Saturday, May 30, 2009

Take A Bite Of: Black Bean Croquettes with fresh salsa

A spicy, healthy croquette...who knew it possible? Another delight recently tried south of the border. I've never had anything like it. I make my own salsa which could not be simpler using 3 Ugly Vine tomatoes, cilantro, salt, and cayenne pepper. If you make your own, use it, but the salsa served with this incredible dish is listed below. Buen Provencho!

Black Bean Croquettes with fresh salsa

2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup plain dry breadcrumbs, divided
2 cups finely chopped tomatoes
2 scallions, sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon chili powder, hot if desired, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 avocado, diced

Preheat oven to 425°F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Mash black beans and cumin with a fork in a large bowl until no whole beans remain. Stir in corn and 1/4 cup breadcrumbs.

Combine tomatoes, scallions, cilantro, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder and salt in a medium bowl. Stir 1 cup of the tomato mixture into the black bean mixture.

Mix the remaining 1/3 cup breadcrumbs, oil and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon chili powder in a small bowl until the breadcrumbs are coated with oil.

Divide the bean mixture into 8 scant 1/2-cup balls. Lightly press each bean ball into the breadcrumb mixture, turning to coat. Place on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake the croquettes until heated through and the breadcrumbs are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Stir avocado into the remaining tomato mixture. Serve the salsa with the croquettes.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Beware of El Pollo

While reading news online as I take a breather from the sun and infinity pool here in Cabo, I was just contemplating what could possibly increase my interest in the sport of wrestling. The answer of course is nothing. WWF, WWE, TNA, ECW? More acronyms then your first day of orientation at Microsoft. Wrestling has hoardes of fans, which I gleefully count myself out.

But if I was going to make an exciting change, well that would be a tough task to identify. I mean, you already have the barbaric and fear-inducing names. You have the ruthless (and completely authentic) wrestling holds, attacks, and legal moves. You have the Vegas showgirls carrying large signs indicating which round it is, in the event you are completely incapable of counting any of your primary numbers on your own accord. You also have the radio-station-ready announcer.
I just couldn't pin it down. And then it hit me. You would only need to add some freaky (and freaking ridiculous) costumes and you have the total experience.

The flying fowl? Oh, that is Lucha Vavoom star Lil Chicken as he delivers a flying kick to one of Los Cavaleras' "luchadores," (Mexican wrestlers) during a performance at the Mayan Theater in LA for Cinco de Mayo.

I imagine the only thing hotter than a grown man in bright yellow feathers, bright yellow undies, and a chicken mask would be if that man was your man.

Lucha Vavoom is Mexican wrestling and vintage burlesque inspired from the cine luchadore from Mexican cinema in the 1960s. So you better believe I am on the lookout while we are in the patria. But don't worry, I won't be bringing one of those home with me.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Vamos a la playa!

Live from Cabo....who doesn't love to wake up being greeted by sun, beach, and water? Cabo San Lucas...tu es muy bonita. I will say my mornings start a wee earlier than last time I was here, but I will take it. And JohnnyMac is so glad to be back.

In his single days, JohnnyMac loved himself some frequent trips to Cabo (and Jamaica, St. Thomas, Florida, etc.) JohnnyMac has gotten shanked out of three trip to Cabo in the last four years. Let me explain. He was scheduled to come the year we met and had to cancel last minute because of work (CURSES). The next year, he surprised me with a trip planned over Thanksgiving. And then we got suprised by a tiny thing called procreation, and although I wasn't due until the following February, our baby Doc declared moratorium on traveling out of the country.

So the next year, we planned a trip to take our little man who was born in January, but would not doubt be ready to rock the sandbar at 1o months old. Well, when flight time came near, our little man was sick. We would obviously cancel the trip and tell Hi Pie and the RevDoc who were meeting us there to go on without us. In a moment in incredibly loving love, JohnnyMac said, "You should go meet them. I will stay home with the baby."

Leave my husband home with a 10 month old ? For six days? ABSOLUTELY! I couldn't have packed quicker if I had inhaled eight RedBulls back to back. I kissed him intently and rolled right on down the street to that big old Jet Airliner.

So, while JohnnyMac stayed home, I sunned, went boating, and refreshed myself with Pacificos on the beachwith my little brother. Ahhhh...thats a fair exchange for nine months of hotel hosting a baby, yes?

So this year, we are all set to go. Nothing is stopping us. Tickets in hand...until...what? Can you repeat that? Swine flu? Where did you say? In Mexico? You must be kidding me. Thankfully the potential pandemic has dwindled down but JohnnyMac did declare that if this trip was cancelled, he was officially breaking up with Cabo.

But we are here, and that is a breakup I don't want to witness. You already know how much we love the beach. It serves as instant redemption for JohnnyMac after work, and the sometimes taxing upkeep of patience required with a two year old.

This pic is from our little man's first trip to the beach, and I love it. Because our many subsequent trips, our son seems to have a proclivity towards the beach as well. And his interest is so genuine and earnest. And this in turn is appreciated by us. What did he say this morning? I LOVE CABO MOMMY.

Uncle Hi Pie and the RevDoc are with us and we heard all about how my little brother won a sand castle building contest on one of his work retreats. (Sandcastle building on a work retreat? Sign me up.) And you know the Sand Castle champ rolled out a toolkit like Tim Allen and is set to make his godson the best sandcastle on the beach.

