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.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

OTC Delicious

In a recent recipe post, I posed the following:  "For the dressing, I used Ken's Lite Northern Italian.  You can make your own vinaigrette, but why?"

For all you chefs out there who make everything including your mayonnaise from scratch, just shut your browsers now.  Why you would dirty up your food processor or even worse, develop tennis elbow from whisking like a whirling dervish while dripping olive oil into eggs,  is beyond me when there is Hellmann's-known-as-Best-Foods-west-of-the-Rockies ...!

But before that - Judge Stan Strickland gets his "gotcha!"

"Orange Circuit Judge Stan Strickland signed amended court documents this morning that he says will have the effect of requiring Casey Anthony to serve one year of supervised probation as he originally intended back when he sentenced her in her check fraud case."

During the brief time I engaged in representing persons accused of crimes, I understood "probation upon release" to mean just that.  I don't know any way someone could serve probation while incarcerated, since there are standard and special conditions of probation that must be complied with.  I could be wrong, and it seems everyone has their own opinion.  It should be interesting to see how the Fifth District Court of Appeals and the Florida Supreme Court deal with this issue.

Back to the topic at hand.  Have you strolled down the condiment aisle of your favorite mega-mart lately?  You know, this is the aisle that has all those salad dressings, mustards and barbecue sauces along with olives, pickles, giardineras, oils, vinegars, wing sauces, hot sauces, chutneys, remoulades, and those two pillars of all things culinary, Heinz ketchup and Hellmann's mayonnaise.  In other words, the most interesting aisle in the supermarket.  Seriously, have you tried some of that stuff?  I have - in fact, my pantry closet and spice cabinet are in a contest to see which one can implode first.  In the case of the pantry, the critical overload is due in great part to the inventory of sauces and dressings and mustards.  When I was growing up, there was one kind of mustard, and it was yellow.  There was one kind of barbecue sauce, and it did not come from the supermarket.  My mother would not have known Grey Poupon from Grey Goose, and if she did, she wouldn't have bothered to buy either one.

While I always keep a bottle of my mother's precious barbecue sauce recipe all made up in my refrigerator, it is hardly the only barbecue sauce I use.  Jack Daniel's, Sonny's, Cattleman's, Sticky Fingers, Big Bob Gibson's, K.C. Masterpiece, Bulls-Eye, and others I can't remember.  They are all good - beyond good, they are delicious.  OTC delicious.  Same thing with salad dressings.  I can make my own vinaigrette or creamy salad dressing, but except for something like a blue cheese or feta cheese dressing, I can get really good quality out of a bottle.  These aren't the bottled salad dressings of years back, full of unprounouncable ingredients and preservatives.  Today's stuff is really much better, and if you don't believe me, read the labels.  Good ingredients.  I am always impressed when a label shows the same ingredients I would use.

I almost always use bottled pasta sauce, but then so does Giada de Laurentiis.  That should tell you something.  On the other hand, I dislike bottled ranch dressing, but then I dislike ranch dressing no matter who made it.  You've got to read the labels, taste the product and make up your own mind. 

As an aside, I do steer clear of low fat and fat free variation of anything.  As a lifetime member of Weight Watchers, dating back to the late seventies, I have tasted commercial attempts at low calorie foods that were so awful, they should be publicly burned.  There are ways to eliminate a few calories which do not involve sucking all the flavor and enjoyment from a product (click on the link and scroll to Food Cartoon #2) - as I mentioned earlier, Ken's Northern Italian dressing is considered "Lite" - but once you head into real low fat and fat free land, you might as well start start eating library paste.  Eat less, eat it less often, but eat the real stuff.  Your tastebuds will thank you.

It has been a while since I made soup.  I suspect this is directly related to the temperature display in my car, which rarely drops below 98 degrees.  But, I am thinking about cream of carrot soup.  If the temperature drops to 95, it will be cool enough for me to consider it.  Whoa.  Can't believe I just typed that.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Mother's Little Helper - Part II

Don't despair - I will be talking about food as soon as I get off Captain Bucky O'Hare's space vehicle* and back down to earth.  I still have to post the Chopped Salad recipe, and I have plans involving a 3 1/2 pound package of beautiful market ground beef and some smoked mozzarella.  But now, on to the rant:

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all
Go ask Alice
When she's ten feet tall

I have never experienced pregnancy or childbirth. For almost ten years this was a source of much sorrow, until that moment in May of 1987 that our social worker from Spence-Chapin placed my son into my arms.  It was a surreal experience, standing in the international terminal of Kennedy Airport, watching the much-anticipated invasion of tiny Asian babies as they were delivered into their parent's arms and hearts forever.

Still, because Cory is so much like me, we decided I must have given birth to him in another dimension.  Now while that would make a great made-for-TV movie on SyFy, the truth is, as we all know, that another lady, half a world away, gave birth to him on February 19, 1987.  Every day of my son's life I thank that dear lady, his biological mother, for all she did to give him a good and healthy start.

Which is why articles like this make my head explode.  If a single lady, without much in the way of resources or family assistance, living in a country that was absolutely unsupportive of unmarried pregnancies, could give birth to a healthy, happy, nonaddicted infant, why can't these women?

"The number of babies treated at Florida hospitals for drug-withdrawal syndrome continued to skyrocket last year, further evidence of the far-reaching impact of the state's prescription-drug epidemic.

