally punishing, very expensive episode. Not to mention that once the packing is done there are hours of lifting, dragging, kicking, screaming, hoisting and herniating to look forward to.

Plus, did I mention the paper cuts? I really hate the paper cuts.

Did you know an estimated 42 million Americans move each year? There’s a whole Google’s worth of insightful information, like, “Moving is one of the most stressful times in a person’s life.” (No kidding?) Or helpful tips like, “Put all boxes into one room so you don’t have to run around the house like a madman on the big day.” (If I could put all my boxes in one room then I wouldn’t have too much stuff now, would I?)

I wish I could say that I was the only one in my family with too much stuff. Unfortunately I discovered a graveyard for outdated computers and stereo equipment in my husband’s home office. So what if that old laptop doesn’t work anymore, it still serves an important purpose-covering the stain on the carpet made by the leaky lava lamp he was going to fix “someday.”

My son has an archive of smiley face notes from his first grade teacher, Dum Dum Pops wrappers he was saving to get x-ray glasses, and beach debris he was planning to sell to Grandma “someday.”

But that’s okay because by Saturday morning all of those items will be carefully packed and labeled in boxes, and by Saturday afternoon they’ll be in our new house.

I hear it’s a great garage sale neighborhood.

When Leslie can locate her computer, and cable guy comes to hook up the Internet “between Monday at noon and the next solar eclipse” she can be reached at Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on January 16, 2009.

Noozhawk Talks: Leslie Dinaberg sits down with Maria Herold

Maria Herold, longtime curator of the Montecito Association’s history committee, is an enthusiastic resource for those conducting obscure research or exploring land-use background. (Elite Henenson / Noozhawk photo)

Maria Herold, longtime curator of the Montecito Association’s history committee, is an enthusiastic resource for those conducting obscure research or exploring land-use background. (Elite Henenson / Noozhawk photo)

As longtime curator of the Montecito History Committee, Maria Herold knows-
literally-where the bodies are buried and the tales behind some of the most
storied families and legendary estates. Here she sits down with Leslie Dinaberg
to discuss some of her own history.

Leslie Dinaberg: How did you get involved with the Montecito History Committee?

Maria Herold: When I retired I decided that I would like to do something useful and I looked
around. I first looked into Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, and I wasn’t quite
ready for their structure. I had heard that somebody was needed up here, so I
dropped in and have been here ever since. (Laughs) I just showed up!

LD: And when was that?

MH: I think about 1991.

LD: What did you retire from before that?

MH: Well, immediately before that I took care of babies … I wasn’t looking for a
job, but people asked me to take care of their babies because the hours were
perfect, my husband was a teacher and most of the people who asked me to
take care of their babies were teachers.

LD: Has history always been an interest of yours?

MH: Absolutely, because of the fact that my family has been involved with the
history of California and that has always been in the back of my mind. My
grandfather immigrated to America in 1873 and first worked in Sonoma County
and then settled in Northern Santa Barbara County and worked as a supervisor
on an old Spanish land grant.

He went back to Switzerland after he had worked here for 30 years. I was born in
Switzerland, and then I came to America when I was 16. He came when he was
15 and I came when I was 16. He came walking over the Isthmus of Panama and
I came on a freighter through the Panama Canal-so that’s history.

LD: Did you come with your family?

MH: Yes. The whole family came. … (My father) decided that instead of going to
the Santa Maria area, where he was born … he looked for the nearest place that
had a college and at that time there was a little college up on the Riviera so we
came here because of the college on the Riviera. I was the oldest child and he
wanted to be able to send me to college locally.

LD: You have an interesting history so I can see where your interest comes from.
What kinds of things do people come to the Montecito History Committee to

MH: Everything from what is the story of my house or who is the architect or how
come my house is the way it is, to I heard about the Para Grande, or I heard
about the San Ysidro Ranch. Or I heard about somebody from New York who is
following a history of a person who started out in Europe, went to New York and
then ended up dying in Santa Barbara and inspiring a story of the ghost of a
countess in a local house. It gets that elaborate.

