Friday, April 29, 2011

Nobody Does it Better: A Royal Wedding Fit For, Well, The Royals! The Mad Hatter Is Alive and Well in London Town

The Day
The day started for me a bit later than I'd planned. I had the alarm set for 4:00 a.m. but didn't get up until 5:30 New York time. By then, Westminster Abbey was mostly filled and Princes William and Harry were just arriving at the church. Some lesser royals were being escorted to their seats and Kate was still at the Goring Hotel. Phew! I hadn't missed much except the parade of hats which luckily would be covered throughout the day.

My first glimpse of Kate was at 5:53 as she left the hotel and discreetly entered the 1950 Rolls Royce (on loan from the Queen) accompanied by her father who I thought looked a bit like Harrison Ford. It was apparent as the car proceeded to the Abbey, that her wedding attire would not be like Diana's but a simpler, more elegant gown and veil. Her hair was down and I heard a commentator say that she wanted to look more like herself than overly 'done-up' like many brides choose to do.

Ivanka Trump
The Queen and Prince Philip left Buckingham Palace around the same time and arrived just before the bride-to-be. The Queen wore all yellow in a dress, coat and hat ensemble designed by Angela Kelly with a diamond brooch. Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles were already inside. Camilla looked lovely in a light blue pleated coat with Ivory hat and dress. They walked down the aisle together and took their place at the right side of the aisle opposite but facing the Middleton family.

Julie Andrews in 
The Sound of Music
The Dress, Veil, Jewelry
Kate wore a lace topped and satin dress designed by Sarah Burton, chief creative director from the design house of Alexander McQueen. McQueen committed suicide last year. The dress was compared to Princess Grace's wedding gown by many but I also thought it looked like the wedding gown worn by Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music' or the dress worn by Ivanka Trump at her wedding. I've supplied the images, you can decide. The Cartier ‘halo’ tiara was also on loan from the Queen. It was given to the queen at the age of 18 by her mother, the Queen Mum who originally received it from her husband King George VI in 1936. It was delicate and looked lovely with the veil made with layers of soft, ivory silk tulle trimmed with hand-embroidered flowers. The diamond earrings by Robinson Pelham were designed to complement the tiara and contained oak leaves and an acorn suspended in the center. The earrings were a wedding gift from Kate's parents.
Princess Grace

The Attendants
There were four young bridesmaids (in the U.S. they would be called flower girls) in simple dresses with pleated skirts and crowns of flowers in their hair. Two adorable young boys in red waistcoats were the pages. They were led in by the Maid of Honor and sister of the bride, Pippa or Phillippa Middleton. When Kate arrived (on time) Pippa emerged from the church and smoothed and arranged her veil. Pippa's dress, also designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, was an ivory satin-based crepe form-fitting column dress with a cowl neck. She wore her hair down but pulled back with an ornate clip. It's the tradition in England for attendants to wear white.

Pippa and company
The Music
Very little about the wedding was disappointing to me but I will say that I didn't like the entrance and recessional music. I thought they were bit slow and not festive enough. Apparently the music was under the purview of Prince Charles. I had a hard time finding the names and composers of the main pieces but familiar hymns were sung throughout by the choirs. The choirs and music during the ceremony were traditional and perfect for the occasion.

The Ceremony
It took 4 minutes to walk down the aisle arriving at the altar at 6:08. William did not turn but Prince Harry did sneak a peek and said something to his brother with a big smile. When Prince William saw Kate, he told her she looked beautiful and then the ceremony was about to begin. I was surprised that the vows were taken almost immediately and also surprised at the length of Prince Williams name: William Arthur Philip Louis. It was a single ring ceremony and William had trouble getting the ring on her finger, not sure why! It took less than 20 minutes to announce that they were husband and wife. You could hear the crowds outside let out a roar. Kate's brother James did a reading and the Bishop of London gave the address. The bride and groom and both families went to the back of the church to sign the registry.

The Flowers and Decor
Westminster Abbey is historic and elegant without any adornment, but for the occasion was outfitted with eight 20 feet-high trees: six English Field Maple and two Hornbeam. The trees were in planters with mini-lily's growing at the base. The flowers and plants will be left in position in Westminster Abbey for the public to view until Friday, May 6. Then some of the trees will be taken to Highgrove Gardens, where they will be planted. Many of the plants and flowers will be donated to charities or re-planted. On the altar, small green hydrangeas mixed with the tiny lilies, could be seen in the background. Overhead shots of the ceremony revealed a black and white checkered floor. Kate's bouquet contained myrtle, lily-of-the-valley, sweet William and hyacinth. The bouquet was designed by Shane Connolly with the traditions of flowers that had meaning  for both families.

Princess Beatrice
Victoria Beckham
The Hats
My first glimpse of the 'hats' came when I spotted Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie sitting behind  the Queen looking a bit like English 'tarts.' Oh my. Many of the hats were designed by Philip Treacy including a more demure one worn by Victoria Beckham whom I spotted in the crowd of church guests. The Queen, Camilla and Carol Middleton, the bride's mum, wore conservative hats. Carol's ensemble was by Catherine Walker, who was one of Princess Diana's favorite designers.

