Friday, April 29, 2011

I've been ionized, but I'm okay now

The same can't be said for my laptop, which has been misbehaving over the past few weeks.  Even my resident computer guru can't fix what ails it, and so the laptop will not be accompanying us on our journey to Georgia.  So much for making sure I booked a hotel with free internet.

The past four days have been a whirlwind of court activity and slogging through paperwork.  It is true that I love what I do, and I understand what Confucius meant when he said, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life,” but then Confucius never worked in my area of law ... I don't think it had been invented back then, even by those clever far-sighted Chinese.

Teddy Roosevelt said it better, in my opinion: "Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing. "  So I worked very hard at work worth doing, and all I can say is Thank God it's Friday, especially this Friday, as I have taken annual leave to make the trip to Savannah.  That also meant that I played catch up with paperwork all day Thursday, trying to meet deadlines as best I could.   Well worth the effort, I will be able to relax and enjoy our weekend.


You're not as kinky as you think

You can read this or not - it's not obscene or anything - the only reason I mention it is because it struck me funny, when I saw the title on the side of my news page, that "sure enough, it's in the New York Post."  Some things never change.

Family Ties: The Embarrassing Relatives Will and Kate are praying will behave on the big day

Just in case you've been living in a cave the last few months:  after much anticipation and a surfeit of media attention, Prince William and Catherine Middleton were married sometime in the middle of the night our time.  That's all I know, because even I was asleep at the magic moment, except that the wedding gown was quite lovely, very Grace Kelly-ish.  I have to say, after reading this article, I have a much better appreciation for certain members of my own family, who put aside their own differenceS to attend my wedding back in 1974.  We thought there might be some problems when one of my great-uncles sent back his response card with a note that said "please don't seat me at the same table with that bitch Woozy" (actually he used her real name, but you don't need that to appreciate the story), but since Woozy wanted to sit at another table anyway, it all worked out.

Sex on the beach was 'gross lewdness' deputy says

And here I thought it was a mixed drink with vodka, peach schnapps, cranberry juice, and orange juice.  That "lascivious behavior" will get you every time, especially on Jungle Hut Road (I'm not making this up) in broad daylight.


Armadillos pass leprosy to humans, study finds

So resist the temptation to barbecue that roadkill.  And don't plan on attending any armadillo festivals in the future, especially if you live in Texas or Louisiana.

I would have liked to blog from the road, but with the laptop on the fritz I'm dead in the water.  I'll be on Facebook from my iPhone, but it's just not the same.  I guess I'll have to knit.  Ten hours total driving time and I am determined to finish the Cat's Paw scarf, which is moving slower than ... well, slower than an armadillo.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat

Stan Van Gundy is starting to sweat.  My team is going down, down, down.  I can't sit still long enough to watch the massacre.  The Magic are not playing badly, but they aren't playing as brilliantly as the night before last.  And the Hawks have the home court advantage.  It hurts to watch.

If we can't win it, I hope the Boston Celtics win the Eastern Conference.  I still love Shaquille O'Neal.  And I hope the Lakers lose the Western Conference.  It goes without saying that I would not like to see the Miami Heat win anything.

As Yogi Berra says, "it ain't over till it's over."

Yogi Berra said a lot of stuff ... and this is why I love the Internet.  I started by searching for Yogi Berra quotes, which made me think of malapropisms, which led me to mondegreens, spoonerisms, and eggcorns.  Which led me to laugh hysterically while the Magic continued to go down, down, down.

Yogi is still the master of the fractured phrase ... stuff like "it's deja vu all over again" and "when you come to a fork in the road, take it."  He somehow manages to sound deeply philosophical, with pronouncements like "If you don't know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else."  Reminds me of something said by the infinitely wise Chinese philosopher, Confucius:  "No matter where you go -  there you are."

Yes, I said Confucius.

And now, I am sorry to say it is over.  Congratulations to the Atlanta Hawks.  And for my Magic - there's always next year.  I still love you guys.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


 Did you see the Magic game?  DID YOU SEE THE MAGIC GAME???  It was incredible.  There's still hope we will beat the Atlanta Hawks and move on to the next level of playoffs.  Boo-yah!

And I recently found a veritable treasure trove of old old recipes I had forgotten I had, sitting in a plastic file box in the bottom of a closet I technically share with Rob, but rarely use.  Very rarely.  That's where I found Bubbe's recipe for charoses,  my Aunt Ceil's recipes for popovers, Kathy's recipe for Kahlua, countless recipes I had clipped from the newspaper and old magazines back in the day when we did that sort of thing, recipes I had scribbled down on the fly when I could pin my mother down long enough to record them, one recipe my mother actually wrote down for me herself, and recipes my mother-in-law had written down for Robert before we were married.  Sweet! 

All will be revealed in the fullness of time.

Carnival Cruise Line sent me a reminder stating "Days to Cruise - 32" which would make me dance for joy except my back hurts.  I just completed a six hour cooking frenzy, all of which was on my feet, in preparation for Administrative Assistants' Day tomorrow.  Well, really today, it's already Wednesday. 

Muffuletta Salad

I enjoyed every minute of it, because cooking for people you care about is my idea of fun.  And I really care about the six women we are honoring tomorrow.  They are the best of the best of the best.

Shrimp and Macaroni Salad

Additionally, I got to work out two new recipes, set a new record for knocking out devilled eggs, and got to play with a piping bag.  A long, long time ago in a galaxy far away ... I used to do quite a bit of cake decorating, candy making, that sort of thing.  All self-taught.  Ah, youth!  Occasionally I dredge up old memories by piping the filling for the eggs.  Looks pretty.  One of these days I will try to scan some photos of a three-dimensional panda bear cake I decorated for my Number One Nephew's third birthday.  It was extraordinary, if I say so myself, especially before we cut off the panda's head.  Yes, it was traumatic but how else were we going to eat the cake?

It took me two full days to complete the baking, piping and other decorating, and my hands still haven't recovered ...

Devilled Eggs

I have made it through the first two days of a very heavy week by keeping my eye on the prize - this Friday we are going on a road trip to Savannah.  Rob has a tournament, not that we've ever needed an excuse to head to Savannah, but it's as good a reason as any, and I am so looking forward to the break. Plus, Saturday night will be our 33rd anniversary, which is always a good excuse for a celebration and a Cosmopolitan, shaken not stirred.

I also got excellent news from up North - a text message from Number One Niece, telling me that she had passed the New York bar exam. Way to go!

I'm so proud of her, following in her auntie's footsteps ... after all, I graduated from a New York law school, never took the New York bar exam, but moved to Florida and took the Florida bar exam.  She graduated from a Florida law school, skipped the bar here, but moved to New York where both she and her husband passed the New York bar.  Why yes, we do tend to make things harder on ourselves.  Go figure.

Update:  the lunch was wonderful.  Donna and Charles bought enough pizza to feed a Third World country, Dianne brought in a big, beautiful, cool fruit salad, Tony brought outrageous homemade cookies, and we all pigged out. 

But even before our fine lunch, I enjoyed my morning in court, perhaps more than I should have, because my enjoyment was at the expense of another attorney, and in that person's case, I use the term loosely.  Watching this person in action was better entertainment than Dancing with the Stars.  Everytime this attorney is in court, "it" manages to, in the words of my mother, "make an ass out of it's mouth."  Fortunately, the next hearing is not for another three months.  I'm not sure I could stand the hilarity if it was any sooner.

