Me, Sher, and Ad

Me, Sher, and Ad
Bro Adam and sis Sher, my rocks!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Memories

Growing up 70's and 80's, Halloween was always fun in my house. As I have stated in previous blogs, my family didn't have that much disposable income when I was young, so alot of costumes were homemade. We kids didn't complain too much, it was just how it was. I knew I wanted to be something else, but when the end result was still getting candy, I was still happy. Therefore, in the Haynes household, Sheryl, Adam, and I were often hobos, bums, or clowns! 

I do remember one year, when I was 6 or 7, that I pleaded for Mom to buy me a skull mask. I wanted it SO bad! She gave in and bought it for me. We had no idea what I was going to do for the skeleton body though. Never thought once about that. Halloween crept closer, and I started asking with urgency, "What about my skeleton body!"  Mom suggested ratty clothes and I stated that I just couldn't been seen in ratty clothes and a skull!  Didn't she know that wasn't a skeleton! I need a skeleton body and if I didn't have, everything would be ruined! I was full of drama even at such a young age.

I actually found the mask being sold online at a vintage store. It is the one in the top right corner! Not too scary today, but back then to a little kid, it was scary enough for me.  Dad came to the rescue and spray painted a skeleton on a sheet and cut out holes for my head and arms and I became the "scary" skeleton that I wanted to be!

Money was tight for my family back then, so as I stated we were either clowns, hobos, or bums. What's the difference between a hobo and a bum? Not sure, ha ha, but I know I went as either for several years. It was an easy costume.  Dirty clothes, an empty bottle, a plastic cigar, and a dirty face. I remember Adam and I tied the pile of clothes on the end of stick to indicate we were "traveling" hobos.  I think Mom got it stuck in her head that these were easy cheap costumes. Years later, I would be shown pictures of her as a young girl, dressed up as a hobo and a clown! 

Mom and Dad splurged one year and bought Adam and I these cool rubber hobo masks. They had a huge comic nose, beard and chin but your eye are was open. So we went as updated hobos with exaggerated features. Half of the people thought we were Groucho Marx or Jimmy Durante. No one at school knew who I was. I remember loving the anonymity of it all

Dad would walk Sheryl, Adam, and I around the Wenonah neighborhood going trick-or-treating. When Sheryl got older, she would then take us. We didn't have fancy bags, a good old supermarket paperbag worked just as well. Mom and Dad would wait at home for us to see what we collected in our trick-or-treat bags. Back then, you didn't have to worry about razor blades or pins in candy, apples or homemade treats. They were all safe. There was a sweet old woman with a thick European accent on the corner of Clinton and Maple who used to give out Ziploc bags of homemade cookies. They were the best!  For the life of me I cannot remember her name. She was so sweet though. I used to also rake leaves for her in the Fall. 

Anyway, when we arrived back home, Mom would have hot chocolate waiting. We three kids would sit in the breakfast room and go through our spoils!  Trading and counting candy would commence! Mom would then store the rest in our own personal Tupperware containers but way up high in the top cabinets of the kitchen.  No sneaking candy!

One of the last years trick-or-treating,  Mom had hung a fabric sewn pumpkin that she made in the front door window. My sister Sheryl still hangs it up in her front doorway as Mom did. I smile each year I see it. Dad created a huge spider web on the porch. He constructed the web out of rope and then fashioned a spider out of Styrofoam balls.  Ever the artist, his art skills came through! The entire neighborhood was talking about the spider web at 205 East Maple Street! Now, you see them all over the place, but I swear my Dad created one of the first back in the early 80's!  With a scary music record (yes record!) playing, my sister dressed up as a witch and scared kids left and right who wandered up the stairs to our house. 

Mischief night, the night before Halloween, was also fun, but nervous fun. Adam, Sheryl, and I guarded our house from egg throwing, toilet paper hanging hooligans. Only one year did our block get egged. Another year we came home to smashed pumpkins and tossed mums. Mom was so angry that year swearing what she would do to those kids! Dad eventually calmed her down.

My last memory of Halloween I want to share is my allergy to chocolate. What a horrible thing for a kid to endure on one of the best holidays for kids! I would break out in itchy hives.  In the year that I started having allergic reactions, I broke out in hives so bad, that my back actually became one big hive. After that, Mom and Dad would allow me one or two pieces of chocolate and watch me for break outs.

What fun memories, but I still vow never to be a clown, hobo, or bum again.  And thankfully, I outgrew my allergy to chocolate!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tasting Macallan 50 yr Single Malt Scotch


For several years in the late 90's and early 00's,  I was a purchaser at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia. Specifically, I was in charge of purchasing the wine, liquor, and beer. Every week I would put in my order for the hotel and its restaurant outlets. We aren’t talking about a couple bottles were and there. We are talking about liquor and wine orders of up to 40 cases, sometimes on special weekends, double that amount. One top of that, an average of 30 cases of various beer would be delivered by the beer guy. I would fill the orders of the bartenders and outlets and delivery them down to the various bars, restaurants, and banquet areas.

