Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!
Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Mom, the Florida Keys Bartender

Me n' Bartender Mom (early 90s)

For a period of time during the early 1990's, my Mom lived down in the Florida Keys with my stepdad Barry. She had divorced my Dad a couple of years prior. It was a difficult time for my family but thankfully, we all survived that period of emotional turmoil.

Mom was attempting to find herself and it ultimately became an incredible time for her, a period of regrowth and discovery. As a family, we rebuilt our relationship stronger than ever. The same can be said with our relationship with my Dad as well. It was the first time I truly had an adult relationship with each of my parents, being able to receive advice from them and give it back (solicited or not, LOL).

Mom and Barry lived at Barry's place in Tamarac Park, Key West, Florida. Specifically, they lived off of Mile Marker 10, down Boca Chica Road. If you know the Florida Keys, you know that places are often informally referred to as by what mile marker they are located at since the Overseas Highway it one long 113 mile stretch from Miani to Key West.

I remember the trip well as I drove it at least a dozen times. From Miami, travel about 3 hours south towards Key West and then make a left at Mile Marker 10, right at the Circle K convenience store. Simple enough directions, right? It was always a scenic drive of resorts, motels, and bugalows, sport fishing spots, bridges connecting the keys, plenty of palm trees and mile after mile of the most beautiful turquoise blue waters you can imagine.

Mom and Barry lived in a little resort-style neighborhood called Tamarac Park on Geiger Key. It was off Boca Chica Key, where the US Naval Base was located. Mom had recently married my stepdad Barry. Geiger Key was 99% residential but did have a great little RV park, marina, restaurant and bar. It was here at the Geiger Key Marina that Mom took a job on a whim as bartender of that little bar in the open air restaurant sitting next to the endless mangroves and canals.


http://www.geigerkeymarina.com/

Everyone loved Abby the bartender. My Mom was feisty and ready to give you a frosty beer along with her wit and (sometimes barbed) wisdom. Standing at a petite 5 ft 4 inches and barely over 100 pounds, Abby become the favorite bartender of the locals who loved her sassy personality but knew she couldn't be taken advantage of.

Even being of small stature, Mom was very well respected. When someone would get drunk or out of hand, my Mom would raise her voice, "Just try me buddy, just try me!" She would grab the bat hidden under the bar and slam it right down on the bar top. She apparently had lots practice doing this with wooden spoons on my childhood backside. She had the back up of her bar patrons of course.

My sister Sheryl saw her bartending and said Mom never looked so happy tending bar. She was in her element, helping people and also able to talk as much as she liked. LOL

Bartender Marc at the Lodge in 2016
I started bartending and waiting tables in Philly during my 20's and have continued it in one position or another since then. Happily, I just celebrated 7 years bartending at the Lake Wynonah Lodge in my community.

One of the joys that I get while bartending is knowing that my Mom did it for a spell for before me. I see her in myself. The mannerisms, the attitude, the loudness, and the ability to have multiple conversations going on at once with friends, strangers, and anyone in between! Knowing that I have so much of her personality in me makes me smile. So when I have a shot at a bar ... ANYTIME I have a shot at a bar ... and I look up, know that I am toasting my incredible Mom the bartender.


***"This holiday season I can truly say that I ate like a king and I drank like a fish."- ME***






Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Spirits Course and my Favorite Booze Selections

Santa was very generous to me this year. :)  (my own pic)
With New Years Eve quickly approaching, I thought I would voice my opinion and subsequent endorsement for some of my favorite booze. Santa was very generous to me this year, bestowing upon me 8 plus bottles of various spirits. My friends and family know me so well. 😊 And with a good 20+ years of hotel, bar, and restaurant experience I've learned a thing or two about fine spirits.

When I worked at the Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia, I took a professional spirits course with my good friend and boss, John Waldbillig. John was the Director of Purchasing and I was the purchaser, his right hand man so-to-speak. The course was held at the Four Seasons Hotel, our competitor, but they were gracious hosts and so professional in their service (as they should be to try and compete with the Ritz-Carlton!) LOL

Sterling Spirits held the day long course on the ins and outs of various types of liquor. We compared clarity, color, taste, smell, etc.  We first tasted the light spirits during the morning: vodka, gin, silver tequila, light rum. You didn't want to start off too heavy.

Next to each seat were these silver wine buckets we would "spit" in. After you took a swig of the alcohol, you swirl it around your mouth, carefully breathing in some air to get a fuller flavor, and then spit. You just cannot do these types of courses and swallow the booze. It just isn't possible or recommended. It is also professionally frowned upon to swallow. You need to conduct yourself as a hotel/restaurant professional and neatly spit the booze into the silver spittoon. But even with all the spitting, you still end up imbibing some of the alcohol sublingually so by time lunch rolled around, we were each feeling pretty good!

After a really nice, swanky lunch complete with many gin Tom Collins' being served, we tasted the brown liquors next: dark rum, gold tequila, whisky, scotch, and bourbon. By this time, I was definitely feeling the alcohol. The room had become quite warm. I couldn't tell a caramel taste from a vanilla one. Luckily I was in the company of those said professionals who were inadvertently getting sloshed along with me. Good company I may add!

After the event, Sterling Spirits hosted a happy hour in a beautiful wood paneled room in the hotel for us and served up bourbon Manhattans. (It may or may have not been wood paneled. Maybe the lights were just down and the room was dark. I dunno.) The rest of the evening was a bit blurry and since the course was completed, professionalism went out the window.

Bulldog London Dry Gin
I remember ending up at the Rittenhouse Hotel Boathouse Row Bar for a drink with good buddy John W. also known as JW or Big Daddy depending on who knew him, what time a day it was, or how many we had imbibed. We had a couple drinks at Locust Rendezvous Bar and then a couple more at the Pen and Pencil Writer's Club until closing, maybe 3 AM I think? WHAT A NIGHT. Fun stuff when your are young in the city and can bounce back the next day. It was one of my best memories with John W. as well (may he rest in peace).

