Friday, July 31, 2009

Joy Begets Good

Remember Jill and Kevin, those two wild and crazy kids who, along with their friends, brought so much joy, to so many via their wedding entrance video? Well, they have found a way to do something else very special. At last count, their video had been viewed more than 13 million times. In response to all the publicity, they created a simple webpage. The song they chose for their processional was Chris Brown’s “Forever”. Brown recently pled guilty to assaulting his girlfriend Rihanna. So in light of this one discordant juxtaposition, Jill and Kevin have invited visitors to their webpage to contribute to the Sheila Wellstone Institute (part of the late Paul & Sheila Wellstone’s Wellstone Action!.org) which works to “ensure ending violence against women and children is a national priority”.

Nicely done Jill and Kevin.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Simple Idea

Brett Westcott and Cameron Brown, from Purdue University are “The Compliment Guys”. They spend each Wednesday afternoon giving out compliments and words of encouragement to passersby on the Indiana campus. It’s not a gimmick nor a marketing ploy nor a proselytizing technique. It’s just a series of not so random acts of kindness by a couple of outgoing college guys with their hearts in the right place. You can read Brett’s essay here and watch a brief video here of the Brett and Cameron in action.

So, how shall we keep this moving in the universe? A kind word, a compliment or a cheerful good wish given to folks we come in contact with throughout the day? Sounds good to me!

Thanks for stopping by and reading this post!


Dan Kennedy of Media Nation and Northeastern University, has an excellent piece in The Guardian this week. Using Charlie Pierce’s book “Idiot America” as a framework, Kennedy takes on “The Birthers” - the idiots who refuse to believe that President Obama was born in Hawaii. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941) wrote: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” This fight requires more than just sunlight. Kennedy and Pierce make the case that we need to speak the truth clearly and repeatedly to those who spread lies loudly and vociferously.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


There are moments when the experiences, the health problems, the stubbornness, the worries, the confusion and the fears of our ERs (Elderly Relatives) can really get to me. I think I cope pretty well day in and day out with whatever comes up. But it’s those middle of the night can’t get back to sleep moments, when I start to worry that someday I am going to wake up and be just like them. By “just like them” I am referring only to the troubling parts. I never wake up in the middle of the night and think “Gee, one of these days I am going to wake up and be just as open hearted, open minded and full of life as my octogenarian friend Marion!” Plus, it usually takes Chuck to remind me that I am not really like any of these ERs to begin with. I am, in fact, just like me. Nor will I wake up one day and suddenly be old. Every day I will simply be one day older than the day before. And what really matters is the age in my soul.

With all that in mind, I bring you this quote:

“Age only matters when one is aging.
Now that I have arrived at a great age,
I might just as well be twenty.”

- Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


You know I like cheese, right? While chocolate is a legitimate and venerable food group, when I crave, I crave savory. Cheese falls under the savory category, even when I serve it with fruit. Ironically, while pizza is near the tippy-top of my favorite foods list (vegetables, crust, spicy meat all in one), I prefer it to be “light on the cheese”. Too much cheese, especially a near-ersatz mozzarella, can dull the palate and drown out the complexity that is, after all, pizza.

Anyhoo, what I wanted to mention was a cheese we have recently tried and are enjoying. It’s called Robusto. We’ve been buying it from Whole Foods, where they have a very nice cheese section. To me, Robusto tastes like a combination of a nutty Swiss and kicky Parmesan. It’s a Dutch cheese, from the Gouda family, with a firm, smooth texture.

By the way, Trader Joe’s is once again stocking their Mini-Toasts “crackers” from Holland. (We weren’t the kiss of death after all!) They are eensy-weensy, very crispy pieces of toast, shaped like a slice from a loaf of sandwich bread. They are quite mild in taste so they provide crunch, texture and a platform for any cheese.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Dream Travel

If you had an unlimited budget and a miraculously zero impact carbon footprint, where would you go? O.K. and you can teleport a la Star Trek so there’s no annoying airplane travel nor miserable jet lag. It’s sort of the travel equivalent of a Genie in a bottle with a fistful of wishes.

