Monday, June 27, 2011

Refuting the Notion: 'Nothing Good Ever Came Out of a Can'; Crab Cakes Make a Great Summer Entree; Read the Labels!

Let me say up front that I was never a big fan of 'Everybody Loves Raymond.' Not that it wasn't funny because it clearly was. But more because I thought the family was oftentimes over-the-top dysfunctional and sometimes if you think about real-life cases (the Casey Anthony clan, for example) it's not all that much to laugh about.

Nevertheless, my husband and I were faithful viewers of the show for the nine years it ran on CBS (1996 to 2005). One of my favorite episodes called 'The Can Opener' came in the beginning of the fourth season. The storyline was that cooking-challenged Debra purchased a deluxe can opener that cost more than Ray thought a can opener should. As was usually the case, Marie got involved criticizing Debra for cooking with canned goods and eliciting the comment that I used in my headline "Nothing good ever came out of a can.'

I tend to agree with Marie, objecting mostly to the sodium content in most canned foods, but I decided to use a recently purchased can of crabmeat to make crab cakes for dinner tonight. We had them recently in a restaurant in Patchogue, Long Island and I put them on my list of things to try this summer. I had a good recipe that I couldn't locate so I peeled the label off my can of Bumble Bee Fancy Lump Crabmeat to see if there was one inside. Many canned goods have recipes hidden there as an added bonus. Take that Marie!!

Sure enough, there was a nice and easy recipe for Bite Sized Crab Cakes just waiting to be tried. I had all of the ingredients too but this recipe called for three 6 oz. cans of crabmeat. I had only one. I adjusted the ingredients but will give you the original as it appears on the can's label. I'm going to make these again for appetizers this weekend at a family gathering. I added a dollop of goat cheese to mine but tartar sauce is probably the way to go.

Though this is a fried entree, there are lots of ways to compensate making it a bit more heart-healthy. See the notes I placed in the text.

Bite Sized Crab Cakes
Three 6 oz. cans of crab meat (I used Bumble Bee)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup diced onion
1/2 cup cracker crumbs (use whole grain crackers)
3 tablespoons mayo (use the light variety)
1 tablespoon regular mustard
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
dash of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup green peppers diced
2 large eggs
Butter for frying (use a light butter)

  • Combine all ingredients except for butter in large bowl.
  • Mix well then shape into 2" rounds, flattening slightly.
  • Melt butter in skillet over medium heat.
  • Add cakes in batches, frying both sides until golden.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Days Gone By: New York, Madison Square Garden, Joe Louis, Joey Archer and The Fighting Irish...And The Winner Is....

Yesterday in 1937 Joe Louis, pictured above, knocked out James J. Braddock in a boxing match in Chicago, Illinois. The bout lasted eight rounds and Louis, the Brown Bomber, was announced as the world heavyweight boxing champion. On the same date, exactly one year later, Louis knocked out Germany’s Max Schmeling in the first round, at Yankee Stadium. Joe Louis retained the world heavyweight boxing crown until he announced his retirement on March 1, 1949. That’s a total of 11 years, 8 months and 7 days ... and 30 matches to retain the title.

But this isn't a post about Joe Louis or boxing, something I know very little about. But it made me think about a relative of my family who was involved in the sport to some success back in the 60s.

Joey Archer was my mother's cousin. Born in New York City in 1938 he began his career in 1956 when he was 18 years of age. His brother Jimmy was his manager. Freddy Brown was his trainer. My mother was a few years older and was tasked with babysitting for them on occasion. By her account they were a' handful' but their wild behavior probably served them well in the ring. “Irish” Joey Archer began his career, and his quest for achieving boxing success by fighting mostly in New York and Texas venues where he was a winner in his first 30 fights. Notably he beat Don Fullmer by a decision. Fullmer was a highly ranked boxer. This win earned Joey a date against Puerto Rican contender Jose “Monon” Gonzalez, who handed him his first defeat in a close decision. In a rematch two months later, Joey came out on top in a decisive victory.

After that, "Irish" Joey had 15 consecutive wins against some of the Middleweight division’s top fighters, including England’s Mick Leahy, Denny Moyer, Argentina’s Farid Salim, Canada’s Blair Richardson, Holley Mims, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, and his most impressive career win, against future Hall-of-Famer and three time World champion Dick Tiger.

The final win in the streak was against “Sugar” Ray Robinson in what would be the last fight of Robinson’s illustrious, Hall-of-Fame career. Having reached the top of the Middleweight division, Archer suffered an unexpected, close split decision loss to the ranked Don Fullmer.

Joey Arch fight Emile Griffith for the 
Middleweight Title
Nevertheless, Joey earned a title challenge against Virgin Islander and Middleweight champion Emile Griffith based on his impressive winning streak. The title fight took place in Madison Square Garden on a steamy and hot July night in 1966. I remember my father and uncle went as did many of my mother's cousins. By all accounts, the fight was hard fought and a close contest. After 15 rounds the ring announcer Johnny Addie announced the decision. “The winner, by MAJORITY decision, and still champion… Emile Griffith!!! Six months later, Archer would again fight Griffith for the Middleweight title, and would once again taste defeat in a very narrow, controversial decision. 

“Irish” Joey Archer announced his retirement from boxing after the disappointment of these close losses to Emile Griffith. He ended his career with a record of 45 victories (with 8 by KO) and only 4 defeats. Although never having captured a world title, Archer’s excellent boxing skills earned him induction into the “World Boxing Hall of Fame” in 2005. He is currently on the eligibility list of the “International Boxing Hall of Fame” making him eligible for induction into that prestigious organization.

It must have just been the times because our family, at least as far as I know, never produced another athlete with pugilistic skills. In fact, the men in our family are more apt to negotiate their way out of a confrontation than to engage in 'fisticuffs'. The women? Well, we've been known to resort to 'non-truth telling' to extricate ourselves from any possible altercation. The days of the Irish fighters are long gone but their style and spirit captured in these notes from a writer at the time of the fight:
"Joey's style—move, jab, think, defend— has always belonged to the Irish. Stand-up Irish fighters they called them in another time, and even now in certain musty old saloons in New York their yellow photographs hang high on the wall behind the long, stained bars. The legend is Archer's appeal, and from the crowd's standpoint it made his first fight and second fight with Griffith two of the most galvanic nights in recent Garden history. Archer, however, contends that his style is not appreciated by ring officials today, that it has cost him in two fights with Griffith. Perhaps, but Archer—12 pounds heavier and an inch taller—has never stepped out and handled Griffith, technically or physically."

