Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Execution of Eddie Broom(e)

Yesterday was a hoot.  I embarrassed myself beyond all reasonable doubt, but instead of blushing and beating up on myself, I am laughing every time I think of it.

So ... I head into the office yesterday, and it was just me and my shadow.  I plugged myself into the iPod, armed with a blue ink pen and a stack of files, and started signing and singing.  I danced with the red file cart as I moved the files over to the copy machine.  Since no one was there, I removed the damn denture that is the bane of my existence, and felt totally comfortable and productive.

Until I turned to head down the hall and came face-to-face with a CBC employee, who had also come in to catch up on a project.  Big smiles, exchanged hellos, but when she started to introduce me to her husband, I found an excuse to duck back into my office to reseat that pesky denture.  Only then did I head out to shake hands.

Once she walked down to the conference room to set up, I went back to singing and signing - singing softly, signing with a flourish - but no more dancing with the red cart.  I still have a shred of dignity left, you know.

Or I did until I got home, having stopped at Publix on the way to pick up a few minor items.

Okay, let me stop here and take a sharp 180 degree turn to discuss one of my odd passions - old buildings.  Maybe I was an architect or an archeologist in another life.  All I know is that I am fascinated by anything that was built more than a century ago, like the New York City subway system, the French Quarter in New Orleans, and the Osceola County Courthouse.  I can sit for hours, staring at old photos (or even better, the real thing), admiring styles of architecture long out of vogue.  I am crazy for tunnels, especially if a train can run through it.  I love to try to figure out where the tunnels go.  Hallways are like tunnels, which is why I was probably the only person alive who was saddened when the first step in restoring the old courthouse was to pull down the annexes with their crazy quilt of secret passages, hidden offices,  and the world's strangest wheelchair lift.  The probate clerks had their office tucked in at the juncture of the old courthouse and the second annex (where the courtrooms and the world's worst restrooms were located) at sort of a half level, so you had to step up to step down to see them, and it was easier to stand at the door and hand them the paperwork.  The juvenile department was tucked under the front steps, and their ceiling sloped accordingly.  Being claustrophobic, I would have lasted about 20 minutes.  One of my regrets is that I never got any pictures of this collection of odd additions slapped onto the old courthouse over a period of 60 years.  Apparently, neither did anyone else, because while there is a decent collection of photos of the original courthouse, circa 1915, and the restored courthouse, circa 2001, there is little in between, darn it.  So much for urban exploration.

If you look very carefully at the left side of this photo, behind the oak trees, you can see bits of another building there.  That was the entrance into the second annex, and depending if you walked straight, turned right at the end of that hall, or made a sharp right when you first walked in, you could end up in one of three different buildings.

The "wart" on the historic Osceola County Courthouse is almost gone. For weeks, crews have been knocking, banging and tearing down the ugly one-story annex that was grafted onto the original three-story Romanesque Revival structure built in 1889. Earlier in the week, most of the east side of the annex was still standing. But in what seemed like a blink of an eye, everything was down Thursday. All that's left is a massive pile of rubble and a few pieces of the old brick walls that are still standing.
Apparently the Orlando Sentinel does not share my enthusiasm for historical oddities.  Just because it wasn't pretty - and it wasn't - doesn't mean it wasn't interesting fascinating.

Osceola County courthouse and city jail - Kissimmee, Florida

This one is a good shot of the first annex and the old jail, before the second annex was conceived and constructed by someone who had clearly done too much LSD in the sixties, after smoking too much marijuana with Robert Mitchum in the forties.  That second annex - the aforementioned "wart" - was built so as to wrap around and connect everything on that side of the street.  It was bizarre and beautiful.  I miss it, although I do not miss the crappy restrooms, or the old holding cells on the second floor.

Late at night, when my insomnia is in full swing, I spend a lot of time online at sites like Forgotten NY and this one, the Florida Memory Project. There are great photos from all over the state, starting from the late 1890's to the present day. This next photo, taken on January 19, 1912,  is disturbing, at several levels, and addresses sensitive issues of state executions and racism.  This is a photo of the last execution to ever take place at the Osceola County Courthouse, the execution of Eddie Broom (or Broome).

Execution of Eddie Broom outside Osceola County courthouse - Kissimmee, Florida

I'm not here to discuss capital punishment, which I have come to oppose, or the questionable treatment of this particular individual, an African-American accused and convicting of shooting a white man to death.  (It wasn't a lynching, but let's just say there was no time for a lengthy appeal.)  I want to discuss the location of the hanging, because it drove me crazy for several nights.  And because I get a cheap thrill from standing in close proximity to history.

