Friday, January 23, 2015


More than once I've proudly announced mentioned that I don't have a TV. John and I got rid of our TV a few years ago when we realized we were paying $140 a month for programming that didn't interest us enough to actually watch it.

But just because I don't have a TV doesn't mean I don't watch my favorite shows in the evening. 

Embedded above is the first episode of "Tudor Monastery Farm," a BBC documentary series. Historian Ruth Goodman is joined by archaeologists Peter Ginn and Tom Pinfold to make up a trio of unlikely TV stars. They show us how life was lived by poor people in the Tudor era. It wasn't all Henry VIII and his wives.

I ate that show like ice cream.

Then I moved on to "Secrets of the Castle," and watched my friends learn how to build a 13th century French castle with nothing but the materials that were available 800 years ago.

With popular "historical" TV, films and fiction about England and France we often learn about royalty and politics, but rarely do we get a view of the common people. It might have been all fancy balls and intrigue at court, but most other places it was just plain work.

Now I'm watching Tales from the Green Valley, shot on a 16th century Welsh farm. It's apparent that this show was done earlier than the first two because Tom isn't in it. Peter is younger and for some reason they're calling him "Fonz."

After this I'll move on to "Victorian Farm," then "Edwardian Farm," then maybe "WWII Farm," which doesn't interest me quite as much. But Ruth, Tom, Peter and their guest stars—thatchers, pig experts, millers, stonemasons, etc.—are enthusiastic, charming and real, and I will follow my new favorite stars anywhere, even to the muddy fields of the mid-20th century.

This is my kind of TV.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Good Turnout

The Story Kitchen seminar had a good turn-out last night at the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse. It was an excellent group—interesting people with fascinating stories.

We had some sign-ups for the six week writing class and there's room for just a few more, so call the store at 818-790-0717 and tell them you want in!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Friday, January 9, 2015

Dear Aunt Petrea

The famous author, Haruki Murakami, has announced he's going to write an advice column on his website.

Hell, I can do that! I can give advice on all kinds of subjects. I'm happy to tell you what to do. Just let me know what the problem is and I'll set you straight. Here are some examples of my useful guidance:

Dump the sucker.

No, no, black is sooo 2007.

Feed it to the cat.

It takes about two years.

Milk. I'm not kidding. It works.

Really! Just ask me. I'm glad to receive queries of any kind, in any language (I have Google Translate!). I will share my opinions on dogs, sports and dogs. And anything else I can spell, or sound out.

Just ask your questions in the comments and off we go!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Why dictation software is not for me

So she enters the room, and—no. No so. And this should be past tense so she entered—stop. Go back to so. No so, too many sos, go back to—start over.

She entered the room, and he thought


Why did it turn off? Aren't I allowed to think for a few seconds? Stop. Start again.

Maybe entered isn't good enough. Stop. Start again.

She swept into the room—ugh. Cliché. She glided. Glid? Glided. Start over.

She glided into the room 

That just doesn't look right.

All eyes went to the door as she entered. 

Stop. Eyes do not go to doors. 

All eyes were on her as she glided into the room.

Can eyes be on somebody? They can look on somebody.

All eyes looked on her as she glided into the room.



--> Oh, pigpigpiggypig blahblah. Blah! Stop!



Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Warm New Year's Wish

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on a cold night in 2011

To those from other places currently gracing Pasadena with your visit, be it for the holidays, the Tournament of Roses Parade, the Rose Bowl Game or merely lunch, welcome. 

I hope the weather warms up for you. A frosty night is no big deal in many parts of the world, but in Pasadena on New Year's Eve, if you camp out on Colorado Blvd., air horns and silly string are not going to keep you warm. 

Does anyone recall a (relatively) recent Tournament of Roses Parade when it rained? 2006, maybe. I remember those poor majorettes in their skimpy costumes, their booties filling with water, gamely tossing their batons but unable to catch them because the rain kept getting in their eyes. Everyone was freezing, even the horses. 

It won't be that way this year. The forecast says things will warm up a couple of degrees for Thursday, parade day. It'll be sunny, if a bit crisp. That's OK. When you're marching 5 miles, you tend to heat up. At least, so I imagine.