The Vehicles
1950 Rolls Royce: In 1949, Rolls Royce received an order from the Duke of Edinburgh for a limousine. The company, aware that Daimler had been the royal vehicle since 1900, wanted to make the best car possible. The royal vehicle was then hand-built on a stretched Silver Wraith chassis. When completed in July 1950 its delivery was accompanied by a public announcement thus breaking the Daimler monopoly stating the Phantom IV had been "designed to the special order of Their Royal Highness's, the Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh. Kate arrived at the church in this historic car.

Aston Martin: Prince William and Kate drove away from the crowds in William’s father’s Aston Martin DB6 Volante. The DB6 was only built for a few years, in the mid to late 1960s, although the familiar grille is reminiscent of the DB4 and DB5.

1902 State Landau carriage:  This same carriage carried Prince Charles and Princess Diana, back to the palace following their wedding at St. Paul's Cathedral on June 29, 1981. Built in 1881 by Hoopers for King Edward VII's coronation. It is an open-top carriage that moves in a circular motion as it being pulled by horses.

The Kiss
There were two! Very demure and sweet. The crowd loved it!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Scone By Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet; I'm Content to Nibble on a Scone Whilst Prince Will Canoodles with Kate

Usually associated with British 'high tea',  the scone is actually Scottish in origin but also popular in Australia, Ireland, the United States and some Scandinavian countries. A scone is basically an unleavened 'quick' bread similar to a biscuit but slightly sweeter. Shaped as rounds or wedges, scones have been around since feudal times when they were prepared over an open grill and made with oats. In more recent times, scones come in any number of varieties and are always oven-baked and made with flour. Here's a bit of history about where the name 'scone'  possibly came from courtesy of and Wikipedia:
The origin of the name 'scone' is just as unclear as where it came from. Some say the name comes from where the Kings of Scotland were crowned, the Stone (Scone) of Destiny. History reveals that in 1296, The Stone of Destiny was seized by King Edward I of Britain and transported to London, where it was laid beneath The Coronation Chair at Westminster Abbey. However, legend has it that Pictish Monks outsmarted the King and concealed The Stone in an underground chamber. It was a Replica placed on The Hill of Belief that was seized by King Edward I. In 1996, this Stone was restored to the People of Scotland by the British Government and now resides in Edinburgh Castle. And what of the whereabouts of the true Stone of Destiny? Sadly, that Secret was Lost with the Monks…
Last week, probably in anticipation of the royal wedding, the New York Times ran the recipe below. I'd been saving a few over the years and when compared, they weren't all that different. I made these this afternoon and just out of the oven, were light and tasty....amazing with just a bit of melted butter. I couldn't find currants in my supermarket so I used raisins. I think they're a bit big but tasted fine.

I'll be getting up at 4 a.m to watch the ceremonies mostly to see Kate's dress and others, hear the music and to check out the church decor all of which promises to be spectacular. My scones with be reheated and served with English Breakfast tea, lemon and marmalade. I'll be using my 'coveted' Prince Charles and Lady Di plate purchased in Bermuda (left) in the summer of 1981, the year they were married.

It's really all just 'too-too.'

English Scones
Makes 12 large

3 cups self rising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
4 ounces cool unsalted butter
1 cup plus 1tablespoon milk
1 cup dried currants ( I substituted raisins)
1 egg yolk

  • Sift flour, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Add sugar.
  • Cut butter into small pieces and work into dry ingredients with hands or pastry blender.
  • Gradually add milk and the currants.
  • Knead by hand to make a smooth dough then refrigerate wrapped in plastic for twenty minutes.
  • Heat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Grease a baking sheet or line with parchment.
  • Roll dough to 3/4 inch thickness and cut with fluted cutter until used up.
  • Beat the egg yolk with 1 teaspoon milk and brush scones lightly. Place on baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes until risen and lightly browned.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jolly Good British Royal Trivia

British Trivia: How Much Do You Know?

1. The Longest-Reigning Sovereign in British history was Queen Victoria (1837-1901), pictured at right. She reigned for just over 63 years.

2. The Shortest-Reigning Sovereign in British history was Lady Jane Grey (1537 - 1554). She ruled for only nine days and was executed in 1554 at the age of seventeen.

3. Keep Calm and Carry On was a poster produced by the British government in 1939 during the beginning of the Second World War to raise the morale of the British public in the event of invasion. The poster was rediscovered in 2000. There are only two known surviving examples of the poster outside of government archives.

4. William and Kate's wedding day Friday will be a bank holiday in Britain. The nation gets a day off from work.

5. Queen Elizabeth II, born in 1926, is the oldest royal ruler. 

6. The late Queen Mother and widow of King George VI (The King's Speech) was the oldest member of the Royal family. She died in 2002, at the age of 101.

7. The Oldest Royal to come to the Throne in Britain was the Duke of St. Andrews, who became King William IV at the age of 64 in 1830.

8. The Youngest Royal to come to the Throne anywhere in the British Isles was Mary, Queen of Scots (1542 - 1587), who became reigning Queen of Scotland at the age of just six days old, following the sudden death of her father, King James V.

