Resolving to Remember Sara Lee

 

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Resolving to Remember Sara Lee

With the New Year comes resolutions. Yes, we all make them whether silently or out loud they creep into our mind with the stealth ability of a Russian spy satellite. And they are there, embedded into our psyche lurking and smirking while we valiantly attempt to live up to our goals.

Good luck with that one.

Talk about setting oneself up for failure. Of course we all wax nostalgic at this time and, of course, the smartest resolution would be to break all your New Year’s resolutions, thereby setting oneself up for achievable success.

How do you keep a resolution? If you ask most people, they don’t.

Because of all the craziness of the last year, one might ponder the best way to ease into 2020. A new decade filled with new hope, but for what? How easy does life get when one finally realizes that the force Obi Won wished would be with you is gravity, and it is no friend to anyone over the age of 35.

The passing of time, thankfully, usually goes unnoticed. Most people mark the passage of years with key events in their lives. A wedding, baptism, Bar Mitzvah, divorce.

Yet looking back, it’s sometimes the small things we remember most: a smile from someone we love, a first kiss, the first time our baby writes on the walls with a marker, the first insult from our mother-in-law.

If it’s true we don’t realize what we’ve lost until it’s gone and never wake up until it’s too late, this may be a good time to take stock of what’s important, what makes us happy. Things we have previously taken for granted, like privacy. Hold on, I have to re-tape the front of my computer because they, whoever they are, are watching.

Okay, I’m back.

Taking for granted the friends who are there for us through bad times is a normal human characteristic; some more than others are guilty of this transgression. Perhaps a good resolution would be to just love and appreciate the people in our life who make it better and eliminate the toxic energy.

Oops, just a second, there is a drone outside my window and I need to close the blinds. That’s better.

It used to be automatic to just reach into the freezer at the grocery store and toss the Sara Lee Brownies into my basket. I never thought much about the process. (We all do it—hoping no one notices that you are buying something fattening when you should be dieting.)

Once home, the brownies were always perfectly melted, ready to open and scrape the chocolate off the lid.

You’d cut a small square, but sometimes you found yourself cutting too deeply and making a slit in the aluminum tray. No problem, they never leaked through once back in the freezer.

So many memories, so many bad moments, so many broken things Sara Lee fixed.

She was always there.

Those chocolate brownies existed for a reason; they served a purpose and worked. They comforted and caressed each weary problem with a chocolate snuggle.

I can’t remember the exact moment I reached into my grocer’s freezer to grab a tray and they were gone. Maybe they’re out of them, I thought. I’ll try next time.

I searched the store for a substitute.

There was none.

How could this be happening?

The next week I tried again.

Not there.

A week later a different store.

No Sara.

I was filled with a sinking feeling, an inkling of doom that perhaps something bad had happened. Yet it was true.

No more Sara Lee Frozen Brownies.

No more help for a bad day, PMS, tight jeans or a haircut from hell. No chocolaty friend to comfort me in my time of cocoa need. No brownie shoulder to cry on.

I hadn’t appreciated what I had and now it was gone.

The thought still plagues me that perhaps more than Sara Lee Brownies have slipped out of my life.

What else have I missed? What other treasures have escaped my notice while I wasn’t looking?

Where am I most of the time? Where are we all? What are we paying attention to anyway?

What’s that? Oh my Lord, a pop up just jumped up on screen with a picture of a blouse I looked at online a week ago. “Get thee gone, Google!”

Okay I’m back, so if Sara came back, would I appreciate her now? Can any of these questions ever be answered?

Probably not, so I’ll just move on.

New Year is always a time to look back and take stock of what was, and plan for what may be.

How to best do this is a great feat and yet I shall attempt to do so.

I will strive to:

Start off the year happy. Make resolutions that are easily doable and resolve to be nicer to me and everyone else.

We all make mistakes; I have a list longer than Harvey Weinstein’s victims. Next time I want to beat myself up, I’ll remember there are enough people waiting in line to do it for me. Call someone to beat you up and there is always someone to oblige.

So how do we make it a great year, even without Sara Lee?

I’m going to download a favorite song from high school or college then play it in the car extra loud with the window down.

Reinvent myself. This is something so easy for a woman to do. A new hairstyle or color, a new lipstick, nail polish or new Spanx and I’m good to go.

Men well, not much to do there, but the proverbial new red sports car is still a good choice.

I won’t resolve to lose or gain weight! Pressure is the worst thing for diets. I have embraced what I call retail cardio. I go to the mall and walk around shopping for hours.