And from Pete Hamill:
"In the years after [1950s middleweight contender] Joey Archer, there was no longer any need for Irish fighters to act out scenarios of courage, ambition, endurance and the ability to absorb pain in order to triumph. The long tale of the Irish-American, which began with such deprivation and turmoil in the 19th century, had become a different story. There was nothing to prove. We had our American president. We had our splendid novelists. Today, we have our company presidents and our chairmen of banks, our teachers and scholars. In that sense, we do have something to teach all those who came after us, including the new immigrants. In spite of everything, the Irish the Irish won all the late rounds." 

A more recent photo of Joey Archer.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer! Welcoming the Season With Two New Recipes, One Old Recipe and Two Poems; Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Sounds Good To Me

The lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer have finally arrived and I won't complain if summer 2011 fits the title of the 1963 Nat King Cole hit tune. Winter was too cold and seemed endless. Spring was too rainy and seemed endless. Summer if we're lucky might seem endless but somehow I suspect it will pass all too quickly.

Vacation plans have been made, weekends are mostly booked and I have a stack of must-read books for entertainment. A couple of promising movies are due to open (and by that I mean "Cars 2"!) and our backyard deck is officially open for business.

Last weekend we had guests for dinner and I served a sangria that I made last year. I'll repeat that recipe because everyone seems to enjoy it...and it's easy! Tonight we had a lemony summer potato salad and string beans with tomato and red onion. The recipes follow.

But first the poems, two favorites, one by Shakespeare and the other, Robert Louis Stevenson.

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
(Sonnet 18) by William Shakespeare

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow'st.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

At the Sea-Side
By Robert Louis Stevenson

When I was down beside the sea
A wooden spade they gave to me
To dig the sandy shore
My holes were empty like a cup.
In every hole the sea came up
Till it could come no more.

Summer Potato Salad
Note: I found this a bit lemony for my taste but light and perfect for a summer side dish. I might cut back on the zest next time around but will see how it tastes after a night of refrigeration.

1 1/2 pounds red new potatoes, sliced 1 inch thick
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh herbs, such as a combination of basil, parsley, and tarragon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • On stove top, steam potatoes tossing occasionally, until tender, 10 to 12 minutes.
  • In a medium bowl, place lemon zest and juice; season with salt and pepper. Transfer potatoes to bowl and toss with lemon juice. Refrigerate until cool, at least 1 hour.
  • Toss herbs and oil with cooled potato mixture; season with salt and pepper.

String Beans With Tomatoes and Red Onion

1 pound whole fresh string beans
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1/2 lemon, juiced
Coarse salt and pepper

  • Steam green beans for 3 or 4 minutes. 
  • Thinly slice onion and tomatoes .
  • Cold shock beans by running under icy water and drain well. 
  • Place beans in a bowl and combine with onions, cucumber and tomato. 
  • Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil and the juice of 1/2 lemon. 
  • Season with coarse salt and pepper, to taste.
Rosé Sangria
Mix together:
1 bottle inexpensive rosé
1 cup white cranberry juice
5 ounces Framboise
1 tablespoon sugar
sliced fruit such as blueberries, strawberries, oranges, watermelon

Serve cold on ice

Monday, June 20, 2011

NBC Rewrites History: Undoing A Congressional Resolution During the U.S. Open; Did They Think No One Would Notice?

Like many Father's Day gatherings, ours was permeated by the U.S. Open Golf Tournament held this year at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland. Not my favorite way of spending a perfect sunny family day but because my husband is a huge golf fan, the match became the main event.

Because of the club's proximity to the Washington D.C., NBC (the network broadcasting the event) was motivated to produce a patriotic montage that was played at the beginning of the coverage. The film, attached here, had alternating and moving scenes of schoolchildren reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, soldiers, flags, past Open winners ...well, you get the picture...very American! Sounds great, right?

But yesterday and today, a brouhaha developed when it became apparent that the words "under God, indivisible" were omitted. Not once. Twice!

Irate calls made to the network yesterday prompted NBCs host Dan Hicks to read an apologetic statement:
"It was our intent to begin our coverage of this U.S. Open championship with a feature that captured the patriotism of our national championship being here in our nation’s capital for the third time. Regrettably, a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance that was in that feature was edited out. It was not done to upset anyone and we’d like to apologize to those of you who were offended by it."
And today, an official apology fro NBC brass was released calling the decision to omit "a bad one ".

In the letter, NBC elaborated:
We understand your concern over the beginning of our U.S. Open coverage on Sunday.
We are aware of the distress this has caused many of our viewers and are taking the issue very seriously.
Unfortunately, when producing the piece - which was intended to capitalize on the patriotism of having our national championship played in our nation's capital - a decision was made by a small group of people to edit portions of the Pledge of Allegiance. This was a bad decision.
As soon as management became aware of this decision and the controversy it justifiably created, it immediately took steps to correct it resulting in an on-air apology provided by NBC Sports' lead golf commentator Dan Hicks. 
It was not the intent of NBC to upset anyone and we sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended.
The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by a Baptist minister Francis Bellamy (right). Originally published in a children's magazine called "The Youth's Companion" it was intended to be a part of our nation's public school celebration of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas. The original pledge read:
I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Bellamy wanted the pledge to be quick, recited in 15 seconds. That same day,  Bellamy, Congress and President Benjamin Harrison announced a national proclamation making the public school flag ceremony the center of the national Columbus Day celebrations.

Louis A. Bowman, an Illinois lawyer and Presbyterian, was the first to initiate the addition of "under God" to the Pledge. He said that the words came from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, though not all versions of the Gettysburg Address contain the words "under God". It is thought that Lincoln may have deviated from his prepared text and inserted the phrase when he said "that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom."

In 1951, the Knights of Columbus began including the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance and adopted a resolution to amend the text of the Pledge of Allegiance recited at the opening of each of their meetings. Over the next two years, the idea spread and in August of 1952, Knight's Council adopted a resolution urging that the change be made universal. This resolution was sent to the President, the Vice President and other Washington officials but attempts to make a national amend the Pledge failed.

