Monday, May 30, 2011

American Patriotic Trivia: Part 1; Do You Know Why We Celebrate Memorial Day?

Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers;
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours.”
–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Memorial Day
Yesterday, at the end of Sunday Mass, the congregation was invited to sing "America the Beautiful" (words will appear at the end of this post). As I usually do when singing the Inspiring words of Katherine Lee Bates, I felt such pride in being American able to live in this country, that I welled up.

Am I just too corny? But it inspired me to do a post about patriotic things as the unofficial start of summer begins and answer the confusion I had between Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

Memorial Day vs Veterans Day
Memorial Day was a response to the unprecedented carnage of the Civil War, in which some 620,000 soldiers on both sides died. The loss of life and its effect on communities throughout the North and South led to spontaneous commemorations of the war dead. On Memorial Day we remember our patriotic heroes who sacrificed their lives so that we could live in freedom here in the United States.
Veterans Day is an annual United States holiday honoring military veterans. A federal holiday, it is observed on November 11. It is also celebrated as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day in other parts of the world, falling on November 11, the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. (Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice.)

The holiday is commonly printed as Veteran's Day or Veterans' Day in calendars and advertisements. While these spellings are grammatically acceptable, the United States government has declared that the attributive (no apostrophe) rather than the possessive case is the official spelling.[1]

There is such a wealth if information about our patriotic holidays that I thought I'd do this in two parts, the second will be on the 4th of July weekend. 

1. Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday of May.

2. Since the late 1950′s on the Thursday just before the Memorial Day, around 1200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing. In 1951, the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of St. Louis began placing flags on the 150,000 graves at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery as an annual Good Turn, a practice that continues to this day.

3. Memorial day was formerly called Decoration Day from the practice of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths and flags, the holiday was long known as Decoration Day. The name Memorial Day goes back to 1882, but the older name didn't disappear until after World War II. Federal law declared "Memorial Day" the official name in 1967.
4. The first memorial day was observed in 1865 in Waterloo, NY. In 1864, women from Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, put flowers on the graves of their dead from the just-fought Battle of Gettysburg. The next year, a group of women decorated the graves of soldiers buried in a Vicksburg, Mississippi, cemetery. In April 1866, women from Columbus, Mississippi, laid flowers on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers. It was recognized at the time as an act of healing regional wounds. In the same month, up in Carbondale, Illinois, 219 Civil War veterans marched through town in memory of the fallen to Woodlawn Cemetery, where Union hero Maj. Gen. John A. Logan delivered the principal address. The ceremony gave Carbondale its claim to the first organized, community-wide Memorial Day observance. Waterloo, New York., began holding an annual community service on May 5, 1866. Although many towns claimed the title, it was Waterloo that won congressional recognition as the "birthplace of Memorial Day."

5. Gen. James Garfield (above right) made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which around 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who were buried there.
6. The custom of wearing red poppies was inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields.” In 1915. Moina Michael replied with her own poem and then came up with an idea of wearing red poppies on Memorial day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. Red Poppies are recognized as the Memorial Day flower.

7. John A. Logan was commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, a veterans' organization.On May 25, 1868 he issued a proclamation that "Decoration Day" be observed nationwide. Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. This date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.Gen. Logan, the speaker at the Carbondale gathering, also was commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans. On May 5, 1868, he issued General Orders No. 11, which set aside May 30, 1868, "for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion...." 

8. Since 1911, The Indianapolis 500 is held in conjunction with Memorial Day.

9. “Taps” is often played at ceremonies on Memorial Day.

10. Calling Memorial Day a "national holiday" is a bit of a misnomer. While there are 11 "federal holidays" created by Congress -- including Memorial Day -- they apply only to Federal employees and the District of Columbia. Federal Memorial Day, established in 1888, allowed Civil War veterans, many of whom were drawing a government paycheck, to honor their fallen comrades with out being docked a day's pay.

11. On May 30, 1868, President Ulysses S. Grant presided over the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery -- which, until 1864, was Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's plantation. Some 5,000 people attended on a spring day which, The New York Times reported, was "somewhat too warm for comfort." The principal speaker was James A. Garfield, a Civil War general, Republican congressman from Ohio and future president.
"I am oppressed with a sense of the impropriety of uttering words on this occasion," Garfield began, and then continued to utter them. "If silence is ever golden, it must be beside the graves of fifteen-thousand men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem the music of which can never be sung."
12. On Memorial Day weekend in 1988, 2,500 motorcyclists rode into Washington, D.C., for the first Rolling Thunder rally to draw attention to Vietnam War soldiers still missing in action or prisoners of war. By 2002, the numbers had swelled to 300,000 bikers, many of them veterans. There may have been a half-million participants in 2005 in what organizers bluntly call "a demonstration -- not a parade." A national veterans rights group, Rolling Thunder takes its name from the B-52 carpet-bombing runs during the war in Vietnam. Rolling Thunder XXII (and you thought only Super Bowls and Rocky movies used Roman numerals) is Sunday, May 24.

13. May 30, 1922, when the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated. Supreme Court chief justice (and former president) William Howard Taft dedicated the monument before a crowd of 50,000 people, segregated by race, and which included a row of Union and Confederate veterans. Also attending was Lincoln's surviving son, Robert Todd Lincoln.