9. Princess Beatrice and Eugenie are the daughters of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson.

10. Two of Henry VIII wives were beheaded: Anne Boleyn (right) and Katherine Howard.

11. At a royal wedding, the groomsmen are known as "supporters."

12. The Biggest Royal Divorce Settlement was granted in 1540 to Anne of Cleves (1515-1557) fourth wife of King Henry VIII.

13. Balmoral (left) is the name of the Queen's home in Scotland.

14.  Kate Middleton will become an HRH— Her Royal Highness.

15. Richard the Lionheart (1189-1199) spent the least amount of time in in England. He was either on Crusade to the Holy Land or fighting to protect English colonial interests in France.

16. Catherine (Kate) Middleton will one day become England's sixth Queen Catherine. The others were Catherine of Valois, Catherine of Aragon, Katherine Howard, Katherine Parr and Catherine of Braganza.

17. The first televised royal wedding was when Princess Margaret, younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II, married Antony Armstrong-Jones on May 6, 1960. 20 million viewers tuned in. Their wedding photo is at left.

18. Royals don't use last names.

19. There is some debate over who was the youngest member of the Royal Family to be executed, but historians believe it was probably Queen Catherine Howard (?1525 - 1542), fifth wife of King Henry VIII.
20. There is no rule that says the king has to marry someone royal. King Henry VIII who was married six times, chose four commoners as his brides.

21. The king cannot marry a Catholic, specified under the 1701 Act of Settlement.

22. Eight is the preferred number of bridesmaids at royal weddings. Pippa Middleton (right) will be her sister's Maid of Honor.

23. The last foreign princess to marry into the British royal family was Princess Marina of Greece, who died in 1968.

24. Prince William and Kate Middleton met at St. Andrews University in Scotland.

25. The wife of the British king automatically becomes the queen.

26. The tallest British monarch was King Edward I, who ruled from 1272 to 1307 and who stood at 6ft 3in in height.

27. When Prince Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005, the palace ruled that she would be known as the Duchess of Cornwall, rather than Princess of Wales.

28. Windsor has been the surname of the monarchy since 1917. Before that it was The House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. 

29. Queen Elizabeth R was the daughter of Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn. 

30. King Edward VIII abdicated the Crown to marry Wallace Simpson, above left.

31. Queen Victoria was married to Prince Albert. When he died she went into deep mourning and wore black for the rest of her life.

32. When Prince Albert Victor died in 1892, his younger brother George inherited both his place in the succession and his fiancee, Princess Mary of Teck. The couple went on to become King George V and Queen Mary, the grandparents of Queen Elizabeth II.

33. Prince Harry's on/off girlfriend is Chelsy Davy from South Africa, pictured above right. 

34. The oldest grandchild of Queen Elizabeth II is Peter Phillips, the son of Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips.

35. The designer of Kate Middleton's wedding gown is......I wish I knew!!

I'll be watching the Royal Wedding early Friday morning eating homemade scones that will be the subject of tomorrow's post.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The British Are Coming, The British Are Coming; A Dozen Trivia Questions to Ponder in Advance of the Royal Wedding

British Royalty: A Quiz

1.  How long was Lady Jane Grey on the throne?

2.  Who was Bloody Mary's father?

3.  How many children 
does Queen Elizabeth 
the 2nd have?

4. What town is Kate Middleton from?

5. Who inherited the throne after Queen Elizabeth 
     the 'Virgin Queen?'

6. Who executed Mary Queen of Scots?

7. What is Queen Elizabeth II's last name?

8.  What was Edward I’s nickname?

9. William Wallace of Scotland opposed which king of England?

10.  What was Princess Diana's maiden name?

11. Which British royal bride's wedding dress included anchors in its elaborate design?

12. Out of the present Royal Family who is the Duke of Cornwall?

1. 9 days 
2. Henry the eighth 
3. 4 
4. Bucklebury
5. James I 
6. Elizabeth 
7. Windsor 
8. Longshanks 
9.  King Edward 
10. Spencer
11. Sarah, Duchess of York
12. The current Prince Charles, Will's father

Monday, April 25, 2011

Check Your Vocabulary Skills: Five Words From the Pages of Today's Wall Street Journal and New York Times

I came across a few words in Monday's paper that I read often but am not quite sure of their exact meaning. I thought I'd teach myself a few things while posting my fourth vocabulary test. Here are 5 to test your word power skills on...Good luck!

1. Pluralism
A. The act of adding things to a list
B. Dealing with more than one item
C. Belief in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society.

2. Kirchnerista (Spanish)
A. Member of a political movement in Argentina
B. Argentinian lover of a popular soft drink
C. An Argentinian outdoorsman

3. Bete noire
A. Person intensely disliked
B. A woman of the evening
C. A French lawyer

4. Paradigm
A. A shape with 10 sides
B. Confusing riddle
C. Serves as a pattern or model.

5. Polemic
A. Opposite sides of the world
B. Involved in controversy
C. Style of dancing, notably in a strip club

1. c
2. a
3. a
4. c
5. b

Friday, April 22, 2011

Waiting For The Plumber Who Didn't Show Up Is Draining; Making Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies Save Me From A Day of Petulance

What do you do while waiting for a plumber who doesn't show up? Pacing, cleaning and catching up on reading lasts just so long. My out-of-house long 'to-do' list was undone and hanging over my head as I waited patiently and optimistically for the no-show repair crew.  To wrench me from my restlessness I decided to bake chocolate chip cookies.

