Humor me…

I believe one of the best things to have in your life is the ability to laugh about it all…

Some days it’s the only thing that saves you.

I believe I came upon my sense of humor honestly. My parents are terrifically funny people. From evenings spent in my childhood in Detroit, falling asleep to their ringing laughter  and the smell of citronella candles, while they shared beers, jokes and stories with my Uncle Bob and Aunt Dororthy and the Markovichs, to them calling me up to read me the latest Far Side cartoon, my Mom laughing so hard I thought she was going to start crying, to the steady stream of videos and jokes my Dad now sends me to keep me laughing when I need it most, they are two people quick to laugh and able to find the funny in almost any situation, Their laughter along with my daughter Emma’s are some of the sweetest sounds in the world to me. And it was very clear to me from her first joke at 2 and 1/2. Emma has picked up a hilariously good sense of humor and it will continue to be passed down….

I really did have a sweet legacy, we watched and listened to a lot of comedy when I was growing up be it movies,  comedy albums, I can still remember the cover of the spoof on the Kennedy’s, Tv – the Honeymooners, Rowen and Martin’s Laugh-In, Monty Python, Milton Berle, Dick Van Dyke, Saturday Night Live, Bob Newhart, even Hee Haw. You name it, I was exposed to it all…

I will say on the humor spectrum as a whole, we went for more intellectual funny as opposed to say slapstick but anything was game. But there were slight variances, not all of our humor was exactly the same, we each had our brand as it were, I think I had the most bizzare take of the bunch, but here was a situation where my Dad and I were on the same page…

We were taking a family car vacation (National Lampoon picked up a few ideas from us I am pretty sure…) and having left for the trip at the crack of dawn (like we always did) around 10 in the morning we needed to stop to get something to eat…we were in the middle of midwesternsouthern noweheresville and this was back in the days before there was a chain restaurant every 2.5 miles. So we ended up stopping at one of the little roadside diners…that had definitely seen better days . Now my Mom is a very polite person, she will rarely come right out and say she doesn’t like something, so when my Dad proposed stopping at the diner she made a small attempt at “Well maybe we can find something a little bit down the road…” but me, my Dad and brother all being starving kind of overruled her on that.

You have to read betwen the lines with my Mom sometimes, her “Well maybe we can find something a little bit down the road” was actually her polite way of saying “oh my god this place looks like you could get botulism just by walking over the door step”.

But she demured and we went in to get a table. To her credit the place was pretty gross, complete with gum-crakin’, flat footed, stringy haired waitress and menus so stained and sticky you could barely read them..So my Dad, brother and I immediately ordered huge plates of pancakes and eggs, OJ, the whole works, my Mom when it was her turn said “I’ll just have coffee” Now I KNEW my Mom was as hungry as we were but it was her way of dealing with the situation. My Dad knew it too.

So as the rest of us wolfed down food and my Mom sat with her back to the wall and primly perched on the edge of her seat with her purse in her lap (and surely would have been rubbing her hands with hand sanitizer had it been available back then) and sipped her coffee, the BIGGEST , HUGEST, UGLIEST roach I have ever seen started crawling up the wall right behind her.

My Dad and I both saw it at the same time and just died laughing. the combination of the realness and the absurdity of it all came crashing in and made me laugh so hard milk would have come out of my nose had I been drinking it…she was so right not to want to eat there…and we knew it, but hunger had ruled out. The joke was on us.

Oh yes, a shining example of how I inherited my humour and an appreciation for the absurd…I’m not absolutely sure my Mom ever knew what we were laughing at, she probably thought we were crazy at the time…but I am pretty sure when she reads this now…she will laugh.

It’s what we do.

Posted in Love is a rock | 2 Comments

Snow Day…

Yes, Cincinnati got about 3-4 inches last night and so the city stops…

Highly amusing to a girl who has lived in Michigan, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Illinois and Nebraska…honestly producers of WAY greater snowstorms than Cincinnati could ever weather and live to tell about it.

I’ve always loved snow.