So Viva la Cabo....we missed you and are so glad to be back on your sandy shores.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Have A Sip Of: Sangria

Nothing cools down your Memorial Day Weekend cookout better than a glass of liquid delice'. And because I will be spending today enveloped in tasty Sangria and sandy Mexican beaches, it seems only fitting Sangria is the guest star of Cocktail of the Month.
Make it this morning and your mouth will be ready for a Sangria rinse by this afternoon. You may remember one of my specialities is the Sangria Cha Cha Cha but there are so many sangria recipes. Which one is the best? Today, I am giving you a multiple choice quiz in which all of the answers are correct. Here are several Sangria recipes so you can Cha Cha Cha your own. Feel refreshed already, don't you?

1 orange cut into slices
1 lemon
1 c sugar
1 bottle white wine ( I recommend pinot grigio, sav blanc, or viognier)
1 bottle red wine (pinot noirs, sangiovese, or young merlots)
Sliced peaches, apples, strawberries, raspberries
Grand Marnier to taste
Combine the orange, lemon, sugar, and wines in a large glass bowl and stir. Cover in fridge for 4 - 8 hours. Add the fruit and spirits and let soak for at least 30 minutes. Serve over ice.

Kim Wray Perdue's Famous White Sangria
1 bottle dry red or white wine
1.5 cups of Spanish brandy (do not use regular brandy. Or do and it won't be as good.)
Juice from 4 oranges
Juice from 4 lemons
Juice from 4 limes
2 T. cinnamon
1 c. sugar
Combine in a 1 gallon beverage container and shake it, shake it, shake it. Add more sugar if you like, and warn people...this one packs a punch.

1 (750-ml) bottle Prosecco or French Champagne, chilled
1/2 cup orange juice
2 cups Mint Simple Syrup, recipe follows
1 lemon, zested and thinly sliced
1 lime, zested and thinly sliced
1/2 cup sliced strawberries
5 fresh mint sprigs
Crushed ice
In a large pitcher, combine the Prosecco, orange juice, Mint Simple Syrup, lemon zest, and lime zest. Add the sliced strawberries, lemon slices, lime slices, and mint sprigs.
Fill glasses with crushed ice and pour the sangria over the top. Serve immediately.
Mint Simple Syrup:
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 cup packed fresh mint leaves
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and mint over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the syrup to cool for 20 minutes. Strain before using

1 orange, sliced
1 lime, sliced
1 apple, cored and sliced
1 bottle red wine
3 cups white rum
1/2 cup orange flavored liqueur, recommended: Cointreau
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
3 tablespoons sugar
1 quart club soda, to taste
To a pitcher add orange, lime, apple and cover with red wine, rum, orange liqueur, orange juice, pomegranate juice and stir in sugar. Chill in the refrigerator. When ready to serve top off with club soda, to taste.

3 cups ice cubes
1/4 cup lemon slices
1/4 cup lime slices
1/4 cup orange, slices
1/4 cup pineapple chunks
1/4 cup seedless grapes
2 cups red wine
1/2 cup peach brandy
1 cup orange juice
1 cup lemon/lime soda
In a pitcher, add all the ingredients and stir to combine. Ideally, you want to wait about 1 hour for the fruit and the wine to infuse each other, but you can drink it right away.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Take A Bite Of: Beer Can Grilled Chicken

Something a little avante garde for the grill. It's Memorial Weekend...even the chickens want to imbibe. Now, normally, I am all about aesthetics with food presentation, and this, well, doesn't exactly fit the bill. But The Neely's know Southern Cooking and this is one of Pat's recipes. It takes a little muscle, and a little time but you aren't doing any laborious tasks this weekend anyway, are you? Buon Appetito! Or as some say in the South, "Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm, tasty!"

Beer Can Grilled Chicken

Beer Can Chicken Rub:

2 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder

For the Chicken:
4 pounds chicken, washed and dried
Vegetable oil
Beer Can Chicken Rub
1 (12-ounce) can beer

For the chicken rub:
In a small bowl mix all the ingredients together and use for the grilled chicken. You can store extra rub mixture in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

For the chicken:
Preheat your grill to medium-high heat.

Rub the chicken and its cavity down with the vegetable oil. Season the chicken with rub mixture, remembering to season the cavity. Pour out 1/4 of the beer and sit the chicken on top of the beer can. Place the chicken in the center of the hot grill and cover. Cook the chicken for 1 to 1.5 hours, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees F.

Once cooked, cover loosely with foil and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Plane and simple

Our son has joined us for some great trips in his short tenure, but tomorrow, he goes international for the first time. We took him to get his passport when he was six months old and he is full on beaming for that camera. We love that he will keep that photo for the next decade so when he is eight, he can enjoy his "Mr. McGoo" passport photo.

What will also be in interesting twist of fate is just how much our two year old enjoys a five hour plane ride. Let me share what occurred last time.

First, as with many other trips, you instantly gauge who are friends or foes of children the minute you enter a plane with one. Eyes either light up or they roll. There seems to be very little in between. We love sitting by the grandparents. And you can tell grandparents the minute you see them. Eyes lock, secret society looks are exchanged. Prior to having our son, I wouldn't have noticed a grandparent unless it was holding that child singing "I AM YOUR GRANDMA".

But now, the grandparents are an instant fan club for us every time we travel. And since our son is super chatty, and super flirty with the ladies, he very quickly establishes the retinue of a small potentate.

And by the way, Eye Rollers? Stop it. Don't roll your eyes when you see a baby. You cried, threw tantrums, and wet yourself once too. And maybe you weren't you a baby the last time you did.
Oh you don't like babies? So what. Many people share your sentiments. However, I don't like onions yet I am able to contain myself when I see them at Whole Foods. Oh, but onions don't make a big racket? Especially on an enclosed airplane? Oh, I feel you, I really do.

