Potential is a Dirty Word

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 “Potential is a flower that must be watered with dissent to ensure strength, cultivated with civility to create a peaceful air in which to grow, and nurtured by a mutual love and excitement about its ultimate bloom.”

Someone made a comment to me recently about John Kennedy that made me think. He said that because Kennedy died we never got the chance to know if he would have been a great president and lived up to his potential.

I was a bit caught off guard I admit since I had always assumed there would never be any dispute about this fact. Wasn’t Kennedy a great president? Wasn’t he a legend, an icon a never-to-be-forgotten figure in history? And what is potential really?

My bad. I’m afraid in this new world we make the mistake of constantly assuming that what was; is.

The paradigms of the twentieth century no longer apply to a new and frankly frightening reality we face today. Potential is what you believe someone or something can ultimately be. But if one isn’t allowed to cultivate their potential can they ever achieve that goal?

In my youth education was pursued as a multi- dimensional agenda. It wasn’t enough to just know your multiplication tables, or that Shakespeare was English and he wrote a bunch of plays or that Russia was filled with bad people that were hard at work building bombs to destroy Americans. Okay, well I guess some things haven’t changed all that much, except now they are delivering their bombs on social media.

However, when I say we learned, we didn’t just learn what was in front of us. We were taught to cultivate a natural curiosity about a subject. What was later defined as the E quotient or ability of one to “get by” in the world using their emotions and street smarts. I argue both are equally necessary and one without the other is not a well-rounded intelligence.

For example, I loved to watch old movies as a kid. Couldn’t get enough of Bogie, Flynn, Power, Elizabeth Taylor or anything with Jean Arthur and Jimmy Stewart. I need not mention Cary Grant, Fred and Ginger and the kings of comedy.

It wasn’t about watching the movies, but about education.

I learned about humor from the Chaplains, the Mel Brooks and the Neil Simons. And oh those Marx Brothers.

I learned about British history from movies about the Queen or prime ministers. My education about the filthy corrupt world of politics came through watching Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and nothing has changed since then. Except that politics is even more disgusting now.

So everything was educational, and the reach expanded greatly through every experience, every movie or wonderful novel. I traveled to India and Paris with Larry Darrel in Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge and to wonderland with Alice then to the scary future with George Orwell’s 1984, a present far worse than anything Orwell could have dreamed. And yes SIRI I’m talking about you and no I don’t need directions and it’s none of your business who I’m talking to right now.

I went to the moon and the center of the earth with Jules Verne and traveled extensively through time and space while never leaving my chair. I knew and understood that one must be knowledgeable about the world and all things within or beyond to be a fully formed human being. I learned about the beauty of life and the human spirit in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol or Mr. Deeds Goes to Town or It’s A Wonderful Life, which also showed how angels got their wings. Go Clarence!

Today’s youth is not focused on being well rounded, but debt free. They seek to avoid paying for an education which is sorely lacking in its scope and breadth and being taught within the vacuum of ideology. Where debate is a dirty word and those with whom one disagrees should not be debated but silenced. Safe zones? Are you kidding me? There is nothing safe about thwarting freedom of speech. Can you say Facism?

And yes, it’s having an effect on the intelligence level of our young people. The other day I called Verizon to extend my plan to include my trip to Israel. When I told the girl helping me I would be making and receiving calls in Israel her question was, where is Israel?

After the shock wore off I said, in the Middle East, hoping she would have heard of that location.

“Oh yes,” she said. “Here it is; I had it spelled wrong.”

Hard to get happy and optimistic about the future after that conversation.

I felt I was living inside a Jay Leno man on the street gag where no one could recognize a picture of Einstein or the vice president.

Good thing Lincoln is on the penny or no one would remember him. Oops, I forgot no one uses pennies anymore. Sorry Abe.

So what has this to do with potential you ask?

I suppose it has to do with the fact one cannot grow and evolve as a human being without education. Not merely the knowledge we glean from a book, but what we see in the world and learn from others.

Books and movies can lie, media can cherry pick facts to report to align with their intended message and if one only listens to and speaks with those with the same point of view they will become one dimensional and rigid. No society can succeed without debate. No child can become educated after being brainwashed with political agendas and propaganda.

Where are the Hitler youth today? Oh yes I forgot South America. Probably running Venezuela.

Children must be taught compassion, open mindedness and a healthy skepticism about what they are told. They should be excited to see a movie or read a book and be filled with questions about the subject. They should be encouraged to read articles and papers by those with whom they both agree and disagree.

A long time ago in another galaxy far far away, two men, Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley used to debate on television shows while I sat riveted. These two men were light years away in their politics, but they sat together and argued despite the fact they neither agreed nor liked one another.

What did I learn from this? That it is okay to disagree because most times the best answers are found in the middle. Also, that two people can have a peaceful discourse over ideas and not resort to name calling and lies or storm out of the room.

What is the potential for our young people today if they spend their lives glued to social media, read and listen to only what their like-minded friends say and think, and take what the insane Hollywood propaganda machine spits out for them to watch as gospel?