Tonight I am preparing stuffed pork chops braised in apricot nectar, pictures and recipe to follow.  I feel good, maybe because I am thankful for the good things in my life.  My husband, my son, my in-laws and all my family, the people I work with, my friends, my pets, my President who really was born in the United States (take that you silly birthers), my knitting ... and the ability, even in this sorry economy, to stroll through Publix, purchase food, and cook.   Cooking is better than eating ... truth is, I can eat very little of what I cook, and it has been that way for almost eight years.  When I was making the decision to have gastric bypass surgery, I worried that I would end up being upset about having to give up eating all the good stuff.  As it turned out, I can still taste just about everything, which comes in handy with all the cooking I do, but I can't eat much of anything.  Very small portions.  I'm a riot in a restaurant; I can't tell you how many waiters have freaked out when they saw my plate, worried that I did not like the food or I was sick.  I just tell them I'm a very small eater, and my son loves leftovers.  I always try to order something that Cory will like; after all, he's going to eat most of it.

I just wanted to mention that the shrimp and macaroni salad was inspired by my online friends from Delphi, who had done some pretty fine cooking for Easter Sunday.  Lisa posted a picture of her shrimp and macaroni salad, which was part of a buffet table the size of Wrigley Field - and I was hooked.  Found a couple of recipes, tinkered with the ingredients, and was pleased with the results.  And so was everyone else. 

Ceiling Cat is watching you cook ... judging your performance.
Sorry, you've been chopped.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mr. Ed was not a horse, and other interesting rumors ...

Conspiracy theories.  Urban myths and legends.  Rumors.  Internet hoaxes.  Paranoia.  Reality TV.

Okay, forget the last one.  Nothing is less real than Reality TV.

There is always a conspiracy theory floating around the public airwaves.  It seems there are an awful lot of people who thrive on paranoia, and who believe, from the bottom of their hearts, that there are forces at work, way beyond the control of Joe Average Citizen.  You DID read Orwell's 1984 in high school, didn't you?  And I bet you watched both versions of "The Manchurian Candidate."  No?  Then "Men in Black, I and II", right?  Right??

The big one out there right now is the so-called "birther" claim that Barack Obama is not a natural born citizen of the United States, and therefore cannot serve in the office he has occupied since January of 2009.  This one has been around for a while, but most recently has been pumped up by none other than Donald Trump, who really ought to know better.

I guess I haven't been paying attention, because while googling the subject online, I just learned that Jesse Ventura has a television show on truTV titled "Conspiracy Theory."  This must be a paranoiac's dream show, because I get the impression from this network's website that the former Governor of Minnesota (what is it with these governors?) is not trying to disprove the various conspiracies.  I've never watched the show, so I can't say much more about it.

I remember my first time ... conspiracy, that is.  It concerned the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, who was either not dead or dead because of someone besides Lee Harvey Oswald.  After well over 40 years, people are still arguing about that one.  Then there was the one about Elvis not really being dead, about Paul McCartney really being dead (hey, maybe these guys are one person), and about the 1969 moon landing being a big fake.  Walter Cronkite must be turning over in his grave over that one.

I wonder what it is that makes human beings so distrustful (I like that word better than paranoid).  I mean, this kind of conspiracy mongering goes way back, probably further than I can casually trace it.  I am guessing that what has made it even more prominent, and perhaps even more outrageous, is the ever-increasing ease of world wide communications.

For the past 12 years, I've been a participant over at some of the Delphi Forums, and although I am much less active than I used to be, I still do a bit of reading.  It seems that most of the current events forums maintain a folder for conspiracy theories, and the same group of individuals travel from forum to forum posting the same articles and giving the same warnings.  Some have really caught my eye, because they routinely accuse the Jews of ruling the world, which is kind of funny, since we've been doing this for well over a hundred years, according to them, which doesn't explain how we Rulers of the Earth managed to lose six million of our friends and family during the Holocaust, except that, according to the same individuals, the Holocaust never happened.  Now that's a conspiracy theory for you!

I guess the one that disturbs me the most is the allegation that the World Trade Center did not collapse as a result of the airplane collisions and that it was our own government, possibly in collaboration with the government of Israel, the Jewish Rulers of the World, and the Bush Family Syndicate, that were behind the attacks on September 11, 2001.

You see how absurd it looks in black and white?  Well, except the part about the Bush Family Syndicate ... seriously, I cannot wrap my head around the idea that the U.S. Government is responsible for what happened on September 11th.  As much as I don't like George W. Bush, as much as I think of his brother, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and his father, the former President, with little more than disdain, I do not think even they could have masterminded this kind of earth-shattering travesty.  Dick Cheney, now that's another matter ...

Speaking of horse's asses, did you know that Mr. Ed was NOT a horse?  Oh, you think this is another "Elvis is alive" scam?  Not according to Snopes ... assuming they have it right, Mr. Ed, the talking horse, was played by Amelia, the lip-syncing zebra.  But really, can you believe everything in Snopes?  Why should we trust Snopes over any other source?

I realize this is just somebody's opinion, but it still cheered me up:

"Among the political threats wielded by Donald Trump in his carnival barker quest for the presidency is that if denied the Republican nomination, he would run as an independent.

As an independent myself, I usually cheer the prospect of any independent campaign. It shakes up the arrogant assumption that our elections are wholly owned subsidiaries of the two major parties and their respective special interests.

But Trump has already burned his bridges with most independent voters by choosing to go full "birther" and pander to the far-right wing of the GOP...

Trump has done a 180-degree reversal on abortion (like Mitt Romney before him) in the hopes of winning the GOP nomination, because abortion-rights Republicans have become an endangered species despite the endurance of "individual freedom" rhetoric...

Even worse, he made a strategic decision to pander to the outer reaches of American politics by embracing thoroughly discredited conspiracy theories to drum up support from the fringe..."

And my very favorite sentence from the article:

"Trump has debased himself and any ideas he had of a political career with the serial idiocies he's articulated in this flirtation with a presidential campaign. "

I have a killer week ahead of me, but there is a pot of gold at the end of this shades-of-gray rainbow, and that is our road trip to Savannah. 

That's the good news.  The bad news is that the New York Knicks are out of the play offs, having lost to the Boston Celtics.  Let's hope the Magic don't suffer the same fate.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter to Friends and Family

Feliz de dia Pascua ... sorry to say I did not make it to Publix before it closed down for the holiday.  While I would have liked to do something a little special for Easter, my family being sort of loosy-goosy when it comes to which holidays to celebrate, my state of being was not encouraging, and I had little energy to get off the couch much less shop and cook.  Lo siento.  I do have some tasty leftovers and sufficient fixings to whip up a batch of kielbasa and kraut plus all sorts of frozen doo-dads, so it looks like we'll be tucked in for the duration.  Never mind that I was dreaming about little Cornish hens with rice stuffing.  That will simply have to wait for another holiday.

From yesterday's Orlando Sentinel, under the byline of my favorite reporter, Susan Jacobson:

"Scott Bush, the Windermere man whose child-sex case led to the arrest of the former town police chief, called police this week, claiming that one of his neighbors had threatened him with a gun and called him a child molester."

But you ARE a (an alleged) child molester, Scotty!   Stop whining, man.  You're lucky that the judge set a bond for your release this time around.  He could have left you in the general population with no bond ... and you do know what the other inmates do to you Short Eyes, don't you?  One thing for sure, they don't worry about the legal niceties of "alleged" versus "convicted."

