31 March 2009


Crazy baking week--classic shortbread , 14-carat cupcakes w/cream cheese frosting for my dear friend's final days at work, and, a batch of chocolate peanutbutter bars--just because.

The shortbread was a thank you for my agency. I met with them on Friday to pick up some data and a CD for a very involved transcription project that I agreed to bail them out on. Thought it would be a couple of days, but now realize it could take 2+ weeks. Very detailed, financial firm strategic planning meeting--very confidential. The good news is this stuff is interesting to me, so I am enjoying it, although all the computer time is killing my back. And, I get to work at home--in my pajamas, if I want.

Then, bake oatmeal-raisin cookies and shortbread again as a thank you for JA's financial advisor from Merrill Lynch treating me to lunch. Met with JA and her at South Water Kitchen on North Wabash. Very fine lunch in a lovely setting. Her views on the current and recent past market fluctuations and disasters were very interesting. I think I may invest with her...

The financial advisor and the agency people are all encouraging me to go into a corporate gifts business, and I am going to do it. Mailed off a selection to Merrill Lynch--four different styles of packaging.

I choose a name--Merci Beaucoup--and draft a list of 7 or 8 cookies that I love to bake. Then I design some business mailings, cards, and labels online--great stuff. And, I set up an email account with plans for a website.

Things are still shaping up, but I know how to market the fresh-baked goods and I have three corporate client possibilities from the get-go. I am going to do a mailing to the third company to arrive on Easter Monday, as that group has given up sweets for Lent and will be ready to splurge. One of the VPs there said that my cookies were the best he had ever tasted. They begged me to bring more and asked for recipes.

I need to work out pricing, but I know I will handle money through PayPal and ship Priority Mail to get the cookies to the recipients while they are hot from the oven, so to speak. I will work with direct mail and word-of-mouth advertising.

The creative juice are flowing and I am filled with energy.

I am a busy girl, and the agency has promised an interesting 2-week assignment if I can bring this transcription assignment in on-time.

27 March 2009


Asparagus and Mushroom Quiche
I know this looks like a pre-made pie shell, but it is not!

Yuk! Why is it that, although my insomnia is infrequent, I always lie awake on nights when I need sleep the most? I was exhausted last night--all that baking. I crawled from my bed to the big chair in our library around 2:00am, heard the clock strike 2:30, and then wide awake at 4:00am. Dozed a bit and got up at 5:00am. Boring, I know.

I cut the peanut butter bars and packaged the shortbread. Decided to bake a quiche because we saved a bit of asparagus and some sliced mushrooms when we made risotto the other night. We do have the best quiche recipe--so flexible. Everyone always loves it. Even the non-quiche eaters. Not sure where the quiche is headed--to soccer practice with CA? To Central Illinois with CA? For breakfast this a.m.?

My friend says the bitter co-worker at the not-for-profit has already left the premises. Not going to be in today, so no peanut butter bars for her. I seem to have a surplus. What to do????

Today has shaped up to be an interesting one. I take the 9:00am train and meet with my agency at 10:40am, then over to State Street for a brief shopping foray at Macy's. Oh, how we miss Marshall Fields. I meet my sister in front of the ABC TV sidewalk studio and then we walk around the corner and up a bit to South Water Kitchen, a restaurant at 225 N. Wabash. Never been there and it sounds interesting. JL has a luncheon meeting with her financial advisor and I am just along for the outing. There will be desserts!

Tonight I stay at my niece's on N. Broadway and then an early train home to tackle that 10-1/2 hour tape that needs transcribing. I wonder how long it will take. I have transcribed conference calls many times in the past and should be proficient. A bit rusty, but once I am back on the bicycle...


8 or 9" pie shell, unbaked
2 Eggs, beaten
1/2 Cup Mayonnaise
1/2 Cup Milk
1 T. Cornstarch
dash Pepper
1-1/2 Cups Cheese, grated.
I use a blend of cheddar and swiss or Jarlsburg, but the cheddar/Monterey Jack blend works well, too.

Fillings: [about 1 - 1-1/4 cups total]
For this one I used some leftover rotissorie chicken w/ fresh asparagus, fresh sliced mushrooms, and diced sweet onions. I gently sauteed the onions, asparagus, and mushrooms just until tender.

Other options are bacon and green onion; broccoli and ham; hamburger and green onion; red and yellow peppers w/onion and goat cheese. Use your imaginations, or your leftovers! If it is good in pasta or on a pizza, it will be good in a quiche.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 - 35 minutes, or until the middle is no longer jiggly.