Me? I have to go first? Is there a limit on the number of locations? Oh, right. I’m making up the rules as I go along!

O.K. First, I’d go back to Bermuda. Chuck and I went there on our honeymoon and it was lovely. Unfortunately, our cottage colony no longer exists, but there are lots of other great options.

Next, Paris, France. Ironically what makes me want to visit are all the episodes of House Hunters International where folks are searching the various arrondissements for the perfect Parisian flat. I hear the food’s pretty good too!

Next stop, Iceland. Specifically I want to visit their hot springs. We enjoyed the hot springs in Banff, Alberta, Canada and the ones in Iceland look spectacular. Actually, thinking about Banff, I’d definitely go back to the Post Hotel at Lake Louise. It was delightfully decadent, yet down to earth. And we’d stop for a pie at Aardvark Pizza in Banff first!

O.K., now closer to home: Washington, D.C. I haven’t been since I was a kid and I’d do the whole touristy tour of every monument, museum and landmark I could find. It would take a long time but it would be so worth it. By the way, I’m probably teleporting home every day or two so I can sleep in my own bed, ‘cuz I’m kind of a lousy traveler!

I’ll stop there - for now!

Where would you head off to in this ideal travel scenario?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Well Deserved

Jim Rice, 56, and Rickey Henderson, 50, were both inducted today into the National Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, New York. Both men were veterans of the Boston Red Sox, Rice having spent his entire career there. Both come across as good guys, were great players and are deserving of this honor. Congratulations to them both!

Stand Down

This is a positive, compassionate (albeit temporary) response to terribly tragic circumstances none of our veterans should ever find themselves in.

More information on Stand Down operations can be found here. A list of remaining 2009 Stand Down events can be found here.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

My World

: : I’m tired of the humidity. This is a problem because I live in Southern New England where hazy, hot and humid are known as the “Three H’s”. If it has a nickname, you know it is as common as dirt.

: : When the weather gets like this we do run the small air conditioner in the bedroom. The lure of cool and dry air is so tantalizing that I will figure out a way to make almost any task, short of food preparation and washing clothes, portable enough to be moved to that blessed room.

: : Speaking of food preparation, pouches of cooked brown rice from Trader Joe’s are saving my life this summer. I have made many variations on my Quick & Easy Rice Salad. The last one I made I added chicken to it for a complete one dish meal - with very little heat needed from the stovetop or even the microwave.

: : I’m on very close terms with the two fans we have on tall stands (one upstairs, one downstairs). It could be that all the moisture in the air is causing my brain to get moldy, but I think I heard the downstairs fan humming “Me and My Shadow” today.

: : And if I get to the point where I feel downright downtrodden and beleaguered by the “Three H’s”, I take the laptop to - wait for it - the bedroom. I sit in front of the fan, which is front of the A.C. and watch the video of Jill and Kevin’s wedding processional. And for well more than five minutes and nine seconds I feel much, much better.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

May It Ever Be So

“May the saddest day of your future
be no worse than the happiest day of your past.”

- An Irish Blessing

Pure Joy!

Watch it in full screen at full volume and be prepared to laugh and cry! I know I did!

This makes me think of Carrie and Al and Kate and Phil...

Thanks to Barbie2Be for letting me know about this wonderful video!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Better Late Than Never

I’m lucky to have regular readers from all over the world, so in order not to be cruel to them, I’ll try to keep this brief. It won’t be easy! Tonight Chuck and I finally had a pizza from The Corner Grille at 806 Pleasant Street in Worcester. (Music plays when you click the link.) It was unlike any pizza I have ever had. But it reminded Chuck of the essence of pizza from a place his family went to in greater St. Louis, Missouri. The Corner Grille is in a bijou storefront replete with twin bow windows, a touch of stained glass and tin ceilings. Large chalkboards display the creative, yet simple menu. The whole place is charming without tipping over into kitschy.