I learned a lot about what the 'experts' felt were the best tasting liquors. I also learned that after a couple more years in the business, I made my own decisions on what I thought were the best tasting liquors. Taste a lot and make your own decisions. BUT ... if I may give my two cents, here are my favorites in no particular order:

**********************************************************************************

Laphroaig 10 yr Single Malt Scotch: nice smokey peaty flavor. My favorite Single Malt Scotch. Very distinctive flavor though. Very rich, and did I say smokey and peaty! I mean it!

Bulldog London Dry Gin: Smooth, mellow, not overwhelming but with a fresh juniper flavor. Makes an excellent traditional martini.

Hendricks Distilled Scottish Gin: A sweet floral cucumber flavor; garnish with a cuc slice too. Just a Hendricks with a cuc slice on the rocks please!

Stateside Urbancraft Vodka
Lazzaroni Amaretto Liqueur: A sweeter amaretto flavor than what's normally out there. So nice for an after dinner drink.

Stateside Urbancraft Vodka: Philadelphia distilled vodka, I love it. Very smooth. I enjoy it on the rocks. Plus its from Philly so what's not to love?

Jameson Caskmates Whiskey: This Irish Whiskey is aged in barrels that once held craft beer. I find the flavor much smoother than your normal Jameson's.

Bulleit Bourbon: A flavorful "frontier" Kentucky whiskey, reasonable priced, and lots of  good ole history! I love making Manhattans with this bourbon. I taste notes of caramel, vanilla, and pepper when I sip this.

Organic Ocean Vodka: Hawaiian vodka distilled from organic cane sugar in a unique fun bottle. Very clean, very smooth and gluten free!

Ciroc Vodka: I have always loved Ciroc since it came out. Ultra-premium vodka made from French grapes. Distilled 5 times and incredibly crisp. Has a slight sweetness. I don't use olives with this one due to the sweetnes. Perhaps a lemon twist or lemon/lime wedge.

Toschi Nocello Walnut Liqueur: An old favorite. Love the walnut and hazelnut flavors. One of my favorite after-dinner drinks.


Bastille French Whisky
Graham's Six Grapes Reserve Porto: My all time favorite porto from Portugal of course! Full bodied, rich, ruby red, tasting of plums and blackberries. Oh My God so rich! YUM. Meant for sipping... but I've been known to go through a bottle in a weekend. :)

Bastille 1789 Blended French Whisky: Oh YES! The French can make excellent whisky! Subtle, floral, with a nice finish. Not overpowering. Just a beautifully smooth whisky, reasonably priced and aged in French Limousin oak barrels which originally held wine helping to give the whisky it's distinctive flavor.

Now I did not include detailed descriptions of each. Check out the internet on how to get them and further info on flavors, etc. I included pictures of a couple of my favorites based on my discretion only.

BLOGGERS NOTE: This blog is dedicated to my good friend, colleague, and best boss, John Waldbillig. RIP my friend. No one could work hard, then play hard, drink hard, and listen to Frank Sinatra like JW.

ADDITIONAL BLOGGERS NOTE: These three pics of Bulldog, Stateside, and Bastille were borrowed from the internet. I do not own them nor claim them as my own.



Monday, December 12, 2016

Mom's Holiday Champagne Punch

Vintage pic found on Google

I've made Mom's holiday recipe for a champagne sherbet punch just once before. Mom would make it each December for her annual holiday open house through the late 70s and 80s. She just loved decorating the house for the holidays. As my household was a dual religious home, she would decorate for Christmas for Dad and Hanukkah for herself and us kids.

My family always celebrated both holidays. It was natural in my home! We'd have garland and white and blue lights, a small Christmas tree and our Menorah, stockings hung on the banister and dreidels spinning on the coffee table, candy canes and Hanukkah gelt (chocolate coins), sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies and potato latkes. Mom would mix our home-made holiday ornaments with her collection of delicate Scandinavian wooden ornaments. It was a season of celebration and she just reveled in it.

By the way, my friends would always ask if we got gifts on both Hanukkah and Christmas and YES ... we did make out like bandits and got DOUBLE THE GIFTS. #bestofbothworlds #jealousmuch?

People say every thing old becomes new again and after my research on the sherbet punch, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many variations of recipes for it circulating on Google, food websites, and Pinterest. It definitely has a vintage feel to it. I surveyed a bunch of friends and each one had a memory of it being served at any number of holiday parties including birthday and cocktail parties or during Halloween, Christmas, or New Years parties. It's nice to see it has come back.

I think I'll be serving it for my family over Christmas Eve. The nice thing about it is you can make a non-alcoholic version of it and then one with as much Champagne as you want. I will do the latter of course. Use the cheapy sparkling wine though. You don't want to use your Dom Perignon or even Veuve Clicquot for the sherbet punch. LOL


Holiday Champagne Sherbet Punch 

Holiday Orange Champagne Sherbert Punch -Pinterest
by Abby Deeds

-Champagne or a sweet sparking wine (I think we used Cold Duck or Andre, the cheap stuff!)
-Ginger ale 
-Sherbet

Add sherbet last in scoops.

That's it, no more directions. Okaaay. I am kinda guessing my Mom eye-balled it. LOL At the time, Mom would've used a cheap sparkling wine like Andre or Cold Duck. Cold Duck was a sweet red sparkling wine I remember from the 70s. It should be a sweeter sparkling wine though. There is no flavor of sherbet specified but I remember Mom using orange. Hence, the pic to the right for illustrative purposes. :)

Now for those that just cannot stand having a vague recipe based on tasting as you go, here is one for a New Year's Champagne Punch that I found online from Food.com.


Raspberry Champagne Sherbet Punch

Prep time: 10 minutes
Serves: 8

-750 ml bottle of Champagne
-1 quart raspberry sherbet
-2 liters ginger ale
-1 pint thawed frozen raspberries

Mix all except for sherbet, then add it to the top (in scoops).

You could use strawberry sherbet and add strawberries, orange sherbet and add sliced oranges, or make it with rainbow sherbet! Some people add orange juice as well. As I stated before, you can make it non-alcoholic with just ginger ale or Sprite for a sweeter flavor.

Bloggers NOTE:  I did search for some family photos of the holiday open houses that Mom and Dad had but alas, have not found any yet. The pics above are not owned by me and I am using them for purely illustrative purposes.



