Saturday, December 31, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ A New Year is Yours!

Don't you love a new year? Say goodbye to the regrets, worries and mistakes of the old year and look, with fresh eyes, to the future. Even the magazines get in on the act, declaring 2012 is Your Year! with strategies to "rework your wardrobe, find that perfect cut, get flawless skin, have more energy and just be more fun" (In Style). Or Real Simple can help you to "reduce your debt, lose weight faster, clear the clutter, learn to say no, cook smarter, reenergize your style and be happier now" - all good goals. I have not made New Year's Resolutions this year, except for this one- to start being the person I want to be. Not to take a pass and say "Next time I will...". Next time is here, the future is now- to be stronger, more compassionate, more loving, more disciplined, more forgiving. Carpe Diem!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Quinoa- The New/ Ancient Superfood

There's a subject I've been wanting to write about all year, so I need to write it NOW, as time is running out on 2011! The subject is Quinoa, the super-food, new grain that every one's talking about. While it seems new to us, it actually was cultivated hundreds of years ago in the Andes by Inca farmers. Pronounced "keen-wa", this food was known as "the gold of the Incas" and was used to increase the stamina of their warriors. Although considered a grain, quinoa is a relative of spinach and Swiss chard and is actually a weed related to lamb's quarters. It is high in protein, but more than that, it is a COMPLETE protein, meaning that is includes all nine essential amino acids, making a great choice for vegetarians or vegans looking to add protein to their diet. It is also well endowed with the amino acid lysine, which is essential for tissue growth, making it perfect choice for athletes and weight lifters. Quinoa is a good source of magnesium, folate and phosphorus and is also helpful for people who have migraine headaches or diabetes. What's not to love about Quinoa?

In addition, it cooks quickly and is now available in regular grocery stores, making it easy to become part of your everyday eating. Quinoa has a fluffy, creamy texture and nutty taste with a slightly herbal aroma. I first tried it for breakfast, sweetened with maple syrup. It was good, but eating just a big bowlful of it was slightly boring, so I added toasted pecans and raisins to give it some texture. I also tried mixing it in my steel cut oatmeal, for a nutty flavor with a mix of textures. Since it goes bad quickly, you should store quinoa in the fridge and toast it for the best flavor. It can be substituted for bulgur or rice in recipes for pilafs or salads, or sauteed with onion and garlic and stuffed in a pepper for a vegetarian entree. I made a recipe from our new Serve It Up! cookbook with black beans and it was delicious. By the way, our new cookbook with lots of great recipes is out now. It is $15 and is a fundraiser for Autism. If you would like a cookbook e-mail me at It will be a couple extra dollars to ship it.

Quinoa Salad

3 c. quinoa

1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained

1 green pepper, chopped

1/4 c. sweet onion, chopped

3 T. parsley, chopped

3 T cilantro, chopped

1/4 c. olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

salt and pepper

Prepare quinoa as directed on package. Rinse, drain, cook. Rinse and drain black beans; set aside. Combine quinoa, pepper, beans, onions, and chopped herbs. Add olive oil and lemon juice. Stir to combine, add salt and pepper to taste. Serve on the lettuce of your choice.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ The Usual Suspects

When I got married six years ago, my husband and I blended families and with that blending came blending Holidays. Since both our families live in Miami, there was a lot of negotiating/compromising to do. After the first year where we ate two identical Thanksgiving dinners in a row, we said "never again" and rotated Thanksgiving. Christmas has been more of a challenge, since his family "had" Christmas Eve AND Christmas morning and my mother had started a tradition of Christmas Brunch. This configuration resulted in eating a huge Southern breakfast at his Dad's house, and then hitting my Mom's house for another feast (which I could barely look at, much less eat). I suppose it could be said to be a good thing to have TOO many places to go on the holidays, but it often seems stressfull and full of divided loyalties. I realize this doesn't seem like a very cheery Christmas post and I digress from the subject I wanted to cover which is Christmas toppers.

This has been another topic of discussion/compromise in our household. The Christmas skirt rotates from His to Hers each year, so that's easy enough, but the Christmas topper- not so easy. I had an old fashioned muslin angel I handmade many Christmases ago, but it seems too dowdy for the big tree we now have. My topper from my first marriage was a gold star that lit up with tinsel (which is the same type I had growing up) but now it just seems tacky to me. I bought another star from Pottery Barn, which I like, but Zeke doesn't. It looks kind of like a Moravian star, but if the branch at the top isn't completely straight or is too long, it doesn't work. In trying to find a topper to be "ours", we bought a star, that lit up, at Target. We didn't notice it in the store, but when we got it home the filaments changed colors constantly, making it more like a disco star than anything every seen in the East, so we took it back. Zeke's sister-in-law Kathy sent a beautiful, large velvet Santa that may be our favorite, but I had it out for so long trying to write this post (with photos) that it's now sitting on our coffee table and our tree top is bare. All of this barely matters, I realize, but when you talk about traditions and the like you are dealing with: past memories, feelings and emotions and sometimes, beyond reason, it erupts in a fight about the tree topper. If any topper is the perfect one, it may be the star. I saw one advertised in the Sky Mall magazine as a perfect non-denominational topper, for any religion. And so the hunt goes on.

"But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi."

O. Henry

Monday, December 12, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Homemade Limoncello

We had dinner at a friend's house the other night and I wanted to bring a thoughtful hostess gift. A bottle of wine is always an option, but I wanted something a little different that reflected some thought in the matter. Since we were having an Italian meal, I decided to make Limoncello from scratch. It is not very hard, but you do have to plan ahead since it needs at least 5 days to make. I made the Limonello (recipe to follow), poured it into an empty wine bottle and tied the recipe to the bottle with some raffia. Voila! A thoughtful and delicious gift, enough to sample at the dinner, with plenty left over for our host and hostess. I loved this idea so much, I put some grapefruit peels (we got a basket of grapefruit for Christmas from a friend) in a beverage server and covered it with vodka. Inspired by the Organic Sunshine Martini at Season's 52, the vodka absorbed the flavor of the grapefruit, making it citrusy yummy! I added some fresh grapefruit juice and simple syrup to make my martini and it was delicious.