Decor and atmosphere aside, the pizza was fabulous. Despite the mouthwatering list of unusual pizzas, we chose to build our own. We thought by ordering something close to our “usual” pizza we would best be able to compare and contrast. We ordered sliced tomatoes, green peppers, mushrooms and sausage. The pizza arrived square and paper thin - literally, not figuratively. I held a piece up to the light and could see the toppings through it! There was a narrow, delicate char around the edges and the toppings were scattered equally, yet lightly around the surface. In an era where chain restaurants are competing for business based on how many pounds their servings weigh, the Corner Grille shows restraint. They have found the perfect intersection where taste meets “less is more” and something spectacular is achieved. Each bite had us savoring the flavors, especially the frequent micro-bursts of basil. I don’t know if it is prominent in the red sauce or tossed on under the cheese, but it adds a wonderfully fresh note.

The Corner Grille also serves a wide variety of interesting salads, soups, sandwich wraps and baked sweet treats. We may be eleven years late to the party, but we won’t be strangers now!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Good & Honorable

Three weeks ago I posted about Bernard Madoff when he was sentenced to 150 years for his dreadful Ponzi scheme. Today I want to introduce you to Robert I. Lappin age 87, of Swampscott, Massachusetts. Mr. Lappin is the polar opposite of Bernie Madoff. Mr. Lappin is a mensch. Robert Lappin lost approximately 90% of his personal wealth to Madoff’s thievery. Unfortunately, his eponymous charitable foundation was also invested with Madoff, as were his employees 401(k) retirement plans. Now Mr. Lappin, with the blessing of his family, is donating five million dollars to restore his employees retirement accounts. That five million represents more than half of his net worth, post Madoff’s depredations.

Mr. Lappin’s honorable and generous choice reminds me of another Massachusetts mensch named Aaron Feuerstein. Back in 1995, Mr. Feuerstein was the CEO of Malden Mills which was known for its “Polartec” polar fleece fabric. The mill burned down and Mr. Feuerstein continued to pay thousands of employees their regular salaries, plus benefits, while the mill was rebuilt in the same location.

All three men; Madoff, Lappin and Feuerstein are Jewish. Madoff used his heritage and his religion as a tool, a passport if you will, to target fellow Jews in an Affinity scheme designed to lure investors into his elaborate Ponzi scheme. Mr. Lappin and Mr. Feuerstein also relied on their heritage and their religion, as well as the Torah and the Talmud to inform their honorable and moral decisions.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Hot Time

The thunderstorms were rough last night and the rain continued into the morning. But as noon approached, we found the skies clearing, the sun burning through, the temperature rising into the mid 80s F (30 C) and the humidity remaining fierce. By the time we arrived at Goddard Memorial State Park in Warwick, Rhode Island, there was a more than welcome steady breeze. J.R. had erected a tent and its shade, as well as spots beneath the nearby trees, were very popular attractions! Naturally, the best part of the day was being with family. But a personal highlight was every time I was able to plunge my hand into the bucket of ice water to fish out another can of seltzer! It was heavenly!

By the way, Fiona asked about my triple chocolate brownies. They are a total cheat. I buy the Betty Crocker Original Supreme Brownie Mix, which comes with a pouch of Hershey’s Syrup. (That’s one.) I follow the package directions, but I add two tablespoons of the best cocoa powder I have in the house, like Scharffen Berger. (That’s two.) After all the ingredients are combined, I add a half a bag of Nestle’s Mini Chocolate Chips. (That’s three.) I bake according to the package directions but usually leave them in longer than suggested. Even with the extra time they come out incredibly rich and fudge-y, so I cut them into tiny bite size pieces and place each square into a mini muffin paper. There you have it. The secret is revealed.

Friday, July 17, 2009

If You Can’t Stand The Heat...