However, don't assume I am the mom who lets her child run rampant, stand up on the seat and pull your hair, throw his water bottle at you, scream Itsy Bitsy Spider at the top of his lungs, or kick your seat. He won't because we don't let him. And if he does cry? So what. He will stop. We don't enjoy it to any greater degree than you do.
You don't have to come to his next birthday party, just try to calm down when you see that we may be sitting a few rows from you as if this is the LAST THING you need. Wait until he does something to agitate you before you get agitated.
Oh, and when you get agitated, and say something snarky? Those grandparents I mentioned are going to not only silence you with a look perfected with 50 or 60 years of life, but that look might make you wet yourself a bit. Or at least be afraid to get out of line again. Watch yourself. Back in the day, these people were whipping disobedient children. I am sure, just like Fonzie, they still got it.

I have became rather adept at changing diapers in a airplane bathroom without touching a single thing in there. JohnnyMac's brother worked for one of the biggest airlines in the world for ten years and told us they don't actually clean the bathroom in between trips. E Coli? Not today, thanks.

But as our son has gotten older, his hand eye coordination is over-developing. And our trips to the tiny can involve a great deal of me playing Mr. Miyagi to his Danielsan. Wax on, wax off, wax on, wax off. And since that is only fun for about three minutes, I make those lav trips on this side if "highly quick".

I saw a woman traveling once with one baby and so many bags, baubles, and blankets I thought for sure her spine would snap. And, all for one baby mind you. Now, moms know their own children best, as well as the trigger points, but I have seen very calm and cool Mommys traveling with one tiny bag and a perfectly satisfied little one. So I am taking that path and refuse to juggle an endless array of potential "attention distractors" hence I look like Geoffrey from Toys R Us.
So changing diapers and over-packing aren't the issue. We put a modest amount of toys/books in our aerodynamic flight bag and get on the plane.
But this is how he gives us a run for the money. First, he refuses to be out of Daddy's eyesight for more than three seconds. Easy. We can win that battle. Then he must have some Cheerios. That's all? I will see your cheerios and raise you some.

But then, he doesn't exactly want to sit in his seat. Hmmm, that will prove to be more challenging. And it got just a touch ugly. And by "a touch" I mean, I looked at my watch when his fitfulness began. I looked at it about 2 hours later and realized hmmm, actually, only 14 minutes had passed. How silly of me not to recall that toddler time is the reverse of warp time but only when things are going South. And then he wanted the cheerios that fell on the floor. Nothing spells delicious better than food that has touched the floor of an airplane.

Thankfully, our son got his eyes on the woman across the aisle and he spent an hour staring at her. He does love the ladies. Wonderful. With this female distraction (and she was a very congenial person to play along), a few snacks and holding Daddy's headphones while listening to We Will Rock You, we made it. That is only the beginning of him losing track of all kinds of time due to mesmerization by a woman. Daddy will confer.

And since we love to travel, we hope our little man loves to travel. So this means there will be plane rides involved. And it will only get long as we all come off the jetway in one piece. Or, I may be the first one sprinting off saying "let's have a cocktail!!!!" (And of course, I will likely say that anyway.)

And I will be posting from south of the border so tune in.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Flirty Sanchez

Besides those of you who will simply love looking at the photo which will be, oh, many of you. For the rest, let's talk about some good old-fashioned sports controversy.

This is Mark Sanchez. The 22 year old, muy caliente QB from USC recently drafted by the NY Jets. Interesting? Not really as a stand alone sentence, I know. USC has produced other great looking QBs. And the NFL draft, contrary to the staunch view of my husband, Hendo and Crazy Ocho, well, it is neither a pivotal moment of my year OR a forecaster of moods to come.
Then what is the scuttlebutt? Listen.

Mark Sanchez recently did a very tasteful photo shoot for the June issue of GQ magazine. See photo above in the event you missed it. So what? I know. GQ did similar shoots with Tom Brady and Matt Leinart. Why is this an issue? Why is this being talked about to ad nauseum on every Sports Talk radio station from here to Fairbanks? Oh, I'll tell you....

It is because some of the AFC fans in the NE quadrant are infuriated. Why? First, I think the Jets fans are salty because they lost half their games last season, and of course, with the oscillating talents of Brett "I'm in. No, no I'm out. No, back in. Totally in. No, seriously, out. Completely out" Favre, it would suck to have your hopes for the season collect at the bottom of the port-a-john.

But the primary antagonism is because apparently, Mark Sanchez in the spirit of Joe "Broadway Joe" Namath, shouldn't be mugging for the camera when he is supposed to be dedicating his life to football. So some of the Jets fan are pissed off he is promoting his image, instead of plotting and scheming all of the ways and means he can save the reputation of the franchise.

I am sure the Jets fans are just shoring the dam against a Mark Gastineau incarnate. Are you kidding me? Oh, and some of the Patriots fans have also weighed in that he is "no Tom Brady" and that Tom Brady had to at least win something before he did his shirtless hustle for Gentleman's Quarterly. Are you kidding me?

The same overwrought behavior existed when Tony Romo was seen out gallivanting with Jessica Simpson when he should have been thinking about the Superbowl. Are you kidding me? A man had a chronological list of what he wanted to happen and getting horizontal with his minx came before playing football? Imagine the blasphemy! How IRONIC.

