Saturday, September 24, 2011

Happy Beginnings and Happy Endings

It has been that sort of week, fraught with drama, emergencies, and deadlines.  We are down to four attorneys this week (in a six attorney office), and still missing one paralegal (it has been months).  So nobody is filing their nails or indulging in long lunches.  Despite the never-ending work, the dead and dying elevators, and my head cold, I am happy.  Singing-in-the-car happy (apparently Lady Gaga and I sing in the same key.)

I was going to comment on the Dr. Phil interviews of Cindy and George Anthony, but I decided that none of them, including Dr. Phil, deserve any of my time.  Idiots.

I'm seeing a couple of books I want to read on Kindle.  Patricia Cornwell's Port Mortuary has reached a price I consider fair (I will not pay $14.99 for a Kindle book, even if I can read it on all of my electronic devices).  I also accidentally discovered a book by actor Michael Tucker, Family Meals: Coming Together to Care for an Aging Parent, that I think I want to read, as it addresses senile dementia.  I have been avoiding reading from my not-inconsiderable stash of hardcore murder mysteries lately, simply because I am not seeing the entertainment value in serial killer insanity or detailed descriptions of unspeakable torture.  I love those types of books, but sometimes I need the kinder, gentler murders described in the Golden Age Mysteries by Ellery Queen and Rex Stout.  Kindle versions of my beloved Ellery Queen remain few and far between, and I have read most of the Rex Stout novels currently available.  Still waiting for Ngaio Marsh and my favorite Heinleins to show up in Kindle format.  Hello, Amazon? 

I also have not been reading much these last few weeks because I am knitting.  Lots of knitting.  Knitting with a view, when I can steal a few minutes to gaze out the window of my office during a truncated lunch break.  Still working on the circular baby blanket and the baby surprise jacket.  They don't match and are not intended for the same recipient, but they are delightful to work on.

Good grief, Charlie Brown, it has been over a week since I drafted that incomplete lead off to a blog post that never occurred.  The baby blanket is completed, and so is the baby:  My Number One Niece gave birth to her daughter, Bailey Rose, on September 21, 2011.   Time for me to pull in the ends, sew in the zipper, wash and block and prepare for shipping.

We have been beyond busy in our office, and all of us are walking around looking like the walking wounded.  Our numbers are up, which is a sad commentary on human beings in general and parents in particular.  I was finally reduced to tears, but because they were happy tears, I want to share that story with you.

Yesterday I was privileged to attend an adoption.  The child is turning 18 on Sunday, but it was vitally important to him that this adoption take place while he was still legally a child.  The new father, who is a friend, a colleague, and a coworker, happens to be gay.  The child spent 5 years in our foster care system, and until a little less than a year ago, my friend would not have been able to adopt the child because of a retarded - and I use that word correctly - provision of Chapter 63, Florida Statutes. 

I am so proud and happy at so many different levels that I am having difficulty expressing it.  I am unable to go into the details of the work and worry that consumed a few of us as the eleventh hour approached, so I will thank all of you, and if you happen to read this, you know who you are.

I have not cooked anything worth blogging about in quite a while.  On the other hand, I did finish knitting the crumpled bath mat  manta ray  baby surprise jacket, and it is quite adorable and amazing.  I will put it away for the future, so that if I hit a knitting slump, I will still have something handmade to present.  Someone is always having babies, so it seems.

We have a lot of leftover Chinese food in the fridge - hey, we gotta eat, even when I don't cook - but I will have to spend some time in the kitchen tomorrow.  Maybe lasagna, maybe fish, maybe beef stew.  Inspiration, anyone?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Resistance is, after all, futile

Thank you for the Baby Borg - now knit me a sweater!  I did cast on for the BSJ (baby surprise jacket) Sunday night, but apparently I have trouble counting up to 160 and had to frog it (rip it, rip it) after one row.  I mean, dude!  I was off by 19 stitches, what is that about?  When I got ready to re-cast, I realized that I was using one needle size 5, the other size 6.  What else could have gone wrong?  It was a total do-ever.  Apparently both love and knitting is better the second time around.  I made lavish use of stitch markers to help me keep count, and I think this time I've got it.  However, if you have ever knit anything created from the mind of the late, great Elizabeth Zimmermann, you know how loosey-goosey her instructions can be.  I have been knitting long enough, I think - coming up on half a century - to figure it out.  But if not, just remember that those anguished shrieks you are hearing coming from Orlando may NOT be people riding on Space Mountain for the first time.

I have never been accused of being a spontaneous person.  Never.  But I am here to tell you that I did something utterly spontaneous, without much forethought.  Or maybe there was forethought but it was all subliminal.  Or subcutaneous.  Or subconscious.  Yeah, that's the right word, subconscious.  Most of the time the subconscious is an evil little parasite, but on Sunday night it made me happy.

I booked a cruise, just like that.  Found it, liked it, ran it by Rob, and booked it online, all within the space of a half hour.  Usually, I agonize for months, but this was absolutely serendipitous, meaning the dates, the price, the port, and the cruise line were all exactly what I would have wanted, had I gone on a long determined search for the perfect cruise.  I know I've told you that I live from vacation to vacation, and this is going to be a goody.  I would do the Happy Dance, but my knees are hurting and besides, I can't dance worth a damn.

Off and running now.  I haven't forgotten the rest of the food tour of Panama City Beach.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sunday, A Zen Day

Maybe the iron pills are starting to work.  Because now that it is later in the day I am feeling better - not dancing-in-the-street better, but a bit more normal, as odd as it seems to apply that word to myself.  That low grade, free floating depression seems to have drifted off, and my ch'i is vaguely cheerful.  Imagine that.

Before I left work on Friday, I took some pictures of my office, which is for all intents and purposes, done.  I still have to hang a few things, but that can happen in good time.  Although the office is just a tad bigger than my walk-in closet at home, it is a comfortable place to work in, so I guess my feng shui state of mind was successful. 

We have successfully relocated to Downtown Kissimmee

Unfortunately, all of the work followed us there

The CPIs and case managers seem to like the staffing accommodations

Apparently the curtains are a big hit.  Gotta love Wal-Mart.

I have been enjoying my cooking today, having chosen a batch of recipes that are pleasantly mindless to prepare.  Nothing as trauma-inducing as the Family Chicken Tamales, which my son has apparently coveted for his own consumption.  Sausage and Pepper Cacciatore, Sweet and Sassy Platanos Maduros, Chicken Livers and Caramelized Onions is a Sage Cream Sauce, Macaroni, Ham and Cheese Casserole, and Creamed Spinach.  Believe it or not, it was easier to prepare these five dishes than that one batch of tamales. You can check out the recipes at the It's All About the Food blog.

UPDATE:  Cory still hates liver.  Sigh.

Didn't I tell you I had gotten a lot of knitting done?

Pay no attention to the handmade sock-clad feet sticking out at the top.  I realize this looks more like a baby sack than a baby blanket, but trust me, it's a circular blanket.  I am at the point of completing the last set of rows for the Old Shale edging, and then I can cast off and get it ready for it's journey north.  And can pick up my mohair pi shawl and give it a whirl.  Literally, as it is circular as well.  And then, I think I have to segue back to socks.  Need more socks.  But!  I find myself inexplicably drawn to quick-knit one of these cute and utterly adorable baby surprise jackets.  I was feeling that way even before the Harlot put up her post, and now it's just gotten worse.  For me, not her.