Monday, December 5, 2016

My Favorite Camping Stuff!

Hikers Marc and John! (No, I'm not giving you the finger.)
John and I spent Thanksgiving again up at World's End State Park as we have done so for the last several years since my Mom passed away. It has become a nice break before the craziness of the holidays ensures. One day I do plan on joining my sister out in San Diego at my brother's for Thanksgiving but for now, this has become a nice tradition.

So the holiday was spent hiking, cabin camping, feasting on smoked turkey, toasting marshmallows, drinking some fine ass bourbon and smoking Cohibas cigars. I love getting back to nature and believe it or not, having no cell service. Well, at least for a while. LOL

Sporks aplenty! 
Kelty sleeping bag
Awesome coffee pot
It's pretty funny walking into one of the local bars up there with WiFi and having your phone start pinging madly a dozen times with notifications from any half a dozen social media websites I am a part of.

My fav mug
ID holder
My knives
While packing up all of our stuff in the cabin on that final Saturday morning, I began to think about how much I loved my sleeping back. I 've had it for about half a dozen years and it is still the most comfortable sleeping bag I've ever owned. It is a Kelty brand sleeping bag, specifically, their Light Year 3D 25' degree bag. It is so warm. I've slept in it while camping in Maine where the overnight temp dropped to 20'F, woken up with snow on the ground, and still been warmly snug as a bug in a rug. Kelty is a well known outfitter for camping, hiking, and back packing. Check out their website for great stuff: www.kelty.com.

SO, without further adieu, my list for my favorite camping items is as follows, in no particular order:
  1. my Kelty sleeping bag (see above)
  2. pan scraper:  Unfortunately it broke but with some black Gorilla duct tape, it is as good as new! It works just awesome when scraping burnt camp food off the bottom of the frying pans.
  3. sporks: Sporks are an odd invention. I do like my sporks though but I tend to also stab myself in the mouth when I use the spoon part, or is it the fork part? Either way, OUCH.
  4. camo hiking pants:  I've had these hunter green camouflage pants for years. They have worn so much that they are now so soft and comfortable to wear. But they are camo and I blend in so I am forced to wear ... 
  5. my orange cap:  I always wear the orange cap while hiking. I know people tease me about it but it is a necessity when you are hiking along trails in PA State Game Lands. I don't want my ass to get shot!
  6. favorite mug: I used my blue speckled enameled mug for coffee, for soup, for hot chocolate, beans, red wine, bourbon, other whiskys and assorted alcoholic libations! And YES, I do rinse it between the beans and red wine. I also like my kinda matching red tumbler for the same reasons. Except I don't eat beans from it.
  7. coffee pot: This awesome vintage coffee pot is a relatively new purchase. John and I used to each have our own small individual coffee pots but they never made enough coffee for two mugfuls before that early morning hike. This one does and then some. It's mid-century, aluminum with a red Bakelite handle. A little pizzazz for your campsite!
  8. ID holder: My great hard plastic black ID holder is waterproof, can old a couple pieces of ID, that important medical card if you take a tumble, and a key to your cabin or car. Wear this and you won't lose that wallet scrambling up and over a house-sized boulder.
  9. knives: I have two favorite knives I take camping. The first one, the white handle one, is a Boy Scouts of America knife. It was a gift from my Mom and Dad waaay back in the early 80's; a sort of coming of age gift. I never made Eagle Scout, dropped out actually of Scouting but this knife is one of my most treasured possessions for whom it is from and what it represents for me. The second knife, is a gift from John. It's an awesome large folding knife. Perfect for slicing off cheese, dry sausage, or a huge turkey leg from the smoked bird as I did on Thanksgiving. 
  10. Tapatio hot sauce:  This California hot sauce is just hot enough for a nice kick for this guy. I'm not a big fan of thermo-nuclear hot sauces. I just want some flavor with a kick. I also don't like hot sauces which are too vinegary. Tapatio is just a damn tasty kick in the pants!
  11. hiking gloves: Every serious hiker should have a nice pair of light weight hiking gloves. It will help prevent callouses, prevent you from accidentally getting poison ivy (as long as you don't scratch yourself with the gloves on - LOL), holding onto that walking stick, grabbing onto boulders or questionable logs infested with questionable bugs.
  12. hiking stick: Every hiker should have a good ... no scratch that ... a GREAT hiking stick! It should be just tall enough to be comfortable to hike with and not too heavy to become a burden. And sometimes you even pretend you are a martial arts warrior taking down unseen bad guys in the woods... whaaat? Oh never mind. LOL After years of hiking with your walking stick, you will get comfortable with it as your side piece. It is a must have!                                                                                                                                                                                 

My hiking stick for years!
Gloves gloves gloves
I hike and camp with Tapatio! 


BLOGGER's NOTE: Sorry for the wonky picture setup. Don't know why it was doing that and I did try to fix it. I may be eventually moving onto a more "user" friendly blogging site. 


Thursday, November 17, 2016

100,000 HITS! THANK YOU!



With my last blog post, I have surpassed 100,000 individual "hits" on Frazzled at Forty. I am truly humbled by this. I still consider myself a very small fish, maybe even a minnow in a very very large sea. I am astonished and amazed that I have hit this milestone.


I wanted to take a moment to thank my readers who have been with and supported me since the beginning of my blog back in April 2010. I am still going strong 315 published blog posts later with several dozen drafts waiting to be polished and put up. This blog is my love, my burden, my unpaid job, and sometimes my frustration. I do consider it like my child.


I started this blog 6 1/2 years ago. My mother, during her last week of her life, stated she wanted me to do something with my writing. I had wrote since I was a young boy but had considered it nothing more than a past-time hobby which I would do every now and then. I vowed for Mom on her last week here to write regularly and often.