A few years ago while working in New York City, our office was lucky enough to get some samples of a cookie made by restaurateur David Chang whose restaurant called Momofuku, has several eateries in the city. But it is his 'Milk Bar' where the bakery items are made. The cookie, called the 'compost', was the best I'd ever had. Back then, I made a vain attempt to imitate it using a recipe I found online. I failed miserably.

But today was a new day so while I waited I got out my collection of cookbooks. I found what sounded like a 'luxe' cookie in a book called 'Chocolate Snowball'. The recipes are from the Deer Valley Resort in Utah. Letty Halloran Flatt is the Executive Pastry Chef and deserves all the credit for a cookie recipe that rivals my memory of the Momofuku masterpiece.

I called the plumbing store toward the end of the day after waiting for four hours and was told they were coming in about two hours. We had plans for the evening so I angrily cancelled the appointment and decided to deal with it on another day. I was actually on a chocolate high, having just taste tested my first batch of the cookie whose recipe follows. Clogged shower? Not a problem. Double chocolate chip cookies? Priceless!

Both cookbooks are linked below. I made a few changes to the recipe highlighted in bold.

Jumbo Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 sticks unsalted butter softened
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant expresso coffee powder (I left this out, not being a coffee lover) 
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
 (I also added a smashed Heath Bar, a half cup of crushed walnuts and a half cup of raisins.)

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  • In large bowl with electric mixer, cream butter, sugar until light and fluffy
  • Add eggs and vanilla
  • Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.
  • Add to the butter mix, scraping sides.
  • Add chips and other fillings
  • Line baking sheets with parchment paper or use canola oil
  • Scoop dough into 1/2 cup mounds at least 3 inches apart.
  • Bake until flat about 25 -30 minutes.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Praising the Cupcake; American in Character, Numerous in Variety, These Small 'Heavenly' Cakes Are Always in Good Taste

What singular food item seems to make everyone happy? There are many of course depending on your tastes, age or locale but I'd venture to guess that the cupcake will bring a smile to anyone's face no matter who you are or where you're from. One only needs to stand on line at Magnolia Bakery in New York's Greenwich Village to experience the universality of the small cake phenomena.

But I think the real popularity of the cupcake is it's simplicity with so many options available for the creative baker. I remember my mother making cupcakes from a small box ( I think it was Jiffy's Golden Yellow Cake Mix) but she never cheated when it came to the icing always using the recipe on the back of the Domino Confectioners Sugar box. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm....a happy memory!

Not surprisingly, cupcakes do have a bit of history and it is decidedly American. Back in 1796  a 'cake to be made in small cups' was mentioned in a book called 'American Cookery' and the first time the actual term 'cupcake' was documented was in a book published in 1828 called “Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats”. The actual term comes from a cake that would fit into a tea cup and before muffin tins were available, cupcakes were baked in small pottery or ramekin-style baking cups. The tins, also called gem pans, became popular around the turn of the 20th century. Now, there are not only cupcake tins that come in small, medium and large, but cupcake cake pans, Christmas tree ornaments, cupcake-themed fabrics for aprons or kitchen decor, cupcake stands, pillows, cookie jars....well, you get the picture.

In the last ten years at least, cupcakes have had a renaissance. Popularized by HBO's 'Sex and the City' and cookbooks by Martha Stewart and many others devoted to the subject, cupcake bakeries have sprung up towns and cities all over the world with varieties unimaginable just a couple of years ago.

My daughter has a thriving cake business and cupcakes are one of the most requested items. I'm using her fabulous photos as illustrations here and will attach her website. I'm also including a basic cupcake recipe (for vanilla only) but using boxed cake mixes are perfectly acceptable in my world. The icing recipe is the original from the Domino's Sugar Box mentioned above. For nostalgia or just for fun, bake a batch for you and your family to enjoy!!

Basic Vanilla Cupcakes
Makes about a dozen regular size 
3 cups cake flour sifted
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup butter or margarine
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease bottom of two 8-inch round cake pans and line with waxed paper or parchment paper. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. Cream sugar and butter together until light. Add eggs and vanilla to creamed mixture and beat until thoroughly mixed. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition. Continue beating one minute. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on rack; remove and cool completely before decorating.

Cupcake toppers for a new baby
Domino's Butter Cream Frosting
3 3/4 cup - (1 lb. box) Domino® Confectioners Sugar
1/4 teaspoon - salt
1/4 cup - milk
1 teaspoon - vanilla extract
1/3 cup - butter or margarine (2/3 stick), softened

Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl. Beat with electric mixer or with heavy spoon until smooth and creamy; scrape bowl often. If too stiff to spread easily, beat in a few drops of milk.

Not a cupcake but a popular cake 
from Heavenly Bites!