So the bottom line here is that it was a peaceful, enjoyable Sunday, in a zen sort of way.  I am sitting here sipping my 2010 Schmitt Sohne Riesling, relaxing with my home boys, Ira and Anakin.  I've managed to trick Romeo into swallowing his Clavamox.  Twice.  My family is well-fed, and I'm about to retrieve my copy of Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitting Workshop to check out the pattern for her Baby Surprise Jacket.  The surprise will be whether I can resist casting on the stitches to get it started.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thoughts from my dark side

On September 11 ...
I highly recommend my friend Mark Fendrick's blog, Thoughts from the Dark Side, for a series of really beautiful and thoughtful posts about the events of September 11, and how it affected our lives, our country, and the world.

Some of you may know that I worked for Alexander & Alexander, a very large insurance broker, back in the seventies and eighties.  After I left, through a series of mergers, A&A was absorbed by Aon Corporation, one of the companies suffering a high number of terrible losses on September 11, 2001.  On this day, my thoughts always turn to two people.  Rest in peace, Mike.  And Denise, you keep kicking my butt on Words with Friends.

I haven't done any cooking in over a week, but I have done some fine eating, and I would like to share those meals with you.

Last week, Rob and I headed up to Panama City Beach for a long Labor Day weekend and Grand Master Soon Ho Lee's legendary "Battle on the Beach."  Actually the battle takes place in the Edgewater Conference Center, but the rest of the weekend is All Beach, All the Time.  Except in the case of hurricanes, like this weekend.

Bad weather did not stop us from enjoying some old and new restaurants, and since I've already posted ad nauseum about my day in the ER, I am going to focus on the food, best symbol of what was still an enjoyable vacation.

Thursday was our travel day, and we arrived early enough to have dinner at a normal hour.  On the way up, I played with my Trip Advisor app looking for new places to add to our list of PCB favorites.  Thursday night turned out to be barbecue night, but the kind of barbecue we had never had before.  It was so good, Rob is planning on emailing Guy Fieri to try to get this place a guest shot on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  Because it is a dive, as are most good barbecue places.

Sweet Racks, 2920 Thomas Drive, PCB
(850) 230-1777

Let me tell you about the ribs ... they were smoked within an inch of their life, but not oversmoked.  Tender and toothsome.  The sauce is called "tocino" and it is apparently a Filipino thing.  Lucky Filipinos!  So the sauce is closer to Asian but not quite teriyaki, and it compliments the smoked meat in a way I could not have imagined.  The tocino chicken was just as wonderful, as were the side dishes we ordered.  Rob had the baked beans and I had the cucumber salad.  Next time I'm ordering the fried plantains as well.  I did not share my leftovers with Cory.  It was that good.  Apparently, I was so busy shkoffing ribs I did the unthinkable and forgot to take a picture. 

Friday was a free day for us - no competition, no traveling, nor other obligations.  We had already planned our breakfast stop, and it was all about the beignets.

David's New Orleans Style Sno-Balls
13913 Panama City Beach Parkway, PCB
(850) 236-1998

When Rob and I were in New Orleans this past January, we made a point to stop at Cafe Du Monde for beignets, and for me, chicory coffee.  Incredible experience, except for the fact it was almost too cold to enjoy it.  We seem to alway get to NOLA when it is too hot or too cold.  Which is also the reason we weren't able to hang around to snag a muffuletta at Central Grocery.  I make a pretty mean muffuletta, including my own olive salad, but I would have loved to taste The Original.  As it turns out, David's is a little piece of New Orleans right there in the Florida panhandle.  Still a shlep, but a lot closer than New Orleans.  We had the beignets and I had the chicory coffee, and there was peace in my soul.  Just as good as Cafe Du Monde and that, my friends, is saying something.  If not for my side trip to Bay Medical ER, we had plans to head back there to try their sno-balls and perhaps other NOLA treats, including po boys and muffulettas.  We will definitely be back.

We hit up Publix for supplies - juice, bread, dishwashing liquid and stuff like that - and then decided to try the Panama City Beach Winery.  No idea what to expect, and we were surprised to find this little treasure in a strip mall.

Wine tasting.  All of the wines are fruit based (excluding grape) and are anything but the sweet, syrupy stuff you might expect if you grew up on Manischewitz.  Crisp, clean, lovely wine.  The tastings were a well-designed throroughly enjoyable experience.

8730 Thomas Drive, Suite 1103B, PCB

The tasting is done up at the counter, as you can see by the "row of butts", as my friend Annie so very succinctly described it.  Fortunately, we had gotten there a bit early, and had the counter and the attentions of that delightful lady with dark hair, barely visible behind the counter, third from the left in this photo.  This is a really fun way to spend part of an afternoon.  Of course we bought some wine.  It was so good I wish I could have bought more.  Damn the economy and all that.

I still have some fine PCB dining experiences to share, but I'll hold them for another blog post.  Since it is now Sunday, I do have some cooking on the horizon, and since I am making a conscious effort to avoid all 9/11-related television, I will be concentrating on turning out some mindless, tasty recipes.  Sauteed chicken livers with onion, bacon, and sage; Italian sausage and peppers; maduros (sweet plantains); creamed spinach; and macaroni, ham, and cheese.  Fortunately I adore chicken livers and spinach, because my hemoglobin count is still in the basement, based on the way I feel.

Yesterday we had to take our baby Romeo back to the vet.  It seems he had a bad reaction to the microchip, so our vet drained some fluid and he is now on antibiotics.

It's hard to see but that's Romeo sleeping on my lap, with Indiana and Woody in the foreground.  Not a great picture, but totally representative of how I have been feeling lately.

Now to the kitchen.  Check the recipe blog later today, especially if you are a tad iron deficient.  Tasty and good for you too.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Prayers for the Dead, and for the Living

You know you've seen it on Facebook:

Due to "lack of room", NYC Police & Port Authority Police Officers & FDNY Firefighters are not "invited" to the 10th anniversary of 9/11 at Ground Zero. Funny - they weren't invited on that day in 2001, either - they just "showed up" and became heroes. Please re-post if you think they belong there MORE than the politicians who ARE invited.

According to Snopes, the self-appointed arbiters of Truth on the Internet, this is true, along with the report that NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg has banned all clergy from the memorial ceremony.  A Bloomberg spokesperson has stated that this tenth anniversary ceremony is for the victim's family members.

What I would like to know is how does the Mayor's office define victims?

Now, as to the clergy issue ... heck, we all know what that's about.  No Muslim Imams to draw the undiluted fury of the American people.  I've got a better idea.  Let a representative of all groups appear, including atheists and agnostics, Wiccans and Scientologists.  Let New Age stand next to the fire-and-brimstone Christian fundamentalists.  Let an Orthodox rabbi stand next to a Reform rabbi.  Ha ha.  Seriously, I think an appearance by clergy is important, because on that terrible day, we all turned to some Greater Power.  Let them all stand there and be silent.

And the politicians?  Get rid of all of them except for the current mayor.  I'd get rid of him too, but someone has to wave the baton.

To conclude this rather depressing mini-post, there is one particular ritual that is observed in Israel on Yom HaShoah that I would like to see made part of any memorial ceremony on September 11:

At 10:00 am on Yom HaShoah, sirens are sounded throughout Israel for two minutes. During this time, people cease from action and stand at attention; cars stop, even on the highways; and the whole country comes to a standstill as people pay silent tribute to the dead.

I do not know how much of the televised ceremonies I will be able to tolerate, but tomorrow morning at 8:46, I will silently recite the Mourner's Kaddish for the dead and a Misheberach for the survivors, including the first responders who gave their hearts and health, because contrary to the warped thinking of political hacks, they are all victims of the September 11 attacks.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Whoa, really dude?

