Archive for July, 2011

So far, Summer 2011 is going swimmingly.

1) Bountiful                  

2) Restful                              

3) Playful                        

4) Truthful          

5) Colorful              

6) Hopeful               

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Like some people, I believe the Armageddon that Jon Stewart jokes about will begin not with a bang, but with a little, tiny germ or pest. Not a crazy Norwegian with a superiority complex, or a dirty bomb in a turban. Nope, it’s some small organism that will wreck havoc on our society in the sci-fi future.  Before penicillin was discovered, bacteria were to blame for large scale epidemics. Think about the anthrax scare. And what about my own little debacle with a mosquito and West Nile? Then there’s poor old Buddha, who came down with Lyme disease right after we moved here. I still have nightmares of spending time out on Martha’s Vineyard, picking ticks off of children, adults and dogs, and burning them one by one…at least twenty every night.

V, Lee and Al in the Vineyard

Here are my friends delivering a bill for their tick-worthy surgical skills! And now we have the Marmorated Brown Stink Bug! Not at all native to our continent, this bug was apparently, “… accidentally introduced into eastern Pennsylvania. . It was first collected in September of 1998 in Allentown, but probably arrived several years earlier,” a Penn State entomologist says.  

OK, so they don’t carry a disease, at least not that we know of, but they do terrorize crops. They love apple and peach orchards, will feed on blackberry, field corn and soybeans, and for some reason, they absolutely adore my porch.

Saw my first one this summer today on the deck. Oh, and did I mention, they smell!  I may have gotten a record number of Facebook comments last year under a post that read, “Stink Bugs, it’s a biblical plague!” That was when they would fall out of lamps and scare me half to death. A friend of mine (Hi Tammy!) demonstrated the best way to rid your house of them. You get a glass, take a paper towel and gently swish the mini-dinosaur bug into the glass, then pour it down the toilet. No touching. Here are the bug’s natural predators:

Ms Bean

Farmer Bob

Well Halleluiah brothers and sisters, our local store, Plow and Hearth, is now taking orders for a stink bug trap! In fact they are getting about ten calls a day for them. The trap costs $19.99 and emits pheromones that lure the nasty critters to their death. Refills will run $9.95. Maybe we can boondoggle ourselves out of this infestation!This is our final frontier.


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The debt crisis is heading for a showdown, and the legislators coming up for re-election in the Fall will need to explain their actions (or inaction). I listened to our President last night, and wonder if those intransigent (add your own expletive) did. One summer during college the Bride interned in DC at the Children’s Defense Fund, which is notoriously bi-partisan. We framed this CDF poster and gave it to her Grandmother; I’d like to change a few words and deliver it to the Speaker.

But it’s Tuesday so I’m back to squabbling about squash. Farmer Bob’s garden is producing squash by the truckload. In the past, I would just cook spaghetti squash and toss it with oil or butter and cheese. But tried something new this time:First chop it in half and scoop out as much of the seeds as possible. Turn face down in a pan of about 2 inches of water and bake at 375 for about a half hour or forty five minutes.Then while it was baking, I sauteed sliced mushrooms with 2 shallots in 2T butter and 2T olive oil. I added some white wine and lemon zest and whatever fresh herbs you have on hand – tarragon works well, but parsley is good too. When the squash was done I scraped out the meaty spaghetti-like strands into a casserole dish  and mixed in the mushroom sauce with some very fresh from the market asparagus. Drizzle some EVOO on top with some grated cheese and bake for about 20-25 minutes and voila! You have one delicious dish masquerading as pasta.

One of my favorite phrases from Hurston’s book is describing her protagonist as having to “…starch and iron her face,” in order to appear at her abusive husband’s funeral. The masks of some congress members are slipping; it’s tough to hide behind the facts and the polls.

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I’m no Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winning economist/columnist for the New York Times, but when I heard our President tell some hot-headed Congressmen it’s time to, “…eat your peas,” well I just had to laugh. There are no peas in farmer Bob’s garden yet, but thought you would like to see what some little seeds have sown.

Here is what Krugman said about paying down debt recently: “Between 1993 and 2001, federal debt held by the public fell from 49.2 percent of GDP to 32.5 percent of GDP. What stopped the paydown of debt wasn’t liberal big spending; it was demands from conservatives that the surplus be used to cut taxes. George Bush said that a surplus means that the government is collecting too much money; Alan Greenspan warned that we were paying off our debt too fast.”

Obama likes putting the art of compromise – which is let’s face it, every politician’s and parent’s job – into perspective for us ordinary people. I would give the toddler Bride a choice – swirly skirt or pants to pre-school? The Rocker could pick apple juice or milk? The point being, yes, you do have some control over your life (ie the economy) but you can’t run around naked in public or starve (or bankrupt the country)! This is what parents (leaders) do. This is why we elected him.

But telling Congress to behave right before an election, is like trying to get a toddler to eat his peas on a hundred degree day, with a swimming pool within eyesight…just a fence hop away.  After all, actually being re-elected must take precedence over  running the country. Even we ordinary citizens get that!