Giada De Laurentis

10 Lemons
1 (750 ml) bottle vodka
3 ½ cups water
2 ½ cups sugar

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel
From the lemons in long strips (save lemons
For another use). Using a small sharp knife,
Trim away the white pith from the peels;
Discard the pith. Place the lemon peels in a
2 quart pitcher. Pour the vodka over the peels
And cover with plastic wrap. Steep the lemon
Peels in the vodka for 4 days at room temp.

Stir the water and sugar in a large saucepan
Over medium heat until the sugar dissolves,
About 5 mintues. Cool completely. Pour the
Sugar syrup over the vodka mixture. Cover and
Let stand at room temp overnight. Strain the
Limoncello through a mesh strainer. Discard the
Peels. Transfer the limoncello to bottles. Seal the
Bottle and stick in the freezer, at least 4 hours and
Up to one month.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Upside to the Down Economy/ Have a Charlie Brown Christmas

I heard an ad on the radio the other day for a jewelry store promoting diamond earrings for Christmas. It was about how the wife opened the box and found the diamond earrings, inserted them and they made her face light up and she become beautiful. It made me think about the commercialism of Christmas, how the real gifts we can give are ourselves- our time and love- and what really makes a woman beautiful is not two rocks on either side of her face, but what is within. A mother holding her baby for the first time is beautiful, a mother holding her toddler's hand while she gets a shot is beautiful, a mother letting her teenage daughter drive, while she white knuckles it is beautiful, a mother doing what is right for her children and making painful choices is beautiful. Don't buy into the myth of getting the perfect gift to make the perfect Christmas. The perfect Christmas lies within.

" Your most precious, valued possessions and your greatest powers are invisible and intangible. No one can take them. You and you alone can give them. W. Clement Stone

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ The "Second Time Around" Fashion Show

Once a year I attend a fashion show in memory of my grandmother, Julia Rice. It is the "Second Time Around" Fashion Show and is put on by the Franklin C. Bush Chapter of the Women's Cancer Association of the University of Miami. We all worried when my grandmother retired as Administrator of the Floridean Nursing Home that she would be bored and wouldn't have enough to do. She volunteered at the Bargain Box- a thrift store that raised money for cancer, and was one of their most dedicated volunteers. The year after she died (2002), they asked my sister Kelley to model in the fashion show in memory of my grandmother and we have gotten a table every year since.

They have a boutique to shop in before the show, featuring jewelry, clothes, shoes and accessories at basement bottom prices, a raffle with great prizes (including cash), lunch (with wine) and the main event- the fashion show. The fashion show features gently worn items hand-picked to feature on the runway and, let me tell you, there are some great buys! There was a fur that had been appraised at $12,000 that sold for under $500. I needed a formal dress for a black tie event that weekend and got one (that Kelley modeled) for $30! I bought another Anne Klein classic black dress for $15 and some rhinestone earrings for $5. You can't beat that! So, for as long as I'm breathing, I will be attending this fashion show and supporting a great cause.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Eat Your Water

We all know we need eight glasses of water a day, right? But a new book, The Water Secret, is purporting that we need to EAT our water. Instead of just guzzling the clear stuff, eating fruits and veggies high in water content is essential for cellular re-building. Foods that are high in water are generally low in calories and energy-dense, filling up your tummy so you can avoid feeling deprived and hungry while dieting. Which foods have the most water in them? You can probably guess by the weight of some of them, when you pick them up, but here they are.


1) Iceberg Lettuce (pretty much no nutrients though, so try Romaine or Spinach instead.)

2) Celery Negative calories to boot. The crunching outweighs the calories= negative calories.

3) Zucchini

4) Radish

5) Tomatoes


1) Strawberries

2) Grapefruit

3) Watermelon They don't call it watermelon for nothing.

4) Cantaloupe

5) Oranges

So, there you have it. Start eating your water and see if you don't feel younger and more hydrated (and skinnier!).

Monday, October 31, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Get Your Freak On

My grandmother would occasionally take us to the movies on Sundays, after spaghetti. Some of the movies she took us to were not quite age appropriate, making them all the more appealing to us as pre-teens. One of these movies that stuck in my mind is The Last of Sheila. Since it was released in 1973, I'm guessing I was 13 when we saw it. The story, about a wealthy man who invites a group of people onto his yacht for a weekend trip who each have their own secrets, scared the s**t out of me. This started a love-hate relationship with horror movies. Some of the scariest ones I have yet to see. Here, in time for Halloween, is my personal list of favorite scary movies, along with expert's suggestions (which I haven't seen yet but should eventually check out). Pop up a big batch of popcorn, sprinkle some M & M's (or Milk Duds) in, pop in one of these movies and have a Happy (scary movie kind of) Halloween.

1) Silence of the Lambs I took my son Brad to see this when he was about 11 and he has never forgiven me.

2) Psycho I love Alfred Hitchcock and this movie was a departure from anything he had made before and was the original "slasher" movie (even though we never see the knife enter Marion Crane's naked body). A classic.

3) Jaws Not typically your Halloween type movie, but scary nonetheless. Our younger children did not find this scary at all, perhaps because it is much better seen on a large screen. From the first tug under the water, they've got you "hooked".

4) Rosemary's Baby Roman Polanski directed this movie in 1968, before he was a fugitive. A cute couple move into a New York apartment, only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbors and occurrences. When the wife (Mia Farrow) gets pregnant, things go downhill from there.