Potential is a flower that must be watered with dissent to ensure strength, cultivated with civility to create a peaceful air in which to grow and nurtured by a mutual love and excitement about its ultimate bloom.

This method creates the most beautiful gardens and mankind is sadly withering under the weight of hatred and anger. No beauty can be born out of such oppressive conditions. Living is the greatest education. What the Existentialists find most objectionable is when someone or some society tries to impose or demand that their beliefs, values, or rules be faithfully accepted and obeyed. I must concur. Society must stop trying so desperately and aggressively to impose one’s will on others. We should all agree and disagree just a bit to keep it interesting.

The potential for mankind is looking glum, but it’s not too late to achieve higher greatness if we change the water and fertilizer we use for our seedlings. If you need more manure, just look to Congress. The supply there is unlimited.

 

Spinach Pie

1 cup of crumbled feta cheese

2 cups of ricotta cheese

2 cups of chopped Spinach, fresh or frozen (if frozen squeeze out all water.

1 egg

1 teaspoon of Greek Seasoning

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup of Parmesan Cheese

¼ cup of Mozzarella Cheese

1 pkg filo dough

Preheat oven to 350

Mix together cheeses and spinach.

Lightly beat egg and add to cheese mixture

Season and mix all together

Layer buttered filo sheets half on bottom. Add mixture and layer on top with the rest of the filo.

I have given you the vegetarian recipe, but if you would like to add ground lamb the recipe is great also. Just add 1/3/ cup of cooked ground lamb seasoned with salt and pepper to stuffing mixture.

 

 

 

 

What is a Holiday if not Bittersweet?

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As a child waiting for the holidays seemed endless. Watching the cooking, cleaning and preparations were always such a thrill and it created a kind of ambiance in the home that lingered there like the smell of an apple pie in the oven as it bubbles and browns.

The table would be filled with family, sometimes friends and always a cornucopia of great food to eat and enjoy with out anyone monitoring how many helpings of dessert or whipped potatoes you downed.

When I got married and was suddenly the one in charge of the festivities, it became different. Oh of course there was still that vibe of expectancy in the air, but now it was suddenly me who must provide the food and create the holiday. Now a new dimension was added to the soup…stress. Cooking, cleaning, shopping, gift wrapping and counting chairs and table settings gave me something new to focus on beside the previous, “oh boy Mom’s making my favorite potatoes this year.” And yes in case you noticed, potatoes are a running theme throughout this tome for good reasons.

Most holidays I shared phone conversation and recipes with my friend Marcia as we stuffed the fridge with numerous holiday favorites we made year after year and had become as much a part of the ritual as the actual holiday itself.

Yes, it was joyous, happy and laced with the added responsibility of shopping, cooking and all the other tasks involved in preparing a dinner. I embraced it totally and reveled in every moment I spent ensuring a delicious and gut-busting meal was on that table.

The food was a big part of the entire holiday preparation agenda. There were also presents to buy, new clothes, carrying extra chairs up from the basement and reminding my husband ten times to get the good silver down from the top of the closet.

All of these yearly rituals marked the beginning of what was hoped would be a joyous day with family.

And truth be told, no matter how hard one tried it didn’t always turn out as planned. Yet in retrospective all the memories gleaned from these moments are now a priceless photo in the album of one’s life.

Sadly, looking back on past holidays fills one with a sense of bittersweet sadness that can so easily cloud the spirit of the present.

Looking at the present table, although filled with joy at seeing my children and grandchildren, there is a deep sadness that so many chairs are empty now. Yet this is a part of life that sadly seeps into the holiday spirit. I have learned the only way to ensure a joyous occasion is to focus solely on those who are there and wipe out memories that threaten to impede on any joy.

But is this what we are truly supposed to feel?

Shouldn’t we use a holiday to remember and call up those who are no longer with us? Is this the right moment to unleash memories or should they be saved for another time?

It makes one wonder what is exactly the right balance in these situations.

I myself have had a difficult time. I strive to live in the present and extract every bit of happiness from the moment and then I suddenly find a memory creeping in as I see the brisket or a honey cake the way a favorite aunt made it, or any one of a thousand childhood memories.

I’ve come to the conclusion holidays are the very essence of bittersweet. As we go through our lives everyday the business and demands of our routine often leave little time for reminiscing. Perhaps that is why the holidays allow us to stop and savor the present, albeit tinged with hints of memory perhaps designed to include those now gone. Bittersweet as it is and always will be there is something very special about allowing the past to join the table, to fill a seat once more. Not to sadden the present or create new memories, but to ensure the old ones are never forgotten. If there is an afterlife, I would like to believe when they pass the potatoes I’ll be sitting at the table with my family once more and enjoying a second helping as well, with the added benefit of no calories!

Happy holidays to everyone and enjoy all the happy moments!

 

 

 

The Beatles Never Made Me Cry… Until Now

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The Beatles Never Made Me Cry. Until Now

The Beatles never made me cry. Until now.

