Aside from the usual, not much is going on at Casa West this week. But I did want to share something that’s making me happy lately:

Bicknell Avenue

I’ve run hundreds of miles, back and forth, on this path. It’s where I trained for my marathon in 2006 and where I developed the chronic achilles tendonitis a few years later that plagues me to this day. For a few years, Mick and I ran this path together (well, separately, because he runs much faster than I do, but together because we were on the path at the same time). But when we moved to Venice we got out of the habit. The distance to the path, though not far, required a car or a bike ride, and instead I joined a gym nearby. Mick pretty much stopped exercising altogether.

But our trip to Peru and our Wayna Picchu climb were good reminders for both of us that it’s incredibly important that we do what we can to stay in shape. I want to be skiing down mountains when I’m 80, after all. Though by nature I tend toward laziness and inertia, I can’t imagine not being able to do the things I want to do because I’ve allowed myself to become too sedentary. It’s no longer solely about my weight or appearance, it’s about enjoying life as much as I can, for as long as I can.

I’m happy to say that in recent weeks, Mick and I have begun running this path again. It’s great to have regular access to a gym and its equipment, but running outdoors is something that just can’t be duplicated on a treadmill. It’s harder, but it’s so much more rewarding. I’m getting close to running 3 miles without stopping to walk, which is my first benchmark for being in some sort of shape. Mick, of course, can already do it, and is working on his speed at the moment.

Mick and Holly Run
We earned that sweat, yo

So that’s what we’re up to. Do you have any plans, big or small, for this summer?

Any writer whose honest about the subject will tell you that the real secret to getting the job done is simple: Get your butt in the chair and keep it there until you’ve got something written. But what if that chair is uncomfortable and not worthy of cradling your precious bootie? Such was the case for me until this past Wednesday, when I got a lovely new desk chair.

Knoll Pollock Executive Chair

What we have here, folks, is a vintage Knoll Pollock Executive Chair. Designed by Charles Pollock for Florence Knoll in 1963, it was an “instant success” and has become one of the “best-selling office chairs in history.”

The thing is, I’m not as much of a modern design buff as I pretend to be, and the Pollock chair wasn’t on my radar at all until this past Wednesday. I’m sure I’d seen versions of it in the past, but it never really caught my eye. My goal was to someday get a vintage Herman Miller Time-Life Executive chair, which is much more recognizable.

Vintage Time-Life Executive Chair

The thing is, even a vintage version of this chair is in the $1000+ dollar range. A brand-new model is over $3000. Mama doesn’t have that kind of cash to throw around on chairs, people.

For the past two years I’ve been sitting in a relatively stylish but cheap knock-off I bought for less than $200 at Office Depot:


The problem is that the chair looked good, but in less than 2 years of full-time use, I had metal poles poking up at me through the seat. This was a very sad-making situation. I didn’t want to buy a cheap new chair that was in my budget because I knew in two years I’d just be doing it again. And yet I didn’t want to invest in a super-spendy dream chair either. My solution was to keep my crappy-ass chair and troll Craigslist, eBay, and Etsy for an affordable vintage Time-Life Executive chair (or something similar). Alas, the search was fruitless for many months. Until…

On Wednesday, I happened upon a website called that sells vintage furniture via independent vendors. I had little hope I’d find an affordable chair, as most of what they sell is out of my price range even if it is vintage. But I found a listing for a Pollock Executive chair. It was $375 but located in Texas, which would’ve added to the cost if you factored in shipping. There were a few more listings for the chair, all of which were around the same price. Further research showed that a vintage model of the chair, which retails new for about $2000, is generally available in the $200-$600 range, depending on the condition and the materials. As it turns out, the Pollock chair, while well-designed and iconic, isn’t nearly as popular as similar chairs designed during that period, and thus, it’s less in demand, meaning that I might be able to find one I could afford.

“I can work with this,” I thought.

That very day I found a listing on Craigslist for a black leather version of the chair and it was a STEAL at $275. I convinced Mick it would be worth his while to trek down to Orange County that evening to check it out, and lo and behold, we came back with my beautiful, new-to-me, chair.

It’s black leather, with a blessedly plump seat and no metal bars to poke me. And it’s in fantastic condition, with (hopefully) many more years of use to go.