The best way to accomplish this goal for me was start to a blog. I loved the format. It fit my writing style. I have always dedicated my blog to Mom. It was her kick in the pants which lit the proverbial fire under my butt. Mom passed on April 10, 2009 and I finally started this blog a year later as an homage to her with my first short essay being posted in April of 2010. http://frazzledatforty.blogspot.com/2010/04/hello-40.html


The concept, Frazzled at Forty, was thought up as a scattered brained 39 year old adult, entering his 40s, aka middle age. I wanted to show where I've come from, what I'm doing, where I'm going, and how to survive the impending mid-life crisis. (And boy did I have one or two!)


Along the way, I wanted to impart some wisdom on what I've gained. I've talked about friends, family, my previous employment, growing up in high school, college, vacations, and even touched on social issues with colorful commentary.


I have even developed a continuing blog project, "Cooking Through My Family" where I have made almost all of my Mom's family recipes and some of her favorites. I'm finally jumping off into the several baking recipes with trepidation! We'll see how many I can get through this holiday season.


I have never once been nasty or insulted someone. I wanted to write a blog which could appeal to a wide range of people. There are too many blogs out there which tear people down. I wanted to bring people up, make them laugh and make them smile by sharing my life. I like to think I have succeeded.


Many have suggested I start "vlogging" (video blogs) because that's the popular thing to do now. Thanks, but no thanks. I am truly a writer first. It's in my blood. I will continue to write and maybe every now and them occasionally put out short little video embarrassing myself. I am more likely to put up a daily selfie (oh you know I already do!).


So where do I go from here? Well, there was never really any end game planned. I write for writing's sake. I will continue writing these posts as long as good friends, family, and more and more of the public will read them.


In 2017, I'm going to start picking 100 or more favorite essays to format into memoir form and hopefully publish. If I finally publish it, at least I am guaranteed of at least 10 sales from friends and family. LOL


After "Frazzled at Forty" what lies ahead? "Freaked Out at 50"?  Probably more like "F*cked Up at 50" LOL. We'll see. Until then, I've got 3 more years of being just FRAZZLED.


The best compliments I receive are when you my readers connect to a particular blog post and let me know as well as when you tell me that I write like I speak. You could imagine me speaking it before you. That means the world.


THANK YOU!


Thanks go out to my sister Sheryl and my brother Adam for all their continued support through these last 6 years. They put up with me posting embarrassing cringe-worthy memories but hopefully ultimately laughing along with the way as I do. I know I get some of the details off,  but I truly appreciate your support. Thank you Sheryl for being my unofficial "editor" too.

Thanks to my step-mum Martha and Dad. Love you both. Martha always makes a point to send me a note after each blog post letting me know how she relates to it. She also shows my Dad the blog posts for me. It means so much Martha! THANK YOU!


Special thanks to my good friends and fraternity brothers Chuck Buda and Alex Spiezio. Both are accomplished published authors themselves. Your support and encouragement with my writing keeps me going. And Buda, I will be bending your ear as I prep for publishing!!!


Thanks for all of my friends, family members, and other readers who have read and commented on my blog posts. YOU are my audience. YOU are who I write for. YOU keep me going.


Lastly thank you to the Big Ragu. Your support is most important.







Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Awkward Questions? Try a Moment of Silence!




The other day while driving to work, I was listening to a great interview on NPR and thought that parts of it were meaningful enough to pass on. A woman comedian was being interviewed and was talking about how to get through various awkward situations and I felt that others could completely relate to it.


One of those was situations was when someone asks a single person "Why are you still single?"  Maybe people do not realize it but this is a pretty rude question. It's no one's business. It seems though that during family or holiday events, a glass of sangria, spiked holiday punch or eggnog will chuck all decorum out the window.  Do you stop to think how small that makes a person feel as if being single is bad and wrong? Don't you think they'd like to meet someone???


So for my single friends, when someone asks you that, there are some retorts you can toss their way.


Question:   Why are you still single?


Answers:   Why are you still married? How's your marriage working out for you? Is it everything you'd hope it would be? How many times have you been divorced? How'd that go for ya? Remind them dryly of the statistic that 40-50% of marriages still end in divorce.(www.apa.org/topics/divorces/)


And my favorite answer:  Since you are married, are you still having sex?  (I can guarantee this answer will bring stunned silence.) Make the conversation as awkward for them as it is for you.


Another awkward question which riles me up is "Why don't you have children yet?" "Don't you want children?"  THIS DRIVES ME BONKERS! It's none of your business!!!


Now you could be an adult and take the high road. My friend Lara's advice:  just roll your eyes and walk away.  Honestly though, I'm tired of dealing with ignorant questions. People sometimes need to be schooled.


I AM TIRED OF HAVING TO ACCEPT SOMEONE'S IGNORANCE WHEN IT COMES TO PRYING ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL LIFE. Start speaking up! Start countering them on their ignorant questions!


One more suggestion from the NPR broadcast which I found useful was giving a full minutes' silence.


If someone asks you a stupid or awkward questions, or makes a racist, sexist comment, just stare at them for ONE FULL MINUTE and watch them squirm. Seriously, it needs to be one full minute! LOL


One evening a relative said something extremely sexist to me. I just stared at him … for a long time. He began to stammer and over explain what he meant, digging a deeper hole. I shook my head, and walked away. I didn't need a comeback. The silence spoke for itself. (But as you see above, the comebacks can be just as fun too.)


Food for thought, keep your own questions about someone else's relationship status to YOURSELF. If the single person didn't ask for your opinion on their relationship status, why do you think you need to give it?


I am getting more and more frustrated with ignorance. So if you find me staring at someone for a minute, think to yourself ... what ignorant comment did that person just make?


Bloggers Note:  The original broadcast I am referring to came from the radio station NPR. I could not find the corresponding online article. Check out NPR for other great broadcasts, articles and essays.
www.npr.org (National Public Radio)








Friday, November 11, 2016

Post Election Angst


My friends, we are all still here. The world has not imploded.

My candidate did not win. The other guy did. I am disappointed and angry. Not my first, second, or tenth choice. Our system worked and the candidate who won the electoral college is now our President-elect. (((shudder)))

Life goes on for now. We will continue working, continue paying taxes, and maybe drink more in this time of uncertainty. If you feel the electoral college needs to be overhauled or abolished, then work towards that. There is nothing that can be done now about that at this particular time except starting or joining a movement to abolish it.