What's in the water over at Windermere?  Nothing has been the same since Tiger Woods imploded.  Including his golf game.  You've got the police chief arrested and fired (in part for protecting old Scotty here), you've got someone taking a slug at the mayor during a meeting, and all this going on in a very short period of time.  Half the police force has resigned, so I'm not sure who is watching the hen house, so to speak.  Another famous Windermere resident, Wesley Snipes, is currently residing a Club Fed for tax evasion. 

On a happier note, my personal favorite Windermere resident is the great Shaquille O'Neal, who I remember as a kid, albeit a very big kid, starting out with the fledgling Magic.  Never mind he still can't shoot from the line, I still love the big guy. 

We may not have Easter dinner, but we did have Easter breakfast.  I think I will make the kielbasa and kraut later, and finish rolling out the rest of the dough for hamantaschen and rugelach.  That's about as much as I can handle this weekend, and I am thankful I can do that much.  This chronic exhaustion sucks. 

Cook like there's nobody watching, and eat like it's heaven on earth.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Team Building for Grins and Bagels

I attended a Team Building yesterday, and it was good.

This was the brain child of my supervisor's supervisor, I believe, and her thought was to bring all of the Ninth Circuit attorneys together, let them get to know each other better, and learn ways to maximize office productivity through better communication.  I wasn't particularly impressed with the project which I saw as just another "feel-good, hold hands and sing Kumbaya" exercise which would suck up the time I needed to draft petitions and staffing forms and get ready for next week's prodigious court docket.  As Winnie the Pooh would say, "oh, bother."  Or maybe that was Alton Brown.

Map of Judicial Circuits

I work for a state agency, and there are attorneys in every county and every judicial circuit.  When I first started working for the predecessor agency, the dreaded HRS, the state was divided into districts.  District Seven was a four county construct, covering two judicial circuits, the Ninth and the Eighteenth.  Over the past few years, the entire structure has been revamped and now we are identified by our judicial circuit, which is then part of a greater region composed of some number of circuits.  Just how many counties comprise a circuit is variable.  If you don't live in Florida, just skip all that and take my word for this:  the Ninth Judicial Circuit is comprised of two counties, Orange and Osceola.  I work in Osceola, along with five other attorneys and six support staff.   In my mind, it's a pretty good place to work.  Not because of the money - ha ha - or the benefits, which used to be good but are being cut - or the opportunities for advancement, of which there are none - or the public recognition, which doesn't happen because what we do is extremely confidential.  There are two good things about where I work, and those are the specific type of law I get to practice, and the people I work with.  My own office, best of all, but I like the folks in the Orange County offices as well.  As the saying goes, we all get along.  Mostly.

A small gaggle of supervisors  

So there didn't seem to be any purpose to this, but my supervisor's supervisor was pretty enthusiastic about it, plus she offered bagels and cream cheese, and then, just in case there was any doubt, she made it mandatory.  That's okay, she is the boss.

Some of the Orange County attorneys.  Joe is eating a bagel.  Kim won the quarterly outstanding attorney award.  Way to go, Kim!

As it turned out, it was entirely painless and extremely enlightening.  Even though we all get along (mostly) and work well together, and always watch out for each other, it turns out that there are ways to make our working relationships better.  Sort of like Marriage Encounter without the religious overtone.  The Human Resource Lady who presented the material was easy to listen to, not preachy or silly.  The exercises were relevant.  Even though the room was full of supervisors, we were relaxed.  We laughed.  We learned.  And at the end, we all aspired to be geese instead of buffalos.  Trust me, that was a good thing.

Donna and Marci both won Giraffe Awards, for sticking their necks out above and beyond the call of duty

I still haven't posted the recipe for the Brunswick stew I made last night because I am completely conflicted about it.  It ended up being much too complicated for the taste involved, which means I will never make it again (sorry, Rob).  And I just can't help but think it wasn't really good enough to share.  Grandma might not say "feh" but she would probably say "blah."  I don't want to feature "blah" recipes, so we'll skip it and pretend this never happened.

Update:  I resolved the conflict, and posted my version of Paula Deen's Chicken Brunswick Stew, plus a bonus recipe for corn casserole.  Bon Appetit!

And now, from the "my head is going to explode" news department:

The deep public rift between the intelligence agencies of the US and Pakistan has now extended to the military.

"Adm Mike Mullen, the top US military official, has visited Pakistan more than 20 times, and invested an unusually large amount of time to build a relationship with Pakistan's army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani.

Gen Kayani has invested an equal amount of time and energy in maintaining a close relationship with the US military, despite differences ever since the Afghan Taliban were defeated in 2001.

From the start, the Pakistan army objected to the occupation of Kabul by the Afghan Northern Alliance, the initial domination of the government by non-Pashtuns, and the refusal of the Americans to involve Pakistan in helping rebuild the Afghan army.

More differences arose after Pakistan gave sanctuary and support to the leadership of the Afghan Taliban who relaunched their insurgency in Afghanistan in 2003.

Since then the Taliban insurgency has grown to cover all of Afghanistan."

Anyone want to take a shot at why we ever trusted Pakistan in the first place?  Do you think maybe Pakistan was giving sanctuary to the Afghan Taliban before 2003?  I'm thinking on or about September 12, 2001.  I'm also thinking George W. Bush was an idiot.  But you knew that.

Speaking of idiots, I haven't picked on Governor Voldemort in at least 2 days ... I just saw this:

Gov. Rick Scott to U.S. EPA: We'll take care of our own water

TALLAHASSEE — The day after the Florida House passed a bill to ban implementation of water quality standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Gov. Rick Scott on Friday asked the agency to rescind a January 2009 determination that the federal rules are necessary for Florida.

Opponents of the federal requirement say the state is better equipped to decide how best to comply with the federal Clean Water Act, which is intended to manage nitrogen and phosphorous pollution of lakes, rivers, streams and bays. They say the EPA standards will be costly to implement, don't address specific conditions of local waterways and provide little biological benefit.

According to Scott's office, the petition sent to the EPA details eight pollution control measures already in place in Florida that mirror EPA recommendations for effective water pollution control ...

The environmental group Earthjustice immediately criticized Scott's petition, sent through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The group said the move protects polluters by rejecting a plan for preventing slimy algae outbreaks that kill fish and make Florida water unfit for boating and swimming.

"It is particularly galling that Scott is thumbing his nose at clean water on Earth Day. It says a lot," Earthjustice attorney David Guest said in a prepared statement. "Polluters have been using our public waters as their private dumping grounds for too long, and it needs to stop. The corporate lobbyists who have Scott's ear are good at what they do. Unfortunately, when they win, the rest of us lose."

Speaking of losing, oops, the Magic did it again.  Come on, guys ...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Everybody's a Critic

We have a potluck occasion coming up, and after the usual amount of excessive online and offline research, agonizing, changing my mind, and considering the problem from all possible angles - you might think I was trying to broker a peace agreement in the Middle East - I decided on my version of Chicken Brunswick Stew.

I was determined it was going to be all chicken, because my friend and co-counsel, Charles, eats neither beef nor pork, and somehow most of my recent contributions to the office luncheon contained beef and pork.  So Brunswick stew it was going to be.  Until the menu changed, and I had to start thinking in terms of side dishes, things to accompany pizza.  I love pizza.  So I'll have to do some additional agonizing this weekend, but in the meantime, I'm still hooked on Brunswick stew.  So I decided to make it anyway for my home boys.