Great exercise and it’s fun. I don’t even realize I’m moving around and doing something healthy.

I’ll call someone with whom I’ve lost touch and wish them a ‘Happy New Year.’

I imagine it’s a good thing to take stock of the things that aren’t as I’d want them to be. If there are changes that need to be made in a job, home, appearance or relationships, make the changes. Nothing has to move in an instant; change does take time so I’ll have to practice patience.

Know the difference between what can and cannot be changed and find a way to deal with what cannot. That’s a toughie for sure.

Start each day with ten minutes for myself. Do yoga, meditate, pray, listen to a favorite song, have a special blend of coffee, but start each day on a positive note.

I always try to combine unpleasant or tedious routine chores with favorite things. While paying bills, I play a favorite CD or watch a favorite movie.

“What’s that SIRI? No, I don’t want to make a call right now!”

I shall attempt to eat one—only one—forbidden food a week and once a week won’t play havoc with my diet.

I’ll save a five dollars a week and at Christmas time buy some toys for needy children with the money.

I will compliment strangers, because they may be having a bad day and kind words may be just what they need to feel better.

Maybe a new hobby; it’s relaxing. Take up painting…what if Picasso had put things off this long?

I’ll buy beads and make that amazing necklace I’ve been dreaming about.

Eat more chocolate and try a new dessert recipe.

Resolve to see the glass ‘half full.’ Negative thoughts breed negative results. Life shouldn’t be such a battle. I’ll lay back and let life happen sometimes. The earth will revolve without me controlling it each second.

There is a lesson to be learned from the demise of Sara Lee Brownies. This year I’m stocking my freezer with Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia.

I must promise myself to appreciate the people I love and care about, before they too are taken off the supermarket shelves.

Just a minute, Alexa wants to tell me something. “Excuse me! I do not look especially bloated today.”

Sorry everyone, but I have to make a trip to the garbage to throw something away so have a fabulous new year.

“Come to Momma, Alexa, I just want to take you on a little trip…”

A very happy and healthy New Year and new decade, everyone!

 

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Driving in L.A.— Kobe’s Death

 

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Driving in L.A.: Kobe’s Death

As I was attempting to drive in Los Angeles this morning while cars refused to let me turn, blocked intersections, cut me off, or refused to acknowledge when I let them cut in front of me, and everyone sped through traffic like they were a brain surgeon with a patient lying waiting on an operating table, I was taken by the amount of coverage about the terrible and untimely death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna. As a writer I turn to my words to express my feelings in response to tragedy and I am grateful to share them with you.

It struck me that when a celebrity dies, especially young ones, there are two kinds of grief, public and personal. Most of us only experience personal grief when we pass away. Our demise is shared with family and friends who hopefully will mourn our death and passing from this world with sadness and a sense of loss.

Yet when a celebrity dies, his or her family and friends must share their pain with the entire world.

I wondered if that enormous outpouring of grief affects a family’s ability to deal with tragedy.

There are many who believe prayer sends out energy into the world. Healing thoughts and prayers actually make a difference to the mourners and enhance their strength through the difficult process of losing a loved one. Or in Kobe’s family two loved ones. Is their healing magnified by the energy from all the prayers, or is it perhaps the same for everyone whether they have millions of prayers coming toward them or even one.

What is the power of prayer and how does it increase exponentially by numbers?

I’m not a member of the clergy or a faith healer so I can only go by my own personal experience.

I do believe that in a celebrity death the process is helped by the community prayers and healing in the form of shared pain.

I shall use as an example the death of John F. Kennedy since that is the most public grief I have ever witnessed in my lifetime and personally affected me so greatly.

How did Americans and the world deal with Kennedy’s death?

We sobbed, we watched the television and cried even more as we witnessed his family’s grief. I don’t believe I will ever be affected by any public grieving as much as the sight of John F. Kennedy Junior saluting as his father’s coffin passed. If there is a definition in Webster’s for heart wrenching I’d say it was John John, an image of that week which every American will forever carry in their memories.

The grief I felt couldn’t be dissipated due to the countless times his death was replayed on TV screens, in photographs and countless conversations with everyone and anyone.

Even to this day I still tear up whenever November 23rd nears, remembering vividly that day, that moment when Walter Cronkite, removing his glasses unsuccessfully fought back tears while making the historical announcement. Anyone of my generation can tell you with pinpoint accuracy where they were when it happened and how they felt.

Of course a presidential assassination is quite different from other celebrity deaths.