In 1954, President Eisenhower was sitting in Abraham Lincoln's pew when the church's pastor, George MacPherson Docherty, delivered a sermon based on the Gettysburg Address arguing that the nation's might lay not in arms but its spirit and higher purpose. He noted that there was something missing in the pledge and cited Lincoln's words "under God" as defining words that set the United States apart from other nations.

President Eisenhower had been baptized a Presbyterian just a year before and responded enthusiastically to Docherty in a conversation following the service. Eisenhower acted on his suggestion the very next day and by February of that year a bill was introduced in Congress who passed the necessary legislation. Eisenhower signed the bill into law on Flag Day, June 14, 1954 and the phrase 'under God" was incorporated into the text of the Pledge of Allegiance.

An Congressional action, in place for 57 years, undone by an act of NBC yesterday.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Timeline of United States Political Scandals; From Jefferson to Weiner, History Repeats Itself in a Most Unfortunate Way; "Ma, Ma, Where's My Pa?"

AP Photo
Today, Rep. Anthony Weiner, A New York Democrat would become the third member of the U.S. Congress this year to step down because of a sex scandal. Unfortunately, this is a recurring problem with our elected officials. Here's a rundown of some of the most shocking:

1802: Thomas Jefferson (left)  was rumored to have had an affair with his slave Sally Hemings. DNA tests of their descendants confirmed it in 1998.

1884: Grover Cleveland won his election despite opponents making an issue of his illegitimate child with chants of " Ma, ma, where's my pa"? Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha."
1903: The Speaker of the House, David Henderson (right) (R-Iowa), was forced to resign over his sexual relationship with the daughter of a senator. Henderson never said why he was quitting, and neither did the press.

1974: Rep. Wilbur Mills (D-Ark.), (pictured below left)  the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee was forced to resign s chairman after cavorting with a stripper with the stage-name Fanne Foxe (below, left). In 1976 he decided to not seek another term after a 38 year career in the Congress.

1976: Rep. Wayne Hays (D-Ohio) resigned as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee when it was discovered that Elizabeth Ray, a secretary for the House Administration Committee, headed by Hays, was highly unqualified for the $14,000 a year job. Hays later dropped his reelection bid, and finally resigned on September 1.

1976: Rep. John Young (D-Tex.) was accused of making sexual advances to a staff secretary who capitulated for an increase in her salary. He had just been reelected but the scandal wouldn't go away and in 1978 Young was defeated in a Democratic primary runoff.

1976: Rep. Allan Howe was arrested in Salt Lake City on charges of soliciting two policewomen posing as prostitutes. Howe i refused to resign but lost an election to a Republican candidate in the next election.

1978: Rep. Fred Richmond (D-N.Y.) was arrested in Washington for soliciting a 16-year-old boy. Richmond apologized and easily won renomination and reelection. After pleading guilty to possession of marijuana and tax evasion a couple of years later, he resigned his seat.

1980: Rep. Jon Hinson (R-Miss.) admitted during a reelection bid that he had been accused of committing an obscene act at a gay bar in 1976 allegedly to clear his conscience..He won the election but three months later was arrested for attempted oral sodomy in the restroom of a House office building. He resigned in April 1981.

1980: Rep. Robert Bauman (R-Md.) a "pro-family" conservative lost his next election after being accused of committing oral sodomy on a teenage boy in Washington. He pleaded innocent to the charges.

1981: Rep. Thomas Evans (R-Del.) was not reelected after he and three other House members shared a cottage during a 1980 vacation in Florida with Paula Parkinson, a lobbyist who later posed for Playboy magazine.

1983: Reps. Dan Crane (R-Ill.) and Gerry Studds (D-Mass.) were accused by the House ethics committee of having sexual relationships with congressional pages – Crane with a 17-year-old female in 1980, Studds with a 17-year-old male in 1973. The full House voted to censure the two, the first time that ever happened for sexual misconduct. Crane was voted out in the next election but Studds stayed in office until the mid-90s.

1987: Rep. Ernie Konnyu (R-Calif.) was accused of sexually harassing two former aides. He lost in the primary of the next election.

1987: Colorado Sen. Gary Hart announced his second Democratic presidential run in 1987, after news outlets report he was having an extramarital affair with 29-year-old model Donna Rice

1988; Sen. Brock Adams (D-Wash.) was accused by several women over the years of sexually harassing them. He ended his 1992 campaign after the accusations increased. He maintained his innocence.

1988: Rep. Jim Bates (D-Calif.)was accused by aides of making sexual advances toward female staffers. The story came too close to Election Day to damage Bates, who won easily. When the ethics committee forced him to make a formal apology, he lost his next election.

1989: Rep. Donald "Buz" Lukens (R-Ohio) was accused by the mother of a Columbus teenager that Lukens had been paying to have sex with her daughter since she was 13. He resigned in October of the followin year after being accused of fondling a Capitol elevator operator.

1989: Rep. Gus Savage (D-Ill.) was accused of fondling a Peace Corps volunteer while on an official visit to Zaire. Savage called the story a lie and was reelected in 1990, but finally ousted in the 1992 primary.

1989: Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) confirmed that he hired Steve Gobie, a male prostitute to live with and work for him in his D.C. apartment. The Boston Globe, among others, called on Frank to resign, but he refused. Attempts to expel or censure Frank failed and he is still in Congress today.

1990: Rep. Arlan Stangeland (R-Minn.) had made several hundred long-distance phone calls on his House credit card to or from the residences of a female lobbyist. Stangeland was married with a large family acknowledged the calls and said some of them may have been personal but not romantic. He was voted out in the next election.

1991: Sen. Charles Robb (D-Va.)  married to Lyndon Johnson's daughter, was accused of having a extra-marital affair but said all that took place was a massage over a bottle of wine. Robb won his next election after the Republians nominated Oliver North to run against him.

1992: Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) was accused of sexual harassment by his hairdresser. He denied the charges and the Senate Ethics Committee decided to drop the investigation because the accusers wouldn't participate in an inquiry.

1992: Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) allegedly sexually harassed 10 female staffers. He denied the charges. When more women came forward with stories, there were calls for his resignation. In September of 1995 when, faced with expulsion, Packwood announced his resignation.