5) The Shining I watched this a couple years ago for the first time, and then stayed in the hotel that inspired Steven King to write it. The movie is scarier than the hotel. "Here's Johnny!"

6) Carrie Another Steven King vehicle- who can't relate to being a High School outcast at some point? Well, I'm sure there are some but it did feel kind of good when she seeks revenge on the popular crowd.

7) Cape Fear This one caused my husband not to sleep at night as a child, fearing the Robert De Niro character was going to jump out of his closet and come get him. Now that I look at the date (1991), that would have made him close to thirty.

8) The Sixth Sense When we saw this movie on a Disney Cruise my grandmother declared it "the worst movie" she ever saw. I asked her why she didn't leave. She said she wanted to see the end of it. The end of it ties it all up in a perfect, twisted bow. "I see dead people."

9) Poltergeist A family moves in to a house, only to find it's haunted by ghosts. "They're heeeere!" Creepy to the max, directed by Steven Speilberg so of course, it's set in the suburbs.

10) Frankenstien Being a screenwriting major, I had to throw one old-school movie in there. This classic, with Boris Karloff playing the creature assembled by a mad scientist, is both scary and ultimately sad.

The rest of these, I cannot vouch for, but many others can. No explanations, just the facts ma'am.

1) The Exorcist (1973)

2) The Thing (1982)

3) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

4) Dawn of the Dead (1978)

5) Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

6) Halloween (1978)

7) Friday the 13th (1980)

8) A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

9) The Ring (2002)

10) The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Upside to the Down Economy/ This Spud's For You!

As I am writing this post my daughter A.J. is headed to see her cousin Kate at University of Colorado in Boulder. A.J. made a delicious potato recipe the other night and I wanted to share it because it is a) inexpensive to make b) pretty easy to make c) meatless. Kate is a vegetarian and always looking for new recipes to try and as a student, she's on a budget. Potatoes are pretty cheap and most cooks should have the rest of the ingredients on hand. This makes an impressive, meatless entree.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Start with a baking potato, russet, Idaho, whatever. Scrub it clean and dry it well. Place it on a wooden spoon and make slices, almost all the way through, about 1/4 " or closer together with a sharp knife. This is the scalloped part; the wooden spoon prevents you from cutting all the way through the spud. Take slightly frozen butter and slice into very thin pats. Take some Parmigiana-Reggiano (or Locatelli which is what I get from Cotsco) and slice into thin slices. Now, insert butter pats and hard cheese slices into the potato slits, alternating cheese with butter. Season with salt and pepper and olive oil. I skipped the olive oil- with all that butter and cheese, who needs it? Place on a foil lined baking sheet and bake until potato is fork tender, about an hour. Remove from oven and pour cream over potato (I also skipped this part) and top with grated sharp cheddar cheese and bake 15 minutes more, until cheese is melted and bubbly. Voila! A lovely meal for two. Top with sour cream and chives, if desired. I would serve this with a salad and maybe some sorbet for dessert, as it is very rich.

A.J. found this recipe through Stumble Upon, which my friend Lisa York likes better than blogspot. The blog it was posted on was Tasty Kitchen Blog, where there are more detailed, step-by-step directions. Maybe A.J. and Kate with enjoy this baked potato on her visit. Happy Trails to you!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ New and Old T.V. Shows

Wednesday night is my favorite night of T.V. Why? Well, let's start with The Middle at 8, move to Modern Family at 9 and Top Chef on Bravo at 10. Absolute Heaven! The Middle is probably my favorite show on T.V. right now. It's about a middle class family, set in middle America with children who probably resemble our own, more than those "My child is an Honor Student", eagle scouts, scholar-athlete offspring, those perfect PTA mothers tout. My friend Martha is convinced most of American families are like The Middle. I think The Middle is better this season than ever and is just hitting it's stride. The episode where mother Frankie eats son Axel's toenails (by mistake) was hysterical. I actually am enjoying it more now than my former, favorite sitcom, Modern Family. My biggest letdown of returning shows has been 2 1/2 Men with Ashton Kutcher. While it has its moments, it's just not the same without Charlie Sheen. Even though I felt the pill-popping, hooker-loving, lush character he portrayed had probably run it's course, I didn't realize how much I would miss him in that role. As a tennis friend said "It's like they're trying too hard." Indeed.

Another show I would put in that category is Two Broke Girls. While it is occasionally funny, it seems to try too hard in that self-congratulatory manner some sitcoms get when they've proved they are popular. It's not there yet. I found New Girl OK. Zooey Deschanel is charming, but they need to do more with the plot lines than rely on her personality. I am going to name Last Man Standing, with Tim Allen, as my favorite new sitcom of the Fall season. It's funny and bottom line, that is what a sitcom should be. I also like Tim Allen and the actress who plays his wife. Being a former flight attendant (with a Dad who was a pilot for Pan Am) I have enjoyed Pan Am on ABC Sunday nights, but agree with my friend Katy's assessment that it is "good, but not great". Evoking Mad Men in this drama is fine, but in Mad Men, the deep, dark secrets of Don Draper were hinted at in the beginning, and not revealed until a couple seasons later. In Pan Am, they're revealed almost immediately, leaving less of a character arc, and less mystery. Simply put, the writing isn't nearly as good as Mad Men and it's a fluffier puff of a retro show. Although I've only watched Revenge once (shown on Wednesday nights as well) I do have to say everyone left my Bunko Halloween party by 9:30 p.m. in order to get home in time to see it. That speaks volumes and it has that juicy, cliffhanger effect that keeps you coming back for more. It seems to be taking the place of juiciest new show you talk about around the water cooler, usurping Desperate Housewives (at least the first season) in that role. Having said that, I'm going to miss those Housewives when they go (last season) and I already miss Brothers and Sisters. Luckily, I have other shows to take their place. Best thing about all these shows? On T.V. and perfectly FREE!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Upside to the Down Economy/ Power Clutch

Well, sure enough, my sister checked the pro biotic yogurt she has been eating faithfully to help her tummy troubles and discovered it had more sugar in it than the Jello dessert she bought for her son! An educated consumer is the best customer, so READ YOUR LABELS. This is harder for me now, since I need reading glasses to see the small print, but you should know what's going into your body- it's worth the time and effort.