So the Jets have some fans who are apparently, an unforgiving band of d-bags, and don't believe that Mark Sanchez is doing right by them. Oh, I get it.

Let's review the crime Mark Sanchez committed. Oh, he skipped minicamp to take his shirt off and run down the beach? Oh, he didn't miss camp in May? But you are worried he will be too off-center to focus for minicamp in June? Stop fretting. But you are mad because he failed to learn his routes? He doesn't comprehend the playing schemes? Won't engage in full contact drills so he doesn't harm those glorious abs? Oh, he is still producing 100%? Oh, you just don't like him being distracted? You all are just silly.

And since some of the Jets fans are advocating the team pick up Ocho Cinco if he leaves the Bengals, if that happens I promise you, there will more off-field concerns than a semi clad Mark Sanchez. After all, Chad Johnson changed his name to Ocho Cinco. Why? Because he is nuts. Enjoy that during press conferences.

I do think it is odd that an attractive 22 year old football player would want to be in GQ. I mean, that will only increase his odds of meeting women and ramping up his fame. And by all means, 22 year olds are typically distracted in the least bit right? Yes, I know how much he is getting paid. So does he so calm down you grumpy jackasses.

These are your average Jets fan, and the one in the helmet is apparently "THE" Jets fan. So round, sweaty, and emphatic. I can see why Mark Sanchez is troubling you. Guess what, taking his shirt off and posing with long-legged blondes is not going to impact his ability to think, act, and react. Or at least that is what you claimed from all of your years of reading Playboy magazine in which the women were posing only to put themselves through medical school.

Mark Sanchez is 22 and on fire. So wait until you see him spiral a ball or two on actual game day, and if he fails, then you can pelt him with your empty cans of Iron City. In the interim, you sound ridiculous and I don't think Mark Sanchez is sitting as home wondering if hooking up with a supermodel is going to upset you. And some of the press, you just need to take a deep breath too. Some of you boys are overreacting to a situation. And to be candid, well, I think some you would likely do a few favors of the pleasurable kind just for one minute in Mark Sanchez's shoes.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

JennyMac's Restaurant Retrospect: JCT Kitchen & Bar

Chef Ford Fry (I am not making up his name) said, "We have created a classic neighborhood bistro with authentic Southern Style."

Southern Farmstead cooking takes a big bite at JCT Kitchen & Bar in West Midtown Atlanta. JohnnyMac and I dropped in last weekend for some adults-only time. Little man went to grandma's and I was done with my first glass of wine before I finished reading the menu. I will say, while the wine list is small, they have great choices including Twenty Bench which is a fantastic Napa Cabernet. We have been before but it has been months. JohnnyMac was thrilled to be reminded of the quantity of meat available on the dinner menu, which included several dishes either wrapped, covered, or intertwined with bacon. For me, I love real Fried Chicken. I wouldn't dream of making it my own house (or I have dreamed of it, but won't do it.) So when I have access to the real thing, in certain circumstances, I am all in.

The gaggle of men from the Atlanta Gay Men's Chorus sitting next to us were big fun, and when one of them was enthusiastically chomping away at the Fried Chicken, he offered me a bite (perhaps because I was watching it so earnestly). My incredible fried chicken came with mac and cheese, and garlicky green beans. 45 minutes of running earlier that day was worth every minute to enjoy every bite of this southern fare. Halfway through mine, one of our table neighbors leaned over and asked me if it was delicious. Of course it was.

Another smart accoutrement is live music including a great acoustic guitar player named Todd B. Wells. Coincidentally, I booked him for one of my holiday parties years ago. While Jason Michael Fulton is still my favorite acoustic guitar player in Atlanta, Todd Wells is dynamite. A great upstairs deck and patio gives you a great spot to park while you sip vino and listen.

And they have something each week called Sunday Suppers which includes, as JohnnyMac's eyes lit up, a bevy of meats and true Southern side dishes. I will need a few more laps at the park before I go back, but this visit was fantastic.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Modest Writer

You can't live in Georgia without visiting the Margaret Mitchell House at least once, and of course, being required to see the movie based on her famous manuscript. I saw the film for the first time at the Coca Cola Summer Theater series playing at the Fox Theater.

Margaret Mitchell published her only book, Gone With the Wind in June of 1936. A month prior, The San Francisco Chronicle, having received an advanced copy, printed Joseph Jackson's review of high praise. In response to this favorable review, Margaret Mitchell sent the critic a letter of which this is an excerpt:

My Dear Mr. Jackson,

I am Margaret Mitchell, author of the book Gone With the Wind of which you wrote so kindly in the Chronicle on May 13. It is my first book and I am so new and green at the business of authoring that I do not even know if it is good form for an author to write to a critic. But your column gave me so much pleasure and happiness that I have to write you and say thank you.
I suppose you would call my reactions "pleasure and happiness" even if I did have to go to bed with a cold pack on my head and an aspirin after I read your words. God knows I'm not like my characters, given to vapors and swooning and "states" but I was certainly in a "state." I have always been able to bear up nobly under bad news but your good news floored me. I suppose it was because it was so unexpected.

Margaret Mitchell started the book between 1925 and 1926 and laid it aside around 1928. She found it "lousy" and said she had forgotten it. Years later, while hosting a publisher from MacMillan, who was scouring the South for promising writers, he found Margaret intriguing. Writing for the Atlanta Journal Constitution at the time under the name Peggy Mitchell, he asked her if she had ever written a book to which she declined. An acquaintance overhearing the exchange, laughed and remarked, "Imagine, someone as silly as Peggy writing a book."