Or sitting.  You can't imagine how many times I strained my neck trying to catch a glimpse of this abandoned station from the warm safety of an overcrowded A train as it rumbled its way towards Brooklyn.

But before any more historical blathering,  let's lighten the mood and finish the story of my dearth of dignity.

So I finish making my purchases at Publix and head home.  Mind you, I've been plugged into the iPod the whole time, grooving with the music.  Smiling and nodding at people I know, but not stopping to chat since I couldn't hear anything.  Happy as a clam.  Got home, greeted my husband, turned to put away my purchases in the kitchen, only to hear him say,

"Bear, did you know you have toilet paper hanging from the back of your pants?"

Oh yeah, apparently I did, and I can't tell you how long I'd been wearing that unintended accessory, except I am certain I had it on the entire time I was shopping at Publix.

Oy vay.  I've been shopping at the same Publix for close to 20 years, and all those people too polite to tap me on the shoulder.  I may have to start grocery shopping at Walmart.  It seems I'm already turning into a walmartian.  No no no, just kidding.  Besides, I always keep the denture in while I'm shopping in Walmart.  I'm bad, but I'm not hopeless.

Gotta laugh, right?  Because it is certainly funnier that the FIVE SEPARATE TIMES I had to frog back big chunks of the dishcloth I am knitting, from a pattern I designed named "Breaking Up is Hard to Do."  I may just have to rename it "Breaking Bad."

Comedy break is over, back to history.

Thursday I walked the entire perimeter of that darn courthouse, trying to see where the scaffold had been contructed.  (I think I frightened the guardian ad litem who happened to see me walking and staring and likely muttering to myself.)  Because clearly the unfortunate Mr. Broom had NOT been dispatched to his Great Reward from the end of a rope strung over the infamous Hanging Tree. 

KISSIMMEE — Legend has it that one of the old giant oak trees in front of the Osceola County Courthouse was used as a hanging tree. It is one of the tough-looking trees on the north side of the courthouse facing Vernon Avenue -- the one with the notches along some heavy branches.  The story goes that each notch stood for a person who was hanged.

Hanging trees? The facts are in dispute. Although official death sentences were carried out from temporary scaffolds erected alongside the courthouse, some longtime residents say no one has ever been strung from a tree on the grounds. Such talk, they say, is the product of embellished folklore.

Darn.  And here I thought it prophetic that the Hanging Tree survived the destruction wrought by the 2004 Hurricane Trifecta.  I know the roof of my office on Bryan Street didn't ...

It took me another day to figure it out.  I was so sure that the hanging took place at the front of courthouse, albeit not from the hanging tree, that I couldn't see the ... well, the forest for the trees.  And then I saw it, and I had to photograph it.  Which I did yesterday on my way to the office.

Scroll back up, and you'll see it too.  The only differences are that the drainage pipe has been moved to the end of the brick wall, and there are no spectators hanging out the windows. And the best part (for me, not Eddie) was that I was obviously standing on the top of the same stairway used by the 1912 photographer to capture the moment.

Northwest corner of the courthouse.  You can see clearly that the scaffold was constructed with it's floor at a level just above the first floor windows to provide sufficient height for ... well, I'll leave that as a lesson for the student.

Execution of Eddie Broom outside Osecola County courthouse - Kissimmee, Florida

If anybody is interested, I did prepare something I am calling chicken piccadillo.  Publix had boneless and skinless chicken breasts on sale for $1.99 a pound, and I was NOT passing that up regardless of the two-ton lasagna in my refrigerator.  It turned out quite tasty, and I will post the recipe real soon.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Lost in time, and lost in space ... danger, Will Robinson!

The last son of Gallifrey has got nuthin' on me ... I can bend time just by stepping close to a clock or watch, while he needs a time and relative dimension in space device to move about ...


(But he does.)

Here's the story:  I am unable to wear watches.  Any kind of watch, from the cheapest to the most costly, is doomed from the moment I place it on my wrist or hang it around my neck.  My old jewelry box is littered with the corpses of dead time pieces.