We had more than a week of solid rain here in Miami the last few days. While it is nice now, it was miserable then. This made me think (trying to be positive) what are rainy days good for?

  • Curling up with a good book

  • Working (you don't feel bad it's a great beach day)

  • Cleaning out your closet

  • Listening to sad (or happy) music on your record player

  • Playing on the computer

  • Watching movies in bed

  • Making whoopie

  • Scrapbooking

  • Organizing photos

  • Watching a marathon of any TV episode

  • Making a big batch of soup

  • Making a batch of chocolate chip cookies

  • Selling stuff from around your house on e-bay

  • Giving yourself a facial

  • Giving yourself a mani/pedi

Anyway, you get my drift. You can take a depressing situation and make the best of it.

And my latest favorite nail polish color? Power Clutch by Essie. This collection is inspired by fashion and this color is kind of a gunmetal grey, making it perfect for Fall fashions. At $8, it is reasonable splurge to update your look without spending a fortune. And, my friend Susie found a place in Miami on Coral Way that sells it for just $3, making it an even better deal. Hand and Nail Care products have increased in sales by more than ten percent from 2009 to 2010, thanks to our down economy. Known as the "lipstick effect", it is thought that women will forgo making major fashion purchases and opt to buy something small, like a lipstick or nail polish. So while you may feel powerless over the economic situation, put some Power Clutch on and feel empowered!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Is Sugar Evil?

OK, so I get a hot flash in the middle of the night, Google "Diets That Work", start reading one diet that says Sugar is Evil, Sugar causes Belly Fat, Sugar will sabotage your diet etc...and then the next morning I'm eating my delicious Activia with Fiber and take a gander at the sugar content and OMG! I knew it tasted too good to be healthy- 23 grams of sugar! And that's for a little teeny container. I started thinking about sugar and how my Organic skim milk tastes suspiciously sweet, so I looked at the sugar grams on that- 13 per cup. Sometimes I like to have a cold glass of skim milk before bed, but now I am thinking about the evil sugar attaching to my (growing belly fat) and it will not go down as smooth. The organic 2% milk has less sugar- 11 grams- and I am less concerned about it because I use it in my coffee, so don't use that much. So, I decided to check out my 2% Fage Greek yogurt, which is what I was eating before Activia and it has 8 grams of sugar per 7 ounces. The difference is, I usually only eat a third or half of a container (it is tart) and mix it with fruit, so that's only 4 grams of sugar, plus the fruit, versus 23 grams of sugar. A big difference.

Is sugar evil? I'm not sold on that, but I also don't think it's the healthiest thing in the world and it makes me feel bad, as in, when I eat it, I get a surge of energy, but eventually crash. The other thing is, if I'm going to have it, I want to know about it straight up, as in a delicious red velvet cupcake or homemade chocolate chip cookies. Don't sneak it into my "healthy" food, like Activia. I wonder what Jamie Lee Curtis has to say about that? Maybe it would make her Scream! The moral of this cautionary tale is: READ YOUR LABELS.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Upside to the Down Economy/ Shop Online

My friend Katy's birthday was yesterday and as of yesterday morning, I hadn't gotten her a gift. This was a problem because she lives in Orlando and I'm in Miami. Last year, I got her a couple bottles of her favorite bottle of wine and had them shipped to her house, but even then I needed a couple days notice. I decided to get her a gift certificate to a salon in Orlando that we'd gone to when I visited a couple years ago. We had Egyptian paraffin pedicures where they encased your legs in wax, that were heavenly. I saved the card from the salon and called. They recommended I go to their website online and it was so easy! I picked the dollar amount, got to pick the background of the gift certificate and they e-mailed her the gift certificate that day, so I was even on time. Contrast that with the presents I got for my niece Allison (birthday tomorrow) that I bought, wrapped, packaged and then had to go to the post office to send, and this was a lot easier. So if you run out of time, think online!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ History Miami Tours

I have written before about being a tourist in your own town. In Miami, we have such a wealth of neighborhoods, cultures, architecture, peoples that you could probably find something new to discover every week. Yesterday I did a historic walking tour of the Morningside neighborhood with local historian Paul George. Morningside is a gem of a neighborhood filled with a wealth of architectural styles and neighbors who take great pride in their little slice of heaven, located right off Biscayne Bay. The architecture ranges from Mediterranean in the 20's, to Art Deco in the 30's and MiMo (Miami Modern) in the 50's and 60's. It's very close to where Lemon City originated, where working class people pioneered on Biscayne Bay at the birth of Miami. On our tour, we had people invite us to look into their houses and backyards and took the time to explain the history of their homes. Their pride in their neighborhood was plain.

History Miami offers other walking tours and, to tell you the truth, I want to do all of them. This month alone offers a Matheson Hammock Eco Walk, a Dinner Key Twilight Aviation Walk (hello Pan Am!) and a Ghosts of Miami Cemetery Night Tour. These tours cost money, of course, but I consider it money well spent. Dr. George is a local gem himself, with an amazing recall for facts and history sure to entertain. If you can't bring yourself to part with the cold, hard cash, History Miami even offers a FREE walking tour of Little Havana. It starts at 7 PM on the last Friday of the month, in front of the historic Tower Theatre. Dr. George conducts these tours and with money you save on the tour, you can treat yourself to an authentic Cuban meal for dinner.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Inspiration and Perspiration

I've never been an Apple girl, I've had PC's since the '80's, but still cannot deny the impact Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, has had on our modern world. With his recent passing, the world has lost a visionary who found a way to make technology cool, original and colorful, instead of boring, clunky and grey.