1992: Gennifer Flowers revealed a 12-year affair with Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton to a tabloid newspaper shortly before the Democratic primaries.

1994: Rep. Mel Reynolds (D-Ill.) was indicted on charges of having sex with a 16-year-old campaign worker and then pressuring her to lie about it. Reynolds denied the charges about was convicted on Aug. 22, 1995 of several offenses finally resigned his seat on October 1.

1998: President Bill Clinton (left) admits to having an affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

2004: New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey steps down after disclosing he had an affair with another man.

2006: Republican Representative Mark Foley of Florida resigned after it was disclosed that he had sent sexually suggestive e-mails to male pages.

2008: Republican Senator Larry Craig of Idaho did not run for re-election in 2008 after he was arrested on charges of soliciting sex in an airport men's room.

2008: New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer admitted to having an affair with 22-year-old call girl Ashley Dupre.

2008: Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards admits he had an affair with former campaign videographer Rielle Hunter during his second presidential run.

2008: Rep.Vito Fossella (R.NY) fathered a 3-year-old love child in an illicit affair with a female retired Air Force officer. He was married with three children and did not run for reelection.

2009: Sen. John Ensign, R-NV, confesses to having an extra-marital affair with a former campaign aide. 

2009: South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford admitted to having an extramarital affair with his 'soul mate', a woman living in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

2010: Republican Senator David of Louisiana was identified as a client of a prostitution service. He won re-election in 2010 after asking for forgiveness.

2010: Democratic Representative Eric Massa of New York resigned to avoid an ethics probe into alleged sexual misconduct toward a male staffer.

2010: Republican Representative Mark Souder of Indiana resigned in 2010 after admitting that he had an affair with a female staffer.

2011: Republican Representative Chris Lee of New York resigned in February shortly after it was disclosed that he sent a shirtless photo of himself over the Internet to a woman who was not his wife.

2011: Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada stepped down in May as an ethics committee was wrapping up an investigation into his affair with a former aide and an attempted cover-up.

2011: Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger admits to fathering an illegitimate  child 10 years ago with his housekeeper. He is married to Maria Shriver who has filed for divorce.

....and then there was WEINER....

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Operation 'Duck and Cover': Let Me Just Say That I'm Glad the 'Bomb' Didn't Drop

Today is the anniversary of the 1955 Eisenhower administration's first annual "Operation Alert" (OPAL) exercise, an attempt to assess the USA's preparations for a nuclear attack. That program must have been  a sign of the times because I can recall ( with some hilarity actually) that in school during the 1950s we were drilled in a 'safety' procedure to protect us should the bomb fall during the hours of 8 A.M. through 3 P.M.. Luckily for all of us, it did not!

Any of us of a certain age will recall hearing a fake alarm being sounded and going under our desks crouched with head down to protect our faces and bodies from nuclear fallout. Riiiiiiiight!!

After Nagasaki and Hiroshima, in the beginnings of the 'cold war', our government felt that there was a very real threat of unfriendly nations (such as the USSR) getting their hands on the materials needed to make an atomic bomb. So when the Soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb in 1949, the American public was understandably nervous. The defensive response by the US was to deploy a fairly strong layered defense of interceptor aircraft and anti-aircraft missiles but this was a small response compared to the construction of a huge fleet of nuclear bombers. While they were aware of the destruction that our atomic bombs did to the Japanese cities, the public did not know a lot about the dangers of radiation and fallout.

The FCDA commissioned an educational film for children. The producers went to work on a script that would combine live actors and an animated turtle to encourage kids to duck down to the ground and get under some form of cover – a desk, a table or next to a wall – if they ever saw a bright flash of light. The flash would presumably be produced by an atomic blast. The hero of the film was the animated Turtle named Bert who wore a pith helmet and quickly ducked his head into his shell when a monkey in a tree set off a firecracker nearby. The 'Duck and Cover' film was completed in January 1952. The film was shown to educators at a gala premiere screening at a Manhattan movie theatres after which it was distributed to schools around the country by one of the largest educational film distributors.

In 1951, a new Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA) was set up to educate – and reassure – the country that there were ways to survive an atomic attack from the Soviet Union and this is where the school involvement came in. Teachers in selected cities were encouraged to conduct air raid drills where they would suddenly yell, "Drop!" and students were expected to kneel down under their desks with their hands clutched around their heads and necks. Apparently, some schools even distributed metal "dog tags," like those worn by World War II soldiers, so that the bodies of students could be identified after an attack.

Many baby boomers like me remember duck and cover drills in their schools but know now that those drills or even fallout shelters probably wouldn't have done much good. In any case, 'duck and cover' stopped somewhere along the way and today the threat of 9-11 style attacks or chemical warfare is even more frightening.

Attached is a link to the 1952  film. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Facts About the United States Flag on Flag Day, 2011; Two Teachers Lead the Way; Old Glory 'Goes to the Mattress'!

Flag Timeline
1885: A Wisconsin schoolteacher named BJ Cigrand, had the idea of an annual day to celebrate the United States flag. The Fredonia Public School, District 6 chose June 14 which was the 108th anniversary of the official adoption of The Stars and Stripes, as 'Flag Birthday'. The teacher promoted the observance of the day throughout his life.

1889: A New York City kindergarten teacher named George Balch, planned 'flag day' ceremonies for his students and his ideas were later adopted by the State Board of Education of New York.

June 14, 1891: The Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia held its first Flag Day celebration.

June 14, 1892: The New York Society of the Sons of the Revolution, celebrated Flag Day.

April 25, 1893: Colonel J Granville Leach, historian of the Pennsylvania Society of the Sons of the Revolution, suggested that the Pennsylvania Society of Colonial Dames of America, adopt a resolution requesting the mayor of Philadelphia, others in authority and all private citizens to display the Flag on June 14th. Leach went on to recommend that thereafter the day be known as 'Flag Day'.

May 8th, 1893: The Board of Managers of the Pennsylvania Society of Sons of the Revolution unanimously endorsed the action of the Pennsylvania Society of Colonial Dames.

1894: The governor of New York directed that on June 14 the Flag be displayed on all public buildings. With BJ Cigrand and Leroy Van Horn as the moving spirits, the Illinois organization, known as the American Flag Day Association, was organized for the purpose of promoting the holding of Flag Day exercises.

