Sunday, November 30, 2008

C-Span: My Late-Night Television

Generally, I am a pretty good sleeper. Occasionally though, I awake in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep. When this happens I usually click on the television and try to find something to occupy my restless mind. Often, it's something on C-Span. While we in the U.S. are sleeping, things are happening in the rest of the world. Sometimes they happen live on C-Span. I didn't realize this until July 1st 1999. The Scottish Parliament was meeting for the first time in almost 300 years. They televised the opening ceremony in Edinburgh on C-Span, and I stumbled upon it.

It was a historic occasion, and I was witnessing it as it happened. The stately old buildings of Edinburgh were impressive. The pomp and pageantry were fascinating. I was touched by the emotion of the people. I was inspired and I was happy that I hadn't slept through the night and missed it all.

Recently, I stumbled upon an old Press Club event. It took place during the Clinton administration, and they were "roasting" Rahm Emanuel. This was just after President-elect Obama had named him as his "right hand man" and I didn't know anything about him. I learned a lot about both Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod that night. I saw what good friends they are and how important their families are to them. I learned that Rahm Emanuel had served in the IDF. I heard about his reputation as a "pit bull" and got a taste of his sense of humor. I thought it was a good way to learn more about these two people about whom we will will be hearing in the near future.

Last night, I awoke at 4:00 a.m. and met another fascinating person on C-Span. They were broadcasting a talk by Marin Alsop. I had no idea who Marin Alsop was. I soon found out she is the first woman to direct a major U.S. symphony. She is director and conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. She talked about the importance of teaching young children about music, explaining how music education helps students in all areas of learning.
Under her direction, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has begun a program called Orchkids. Orchkids is an after-school program for children in low-income areas of Baltimore, in which they are taught about music, given instruments and lessons and mentored. Their slogan is "Planting Seeds for a Bright Future".

She talked about a similar program called "El Sistema" which was started in Venezuela in 1975. It has taken children from the poorest areas and introduced them to a whole new world through music. They travel the world, and have appeared at Carnegie Hall. This program was the brainchild of one man, Jose Antonio Abreu.

Marin Alsop also spoke of being inspired by Leonard Bernstein's Young Peoples' Concerts in the 1950s. I remember being inspired by them, too. I saw them on television as a child. I have just learned that the entire series is now available on DVD. I am so glad to hear that.

So, sometimes in the middle of the night, when I can't sleep, I learn about things that I find worthwhile and fascinating. I learn about things I hadn't known before. It's nice to discover these things at 4:00 in the morning.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

No thanks! Not me! I never go near a store on Black Friday. It's scary out there! I just heard that a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death by the mob this morning, and a pregnant woman suffered a miscarriage after being knocked down.

I am very happy to stay at home by the fire and eat leftovers.

If you are going out there to shop... be careful!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Remembering Miss Kitty

Miss Kitty shared her final years with us. She was a "stray" cat that showed up in our back yard two summers ago. She didn't act like a stray, though. It seemed she craved human company as much as food and water. Every time we went out into our yard or on the porch, she was there. If we sat down, she came over and jumped into our laps. She would sit in your lap for as long as you would let her, purring contentedly. Whenever we were outside doing yard work, she would follow us around, sitting in the sun nearby. When we went for a walk, she followed us all the way around the block.

One day when she was on my lap, I noticed she didn't have any claws in her front paws. That was the first clue we had that she once was someone's pet. Over time, we became convinced that she had also been spayed because she never went into heat and didn't become pregnant. She was well-behaved and polite and gentle with children. We wondered who her people were, and how they had become separated. I put her photo up in the local vet's office and asked around the neighborhood.

In the meantime, we fed her regularly and took her for shots. We tried to take her into the house with our other three cats, but they would not accept her; nor would she accept them. So, she became our outdoor cat. We bought her a small dog house and put straw and a blanket in it. She slept there every night. In the morning she came to the door for her food and water. During the day she often went around visiting with neighbors.

Several days ago, Miss Kitty stopped eating and became lethargic. We brought her in and let her stay in the basement so we could keep an eye on her. My husband sat with her last night and became convinced she was near death. I called the vet and made an appointment for this morning. When we came downstairs to get her, she was lying still with her eyes wide open. We were afraid she had died overnight. When she moved her tail slightly at our approach, we realized she still lived. My husband took her to the vet and came home with tears in his eyes. They said she must have been very old, and had complete kidney failure. He let them put her to sleep.

We will miss Miss Kitty. She was a real presence in our lives, but we will never know her full story.

Over the River and Through the Woods...

Whether you are traveling near...

or far...

or staying at home by the fire...

I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving.