The ability to lightly fall and blanket and hush the world for a minute. To make the ugly pristine, and shining new for just one perfect moment. To make the warmth inside your house seem a beacon and safe place where the world can stop for an instant and hot chocolate can create a physical feeling of love… And every angle from grey clouds that look like billowing smoke, with white flakes waltzing or tasmania-deviiling across the skies to blinding shining ice crystals making the sun a million times brighter gives my eyes a winter workout. And the crunch, crunch, crunch sounds that accompany the first walk. Love the visuals, not so hot on the actual cold that accompanies it however…

So here are my most vivid snow Memories…

My Sixth Birthday

I was turning 6, and I was having my first birthday party!  Including personally signed invitations sent to all the girls in my kindergarten class and my close personal friends in the neighborhood, a Red Riding hood theme, a 3-d centerpiece and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey…it was the real deal!.

We lived in Michigan at the time in a suburb outside of Detroit called Utica. This was a neighborhood of Kick-the-can, slamming screen doors, forts built-in the woods, frogs and fireflies and being home when the street lights came on.

Um, did I mention that my birthday is March 21st the first day of spring?

So the candled cake was made (chocolate with chocolate icing of course!) the 3-D centerpiece was assembled, a snappy little red riding hood with a folded out paper skirt, red riding hood napkins, balloons, everything. My first very big deal in entertaining!! I was super psyched!!

And then…14 inches of snow.

So instead of 30 guests, we had 5. The ones who could put on the ugly rubber boots, double scarves, hats and gloves and actually trudge to my house.

Did we have fun? Yes! Was I disappointed? Yes.

Maybe that’s why I throw so many parties today…

Green Bay…

OK in Green Bay it snowed so much it was weirder NOT to have snow. And snow days ? forget it. The only snow day I ever had there (and it was only a half a day at that) was  when I was a freshman at St. Josephs Academy for Girls, when it was blizzarding so hard they sent us home from school early…it was snowing so hard you couldn’t see ANYTHING out of the bus windows. It scared the shit out of me…this was tie-a-rope-to-the-barn-door-and-hope-you-don’t-die kind of situation!!

It was also so cold there that too this day I have broken capillaries around my nose from walking in the cold everyday to grade school…yes I almost got frostbite on a regular basis. And I only lived 3 blocks from the school.

But the upside was I learned to ski, ice skated regularly, got to ride a snowmobile and even ice fished (dear Dad please don’t ever make me do that last one again OK? 🙂

The Blizzard of ’78

When we moved to Cincinnati in my Sophomore year I attended Lakota High School (way back when there was only ONE of them).

Having lived through the winters in Green Bay, southern Ohio seemed like a breeze…a balmy winter breeze.

It used to make me laugh and laugh when we’d get off of school when it snowed a 1/2 an inch, I thought it was hilarious…grizzled, blizzard survivor that I was.

But then came the Blizzard of ’78, not only did we get a snow day…we got a snow MONTH. Seriously we were off for that long…which would seem like super fun right?

Unless you are stuck in a house, with your parents, in the suburbs, In the middle of corn fields, can’t drive, can’t walk anywhere, a 15 minute cap on phone calls (this is before the cell phone era) what’s a girl to do? Listen to the radio….a LOT. Goddess bless Q102 for getting me through that month..and now whenever I hear Manfred Mann’s version of “Blinded by the light” I remember it through a shimmering ice landscape with sun bouncing rays off the winter white crystals into my room onto my silver and blue tweeded am/fm stereo hi-fi radio (with two detachable speakers I might add!) sitting on its marble window frame as I lay dreaming of the day I could drive and escape the confines of my room and snow imposed icy prison.

Today? I dream I don’t have to drive in it, and luckily for today that is true,  so I simmer up some hot chocolate, start mixing the cookie dough, throw the movie in and snuggle Emma, kitty contingent Jasper, Lola and Smokey and I under a huge fluffy blanket…

And take a snow day.

Posted in Love is a rock | 2 Comments

Dip-Shit….

Although I shared this in my cook book “Rock and Rolls” I think it bears re-mentioning as the glorious, festive season of holiday parties approaches.

STORE BOUGHT ONION DIP SUCKS!!!!!