Will any hail/mary/debt/reduction/scheme Grand Bargain last? Maybe if the Dems keep control of the Senate and the White House. But let’s think ahead folks, Krugman warns that any agreement, “will be torn up in favor of privatization and big tax cuts for the wealthy as soon as the GOP has the chance.” Some elected officials will just never see the garden from the peas.

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It’s Book Club time again. Tonight we’ll be discussing Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston. In our club, the woman who hosts that night at her house gets to pick the book, and I’m excited to discuss this 1930’s African American coming of age novel. Born in 1891, Ms Hurston grew up in the country’s first incorporated Black township in Eatonville, Florida. By the time she died in 1960, penniless and working as a maid, this Harlem Renaissance author had published several short stories, screenplays, eight novels and four childrens’ books.

I had trouble digging into this book simply because of the language. Her dialogue is pure early, Black Southern vernacular. “Speakin’ of winds, he’s de wind and we’se de grass,…he’s got uh throne in de seat of his pants,” is a good example of how grammar is exchanged for metaphor which I finally loved to read slowly and savor. Because I could identify with Janie, who was in some ways Hurston herself. Her grandmother wanted her to marry well and sit up high on the porch, listening to the stories of others and never giving voice to her own.

It was wonderful to see on CNN this morning our Black Congresswomen coming to the aide of a white Florida delegate, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, after a Black male delegate, R- Allen West called her out in an email to shut her mouth and start acting like a lady! Are we still talking semantics or is there something more sinister here? The numbers of women in our Capital building are dwindling partially because of this patently absurd culture.

My first post-college job in 1973 was at the Fremont Street Head Start Pre-School in Jersey City, NJ. My four year olds were precious, and their parents wanted only the best possible education for them, not unlike any other Caucasian parents. But we had to deal with drug users and sellers in the alleys, broken glass on the cement playground where the equipment had to be hauled inside every night, and burnt out buildings in the neighborhood instead of parks. My eyes were opened as I began to understand their dialect, and the multi-generational language of poverty.

We’re having a heat wave right now on both sides of the mountains. Tonight will bring some cooler heads to this porch of smart Southern women.

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We were having a few people over for dinner on one of those really hot mid-90s no breezey nights. And because yellow squash was at its peak in the garden, I decided to make a white lasagne, the kind my cousins in Ireland had made for us once. Usually, it’s not a great idea to try out a new recipe on company, but it worked. I found out later that Giada de Laurentis had almost simultaneously devised a similar royal lasagne for Kate and William out in California! Here is what you will need:

  • 1 box lasagne noodles
  • 1 container semi-skim ricotta
  • 1 giant yellow squash fresh from the garden
  • 1 container mushrooms
  • 1 bag organic baby leaf spinach
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • About 5 cups of Bechamel sauce + grated cheese
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • freshly grated nutmeg

Making a lasagne is like conducting a symphony. You assemble everything you need and then start layering. Cook the noodles and set aside in lukewarm water so they are easy to handle. Saute the shallots and add the turkey to brown, you can start this while the noodles are boiling. Cooking  is the one and only area where I can easily multi-task. Wash and slice up the mushrooms.

You will need a mandoline to slice the squash paper thin. I first saw one of these slicing gadgets on the FrenchChef, Julia used hers to make Potatoes Anna.

You can either make  your own simple Bechamel white sauce, which requires a roux (flour + butter) with milk or you can buy a fresh Alfredo sauce in the dairy section of your market. Add some grated cheese to it – whatever you have in leftover hunks in the fridge. Add nutmeg to the sauce and at the end over the top. Add the sauce to the browned turkey. Time to start the layering…Put some sauce on the bottom of the pan, layer the noodles. First spread the ricotta cheese over the noodles like you would ice a cake. Then place the mushrooms, squash and spinach (no stems please) over the cheese. Ladle on some white turkey sauce – repeat twice more. End with a layer of noodles and sauce with the grated mozzarella on top.

I made this the night before. Take it out of the fridge a few hours before baking, then bake covered with aluminum foil for a half hour at 350 (maybe longer if you don’t have a  convection oven). Uncover and bake 15 minutes more.

Very simple and elegant, although Giada baked hers in individual ramekins with mascarpone cheese and corn. Maybe next time? And maybe next time, the air conditioning won’t quit right before the guests arrive?

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It was a toss up. Should we go to the County Fair this past weekend, or the Bluegrass Festival? Demolition derby vs dueling banjos? The Fair won, but only for the High Horse Cloggers (girls + 1 guy in tap shoes),

since the Roller Derby (girls in fishnet) was scheduled for the evening back in town at the ice rink and we already had tickets to see the “Charlottesville Derby Dames” annihilate the Charm City Rollergirl’s “Female Trouble.” Country folk know how to party!


