Izzy (and Mama) Eat: The Gourmand Grows up...

Tales of Empty Nesting ...The Next Chapter

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Burnt The Bacon, Saved The Cats? (How Mean Neighbors Ruined Dinner)

A. returned after a long trip. Izzy and I were eager to show off our new cat friends. I also had high hopes for a delicious dinner. Things didn't go exactly as planned...

Once out in the yard, A. made a bee-line to the kitten area. He picked up all five kittens, trying to acclimate them to eating on the grass instead of the back wall. His plan failed miserably and the cats mewled and needed to be placed back in their usual spot.

Meanwhile, the neighbor's dog made his presence known, barking incessantly for the second day in a row. Apparently, the scent of kittens (or their food) is making him crazed. The worst part is, the dog in question, belongs to the neighbor's friend, who visits her yard frequently. The neighbor's dog barks occasionally, whereas the friend's dog is unstoppable.

Yesterday's attempt to explain to these neighbors about feeding and trapping cats, clearly had no impact. When faced with barking dogs today, instead of calling off the dogs, the owners decided to go at the kittens with a broom, poking it and shaking it through the bramble where the kittens rest.

I was in the middle of cooking some minced bacon when I saw her go at the kittens a second time. I couldn't contain myself and left the bacon sizzling on the stove while I went over and explained that if she chased the kittens and mama cat away, the mama might move the litter and I would be unable to trap them. I asked if they could leave the kittens alone and that I would try to have them trapped in a few days. Izzy was watching this conversation, while at the same time, noting that our dinner was at risk.. He yelled out, "Mama, are you yakking or cooking?

It was then I remembered the bacon, which by this time had turned black. No matter, I thought. I was happy to have sacrificed the bacon for the kittens as the neighbor seemingly agreed to back off.

Turns out I burnt the bacon and ruined our dinner for naught. After I went back to my cooking (results less than satisfactory), I heard the barking yet again and watched as our neighbor continued to menace the kittens. Let's hope I get them soon. Kittens anyone??

p.s. I do have traps now, dropped off by a kind neighborhood cat lady, L. who I am hoping will help me trap the kittens and mama.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Wild For Egg: Cat Feast On The Garden Wall

Miss Fang is somewhat safely installed with her kittens in a neighbor's back garden, directly adjoining our stone wall. She comes around several times a day, in search of food. A nursing cat and kittens certainly do consume a ridiculous amount of it. They have been going through 3-4 cans a day. Izzy and I place the food inside one of the concrete blocks and the family comes to feast.

Along with their usual meals today the cats received a treat. At lunchtime, Izzy requested an egg over easy. After I had cracked the egg into the pan, I noticed it had some streaks of blood in it. Even though I know there is nothing wrong when an egg contains a speck of blood, I generally can't bear the thought of eating it, nor do I want Izzy to. Instead of wasting the tainted egg and throwing it away, I gave it to Miss Fang. There was a cat pile up on the wall as they all tried to get a taste of egg. Clearly there was far more interest in the egg than in the cheap cat food we have been feeding them.

Maybe there is something to preparing homemade cat food...a thought that continues to intrigue.

p.s. In the next few days, I may very well be trapping this cat family. Right now there are 5 kittens and they are awfully adorable. I may be fostering them so let me know if you are interested in adopting one!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Milk Mystery (At least Izzy knows what is in our fridge)

I was hosting a La Leche League meeting this morning in my home. I typically serve tea and scones at the meetings and today was no different. During the meeting, I got up to pour some milk into a small glass creamer, to accompany the Vanilla-Black tea I was serving.

When I opened my fridge, I saw a blue carton of Organic Valley milk, one of the brands I usually buy. When I lifted it out of the fridge, I noted that it was full and I clearly remembered just having thrown out a carton only yesterday. Not only that but could see I had a full yellow carton of Stonyfield Farms milk, standing right behind it.

I was confused. How could a full carton of milk gone unnoticed in my fridge? I opened the blue carton and unsealed the plastic tab, poured it out and feeling somewhat puzzled, returned it to the fridge. I had to get back to the meeting so didn't have time to ponder the mystery.