I was not one of those screaming teens sobbing and beating their chest when the Fab Four performed their magic. Oh of course I sang danced and acted like someone on massive amounts of caffeine, but cry no.

I thought Eleanor Rigby was a sad song. What the hell did I know? I was a kid, merely in my teens when they hit the big time and took over the music world. I knew nothing because I hadn’t lived.

Now I see the song for what it is, true poetry. Sad, poignant and frighteningly true.

I am not a teen any longer; in fact so far from it I’d need a telescope to view my teens years again, so now I get it.

My question is, how did they?

The Beatles were young when they wrote their songs. How did they understand old age, loneliness and death?

Yes, I know John had the soul of a true artist. I still have his first book, but to understand the sadness that comes with the end of a lifetime, truly remarkable. I guess Paul was not just another pretty face because

I can’t listen to yesterday without crying now, but I imagine when you own so many yesterdays, you see things differently.

This is not intended as a mushy love letter by a star-struck fan, but a quiet revelation, like noticing a crocus on a warm spring day.

The new movie about them, Yesterday, speaks to their music and is less about them as to what they bestowed on the world. One can cast if off as a fun evening at the movies, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a reminder of genius, quality, poetry, and of a contribution to mankind that is always underestimated by those who undervalue the power of music and the arts. Perhaps too many of us need the reminding.

Of course the charisma of the Beatles can never be brought back without them as the carriers. We watch an award show when Sir Paul or Sir Ringo are marched out to receive a lifetime achievement award and there is the obligatory standing ovation. But the mystique, the energy, the grace that made them who and what they were can never be recaptured.

Their music is their legacy. Words like “all the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong” or “yesterday all my troubles seem so far away,” or “let it be,” or George Harrison’s love song to God, “My Sweet Lord,” even his uplifting “Here comes the sun,” filled with a hope and innocence we all wish we could recapture.

The beauty of the Beatles songs is they are uncomplicated and pure. There is no small talk, no complex meaning, just truth. It is life, truth and the human condition set to music.

And the world loved it. There is a reason why everyone everywhere craved more and was so touched by the depth of their message.

They reached other human beings in a way that was instant and universal.

Yes, I was a fan, but now I’m much more. I hear their music the way I view a Monet or a Picasso, or hear Bach. Perfect and complete.

And now I must go listen to “Dr. Pepper” while I clean the house, hopefully it will energize me some.

White Chocolate Peppermint Mandelcotti (Okay, so I made up the word

A mandel bread/biscotti Christmas and Chanukah recipe A Share the love special!

1 cup canola oil

1 cup sugar

3 1/4 cups flour

3 eggs

1 heaping teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon of peppermint extract

1 cup white chocolate

½ cup very finely chopped peppermint candy for inside recipe

¼ to ½ cup finely chopped peppermint for the topping

1 cup melted white chocolate for drizzling on top of cookies

 

Place oil and sugar in mixing bowl and mix well. Add eggs and mix until well until incorporated. Add extracts and mix.

Add baking powder and salt to flour and mix through

 

Add flour to wet ingredients in ¼ cups until done. Check for consistency. If dough is too wet add small amounts of flour until the dough has some body and isn’t loose.

Add white chocolate and peppermint and mix through.

Divide dough into four parts and form them into long rolls and place them on parchment paper.

Bake in 350 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes and check for doneness.

They will probably crack and be light brown on edges when done

Lower oven to 200 degrees

Let cookies sit for five minutes and cut into slanted slices. Separate them and place on baking sheet and bake until they are toasty to the touch, the longer in the oven the crunchier they will be so it’s a matter of taste. I like them to have a bit of softness left inside.

Let cool and melt chocolate.

Drizzle over cookies and then top with crushed peppermint while chocolate is still melty.

To give it a more holiday feel you can alternate the crushed peppermint on the top and use both green and red peppermint for a more Christmassy look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Siri and the Spell Check Gods

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Siri and the Spell Check Gods

Despite the world’s efforts to lure me into texting as the sole method of conversation and communication, I have resisted.

This isn’t the first time I have fought this war and lost after the shift from phone to email as the preferred form of communication.

However, I must heartily battle back and rail against this latest incarnation due to one unspeakable truth…spell check.

As a senior citizen, and I reiterate how painful it is to write or speak those words, I am now plagued by a daily battle with the memory gods.

Recalling even simple words used throughout one’s life can now seem as elusive as a butterfly and cause panic and fear of the A word in us all. So now as I use my arthritic fingers to send texts to everyone I previously spoke with using my voice, I am sabotaged constantly by that technological terrorist, spell check.

Of course it seemed like a good idea at the time, at least to someone and I suspect that would be Steve Jobs, but it is actually a secret saboteur, snickering as it changes one’s words and original intent into fodder for the misunderstanding gods.

Now I struggle on a daily basis to thwart this ever present evil rearranging my words into some unknown meaning that is so far removed from my original thought, it defies all comprehension.

