Thursday, November 14, 2013

McRib vs. real Ribs...seeing is believing

A photo purporting to be a slab of frozen McRib "meat" is taking the internet by storm. The popular seasonal offering from McDonald's is usually seen in its fully-prepared state, slathered with barbeque sauce, onions and pickles on a hoagie roll. 

That image bears very little resemblance to the industrialized-looking, pale white hunk of frozen technology in the photo making the rounds now. 

Seeing fast food in its natural state really drives the point home that it is far from natural. 

Here's a little side-by-side photo collage I stitched together, showing the McDonald's version vs. real pork spareribs.  It's time we stopped settling for fake, processed foods loaded with sodium and chemicals. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veteran's Day 2013

To all who have served or are currently serving our country: THANK YOU.

This is a photo of my father from 1950, after he enlisted in the Navy. He was 18 years old, and was proud to serve his country. I miss him every day.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Mega Stuff Oreos

What you're looking at is NOT an Oreo cookie, nor is it a Double Stuff Oreo cookie. This, my friends, is the "Limited Edition" Mega Stuff Oreo.

Do you think someone over at Nabisco said, "Geez, you know, I just don't think Americans are quite fat enough. Sure, everyone talks about an obesity epidemic, but it's really not THAT bad yet. We need to do something to really kick things up a notch if we want to create a pandemic of obesity in the world."

And thus, the Mega Stuff Oreo was born.

Seriously, though: they're 90 calories per cookie.  So you're looking at 360 calories in that photo right there, with 36 grams of sugar--that's the equivalent of 9 teaspoons, three more than in a typical 12-oz can of regular soda.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A New Pope, A New Vision

Today, Roman Catholics throughout the world are talking about a candid interview Pope Francis gave, where he shared his perspective on some controversial issues, including abortion and homosexuality.

His progressive, inclusive approach is a stunning change from his predecessor. You can excerpts from the interview here on MSN.

His words give me hope, that the Church will realize it IS possible to stay true to itself, yet also become a welcoming, accepting, loving place for all. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

An Interesting Take on Gen Y

A friend shared this excellent, though-provoking blog post that theorizes why the young adults in "Generation Y" are so unhappy.  The overall gist:  delusion leads to disillusionment.

Before you disagree, read the article all the way through: Why Gen Y Yuppies are Unhappy

Monday, September 16, 2013

Pinecone Philosophy

I bought some cinnamon-scented pine cones and mini-pumpkins today to decorate the interior of the house for Fall. Such a simple little thing, but it really helps set a mood to welcome the new season. Pine cones were always one of my favorite things when I was a child--I used to love how you can turn them upside down and see the silhouette of a big pine if it knows somehow, no matter how far away it travels from home, to never forget where it came from.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Feast

I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where the big highlight of the summer season was the Italian Feasts held in Bensonhurst. There were amusement park rides, carnival games, popcorn, cotton candy, and food vendors selling the most delicious homemade Italian specialties: sausage and peppers, meatball heroes, porchetta sandwiches, and hot fried zeppole. 

Today, the Sons of Italy held an Italian Feast in a nearby town, and it instantly brought back so many wonderful childhood memories. The aroma of the foods cooking transported me right back to those good ole days in Brooklyn. We bought zeppole, ate sausage and peppers, rice balls, fried ravioli, and the girls won some stuffed animal prizes at the dart throw game. The park where it was held was packed with people, and we even spotted Caroline Manzo, one of the "Real Housewives of New Jersey" at a vendor booth. I overheard several attendees describing it as "a madhouse", but I loved every minute of it!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Weeds Welcome

I bought this garden sign a few weeks ago, because I loved its message. It shows sad, misunderstood little Eeyore, making a plea on behalf of the lowly, much-maligned weed: "Weeds are flowers, too," he says, "once you get to know them."  Unfortunately, I don't have the greenest of thumbs--okay, I admit it, I tend to kill every plant I touch. But weeds...weeds I can grow just fine! And so, I have an abiding affection for them. Most people hate weeds, and devote hours of time, great sums of money, and gallons of chemicals to get rid of them. Not me. I don't particularly like the prickly kind (thistle) or the itch-inducing kind (poison ivy), but the flowering ones (like the Creeping Charlie rising up behind Eeyore) are always welcome.