Later on this afternoon, when Izzy arrived home from school, I went to make him a banana milkshake. I opened the fridge only to discover that the blue carton of milk had vanished. I looked in the freezer. I looked in the pantry. I looked behind everything in the fridge. When I explained the story to him he said, "We bought the yellow carton. That is the only one we have." Yet I knew I had used the blue carton in the morning. He insisted this was impossible and so as not to appear too crazy, I dropped the case and was simply left wondering as to the fate of the supposedly invisible blue carton of milk. Had I misplaced it? Had the cleaning ladies accidentally dumped it? Was I simply going mad? The answer lay in an email I received this evening..

In a sense, I had lost my mind.. Here you will see why...

"here's an odd question: the milk that i bought today at basic foods (the carton
i left in your fridge during the meeting) is open and unsealed. i wonder if i
could've taken your carton of milk by mistake (it's organic valley 2 percent),
but i doubt you would've gotten yours at basic foods in hoboken. i wonder if
it's possible that someone during the meeting may have opened my carton and used
it for tea. i don't care, of course. i just don't want to drink this unless i
know who opened it.

I called C. immediately after reading the message and we both had a good laugh. At least I wasn't entirely crazy and at least she got to drink her untainted milk!

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Conversation Between 6 Year Olds...

Izzy: Do you want to go get gelato?
Friend: No.
Izzy: Gelato is ice cream.
Friend: Okay!

And so we went to have gelato. Izzy lapped up of every morsel of his but his friend was not so keen on it. And funny, but I finished every drop of mine and my friend didn't like hers that much either. Like mother like son?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Mama is A Grandma: Miss Fang Comes to Town

Right about this time last year, we made the acquantaince of Mama Cat. She introduced herself to us along with her 5 kittens, 4 of which were gray and white, the 5th, a darkish gray, bearing the greatest resemblance to her mother.

Despite our best efforts, the litter dispersed and Mama found herself in the family way shortly thereafter. None in the second litter survived and it was then we took in Mama and she is slowly but surely becoming accustomed to life indoors. But it doesn't end here.

Several weeks ago, Izzy and I spotted a rather pregnant-looking cat, who looked remarkably like Mama, in our yard. We realized it was Mama's daughter and we looked out for her but didn't see her again. Until last week, when she arrived in our yard, looking hungry and no-longer pregnant. She had the frantic appearance of a nursing Mama. We put out food her and waited to see.

Turns out she is hiding her litter of 4-5 blackish kittens with white and orange markings, in the same spot where she grew up. For the past 3 days she has been dining in our yard and her kittens are joining her. Miss Fang, so named for her unusually large teeth, is entirely feral yet she has not hissed when we come near. I have managed to pick up the kittens twice and pet them and hope to continue to socialize them for the next few days.

I am on a waiting list at Liberty Humane for a trap so this time I can get the entire family. For those of you who fear I am turning into this

You needn't worry. I will not keep them but instead TNR Miss Fang and adopt out the kittens through the local shelter. Who knows, we may even get to foster them first. Any takers?

Beware The Rotten Mango

How it is that a fruit can go from silky divine sweetness to toxic-tasting paint thinner is beyond me.

The foul-tasting culprit was a Champagne Mango from Haiti. Yes it seemed a bit over-ripe when I tested it but figured we could salvage part of it for dessert. When I cut down the first side, Izzy immediately noted how the juice ran out rather quickly. but I carried on, hoping for at least a few decent bites. We each tried a bite from and declared it too mushy. The second side was a different story. Since my nose is semi-blocked from allergies, I didn't instantly detect the odor so Izzy and I each popped a forkful in our mouths, only to simultaneously spit it out.

Izzy declared, "That tastes like toxic paint." And I felt as if I had swallowed a chemical cocktail. I have to wonder what caused it to do so.. Any insights?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I Just Love Geese...

Apparently they are abundant here in Jersey City...though not for cooking, only for looking...

This is one of a few sightings in Jersey City. Perhaps Izzy and I will get the chance to spy them crossing the road too!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Orange Confusion: What is a slice?

Today was "Field Day" at Izzy's school. The class walked over to a nearby baseball field and the children hopped and bounced from one activity to the next. Bubble blowing, faux egg toss, and real water balloons were the highlights.

