Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Oh Please.....

Comments from the Speaker of the House wrecked the Bailout Bill?  What have we come to???

What I Did This Weekend

My sister came up from Durham for the weekend.  We shopped, cooked, laughed and just hung out.  On Friday, our friend Gary, the gifted artist of Mather&Smith Designs (whose wonderful work I showed in this entry) came up for lunch and shopping.  I rearranged my sun room and needed a console table.  We first Burlington Coat Factory - nada.  We hit Home Goods #1 - nada. Stopped for noodle soup and coffee, then headed for Home Goods #2 (I live in shopping Mecca), and bingo - we found the console and an adorable little accent table, too!

IMG_1225 IMG_1227

Saturday - my sis went to our hair stylist - she's nicknamed her the "hair whisperer" and I stayed home to clean out my bedroom closet and hang new curtains in the bedroom.  It's really starting to look to nice now.  The new blinds are ultra-suede Roman shades..(note suitcase always in corner...the road warrior returns).


My new(ish) bed is leather...


We were supposed to go see Bill Maher, but I admit that after carting old hangers and donation clothes out to the garage, I was beat and I sorta fell asleep on the floor. 

Sunday was Family Dinner day.  The kids were coming home early, so we decided to make an early Rosh Hashanah dinner.  Sis and I made brisket, potato pancakes, braised cabbage and noodle kugel.  Ok, we bought the noodle kugel and I was sous chef for most of it, but here goes:

First we prepped and browned the side of beef brisket while preheating the oven to 300 degrees:




(note the chef's tongs expertly moving the brisket around the pan)

Next, we cut carrots and onion to put in the pan with roasting brisket


Then we browned the mushrooms:


and added everything into the pot:


Now, here is where the pain in the ass younger sister (me), complains how my sis trashes the kitchen whilst she cooks:


Her comment? All great chefs make a mess......

We covered the brisket with some veggie broth and crushed tomatoes in the pain (enough to braise), seasoned with salt, lemon pepper and bay leaf, then put it into the oven at 300 degrees and let it cook for about 1 1/2 hours.  At that time, she pulled it out and poured a can of coke *no diet please!!!* over the roast.  Back in for another 2 hours. 

We then set out to make the potato pancakes. We followed Joan Nathan's recipe.

Peeled potatoes:


hard to tell, but I cut my finger on the peeler....


Note my sister's exquisite knife technique - good to know that education went for something.....;-)


We cut up a bunch of scallions, grated the potatoes. Then, while sis was visiting with Mom, I squeezed the liquid out of the potatoes.  Then I grated a LARGE Vidalia onion and mixed it in with the potato.  Next, we whisked two eggs, sprinkled some flour in, salt pepper and scallions.  Sis formed pancakes and set to work.


We heated a healthy dose of canola oil in a pan (NOTE - this is NOT health food).



After we finished the batch of potato pancakes, it was time to take the meat out of the oven.  We made a roux and thickened the juices into a sauce for the meat. 


We had red cabbage braising in the red dutch oven in the rear of the picture. Sis made that in the morning before I got the camera out.   By now, the entire house smelled wonderful and we were all starving!!  Sis plated and .......




It was delicious!  I would show you the aftermath in the kitchen, but Sis threatened to break the camera...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Little Target Therapy

The prep in me cannot resist a couple of new sweaters for fall.....


and....sweater vest


And hoodies and sweater dresses for the kids....

Saturday, September 27, 2008

In Memoriam.....

Paul Newman died today at 82.  He was an incredible, if under-rated actor, a husband, father and philanthropist.  He was my first crush, and remained dear to me through out my adolescence, and as an adult, I respected his charitable activities, Newman's Own, the Hole-In-The-Wall Gang and his vigorous support of the Democratic Party.  His work with the Westport Playhouse was also another passion. 

Paul newman

I think I've seen most of his movies (Cool Hand Luke, Hud and Exodus were my favorites).  I adored and continue to adore him. Not only because he was beautiful, with those incredible blue eyes and killer smile, but also for his subtle acting, his commitment to his wife, his children and his charities.  In my eyes, he was perfect.  Rest well Paul, you will be forever missed.

Friday, September 26, 2008

How Can We Handle This Delicately?

I'm watching the debates and I'm sickened.  By the way this debate is going. Not really answering questions, McCain won't look at Obama (which is f**king racist, if you ask me)...and the lousy atmosphere of debates where candidates have to bash each other, and not discuss the true issues of WHAT THEY WILL DO. I am outraged.....why is it that we cannot have candidates engage in a battle of ideas, not this dirty mess. I'll grant you, that it's not as obnoxious as the 2000 debate, but this is ugly.  Perhaps I'm too much of an idealist. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A New Addition To The Family


Isn't it cute?