  • Peanut Butter Crunch—substitute peanut butter for butter, sprinkle either candy peanut butter pieces or chopped peanuts over frosting.
  • Chocolate—add ½ cup cocoa, top with chocolate curls, if desired.
  • Orange—substitute fresh orange juice for milk, add 1 tsp. orange rind, top with thin strips of orange peel. 
  • Cherry—substitute 3 tbsp. maraschino cherry juice for milk, add in 1/3 cup chopped maraschino cherries.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

From Russia With Love, Maybe: Chicken Kiev, A Ukranian Dish That's Like Chicken Cordon Bleu Which Isn't French; Confused? Me Too

I've had Chicken Kiev many times or so I thought. It looks a lot like the chicken served in many catering hall buffets and also popular with home caterers who might call it Chicken in Wine. I decided to make Chicken Kiev for diner tonight but when checking the ingredients I discovered that what I really was thinking of was more like Chicken Cordon Bleu. I also discovered that Chicken Kiev, a Ukrainian dish named after the capital of that country, might actually have been invented in Moscow. Представьте то!

To further confuse (mostly myself), I discovered Chicken Cordon Bleu is not named after the famous French cooking school but is actually American and is based on Chicken Kiev. Chicken Kiev is rolled and stuffed with garlic butter, then fried. Chicken Cordon Bleu is rolled and stuffed with cheese and ham then also fried. Cordon Bleu translates to Blue Ribbon. The Russian word at the end of the paragraph above means 'Imagine that!'

I decided to make up my own recipe and name it after my street, Edinboro Road. That way, someone might think it English or Scottish, further confusing would-be cooks. This was easy to make and I paired it with roasted red potatoes and salad greens, both very American!

Chicken Edinboro
Stuffed Rolled Chicken in a Lemon Butter Wine Sauce
Makes 9 pieces

3 large boneless chicken breasts, not pounded
1/4 pound prosciutto, sliced thin
1/2 Mozzarella, shredded 
Steamed fresh spinach with garlic and oil (recipe to follow)
2 cups bread crumbs
i cup milk
kosher salt and pepper to taste
canola oil for frying

1 cup white wine (I used pinot grigio)
3 tablespoons butter
juice of one lemon

  • Butterfly chicken pieces and divide into three parts of equal size
  • Pound pieces so they are flat and tender
  • Spoon 2 tablespoons shredded cheese, 1/2 slice of prosciutto, 2 steamed leaves of spinach
  • Roll from one end as tight as possible
  • Dip rolled chicken in egg and milk mixture
  • Add salt and pepper to breadcrumbs, then coat with breadcrumbs(you might have to do this twice)
  • Add to frying pan with heated oil, turned low, open side down.
  • Fry until golden on both sides. Repeat with rest of pieces.
  • Place the chicken in an oblong glass baking pan.
  • Melt butter, add lemon juice and wine.
  • Pour over chicken and bake for about a half hour or until bubbly.

Steamed Spinach With Garlic and Oil
1 large cello bag of fresh spinach
4 cloves garlic minced
olive oil

  • Steam spinach in double boiler until wilted
  • In pan, coat bottom with Olive oil, add garlic and cook until tender and golden
  • Add steamed spinach and toss 'till coated

Monday, April 18, 2011

Candlepin Bowling, Fatbread Pizza: A New England Tradition; I Sink To New Lows; Alley...Oops!

Our family did something very New England-ish this weekend and, no, we didn't go to a Red Sox game. While visiting my son, daughter-in-law and two young grandsons, we went to a candlepin bowling alley in a town called Somerville, not far from Cambridge in Massachusetts. I'd never heard of this kind of bowling and was more than curious to see what it was all about.

Part of the reason New Yorkers are unaware of this sport is that it is found mostly in the Canadian Maritimes and New England states having been invented in Worcester, Ma. by a Mr. Justin White. In 1879, Mr. White inherited a bowling alley with pins that resembled broomstick handles and balls ranging in size from three to five inches. The game was not very compelling so the following year Justin increased the size of his new pins to twelve inches high with a two inch center tapering down to one inch on each end. The new game took off, and Justin began manufacturing the new pins for other alley owners. It was 1880, candlepin bowling came into it's own!

I looked up the rules to the game and they are lengthy but basically here is how we played: Each player gets three turns. Unlike regular bowling, the downed pins, if any (and in my case, not many!), are not cleared until the bowler is finished with his turn. The ball, about 5 inches in width and lightweight has no holes for fingers and is simply held in the palm. After each player's turn, a reset button clears and repositions the pins for the next one up. Bowling shoes are worn and because of the small ball size, it's a great game for kids.

The alley we went to was called Sacco's Bowl Haven and is run by the 4th generation of the Sacco family. Founded in 1939, the establishment is decorated in 'early warehouse' with a side order of '50s decor. Colorful globe pendants mimicking bowling balls hang from the exposed metal beams lighting the restaurant area and candlepin-style lights hang above the bowling area. Sacco's has recently added a Flatbread Pizza restaurant with table or alley service. The pizza was cooked in a brick oven right on the floor of the restaurant and was delicious. Appetizers, salads and desserts are also available.