I've been a lawyer for 20 years this November 22 (yes, the anniversary of JFK's assassination) and during most of that time, at least until I embraced my "fly beneath the radar" philosophy, I was asked when I was going to run for judge.  The answer has always been "never."  Although I served as a Teen Court judge for several years, I never liked to wear the black robe.  It wasn't me.  I would sit up on a real judge's bench, and play with the paper clips between cases.  I used to neaten up Judge Legendre's bench, and I would leave notes for Judge Draper. Although I enjoyed working with the Teen Court program, I never took the judge thing too seriously.  As a judge, I had to adopt a certain personna for the benefit of the kids, and I didn't like the person I had to become for those few hours.

I have been before enough judges in my career to constitute a statistical universe.  I would like to think that each one represented a positive experience, but that would be a crazy fantasy.  Some of them have been terrific, some average, and others have been one long headache.  And no, I'm not naming names, and don't even try to guess because I've practiced in at least 5 Florida counties including circuit, county, and appellate courts.  And I am admitted to a couple of Federal courts as well, including The Big One.  Let's just say that my undergraduate background in psychology makes me supremely qualified to observe judicial behavior and misbehavior.

It seems that judicial behavior is not all that removed from political behavior, and I have, more than once, mentioned my unscientific belief that most politicians are low-grade antisocial personality disorders.  While I think the percentage of nutsy judges is far less than nutsy politicians, there is still a significant number who take the joy out of the practice of law.  Me, I'm still pretty happy.  I've been lucky - mostly - with the judges before whom I have regularly appeared.  Which is why I really feel for my colleagues who have to practice on a daily basis in front of judges who are not quite so - how shall I put this? - balanced.

What brought this to mind, and therefore to blog, are a couple of articles in the local online newspaper.  First, from one of today's headlines:

Beleaguered Orange-Osceola Circuit Judge James Turner went to the Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday, trying to save his job. Instead, justices hammered his lawyer with questions and accused Turner of being a stalker, a judge who engaged in "bizarre" behavior and one who had made a "mockery" of the court system.  Here is the link for the rest of the article.

Whoa, really dude?  You're still asking for your job back?

The number of judges who have had to be reprimanded or even removed from the bench seems to have risen alarmingly in the last few years.  Or maybe it just seems that way here in the Ninth Circuit.  Because that article redirected me to a link from a June 2011 article:

Time and again Orange-Osceola Circuit Judge Tim Shea publicly insulted and yelled at prosecutors in his courtroom, once asking one woman to get coffee for everyone in the room, according to a formal complaint that accuses him of judicial misconduct...

Once he screamed so loudly in court that deputes in the hallway outside could hear, according to the complaint.

Another time he came off the bench, red faced and yelling, and physically intimidated a male assistant state attorney, according to the complaint.

But most of the incidents involved female prosecutors, who complained that he yelled, insulted them or made vaguely sexist insults.

What is it with these guys?  Not that this is a new phenomenon.

An Orange Circuit Court judge who is the focus of a judicial investigation acknowledged that he accepted an attorney's fee to represent a woman while he was a county judge, but in a court filing said he never urged her, or two others, to flee the country to avoid charges.

Judge Jim Henson, who served as a county judge from 1997 to 2001, on Monday answered the formal charges filed against him by the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission. The charges alleged, in part, that he accepted private legal work while sitting as a county judge and encouraged clients to flee to avoid prosecution. The commission said the charges could be in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct applicable to county judges and lawyers' rules of professional conduct.

Ya think?  Okay, this isn't just a Ninth Circuit thing, it only feels that way sometime.  And it's not just the guys who are acting badly.  Don't ask me how I know.  I'm just glad I've worked for DCF for so many years, as developing a thick skin and broad shoulders has been extraordinarily useful.

This one totally floored me:

Judge James Hauser is under investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Committee in Tallahassee because a law student claimed he performed inappropriate sex acts in front of her.

Coming right on the heels of this story about the same judge:

A judge who was trusted to protect the most vulnerable families had a restraining order taken out against him and has been accused of making violent threats and more.  In court records, Judge Hauser's estranged wife said she's had to call Maitland police twice for help, but never spoke up about abuse because of the judge's position in the community.

I was only in Judge Hauser's court one time, and I came away with a very favorable impression.  He presented as a very thoughtful and intelligent judge. I wonder if these troubled judges become that way on the bench, or use the bench as a bully pulpit for their already antisocial personalities.  Maybe they're all taking crazy pills.  I have no intention of finding out through personal experience, however.  Running for office is number four on my list of things I plan never to do before I die.  Jumping out of an airplane is number one.  Bungee jumping is number two.  Ziplining is number three.  Maybe running for office should come before ziplining. 

Enough Sturm und Drang.  I'm going back to my happy place, and I'm going to take you there with me. 

Oops, wrong happy place.

Anyway, for the past seven years we have been spending Labor Day weekend at the Edgewater Beach Resort in Panama City Beach.  For an extremely reasonable rate, we have rented a two bedroom golf condo within easy walking distance of the most beautiful beach in the world, and the Edgewater Conference Center.  The beach is for me, and the conference center is for Rob and all the other ATA competitors.  We always have a fine time.  Rob always manages to kick butt and bring home a few medals, and I get to sleep late, check up on Hobby Lobby, knit until the cows come home, and hang out on the beach a bit.  We spend some time with our friends from home, Betty and Frank and Elaine, always capping off the long weekend at Another Broken Egg for a great breakfast before setting off for the long trip home.

Thanks to the wonders of smartphones and Facebook, I can show you last year's photo ... because there is no this year's photo.  We made it to PCB and staged a send-off breakfast, but our friends could not make it this year and they were sorely missed.  Also, Cory is usually with us, but this year his school obligations made it impossible for him to get away. 

This year, Rob's brother and sister in law came up and shared our condo, so that Charles could compete (he is following their family tradition by becoming a black belt) and Diane could enjoy the beach.  Boy, did we show them a good time!  Got to spend the day with us at the ER.  Who wouldn't drive seven hours for that little bit of excitement?

Both of the Rothfeld men brought home the glory, although the medals are "in the mail", like my latest check from the JAC.  And we got to share some really fine meals, which I will cheerfully detail in tomorrow's post.  Last day of the Summit, and I'm heading out.  Third day of iron pills, and I am feeling nothing but tired.  No stomach upset, but no energy boost either.  I learned a lot about pill mills and prescription drug addiction yesterday, and I need some time to absorb the knowledge and put it to good use in my cases.

What a drag it is getting old ...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Hurricane Syncope

Honey, I'm home!

It's been a while since I've had the opportunity to blog, and a lot has happened. Right now I am at the JW Marriott in Orlando for the 2011 Dependency Summit, which appears to have been renamed "Pathways to Independence Summit" in my absence. Since this is a BIG event for people in my highly specific field, I must have missed the memo. The Summit is an annual statewide gathering of professionals in the field of child welfare, and I've attended most of them over the past eleven years. Last year I stayed home and wrote petitions, but this year my presence has been respectfully requested. I still have to write petitions, but it looks like that is going to become tonight's homework assignment. I am officially tied up.

The content of these sessions is vitally important to what we do, and the only downside is having the system focussed on one subject for an entire year or more. That generally results in repetitive trainings, like the 12 almost identical classes we were required to attend on the subject of domestic violence. When it comes to the Summit I have learned to arrive after the opening plenary, armed for bear. Which translates to a venti black coffee from Starbucks clutched in one hand, which I will sip continuously, letting the blessed caffeine keep me from committing the cardinal sin of falling into a stupor in full view of the State Director of Children's Legal Services.