Margaret went home fuming, dug out her disheveled (an unfinished) manuscript, and gave it to him. He bought it before it was even completed, and she finished it in 1936.

Little did she know, when she penned this letter, she would win a Pulitzer for this work. The book would become one of the best selling books of all time. And the movie adaption , released in 1939, would become the highest grossing movie in Hollywood history, and would be nominated for ten Academy Awards.

Did you read her note? Her humility is overwhelming. You would be pressed to find a more humble and unassuming author today. In such a sincere and sentimental letter, she conveys what it means to truly be thrilled. Not with her craft, or the path she is about to embark, but in a favorable reaction.
There is very little humility in writing now. I will willingly and gleefully email friends and family and tell them "Read my blog today. It is hi-lar-i-ous!" That's not exactly modest. The wand of humility that waved over Margaret Mitchell would be a needle in a haystack today.

Bravo to Margaret Mitchell. She not only wrote one of the quintessential novels of all time, but she behaved so honorably. I will try to do this next time I am cracking up laughing over my own blog but I can't make any promises.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Here's how it went down. I saunter through the door one night, bags in hand, straight into the vortex of chaos. I see our entire entryway, from front door up staircase, covered in contents that hours ago I swore were neatly tucked in place in our son's room. JohnnyMac greets me at the door as our son practices jumping into the lofty pile of blankets and pillows. Clearly, I know something is amiss as I watch our son gambol deeper in the disorder.

JohnnyMac informed me he came home to find a mouse perched on top of our front door blinds.

A mouse? Oh yes, a mouse. And JohnnyMac had been in hot pursuit for four hours. I wondered aloud how it could have possibly got in our house. Did we leave a door open?

Oh, city slickers. How naive. A house mouse can literally squeeze itself through an opening smaller than a pencil. Did we leave the door open? Oh brother.

JohnnyMac and I briefly confer. He has sequestered the infiltrate in our son's room. Last seen under the bed. I ask him to trap as humanely as possible so perhaps it can be set free. JohnnyMac is highly irritated in a multitude of ways. Not only at the bevy of tactical maneuvers required to corral said mouse, while removing every single item on our son's floor (including the closet) while keeping our son out of his room. And then of course, trying to actually trap the mouse. And now, my special request that he throw a little Dr. Doolittle into the mix. JohnnyMac just swallowed all that acerbity right down.

I take the Bird (another one of our son's nicknames) with me upstairs while JohnnyMac tries to flush out the invidious guest. Another hour passes. JohnnyMac returns upstairs. Defeated. He has a broom in one hand and fury in the other. We look at the clock and realize we have less than an hour until the little man needs to go to bed, and we certainly aren't rooming him with any nibbling mammal from the order Rodentia. What to do. We decide to set up the previously used pack and play in our room as a back up. Poor choice. Little man saw that and said "That's for babies!!!!" Oh boy.

JohnnyMac goes back downstairs and as time ticks by, I have no alternative but get the wee one ready and put him in his pack and play. Our child's response could only be interpreted as I DON'T THINK SO. First, our son is very long. And apparently very strong. He can get out of the pack and play more quickly than a baby ninja. It takes incredible trickery and persuasion. Finally, he stays put and proceeds to cry hard enough to choke himself. I rub his back and he fumes. Loudly. Finally, JohnnyMac comes upstairs and says the mouse is cornered under the bed.

How in the h*ll does something not even four inches long effect totally anarchy in my house. I DON'T THINK SO. We go down in the kitchen where I grab the broom, a can of raid, a box of freshly purchased decon, and go towards the stairs. JohnnyMac asks, "What are you going to do?"

Kill that Mother______.

My son will not go to sleep. He is so upset that he is basically back in a baby shoe box that his resonating wails fill our entire house. I will kill this mouse. As a last minute thought, I swap my ballet slippers for knee high galoshes hence any mouse guts splash on me. I sprinkled DeCon in the corners of the room (super smart move...spread poison in your son's room. Excellent). I then find the mouse is indeed under the bed and I immediately block all of the sides with items found in the hall. I then jam the broom handle at him about 100 mph. He runs. Up the wall. Literally. Are you KIDDING ME? Now you are Spiderman? I am going to smash you and enjoy every second.

Had I only listened carefully, I would have heard that mouse saying I DON'T THINK SO.

That mouse ran up the wall and then hid somewhere between the mattress and boxspring. I pulled that huge bed further away from the wall and that mouse jumped right on the bed. Looking at me, whispering "is that all you've got? I'm just getting warmed up."

Let me share with you something you will never do. Catch a !*&^!%!$ house mouse. I spent two more hours watching him mouse be nimble, mouse be quick, mouse go under my broom like it was a limbo stick. I was so irritated I thought I was going to hemorrhage. And as I stared at him, he slipped through a crack no bigger than a staple between the floor and the baseboard. Wonderful. I will seal you in your concrete death tomorrow.

Our child finally fell asleep because apparently herculean crying is quite fatiguing. JohnnyMac was up close and personal with a Sam Adams White Ale. We called Terminex first thing in the morning.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Take A Bite Of: Baked French Toast

Something incredibly warm, inviting, and guaranteed to disappear. I made this last weekend when we hosted a Mother's Day brunch for eleven people. Besides the two pounds of bacon my brother insisted on (with JohnnyMac's hearty support), I added this and the delicious Mini Frittatas I have previously shared. There wasn't a bite remaining. Of anything.

I omitted the blueberries but added a teaspoon of cardamom. This little treat filled my house with the smell of cinnamon and maple as it baked into custard perfection. Another Giada De Laurentiis speciality. Buon Appetito.