Then, of course, people who want to know the history of a street or of a property
that they want to buy. Or there is a legislation or development and, if they’re
smart, they come here and see what the history is. There are very few people
who are smart, but they manage to keep me busy, very, very busy.

I wish more people would come in because it is always ignorance that causes
problems, legal and otherwise. And in the community it creates a great deal of
problems where people are really not well informed on the history of Montecito.
And the same thing in Santa Barbara, the same thing in Goleta. If people knew
the histories there would be much less confrontation.

LD: Do you have a favorite project you’ve been involved with?

MH: I love it that the Pearl Chase Society once gave a mandate to a lady that
they were giving grants to look into part of the history of Montecito. And they
funded this lady, not me because I’m a volunteer, I don’t take money, except for
as a gift to the History Committee. But they funded this lady to work with me in
putting together a history of a particular section. We picked this section of
Montecito and looked into it in detail, starting with a map from 1871 and then
following the history of that section up to the present time. It was a fascinating
project. It took us months and literally months and months but it ended up in two
ring books of information with lots of pictures and everything else.

LD: What part of Montecito did you look at?

MH: We looked at the area between Jameson Lane (south), San Ysidro Road
(west), Hixson Road and Santa Rosa Lane (east) and Santa Rosa Lane (north).
That encompassed old farmland that had been well known farms in the 1870s
and 1880s and 1890s and also included one of the two most historic parts of
Montecito, which is Romero Hill. So we got all kinds of background with Romero
Hill and with the farming community and now having developments, so we have
everything there on how it developed since 1871.

LD: Do the other local libraries know about your resources?

MH: It depends on who they talk to at the library … I do know that UCSB is
aware of us, the Santa Barbara Historical Society sends us people all the time,
people who come into the library and say what should I do to find out about this
and that and something else, the librarians here (at the Montecito Library) send
me people all the time. So between the Santa Barbara Historical Society and the
local library we have a lot of referrals. Also there seems to be somehow people
seem to have become aware somewhere on the Internet of our existence
because I’ve had calls from all over the continent.

LD: What is the oldest structure in Montecito?

MH: What they call the Monsignor Adobe, which is a misnomer, but everybody
calls it the Monsignor Adobe. It’s a two-story Monterey and was built long before
the Monterey Adobe was built … The Monsignor Adobe is the most classic
building, I adore it. And yet it is the oldest building that’s still excellent.

LD: And what street is it on?

MH: It’s on the bottom of Sheffield Lane where Sheffield runs into North Jameson
Lane and it’s a land marked house.

LD: This sounds like very fun and very interesting work for you.

MH: Yes, but a lot of work. I would dearly adore having a helper.

LD: It seems like there should be a college student that would be

MH: Well, you know, people keep telling me that I should get involved with
Westmont students, etc. but the thing is they leave after a year, so all that is lost.
The continuity is shot down. What I need is an apprentice who will take over
because I’m not going to last forever.

LD: You’re still going strong, though.

MH: I’m 76 years old. Start counting (laughs).

LD: What else do you do like to do when you’re not volunteering at the historic

MH: For a long while I worked at Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, which I
adored, just adored. But I can’t do it anymore. I’ve had several operations for
cancer so this is quite a trip. I used to work hours and hours over there and I just
loved it, but I can’t do it anymore. Then I’m involved with music all the time, I
always have been. I’ve been an accompanist and stuff like that. I’m still a
member of a choir, I sing with a group every Sunday but this is strictly amateur
music, but I’ve always done music.

LD: So is your group you sing with a church choir?

MH: No, it’s just a group that gets together, we all can read music, we get
together and we sing what is called early music, a capella early music and we
don’t perform, we do it for the fun of exploring early music.

LD: That’s really fun. That’s a great little local activity. If you could pick three
adjectives to describe yourself, what would they be?