Before I moved down south, I had never tasted Brunswick stew.  The first Brunswick stew I ever tasted was my own, from Paula Deen's recipe.  I tweaked it a bit to my taste, and I've used that recipe ever since.  The first time I ever tasted Brunswick stew cooked by someone else was at a restaurant on Long Island, and I decided mine was better.  I couldn't begin to comment on the authenticity of either recipe, I just knew what I liked.

So in preparation for buying the necessary ingredients, I pulled up Paula Deen's original recipe on my iPhone, and made the mistake of reading reviews that had been posted at the Food Network site.  Most of the negative reviews had to do with what they considered to be The Lady's lack of authenticity.  Since it has never been absolutely determined if Brunswick stew originated in Brunswick, Georgia, or Brunswick County, North Carolina, or even New Brunswick, New Jersey, I don't think there is such a thing as "authentic" Brunswick stew, but these people carried on like Paula had sullied the reputations of southern cooks everywhere.  By the time I was done, I had read a whole bunch of variations, corrections, and resurrections, and feeling puckish, I used all of them.  Once I had the stew heating on the stove, I spent the better part of an hour tasting, seasoning, re-tasting and re-seasoning to get what I wanted.  I got Rob in on the tasting, as he's got a good palate, and finally got it the way he liked it.  I think I prefer my original version, but Rob said he likes the new one a little bit better.  So I'm going to give you both of them, and you decide. Check the recipe site later today or early tomorrow. One thing I can absolutely assure you is that neither one of them is authentic.

In other news ... the Eleventh Doctor is growing on me.  I still think he's weird-looking, but his acting isn't half-bad. 

Yesterday, the temperature in my car hit an all time high:

We are still under siege from The Attack of the Wild Turkeys:

And "Americans are more pessimistic about the nation's economic outlook and overall direction than they have been at any time since President Barack Obama's first two months in office, when the country was still officially ensnared in the Great Recession, according to the latest New York Time/CBS News poll."

So, are we now unofficially ensnared in the Great Recession?  Has the Great Recession been downgraded to a Good Depression?  I still don't understand how economists have concluded that the Great Recession is over.

And from the "better late than never" department:

"President Barack Obama announced Thursday that his administration will investigate to see if fraud or manipulation in oil markets is behind the sharp increase in gasoline prices.

"We are going to make sure that no one is taking advantage of the American people for their own short-term gain," Obama said at a town hall meeting in Reno, Nev.

He said a government task force under Attorney General Eric Holder would "root out any cases of fraud or manipulation in gasoline prices, "and that includes the role of traders and speculators.""    

What was he waiting for?  By the way, I remember what the gas prices were in January when we drove to New Orleans and Dallas ... guess what, the prices have gone up a dollar a gallon in the past 3 months, not just the past year.  We are bleeding out here, and he's taking a walk in the Rose Garden, so to speak.  Mr. President, it is about time you did something about this!  Of course it is fraud and price fixing and all other sorts of illegal stuff.  Have you looked at oil company profits? Hello, wake up and smell the coffee!

And speaking of coffee, I think I just barely have enough caffeine in my system to allow me to open my eyes and breathe.  Breathing is good, eye opening highly overrated ...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Flowers for Algernon

There is a part of me that would like to retire real soon, but that's a really small part.  I've been gainfully employed, except for very brief periods of time, since I was eighteen years old, and I don't think I know how to stop.

I have to be honest with myself - at 58, I don't have the energy I had even 20 years ago, when I graduated law school.  Before law school, I had spent most of a year taking an intensive paralegal course at Long Island University, while working two jobs.  Before that, I had worked, going to both graduate school and the College of Insurance, while commuting long hours on the train.  While I was in law school, I worked full time, commuting to Manhattan from Ronkonkoma.  It is true that I was in the part time program at Touro - although at 11 1/2 credits, I was coming awfully close to full time, and then I was also an active member of the Moot Court Board.  So I look back at those days, working in Manhattan during the week, working for the caterer on the weekend, putting in sometimes as much as 80 hours not counting commuting, and I shake my head in amazement.  I don't know how I did it, and I sure couldn't do it now.

1990 - Touro's Moot Court Team took Third Place and also won for Third Best Brief in the Jerome Prince Evidence Competition.  Not too shabby for a relatively new law school.

I get tired easily, and sometimes I feel fragile, while other times I feel I could take up running.  When I can't fall asleep until 4:00 in the morning, and then have to drag myself out of bed to get the office or court, I let myself dream about the day I can skip the dragging part and just go back to sleep.  Have a leisurely cup of coffee on the back patio, knit to my heart's content, work my way through all the recipes in Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies.  Do more traveling, see the world, see the rest of the United States.

Except I have a fear that is far greater than my desire to return to Italy or finally see Alaska, much greater than my frustration with insomnia, or my occasional exhaustion after a grueling trial.  I am afraid, deathly afraid, of becoming senile, of developing Alzheimer's or some other age-related dementia.  I am not worried about early onset Alzheimer's, but I do come from a family of long lifers, and the longer one lives, the more likely one will become senile.  In my family, this fact was reality, as my maternal grandmother, my maternal great aunt, and my maternal great grandfather all became senile years before they passed.  Interestingly, none of my maternal great uncles, who all lived well into their eighties and nineties, were affected.  So I take heart from that.

Long before I knew about Alzheimer's or gave a second thought to senility, I realized that my mother (actually my maternal grandmother) was on the dull side.  Not intellectually impaired - on the contrary, she was a very bright woman who read a lot, kept up with politics and the news, was comfortable with financial matters, was good with numbers, and was a terrific poker and pinochle player.  But she had never worked outside the home, at least not during her entire marriage to my father, which occurred in 1947.  She was not, by nature, a social person, so without the necessity of working alongside other people, she was terribly lonely.  It was my theory, even back in high school, that she was not exercising her brain enough.  I promised myself that I would do things very differently than her, that I would get dressed every morning and not just wear a housecoat, that I would go outside the house and interact with the world.  When I got married at 21, it never occurred to me to stop working.  I enjoyed the intellectual stimulation, and the sense of self worth, and the opportunity to interact with interesting people from all walks of life.  Just as it is important to stay physically active, to walk, stretch, even lift weights, to exercise our bodies, it is, in my opinion, even more important to exercise our minds.  I felt that in some way, my mother's brain had gotten flabby, like unused muscles. 

Staying mentally active became even more important to me when I saw her decline as senile dementia robbed her of her memories and her ability to care for herself.  I can't help but think that if she had exercised her mind all those years, she might have avoided the worst of it.  Her sister, my Aunt Ceil, suffered the same fate, as did their father, my great grandpa Charles Albert.  What these three all had in common is that they were recluses, cut off from other people and from any activity that would have demanded that they use their brains.

I've never been vain about my intellectual abilities.  I know my limitations.  I simply cannot wrap my mind around higher math, and as a result, there are things I will never understand as well as I would like.  I am also not very good at foreign languages, and although I have been working on my Spanish since seventh grade, I will never be proficient.  My memory is sort of hinky ... sometimes I can recite whole sections of statutes by visualizing the page in my head, but not a day goes by that I don't forget where I put my soda bottle.  The trade-off has been my ability to comprehend and utilize the written word.  I have always been a pretty good writer, and a voracious reader.  These abilities have let me earn a living, and also enjoy my time away from the office.  If I could not longer read, if I could no longer express myself in writing, I would be devastated.   As the character Charlie Gordon, in Daniel Keye's novel Flowers for Algernon, wrote in his journal, after the experiment which increased his intelligence to genius level failed and he found himself reverting to his impaired state, "please don't let me forget how to read and write." To which I would add, please don't let me forget my family.