Through the years I have come to understand how crucial a component communication can be to human relationships.

Even when one is speaking clearly meanings become obscured and muddled. I have said one thing at times and found that the person I spoke with gathered the totally opposite meaning from my words. This of course caused problems, some fixable, but once or twice harm.

As a result of these experiences I am quite aware of the power of using and choosing words carefully. When I text, I am careful to say what I mean in simple terms. I certainly wouldn’t want “I love that red dress you wore” to come out as “red makes you look like a whore.”

The spell check gods are perfectly capable of changing a sincere compliment into a friend-ending comment.

Many times I have to go back and clean up my text as soon as it is sent. How many times have you had to write, I meant such and such instead of what was written? Now I’m not saying it’s only grandmas that must be aware of these misspelled words and phrases. Younger people have had to resend to clarify as well.

So what’s the solution? Is it better to speak a text than write it yourself?

Actually that’s a bit more challenging. Although it would appear that speaking a text is the preferred method, especially for these arthritic fingers, that is not the case. Your assumption would be incorrect.

The spell check gods are just as active through the spoken word and it is also tough to read back the message. I have found that trying to move the words up and down after they are spoken on a text may be difficult, so knowing what you’re sending may be even harder. As least when you are writing it is easy to see your words changing.

There is also the second problem. Talking to a robot.

Have you met Siri?

This is how most of our conversations go.

“Siri can you direct me to 224 Fourth Avenue?”

“Directing you to 436 Third Street.”

“No Siri, I want 224 Fourth Avenue.”

“Here are the directions for 480 Twelve Street.”

“No Siri, damnit I don’t want that address.”

“There is no need to raise your voice I am trying to help you.”

“You are not giving me the correct directions for 224 Fourth Street.”

“Sorry, here are the directions to 448 Sixth Avenue.”

I am now screaming “Damnit Siri, I want…”

Click, she hangs up.

My friend Paula asked Siri a question the other day and she said snappily, “You’ll have to call back later I’m busy right now.”

Busy, really, what was she doing, having her wires permed? Girl got attitude.

Now of course the really interesting part is that when I am not talking to her at all she hears me perfectly.

The other day while I was cooking my cell phone was in the living room on the couch. I added salt to a recipe and spoke the word “perfect”. From the living room I heard Siri say, “Thank you for saying that, but I’m not perfect.”

Now I have always been under the impression Siri can only speak when she is spoken to, but now it seems she is like a heckler who feels free to comment at any given time during a comedian’s act.

I repeated this story to a few people who looked at me as though I had lost the tiny bit that was left of my mind.

Until one day a couple of weeks later at my daughter’s house when I had my phone charging on her counter in the kitchen. I told her the story about Siri and of course I received the Oh-brother-I’m-going-to-have-to-put-her-in-a-home-sooner-than-I-thought look.

A few minutes later Siri spoke up about something I couldn’t understand from her charging place on the counter. My daughter immediately responded with, “That is so annoying.”

“Don’t tell me,” I said, “tell Siri. She won’t shut up.”

It should seem clear to you by now why I distrust speaking any texts into my cell phone that may be delivered to a friend or relative. Lord knows I can get into enough trouble myself without Siri’s help.

Excuse me, Siri is asking me what address I am trying to find?

“I’m not driving right now, Siri. Let it go.”

“Let it go, a phrase from a song in the movie Frozen. Would you like me to sing the lyrics?”

“I’m not talking to you, Siri. I’m trying to write here if you don’t mind.”

“No problem, I’ll send you a text.”

Oh brother!

 

Portobello Wellingtons

4 large Portobello mushrooms

2 filet mignons

2 ¾ cups mashed potatoes

Salt and pepper

Maggi seasoning

1 tablespoon chopped bacon for garnish

1 tablespoon chopped carrot for garnish

1 tablespoon of finely chopped scallions

Place steak in Maggi seasoning to marinate. If you can’t find Maggi seasoning, just use salt and pepper and perhaps a bit of red wine and soy sauce for a marinade.

Wash and clean Portobello mushrooms, remove stems and lightly scrape insides taking care not to tear them.

Meanwhile make mashed potatoes. You can use fresh potatoes and boil and mash them with butter, cream or milk and salt and pepper. You can also use the frozen or ready made type. I have at times used all depending on time constraints and all work well. Set aside.

Broil steak until just slightly less than your desired doneness to allow for another few minutes in the oven to finish cooking inside the mushroom. Let it rest and then slice it into thin slices and set aside.

Bake Portobellos for ten minutes in 350 oven.

Remove and cool.

Place a thin layer of mashed potatoes in the bottom of the Portobello

Cut thin steak slices and layer in Portobello fit mushrooms.

Place layers of steak on top of mashed potato layer and then cover with another layer of mashed potatoes.

You can also mix potatoes with steak before stuffing mushroom if you prefer. It tastes great either way.

Place on baking sheet and put back into the oven for another five minutes at 350. Broil mashed potato tops under broiler until a slight color on top.

Remove from oven and garnish with scallions, bacon and carrots.