In 2010, 1,374 babies were born addicted to drugs because their mothers were users — a 42 percent increase from the year prior, according to new Agency for Health Care Administration records obtained by the Orlando Sentinel.

Though the data don't show which drugs the newborns tested positive for, doctors in Central Florida have said most of the local cases are prescription drugs.

The babies — whose withdrawal symptoms can include sweating, stiff muscles, irritability and diarrhea — can spend days, even weeks detoxing.

At issue in many instances are women who use prescription drugs such as the painkiller oxycodone who cannot simply quit taking the medications when they learn they are pregnant.

Doctors say it's too stressful on the mother's body, which causes stress on the developing baby. So, methadone is often prescribed in place of oxycodone."

And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you're going to fall
Tell 'em a hookah smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call
Call Alice
When she was just small


Although I was never pregnant, everyone around me was at one time or another.  A few observations I'd like to make for those of you out there who think I may be too hard on pregnant women:

From the moment they learned they were pregnant, those women - my close friends, cousins, sisters-in-law and coworkers - would not take so much as a Tylenol for a headache.  They stopped drinking anything with caffeine.  They ate healthy food - mostly.  C'mon, I'm not heartless.  If they smoked, they stopped, and they kept their distance from other smokers.

Now for all the folks out there who think I'm a certified bitch, think about this - if so many women will not even take an aspirin for fear of what effect if will have on their unborn child, why can't you stay off the oxycontin?  Do you have any idea what effect oxy or methadone have?  Is that loving feeling you get from drugs so much better than the feeling you get from holding your healthy newborn?

I do not need nor want that kind of job security.

*Bucky's ship is appropriately named "The Righteous Indignation"

Mother's Little Helper - Part I

What a drag it is getting old
"Kids are different today"
I hear ev'ry mother say
Mother needs something today to calm her down
And though she's not really ill
There's a little yellow pill
She goes running for the shelter of a mother's little helper
And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day

At the very end of my father's life, his doctors increased the dosage of intravenous morphine so that he slept.  And slept.  And slept.  And after two days of painless sleep, he quietly lost his 16 month battle with cancer and slept forever.  Prior to that, during the two days I did have with him, he was awake but clearly under the influence.  His thinking was clouded and there were times I was convinced he was "seeing" his mother and father, gone many years before.  The nonreligious explanation would be that he was hallucinating from the strong medication which gave him that blessed relief.

During the 16 months of his illness, Pop tried to live his life as normally as possible.  That meant he did not drug himself up with painkillers, and it boggles my mind to think of the pain he endured.  I remember a time, many years before that, when he was suffering from terrible dental pain.  He finally gave in and took aspirin.

Perhaps his non-use of painkillers was influenced by the short life and sad heroin-induced death of my mother, his stepdaughter Joyce.  Or it was simply that he was of a generation when men presented a strong facade and never admitted just how much they might hurt.  Raised in that tradition, I just don't get drugs, not for recreation and not for killing pain - unless the pain is killing me.

"Things are different today"
I hear ev'ry mother say
Cooking fresh food for a husband's just a drag
So she buys an instant cake and she burns her frozen steak
And goes running for the shelter of a mother's little helper
And two help her on her way, get her through her busy day

For the past few years, the vast majority of child abuse cases that I handle are the direct result of drugs and alcohol.  While domestic violence has risen tremendously since I started doing this type of work almost 20 years ago, it is almost always triggered by substance misuse.  Unless you have been living in a cave, or ignore the news as a matter of principle, you must know that the greatest drug-related threat is coming from perfectly legal prescription medication.

Doctor please, some more of these
Outside the door, she took four more
What a drag it is getting old

Obviously, I cannot share the details of any of my cases, which involve serious prescription drug abuse by mothers AND fathers, except to say that when the drug screens come back positive for opiates and benzodiazaphenes, the universal cry from the parent is, "I HAVE A PRESCRIPTION!"  Yeah, so you do, but how did you get it?  What sad tale of woe did you tell the greedy little pill mill doctor to get him to scribble a scrip for Hillbilly Heroin?  Did you tell him your back hurts?  Aw, poor baby, my back hurts too - has been hurting since I was 11 and got my first period.  Have you even tried a non-narcotic OTC like Advil?  Or just learning to live with a little discomfort?

For a long time, I am of the opinion that if an adult wants to drug themselves into oblivion, they can do so provided they neither try to operate any heavy machinery, nor have any children in their care.  I kid around about being a rational anarchist, but really if someone chooses to live in a drug-induced coma, who am I to interfere?  Just do not allow your chemical dependency to impact the welfare of other people, and most especially your children.  And please don't apply for Social Security Disability, because that's an insult to all the truly disabled individuals out there.

What set me off this morning was an article in the Orlando Sentinel, coming hot on the heels of another article, both of them about what happens when parents indulge in prescription medication.  Neither of these are my cases, nor taking place in my county, and the details are quite public.

"A Volusia couple was charged with child abuse and neglect after their 2-year-old son ingested prescription pills and was rushed to the hospital, authorities said.

Kurt Vineis, 34, and 31-year-old Katrina Palmer were charged with aggravated child abuse, child neglect and obstructing an officer without violence Saturday afternoon after medical officials found opiates in their toddler's system.