26 March 2009


Baked in my lovely French tin pans. These are just a bit over 5"x5"

Ready to deliver.

Tomorrow is the BIG layoff at the not-for-profit where I worked for 7 years. About 40% of their staff, including my best friend. Times are very tough in the not-for-profit world as well as the marketplace.

So... I am baking carrot cake cupcakes with loads of cream-cheese icing, shortbread, and peanut-butter cup bars. The cupcakes are in honor of my friend's birthday--tough being let go on the day before your birthday, but she has perspective. The peanut-butter cup bars are for another friend who is very bitter at the demise of her job. She is not at an age where she had ever planned to be interviewing for a new position. And, it has been painful watching the slow-down and constant revamping of an organization determined to change and survive. The cuts are deep.

The shortbread is for my temp agency. They have asked me to stop by to pick up a transcription job that is due Monday. I agreed to bail them out as I have no formalized plans this weekend since I was away from home and out-of-town for more than two weeks. CA is leaving tomorrow afternoon to visit his mom in Central Illinois as his sister is visiting from New Orleans. So, I am free as a bird and figure working all weekend is better than shopping all weekend.

I love being at home. I need about 3 days at home for every day I am away. Dream on... Anyway, when I first interviewed with the agencies I sent a cookie gift as a follow-up and thank you. Big hit! They always remember me, and it is about time to reinforce the connection. Shortbread is always a hit. And, I have the very best recipe from Cuisine magazine back in the early 1980s. YUM!

I was thinking about going into Chicago tomorrow anyway, as my sister is visiting my niece's family including the infamous Sophie! She is a curly-haired minx who is always thinking and has a ready smile for everyone. Her worldview is just too precious. Almost four is one of the best ages.

CA has agreed to deliver the cupcakes and I will head out mid-morning. Maybe to spend the night, but most likely I will drive home late.

Just realized I have never published this recipe, so here goes.

[adapted from Cuisine Magazine, December 1983]
8 oz Butter, lightly salted
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/4 tsp. Salt
2 Cups Flour

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Bring butter to room temperature.
3. Whisk dry ingredients together; add butter.
4. Gently mix all ingredients with your hands until forms a ball.
(If you use a processor, do not over-mix)
5. Knead gently until smooth and soft, never oily.
6. Press dough into an 8" x 8" pan.
I love the Calphalon pan as its sides are very square.
7. Chill for at least one hour.
8. With a fork, press tines into cookie dough 8 or 9 times to vent.
9. Bake 40 - 45 minutes or until edges are golden.

The darker the color, the more caramelized the shortbread tastes.
10. Cool for 10 - 15 minutes and cut into square or rectangles.

11. Press tines of fork once into center of each cookie, on the diagonal.

NOTE: I use a pastry scraper to cut the shortbread as it gives a clean cut.

25 March 2009


Once upon a time, a dashing young British Army officer and a lovely student nurse fell deeply, magically in love. Then he was shipped off to Korea and they never heard from one another. Forty years later, fate brings them together again... with hilarious results. From the first moment Jean and Lionel meet again to the wedding of Alistair and Judith, all the classic moments are here for fans to enjoy.

I seem to have acquired the knack of killing a day... With no particular accomplishments unless you count reading recipes online, playing solitaire, checking out kids' gifts on eBay and Amazon, reading my blog roll, writing emails, and manipulating my online photo albums. It is 5:00pm and that is the sum total of my day's activities, unless you count the one load of laundry?

Had a brainstorm earlier today for the perfect birthday gift for my hard-to-shop-for friend who is celebrating 66 on April 1st. I ordered the complete set of the Judith Dench and Geoffrey Palmer BBC series As Time Goes By. Yep! 9 seasons; 1920 minutes; 32 hours; 64 episodes of slow moving, nothing much happens, British humor involving very middle-aged lead characters. She will love it because she loves London and everything English. And, she officially retires the day before her birthday, so she should have plenty of time to enjoy her gift. I consider this brilliant. [I bow.] Thank you!

Now I believe that I shall shower and stage my kitchen for a blog-worthy photo-shoot.

24 March 2009


I am home! Drove the 7+ hours yesterday entertained by Sirrus satellite radio--Martha, Cosmo, NPR Now, and the Book Channel. Helps time fly while driving across the 300 miles of Iowa and 130 or so of Illinois.