For many this is a bitter pill to swallow. For others, your voices were heard. Let's hope he lives up to the hype that his supporters perpetuated. We need to come together and start to heal the wounds of this divisive election. Many of you say that is impossible. I hear you but disagree. I think we need to to remember that the US is a special country, a country that picks itself up, moves on, and works (for the most part) together to become the greatest country in the world. For the record, I already thought American was great.

Here are some suggestions for getting through the next couple months.

1. Drink
2, Hug a loved one
3. Do nothing
4. Buy a coloring book and color
5. Visit a petting zoo and feed the animals
6. Exercise your frustrations away
7. Focus on your home
8. Focus on your close friends and or family
9. Protest peacefully
10. Become politically active
11. Turn off social media for awhile ... except my blog
12. Do yoga to relax ... um... no, not for me. :)
13. Get out a set of drums and pound away your frustrations
14. Play with your pets!!!! Hug, cuddle, and snuggle with them.
15. Rake leaves or come to my yard and rake my leaves. NO SERIOUSLY, have you seen my yard? I have a ton of leaves!!!!
16. Take up macrame or needlepoint. LOL
16. Indulge in some really really good ice cream.
17. GET POLITICALLY INVOLVED
18. Boycott companies that do not follow your views as you see fit (but not Google or Facebook as my blog is on there. LOL)
19. Get involved in a charitable organization, it will make you feel good and you'll be helping others.
20. Sit back with a sense of curiosity. For the first time in our country's history, we have a non-politician who will be leading this country and will be commander-in-chief.
21. Drink heavily.

Lastly, Pray. Pray for the well being of our country and our way of life.

Seriously, if you do not agree with the current administration, become politically active! And protesting peacefully is your right. And to my Republican friends (I do have many), stop complaining about the protesters. That is called freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Two great ideas our country was founded on. If Hillary won, you don't think you'd see Republican's protesting? I think we would have. And that would've been their right to protest.

To the protesters, again I say please do it peacefully! Rioting does not achieve anything and just shows lack of intelligence, lack of maturity, and a lack of focus. You can get your message across by protesting within the law.

To my Democrat friends, in 2018, there is a chance to flip the Senate back to Democrat. Works towards that. I know I sound like a repeating record but get politically involved. In 2020, works towards electing a Democratic candidate back to the White House.

In the meantime, I hope and pray that our President-elect surrounds himself with some intelligent people who will prevent him from making any rash or off-the-cuff decisions.

For those of you that think I am betraying Democrats, read the blog again. I am not, I am a conservative Democrat and I wanted Hillary. I wanted a woman president. I am being realistic and matter of fact at this point. After careful reflection this week, I feel we need to have hope that this will be a successful time.

If you still feel I am betraying my party ... shrug.




Monday, November 7, 2016

Mom's Beef Stew (Simple Recipe)

Mom's Beef Stew
I remember Mom making this recipe only a couple of times. My sister Sheryl remarked that Mom only cooked the beef stew when she could afford to buy the beef cubes. Unfortunately, we did not have a lot of money back then so this was a special treat when she did make it. It reminds me that I'm very lucky for what I now have.

Mom served it over rice or with a side of buttered egg noodles. I looked online for hints and suggestions on a simple beef stew recipe and there are so many variations it will make your head spin. There are variations on cooking time, specific steps, seasonings, vegetables etc. It is a bit overwhelming. I added a little more direction here and there but this is 95% Mom's own recipe.

You can add thyme or a couple bay leaves for more flavor. If you add the bay leaves, make sure you take them out before serving. Some people also add chopped up celery when adding the onions, potatoes, and carrots. Others sautΓ© garlic when browning the meat.

I used 'Steamables' brand potato medley with golden, red, and purple potatoes. I still cut up the potatoes into 1 inch cubes though. It gave the stew some nice color besides the carrots and peas. Instead of cutting up carrots, I chose to use the baby carrots. Just easier than chopping everything up. The flour seasoning mix made a tasty gravy. Lastly, I chose to add a basic Italian seasoning blend of basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary. I couldn't find any bay leaves to add.

As I've stated before, a lot of these older recipes were "basic" and didn't go crazy on the spices. These are family recipes, meant to be enjoyed by not just one person, but as in MY case, two parents and three kids. A lot of recipes weren't too spiced up back in the 70s and 80s. Feel free to add something to spice it up!



Ingredients Ready! 

Beef Stew (Simple Recipe)
by Abby Deeds

1-1/2 lbs beef cubes (beef stew cubes)
2 Tbsp cooking oil (or olive oil)
3 1/2 cups water
2 medium onions sliced
4 medium potatoes (cut into 1 inch cubes)
5 medium carrots sliced
1 1/2 cups uncooked peas
1/3 cup flour
salt/pepper to taste

1. Combine salt, pepper, and flour
2. Coat meat cubes with seasoned flour
3. Brown meat cubes in cooking oil over medium heat
4. Sprinkle remaining seasoned flour over browned meat
5. Stir and add water, cover tightly
6. Simmer 1 1/2 hours or until meat is "knife" tender in a stew pot, skillet, or Dutch oven (I simmered 1 hour and it came out perfectly.)
7. Add onions, potatoes, and carrots
8. Simmer covered 15 minutes or longer, stirring occasionally
9. Add peas and continue cooking until tender, about another 5 minutes.
10. Serve with buttered noodles or rice


Serves 6

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Mom's No-Bake Fudge

With Halloween a week away, this is an easy recipe you can make for that Halloween party you've been "dying" to have. GET IT??? LOL Sorry, couldn't resist a bad joke. Or you could make it for a holiday party or hostess gift. Anyway, I wanted to make this over the summer but obviously the heat and humidity would've melted that idea. HAHAHA! (Forgive my other bad joke.)

Mom made this during the holidays and my sister also makes this recipe with great success for her annual Halloween party. The nice thing about it is that it's easy enough to add marshmallows or nuts without messing up the recipe. Almost fool proof. So this fool ...  ***ME*** ... decided to whip up a batch of fudge and see how it turned out.