... the parents initially denied they had prescription medication inside the house but later admitted that they only had Xanax. But deputies could not find any prescriptions in the house so they pressed the couple.

Vineis confessed they had a stash of pills in the trunk of their car that included Diazepam, Alprazolam, Carisoprodol and Oxycodone.  Deputies are investigating why the couple had so many pills."

And another one:

"A 32-year-old mother from Casselberry was arrested in Maitland early Saturday, after police said she crashed her car with her daughters inside while driving under the influence of prescription pills.

... Officers noted that the Kia's windshield was broken, and that Singletary's speech was slurred and she was struggling to keep her eyes open, according to the report. She complained of dizziness and back pain, the report states... 

Singletary was put in an ambulance, where police questioned her further. An officer asked for a blood sample, which she refused ... She was put under arrest and taken to a hospital. There, the report says, Singletary told police that she refused the sample because "I know you would find Oxy[codone] in my system.""

"Life's just much too hard today,"
I hear ev'ry mother say
The pursuit of happiness just seems a bore
And if you take more of those, you will get an overdose
No more running for the shelter of a mother's little helper
They just helped you on your way, through your busy dying day

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Thank you for the baby nose, mothershucker!

So ... Food Network geniuses decided one of the competitors for the Next, Etc. Star was being too juvenile and/or too risque in promoting balls (e.g. meatballs) as his food truck theme.  And yet the geniuses over at sister network Cooking Channel are yucking it up over the advertisement recorded by Mo Rocca for his show Food(ography).  You know, the vignette where some dude tells Mo he can shuck 12 dozen oysters (okay, maybe I've got the number wrong) in 45 seconds and Mo, seemingly impressed beyond all reason, expostulates, "mother shucker!"

Hey, I love "Bitchin' Kitchen" but there is a reason it is broadcast at 10 PM.  In the meantime, Mo's ad is shown all hours of the day and night. Go figure.

BANNED IN BRITAIN:  Julia Roberts' airbrushed picture advertising L'Oreal cosmetics.  "Too perfect," says the British Advertising Standards Agency.  Damn straight. 

THANK YOU FOR THE BABY NOSE:  I had a cute little nose for about four minutes during the waning moments of the Truman Administration.  Immediately thereafter, my nose bloomed into it's present incarnation.  In other words, I have a stereotypical Jewish nose.  Turns out I was absolutely sane to decide against radical rhinoplasty, at least those are the findings from a Belgian study which asserts that people who get nose jobs may be mentally ill.  The Five Towns was a veritable hot bed of holiday surgical alterations.  All us little Jewish American Princesses, yearning to look like the WASP shiksas at the Lawrence Country Club.  How exactly does Barbra Streisand turn into Doris Day?  I don't even want to think about it.  Perfection is highly overrated.

I have come to realize that within the context of my family, I was as close to nasal perfection as anyone could get.  I may have a Jewish nose, but it is not a caricature of a Jewish nose, like my brother, or his equally large-honkered wife.  My father used to say he would take my brother's nose full of nickles for his next week's allowance.  (My father also used to say my tuchis could be used as a table for 6 pinochle players plus two kibbitzers.  I told you I didn't have an easy childhood.)  I had not, fortunately, inherited the nose from the Albert side of my family, and thus escaped the fate of my Uncles Irving (Red) and Max.  As best I can tell, I got either the Nathan nose or the Sarif nose (even noses keep secrets in my family).  I can live with that.  Heck, I have lived with that.  I wouldn't be me without the nose, and now as I approach my twilight years, I am damn glad I never even thought about tinkering with it.

As promised, a progress picture on my pi shawl.  I am thinking of naming it "Pine Island", but we'll see how that works out.  Right now, there isn't all that much of the pine tree pattern in there, not that you can see it anyway because of the colors.  But all will be revealed in the truth of time ...

At the top of the news - it's all about the budget.  Quite a lot of drama in Washington, and I don't pretend to understand financial matters.  I do know that spending more than you have is a bad idea, and that while it is okay to have a few credit cards and debts such as a mortgage on your home, you must be able to pay those bills when they come through.  I'm not sure why we are borrowing money from China, or why we give away money to countries like Brazil to do offshore drilling so we can buy oil from them.  I am a simple soul, and none of that makes sense to me.  John Stossel, who must have a portrait in a closet somewhere because I think I've been watching him for 40 years and he never gets any older, has put together a list of suggested cuts to the budget designed not only to balance that sucker, but to render us a surplus.  Read it and make up your own minds.  Mine is reeling.

One thing I would like to do, which is not mentioned on Stossel's Chainsaw Massacre List, is gut Congressional expenses.

The current salary (2011) for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate is $174,000 per year.  And then for the Big Bosses:

Senate Leadership
Majority Party Leader - $193,400
Minority Party Leader - $193,400

House Leadership
Speakier of the House - $223,500
Majority Leader - $193,400
Minority Leader - $193,400

A cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) increase takes effect annually unless Congress votes to not accept it.