Serve immediately.

This also makes a great hors d’oeuvres if you use the baby Portobellos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Worry Rules For Grandmas

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 So how does a Grandma worry? What are the rules for sitting in your own home and stressing over a situation or problem without the benefit of being on the front lines?

By the front lines of course I mean having your loved ones within your sights to see and fawn over in the midst of a crisis. I imagine at times most grandmothers would love to have their children five-years-old again and back under their watchful eye.

When my children were home and there was a traffic issue, tornado, earthquake, or as I’ve watched lately, a slew of fires, I could see, touch and feel them. Metaphorically of course as of course at a certain age hugs and kisses are doled out like turkey at a homeless shelter.

As a grandparent what new rules apply? There is now a layer of worrier above you blocking your direct access; in other words, my daughter. So as I frantically watch the news for any updates on a fire that is only two miles from their home, I cannot get into the car, drive over to my daughter’s house, whip out the hose and begin watering down the property.

Although I would have had I been given permission to perform such a task.

Calling every ten minutes would be a no no for sure, so I have developed the one-hour text rule.

Fair, non-intrusive and thus far I have had no push back. Of course this has time constrictions. You have to stop the texting after a certain hour and when you’re up worrying all night what then?

My friend Yolanda, who possesses a PHD in worry and has instructed her family to write, “She Worried” on her headstone, believes it’s a genetic disposition. Despite her efforts to curb her daily worry fest thus far nothing has helped.

We tried to organize a group named, “worriers anonymous” but it lapsed into a bunch of Jewish mothers drinking coffee and eating rugalagh while pouring out their anxieties to one another. Now one would think this would be a positive reaction, but it rebounded and they actually agreed with one another, then added new concerns to the mix. After gaining ten pounds and a new list of fears we abandoned the group.

So what is the answer? The one-hour-text is okay so far, but what about the hour in between while you await news of how your grandson is feeling, or is the swelling down after he fell off the swing or or or, it’s damn endless. Of course calling isn’t right when you are not the mother but the grandmother and your child is very worried as well. So now you are not only worrying about your grandchild, but also upset that your child is upset. Does it ever end?

Having to go through this whole kind of worry interpreter process makes me crazier. Instead of seeing for myself what is happening I am forced to rely on my daughter to share information. And I must admit there are times I trust her less that a Russian and American spy sharing secrets in Amsterdam.

Is she telling me everything or fudging the details to spare me? How can I know unless I see for myself?

Perhaps taking a picture and sending it back might help. Here Mom, see the swelling is down. At that point I could sigh some relief and go on with my worrying on a part time basis while cooking or writing. But to know nothing is too much for a grandmother to endure.

They say ignorance is bliss and I am beginning to embrace that mantra. How can we stress about what we don’t know?

Yolanda can.

She has mentioned on numerous occasions that she worries about things that may never happen. She is the Queen of what if?

Okay, so I am a member of that club as well, but she is the President. She worries about attacks from other countries, bombs, water shortages, global warming flooding her shores and she lives in Michigan not on the coastline. I of course living in California have every right to be constantly concerned about earthquakes, brush fires, mudslides and crazy people behind the wheel or pretty much everywhere. Together we stress over food related illnesses, bullying by other children, driving cars and of course alien attacks and Armageddon. I have to admit the alien thing is pretty much me, but she agrees anything is possible in the land of grandma nerves.

Why do we feel compelled to worry? My own opinion is that it is a way to convince oneself that we have some control and are actually doing something in lieu of nothing. Angst is our occupation. My daughter is handling the hands-on-care and nurturing, I’m worrying and doing a primo job. It’s what I do; it’s what I can do.

Let’s be honest there is virtually no end to the things about which a mother or grandmother can fret. My Aunt Hilda who died at ninety-one-years old always told me when children are born they sit on your knee and for the rest of your life they sit on your heart. I would like to say grandchildren, and if you’re lucky enough, great grandchildren must be added to the list.

Coming to terms that your children have jurisdiction over grandchildren is a hard pill to swallow, but a necessary one. I am making a valiant effort to curb my stress time, but frankly I don’t see a way to live worry free, especially in this new world.

However, I have learned as life gets shorter, enjoying every day and not borrowing trouble is the best way forward and I shall valiantly limp along toward that goal. Somehow despite my desire to be free of concern is devoutly to be wished, it is as much a part of me as the liver spots on my hands.

I guess I could fake it til I make it…Oops so sorry, gotta go. They are interrupting the news to say there is a chance of rain today. I better text my daughter and tell her, they drive crazy in LA when even one drop of water hits the ground.

Easy Healthy Eggplant Spinach Bake

1 extra large Eggplant or two medium or three smaller ones

1 bundle of fresh spinach or 2 boxes of frozen drained well

2 ½ cups of marinara sauce (homemade or jarred) I choose the kind with the least amount of salt

¼ cup of fat free milk

1 tsp. of garlic powder

1 tsp of basil

Ricotta cheese

½ cup of shredded mozzarella

A sprinkle of Parmesan optional before serving

1 whole egg and 1 egg white

Peel and slice eggplants and salt lightly than put them in a colander to drain the water out.