A Crash Course in Foreign Policy?

Sarah Palin meets with foreign leaders to get a crash course in foreign policy.  Meetings with the leader of the Afghan leader Hamid Karzai and Columbian President Alvaro Uribe and an hour long cram session with Henry Kissinger (who better, right?) are little more than photo ops.  Outside of introductions, what could she possibly learn? It was so orchestrated, so calculated, it had to make you laugh.  Karzai and Uribe have close ties with the Bush administration, no surprise there.  I'd like to see Palin meet with the leaders of the G8 (where half the leaders don't agree with us) and see how she fares.  What I do think was interesting was the meeting with Kissinger.  Obviously he's old school Republican, successful in the more subtle art of diplomacy - and also a Secretary State during the Vietnam war and rumored to be a major player of the bloody coup in Chile in the 70s.   What could he tell her in an hour?  Here's how to orchestrate a political coup and win a Nobel Peace Prize at the same time? Another photo-op.  What was the point of this?  It's obvious that McCain is experienced in foreign policy (although I don't agree with his views), and he's the one running for president - Introducing Ms. Palin to these leaders is nothing but a PR stunt and this PR stunt is, well, I don't want to bring up that awful joke again.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I just can't get started today.......

....Could it have been the three glasses of wine and ...um....two martinis I had last night??  No, kids, I'm not sitting at home alone in the dark drowning my sorrows.  I met my bestie, Devonshire Design, at a local watering hole that was having a "Wine, Women and Wisdom" night.  Only, there wasn't much wisdom to be had - unless you count our pontificating on the woes of the financial crisis.  After your second glass of wine, you're brilliant, right?   Anyway, the event was an excuse to pour mediocre wine, consume many little hors d'oeuvres, and to wait for the hostess to call your number for a door prize.  So, DD and I sat there and watched every table - and every person at every table - get called up to get a goody bag.  They called the numbers before ours, and after ours, but not ours.  Finally, the hostess announced that there were two tickets left in the bowl.  DD and I looked at each other - that mean one of us HAD to win the last prize.  She pulled out the ticket ...........and didn't call either number.  It was someone else who had won. We just howled.  It was our luck, wasn't it?*****

After the evening ended, we went down to the bar to chat about real things - DD is looking at downsizing (job, not her, she's already doing that and looks GREAT!), what the kids are up to, my new job and complicated life situations and our wandering roads of relationships (it hasn't been dull for either of us). That took the two martinis to complete.  So, here I am, fuzzy headed and lazy this morning, not able to really concentrate on the work in front of me, but happy I got to waste an evening with my bestie. 


*****  By the way, the numb-nut of a hostess had pulled the ticket out of the wrong bowl!  DD actually wound up winning lunch for two.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Returning to Recipes

It's been a while since I've posted any recipes - While Mom was in nursing home, I ate out more often than not. Now that she's home, I'm back to cooking.  It's like a bicycle, you never really forget.... ;-)

One of the great things about working at home is that I can actually make dinner and we can eat it together at a reasonable hour.  R's high school is literally across the street from our house, so even with the clubs and activities, she's home pretty early as is M.  Today, was a lovely spring day which made it okay to turn on the oven (when it's hot, I grill).   I decided to make Mahi-Mahi in parchment paper, sautéed kale with beans and the lovely potato recipe I got from Cathy over at Noble Pig

I prepped the potatoes - see the link above for prep photos.


Next, chopped the kale, a small onion, and some garlic. 


I sauteed the onion first


When the onion was translucent, added the garlic, the kale, a little vegetable broth. Tossed in a healthy pinch of dried oregano, red pepper flakes and sage


Cooked it down a little and added a drained and rinsed can of beans and let simmer (note - I used pinto here, but you can use navy beans or garbanzo beans)

Put the fish filet on a large piece of parchment paper on an ungreased cookie sheet, sliced lemon and tomato and arranged over top, followed by capers and s few sprigs of thyme:


Voila - and guess what start to finish was 40 minutes!


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I have officially become a geek.......

I'm in love...I admit it to the world.....the object of desire is not a man, or my kids (especially not this week), a handbag, shoes, or a watch.   It's a software program.  That's right kids, a SOFTWARE program.  You see, my thought process is usually something like this:

Margo's Thought Process

For an analytic person, I'm all over the place.  I start with a premise thought and as I work through the details, it's not unusual for me to work through multiple iterations as I find new pieces of information or rethink a process (or remember something else that I was supposed to do) until I get to my final destination - and even then I may go back and rethink it again.  My dear Boston buddy calls it navel gazing or rumination, but in reality, its rampant ADD. I can barely write a sentence without stopping to check out a website, read a headline, get a cup of coffee - honestly the inside of my head looks like a Family Circle cartoon where Jeffy goes looking for his lost sneaker.   Back at the new job, my task is to research and write analysis - lots of unstructured time which can be death for someone like me. 