I am spending today wallowing in being home--savouring my oh-so-comfy bed and then nesting into one of my favorite reading spots just enjoying the ambiance of home. Around 10am the doorbell rings and I decide to ignore it. Then there is an insistent knock on the door--how rude! There is no one I need to see today except CA and he is on the field coaching soccer. The telephone rings with a local, but unknown number, so I succumb to answering and learn that there is a flower delivery at my door.

Thanks for taking care of us. We love you! Love, JA and LE.

How very sweet. I am missing the squishy little guy and lovely little angel baby. JA doesn't usually talk on the phone, but today he was persuaded and I sang his favorite marching song.
There was a wise old king who had 10,000 men
He marched them up the hill, and he marched them down again.
When you're up, you're up. And, when you're down, you're down
But when you're only half way up, you're neither up nor down!

We usually finish that off with a hut-two-three-four, hut-two-three-four. Yes, sir! And then a smart salute. JE said that he is smiling the whole time and although he doesn't say I love you, grandma [this time], he does deign to say bye-bye.

22 March 2009


Baby LE has a window in her room that opens into the stairwell, so her mommy decided to hang the curtain on the outside of the window[in the stairwell] so that she will always be able to peek in and see what Lucy is doing.

When LG was small our son and daughter-in-law would step out onto the terrace of their flat in Bratislava to peek into LG's window--which worked beautifully in the early days of her climbing out of bed and roaming her room. However, one night when they peeked in, LG had her hands to the glass and was peeking back at them...

Anyway, one of my assignments during this two-week visit to Omaha is to make the curtain for LE's window. JE chose the fabric a few days ago and as usual I procrastinate until almost the last minute, but manage to complete the task in just over an hour this evening [after a 5 hour! afternoon nap--for me, not LE or JA]. The end result is smashing, even if I do say so myself. JE chose a very pink fabric--pink on pink--that is not overwhelming because it hangs in the creamy white stairwell.

Beginning to think that LE needs pink panels on all 7 of the windows in her room, so I plan a last minute trip to the fabric store before hitting the Interstate and heading home in the morning. JE has hung creamy white drapes on all windows, but even though they are insulated the light still glows through. An additional girly-girl printed panel will keep out the rays of sunshine and tiny LE can snooze peacefully away, no matter the time of day.

JA and I have bonded. He is a charmer--likes silly songs and marching about. I'll miss the little ones but grandpa is home alone and it is time for me to get back to work. Hopefully, a few lazy days at home before the agency calls.

20 March 2009



Took a break from grandma-ing for a solo dinner and the new release movie Duplicity with Clive Owen and Julia Roberts. A fun movie, well acted. Both are professionals and did a workmanlike job. Clever diaglogue, which I always appreciate. The story line backs up the timeline; giving the viewer slices of the back story. Not Oscar-worthy material or acting, but a good Friday night escape.

Little Lucy is pacing the floor with her daddy when I arrive home a bit after 10:00pm--not crying, but not ready to fall asleep either. She is definitely into the pacifier and content as long as it stays plugged in. After a bit I take over the baby holding and make several attempt to unplug her, but each try receives a definite response of rooting and grunts and small squalls. She likes this little piece of plastic--places both hands squarely over it when I relent and put it back in her tiny, rosebud mouth. Lucy rules! Just after 11:30pm daddy takes her up to bed and after mommy feeds her at midnight, she settles in for a 3 hour tour of baby dreamland.

18 March 2009


No trip to the library today because daddy takes JA for their weekly trip together to the mall where they enjoy bagels and the play area. JA has special friends he sees every week.

Later grandma volunteers to entertain JA outside. He loves to paint! The good news is that we paint with water. After a bit we get the idea to rake... His backyard mainly slopes upward, as do many here in the center of Omaha, but there is a small play area surrounding a massive oak tree. We rake up the last of the fallen leaves and all the sticks that come with oaks. It doesn't take long to fill a huge WalMart lawn and leaf bag. We need to buy more! JA likes the raking part, and especially the lifting of the shovel filled with debris into the big brown bag. Before filling, Grandma turns the bag upside down atop JA to "make sure" it is big enough. Everything is fun when you are almost 2 years.

JA has a DVD about trashy man--a garbage man--so as he continues to strew the aforementioned raked leaves onto the wooden steps so that Grandma has to sweep them clean, I begin calling him trashy man. He giggles with delight.

We break for lunch and wash up. JA has always liked his vegetables, especially broccoli. His mommy tries to figure out what he's saying, but grandma knows immediately he is saying broccoli stew because that is what the bunny eats in his new library book. We exclaim, "Ew-w-w, not for you!" many times before the tray is clean.