Mixed fudge ready to chill!
It came out great. It was pretty sweet. I did have some difficulty getting it out of the pan. I had to bang on the bottom of the pan with a meat tenderizer until the fudge popped out. Scratch one dented 8 inch pan. I brought some into my coworkers and no one died so SUCCESS!!!!

Now technically this is not baking but it is a dessert type recipe. I have a fear of baking and as a result have put off trying to make any of Mom's dessert recipes involving baking. My goal for the fall and winter is to over come my fear of baking and finally complete them. Wish me luck but before you try something I bake, you may wanna have some Tums on hand...



EASY NO-BAKE CHOCOLATE FUDGE
by Abby Deeds

1- 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
3 - 6 oz bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips (or the equivalent of 1 1/2 12 oz bags)
8 oz chopped nuts (your choice, optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
dash of salt
Mini marshmallows (optional)

1. Over low heat, melt chocolate morsels with the sweetened condensed milk.
2. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients. (I used chopped pecans.)
3. Spread evenly in a wax paper lined 8 inch square pan.
4. Chill 2-3 hours until firm. (I covered the top of the fudge with wax paper as well before placing in the fridge.)
5. Turn fudge over onto cutting board and remove from pan. Peel off paper and cut into squares.
6. Store loosely covered at room temperature.
7. Can keep one week.



Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Don't Let Them Rattle You.



DANGER! RATTLESNAKES!
***This blog post is dedicated to that close childhood friend going through her own tough times, I hope this helps.

"Don’t let them rattle you. Don't let them see you sweat."

 

These are two sayings that we have all come to know but how to go about putting them into action? It's easier said than done. But with some hints and prior preparation, one can don that Teflon vest in face of adversity and get through those difficult situations and meetings.

 

A close friend of mine is going through a divorce. It hasn't gone smoothly for her. Imagine that. :(  I feel for her and sense her stress and anxiety each time a conference comes up with her ex. It's a shame but these conferences have to happen. I wanted to help her so I thought about the tense stressful conferences that I manage on a daily basis with my job. What advice could I impart to her?

 

My advice was to tell her don't let him rattle you. I guess it's not that easy but it's important that she stand her ground, stand firm to her beliefs, and in this important meeting, don't let her emotions get the best of her.

 

In my career as a domestic relations officer, I hold conferences about child support, spousal support, and other domestic relations issues involving children, relationships and family. I establish orders and if need be, I enforce them. I prefer not to go into too much detail about my job as obviously I have to safeguard my clients' privacy.

 

With that being said, my conferences can be very difficult. I am put into many situations where I can be potentially rattled by either an emotional or violent outburst. It is only after years of practicing my profession that I have been able to remain pretty calm, cool, and nonplussed even in these tense and stressful situations.

 

In this ridiculous election year, no matter whom you are voting for, each party has reduced themselves to try and rattle the other candidate during the televised debates. In the second debate, the Republican candidate Donald Trump attempted to rattle Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton with three women from former President Bill Clinton's past who accused him of sexual misconduct as well as a woman who was raped by a man that Hillary Clinton defended back in the '70s. Hillary Clinton was nonplussed by the move.

 

In the final debate, Hillary Clinton has invited two "true" billionaires (as she terms it) as her guests, Meg Whitman and Mark Cuban, to try and rattle Donald Trump, a billionaire who has refused to release his Federal taxes citing an IRS audit. Donald Trump has invited President Obama's half-brother, Malik Obama, as his guest to try and rattle Hillary Clinton. Malik Obama has Kenyan and US citizenship and switched his parties from Democrat to Republican over his disappointment with our current President's administration. I wonder who will be rattled? I'm sure both candidates have been schooled in keeping their cool (some better than others). It may sound clichΓ© but it's appropriate to say that this entire election has certainly become a sad state of affairs.

 

So enough with examples. How do I keep from becoming rattled? Here are some tips that I use which I have found helpful during tense situations:

1. Pump yourself up prior to the meeting, Practice scenarios and the appropriately calm responses to intense questioning.

2. Put it into perspective; there are a lot worse things that could be happening to you at this point.

3. It's just words. I understand that words may be hurtful, but remember they are just words, nothing more, nothing less. You have the power to control your reaction to them. You can either let it rile you up or you can control the situation and remain calm in the face of adversity.

4. Focus on WHAT is being said and not HOW it is being said. It may be a condescending question or answer, but ignore that part of it. Answer the question, calmly, firmly, succinctly, and move on. Don't offer up any further info for the opposing party to latch onto.


5. Take a sip of water to collect your thoughts. Don't react immediately. Take a moment, think, and then state your rebuttal.

6. Don't lower yourself to their level. When they go low, you go high. (Hmm, where did that come from?) Using curse words or throwing verbal darts just exacerbates the situation and makes you look just as bad. Rise above them. (http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/michelle-obama-when-they-go-low-we-go-high)

7. Take a quick break if you have to. Leaving the room is another way to collect your thoughts. It helps defuse the situation and gives each party a bit of time to relax. I will excuse myself to make copies to get a breather, and then come back in, ready to continue and forge ahead.

8. Practice deep breathing. Do this before the event in the comfort of your own space. Think yoga, meditation, etc. This will help you keep your mind, emotions, and response in control when the situation becomes stressful and tense.

9. Your voice may quiver, your hands may shake. THIS IS NORMAL. Again, deep breathes to calm yourself.

 

And lastly, you can and will get through whatever stressful meeting, conference, or situation or you are. GOOD LUCK.




Thursday, September 29, 2016

Beers at the Hosey with Schmidty

Last night I ended up at the hosey for a couple beers. For those of you who don't know, the "hosey" is a regionally colloquial term for the fire house social club. I don't know how it originated, possibly from the word 'fire hose'. I hear it across the Mid-Atlantic states. I usually have to explain it to anyone outside of Jersey or PA.


Chicken of the Sea Sardines
My hosey is the Summit Station Fire Company where I actually bartended for a couple years. When I go there, I see friends, play the games of chance, chill out with the awesome bartenders Snoopy and Janet, and knock back a couple of cheap brews. One of the gambling games you can play  are the punch boards where you get 10 punches for $1.00. You can win prizes such as a large bag of chips, a box of Tasty Cakes, a mini-hunting knife, a jar of tomato sauce, a bottle of laundry detergent and other pretty crazy odd stuff which you may or may not use everyday.  