To combat this, I have discovered Mind Mapper. It is a thought processing application that allows you to capture thoughts and arrange them in a flow chart/org charg/process chart that makes sense. It allows you to create relationships between thoughts so that you can support your hypothesis (Really sounding geeky now, aren't I??).  Essentially, it allows me to capture thoughts and ideas in any manner and turn the above spaghetti into this:

Testing Certification. Nice To Have Or Necessary.

Doesn't it look so orderly?  It simply reeks of an ordered thought process. What you don't see is that I've jumped all over the place, finding bits and pieces of information and shoving it in there until I can arrange it to make sense of it.  I've destroyed my last notebook. It will save my ass....at least until my Vyvance kicks in..

Sunday, September 7, 2008

I thought Sundays were supposed to be quiet.....

Saturday, T.S. Hanna hit NJ.  We got a good 3 to 4" of rain.  I was afraid that my new gazebo would float away (it's in the low area of the  yard); nope, it was fine.  Saw that as I walked into my kitchen - attempted to make coffee and found that the coffee maker broke.  XE#R$@#)%^&$.   As I struggled through a cup of tea (love tea, but first cup of the day HAS to be coffee), I was talking to my mom on the phone. She asked how we made out.  My response? 

"Oh fine........oh shit..."

I had walked out to my sun room and looked out the window to something that looked like this:



Only a lot more of it....and it looked a bit like this:glass

My son had carried in the cushions from the patio prior to the rain starting, but the poor kid forgot the umbrella (which was up).  There was a microburst - high wind gusts. It must have lifted up the umbrella and slammed it and the patio table back down on the patio. 
The glass top shattered all over my potted tomatoes and peppers and covered the patio.  My son was so upset - he was beside himself  that he had forgotten the umbrella.  I had to actually calm him down before we could clean it all up.  Thank God for shop-vacs. 

After we got it cleaned up, I ran to visit my mom, as I stopped to get snacks for my daughters' band meeting, the phone rang.  It was my mom, asking for hearing aid batteries - No problem there, there's a drug store next to the nursing home.  I get into the drugstore and the phone rings again.  Mom, again, asking for a salad from the local deli that's ten minutes in the opposite direction.  I had exactly an hour before the girls got to the house for the band meeting. Twenty minutes out for a salad let very little time to visit Mom, who's been having a difficult time, but I said okay.  Ran back, got the salad and run back to the nursing home (when you don't drive, you don't realize there's a GAS CRISIS going on).  It's packed, so I have to park at the end of the employee lot and hustle my way up to see her.  We get to visit for 22 minutes and then I have to run back.  While the girls are setting up, I grab a couple of quiet minutes to scan the headlines, then book back out to buy a coffee maker - there is NO way that I will wake up tomorrow to a cup of tea.  Got back replaced the coffee maker and started to pull together dinner.  Noted the late time (after 5) and called down to the daughter to ask the game plan.  "Well, would you mind if they stayed?"  Of course not....Ordered a couple of pizzas (so great for my diet) and roasted a few veggies (have to give them SOMETHING healthy).  Here are the budding superstars:


R is the drummer (Don't they remind you of Josie and the Pussycats?).   After a few hours of playing, eating, drinking sodas, eating chips and salsa and blasting my stereo - an old Sansui stereo that still kicks ass, thank you very much - I started to look like this:


Note the eyes...the grimace...the fact that I'm thinking my Detroit Tigers' baseball cap is a decent fashion accessory.  Ahhh...I think I found something that will remedy the situation:



It's called a Presbyterian,  after all, it IS Sunday.......

Friday, September 5, 2008

Train to Boston

I love taking the train.  Early in my career, I would take it to NYC for work on Wall Street (Smith Barney, Gruntal & Co, Quick & Reilly - anyone who worked in finance in the late 80s knew those names).  Later on, I would either go to Boston for my old/current employer, or to DC for my previous employer.  The vibe on these trains are totally different. Now, when I had a lower per diem, it was Metroliner all the way - with parents, students, working folks.  Then, when time became more of a premium,  the Acela became my transit of choice. 

I love the Acela - 90 mins to NY, 90 mins to DC - it was great.  The trips from Philly from DC were always most interesting. I've shared many a commute with Senators Bob Casey and Arlen Spector of PA, current VP candidate Joe Biden and on the rare occasion, Governor Corzine of NJ (he tends to drive).  I've sat with many lobbyists, junior office workers and software geeks like myself, trying to sell more software to the Department of Defense (weirdo seeing that I am a pacifist). 