This year is all about helping our kids who age out of foster care to become independent while maintaining a permanent connection with an adult who will be there for them. Ideally, that should be with an adoptive parent. We're working on it. No one should have to be alone on their birthday, or Christmas.

I'm hoping I can skip the reception tonight. I'm way past the point of needing to network, and pursuant to my personal goal of flying under the radar, the more people who do not know my name, the better. And speaking of falling into stupors, I had QUITE a weekend in Panama City Beach. Oy Oy Oy.

So I got a note on Facebook from our friend, neighbor, and ATA taekwando pal, Elaine, who asked, "how was Another Broken Egg without us?" Well, Elaine, not so good. In fact, I missed you all so much, you and Betty and Frank, that I passed out. Twice. Once in the restaurant while waiting for a table, and once in the parking lot on the way back to the car to lie down. Boom. Spent the rest of the day in the emergency room at Bay Medical Center, trying to return to the world of the living, instead of hanging out on the world's best beach with my sister in law.

Despite that consummate disappointment, there was a lot that was good about the long weekend (but that's another blog post.  We hit a lot of new food places, and they deserve their own post). I needed that mini vacay desperately, as our office move turned out to be ridiculously stressful for me. Now that we are all settled, I am loving it, but getting there took too long with too many glitches.

Why yes, those are beignets!

Incidentally, it turns out I'm anemic.  I knew that, but somehow failed to connect it with my chronic fatigue and lingering low grade depression.  The ER doc was very kind and helpful, and explained that if my red cell count was any lower, he would have had to transfuse me.  Ick.  The anemia and my lack of protein that morning probably contributed to the faint, but I am certain that the blame lies squarely at the feet of Hurricane Lee.  "Hurricane Syncope", the ER nurse called it, although I'm not sure he was joking or not.  But I've been passing out from hurricanes since Gloria hit New York in 1985, so it's no joke to me.  Hurricane Syncope.  I like the way that sounds.  I just don't like the way it feels.

Got a lot of knitting done.  Very happy about that.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Good Golly, Tamale

What the hell was I thinking of?

Making the masa for the tamales.  Somebody shoot me, please.  This is a job for Superman, or in the alternative, a half dozen abuelitas, each outfitted with her own heavy duty stand mixer.  I haven't made the sauce yet, or prepared the potatoes and zucchini.  Madness, I tell you.  Sometimes I am done in by my own ambition.  The smell from the masa is terribly seductive, however, and I will push on even if I'm steaming these babies at midnight.

And now, a restaurant review:  Tarantino's Italian Restaurant, 4150 West Vine Street, Kissimmee, Florida

Tarantino's opened in Kissimmee in 1993 in a funky metal building on the corner of Oak and John Young Parkway (it was still called Bermuda Avenue back then) and we started going there about a year after they opened.  It was then, and remains today, the best New York Italian food in Florida.  They are now in their fourth location - third move since the funky first - and it is a very nice location with ample parking. 

Having said all these nice things, a couple of things to watch out for:  the wait staff is hit or miss.  Our waiter last evening was friendly, delightful and eager to please, but terminally forgetful.  Even after he wrote orders down, he would get them wrong.  Fortunately, he got all the entrees correct, and they were delicious.  I had the Best Linguine with White Clam Sauce in the world - nay, the Universe - and I can make a pretty mean white clam sauce myself.  Rob had his favorite, Saltimbocca a la Romano, and our dining companions had the Stuffed Chicken with Vodka Sauce, and the Stuffed Basa.  Judging by the condition of their dinner plates, they enjoyed what they ordered.  No desserts, the portions are rather large.  But we have had the tiramisu in the past and it was wonderful.  Other problems - the second bread basket is extra.  Most special orders involve a small charge.  Check before ordering.  And stick to the wine selections, the bar service was just so-so.  Minor stuff, in my opinion.  I'll be back.

Back to the Saga of the Tamales.  The recipe should have a big warning on it:  don't try this at home.  It took me two hours to get the masa prepared.  Next time I will cut the recipe in half.  I don't know what made me think I could put 12 cups of masa harina plus 8 cups of chicken stock in the bowl of my Kitchen Aid, but I sailed right into disaster, and had to back up, divide, and conquer.  Once again, here is the recipe I am preparing.  Right now, I've got everything ready to go, so I'll be building the tamales to ready them for an hour of steaming.  By the time this is done, I think I can safely say it has taken me six eight solid hours to put the dish together, which makes it fussier than sweet and sour stuffed cabbage.  Is it worth it?  Only my taste testers know for sure.

Goodnight, Irene, you windy bitch.  We were beyond lucky here in Florida, but back home in New York, not so much.  Broad Channel, that weird island in the middle of Jamaica Bay, just south of Howard Beach, has been trashed.  If you have never been there, you will find it hard to believe it is part of New York City, as the homes are on stilts.  It looks more like a New England fishing village, and less like Queens.  Today it looks like all hell has broken loose.  If you get a chance, check out this link to Forgotten NY, as well as this update from the same site.  You really won't believe you're in New York.

Tomorrow is my first full day in the new office.  The files are still packed up, so we are all going to court with nothing except cover sheets to write on.  Should be fun.  I hope the Judge has a sense of humor.

There are 19 tamales steaming in the oven.  I still had half the ingredients left, but I unceremoniously threw out the corn husks and called it quits.  Instead, I am assembling a tamale pie, which I will put in to steam when the tamales are done.  Same ingredients, different cooking method.  There is no way I will ever take on the task of making that volume of tamales again, and if the pie works out, that's gonna be the way to go in the future.  This has been one day in my life that I have not enjoyed cooking, not one bit.  My back hurts, my head hurts, I broke a chain I've been wearing for many years, and Romeo fell in the pool.  Ha.  Bounced right back out, my scrappy little man.  But he was wet and very upset when I had to take his collar off to dry him.  He loves his collar.

I did manage to turn out a delicious batch of pecan crusted catfish nuggets, and when my head stops pounding I'll put those nice and easy directions on the recipe blog.

So I removed the finished tamales from the oven.  Opened one for Rob and me, and one for Cory.  Tasted.  Tasted again.  And came to an awful conclusion:

They are AWESOME!!!  Which means I will have to make them again.  Only next time I'll cut the recipe in half or less.  There will still be enough to feed an army.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saturday, Part II: Toxic Friends, Hot Tamales, and The Eleventh Doctor

So I was reading the news online, and a couple of headlines grabbed my attention.  N.B.:  Not one of them has to do with Casey Anthony.

We all have them.  So-called friends who suck the joy out of life - your life, to be precise.  I have, or should say, had two of them, individuals towards whom I felt great affection and a sense of loyalty that kept me tied up in their emotional baggage for far too long.  Proof positive that loyalty is a highly overrated emotion.  Both were incredibly negative, needy persons who could be caring and charming when it suited them.  My Jewish mother's heart got sucked into the drama, but at a cost to my own emotional well being.  So, to quote my late, unlamented grandmother (another toxic personality), I "played lose me" with them.  One is so incredibly self-centered as to not realize I have withdrawn from the friendship.  The other one is well aware, and after many years, still without any insight into my decision.  The old saying goes, "You can choose your friends but not your relatives."  I am most definitely pro-choice in these matters.