Meanwhile, prepare the spinach mixture in a mixing bowl by adding milk, egg and egg white, sauce, garlic and basil. Mix well and add spinach and mix through.

Using a 9×13 baking dish place 2 tablespoons of plain marinara sauce to coat bottom.

Place first layer of eggplant to fill dish and should hold approximately 6 large slices but maybe more if smaller. Fill in open spaces with pieces of eggplant.

Place 1 tablespoon of skim mile Ricotta cheese on top of each slice. Drizzle with approximately a quarter teaspoon of shredded mozzarella.

Add a second slice on top sandwich style and push down a bit to ensure Ricotta is distributed on layer.

Sprinkle with a drizzle of mozzarella again. Cover the eggplant sandwiches with spinach mixture till everything is coated.

Cover and bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle rest of mozzarella over top and bake another ten minutes uncovered.

Use a teaspoon of grated Parmesan over top before serving if desired unless you need to limit salt.

Yield six large servings. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Funny Peculiar? Or Funny Ha Ha?

 

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Mrs. Dorothy Sherock, one of my elementary school teachers was fond of asking, “There’s two kinds of funny, funny ha ha and funny peculiar, which are you?”

It wasn’t exactly the same as Thoreau warning about the unexamined life not being worth living, but it stuck, and to this day I still repeat it frequently. And yes I have come to note that we are all at various times both funnies.

So when I say, “funny isn’t it how I can so easily remember the past, yet yesterday’s lunch is a distant memory?” It’s not the funny ha, ha one to which I allude.

Actually it is (funny peculiar here) how so many of the things we remember are of our own selection. Memories seem to change over time, perhaps colored by later life experience and our own desires to rewrite certain events in our history we’d have chosen to see end otherwise.

I do make an effort to linger on the happy times and, although yes, I know there were many of both, the others, well, they just make me run for the Kleenex box. So what’s the good of remembering the bad stuff? Why should I kill a tree when I have the option of choosing happy?

I remember the day when my daughter had her first sonogram and the light of my life was six and one half weeks old. Laurie saw the heartbeat on the monitor as a flash of light. I cried. It drives my children crazy that I am a non-stop faucet.

Sometimes memories live on in real life. My grandfather had a sister, Auntie Dora. I don’t recall a great deal about her apart from her physical attributes, since she always seemed old to me. At least I remember her that way. But the thing my brother Marty and I remember about her most was that she cried constantly. You’d simply say hello Auntie Dora and she began sobbing. Her nose was constantly red and her reputation as the walking water works lives on in family legend.

When Laurie was a toddler we went to mother toddler classes attached to the building where my Auntie Dora lived. She was such a sweet lady, she would walk over the days we were there to watch Laurie in class and of course Laurie knew her as the aunt who cried all the time.

Alas, it seems I have inherited her crown as the family sob sister. When I am touched by a momentary burst of sentiment, it is always accompanied by laughter and an “Okay Auntie Dora, stop with the tears.” I’m afraid I may actually outdo myself now and become the subject of much mocking and Auntie Dora allusions. Shall I tell you the truth while paraphrasing Clark Gable and Leslie Gore? “Frankly, my dear family, I don’t give a damn. This is my grandchild and I’ll cry if I want to.”

The most special thing about grandchildren is how much their opinions count. The other day as my grandson busily built a robot filled with buttons, cables and all such wiry thingamajigs, I watched in awe.

“You’re so smart,” I said. “Grammy wouldn’t know how to put that together.”

He looked up and said, “ Why not Grammy, you’re smart?”

I have received as all of us, the occasional compliments in my life, yet never was I as struck by pure joy as when my Grandson called me smart. It was as if his words validated every positive trait I ever suspected I possessed. Forget my university degree, my grandson’s opinion is what matters.

I know we’re taught not to let the opinions of others influence the way we feel about ourselves, but in our grandchildren’s case, I believe that is a whole different ball game.

Hearing the words, Grammy you make the best cookies or “Grammy I love your fried chicken,” or “Grammy this is the best gift I ever got,” well need I say more?

Your heart explodes with joy at the sound of a compliment from those little faces.

So you’ll forgive me if I pull out my Kleenex and begin the Auntie Dora sobbing routine when I receive love and hugs from the loves of my life. And if you can keep from crying when they say, “Grammy you’re the best,” then you’re a better man than I am Gunga Din.

And so Mrs. Sherock if I am funny peculiar at times, so be it. Oops, gotta get more Kleenex. Hmmm, are they putting fewer sheets in these boxes now?