Happy 2015 to us all. I mean it.


The "grandaddy of them all"—all City Daily Photo blogs, that is—has posted its final photo after ten years. Today Eric Tenin is retiring his groundbreaking Paris Daily Photo, which serves as an archive of inspiration to me and other bloggers. Thank you, Eric. I already miss you. 

Me and John atop Notre Dame Cathedral in May of 2006. We fell in love with Paris. About a month later I found Paris Daily Photo and I've been a fan ever since.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Hahamongna Alternatives

Hahamongna Watershed Park, named for the Native American village that once nestled there, is one of Pasadena's prettiest places. Now, it's NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory that nestles, framed by the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Hahamongna is what it is: some open space, some utility poles, some water spreading basins owned by Pasadena Water and Power, some pathways and trails. It's big and beautiful. Partly wild, partly not. Pasadenish use it for recreation as well as utility, not to mention an important water source. It's also home to coyotes, bobcats, rabbits, snakes and the occasional mountain lion.

Hahamongna's borders touch Pasadena, Altadena and La Canada Flintridge. At its south end is the Devil's Gate Dam, which keeps runoff from the San Gabriels in check so it doesn't flood the Lower Arroyo. Los Angeles County Flood Control manages the dam.

And now the county has a plan to dig out the greenery you see in these photos, and leave the land bare.

Every kid learns in school that plants limit erosion, but despite this fact the County Board of Supervisors decided the "Big Dig" was a good plan to keep silt from building up against the Dam. Surely too much silt is not a good thing, but we don't all agree on the plan for removing it. The County says 425 trucks a day, 5 days a week, for 5 years, is a good idea. That's one truck almost every minute, rumbling through the residential neighborhoods of La Canada Flintridge, west Pasadena and west Altadena. The Arroyo Seco Foundation and a group of Pasadena citizens have offered less drastic plans, but these alternatives have been ignored.

You'll guess my opinion: a less drastic plan is a better way.

A group of concerned, active and influential citizens is raising money to sue the County. They need to pay for it.

You can contribute to this effort and get some immensely cool premiums, donated by people who care.

I think Hahamongna is well worth it. Thanks for listening (I did the voice-over on the linked video), and thanks for donating. Send in a buck! Or more! You don't have to be from Pasadena to contribute, but you become an honorary citizen in my heart.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Wilma's Last Sales Pitch Before Christmas

The reason her bed is soaking wet is she was deeply involved in her bone. The reason the floor in the foreground is scratched is she was deeply involved in a squirrel outside the window, and she thought it would make sense to try to get him.

I distracted her with fine reading material.

(As an aside, it is next to impossible to photograph her tail because it's always moving.)

But she seems calm now. Her tail is slowing down. She's—

She's literally a dog, not a literary dog.

(mostly) comic essays for the actor in your life

"Intelligent escapism" for the armchair adventurer in your life

Buy, read, enjoy, review! And thank you for another great year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Happy Chanukah

For your sleek and modern Hanukkah.

Monday, December 15, 2014


Last night, the neighborhood carolers serenaded the block with songs of the season. It's a sweet tradition. Every year I like to receive the carolers and offer them something. This year it was hot chocolate—and it was cold enough out to justify it.

The kids sat on our curb to drink their chocolate. The parents visited.

Not world class photography, but I love this photo.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Girl Friday for the Holidays

December is a good time to tell you about a new small business in the Dena: Girl Friday. I've mentioned them before because I visited their book club to talk about my novel, Camelot & Vine. But Girl Friday is much more than a book club. It's a Girl Friday, just like it says.

Here's the email I received from them yesterday:

The holidays are upon us and our elves are ready to go!

Top 10 Tasks Our Holiday Elves Enjoy:

1.  Getting your Christmas tree (it's fun!)
2.  Hanging holiday lights / decorating (so bright!)
3.  Gift shopping & wrapping (we love bows!)
4.  Baking goodies & treats (tasty!)
5.  Proving babysitters (parties are more fun without kids!)
6.  Cleaning your house (dirt is bad!)
7.  Holiday centerpieces & table-scapes (pretty pretty!)
8.  Creating care packages/gift baskets (gifts are good!)
9.  Shipping holiday cards & packages (long lines are no fun!)
10. Pet / house sitting while you are away (meow, woof etc!)

