A humorous, optimistic blog about Food, Family, Friends and Faith

Archive for June, 2011

Meet Cocoa

Meet Cocoa. She is a 2 year old spayed female cat with all her shots who needs a home. She is a free spirit, loves to climb and has her claws. She has only been an indoor cat until now, but I can’t see any reason why she couldn’t become an indoor/outdoor cat. She loves to play hunt (especially hunting ankles of owners carrying cat food cans).

Her mother (my sister) is getting married in July and moving to a house with a big, kitty-munching dog, so Cocoa needs a new home FAST. All the shelters in the area have said they won’t take her.

If you have space in your home and your heart, please send me an EMail ASAP. She’s currently located in Westchester County, NY, but is willing to travel if you are.

She comes with cat carrier, litter pan, water dispenser, food bowls and whatever food is left.

PLEASE consider making room for Cocoa. Thanks!!!


P.S. Did I mention she loves to climb??? She’d be fine outdoors after some conditioning.






The past few weeks have been ones of ambivalence. Excitement about the future combined with sadness over that which is ending. Many activities that have been the mainstays of my daily life have come to an end, or are coming to an end soon. My weekend job as church organist ended a few weeks ago (my decision). My years as a Girl Scout leader – finished Monday night. My years encouraging and helping my daughter with her school work – finished last Saturday with her graduation as valedictorian from high school. The months spent writing letters, sending EMail and making phone calls to New York politicians – ended last week with the signing into law of New York’s marriage equality law. I am looking at the future and it looks sort of – empty.

I had a tarot reading last week. Never one to discount the wisdom of other faiths, I was curious what the reading would show about my daughter, my mother and I. I actually laughed out loud when Akasha’s Heart flipped over the Death Card as the issue that “crosses” me. That is to say, the issue that is my challenge. Now, it is vital that you all know that the Death card doesn’t mean physical death (that’s reserved for the 10 of Swords), but rather new beginnings. Since so much change is going on around me, how I handle that change is my biggest challenge right now. Dang if she wasn’t right on the money!

How SHOULD I handle all the newness around me? What should I do now that my active participation is no longer required with either my daughter or my other girls, my scouts? How do I begin to relate to my husband now that Louise will be moving to college in less than two months? How should I restructure my life now that I have all this free time? Should I volunteer somewhere? Should I go back to school? Should I start a business? Should I get a hobby? Should I get a second job again? Should I move?

I have so many questions that I have no answers for yet. As the answers become apparent, I’ll move forward. In the mean time, I’m pondering the hobby question. What can I fill my extra time with right now that doesn’t involve eating, drinking, or a combination of the two?

A friend of mine makes kitchen scrubbies out of net bags – the kind you buy onions in. She cuts the bags into strips and crochets them into little kitchen and bath cleaning pads. Maybe I could do that with plastic grocery bags – I have a huge collection of grocery bags that I’ve been saving in the event of nuclear war. Maybe I could crochet something out of them – how about a scale model of the White House?

I know how to sew and I have a lot of fabric down in the sewing area of the basement. Maybe I should make a patchwork quilt. Given the amount of fabric I have, I could make a REALLY big one – big enough to cover Central Park – or I could make smaller ones. I can probably squeeze 437 quilts out of what I have – maybe 438. 438 might be a stretch, though.

Beads! I have beads! Lots and lots of beads. I bought beads. Louise bought me beads. My mother gave me beads. My husband gave me beads. Maybe I should make a beaded dress for my sister’s wedding. It might be a wee bit too heavy, though. I have enough beads to make a dress the size and weight of a Volkswagen Beetle. Hmmm. Maybe not such a good idea.

What about… reading! Now there’s a good idea. We have a library in our house. There are so many books that I had to put the non-fiction in Dewey Decimal order so I could find what I was looking for. No lie! What if I start at one end and read all the books I haven’t read before (and the ones I have and want to reread)? If I started today, I might get through them all by the time Louise becomes a great grandmother… Hmmm… I’d have to take bathroom breaks, so I might not get through it all. Next idea…

Maybe … cleaning?? NAH!!! Now there’s a waste of time. Although my husband did buy me a Donna Reed-style strand of pearls last Christmas. Think he was trying to tell me something?