Apparently this odd electrophysiological quirk now extends beyond personal timepieces.  If I spend any amount of time close to a clock, it is likely to experience some trauma as a result of being sucked into my own personal space-time continuum.  I can speed them up or slow them down, the end result being that no clock within my sphere of influence ever tells the right time.  Yesterday, for example, I went to fetch my iPhone and iPad from my night table drawer on my way to work.  I keep them both plugged in overnight so they are fully charged each morning.  Imagine my surprise consternation when I realized that they were now four minutes apart, and that my night table clock, as well as Robert's alarm clock, all had different times.  Once upon a time, not so long ago, they were all set for the same time. (Insert voice of Dan Ackroyd from "Ghostbusters" - "I did that, I did that, that's my fault!")

I have always known I was punctuality-challenged.  Hell, everyone knows that about me.  One judge even took judicial notice of that fact.  Ha.  But now it appears I am temporally-challenged.  My life is one long deja vu all over again as I slip back and forth in time, not by years or centuries, but by short-burst moments. A minute here, a minute there.  Creepy.  A totally useless trick, since I never get to see the dinosaurs or the end of the earth in the year 5 billion.  I depend on wall clocks that belong to other people, especially if they are placed where I can't get close to them.  So I have been steadily and inadvertantly speeding up the clock on my car dashboard, and despite knowing this about myself, continue to be surprised when I get into the courthouse to find I am on time.

Florida has two (or three, depending on what judge I am in front of) time zones.  Me, I'm in my own time dimension, in which I experience jet lag from driving into Central Standard Time.  And no, I have never used mind-altering substances, not even during the Sixties.

"And crawling, on the planet's face, some insects, called the human race. Lost in time, and lost in space... and meaning."

I have to head into the office for a little while.  Yes, I know it is Saturday, but there has been an explosion of new cases these past few months, and we are all drowning in a sea of sorrows.  There is a lot of anger and hopelessness out there, and some people are taking it out on their spouses and kids.  There is also a lot of gag-reflex-inducing sexual perversion ... WTF is THAT all about?  Gentlemen, it is a generally accepted societal rule that you DON'T do your daughters, or stepdaughters or nieces. I remember being taught that there were two deeply ingrained taboos, against incest and cannabalism.  For a growing number of very sick people, the first taboo is gone with the wind.  Can the second taboo be far behind?  God, I hope so.  Or else we'll all be someone's soylent green.

And on that cheerful note - enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Kwitcher Bitchin and Carpe Diem

I am in an oddly cheerful mood.  Maybe because I slept late, maybe because I had such a lovely time last evening.  Maybe because I haven't taken the damn iron pill yet.  Perhaps it was that awesome strawberry margarita I imbibed while enjoying the view at Downtown Disney.  Whatever the reason, I am embracing it on this Sunday before Hell Week.  Oh yeah, I have seen my court schedule for next week and it simply defies description.  But for today, and only for today, I am feeling quite chipper.  Carpe diem!

Downtown Disney and the Lego Dragon.  Yep, all Legos.

Eric, his really neat kids, and his lovely wife Amanda

Eric's brother Brian, and Brian's lovely wife Christine

  ... and a couple of grown-ups.  Kathy, Rob, and Alan.

We also got to meet Amanda's mom Sue, and I just had the best time with all of them.

While I am carping my diem, I am throwing caution to the wind and expanding my friends list on Facebook.  Six degrees of separation and I'm having fun.  See ya in cyberspace  ;-)

Now a bit of news from the culinary department - regardless of what anyone tells you, there is no recipe for lasagna.  I've got the perfect proof sitting in my fridge.  Talk about a creative use for leftovers ... we'll see how this one works out after I bake it off tomorrow.  I have never made a lasagna the same way twice.  I know I've never made this one before ... collard greens?  Yeah, stay tuned.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Do not go gentle into that good night


That's what I feel like, crap.  Gradually, insidiously, I have been feeling more craptastic every day, a direct result of the length of my days on this earth.  My mortal coil is unwinding like an over-wound clock.  I have not bounced back from my adventure in the emergency room over Labor Day weekend, despite being pretty diligent about taking iron, calcium, and B12 supplements.  Every time I swallow an iron tablet, I experience an immediate assault on my tender digestive system.  But swallow them I do, and I haven't passed out again, although I have had a few passing moments of lightheadedness and a very brief weakness in my left leg.  Crap and crap again.  As Mick Jagger sang, what a drag it is getting old ...

In my pre-2003 days, when I looked in the mirror I only saw myself from the chin up, because to look anywhere else would have been too difficult.  I was a Very Big Girl in those days, and not happy about it.  Fast forward nine years, and I have simply stopped looking in the mirror.  Encroaching old age just ain't pretty, at least in my case.  I love road maps, but not all over my face, if you get my drift.