The Unknown Soldier
"Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God." That is the inscription on the Tomb of the Unknowns, established at Arlington National Cemetery to inter the remains of the first Unknown Soldier, a World War I fighter, on November 11, 1921. Unknown soldiers from World War II and the Korean War subsequently were interred in the tomb on Memorial Day 1958.

On November 28, 1984, .President Ronald Reagan presided over the interment of six bones, the remains of an unidentified Vietnam War soldier, Fourteen years later, those remains were disinterred, no longer unknown. After an investigation by CBS News, the defense department removed the remains from the Tomb of the Unknowns for DNA testing. The once-unknown fighter was Air Force pilot Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, whose jet crashed in South Vietnam in 1972. "The CBS investigation suggested that the military review board that had changed the designation on Lt. Blassie's remains to 'unknown' did so under pressure from veterans' groups to honor a casualty from the Vietnam War," The New York Times reported in 1998.

Lt. Blassie was reburied near his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. His crypt at Arlington remains permanently empty. 

America the Beautiful
Lyrics by Katherine Lee Bates; music composed by Samuel A. Ward 
The lyrics to this beautiful song were written by Katharine Lee Bates (1859-1929), a professor of English literature at Wellesley College, Massachusetts, after an inspiring trip to the top of Pikes Peak, Colorado in 1893. Her poem, America the Beautiful first appeared in print in The Congregationalist, a weekly journal, on July 4, 1895. Ms. Bates revised the lyrics in 1904 and again in 1913.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea! 

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassion'd stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness.

America! America!
God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

O beautiful for heroes prov'd
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life.

America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev'ry gain divine.

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears.

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Oprah Trivia: A Look Back at an An American Icon as Her New Chapter Begins; The 'Oprah Effect' Has Affected Us All

For many of us, yesterday was the end of an era...a breakup of sorts...a teacher leaving her school and students after putting in her 25 years. Oprah, the show, as we know it is officially off the air. True, Oprah, the person is shifting to her own cable network. For us, her students, it just won't be the same.  But with the 'Oprah magic' maybe it will be better and we certainly shouldn't be surprised if it is.

So I thought I'd recap all things Oprah condensing lots of information into one post. Trivia.... but not trivial facts about a person who many of us consider an American icon.

The Name
Oprah is a female name a variant of the Hebrew Ophrah and Orpah meaning young deer, fawn, place of dust or gazelle. Oprah is a created name, made famous by Ms. Winfrey. Oprah's name was originally 'Orpah' on her birth certificate but after always being mispronounced by her family it was legally changed to Oprah when she was 1.

The Beginning
Oprah was born on January 29, 1954 in Kosciusko, Mississippi to teen parents.

Her mother is Vernita Lee (right) who worked as a housemaid.

Her father is Vernon Winfrey who was a coal miner, a barber and later a councilman. He was also in the Armed Forces. 

For the first six years of her she lived with her grandmother, Hattie Mae Lee (left). They were very poor and Oprah wore dresses made of potato sacks for which she was made fun of. Her grandmother took Oprah to church and taught her how to read before she was three years old. At six years of age, Oprah moved to an inner city neighborhood in Milwaukee with her mother who worked long hours. When she was nine years old Oprah was sexually abused by her cousin, her uncle, and a friend of the family.

When Oprah was seventeen years old, she was the winner of the Miss Black Tennessee Beauty Pageant. She also began to do the news part time at the local black radio station.

Her education
Despite her imperfect family life, Oprah did well educationally. She was skipped in school in the early grades and received a scholarship to Nicolet High School. After running away from home she became pregnant, losing the baby soon after birth. She was sent to Nashville to live with her father who made education a priority. Oprah became an honors student and was given a full scholarship to Tennessee State University where she studied communication.

The Show Begins
In 1983, Oprah moved to Chicago to host a half hour morning talk show, AM Chicago. The show's ratings went from being in last place to passing up Phil Donahue as the highest rated talk show from Chicago. Renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show it was expanded to an hour. In the mid 1990s, Oprah changed her format to do shows about issues like spirituality, most medical issues including her struggle with weight loss, geopolitics, decorating, substance abuse, and other issues of concern to Americans. Her interviews of regular people who have been involved in extraordinary events and current issues are a trademark. her celebrity interviews are legendary.

Oprah Firsts
Oprah became a millionaire by the time she was 32 years old and is considered the richest woman in entertainment.

At the age of 41, she was the only African American on the Forbes 400 list.

The 1993 Oprah interview of Michael Jackson was the fourth most watched television event on American television and the number one watched interview in history with an audience of a hundred million viewers.

Oprah co-founded the women's cable network, Oxygen.

Winfrey endorsed presidential candidate Barack Obama (right) in the 2008 presidential election, the first time she made such an endorsement. And oh, he won.

The Wall Street Journal coined the term "Oprahfication", meaning public confession as a form of therapy.

Winfrey was the recipient of the first Bob Hope Humanitarian Award at the 2002 Emmy Awards for services to television and film. 

Oprah Fashion
For her final show on Wednesday, May 24th, Oprah wore a coral silk L'Wren Scott dress (above) with a cascading chiffon belt, nude heels and diamond drop earrings. Over the years, Oprah has worn clothing from almost every important designer in the business today.

Harpo Studio Facts
When Oprah purchased her Chicago production facility (Harpo Studios), she became the third American woman in the entertainment business to own her own studio. The others were Mary Pickford and Lucille Ball.