Well, I have no intention of going gentle into that good night.  I'm going to keep exercising this brain, keeping the old synapses sparking, and the best way for me to do that is keep working.  There is enough intellectual stimulation to keep me clear headed or at least with most of my faculties intact.  Now I'm not saying this is for everybody, and there are a lot of people who look forward to retirement and enjoy it immensely.  Talk to me in 10 or 12 years, and I may be right there with them.

Or at the very least, on a cruise ship sailing the Inner Passage of Alaska.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Taking the Night Off

Dinner date with my best boy at Mikado Sushi, very nice.

The Orlando Magic won the second game of their best of seven against the Atlanta Hawks.  I love you guys!

Orange County leaders voted 6-0 this morning to extend health and other workplace benefits to the partners and children of gay county employees.  Excellent!

My favorite headline from today's Orlando Sentinel: Gov. Scott, Florida Legislature aren't getting along.  If I am reading the article correctly, the entire Florida Legislature, including the Republicans, are ignoring Voldemort's wishes.  They are going forward, doing their jobs, trying to reach agreements, while daGov does his impotent lip-flapping routine at Tea Party meetings.  It's one of the few times I've ever felt kindly toward the Florida Legislature.

Check this one out: Florida divorce proceeding turns violent -- in judge's chambers.  Seems this dude did NOT want to pay child support and expressed his displeasure in a manner that earned him a stay in the Broward County Jail and a $1 million bond.  Once again, I am very glad to have given up the practice of divorce law.  Perfectly normal people morph into freaking lunatics and do terrible things to each other and their children.  And their attorneys.

Although I did no cooking today, I came across a veritable treasure trove of old recipes - scribbled notes, newspaper clippings (Newsday 1989, anyone?) - that were packed away in a plastic box at the bottom of a closet I rarely use.  So there may be a stroll down memory lane by way of my kitchen in the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Major and The Minor (Rant, that is)

Why is this night different from all other nights?

Sundown, April 18th, 2011:  Last day of Tax Season, first night of Passover.

And it is finally over.  Rob is home eating Pesach Pescado Plaki  (recipe on our sister blog) and all is well with the world.  Well, maybe not with the world, but at least for this moment, with this family.

A zissen Pesach, everyone.

And now, a minor rant:

I am very sorry, but I simply cannot tolerate the Eleventh Doctor.  He creeps me out with his weird facial structure.  He reminds me of Lurch from The Addams Family, except that was makeup.

The late Ted Cassidy as Lurch and Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor   

Everybody has a Favorite Doctor.  Or at the very least, A Most Familiar Doctor, and for American TV viewers, that would have to be Tom Baker, the Fourth Doctor.

Picture of Jeff Goldblum
Tom Baker and Jeff Goldblum: Separated at Birth?

Come to think of it, Tom Baker is sort of creepy-looking.  No, my favorite remains the Ninth Doctor, although the Tenth Doctor sort of grows on you after a while.  But as long as the Eleventh Doctor is in office, I'll skip the trip to BBC America.

And now, the Major Rant of the Day:

Can somebody shut this guy up?  I'll even donate the duct tape:

Trump: I'll Release My Tax Returns When Obama Releases His Birth Certificate

Donald Trump has promised to disclose the details of his finances if he decides to run for president, but not necessarily his tax returns.  In our interview yesterday, he laid out a new condition for their release.

“Maybe I’m going to do the tax returns when Obama does his birth certificate…I’d love to give my tax returns.  I may tie my tax returns into Obama’s birth certificate,” Trump said.

We covered a lot of ground in our 35 minute sit-down – gas prices, his response to the Club for Growth, whether his businesses buy in America and why he no longer supports universal health care and a women’s right to choose – and Trump stood his ground on the “birther” controversy.

Stephanopoulos: You say it’s all about the messenger.  A lot of Republicans think you’re a flawed messenger for the party.  Karl Rove, again over the weekend, saying you’re a joke candidate, if you continue to raise questions about President Obama’s citizenship.

Trump: There’s a real question about the birth certificate.  There’s a real question about the-- his own-- his own citizenship.

Stephanopoulos: There-- there is-- there is no question.

Trump: But-- but let me just say--

Stephanopoulos: He’s got a certificate of live birth that is recognized by the State Department.

Trump: But for some reason-- no, they’re not the facts.  He doesn’t have a birth certificate or he hasn’t provided.  He’s given a certificate of live birth.  It’s a much different instrument.

The rest of the article can be found by clicking this link.

To say that this concerns me on several different levels is an understatement.  Under the best of circumstances, "The Donald" is a huge joke.  Long before Trump hit the national scene, we New Yorkers had had our fill of him.  He was, and still is, a tabloid reporter's dream.  On a more serious note, he represents a disturbing trend wherein someone with buckets of money can simply buy the public office they want.  Think Rick Scott.  Even if he doesn't win, he's going to become an annoying distraction.  Think Ross Perot.  What if The Donald doesn't win the Republican Party nomination and decides to run independently?  That might just send us back to the Recount Hell days of 2000.  Do we really want a right wing Ralph Nader throwing sand in the engine?

Finally - if memory serves me correctly, the only birth certificate I have is a Certificate of Live Birth issued by the City of New York.  I have never been able to obtain my long form birth certificate; although I have had to apply to get copies several times in the past, they keep sending me the "short form."  Since it lists all the pertinent information - my name, my parents' names, the date and borough of my birth (Brooklyn, of course), and most importantly displays the sacred raised seal,  I have been able to obtain a passport, apply to become a member of the Florida Bar, and in pre-passport days, travel to and from places like Canada and the Bahamas.  No one has ever questioned my citizenship, and if they did, I would be pretty damn insulted.

Here is another reason why I list my political party as "Rational Anarchist":

GOP insiders embrace Trump's presidential bid
WASHINGTON (AP) — Out with Sarah. In with The Donald.

President Barack Obama has launched his re-election bid in a low-key manner, but the Republican Party's search for a challenger seems stranger by the day.

GOP celebrities like Sarah Palin aren't getting much buzz. Mainstream candidates like Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty aren't getting much traction. It's people once considered highly unlikely to compete seriously for the party's nomination who are creating big stirs in early voting states, a reflection of an unformed and uncertain GOP presidential field.

GOP activists in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina appear deeply intrigued by, and open to, a run by Donald Trump, the publicity-loving business tycoon and host of NBC's "The Apprentice," even as he perpetuates falsehoods about Obama's citizenship and questions the legitimacy of his presidency.

The GOP is taking him seriously.   Who next, Charlie Sheen?

Monday, April 18, 2011


This identity theft stuff is getting old.  And I'm getting madder.  And just like Bill Bixby's Dr. David Banner told the reporter who was tracking the Hulk:  "Mr. McGee, don't make me angry ... you wouldn't like me when I'm angry" - I am saying to the little thief who is disrupting my personal financial life - "my name is Inigo Montoya ..." 

