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Archive for December, 2016

The Flapper was not a morning person, and I seem to take after her. We knew not to bother her as kids unless and until she had her first cup of joe; instant Nescafé coffee that is. A heaping teaspoon of granulated coffee crystals with sugar and Half and Half combined with a cigarette was her morning ritual. Doris Day would serenade us on the radio, as the sun streamed into the kitchen through fat wooden Venetian blinds.

Bob has always been a morning person. He is insanely happy to start each day, and always loved cafe au lait, that is lots of sugar and milk with his brew; after giving up his morning bottle of Coca Cola that got him through Med School. And we became coffee snobs. We were very early adopters of “grinding your own” and sought out exotic blends of coffee in the Berkshires, pre-Starbucks proliferation era. Even when we moved back to NJ in 1987, new friends were surprised to hear the roar of a coffee grinder after dinner.

So I guess it should come as no surprise that both our children requested new coffee delivery systems for the New Year. The Rocker is marrying Cait, a non-coffee-drinker, while back in Nashville the Groom never touches the stuff. There was also the matter of being sustainable, avoiding the pitfalls of plastic pods and such. So the Bride and her brother wanted to brew an excellent cup for one, and not trash the planet while also feeding our family addiction. They went into serious research mode.

Which single cup pour-over coffee maker is the best, French Press or Chemex?

After days of deliberation on both sides of the country, they both received as gifts a Chemex pot! The funny thing is, this clear glass fluted pot looks similar to our old way of making coffee, with a Melitta. The Melitta company has been around for over a hundred years, and probably fueled many late night dorm studying marathons for Boomers. It comes in two parts, a plastic funnel and the glass carafe, and its filters are comparatively cheap.

We switched to a Keurig in the last few years for its speed and convenience; and though there is some guilt about the pods what I really miss is waking to the smell of coffee brewing. That was always Bob’s job when he was home. It’s like our gas fireplace, I miss that wood burning smell too but not the mess. And I remember Nelly Bly saying that even with his dementia in full swing, Daddy Jim could still make a great pot of coffee. So like phone numbers, and letter writing, will we all forget how our ancestors made coffee, percolating over an open flame?

These little faces greeted me yesterday morning for some latke-merry-making in the kitchen. I used the Bride’s old Keurig before frying up a batch of pure Jewish perfection. Happy New Year to one and all, and may caffeine be your addiction of choice too!

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We are into the fourth day of grandparenting in Nashville. Four days straight of the Bride and Groom working at their hospitals. Because no matter what holiday you celebrate, there could be an admission to the ICU or a visit to an ER in someone’s family. What would we do without our first responders, our nurses and doctors? And since I’ve been reading a bit of Dr Seuss lately, let me take a minute to explainly. 

One Mama goes to work all day; grandparents come to play and play

Dada hops in his car too; beeping his horn “Toodaloo”

Nana and Pop Bob open the door; picking those babes up from the floor

Quick outside we must go; the sun is out – there is NO snow!

NO snow, NO ice, No wind, NO rain?

NO clouds, NO bugs,  NO candy canes?

NO dogs running here and there; NO dogs running anywhere

But look the giant snowman’s UP! UP! UP!

When you are two, that’s buttercup!

Birds are bathing, buds are blooming, scooters come out scooterooing 

To race and run, it’s warm today, let’s have some fun!

Let’s PLAY

The giant white plastic Olaf snowman on a neighboring porch needs a motor to come up, and this is always a big event.  It’s strangely balmy weather here, mid 70s! 

I’d forgotten what it’s like to breathe in the head of a certain red-headed sleeping child on my chest. That is the best smell of the great outdoors. Or to peer close-up into the tiny mouth of a little one while “helping” her brush her teeth. To negotiate a truce between siblings – well IF we share such and such, THEN we can take it with us. To make up magical stories and explain how pouting never ever works. 

To tell the Love Bug “Cinderella” was her Mama’s favorite movie when she was her age, and watch the look of wonderment mixed with understanding fill her eyes. 

My wish for parents all over this balmy, windy, South (which is changing of course today), and the frozen tundra of the North, the metropolitan East and the sunny West is that you slow down your life. Take the time to reflect on all the small moments that make up your wonderful life. Grandparenting is the best gift this holiday season. 

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We are into the fourth day of grandparenting in Nashville. Four days straight of the Bride and Groom working at their hospitals. Because no matter what holiday you celebrate, there could be an admission to the ICU or a visit to an ER in someone’s family. What would we do without our first responders, our nurses and doctors? And since I’ve been reading a bit of Dr Seuss lately, let me take a minute to explainly. 