I have my husband and son, my in-laws and extended family, my only cousin and his family, my beloved pets, my wonderful coworkers, and a few treasured friends from the good old days, and an even shorter list of new friends from our Florida days, all of whom fill my soul with peace.  The power of positive thinking, it's a good thing.  I feel sorry for the ones I left behind, but life is too short to drink cheap wine.

Flash Mob Alert:
And now, from the "Can you believe this #%&!" Department:  Driver courtesy be damned - Florida law enforcement has been handing out tickets to drivers who, having spotted a speed trap, flash their headlights to alert oncoming traffic.  Except there's no such law on the books, and the tickets, when challenged, have been routinely thrown out by the courts.  What if we just opened the window and shouted out, "hey, cops down the road!!" - would we get ticketed?  There is a First Amendment right at issue here.

I have the answer:  FLASH MOB!!  Yes, at a certain hour of a certain day, everyone who wants to be part of the Flash Mob should flash their car headlights, no matter where they are.  That should do it.

Yes, this is still a food blog:

Let's talk about tamales.  I love them.  Unfortunately, they are not easy to make, and even Mexican restaurants shy away from including them on their usually extensive menus.  I have made them, following Irish-American Chef Bobby Flay's recipe for shrimp tamales with a very unauthentic masa, and they are delicious.  I have had them at Mesa Grill in Las Vegas, and they were superb, but that was over five years ago.  Since I do not see a trip to either Las Vegas or New York in my immediate future, I am going to have to resolve the tamale problem right here at home.

(I also love deep-fried chile rellenos, but there is no way I can address that issue and deal with my tamale problem at the same time.  In other words, that's another blog post.)

Tonight at 9:00, if you have access to BBC America, starts the new season of "Doctor Who".  I know I pitched a fit when David Tennant morphed into Matt Smith, but I am reconciled to the change.  Loved the guy playing President Nixon.  Too bad the Doctor advised him to "record everything."  Anyway, no more spoilers.  Watch and be entertained.

Speaking of Doctor Who, I had a plan for tonight.  It involved a mess of chicken wings, barbecued nachos with all sorts of tasty toppings including homemade guacamole, and pecan-crusted catfish nuggets.  Feet up, a cold one clutched in the left hand while the right hand navigated delectable tidbits mouthward, the Doctor up there on the screen.  Damn, spit, and dirty socks, it's not going to happen that way at all.  When I got home from Publix, having happily transported my cache of great ingredients, my husband reminded me we had a dinner engagement tonight.

Quel disappointment.  I really did not want to have to prepare all the snack food and the tamales on the same day - too much work - but it looks like I will have no choice.  And no Doctor Who on Sunday.  Humbug.

That aside, I have gathered all the ingredients to prepare Family Chicken Tamales tomorrow.  This recipe is from a neat little cookbook entitled Tamales 101 by Alice Guadalupe Tapp, and there is also a link to the recipe online.  This should be even more fun than making sweet and sour stuffed cabbage.  No, really, I love to make stuffed cabbage.  Once a year.

Tamara's Tamales Family Chicken Tamales

If you are interested in making Family Chicken Tamales, click on this link, gather your ingredients and we'll do a cyber cook-a-long tomorrow.  I've already prepared my chicken, which was as easy as purchasing a rotisserie chicken from Publix (I happened to pick up the mojo flavored birdie), stripping off all the skin and pulling the meat off the bones.  It's important to do that while the chicken is still slightly warm.  Then I cut the chicken as the recipe directs, and stored it in the refrigerator until tomorrow.  One rotisserie chicken will give you almost exactly four perfect cups of diced chicken.

My husband just wandered in to tell me that when Teena snores, she sounds just like the Tardis.  We don't call her Weezie for nothing.  And gee, I wonder where she got that from?  Could it be my precious little girl is fulfilling my recently-acquired ambition to be one of the Doctor's companions?

I just discovered that August is National Catfish Month.  Awesome!


Goodnight, Irene

Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
I'll see you in my dreams

Sometimes I live in the country
Sometimes I live in town
Sometimes I have a great notion
To jump into the river and drown

Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
I'll see you in my dreams

Quit ramblin' and quit gamblin'
Quit stayin' out late at night
Stay home with your wife and family
Sit down by the fireside bright

Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
I'll see you in my dreams

I asked your mother for you
She told me you was too young
I wished to God I'd never seen your face
I's sorry you ever was born

Well, we're all sorry Irene was ever born.  Her trip through Puerto Rico was a disaster, and she didn't do much for Haiti or the Dominican Republic.  Thursday is the day she was supposed to hit Florida right in the chops, but three days ago she started to veer right.  Good for Florida, but bad for everyone else.  Over the water, she blossomed from a Category 1 to a Category 3, and she looks to be heading up the coast towards my hometown.  As if things weren't bad enough, New York and Long Island got hit by the outer fringes of an earthquake.  I still can't wrap my head around an earthquake hitting New York City.  Irene spent far too much time in the Bahamas, that windy bitch, and left an awful mess.

I have lived through many hurricanes in my life, and they all suck.  My first memory of a hurricane is the 1960 version called Donna.  Lots of flooding, but at 7 years old, living in a solid brick house on Kings Highway in Brooklyn, it was all very exciting.  My worst memory of a Long Island hurricane is 1985's Gloria.  No electricity for three days.  That was also the first time I passed out from the air pressure changes.  I can tell when a hurricane is approaching, which is a talent I could live without.

No hurricane could match the trauma of the 2004 trifecta - Charlie, Frances, and Jeanne - that decimated so much of Central Florida.  The morning after Charlie, Rob and I tried to make our way from our home to our office near the courthouse in downtown Kissimmee.  I've never seen destruction like that in my life.  I hope all our friends and family up north stay safe.  Mayor Bloomberg, the wuss, has ordered that all NYC mass transit will stop - imagine no subway service, no bus service, no airplanes being allowed to land - but he may have the right idea. 

Recently I posted a swipe at President Obama regarding his rather inopportune vacation in Martha's Vineyard.  Some folks thought that my trashing the O-Prez indicated my support for Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry or even Governor Voldemort.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I have no use for either party, or for any politician currently on the scene.

What would happen if all the pill mills were shut down?  Would legitimate doctors be able to handle the onslaught of raging drug addicts, claiming elusive back pain?  Would the doctors succumb to the ease of writing prescriptions to shut these addicts up, or would they stand firm and tell their patients that oxycontin was not the answer, no matter what the question?

Meet Romeo - the newest addition to the Rothfeld Family Menagerie:

Before and After a visit to A Classy Place.

The Never-Ending Move.  Dear God in Heaven, are we ever going to finish moving to the new office?  UPDATE:  We're finally in.  The absurdity of different occupancy rules for state employees, when we are colocated with private employees WHO ARE AGENTS OF THE STATE, held the legal department up for over a week.  Productivity has been shredded like a confidential document. And we are all very tired, physically and mentally.  Moving in the worst weather of the summer - in Florida - it has all been an event I plan on consigning to forgettable short term memory.  We are all glad to be in our new digs, however long it took us to get there. 

Rooms with a view.

I am thinking about making tamales. I am also thinking about going back to bed for a nice long nap.  Only time will tell.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Buttered Rolls, Close Friends and Therapists

If you know me, you know I am a 7-Eleven junkie.  Not all 7-Eleven stores, mind you, but "my" 7-Eleven, across the street from my soon-to-be-former office, and a few other select locations.  I am a creature of habit, so much so that it occurred to me I make it easy for my stalker, if I had one.  7-Eleven is a palace of guilty pleasures.  Decent hot dogs with all sorts of toppings.   Surprisingly okay pizza.  Really good apple fritters.  And a never-ending supply of A&W Diet Root Beer.  Never-ending because the manager special orders it for me.  My favorite salty snacks, like cheddar and sour cream potato chips.  Good, fresh coffee any time of day.