The Harpo building was Chicago's Second Regiment Armory in the early 1900s and was used as a temporary morgue when the Eastland steamer capsized in the Chicago River in 1915. Some still say the Harpo building is haunted by the ghost of the "Gray Lady."

Harpo Studios was once a roller skating rink called the Roller Bowl.

In the 1950s, Harpo's building was used a a studio where TV commercials (with Muhammed Ali) and movies such as Mickey One with Warren Beatty were filmed. The TV show Wild Kingdom was also shot at this studio.

Harpo is Oprah spelled backwards!

After accepting her seventh Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show Host at the 9th Emmy for The Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah decided to stop submitting herself and the show for Emmy consideration. To date, the show has won a total of 35 Emmy awards.

Recipient of the 33rd Kennedy Center Honor and numerous TV and movie nominations.

Favorite Things
"Oprah's Favorite Things" started in 2002 and ran annually (except for 2009) and usually airing during the holiday season. Products that Oprah felt were noteworthy or that would make a great gift were shared with her lucky audience members. "The Oprah Effect " is no more apparent than on this special show for it seems that almost everything Winfrey touches turns to gold. The "Effect” can transform an obscure company translating into dramatically increased sales with just a casual mention of a product  to her 44 million weekly viewers.

In her magazine 'O', a feature called "The O List" was similar and the two were often coordinated.

Oprah's Book Recommendations
A Tale of Two CitiesGreat Expectations by Charles Dickens, Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski, A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

The Pillars of the Earth (left) by Ken Follett, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier

Night by Elie Wiesel


A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, Light in August by William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton, East of Eden by John Steinbeck

The Oprah's Angel Network was created in 2008 and supported charitable projects with grants to nonprofit organizations around the world. Oprah's Angel Network raised more than $80,000,000 ($1 million of which was donated by Jon Bon Jovi). and stopped accepting donations in May 2010 and was later dissolved.

Oprah personally donates more of her own money to charity than any other performer in America. 

In 2005 she became the first black person listed by Business Week as one of America's 50 most generous philanthropists.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Oprah created the Oprah Angel Network Katrina registry which raised more than $11 million for relief efforts. Winfrey personally gave $10 million to the cause.

Winfrey has also helped 250 African-American men continue or complete their education at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.

Winfrey invested $40 million and some of her time establishing the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls (left) in Henley on Klip south of Johannesburg, South Africa. The school set over 22 acres, opened in January 2007 with an enrollment of 150 pupils (increasing to 450) and features state-of-the-art classrooms, computer and science laboratories, a library, theatre and beauty salon.

Oprah Winfrey has been involved in several films, including The Color Purple, Beloved, Their Eyes Were Watching God and lent her voice to Charlotte's Web, Bee Movie and The Princess and the Frog.

Other Media
Oprah's magazine O, The Oprah Magazine has a circulation of about 2,000,00 and was founded in 2000.  Oprah has been featured on every cover. The publisher is Hearst Magazines (Hearst Corporation). Another magazine, O at Home folded in 2008.

Oprah has co-authored five books. 

A website called, averages over 70 million page views and over six million users monthly. Around 20,000 emails are received each week on the site. Oprah has also started "Oprah's Child Predator Watch List," which has the goal of helping to track down child molesters.

Where She Lives
Oprah owns a 42 acre estate in Montecito, California, a house in Lavallette, New Jersey, an apartment in Chicago, a house in Douglasville, Georgia, a ski house in Telluride, Colorado, a property on Maui, Hawaii, an estate on Fisher Island, which is off the coast of Miami, Florida, and a home on Antigua. She also has a home in Avalon, New Jersey. Not sure if all of these are still actively owned.

The Boyfriend
Oprah has had a long term relationship with Stedman Graham (right).

Oprah's Best Friend
Oprah's best friend is Gayle King (left) . They have been best friends since they were in their twenties. Other friends include Maria Shriver and Maya Angelou who is also a mentor.

Oprah Protégés
Oprah has launched many careers and many of these people have become household names. They include:
  • Gayle King
  • Dr. Phil
  • Rhonda Byrne (The Secret)
  • Bob Greene
  • Lisa Ling
  • Charice Pempengco
  • Dr. Mehmet Oz
  • Rachael Ray
  • Nate Berkus
  • Jenny McCarthy
  • Iyanla Vanzant
The New Channel: Oprah Winfrey Network
OWN features "Oprah Presents Master Class," a series showcasing Winfrey's interviews with notable people, and behind-the-scenes happenings during the final season of "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Other Oprah favorites are also featured. Find your local station on the OWN Cable Network using a handy guide on this attached website. It's on channels 115 and 840 on Time Warner Cable in the New York area

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Love my New 'Love'; If You LOVE A Bargain, Head to Your Local 'Home Goods' Store

Who doesn't love a bargain? I'm always on the hunt and rarely pay full price for anything from a store. One of my favorite bargain spots is Home Goods. Home Goods is a division of TJ Maxx and most communities have an outlet nearby. The store is a great source for home decor and other home necessities like sheets, towels and cookware.

A couple of months ago I was perusing the clearance aisles in our local Home Goods. I came across a wood piece with four letters spelling LOVE. It was painted barn red and not particularly attractive. The piece was hinged in the middle which led me to believe it was intended to sit on a tabletop. I thought it would work better as a wall hanging and had the perfect place for it.

