Archive for September, 2008

Lost jobs, lost dreams, and tears hit close to home….
September 30, 2008

Scary headlines in real life....

Scary headlines in real life....

My son… you know, the one who lives in New York and we borrow his apartment,  called me last night to tell me about all that had transpired at his office that day. He knew it was coming…I knew it was coming…they had all been told, that the company where he works would be “shrinking it’s way to profitability“.  That phrase always means one thing and one thing only…lost jobs, lost dreams, and tears.

Hey, it’s tough times everywhere, but no where more so than in New York right now…where some businesses will soon be called something else, others are waiting to see what happens with the government rescue plan.  The business where my son works is not a bank, but like many businesses which have investors…nervous investors right now…people want their money, their cash, their “liquidity”.

So about one-third of the employees, walked out the door yesterday with their belongings….and fortunately for him, my son was not among them. But the experience shook him to his core. How could it not? As one of many 20-somethings who have never seen any bad times…not really…watching over a hundred people getting their pink slips one by one marching into an office to get the news, is an awful, sobering experience that you never forget. And you hope you never see again.

He said that many people were crying…partly for a lost job, naturally,  but also because they loved working there…loved it. And no one really knows what’s ahead for the company. Will the cutback work? Will the company be sold? The road ahead for now for this company and many, many others is uncertain brambly path, through which we all have to find our ways. Together.  I hope we figure it out…and quick.

Pie Party, Mezza and wet basements…
September 29, 2008

Pie, pie... me oh my...

Pie, pie... me oh my...

Yeah, it was a busy weekend….Saturday night, a friend and neighbor had a 50th birthday pie party for her husband John….she provided bratwurst and fabulous potato salads( there were two…one made with mustard, olive oil and olives from Cafe Germaine -they are  such talented chefs-that was just about the best thing I ever ate…), and the beer, 3 on tap, and the guests brought pies….wow. I was telling my daughter about the pie party…she herself was set to go to a fraternity party at school…she said, “I’m jealous. I want to go to a pie party. And who wouldn’t? I had several people there ask for the recipe for the Tarte Tatin I made……so here it is, from French Cooking en Famille by Jaques Burdick….Don’t bother looking for this book that I’ve had for years…I found one used copy on Amazon for $104…and that’s not a typo. Anyway…

You need about 5 or 6 apples…granny smith, gala…both fine, peeled, quartered and cored. A 1 & 1/4 cup of sugar, 1 & 1/4 stick of butter, and one Pillsbury pie crust. That’s all! Cut the butter into thin pats and create a mosaic of them all over a 9-10 inch iron skillet, most of sugar over it, and then wedge apples in as best you can, rounded side down, rest of sugar on top.  Over medium low heat let the apples caramelize…this will take quite while…go do some chores and just keep an eye on it. When the apples finally begin to caramelize and turn brown, (I’m warning you , don’t start this too late), drape your refrigerated pie dough over the pan, tuck the overhanging crust  into the sides of the skillet with a wooden spoon, and prick all over so the steam can escape. Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes. Take out and let cool a few minutes, but while it is still warm, put a plate over the top, and holding the plate firmly to the skillet, flip it over. Wear oven mitts and be careful not to spill hot caramel on yourself…ouch. If a couple of apples stick to the pan, no matter. Just get them out with a spoon and put them where they belong. Voila….accept the compliments gracefully. It is luscious.

Pie-boy John...

Pie-boy John...

But the best pie I thought had the pie-boy’s name spelled out on top. How creative is that?

And there are other ways to make this…I found one using tomatoes!! More a savory tart I think, but this Tomate Tarte Tatin sounds like a terrific lunch dish, or maybe a starter?? 



After seeing Burn After Reading, which was pretty amusing…odd but amusing…strolled to Lebanese Taverna just down the street from the Harbor East Theatre for an early supper….what a lovely space it is, and I had no idea it was even there! Had Lebanese Mezza…small plates of Humus, fava beans with lemon juice and olive oil, fat little sausages, grilled eggplant salad, lamb schwarma…and a Lebanese sauvignon blanc that was super. Great supper…oh and the best part? The tab under 50 bucks. Nice.

I screened the movie Nanking this weekend from Netflix. Originally made for HBO, I  want you to see it, though be forewarned, it is not for children or the faint of heart. What a powerful film about the horrible things peope can do toone another, and the unbelieveably brave things we can do for one another.  And it is yet another reminder of the terrible, unspeakable things some people have had to endure, and what a great life we Americans have here, where there’s always food, and a supply of hot water at the turn of a tap. It’s a must watch.  