Well, until I figure something out, I’ll continue along cooking for friends and family, doing household chores, pondering the meaning of life and enjoying my summer with family. Maybe I don’t need a hobby after all. After all, couldn’t reading the latest and greatest novel in the hammock be considered a hobby?

* * * * *

Summer Party

Finally, there is time to breathe and blog…

Louise graduated from high school yesterday, and two weeks from now is her graduation party. We waited so long because friends were having parties this weekend, the 4th of July is next weekend, and the next available weekend is after that. So, how do I plan food for my vegan daughter and her friends, my husband’s customers and a few of my work compatriots? Carefully, that’s how. It is really difficult to plan for “regular” teens and adults using vegan options. My husband wanted burgers and dogs, but we settled on German wurst and boneless chicken thighs masquerading as boneless Buffalo wings. Easy oven food that can be prepared and frozen. Juggling vegan and omnivore yet again…

Because it’s summer, we also have the bounty of the vegetable harvest to help us. Here’s my menu so far (I am anticipating around 25 people).

Vegan food

  • crudites with sun dried tomato pesto or hummus
  • vegan chard pie with Daiya cheese
  • lasagna with zucchini, spinach and bell peppers
  • gazpacho
  • penne with basil pesto
  • smoked tofu and tomato/caper bruschetta
  • chickpea and cucumber salad
  • corn on the cob with compound “butter”
  • cocktail hash (the original chex party mix)
  • BBQ pecans


Non-Vegan Food

  • wurst and sauerkraut (with Granny Smith apples). Wurst from Oscar’s smokehouse in Warrensburg, NY
  • Turkish cucumber soup
  • sliced tomatoes with mozzarella
  • boneless buffalo wings
  • shrimp and bacon


Sweets, etc.

  • Morning Glory muffins with vegan cream cheese frosting
  • watermelon
  • coffee/tea
  • beer/soda/seltzer
  • Red Zinger sun tea

Yes, I know I am overplanning, but it will be delicious and there will be leftovers that can be worked into all sorts of wonderful things. Check this blog the week after the party to see how I repurpose food.

In the mean time, have a fabulous summer, go for FRESH, and make sure to use your sunblock…

* * * * *

The Subcontinent

There is one country in the world that fascinates me, both culturally and culinarily. Its people are intelligent and good-looking, and live their lives with great humor. They are hard-working and unafraid of labor or dirt. There is also a large segment of the same population that is beyond poor, sometimes enslaved, mistreated, ill or homeless. They live their lives with great hope and great faith that things will one day (perhaps in the next lifetime, but eventually) improve. All these people (well over a billion) live in a country full of smells both wonderful (spices, flowers and temple incense) and awful (raw sewage and body odor mingled with diesel fuel). The colors of this country are riotous and inspiring and the craftspeople create amazing masterpieces, especially when working with metals. The wildlife of this country is both revered and feared, and the faith of her people puts the rest of the world to shame.

I speak, of course, of India. The beautiful, complex, fascinating subcontinent of India. There’s something about it that resonates deep within me. Perhaps I was Indian in a previous life…

The food of India is incredibly complex and varies widely in the different parts of the country, depending on the faith of the people and their buying or growing abilities. From simple vegetarian food of monks to incredibly complex stewed meats, the food of India is phenomenally interesting. It’s full-speed-ahead, in-your-face kind of cooking that uses incredibly sensuous combinations of spices. There is nothing quite like the smell of toasting whole spices, except perhaps the ground masalas (spice blends) that result from them. Indian cooking cannot be pigeonholed into “curry” or “rice dishes” or “fish”. It is beyond that – it is legendary in its ability to take mundane ingredients and turn them into the most sublime dishes.

Indian cooking today is a culmination of thousands of years of history, and includes the influences of countries that invaded and occupied India, many religions and a climate that suffers both drought and monsoon rains. Grains, legumes, meats, vegetables, nuts, spices; all play a part in the cooking of India.