When we redid our kitchen a couple of years ago I opted out of a granite back splash behind the stove top. I thought I'd rather see a piece of art and had a vision of something free form and fun.I  found a fish carving in the same store not too long after the completion of the kitchen and it's been hanging there for a while.

I like it but when I saw the LOVE plaque, I knew I could do something fun with it to replace the fish. My plan was to paint it white, actually a bit off-white to match the trim in the room and then paint a design with colors to match the kitchen decor.

It was an easy project. I used 'kill' paint first to minimize the red color, then gave it two coats with a white semigloss. Today, I traced scalloped flower shapes in three sizes on the piece and painted them shades of turquoise, darker blue and bright green. I threw in an orange color because it makes a nice accent color for my kitchen.

Now all I have to do is hang it and my custom and cheerful project changes the look of the room.

Did I mention how much this LOVE sign cost? It was $1.00! Don't you LOVE it?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Imitating a Restaurant Entree: Chicken Portobello With Whole Wheat Pasta

The first thing you might notice if you compare the photo with the headline is that the pasta is not whole wheat. True! I made a substitution for photo purposes only but this is being consumed with the heart healthy whole wheat penne.

My husband ordered this dish in a restaurant in Maplewood, New Jersey called the Village Trattoria. It's a tiny but busy place and we often stop in while visiting my sister and her family who live in the town. The food is excellent if you are ever in the area. For Christmas, my sister is charged with bringing their penne vodka which has become a family favorite. A link to the restaurant is attached and I noticed that there are two other New Jersey locations.

Chicken and portobello mushrooms when cooked naturally produce a brown gravy of sorts but I added a few things to it spice it up ... my natural inclination to 'oversalt' has been curtailed. This was easy, inexpensive and makes a nice pasta alternative especially for the summer. Serve it with a salad ( and whole wheat bread of course) and you won't be disappointed!

Chicken Portobello With Whole Wheat Pasta
Serves 4

3 skinless chicken breasts not pounded
3 large portobello mushrooms sliced
4 cloves garlic minced
6 cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup parsley finely chopped
6 carrots sliced (circles)
1/4 cup Marsala wine
1/4 cup olive oil
Dash of oregano and basil
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


  • Add olive oil to large frying pan and heat.
  • Add minced garlic and sauté until tender
  • Add mushrooms, tomatoes and carrots and sauté until vegetables are cooked but crisp.
  • Remove from frying pan with slotted spoon and put aside.
  • Cut 1" wide strips of chicken, add to pan and cook in Marsala wine until done.
  • Cook i pound of whole wheat pasta al dente.
  • Drain and put pasta in large serving bowl. Place vegetables on top then add chicken.
  • Top with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Monday, May 23, 2011

May 23rd: A Quiet Day For Me But A Busy Day in History: Happy Birthday to Rosemary Clooney; Bonnie and Clyde: Gotcha!

I didn't really have anything special to write about today. I'm in the middle of several fun projects that will be future posts, dinner was a repeat vegetarian and fish fare, my vegetable garden is on it's way but not very exciting to look at yet, so I did a little research to see what happened on this day in history and was surprised to discover quite a lot. Let me share:

Today in History
In the Siege of Compiègne in 1430, Joan of Arc (left) is captured by the Burgundians while leading an army to relieve Compiègne.

In 1533, the marriage of King Henry VIII to Catherine of Aragon was declared null and void.

Captain William (Billy the) Kidd is hanged in London in 1701 after he was convicted of piracy and murder.

In 1788, South Carolina became the eighth state. It also became the first state to secede when the Civil War began.

In 1827 the first United States nursery school was founded in New York City.

Lady Lawyers: May 23rd is the birthday of the first woman admitted to the legal profession in the United States. Belle Aurelia Babb was born in 1846 later changed her name to Arabella Mansfield. Ms. Mansfield never practised law though. She became instead one of the first female college professors, a dean at DePauw University. She also helped found the Iowa Woman Suffrage Society. Just the knowledge that she could become an attorney was enough.

In 1879 the first veterinary school in the U.S. Was founded at Iowa State College, located in Ames Iowa.

In 1911, the New York Public Library on Fifth Ave., the largest marble structure ever constructed in the United States, is dedicated in New York City.

Theater buffs: In 1922, Abie’s Irish Rose opened at the the Fulton Theatre in New York City and ran for 2,327 performances!

In 1934, bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow (right) were ambushed and gunned down by police in Black Lake, Louisiana.

Skipping to 1940 the song I’ll Never Smile Again was recorded for Victor Records by Frank Sinatra, The Pied Pipers (with Jo Stafford) and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.

In 1949, after 10+ months the Berlin Blockade was lifted by Soviet Premier Josef Stalin.

In 1960, the Everly Brothers recording of Cathy’s Clown made it to number one on the music charts where it remained for 5 weeks.

1962, Philadelphia Warriors transferred to San Francisco, CA. The team became the San Francisco Warriors, now known as the Golden State Warriors.

Yankee fans: Also in 1962 Joe Pepitone (left) hit two home runs in one inning.

Who release rock opera "Tommy" in 1969.

After the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995 the remains of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building are imploded.