And what happened in my basement during the deluge Saturday? Let me just say this…there were shop vacs, mops, trash bags, and sweat equity involved. Yeah.

Walnuts Slow Cancer Growth??
September 25, 2008

 I love walnuts, let me just say that right up front.  I eat them every day on cereal, and occasionally sprinkle them on salads with goat cheese and apples…fabulous.

And I love the fact that they’re healthy… in fiber, b vitamins, magnesium, plant sterols, and Omega-3 fatty acids.  Here’s what the FDA finally said about them….

Supportive but not conclusive research shows that eating 1.5 oz of walnuts per day, as part of a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet, and not resulting in increased caloric intake may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.”

 How about that? And now a new study from Marshall University that was published in Nutrition and Cancer, says wait, there’s more! They took mice with breast cancer, and fed one group a diet in which 18.5 % of the calories , the equivalent of two servings for humans, came from walnuts. The other nice ate a more typical American diet(not sure what that consisted of…pizza and burgers, maybe?). Anyway the tumors in the  walnut-fed group took twice as long to double in size  as those in the control group. They say more research needs to be done….but my thought is, I like, walnuts, why not eat them every day?  Oh and here’s an idea I saw on one website that I had never thought of…..sprinkle walnuts on pizza instead of say, pepperoni. You know, it might be good…especially on a pesto, fresh mozzarella pizza….yum. Or, here’s a recipe for Grilled Pizza with Pears, Pecorina and Walnuts…..from Bon Appetit. What’s not to like?

And I found a good place to gets walnuts for less, if you have some room in the freezer to store them….believe it or not, at Amazon Grocery! I ordered some a couple months ago, after the prices had gone through the roof (or so it seemed) at the regular supermarket, and they were fresh and wonderful.  Here you’re getting 6 pounds of walnuts for just a little over 6 bucks a pound…check the per pound price at the store? Let me save you the time…it’s about $12 a pound. So just store the rest in the frig or freezer, and that’s where you should keep nuts anyway, to preserve their freshness….and use as needed….and from the above article…eat a couple of handfuls a day…in place of that unhealthy snack you used to have!

Fresh Blueberries are like the Economy….
September 24, 2008

Fresh Blueberries..bye-bye

Blueberries and the Economy

It’s all coming to an end…my inexpensive supply of fresh blueberries in the grocery store. And easy credit. And sky high home values. And the good times, good times, good times. Sad, isn’t it?  Oh sure, you can still get the blueberries…if you don’t mind paying 3, 4 5 bucks (or more), for what is basically a two day supply. See, I put antioxident rich blueberries on my cereal every day, along with some plain yogurt and cinnamon and walnuts(also not cheap these days-yikes-oh and I see a new report that says walnuts slow cancer tumor growth-more tomorrow on 11 News at Five)…but blueberries are key to the success of my breakfast. And the lovely, luxurious days of two pints for $4 or $5, are just gone with the summer heat.

Unfortunately we didn’t realize that same thing, kinda, was going on with the economy….that the winter would be coming….we all happily danced along thinking the cheap fresh delicious blueberries would always be on store shelves, won’t they? And now we’re shocked, shocked at what has happened. People losing their houses, stock market in a state, bailouts that our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be paying for…but it has to be done, I get that.

Now it’s to pay up or go frozen. And I will probably use frozen blueberries, but I have to remember to get them out of the freezer in the morning, in time to thaw…which I rarely do and so you either eat icy blue globules, or nuc them. Just a darn inconvenience really. But maybe that’s what makes them so fabulous in the summer….the fact that you know you probably won’t have them this winter. We didn’t really appreciate just how  great everything was, did we?  Perhaps we will find a gratefulness for what we do have….though perhaps it is less than yesterday. And know that summer will return, maybe not exactly the same…maybe the bluberries won’t be quite as big or sweet next summer, but they will come around. I will buy them, and eat them, and be happy for them, however they come. And come they will.

I’m a PC. Or am I a MAC wannabe??
September 23, 2008

You’ve seen the new ads for Microsoft, I’m sure…the ones that have famous people and not so famous, saying lines like, “I’m a PC and I turn number two into energy”…that’s my favorite line…just love bathroom humor. And here’s the truth,  I have always loved the Mac ads that make fun of PCs….and never thought of myself as a PC…but I am one. That’s right, ok? “I wear a tv suit and I wear glasses and I don’t turn number two into energy and I am a human being and I’m also a PC!!


I wear a fur suit and Im a PC.....