Yesterday I visited Thomas Edison's house, gardens and laboratory. He was another incredible inventor who patented more than a thousand ideas in his lifetime. Even our symbol for getting an idea came from him- the light bulb. Add to that the vote reader, stock ticker, phonograph, motion picture camera, generator, electric car (just coming into vogue now) and you see the results of a truly remarkable life. According to our tour guide, he often worked 20 hour days, taking cat naps in between inventing and experimenting. His quote that "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration" was backed up by his actions. Most of us would give up after ten or twenty attempts at doing something. Heck, I'd probably give up after one, but he made over ten thousand attempts before succeeding in inventing the electric light bulb. His comment? "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." That "Can Do" attitude is what made our country great. Steve Jobs had that attitude as well.

In reading about Steve Jobs, quotes from his commencement speech at Stanford came up that I found very inspirational.

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything- all external expectations- all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure, these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. ...Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become." Steve Jobs

Not to be outdone, here's a quote by Edison that I find a comfort in the troubling times we live in.

"Be courageous. I have seen many depressions in business. Always America has emerged from these stronger and more prosperous. Be brave as your fathers before you. Have faith! Go forward!" Thomas Alva Edison

And so we shall. Which calls to mind one of my favorite quotes from my favorite author.

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." F. Scott Fitzgerald

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Meanderings on October

Can you believe it's October already? Amazing. Well, my swimming in the summer is tapering off a bit, as I start running with the cooler weather. Went swimming the other day and it was a little cool at first, but warmed up. All this swimming has made me look at my pool in a new way. It desperately needs to be refinished (the plaster is coming off the bottom), the bronze tiles rimming the edge are hopelessly dated (circa 1970's), I worry the chlorine I'm swimming in is giving me cancer and thinking about switching to salt and wonder how much it would cost to heat the pool by solar power. We have a flat roof and plenty of sun here in Miami, but anything is solar is expensive.

All of these thoughts are circling my brain while I'm swimming and is supposed to be an "active meditation", not a worry, problem-solving fest. Anyway, my sulfate-free shampoo is doing well on my itchy scalp, but bought a new fragrance (coconut milk) because how long can you wash your hair with tea tree mint? Now that I have discovered the benefits of natural cleansers, I've noticed other products claiming to be sulfate-free. Just read a statistic in the paper about how if you've had a pillow more than 2 years, the majority of it is filled with dead skin and dust mites. Gross! I think it's time to buy new pillows, pronto! And if that's true of our own personal pillows, what about hotel pillows? Or airline pillows! Yuck! So as you can see, I have a lot of projects (and problems) going on this month. Here's wishing you a happy, healthy, sulfate-free October!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Upside to the Down Economy/ Costco Rotisserie Chicken

Went to Cotsco yesterday. Hadn't been there in a while so got my meats, wines, Locatelli cheese and the greatest purchase of all, a $4.99 Rotisserie Chicken. My Aunt Josie claims they are THE BEST, better than Publix, better than anywhere. It is such a good deal, and after a day spent shopping etc... it is so easy to serve this delicious roasted chicken. Zeke bought a fresh chicken from Publix the other day and I almost fainted when I saw the $11 price tag! And then you have to clean it, cook it, and clean up the mess. When all is said and done, you just can't beat the pre-cooked chicken at Cotsco.

I had some leftover scraps today, so threw it on a Boboli pizza crust with garlic oil, chopped avocado, chopped tomato, scallions, corn, cilantro and a few slivers of habanero for a little Southwestern pizza, but could also have made a Cobb pizza with blue cheese, avocado, tomato and bacon or even the very yummy Bar-B-Q chicken with bar-b-q sauce, chicken, corn, jalapenos, scallions or onions and sharp cheddar cheese. Obviously, there are a ton of options for leftover chicken. Here is one of my favorite soups which uses leftover roasted chicken. It is Mmm...mmm. good!

Roasted Chicken Noodle Soup

2 tsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup diced carrots
1 garlic clove minced
1.4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp poultry seasoning
6 cups low salt chicken broth
4 cups diced peeled potato (about 2 med)
2 cups diced leftover chicken
1 cup evaporated skim milk
2 cups uncooked wide egg noodles
Fresh thyme

1. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add chopped onion, carrots, celery and garlic close; sauté 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour, oregano, thyme and poultry seasoning over vegetables and cook 1 minute. Stir in broth, potato and salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, 25 minutes or until potato is tender. Add chicken, milk and noodles and cook 10 minutes or until noodles are tender. Garnish with fresh thyme, if desired.

Yield: 2 1/2 quarts.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Corn Fritters

Faced with a ton of leftover corn-on-the-cob from a Bar-B-Q dinner, I decided to make corn fritters. I contemplated corn pudding, corn bread or just corn-off-the-cob, but corn fritters won out. They were SO easy and SO good, I had to blog about them. I basically just made pancakes from Bisquick, with the recipe on the box (2 cups Bisquick, 1 1/4 cups milk (I used less, maybe 1/2 cup for the right consistency) and 1 egg, beaten. I made this batter and then added the corn and a couple tablespoons of chopped chives from my garden. I had probably 2 cups of corn, but you could make this with less and even with corn from a can (drained first, of course). If you want to be healthier (although the fritters are fried, so forget that idea) you could use skim milk and egg whites, but I didn't. I heated up canola oil in my electric skillet to 360 (it's supposed to be 350, but the temp will drop once you add the batter), and dropped the batter, by tablespoon, into the hot oil. Watch carefully and when they are nicely browned on one side, turn them over. Take them out and drain on paper towel, salting lightly. Keep the finished fritters in a 200 degree oven to keep warm. Although these fritters were delicious on their own to "gild the lily", I added a spread of hot pepper jelly and a dollop of sour cream. These two flavor additions took my fritters from good to over the top great! So, if you find yourself with any leftover corn, you know what to do. On a fritter roll, I later made some zucchini fritters with feta and mint from Joy of Cooking pictured above. But, I have to say, they didn't come close to the heavenly corn fritters; leftovers have never tasted so good.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Chicken Soup for the Soul:Food and Love