Today's Birthdays
1734 - Franz Anton Mesmer, physician1810 - Margaret Fuller, journalist
1846 - Arabella Mansfield (Belle Aurelia Babb), first woman admitted to legal profession in U.S.
1883 - Douglas Fairbanks (Douglas Elton Ulman), actor
1910 - Scatman (Benjamin Sherman) Crothers, entertainer
1910 - Artie Shaw (Arthur Arschawsky), musician
1912 - John Payne, actor
1919 - Betty Garrett, actress
1920 - Helen O’Connell, singer
1928 - Rosemary Clooney, singer (right) 
1928 - Nigel Davenport, actor
1933 - Joan Collins, actress
1944 - Bob Leduc, hockey
1944 - John Newcombe, tennis
1945 - Lauren Chapin, actress
1948 - Reggie (Reginald Leslie) Cleveland, baseball
1951 - Anatoly Karpov, chess champion
1952 - Butch (Clarence Edward) Metzger, baseball pitcher
1958 - Drew Carey, actor, comedian (left)

Reference: Wikipedia

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Salmon With Vegetables: A Healthier Retake On An Ina Garten Recipe; Hold the Butter!

Last week I happened to catch an episode of the 'Barefoot Contessa'. If you don't know, the 'Contessa'  is really Ina Garten, a popular author and TV chef based in East Hampton, Long Island. I've seen this show a few times and love it. Maybe the Long Island connection (where I grew up) drives my appreciation but I  like what she chooses to make and how she serves it and of course, I love her kitchen and home.

This episode was probably a repeat but it was timely for me in my family's new healthier eating regimen. Ina does like to use a lot of butter and I made that substitution and others along the way. The main substitution however was swapping salmon for chicken. This wasn't for health reasons, it was just that I had the salmon defrosted and needed to use it. I thought the recipe would work either way.

I'm printing Ms. Garten's recipe for Chicken Hash first and my retake follows. The top photo of course is mine and I hope you'll agree that it looks was! I'm going to do Ina's recipe later this week because it's really too good to pass up.

Basil Chicken Hash
(Ina Garten recipe)

2 whole (4 split) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
16 basil leaves
Olive Oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 pounds boiling potatoes, peeled and large diced
2 red onions, chopped
2 red bell peppers, large diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 minced scallions, white and green parts
1/4 cup chopped fresh leaf parsley


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet. Loosen the skin from the meat with your fingers, leaving one side attached. Place 4 basil leaves under the skin of each chicken breast. Pull the skin over as much of the meat as possible so the chicken won't dry out. With your hands, rub each piece with olive oil and sprinkle very generously with salt and pepper. Bake the chicken for 35 to 40 minutes, until the skin is lightly browned and the chicken is just cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones. Cut the chicken in large dice pieces and set aside.
  • Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large saute pan. Add the potatoes and onions, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and saute over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until evenly browned and cooked through.
  • In a separate saute pan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the red peppers, garlic, thyme, paprika, tomato paste, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the edges of the peppers are seared.
  • Add the chicken and the pepper mixture to the potatoes and heat through. Add the scallions and parsley, toss together and place on a serving platter.
Salmon With Vegetables
2 lbs salmon fillet
1 small box tiny red potatoes
corn removed from two ears of corn
2 zucchini sliced and halved
a dozen mini whole carrots or quartered whole carrots
10 fresh basil leaves
3 cloves garlic minced
1 red onion diced
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste


  • Lightly salt the salmon fillet and add pepper more liberally
  • Bake in 350 degree preheated oven until salmon loses it's translucency. Set aside.
  • In large fry pan, add olive oil to pan adding minced garlic, basil leaves and diced red onion. Cook on low heat for about 10 minutes or until tender.
  • Add red potatoes, corn, zucchini and carrots and cook low and covered until vegetables are tender but not overcooked.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • To plate: add salmon portion to each plate and then arrange vegetables on top.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

In Praise of the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO); 81 Years of Serving the Youth and Poor of the United States

NY Archdiocese CYO logo.
Beginning at the age of four I lived with my family in a small village on Long Island called Lindenhurst. Lindenhurst was part of the larger town of Babylon but by itself had several public grammar schools, a junior high and a high school. There was also a Catholic grammar school (Our Lady of Perpetual Help) where my sisters, brother and I attended. In the summer our town ran a youth program open to all children who would register and attend 'summer school' in the public school closest to your home. It was free, so of course we were enthusiastic participants in everything that was offered from arts and crafts, knock hockey, theater and swimming lessons. Lindenhurst was a great town to grow up in and had almost everything any family could want.

But one thing that was not available to us was a CYO or Catholic Youth Organization. In our teen years, when my sister and I attended high school in Manhattan, we became aware of the existence and benefits that the CYO afforded. It seemed we were the only girls in our school who did not know how to play basketball! It wasn't the worst thing, after all we did know how to do the 'dead man's float' but I wondered why the CYO never made it's way out to the 'burbs'.

Bishop Sheil in 1952.
After marrying and moving to Staten Island, the CYO became an important part of our family's life. All three of my children learned to play and participate in organized basketball games, cheerleading competitions, swimming, track and field and softball teams. My husband coached basketball for many years and became involved in serving on Staten Island and Archdiocesan advisory boards. Last evening, he received an award for his community service to the Staten Island CYO organization and it made me think about posting a brief history of this nationwide organization and all of the good it has done in it's 81 years of existence.

First and foremost, the CYO is an organization for young Catholics. Meetings may be held in individual churches or in a main center that the organization maintains. It was founded in 1930 by Bishop Bernard J. Sheil of Chicago.