Oops, wrong speech.  I am saying that this mild mannered persona I present to the world is merely a front.  Beneath this petite and placid exterior is a fat lady with a bad temper and a worse attitude.  Be advised:  the investigation is ongoing, and when we find you, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. 

Hey, I said I had a bad temper, I didn't say I was stupid.

I've gotten some feedback from yesterday's post.  I thought I was so clever working Benoit Mandelbrot and Mandel Bruce "Mandy" Patinkin into the piece about Jewish baking, and then my friend Jenny reminds me of one other - Howie Mandel!  How could I have forgotten Howie?  He was a lot funnier in his younger, stand up comic days, even before he was a regular on "St. Elsewhere."  I still crack up at his handbag routine.  From 1985 People Magazine:

"Mature men do not place surgical gloves over their heads and blow them up on The Merv Griffin Show. They do not make prank phone calls trying to book gigs for their troupe of acrobatic hamsters. And they do not sport gigantic hand bags, five-fingered plastic monstrosities that hang on shoulders—see, it's a hand bag. Get it? Mature men do not do these things, but Howie Mandel does, and in his mind he has never left the sixth grade. "My greatest fear is growing up," Howie says.

The truth is, Mandel, 29, can act like a grown-up; he does that every week on St. Elsewhere. As the alert emergency room medic, Dr. Fiscus, Mandel portrays the son his parents always wanted. The real Howie appears on the current Cinemax special Howie Mandel: Live From Carnegie Mall. In 26 minutes he performs 52 skits in a California shopping mall. Here's Howie plunging his hand into a goldfish bowl—sushi on the cheap. And here's Howie putting one of those anti-shoplifting devices in an old lady's purse. The alarm buzzes! Now she's under arrest!"

Howie Mandel - Fits Like A Glove - Vinyl Album

Can you imagine today's OCD Howie Mandel with his billiard ball head, plunging his hand into a goldfish bowl?

Speaking of stand up comics, I've got one of those in my family.  My godson Peter, by day a hardworking guy with a normal job, three great kids, and a child support payment, and by night the best comic in Nashville, Tennessee and dare I say, the whole southeast? He's wild and crazy and creatively profane, and "coalesces the vapors of human experience into a viable and meaningful comprehension."

Pete also maintains a blog, "Messed Up Parenting Tips" which will teach you everything you wanted to know about what not to do with your kids.   Even in our slightly wacky family, Peter is what you would call "sui generis." ( I love when I get to show off my expensive law school education.)

On the food front, I am pondering just what to do with a bag of frozen tilapia fillet.  Cory mentioned he might like fish and I just happened to have a bag of very nice tilapia that I picked up a while back at BJ's.  He said he didn't feel like beef, and I responded that was a good thing since the price of beef was prohibitive.  I don't have a lot of variety in how I prepare fish, and I view that as a failing on my part.  I can fry it, stuff it, pineapple salsa it, bake it with mushrooms and sour cream, pesto it, and bagna cauda it.  Nice, but boring.  Maybe I need to invent a new stuffing.  Tilapia is like the blank slate of all fish, and a single fillet is pretty unsubstantial, so a jazzy topping could make the dish.  My brain keeps working around to a recipe for scrod that Kathy used to prepare years ago, when we were young and going to each other's home for dinner and conversation was the best entertainment of all.  I miss those days ...

Kathy's recipe brings to mind a Greek Fish Plaki, with a delicious array of Mediterranean flavors.  I also remembered a dish I prepared from one of my Tabasco cookbooks, for Red Snapper Veracruz, and that's another possibility.  Since we're going out to dinner tonight, and the tilapia needs to defrost overnight, I have time to find the perfect recipe.  If I can't find it, I'll just invent it. 

And dinner was wonderful.  No matter how often I go to a Japanese steakhouse, I never get tired of watching the food get cooked in front of me, and I always enjoy the chef's performance.  We were at Kobe's on 192 in Kissimmee, right across from Stepford ... I mean, Celebration.  We shared a table (and a very big bottle of sake) with very friendly Canadians as well as two local young ladies, also friendly.  Danny was our chef-entertainer, and he excelled at both.  Rob and Cory had their usual, the lobster, steak and shrimp combo, while I went all lobster, all the time, and a glass of icy cold plum wine.  I guess we've been going to that particular Kobe's since we moved down here, and it still seems fresh and new, spotless clean, and great food. 

I finished my Passover shopping tonight.  One box of regular matzoh, a jar of gefilte fish, and two apples to make charoses.  Now I'm really ready for the holiday.

Ira and Deety have been having a spat for the past few days, and I don't know what to do about it.  I hate when my kids fight.  Earlier I had one on either side of my computer, pretending to ignore each other.  Yesterday Deety was hissing while Ira pounded her head with his paw.  I think they've just reached detente.  Let's hope it lasts.

While thinking about the tilapia, I kept coming back to Kathy's recipe, and while I can't find it (I did uncover a treasure trove of hidden recipes, but that's another blog post) I happened upon that Fish Plaki recipe in my copy of The Complete Book of Greek Cooking.  It's official name is Psari Plaki, with plaki being a method of cooking, usually with onions, tomatoes, parsley and olive oil.  There's also celery and breadcrumbs, and it comes very close to my memory of the scrod dish.  Damn, I can see the recipe in my mind's eye, handwritten by Kathy, so why can't I find it?  

I will be tinkering with the psari plaki recipe anyway, as I don't have all the necessary ingredients, but I do have one ugli tomato and it will be a magnificent addition to the dish.  Ugli tomatoes actually smell like tomatoes.  They taste like tomatoes.  They are the tomato's tomato.  And they are essential to the success of this dish.

Cook like there's nobody watching, and eat like it's heaven on earth.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Seasons of the Year: Spring, Summer, Tax

Here it is April 17th, and Tax Season is not over.  Just one more way our government has screwed us over.

The End of Tax Season has been a mythic event in our family for the past 25 plus years, since Rob gave up the crazy world of food service management for the wonderful world of public accounting.  He arrives home very late, we hug, congratulate each other for surviving another one, he tells me Maria has made plans to close the office for a day later in the week, we decide where we are going for dinner the next night to celebrate, he shares stories of the last stragglers, we laugh, we yawn, and we fall asleep.  Well, he falls asleep, I'm still an insomniac, tax season or not. Few things compare with the big sense of relief we all feel when Tax Season is over, because from mid January until mid April, life as we know it comes to a standstill.  No travel, no rest, no relaxation.  And that's just Cory and me, Rob has it ten times worse.

Having had to take a course on Federal Income Tax in law school, all I can say is he can keep it.  Numbers make me break out in hives (don't be fooled by my brief foray into the world of fractal geometry.)  Combine that with the Federal Tax Code, and it's enough to put me into a coma.  But Rob really likes accounting and tax work.  Lots of people think I'm crazy for working in an area of law where my heart gets ripped out on a fairly regular basis.  I can't imagine doing anything else, and I suppose he feels the same way about his work.

This year the Feds extended the filing deadline until midnight on Monday, April 18th, which totally screwed this weekend and interferes with the first night of Passover.  It's bad enough that we can't ever go to Vegas for Spring Nationals ... why the extension?  I don't know, maybe they're making up snow days or some other nonsense.

Speaking of Passover, I've bought one box of egg matzoh, so I'm ready.  I can't remember the last time I prepared a seder ... wait, yes I do, it was three years ago, and I combined it with an Easter celebration.  Matzoh ball soup and glazed ham.  I think I may have pushed the envelope just a little too far.