I have to state for the record that I ADORE Indian food. I adore Northern Indian food, with it’s cream and nut-sauces, breads and incredible vegetarian cooking, mutter paneer (homemade cheese and peas in a moderately spiced gravy), rogan josh (a spicy, complex curried meat dish), chole (chickpeas), kheer (cardamom scented rice pudding).

I adore Southern Indian cooking – spicy and fresh, with lots of rice, fresh produce and seafood. Sambaar and dals, both made from lentils or other legumes, combine with rice cakes (idlii) or plain rice. Fish curries, Chettinad chicken, Kerala beef, mutton stew, chutneys – all make my mouth water (and sometimes my eyes as well!).

East India is where a lot of rice is grown. It’s warm, wet and wonderful! The food is simpler here – steamed food is found here, as is fried food (in zippy mustard oil, please!). Also, SWEET things are found in abundance in East India. Sandesh mishti (a sweet cheese-like molded dessert with nuts) and Rasgulla (cheese balls in a sweet syrup with rose water) are Bengali desserts EVERYONE should try.

West India has incredibly diverse cooking. From the vegetarian cooking of Gujarat (one of my favorite recipes EVER is a baked cabbage dish) to the fiery fish and meat dishes of Goa (think vindaloo!), western Indian cooking is influenced by the Portuguese (who were there until the 1960s) and the Hindu religion. Some incredible vegetarian cooking comes out of western India.

Next week I’m making lamb vindaloo for a luncheon. I’ll make some basmati rice to go with it, perhaps some chapati to scoop up the sauces. Since I have chapati, I should make a good pot of dal as well.

I’m salivating already…

* * * * *


Parenting 103

This week was a ridiculously stressful one. On Monday morning, a student falsely accused me of causing him bodily injury. His scratches and scrapes were self-inflicted, but it was clearly an attempt to cause trouble for me, one of the aides responsible for his educational experience at school.

It had to be investigated, naturally. I would want an investigation done for my daughter, should she ever make the same accusation. Fortunately, the whole incident was investigated and resolved quickly, and both the parent and my school administration believed what I and two witnesses related to them. However, I still had two sleepless nights and was fairly zombie-like for the early part of the week.

“Every single person you will ever meet has the same questions, ‘Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?'” – Oprah Winfrey, 5/25/11

I thought about this quote a lot this week. Obviously, this student was screaming out to be seen and heard. That much is clear. One doesn’t self-injure and tell whopping lies on top of that injury without needing some serious attention. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t look at my own way of relating to this student and figure out what I can change for the next school year, should he still be attending the school where I work. I have to ask, “DO I see him? DO I hear him? DOES what he say matter to me?” I think perhaps the answer to these questions is “no”.

He’s an extraordinarily oppositional little man. He rarely does what he is asked, rarely follows classroom rules (raise your hand, face forward), and is frequently antagonistic to the other students. In short, he’s a pain in the butt. However, I think, as the school year wore on, I saw less and less of the boy inside and more and more of the pain-in-the-butt-shell. I think that’s partly because he withdrew more and more as the year went on (as he chafed at the rules and had teachers tell him over and over that he was bad or wrong), and partly because his shell got thicker and more prominent as the year went on until that’s almost all we saw. Occasional glimpses of the intelligent boy inside showed through cracks in his shell, but those instances were few and far between.

Why did he choose me to accuse? There are lots of reasons floating through my mind, but none of them have legs to stand on their own. The only real answer is in that little boy’s mind and he’s not talking. I doubt I’ll ever know.

The thing that blows my mind about this whole incident is that there were NO consequences for his behavior. None. No detentions were given, no apology letters are forthcoming, no one explained to him that what he did was wrong. It was all conveniently swept under the rug and ignored. At what point in our history as a civilized race did we decide that wrongdoing carries no consequence? Since when do misbehaving children get coddled? When did adults in positions of power become all lily-livered and wishy-washy? When (and more importantly WHY) did adults lose their ability to point out to children the difference between right and wrong, the meaning of respect and civility? Are we unwittingly doing this to our children because we “love” them too much? Much more frighteningly: Are we doing this on purpose because it’s easier for us as parents to overlook bad behavior? After all, isn’t the pursuit of our dreams more important?