I also actively participated in tastings with the vendors that sold to us. Many times I took part in them knowing full well that I would not be carrying the vendors bubble gum flavored vodka in lobby bar, but just wanted to see what it tasted like! I would schedule liquor and wine tastings throughout the day. One particular day, I included a 10 am tasting from a vodka company, a 2 pm tasting of whiskies, and 6 pm red wine tasting in the Grill Restaurant. Somedays, I would have to put in the main food order for my boss, the director of purchasing, Big Daddy JW, as I affectionately referred to him. If it was a particularly full day with tastings, I had been known in the evening to mistakenly order 100 cases of romaine lettuce instead of 10. Thankfully, our food companies were nice enough to call and confirm that I really wanted 100 cases before putting processing the order for the night.

One of the best tastings I was able to take part in was tasting the Macallan 50 year old Single Malt Scotch.  Our vendors Steve and Bob came in with a large wooden case containing the scotch. We talked before hand about the hotel purchasing a bottle of the expensive Single Malt.  Such a bottle would cost the hotel around $10,000. It would be seen as an investment and something we would get press for in Philly. "Come to The Vault Bar at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and taste the Macallan 50 year old Scotch! One of the only restaurants on the East Coast to carry such an expensive Single Malt Scotch!"  I was just writing the press releases in my head! I pictured business men coming in and buying a round at $500 a shot to impress their clients just like they did in buying a round of Louis XIII by Remy Martin, one of the most expensive cognacs in the world , at $200 a snifter.

After talking for about 15 minutes, I could hardly contain my excitement! I had retrieved 3 rocks glasses from The Vault for my and the two vendors to sit back and sip the fine Scotch. I wiped them clean several times to make sure nothing was present to throw the taste of a glass of this scotch.  I had tried the Macallan 10, 12, 18, 25, and 30 year, but this was the grand daddy of them all! 

Steve, our vendor, opened the wooden case and I was waiting to see what type of incredible crystal bottle the Scotch would be in! Would it be Lalique? Could it be Bacarrat like the Louis XIII cognac? Instead he brought out 3 glass droppers. Wha wha what? The record scratched to a halt. Into each glass, he emptied one dropper full of Macallan 50 year.  I just stared at the sip barely covering the bottom of the rocks glass. Just stared at it. For a good couple minutes.  Steve laughed and said to me, "What, did you think the three of us would drink the bottle?" Well, I thought, maybe? I began to laugh as well.

Having gotten over my disappointment, I smelled the Single Malt. I smelled caramel. Then I took a sip. It was smooth, so smooth. I breathed in. It was smokey, oaky, and peaty, just like I like my single malts. But oh so smoooooth! That sip was worth it. This was what a Scotch of this caliber should taste like.  No I did not get a nice heavy pour but I did get a priveleged tasting experience I will most likely never have again.

How do I pick topics to write about?

More than a few friends have asked me how I choose what I write about.  Sometimes an idea just comes to me and I write about it, going off on a tangent for several paragraphs. Other times, I go to my little notebook of ideas. I keep a running list in a notebook of topics that I want to write about at some point in the future. As I write about them, I check them off, one by one. I carry a little notebook with me to jot down ideas, keep one by the bed, and keep one in the car, just in case!

A Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette Recipe

I discovered this recipe for a balsamic vinaigrette dressing awhile ago while surfing the net and I just love it. I found it on the Food Network website. It is by famed chef Emeril Lagasse. I had wanted something simple I could do in 10-15 minutes for a tossed salad.  I included the link to the recipe below. I have even changed it up by adding some Dijon Mustard for a Dijon Vinaigrette. Add for taste. You can also mix it up by adding soy sauce, lemon juice, honey, walnut oil, sesame oil, rosemary flavored olive oil, basil flavored olive oil, or any other flavors!  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Celebrity Encounters

Working in the hotel/restaurant business has afforded me many an opportunity to meet celebrities. I am fortunate to have mixed with some interesting folk, or at the very least, had some interesting run ins with the Glitterati, the Glam, and the occasional Goth rocker.  In a new segment on my blog, I am going to write about these fun and sometimes not so fun encounters. Hope you enjoy!