Apparently there has been no raise in Congressional salaries since 2009, which is a damn fine thing.  Now, let's do some cutting, as was done to the salaries of Florida state employees, who haven't received a raise in over seven years, and then saw salaries virtually cut another 3 percent to pay for benefits.  Let's start cutting some of the benefits and retirement expectations of members of Congress.  Health insurance, what can I say?  I am sure that somewhere on the Internet, someone a lot smarter than me has worked up those numbers.  I'm betting we can save a boatload of money by simply treating members of Congress as (badly as) other public employees have been treated.  Either that or allow us to vote on whether or not we want to accept an annual COLA.  A fair exchange is no robbery.  Let's do it!

AND LEST WE FORGET, THIS IS STILL A BLOG ABOUT FOOD ... Rob and I have some shopping to do, both at Publix and BJ's warehouse.  I'll be seeking inspiration in those two meccas, although both of my refrigerators are well-stocked with cooked foods.   Which I may tuck into the freezer to clear the way for brand new cooking frenzies.  One thing I know I want is chicken, and I have been leaning heavily towards chicken paprikas.  And then, because it has been so brutally hot the last few days, even for Florida, a nice cool salad.  Maybe a chopped salad.

This was not High Noon ... this was at 5:30 pm as I was leaving the office.  It was so hot that my interior rear view mirror fell from it's glued-on perch.

Definitely, a salad.

I am disappointed, but understanding, that the Yarn Harlot has not been blogging during Sock Summit 2011, which is held in Portland, Oregon.  And I am trying not to take this personally, but they could not have chosen a spot further from my home unless they left the continental United States.  Something else to put on my bucket list ...

Friday, July 29, 2011

I don't know why I swallowed a pi ... perhaps I'll die

I've been off my feed lately.  No cooking to speak of, and no inspiration to spark my activity.  Instead, I've been knitting a pi shawl, and while my family can't eat that kind of pi, they are hardly going to starve.  In this household, leftovers are not just an occasional treat, they are a cottage industry.

The last few days have been rough.  Yesterday we saw the never-ending docket, pretrials and judicial reviews and shelter reviews and new shelters and independent living reviews all on the same day.  A brilliant act of scheduling that will live in infamy.  I got my 15 minutes seconds of fame, and thank goodness that is over.  I noticed that I no longer cringe when listening to my own recorded voice.  Twenty years in Florida has taken the edge off of my Brooklyn-Jewish-Five Towns accent.  My speech is regularly peppered with "y'all" and my seventh grade Spanish, drilled into my head 45 years ago by the slightly scary Senora Lydia de Stier.  Senora Stier, wherever you are, you would be proud of me, as I am sometimes able to actually think in Spanish, and my pronunciation is not too shabby.  The advantage to speaking Florida Southern Spanglish is that I no longer sound like the punchline of a joke or Fran Drescher.

Despite the fact that yesterday's docket was conceived in the depths of Hell, while today's was a lot lighter, I would do yesterday all over again.  This morning's Court was like watching the Titanic crash into that iceberg.  Without getting into detail, someone - actually several someones - has stepped on my last good nerve.  I'm generally quite mellow in court, so on those rare occasions when steam begins to rise from my head, it is not a good sign.  That's not a hot flash, folks - this little old lady is very ticked off at you.  You treated me like dreck, so don't expect me to turn the other cheek yet one more time.  No one likes being blindsided, ambushed, or steam-rollered, and you managed all three in an incredibly short period of time.  You are on my List.  You know which one.

Can you believe I still love my job?  Because I do, truly.  There is still "nowhere else on earth that I would rather be", unless it is a cruise ship to Alaska.

One example of a pi shawl

The pi shawl is a circular lace shawl, knit according to the mathematical epiphany of the late, great Elizabeth Zimmermann.  I hate math, which is one of the reasons why I am a lawyer instead of a doctor - one of many reasons, ha ha - but even I can remember that the circumference of a circle is equal to diameter times the value of pi.   I don't like to think of math and knitting in the same sentence, much less the same project, but this works without too much pain.  And there is a lot of pain associated with mathematics, especially calculus.  Fortunately, there is no understanding of calculus needed to knit.  Or I'm screwed.  My pi shawl is a work in progress, pictures to follow.  The Antimony shawl is safely tucked away in the spare room, along with Julia's shawl, a pattern by Alison Jeppson Hyde of Wrapped in Comfort fame, which was completed and set aside for blocking an embarrassingly long time ago.  Blocking a knit garment sucks, and I usually avoid it, but one cannot ignore the inevitable when it comes to a circular lace shawl.  Block I must.

Congratulations to Master Fidel Casco on the presentation of his newest black belt, reflecting his achieving seventh degree rank.  You may remember we watched Master Casco test for seventh while we were in Little Rock last month.  Awesome!

Seventh Degree Master with his Fourth Degree Padewon Sidekick

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I enjoyed a whirlwind tour of Atlanta this weekend.  While Robert competed at the Cobb Galleria, I made it to the Farmer's Market on E. Ponce de Leon in Decatur.  It had been recommended to me a number of times by friends, former Atlantians, who know well my love of cooking.

It was . . . a religious experience.  Oh my God, I have never been to a place like that.  Think Whole Foods on steroids with good prices.  There were items I was able to buy to bring home, but a whole lot of stuff I simply could not, due to perishability.  Even with the cooler, and access to a refrigerator in our little suite, the trip home from Atlanta would have been too long, too hot, and too perilous for the quail, the blue crabs, and the goat.  But with what I did manage to bring home, I have planned on kasha cholent with those big, gorgeous lima beans, and chicken paprikas because I found, for the first time since Paprikas Weiss closed it's doors, real Hungarian sweet paprika.  Lemon poppy pound cake ... Swedish meatballs with lingonberries ... devilled eggs made with a spicy mayonnaise rich in Tabasco sauce and pepper pulp.