The way I see it, if a weed in my garden has the audacity to adorn itself with colorful flowers, and thrive despite the fact that most people would rather see it dead, well then it has earned the right to grow here in peace. Any living thing that strives to overcome such adversity while trying to make the world a more beautiful place is A-OK in my book.

Time Marches On

On rainy mornings like this, I used to love to cuddle up with my daughters and watch Little Bear. That was a long time ago, and although I was happy to see that the show is still on, it seems the years have not been kind to our furry little friend. Oh, dear. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Cover That Webcam!!

Here's a photo of my laptop:

As you can see, I have a piece of paper taped over the built-in camera/webcam. There's a good reason for this.  Last year, I had the opportunity to visit a Cybercrime Investigation Unit at a State Police facility.  I took part in an informative Homeland Security briefing about the various dangers that exist from hackers who attack computers in the United States.

The briefing was eye-opening and scary.  One of the things we talked about was the way that hackers can remotely access the camera on your computer and spy on you without your knowledge. This is not science fiction or a weird rumor: it's a fact.

Here's a link to the Ars Technica website with an article about this disturbing practice, known as "RATing":

The investigators I met advised that if you have a camera built in on your laptop or tablet, take immediate steps to disable it, and make sure you keep your computer's firewall secure at all times.  Check frequently for updates, and run anti-virus software automatically.

If you need a quick, low-tech solution, you can do what I did: grab a piece of tape and a scrap of paper and stop these criminals from invading your privacy!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Indoor S'mores in a Toaster Oven

Traditionally, s'mores are made while sitting around a campfire with your Girl Scout troop, and the recipe couldn't be simpler: a piece of Hershey's milk chocolate topped with toasted marshmallow and sandwiched between two graham crackers.

S'mores are a fun dessert that my kids love making all year 'round, not just in the summer. The problem has always been finding a way to toast the marshmallows just right, without burning your fingers or scorching the marshmallows. We've made them over the burners on our gas stove, and inevitably, the marshmallows either catch fire or take FOREVER to toast up, and it's really tough to brown them evenly.  We've tried toasting them over a fire in our fireplace, but you need to sit close in order to get a nice brown on the marshmallows, and when you do that, the heat coming off the hearth gets uncomfortable quickly. 

Fortunately, I finally found a method for browning the marshmallows that works really well, using the toaster oven.  You start with the usual: a graham cracker with chocolate candy bar pieces on top.

Then, lightly spray an aluminum foil-lined tray with non-stick cooking spray, and arrange mini-marshmallows in little groups on top.  Set the toaster oven to Bake at 400 degrees Farenheit and place the tray in the oven. 

VERY IMPORTANT: you must hover over these marshmallows and watch them really carefully. They take just a few minutes to start browning, but once they do, it takes less than 30 seconds to get dark brown. You need to watch them constantly, and as soon as they start to fatten and plump, grab a potholder and get ready. Open the oven to take a peek (it can be hard to see them browning at first) and then check them every 10 seconds until they're nice and toasty brown.

The tray will be HOT, but it's best if you work quickly at this point.  Holding the corner of the tray with one hand, use a spatula to scrape off a group of marshmallows and place them on top of the chocolate and first graham cracker. Then top with the other cracker and press lightly.  The heat from the marshmallows will melt the chocolate just right, and you'll end up with a perfectly ooey, gooey snack.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

iPhone 5 -- Volume Down Button not working?

Last September, I finally upgraded from my ancient Blackberry to an iPhone 5.   I still miss typing on keyboard buttons, but other than that, the phone has been great.

Lately, however, I've experienced two issues: the Home button doesn't always work when the phone is in "lock" mode.  I used to be able to press it and see the lock screen light up, but it stopped working.  I was able to work around it by pressing the power button lightly instead, so I didn't bother contacting Apple about it.