As I wrote about before, one of my favorite encounters was with Chef Julia Child. I have met other chefs though. One of my most memorable was meeting Chef Marcus Sammuelson while he was head chef for Washington Square, a restaurant in Philly by famed restaurateur Stephen Starr.  I was there sipping Champagne with one of my close friends Jerry when we decided to order an appetizer. Having never had sweetbreads, we decided to given them a try.  For those of you that do not know, sweetbreads are either the pancreas or thymus in calf, lamb, beef, or pork. For the life of me, I wasn't not sure what I animal I was eating. They were served fried and were very tasty though. Suddenly, Chef Sammuelson was at our table and asked in his ever so smooth voice and eloquent manner, "How are your sweetbreads Gentlemen?" I gulped Champagne down and barked back "They are very good Chef!!"  I think he was taken aback by my exuberance and quickly moved on.

While working at my previous job at the luxury hotel, I had the joy of meeting Sigourney Weaver in a potentially awkward moment. I was in the elevator taking it down to the lower level where our main kitchens and ballroom were. Riding it down, I was standing way to close to the doors. Usually one should move to the rear of the elevator. I think I was looking at myself in the mirrored doors. Suddenly, the doors opened on the lobby level and I came face to face with the perky breasts of a very tall woman.
"Like what ya see?" she asked smiling down at me.
"Uh ... uh  I'm sorry!" I sputtered looking up. Sigourney Weaver! She was in town for the Philadelphia Film Festival and I was accidentally staring at her chest.
She laughed and I moved aside, she entered and the doors closed. It was just Sigourney and me. She was gorgeous, tall, looking radiant in heels, black slacks, and a leopard print top.
"Are you enjoying your stay Miss Weaver?"
"Yes, thank you, the hotel is beautiful."
With that, the elevator doors opened on the lower level, and she glided away to give a speech in the ballroom.

At another time in the earlier 00's, I jumped on the main hotel elevator going up. Who was on the elevator beside me?  A well known 80's film actress who had appeared in several adventure movies. She was now appearing in a large play production in Philly which was just recently touring the country after Broadway.  I had heard she was sick and admittedly, she did not look well. She was coughing and looked worn out.
"Are you alright, Mrs. X? Can I get you anything?"
In a deep husky voice she responded,"I could go for a scotch on the rocks, but a cough drop will have to do."
I laughed nervously and told her I would let the concierge know. I had another encounter with her during her stay. She was not the diva I had heard she could be. She seemed always nice and cordial to our staff.  I look at her as a screen legend and was privileged to have my encounters with her!  Out of respect, I have not revealed her name as at the time she was supposedly having issues with alcohol.

I have also met others in passing, I served breakfast to James Darren, Bobby Rydel, and Fabian when I worked at the Omni Hotel in Philly while they were in town touring back in the late 90's. Nice guys, great tippers! My mom was so excited that I waited on them! The Goth rocker Marilyn Manson was such a tall guy in his black boots. I turned around and he scared the heck out of me. But such a sweet heart of a guy! He was very pleasant and friendly. Lastly, I met Richard Wagner and Jill St. John at the last hotel I worked at. Now THEY are Hollywood royalty. She was beautiful and he was so handsome. Both were pleasant and so polite. I count them as one of my favorite encounters!

Monday, October 17, 2011

A little break!

Sometimes we need a break and boy did I ever! I went off the "grid" for a bit just to refresh my mind and soul. I took a week off and stayed in a cabin at Worlds End State Park in Forksville, PA. Hiked all around, roasted marshmallows, sat by the Loyalsock Creek for hours and just watched it tumble by. Also went on a couple short trips to Hershey PA and Gettysburg, PA. Love doing the touristy stuff!

Shrouded by clouds, mountains march to the horizon in this photo of the Worlds End Vista at Worlds End State Park, Pennsylvania.
The Vista at World's End State Park
I had vowed to try and not go online during that week. I really didn't tell alot of people and so friends started to wonder if I was alright. Sorry if I worried anyone! Sometimes you just need that mental break. It was nice not to have to type on on the keyboard for awhile. I needed the mental break too. Just to think about where I am going, what I am doing. Remind me what is important in life and what is not. That sort of thing.

When I came back and went back to work, I was overwhelmed last week! My job at Domestic Relations is one where you really can't take a week's break without paying for it the week before and the week after. Ah... the plight of the overworked social worker. Gotta love/hate it. But it's a secure job in questionable economic times ... you get the picture. I was also bartending several times too. That's my side job if I haven't mentioned it before. I bartend at the local firehouse. I love it, great people, fun atmosphere. Unfortunately it is a smoking atmosphere which just kills me with my allergies!

Today is the first day I can get anything out on here. I have written a couple pieces, just haven't polished them up yet. It is so rare that I actually sit and type away in a sort of stream of consciousness and just put it out there. My blogs are becoming pieces which I put aside and then come back to after a bit. Rework, rewrite, etc, and then put online. This one obviously, is just put on as is.  And there is nothing wrong with that!  :o)

Well I am back and gonna try and make up for lost time. I have been trying to put up two posts a week. So I am a little behind my normal schedule.  Hope everyone is doing well. I am excited for that the fall is here!