Baked French Toast with Blueberries
6 eggs
3 cups whole milk
3/4 cup maple syrup, plus extra for serving
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, plus 1 tablespoon
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 lemon, zested
6 (1-inch thick) slices (8 ounces) day-old challah or sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups (12 ounces) fresh or frozen, thawed, and drained blueberries
3 tablespoons granulated sugar


Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until frothy. Add the milk, maple syrup, cinnamon, salt, and lemon zest. Add the bread cubes and mix until coated. Stir in the blueberries.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. In a small bowl, mix together the remaining cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the egg mixture in an even layer.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the top is golden and the filling is set. Spoon onto serving plates and drizzle with maple syrup.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Where it's at.....

Someone sent me an email asking me where all my "followers" were. That is interesting in that:

1. I don't know this person and 2. I am not a religious, pop culture, or political figurehead, so I didn't actually expect to have any followers.

But this blogger asserted followers are where it's at.

I thought Beck already stated where it's at is two turntables and a microphone. But apparently not in blogger world.

Thank you K. McC., for being my first follower. I appreciate you leading the way.

And now, for those who come across these pages, either frequently or infrequently, here is your invitation to follow me so you too can be "where it's at."
And thanks to the many visitors from Condron.US. I welcome you to follow along too.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

JA of the Day: volume ii

I hate to speak against my people. And by "my people" I mean the heritage I might remotely be a part of, am asked about often, and apparently love encouraging. People often ask me if I am from New York (which you know I love) or if I am Italian (which I love even more). Who is going to read this innocuous mistake as anything but flattery? Not I. I may have on one or two (hundred) occasions fully asserted such a conclusion. Who hasn't? And I wouldn't now since fabricating tales in the presence of my two year old seems highly unsavory.
BUT, back in the day, when innocently mistaken for a Signora, why would I undermine someone's mere interest in making conversation by correcting them when a simple grazie would do? Perhaps that shirt emblazoned with ITALIA across the front, or that when in Spain I would toss out Italian phrases like flowers at a wake, well, I may have contributed to the mistake, but just a touch. The fact is, my paternal grandfather's ancestry is unknown other than the limited detail he was "European" and since that little boot of land sits in Europe...there you have it. So before I further digress, let's get down to business.

While I love all things Italia, there has been a hiccup. Which has led the second longest-serving Prime Minister of the Italian Republic, Silvio Berlusconi, to look strikingly like a boy donkey. In response to a earthquake on April 16 that left thousands of his countrymen and women homeless, he responded, "They should see it like a weekend of camping."


I don't gather you, Prime Minister Berlusconi, have probably ever been camping. Versace has yet to make a tent. I am not a tremendous aficionado either, trust me. But your people, with their incredible genes and innate sense of style, well, even the most rugged of your constituents would likely not choose "land covered in rubble and debris" as the perfect place for camping. Or maybe they can "camp" in their cars. Uh oh, they can't. Because their cars are filled with dirt, trees, and broken concrete.

I am no mountain ranger, but I promise you an earthquake that destroys homes and leaves people with nothing but the threads on their back is a not the modern day equivalent to over-nighting in a sleeping bag and making s'mores. Good job Prime Minister, your compassion cup overfloweth.

And you sir, are the JA of the day.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The King of Creep

So a man wants to commission a portrait. One of himself all dressed up like a tiny King Edward V, right down to his little red tights. And he will hang said portrait in his home to gaze at himself because he is, after all, crowned the King of Pop. While it may strike the average person as being a bit odd, who is to say?

And then same said man, wants to have a statue of a tiny girl in a blue onesie jumper, licking an ice cream cone, and holding balloons. Well, you hope he is only having it commissioned in order to donate it to a city park and not actually going to keep it in his home. Or in the alternative, he would have such a statue as a tribute to some nice family member for her birthday perhaps. Or by some stretch, he would have it only as a testament to good will and welcoming gestures. No need to even remark on the reputation of said man, right?

But then, same man, decides what would be even more welcoming and indicative of good will but to have the prop hands from the movie Edward Scissorhands on display as well. Because nothing extends a warm invitation to family and friends then gloves made of metal casing adorned with razor sharp talons. And just adjacent to the statute of the girl eating ice cream, well, you have your own year round House of Horrors. Welcome kids! I bet you just can't wait to come over. Do you like an uncomfortable scene of distate? A rolling sea of weirdness? There is plenty of room for everyone!

These photos are from the actual catalogue of auction items from Neverland Ranch. What a treat. Because now even the most mortal of men, who may have been curious how I too can adorn my home with creepy things will have their chance.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

One for every day of the week: Websites

Oh, the internet. What did we do before you gave us a golden ticket to your information highway? Let's talk about some great websites. And no, I did not list Google. Do I need to? No, because it is so well-known its actually morphed into a verb as in "Oh, I googled him." Good job Sergey and Larry, I love that your graduate school research project turned into the number one search engine in the world.

Here is a list of some of my favorites, one for every day of the week.

1. : This includes the real time front pages of over 450 newspapers around the world.

2. Ideas worth spreading. Interesting library of live talks by remarkable people from all around the world on topics ranging from science to global issues.

3. An online learning resource on how to do just about everything.

4. Test your vocab and as you succeed, you are automatically contributing to the UN World Food Program.

5. We have all wanted to know what "In the Air Tonight" was really about and here is the website that gives the meaning behind thousands of songs. Readers can also comment.