On our way up, we stopped at Adcock Pecans.  There is a pecan-crusted catfish dinner in somebody's future, and a small box of GooGoo Clusters in the candy locker.  On the way home, we stopped, as always, at Lane Orchards for Elberta peaches, preserves, dips, and sauces.  Finally, we stopped at Ellis Pecan Farm and found pecans used in every imaginable way.  The samples alone were worth the stop.

And, I have finally finished the Antimony Shawl.  It just needs to be blocked, and that's  a whole other project, but the knitting is done, and I am quite proud of the final result.  The yarn, which is Paton's "Lace", worked up to a soft, warm, and truly lovely shawl.  Started another circular shawl ... yes, I'm bad.  Still have socks to finish knitting, and other items in various stages of completion.  But when a process knitters gets a bug, the only thing to do is swat it.

In the news - the Norwegian attacks.  The US debt ceiling battles. Murdoch is going down.  Amy Winehouse is gone.  Football is back.  Basketball is up in the air.  There's more, and some of it has to do with Casey Anthony, but I'm going to skip that except to say that the air has been cleaner since she hightailed it out of Florida.

Oh, and while I was wandering starry eyed around the Farmer's Market?  My husband was kickin' butt at Cobb Galleria.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Just Do It

There is something I have been thinking about doing for seven years.  Every year I think about it, and then I reject the idea.  But I've been doing a little checking and some thinking, and well, it's on my bucket list so why don't I just do it?

Maybe I will.

The news is all over the place, and there doesn't seem to be one single article that captures my attention.  I guess I could pick on Casey Anthony, but really, she's old news.  At least until the civil suits start.  Everybody is suing everybody else, which should be a lot of fun to watch. 

Candidates for the 2012 Presidential election are coming out of the woodwork.  I doubt I will be voting this time, first time I will have missed voting for President since 1972.  I voted for Nixon.  Let's not even talk about that. 

I have always voted in the past, not wanting to waste my precious vote by failing to exercise that very important right.  The problem is, each year I ended up feeling like a fool, because no matter which candidate or party I supported, it was a waste.  We haven't had a real choice since ... well, 1972.  Ha, just kidding.  But the last time I felt good about voting for President was the vote I cast for Bill Clinton.  I would vote for him again today if the Constitutional Amendments permitted it, but since that's not going to happen, and Hillary has said she will not run, we're done.

I felt that way when the gubernatorial election took place here in Florida.  And so I stayed home from the polls.  I suppose Alex Sink would have been better than Governor Voldemort, but that's not saying much.  I have no regrets about staying home with my vote clutched tightly to my chest.  I just don't have the heart to throw it away on a loser, and both major parties have done nothing but produce losers for candidates for the past 12 or more years.

<li> STS-107 -- Columbia mission No. 28 (113th shuttle program mission overall)
<li> Jan. 16-Feb 1, 2003 
<li> Landing site: Planned: Kennedy Space Center
<li> Crew:  Rick D. Husband (2), Commander; William C. McCool (1), Pilot; Michael P. Anderson (2), Payload Commander; Kalpana Chawla (2), Mission Specialist; David M. Brown (1), Mission Specialist; Laurel B. Clark (1), Mission Specialist; Ilan Ramon (1), (ISA) Payload Specialist 
<li> Of interest: The 16-day flight was a dedicated science and research mission. Working 24 hours a day, in two alternating shifts, the crew successfully conducted approximately 80 experiments. The STS-107 mission ended abruptly on Feb. 1, 2003 when Space Shuttle Columbia and her crew perished during entry, 16 minutes before scheduled landing. Ramon was the 1st Israeli to fly in space.
<li> <a target="new" href="">More info from NASA</a>

Early this morning, the Space Shuttle Atlantis landed at Kennedy Space Center for the last time.  I know because it's wheels hit the roof of my house twice.  You call it sonic boom, I call it wheels.  I will miss levitating from my bed when the shuttles land and break the sound barrier.  Like the airplanes over my house when I lived near Kennedy Airport, I have come to treasure the sound of the shuttles arriving safely home.  I hope we do not come to regret closing down our manned space program, but I fear we will, and not too far down the road.  (Those are the last mission patches for Columbia and Challenger.)

