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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

For the past few months I've been struggling to lose weight. I just can't seem to get back on track, I've even stopped going to the gym.

I had volunteered to bring a cake to a meeting so the other day I decided to make a crumb cake. For some reason the crumbs fell to the bottom of the cake. As every baker knows, in a cake, presentation is everything. I just couldn't bring an ugly cake to the meeting. I made another cake which turned out well.

Because of my upbringing and membership in the Clean Plate Club, I just couldn't throw the ugly cake out. I ate it over the course of three days. It was delicious.

Of course, it doesn't help my struggle very much. Now that the temptation is gone maybe I can concentrate on eating more of the proper foods and the desserts in moderation.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Wall Street Woes

Today, the market tanked. Although I'm an optimistic person, I did think it was going too high too fast, but I never expected it to fall so quickly.

There is one bright spot (see, I said I was an optimist). At one point the Dow was down 546 pts., but it did recover a bit and closed at 416.

My virtual portfolio did take a hit today, but I did manage to sell two stocks for a total profit of about $2000.00. I sold when the market was down only 200 pts. Now I have cash to make some buys.

In spite of the plunge and all the red numbers, the one stock that I sold short is still above my selling price. I can't believe it, and it's not even a good stock.

There's always tomorrow. Let's hope the Dow follows the trend of late afternoon. The Shanghai Exchange is trading lower now. Remember, it's not a loss until you sell. Now's the time to buy.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Social Clubs

Some people are so thick.

I've just returned from a meeting of a social club in the area. The by-laws were presented to the membership and approved about three months ago. Tonight one of the women wanted to know if the by-laws could be amended to change us to a social, civic and charitable organization. The president explained that at the present time, we could only be a social organization. In the future, with other officers, they may amend the by-laws.

The explanation seemed very clear to me. Wait until November of this year and the new officers will consider amending the by-laws. This woman kept insisting on our doing some charitable work and fundraising now. She just wouldn't accept that the present officers want to keep us a social organization with various speakers and demonstrations. There is a lot of paperwork involved in becoming a charitable organization. This woman insisted that we take a vote tonight to amend the by-laws in spite of what the president explained.

This kind of harping on your own idea and not listening to an explanation from a knowledgable person is what is killing clubs.

I left the meeting while they were pushing for a vote. I don't know what they decided, they may still be arguing about why the by-laws won't be amended before November.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Oscars

I've been watching the Oscars tonight, well sort of watching. There was a good WITHOUT A TRACE followed by CROSSING JORDAN, which was very good. Thank goodness for a remote. I'm sure though that I missed a great deal of the Oscars, but I did catch one of my favorite parts - the listing of those who died this past year. It's very macabre, but I do like to see them once more.

The parts of the Oscars I saw were pretty good. The women were very tastefully dressed. I can't comment on any of the winners since I haven't been to the movies in years. Helen Mirren gave a very nice acceptance speech.

The show has run very late, hope it ends soon. It's past my bedtime.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

International Weird but True

An Australian man caught a 4 foot long shark with his bare hands, but only because he was drunk at the time. Phillip Kerklof, 41, said he realized how stupid his actions were when he sobered up the next day. "I guess you can say it was the vodka spurring me on", he said, noting that he'd been "a bit of an idiot".

Police in China were baffled when their DNA evidence pointed to the same man committing two different crimes simultaneously. After further review, the eggheads at the Ministry of Public Security in Shuangcheng proved the separate break-ins and rapes in the city were pulled off by identical twins - the only people in the world with identical DNA. The brothers confessed to both crimes.

It's not every day that 20 trucks loaded with 200 tons of steel show up at a scrapyard waiting to be sold. But that's what landed two Macedonian men behind bard. Police said the two men took down two 30 foot bridges, piece by piece, from over the rivers Crna Reka and Rajec and tried to cash in. They were caught after the scrapyard dealer got suspicious. Didn't anyone notice that the bridges were missing?

A Brazilian woman discovered that the cause of the stomachache she suffered for the past 23 years was a scalpel that had been left in her abdomen since she had a Caesarean section in 1984. She says she is considering legal action against the public hospital. "Doctors always told me that I had nothing and that it was only a question of age," she said.