I wear a fur suit and I'm a PC.....

But…if you must know,  I’m a secret Mac wannabe. My computer…I’m sorry…PC…is a Dell inspiron 9300. And I’ll be honest, I have loved that laptop…loved it. It’s heavy as hell, so while I will take it with me on a trip, you sure wouldn’t want to sling it on your shoulder everyday…unless you wanted to take weekly trips to the chiropracter. 




And if I could buy any computer that I wanted, with money as no object (ha!)…I would pick one of those super thin macs….you know… the one that weighs nothing and costs about 1800 bucks? And that’s the lowest priced one….. I was looking at one..oh yeah, it’s called The Macbook Air in an Apple Store last weekend in New York….it’s sooooo pretty. And the way my laptop is currently functioning…as in , slow…very slow…I may need a new one pretty soon. But for now…I’m gonna keep on keeping on with my PC.

I’m a PC….and a Mac wannabe.

An update on my four-legged cousin…and reader comments about
September 21, 2008

My cousin Josephine...

My cousin Josephine...

Dear Blog Readers, As most people don’t bother reading comments on blogs…I thought I’d pass along a couple regarding my previous entry on my famous four-legged cousin Josephine Myrtle Corbin…and one person has an odd family member story of their own!!

From Paul:

Wow Donna that is fascinating! I’m that type of nerd that likes to learn about all those medical anomalies. I spend a day of my anniversary a few years ago at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia. It has an extensive collection of genetic abnormalities, particular Siamese twins. It is a very interesting museum and I can’t remember if I saw your cousin there but I’m sure she probably is mentioned at least.”

Paul… your anniversary? That’s so romantic. Anyway, I went to the Mutter Museum website and provided a link above….(which they saw)….and have communicated with them…you may find this email from their communications manager J. Nathan Bazzell at the College of Physicians in Philadelphia,  interesting:

Hello Ms. Hamilton,                I have asked the Library and Museum to look into this.  I recognized the photo on your site as one that we have in the collection. I am hoping that the library and museum can shed more light on what exactly we have.  The College of Physicians of Philadelphia has one of the most important  historical medical libraries in the world, so I would be surprised if they did not have some sort of record.  The Museum has an extensive collection of historical photos, including some that I saw on your site.  I will let you know as soon as I hear back from them.

This from Brian: 

That’s amazing Donna,
I could assume back in that day, women usually wore dresses more often. Do you know if she wore long dresses to cover up the middle legs sometimes, and can you imagine in today’s society how she would deal with it

I don’t know the answer to that Brian, but would guess she did….why wouldn’t she?

And from M.D….I saved the best for last, and thanks for the smile!!

I saw this on the news today, and had to check it out! Well, Donna, I’m not related to you, or Josie, but do have a similar, much more recent story. My own mother was supposed to be a twin, but the only thing that developed of her sister, was the internal reproductive organs. That twin never separated, so my mom was born with 2 sets of internal reproductive organs, but looks completely normal on the outside. My brother and I both happened to develop in the smaller set of organs, so, technically, we were born to our aunt, who, herself, was never born. Yeah, go figure that one out! Unfortunately, I didn’t quite understand all this until much later in life. I sure wish I had known about it sooner; can you imagine a teenager yelling “Why? You’re not my mother ! ”

And I thought some of you would find the following information on Josephine (they refer to her Mrs. B, as her married name was Bicknell) interesting…a few more details…and a little gruesome… from Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine
by George M. Gould and Walter L. Pyle:

Wells a describes Mrs. B., aged twenty, still alive and healthy. The duplication in this case begins just above the waist, the spinal column dividing at the third lumbar vertebra, below this point everything being double.

Micturition and defecation occur at different times, but menstruation occurs simultaneously. She was married at nineteen, and became pregnant a year later on the left side, but abortion was induced at the fourth month on account of persistent nausea and the expectation of impossible delivery.

Whaley, in speaking of this case, said Mrs. B. utilized her outside legs for walking; he also remarks that when he informed her that she was pregnant on the left side she replied,
‘I think you are mistaken; if it had been on my right side I would come nearer believing it;’–and after further questioning he found, from the patient’s observation, that her right genitals were almost invariably used for coitus.
(the name Mrs. B. refers to Myrtle’s married name, Bicknell.)

And as you know, gentle readers, she did go on to give birth to five children. According to one account I read online, and which I have no way to know if it’s true….they said at one point when she was young, Josephine made $450 a week traveling with a sideshow…that’s a fortune in those days. What a story!