One tragic flaw - no buttered rolls.

Buttered rolls are apparently a Greater New York City thing, and one that I was totally dependent on.  If it wasn't from the 7-Eleven, it was from the coffee wagon right outside the Long Island Railroad Ronkonkoma station, or the tiny deli tucked into the side of 14 Wall Street.  You get the idea.  The ubiquitous buttered roll and a cup of hot coffee was THE Breakfast of Champions for New Yorkers on their way to work.

In addition to real bagels, great pizza, and Imus in the Morning, buttered rolls became another reason to miss New York.  I suppose I've gotten over it in the past twenty years, but every so often I stage my own personal buttered roll breakfast, with real butter and pretty darn good rolls from the Publix bakery.  If I close my eyes, I can feel the sway of the diesel train on it's way to Hunters Point.  If I open my eyes, I realize I am running late, and besides, I don't have to catch a train to Kissimmee.

Oh, crap.  Came across this headline when I pulled up the Orlando Sentinel on my iPad just a short while ago.  "Casey Anthony Back in Florida."  As my late grandmother would say, who needs her? According to Jose' Baez, her attorney-turned-publicist, she is back just in case she does have to start serving probation. Can't she serve her probation somewhere else ... like Afghanistan?

"Baez confirmed to Geraldo Rivera that pictures of Casey taken in Ohio that appeared on TMZ were indeed real and that she was in Columbus."  (Hello, Life ... Goodbye, Columbus.)

"Baez wouldn't say where else Casey has been since she was acquitted of murder, but did say she's been spending time with close friends and therapists."  Ha ha.  Looks like Baez coined the phrase that pays.  And could there be any other reason he would spill the beans on Tot Mom's whereabouts to his BFF Geraldo?

I would like to ask Jose' the question on everybody's minds - are those "close friends" real, or are they Memorex?

Other news - President Obama headed off for an expensive vacation at Martha's Vineyard (ever hear of Camp David?) while the world goes to hell in a knitting basket.  Have you no shame, Mr. President?  What you do have is chutzpah.  I did not vote for you the first time, and I sure as shootin' won't vote for you this time.

The Republicans are no better, mind you.  Surely this had to be an inopportune time for Mitt Romney's plans for expanding his oceanfront mansion to hit the airwaves.

All this just goes to show you how out of touch politicians are with the problems of us little people.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Another Pleasant Valley Sunday

You know those studies that discuss the beneficial effects of petting dogs and cats? Well, I'm a believer (note to self: thanks for the ear worm. Like things weren't bad enough, I have to have Micky Dolenz in my head). I know that homebound invalids as well as nursing home residents do feel better after a visit from a volunteer pet.  There is something so relaxing, so calming, about stroking a small, furry critter who purrs or gently licks your finger.

Well, I feel the same way about yarn.  Yarn may not lick your finger (it does purr occasionally, however) but the feel of fiber under your fingers is extraordinarily calming.  During the last week, I found myself picking up one of the two projects I've been shlepping back and forth, just to hold them and maybe finish off a couple of stitches.  Knitting is better than Xanax.  Now there's a slogan worth promoting.

Moving is stressful under the best of circumstances.  Moving crosstown from one office to another when one is a professional clutterer, is painful.  I am that clutterer, although my office clutter is always neat.  I like to feng shui my office with all sorts of stuff.  I get a lot of compliments from coworkers.  Of course, they are not the ones who have to pack all this crap these adorable collectibles, and then move them personally, because I neither expect nor trust the movers to do so.  And because we were not sure when we were being moved, I spent a good part of each day last week carefully packing the personal items, and then transporting the boxes to my husband's office near the courthouse, getting them out of the way of the traveling furniture.

So I'm more tired than usual, which is a really sad thing.  I have cooking to do, and we are going out to dinner with friends to a new restaurant in downtown Orlando.

So now that I've indulged in my requisite old-lady bitching, let me move on to the good stuff.  I noticed there is lobster bisque on the menu at tonight's restaurant, so I'm smiling.  My chicken ratatouille, which I pulled out of the freezer, was a very big hit with the folks who attended the Open House at Victory Martial Arts.  I have made some very fine progress on my pi shawl and on the "aunt-imony" blanket, while destressing.  Nice multitasking, if I say so myself.  My boys scarfed up all the ribs and wings from last week, so no leftovers and a perfectly good excuse for a cooking frenzy.

I have already been to Publix today.  I had a vague notion of what I wanted to make, and after much internal debate about the beef, I broke down and bought an eye round roast as the main ingredient in my still-developing recipe for pot roast.  I also bought the ingredients for jambalaya.  Yesterday I was talking to my friend and coworker Brenda about Puerto Rican rice and gandules, and trying to pry the recipe from her (she graciously complied with my unsubtle request) so I already had rice on the brain, and then I came across one of my four million cookbooks scattered around the house which touted the benefits of Johnsonville sausages, and there you have it.  Jambalaya.

The pot roast has been in the oven for the last ninety minutes or so, and the house smells divine.  Better than air freshener.  If the taste matches the smell, I will be sure to share the recipe with you tomorrow.

And now that it is tomorrow, I am somewhat disappointed in the pot roast.  It's good - okay good, if you know what I mean.  The meat is quite tasty, as eye round is an extremely versatile cut of meat, despite it's lack of marbling.  You can roast it, pickle it (like corned beef), and pot roast it.  Most cuts of meat are not that talented.  But the sauce is just okay, in my estimation, and my idea of putting the dish together with oven-roasted carrots and sweet potato chunks, and dried apricots and prunes, is falling flat.  I am my own worst critic, I know.  We'll see how it does upon reheat.

To assuage my disappointment, I am going to put together a traditional jambalaya, replete with bacon, chicken, ham, andouille sausage, shrimp, and oysters. 

Last night we had dinner with friends at Terrace 390, in the Bank of America Building at (what else?) 390 North Orange Avenue, right across the street from the Orange County Courthouse.  I did not go with the lobster bisque, but decided to follow the lead of my fellow eaters and ordered maple bourbon glazed chicken breast with sides of spinach sauteed with garlic, and truffled mac and cheese.  The chicken breast was incredibly moist, enhanced with the flavors of applewood smoked bacon, roasted corn, salsa, and topped with melted cheese.  What can I say about the truffled mac and cheese?  Incredible.  Even the vegetables, usually a throwaway item, were delicious, sauteed lightly with enough garlic to please my palate, and to keep me safe from vampires until the year 2024.  Another of the diners at our table ordered from the appetizer menu, and her seared sesame tuna tacos were also a big hit, served with guacamole, jicama, cucumber and mixed green salad,  and a cucumber honey wasabi drizzle.  Now that the craziness of the Casey Anthony case is over, I would recommend you head on over and check out these and other items on their menu.  Oh, and don't forget the drink menu.  I had a key lime martini.  Wheeeee!

Jambalaya recipe is up.  The pot roast is good, but not blogworthy.  The jambalaya is spectacular, if I say so myself.  Which I did.  Check it out on the recipe blog.

Any Words with Friends players?  Always looking for new competitors.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I love Dr. Drew.  He is so balanced, so professional, so darn normal after watching Jane Velez-Mitchell and the always-over-the-top Nancy Grace.  Watching Nancy Grace is a guilty pleasure.  Watching Dr. Drew is interesting and informative without the hype or hyperventilation.  I started watching Celebrity Rehab a couple of years ago, and while there was a certain amount of sensationalism generated by the celebrities - remember, this was on MTV - I developed a certain amount of respect for Dr. Drew Pinsky.