There are strange things happening all over the world.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Britney & Anna Nicole

There was no escaping it all week. The escapades of Britney Spears and the hearing for the final resting place of Anna Nicole Smith.

I couldn’t help drawing a comparison between the two. Anna Nicole was a drug user, I don’t know if she was addicted, but she did use/abuse drugs. I also don’t know if Britney Spears is an alcoholic, but she is an alcohol abuser.

In both cases, the people closest to them overlooked or denied their abuse. Britney’s family does not have to look too far into the future to see her outcome, they just have to turn on the TV to see that Britney will end up just like Anna Nicole.

In both cases there are innocent children involved. Child Protective Services should have stepped in and supervised the care of Britney’s children after the picture of her driving with her baby on her lap.

I’m glad that Britney has checked into rehab. Hopefully she will stay this time and get the help she needs. Her children need her. We don’t need to see another trial to see who will get to bury Britney – her mother, her ex-husband or her children.

The whole situation is very sad, and the newspapers are making money from all this. Let’s not forget the “comedians” who have taken every opportunity to get laughs from the situation of these very troubled women.

There is one individual who doesn’t believe in kicking a person when she’s down. Craig Ferguson has decided not to make any jokes about Britney. He’s to be commended. Thank you Craig for doing the right thing.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Obituary

All couch potatoes should hit the mute button for a moment of silence. The co-inventor of the TV remote has died. Robert Adler who was 93 died of heart failure at a Boise nursing home. In his six decade career with Zenith he earned more than 180 U.S. patents, but was best known for his 1956 Zenith Space Command remote control. He started with Zenith in 1941 in their research division and retired in 1979 as a vice president. He stayed with Zenith as a consultant until 1999 when Zenith merged with LG Electronics.

His most recent patent application for advances in touch screen technology was published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on February 1.

We all owe him a debt of gratitude for making it easier to watch several programs at once.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

This morning I read in the NEW YORK POST about a four month baby girl who left the hospital. This doesn't seem unusual unless you know the whole story.

This baby, Amillia Taylor weighed less than 10 ounces when she was born on October 14, 21 weeks and six days after in-vitro conception. She was only 9 1/2 inches long and was perfectly formed. I saw pictures of her feet, each was about long as two joints of her doctor's finger. The doctor said she even tried to cry.

This story reminded me of another baby. Forty-odd years ago, friends of ours had a baby boy early in March. This baby was due in June. He weighed 1 lb. 11 oz. and was rushed to Long Island Jewish Hospital, one of the few hospitals equipped to care for preemies at that time. Fortunately, he survived and at the time was the smallest baby boy in New York who survived. The only problem he had was a weakness in his eyes, probably a result of the oxygen given in the incubator. Medical science has come a long way.

When you see a baby who is born less than 22 weeks after conception and who survives, you wonder why some states allow abortions in the second trimester. Actually, I always wonder why any state would allow abortion period.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Atlantic City

Today I went to Atlantic City with some members of the community. I had wanted to go to play the slots and see the show - Dianne Carroll.

I was having such a good time on the slots that I missed the show.

There was a little bit of luck involved, but I'm also finally learning how to play the slots. Whenever I build up $40.00 or more in credits, I cash out. If I want to stay on that machine, I add more cash and put the credit in a separate pocket of my purse. I was even so smug about my "system" that when a woman sitting near me hit for a good amount of money, I told her to cash out. Surprisingly, she did.

Anyway, the result of my new knowledge is that today I actually came home with more money than I brought with me.

I'm looking forward to my next trip.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Collections

Some people collect stamps, some people collect coins. Both are reasonable collections, but they don't have much use. Oh, some day that perfect stamp or coin will come along, but most collectors would just look at it, never sell it. It would have no practical use.

My collection, some would call it an obsession, is cookbooks. Whenever I travel I buy a regional cookbook. Today I inventoried my books. I have 210, unless you separately count the 12 volumes of the Encyclopedia of Cooking, then I would have 222.