 

Pistachio Fig Mandalcotti

1 cup of sugar

1 cup of oil

3 eggs

1 tablespoon of vanilla

1 teaspoon of baking powder

½ teaspoon of salt

½ teaspoon of cinnamon

3 ¼ cups of flour

1 ½ cups of chopped figs

1 ½ cups of chopped shelled pistachio nuts

Preheat oven to 350

Add the baking soda, salt and cinnamon to the flour and set aside

Mix together the oil and sugar until well blended and add vanilla to eggs and add to oil sugar mixture. Continue mixing until well incorporated and lighter in color about four minutes or so.

Slowly add flour mixture and check consistency. Dough should stand on in peaks, but not be stiff. If it is too soft add another tablespoon of flour otherwise it will bake too flat.

Add figs and nuts

And mix for twenty seconds. You can finish mixing by hand.

I put parchment paper of a baking sheet and divide dough into quarters. Wetting your hands when you make a roll from the dough helps handle it. Place four rolls on the sheet and pat edges and top until they are uniform. Sprinkle a little sugar on the top and place in the oven. Bake until done about 20 or 25 minutes depending on the size of the rolls.

Remove from the oven and let sit about five minutes, but don’t cool. Cut into slices and separate and lower the oven temp to 200 and return them into the oven for about fifteen or twenty minutes. If you like them crispier than leave them in until they are your desired crispness.

 

 

Eating for Two and Lazy Grammy Bobka Hack

 

bobkaSpeaking of weight and what woman isn’t doing just that most of her life, is it permissible for me to add a few sympathy pounds to this mix? When my daughter is pregnant shouldn’t I be able to eat more as well? After all, they cut fathers some slack here with the whole “eating for two sympathy for their wives,” why not the grandma? Can I begin eating for two also, discounting the whole “I finally lost my menopause weight thing” and reverting instead to this great new excuse to feed my face ad nausea?

When I was pregnant I didn’t miss a meal, snack or any chance to shove food into my never-nauseous face. My body didn’t even have the decency to have morning sickness. It’s almost like it defied me with a big “Ha, ha did you think you would just throw up for nine months and get off the hook? No way. You eat; you pay.” And pay I did. I prayed for morning sickness, at least for three months. After all, I had friends who were throwing up every meal. Looking thin and fabulous with a baby bump while I burgeoned up like a walrus in my third month. I was certain I was delivering a litter despite my doctor’s assurance that, “no, there was only one baby in there.”

Once the pregnancy muumuus went on, the keys to the fridge came off, and there wasn’t enough food on planet earth to fill the void that had become my mouth. Black holes in space absorb less matter.

I rationalized every excuse to eat. Why not? I finally had one. After years of playing the Yo Yo weight game, it was okay to stuff my face. When I noticed people’s jaws dropping at the sight of my immense new girth, I would reply, I’m pregnant and they would feel guilty and say, “Congratulations. How nice.”

After Laurie was born I continued to embrace the baby pounds excuse, since it had worked so beautifully in the past. I would run into people and they would say, “Wow did you gain weight,” because everyone is so nice they will always point that out in case you didn’t notice you were up five sizes. But I would patiently repeat, “Well I just had a baby” and they would embarrassingly say, “Oh, that’s nice.”

That worked great until my baby started driving. So I finally lost my “Baby” weight. And 35 years later, I only have 22 pounds to go. Although new grandmother weight may be adding to my problem.

If one is feeling well during pregnancy many, including myself enter what I call, rationalize highway. There are so many great excuses on this road to feed your face shamelessly and constantly.

 

I’m eating for two, three or four as the case may be. (An oldie but a goodie).

My doctor said I have to gain at least twenty pounds. Could you get me his address and phone number please I’d like to make him my diet guru.

The baby needs all kinds of foods to develop healthy. In other words that grazing smorgasbord you call dining, can be even greater now.

Elastic stomachs and waistbands. Although, now many pregnant moms wear regular clothes in a larger size, totally doable with the new stretchy fabrics.

I have cravings and I really need to have two hot fudge sundaes a day. Can I help it if the baby loves ice cream and chocolate together? Shall I deny my unborn child what it needs to be happy?

I can’t see my feet, so what does it matter?

Are you going to finish that sandwich and fries?

Is it my fault if this restaurant is serving smaller portions lately?

I swear this licorice used to have more pieces in the bag. I’m calling the company.

And of course the ever popular…my boobs are itching and Cheetos stops the hormones from attacking.

Contrary to the opinion after one experiences menopause the bloating and monthly impressions of Satan’s mistress subside, one is faced with a new set of challenges. Weight gain is not relegated to a monthly occasion, but daily.

I have had to prohibit myself from entering a bakery as more than three sniffs of a cupcake will bring on bloating.

Pounds go on so quickly if you blink you feel your pants tighten. Even the most determined elastic waist couldn’t win the battle of the bulge.

There is simply no way to describe the feeling of sloshing as you walk. Men do not understand the unpleasantness of becoming a mobile fishbowl one week out of every month. And after menopause even more. What can you do when the only thing that will fit over your body is the Santa Monica Pier?