In the waning days of the Casey Anthony-thon, while Nancy Grace evoked visions of Satan with her pronouncement "the Devil is dancing tonight", and we all watched to see if her whirling dervish-self would self-ignite from her righteous indignation, Dr. Drew was already steering his show into other waters.  Warren Jeffs (talk about the Devil!) was on trial in Texas, accused of what is in my mind the worst crime imaginable, sexual misconduct with not one, but two minor children.  Adding insult to injury, this wretched, evil man did so under cover of religion.  God's will and all that jazz.

What I love about Dr. Drew is his willingness to express his horror over a story without becoming the story.  When he states that the thought of certain events upset him, or turn his stomach, we understand completely.  He is speaking for us because as parents, we all feel as he does.  We will never understand how Casey Anthony, assuming she is telling the truth, could party like it's 1999 while her child's flesh rotted off her bones in a nearby swamp.  We will surely never understand how a 55 year old man could force sexual intercourse upon a 12 year old child while the "sister-wives" held the child down.

Even after the verdict was in, Dr. Drew did not abandon the story, and for several days he worked the air waves, asking the questions, trying to understand how these holy-roller pedophiles could continue to ply their evil trade without the slightest attempt of intervention by law enforcement.  It amazed me that so many people accept the explanation that in certain parts of certain states, the FLDS controls law enforcement and the local government to the extent that this cult can get away with the most heinous behavior.

Say what?  Since when did Utah, Arizona, Texas, South Dakota, and British Columbia become the North American anarchist wilds?

I have done a little reading on the 2008 "raid" on the compound in Texas and the 1953 Short Creek, Arizona raid.  The good news from the 2008 action is that a number of the elder males were charged, convicted, and imprisoned for sexual assault charges.  The bad news is that Texas CPS took a big hit from the public outcry over the mass removal of the compound's almost 500 children.  The Texas Supreme Court did not support the agency's actions, and accused the original judge of abusing her discretion in keeping the children out of their parent's custody.

I am going to guess that this would have played better if CPS had not tried to remove all of the children at one time, but I think the appellate courts got it wrong.  I am not sure what the law is in Texas regarding prospective abuse and neglect of children, but it is likely similar to what we have in Florida.  Those children are clearly at risk of terrible abuse and neglect, if the tapes and testimony presented at Warren Jeffs' recent trial are any indication of what is going on in the FDLS compounds.

Oy!  I just had a vision of the CPS workers asking to staff all of those cases with their agency attorneys, and then deciding that the legal department should file nonshelter petitions.  Several hundred nonshelter petitions.  That would at least keep CPS in the picture, as the children would have to be seen at least once a month, and the court would have to review the children's status and well being every six months.

That's not just a massive undertaking, or a guarantee of job security for the folks at CPS - that's insanity.  But there has to be a way to protect those children, if only on a much smaller scale.  Maybe the Royal Canadian Mounted Police will have better luck.

Speaking of luck:

May the One who blessed our ancestors
Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,
Matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah
bless and heal the one who is ill
May the Holy Blessed One
overflow with compassion upon her,
to restore her,
to heal her,
to strengthen her,
to enliven her.
The One will send her, speedily,
a complete healing
healing of the soul and healing of the body
along with all the ill,
among the people of Israel and all humankind,
without delay,
and let us all say:  Amen!

A Misheberach for two close friends, two of the strongest women I know, both living with cancer.

Lime Green Awareness Ribbon

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Monday-freakin'-morning, and the Next Food Network Star is ...

... Jeff Mauro, the Sandwich King, stand-up comedian and all-around nice guy.  Can I call 'em, or what?

Jeff Mauro

Waking up early is highly overrated.  Waking up early on Monday morning should be a federal offense, a violation of the RICO Act or maybe the Mann Act.  Something.  I haven't gotten this right, not once, in the forty years I have been working.  Whether it is catching the 6:37 am out of Ronkonkoma or navigating to my car for a 9:00 court hearing, I stand before you the consummate failure.  Mornings suck and Monday mornings suck the most.

In the middle of my sucky mood, I continue to pack up my office.  I hate the fact that I am such a clutterer, and I know I will not stop.  Every time I have moved into an office, I have filled every shelf and niche with pictures, figures, flowers, and even little toys.  All symbolic and quite pleasing to my eye.  I can tell you what each item means to me, and who gave it to me or how I otherwise acquired it.  All nice memories.  My plants.  Handmade afghans.  If it wasn't for the fact that I try to keep everything in there neat, relatively clean, and organized, I'd worry about being labeled a hoarder.  People love my office, and find it homey and restful.  But it is a bear to pack up, and that's the point I am at now. 

Like I said, sucky.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

And the Next Food Network Star is ...

How the heck should I know??  Do I look like Giada de Laurentiis?  Ha ha, don't answer that.  No really, don't answer that.

In case you are interested, I'm predicting Jeff Mauro, the guy on the right, but any of these three will do the network proud. 

Vic Vegas, Susie Jimenez and Jeff Mauro

Because it is Sunday, after all, and the road trip to Savannah did not pan out - 97 degrees with high humidity is not walking weather, even for a faux Floridian like me - we ran to Publix (actually drove sedately in my Expedition), picked up a few things and headed back for cooking.  The heat may be outdoors, but it has affected my state of mind, which means the cooking is gonna be fast and easy.  Precut barbecue ribs roasting slowly in the oven, and I'm using Sticky Fingers Sweet Carolina Barbecue Sauce.  My home fried potatoes and I used canned diced potatoes.  Don't wrinkle your nose, they are delicious.  I made devilled eggs for the boys to munch for lunch (no, I did not boil the eggs myself) and I have a bag of frozen mixed cauliflower and broccoli to dress up with a sauce I will no doubt create out of items in my pantry.  I made a bechamel sauce just yesterday, folks, give me a break!

I decided to forego defrosting the chicken wings, and just threw 'em into the oven with garlic butter, salt, pepper, and granulated garlic.  Eventually they'll be almost done, so I'll drain the liquid and pour on the wing sauce.  Same thing I'm doing with the ribs, which are oiled and heavily seasoned, baking away merrily for a couple of hours, getting tender.  I admit they are not Thompson Brother's quality, but nothing else is.  My buddy Tony, his partner Rodney, and their son were in Atlanta this weekend and they made it to Thompson Brothers.  And loved it.  Does my heart good to spread the good news.

Here's a scary story - a woman in Texas is fired for refusing to color her naturally gray hair.  Say what?

Since I went gray two years ago, I have gotten a whole lot of compliments.  And not once have I been threatened with termination for refusing to color it.  Maybe it does make me look older, but who am I trying to fool? 

Karma is a Bitch (and then you make one serve probation)

Call me vindictive.  See if I care.  Because I am relieved and just a bit tickled pink that MY Chief Judge, Belvin Perry, issued an order requiring Casey Anthony to serve one year of supervised probation as clearly intended by Judge Strickland.  Not only that, but Judge Perry took the opportunity to smack Jose' Baez up the side of the head ONE MORE TIME for his disingenuous behavior in taking advantage of a scrivener's error to his client's advantage.  Honestly, how did Baez get past that mandatory professional responsibility part of his law school education?  A little aside to That Old Fool Cheney Mason - I guess Judge Perry didn't agree with your public pronouncement calling Judge Strickland's clarification order "stupid" - gonna flip him the bird, too?