Five things that caught my attention this week:Marilyn Monroe Suite

A funny thing happened to me when I was in Peru. I had a sudden and altogether unexpected urge to become a vegetarian. Well, actually, it was an urge to go pescatarian. You know–give up meat with the exception of seafood.

Huaca Pucllana Ruins

I remember the precise moment when it happened. We were dining at the Museo de Sitio Huaca Pucllana, where the restaurant overlooks the ruins. I’d gone to Peru expecting to be a very adventurous eater. Cuyo (guinea pig)? Sure thing. Alpaca? Of course. Snail ceviche? Bring it on. Nothing was off the proverbial table–I wanted to try all of it. But when I opened the menu and found all of these options and more on offer, I felt queasy. I couldn’t stop picturing cute little guinea pigs and sweet baby goats.

I said to Mick and his mum, “I think I’m going to become a vegetarian when I get back home.”

In the interest of full disclosure, I did end up trying the guinea pig and baby goat that night, and later in the trip I tasted a bit of Mick’s grilled alpaca. I’m not in a hurry to eat any of them again, not so much because of the cuteness factor of the animals themselves, but because the taste and textures just didn’t appeal to me. Furthermore, I haven’t been a vegetarian since I got home, not even close. I’ll probably never fully become a vegetarian, and if I ever do, I won’t officially label myself as one. I like to keep my food options open.

That said, I’ve slowly been moving toward a pescatarian diet. I’m losing interest in eating meat–red meat especially–for a variety of reasons, mostly ethical. But that’s a personal choice on my part and if I’ve learned anything in the forty-plus years I’ve been on this earth, I don’t like being judged for my own choices, so I’d better not judge others for theirs. And of course in this case, I still eat meat regularly, so it is, as Joey Tribiani so famously said, a moo point.

So right about now, I’ll bet you’re thinking wait a second, I thought this post was supposed to be about a pizza recipe? I’m getting to that. Yesterday, as part of my effort to eat more vegetarian meals, I made a delicious wild mushroom pizza with cauliflower crust.

Wild Mushrooms


Wild Mushroom Pizza with Cauliflower Crust

For the crust, I pretty much followed this recipe. The only change I made, because I’d run out of whole eggs, was to use three table spoons of egg whites instead of an egg. By the way, I made the spaghetti squash pizza crust featured on the same site and it was equally delicious (maybe even more so). So in my mind, these two crust recipes are interchangeable.

Here are the basic ingredients:

Cauliflower Crust Ingredients


1) Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.

2) Cut up the cauliflower and blanch it for three minutes in boiling water.

3) Drain it and pulse in a food processor until it has a grainy texture.

4) Pour the mixture onto paper towels and squeeze out as much moisture as you can.

5) Mix the cauliflower/garlic with the other ingredients in a separate bowl.

6) Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray. Spread the “dough” onto the sheet and use your fingers to make it as thin as possible while ensuring there are no holes.

7) Bake for 15 minutes or until edges are golden brown and the center of the crust is firm to the touch.

With your crust now done, you can move on to the fun part. Assembling your pizza!

While my crust was cooking, I sliced up my mushrooms (white, crimini, and oyster) and minced a few more cloves of garlic. I heated up some olive oil and sautéed the garlic for a few minutes, taking great care not to burn it (as I so often do). Then I added my mushrooms and softened them up a bit. I didn’t let them get too mushy though, figuring that baking would complete the job of cooking them.

I drizzled olive oil on my cauliflower crust and added about a 1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese. Then I just spread the mushrooms over the top and put the whole thing back in the oven for about five minutes to melt the cheese.

This is the result:


The only thing I’d add the next time I make this (and I will be making it again and again) is fresh chopped parsley or basil. I’d meant to do it before serving this last night and I completely forgot.

One of the best things about this crust is the addition of the red pepper flakes to add a bit of heat. I would’ve added them to the mushrooms and garlic had they not already been included in the crust. Also, while the cauliflower (or spaghetti squash) crust isn’t the same as a bread crust, it’s quite tasty in in its own right. It’s certainly a worthy base for yummy toppings, so make this, stat.