One Mama goes to work all day; grandparents come to play and play

Dada hops in his car too; beeping his horn “Toodaloo”

Nana and Pop Bob open the door; picking those babes up from the floor

Quick outside we must go; the sun is out – there is NO snow!

NO snow, NO ice, No wind, NO rain?

NO clouds, NO bugs,  NO candy canes?

NO dogs running here and there; NO dogs running anywhere

But look the giant snowman’s UP! UP! UP!

When you are two, that’s buttercup!

Birds are bathing, buds are blooming, scooters come out scooterooing 

To race and run, it’s warm today, let’s have some fun!

Let’s PLAY

The giant white plastic Olaf snowman on a neighboring porch needs a motor to come up, and this is always a big event.  It’s strangely balmy weather here, mid 70s! 

I’d forgotten what it’s like to breathe in the head of a certain red-headed sleeping child on my chest. That is the best smell of the great outdoors. Or to peer close-up into the tiny mouth of a little one while “helping” her brush her teeth. To negotiate a truce between siblings – well IF we share such and such, THEN we can take it with us. To make up magical stories and explain how pouting never ever works. 

To tell the Love Bug “Cinderella” was her Mama’s favorite movie when she was her age, and watch the look of wonderment mixed with understanding fill her eyes. 

My wish for parents all over this balmy, windy, South (which is changing of course today), and the frozen tundra of the North, the metropolitan East and the sunny West is that you slow down your life. Take the time to reflect on all the small moments that make up your wonderful life. Grandparenting is the best gift this holiday season. 

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We did it. We drove ten hours to Nashville with a trunk full of toys for eight nights of Hannuka. The magic starts tomorrow night, Jews everywhere will light the first candle to commemorate an oil lamp that mysteriously made one day’s worth of oil last more than a week. 

But really it’s all about freedom and the Maccabees, that small tribe that triumphed over evil. They were a Jewish rebel army that took over Judea from the Seleucid Empire way back before Jesus walked the earth. Go see the new Star Wars Rogue One and you’ll get an idea of what they were up against. 

Today the Love Bug’s preschool held a Shabbat/Hannuka service. We danced. We sang. We even watched an amazing juggler! Afterwards, the children had latkes.

Bob and I listened to This American Life’s podcast about reconciliation in the car. It made me think about our divided nation. It made me want to take a Republican to lunch. And whether you’ll be celebrating Christmas Eve or Hannuka tomorrow, we are all one people. 

Americans are all colors and rainbow colors. Our hearts all want the same thing for our families. To be free from hunger. To be safe and secure. To give our children the finest education we can; which bathroom they get to use is a distraction. 

And even when we’re the tallest candle in the menorah, we need to feel like we belong to each other. 

Have the happiest of holidays. I wish you my dear readers love and peace this season. 

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If Mirriam Webster is on to something, they just let the world know. The Word of the Year for 2016 is “surreal,” or “having the disorienting, hallucinatory quality of a dream; unreal; fantastic;” and after the past few days and months I’d have to agree: a truck plows through a Christmas Market in Berlin, mimicking the Nice attack earlier this year; a Russian ambassador is assassinated in Turkey while being filmed by an AP journalist, just as citizen journalists have been documenting killings by police and streaming them in real time in this country; a Twitter-babbling, boisterous billionaire wins our election with a little help from Russia, just as many populist politicians all over Europe are disrupting the status quo.

The past year does seem like a nightmare, surreal, only we are not dreaming. Yesterday the deal was sealed with the Electoral College, and Melania (or Ivanka) will get to pick out the new White House china, not William Jefferson Clinton. Will it be American (I love my pattern from Lenox, which was once produced in NJ) or Slovenian? Just think, if Hillary had won, Bill could have just recycled the fine china Hillary picked the first time around! This would have saved taxpayers plenty!

I wonder what kind of food Mrs T will serve at state dinners? I heard a fascinating author discussion on NPR about the history of First Ladies and how they have sparked culinary trends in the past. Think of Jackie O introducing French food to the American palate. She and Julia Child shaped my young interest in all things French. I nearly burned down my first home trying to make coq au vin.

Just as Eleanor Roosevelt told her chef not to produce any meal costing more than the average American could afford during the Great Depression, Michelle Obama has been instrumental in getting our country moving and making sure her chef, Sam Kass from Chicago, planned his meals based on Real Food.