Four-legged woman….is my cousin!!
September 19, 2008

My Mom called me this week and asked had I read the genealogical newsletter that comes out for the “Four Families” 4 times a year( I know, sounds like we’re in the mafia)….we have just recently discovered this newsletter and I signed up my Mom and sisters to receive it. “No Mom I haven’t read it yet, but I have it”…and in truth I often wait a long time to look through it…usually pretty dry stuff about the past and current relations through my Mom’s side of the family. But this time…this time, I was sooooo mistaken. She exclaimed, “You have to read about the woman with four legs!!”

Josephine Myrtle Corbin and husband James Bicknell

Josephine Myrtle Corbin and husband James Bicknell

I’m sorry…what did you say?”…I can’t believe it. So when I get home I open it up ….and sure enough, there she is…Josephine Myrtle Corbin, larger than life, and with considerably more legs, staring back at me.  An article from The Southern Democrat dated 1928, was a report on her death at the age of 60. It read…”The fact that she was double from the waist down made her one of the wonders of her age. She had four fully developed legs, the inside two legs being shorter than the other two. Otherwise she was perfectly normal.(Please….normal?) She had traveled all over the country and had been viewed  by thousands of people who were amazed at this freak of nature.You reckon??

So what was the deal with this chick? She was one of the rarest forms of conjoined twinning known as dipygus, a variation of parasitic twins, which gave her two complete bodies from the waist down! You heard me. According to the newsletter, she had “two small pelves side by side, and each of her smaller inner legs  was paired with one of her our legs. She could move them but was unable to use them for walking.” I can imagine that would have been difficult….

And here’s the kicker…wait for it…wait for it…. She married a doctor and had FIVE CHILDREN!

It has been said” (and I certainly can’t prove it), that three of her kids were born from one set of organs, and two from the other.”  Baby, baby, baby…I know. I know. I know, OK? The possibilities simply stagger the mind, don’t they? But there it is…How, gentle readers, are we related? In a way so convoluted that I don’t understand it, much less be able to explain it to you in the space we have here, we just are in some distant, “four families “way.  I called my daughter and told her about the ….odd family relative we used to have….her comment? “Eeeeuuuuuwww!” But you know, I kinda look at Josephine…and think… here was was this poor little baby, born as what most people would call a freak, certainly in that time…and yet she managed to live her life to the age of 60, get married and have five children. That’s real resilience, wouldn’t you say? My cousin Josie!! My girl!! I claim you as kin, happily.

Cornmeal Mush for dinner, anyone??
September 18, 2008

the basis for cornmeal....

How about a nice bowl of cornmeal mush??

I was talking to my Mom this morning, as I try to do each morning…she was having her usual bowl of grits with cheese for breakfast…and she said she had read something in the Birmingham News about Italian grits. “I don’t want anybody messing up my grits with Italian spices!”, she exclaimed. I explained to her that it was in all likelihood a recipe for

Polenta with mushrooms

Polenta with mushrooms

polenta, which is really just fancy cornmeal grits, nothing spicy, and that it can be served soft, or you can slice it cold and saute it in some olive oil and serve it as a side dish as dinner. She was slightly mollified by the answer….but it brought back a memory for her.

She said, “I remember in the depression…maybe 1933,  my Mother would often cook cornmeal mush for supper, when we didn’t have anything else to eat, and I liked it.” I asked how they ate it and she told me  it was served it in a bowl with a little milk and a tad of butter.  And that her brother was quite embarrassed that cornmeal mush was all they had for dinner…but sometimes it really was, all they had. And if you’ve never had grits for dinner…it’s good, and it’s filling.

So perhaps in these difficult economic times, when people are cutting back, and doing more with less…it’s nice to remember a recipe for  Cornmeal mush  that has been around since the early 1800s…and has been enjoyed by many, many thrifty generations, who might not have had any meat in the cupboard, or any vegetables, but they did have cornmeal. The link above is just one of many, but the variations are all really the same…pouring cornmeal slowly into water and cooking it until it’s mush…add a little salt and pepper, some butter, and you’re there….just like grits. Or you can slice it cold and saute it…just like polenta. All variations on a theme. Or some evidently serve cornmeal mush with syrup….though that sounds like a quick way to ruin up a good bowl of mush.

Back from New York….it’s quiet there…
September 17, 2008

All packed for New York...what did I forget?

All packed for New York...what did I forget?