Last night, my buddy John was on one side of me playing the punch boards for 3 cans of Chicken of the Sea sardines. Now I would've tried the punch board to win a jar of peanut butter, but that's just me. I was hanging out with my good friend John Schmidt on my other side, who also lives in my community, Lake Wynonah, and hangs out at the Lake Wynonah Lodge when I now bartend.

Schmidty (as I call him) will do anything for anyone; he is a true genuinely friend. He's a Vietnam Veteran with a heart of gold and seen things, experienced life to the fullest - the best and the worst. He is an old soul. There are only a couple of other men I consider just as wise as he.

Me n' Schmidty
Schmidty has also become my unofficial volunteer security guy at the Lodge, hanging out patiently until the end to make sure the bartenders are alright. And one more plug for Schmidty, he sings and helped form a Philly doo-wop acapella group, 2nd Chance. Check out their website at http://2ndchancephilly.weebly.com/ .  These guys are so good; they are the Real McCoy when it comes to acapella doo-wop groups!

Anyway, John had just won the three cans of sardines and Schmidty and I began bustin' on his ass for even playing for the them! He shrugged and said he wanted to get them for camping and then I changed my tune because they are actually a really good camping/hiking snack. They are high in minerals, vitamins, healthy fats and contain a whopping 37 grams of protein per 1 cup serving! (You learn something new every day, huh? LOL.)

Schmidty leans over to me and says, "Oh I looove sardines, they are good!"
"Yeah," I began, "they are pretty good, I'm just messing with John. That's actually a good idea, gettin' them for camping. I remember when my brother Adam and I would eat them as kids for an after school snack. We would eat just can after can of them!"
"And Marc, they are so good for you, so healthy," he replied.
"And do you know what the best part of them are, Schmidty?" I asked.
"What"?
"When my brother and I would eat them, we loved ...."
And we both said at the same time, "CRUNCHING ON THE BONES!"

Schmidty and I started laughing and laughing. We couldn't believe we had the very same strange thought. My memories came flooding back of my brother and I freaking out my sister Sheryl by crunching on the sardine bones and eating them.

Life is full of these incredibly unique and yet odd experiences. And sometimes, you connect with wonderful genuine people you would never expect to like me and Schmidty. Two generations of men, who just enjoy sitting down and conversing about the meaning of life over bottles of beer, laughing (and sometimes crying) about what we've gone through. But MOSTLY laughing. And sometimes talking about ridiculous shared experiences like eating sardine bones.






Friday, September 23, 2016

Twin Towers

This past month marked the 15th anniversary of 9/11, that day of horror where America was forever changed by terrorism with the multiple attacks on our country. I have close friends who were there that crisp September morning. I have friends of friends who lost someone when the Twin Towers fell. Most of us remember where we were that fateful day.

9/11 has become another day in which you ask your friends, "Where were you?" It is reminiscent of the day the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded, the day President Reagan was shot, or for our folks, the day President Kennedy was assassinated. These are days of infamy forever etched in our mind, meant to separate and weaken but they have only succeeded in making us stronger and closer.

Twin Towers  at night, July 2001 (source: Wikipedia)
I have a couple of books on 9/11 and spent the day going through them and watching the historical coverage on TV. The story I want to recount was a special memory I have of the Twin Towers, from the year before.

My memory of the World Trade Center is a rather specifically quirky one. I traveled up to NYC in September 2000, exactly one year before with my best friend David. We were going to spend the evening dining, clubbing and bar hopping, and then take the train back the following day. We traveled up that Monday evening, the 11th of September of 2000,

David and I stayed at the Marriott Downtown Financial Center. now called the New York Marriott Downtown, at 85 West Street in NYC. It was just one half block from the World Trade Center. We had a corner room with an awesome view of the Hudson River. On the other side of the hotel, the Twin Towers loomed overhead to the north.

After some predinner drinks, we ate at a restaurant called Lucky Cheng's on the lower East Side. Lucky Cheng's is a great fun place which hosts an interactive drag show while you eat dinner. The cuisine is Asian fusion with a possible side of insults and great entertainment thrown your way. We had a blast. We the hit the bars and clubs and from what I remember, had quite the evening of merriment and mayhem.

At one point, I got separated from David. Just prior, I remember telling him not to worry if it happened and I'd meet him back at the hotel. At 3:30 AM, I found myself wandering around the Village, not sure actually in which direction the hotel was. I was getting a bit nervous, not being able to find a cab. I was so turned around, I didn't know which way the hotel was! I walked for what seemed like forever, but was probably just a couple more blocks.

Dave and Myself, NYC, Sept 2000
I remember crossing a street and looking across a little pocket park and what did I see off in the distance? The Twin Towers fully lit up at night, shining and rising above all of the buildings. They were a ways off but it was a sign on which direction I needed to go. I let out a deep sign of relief and crisscrossed streets and parks trying the keep the World Trade Center towers in my sights. I eventually was able to hail a cab and made it back to the hotel.

David read me the riot act thinking I was lying dead in the gutter. I took my medicine because that's what best friends are for, right? To let you know when you've fucked up. I was just happy to be back after being lost. I have never forgotten looking up and being to happy so see those gleaming towers even in the middle of the night to lead my way. After sleeping several hours, we got up around 10 AM, checked out, and had brunch nearby.

David and I had such a fun time, we decided to return to NYC the next year, the very same weekend and make it a yearly trip. I booked the reservation at the same hotel one half block away from the World Trade Center for Monday evening, September 10, 2001, and check out September 11, 2001. I don't remember the reason why, but we cancelled the room about a week before. Something had come up. Of course I got through my mind thinking what if??? My thoughts then turn to remember the horror and tragedy which happened to all of those poor souls who lost their lives or were injured that day. G-d bless them.