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

The media is acting kind of goofy about this - I thought Nancy Grace was about to bust into a chorus of "nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah" - and Jane Velez-Mitchell actually had the 'nads to suggest that Judge Perry made this decision to ensure his reelection next year - but ignoring that sort of silliness, it is clear that the Judge took his time in researching and writing what was called by cooler talking heads "a well-reasoned decision."

Anyway, the saga continues, as we should expect appeals and applications for stays and then all the drama generated by the Casey Trackers (sort of like the hurricane trackers, only weirder).

Oh, fudge
Who knew that fudge could go bad? I certainly didn't, so imagine my surprise on Thursday morning when the chocolate pecan fudge in my desk drawer appeared to have grown a downy covering of white peach fuzz. And it was really good fudge, too, part of the haul Rob and I acquired at Ellis Brothers Pecans, on our way home from Atlanta. I guess that's what happens when all-natural ingredients and no preservatives come together. I will definitely pick up more fudge next time I am driving by that part of Georgia, and I will remember to store it in my teeny-tiny office refrigerator.

Part of the problem - besides the exquisite purity of Ellis Brothers Fudge - is the depth of my obsession with snackable foods.  I was always a nosher - that's Yiddish for incessant snacker - but since I am no longer able to eat full meals, I rely on snacking foods as my main source of nutrition.  Forget the food pyramid, or pie-shape or whatever the USDA is promoting these days.  My snacking falls into one of two basic food group categories, salty and sweet.  I make sure that both my office and my car are properly stocked at all times.  Nothing meltable in the car, lots of meltables in the office.  My favorite types of chips.  Cookies.  Crackers.  Honey roasted cashews.  Cinnamon roasted pecans when I can get them, which isn't often enough, in my opinion.

Segue back to real food, and I am getting ready to try to create the perfect bowl of clam chowder.  What I really want is to make a nice big pot of Lundy's clam bisque, but that recipe is lost forever.  I am not the only Brooklyn ex-pat roaming the internet in search of the recipe, but all of us have met with failure.  So chowder it is.

Really good news - I finally managed to book our condo at the Edgewater Resort for when we attend the Battle on the Beach.  Rob and his brother Charles will be competing, while my sis-in-law Diane and I will be relaxing at the edge of the beautiful Gulf of Mexico.  I am so ready.

Finally, another time warp moment.  My friend Mark has a blog of his own, and the latest entry is special because he writes about a father's feelings as his daughter readies for her wedding at the end of this month. 

For me, knowing both of Iris's parents for over forty years - really, in some sense, having grown up with them since we were still legal children that first semester at college - the whole idea of Iris being "all grown up" is practically surreal.  I guess I now understand why senile dementia patients can remember the past while forgetting the present, because even the unafflicted remember the past with such clarity that getting older becomes an illusion.

As the Ninth Doctor would say "fantastic!"

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Battle on the Beach

The other day I told one of my friends that I feel like I am living from vacation to vacation.  There was a ten year period during which I took no vacations - seriously, dude - but then in 2000 our friends Jay and Laura Wheeler convinced us to travel with them and their kids to St. Croix over the Thanksgiving holiday, and I've never looked back.  Only the current economy prevents me from traveling far and wide.  I would like to return to Italy some day, and see Great Britain and Ireland and return to South Korea.  I have come to hate to fly for a variety of reasons - the ridiculous prices and the total lack of comfort - oh yeah, and that groping session by some TSA thug - but I can still get in my car and see the USA in my ... Ford.  I am looking forward to my next mini-vacay, our annual trek to Panama City Beach for a really swell taekwando event, sponsored by Grand Master Emeritus Soon Ho Lee.  Very cool.  Let me just live through the next two weeks, including our office move to the new digs in downtown Kissimmee, and I will be relaxing at the beach overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. 

That is the good news.  The bad news is that the economy, as personified by the stock market, is bouncing around more erratically than Charlie Sheen's career.  I am honestly frightened, as I have never seen anything quite like it, and I have lived through several recessions.  No one is immune, and no one seems to know what to do.  People are rioting in Great Britain, of all places, while one of my Facebook posts, spreading the blame across Bush and Obama, sparked a verbal cyber altercation among otherwise civilized individuals.

The other bad news is that my scoleciphobia, fear of earthworms, reared it's ugly little invertebrate head once more.  Walking back from the courthouse yesterday, the weather evoking memories of a warm, rainy spring day in Brooklyn, I suspiciously eyed every twig and pine needle resting on the cement sidewalk.  Dreading the possibility that even one of those twigs was actually an earthworm, my heart pounding, I made it to my car just in time.

Back to good news - I am working on a recipe for a clam chowder that suits my taste.  Also, yesterday was our last party in the office before our move to City Centre.  Big potluck, lots of cooking and baking talent.  For once, we had the best-smelling social service office in the state.

I love working with social workers, and not just because they can cook.  The great thing about our move to City Centre, besides the view of  Lake Tohopekaliga and the proximity to the Farmer's Market on Thursdays, is that all of our case management agencies will be together under one roof.  Never mind that my new office is the size of my walk-in closet at home; it has a window, after all, and on the fifth floor I'm unlikely to get shot at.  There is a catwalk outside our windows, so I can step outside for a breath of fresh air (yup, we have fresh air in Florida), or step to the other side of the office and stand on the terrace while gazing out at the lake.

For those of you who understand state agency alphabet-speak, the move means that CBCCF, DCF-CLS, YFA, CHS, and ISI are joining forces at one location.  Since I never liked privatization, the idea that we are (almost) all together again pleases me.  Now if we could just recapture DCF-PI and CPT, I could close my eyes and pretend it's 1995, which means I'm in my early forties and I'm working for HRS.  Whoa.  That's a little too far back.  Although those HRS folks could really cook ...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Let's Do the Time Warp Again

It has been a while since I attended a birthday party for a one-year old.  This one made me feel like I fell into a crack in the space-time continuum.  At one point I turned to my husband and said, "you know how we say we're turning into our parents?  Well, today I feel like we're turning into our grandparents."

I know that time speeds up as we get older.  It seemed to take forever for me to become a teenager, but then once I became (nominally) an adult, 35 years passed in the blink of an eye.

At the same time that we were here in Florida, snapping pictures of my cousin's grandson happily eating birthday cake, my Number One Niece was in New York, being surprised by a baby shower in her honor.  Number Two Niece, who had driven from New Jersey to be there, has already texted me a picture of the two of them together.  Beautiful! 

I'm finding it tough to write about, because I find I am humbled by Life.  It just keeps rolling along, regardless of how bad the economy is, or who is the current President, or how many wars are raging somewhere out there.  People have children, their children grow up and then they have children.  It sounds so simple, but it is really so complex.  The past playfully intrudes upon the present.  Memories of similar events superimpose themselves.  When I look at baby Jake walking around with the wide-legged, belly-first gait of a brand-new walker, I see his mother Stephanie at the same age, and then I see her older brother Peter, my godson, star of stage, screen and soon-to-be television, watching me as I help my own son open his first birthday presents.  Memory time slips back and forth in no particular order, leaving me breathless with joy and sorrow.

I had always planned on aging gracefully, accepting and enjoying this time in my life.  Some days, though, I find this stage of my life even more difficult than adolescence, without the excuse of raging hormones.

When you know someone from before they were born - never mind the internal illogic of that statement - it is hard to see them as anything but extensions of their parents.  They are, after all, our children and we define them as much as they define us.  When they become the self-sufficient individuals we want them to be, we become ... what?

No idea.  I'm still working on it.