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Monday, March 29, 2010

Passover Thoughts

Passover cupcakes from Crumbs from:

It's kind of hard to have a seder without a table. But we did make an effort. No we didn't go through the Passover story, because we'll do that tomorrow night. So I went for making a brisket for dinner. We had to eat on our laps, but we used real plates and not paper (This makes it a real occasion.) I used a Kosher wine to braise it in and my new Slow Cooker - Crockpot. It was a great recipe and I got it on the internet. Everyone loved it.:)

Cut to the next night:

We left plenty of time to get to Manhattan from Stamford. But when we got outside the weather was so bad we wondered why we were going anywhere at all. Rte. 95 seemed okay and we moved through the various feeder highways until we got to the Saw Mill River Parkway. Just the name should tell you that there might be a problem with this highway during a rainstorm. It is almost always closed for flooding. I wonder why.:) The river runs parallel to it and overflows its banks almost constantly. We got onto it and it was deceptively empty. Thinking that it was that people were avoiding it due to the weather we pressed on and drove at a pretty good pace until we hit a huge traffic jam. There seemed to be no reason for it, but there was one of those arrow trucks pointing to the left. I thought it was only moving us over a lane, but when we got to the source of the arrow we saw orange cones across the entire roadway both North and South. The stream of traffic showed us that we were going to be stuck in this mess if we went that way. So of course, we didn't. We just went back onto the other side of the road, which was open, and we found our way to another of the ways to get to Manhattan.

The thing about living up here is that there are so many ways you can get to Manhattan. What you want to do is avoid unnecessary traffic usually going toward the George Washington Bridge. It's inevitable that you will run into traffic somewhere on your route no matter which way you go. There are always accidents that will slow down traffic and tonight was no exception. My husband said to me, "Call your brother and tell him we'll be there any minute." But he didn't account for the the accident on our right that slowed traffic. By that time we were about an hour late for the seder and we still needed to get off the highway and go cross town.

The good part is that we did get there and we did have a seder tonight. We don't follow the whole traditional way, but we do adhere to some traditions. It's not like when we went to seders at my mother's house or when we went to my aunt's house later. Those were more formal with hordes of children and adults. One seder in particular stands out in my mind.

I had been living in Buffalo, NY for a few years since my husband was going to Law School and I had a job teaching there. We had just decided we wanted to try having children and I wanted to go down for Passover and see my family. My husband couldn't get away, so he stayed up there and had a makeshift seder with his friends involving fish sticks and other non-seder items. Being with my family was lots of fun and I remember spending time with my dad alone. He seemed a little less energetic than usual and I worried about him. On the night he took me to the airport as he was getting my suitcases out of the trunk he hit his head and I got a strange vibe - as if this were the last time I would see him. A few days after my visit I got an early morning call from my mom telling me that my dad had passed away. In his typical feeling that he didn't want to bother anyone he had gotten up in the middle of the night to change his pjs, since they were soaked and then lay back down in bed. He never woke my mom to tell her something was wrong. Instead she woke up and found him unresponsive. My husband and I caught a plane to NY to be with my mom and family and for my dad's funeral.

Jewish people have a custom called "sitting shiva" after the body is buried and for days afterwards you stay in one house and all you can do is sit, talk or eat. You are mourning, so it isn't fun. In fact, it is the opposite of fun, though there is sometimes a party atmosphere. People bring food over and send food all the time. You find that there is no place to put anything and if you are the ones sitting shiva you are responsible for serving the food and keeping it fresh. Usually the principal mourners do not do much work. You sit on cardboard boxes or straight chairs when people are there. But you have a lot of time to eat, too. I kept eating and eating and was always hungry. I thought something was wrong. So when I got back to Buffalo I checked on it and found I was pregnant.:) My dad wasn't there to share my joy, but I had given him an indication that I might be getting pregnant that last night that I saw him. Unfortunately, this baby was not to be, and it would take seven more years until I got pregnant again.

But every Passover I think of him and wish that he could be here to enjoy my two grandchildren and my brother's three. We always remember him in some way at every seder. This year we talked about how he used to follow the seder to the letter including the parts where you have to wash your hands and say a blessing. My mother is gone too, and it's been years since we lost my dad. Yet they both remain with us. Tonight my brother made my mom's matzoh balls. He knew her secret and I wondered how I could have missed it. I won't tell, because that is what a secret is.:)

My children will probably not observe the holiday as we did, but at least they will know their tradition and see the progression of family that brought us to where we are today.