Seriously I am so against it that if you serve it to me at your party this year I won’t come back next year, nor the year after that…ever, probably, I am not kidding…seriously. That stuff is beyond gross…it’s usually made with fake sour cream, tastes much too strong and your breath…well, you best have a toothbrush AND a giant size bottle of Scope if you hope to even get a smidgen of party talk under your belt.  And that kiss at midnight at New Years?? Ha ha! seriously don’t even think it’s going to happen, in fact people will run screaming from you, that’s a fact.

“But it’s easy you say”, “I can just whip into the nearest convenience store and there you go!” It’s thinking like this that is killing America.

Stop it stop it right now!

I have the recipe below that not only can make that nasty onion dip obsolete, it will make you the queen of dips, any dips!!  In less than 10 minutes! Guaranteed. It’s a magic recipe you can whip up into almost limitless configurations and will make you a star!

It also will make sure I will be at your next party and you KNOW how fun I am so everybody wins!

OK So here’s the Basic Dip:

 1 8 oz. carton of sour cream (reg or low fat – your choice)

1 Cup  Hellman’s mayonnaise (reg or low fat, again your choice and I did NOT say Miracle Whip did I?)

1/2 package of softened Cream Cheese (again reg or low fat your call)

Mix the ingredients together until light and fluffy, then proceed with any of the variations below…you can add in a touch more sour cream or cream if you like a less thick dip, or even skip the cream cheese, it’s up to you.

The first is a VERY good substitution for that nameless horrid thing we talked about in the paragraphs above…and the others well they are just delicious, impressive and good to have in your arsenal. Oh and when I said endless variations, I wasn’t kidding, almost anything goes. Take the basic dip and get creative…and send me YOUR new recipe. I will steal it and make it at my next party.

Variation 1 – Dill dip

To the basic dip recipe add 2 tablespoons of dill and a squeeze of lemon juice and either a teaspoon of Beau Monde seasoning (if you can find it) or instead a teaspoon of salt and some celery salt to taste.

Mix and serve – good with veggies, chips, as a sandwich condiment, really most versatile dip ever!

Variation 2 – Blue Cheese dip

Add one package (or two if you really love blue cheese!) of crumbled blue cheese, a big squeeze of lemon, and  some cracked black pepper.

Mix and serve – Good with chicken wings, crackers, and awesome with roast beast.

Variation 3 – Shrimp dip

Add 10 to 12 large chopped up shrimp to the basic mix, along with 2 tablespoons shrimp sauce (or a combo of ketchup and horseradish) a big squeeze of lemon juice and  2 dashes of hot sauce

mix and serve – With crackers, chips, especially good on celery and cucumber rounds

Variation 4 – La Mexicana dip

Add one can chipolte with adobo sauce (chop up the chipolte) and some chopped green onions and diced avocado and a squeeze of lime juice. Arriba! Warning spicy!!

Mix and serve – great with tortilla chips, awesome on cucumber spears, yummy served on tacos.

Variation 5 – Tropical Vacation dip

Add 1 small can drained crushed pineapple, a cup of finely diced ham, and some red pepper flakes.

Mix and serve – Good on chips, yummy piped into cherry tomatoes

Variation 6 – Mediterranean Mix dip

Add once cup cooked  diced eggplant, 1/4 cup tahini, a half cup diced cherry tomatoes, a 1/4 diced onion along with a teaspoon of cumin and oregano. Salt to taste and sprinkle some parsley on top.

Mix and serve – Delicious with pita bread, also fabulous as a sandwich spread. Also super yummy on red pepper srips.

Variation 7 – Italy-by-the-Sea dip

Add to the basic mix a half cup pesto, a cup of diced tomatoes, 1/4 cup diced onion a teaspoon of oregano and a teaspoon of balsalmic vinegar and a 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella – (feel free to add more mozzarella, I do)

Mix and serve – Delicious on crostada, just slice some day old italian bread and crisp in the oven, Good as a spread for pizza too…delicious on zucchini spears and good rolled up in prosciutto or salami.