Kass changed the Obama’s diet—more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; less processed foods and desserts. As first lady, Michelle Obama passionately told her family’s culinary story, especially how it benefited the health of her girls. She and Kass turned to broader health initiatives beyond the first family’s table. They grew a vegetable garden on the South Lawn, launched the health and lifestyle initiative “Let’s Move,” tackled school lunch reform and redrew the United States Department of Agriculture’s food pyramid as a simplified icon called “My Plate.”http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/12/09/504693961/first-ladies-often-forge-food-trends-but-melanias-menu-is-a-mystery

If I were to apply the term surreal to Mrs T’s gastronomical philosophy, we might imagine a state dinner consisting of her favorite fruits. After all, this is what we know, she eats 7 fruits a day. So perhaps the first course would be a baked fig? Followed by a blueberry and raspberry terrine? Would she serve a third course, a potato or pasta dish? Maybe she would branch out and serve cauliflower rice in a lovely crystal bowl? For dessert, it would have to be apple pie…or maybe strudel? We already know Mr T doesn’t drink alcohol, but I’m sure they would have to serve the appropriate wine pairings to their guests of state. Right?

This week we are off to Nashville for some grandparenting fun. It will be the first year in a very long time when Bob will NOT be working on Christmas, however our daughter WILL be seeing any and all comers in her ER on Christmas Eve. She loves her urban hospital as they see lots of ages and real life and death problems – unlike a suburban hospital’s typical run-of-the-mill, free-floating anxiety problems. The staff really cares for their homeless population who tend to come in as the temperatures drop. I hope she doesn’t mind my little synopsis.

I’m looking forward to my enforced news sabbatical and will try to write between grating potatoes for the Bride and Groom’s Hannuka party and warming up the dreidel. Hope whatever holiday you are celebrating this year is filled with family love, cheer, real food and friends. And I hope your dreams are filled with nutcrackers and sugar plum fairies! Thought you might want to see my tiny, surreal tree!

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What does the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York have to do with politics? Let me make the case.

The words indecent, and traitorous are being thrown around all of a sudden regarding the intel pointing at Russia’s attempt, successful by all accounts, to influence our elections. The “Comey Effect” – the last supper letter he sent out simply to enflame our fears of HRC’s emails, and now his apparent inaction regarding Russian hackers – will haunt our history books forever. But amid all the Sturm and Drang (German for storm and stress), the most fascinating word of all to come across my desk is “Emolument!”

mid-15c., from Middle French émolument and directly from Latin emolumentum “profit, gain,” perhaps originally “payment to a miller for grinding corn,” from emolere “grind out,” from ex- “out” (see ex- ) + molere “to grind” (see mallet ). 

The Emolument Clause in our Constitution was intended to prevent anybody in the government who is holding an “Office of Profit or Trust” to accept any titles or gifts from any foreign government. Ever. So even if your great great grandfather once removed happened to own a parcel of hundreds of thousands of acres in Pennsylvania (yes, I admit mine did and he wasn’t once removed) and you were just elected to Congress, the Queen of England could not bestow upon you a Knighthood! Jolly good right?

screen_shot_2016_11_22_at_1-14-57_pmWrong.

Because once Mr T takes office, even IF he puts all his many global businesses into a blind trust, like Reagan, Clinton and Jimmy Carter did before him, IF his children are in charge of said companies this whole set-up by the founding fathers will be moot. And our newly elected President will be in violation of our Constitution on January 20, 2017. http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/11/23/13715150/donald-trump-emoluments-clause-constitution

We already know Ivanka will be taking over Michelle’s office in the White House, so after some redecorating, how is it possible that every seductive picture seen of her on social media will not mention her designers…in fact she already made a slight faux pas in that regard during their campaign, and how is it possible her clothing and design company and in fact that “blind trust” of the TRUMP name that she and her brothers will be running, how will it not profit from all that free advertising? I mean Daddy T won the highest office in the land, the greatest reality show on earth, with all his Tweeting and free advertising didn’t he? Oh and a little help from Comey and Putin. And then there’s the obvious co-mingling of private, for-profit and government:

“As with the defense industry and the financial industry, success on a large scale in real estate often depends on government connections. Tax incentives, licenses, and inspections come more easily that way. As Trump has said, explaining his contributions to Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaigns, ‘I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, and they are there for me.'” http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/08/22/ivanka-trump-and-jared-kushners-power-play

We have floors in Trump tower rented out to some very wealthy people in the world. Our Secret Service may have to rent out some more floors too just to protect Melania and the heir apparent. That’s you and me folks, paying protection money ie tax dollars for a constant penthouse presence. Forget our border, Mr T wants to build a sea wall in Ireland to protect one of his golf courses, but it will also eliminate a certain snail the Irish hold dear. His family ties to the most powerful political brokers in India and the Philippines run strong and deep.

In fact, the conflicts of interest on such a global scale are so vast and intertwined one has to think that Mr T really didn’t think this through; he never in a million years thought he would be elected! He’s got a hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue and now the gym behind the police station opened up and Jimmy the Greek and Slim from Scranton walked in with billions of dollars!