I haven't blogged in more than a week due to my father-in-law Mort dying last Wednesday, September 14th. It was not unexpected - he had cancer that had spread- but we were thinking he would have six months and he died quickly in two. So, last week was a flurry of the Viewing, Funeral, Burial and all the decisions that go along with the ceremonies. I did not really contribute to any of the decision making (he has three sons and a widow) but wanted to do something to remember Mort, so I had lunch for the family after the burial, serving some of Mort's favorite dishes. A southern boy at heart, he loved fried chicken, so that was the entree. Due to time constraints, we picked it up at our neighborhood Publix. I made homemade collard greens (with pepper vinegar), mac and cheese and sliced some fresh tomatoes that I put on a platter with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Mort would make these wonderful Christmas breakfasts with light-as-air Southern biscuits, so we had to have biscuits to go along with the meal, but they were from-the-freezer type, served with butter and honey. Mort loved my guacamole, so I mixed up a batch of that, along with tortilla chips, salsa and some deviled eggs- a southern tradition. I kind of ran out of time and energy for dessert, so we made due with watermelon slices, which were cold, sweet and delicious. So, in my small way, I contributed.

I did get some good news last week, and that is that a story I wrote - Getting to Know Jennifer - is going to be included in the latest Chicken Soup for the Soul anthology which is Food and Love. The story is about how I got to know my husband's deceased wife (Jennifer) through the recipes in her recipe book. When I was thinking about this blog, I realized the way I show love, many times, is through food that I serve. As in the meal I made for Mort's family, for Mort really. May he rest in peace and have all the fried chicken and biscuits he can eat.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Smoked Paprika

Smoked Paprika. I have been kind of obsessed with it lately, every since I brought a tin of it home from Barcelona, Spain. I saw Gwyneth Paltrow cooking with it on Ellen and thought "I need to get some of that when I go to Spain this summer." I purchased some medium smoked paprika at the famous La Boqueria market in Barcelona, and haven't looked back. In fact, my family's getting a little sick of hearing about Smoked Paprika. I have sprinkled it on deviled eggs, stirred it into scrambled eggs, made paprika butter to smear on corn on the cob, which I also used to saute chicken livers in and spread on the toast the chicken livers were place atop. Like I said, I've gone a little crazy over this red pixie dust and loved every minute of it.

I found a great website with Smoked Paprika recipes and so far have tried:

  • Smoked Paprika and Red Bell Pepper Soup

  • Cold Potato Salad with Bacon and Smoked Paprika

  • Spicy Grilled Beef Kabobs

  • Grilled Corn with Smoked Paprika Butter

  • Paprika Chicken with Blackberry Sauce

I made the Paprika Chicken last Sunday night, with the Blackberry Sauce. It was delicious, but probably wouldn't do the sauce again, since it was kind of a lot of trouble and I wasn't crazy about it. The rub for the chicken, however, was very simple.

1 1/2 Tablespoons Smoked Paprika

2 teaspoons coarse salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

You rub this inside and outside of the chicken, stuff two fresh rosemary springs inside (you could also use basil or parsley), truss the chicken and put in a preheated 350 degree oven for an hour and a half. We had one of those roasters where the little white thing pops out so it was even easier. Doesn't it look delicious?

I served it with wild rice and some corn fritters that were so good I'm just going to have to blog about them at a later date. Smoked paprika is rich and complex with smokey overtones and can be used to develop rich flavors. The wonder of this fine, red spice is it instantly makes your dish taste more complex with very little effort. You can buy it at your local grocery store (McCormick's makes it) or even on Amazon. But, I have to tell you, getting it in Spain is a lot more fun! If you can't make it there, take a trip to Spain in your own kitchen by cooking with some Smoked Paprika!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Time is On My Side

What you see here is my handy dandy timer. I have been using it to time myself for swimming. Although I hoped to "up" my time to 30 minutes a day, it has remained at 20 most days. On the plus side, I have swum every day since I vowed to, even on days when it was raining and the pool was cold. I find using a timer gives me incentive to finish a task. I used this method on my daughter A.J. who, when doing her homework, would go off in search of a piece of paper and return an hour later. The kitchen timer helped focus her attention and gave her a tangible end point. I have been using this method for years to "trick myself" into cleaning the kitchen. I set the timer for 10 minutes and start cleaning. Most times, I am done before the buzzer rings, but if I'm not, I just usually keep cleaning the few minutes it takes to get it done. Who wants to look at dirty dishes? I have also employed this technique with writing, although I have to say with less success. It's like a gun to my head to get me to WRITE! Of course, there are variations on this theme, like an actor who gives themselves a year to break into the business, or a women who wants to have all their children before they're thirty. I was one of the latter, but after raising my three, I met Zeke, got married and am now raising three more. And A.J., the homework wanderer, has just moved back in with us, bringing our grand total of our children in the house to five. Maybe we are the Brady Bunch! This is also a great method for procrastinators. So, if there is an unpleasant task that you hate to do, see if the timer method works for you.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ The Skinny on Fiber

Which of the above foods do you think has the most fiber?