Cory has expressed a desire for some charoses, which is easy enough to make.  Charoses is one of those foods that is drenched in sweet kosher wine and deep religious symbolism, because it is used during the reading of the Haggadah to represent the mortar that the Hebrews used to build for the Pharoah.  Other symbolic foods are the bitter herbs, usually horseradish, the roasted bone, the hardboiled egg, the parsley, and the dish of salt water which symbolizes the tears shed by the Hebrew slaves.  A better explanation can be found by clicking on this link.  The best part of the seder is making the Hillel sandwich - horseradish and charoses piled between two pieces of Passover matzoh, sort of an other-world bruschetta or the tea sandwich from hell.  Wash that down with a big gulp of Manischewitz Concord Grape wine, and all will be right with the world.

The symbolic foods are placed on a special Seder Plate.  I have several, some very elegant, others not so elegant but very precious to me.  One was made by Robert's Grandma Blanche, and another was made by Cory while he was in Hebrew school.

Cooking and especially baking for Passover are very different than everyday food preparation.  Leaving aside the facts that I do not keep kosher, nor kosher for Passover, and that I do not get rid of my chametz (leavened foods, like bread and cake), and that no one in my family has the patience to sit through a reading of the Haggadah, I still enjoy making some of the traditional foods.  Since Passover lasts for seven or eight days, depending on whether you live in Israel or are a Diaspora Jew or you are Reform or Reconstructionist regardless of where you live ... don't worry about the details, the point is that Passover will last long enough for me to blog about how we celebrate it, and what foods I will prepare.

Before I even make it to Passover, I realized I have little in the way of cooked food in the fridge.  Saturday I was washed up and passed out from slogging through two killer weeks at work, but today I'm going to have to do some serious cooking, and that means a trip to Publix.  Woot woot!

The Orlando Magic played with irregular brilliance on Saturday, and lost big time to the Atlanta Hawks.  No wonder I am living on Zantac.  Boys, you know I love you all, now bring it home for Mom!

Checking the news (no, I don't really sleep, get over it) and saw this headline:

"You don't have to be a celebrity to be bipolar... but boy does it help!"

I'm not sure what it is supposed to help ... acceptance of bizarre behavior?  Better access to treatment?  Less stigma than attaches to us noncelebrities?  I've had severe, sometimes crippling depression and anxiety since I was fifteen.  I can't imagine that being a celebrity would have made that road any easier to navigate.  And then for almost nine years, I was a defense attorney representing parents who had lost their children to foster care, many because of mental illness.  Would being a celebrity have quelled that pain?  Does celebrity status somehow stop that terrible inner dialogue that drives some people to acts of violence against themselves or others?  Well, I don't buy it.  In fact, I think that mental illness is the Great Equalizer.  It makes us human, albeit in a terrible way.

Here is my favorite article from the Orlando Sentinel, today's column from Scott Maxwell.  Let's face it, we've all been saying the exact same thing:

Rick Scott is enough to make me miss Charlie Crist

"Father, forgive me for what I'm about to say … but I miss Charlie Crist.  Oh, I know he had faults as big as the San Andreas. The guy switched positions more often than a weathervane. His vision rarely extended beyond the next election.  But he also had a heart.  Charlie never targeted the disabled.  He never would've made it easier to abuse and neglect the elderly.  He never promised gifts and breaks to corporations so that he could cut funding to veterans and schools … all while doubling his own office's budget.  For all his many imperfections, Charlie had concern for his fellow man.

And compared with some of the nonsensical and truly damaging actions we are seeing from Rick Scott nowadays, a little naked pandering looks downright refreshing."

As the Wicked Witch cried out as she melted, "what a world, what a world!"

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Fractal Geometry of Jewish Baked Goods

I am having a mandelbrot crisis.  All because I started blogging about rugelach and hamantaschen.  Bam! 

You can't talk about rugelach and hamantaschen and not mention mandelbrot.  So I started thinking about baking some mandelbrot, but I wanted something easier than my mandelbrot with fruit.  Most mandelbrot is made with oil, which renders it pareve, or neutral, for anyone who keeps kosher.  That means they could enjoy the mandelbrot after a meat meal or a dairy meal without having to wait the requisite number of hours.  But my recipe is made with butter, and the dough is not easy to handle.  Dough made with oil is much easier to work with, and I'm all about easy.  Finding a recipe for mandelbrot made with oil is easy.

Another problem is that I can't eat almonds.  Very hard for me to chew, so I avoid them.  Since "mandel" is Yiddish for almond, this begs the question of whether what I would be baking is really mandelbrot, but I can fix this with almond extract or even almond filling.

I also do not want my mandelbrot to be a biscotti knock-off.  No dipping the ends in melted chocolate.  As grandma would say, feh.

Here's the biggest problem of all:  the best mandelbrot I ever had was baked by my brother's mother-in-law.  It was a marbled mandelbrot, with both white and chocolate dough.  (No chocolate chips.  What Russian bubbe had access to chocolate chips?  Certainly not mine.  Chocolate chips are not authentic. Chocolate chips weren't even invented until 1937, and I can assure you that Ruth Wakefield was not using them to make mandelbrot.)  And I don't think there were almonds in her mandelbrot.  It was perfect.  She even made some just for me. 

Why is such a happy memory such a problem?  Well, I never got the recipe, and now it's too late.  Not because she passed away but because there was a falling out about thirty years ago and unfortunately my brother and I - and by extension, his wife and her family - no longer have a friendly relationship.

Now, it may be just a little true that I remarried my husband to get his mother's butter cookie recipe.  At least that's what I let him believe.  But there is absolutely no way for me to get this lady's mandelbrot recipe, so I am stumped.  I have looked in cookbooks and am in the process of doing internet searches, without even coming close.  Bummer.

Ho Ho Ho!  I think I found it ... another save by Sara Moulton.  I'll get back to you.

By the way, did you know that one of my very favorite actors is named Mandel?

I've been looking on and off for hours now, and I'm not completely satisfied with any one recipe, which means I'm going to have to tweak and fiddle.  I did find a great recipe for a cardamom mandelbrot, but I do not want to get distracted ... cardamom is a favorite spice of mine, but not to everyone's taste.  One year I found a recipe in Bon Appetit for a cardamom cranberry cornbread, and I made it for Thanksgiving.  Nobody really liked it except for me.  It wasn't that they disliked it ... they just didn't "get it."  I love cornbread, and I am always trying to replicate the light, sweet cornbread I used to get at The Spare Rib in Commack, New York.  The cardamom version was nothing like The Spare Rib version, of course, but it was so good I could have eaten the whole thing.  Come to think of it, I did eat the whole thing.  With sweet butter.

Okay, I'm not sure that Jewish baked goods can be described by fractal geometry, unless they contain Romanesco cauliflower, which is highly unlikely.  But sitting here having my little mandelbrot fit, I could not resist having a little fun with the Father of Fractal Geometry ... Benoit Mandelbrot.  Besides having the coolest name around (even cooler than one of my favorite actors, Mandel Bruce Patinkin) he is best known for describing what is now known as the Mandelbrot set:

Sort of looks like the chocolate dough wrapped inside the vanilla dough in a properly made mandelbrot.  Absolute genius!