Then more recently, the Volume Down button on the side of the phone stopped working. Volume Up was just fine, but I could not lower the volume on the phone unless I clicked on iTunes, went to a song, and slid the volume control manually.

I did a quick search on the Apple support forums, and found that this is a common issue with the iPhone 5.   So, since my phone was still under warranty, I made an appointment with the Apple Genius Bar to have the phone checked out.

The tech took a look, and within a few seconds, he said, "Okay, it's a physical problem with the button, so we're giving you a new phone." I had already backed up everything on my computer the night before, so after erasing everything on the old phone, he handed me a brand new iPhone 5, just like that.

If you're experiencing the same issue, get to an Apple store while you're still under warranty. Just make sure you back up all of your data and pictures first!

**UPDATE**:  Just wanted to mention that if you are purchasing electronics, it's always best to use an American Express card whenever possible. They have an "extended warranty" program that was a godsend for us when my daughter's iPhone 5 cracked and wasn't working properly.   Her 1-year warranty had already expired, but we contacted AmEx and they paid for her to get a replacement phone from Apple.  Something to keep in mind!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

In Support of Marriage Equality

Today, the US Supreme Court is hearing arguments on whether or not Marriage Equality is a Constitutional Right.  I support marriage equality. Too many bright, vibrant lives have been cut short by discrimination and violence against homosexuals: in 2011, "anti-gay" murders reached an all-time high in the United States. Victims like Matthew Shepard (who was brutally murdered) and Tyler Clementi (who committed suicide after being outed and humiliated) are no longer here to speak for themselves.  It's time to stand up for tolerance and equality.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Matzoh Ball Soup!

I made Matzoh Ball Soup for the first time today, in honor of Passover.  No, it's not a holiday I celebrate personally, but I saw the instant mix in the store, and it was cold and dreary outside, and I thought, "Why not?"

Here's the mix I used....

and here's the finished product...

It was delicious!  The box says "makes 9 to 12 matzoh balls" but if you're doing it correctly, you'll end up with 12.  Don't make them any larger than 1" round (like a ping pong ball) because they double in size when you cook them.  In addition to the mix, you'll need two eggs and some vegetable oil.  I also sprinkled some dried parsley into the soup when it was done to add a splash of color.  It's basically instant chicken broth with dumplings, but it was just the thing to warm me up on a chilly Spring night. Definitely worth giving this mix a try. I've made other instant products by Manischewitz (potato latkes, in particular) and I've always had great results.

Passover 2013

I'm not Jewish, but that didn't stop me from taking part in the Passover holiday preparations this year. My youngest daughter went to a Seder tonight, so I got a recipe from a friend for Peach Kugel.  I've only had kugel made with egg noodles, not matzoh farfel, so the texture was different from what I was used to, but the end result was still delicious. It's similar to bread pudding, and tastes best when it's warmed up (I put a little Redi-Whip whipped cream on top--not exactly kosher, but delicious nevertheless).

Here's the recipe:

Peach Kugel for Passover 
1 lb farfel
1/2 lb margarine or butter, melted
7 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
large can of sliced peaches
sugar and cinnamon for dusting

In a colander or strainer, pour boiling water over the farfel. Drain well and put into a bowl. Add the melted butter and mix well. Beat the eggs and then add to the farfel mixture, mixing well to combine.  Add the vanilla, salt and sugar and mix well again.  Strain the peaches and add the liquid to the farfel mixture.  Put half of the farfel mixture into a well-greased rectangular pan, then arrange half of the sliced peaches in rows on top.  Sprinkle with some sugar and cinnamon, then add the rest of the farfel mixture and top with the remaining peach slices.  Sprinkle the top with some sugar and cinnamon.  Bake for 1 hour at 375 degrees Farenheit.  Serve warm.

This is what the container of farfel looks like, fyi: it's really just crumbled up Matzoh.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Acapellapalooza 2013

My daughter is in an acapella group at college.  Recently, they had a big concert featuring all of the acapella groups on campus, and the videos are up on YouTube.  I couldn't make it there for this performance, but these kids are so talented, I just had to share:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Started my day with this gorgeous sunrise.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Treasures from Two Buttons

One of the two gold dragons guarding the entrance 
Ever since I found out that Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love has a store in Frenchtown, New Jersey, I've wanted to drive out there to check it out. The store is filled with things that she and her husband have collected during their travels around the world, with a particular emphasis on Indonesia and India.

