Monthly Archives: July 2012

Pèach de Résistance

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It’s peach season here in New Jersey, and I can’t seem to get enough of these decadent morsels of fruit. I have seriously been devouring peaches to the disgustingly ridiculous degree of ad nauseam.  But it’s such a fleeting season and shortly thereafter summer also ends. To get your hands on these little gems is like capturing the last chance ranch of summer – although the Jersey tomatoes and white Silver Queen corn linger on. So by ferociously holding onto this nectar of the gods, I am indeed prolonging the essence of summer. There’s nothing like the juice of a sugar-laden peach dripping down my face and onto my hands.  I cherish each sticky drop and lick my fingers thoroughly.

Of course, there are many things you can do with a peach besides peach eating contests.  I’ve just recently had the pleasure of learning how to can them with my friends Kitty and Kathy, but that’s another story for another day. What an experience!  And a lot of work!  But look at the fruits of our labor.  You really want to lick that spoon, don’t you?  Am I right?!?

You can grill them up with a splash of balsamic vinegar and fresh basil as a sweet and sour side dish or bake them sliced on top of chicken breast with a touch of garlic powder, salt, pepper and olive oil.  So many uses – so little time.  This is my all-time FAVORITE peach crumb cake recipe. Get it right, and you’ll be in heaven.  I’m not even kidding – it’s that good (if I do say so myself). Add a blob of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, and you’re good to go.

 Crust

3 cups flour

1 cup of sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

1 cup shortening

1 egg

Dash salt.

Mix with pastry cutter until crumbly (don’t over mix).  Divide in half and pat ½ the dough into a 9 x 13 greased pan. (I use a round Pampered Chef pan I’ve had for years.)

Filling

4 cups fresh peaches

(Boil for five minutes, run cold water over them and peel immediately. Skin will come off like a charm, then you just pit and slice.)

1 tbsp. lemon juice (fresh squeezed is awesome)

1 cup sugar

3 tsp. cornstarch

(You can also mix in a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg for a little spicy flavor if you want, but I like it plain.)

Spoon peach mixture over dough in pan. Crumble remaining dough on top.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45 – 55 minutes until lightly browned.

Voilà!

I’ve also made this recipe with fresh blueberries, apples and strawberries.  Or you can do a fruit mix like blueberries and peaches.  YUM!  Nothing like it! I can see you drooling!

Whichever way you choose, get out to your local farm markets and buy a bushel of peaches before they’re gone.  Be creative in their many uses and just enjoy the gifts of God’s summer bounty!

Bon appétit!

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LIFE DOESN’T ALWAYS TURN OUT THE WAY YOU PLANNED

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Life doesn’t always turn out the way you planned.  Mild understatement, right?  How many of you are doing the exact thing you set out to do way back when? I would guess not many. How many of you are exactly where you thought you’d be? I know I’m not. How many of you are actually living the life you dreamed of when you were a kid? I didn’t think so.

The reason for this introspection is because my dear brother has come upon a milestone birthday, and it hasn’t been easy for him. As you get older, birthdays, in general, get harder to celebrate. You run from them kicking and screaming instead of embracing them like, say, when you were 21.  It’s just a fact of life that once you reach a certain plateau, birthdays basically suck.  I know this one has been an especially thought-provoking challenge for him.  My bro’s life has taken some very defined twists and turns, and where he presently is, in some respects, is nowhere near where he aspired to be. And as you get older, it’s hard not to take a look back and question yourself ad nauseam as to how the hec you are where you are instead of where you thought you’d be.

I think the question to be asked is, even though life didn’t turn out the way you planned, are you satisfied with the way you have accepted how it has turned out?  Do you count your blessings?  Do you appreciate what you do have?  Are you thankful for the people in your life who surround you with love just the way you are?  Do you tell them that you love them? Do you take the time to go outside and breathe in the fresh morning air and then thank God that you can walk and breathe?  Do you appreciate and see the beauty in nature – like that gorgeous yellow sunflower that sprouted unsuspectingly from a wild seed below the bird feeder?  Did you notice the vibrant colors in the spectacular rainbow that followed the storm of the century? How good was that cup of coffee you just finished?  Isn’t it nice to have clean, fresh clothes from the washer and dryer?

OK, I know you can hear the corny music swelling in the background as I get carried with the trivial. But I think happiness is being aware of and thankful for all the trivial things that mesh together to make up our lives. And, yes, it’s hard to see the sunflower when the economy is choking you and you don’t know how you’re going to survive if something overwhelming awesome doesn’t happen soon. And why is it that the love of your life is taking so long to get here?! You’ve just got to keep the faith and know that things will eventually turn around.

My brother is a good man.  He is kind and generous to a fault. He has certainly stretched his dexterity to the breaking point by taking my family under his wing. He’s my Rock of Gibraltar.  He has listened and counseled me tirelessly through a truly crap time. He has given me refuge in a time of dire need.  Without him I doubt that I would still be standing.  So, even though he may not want to, I am celebrating his birthday and appreciating him for what he has done for me!