Spent a long weekend in New York…sounds decadent but it was a definite budget trip. Here’s how I roll…when my son is who lives in the West Village is out of town, and he was, we go to NY and stay in his apartment. Free lodging…kind of….we are expected to leave gifts in return. And for the first time ever, I took Megabus! Their buses leave hourly for NY from the White Marsh Park and Ride…and if you book relatively far ahead(a few weeks) you can get away with maybe, a 20 buck round trip. Not too bad. Here’s what I learned about Megabus, for those of you who may consider a trip.

Waiting on line for Megabus..bring something to read.

Waiting on line for Megabus..bring something to read.


Get there early. If you have a 9:30 am bus arrive by 9. Why? Because something I didn’t know is that there may not always be room for you and it’s first come first served. I truly assumed when you booked, you had a seat. Not so, at least not on this bus….some folks booked on the 8:25 (and the bus was a half hour late), didn’t get on until the 9:25 came in. That was a little unsettling.

#2.They do have wifi, but there’s no plug-in. So you better have a good battery for your computer.

#3. They do have bathrooms, but it’s like a port-o-potty…just blue stuff in the bottom…no flush. That wasn’t too bad, but there’s also no sink to wash your hands, though they did have a limited supply of antiseptic wipes. Oh, and I had to ask the driver for toilet paper before we left as there was none. He did have a supply.

#4.Other than that, the ride was fine…we made good time…in NY by noonish. Dropped us off at Penn Station on 8th Avenue, and that was that. And compared to the stress of driving and the expense of Amtrak, it’s a hassle free bargain.

No, I didn’t see shows or sightsee or shop…just hung out in the village. Walked around, found a few really good and pretty inexpensive restaurants….you know, kind of like I live there. Only I don’t. Recommendations for eats?  

Gottino in West Village

Gottino in West Village

Gottino…new wine bar on Greenwich Ave….very chic, small plates, great cheese, glasses of wine-good! Perilla  on Jones Street for brunch…again minimalist, good food(fabulous grilled-or as they called it “griddled” cheese). And it’s Perilla soundingthe l’s ….it’s actually an herb…which I have never heard of!  And my favorite find, on Charles Ave just off Greenwich Ave…El Charro Espanol..small, intimate Spanish place with wonderful Sangria and Paella…and I’m pretty tough to please when it comes to that famous saffron, rice and seafood dish. Oh, and the place is a bargain. Jack’s Coffee in the morning…very earthy but oh so fashionable and javalicious.  On the weekdays, you might see a movie star there, but they disappear on the weekends. Lots of beautiful skinny girls in summer dresses and fall boots…that was all the rage this weekend. But man, those boots looked hot, and I mean sweaty hot, when the temps got close to 90!

But it was also a quiet sober weekend in the Big Apple…that’s where the economic debacle is hitting the hardest, at least for the moment. Lots of people worried about their jobs, their firms, how the whole mess may impact them. Of course, many people are feeling that same uncertainty right now. It’s not a good feeling. Not at all.

Lipton enters the upscale tea market….
September 11, 2008

Lipton goes for the upscale market!

Lipton goes for the upscale market!

Whahhhhh? Lipton with a silken tea bag? Yup…it’s true. I blogged last December I think about Tea Forte…they don’t even call their stuff tea bags…they’re “silken-tea-infusers”…”Pour boiling water in and exquisite tea starts to brew, the infuser maintains its elegant form, and the upward lifted leaf and cotton stem creates a handle. A feast for all the senses, Tea Forte is quite possibly the finest, most elegant cup of tea of all time.” Oooh-la-la. A small tin of two tea bags, I’m sorry…silken infusers… is 5 bucks. (FIVE BUCKS!)

So, I’m thinking someone at good old Lipton tea…my Mom and Grandmom used it…so did yours probably…and said, “why can’t we have some fancy tea bags and call them infusers. Oh, yeah, and make ’em silky, and put some fancy tea inside…pyramid shaped, natch, oh…and charge more but not more than Forte. Got it ?”

Its still a box...

It's still a box...

Lipton calls theirs Premium Pyramid tea and I am assured that the pyramid shape will enable much better brewing. Maybe it does. I tried a box of the White Tea with Island Mango(couldn’t have that when my daughter is around with her weird poison ivy/mango allergy)….the box says its made with real orange leaves and lemongrass…Sweet. Now, let’s get real…it is good. Very good, but even with the silky tea bag/infuser, it still wouldn’t do as a gift  like the elegant Tea Forte will. Hey, here’s box of Lipton Tea…happy birthday! But for regular tea drinking with a little upscale twist..not bad, Lipton…not bad. And it’s not five bucks.