What do you need to make this holiday season a success? Our elves await you.

I don't know about you, but I need all these things. And I can attest to the baking and decorative talents of these women. They are so creative. And they're having a holiday party December 11th, where you can meet them and check out the goods. Click on the flyer to enlarge it for the details.

If you need the assistance of an elf or two, contact Cindi Knight, Girl Friday Personal Assistant Services, 626-221-5111.

I took the photo at Kidd's Jewelry Heist in South Pasadena, where I met the Girl Friday Book Club and where you want to do some shopping, now or any time.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Fall Colors

photo by John Sandel

We have them, it's just that we have them in winter.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Almost December

I'm not gloating. It looks nice, but this kind of weather is wrong this time of year, even for Los Angeles. So really, no gloat. 

I had jury duty recently. At lunch break, I would visit Grand Park, buy a pulled pork sandwich from a lunch truck, and find myself some shade (too hot in the sun, wrong wrong wrong). In the background on the right is LA's City Hall. At the center is the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center, where I spent a couple of days. I was excused from the jury in the end, merely because they hadn't arrived at my number by the time they'd selected the panel. Being on a jury can be interesting but if you don't want to serve, you want a high number.

Jury duty is one of those American things I like to think of as "the worst system in the world, except for all the others."

Friday, November 28, 2014

Small Business Saturday

 photo by John Sandel  

Small Business Saturday, held every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, is sponsored by American Express. But you don't have to use a credit card to take part. You can shop at your favorite local independent businesses all year 'round and make a difference in your community with every dollar you spend.

Do I have to tell you this? I don't have to tell you this. You know this.

I'll be participating in this year's Small Biz Sat. at the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse. Mostly I'll be in the Bookstore part unless I need a snack.

Come by 1010 Foothill Blvd. in La Canada from 2-4 pm and say hi. I'll sign your copy of Act As If. If 2-4 pm isn't convenient don't worry, the books, gifts, decorations and treats will be there all day.

Print copies of Act As If are currently not available anywhere else! This is an exclusive Flintridge event, so come on down.

I probably shouldn't mention that Wilma is a small business expert.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Act As If

Act As If: Stumbling Through Hollywood with Headshot in Hand is now a book! Based on my long-running column for, which is itself based on my 30-year acting career, this is the book for the actor in your life, aspiring or pro. Some blurbs: 

"…all graduating MFA students who want to make a living in 'The Biz' should be handed this book with their diploma, to give them a realistic view of the business they want to pursue. It's an honest, practical and remarkably uncynical look at the job of being an actor."
            Rick Hall, actor—Good Luck Charlie, 24, Curb Your Enthusiasm

"This book is a must for anyone thinking of taking Hollywood by storm. Petrea can point out common pitfalls while throwing in a dash of empowerment. It's your life, your career. Keep your eyes open and be sure to have this book on your nightstand."
            Liz Hanley (aka “Blanche”), Theatrical Agent, Bicoastal Talent

"I felt like I had a friend after reading this, someone who knows and expresses so eloquently the ups and downs and striving that an actor goes through on their artistic and career journey. It’s a delight, it’s fun, it’s comforting, and it’s real. Give it as a gift to yourself, or a fellow actor."
            Fran Montano, Artistic Director, The Actors Workout Studio

Act As If is officially in "soft launch." Everyone's already busy with the holidays, so I'll do an official launch (hard launch?) in the new year, with a contest and everything.

However! There will be a pre-launch on November 29th at Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse, from 2-4 PM.

(This leaves room for a post-launch, a launch-launch, and a lunch-launch. Watch this space.)

Flintridge Bookstore is celebrating Small Business Saturday all day on the 29th, and you should come! It's a wonderful store with all the books you want, plus gorgeous gifts, AND coffee with treats. Easy to get to, at 1010 Foothill, and there's plenty of parking behind/under the store. Here's a chance to expand your literary horizons and check out Flintridge.