May 30th, 1916: Inspired by these three decades of state and local celebrations, Flag Day was officially established by the Proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson.

August 3rd, 1949: President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14th of each year as National Flag Day.

Betsy Ross and the Flag
According to sworn affidavits from Betsy Ross' grandson and other family members:  In 1777, Betsy Ross (formerly Elizabeth Griscom), a widower and an upholster, was visited by three men: George Washington, Robert Morris, and George Ross (an uncle of her late husband). Washington had a folded piece of paper in his inside coat pocket which was a sketch of a flag with thirteen red and white stripes and thirteen six pointed stars. Washington asked if Betsy could make a flag from the design. Betsy responded: "I do not know, but I will try."

The Betsy Ross flag. 
As the story goes, Betsy suggested changing the stars to five points rather than six. She showed them how to do it with just one snip of her scissors. They all agreed to change the design to have stars with five points. The flag was probably made within the year.

On May 29, 1777, she was paid a large sum of money from the Pennsylvania State Navy Board for making flags.

On June 14, 1777, Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as our official national flag.

Flag Trivia
Old Glory:  Was a specific flag owned by Captain William Driver made with 24 stars and 13 red and white stripes representing the original 13 colonies: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island. Old Glory traveled with Driver on his ship and circled the globe twice before retiring with Driver in Nashville. The flag was hidden away inside Driver’s bedspread in Nashville, when Tennessee seceded from the Union. When the war was over, Driver joyously ripped open his bedding to an astonished group of patriots to be proudly displayed for all to see. Sadly, due its fragile state and incredible historical and sentimental value, Old Glory’s last show was at the Tennessee State Museum in 2006. It now lives in the Smithsonian.

Official Colors: Thanks to our friends at Pantone, the red, white and blue stripes are strictly defined as Dark Red (Pantone 193 C), White (Pantone safe), and Navy Blue (281 C).

Current Design: Robert Heft, an 18 year old high school student, designed the flag we know today and was  given a “B-“ for his efforts. The chagrined student challenged his teacher to give him a better grade (an "A")  if his design proposal was accepted by Congress. A presidential proclamation in 1958 officially adopted Heft's design and so he earned the higher grade!

Flag Protocols
  • Our flag should never be “dipped” to any person or thing, except in the case of a naval ship signaling to a foreign country’s ship. 
  • If our flag is harmed in any way, it must be disposed of by burning. 
  • The flag must not touch the ground, but need not be disposed of if dropped by accident. 
  • At night, the flag must be illuminated. 
  • The US flag must not be used on any item designed to be disposable. 
  • There are 6 US flags currently stationed on the moon and were placed there by Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17. 
  • When folded properly, the US flag is shaped like a triangle with only the stars showing. 
  • It takes 13 folds to fold the flag, the same number of original colonies.
Different flags through the years
  • The original flag had 13 red and white stripes with a Union Jack in the upper left corner. 
  • There was, for a brief time, a US flag with 15 stars and 15 stripes, made to welcome Kentucky and Vermont. This 15 stars and stripes version, however, inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star Spangled Banner” in 1814.
  • The US government reverted to the 13 stripe model as the new version of the flag looked too cluttered. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Coating Salmon Filets With A Maple Syrup, Balsamic, Walnut Glaze Has A Delicious Result: The Ingredients Are All Heart-Smart!

I knew that there were a lot of benefits to eating salmon and now that my family is on a more heart healthy diet, I've discovered that pairing it or cooking with certain ingredients affords a lot more. Not only is salmon high in protein and "good fats" but a 4 oz. serving of wild salmon has a full day's requirements of Vitamin D. A diet rich in Vitamin D promotes better health, longer life, fewer diseases, stronger bones and muscles, fewer infections, less depression, pain and inflammation.

That same 4 oz. piece has more than half of the necessary B12, niacin, and selenium, and is an excellent source of B6 and magnesium. Even if you choose canned salmon, you'll find it contains large amounts of calcium. But the omega-3 fats that are prevalent in salmon, help consumers reduce inflammation in our bodies which causes many health problems including heart disease, diabetes, some types of cancers and arthritis. Omega-3’s also help prevent the formation of blood clots.

A recent development is the discovery that omega-3 fats might help slow Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline. Also, people who have sufficient levels of omega-3’s have less depression and suicide risk as well as less aggression.

So with all of that good news in mind. tonight I prepared a salmon dinner using maple syrup and balsamic vinegar as a glaze. Maple syrup, it seems, is a great sweetener to use if you are trying to benefit your heart because it contains both zinc and manganese. Zinc, in addition to acting as an antioxidant, has other functions that can decrease the progression of atherosclerosis and is concentrated more highly in the prostate than in any other human tissue. Low levels of zinc in the prostate relate to a higher risk for prostate cancer. In fact, zinc is a mineral used by health care practitioners to help reduce prostate size. Manganese may also play a role in supporting men's health since, as a catalyst in the synthesis of fatty acids and cholesterol.

I tossed a small amount of walnuts on top and baked it a 350 degree oven for only about 20 minutes. Paired with carrots and peas. it makes a picturesque and healthy spring dinner.

But let's not stop there with health benefits. Incorporating walnuts in your diet reduces the risk of heart disease by improving blood vessel elasticity and the accumulation of plaque. Walnuts have also been shown to aid in the lowering LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and the C-Reactive Protein (CRP). CRP was recently recognized as a predictor of heart disease.

Enjoy this heart healthy dinner guilt free!!

Maple Syrup, Balsamic 
and Walnut Coated Salmon
For glaze, mix together: 
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chopped resh walnuts

2 salmon filets (about 3 inches x 6 inches)
salt and pepper to taste

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • lay salmon filets in glass baking pan.
  • Coat top with glaze and let sit for about 1/2 hour.
  • Bake for 20 minutes and serve with vegetables.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Fast, Easy and Low-Calorie Filet of Sole; Half-Hour Prep and Cooking Time Yields A Satisfying Meal And Leftovers For Lunch

I arrived home tonight at 7 p.m. but before I left this morning I had taken out 4 frozen pieces of filet of sole purchased fresh last weekend. By 7:35 I was enjoying a light and luscious fish dinner that anyone can prepare. Give this a try if you are on a reduced calorie diet or if you just love fish. Most of the added ingredients and seasonings are in most pantries. I had just enough time to run outside and take a photo while there was still some daylight!