P.S. If you are in another country not having Thanksgiving tomorrow... I hope you have a happy weekend! ( I didn't want to leave you out of my thoughts.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tilapia with Tomato, Garlic & Capers (and a couple other things)

In yesterday's post, I talked about tilapia. One of my readers, Anya, was kind enough to ask if I would post the recipe for tilapia with tomato, garlic and capers. So, here it is! I got this recipe from my local newspaper. The first time I made it I was home alone. It was so good I ate the whole recipe by myself (first night for dinner, and next day for lunch... not all at once!).
If I had known I was going to post it, I would have taken pictures, but I added pictures of some of the ingredients just to brighten it up.

4 tilapia filets
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1 cup chopped tomato
2 cloves garlic
2 T. capers
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 T. lemon juice
4 T. butter
3 tsp. olive oil

Combine flour, salt & pepper and dredge filets in the mixture.
Heat 2 T. of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook filets for three to four minutes on each side.
Remove filets to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
Add 1 T. oil to pan. Saute the onion until translucent.
Add tomato, garlic and capers and stir.
Add wine and lemon juice and boil until reduced by half.
Add butter to mixture.
Pour over fish and serve.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tilapia... It Brings Back Memories

Last night I cooked tilapia for dinner. It has become a favorite fish to cook at home. I found two recipes that I particularly like: one is pan-fried with panko bread crumbs and parmesan. The other is braised with onion, garlic, capers, tomatoes and white wine. Every time I have tilapia I think of the time I had it in Israel. There, they call it St. Peter's Fish. They catch it from the Sea of Galilee. There, the Sea of Galilee is called Lake Kinneret, or Lake Tiberias.

In 1993 I went on a trip to Israel. I was stunned by the beauty of the place. We traveled from the northernmost point near Lebanon to the southernmost point at Eilat, on the Red Sea (where we experienced an earthquake, by the way). There is an amazing variety of landscapes in such a small country, from rugged, barren rock and desert to green and lush gardens and fields. The Galilee is a green, lush area, where the city of Tiberias is located. Tiberias is located on the shore of the Sea of Galiliee, and you can see the Golan Heights in the distance.

We took a boat ride across Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galiliee). The boat took us to the city of Tiberias, which is beautiful. One night while we were staying in Tiberias, our guide took us out into the countryside for dinner on the shores of the lake. It was a magical night. We drove for miles and miles in the dark. Finally, we came to a small clearing lit with torches and furnished with several tents. They were cooking St. Peter's fish on outdoor fires. We sat at long tables under the stars. The waiters brought us each a whole fish on a platter, then proceeded to filet it for each of us, individually. It was delicious. And the setting was perfect. When I think back on it, it almost seems like a dream.

So, that's what I think of when I have tilapia.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The i-Phone Saga and How I Stumbled into the 21st Century

They launched it...

People stood in line for it...

People camped out for it...

Now I have it, too.

Now, I have to master it! A young man at the Apple Store spent about thirty minutes showing me the basics of using the multiple features of the i-Phone. Then he sent me off on my own. Now I have a whole new thing to learn.

Three years ago, I didn't know the first thing about the internet. I didn't even know what Google was. I felt like I was becoming a dinosaur, out of touch. A lot of my friends were communicating by e-mail and I was missing out on things. At the time, we had a ten-year old computer with a dial-up connection... you know, the one that made the screeching and buzzing sounds. My husband insisted we didn't need a new computer. He had a new computer in his home office, but I couldn't use it as it belongs to his employer and has all kinds of security codes.

Over a couple of months, I did my research and began saving up my money. I decided to get a little laptop, a MacBook. I found out I had to go an hour up to Cincinnati to the Apple Store to get one. So, I drove up and got my MacBook. I was afraid of it at first. I brought it home, set in on my dining room table and plugged it in. I had no idea how to make it do anything. I signed up for some classes at the Apple Store, and learned the basics.

Soon I realized I needed an internet connection. My husband and I argued about it for weeks. He insisted we could splice my connection in with his company connection so we wouldn't have to set up a new connection for me. It turned out we couldn't do that. I tried the phone company, but it somehow interfered with the connection he already had. I finally decided we needed a cable connection. However, our house was not yet connected to cable. I couldn't convince him we needed a cable connection so, dare I say, I took matters into my own hands.

One week when he was out of town I called the cable company. The next morning, a man was out front digging in our yard. My next door neighbor called, asking me if I knew what he was doing. "Yes!" I told her, we are getting cable! Then another guy had to come out to set up my internet connection.