Well it's been 15 years since the attack. I've been back but I never went back with David. I think its time we take that trip up again and tour the National September 11th Memorial and Museum.

http://www.911memorial.org/



Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Two Easy Recipes: Tomato Cucumber Salad and Crisp Rosemary Potatoes

Mom's Tomato Cucumber Salad
Are you ever at a loss for what to make with that grilled steak or chicken? Here are a couple of go-to recipes that I love making in a pinch. Easy, a lot of flavor, and minimal effort. How great is that?  Weekly dinners should always be like this!


The first is a basic recipe my Mom has been making as long as I know. It is the traditional summer tomato cucumber salad. Fresh, cold, zesty, and filling. This recipes combines two of my favorite summer veggies. I usually make a large batch for two or three nights. You can add onion if you want a bit more zestiness to it. But be warned, with the Italian dressing and onions, you may want to make it on the nights you don't have a date planned. :-)  

The second recipe, crisp rosemary potatoes, is my go-to recipe if I am making rosemary chicken or just grilling chicken breast. It is a great side dish!  I prefer to leave the potatoes in to bake for more time as I like them pretty crispy.


Marinated Tomato Cucumber Salad
by Abby Deeds (MOM!)


-6 Roma tomatoes, diced into bite size pieces (or 3 of your favorite large beefsteak variety tomatoes)
-3 cucumbers, peeled and diced into bite size pieces (seeded or not, your preference)
***Thanks to friends Becky Kitchmire for the cucumbers and Leah Emerich for the tomatoes!
-1 small or medium red onion, chopped up fine (optional, or use a sweet vidalia)
-Italian dressing (I used the 4 Seasons dry box mix which you add your own olive oil and vinegar)
-salt and pepper to taste 
Ingredients all ready! 
-fresh basil cut into fine strips (My addition, optional)

You basically want equal parts tomatoes and cucumbers. The onion is completely optional. Realize that if you use a red onion, it will definitely have a stronger more pungent flavor. Add a little onion, taste, add more, taste, etc. Mix all ingredients. Top with basil strips. Cover with plastic wrap in a bowl and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Serves 2-4 people.

Also remember, you can make your own Italian dressing if you are so inclined. I like the dry box packets or the pre-made bottled dressing because it lessens the prep time. Sometimes, it's all about convenience!

I like mixing up the vinegar and oils I use in this. For the vinegar, besides red wine, you can also try pomegranate or balsamic. For the oils, experiment with regular olive oil, extra virgin, or flavored oils such as lemon, basil, or garlic-infused.


Crisp Rosemary Potatoes
from Gourmet Magazine

-2 pounds red potatoes, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
-1 tablespoon olive oil
Crispy Rosemary Potatoes (the crispier the better!) 
-2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary(I've also used dried and the recipe came out great.)
-salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and generously oil 2 large baking sheets
Arrange potatoes in 1 layer on the sheets. 
Brush tops with oil and sprinkle with rosemary, salt, and pepper. (I always use alot of rosemary.)
Roast potatoes in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until golden and edges are crisp, about 20 minutes. Serves 4.
***I usually keep them in longer, checking every 5-10 minutes depending on how crispy you like them! 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Three Lucky Memories of my Mom

Mom at 6 yrs (1948)
On August 24th, it was my dear Mother's birthday. She would've been 74. Hope she had a great birthday up there doing shots of her favorite Hot Damn liquor. Maybe she sat on the edge of a cloud in Heaven. spying on her kids while sipping Baileys, she loved that too. I can picture her enjoying herself, listening to some salsa, watching people walk by (if they have such a thing up in heaven). She was a people watcher. 

More recently before she passed in 2009, Mom just loved to sit on my sister Sheryl's front porch in Philly and watch the world walk by. Mom said it reminded her of growing up in Newark, sitting in the front of her building as a child. By now, my readers know that I often tell of memories of her as a sort of a record for my brother and sister and my niece and nephew, Angelica and Johnny as well. One day, I hope it will help them get to know their Nana better. 

Mom grew up in Newark, NJ, in an apartment building on Goldsmith Avenue next to Weequahic Park. It's comforting to know the building is still there. During some of those hot city summers, Nanny and Grandpop sent Mom to Camp Kalmia in Blairstown, NJ. She told me she used to enjoy camp but one evening she almost lost her life. A huge summer thunderstorm rolled through the area taking everyone by surprise. A huge stately maple tree stood next to the cabin soaring into the sky as far as she could see.
Camp Kalmia lake

A building from Camp Kalmia where Mom used to stay.
The strong winds took down that maple tree that stormy evening. The tree fell away from the cabin. If it had fallen into the cabin, it would've smashed right down the center onto where my Mom lay huddled in her sleeping bag hiding from the storm. She was lucky.


Mom also told me of how she was cruising with friends one weekend evening during high school around 1959. She opted to ride in the back area of the rambler station wagon. There was an accident, the car crashed, and she literally flew out the back of the rambler. 

Mom told me she landed on the base of an old oak tree. She was injured but thank G-d did not break her back. She often told me her back continued to hurt her through the years due to this accident. She was lucky though again.

The last story is a funny one. During my Mom's high school years, she was addicted to the dance show by Clay Cole, disc jockey and host of the teenage dance party, The Clay Cole Show, which was the New York City's counter-part to Philly's American Bandstand.

Mom used to watch Clay Cole every day during her later high school years. She once told me of how she and her best girl friend played hooky one day from school to go on the dance show (unbeknownst to my Nana) . They cut class and took the train in to New York City to appear on the show. 

The girls got on the show, but then realized that my Nana watched it every day as well! So every time the camera panned the dancers, Mom and her friend would hide behind people, hoping that Nana wouldn't spot them dancing. Well, my Mom had luck on her side once again, and Nana never spotted them cutting class. 
Clay Cole with Annette Funicello circa 1960

I have to say, I love these stories about my Mom. I always knew she was a fiesty fun gal but knowing she was like that in high school too is just great. You need to ask your parents about their experiences growing up my friends. My sister, brother and I are lucky enough we have some of these stories. 

You can read more about The Clay Cole Show at these links: 

http://www.starnewsonline.com/news/20091121/former-teen-dance-party-host-recalls-rocks-early-days

http://www.jerseygirlssing.com/claytributes.html