Getting enough fiber in our diet is important, especially as we age and things tend to... slow down. When I think of fiber, I envision eating lots of fruits and veggies. While fruits and veggies are good to increase in most any healthy eating plan, the biggest winner in high fiber foods is Beans! That's right, the magical fruit is packed with fiber! Kidney and black beans had the most fiber, coming in at a whopping 19 grams per cup, followed by Pinto (18 g), Baked Beans (16 g) and chickpeas (12 g). So get yourself a second helping of baked beans the next time you're at a Bar-B-Q. After beans are Avocado, another surprise because with it's smooth and silky texture, you don't think fiber. It weighs in at 11 grams, followed by All Bran Cereal (no surprise here) at 10 grams per 1/2 cup.

Here are the rest of the results of my research with fiber:

1) Figs 3 dried, 10.5 grams Most dried fruits are pretty high in fiber, but who knew figs had more than good ole prunes (now called dried plums)?

2) Bulgur 1 cup cooked, 9.6 grams

3) Peas, green 1/2 cup, 9.1 grams

4) Oatmeal, 3/4 cup cooked, 7.7 grams

5) Yams, 1 medium, with skin 6.8 grams

6) Lentils, red, cooked 1 cup, 6.4 grams

7) Whole Wheat Bread, 6.0 grams

8) Broccoli, 1 cup, cooked, Corn, 1 ear, on the cob 5.0 grams

9) Artichoke, 1 medium, cooked, 4.5

10) Raspberries, red, 1/2 cup, 4.6

As you can see, most fruits and veggies fall into the lower scale of the fiber chart. While the recommended amount of fiber is between 20 to 35 grams per day, most Americans get about half of that. Fiber helps lower blood cholesterol levels, prevents constipation, slows digestion and can help you eat less and lose weight. If you want to add fiber to your diet, do it slowly. If you go full guns, you may experience "too loose" bowel syndrome. Of course, you can always use fiber supplements, such as Metamucil, Benefiber or, as my daughter does, Splenda with fiber.

Regarding the picture at the top of the page, if you've read this far you probably know the fiber winner, but here's the order of fiber, from highest to lowest.

1) Black Beans 1 cup 19 grams

2)Broccoli, 1 cup raw 7.0 grams

3) Whole Wheat Bread, 1 slice 6.0 grams

4) Apple, 1 medium, raw, 4.0

5) Prunes, 5, 3.0

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Upside to the Down Economy/ The Ultimate Packing List

Just wanted to give you a packing tip if you are going on a long trip (more than 10 days) and that is to choose mix and match items by choosing three or four colors as your basic palette, with one accent color. My mother employed a version of this when we were growing up, and the colors she choose were red, white and navy blue, so no matter what we pulled out of the drawer and put together, we didn't look too awful. This method of packing is sort of a Garanimals (if you had kids in the 80's you know what I'm talking about) for adults. The colors I choose for my two- week trip were black, white, khaki, navy blue and red. I went over the recommended amount of colors, but the point is, everything mixed and matched and I don't think I wore the same outfit twice! I also packed a big red purse, a small black purse and black flats, black high heels, black sandals, white flip flops and sneakers to go along with the theme. My sister Kelley restricted herself a little more, with black, red, white base colors and an accent of orange.

The last time we took a European trip, we tried sticking to Rick Steve's packing list, but it was extremely restrictive and included washing your underwear out in a sink. This might be fine for backpackers, but since we knew we were going to be on the ship for 11 days, we felt we could pack a little more, plus we needed outfits for three formal nights. I stuck mostly to solids and some stripes, with a multi-colored skirt thrown in for good measure. Let me tell you, a white shirt and khaki pants can get you through almost any travel adventure and you can always accessorise with scarfs and jewelery. Here's a photo of us from Venice, St. Mark's Square.

Monday, August 29, 2011

I read an article in the Op-Ed section of The New Yorks Times a couple weeks ago that made a lot of sense. Howard Schultz, chairman and CEO of Starbucks sent out an e-mail to his Starbucks employees titled "Leading Through Uncertain Times." Although the title struck me as similar to Jerry Maguire's missive to his sports agency in said movie (right before he gets canned), the idea he esposed is both brilliant and revolutionary. Instead of "Less Clients, More Attention", he proposed that the country should go on strike against its politicians by refusing to give money to either party until they wise up and put America and Americans ahead of party politics.
His theory is that members of Congress make decisions based on re-election and since "the lifeblood of their re-election campaigns is political contributions", that if Americans (big donors and small) stop making contributuions that will give Congress the motivation to start acting responsibly on their behalf. It's no surprise that when Schultz researched the level of political contributions since the year 2000, it has steadily increased each year from 3 to 5 billion in 2008. The "final straw" for Schultz was the inablity to reach a compromise during the debt ceiling crisis. He believed it was "destructive to the country, yet entirely manufactured for political gain. He envisions the boycott to be completely bi-partisan and thinks Congress's job one, should be the creation of new jobs. When that task is accomplished, the boycott would be lifted.
How about it? Are you (to use another movie reference) "Mad as hell, and not going to take it anymore?" Do you want Congress, Democrats and Republicans, to be worried about you and your family or their job and party? Are you willing to put your (lack of) money where your mouth is? I have donated to political parties and specific candidates in the past. I am willing to stop contributions in order to effect change.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Upside to the Down Economy/ On Swimming and Scalps

Here's an update about two recent posts: Swimming and Dry Scalp and what the monkey means.