Today, I finally got there, and I was not disappointed.

The store is filled with so many things, it would be impossible to list them all. I saw statues of Hindu gods and goddesses, including Buddha, Ganesha, Shiva, and Vishnu.  There were elephant statues of all sizes, some made of metal and others carved of wood. There are colorful Thai robes, pashmina and silk scarves, silk men's ties, and handmade purses. So much beautiful jewelry: beaded and pearl bracelets, necklaces, prayer beads, and glass earrings.  The walls are adorned with decorative mirrors and paintings, and throughout the store you'll find weathered wood furniture and carvings. I also saw ceramic bowls, stone fossils, colorful geodes, hand woven placemats, Tibetan prayer flags and Tibetan singing bowls that come with a colorful, padded cushion. Brightly colored doorknobs and drawer pulls, tin signs, hand-held fans, and all of Elizabeth Gilbert's books hand-signed by the author. There were items that cost thousands of dollars, and items as inexpensive as 50 cents apiece.

Here are the things I bought today, from top to bottom, right to left: a copper Sakyamuni Buddhi head with a beautiful natural patina; Tingshaws (pairs of hanging cymbals used in Buddhist ceremonies); a piece of the Tunguska meteorite that fell to Earth in Siberia in 1908; a hand-carving of a lizard in a piece of driftwood; a piece of Bismuth crystal, with its unique stair-step pattern and rainbow irridescence; a tiny pig figurine carved out of glittery goldstone; a wooden cross in a whitewash finish.




There was so much there, I could have spent at least another hour looking through it all. Two Buttons does have a limited number of items available for purchase online. I ordered this Ganesha pendant necklace a few months ago:

Such a cool store, filled with interesting and unique items from the other side of the world. Next time, I'm going to plan to stay in Frenchtown for the day, and visit some of the quaint antique shops and cafes I saw as I drove through. Here are a few more photos from the shop:
Statue just inside the shop

A massive gargoyle statue

Friday, March 8, 2013


Hopefully this is our LAST big snowstorm of the season.

My daughter's snowman to mark the occasion:

Monday, March 4, 2013

Healthy Egg, Ham & Cheese? Yes!

A friend recently gave me a recipe for low-calorie "egg muffins", and they're my new favorite thing to have for breakfast.  They're easy to make, and much tastier than the chewy, chemical-filled frozen breakfast options at the grocery store.  You can bake a bunch of them ahead of time and refrigerate (or even freeze) them for a quick, healthy breakfast.

Use whatever vegetables you enjoy; I used zucchini and onions this time because that's what I had on hand, but mushrooms, asparagus, and shredded carrots would work well, too. I'm going to list the specific, name-brand ingredients that I used, so that you can duplicate this recipe exactly. The calorie counts and other nutritional info given at the end are for the recipe as written. So keep in mind, if you make product substitutes (like real eggs or full-fat cheese), the nutritional info will vary from what is listed below. Switching up the veggies won't make much difference on the calorie count, so feel free to get creative with that.

Egg, Ham & Cheese Breakfast Muffins

Pam non-stick cooking spray
Metal muffin tin pans (6 muffins each)
1/2 cup Sargento Reduced Fat 4 Cheese Mexican Shredded Cheese
6 oz (3 slices with rind cut off) Smithfield Sliced Honey Cured Boneless Ham, diced small
1/2 of a small zucchini, diced
1/2 small onion, diced
1 1/2 cups Egg Beaters Original

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Spray the muffin tin with Pam and set aside (don't use paper cupcake liners!). In a small bowl, combine the shredded cheese, ham, zucchini & onion. Spoon the mixture directly into the six muffin cups, dividing evenly (about 2 heaping TBS per muffin). Add 2 TBS of Egg Beaters to each muffin cup, which is just enough to cover the veggie/cheese mixture and bind it all together.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly, then run a butter knife along the edges to loosen the muffins and pop them out onto a wire rack.  You can eat them immediately or let them cool completely and refrigerate for later. Makes 12 muffins.