Today I'm heading back up to Boston to start back at my old/current employer. It's a long, now boring story on why I left, I'm just glad to be back.  My point here today is the ride.  It is the most civilized way to travel on the east coast.  When you're a lucky enough camper to get the first class bump, it's as close to what I've read train travel was like in the 30s, 40s and maybe even 50s.  You get redcap service.  I've done the Acela route so many times, to both Boston and Philly, the redcaps recognize me and ask after me.  There's no promise of extra service and that's not the point. It's the pleasantry, the politeness of the process that makes it so human (when was the last time anyone asked anything polite of you on an airline????).  You get a drink, cocktail or otherwise and a menu. There is linen service and its human.  If I got a PBJ, that would be fine because of the civility of the whole process.

I ordered a small bite, which was a wonderful smoked fish platter.  It was fresh, the lemon was fresh - incredible.  Looking out the window, I see Trenton fly by and in no time we're in Newark - which, if you ignore the grime, is a beautiful old station.  There are exposed gothic beams, the flipping station numbers (anyone who stood in Penn Station knows that rat-a tat-tat sound of the train information rolling up the station board).  Then you go over the Hudson River and into New York.  it's not beautiful here, the industrialization has taken the natural beauty away, but the industrial workings here has a beauty of its own. It may be a New Jersey thing.

Connecticut is flat our beautiful. Your cell phone won't work - maybe its the income level ratio to cell phone tower, but forget getting a call in CT.  Doesn't matter because the view outside your window is lovely.  Lots of water, boats and it fills your mind with preppy thoughts.  I would love to live in the flats down there, seeing water out of three sides of the house - it looks peaceful.  Rhode Island, more of the same, then 20 minutes later, you're in Boston.  You can work the whole way, if you have a mobile card, you're connected just about the whole way.  With more then half of the flights between Philly and Boston delayed or canceled, why travel any other way?

Monday, September 1, 2008

New Beginnings and Old Demons

Well, I'm back online. Let me clarify - I'm back online with a computer that I don't have to wrestle away from teenagers.  I'm getting ready to leave in a couple of hours for Boston, to restart my old job.  My feelings are mixed - I cannot wait to get started with the job - even though I know it can be overwhelming and full of pressure - I just really feel my best with this type of work and to get paid to research, write and express my opinion? Well, for me it's a good fit. I had to leave it for a while to realize that.  We all laugh about nerd revenge - that is what this job is - nerd revenge. It's fun working with the smartest people you know.  I set up my old office and for being in a lousy basement, it doesn't look so bad.  There's a Brady Bunch rec room feel to it.

I spent most of August absolutely alone.  Some of it by choice.  I got to play more golf in the last three weeks than I have in the last two years.  I needed it. Golf is therapeutic for me, believe it or not.  I may be only an average golfer, but when I do connect - it's wonderful.  My kids were off to finish various vacations and they are gone today.  I spent a lot of time with myself.   Because Mom is still in nursing home, I barely cooked, ate at my local golf club most nights - which meant I spent too much and drank a little too much. Not too much in a sitting, but more frequently than I normally would.  With job starting in 24 hours, that has been put away as part of vacation lore. 

I willingly shunned social activity - a couple of close friends who forced me to come over to their houses (and for that I am grateful) even when I hemmed and hawed.  If you weren't in front of my face, you weren't going to see me. It took a hammer hit to the head to make me notice anything and I thank the few who physically came and got me and made me hang out - it was wonderful and I needed it.   Was I contemplating my future? No - well, not really.  Was I slowing down to read the teetering stack of books on my night stand?  Not really - although I did get through David Sedaris' latest and found it not as good as earlier work. Read Jen Lancaster's  Such a Pretty Fat, which made me go the gym for a week.  I spent more time with my kids, wandering through Philadelphia, going to farmer's market and going to the movies.  I spent most of my time filing for Medicaid and was happy to  see some of my old organizational ability has returned because it took me a week when it takes most people months to get it together. Mostly, I just was there, in the moment, whether I liked it or not.

I wish I could say that I emerged from the cocoon of depression that has been around me for the last couple of years.  I don't think I've broken totally free - not just yet, but I think the cocoon is cracked open because I may see slivers of light.  It could be just me doing a better job of coming to terms with the realities of my life and letting go of what I thought I wanted.  I got handed a full plate and not with the pretty food I wanted.  I'm sure my actions had much to do with what landed on my plate.  I have come to terms with the understanding that it's ME who has to add the seasonings and spice to make it palatable. I don't have to love it - but the force above (God, Yahweh, the Lady in the Moon, whoever) handed it to me because I need that sustenance to get through.  I need a way to figure out how not just to get by but to live.  That's the demon that still has its claws dug firmly into my shoulders.