I took a lot of photos only to discover that they were corrupted and not recoverable from my camera but I did find a few online images to use as illustrations. You might note I made no mention of the scores. After getting a spare my first time up, I suppose I got overconfident and subsequently sunk to new lows on almost every turn eventually coming in second to last just 3 points above my 3 year old grandson! I had a lot of fun, we all did, but I'll be looking for another sport to 'excel' in sometime soon!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The New York News Stand: R.I.P.; 'Coordinated Street Furniture' Replaces A Part of New York's Unique Architecture

Maybe it's because I worked in the newspaper business for twenty years or maybe it's just because it's a part of old New York that I love, but I am weirdly attracted to the old green shack-like newsstands that still dot some street corners of New York City. These newsstands have been around since the early part of the 20th century (maybe even earlier) and I'm sorry to report that their days are numbered. Since 2007, many of the newsstands have been replaced with steel and glass structures (a.k.a. 'coordinated street furniture') designed by a British Company called Grimshaw Architects and manufactured and installed by a Spanish company named CEMUSA. But more about that later.

The old stands grace many of New York's parks including Union Square, Central and Madison Square and in some of the outer boroughs (not Staten Island unfortunately) they may reside economically under the subway stairs perfectly positioned for workers or travelers going to and from the city. Some ooze charm, others are a bit on the seedy side like the one pictured above located on 7th Avenue in Chelsea but all are very much a part of the fabric of the city that I love.

CEMUSA Newstand
There must be almost a thousand items packed into these little kiosks: newspapers of course, but also magazines, candy, aspirin, grooming tools, Lotto, beverages, maps, books and nuts of every variety oftentimes including the proprietor of these compact 'corner stores'. There they stand, day in, day out, in good weather and bad, ready to dispense their wares and perhaps a bit of New York character to those who stop by.

I discovered not too long ago that a company called CEMUSA was responsible for replacing these newsstands, New York City bus  shelters and street toilets as well. The replacement project was started back in 2007 but here's the rub: you would think that an American company at least would have gotten the lucrative contract for these items but CEMUSA it seems is a Spanish company with an 'office ' in New York. And the architectural company responsible for the design is British!

Back in July, I did a post about how our American homes are filled with items made in other countries, chiefly China. Recently, ABCs Diane Sawyer did a week-long special on the same subject. Possible presidential candidate and New York cheerleader-in-chief, Donald Trump, frequently brings up our increasing reliance on cheap imports while American factories and workers lay idle.

CEMUSA Bus Shelter

To be sure, the CEMUSA deal to provide America's largest city with sterile looking kiosks has been well documented but it bears mentioning again. Apparently a deal was struck with the city that the kiosks would be provided free of charge in exchange for the lucrative digital advertising that these structures are capable of. I wonder how that's working out?

But seriously, isn't there an American company that might have been offered or given the same deal? Not only is it unbelievable that the kiosks with distinctive New York personalities are being replaced but that an American company isn't the beneficiary of the contract. I ask, where's the outrage?

I'll be sending this blog to Diane Sawyer, Donald Trump, Mayor Bloomberg and some other elected officials. If you feel strongly, I invite you to do the same. Check out  the attached links for some great photos and more information about the 'coordinated street furniture' project.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Retooling the Tool Box: Home Repair Instruments Have Scattered Over The Years; A Heavy Metal Reunion of Sorts

For two people who have our handyman on speed dial, my husband and I seem to have accumulated a lot of tools. We don't have one of those deluxe waist high tool chests like they sell in Sears or Home Depot but we have two standard sized tool boxes that have served us well over the years.

Now that I'm home, I've been doing a few chores that require a tool or two. I've discovered (and I take the blame here) that our tool collection has been scattered throughout the house (upstairs and down), the garage and the basement. I decided to see if I could organize them better to save time when looking for something to hang a picture with.

One tool box was in the basement, the other in the garage. I retrieved them both and emptied their contents onto a table. I washed and dried the boxes and then set about grouping the items.

Baby memories!
In some ways, it was like taking a trip down memory lane. One thirty-year-old pink ceramic drawer handle from our children's baby furniture, my husband's boy scout pen knife and a door bracket from when we removed our two daughters' bedroom door because they kept slamming it when they got angry, were among the items buried in the boxes.

My husband's boy scout pen knife.
I discovered we had quite a collection of hammers and screwdrivers, wrenches and those 'L' shaped allen wrenches that you get when you purchase furniture from Ikea. There were nails, screws, glues and washers, picture hangers and dry wall inserts. I plastic bagged almost everything that was small and though that's not a great solution, it will have to do until I organize the rest of the stuff. You see, the tool boxes are just a part of the complete collection. There are numerous plastic containers, unemptied bags from defunct hardware stores like Pergament and junk drawers full of miscellaneous tool items that will be added to the mix.
One of the IKEA allen wrenches.

