Category Archives: Baby Boomers

The Joys of Improv

Leftovers! Why does that word have such an unfortunate connotation — “sad”, “dreary”, “unwanted”? For example: Last to be chosen for softball (that would be me in 6th grade). Late to losing one’s virginity (also me… age 20). Third tier invitee to a wedding or party (not me I hope, although I’ve never found out if I was on the C list.)

But in fact you can make amazing things out of leftovers because they invoke your creativity. Only downside… you’ll never make that dish the same way twice.

I refuse to take credit when a recipe I’ve read in a book turns out ok. All I had to do was read and follow instructions. (On second thought, maybe credit IS due because I suck at following instructions; just ask my Long Suffering Husband.)

Still, isn’t it much more fun to wing it without a net and make something up? That’s what we’re faced with at this point in the season, when we’re close to shutting down the summer house and have to invent recipes based on what’s in the fridge/freezer that needs to be used because I have some weird Puritanical Streak or Jewish Guilt telling me it’s a SIN TO WASTE FOOD!!!!

Last night, the LSH combined basic rice with leftover salsa, leftover cheddar and mozzarella, turmeric, salt and pepper, paprika, chili powder and moribund sliced jalapenos to create Mexican rice. Probably not authentic, but definitely tasty and it hit all the points for Using Up Crap In the Fridge.

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Below is an adaptation of a favorite recipe, tweaked to use up various bits of excellent cheese that were malingering in the fridge. Feel free to substitute other nuts and adjust based on your own leftovers; there’s pretty much no wrong way to make this.

Cheesy Shortbread Leaves

Ingredients

  • 3.5 ounces crumbled cheese (about ½ cup), e.g. gruyère/cheddar/conté
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon
  • 1/3 cup almonds, finely chopped

Preparation

  1. Blend cheese and butter in food processor until creamy.
  2. Add flour, cornstarch, mustard, tarragon, salt and pepper. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  3. Add nuts and process just until it forms moist clumps.
  4. Gather dough into a ball. Flatten into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 325° F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Roll out dough between sheets of plastic wrap to 1/8″-1/4” thickness. Remove the top sheet of plastic and using a 2” x 1” leaf-shaped cookie cutter, cut out leaves. Note: if you don’t have a cookie cutter, you can roll the dough into a log, chill until firm enough to cut but not super-cold, and then cut slices instead. Gather dough scraps and re-roll to make additional leaves.
  7. Transfer leaves to baking sheets and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Makes about 4 dozen, depending on thickness of dough and size of cookie cutter.

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Bullies, Then and Now

I’d already started writing this when a wonderful blog landed in my Inbox. I’d been thinking about the ways life keeps tossing bullies in our path – just when we’re beginning to believe we’ve outgrown the past. Clearly, I’m not alone.

Back in 7th grade, I was frequently tormented by the mean and massive football player who sat next to me in Homeroom. I was shy, bookish and definitely not cool, having parents who eschewed everything that was considered fashionable in the 1960’s.

In junior high on Long Island, you had to have Pappagallos, low-cut flats that came in a rainbow of colors, were worn by all the popular girls, and that I was not allowed to wear because, according to my mother, they didn’t give my feet enough “support”. Instead I was doomed to clunky Mary Janes, which prompted endless witticisms from “Football Fred” ridiculing my old-lady clodhoppers.

Adding to my not-coolness was not being allowed to shave my legs. Having sparse, white-blond body hair I thought I could get away with this, but Fred never missed an opportunity to drop a pencil or notebook under my desk and retrieve it with a snarky whisper about my “spider legs”.

Happily, life goes on and we all grow up. Sort of. Because at my first job, I discovered a new species: the work bully.

My first boss, “Andy”, was an affable ex-military guy whose management style was a type of hazing designed to toughen me up. Although Andy wasn’t overtly insulting, he often withheld information that could make my job easier or more efficient. This resulted in a colossal waste of time and energy that, more than once, reduced me to tears of fury in the ladies’ room.

One of my early tasks as a junior art director was to recommend which artists we should contact for a particular job. I had no idea how to begin looking, and there was no Internet with which to research this. I asked Andy for direction and he told me to go figure it out. I suggested that if he’d simply tell me where the information was I’d never have to ask him a second time, but he walked away.

Hours later, I discovered that Andy already had files of cards from all the artists’ representatives, neatly catalogued by style from realistic to cartoon. He must have thought sending me on a wild goose chase would build character. Instead, it built resentment. We did, in the end, become good friends—once I was no longer working for him.

I next crossed swords with a burly, perpetually scowling television producer I’ll call Phil, who refused to partner with me on a commercial because I was too “junior”– never mind that it was one I’d written and it was therefore my responsibility to follow through.

Phil insisted he’d only work with my boss. After running up and down the stairs multiple times to relay this to my supervisor, who kept sending me back to negotiate further, I finally closed the door (hard!) to Phil’s office and said, “Look, I don’t want to work with you any more than you want to work with me, but we have a job to do so let’s get on with it.”

I never had trouble with him again – and I learned the important lesson that the only way to get someone to stop bullying you is to stand up to him or her and show them they don’t intimidate you. Even if you’re in your twenties.

I wish I could say that those were the only bullies I ever encountered. One of the worst was a poisonous co-worker at my last agency job. She ruled her stable of sycophants not by fear or obvious intimidation – she appeared to be friendly and fun – but by creating a merciless clique of who was “in” and who was frozen out. You could get on her s***list in a nanosecond for politely declining to drink on the job, as she did every afternoon beginning at 4 pm. Those who were “out” were viciously gossiped about, maligned to senior management and made so miserable that, years later, they still shudder when they hear her name.