And just to show you how Cville is not just the epicenter of Locovore Lore (meaning we started the ‘eat local’ movement) – while sitting on the Mall for dinner with our newest, sweetest family of ex-Nashville residents and our MOH Jersey native Sarah on her way to Duke, we said hello to a friend, Melissa, visiting from Seattle! TJ would be so proud.

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Thank you Billy Jean King. For winning the match against Bobby Riggs in September of 1973, for bearing the torch for gender equality and insisting that women athletes compete on the same economic playing field with men. The women’s movement was still in its infancy. In January, Roe v Wade was passed by an enlightened Supreme Court but, unmarried women still had trouble getting credit, and could not obtain a prescription for ‘the pill’ in many states. And another big thanks to that set of Supremes who just a year earlier, in 1972, amended the civil right’s act to include Title IX, thereby forbidding sex discrimination in any academic institution – and not just in sports! It also includes, “…Access to higher education, career education, education for pregnant and parenting students, employment, learning environment, math and science,” etc.

I’ve been thinking back today because of the World Cup in Women’s Soccer tomorrow. Abby Wombach has the determination to bring the prize home for our American team. I can’t wait to watch the game and have to think there is a new generation of young girls out there watching her fearless physicality. For my generation of girls in the ’50s and ’60s, there was nobody like that. We had the choice of cooking or sewing in high school. Luckily I was sent to Camp St Joseph for Girls early, where competitive sports was like breathing. I won basketball trophies each summer, then came home to Catholic School where we did jumping jacks next to our seat for exercise.

My Daughter learned to ski as an infant in the Berkshires. We could cross country ski right out our back door into a bird sanctuary

She was a fish in water at the Jersey Shore beach club that became a second home, she excelled on the  swim team. So imagine my shock when she declared her love for cheerleading! I was coaching the Rocker’s mini league soccer team while she was chanting “B E Aggressive.” Thankfully, she outgrew the Mustangs, and moved on to Field Hockey in high school. She had options. She became a runner, and now loves yoga and adventure hiking and rappelling off mountains! We’ve come a long way Baby!

Blonde, center, right…and the Rocker?

He got his little hands on a guitar, and except for the occasional ice hockey or lacrosse stick, he was pretty happy with the ax!

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So, one of the first things to pique my interest after I moved South was a sign outside of a restaurant on the Historic Pedestrian Mall that pictured a handgun with a red slash going through it. It read something like, “No concealed weapons in this establishment,” just in case you didn’t get the picture.

I had never seen such a sign before. No dogs allowed, no bare feet, but never no guns. It was a moment when I had to admit, this move is a BIG change, a cultural shift. Like learning to pump my own gas.

Our Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli, is currently in a standoff with the University about gun policy. You see the administrators of Mr. Jefferson’s Academical Village have outlawed weapons on the campus for many years. To quote the UVA policy on Firearms, Weapons and Destructive Devices, the “…possession, storage or use of any firearm, weapon, ammunition or explosives” in any facility, including the medical complex, by staff, students, community or visitors is  prohibited, period. With only two exceptions: one being a police officer; or the written permission of the Chief of Police .

And now Mr Cuccinelli has stated that anyone with a permit to carry a concealed weapon trumps the school policy! In other words, it’s OK to walk into the hospital with a handgun on your belt. Now if you were an ER physician, or nurse or patient, would you like to see that sticking out of a shirt?

Should a state law always override a public institution’s policy? Right after we moved here in 2007, a horrific massacre occurred at VA Tech killing 32 people and wounding 25 others. I heard people say ‘if only’ a student or professor had had a gun that day they may have stopped the carnage. Or ‘if only’ the perpetrator had been diagnosed mentally ill. Not much was said about the assault weapon ban that was left to silently expire, or the ease of obtaining a gun in this country. Or the fact that more than 100,000 Americans are victims of gun violence every year, claiming over 30,000 lives according to the CDC.

Being an old school policy wonk, I’d like to advise our schools to change their destructive device policy pronto. Perhaps a change to “Rules and Regulations” where certain politicians must keep hands-off. Also keeping those concealed weapons out of restaurants and bars? Good idea!

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King Family Vineyard is one of the most beautiful wedding venues in Albemarle County, and now I know why. Brides and grapes benefit from the prevailing wind, keeping wedding guests cool and the vines free from mold, according to our tour guide, Tom. The  King’s French winemaker, Matthieu Finot, understands the importance of terroir –  a constellation of factors like soil, climate, aquifer and environment – in developing a great wine. Last Sunday, our fearless Needle Lady leader and chef, Mimi, set up a glorious picnic lunch under a canopy of trees, so that we could better understand the, “…secrets of the (knitting) world that can make our knitting projects more enjoyable and successful.”

                                                             We learned to make seams, we dished about dogs, and talked about our work and family life, the different ways we weave the things we love into day to day life.  Between our variegated group of UVA nurses, attorneys and sex educators, we had a fabulous day! The take-away for me?

“Don’t worry about it, it’s just knots!” Oh and well trained poodles will not chase polo ponies and my new favorite VA wine is King Family “Roseland,”  a blend of Viognier and Chardonnay. Cheers!

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