My Thanksgiving weekend is planned thusly:
Thanksgiving, which I will enjoy so quietly I'll be able to hear myself chew.
Black Friday, which I celebrate annually by hunkering down in the house with the curtains drawn.
Small Business Saturday, please see above.
(Apparently the western world still keeps Sundays open for church.)
Cyber Monday, when we're encouraged to shop online exactly like we do every other day, and when I will likely stay offline and write.
And Giving Tuesday—because after having spent the weekend acquiring, it's time to share what you have left, if anything, with the needy. I'll probably do that online.

Remember, books make great gifts!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Altadena Farmers' Market Challenge

The challenge: to feed a family of four using only $25 at the Altadena Farmers' Market. Since we're a family of two, I thought, "no problem!" Not only was it not a problem, it was a pleasure to find good things to eat at the Market—enough to make us a meal with leftovers and then some.

A beautiful November day in Altadena.

We started with meat as the main dish. Novy Ranches had grass-fed beef fajita strips for $8.00 a pound. That's grass-fed, $8/pound. I can pay $6 for miscellaneous-fed hamburger at the grocery store.

The rest of the meal wasn't easy! There are too many temptations at the Altadena Farmers' Market. Here's something amazing I sampled at the Bread Lounge booth.

We also tasted several flavors of jam from Coldwater Canyon Provisions. I'm going back for more of this stuff.

There's honey, ice cream, vegetables, hummus, prepared foods (like prepared fresh right then and there) and much more. Yet the market is friendly, open, and doable. Not too big, and not mingy either. Just right.

I'd go back to the market for this booth alone.

We brought home a loaf of sesame/honey bread from the Bread Lounge, one green pepper for our fajitas, two organic avocados, three organic heirloom tomatoes, and a little over a pound of the Novy Ranch fajita strips.

We had some stuff on hand that needed to be used: one red pepper, fresh garlic, onions, some flour tortillas we hadn't eaten yet, and a container of pico de gallo. We thought we'd make fajitas and a tomato-avocado salad, and we'd toast the bread and have it with jam for dessert.

But avocados are one of my favorite foods, and I had that pico de gallo. I make lazy-butt guacamole by smashing my avocados and stirring in as much or as little pico de gallo as I want. You can add stuff like lime or garlic or salt or none, or all three.

I marinated the meat with spices, olive oil and Worcestershire Sauce. (There's a guy at the market who sells flavored olive oils, but we had already spent our $25 before we found him so he's another reason to go back.) By the way: not a hint of gristle in that meat.

The tomatoes lurked in the background. They don't belong in a fajita, and I didn't need them in my lazy-butt guac. I felt guilty about them, not sure what my "family of four" was going to do with them.

I sauteed the onion and fresh peppers in the same pan as the meat was cooked in, with some salt and pepper. I'm not giving you a recipe here, trust me, you're better off finding one on line and deciding how you want to use it.

The bread awaits its destiny.

Fajitas, lazy guacamole and random chips, plus a lime from our neighbor's tree. We ate our fill, it was delicious, and we didn't have room for bread for dessert. Hey, I never said I was some genius meal planner. But somehow, we always manage to get fed.

So the next day we had Bread Lounge bread for breakfast: toasted, buttered and jammed. Yum! For lunch we had left-over fajitas (they get jiggy in the fridge, in a good way), and we figured out what to do with our tomatoes. Duh! Sliced tomatoes with salt and pepper. You can't beat that.

Two and a half meals for us is more than a meal for four people, so the challenge to feed a family of four was no challenge at all. My math's not so good but I think we fed a family of four and a half.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Girl Friday Book Club at Kidd's Jewelry Heist

Best event ever! I was invited to speak about Camelot & Vine with the Girl Friday Book Club. I knew it was going to be fun when I walked into Kidd's Jewelry Heist and saw this display.

Girl Friday Personal Assistant Services is just what it sounds like: a small, personal assistant company so loaded with creativity that I don't know where to begin. It wasn't just the food, or how artfully it was presented, or the wonderful people, or the venue. It was all these things and more.