Today was hot and humid followed by thunderstorms. Not my best timing, but I needed to bake my triple chocolate brownies. We have another family wing-ding tomorrow. This one is being hosted by my nephew J.R. and his wife Lorrie. A few months ago, a friend of theirs passed away. As they greeted and reminisced with old friends at the wake, they decided to provide an opportunity for everyone in their lives to all come together, under happier circumstances, at a huge picnic. So rain or shine we’re headed to Rhode Island tomorrow. Fingers crossed the thunderstorms pass early in the day. And as long as I’m hoping, I’d love a cool, dry, breezy day! Greedy? Why yes I am!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Remember the daylily from Carrie and Al’s home? It was the one I posted because I had neglected to take a photo of the ones I had freed from their rains of June induced jungle. Well, this is one of the liberated lilies. It lives on the far side of the driveway and makes us smile when we stand at the kitchen sink and look through the window to see it bobbing against the lush green chaos behind it.

In other news...
The “asked and answered” game continued today in Washington D.C. What was new? Perry Mason. I’ll admit, I was grateful for the lighter note. But there’s gotta be a better way to make sausages - er - confirm a new justice for the SCOTUS!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Asked & Answered

I’m bleary eyed with exhaustion (not enough sleep last night and zoomed off in too many directions today). But I did catch some of the Senate Confirmation Hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor. I will simply repeat my Tweet from this morning:

Re: Sen. Jeff Sessions' (R-AL) questioning - Too bad the objection of "Asked & Answered" isn't available in a Senate Hearing!

I get that the Republicans have decided to be the party of “No”. I get that they feel the need to harp on the phrase “wise Latina”. But Lord love a duck, they began to sound like the annoying younger sibling who repeats everything you say, just to make you crazy! And, in keeping with Newton’s Third Law (for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction), the Democrats had to swing all the way over to fawning, just to get across the idea that she would not be a crazed, bigoted, liberal, activist justice! Throughout it all, Judge Sotomayor remained unruffled and gave new meaning to the word unflappable.

At least no one is talking about Coca Cola cans...

Laws and sausages, laws and sausages - and senate confirmation hearings - Sheesh!


Monday, July 13, 2009

Hello, Thank You & Goodbye

It is difficult for me to grasp the life cycle of a Lune Moth (Actias luna).

They are startlingly large, yet delicate creatures. (A Luna’s wingspan can be 3 - 4.5 in (8 – 11.5 cm). The clapboards it is resting on in the photo above are standard width.) We see them only in the summer months, almost exclusively at night. We have an old outdoor floodlight above the main door of our barn. Whenever we have it on, it attracts a great deal of activity. Tonight, a Luna came to visit. The photo above was the only one which was clear enough to post. Trying to zoom in on the Luna, fighting the glare of the floodlight, while staying far enough away not to disturb the beautiful moth was a challenge. But learning more about the Luna moth, puts my photography challenge into perspective. They emerge from cocoons only to mate. They do not eat or even have mouths. They live just one week. Being 51 years old, it is almost too much for me to comprehend. And I can’t help but wonder which day it is of this Luna’s seven.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Something Sunny

The gal at the farmers’ market called them “Sundrops”, but the name appears to be just the first clue. Sundrops are part of the Onagraceae family and the genus Oenothera. Another common name for them is “Evening Primrose”. However, with well more than 100 species about, I can’t tell you any more specifics. But I will pass on what the plant seller told me: “They’ll grow in almost every possible condition.” Sounded good to me and so far so good!

A Wild Deal

Attention all Worcesterites!

Wild Willy’s Burgers at 317 West Boylston Street, is running a super summer special. Beginning this Tuesday night, July 14th and every Tuesday evening through the end of August, if you buy one burger, chicken or bison sandwich, between 5:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m., you get a second one free - a BOGO! Considering how yummy the burgers are at Willy’s that is one heck of a deal. And, if that isn’t interesting enough, they’re also offering a number of gluten free items on their menu, including gluten free buns cradling their scrumptious burgers.

See you Tuesday nights at Willy’s...

: : Update: Just to let you know, the BOGO doesn’t work on TOGO - that’s to go orders. So pull up a chair and enjoy your burgers in-house!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

One of the Shadier Streets in D.C.