Baby LE is quite content, slept in four-hour shifts overnight. Will it last? Her mommy and daddy have been concerned about her jaundice, but the numbers are only slightly more elevated than when she left the hospital and this morning her color seems to be improving. If newborns sleep too much and are hard to rouse, it is an indication that the billirubin is at a dangerous level. She has been poked in the foot for a blood test every day since her birth, but not today.

16 March 2009


JA has had a rough week. First the nasty head cold, then the new molar, and of course there's a new girl in town: LE. This evening he decided to acknowledge her presence with some firm head pats and a discussion of her legs and arms. At one point when she was crying he said, "Baby sad."
Grandpa flies back to Chicago tomorrow and Uncle ES heads back to Minneapolis. I'm planning on staying for another week more or less depending on how the next few days go. In addition to grandma-ing, my duties include groceries and cooking, and probably a bit more cleaning than the house has required so far. We ordered in the best Thai from Thai Kitchen for dinner tonight, and I mixed up a batch of Machaca beef for quesadillas and tacos. The other grandma is bringing brunch tomorrow. Her cinnamon rolls are notorious, so here's hoping...

loves the park, so grandpa and I took him there today, after a brief trip to Target to play with the talking Elmo. The weather has been outstanding and is supposed to continue for the rest of the week. Sunshine and balmy temperatures--hitting 60s and above. The uninitiated would think spring has arrived, but lifelong Midwesterners are more tentative and just appreciative of the current reprieve.

My book supply is dwindling and so far Amazon hasn't delivered a new batch. I will take JA to the local library for story time on Wednesday a.m. and see what I can rustle up there.

LE is learning to call out for attention--just gave a big shout-out that was definitely not a complaint. Every day she gets cuter--her tiny facial features are a bit more distinctive and her dark blue eyes take in a bit more. 4 days old and so, so brand new.

Machaca Beef
2 lbs. lean chuck roast or beef stew meat
2 cups water
8 - 10 peppercorns
1/2 med onion, diced

1.Simmer meat in the water with the peppercorns and diced onion for 2 - 2-1/2 hour, or until the beef easily shreds. Cool in cooking liquid. Retain 1/2 - 1 cup of liquid.
2. Shred beef with fingers or two forks. Add cooking liquid.

2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. salt
1 med onion, diced
1 T. olive oil or salad oil
1 14 or 15 oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1/2 cup green chilis, diced
1/2 tsp. cumin

1. Crush garlic with salt until it forms a paste.
2. Saute onions in olive oil for 2 - 3 minutes; add garlic/salt mixture and cumin. Grind in a bit of pepper, to taste.
3. Add the tomatoes and heat just a minute or so to blend spices.
4. Stir tomato mixture into meat mixture.

Use as filling for tacos or quesadillas. Also great as a basis for vegetable beef soup with a Southwestern flare. Add the meat mixture back into the cooking liquid. Bring to a simmer and add about 2 cups of your favorite fresh or frozen vegetables.

15 March 2009


She's here! Arrived very efficiently after about 4 hours labor on Thursday, March 12th, so no induction for mama. Big brother JA is pretending not to notice she's here. So far she hasn't had much of an impact on his world, but mommy and daddy are a bit busy with that pink and brown blanket.

How fun to see a brand new baby so fresh from God just one hour after birth. LE came with a full head of fuzzy hair that looks light brown, but could even turn blonde... She is perfect. Her other grandma DS is so, so happy to have a little girl in the family even if she is not named Stephanie or Sarah.

We are busy with lots of visitors and errands. Grandpa flew in on Saturday a.m. and thinks LE is beautiful. All three of his granddaughters are beautiful, and he claims no prejudice at all. JA is suddenly seeming very mature. He's still my squishy little guy, but his activities are bolder and louder than ever before. He is a born drummer which pleases his Uncle, the professional drummer, to no end.

Babies are only so small and brand new for a short time, so we intend to treasure each moment. It's always amazing how quickly and quietly time flies when you are cradling a new little one to your chest and inhaling the sweet, sweet aroma.

So we will continue to cook and to cuddle, interspersed with running and jumping and marching and trips to the park in these warm and sunny March days leading up to the real spring.

13 March 2009


Once upon a time, a dashing young British Army officer and a lovely student nurse fell deeply, magically in love. Then he was shipped off to Korea and they never heard from one another. Thirty-eight years later, fate brings them together again... with hilarious results. From the first moment Jean and Lionel meet again to the wedding of Alistair and Judith, all the classic moments are here for fans to enjoy.