Thanks, Ken, not only for the major stuff I mentioned above, but thanks for dragging me around every Halloween, when ditching me would have speeded up your ability to obtain so many more Milky Way bars.

Thanks for waiting patiently with me every Christmas morning so we could descend those steps to see Santa’s treasures together.

Thanks for the hours of fun in the snow, building forts and plummeting me with snowballs until I froze into an icy mess. In case I am ever called to be a member of the cast of “Survivor,” I’m prepared.

Thanks for not mocking (too much) my “Girl from U.N.C.L.E.,” Yardville branch, spy club.

Thanks for untying Tommy so I could run before he killed me when I failed my knot tying exercise.

Thanks for winning me the orange “Glug” on the boardwalk in Seaside.

Thank you NOT, however, for the impetigo you gave me in second grade. Although I have to admit it was fun being quarantined with you for two weeks playing games and drinking chocolate milk. Plus, we got out of school, so I guess a thank you is actually in order after all.

Thanks for telling that guy in high school I liked him, even though it was probably embarrassing for you and even though he turned out to be a jerk.

Thanks for crying at my wedding rehearsal. (Although, I should have been the one crying, had I known then what I know now.)

Thanks for being the best and most generous uncle ever to your two lucky nieces.

Thanks for being kind to my pets, even when Bella stained your rug…whoops…

I raise my glass to you, dear brother, I tip my hat, hope and pray that the coming year will be blessed with your heart’s desires and all your dreams come true. And when it’s all said and done, I hope you will be the lucky one and that your life will truly turn out exactly the way you planned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sand Wars (aka War Between the Siblings)

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A day at the beach turned into a comical production of the struggle between brothers and sisters to co-exist. It started off innocently when a woman with two friends descended onto the beach with umbrellas, chairs, beach bags, towels, blankets and a multitude of other stuff I couldn’t even identify.  Really?!  Is it truly necessary to bring all of that paraphernalia for a few hours in the sun?! Apparently so. One woman had three kids in tow – a girl about 10, a boy about 8 and a younger girl around 6.  The girls were skinny string-beans (as my Mother used to call me when I was young.) The boy was thin as well and wore a brand new ball cap with a huge brim that was big and flat.  It looked odd sitting atop his little head.  The little girls wore bright bikinis that hung on their thin frames, and the older girl wore shocking pink heart-shaped sunglasses and pranced around like a super model.

Just then a smiling, pudgy little girl of about 6 came running up from a stakeout closer to the ocean– maybe a neighbor?  She was very pretty with white-blonde hair and blue eyes, although she had the few extra pounds of baby fat. She was with her mom and older brother (about 10 – a big kid). Shortly after some back and forth and hellos between the kids and the moms – IT began.  Sand Wars.

The older boy had formed this odd little fort by digging deep into the sand, surrounding the hole with boogie boards and then covering them with towels to form a roof.  The younger other brother joined in.  The girls sashayed over to the fort to check it out and were told in no uncertain terms to go away.  They stood with hands on hips refusing to budge. That’s when the younger boy with the odd ball cap took a handful of sand and hurled it at his sisters.  No matter – all the girls in turn picked up handfuls of sand and tossed it back.  The younger boy (the older boy had disappeared into the fort for some reason – maybe knowing better than to fight with girls) took another handful of sand and tossed it in their faces causing them to squeal sharply.  The girls dug their hands deep into the sand and were just about to let it rip when mom came running over with her hands on her hips yelling at the boy.  The girls had cleverly, and ever so nonchalantly, let the sand slide out of their hands before mom could see. Little angels… As the younger boy was getting reamed out by mom, the girls slipped away from the scene and began staking out a fort of their own.

Much to the boys’ chagrin, the girls’ fort was an exact replica of the boys’ fort.  The boys stood seething from afar. The younger boy was especially agitated since they were using his boogie board.  He finally ran over and snatched the board, caving in one side of the fort, screamed that their fort was “stinky” and ran, joining his older friend under the blankets in their fort, which must have been a stifling 100 degrees by now. The girls, seeing that their fort had collapsed, decided it was boring and instead decided to lay out on their towels and “get a tan” in the words of the older girl. They ignored the boys completely, sitting on their blanket, talking and munching on Goldfish, pretzels and an assortment of candy provided by the chubby little girl.  That peaked the younger boy’s attention, since he must have become bored laying in the torrid fort with the older boy doing a lot of nothing.  He watched the girls for a while until he mustered up the courage to mosey over to where they were sunning and then stood over them staring at what they were eating. He politely asked for some Goldfish crackers and the younger, chubby girl graciously handed him some.  He said a courteous “thank you.” The girl smiled up at him, and he smiled back.  Since the older boy still had not come out from the fort, and probably because the younger boy found the girls more interesting, he sat down on their blanket with a juice box and joined in their conversation.