The Family” is a Christian organization founded in 1935. “C Street” refers to a house owned by a branch of The Family. It is located on C Street in Washington, D.C. Several members of the United States Congress live there. C Street was raised by Governor Mark Sanford (R-SC), during his recent admission that he had not been hiking the Appalachian Trail, but had in fact been down in Argentina with his mistress. Then C Street emerged again as the financial ripples from Senator John Ensign’s (R-NV) affair with his mistress continued to unfold.

Last night, Rachel Maddow interviewed Jeff Sharlet for the second night in a row. Sharlet is the author of “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power”. Rachel’s summary of what we have recently learned about The Family, their intense focus on power and the house on C Street is fascinating, troubling and worthy of further investigation.

: : Update: Jeff, over at WormTown Taxi has dug deeper and found additional complex connections between Washington insiders and “The Family”.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Lost and Found

I watched a movie recently called “I Know Where I’m Going!” (1945). It was quite wonderful; charming, quirky, non-linear and both of and ahead of its time. The film was set in a remote island area to the west of Glasgow, Scotland. Throughout the movie, a number of characters spoke Scottish Gaelic. As I listened, I couldn’t help but wonder if the ancestors on my father’s side had spoken Scottish Gaelic when they lived in and around Glasgow. My paternal great grandparents, James and Mary, were born in the middle of the 19th century in Scotland. Their two eldest children were born there as well. The youngest four, including my grandfather Alexander, were born in Rhode Island in the late 1800s.

Great grandparents James and Mary passed before I was born. Several of their children, my great aunts and uncles, were alive for many years after my birth. But I never met any of them. From what I can piece together, there was a falling out; a rift developed between my grandfather Alexander and the rest of his family. My mother thinks it had something to do with Alexander’s family disapproving of his choice of bride, my grandmother Catherine. However the rift began, it was never, ever healed.

Sometimes, a later generation can reach across the gulf and find a way to let the disagreements of their parents lie in the past. That happened in Chuck’s family. Siblings at his father’s generation lived with a rift for many years. Then Chuck wrote a letter to his cousins from whom he had been estranged and a door opened. Sadly, this never happened between my family and my paternal grandparent’s family. Which is how I came to wonder the other day about how many things I missed out on. What could my great aunts and uncles John, James, Mary, Lizzie and Madeline Rose have taught me? Would they have loved me? Would my toddler smile have melted their hearts as it did my grandfather Alexander’s? Would they have shared recipes, traditions, family stories and history with me? And would any of the Scottish Gaelic they may have spoken been passed on to me?

I love the private languages of families. It can be the expressions they use which set them apart from their neighbors, just as it ties them strongly to generations past. Or it can be the languages of their home countries and larger communities such as Canadian French, Cajun French, Gaelic and so on - and of course Yiddish. Yiddish is the German language which originated with Ashkenazi Jews centuries ago. It remains the mother tongue (mame loshn) in fact or emotion for Jews around the world today. When I first became close to Chuck, Yiddish fascinated me. It was part of the secret handshake of his family. His parents, aunts and uncles sat up and took notice when the Irish Catholic girl pronounced and used a Yiddish phrase correctly. It was a hand outstretched in friendship from me and it was welcomed. The first time I was able to make a joke, a play on words, simultaneously in both English and Yiddish I felt as if I should be moving the tassel on my mortarboard!

So as I watched “I Know Where I’m Going!” and listened to the Scottish Gaelic rise up in the back of the actors' throats, roll around on their tongues and spill out in rapid, easy, comfortable conversation, I felt a sharp pang. It was somewhere between recognition and loss. It made me long for what I might have learned from my Scottish uncles and aunts. And made me even more grateful for the way Chuck and his family welcomed me in and began teaching me their mame loshn, which has, in many ways, become mine as well.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

An Observation

I was just a year older than Michael Jackson. So I remember being aware of him and singing along with his songs for most of my life. I can’t say I was a huge fan; a true fanatic. But I did enjoy his music, was captivated by his videos and his dancing. The bloom began to come off the rose for me as Michael altered his physical appearance. I couldn’t connect with the way he wanted to modify his features from what I perceived as him being a beautiful child and a handsome young man, into something increasingly damaged, disfigured and bizarre.