The main purposes of the CYO is to serve as a guide for young Catholics to live a Christian life from a young age, developing trust and living positively through activities that might include prayer, singing, charity and organized sports for which in the United States the CYO is mainly known. Sports might include boxing, basketball, baseball, track and field, cheerleading and volleyball as well as marching bands. Its athletic contests are competitive and are part of the fabric of an athletic oriented family or community.

On the New York Archdiocese website it is noted that..."CYO promotes the total spiritual and personal development of youth and young adults through various ministry centers, community centers, scouting programs, summer camps, athletic leagues, art and essay contests, leadership training programs and other religious, social and education activities in parishes."

That pretty much sums up what the CYO does for children: it gives them purpose, teaches them about competition and fairness and prepares them to be responsible adults.

A CYO girls basketball tournament in 1936.
On a personal note, this year our parish collected gifts for children in less fortunate parishes that were distributed through the Staten Island CYO offices. When we got to the center to deliver the gifts, we observed young mothers with children in baby carriages, selecting coats, hats and other warm clothing from bins in the lobby of the CYO building. In addition to providing winter outerwear, this same CYO serves Holiday meals to needy families on Thanksgiving and Christmas courtesy of a dedicated volunteer staff.

While it was very nice that my husband received the award last night, an organization like the CYO should be recognized for it's dedication and steadfastness to the youth and the less fortunate members of this country.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Thoughtful Gift Inspires A Heart-Healthy Springtime Vegetable Soup

A good friend of ours brought my husband a heart-healthy gift: an extra-large basket filled with fresh vegetables. It was a wonderfully useful and extremely thoughtful but I was tasked with cooking the vegetables before they went bad....not so easy given the quantity!

Yesterday, I posted a mostly fat-free cold string bean and potato salad using part of the bounty. Today I combined several of the veggies to create a hearty but low-fat vegetable soup. Not wanting to use cream to thicken the soup, I searched for a recipe that had a better solution.

I came across a 'heart-healthy' soup that used brown rice as the thickening agent and decided to give it a try. My husband thought it tasted great but a bit bland since I didn't add salt (please do add salt if you have no dietary restrictions). Instead, he added some red pepper flakes and a bit of shaved parmigiano-reggiano and that seemed to do the trick. Paired with low-salt whole wheat crackers and a salad, it was a satisfying dinner.

A basket of vegetables makes a great gift for a someone recovering from an illness or operation, a new mother, as a house-warming gift for new homeowners or if you are invited to a summer home for the weekend...and it's a gift that keeps on giving...more recipes will follow this week and next.

While I was in a nail salon earlier today, I happened to catch an episode of the 'Barefoot Contessa'. Chef Ina Garten made a dish for dinner guests that I think she called 'chicken hash'. It gave me an idea to use some of the veggies pairing them with chicken or salmon for an impressive but easy meal. Will share that recipe next week.

Healthy Spring Vegetable Soup
1 c. sliced celery
2 to 3 carrots, shredded
1 to 2 zucchini, shredded
2 cups fresh string beans
1 box low-salt chicken stock
1/4 cup uncooked brown rice
2 to 3 cloves fresh garlic, pressed or possibly finely diced
1/2 minced medium red onion
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup shaved parmigiano-reggiano for garnish

  • Place chicken stock in pot then add all raw vegetables stirring to prevent sticking. 
  • Cook until vegetables are soft. 
  • Add rice and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. 
  • Place mixture into food processor in small batches pulsing until finely chopped and thick.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste. 
  • Heat and serve immediately with shaved cheese as garnish or refrigerate until ready to use. Will store well for two-three days. 
  • Serve with whole wheat bread or crackers.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Heart Smart and Hearty: Potato and Stringbean Salad Just in Time for Summer

Last week, my husband had a heart incident. Luckily everything turned out for the best but it was an awakening for him and all of us to take better care in what we eat. So now with real reason many of the recipes I post will be 'heart smart' marked with a heart icon.

Since I took the week off to regroup, I spent a good deal of time looking for healthy but tasty things to prepare. Today I chose a potato and green bean salad, heavy on the green beans. This has very little fat content and I'm using (as I usually do) extra virgin olive oil. This is so easy to make and will probably become a summer staple. Plan about 30 minutes to prepare and more time for refrigeration if you want to enjoy this cold.

Nutritional values for red potatoes and green beans:
Red potatoes

  • Very low in saturated fat
  • No cholesterol
  • Very low in sodium
  • High in potassium
  • High in vitamin B6
  • Very high in vitamin C
Green beans
  • Direct cardiovascular benefits. 
  • Improvement in levels of blood fats and better protection of these fats from oxygen damage. 
  • Source of omega-3 fats
  • Low in calories
  • Important amounts carotenoids with the presence of lutein, beta-carotene, violaxanthin, and neoxanthin.
  • Contain the mineral silicon which is very important for bone health and for healthy formation of connective tissue.

Red Potatoes and Green Bean Salad
2 pounds tiny new potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
1 pound green beans washed and trimmed
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


  • Boil potatoes until they are tender but firm; drain, and cut in quarters or halves.
  • Steam the green beans until tender then rinse in an ice bath to stop the cooking.
  • In a large bowl, mix the oil, vinegar, lemon juice and mustard; stir in celery and onion.
  • Add potatoes when cooked and stir.
  • Refrigerate and add the green beans just before serving and mix
  • Season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

You Say Osama, I Say Usama.....Why the Media Spells bin Laden's Name Differently

From the minute I heard that Osama bin Laden had been killed by the brave Navy SEAL team, I flipped around the TV channels to see what was being reported. Immediately I noticed that FOX News was using the spelling fact, I thought at first that it might be a typo though that seemed rather unlikely.