Great BBC series from the early/mid 90s starring Dame Judith Dench. Just discovered that Netflix offers it as an Instant download, so I am spending some of my early evenings in Omaha watching the series chronologically. This thing goes on for something like 9 seasons! I have seen a lot of episodes, but randomly and never in sequence.

I love the characters and you can tell the actors just get tickled with themselves sometimes as the smiles and smirks seem all-too-real. Great acting, at the very least.

And, somehow this is helping my perspective on aging. For whatever reason I have been more aware of the ravages of time lately. Not that I am feeling poorly, just kind of a feeling of "It's all downhill from here..." Grandchildren are the great reward, but both sets live so very far from us and we are not ready/willing/able to consider relocating yet. We have a great life and our travel and family experiences of the past few years just keep getting better.

Thank you God for good health, great friends, and a high-functioning, loving family.

12 March 2009


In just a bit we are expecting a phone call to say that the new baby girl has arrived to join the squishy little guy. She doesn't have a name yet--it has been suggested that she may arrive with a name badge, "Hello, My Name is... And then, we will know her name!

JA has been sick this week with a nasty head cold and hasn't been sleeping well. Grandma arrived on Sunday, driving the eight hours by herself in order to spend time with the squishy guy and ease the transition for when mommy and daddy head for the hospital. He's such a lucky guy--his Nana and Papa are here this afternoon and giving him lots of attention. Grandpa arrives on Saturday morning. JA's world is changing. He will be sharing the spotlight, but I don't think he'll mind. He's just about the age when other things and people will be important to him and his world is expanding.

The new little girl has a pink and brown room with lots of windows and sunlight. Today JA and I looked out her windows and enjoyed a treehouse view of the backyard. There was a squirrel busily crunching last fall's acorns.

Lots of friends and family are praying for this little one's safe arrival. She is blessed already and can expect a life filled with love and protection. We're waiting little one...

10 March 2009


This is the video that should have been shown at the $60 million wedding. This was taken with a hidden camera, unposed. Just one example of street life in Kolkuta, India.

Click on the link and then scroll down until you see the video Yellow Dress.

FRIPPING, FREAKING EXCESS: $60 million wedding

AP Associated Press
updated 2:31 p.m. CT, Fri., June. 25, 2004

PARIS - An Indian steel tycoon reportedly paid $60 million for his daughter’s wedding — a six-day bash for 1,500 guests in France’s most sumptuous settings, including Versailles.
Lakshmi Mittal rented the Tuileries garden in Paris one night and a gallery at Versailles another night to celebrate the marriage of his 23-year-old daughter, Vanisha, to 25-year-old Amit Bhatia, according to Thursday’s edition of Paris Match magazine.
Louis XIV’s lavish chateau apparently was not enough — Mittal also had a makeshift castle built at a park in Saint-Cloud, outside the capital, Paris Match said. The actual wedding took place Tuesday at another chateau, Vaux-le-Vicomte.
O.K., so this happened a few years ago and I've just caught wind of it. I just cannot imagine how anyone from India could do something like this and live in that country. What, have they never heard of Mumbai or any of the other festering slums of their own country? Dear God save us all.

09 March 2009


This chair recently sold at a Christies' auction of the Yves Saint Laurent estate for a whopping $28 million. Dear God, and we wonder why the world economy has been shot to blazes. GREED. $28 million could feed and cure all the ills in at least one third world nation. I don't even need to know the provenance of this chair. I just consider it to be the evidence of evil and sin and self-centered narcissistic living.

Enough said.

05 March 2009


The agency keeps sending me back to the same organization. The location is great and the people very nice, but the pay is mediocre. The work is consistent--lower level than I prefer--but they pay me and so I continue...

I started writing an article about the changing job description of the executive assistant. Most of the women I have met in these roles are under-utilized. Their challenges involve travel arrangements and expense reconciliation. Meeting accounting/credit card deadlines are what motivates. There is lots of time for personal phone calls and Internet browsing.

Every one of the financial institutions I have temped in have new college grads in the finance and accounting field to do their Internet research and spreadsheets--the types of projects that have always made my work more interesting. These newbies are expected to work 60 - 80 hour weeks, and in some cases 7 days a week for the 2 or so years they have to prove their stuff.

I am most interested in observing and gathering insights as to the future of the executive assistant role.

After the new grandbaby is born and I am available for a longer-term assignment I am going to negotiate for a better position and pay. With the current economy I may be forced to settle for just working rather than being challenged.