The worst part is not cosmetic, but it is physical.  I am almost always tired; sometimes I feel positively frail.  I have always kept my distance from anything geriatric and now I know why.

I am still cooking, kids, and I will be posting the recipe for my Chicken with Artichokes later today.  I may not be able to turn out a buffet for 40 hungry friends and relatives, but I can still feed my family, and I'm a whiz at potluck lunches.  Which reminds me, I brought in a Better than Sex cake to the office last week (by special request of mi amiga Cristina) and a good time was had by all.  I will post the link, along with the chicken recipe, over on the recipe blog.  Make these two dishes for the same meal, and your family will nominate you for sainthood.  Really.

Guess who is not heading into the office today?  Absolutely correct, the same little old lady who is going on a cruise over Thanksgiving and another cruise in December.  Being able to drive to Port Canaveral in just an hour is proving to be one of the best things about living in Florida.

I haven't changed my mind about tattoos (I may eat pork, but I would never let someone put a needle and ink to my skin), but if I ever did catch the bug, this is one I might consider.  Saw it on the Yarn Harlot's blog.  No, the Harlot hasn't been getting tattoos, but some of her fans have.

We are heading to Rainforest Cafe this evening to meet up with our friends and their family, including grandkids who I have only been able to admire from photos.  We are very much looking forward to this and have been for over a year, which is when Kathy and Al started to plan it.  Kathy was my freshman college roommate and a darn terrific cook in her own right.  Pictures to follow.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Good Guy

So I'm knitting with cotton and it is making me sneeze.  The fabric of my life.  The color is lovely, it is called 'camomile' and I love it, but it comes imbued with a floral scent which is making me sneeze.  Since I am knitting a tiny kimono, this is a bit concerning as the future recipient may end up sneezing.  The label says the scent fades with washing, so this may end up as a prewashed garment.  Very trendy.

I prevailed at a certain trial today, and I am sad.  And that's all I can say about that.

We are, for the first time in months, fully staffed, and I am positively giddy with delight.  And I am looking forward to some friendly visitors in the next two weeks.  Life ain't perfect, but it's pretty good.  This week, anyway.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

It's not all dysphoria

So that was a rather unpleasant post ... here is something a lot more positive:

That's an adoption, kids.   In Florida.  Two dads and one very happy son.  Oh, and Judge Waller.  She's happy, too.  That courtroom was filled with friends, family, and a whole bunch of lawyers and social workers who were thrilled to see it happen.

Sometimes I love my job.  This was one of them.


So busy ... no cooking ... not nearly enough knitting.

I hate to sound like a whiny old lady, but this anemia is kicking my arse.  I cannot begin to describe to you how much I truly loathe the iron pills.  I don't think they are helping me. 

Besides being tired, I am angry.  A low-grade anger that bubbles to the surface each time Certain Topics or Certain Persons are mentioned.  It's all about Family and at this stage of my life, I was looking forward to peace, tranquility, and many happy Thanksgiving dinners.  Instead, I've got anger, regret, annoyance, and more anger.  Thanksgiving is going to be me, Rob, Cory, and three Cornish hens.  Any other combination is only going to result in heartburn.

If I had the financial wherewithal, I would head to St. Croix.  Or Alaska. 

Heck, if I had the financial wherewithal, I would retire at the end of the year, walk away from this white elephant of a house, pack up my family and pets and head for Cleveland.  Lot of good restaurants in Cleveland.  From there ... anywhere the road and my Ford Expedition takes us.

Now that's a plan.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Back in the saddle again

My blogging mojo has bad juju ... or something like that.  I'm going to blame it on the anemia, and the cure is certainly worse than the disease because taking that iron pill every day is doing not-so-wonderful things to what is left of my digestive system.  Enough said about that.

My spontaneity, however, remains firmly in place.  Sure, sure, the cruise is all ready and set up for December, but I did myself one better and planned a mini-vacation to Savannah in about three minutes.  Seriously.  Spent last weekend in one of the most beautiful cities in the United States with my best boy.  The weather was beyond perfect, and then there were all these dachshunds ...  I had no idea that Savannah hosted an Oktoberfest celebration every year, but I won't be forgetting it.  It made an already lovely day walking along River Street even better, and I didn't think that was possible.

And then there is the food.  I am beginning to think of Savannah as a mini-New Orleans, sans chicory coffee and beignets, because it is hard to get a bad meal there.  Of course there was the Original Pancake House.  Then we checked out 700 Drayton, which is in this really cool building on (what else?) Drayton Street.  Definitely have to go back and work our way through that menu.  And to end a great trip, brunch at B.Matthew's Eatery on Bay Street.  Rob told me yesterday that since we ate our way through Savannah, he wanted to take off a few extra pounds so we could eat our way through the cruise in December.  I love that man.