But today was a start and it's nice to see the tool boxes looking almost like new. I now know where to go for a hammer, some nails and a pen knife in case I want to whittle my days away this summer. That won't happen but  sometimes playing with a little 'heavy metal' can make you feel great!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Getting Ready For A Successful Summer Garden; Bisquick: A Resilient Product, 'Impossible' to Replicate

Three string bean seeds to a coat of dirt comes next. 
So today was the day I finally planted the seeds to what I hope will be a successful second season vegetable garden. The activity was originally scheduled for this past weekend but the weather was damp and cold and I just didn't feel like engaging in a partial outdoor activity. Today, after a cloudy start, the day turned into a perfect, warm and sunny spring day here in New York. Finally!

Clearly in the 'moment', I got the spade, the seeds, the soil, the gloves and the mini-pots and went to work. A grow light will be added this week when I find one that best fits my situation. In an earlier post detailing my plans, the seedlings would be started in my garage. I have a spot (very crude and homemade) near a window that's serviceable for a garden of my size. I had seeds for string beans, zucchini, parsley, oregano. rosemary, basil and dill. I plan on tomatoes as well but have more luck using starter plants that will be available in May.

Dill grows here!
One of the mistakes I made last year was poor labeling. I embedded wooden sticks with the vegetable written in marker in the dirt but after watering for a couple of weeks, the marker wore off and was hard to read. Some of the plants were misplaced while transplanting. This year I labeled the handles of some of the planters, and used the seed envelopes to tuck into pots that had no other place to label. I also grouped seeds separately  and hopefully this will produce better results.

A new vegetable for me this year is zucchini. At brunch yesterday, family members got into a discussion about favorite quiches, two of which were on the menu. I mentioned that I liked making Bisquick's 'Impossible Pie' and often prepare it as a side dish especially in warmer weather. It's like quiche but without the cheese and crust...well, actually probably not like it at all, but a version of quiche perhaps with less calories? Impossible pies come in many forms but a family favorite is one made using zucchini. Being optimistic, I hope that come summer, I will be using my homegrown veggie in this recipe.

I've included the recipe here and a link to the Bisquick website where you can get other recipes and versions of the Impossible Pies. Bisquick is one of those great American companies that innovated and changed with the times and is still a popular product today. Like me, you might remember your mother using the product back in the day, making biscuits (still delicious), pancakes or their famous crumb cake. Here's a bit of history from their website (first two paragraphs) and Wikipedia (last graf).
In 1931, General Mills introduced revolutionary Bisquick convenience baking mix. As the years passed and hairstyles, handbags and hem lengths evolved, Bisquick remained trusted by cooks of all sorts, for all kinds of recipes: biscuits, pancakes, casseroles, pies, stews, and more.
Whether Bisquick was "A World of Baking in a Box" (circa 1940s) a "12-in-1 Mix" (the '50s), or "Pancake Lover’s Unite" (2009), Bisquick has always remained a trusted staple in America's kitchens - and a beloved icon of culture, flavor and convenience.
Bisquick was born when one of their sales executives met a train dining car chef in 1930 who mixed lard and the dry ingredients for biscuits ahead of time. The recipe was adapted, using hydrogenated oil, thus eliminating the need for refrigeration (Sesame oil was originally used as a preservative, identified on the box as "Ingredient S" over the years), and officially introduced on grocers' shelves in 1931. Originally intended for making biscuits very quickly (hence its name), Bisquick can be used to make a wide variety of baked goods from pizza dough to pancakes to dumplings to snickerdoodle cookies.

Impossible Zucchini Pie
3 cups zucchini, sliced thin and diced
1 onion chopped
1 cup Bisquick
4 large eggs
1/2 cup oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
8 cherry tomatoes, sliced

  • Mix all ingredients together until zucchini is well coated. 
  • Pour into buttered pie plate or square Pyrex dish. 
  • Top with sliced tomatoes, placed evenly. 
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until golden.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Masterful Day: A Golf Tournament and Southern-Style Ribs Warm Up Chilly New York; Two Recipes That Score in the Kitchen

Sweet and Sticky Rack of Ribs.

Today I had a rare Sunday: One daughter went to watch the Yankee game with friends and we saw the rest of the family at brunch this morning at my sister and brother-in-laws' house. After brunch, my husband went to the office to work on our taxes and I was home alone. It was quiet, too quiet!

I knew the Master's golf tournament was on TV. I'm not a huge fan of golf but for some reason this is one match that I love to watch because it's held around the time of year when it gets a bit warmer here in New York. Down south in Augusta where it's held, it's even more so. I especially love the sound of the twittering birds you hear from time to time and wonder every year if they're real or fake. gives one hope that the cold days are done.

This past week, the New York Times ran a story on oven baked ribs. It reminded me that I had a few recipes in my files and thought this might be a good day to give two of them a try. Preparing ribs is a  messy task but it's so worth it at the end when the juicy, sticky meat falls off the bone merely from putting a fork near it.

The recipes are for pork ribs, one for a rack, the other for individual country-style ribs. Both were juicy and sweet but I think I liked the racked ribs a bit more. Ribs have a long cooking time and it allowed me to catch some great golf in what might be one of the more exciting Master's Tournaments.