I have posted a recipe for Little Calzones on the "All About Food" blog.  I hope you check it out and try it sometime this weekend.  Tomorrow afternoon, Rob and I are cutting out and heading up to Atlanta for a taekwando tournament, and I won't have internet access until I return home on Sunday.  Any barbecue joint jaunts will be duly recorded and shared with you.  And that's a promise.
<li> 51-L -- Challenger mission No. 10 (25th shuttle program mission overall)
<li> January 28, 1986
<li> Crew: Francis R. Scobee (2), Commander; Michael J. Smith (1), Pilot; Judith A. Resnik (2), Mission Specialist 1; Ellison S. Onizuka (2), Mission Specialist 2; Ronald E. McNair (2), Mission Specialist 3; Gregory B. Jarvis (1), Payload Specialist 1;
Sharon Christa McAuliffe (1), Payload Specialist 2 (TISP) 
<li> Of interest: Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff, killing all seven crew aboard. The cause of explosion was determined to be an O-ring failure in right solid rocket booster. The shuttle fleet was grounded after the incident. The next launch didn't occur for more than 2 1/2 years after the explosion. McAuliffe was chosen as the first representative in the Teacher in Space Program.
<li> <a target="new" href="">More info from NASA</a>

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Yiddish is one of the most expressive languages in the world.  I could discuss the relative merits of Ladino, Yevanic, Zarphatic, and Bukhori, but here in the United States, when one thinks of Jews, one thinks of Yiddish.  I grew up in a home where the adults switched over to Yiddish when they wished to speak about something, "but not in front of the kids."  So of course I silently listened and learned and tried to pick up as many Yiddish words and phrases as I could.  Like most Jewish adults of my generation, I can cuss in Yiddish.  Yiddish is the language of Jewish comedians from the vaudeville era until modern times (watch a Mel Brooks movie if you don't believe me) which makes it the perfect language for insults and complaints.  A single word, spoken in Yiddish, can convey an entire sentence, which is a good thing since I am unable to speak in sentences when I am cussing complaining in Yiddish.  If you've ever called someone a yutz, or complained about shlepping your files to the courthouse, you are speaking Yiddish.  Cool, huh?  When I write the word "feh!", as I have at different times on this blog, I am speaking the language of my ancestors.

ORLANDO, Fla.  — With the exception of a few moments when she walked out of jail early Sunday, Casey Anthony has not appeared in public as a free woman. Her whereabouts is a mystery.

Defense lawyer Jose Baez wanted to use Anthony's parents, George and Cindy Anthony
, as a decoy during her release, their lawyer, Mark Lippman, told a television station.

Now THAT'S chutzpah.  And there are a lot of things I could say about Jose Baez, but let me sum it up in one perfect Yiddish word:  schmuck.

I almost wish I was a personal injury or civil suit lawyer, because now is the time I could cash in on this whole Casey Anthony mishegas.  Everybody is suing everybody else, and they are all suing Casey. 

Yesterday I unexpectedly discovered that fresh blue crabs are a gift from God.  Our legal intern, Dustin, is a whiz at catching shrimp and other denizens of the deep, but this was the first time I learned he was an accomplished crabber.  When I got into the office and stopped to chat, Dustin advised me he had caught the crabs and brought them in for whoever would like them.

I am all about Alaskan king crab and snow crab, but blue crab - not so much.  The only type that has been available in the markets is a refrigerated, pasteurized product that is merely okay.  Because crab spoils so very rapidly, this is the very best way to sell it.  It is not, however, the very best way to eat it.  Fried soft shelled crabs is a great way to eat them, but I digress.  Besides, this wasn't soft shell season.

Dustin had frozen the whole, uncooked crabs, bagged them and placed them in the freezer at the office.  Come the end of the day, I snag one of the bags and head out to Publix to get the rest of the ingredients for a small, intimate crab boil.  A dozen littleneck clams, half a pound of fresh mussels, andouille sausage, corn on the cob, and red potatoes.  I constructed a Monolith de Mer with the help of Old Bay seasoning and garlic and all I can tell you is it was AWESOME.  The blue crab is actually pretty easy to open with your hands (it somes with a pull tab to start the process) and the meat is deliciously sweet.  One of the best things I've ever eaten.  Thank you, Dustin.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

"Vengeance is Mine"

Today, even atheists are believing in a Higher Power.

For anyone who has watched the Greek tragedy we call "the case against Casey", there is nothing left to believe in but the wrath of the Almighty.  I call the Almighty "God", but your mileage may vary.  Because this is neither the Wild West nor the Roman Colisseum,  we live by the rule of law, and even when the Law seems to fail us, it is not our place to show our displeasure by breaking some of it's most fundamental rules.  We are not, for the most part, vigilantes.  We are not part of a mindless, murdering mob, nor terrorists, nor stone-cold killers.

Today, in the wee hours of the morning, Casey Anthony was released from jail to go free in a world that does not welcome her or even want her.  Aside from the threats against her, there is no place she can go to call her home.  Despite the uncomfortable interviews of her parent's attorney, Mark Lippman - and how that poor man squirmed! - Casey cannot go home to her family.  She burned that bridge in the most public way possible.  She accused her father of the most heinous crimes imaginable, and willfully exposed her entire family to searing public scrutiny, to save her own scrawny neck.  Her mother may forgive her, because that is what mothers do, but as long as Cindy and George Anthony remain together, their only daughter cannot come to live with them.

There are no loyal friends who will take her in.  There are no employers to give her a job; even Hugh Hefner said she won't get a topless photo shoot in Playboy because "we don't reward that kind of behavior."  She walked out of jail with just over $500 in her pocket, hardly enough to support her for more than a week or two.  She cannot go into a restaurant or even buy a cheap hamburger at McDonald's without some kind of public outrage being thrown at her.  And even assuming that the majority of this country's population are good people at heart who would not actually raise a hand to this woman, despite the consuming anger, grief, and disappointment, there are any number of severely disturbed individuals, the Jared Loughners of this world, who have no such self-control, and whose internal demons may demand the most terrible action.