MH: Old-fashioned, excitable, and enthusiastic.

Vital Stats: Maria Herold

Born: August 14, 1932, in Zurich, Switzerland.

Family: Husband George Herold; six grown children, Ann Herold, Matthew
Herold, Tina DaRos, Mark Herold, Monica Christensen, and Joseph Herold; eight
grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Civic Involvement: Volunteer curator with the Montecito History Committee, very
active with Mount Carmel Church, former volunteer for Recording the Blind and

Professional Accomplishments: Runs the Montecito History Committee archives;
formerly took care of babies in her home.

Best Book You’ve Read Recently: The Zookeeper’s Wife, by Diane

Originally published in Noozhawk on January 12, 2009. Click here to read the story on that site.

Giving Back: Chuck Slosser

Chuck Slosser (courtesy photo)

Chuck Slosser (courtesy photo)

With the same engaging grin and focused attention that have pried philanthropic purse strings loose since he came to town in 1981, Chuck Slosser says he’s excited to tackle retirement after 18 years as executive director of the Santa Barbara Foundation.

What an amazing ride it has been. When Slosser, now 66 took the helm of the Santa Barbara Foundation–Santa Barbara County’s largest private source of funding for nonprofit programs–it had a staff of three, roughly $30 million in assets, and was giving out a few million in scholarships and grants a year.

Compare that to today’s foundation–under Slosser’s leadership, it now has a staff of 23, more than $300 million in assets, and donates about $27 million each year. He’s justifiably proud, but still ready for a slower pace, saying, “I thoroughly enjoyed the foundation and the work that we’ve done here and the great things that have happened in the community as a result. I’ve never objected to the 9 to 5, but it’s really the 5 to 9.”

Slosser and his wife of almost 38 years, Stephanie, who retired from UC Santa Barbara’s biology department three years ago, plan to travel, play golf and do yoga. He’s also interested in playing more basketball (he’s got a regular game at the Boys and Girls Club), taking Spanish lessons, picking up a guitar and a dissertation that have been collecting dust, and perhaps doing some consulting. He smiles. “I really do feel like a kid in a candy store. I want to do that, and I want to do that, and I can’t wait.”

Clearly, Slosser is a man with many interests, which is why the diverse Santa Barbara Foundation was “a dream job come true.” With an infinite variety of grant recipients–Music Academy of the West, Page Youth Center, Special Olympics, Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse, Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, Red Cross, St. Vincent’s, Legal Aid, Transition House, Girls Inc. and Wildlife Care Network, to name a few — the foundation was a perfect place for this Renaissance man.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Magazine in January 2009.

This year I resolve to

resolutionsI make my New Year’s resolutions daily. I just strive to be a better person and I always believe in karma.Jay-Z

Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right. Oprah Winfrey

A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.Leslie Dinaberg’s South Coasting Column, 2004

Like many ridiculously optimistic and otherwise rational people, I always take some time at the end of December to reflect on my accomplishments of the past year and set goals for the next one. The idea is to come up with a list of goals that will help transform me into a kinder, nicer, more organized, healthier, richer person with a better figure, a well-behaved family, and a much cleaner house.

Okay, so maybe my 2008 accomplishments weren’t all that stellar, but a look back at the history of my New Year’s resolutions tells me that at least I’m continuing to make some progress every year.

Resolution #1

1988: I will get back to the weight on my Driver’s License.

1997: I will get back to my weight when I got married.

2005: I will follow my new diet religiously until I get back to my pre-pregnancy weight.

2009: I will try to develop a realistic attitude about my weight, focus on getting healthy, buy myself pretty clothes and develop my personality. (Confession: I’d like to take credit for this line, but truthfully it’s what my father said about me the first time he saw me when I was an hour old.)

Resolution #2

1992: I will not spend my money frivolously and save enough money to put a down payment on a small house in Santa Barbara.

1998: I will not spend any money at all on anything, under any circumstances, and save enough to put a down payment on a small house in Isla Vista, with the help of my parents and anyone else who might want to invest.