I left shortly thereafter, so I’ll never be sure of what happened to the cloistered older brother who seemingly disappeared into the sand, or whether the cozy reunion of brother and sisters lasted. I do know that a major battle in the war between the siblings was diffused by simple indifference and a handful of orange, fish-shaped cheddar crackers.

ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE

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I never really cared much for Linda McCartney. That’s a mean thing to say, isn’t it?  Bear with me. I didn’t know her, but I think a lot of teenyboppers felt the same way when she stole the heart of Beatle Paul McCartney. She seemed so aloof, haughty and proud of herself, but in hindsight, who wouldn’t be? She married the cutest Beatle whom everyone was crazy about and took him off the market (as if we ever had a chance…). And she was always with Paul, lurking in the background, even in interviews, and it was like, can you please go away and let Paul talk?  He’s the one we want to hear from, not you! And supposedly she always seemed to be causing trouble with the Beatles.  She and Yoko were eventually blamed with breaking the group up, which happened only a year after she and Paul had wed. She just was never well received by the public.

But the thing is, they didn’t seem to care. Paul loved Linda and Linda loved Paul and that was all they needed.  It was as simple as that.  They were devoted to each other, had a wonderful marriage for 29 years and raised a beautiful family. At the end of her life when she suffered through cancer treatments, he was always by her side – steadfast in his devotion to her.  Her family surrounded her. When she died in 1998 Paul dropped out for a while, mourning her passing. It was a very sad time for him, and for the first time I began to think that maybe Linda and Paul had gotten it right. Maybe she wasn’t so bad.  I mean, look how much he loved her. And as the Beatles had written years before, all you need is love. They didn’t care what people thought. They just held onto each other in the name of love, and the hec with everyone else. Isn’t that what love should be about when you boil everything else down?  You can be rich and be miserable. You can be poor and be miserable.  You can be famous and be miserable.  Out of work and be miserable. Successful and be miserable. But throw in the equation of love, and happiness rings through all the challenges.

After Linda’s death, Paul could have lived out his life alone, knowing he had experienced the one pure, true love of his life. He could have left it at that. But he gave it another chance with Heather Mills in 2002.  It was a stormy relationship, nothing like his marriage to Linda. The tabloids focused on the nastiness of the divorce and settlement in 2008. Maybe Paul would now give up on love.  But no, he threw caution to the wind yet again by marrying Nancy Shevell in May of 2011.

 

 

So you go, Paul, you hopeless romantic, you!  You never give up on the possibility of love and demonstrate for all of us that neither should we.  Because in your own words – all you need is love, right?  And love is all you need.

INDEPENDENCE DAY REMEMBRANCE

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When I was an adolescent and the Vietnam War was in full tilt, there was a movement wherein you could purchase a metal wrist band with the name of a prisoner of war (POW) imprinted on it.  The idea was to wear the band in support of that person until he was released.

My serviceman’s name was Lt. Col. Louis Makowski. That’s all I knew at the time. Much later I found out he was a 16-year veteran of the United States Air Force working as a navigator when his plane was shot down over North Vietnam on October 6, 1966.  He was first reported missing in action (MIA) then later reported as a POW. I remember the sadness of those days as the many numbers of the fallen were reported daily on the news. I remember the protests, the peace signs, and the unrest in our country caused by this war.

I wore Lt. Col. Makowski’s wrist band for many years and prayed for him daily. I can’t even imagine the torture, physical abuse, starvation and loneliness this man suffered through. For four years there was no word about him or his whereabouts.  Then in 1970, his wife began getting letters from a prison camp.  He was alive and well.

As the war came to a close, the Vietnamese began releasing these prisoners.  Television stations would broadcast their return to the United States as they arrived at the airport and would announce their names one by one as they descended the ramp from the plane. I happened to be watching one of these broadcasts, and I couldn’t believe my eyes or my ears when they announced Lt. Col. Louis Makowski. He was released on March 4, 1973 after 6 ½ years of incarceration. When I saw him, I started crying as if I knew him.  I took my bracelet off and kissed it.  He was finally home safe.

I still have that bracelet, and every time I look at it I am reminded of that time in our history and of the brave military who fought during the Vietnam War.  We should try very hard never to forget any war –Vietnam, the World Wars, Korea, Persian Gulf or Mid-East confrontations or the details that helped us to rise above these conflicts. The independence we enjoy today is because of these courageous troops who defended our country. And despite some of our nation’s recent challenges, we still stand united as the land of the free and the home of the brave.

As we celebrate our independence this week and honor those who have served us so heroically, let us always remember and never forget the price they paid for the privilege of our freedom. Even if the reminder is a small metal wrist band imprinted with the name of an unknown Air Force navigator.