To my recollection, the spotlight never really left Michael - from his first appearances as part of The Jackson Five, to his casket at the Staples Center yesterday. But as Michael became more unusual; as he slipped further to the edges of the bell curve, the media spotlight intensified. The glare became harsher; the rumors became accusations. What had once been popularity and celebrity, morphed rapidly, seamlessly into notoriety and, at times, infamy. Scandals became headlines. An allegation was settled financially and perceived as a guilty plea. A courtroom drama unfolded as circus; the acquittal on all charges eclipsed by the sideshow carnival of fans, paparazzi and international media with microphones standing in front of satellite uplink trucks and Michael himself in pajama bottoms.

Michael married, divorced, remarried and had children, divorced again and had a third child. In summary form, it reads as falling within the bounds of what we see in Hollywood and in our own communities - not fully approved of by society, but not unheard of. But when Michael Jackson, his ongoing physical metamorphosis and that unblinking media spotlight got thrown into the mix, it was all just too, too weird - unseemly, inappropriate, suspect, even creepy. We learned that he was likely abused as a child. At the very least he was pushed aggressively by a domineering stage father, into a tough industry fraught with peril for child stars. But even that revelation couldn’t mitigate the uneasiness the non-fanatic felt looking at the garish tabloid covers and the headlines on the entertainment pages.

Yesterday, I listened to people from many walks of life speak from the heart about the loss of their friend. For a few hours we heard in unedited form from people who actually knew Michael Jackson, many of them for decades. The more I listened, the more I began to feel I had been sold a bill of goods; that I had been seduced by the media hype and bought it hook, line and sinker. These friends spoke passionately and with humor about an undeniably talented individual, who lived an extraordinary life. Obviously, a memorial service is a time to eulogize, to focus on the positive aspects of the decedent’s life and to comfort the grieving family and friends with one’s words and reminiscences. But if Michael Jackson truly had been the pariah the media made him out to be, why were these folks testifying so publicly to the esteem in which they held him and the magnitude of their loss?

I suppose it could have been just crass publicity seeking; a desire to be part of the international event; the final act under the big tent of the circus which was Michael Jackson’s life. Yet as the memorial service continued, I became more convinced that those closest to Michael knew something I didn’t: that he was, at his heart, kind and well intentioned. Seeing his three children sitting in the front row with their father’s family, I reinterpreted the way Michael had kept his children veiled and masked. What had previously seemed crazy, now seemed sensible and responsible. Now that they have been revealed; thrust prematurely into that same all consuming spotlight, it seems unlikely that they will soon find peace.

Was Michael Jackson troubled? Yes. Was he strange, eccentric, odd and peculiar? Yes to all. Am I left wondering why he was able to persist in his self destructive behaviors despite being surrounded by people of influence who apparently cared deeply for him? Again, yes. But I also began to get an uneasy feeling that I had participated, almost unconsciously, in a sort of 21st century witch hunt.

Am I certain? No. But yesterday’s memorial service gave me sufficient pause, that in all good conscience, I must now consciously reconsider the totality of my opinion of Michael Jackson. Before forming a final opinion, I must look at the whole gestalt of his life and not allow myself to be distracted or disgusted by lurid headlines nor put off by his strangeness nor beguiled by his dazzling talent.

Monday, July 6, 2009


My mosquito bites have blossomed (It usually takes 24 plus hours for the itching to become intense.), but I wouldn’t change a thing about Saturday’s festivities. Well, unless I could eliminate mosquitoes entirely - oh and ticks too! I’m sure some rational environmentalist could give me a solid argument for why we need mosquitoes and ticks, ecologically speaking that is. But I doubt I’d be dissuaded from my distaste for those particular creatures. Blech!

Speaking of Saturday, (even in this odd and roundabout way) we have a super sufficiency of Gazpacho around here. That’s a nice way of saying my Gazpacho was not as well received as my appetizers! The folks who liked it really liked it. Unless of course they work part time at the Trinity Repertory Theater... Do you know that being from Rhode Island where the letter “R” is somewhat elusive, I had to look up how to spell Repertory? I kept wanting to type something which sounded more like rep-uh-tory!