But two days later, the Usama spelling is still being used by some as well as the more familiar Osama. I wanted to know why.

I found out that translating Arabic words and names into English does not necessarily match up letter by letter. So while we most often see bin Laden's name written as "Osama bin Laden"' The FBI and CIA, as well as other US Governmental agencies, have used either "Usama bin Laden" or "Usama bin Ladin" both of which also may be abbreviated as "UBL." Less common is "Ussamah Bin Ladin" and "Oussama Ben Laden" used by the French media. Other spellings include "Binladen" or, as used by his family in the West, "Binladin".

In The Arabic language "Osama" or "Osama bin Laden", would be used but not "bin Laden" alone, since it is not used as a surname like in our Western culture. In its expanded form, it means "Osama, son of Mohammed, son of 'Awad, son of Laden".

Osama, who had many followers and admirers who referred him as the Prince/Al-Amir, the Sheikh, Abu Abdallah, Sheikh Al-Mujahid, the Lion Sheik or the Director.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Yes Virginia, There Really is a Jack Bauer; Navy SEALs Get The Job and Justice Done

"Justice has been done"
 President Barack Obama, May 2, 2011

For anyone who was a fan of the Fox TV Show '24' your thoughts today might have turned to Jack Bauer and his CTU crew that provided justice and retribution during all of the years we had little. Team Six of the Navy SEALs has made that unreality real and for that I am grateful.

But who are the Navy SEALs? I will admit that aside from some pretty slick movies about the elite branch of our armed forces, I actually knew very little. Here's what I found out today:

The United States Navy SEa, Air and Land (SEAL) Teams, commonly known as Navy SEALs, are the U.S. Navy's principal special op force and are part of the Naval Special Warfare Command. They are also the maritime component of the United States Special Operations Command. The acronym ("SEAL") is derived from their capacity to operate at sea, in the air, and on land – but it is their ability to work underwater that separates SEALs from most other military units in the world.

Navy SEALs are trained and have been deployed in a wide variety of missions, including direct action and special reconnaissance operations, unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, hostage rescue, counter-terrorism and other missions. Without exception, all SEALs are male members of either the United States Navy or the United States Coast Guard.

The Navy SEALs were organized during the Second World War when an Amphibious Scout and Raider School was established in 1942 jointly by the Army and Navy at Fort Pierce, Florida. It was intended to train explosive ordnance disposal personnel and experienced combat swimmers from the Army and Marine Corps, becoming the Naval Combat Demolition Unit.

The NCDU's first mission was Operation Torch during the invasion of North Africa in 1942 and they became the 'first group' specialized in amphibious raids and tactics in the United States Navy.

By the next year, the syllabus had expanded to include underwater demolition. The formation of nine volunteer Underwater Demolition Teams mostly composed of navy personnel from the Seabees were organized into special teams and reconnoitered and cleared beach obstacles for troops going ashore during amphibious landings.

Jack Bauer
In a speech to Congress in May 1961, President Kennedy spoke of his deep respect for the United States Army Special Forces and he announced his intention to spend over $100 million to strengthen U.S. special operations forces and expand American capabilities in unconventional warfare. Arleigh Burke, Chief of Naval Operations, recommended the establishment of guerrilla and counter-guerrilla units which would be able to operate from sea, air or land. This was the beginning of the Navy SEALs.

Since then the SEALs have participated in every war or skirmish that the United States has been involved in culminating in th news that in the early morning of May 1, 2011, a team of 40 CIA-led Navy SEALs, 24 on the ground, successfully completed an operation to kill Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan about 35 miles from Islamabad. The Navy SEALs were part of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, previously called "Team 6".

The official Navy SEALs motto is: 
"Ready to Lead, Ready to Follow, Never Quit"

Unofficial quotes are:
"The only easy day was yesterday!" 
"Don't bother running, you will only die tired" 
"Alone I am lethal, as a team I dominate."

National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum and Memorial

The National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum is located in Fort Pierce, Florida, was recognized as a National Museum by an act of Congress and is dedicated to preserving the history of the Navy SEALs and their predecessors. 

Movies about Navy SEALs
  • The 1991 film The Finest Hour portrays Navy SEAL training as well as combat missions in the Middle East.
  • In Under Siege and Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, a former SEAL , now cook played by actor Steven Seagal, is the only person who can stop a gang of terrorists when they seize control of a US Navy battleship (Under Siege) and a train (Under Siege 2).
  • The 1997 Ridley Scott film G.I. Jane presented the idea of women training and becoming Navy SEALs. Actress Demi Moore played Lieutenant Jordan O'Neill opposite actor Viggo Mortensen's character Master Chief John James Urgayle.
  • A SEAL team has been featured in Antoine Fuqua's 2003 film Tears of the Sun, led by actor Bruce Willis.
  • Lieutenant Darius Stone and NSA Agent Kyle Steele are both former Navy SEALs in the 2005 film State of the Union.
  • The low-budget 1999 film U.S. Seals, filmed in Bulgaria and criticized for its inaccurate portrayal of SEAL operations.
  • Jim Street (Colin Farrell) in the movie S.W.A.T
  • SEAL Team Rollback, fictional account of classified UDT/SEAL missions in Vietnam. Takes the reader through the history of the Vietnam War from the fall of Dien Bien Phu to the Mayaguez.
  • In the action movie The Condemned a SEAL team is mentioned.
  • The film SEAL Team tells the story of Navy SEALs during the Gulf War.
  • Navy SEALs are mentioned in the 2005 film Yours, Mine and Ours.