By the time my husband came home, South African Charl Schwartzel was wearing the green blazer and the aroma of southern style ribs wafted throughout the house. It was the next best thing to being in Georgia!

Coat both sides of ribs with the sauce.

Sweet and Sticky Rack of Ribs
Ribs Ingredients
1 rack of pork ribs (about 12 ribs)
Whole garlic cloves, halved
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauce Ingredients
Mix together
1/2 cup of tomato ketchup and 1/2 cup honey
Add 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons each of molasses, Dijon mustard, Lea and Perins Worcestershire sauce
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 onion chopped


  • Salt ribs front and back, cover and place in 3oo degree oven for 2 and a half hours.
  • Prepare the sauce and when ribs are finished cooking douse both sides with the sauce using a brush.
  • Turn oven to broil and cook ribs for 5 minutes more on each side.
  • Sauce should be bubbly.
  • Lower oven to bake at 200 degrees. Add the rest of sauce to ribs and bake for another 15 minutes.
  • Serve immediately.

Country Style 
Barbecued Pork Ribs 
8 country style pork ribs with bones
Juice of one lemon
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar
Dash Tabasco sauce
1 ripe apple
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup catchup


  • Put half the chopped onion in a deep oven pan. Trim fat from the ribs, place in pan and cover with rest of onions
  • Pour lemon juice over the ribs. broil in a preheated 375°F oven for 45 minutes, uncovered.
  • While the ribs are browning, combine the rest of the sauce in a processor.
  • When the ribs have browned, remove the liquid in the pan (leave the onion) and top with the sauce.
  • Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil or lid if your pan has one and bake at 425 degrees for about 2 hours. Uncover and bake for about 30 minutes more. The meat should fall off the bones and the sauce is halved.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

EZ Shopper: Coming to a Stop & Shop Near You; If You Liked Registering For Your Wedding Gifts,You'll Love This Program!

This is where you get started.
Yesterday, as I was finishing up my babysitting duties, my son-in-law arrived home with some bags from the supermarket. Instead of the plastic bags typical of any food store, he was using the recycle bags that we all have but rarely use when we grocery shop. I was impressed. I speak for myself of course, but I hardly ever see anyone else using them in any of the supermarkets that I frequent.

He explained to me that Stop & Shop now has scanning program called EZ Shopper which encourages shoppers to use recycled bags. I decided to give it a try today and detail my experiences. This is how it works:

When you enter the store you'll see a kiosk at the right or left of the entrance. You must have a Stop & Shop customer card which you are prompted to scan. On the kiosk are about 20-25 hand-held scanners very similar to the ones used in department stores for a bridal registry. The supermarket does provide plastic bags at the kiosk but here is an opportunity to use those 'green' bags if you have a collection of them as I do. As you proceed through the aisles, simply scan the item's bar code. The product name and price appears on the screen and nicely tallies up your order as you go along. All of the sale items are credited and your order is being bagged (by you) as you shop, a real time saver!

My self-packed bags
When you are finished and arrive at the checkout counter, the hand-held device needs to scan a 'end of order' bar code at your register' then the scanner can be returned to the kiosk. Simply by rescanning your Stop & Shop card, your order is immediately registered and all you have to do is pay. Your bags are ready and out you go! Sound easy? Well, I suppose it was, but I did run into a few problems.
The hand-held device.

1. Staten Island has two Stop & Shop locations. I chose the store closer to my home and found out that the Store further away was the one using the EZ Shopper. IMPORTANT: Check online first before you shop if you want to try this method. I lost about 20 minutes driving from one store to the other. This is still being test marketed and will only appear in select stores.

2. I didn't buy any fruits or vegetables that needed to be weighed. Not sure how this works and if it becomes problematic at the checkout.

I missed step 1 here. Truthfully, 
that bar code looked fake!!
3. I saw the sign at the checkout explaining how to complete the process but missed the 'end of order' bar code. I returned the scanner to the kiosk thinking that scanning my Stop $ Shop card would suffice. The manager needed to be called to unlock my scanner so I could check out. I was glad to speak with the manager though because I had a question: If I wanted to 'sneak' out with an unscanned item, would the store know? Or if I accidentally forgot to scan an item, would alarms go off as I exited the store? I was told that the system relies on the 'honor system' in most ways. From time to time, the manager or checkout assistant might flag a shopper to do a test on six to seven items to see if any are unscanned. He was unclear about what the punishment would be (other than paying up) or how a person might be chosen for a test scan. Ummmm, good luck with that.

But even with these points that I raised, I would do it again. I liked doing something environmentally friendly and I like saving time bagging my own food. Now that I know the 'ropes', the checkout should be even faster. I'm also not sure if this has or will spread to other supermarkets but I would venture to guess that EZ scanners in some form or other are just a 'harbinger of things to come'!

NOTE: One of the bags we have in our house was manufactured by a company called 'its- las-tik', one sample bag shown at left. In these days of almost everything being made in China, these bags are exclusively manufactured in America.  Not only that, but the bags are produced in New Orleans employing people affected by Hurricane Katrina. I've attached the website. The bags are durable, roomy, attractive and priced to sell. They make great Mother's Day or even Easter/Passover gifts.