I have books that have been personally signed by the author and some that I have had since my teen years. The first book I ever bought was the MYSTERY CHEF COOKBOOK. It had a recipe for a butter cake that was very similar to a recipe my mother had used and, unfortunately, lost. I also have, but don't use, the book that originally had the butter cake recipe, but that page is the only missing one. That book dates back to the late '30's or early '40's and is kept sealed in plastic away from the kitchen.

I have books on Italian, French, German, and Mexican cooking. I have diet cookbooks, dessert books, seasonal books. I have just about any topic you can think of.

I've also been given cookbooks as gifts. It's so nice to receive such a gift.

What makes my collection better than a collection of stamps or coins? That's easy. I get to use my collection whenever I'm hungry or looking for that perfect food for a party.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Virtual Portfolio

I started this portfolio with $100,000.00. Fortunately, it's not real money, it's virtual. I have made a profit of $2,900.00 since January 1. This might seem like a lot to an ordinary investor, but I noticed that others in this contest have made $50,000.00.

I decided to get more aggresive, so, after watching a stock go down for a few days, it seemed like a good idea to sell short. Bad move. Now this stock is going up and I may be faced with the problem of buying it at a higher price than I sold it. This is not the way it is supposed to work.

I may get another chance. In March, I am going to get another virtual portfolio worth $1,000,000.00. Let's see what I can do with that.

Got any good stock tips?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Mellowing

I'm beginning to get a little concerned about myself. I seemed to have lost my fight.

The other day we lost power because of the storm, I just accepted it. There was a time not too long ago when I would have been on the phone with the electric company insisting they fix the problem immediately.

Tuesday I brought my car in for repairs. The job was supposed to take two days. Late yesterday they called and said it wouldn't be ready until this afternoon. I had plans to meet a friend today, but had to cancel. Again I didn't argue, I just accepted.

This is not me, I enjoy a good argument and expect everything to work properly and be delivered exactly when promised. Have I become too laid back?

I'd better find my soapbox and dust it off before it's too late. Surely I can find something to get excited and fight about. I suppose there's always taxes and politics.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Animal Tales

I've always thought that animals had a certain instinct that kept them out of trouble. Here are two animals who are missing that instinct.

In Putnam County this week a deer wandered onto the ice and fallen into Lake Gleneida. He was frozen and trying to get out of the water. Firefighters responded to the call that the deer was in the icy waters about 50 to 100 feet from the shoreline. A hovercraft was called along with a dive rescue team. Several firefighters suited in cold-weather gear were ready to go into the water. Rescuers in the hovercraft reached out and pulled the deer to safety. He was warmed up with blankets and after it was determined that he was healthy, he was set free.

A seven month old barn cat is expected to live after landing in a water trough and getting his tail trapped in three inches of ice. The cat, named Droopy, is healing after being freed with hot water, but lose his tail.

On a lighter note, a special restaurant in Nepal is catering to vultures by serving organic carcass of cattle. Conservationists say the birds are being threatened with extinction because they cvowe carcasses tainted with a deadly drug. "Our effort is to let at least some vultures eat safe food", said the group's chief.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ice Storm

For the past few days the media have been predicting a nor'easter would hit the New York area. Some ares received snow, but here in New Jersey we had ice.

The trees were covered in ice, it's a beautiful sight. A neighbor's tree was so weighted down with ice that it looks bent in half. I'm sure once everything warms up, it will straighten up.

The ice caused other problems. We lost power for about six hours. It's good to have lights again. I'm lucky, I have a gas fired fireplace so I could stay relatively warm and I was able to cook on the gas stove, as long as I lit it with a match. Fortunately I have lots of candles, but they don't compare with a 100w bulb. Of course, with two cats I had to be careful with the candles.

I had just reconciled myself to a dark night when the lights came on. I had thought that if it was dark all over, I just might be able to see the stars. The stars are one of the things I miss about living upstate New York.

I tried to attach some pictures of the ice laden trees, but I don't know if it will work.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

2008 Election

Here it is 19 months before the presidential election and there are so many candidates announcing their intent.

I would like to know why we have a black candidate, a woman candidate and a Mormon candidate. Why can't we have a senator from Illinois, a senator from New York and a former governor of Massachusetts.