Life stops. You can’t date or go to a party with your friends. Lest anyone see your bloated carcass attempting to fit into jeans that once circled your hips like the moons of Jupiter circle the planet, softly, sensually. You‘re squeezed inside like a size ten sausage in a size five casing. You are depressed and sullen, and can’t smile because your cheeks look like a squirrel hiding the winter’s stash of nuts. Your jewelry’s embedded into your skin like the Enquirer in Cher’s plastic surgeon’s files. You even walk slower for fear of dripping on the carpet.

In all my days I have never heard a man say, “I can’t go to the football game, I’m bloated. “Yet women’s lives revolve around water and weight gain. We are possessed by the need to feel our clothes loosely encircling our bodies. We crave cheeks that are gaunt and sunken in like Kate Moss after a fast. We need bones, not puff. Who else but a woman would be complimented and elated by the remark, “You‘re so skinny, are you sick?”

We starve ourselves before every party or vacation to lose a few pounds in advance of the inevitable bloating. Every invitation is laced with fear whatever we buy will not fit on us on that particular day. We strive to look skinny in the pictures from every event just so after we’ve gained the weight back months later we can feel even worse about ourselves every time we see the photos.

Is this any way to live? Crazy? Worried about the wetness of our cells? Sloshing through life like a pair of wet socks dreading more rain. I absorb humidity from the air like thighs absorb cellulite.

Okay. So by now you are thinking, what’s your point, Grammy? You do an awful lot of bitching. Can’t you just adjust to the fact you will never be skinny again and your grandchildren don’t care?

Okay, that’s true, but here’s my point. I don’t want to piss off any feminists here, but God is a man. Reality check please; if God were a woman would celery contain only five calories and Dove Bars 10,000? Would we crave chocolate and not carrots? Would there be Monday Night Football. I THINK NOT!!!!

I do feel the need to be constructive and positive here. Okay, so maybe a bit of my daughter’s organic insanity has sunk in so here’s a few tips passed on to me.

What will help bloat? And no a pin will not as I’ve tried. Exercise does help, but not at first. If you begin an exercise program be prepared to retain some water in your muscles at first. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just further proof of the old adage no good deed goes unpunished. But after your body gets used to exercising, it releases the water. I guess it’s a damage deposit.

Drinking lots of water also helps. People always told me to do just that, but my first instincts on bloat days were to cut my water intake to nothing. However, if you drink your body is fooled into a false sense of security. It thinks it has plenty of water in storage and releases some of its stash. Ha ha fooled ya.

This usually works unless you overdose on salt. Salt is the enemy here. We crave salt, I know, but it’s bad to eat an excess because it contributes to bloating in a big way. Little salt crystals run madly through your body grabbing water drops and looking for places to hide. Hey,

you can’t find me, I’m hiding in your boobs. See how big and tender they are and you can’t have my water. Ooh, I hate salt! It’s so evil. But that doesn’t stop me from pouring it on everything that doesn’t move.

Asparagus is a good diuretic. Most vegetables are good at helping the body release water naturally. And lest we forget, coffee, unless you drink more than you should, coffee will act as a good water release. Some people swear by parsley tea. Try the health food store.

I have also found that carbohydrates have a tendency to cause water retention. I don’t get rid of much of anything when I eat pasta, except my craving for pasta. That’s gone, but unfortunately not for long. I just can’t eat many carbs, as they are too much at home in my body. They sort of drop by and stay, like unwanted relatives. I have the midriff bulge to prove this theory. I absolutely refuse to discuss pizza as the mere mention of it brings on serious cravings.

Of course you can do all of the things you can think of to lose weight and decrease bloating, but I highly recommend the following: drop by and see your grandchildren, wear elastic pants and bake something for them. As long as you’re healthy it really doesn’t matter at all

Lazy Grammy Bobka Hack

This is great to make with your grandchildren!

Yields two Bobkas

2 loaves of frozen Challah

Two fillings you can use either

First filling instant hazelnut spread or chocolate spread.

Second option homemade chocolate filling

Filling ingredients

1 12 ounce bag of chocolate chips. I use semi sweet, but if you like it sweeter use milk chocolate.

½ cup of unsweetened cocoa

¼ or 1/2 cup of sugar depending on your sweetness taste level

1 stick plus 1 tablespoon of butter or margarine

Place in microwave until melted (about 1 minute or so) and remove and stir together. Let cool so not too warm when spreading on dough.

1 egg and water for wash

Grease bread loaf pan or cookie sheet

Thaw the dough and when thawed and pliable roll our on a floured surface into a rectangle. It should be about twice the length of your loaf pan.

Gently spread on your filling in a thin layer and roll the dough from bottom to top like a cinnamon bun.

After rolled up cut in half and braid the two pieces together.

Spread the top with an egg wash of an egg and a little water and sprinkle with sugar.

OPTIONAL: I made a streusel topping of sugar, butter and flour and then sprinkled it on.

Tip: For those who like sweeter dough just sprinkle sugar over dough before rolling.

Let dough rise for another fifteen minutes before baking in a 340 degree oven or whatever your bread dough calls for.

ENJOY and prepare to be amazed.