Variation 8 – Sweetheart dip

Add 1 cup packed brown sugar, 2 tablespoons honey , a 1/4 teaspoon salt and a tablespoon of salted butter.

Mix and serve – Delicious on fruit of any kind, mix very well before serving.

 Variation 9 – The “OK if you absolutely cannot live without onion dip here’s a better recipe” dip

Chop a large yellow onion, saute it in a pan with some olive oil, slowly so you caramelize the onions, about halfway through, add a few tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and continue cooking til the onions are completely caramelized. Add this to the basic mixture along with some thyme, cracked black pepper and a touch of lemon juice.

Mix and serve – I think you know what goes good with onion dip…

 Ok so there you go…easy, fast, infinitely more delicious than that store bought crap, because seriously, you do not want me bringing cheesy poofs to your party…and you do not want to be a dip shit….

Posted in Rock and Rolls | 2 Comments

The light at the end of the dock…

My daughter Emma, 16 and finishing up the quarter in her first creative writing class, asked for my help last night. Instead of an exam, she’s responsible for writing a short story with very specific criteria that would equal her exam grade, and she asked if I would read it through and give her some feedback…I did. Not much feedback to provide actually, but we did have a lively discussion about how to best convey and word things to get a certain ideas across…

Now things, in truth, have not been all roses and sunshine between Miss Emma and I lately, for one she’s 16 and for another I’m fighting a disease that not only scares the shit out of her and me but requires her to do some things the average carefree 16-year-old need never worry about… so we’ve had a bit of rocky road of late, a clashing of minds, a couple of knock-down drag-outs…and a few times I wondered if she was going to make it into the long-term not to mention even into the next few hours.

I worry constantly if I’ve taught her enough, if she’s been listening because there’s an outside chance that I might not be around as long as she needs me. Granted the plan is for me to be around at least another 50 years…but I work to cover all contingencies.  I’ve always made sure to teach her to take care of herself…she knows enough to feed herself…and well at that (her chili and mac n’ cheese are things of beauty!), she can do laundry very well…I *think* she’s knows how to clean…she’ll demonstrate it if the need becomes necessary, although long-term gotta say the jury might still be out on that one…

However the thing I worry most about is that she get a good education and go to College, so she can pick the job she loves and her amazing intelligence deserves, and she never has to settle like I did. Us ADD’ers don’t do all that well in the corporate world…and the collegiate world being composed of 125% red tape is not easy to navigate.

She and I are a lot alike…in looks, in mannerisms, in brain power. The one area I worry about though is determination…I’m the dog with the bone and can make anything happen, truly.  Maybe that’s a by-product of confidence…maybe.

A lot of making things happen is communication and determination, which when I look to her for evidence of that in our every day exchanges…”Mother”!!! and “Whateverrrr!!!” don’t do a lot to instill in me that she can navigate the real world situations that are the things that can really wreak havoc in your life, like snarky, misogynistic bosses, creepy issue ridden boyfriends, infuriating nasty low IQ civil servants, frustrating and infuriating college road blocks…and need I mention the DMV??

You have to really be on your game to navigate those type of situations and words and demeanor help you do it.

Anyway…after she was finished editing her paper, she asked KP to read it, and I said “why don’t you read it out loud?” (that way I’d get to hear it again too…) and she did. And as she did I almost started to cry. Dear reader…I’ve been a reader for years now. It’s one of my favorite things to do, I usually have any where from 1-4 books going at a time, and I have read it all, from the classics, to the library, to the trash to blogs, to cereal boxes to books I surreptitiously purchase at Walgreens when I have run out of reading material.  Just to give you an idea I have read over 160 books alone in the last two months. I know of what I speak.

And as she’s reading, I am floored. I am amazed…I am not 100% certain, but I am 99% certain that she was channeling the level of F. Scott Fitzgerald in my kitchen, but not F. Scott Fitzgerald, a female sensitized version of F. Scott Fitzgerald, filled with dynamic, at times, almost quaint words used to get a very timely modern idea across, metaphors that sung and insinuated…I was in absolute awe and so was KP.