One other thing. If you missed ordering the Passover cupcakes from Crumbs you can get them until April 20th. But they are not Kosher for Passover. Who cares? They are delicious and much better than any of the ersatz cake you can eat from anywhere else. At least they don't have any flour so if you aren't really observant dig in and enjoy.:)

Until the next time, Happy Passover to all who celebrate it and good luck with eating the matzoh. I made matzoh brie today and plan to make a few new recipes that are definitely not the usual Passover fare. Can you believe lasagna with matzoh?

April is bringing a guest author, Eric Luper, author of Bug Boy, who will be here to tell us all about himself and his new book coming in June, Seth Baumgartner's Love Manifesto. I will also be reviewing it soon. Eric is going to be on my April show too. More about that later. If I don't get back on, Happy Easter to all those who observe that too.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Historic Day! Against All Odds Health Care Reform is Law!!!

President Barack Obama signs the Health Care Reform bill into law on March 23,2010 while Vice President Joe Biden, Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid observe.

It's too late for me, but it isn't too late for my daughters. This is a day that was one hundred years in the making. Millions of people will be affected by this law. Yet this law has flaws. It has no real public option for those people who can't afford to get health insurance. We are not there yet, and as a progressive I feel sad that some of the core principles that we have worked years to achieve are not addressed. One in particular is the prohibition of federal money for abortions. I am not thrilled with anyone getting an abortion, but I believe it is a woman's right to choose and decide for herself. These will be addressed and hopefully there will be changes soon.

I am reminded of my post about Senator Ted Kennedy and what I said in that post about how they should pass health care for Ted Kennedy and now I am hearing Senator Chris Dodd talk about Ted Kennedy's input on this law. I said at that time when everyone was mourning Ted Kennedy:
" will be Ted Kennedy's ghost observing from his Senate seat holding his thumb up and cheering... for Health Care Reform as they work to pass the best health care reform bill ever to reach the Senate. And I see the victorious press conference of those who worked to pass the bill giving credit to Ted Kennedy for his untiring efforts while he was alive."

Not only did he get credit, but Nancy Pelosi spent time discussing his commitment to passing health care reform. The President also gave him a great deal of credit. It seemed that health care reform was going to be tabled earlier this year, but suddenly it arose out of the committees and wound up on the floor of the House and the Senate. Then Progressives started finding flaws with the bill and on the other side Republicans and Conservatives started telling us that it was dangerous. Now the Republicans are trying to repeal this law. But too many people need it and I have a feeling that the Republicans have no idea what is going to happen when it goes into effect. No one is going to want to give up some of these new things.:)

In case you don't know how I feel about the new Health Care Reform Law from all that I have said so far, either you were interrupted while reading, found a great TV program that you had to watch, or maybe you don't care, I am thrilled that the Congress was able to pass such an extensive law and I support it one hundred per cent. Though I would like to see some additions to it.:)

Okay, enough of the politics. I wanted to let you know about an awesome event happening on one of my new friend Evelyn's blog. She calls it a Writing-Prompt Carnival. Of course, I entered something on there and you can go check it out. If any of you remember, it is the post that I wrote for the last day of April last year when I posted a poem a day each day in April. The post is about my Newfoundland dog's last night, and it was written because I wrote the poem about him. The writing prompt so touched me and reminded me of the expression in my dog's eyes the last time we saw him. He died the next day without us there.

One last piece of business. When Janie Franz was the guest author here we gave away a free book. The person who won that book has not contacted me and it has been over a month. So I have to do a new drawing and will be sending that book to a new winner. I feel sorry for the person who didn't contact me. They missed out on a great little novel.:)

Now for more shameless promotion.:) This Thursday, March 25th is the day of my show, Red River Writers Live Tales from the Pages and my guests will be Jody Feldman and Melanie Hope Greenberg. Jody is an old friend from one of my first critique groups and Melanie is also someone I know a long time who is an amazing illustrator and writer. Melanie Hope Greenberg is back this month to continue the discussion we started about the celebration of Women's History Month in March by her group with an exhibition of their illustrations, panel discussions and book readings in independent bookstores in Brooklyn. Last month we focused on the authors themselves, who are all children's picture book writers. Melanie is back to talk about both herself and this event. Please join me and my co-host Freda Roberts at 3PM Central Time for this outstanding show.