I am not my daughter’s best friend; I am her mother. She is also one of my favorite people in this entire world, and I like spending time with her more than just about anything else. She is smart, funny, caring, considerate, strong, and responsible, to name a few things about her that I appreciate. However, she also has some personality traits that still need work. I won’t describe them here, because that would be disrespectful to her. I don’t want to be that kind of mother. However, it is my job as a parent to recognize those things, help HER see and acknowledge them as deficits, and help her work on them/through them. I would do her a grave disservice to her by allowing her to think she was perfect and never made mistakes.

I believe this is our responsibility as parents and as educators. It is NOT the sole responsibility of either group. We all have to make a safe place for our children to recognize, accept, and work on their shortcomings. At home, this means setting boundaries and rules and enforcing them all the time, so when our children go to school, they are more successful. This also means teaching right and wrong. There IS a right and there IS a wrong, and it is NOT attached to any particular faith. Manners are important. Very few children have chores to do at home, because parents don’t feel like teaching that, in a family, everyone contributes. I’m as guilty of this as the next mom. We as parents MUST teach our children that the world will not be handed to them on a platter. That’s not realistic; Life doesn’t work like that. It requires great perseverance and effort to achieve our goals. If we’ve raised lazy, rude, amoral children, then our society is truly, unequivocally and irrevocably screwed.

Back to my errant student. I pledge that, from this moment on I will make every attempt to see, hear and listen to him. I owe him that much. I hope now that he’ll do his part as well.

* * * * *

P.S. Before I get notes that start with “yeah, but…”, know that I am blogging about kids that do NOT have issues that require medication and/or therapy. If your child requires medication and refuses to take it, or needs therapy and refuses to go, that should be addressed by professionals trained to deal with that, not me.

* * * * *


This morning was the first time since leaving my weekend job that I was able to sit on the deck in the cool morning air, enjoying the sunshine, listening to the bumble bees drone lazily among the  early summer flowers. Hummingbirds were arguing over the pot of sweet nectar that we hung out for them; they eventually worked out their differences. The scent of wild roses mingled with the aroma of bacon and spinach pie coming from the kitchen, a surprisingly pleasant marriage.

This morning I woke up at 3-something and couldn’t fall back to sleep. So I got up, cleaned up the hairball the cat left for me, made tea, powered up the MacBook and did a little reading. In among some words on karma on the Self-Realization Fellowship blog was the following passage:

“You have no alternative but to learn to love your duty. Then it becomes easy. If you do not love something, and yet you do it, it creates a division in your mind, and gives you stress. Learn to create love toward your duties. It can be done.

“This is called human skill, human effort. Grace dawns when you have completed your human efforts. Therefore, do your human efforts with love. Learn to love.”

Do I love my job? Some days yes, most days no. Do I love to clean toilets and floors and do laundry? Most assuredly no. Do I love to take care of myself? I am almost ashamed to say that I do not. I routinely put myself last on the list, as somehow, I have assigned myself less worth than those around me. This needs to change.

So, as I sat in the brilliant sunshine with my eyes closed this morning, I resolved to put myself on an equal footing with those around me. I resolved to start loving to take care of myself. I also resolved to learn to love the mundane tasks of my daily life, and to cultivate a sense of gratitude for my life. So, this morning I am grateful for:

  • A difficult student who is teaching me about what it means to be afraid.
  • The discomfort that pervades my life and the ability to come up with a plan for change for ME, not for THEM.
  • A husband who loves me so much that he made me toast with jam.
  • Ears that can hear, eyes that can see and a heart that can love.
  • A place to sit and be quiet and listen to the song of creation.

* * * * *

“We need to find God and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees flowers, grass – grows in silence. See the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need to be silent to be able to touch souls.” – Mother Teresa