Where was I? Oh. Gazpacho. Well, I don’t want to talk about it any more. Let’s see, what else is new? We found the Daylilies. I can’t remember what varieties of Hemerocallis we’ve planted over the years, but the poor things were lost in the vast, green jungle of overgrowth which sprang up faster than Jack’s beanstalk during the monsoon season - A.K.A. June 2009. I got the scythe out - yes it was truly that bad - and cut my way back to the lovelies. I should have, but I didn’t take a photo of them. So I posted a photo of one of Carrie and Al’s from their backyard. Ours look just like theirs, only more maroonish.

I’m sorry this post is so disjointed. No I haven’t had an over abundance of caffeine. I think I watched Governor Sarah Palin’s (R-AK) resignation speech one too many times and her deer-in-the-headlights, frenzied feeling just rubbed off on me. Maybe I can douse myself with tomato juice the way you’re supposed to bathe your dog if it gets sprayed by a skunk.

Hey! Now I know what to do with all that freakin’ Gazpacho!

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Yesterday’s party at Carrie and Al’s home was terrific! There was a great group of people, an amazing variety of food and we all took pleasure in the shocking delight of the first sunny day in a month! There was also something called “Ladder Golf”, (courtesy of Phil and Kate) the finer points of which escaped me, but which was the center of some spirited competition. The appetizers I brought disappeared swiftly and were pronounced “f---ing awesome” by one guest - high praise indeed! Al manned the grill all day and well into the night, carrying on the great tradition of other grill masters in our extended family, including my Dad. And (thanks to Ken and Linda) Chuck and I fell in love with some scrumptious pizza from this place, which needs to open a shop in Worcester County - please? The blue ribbon for most delectable dessert went to the blueberry pie, made with blueberries nestled in a delicate, flaky crust, topped with freshly whipped cream. It tasted as if someone had brought all the ingredients into the blueberry patch and assembled it on the spot. Oh my, my, my!

We hadn’t been to a fireworks display in many years, so we were really looking forward to dusk falling and the walk to the nearby beach. The whole crowd trooped down with chairs and blankets to settle in on the grass, boulders and sandy water’s edge for the show. Actually, to be more precise, it wasn’t just one fireworks display, there were almost too many to count. Up and down the shores of Narragansett Bay, private parties were setting off their own fireworks and then in every direction we could see more distant bursts of color from the professional acts. It was quite wonderful. Despite the limitations of my camera (and the photographer at its controls!) I managed to capture a few images which I hope will give you a feel for the evening.

The show is just beginning

My favorite photo of the night

That's a waxing gibbous moon right in the heart of the fireworks and the water’s edge below

Friday, July 3, 2009

Cucumber Cool

My niece Carrie and her husband Al are hosting a Fourth of July wing-ding at their house tomorrow. Carrie is blessedly calm, cool and collected when it comes to her role as hostess. I want to study her, learn her secrets and find a way to be as relaxed as she is when hordes of relatives come pouring over the threshold!

I spent today dicing, slicing, chopping, simmering and baking. Now the cooking is done! Al and Carrie will be grilling the hot dogs and hamburgers and Carrie left the rest of the menu up to her guests’ discretion. See what I mean? Cool as a cucumber she is! Speaking of cucumbers, I made a big pot of my Gazpacho this afternoon. I played with it a bit by adding some fire roasted tomatoes and a dash of chipotle powder.

I also made some Southwestern influenced appetizers. I used Wendy in Scotland’s recipe for Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos as the springboard. But instead of full sized burritos, I used wonton wrappers to create tiny two bite portions. I’ve used the same technique for mini-quiches. I took the square wonton wrappers and gently pushed them into the greased wells of a mini-muffin tin. Then I added a heaping teaspoonful of the burrito filling into the wrapper. Lastly, I put a little piece of sharp cheddar cheese on top of the filling. I popped them into the oven at 350-375 degrees Fahrenheit (175-190 Celsius) for about ten to fifteen minutes or until they look bubbly and golden.