Also, I hope people are reading my Examiner. com articles. I am the NY Literature Examiner, which is funny, since I don't live there anymore.:) My next article is going to be an interview with a new author, Zoe Magnon who has published her first poetry book. Zoe also is the originator of an organization to help developmentally disabled children in the Caribbean.

Until the next time, thank you to all my readers. I appreciate all your comments and if this is your first time here, yes, I always meander like this.:)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I'm shamelessly promoting my friends!

Dellani Oakes

Fran Lewis - host of Red River Writers Book Club

Life is so bizarre sometimes. You never know when or where you will meet someone you know.This happened to me when I spied a name that looked very familiar as a guest on April Robins' Robin Falls Radio Show on Blog Talk Radio - Fran Lewis. Fran taught with me in the NYC Public School where I taught first grade. She was really magic with the kids. It was kind of like the Pied Piper. She'd come into the class since she was the Language Specialist there and she'd captivate the kids with whatever she did. I had no idea that she was an author of several children's picture books too.:) So I listened to the show and sure enough it was the same Fran Lewis. I'm happy to say that we reconnected after nine years and I am very happy we did.:) Fran has a new show on Blog Talk Radio for Red River Writers Radio called, Red River Writers Book Club. It starts tomorrow, Wednesday, March 17th at 12PM Central time, 1PM Eastern time. Each show she will have one author whose book will be discussed and several questioners who have read the book.

So Fran asked me to be on the show and also asked me to be a permanent guest on the show. Tomorrow's author is Dellani Oakes who has written Indian Summer, which is a historical novel set in 1739 in St. Augustine, Florida. If you are interested in what I thought of this book you can read my review here. Tomorrow I will be on Red River Writers Book Club questioning Dellani Oakes about her book, Indian Summer. So here is shameless promotion. Both Dellani and Fran are going to be on the show. There are going to be a few more people besides myself and I am looking forward to meeting them.

I hope you will tune into this first show of Red River Writers Book Club. I know it's going to be fun to hear both Fran and me together. I hope that the other people will get a chance to speak.:)

Now for an update on my life. We are rapidly unpacking most of our things except for the pictures and paintings. The marble table is out of the middle of the living room. Yay!!!! It is still, however, in the apartment waiting for the ServPro people to pick it up and to pay me for it. I got an estimate from this wonderful company Intermarble. Within a few days we had a written estimate from this company and every transaction was done accurately and promptly. It's rare to find such good communication with a company. We were really surprised at the estimate. We had no idea of the value of this table. I gave the estimate to the ServPro guy and I haven't heard back from him since. To be fair, I'm sure he is totally swamped (LOL) with emergency work since the storm. I am not expecting him to answer me for weeks. Also as I unpacked more of my Betty Boop dolls I found one that had cracked it's hand off. Plus I had these antique bisque cherubs and one has lost its leg.:( Added to the antique saucer that got cracked, another antique plate that got cracked and a few other cracked items, there was way too much breakage. I have moved these pieces over ten times and nothing happened to them. What I am very thankful for is that the Hummel figures that I have which come from pre-war Germany and are very rare, did not have a scratch on them!!!

I am ending with a celebration of a wonderful drive up restaurant called Walter's where my daughter and I spend about an hour enjoying their specialty: a hot dog and curly fries. There is even an outdoor eating area where we celebrated the first sunny warmish day in weeks!!! This neighborhood gem has been around since 1919!!! If you live in Mamaroneck, NY you know all about Walter's. Most people in the surrounding area of Rye, PortChester, and White Plains know about it too. But people even in New York City have been made aware of Walter's and are planning day trips up to Walter's. Why do so many people go here? They make probably the best hot dogs I've ever eaten with great sides. The Walter's experience means you get there and stand in line for at least a half hour. We got there at the tail end of lunch time, but you can have a shorter wait time at other times. Walter's is right in the middle of a residential area so parking is always a problem too. The day was so good we even found a parking space! You finally get up to the ordering person and place your order. As you are waiting you can peek through the window at the hot dogs on the grill. Once you pay this guy or woman you move over to the next window to wait for your food. You can see your food being made and your mouth waters. The hot dog is cut down the middle and placed on the bun that is not even toasted. They put the mustard on for you. There is nothing else except ketchup. They wrap up your hot dog or hot dogs, the side you chose, put it all in a brown paper bag and give you a box for the drinks. They serve milk shakes, but we didn't want to get one, because each milk shake has four scoops of ice cream!! I warn you that once you take your first bite of their hot dog you will be hooked and will need to come back as many times as you can. You will find yourself thinking Walter's on the first nice day of spring and making excuses to yourself about why you need to go back at least once a month in the summer. Check out the website and see for yourself what I am talking about and why it is so popular.:) I wish you guys could taste this hot dog.:)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What writers make your heart sing?