I have no problem with a candidate who happens to be black, or a woman, or a Mormon, but why does that have to be their identity. Surely there's more to them than that.

We have a former mayor of New York, not an Italian candidate. He is a leader because he was a mayor, not because he's Italian. Maybe the Illinois and New York senators and former governor of Massachusetts should look into their backgrounds and find their qualifications for the job and forget about the labels of race, gender and religion.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Dreams

I’m a believer in dreams, not in analyzing them, but in having them and fulfilling them.

Since I was a young girl, I have always wanted to take a train trip across the country, see whales, drive across the country, live in the country, take cooking lessons and see Alaska.

So far, I have made all but one of my dreams come true. I have taken the train, and also driven across the country. I lived in a rural community in upstate New York, and took cooking lessons. One year, I drove to Maine so that I could do a whale watch.

Now the time has come for me to see Alaska. This summer I’m taking a cruise and will see Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan. Hopefully, I’ll also see a glacier “calve”. I’m really looking forward to it.

There is one other sight I want to see in Alaska – the Northern Lights. That will make my trip complete.

There are other sights to see – bears, moose, whales, sea otters, etc. and if I don’t see the Northern Lights this trip, well, I’ll have to go back. Alaska is a really big state, it’s probably good for three or four trips.

My list of things to see and do is getting very short. I’ll have to sit down and “dream” up some other activities.

Maybe, I’ll take cooking lessons in France or Italy, and of course, there’s the Parthenon, the Pyramids, the Vatican, the castles on the Rhine, the alps……….

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Animal Tales

I have two cats, Crash and Burn. They are as different as night and day. Crash is a prima donna, Burnie is very laid back. That is until he is watching the neighborhood. He spends a great deal of his time looking out the window.

I live in a new community and don't have many trees and, as a result, don't have many birds. Burnie has found one bird and made "friends" with him.

This bird hangs out in front of the house, right under the window. He just sits there and Burnie watches, sometimes he hits the window with his paw. Maybe he's trying to catch the bird.

I know cats will "play" with other animals. I once saw a dog who was tied up and a cat walked past the dog. The cat seemed to know just how far the dog could go and stayed a few inches beyond the reach of the dog. And, of course, we all know how cats play with mice.

I have never seen a bird tease a cat like this one does. Should I watch out for this bird, is it left over from Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds"?

Revenge of the Electronics

The following is the blog I drafted, but did not publish, this morning. I just turned the tv on and the movie is playing. Is this just a coincidence? Or maybe something else.

This past week I've been reminded of the movie "2001, A Space Odyssey" and Hal.

Early in the week my cordless phone stopped working. Thinking the battery needed charging I left it in the cradle for a few days. Then I discovered that that phone didn't ring when I got a call.

Two days later, the alarm clock/radio in my bedroom stopped showing the time and did not shut off unless I pulled the plug.

Yesterday, my e-mails were not being received on my computer. After I turned it off and restarted, everything seemed normal. Unfortunately, as my mother used to say, "It's as slow as molasses in January going up a hill". When I want to delete, I click on "delete", then pour a cup of coffee at the other end of the house and maybe the command is done by the time I get back.

I can type about 75 wpm, and now I type about five or six words before they show on the screen.

My phone is now working, but the radio is not. I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation for all these strange things. Maybe it's sunspots, the cold. Maybe it's ....Hal.

Hal, what have you done? Hal, release my electronics.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

New Magazine

There is a new magazine in the planning stages. It's name is OBIT MAGAZINE. It will chronicle the lives of recently departed major figures. It was originally scheduled to debut last month, but has been delayed for about six months. The managing editor said they are trying to present the subject matter in an innovative and interesting way and they want to get it right.

There are two inescapable facts of life. Death and taxes. It seems that Obit Magazine's launch has been "taxing". Bob and Barbara Hillier, the publishers, are partners in a local Princeton newspaper, TOWN TOPICS. They got the idea for the magazine aafter seeing a woman visibly moved reading an obituary about Captain Kangaroo.