Bullies, of course, reside in everyday life outside of work, too. There’s the woman who makes some guy’s life hell when he tries to end a relationship. The receptionist who won’t let you speak to your doctor. The guy in the Homeowners’ Association who insists you can’t replace so much as a doorknob without his permission. And the supermom at the PTO who tries to guilt you into doing her bidding by making you feel like a bad parent just because you have a full-time job.

Moral: Life is eternally 7th grade. But now you have the tools—wisdom, kindness, a good lawyer on speed dial—to fight back. And sometimes, growing up really is the best revenge.

Ms. StrangeLove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About My Kids

Sorry; this is an outright lie. If you’re a parent – whether to a child, dog, or gerbil– you know there’s always something to worry about. What’s more, what you worry about is a moving target: Just when you think you have a handle on the problem, something you didn’t anticipate rears up to scare the living crap out of you.

The Seven Stages of Anxiety

Infancy: Colic; SIDS; will I drop the baby on its head? Should we decorate the nursery in black and white for stimulation, gendered colors since you’re tired of people asking if it’s a boy or a girl and besides you actually like pink or blue, or a neutral color they can “grow into”; your baby’s measurements vs. the norm. (Note: The 20th percentile daughter I feared would be abnormally short has grown into a very slim 5’7”.)

Toddler: How to keep them from climbing on tables; how to keep them from pulling off all the baby-safe outlet covers and sticking wet fingers into them; how to stop them flinging food all over a restaurant while shrieking hysterically; whether they’re talking on schedule (how many five-year-olds do you know who don’t talk?); potty training (how many eight-year-olds do you know who aren’t potty trained?). Deep breath.

Kindergarten: Biting: It’s the law of the jungle—your kid is either a biter or a bitee; falling off the monkey bars and cracking their skull open; being “behind” the rest of the class; whether my son would have permanent nerve damage from putting his hand on the broiler-cooktop at Benihana. (He didn’t, though he still has issues with impulse control.)

Elementary school: Bullying; not having friends; having the wrong kind of friends; doing their homework; remembering to actually take said homework out of their backpack and turn it in; whether they suck at sports; ADHD; their exclusive diet of pizza, soda and candy.

High School: Drugs; sex; cutting class; smoking; not being able to get into college.

College: Drugs; sex; cutting class; smoking; not being able to stay in college.

Early adulthood: Not finding a job; not staying in a job; staying in a dead-end job; dating the wrong partner; dating the right partner but not committing; living too far away; living too close and wanting to stop by when it’s really inconvenient; not calling enough; calling whenever you’ve settled into a quiet night watching your favorite TV show; not telling you what’s going on in their lives; telling you too much about what’s going on in their lives and giving you new things to worry about.

The point is: For better or worse, your children have their own destiny. Once you’ve safely guided them through the early years, keeping them in one piece with a minimum of trauma and hopefully imparting a set of values and a sense of humor so they can make good decisions, your job is done.

I’ll always worry, but now that my kids are 25 and 30 I try to keep it to myself. Some days are more successful than others. Happy Mother’s Day!

Why I ‘Like’/Hate Facebook

Facebook was never envisioned as a community for us older folks—perish the thought! But that’s what happened. A lot of Millennials, including my own kids, have little interest in it. After all, they have myriad social media options these days and they aren’t old enough to be nostalgic.

Those of us who’ve now lived a proverbial nine lives—childhood, college/post-grad, several jobs, a few moves, countless Continue reading

The Curmudgeon Chronicles

Although I believe in putting less negativity into the world, sometimes you just need to bitch a little. So today I’m going to sound like an old fuddy-duddy (a wonderful expression that first appeared in print around 1871) and share some observations that trouble me.

1) The dumbing-down of language. I should first admit that years of writing advertising copy have destroyed my prior knowledge of grammar and punctuation. (I now rationalize any errors as part of my “style”.) Some pet peeves:

  • The inability to differentiate “its” (possessive) from “it’s” (contraction of “it is”) and “lose” from “loose”
  • “I’m bored of…” vs.“bored with” – and why are you bored? You’re 22!!
  • “A couple” days/fuddy-duddies/etc. Where’s the “of”?
  • “Thanks for having me” vs. “inviting me”, unless it was indeed a sexual encounter
  • The overuse of “awesome”, which should be reserved for references to Yosemite, the pyramids, or God—not a latte with an extra shot

Check out the following job requirements I received from a recruiter:

“…High intellectual curiosity and hunger to learn in ambiguous environment.” Does this mean I’d be working in a place that looks like a dry cleaner but is actually a front for organized crime?

“Excellent written and vertical communication.” Are they asking the candidate to write while standing on a ladder? Having sex in a shower?

Also, when did “work stream” become a thing? Let’s reserve that for trout fishermen and gold miners.

2) The sorry state of education. In a recent survey, students at a Texas university did not know the name of our current Vice President, who won the Civil War, or when the American Revolution was fought (one student suggested 1677). However, all of these students knew the names of Brad Pitt’s current and former wives and what show Snooki was on. (Oops, I’ve ended with a preposition. It’s not easy being the Word Police!)

3) Breathless weather reportage. Haven’t we always had floods, snow, etc.? Today’s descriptions remind me of olives: “huge”, “gigantic”, “colossal”….

4) Hold times so long I could bake a cake from scratch while I wait for my utility, bank or Internet “provider” to pick up. Adding insult to injury, when I finally reach a human, he or she usually can’t “provide” a solution so I have to call back.

5) AT&T. You sign up for a monthly plan. Yet somehow every bill remains different, despite the fact that we never order a single movie or call exotic countries. WTF?!

Whew; venting is hard work! Please share your own pet peeves below and once you’ve gotten them off your chest, let’s all enjoy another glorious day!