This is the base

Last week I wrote about Words Matter Week. I had hoped to take part in every blog challenge, but my real life interrupted. More about that later. What follows is the blog challenge:

Writers are people who take isolated words and craft them into memorable phrases, stories, poems and plays. Who are the writers who make your heart sing? What is the magic ingredient?

The joy of reading for me comes from having read authors who do make my heart sing. You know you are reading a memorable piece when you can't predict the ending and the author has used words that bring images to your mind. You start reading the story and suddenly you are transported and no longer realize you are reading. I have been so mesmerized by a story that I have spent hours in one place reading. I have forsaken creature comforts to finish a story that is gripping me. Why does this happen? What will cause a reader to do this?

For me it's the writing. The author catches me practically from the beginning, but if I am not captured by the story it is the writing and the descriptions that will keep me reading. I have read two or three chapters sometimes without getting that spark, but if the writing is clear and to the point at some point I will be glued to the pages. These are my favorite writers and while I'm reading one of these books I will find any excuse to pick up the book and read.:) Only a few authors have elicited this kind of behavior in me. However, if it is not a story by one of my favorite authors, if the story makes sense to me and the characters are believable I might have that response.

My taste in reading is fairly eclectic. Lately I have gotten into science fiction and urban fantasy. But my favorite novels are usually ones with several different characters whose stories run parallel until they meet and then their intertwining creates a situation that moves to the climax of the novel. However, I like suspense too and if it is done right I might even read a mystery. As a YA author I read a great deal of YA novels. Occasionally I find one that I can't put down or that intrigues me so much I am unable to stop reading it.

Here are the authors in no particular order whose words make my heart sing: Stephen King, Barbara Kingsolver, John Irving, Jim Butcher, Kate DiCamillo, Paula Danziger, Mark Twain, Jane Austin, Louisa May Alcott, Carolyn Keene, Avi, Richard Peck, J.K. Rowling, E.L.Konigsburg, Lois Lowry, Anne M. Martin, Francine Pascal, Cynthia Rylant, Jerry Spinelli, George Simenon, Nora Roberts.

At one time in my life each of these authors has written something that has gripped me so much I couldn't stop reading. It's hard to say what was the magic ingredient that did that for me, but it was probably well written books with believable characters and situations that kept me on edge until the end. You will also notice that this group is composed of both adult and YA authors. Now who are the authors whose writing makes your heart sing? Why not take the blog challenge and become part of Words Matter Week, like I just did? Also, please leave a comment and let me know your favorites and why.

Now for a totally different topic - my continuing saga to try to get settled after the fire damaged my home and we had to move. Here is one more f---ed up chapter in that saga. Our marble table was damaged by the smoke removal people when the guys moved it without padding over stone steps and damaged the top by taking a 3 inch chunk of marble off of it. We are now in our new apartment and the table top is in the middle of our living room!! We have come to a standstill in unpacking, because we can't move the table and have no table at all! To their credit the ServPro people are going to absorb the cost of the table, but they need to remove it.

It makes me sad because we have had this table for almost 30 years and they no longer make this size table in travertine marble, like the one we have. I have put the pictures of the damaged table here so you can see what a beautiful piece this is. But my husband is ready to move on and get a new wooden table to replace it. I can't wait until my life goes back to normal. Oh, wait, what is normal?

Thank y0u to any new readers and of course, thanks to the readers who continue to follow my crazy meanderings. Seriously, this blog has kept me relatively sane.:) I appreciate all the great comments you have given to me. They have helped me so much!!

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