There is no one to give her shelter except her own defense team, the hired guns.  I do not think she would ever be welcome in the home of Jose' Baez, unless his wife has rocks where her brains ought to be.  Cheney Mason, that old fool with the bird-flipping middle finger, might allow her to stay with him and his wife, as he has publicly announced that he thinks of her as a granddaughter.  My advice in that situation is "Cavaet Emptor", and lock up your checks and credit cards, Cheney.  She stole from her best friend, from her mother, and from her grandpa ... don't think you are immune from her larceny.

I would hate to think that there are people out there who are seriously impressed by the courtroom theatrics of Jose' Baez.  Before you run out to hire him, remember that he has no compunctions about ignoring court orders, about making promises he can't keep, and about throwing your loved ones under the bus.  He was neither brilliant nor effective in the courtroom, and the end did not justify the means.  As an attorney for close to 20 years, I can tell you that I cringed at his performance, as did so many others. 

The members of the jury, fools that they were, have spoken, and a baby-killer has walked free.  But this isn't the Bella Vita you envisioned, is it, Casey?

For nearly three years, she fantasised about a life beyond prison bars, dreaming about taking long road trips in a camper van, going shopping and renting movies.

''When are we going to sit on the beach, drinking cocktails and planning our future business?'' the accused child killer Casey Anthony wrote to a fellow inmate at Orange County Jail in Orlando. She expressed a longing to go for manicures, get her hair done and ''be a part of society''.

Never, baby, never.

Casey Anthony Released From Jail

Happy Sunday, everyone.  I did not have any shelter hearings this morning, which was good for me and good for the children of Orange and Osceola Counties.  I like to think it indicative of the children having a good weekend, unmarred by any abuse or neglect.

I have started preparations for the mousstitsio, which I will record in faithful detail and share with you on my recipe blog.  I can assure you the final result is derived from three separate recipes for two different dishes and is delightfully fussy to make.  Your friends and family will love it.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Recently I drifted back into playing FarmVille, after a hiatus of almost two years. I probably would not have done so, but for the availability of an app for the iPad. My farm, which apparently remained in cyber-limbo, looked so charming and colorful that I could not resist planting a few crops and petting the kitties - all 47 of them.  I also could not help but notice that my avatar needed some serious updating.

Gone is the Big Red Hair and the purple overalls ...

Meet the new, older but wiser weekend farmer.  No more Sarah Palin upsweep,  no more chemical assault to achieve a haircolor I wasn't even born with.  She really does look like me, except none of the available avatars had a bustline to speak of. 

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go harvest some eggplants.  Or at the very least, head on down to my local supermarket.  I've got pastitsio on the brain, and for some reason I visualize a layer of eggplant added to the already sturdy structure. 

This brings up the unfortunate image of Jeff Goldblum in "The Fly", except in my movie version, someone places a dish of pastitsio and a dish of moussaka into the transport chamber, and the result is a huge casserole of "Mousstitsio",  a glorious concoction representing everything good about Greek cuisine.  The celebrity chefs from every network all come together to praise the Mousstitsio.  World Peace is achieved as everyone, everywhere, chows down.  I am awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, an audience with the Pope, lunch with the President and Mrs. Obama, where I recreate my masterpiece using handpicked eggplants from the White House garden, and the challenge of a throwdown with Bobby Flay.  Everyone is ecstatic, except possibly Jeff Goldblum's hapless character, who is still storing extra parts in his medicine cabinet.  Ick.

For those of you who were concerned, or outraged, or even amused by my "Hazard Pay" post, please be assured that all is well.  I spoke with the detective at Kissimmee Police Department, and reported the incident.  We don't know if the state attorney will choose to prosecute, but that is entirely at his or her discretion.  I was really more interested in making a proper record of the incident, "just in case."  I also finished gathering information and documentation regarding the identity theft, and provided that to my other detective at KPD, who kindly offered to transfer it over to Polk County, where the majority of the theft took place, and where there is some hope of identifying the person responsible.  And I have been assured that my new office will be on the fourth or fifth floor at the new location, and any windows I might have will be inaccessible except by a high-power rifle-wielding sniper.  Since the only other building in Kissimmee high enough to shoot from would be the courthouse, and to enter it one must pass by a metal detector and four suspicious deputies, I think it will all be okay.

This is my on-call duty weekend, and by 10:00 this morning I had already been to the juvenile courthouse, finished my hearing, and returned home.  Getting up at 6:30 on a Saturday is hard on this old body, so I think I'll take a nap.  A nap before frying.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Hazard Pay

I wonder if I'm eligible for hazard pay.

In the 19 years I have worked in the child welfare legal system, I've met a whole bunch of interesting people.  Some of those people have what we social work types euphemistically refer to as "issues."  Often those issues interfere with the individual's ability to care for their children in a prudent, socially acceptable manner.  So with the power vested in us by the State of Florida pursuant to Chapter 39 of the Florida Statutes, we remove the children from their custody.  Sometimes the removal is temporary and sometimes it is permanent.  Nobody is ever happy about this, but the majority of parents do their best to try to correct the issues so their children can come home. 