6. Make your own coffee table book of photos with your own design. It is the easiest tool to upload, and has an online resource center. I used it for my wedding album and when the gorgeous black leather book came, I was totally thrilled.

7. An online graphical dictionary.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mamma Mia

I have always celebrated Mother's Day because of my mom is great and deserves more than a day in honor of how much she has loved us. And I celebrate Mother's Day because of other truly incredible women in my family and friend circle. But this is only my second time of being celebrated on Mother's Day. And it is incredible.

So thank you JohnnyMac. You were the first man I met that made me want such permanency. And you brought an entirely new level of value and true depth to my life involving marriage and parenting. And thank you for taking me to NYC and sending us home with a permanent souvenir.

And my son. Without you I would not be celebrated today.

You are such a little man. You are proof that goodness, that is pure and true exists. And I want you, your life, and all that you will become to be not only a reflection on us, but a reflection of us. It is a lot to live up to, I know. But I hope the greatest characteristics of both Daddy and I are the only ones we instill upon you.

My son, every initial sense of leadership, strength and character you learn will come from inside this house. I take that to heart and while I may disappoint you (and certainly irritate you circa 10 years from now or so) if you respect me, I have gained immeasurable ground. We teach people how to treat us, and I want you to have everything you need to go in the world and lead.

And you have made me patient in ways I did not think achievable. For this, you should be anointed King. You have made me laugh as you are particularly delighted with things I may have thought I was far too busy to notice before. And the first time you got hurt (and in retrospect, it was just a tiny hurt but you were terrified), I knew how true responsibility felt because I amassed some abnormal level of strength and clarity to do whatever was necessary (short of performing surgery in our kitchen) to heal you.

The day in the car when you asked to hear Count on Me, and as you sang along with the words, you moved me in such a personal and loving way. Count on Me is our song. And the first song Daddy and I danced to at our wedding. To have you unknowingly instill that song in your memory bank and personal playlist made me catch my breath. And I have not told another person that until now. It was a beautiful day when you came along but these moments, these opportunities for things I like to inherently and magically become things you like, its amazing to witness.

It is a huge responsibility to be your mom. You are gifted and we greet that part of you with open arms. You have everything we have to offer at your fingertips and our job is to help you become a great boy, and a great man. And as we learn how to do that with you, I hope I am what you believe is the absolute best you could have as a Mom.

I hope I live up to the great expectation, but loving you along the way will be the easy part. Thank you for giving me an entirely new role and title. You were worth every second of waiting.

PS: Thank you for telling me you wanted a brother because "Daddy has one." Let's see how we all end up on the other side of toddler years and we can revisit that request.

PSS: Daddy had what looked like a tiny stroke when I told him what you said so no need to approach with with that specific request either.

I love you, Baby LAM.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Take A Bite Of: Outrageous Brownies

Chocolate sin anyone? Ina Garten is a phenomenal chef and this recipe of hers is fantastic. Worth the time to produce 20 king size brownies that will have your dessert faire the top of everyone's wish list. What better treat for yourself or another mother you love on this fabulous weekend? Buon Appetito.

Outrageous Brownies

1 pound unsalted butter
1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons instant coffee powder
2 tablespoons real vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided (1 cup for batter and 1/4 cup in the chips and nuts)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups diced walnuts (Optional. I omit).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour a 13 by 18 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.

Melt together the butter, 1 pound chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate on top of a double boiler. Cool slightly. Stir together the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla and sugar. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture and cool to room temperature.

Stir together 1 cup of the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and 12 ounces of chocolate chips with 1/4 cup flour to coat. Then add to the chocolate batter. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean. Halfway through the baking, rap the pan against the oven shelf to allow air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Do not over-bake! Cool thoroughly, refrigerate well and cut into squares.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Dubai's Angels

This is a photo of a Dubai Police Special Unit hand-picked, hired and trained to act as bodyguards to heads of state, ministers, top officials and their families, particularly women, and other people of importance visiting Dubai.

Highly skilled at rappelling, fighting skills, anti-riot management, boxing, karate and tae kwon do. In addition to being multi-lingual, trained to abseil from helicopters wearing battle-packs, maneuver high speed Yamaha superbikes, be sharpshooters with 9mm handguns, they are also required lay down lives to protect those put under their care.

All I can add is that if you can do all of the above AND perch on one shoulder while maintaining your weapon, you are a bad ass.

Oh, and this Special Unit is all-female. Even more bad ass.

Love it.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Business Too Casual

JohnnyMac had an employee clearly striving to never be employee of the month. Here is the breakdown.

This employee, estimated around 27 years old, working for one of the largest companies in the US. This employee comes to work in jeans. His supervisor, who reports to JohnnyMac, can clearly handle passing along the coaching tip. This is a business environment. Business casual means trousers and button downs or golf shirts. What his supervisor did not say was look around. Do you see people wearing jeans? Your environment is a beacon of information. Use it.

BlueJeans quickly forgot the quick tete a tete. He wore jeans again. And again. Supervisor finally quashed this under who knows what sort of communication. I am perplexed that an employee who actually wants to maintain employment would digress when repeatedly given warnings.

As a quick sidebar, I think grown individuals working in "typical" office environments should have obligatory awareness of what elements are likely to be beheld as "inappropriate for work".

Which would include, at the minimum:

blue jeans (unless allowed), flip flops, midriff baring shirts, your prison style chest tattoo, your cleavage, your underwear tag, your copious chest hair, your Miller Lite tee, or anything bearing the Playboy Bunny icon.