Most of us do however recall hearing the bad news of a high-profile death.

When John Lennon was killed, John John, Princess Diana, Ronald Reagan was shot, Frank Sinatra succumbed to a heart attack or even when Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson succumbed to their addictions.

Does public grieving help heal or is it merely a shared pain with others and does nothing to minimize one’s own? Watching William and Harry following their mother’s casket at the funeral was a painful sight, yet it was her sons that have lived without their mother and obviously in light of recent events, still suffer the pain. I’d like to believe that the outpouring of prayer for them helped at that moment, at least a bit.

In most religions there are mourning periods to help the family process the loss before returning to their lives. I imagine therein lies the difference. While there is always some comfort in the communal sharing of pain and grief, when the mourning period is over it is only the family and closest friends that are left to deal with the gaping hole in their existence.

As his many fans and friends mourn Kobe’s death still it is his family that must live the day-to-day moments without him and his daughter.

It was Jackie Kennedy, her children and the Kennedy clan that were reminded moment to moment of his loss. Yes the American people mourned him, but we went on with our lives and daily routines, sadder, but still carrying out business as usual while his family could not.

I don’t pretend to be an expert at understanding grief, I only know that it is a great equalizer in the human condition; one of the emotions that transcends culture, religion or gender. A broken heart has no color, political bias or religious affiliation, and reacts to pain exactly the same in every human, unless of course they are seriously mentally flawed.

I try valiantly to avoid involving myself in politics for I am quite aware that today’s enemy is tomorrow’s best buddy and the winds of affiliation shift with the frequency of a Kardashian husband. Yet, if Kobe’s death brings one point home it is this…in times of pain and suffering it is our fellow human beings we turn to for comfort, and perhaps we must keep that reality in mind when living our everyday lives.

Not in a preachy way, but I am so aware living in a city like L.A. so misnamed as the city of angels, that we need to smile more at strangers, say thank you when someone lets us cut into traffic and speak nicely to people who pass through our lives each day. A kind word or compliment to a someone can go a long way to brightening a day.  I try to silently repeat to myself at least twice a day, I am grateful for all I have and especially for the people in my life.

If we live each moment as though it were to be the last this would be a more loving and giving world. These are thoughts shared over and over by almost everyone, yet seem too quickly forgotten,

I have always believed the grim reaper has the largest Rolodex in the universe and when it’s your time to leave he knows where to find you.

I hope for all of you that when he does, he will find you smiling and with a heart filled with love.

Rest in peace Kobe, Gianna and all of those who’ve left loved ones behind. Perhaps we can best honor the dead, by embracing and revering all the good in life.

 

 

 

 

 

Driving in L.A.

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                                             Driving in L.A.

 

 

Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”   Sun Tzu

 

Yes, life is a battleground. Or is it love? Actually I’d say both. I’m originally from Detroit and tough is part of what I am and why I have fought so hard to overcome the numerous obstacles we all find in our way when we are seeking another road to travel. Being born in Los Angeles is almost a handicap of sorts since it is a land of suspended reality.

But on to new roads that seem fraught with unknown debris and challenges, that at times seem almost insurmountable. And I suppose that is the point of it all, to move forward and slay greater and more illustrious and star-studded dragons.

In Detroit we build them Ford tough. It was never mandated in the charter of course, but for some reason in the DNA of Detroiters there exists a piece of its history. The toughness that created an industry that moves the world. Hard work innovation and steely resolve is what floated in the air and seeped into each of us.

There are days I wonder if even a great and wise warrior like Sun Tsu could navigate the streets of LA.

Sure the saying goes if you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere, yet I have come to believe New York is a city of pussies when compared to Los Angeles.

Navigating Lalaland is a metaphor for overcoming the trials and tribulations of life. The roadblocks, sinkholes, sheer volume of traffic preventing you from reaching your appointed destination, perfectly describes what we all face each day. Yet L.A. magnifies all the craziness that is the human condition, the joy, struggles, pain, passion and heartbreak. Driving in L.A. is an exercise is sheer determination and one that requires a strength and humor beyond human endurance.

So why you ask do I brag about my Motown roots? Selfishly I am sick and tired of telling people I am from Detroit and having them look at me like I’m about to pull a gun on them.

Of course we all look fondly back on our childhood homes and a part of us wants to run back and hide under our bed to make the world disappear. It seemed safe and cozy when we were young and even for a short time, innocent. So I imagine it’s the temptation to return to that time before we knew what life was really about and how badly we could be hurt that draws us home.