Nutritional info per muffin: 50 calories, 1.4 g fat, 1.3g carb, 7g protein, 0.8g sugar.

Even if you eat 6 of these, you're still looking at a 300 calorie breakfast. I like to switch things up: sometimes I'll have two of the egg muffins on a toasted English Muffin, for a hearty and satisfying 210 calorie breakfast. Or, on days when I want to stay more low-carb, I'll eat 4 of them and call it a day.  These keep for about a week in the fridge, so you can enjoy them over the course of several days. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Leap and the Net Will Appear

"I must be willing to give up what I am 
in order to become what I will be."
--Albert Einstein

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Light One Candle

It is better to light one small candle
than to curse the darkness

Wise words from the fortune in my cookie tonight.
Happy Chinese New Year!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Snow Cream! Our blizzard tradition

When my eldest daughter was little, one of her favorite television shows was the cartoon Little Bear, based on the book series by Maurice Sendak.  In one of her very favorite episodes (Snowbound), Little Bear and his friend Emily's grandmother make "Snow Cream".  We've been making our own version ever since, whenever there's big snowstorm.

We're in the middle of a blizzard at the moment, and even though my "baby" is away at college now, her younger sisters and I continued with the tradition and made a batch.  Here's how:

Fill a small bowl with clean, fluffy snow. In a separate bowl, whip 2 cups of heavy cream with a teaspoon of vanilla extract and about a 1/4 cup powdered sugar (or more if you like it sweeter). Gently combine the snow into the whipped cream mixture, repeating the following rhyme (as recited in the Little Bear episode) as you stir:

"Whether the weather be cold,
or weather the weather be hot,
We'll weather the weather whatever the weather,
whether we like it or not!"

You'll get 4-6 servings. Top with sprinkles, a cherry, chocolate syrup, and enjoy!

Thank you, Maurice Sendak, for what has become a wonderful Winter tradition for our family.

Buy or view the full episode on Amazon: 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Goodbye GoDaddy!


That was reaction upon seeing the latest in a seemingly endless stream of offensive commercials from  This one, which aired during the Superbowl, was not only disgusting, it finally spurred me to take action and cancel several of the domains I had reserved through GoDaddy.  I have a few others that I manage for clients, and am now in the process of shopping around for a new registrar so that I can move those and delete my GoDaddy account for good.

Here's a link to a site that explains the steps you need to follow in order to move your domain from GoDaddy to another carrier:

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Easy Chicken Pot Pie Recipe

We've been having a cold snap here in my area, with below-freezing temperatures for several days.  I wanted to make something hearty and comforting for dinner, so I decided to find a recipe for Chicken Pot Pie.

It was my first attempt, and turned out great, thanks to an easy recipe I found on Pillsbury's website.  This would be a perfect way to use up leftover cooked chicken or turkey, and it uses frozen vegetables, ready-made pie crust, chicken broth--all things I usually keep handy. It doesn't take long to prep (especially if you already have cooked chicken) and took 35 minutes to bake.  I checked it after 15 minutes and put strips of foil around the edges so the crust wouldn't burn, then put it back for the last 20 minutes. I let it rest for more than 5 minutes, but it was still piping hot. I used a spoon to scoop it into serving bowls, since this type of pie doesn't come out in perfect, firm little slices.  Delicious!

I didn't have any leftover chicken, so I started by sauteing chicken strips in a little butter, then dicing and shredding it.  I also substituted chicken stock for the chicken broth, because I find that stock imparts a much richer flavor. (That's what I started doing for all of my crockpot recipes, too: any stews or soups that call for water, I substitute the appropriate type of stock instead.  The end result is much more flavorful.)

Here's a photo of the finished product (before cooking, at right, and after, below). The Chicken Pot Pie was absolutely delicious, and best of all, there's plenty left over for lunch tomorrow!