When she was done I told her it was amazing! I said ” You know that reminded me a lot of F. Scott Fitzgerald but better somehow! ” The look on her face was priceless  then she said “I love him! the Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books, what a great compliment Mom!!”.  I could see that flicker of self-confidence build and right at that moment I knew that whatever came her way, she would be allright…and I could finally turn down the worry meter. Because instead of something unreachable, unnavigable, an almost miss…a regret, she’ll have her talent to take with her, her words would serve her well and her Mom’s love and support as the green light at the end of the dock…always there, always present, but this time reachable, and with a much happier ending.

Posted in Love is a rock | 2 Comments

Tabbouleh or not tabouli?

I’ve been having major cravings for this middle eastern crunchy, delicious, vitamin explosion in a bowl the past few weeks…I’d always thought it was spelled “tabbouli” turns out I may or may not be correct, both spellings were listed in the dictionary along with “tabouli” as an alternative.

Also not only are there various spellings there seems to be two different approaches in the recipe itself. One French, the other from its native middle east.

The French version is much more like a couscous dish, a great deal of couscous with a little chopped tomato, cucumber and a sprinkling of mint and parsley, heavy on the olive oil, light on the lemon juice. A little heartier, a little more filling. You can find an excellent version of this at the Cafe de Paris, 17 Garfield place in downtown Cincinnati.

The middle eastern version, the one I’ve been craving is a little more salad-like, crunchier and just busting out with the tang of parsley and lemon along with a spicy pepper aftertaste. My very favorite version in town can be found at Floyd’s in Clifton at 129 Calhoun St.

Both versions make excellent dishes for any season as a side or a main dish. They are chock full of vitamins that are especially helpful in keeping your immune system humming this time of year. Also if you make the middle eastern version with it’s mound of fresh chopped parsley, you get the benefit of getting a good night’s sleep as well because parsley, like garlic is a great soporific!

M.E. Tabbouleh

1 large bunch of parsley chopped fine
1/3 of a medium onion diced
1 large tomato diced
1/4 cup couscous (place in a microwavable dish and just cover with water. Cook on high in the microwave for one minute then cool and fluff)

Combine the above and toss. Add two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, the juice of one large lemon, a half a teaspoon of sea salt and a half a teaspoon of freshly ground pepper.

Toss again, if it’s not gloriously lemony and tangy add some more lemon juice. I usually put it in the fridge for a half an hour to an hour to chill and blend the flavors. Toss again before you serve. It will only store well for a day or two at the most. The salt brings the liquid out of the veggies and it won’t be quite as crisp.

Serves 2 lunch portions or 4 sides, or one…if it’s me.

Tabouli de Paris

1/2 a bunch of parsley chopped fine
10 fresh mint leaves chiffonade
1/4 of an onion chopped
1 medium tomato diced
1 large cucumber peeled, seeded and diced
1 cup of couscous (put in a microwave safe dish, add water until the couscous is just covered, microwave for 2 minutes, cool and fluff)

Toss all of the above until mixed, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the juice of one medium lemon, a quarter teaspoon of cumin, a 1/2 a teaspoon of sea salt and pepper to taste.

Toss again, taste and adjust seasonings.
Makes two lunch portions or 4 sides.

Make both! Let me know which is your favorite…

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A little bit about my Whostory…

I was 17 when I went to the infamous Who concert that killed 11 people at the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio.  I was a senior at Lakota High School and  I remember being super excited that day, not only because I had been anticipating and trading Who lyrics for months with my friend Danny Holt, in a worn down, scuffed up, mini spiral notebook, but because we were going to go down early to get a chance at the best seats possible.  Me, yes me! I could be standing right in front of Roger Daltry! 

Festival Seating demanded early arrival, and running as fast as you
could once you got inside to get a spot on the floor as close to the band as possible. I went with my boyfriend at the time, although I knew tons of my friends from school were going, and I knew I’d see them once I was down there.