It’s a rather new predicament for our young country, and may demand the Congress vote all of this is just fine with them?! Otherwise I can see years ahead of all my fine Dems on the Hill trying to impeach the guy until it reaches the Supremes, who will most likely be veering to the right by that time. But at least it’s a fight over the very fabric of our country, and not a sexual peccadillo in the Oval. Oh the humanity!  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/26/us/politics/donald-trump-international-business.html

Tonight I’ll be heading out to dinner and a show with some friends. Naturally we’ll discuss the above and hope for a Hail Mary by the Electoral College on Monday because who could think having Putin meddle in our election is a good thing? You may have guessed already that Live Arts in Cville is doing Guys and Dolls. Democracy itself is one big messy crap shoot that Hamilton tried his best to salvage. I’m going to bet that Mindy’s sells more cheesecake, and Mr T has sold us out for 30 pieces of silver.

Take back your mink Mr T   5d87403da1fb0b5be31e86a0fc817033

 

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What’s a girl to do? It seems the UN has spoken and Wonder Woman will not be the  “…honorary ambassador to promote messages about women’s empowerment and gender-based violence.” The campaign to sack the first female super hero in herstory was successful; a sexualized, Barbie-doll image combined with a sado-masochiostic costume were the deciding factors. Her detractors insisted the image she projected was “not culturally encompassing or sensitive!” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-38300727

Well I don’t know about you, but I sure wish Hillary had that lasso of truth to wrangle some sense out of Mr T, particularly while he was stalking her during their debates. And let’s not forget Mr Comey and the FBI’s eleventh hour letter about her emails. What in the world was he thinking? Given the latest CIA intel about Russia’s interference by hacking our election and swinging more votes toward Mr T, I’m really really wishing Wonder Woman could swoop down and have a word with our Electoral College. Wishful thinking.

Still, if you’re out and about wishing and hoping to find the latest toy trend, shopping for Christmas, Hannukah and what-not, and you happen upon that Amazonian Princess from Themyscira, chances are she was made in China. Last night I stayed up until midnight watching a fascinating documentary on PBS, “Having Xmas Without China” http://www.pbs.org/program/xmas-without-china/

Imagine you have two small kids and this young Chinese American guy asks you to empty your house of everything that was made in China – the coffee maker, the Xbox, the computer, the toys – and for the whole month of December, until Christmas Day, you can’t buy anything that was made in China! I was hooked from the very beginning, and you will be too. It asks us to re-examine the true meaning of the holiday and Tom Xia, the film maker, shares his coming-of-age journey between two worlds in an intimate and tender way. http://www.pbs.org/program/xmas-without-china/

I tried doing this once. I was looking for a hostess gift for my brother Mike and his wife Jorja as we’d been invited to stay at Walter Place during their daughter’s wedding week. It had to be something beautiful, and classic to fit into their Antebellum home and I noticed a gorgeous silver picture frame. Perfect for a wedding picture! It was a Kate Spade, something that says this designer’s name on the box also presumes it is coming from NY. In fact it says, “Kate Spade of New York” on the box. But when I looked deeper into the packaging as I was wrapping it, it was designed in NY and made in China! I had been hoodwinked!!

What a great old word “hoodwink” – some synonyms are “dupe, cheat, swindle, gyp.” Kind of like this last election don’t you think? The one that saw Hillary win almost 3 Million popular votes!

I told Bob this year I want a Christmas Tree. We’ve never had one since we were raising Jewish children, even though I kept Santa Claus in the loop. But this year in particular, we all need a little Christmas, and Hannukah starts on Christmas Eve. The tree is simply an old pagan ritual, it shouldn’t be blue or white and try to resemble a Jewish idea of a tree. It doesn’t even have to be a real evergreen tree, dropping pine needles everywhere. It can be small and only needs to sparkle, and lift our spirits just a bit. We are currently in negotiation.

Is Super Girl the new Wonder Woman? Where have you gone Lynda Carter? Well I happen to know she lives in Nashville, the Bride may have run into her once or twice, at a coffee shop, and she is still fighting for social justice. This is what she told Joan Rivers on the Tonight Show in 1987:

I think that you’re probably familiar with a problem in Hollywood, and that is that they market you, and they use you. They did a mask of my face and put it on the doll, and they put my name on for the first run of it. And then they took my name off and said they didn’t have to pay me anymore. So it’s the kind of thing that you can be used so much in this industry. I make nothing. I don’t even make anything from the reruns. Don’t ever settle for net profits. It’s called creative accounting.

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