Then there are those who - how shall I put this delicately? - react badly.  Very badly.  During my first tour of duty with The Agency Formerly Known as HRS, my office windows were shot out - twice.  Even earlier, my supervising attorney and I had to be escorted by court deputies through some secret back exit of the courthouse because a disgruntled parent rose up like Charleton Heston in the "Ten Commandments", waving her arms in a manner that can only be called imperious, and declaring my supervisor to be a blasphemer.  It was unusual, to say the least.

Today was one of those days when I wonder if I shouldn't have looked just a little bit harder for a job with an insurance defense firm.  Having finished a contentious trial very late in the day, and the Court having granted our petition, I left the courtroom expeditiously to avoid contact with the parents because they have made it very clear that they don't like me.  As I headed out to my car, I realized they must have hurried to catch up with me.  And if I had any doubts about their intentions, a rather kind driver pulled up to warn me that someone was following me.  Sure enough, one of the disgruntled parents was hot on my trail.

Now that's all I'm going to say about that, except to assure my fellow travelers at The Agency Formerly Known as HRS that I did not raise my voice, much less my hands.  Tomorrow I will make proper reports to the proper authorities. 

Governor Voldemort has gleefully gouged big chunks out of the paychecks and benefits of state employees just like me, claiming it is the right thing to do to balance the budget.  So I guess I should forget about that hazard pay.  And thank you very much, but I'll pass on that office with a window.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Better Living Through Chemistry

Monday -
I am so tired I could scream ... if screaming was my style, which it is not.  I had a massive burst of energy during the day which allowed me to charge through a bunch of stuff and still able to make it to court where I functioned in a reasonably coherent, professional manner.  Earlier in the day I was feeling positively chipper, so much so that I felt like I was in a State of Yo.  Mellow and motivated.  Everything was so green.  Life was beautiful.  Even the orchestra was beautiful.

Came home and crashed, and in retrospect I must admit that the burst of Yo was the result of my daily dose of Cymbalta, chased with a side of Inderal and two large cups of black coffee.  Late last night I realized I had not taken my daily dose for at least two days, and I was starting to feel the effects of what was essentially withdrawal, and it did not feel good.  So I took my meds like a good little girl this morning, and all was well with the world.

I am the last person in the world to abuse drugs, including legally prescribed medication.  I don't like taking medication anymore than I like horse racing, and I have whittled down the list to the absolute bare minimum.  In 1998, when the medical community finally realized what I needed was an antidepressant, I was given Effexor.  After a few weeks, I started to feel human again.  Drugs had given me my life back, which was pretty ironic since drugs also altered my life in the most terrible way possible.  I lost my mother to drugs, specifically to alcohol and heroin.  She was 29 and I was just short of my eighth birthday.  I lost my father to drugs, as he could not deal with what was happening to my mother and took off.  Even before her death, I had lost my mother because she had become one with the drug culture of that time and place, and from the time I was four and my brother not quite three years old, we went to live with our maternal grandmother and grandfather.  And we all know how that turned out.

Before the Dark Times ...

Effexor was a wonder drug.  Up until that point, there was no real medical treatment for depression and anxiety.  There were some pretty heavy duty psychotropic medications out there, but those were for the seriously mentally ill, people who rarely touched base in the real world.  The side effects were hellacious.  For us neurotic types, there were tranquilizers like Valium and Librium.  Neither was effective at addressing long term depression, and both were addictive.  But the new wave of antidepressants and antianxiety drugs like Effexor and Prozac and Buspar recognized what I had learned through long years of talk therapy - there had to be a genetic, biochemical component to what I continued to experience.  The ideal combination of treatment involves talk therapy and the right medication.  For starters, Effexor was the right medication. 

The problem with medication is that there are bound to be side effects.  Sometimes these do not became apparent until several years have passed.  Eventually I came off the Effexor and moved on to other kinder, gentler medications.  Anyway, because I've been off Effexor for such a long time, I'd forgotten one of it's most annoying side effects:  brain shivers.  Yeah, they are as freaky as they sound.  If I was to miss a dose, I would shortly thereafter start to experience physical withdrawal, the most obvious symptom being the feeling my brain and my head were in constant motion, but at two entirely different rates.  At some point I thought I must be having petechial hemorrhaging in my eyes from the violent shivers.  One does not experience that type of withdrawal from Cymbalta.  One also does not gain 80 pounds while leaking memory out one's left ear.  I told you those side effects can be rough.

But, if one fails to take Cymbalta over a period of several days, one will start to feel a bit dysphoric, and the brain, while not in full metal shiver mode, will engage in small shudders.  Withdrawal at a much slower, milder level, but withdrawal nonetheless.

All I can say is, crap, I did it again.  Feeling much better now, though.

The single most painful experience in my life was chicken pox.  So I have never been comfortable in facing the fact that I might someday experience shingles.  I fear shingles almost as much as I fear Alzheimer's.  So it was with some concern that I read an article in the Times (the New York Times - is there any other?) regarding pervasive shortages of the vaccine Zostavax, which has been approved for old aging mature folks like me, who have been carrying around that chicken pox virus, like an unwanted boarder, for fifty years. Not that I would ever take the damn vaccine - I don't take flu shots either - but it bothers me to be reminded that having to take drugs is for all of us, at any age, the terrible norm.  I don't have to like it, and I don't have to play nice with it, but there it is.  Better living through chemistry.