Weirdly, in a way you can only appreciate afterwards, that day before I left for the concert, while I was dressing, I made a decision that I think helped save my life. It was cold that day and I was sporting “cords”, a puffy down vest and a pair of topsiders, but made the fashion choice to go with my Frye boots instead. In the end a very important fashion choice indeed…

When we got down to the stadium it was de rigueur to hang out with your friends, get stoned or throw back some beers, while hanging out in the plaza in front of the “coliseum”, because I had a headache that day I wasn’t imbibing, which probably helped save me too…
I remember it being cold and chilly, sitting on the cement and waiting for a long time for the doors to open.

Around 7:15 that evening people started to line up in front of the main doors, it wasn’t too bad at first because with all the people around it was a little bit warmer than standing in the chilly breeze.  Around 10 minutes later it started to get uncomfortable, with a lot of getting smooshed into the person next to you, within another few minutes it started to get ridiculous really quickly…and for 11 of the kids…deadly.  Although I had no idea at the time. 

You could hear the band (we found out later it was sound check but a lot of folks thought they were missing the show) When you were standing there, there was just people everywhere and you really couldn’t see anything except whatever body part of the person in front or next to you that you were mashed up against.  I remember feeling sorry for a couple of really short girls standing next to me…And then it got really scary…

We were packed so tightly, you lost your ability to move, your feet were totally off the floor sometimes and “crowd sway” started happening, and word was “the doors were open” (at least that’s what was being passed back by word of mouth, but there was no way to see for sure) and people kept trying to move forward when there was just nowhere to go. I even lost track of my boyfriend at some point because of the way I was being moved by the crowd.

More and more people were packing into one little area. I started to panic when I was getting squeezed so tightly it was hard to breathe…at one point I remember actually almost standing on this guy’s knee trying to get air (and goddess bless my fashion choice for that extra two inches of heel…Because I never could have been able to be high enough to get air in flat shoes where I was) at that point I was starting to get panicky and I yelled out off of the top of my head “I’m going to be sick!!” and I’ll never know how, but the crowd instinctively moved back just enough so I could start climbing out to the side, which took me a minute or two, but I did it.

And then the weirdest thing happened, I lurched away from the crowd (also trying to cool off because I was soaking wet and sweating) but looked back to see if I could see my boyfriend or anyone I knew, and I was standing in a completely clear area! Everyone else was packed into one dense moving unit…and I was standing, off to the side completely by myself.  Then luckily I saw my boyfriend had made it out(I don’t remember how he was able to do it) and we walked about 50 feet down and walked RIGHT IN the next set of doors…and there was NOT ONE person in line there. NOT ONE.

We made it in and down to the floor and the concert was amazingly great…I still had no idea that outside on the cement were 11 dead people.

I remember running into Danny Holt and Randy Cheek and sadly seeing Randy’s face and glasses all smashed and if I remember correctly somebody had lost a shoe… I systematically (although I can’t remember if it was before, during or after the music was playing) ran into all of my friends that I knew were there. We traded some “Man that was some kind of crazy!!” stories but still no word of anybody dying…

It wasn’t til after I was out in the car and turned on the radio that I had heard what actually happened.  And it was beyond chilling… In a nano-second I realized how dangerous and deadly it was standing in front of those doors.  At the time I was being squished in the crowd I had NO IDEA that I was a mere 2 inches…one pair of Frye boots…One spur of the moment ” I’m going to be sick” away from actually not living the rest of my life….

On the way home, (in that long ago “time before cell phones”) I stopped at a phone booth and called my Mom and Dad to let them know I was alive…

I remember crying on the way home in the car, and wondering if anyone of the people killed was someone I knew.  But ironically I also remember being slightly pissed that the decision was made after the event that they were getting rid of festival seating for good.

I believe it was not the band’s fault and remember feeling very sorry for them at the time.  But I believe the coliseum’s decision not to open the doors earlier, not to realize the severity of the situation and not take quick action by redirecting people to the other doors…was the true reason for those kid’s deaths.

Were further lives  saved by that decision?  I don’t think there’s a way to ever know for sure.

But what I do know is this; I am glad to be here today to tell the story, even though it’s a terrible story to have to relive.   I still get nervous in crowds and have claustrophobia issues and I always know where the exits are whenever I am in a crowded place.

AND I still love the Who just as much as I did then.
I really wish I still had the notebook that Danny and I used to trade back and forth….

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