The mislabeling gods are hard at work trying to convince us that there is something called the golden years. This is a time in our lives when we’re supposed to be able to reap the benefits of a life long lived to relax and enjoy. But is simply filling our days living? Is it enough to keep busy finding ways to occupy our life and is filling our days equal to filling our potential.

Of course there are many among us of a certain age that would argue that they are happy indeed simply filling their days as they choose. Playing golf, taking wine classes, maj jonging, bridging or mall walking and lunching with friends. So many women in their golden years are alone now and many many by choice I might add, that the filling of days are far different from my mother’s generation.

I had always supposed the golden years would be spent in Boca where Jews once went to die while happily decorating the condo, fighting with the condo board and schlepping to early bird specials and out with friends.

But are the best-laid plans actually the best plans after all? Are the different parts of life the same for everyone and if we could choose a certain life does that necessarily mean it will come to pass?

When I was a child it seemed plans were easier to carry out. I saw my parent’s generation plan for retirement and achieve their vision. There was far less divorce, and widows and single women seemed to pair up with perfectly acceptable husbands in a very rapid time span so most weren’t alone for long. Today it is quite different. My single friends are still single. Cruises are filled with groups of friends traveling together and enjoying their freedom.

I suppose that begs the question what is freedom and is it good for everyone?

Because of the Feminist Movement it is now acceptable to travel alone, dine alone and generally live your life as you choose. Single women are not cast upon suspiciously as they once were and I will be the first to say I applaud the change.

Dating sites are filled with men and women who pretend to be looking for love, but are they really? Or are they simply trying to fulfill some ancient mating ritual that has outlived its usefulness. Men on these sites are like butterflies that flitter from one woman to another when a brighter one catches their eye.

When I first moved to L.A. a woman I met in a consignment store while I perused a divine pair of earrings said she would absolutely not become a nurse or a purse for any man.

At the time being naïve I wondered, are these the only two choices a single woman has? The options seemed as limited as the train schedule from Detroit to Cleveland

Is being alone as scary as our mother’s believed or is freedom actually preferable”

In this new age is a woman foolish to want to be unbound and free to choose how to spend her own time?

Is it ironic that in a time when the world is totally unsafe and scarier than ever women choose to plod about it by themselves? And if the old feeling of being protected by a man is truly archaic than what caused such a seismic shift in our golden year choices?

Navigating through life is much the same as sitting in the car with a husband that will not consult a map. Frustrating as hell as I recall, torn between winding up in some frightening deliverance scenario on an uncharted back road or becoming a nag of gargantuan proportions as you watch the road become more deserted and the gas tank move ever closer to empty.

Is it important to share your life with someone if that life is an unhappy one? Are too many women willing to give up too much of themselves to be with a man and if so is this a new phenomenon?

Questions, questions, questions. Is part of being a liberated woman the freedom to ask the questions our mothers never would or could?

Am I enough for myself or do I need a man to complete me?

Will my life be lonelier and emptier without my husband?

Can I live a rich full life alone or is it some ancient human instinct to bond and be part of a pair?

Adam and Eve I guess. After all weren’t they the first evidence of the fact that marriage is nothing if not compromise? Even after she opened the door to Mr. Snake and got them thrown out of paradise, Adam was willing to stick, although there were obvious perks for him in that arrangement.

Is it easier to compromise when we’re young and still believe we have all the time in the world to make things perfect and right? Or as we get older do we more readily accept the fact compromise in a marriage or relationship is as rare as a supermodel downing a giant helping of bread pudding?

If as Kris Kristofferson says “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose, is it actually so much more to gain?

And what the hell does “Me Too” mean anyway? It’s truly a belittling phrase. It implies that someone comes before you and you are nothing more than a hanger on or Johnny-come-lately to the party. Much like a girl screaming at her big sister to take her along on a play date. Me Too! What genius concocted that one?

My generation called ourselves feminists and burned our bras. Well I confess I couldn’t burn mine because with my breasts I would have kicked myself to death. But I digress. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to say, Me First?

I have wrestled with the whole should I shouldn’t I become a part of a set again for years and as close as I’ve come to answering yes to that question something inside says run at the prospect. I’m not certain if that’s me, or just the new Los Angeles part in me talking, but I know it’s much easier here to be single. I can’t say how I’d feel if I lived somewhere else, but I don’t, so I needn’t worry about it. For the time being this girl is on her own and loving it.

And as Frankie Lyman once sang…why do fools fall in love? Sorry but you’re on your own for that one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

portobello

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.