Rob and the amazing apple pancake at the Original Pancake House.

I have fallen into garter stitch knitting and I can't get up.  It wasn't even a graceful segue, but instead one of those catch your foot on the curb and go sprawling into your neighbor's lawn sort of deal.  There I was, knitting happily away on lace patterns, and my brain started screaming baby surprise jacket ... finished it, started another ...  whipped up a garter stitch baby hat that matches the baby surprise jacket ... finished that, started a tomten jacket and a baby kimono, all in garter stitch.  Ordered two books from Amazon, all about garter stitch. As the kids like to text, WTF???  I wonder if I will ever get my sock obsession back.  I could use a few more pairs.  Seriously.

I have discovered the wonders of iTune extend beyond downloading my favorite music.  TV episodes, my friends.  Whether it's the season finale of Doctor Who, which I missed because I was in Savannah, or the first Man from U.N.C.L.E., vintage 1964 black-and-white, for a small fee I can download, own, and watch each episode as the mood hits me.  On my iPad, through earphones, while I knit.  It doesn't get much better than that.

The Jewish holidays slipped by quietly for us.  We have not attended services in some years now, but I'm okay with that.  My feelings about God and Judaism are the same as always;  my methods of practice have shifted and morphed over the past 50 years, and somehow I am back where I started.  Which is to say I won't be joining the local Chabad in the near future.  If I plan ahead, I can probably Skype next year's High Holy Day services.  Yeah, I'm bad.  No regrets.

This is how we break the fast ... if we had fasted ...

Today's recipe is brought to you by Traditions-R-Us ... Jewish stuffed peppers in a sweet and sour tomato sauce.  I had chopped meat on the brain (and that is not a variation on Mad Cow Disease) and gave Rob the choice of stuffed peppers or Swedish meatballs.  Even though there is a jar of lingonberries winking at us everytime we open the pantry door, he went with the peppers, which suited me just fine.  One of my very favorite dishes of all time, and one of the first things I learned to cook.

And it is definitely a good day to stay home and cook, because the weather has been worse than awful.  It feels like monsoon season in Korea.  Twelve days of rain in one of the most fantastic countries on earth.  It was worth it.

Nice to be back. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Peace, Love, and ...

UPDATE:  Yep, I should have posted this almost two weeks ago when I wrote it, but my blogging mojo seems to be as anemic as I am, so everything is delayed.  Many mea culpas and I will try to be more diligent.

Used properly, Facebook is fun.  While it has become popular to blame all of society's ills on social networking, I blame people.  People who are going to screw up are going to do so regardless of the available technology.  There were people screwing up with smoke signals back in the day, and that just progressed through written notes, telephones, telegraphs, faxes, email, and Twitter, and MySpace.  No matter how people communicate, some of them are going to screw up.  So I don't blame Facebook.

I like Facebook because I am a congenital loner.  I don't do well in crowds, and while I really do need the company of humans, cats, and dogs, I also require a considerable amount of time to myself.  Facebook lets me keep in touch with people I like and care for, in short, manageable bursts.  It also lets me keep in touch with people I would otherwise have lost to time and fading memory, and that is where the fun comes in. 

This was posted by one of my friends from high school, who now lives in Ithaca.  That's a human peace sign, and I am crazy about it. 

I will be cooking today (Sunday) after a two week hiatus.  Although I had ground beef in mind, once I walked into Publix I saw Nice Pork Chops on sale, and with the help of my iPad and an app called "What's For Dinner" I gathered the ingredients for Rachael Ray's Spanish Pork Chops with Linguica Corn Stuffing and Cherry Rioja Gravy.  I have made this recipe before and it is quite delicious.

Monday I got to work on peeling and deveining two pounds of very fresh shrimp.  Took me an hour, but it was so worth it.  I made my shrimp scampi as usual, except first I brined the shrimp (for all of twenty minutes) and stirred a couple of tablespoons each of regular basil pesto and sundried tomato pesto (both from Classico) into the butter-olive oil-garlic sauce.  According to Rob, it is the best scampi he has ever eaten.  Whoa.  Talk about rich ... it's a good thing neither of us has a gall bladder any longer, or that scampi would have done us in (but we would have been smiling all the way to the emergency room.)

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.