What's nice about this meal is that I had two pieces leftover that will make a tasty sandwich for lunch tomorrow. Take the leftover pieces and use a whole wheat 100 calorie sandwich round available in every supermarket. Load up the sandwich with lettuce, tomato, a slice of red onion or any other garnish you prefer. Add a small dollop of low-fat mayo and you'll have another quick and easy low-cal meal.

What you need
3-4 pieces of filet of sole
1 lemon
Lemon pepper
Chopped basil
Olive oil
Pepper, tomatoes for garnish
Mescalin lettuce
Balsamic vinegar


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • While oven is heating, rinse and dry flounder or sole pieces.
  • Place in glass pan and drizzle lightly with olive oil
  • Sprinkle fresh breadcrumbs on fish then lightly sprinkle oregano, lemon pepper, basil lightly over pieces
  • Bake for 25 minutes until fish loses it's translucency.
  • Place on a bed of mescaline lettuce drizzled with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and fresh lemon juice.
  • Top with pepper and slice tomato.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Facts About Lead Paint; Judging the "Lead Free is Best For Me" Contest in Newark, N.J., I Educate Myself About This Invisible Problem

Yesterday, I was honored to judge a poster contest for Newark, New Jersey Public High Schools sponsored by Benjamin Moore Paints. The theme was "Lead Free is Best For Me" and the contest was intended to create an awareness that Newark had the highest incidents of lead paint in homes in the state of New Jersey. The students were invited to illustrate the theme and write a mini-essay interpreting the art. There are some pretty hefty prizes to be awarded.

This is the first year the contest was held and the entries were excellent, not only in the execution but also in the written explanation. The finalists have been chosen but because they won't be announced until later in June, I will not show any of the entries here.

Lead paint in homes has devastating effects on residents who many times are unaware that the paint in their homes or apartments contains the element. It is especially harmful to children and for this reason, Benjamin Moore Paint Company teamed up with the Newark Schools to get the message out. All Benjamin Moore Paints are lead free!

Here are some facts and reasons why lead paint is harmful and some suggestions on how to detect and correct the problem if you think you have it.

Lead Paint Facts
  • Lead Paint was banned in U.S. residential paint in 1978. 
  • It was banned in France and many other countries prior to 1920.
  • Three-quarters of the nation's housing contains lead paint. 
  • Lead poisoning is a serious disease. 
  • Children under six are most at risk.
  • Children from every region, race, and socioeconomic level are at risk 
  • Lead poisoning causes learning and developmental disabilities. 
  • There are usually no symptoms. 
  • Even children who appear healthy can have dangerous levels of lead in their blood. 
  • Lead poisoning is preventable. 
  • Most lead poisoning happens at home. 
  • The primary cause is tiny particles of lead dust from deteriorated paint or from painted surfaces disturbed during remodeling, repair or renovation.
  • Lead dust is invisible, so tiny in fact that it passes through most masks & filters.
  • Lead poisoning affects adults as well as kids. 
  • Lead can cause harm wherever it lands in the body.
  • In the bloodstream, lead can damage red blood cells and limit their ability to carry oxygen to the organs and tissues that need it. 
  • Most lead ends up in the bone, where it causes even more problems. Lead can interfere with the production of blood cells and the absorption of calcium that bones need to grow healthy and strong.
How To Detect Lead Paint
  • If your home was built before 1978, have your home tested for lead. The National Lead Information Center (NLIC) provide a list of EPA-certified labs near you. You may send the labs paint chips from cracks for testing. 
  • Do-it-yourself tests, available at hardware stores, can detect high levels of lead, but may not clue you into low levels or lead paint that is under many layers of paint.
  • If lead is found, but the paint is still intact (not chipping or peeling), then your family is safe from lead poisoning. However, if the lead paint is falling apart or was used on door jambs or window frames, where constant movement and friction cause a dust to escape, you will need to take action.

How to Remove Lead Paint
  • If you plan to paint or renovate areas where there is lead paint, you must have the lead paint removed by a lead abatement specialist before starting. If you sand or tear down walls that have lead paint in them, a fine lead-laden dust will disperse throughout your house! Everyone who lives in the house will be exposed to significant risk.
  • A lead abatement specialist (see below) must clean up all lead paint. Do not attempt this yourself! The U.S.Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offices or the American Industrial Hygiene Association can help you locate certified lead removal contractors in your area.
  • As a temporary measure, until lead paint is removed, damp mop frequently to clean up lead-laden dust. Wash children's toys and stuffed animals frequently.
  • If possible, your family should move out while lead-based paint is being removed by a lead abatement professional.
  • The NLIC can provide a list of local specialists who can remove or seal the lead.
The World Health Organization estimates that 15-18 million children in developing countries are suffering from permanent brain damage due to lead poisoning.

        Monday, June 6, 2011

        D-Day By The Numbers: Facts About The Great Invasion on the 67th Anniversary

        U.S. troops approach Utah Beach on D-Day.
        D-Day By The Numbers

        There were 6,603 American casualties on D-Day.

        225 American Rangers landed at Point du Hoc before the invasion occured to take out the large guns that the Germans had on the cliffs that overlooked the beaches.

        Only 25 Australians fought on the beaches but thousands were a part of the airborne invasion. Only about 6 Australians died on D-Day.

        D-Day was originally scheduled for June 5, but the weather did not cooperate. It happened the next day.

        The D-Day invasion involved 5,000 ships carrying men and vehicles across the English Channel.

        A single sortie of two fighters was the German airpower presence over the landing beaches on D-Day.

        The total width of the D-Day invasion front on the Normandy beaches was 61.7 miles.

        Captured Germans were sent to American prisoner of war camps at the rate of 30,000 POWs per month from D-Day until Christmas 1944. Thirty-three detention facilities were in Texas alone.

        800 planes dropped more than 13,000 men in parachutes.

        Wthin weeks after the invasion, supplies were being unloaded at Utah and Omaha beachheads at the rate of over 20,000 tons per day.

        More than 300 planes dropped 13,000 bombs on German troops defending the beaches.

        Over 100,000 Allied troops made it to shore that day.

        War planners had projected that 5,000 tons of gasoline would be needed daily for the first 20 days after the initial assault. In one planning scenario, 3,489 long tons of soap would be required for the first four months in France.

