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

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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?

 

final fig

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.