However, BlueJeans certainly found another way to occupy his time. When BlueJeans was finally terminated a few weeks ago, he requested time to sort out his personal effects. This is not a situation where you were employed at length, nor are you moving from one office to another.

What personal effects do you need an hour or more to sort out? BlueJeans had stacks and stacks of documents he claimed were personal and wanted to maintain. Supervisor certainly utilized a level of patience I might not have afforded. BlueJeans had hundred and hundreds of pieces of paper, printed at the office. What could be so consuming that you would have hundreds of pieces of paper related to a personal item that you printed at the office?

He hacked into his ex-girlfriends Facebook account and email and had printed all of the correspondence relative to him. The primary narrative of her correspondence? That he was nuts and she was glad to be rid of him. Supervisor decided to inflict some pain and require that since the documents were technically company property, he would have someone make copies. Of every piece. Excellent. BlueJeans visibly wiped the sweat from his brow.

Oh BlueJeans, you must not want to work. This is an office, not your college apartment. In all your internet time, did you not scan the news a time or two? Are you aware of the current state of our economy? Do you know PhDs are applying to work as baristas at Starbucks? Jobs do not abound. Do you need me, JennyMac, to tell you to not take business to0 casual? Wear your khakis. And obviously you shouldn't use a ream or two of paper (which is also evidence against you) as well as company time, equipment, and product for your own little FaceBookgate as you cyberstalk your ex. Had she only mentioned "about to be unemployed" she would have your profile nailed down pat.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bown chicka bown bown

Something tells me this is not what Van Halen had in mind when they penned their infamous song Hot for Teacher. Unbelievable to me that in the times of constant reports, from coast to coast, of inappropriate contact between educators and students, who knew gratuitous semi nude teachers would be sitting right there in Cocoa Beach, Florida?

Something tells me the Board of Education in Brevard County, Florida is a wee bit liberal, yes?

While I applaud the efforts to raise money for the American Cancer Society, I think junior and senior high school teachers bearing it down to the bare skin to make a calendar is just a smidge over the top. This photo is the group of teachers who so willingly donned shirts for a good cause.

One of the teachers, Mr. August, claimed the kids don't like to look at their "goofy teachers" however, he did think that "a lot of moms really like the calendar." Oh really. I feel like I am about to sip a dangerous (dangerous, bizarre and completely unwelcome) beverage mixed of equal parts Porky's, American Pie, and Desperate Housewives.

And the cherry on top? (of course, no pun intended) the Principle of the school, Tim Cool (Principal Cool, are you serious?) said he was easily persuaded to pose because the calendar supports a worthy cause. A year ago, his mother died of cancer, so the picture also was a tribute to her, he said.

I am not sure I can think of a single cause that would warrant my child posing semi-nude for a calendar in my memory, honor, or anything else. But then again, we don't live down in
Cocoa "Awwwww yeah boyeeeeee" Beach.

Before I go, I would like to comment that apparently, at least the Ab Roller is a staple down at the Beach. My oh my, some of these cats don't skip the crunches but I am not even going to comment on the guy in the front row.

Thanks Detention Slip for sharing this tidbit.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The first 1000

This morning marks a banner day for me. Why?
Because of you.
You, the blog reader.
My blog reader.

I can't tell you how much I appreciate you.

I have been writing in some capacity for twenty years. The genre runs the gamut from arguments on Kafka to legal referendum, thesis to love letter, full scale novel to emails from my dog.

But the newest art form to me is that of this blog. My blog just turned 97 days old. And I am thrilled to share that yesterday, I had my 1000th visitor to my site. Including readers from as far away as France, China, Germany, Oman, Australia, and the Netherlands. Not bad odds for a tiny unknown, and I could not do it without you.

My little blog. My electronic avocation.

You are giving it traction, friends. Thank you for the fantastic emails, and the posts on FB. And you DP who asked me why in the world anyone would follow a blog. Thanks for reading.
So tonight I will pop a cork and pour you a sip. You know JohnnyMac needs one. After all, he has been updated for the past 97 days straight as to how many people have visited, especially at the beginning when I was thrilled that three people went to my site in a day. And special thanks to the Social Butterfly for the blogroll inclusion in a major media platform. You are awesome.
And since it is Cinco de Mayo, its already a built in celebratory day.

Cheers to you for you support. And here's to keeping our liquidy fete always entertaining or informative. Let's have a cocktail? But of course!

Friday, May 1, 2009

A real downward facing dog?

What might this be, you ask. Do you see the yoga mat? And the gentle stretching of the dog's limb? Yes, you are seeing correctly. This is doggie yoga. Traditionally, a physical and mental discipline enjoyed by millions of people, I can not assert I was even aware canines enjoyed the practice as well. Oh wait, I am not sure if that little face above shows a tranquility and etherealness. And while this dog may just be in a zen space, I would wager that a stroll at the park or perhaps a doggie ice cream would produce a purer sense (and demonstration )of joy. This little face seems to ask, "ummm, what did I do?"

While it may be the truest form of downward facing dog, I have to applaud this doggie for even tolerating it. I wonder if a dog has such stress that doggie yoga is an actual and possible relief? I tried a doggie yoga pose on Nixon once, and let's just say, I am lucky I didn't wake up to a puddle in my slipper.

There were numerous other dogs in this class too. Including some taking a big snooze. Peaceful canine chakra? Love it. Getting your "doggie yoga" certification? Who knew such a career existed.

And if it works to bring peace and harmonious hearts to man's best friend, there are a few yappers in my neighborhood that should start immediately.