        The Beaches
        The most difficult landing of D Day was at Omaha beach. Navigation problems resulted in many men drowning before they reached land. Omaha Beach also had the largest amount of German troops, and the fighting was fierce.

        The Atlantic wall had been set up by the Germans along the coast of France. It was made up of thousands of large concrete pillboxes set up along the coast of France. Many of the concrete pillboxes were made from material from the beaches and were easily demolished when bombed.

        Nevada Beach was NOT part of the invasion.

        Because the debarkation zones were for the most part directly north to south except on the western end, the morning sun was not a factor.

        Three American divisions, two British, and one Canadian participated in the initial amphibious landings. One additional American and two British divisions followed once beachheads were established.

        Gold, Sword and Juno Beaches were for the Canadian and Britsh Commonwealth to invade.

        Utah and Omaha Beaches were for the Americans to invade.

        There were two main reasons for choosing Normandy as the invasion site: 1. It was less heavily defended than the Pas de Calais. 2. The accessibility to Allied air cover. Allied air domination was essential in establishing a beachhead.

        Utah Beach was added to the attack plan last.

        Omaha Beach battle that is reenacted in the opening of the movie Saving Private Ryan.

        Interesting Facts
        The code name Operation Overlord was given to the military plan for D-Day.

        D-Day was the largest military land invasion ever undertaken during war-time.

        Many soldiers got seasick from the rough ride across the English Channel.

        On the dawn of D-Day, paratroopers secured a vital bridge across the Orne River to prevent German troops from reinforcing the area of the landings. This bridge is commonly known as Pegasus bridge.

        The British 6th Airborne Division landed in gliders a few hundred yards from the bridge and captured it. Today, stone markers indicate the exact location where the gliders came to rest. The operation was code-named Tonga.

        German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel was absent from the action at the onset of the invasion because he was celebrating his wife's birthday in Germany.

        Tthe Allies had barrage balloons which had large steel rods hanging down from them. They tore apart  low flying enemy aircraft above the ships that were firing upon the beaches.

        The Allies trained for D-Day for one year so that they had the toughest and most advanced army for the job.

        The Allies made inflatable tanks and put them in a part of England opposite the Pas de Calais, in order to fool the Germans.

        The 101st Airborne was supposed to take the town of Ste. Marie-Du-Mont but some ended up at Ste. Mere Eglise instead.

        Dummy paratroopers called Ruperts (left) were dropped from other places to confuse the Germans.

        F Company of the 505th Parachute Regiment (82nd Airborne) landed in the town they were supposed to take and were massacred.

        At 0145 hrs, a second platoon of F company, the 505th, had the bad luck to jump right above the town where the Germans were fully alerted. John Steele's parachute was caught in the church steeple and he was hit in the foot. He was deaf for a few days as a result of the church bell ringing. Steele was captured but escaped later.

        Svenner, a Norweigan destroyer, was the name of the only ship sunk by German submarines on D-Day.

        The system that the British used in which they sent false or/and useless information to the Germans was called Double Cross System. The British captured the German spies in Britain, turned them around, and sent useless and misleading information back to the Germans to reinforce the belief that the invasion would be in the Pas de Calais.

        The 'challenge,' the password, and the response of the US paratroopers on D-Day were Flash, Thunder, Welcome. The other alternative to identify oneself was to use the crickets. One was supposed to click the cricket once, click-clack, and the answer would be click-clack, click-clack. 

        By August 1944, all of Northern France was under Allied control as Eisenhower began to prepare for the invasion of Germany.

        Before the Invasion.....
        Before the invasion, the 12,000 planes of the Allied air forces swept the Luftwaffe from the skies, photographed enemy defenses, dropped supplies to the resistance, bombed railways, attacked Germany's industries and isolated the battlefield.

        Before the invasion, the Allies' naval component escorted convoys, patrolled and protected the English Channel, reconnoitered beaches and beach defenses, conducted amphibious rehearsals and organized and loaded a mighty flotilla to land the assault forces in France.

        Before the invasion, the nine army divisions (three airborne and six infantry) from the United States, Britain and Canada trained and rehearsed their roles in the carefully choreographed operation. Rangers climbed cliffs, engineers destroyed beach obstacles, quartermasters stockpiled supplies and infantrymen waded through the English surf as each honed the skills necessary for the invasion's success.

        The Leaders
        The Normandy Invasion Supreme Commander was General Dwight D. Eisenhower, pictured at right.

        The Commander of the 21st Army Group was the General Sir Bernard L. Montgomery.

        Air Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory was in charge of the Allied Expeditionary Air Forces.

        Eisenhower appointed Lt. General Walter Bedell Smith as his Chief of Staff.

        Troops Involved in the Invasion
        United States Army 
        First Army
        V Corps
        VII Corps
        1st Infantry Division
        4th Infantry Division
        29th Infantry Division
        82nd Airborne Division
        101st Airborne Division
        UK Land Forces
        Second British Army
        1st British Corps
        30th British Corps
        3rd British Infantry Division
        6th British Airborne Division
        50th British Infantry Division
        3rd Canadian Infantry Division

        Air Forces 
        U.S. Army Air Forces 
        Eighth Air Force
        Ninth Air Force
        British Royal
        2nd Tactical Air Force

        Allied Expeditionary Naval Forces 
        Western Task Force (U.S.
        Eastern Task Force (Britain)

        The Meaning of the "D"
        Many scholars have tried to explain the term “D-Day,” suggesting it stood for “decision day” or “disembarkation day,” but most likely it comes from the army’s use of the term to mean an “undefined day,” or the first day of any operation.

        U.S. troops approach Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944.
        The City of Bedford, Virginia is the home of the National D-Day Memorial Complex because
        in that very small town, 21 men were killed on D-Day which was the largest per capita K.I.A. of any city in the United States.

        The National D-Day Museum' is being built in New Orleans, Louisiana in honor of Andrew J. Higgins. Andrew Jackson Higgins, an New Orleans industrialist, designed and built the LCVP's (Landing Craft Vehicles, Personnel)aka 'Higgins Boats'. These landing crafts were vital to the success of Operation Overlord. In 1940 the U.S. had no landing craft. By 1944 the Higgins Industries had built more than 30,000 LCVP's.