At the other end of the spectrum from genius comes some of today's headlines:

Gov. Scott's attorney admits giving inaccurate figures arguing against high speed rail money

Nic Cage -- Taunted Police Into Arresting Him

Trump's Strength in Early Presidential Polls Defies Conventional Wisdom

Back to the genius side of things:  My good friend Mark is posting a one-time opportunity for all his blogging friends - and trust me, he's got friends all over the world with a variety of interests - to check each other's blogs out, network, and just say "hi!".  A terrific way to widen one's horizons and get a little free publicity as well ... thank you Mark!  I highly recommend you check out Mark's blog here.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Yiddish Kiddush

That burst of energy I experienced on Wednesday came and went so fast, I had to read my own blog to remember it.  Sad.  I had a trial Thursday morning, and bless all of my witnesses for showing up and being prepared. Very professional, and very much appreciated.  We were able to wrap everything up well before the lunch break.

Me and Joe Biden both took a nap, and that seemed to help, and so at some point Thursday evening I felt up to preparing the dough for more hamantaschen.  I ate the last one for breakfast that morning and it was either prepare another batch or suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous hamantaschen deprivation.

It occurred to me that since I was already messing up the food processor, I could prepare the dough for rugelach.  I'm not really speaking a foreign language here - rugelach and hamantaschen are well known Jewish baked goods eaten by people of many different religious and ethnic backgrounds, at least in New York.  You can buy them here in Florida as well, at any of the big warehouse stores like Costco or B.J.s, and they're not bad.  But their rugelach are not terribly authentic, and if you want authentic, you are going to have to make them yourself.  Same thing with mandelbrot - okay, so I am speaking a foreign language here, sorry.  Mandelbrot is Yiddish for "almond bread" and is very similar to Italian biscotti.  Like biscotti, it is twice-baked, but it is neither as dry nor hard as biscotti. Homemade is best, and I have a recipe that includes candied fruit and is exceptional.  I have other recipes as well, some for Passover and some not.  Mandelbrot is a very versatile recipe, and anyone with a Jewish bubbe (grandma) was probably treated to the family recipe at one time or another.  Many of those recipes do not include almonds, but the name stuck.

Very authentic-looking rugelach

Another peek at my last batch of hamantaschen

Passover Chocolate Mandelbrot
One very traditional version of mandelbrot

Above:  the Happy Trinity of Jewish Baking

I have been making rugelach from the same recipe for over thirty years, and have never felt the need to stray from my roots.  I did not get this recipe from my mother, because she did not like to bake.  Neither does Rachael Ray, so it's not a character flaw, although my mother had plenty of those.  Baking involves careful measuring, and my mother never measured anything.  I can remember two or three times during my entire life that she baked cookies, specifically her recipe for Moon Cookies, which I loved and did manage to get her recipe.  But that's another blog post.

My rugelach recipe comes from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies, possibly my favorite baking cookbook of all time.  Speaking of time, this is unfortunately long out of print, although there is a collection called Maida Heatter's Cookies currently available which includes cookie recipes from all of her earlier books.  I have no idea if it includes the rugelach recipe or some of my other favorites like the fudge delices, Danish Coffeehouse Slices and Viennese Almond Walnut Bars.  I do know that the original book is so fantastic, I wanted to take a year's sabbatical from my job to work through every recipe.

The New York Times printed the rugelach recipe in 1988 and my only changes involved using the food processor instead of a mixer, and dividing the dough into 4 pieces instead of three.  I still like Ms. Heatter's filling the best - melted butter, cinnamon sugar, nuts and currants.  Some people like to use apricot preserves instead of the melted butter, but that seems too sweet to me, and not at all authentic, but your mileage may vary.

So right now, there are eight neat little circles of dough wrapped in waxed paper, chilling in my refrigerator.  Four are for the hamentaschen, and the others are for the rugelach.  The rugelach dough is a traditional cream cheese dough , a half a pound of butter, a half a pound of cream cheese, and a half a pound of flour.  Very sticky to work with unless refrigerated, and you have to work really fast once you start rolling the dough into a circle, but really well worth the effort.  Stick around, and I'll be posting the recipes and pictures on the recipe blog sometime this weekend.  Until then -

Cook like there's nobody watching, and eat like it's heaven on earth.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lady of the Lake

You know it's a crazy week when I have to put up a "do not disturb" sign.  Trial preparation, document deadlines, contentious court hearings, and too many files for signing stacked up to resemble the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  People knock on my door anyway, which gives me the opportunity to ask if Armageddon has occurred. If I lock the door, they go get the master key and open it anyway.  Maybe next time they do that, I'll be sitting behind my desk with a big "666" written across my forehead with lipstick.  

Armageddon gas prices.  Coming soon to a station in YOUR neighborhood.

On my way back from court this morning, I took a quick break at the lake, just long enough to admire the view and take a couple of photos.

Lake Tohopekaliga

Beautiful Lake Tohopekaliga, a native name meaning "we will gather together here".  When we were moving to Florida from Long Island, I was concerned that I would miss my beloved Lake Ronkonkoma, not realizing that this part of Florida can out-lake Long Island seven ways to Sunday.

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Lake Ronkonkoma

"Lake Ronkonkoma has been called a place of haunting mystery. Indians and white men alike wondered about its source of pure fresh water and its unexplained tendency to rise and fall periodically with no apparent relationship to the local rainfall. Many legends, myths and superstitions about Lake Ronkonkoma were based on the theory that the lake was bottomless. Other legends are based on a forbidden love between a beautiful Indian princess and an English settler who met a tragic end together." From Three Waves: The Story of Lake Ronkonkoma

Few things are as soothing as gazing out on a lake, even one with a curse.  Our last day in New York, a day fraught with stress, I left Rob to handle the crazy Israeli movers and drove the two miles to the Brookhaven side of Lake Ronkonkoma, parked the car and just stared out at the water for a little while, until I could breathe again.

Oh, the curse?  Well, the legends seem to date back to the 1600's, and when I moved to the area in 1979, I heard the same stories about the Lady of the Lake:

"Other accounts involved the princess revisiting the lake, walking on water and taking the life of a man annually in search of her forbidden love. Her ghost is said to dwell in the depths of the lake, and some say each year, the princess drags down a least one young man to be her lover in death. This thought is considered the basis for the curse that at least one person shall drown in the waters of the lake each year."

Anyway, the drive-by to Lake Toho must have worked, because I was revived enough to finish preparing a Legal Staffing Decision Form (which bears the unfortunate acronym "LSD"), pull my files apart to facilitate trial prep, dash off back to court bearing gifts to drop off - two packages of lavender Hostess Sno-Balls for Rob and his trusty assistant Maria - and to start thinking about cooking.  I actually had the energy to cook, mirabile visu!  Magical Lake Toho, known for it's bass fishing and restorative powers, and our new offices are going to be in a (for Kissimmee) high rise building overlooking the lake.  O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

I had this package of rather healthy boneless chicken breasts that I picked up for a song a couple of days ago at Publix.  I went back to Publix after work, and drifted up and down the aisles seeking inspiration.  I did not want cutlet parmagiana or marsala or francese or mushroom anything, or rolled and stuffed, or butterflied, stir fried, Southern fried, Kieved or Cordon Bleued.  I was bored and I was stumped, but then my brain was revitalized from my adventure as Lady of the Lake and thus was born Southern Chicken Pot Pie - winner, winner, chicken dinner.  Enjoy.

Cook like there's nobody watching, and eat like it's heaven on earth.