I have swum every day since I posted, including the day when Hurricane Irene was pouring down on Miami. That day I jumped in and swam one lap, just to stick with the program but other days, I have been swimming about 20 minutes a day. I plan on increasing that to 30 minutes next week. What do I hope to gain from swimming? Toned arms, bigger shoulders, stronger legs and a skinnier core. So far, so good and I figure that by the time it gets too chilly to be swimming, it will be a perfect time to start running again. A word about the monkey in the swimming post photo and what it means (although I guess it only makes sense to me). When I first learned to swim, I took lessons from a nice lady at my grandparent's pool. I can remember laying face down on a towel, on the hot concrete by the pool after my lesson and feeling completely happy and relaxed. When I ventured inside the house to the Florida Room to get a drink, I remember this monkey at my Pop Pop's bar. I was only 2 or 3, but the monkey stuck in my memory (maybe because it was wearing golf clothes and had a drink in it's hand) and it just reminds me of my childhood, swimming and happy times. This monkey is my Rosebud.

As far as my dry scalp goes, I am delighted to report that my scalp is much better. I attribute this to switching shampoos (if only I had known it was so easy I would have done it long ago!) and following other advise I found. I also mashed up an avocado, massaged it into my scalp, let it marinate for 10 minutes and rinsed with apple cider vinegar. Zeke said "No wonder when I was near you I felt like eating guacamole!" In addition, I read that Vitamin D was good for this condition, so in addition to ingesting it, I opened one up and squeezed it around the scalp area near my face. I also have some dry patches near my eyes and in my eyebrow (I know, yuck!) and had been trying to moisturize it with Oil of Olay with no improvement. The Vitamin D worked brilliantly! I also discovered, when I took a shower, I was doing everything wrong. Besides using cheap shampoo, I was washing my hair in super hot water and scratching my scalp with my fingernails, instead of warm water and gentle strokes with my fingertips.

So, my healthy scalp and I are swimming and doing well- hoping to squeeze out these last waning days of summer. Jump in, the water's fine!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Swim Yourself Silly

Heidi Klum declared on her AOL website that she was going to run every day of the summer. It is too hot here to run (at least for me) so I decided to swim every day of the rest of the summer. There is exactly one month left. Swimming is one of those activities that I loved as a child, but never really embraced as an adult, despite the fact that most of the places I have lived, have had pools. I think it was because I didn't want to change clothes and get my hair wet. When I thought about it some more, I realized this was kind of silly since I have to change clothes when I jog and can wear a shower cap to avoid getting my hair wet. I am inspired by women swimmers who are older, like Diana Nyad, who recently attempted to re-create her swim between Florida and the Cuba (at age 61!) and Dara Torres, who won a gold medal at the US Nationals, at age 40. Swimming is a sport you can continue as you age and is kinder to your body than pounding the pavement. Of course, the fact that you don't feel yourself sweating in the pool is also a plus in 90 degree weather.

I recently became Facebook "friends" with someone who was a former swimmer in High School. She looks great and guess what? She's still swimming. She said she still likes to compete, but unlike Diana, Dara or Lori, I don't have that pressure of having been a good swimmer. I am average, at best, have no idea if my technique is good and don't really care. I swam today for 20 minutes, no pressure and hope to continue every day for the next thirty days. Swimming feels like an active meditation (like yoga); it is freeing and exhilarating all at the same time. We'll see how it goes... And it was a little cold when I first got in, but as they say, once I got in there, the water was fine.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Dry Scalp Syndrome

One of the lovely effects of the big M (menopause but I can think of other m words to call it) for me has been a dry scalp. Big, flakes of white skin cover my head, causing me to itch and snow to rest upon my fair shoulders. Alas, what is a (middle-age) girl to do? I finally got sick and tired of the flakes and Googled ways to cure it. Dry scalp, and her sister Dandruff, are common problems most people experience at some point in their life, so there was a lot of info out there.

First of all, make sure you have Dry Scalp and not Dandruff, because treatment is different. Dandruff is yellow or orange in color, dry scalp causes white flakes. Dry scalp is the shedding of dead and dehydrated skin cells, caused by a lack of lubrication of the oil glands in the scalp. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including medical conditions like menopause and also from using products that dry out the scalp. One of the main culprits, apparently, is sodium lauryl sulfate, an ingredient found in most shampoos because it's cheap and it foams. It's a detergent that dissolves oil; unfortunately it also causes scalp irritation. I ran to my bathroom, to put on my reading glasses and read the labels on my shampoo bottles. Guess what? Every single shampoo I owned (including the "hydrating" Herbal Essence shampoo) contained sodium lauryl sulfate!

So here, without further ado, are dos and don'ts for treating dry scalp syndrome.


1) Buy products that contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Phthaltes, DEA, MEA TEA or fragrances.

2) Overbrush or overwash your hair. Try washing hair every other day and don't use super hot water when doing so.

3) Use a lot of hair products. These can build up on the scalp.

4) Use high heat when blow drying your hair.

Now, some ways to treat the problem.


1) Use shampoos that contain natural oils to moisturize the scalp. Some of these would be:

Tea tree Oil, Coconut, Olive Oil, Shea Butter and Jojoba Oil. Avacado can also be mashed and rubbed into the scalp for a natural moisturizer.

2) When you shampoo, rub your scalp in gentle circles with the tips of fingers to massage the shampoo in.

3) Rub conditioner onto scalp twice a week. Let sit 10 minutes with a shower cap on, then rinse out.

4) Rinse with apple cider vinegar.

5) Use a clarifying shampoo (just make sure it doesn't have Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in it) once a week to remove the buildup of hair products.

6) Use a brush with bristles made from natural fibers.

7) Take Vitamins C and D.

Well, I hope this helps if you have a dry scalp. I am going to try my own advice and see if it works. I am looking forward to having a healthy, moist scalp. This may take up to two weeks to show signs of improvement. I will keep you posted. By the way, taking care of your scalp is not cheap. I just paid $8 for a bottle of shampoo. I usually buy Suave for a couple bucks but, of course it contains, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. Frankly, my dears, I think my scalp is worth it!