I was on the web! I began discovering a whole new world! Of course, at the time I had no idea of what a "blog" was. It didn't take me long to find them, though. I began reading blogs, linking to more blogs, and setting up bookmarks. I found my favorites and read them regularly. I didn't leave comments because I had no idea how to do it. But I read the comments that others were making. After a few months of lurking, I took it upon myself to learn how to set up a Blogger account and make comments. After a few more months of this, I decided to create a blog of my own. And the rest is history.

Sometimes I can't believe how much I have learned over these past two years. I read my favorite blogs every day, and have made contact with some lovely people. It's amazing... I can communicate with people all over the world from my own house. Now, with the i-Phone I can do even more. I can take it with me in my pocket and watch movies, listen to music, get e-mails, and read blogs. When I was a kid, the 21st century seemed a million years away... now, I feel like a part of it!

But, first, I have to master this i-Phone. Here I go again... wish me luck!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Guess Where I Am Going Today?

My old cell phone has been acting funny for a while. The other day, it finally died.
So, guess where I am going today?

And guess why I am going there?

Please wish me luck. I will probably be the oldest person there!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Eagles... Still Rockin"

Last night we went to The Eagles concert in Cincinnati. They were amazing! It was like being young again. We didn't get home until after midnight, and that almost never happens anymore!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"I'm Confused!"

I love these people!

One of my favorite movies is "Moonstruck". Although I've never been a big fan of either Cher or Nicolas Cage, I enjoyed this movie tremendously. The writing was fantastic. I cheered when John Patrick Shanley won the Oscar for Best Screenplay. Most of all, I loved the supporting characters and the actors who played them. John Mahoney, Olympia Dukakis, Danny Aiello, Vincent Gardenia, and Louis Guss (the grandfather). There were so many wonderful moments in that movie, my favorites involving the supporting characters. I loved the uncle rhapsodizing about the moon. I loved the sad sweetness of John Mahoney's character. I loved Olympia Dukakis' tart outspokenness and Vincent Gardenia's harmless gruffness. I loved the clumsy cluelessness of Danny Aiello. I loved the look on the grandfather's face when all hell is breaking loose and he says "I'm confused". I quote him often: "I'm confused!" I always think of him when I say it. I can identify with that feeling so well.

What made me think of this? Actually, the economy did. I was listening to testimony before the House Financial Services Committee on CNN this morning. I was going to write a whole, long post about the issues they were discussing, but it makes my head hurt. I had one of those "I'm confused" moments. I decided it was more fun to look back at "Moonstruck".

Monday, November 17, 2008

Good Friends: The Greatest Gift of All

This was our first stop when we arrived in Philadelphia... to the home of our traveling companions. We have shared houses on several Caribbean islands and in Mexico with them. We went on a barge trip in France with them. They came to our daughter's wedding in California. We went to Israel together, where we experienced an earthquake, floated in the Dead Sea, and climbed Masada. (Well, they climbed... I had to take the cable car up. It was hot!) They are wonderful friends. We continue to share happy times with them whenever we can get together, and plan to do more traveling together in the future.

This is our friendly host. If you stop at his house, you can be sure he will pour you a glass of wine!

This is my friend speaking in sign language with her son, who is brilliant and deaf, and has the three most adorable children. The next picture shows those three children, with their grandfather (our host with the wine).

Then, we went to visit our next-door neighbors. They are the best neighbors anyone could want. We visited on each others' decks in the summer and sat at their kitchen table in the winter. She looked after our cat when we went away, even though the cat frightened her. He was the type of neighbor who could fix anything... he fixed our kitchen sink, put a new chandelier in our dining room, and when our basement flooded he brought his own sump pump over to replace our broken one. She directed me to the grocery, the bank, the post office, and introduced me to all the other neighbors. They are a big part of the reason we loved our neighborhood. There I go, gushing again. Sorry, guys.

Also, sorry for the blurry pictures. It's not me... it's the camera (sure!). I took pictures of lots of other friends at the engagement party we attended but my flash didn't work, so I will just have to get together with them all again to retake them!

Our Old Neighborhood

Over the weekend we went back to Philadelphia to visit friends. As I have posted before, I loved working in Center City Philadelphia. On this visit we didn't go into the city, but were out in the suburbs where we used to live. I thoroughly enjoyed living there. It's a beautiful area, with a feel of history all around. There are lots of stone houses and old-fashioned buildings. I took some photos of some of my favorites.

This is the Upper Dublin Friends Meeting House.

This is called the Wayside Chapel... we went to a friend's wedding here.

This house was just down the road from us. When we went for walks, we always passed by it.

This is a pretty stone house I always liked. It's right around the corner from where we lived. We always passed by here on walks, too.

This is a bed and breakfast a few miles from our old house.

More to follow tomorrow... I took a lot of photos!