And what a venue! Kidd's Jewelry Heist is charming for many reasons, not least of which is the decor, and most of which is owner Kelly Kidd himself. I wouldn't call him a shopkeeper, I'd call him a curator. He and his partner Redd Carter have created a cozy space where your imagination is invited to create whatever it wants to.

I grabbed a few photos of the place before the people came. 


Then I forgot about photos for a while. We met new people, drank wine, ate hand-crafted candies, and talked about anything and everything. When it came to talking about Camelot & Vine, I found a good-sized group of engaged and interesting women, great questions, and acceptance. Maybe it was the wine. If so, that was some amazing wine.

After book talk, we picked out our favorite charms and made "medieval" bracelets! That's (L-R) Rebecca, Karie, Kat Ward from Hometown Pasadena, author Pam Tartaglio, co-hostess and creative talent Ellen Main, Kelly, and Redd.

Cindi Knight orchestrates it all. The business is her brain-child, and from what I can tell she's got a hell of a brain.

I regret that I didn't get a decent picture of Cindi, who created Girl Friday Personal Assistant Services and who organizes these book club events. But I got a good picture of Kelly (above), and he got one of me (below).

Many thanks to our hosts Cindi, Ellen, Kelly and Redd, and to everyone who came. I had a fantastic time and I hope you did, too.

Update 11/18:
Tada! Here's the bracelet Kelly and Redd helped me make:
photo by John Sandel
You can see my little dragon and my crown and my fuzzy thing. On the underbeneath side I have a feather and a pail, both made of the same material as the crown and dragon.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Guest Author: John Vorhaus

Guest author John Vorhaus has visited here before. The guy's prolific, with six novels to his name and a plethora of other books besides. Here, a sample of John's eloquence:

The Search for Purpose is the Purpose

Having just finished writing my latest novel, Poole’s Paradise, an Imperfect Search for Purpose, I now find that writing a novel can be like carving a sculpture. You start with too much and keep chipping away – “squeezing out the stupid” as I called it – until what’s left can be called an artistic, as opposed to literary, work. See, the big difference between writers and artists is that writers expect to get edited. We let agents and editors stand in judgment of our work, and make changes according to their notes. Artists don’t get notes. They sculpt until the sculpting is done, then they put down their tools. I understand that writing and art are not the same – not the same process, not always the same intent – but I think that writers would be better off if they trusted their vision more. Poole’s Paradise, ferociously sculpted and rigorously self-edited, has taught me to trust mine.

Because here’s the thing: When you decide that no one will make your choices but you, you take on a responsibility to be clear-eyed and very demanding of your own work. I hated Poole’s Paradise for 14 of the 15 months it took to write, but I kept getting rid of what didn’t work and ultimately came to love what was left. I found the sculpture inside the stone, then I put down my tools.

And picked up other ones. Now I’m marketing the work, and I hate that part of the process like a cat hates baths. But what are you going to do? Since I write “artisanal novels,” it’s hard to get heard above the din of social media, and it’s up to no one but me to put energy into making that happen. Frankly, I’d rather be writing, but the reality for most novelists in our time is that we have to do it ourselves.

So then, one might wonder, why do it all? The answer is “legacy,” an issue of no small concern to every writer I know. We only have these few frail years of our lifespans in which to make our mark, and we have no way of knowing which part of our mark will last. My plan is to download as much as I can from the ephemeral vessel of my brain into the slightly less ephemeral vessels of the page or the e-page, for the simple reason that if my thoughts die inside my brain, they do no one any damn good. If it sounds like I’m thinking about “higher purpose,” I guess I am. I believe that each of us is a steward to our DNA, and that our job in this life is to honor that stewardship as we see fit. Sharing my wisdom in ways that help people’s lives rise is how I fulfil my stewardship. This makes me in no way special – everyone has wisdom and everyone can share it if they choose.

So here’s the wisdom of Poole’s Paradise as I understand it: Purpose comes when it comes. If you feel like you haven’t found yours, that’s totally okay, because while you’re searching for purpose, the search for purpose is your purpose. If you find that idea resonant, I think you’ll really enjoy Poole’s Paradise. And if you do, then I can put down my tools proudly and say, “My work here is done.”