        "We want to get the hell over there. The quicker we clean up this Goddamned mess, the quicker we can take a little jaunt against the purple pissing Japs and clean out their nest, too. Before the Goddamned Marines get all of the credit." ~ General George S. Patton, Jr., June 5, 1944

        "Rangers, Lead The Way!" ~ Colonel Francis W. Dawson on the occasion of the Normandy Invasion, 1944

        You will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world. Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped, and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely....The free men of the world are marching together to victory. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory. Good luck, and let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking." ~General Dwight D. Eisenhower giving the D-Day order on June 6, 1944.

        Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr.. said "We'll start the war from right here" from a 'headquaters' which was a shell hole. It did not happen.

        London-based American journalist George Hicks made history with his radio broadcast from the deck of the U.S.S. Ancon at the start of the D-Day invasion. "...You see the ships lying in all directions, just like black shadows on the grey sky," he described to his listeners. "...Now planes are going overhead... Heavy fire now just behind us... bombs bursting on the shore and along in the convoys." 

        Thursday, June 2, 2011

        A Yankee Fan Looks Back at "The Sultan of Swat" on June 2, The Day Babe Ruth Retired

        Nat Fein's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Ruth at Yankee Stadium, June 13, 1948 just two months before his death.
        Seventy-six years ago today one of the greatest players in baseball history retired, ending his Major League baseball career after 22 seasons. George Herman Ruth, also known as Babe Ruth, played in 10 World Series games and hit 714 home runs. The Babe was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as one of the first five inductees in 1936. The other four Baseball Hall of Fame inductees were Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson, and Christy Mathewson.

        Born on February 6, 1895, in Baltimore, Maryland, Ruth attended St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys, where he learned to play baseball and was a top athlete. He was signed by the Baltimore Orioles at the age of 19. The nickname 'babe' came after his teammates and media consistently referred to him as team owner Jack Dunn's newest babe. As his legend grew, he was also referred to as "The Sultan of Swat" and "The Bambino."

        Ruth started his Major League career with the Boston Red Sox as a left handed pitcher in July 1914 and pitched 89 winning games for the team before 1920. When he was traded to the New York Yankees, "the curse of the Bambino," plagued his former team since the Red Sox didn't win another World Series until 2004. As a Yankee, Ruth's position changed to outfielder where he led the Yankees to seven American League pennants and four World Series victories. He had so many fans in New York that when the team opened the new Yankee stadium in 1923, it also became known as "The House That Ruth Built."

        Ruth married Helen Woodford in 1914 but separated around 1926. She died in a fire in Watertown, Massachusetts in 1929. They had an adopted daughter Dorothy Ruth. When the Babe married Claire Hodgson he adopted her daughter Julia. Julia threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the final game in the original Yankee Stadium on September 21, 2008. As a retired couple, Ruth and Claire spent winters in Florida where he had a beachfront home in Treasure Island, Florida, near St. Petersburg.

        Ruth's career ended with the Boston Braves where he was trying to play one last year with the hope of managing the team the next season. The job never materialized probably due to his drinking and womanizing ways. He died of throat cancer August 16, 1948, in New York City. Ruth was just 53 years old and his body lay in state at Yankee Stadium for two days, visited by over 100,000 fans.

        Records and Awards
        • Ruth's 714 career home run record and 40 home runs in each of 11 seasons
          stood until 1974, when it was broken by Hank Aaron. 
        • Ruth's record of 60 home runs in a single season (1927) of 154 games stood until 1961, when Roger Maris knocked out 61 homers in an extended season of 162 games.
        • His career slugging percentage of .690 remains the highest in Major League history.
        • World Series Champion, 1916, 1918, 1926, 1928
        • Led League in home runs 12 times
        • 7-time American League Pennant winner
        • The Associated Press' Athlete of the Century, 1999
        • The Sporting News' Greatest Player of All Time, 1999

        Wednesday, June 1, 2011

        Redoing An Old Baker's Rack; Paint, Tiles and Grout Help to Make a Useful and Attractive Addition to My Backyard Deck

        I had an old, brown baker's rach that had been banished to the garage when our kitchen was redone a couple of years ago.  It became a handy shelving unit for paint and brushes but I had another purpose in mind.

        On our deck, my backyard set is charcoal gray and it's more than a couple of years old. Last year, I purchased a new umbrella, seat covers and pillows from Pottery Barn to give the set a new look. It was then that I thought of redoing the kitchen piece to complement the set and serve as an outdoor buffet. The unit had a bottom shelf and two top shelves in a grill style. The main shelf (at counter height) was wood and was a little beat up. I decided to mosaic tile the wooden piece so that it would wear well in summer and fall weather conditions.

        I  looked in some craft stores for mosaic tiles, but was unable to find the colors I wanted. Then I accidentally came across bags of glass and ceramic tiles in the Christmas Tree shop for the attractive price of $1.00 a bag! Some of the tiles were shell shaped, others flowers or just circular or square. I chose clear, iridescent, turquoise in light and dark shades, spring green and tiny orange tiles, all colors that appear in my backyard cushions and pillows. I needed about 10 bags to fill the shelf so the investment was pretty minimal. It was really a lucky find!

        Painting the piece was easy, tiling more of a challenge. I couldn't locate a charcoal colored spray paint so I had to work with black. I'm hoping time and sun will fade it a bit to look more like the table and chairs. Immediately the piece looked so much better!

        In the evening I worked on the mosaic. I created a centerpiece and corner designs first, then laid out the rest using the variety of pieces to their best advantage. After I had my pattern, I glued each piece in place using a mosaic tile glue available in craft stores. Before grouting, the tiles had to dry for 24-48 hours. I gave it a bit more time to dry and finally got to the grouting part today. I chose a charcoal grout color and followed the instructions on the box but honestly, it wasn't as easy as it sounded and I made quite a mess. One of the problems was that the tiles themselves were at varying heights so when I applied the grout, I had to dig down a bit to expose all of the tiles. My nails will never be the same!

        But upon completion, I was pleased with the result and rushed to put it in place tonight so that I could take a picture. It's not completely dry and not completely cleaned but I hope you'll agree that it's an attractive use of an outdated cast-off. I love the fact that it will hold many of the supplies used during a barbecue and look forward to many deck parties this summer.