I hope that all of you celebrating Independence Day tomorrow have a storm free, blue sky day. Most importantly, I hope you have a safe and happy holiday weekend!

Here's one batch cooling on the rack.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Nuns

I had two parents, four grandparents and two sisters, all of whom raised me up. They each brought something special to the mix, even my paternal grandfather who passed away when I was little more than one year old. I don’t remember him directly, but there were photographs of me on Grandpa’s lap with both of us beaming to beat the band. Because Grandpa was quite curmudgeonly, this was regarded as special and I was told the story over and over. So even in his absence I felt his love.

Beyond my immediate family raising me up, I also had the Roman Catholic Church. Specifically nuns from the Religious Sisters of Mercy as well a goodly number of priests. I began school just after Blessed Pope John XXIII began to throw open the doors and windows to let an enormous gust of fresh air into the Church via the Second Vatican Council. It was an exciting, yeasty time to be attending Catholic school. Social justice, human rights and politics became increasingly integral to the daily class called “Religion”. The Vietnam War, the protests at home, the My Lai Massacre and President Nixon peppered our discussions, all within the context of Catholicism.

There were only two scary nuns; Sister Mary M. and Sister Mary C., both elderly and from an earlier, harsher era. And there was only one priest who was a royal pain, but because I called him on his rude behavior toward a fellow student in front of the entire class, I caught his attention. As a result, Father M. trained me to become a Lector and always tapped me for what he described as the “dramatic readings” at Mass. How could I stay mad at a guy who brought me completely past all of my shyness and stage fright to a microphone on the altar?

But it was the nuns who were the daily constant for me. Even now, when the Church and I are not on the best of terms, I still have a warm place in my heart for the strong, independent, warm, feisty, funny, no nonsense, compassionate, knowledge loving women who constantly steadied my moral compass. That’s why this article in the New York Times, by Laurie Goodstein, jumped out at me. The headline: “U.S. Nuns Facing Vatican Scrutiny”. The lede: “The Vatican is quietly conducting two sweeping investigations of American nuns, a development that has startled and dismayed nuns who fear they are the targets of a doctrinal inquisition.”

Regular readers know that I am capable of righteous anger. So I will resist typing much of what bubbled to the surface as I read the article. I do not; nay, I cannot trust this incarnation of the Roman Catholic Church, with Pope Benedict XVI at the helm, to do no harm during these investigations. Pope Benedict reportedly prefers a leaner, smaller, purer Church. So much of what this Pope wants is antithetical to the positive results of the admittedly near seismic shifts of the Second Vatican Council. Vatican II righted wrongs, reached out to the laity and invited ecumenism. The nuns being investigated by the Vatican now, are the same women who reinforced the Golden Rule from my family home and elucidated the finer points of how to put that simple guide into daily practice as a Christian and as a Catholic. These nuns are the backbone of the Church. We need more, not fewer of these unsung heroines of both religion and education.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

1.5 Million Euros

If I had 1.5 million Euros, then I would have $2,120,698.82 - give or take a penny or two. If I had that sort of BBMMTG (big bucks, more money than God) then I could purchase this sweet little seaside cottage. Now if I had unlimited resources - beyond BBMMTG, more like the deep pockets of a Bill Gates or a Warren Buffett - then I could purchase this cottage, which comes complete with its own ruin.

Why am I looking at cottages in Ireland, when I’ve never even been to Ireland? Well, one branch of my family left Clifden, Connemara, County Galway, Ireland more than a century ago. But several generations later, something still calls to me from that achingly beautiful corner of the world. And sometimes, a day with lots of frustrations causes me to daydream about running away. I guess in this case it would be running home. Back to an ancestral home which was hardscrabble and impoverished enough back then to drive my forebears to come over here. But on a day like today, from a drastically more comfortable vantage point, Connemara looks romantic and peaceful and tantalizingly free.