Source: Wikipedia

Sunday, May 1, 2011

How NOT To Bake A Birthday Cake; My Lever House Cake Made From Scratch' Gets Scathing Reviews; Plan 'B' Saves the Day

I have a cookbook in my collection entitled 'The Lever House Cookbook." It was published in June of 2006 and I had never paid much attention to it until searching for a cake to make from scratch to celebrate my son-in-law's birthday this weekend. My daughter, as I've mentioned before, has a cake baking business but wanting to give her a day off, I volunteered my services. I was also cooking dinner and decided at the last minute to make a fresh fruit salad as an alternate dessert. It was a good thing I's always smart to have a 'Plan B'.

Make no mistake, the tepid reaction to my cake was no doubt in part to my making some changes in the recipe and not the fault of the master chef associated with Lever House. But when I realized that the cake was going badly I went into overdrive (as I am known to do) and overcompensated by throwing more sweet stuff into the mix..... in a manner of speaking.

But first, let me tell you a few things about the history of the Lever House. I only knew it as a skyscraper on Park Avenue and was confused why they had a cookbook. Lever House, the restaurant, opened in 2004 and was nominated that year for best new restaurant by the James Beard Foundation. Lever House Executive Chef Dan Silverman was one of Food & Wine magazine's Ten Best New Chefs of 1997. Mr. Silverman along with Joannn Cianculli are the authors of the book. But as things go, the luxe restaurant closed in 2009 and was replaced in 2010 with a restaurant called Casa Lever, a Milanese-style restaurant with a superb menu from Chef Mario Danieli.

Lever House, the building, was the American headquarters of the British soap company Lever Brothers. Designed by Gordon Bunshaft it is located at 390 Park Avenue in New York City. When it was completed in 1952, it was the first curtain wall skyscraper in New York City. The building contains a courtyard with gardens and public space. In 1982, Lever House was designated an official landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission though by that time much of Lever House's original brilliance had deteriorated. When Unilever, the parent company of Lever Brothers decided to move their headquarters to Conn., the company began vacating the building, retaining only the top four floors. The property was sold in 1998 and a multi-million dollar renovation was begun and now includes marble benches and a sculpture garden in the building's plaza. In 2003, the Lever House Restaurant opened.

But enough of the history, let's get back to my cake. The recipe called for buttermilk, I used 2 percent. The recipe called for mayonnaise, I used the low fat kind. The cake never achieved the chocolaty look I expected but looked a bit mocha-colored and I'm not sure why. The recipe called for three round pans to be filled 2/3 full. I did not have enough batter to achieve that and should have adjusted, instead using two pans. As a result, the three layers were a bit flat and didn't allow me to shave too much off the top to make the layers flat. The cake was listing like the Titanic two hours after being hit by the iceberg!

The original recipe called for ganache, brittle crunch for the layer filling and chocolate buttercream icing. 
I made vanilla butter cream icing and filled in some of the gaps with the sweet confection. Not leaving well enough alone, I topped the cake with mini-chocolate chips and sprinkled some on the sides. Them in a fit of what could only be called sheer madness, I melted and drizzled light blue chocolate over the whole thing. Yikes! It was a cake only a dentist looking for work would love!

Worse than that, it really didn't taste great. The cake's texture was a bit muffin-like (coarse) and the icing was way too sweet. There was some left on everyone's plate and no one asked for seconds, not even my two-year-old grandsons who wouldn't think twice about eating sugar straight out of the bowl if they could get away with it! But through the miracle of trick photography, the cake (pictured above) looks about the best it could, but I urge you to follow this recipe to the letter and hope for better result....or even better...maybe use a cake mix.

Tomorrow (Monday) is my son's birthday. He lives in Massachusetts and if he reads this, is probably happy to be spared the experimental cake that I gave my son-in-law. Sometimes, distance is a good thing! By the way, the fresh fruit salad was a big hit.

Lever House Favorite Birthday Cake
1 3/4 cups of cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups boiling water
3 1/2 cops all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3 1/2 cups light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • Coat three 9 inch round pans with no-stick cooking spray and dust with flour.
  • Cut rounds of parchment paper, place in pans and spray lightly.
  • Put cocoa powder in bowl and pour boiling water over it. Stir until completely mixed. and is smooth and glossy. Cover and set aside.
  • Sift together flour, baking soda and powder and salt. Re-sift.
  • In standing mixer, put mayonnaise, eggs, sugar and vanilla in large bow. Mix for about 4 minutes.
  • Add sifted dry ingredients to mix.
  • Add buttermilk and mix until there are no lumps.
  • Add chocolate mix by hand, folding in until completely combined.
  • Bake on middle rack for about 15-20 minutes until cake springs back.
  • Cool for about 10 minutes and remove from pans.
  • Ice cake with your favorite icing.