2003: I will not spend my money frivolously and save enough to put a down payment on a small used car.

2006: I will stop buying so many new pairs of shoes.

2008: I will try to keep my expenses below 110 percent of my income.

2009: I will stop crumpling my tax deductible receipts into teeny tiny balls of paper that raise my husband’s blood pressure every year come April.

Resolution #3

2003: I will stop smoking.

2004: I will stop smoking.

2005: I will stop smoking.

2006: I will stop smoking.

2007: I will stop smoking.

2008: I will stop smoking.

2009: I will stop smoking. (Confession: I never started smoking in the first place, but I always like to give myself one easy thing that I know I can accomplish to make myself feel better about this whole New Year’s resolution thing.)

Resolution #4

2003: I will spend more time with my family.

2006: I will spend more quality time with my family.

2008: I will redefine quality time with my family to mean that we all have to be awake, with no one yelling, but not necessarily doing the same activity in the same room at the same time.

December 22, 2008: Screw the family. I will carve out some quality time for myself, by myself, and not feel guilty about it. (Written immediately after disembarking from a five-day cruise with my extended family.)

2009: I will spend more quality time with my family and my dear friends, but only after spending enough quality time with myself to not be grumpy.

Resolution #5

1998: I will treat my body as a temple and eat only healthy, organic foods.

2000: I will only order out for pizza once a week.

2003: I will remember that Chuck’s Mai Tais do not count as a serving of fruit, even though they come with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry. The celery in a Brophy Brother’s Bloody Mary doesn’t count as a vegetable either.

2006: I will sit down with my family and eat a healthy, balanced meal at least once a week.

2008: I will eat a piece of dark chocolate and I will drink a glass of red wine every night, but only for the good of my health.

2009: Ditto.

Resolution #6

1982: I will write a book before I’m 30.

1995: I will write a book before I’m 40.

2005: I will read at least 10 books a year whose titles I’m not embarrassed to talk about.

2007: I actually wrote a few books. So what If they’re shorter than this column and the graphics are kind of cheesy. I have my own ISBN numbers.

2008: I co-authored a book and it’s actually pretty good. I will do my best to help sell “Hometown Santa Barbara” so I can actually make some money this year.

2009: I will write a novel before I’m 50.

Resolution #7

1993: I will not fight with my boyfriend about household chores.

1994: I will not fight with my husband about household chores.

1999: My husband will stop pretending he knows how to fix the car and I will stop pretending I am the least bit competent in the kitchen.

2007: My husband will stop pretending he doesn’t see the pile of laundry that needs to be folded and I will stop pretending I don’t know how to plunge the toilet and pump my own gas.

2009: My husband will make sure I have gas in my car if I give him enough warning when the tank is low and I will stop making New Year’s resolutions on behalf of other people.

Resolution #8

2003: I will not fight with Koss about cleaning up his toys.

2005: I will not fight with Koss about doing his chores.

2006: I will not fight with Koss about his homework, doing his chores and cleaning up his dirty sweat socks.

2007: I will not fight with Koss about his homework, doing his chores and cleaning up his dirty sweat socks and his sweaty t-shirts.

2008: I will not fight with Koss about his homework, doing his chores, cleaning up his dirty sweat socks and his sweaty t-shirts, and how much time he spends on the computer.

2009: Koss will be responsible for his own homework, his own chores and his own dirty clothes. But I am still his mother and I can make resolutions for him if I want to!

Resolution #9

2008: I will put away money that I would have spent on lattes in a little jar every day and maybe when I retire I’ll be able to afford an R.V. that I can park somewhere in Santa Barbara.

2009: Who am I kidding? I can’t live without lattes. Pass the Equal, and the wine and chocolate while you’re at it.

Cheers to a New Year and may all your troubles last as long as my New Year’s resolutions.

Share your resolutions with Leslie by emailing email . Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on January 2, 2009.