The magazine will run more than 100 pages an issue and has advertisers signed on. They want to be the voice of the generation of Americans who refuse to passively slip into old age and who realize that life reinvents itself.

If the Biography Channel can be successful, why can't a magazine listing dead people do the same.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Your UN in action

There's good news tonight.

Today, in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, I read that a UN Panel has lifted trade bans on beluga and two other types of caviar, ending a year old embargo. Countries bordering the Caspian Sea had improved their monitoring of caviar trading and would release millions of young fish into its waters, allowing limited trade to resume. Willem Wijnstekers, the head of the UN sponsored conservation body Cites said the decision to grant Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Iran and Russia export quotas must be accomplished by further moves to combat declining sturgeon stocks.

I know I'll sleep better tonight knowing the UN is busy saving the supply of sturgeon and their caviar.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Animal Tales

I just love this column, "Weird But True" in the NEW YORK POST.

About 10,000 Juneau residents lost power when an eagle weighted down by hauling a deer's head crashed into power lines. "You have to live in Alaska to have this kind of outage scenario," said Gayle Wood of Alaska Electric Light & Power.

Unfortunately, the eagle did not survive.

Meanwhile in the East, school officials at a Virginia college have asked students not to feed the squirrels, but the bushy-tailed rodents have taken matters into their own paws. Several of the fuzzy campus creatures have been climbing onto students' laps and stealing food right out of their hands. "He's looking at me, I'm looking at him," said one victim shocked into dropping his candy bar.

This reminds me of the time a squirrel dug up one of my tulip bulbs and proceeded to eat it right in front of me.

And down south, a sea park in Florida was evacuated when people there mistook a dolphin's toy shaped like a bomb for the real thing. The chaos ensued when the dolphin surfaced several times with different toys, including one that resembled a bomb. That prompted a call to 911 - and a lot of red faces.

That's it for tonight, I'm sure our animal friends will be up to more mischief in the weeks to come.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

The Party's Over

Since last summer I've been attending Weight Watchers meetings here in the community and lost almost 20 pounds. When it came time to sign up for another 13 weeks, it was discovered that we don't have enough members for Weight Watchers to send a lecturer. So, we have disbanded.

I don't know if it's disappointment, or relief, but I've been having a great time eating these past two weeks. This morning I got on the scale and discovered that I found five of those lost pounds.

The party of the last two weeks is over and it's time to get down to business. No more mindless snacking. I guess it's also time to get back into the routine of the gym. The other day I did a lot of walking and am still paying for it.

I also have to go back to drinking water. I never realized what a difference it makes. I slowed down on my consumption and I noticed how badly wrinkled my skin looked. Today, after just two days of increased water, the wrinkles are slowly disappearing.

Stay tuned for bi-weekly updates.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Dinner

This is the end of Restaurant Week in NY. Last night a friend and I decided to take advantage of this opportunity to have a good dinner at one of NY's top (expensive) restaurants. The price of a three course dinner is $35.00 and you have three choices for each course.

My friend suggested we go to Mercer Kitchen, a place I had ignored because of the name "kitchen". It sounded like a diner type. Was I wrong.

It is one of several restaurants led by Jean Georges Vongerichten. I had heard that he is a top chef, so it was decided. We would meet at Mercer Kitchen.

This restaurant is located in the Mercer Hotel on the corner of Prince and Mercer Streets. I started with Butternut Squash soup, followed by Slow Roasted Salmon with a delicious sauce and a dessert of Sour Cream Cheesecake with dried cherries and sherbert, and of course, coffee. Everything was delicious, but now I know how the "beautiful people" stay looking beautiful. The portions were small, not the supersized portions I serve at home.

The surprise of the evening was the wine. I had a Sauvignon Blanc which had a bright crisp acidity. It was so good I had two glasses, even though each glass cost $10.00. I guess that had to make their money somewhere.

I'm a fan of Restaurant Week which comes twice a year. Because of this special week I've had the opportunity to dine at some of NY's finest restaurants - Manhattan Ocean Club, Capsouto Freres, Union Square Cafe, and Bolo. I can hardly wait for September and the next Restaurant Week.