Parents were asked to contribute watermelon or "orange slices" as a snack. When I read the email I thought it funny that they wanted orange slices but liked the idea and do love serving oranges in that manner. Sliced orange rounds are a fun way for kids to eat oranges. So I sliced a bunch of oranges as seen above and brought them to the field.

There I discovered other interpretations of sliced oranges. Some moms brought in orange segments.

Still others brought in oranges cut into quarters or eighths.

And so I ask, what did the email writer imagine when she requested orange slices and what image comes to your mind when you imagine an orange slice?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Puddle Of Camembert And Other Market Day Mishaps

Wednesday is market day. The day I go into the city and attempt to cram as much as I can into my granny cart, insulated backpack and various bags which dangle from my person. I ought to know by now, that when I over-stuff, wackiness ensues. Once at the market, the urge to buy everything I need in one outing prevails . Some days I manage to make it home, purchases unscathed. Other days I am not so lucky. Today was one of those days.

I left the house this morning with a seemingly reasonable list of purchases at Union Square Market and Whole Foods. The catch was that I needed to buy a bunch of plants for an afternoon gardening playdate and also to gussy up the yard for tomorrow's "Jewels In My Garden" Party,* for which I had even planned to prepare homemade clotted cream.

I spent about two hours doing my marketing, and was pleased that my plan to buy the plants last had worked out. I even managed to get the flat of plants to perch precariously atop the cart** so that I could manage to schlep everything home. One of my last stops before the plants was Ronny Brook Farm, where I bought the Camembert and heavy cream for my clotted cream. I was too lazy to remove the backpack from my shoulders so I just tossed the glass bottle of cream and the cheese into a flimsy bag, which dangled from my arm.

As I slowly and daintily (not) made my way along 14th street, I basked in the sunny day and in the fact that I had done all of my errands. As I smiled to myself, one of the bags slipped from my arm and went crashing to the sidewalk. Wouldn't you know it was the one with the glass bottle of heavy cream?!! So there I stood, stunned, as the heavy cream seeped through the bag and all over the sidewalk. Two ladies, one younger, one older stopped to assist me but it became clear I was beyond assistance. What is to be done with a bag of dripping with heavy cream and full of broken glass anyway? The older lady seemed to think that I could cram the soggy bag into a tiny plastic bag but that wouldn't work. The younger lady agreed that I had no choice but to toss the bag (and it was a favorite) and the whole soggy mess into a trash can and get on with it. I did manage to salvage some art supplies I had purchased for Izzy (cream covered tape and glue..perhaps soap and water would help) and then I simply carried on.

Well all was not over yet. I crossed the street and bumped my way into the Path Station, mainly mourning the loss of that luscious heavy cream, since, after all, clotted cream cannot be made with supermarket cream. I also pondered the fate of the Camembert, imagining it covered in heavy cream..

Back to reality, once in Jersey City, I tried to be as careful as ever but I was certainly eager to get home, as every part of my body ached from the excess baggage. One wrong bump and my plants would overturn, I thought to myself. Wouldn't you know that is exactly what happened. Dirt and plants were scattered near the Light Rail station. I did salvage them and they are now safely planted in our backyard.

Oh and the Camembert? Well I found it in another bag and, no surprise, it was unusually soft. I tossed it in the fridge, thinking it might firm up a bit...Plain to see, many hours outside of the fridge did not help it. Izzy was brave enough to sample it and said, "It looks like cream but it tastes sour." Too bad because it is generally a soft, creamy delight.

* If I failed to invite you and you live around here and would like to join, email me and I will give you the details!

**Please note that I do not recommend this mode of transport if you have another one!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Gutter Cat, Butter Cat

Izzy is a butter hound. I cannot leave butter unattended upon the kitchen table, without little fingers digging in and grabbing a gob.

Today I discovered he isn't the only butter hound in the house. Mama cat, our feral friend, also finds the stuff irresistible. I came upon her, more than once, on the kitchen table, delicately licking the butter knife and butter wrapper. I had no idea that cats were attracted to butter. A. claims it is because she is a "gutter" cat and is accustomed to eating whatever she can find. Perhaps she just has good taste.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Just Another Day In New York City: Cafe Sabarsky, The Whitney and Central Park

I am weary. Fatigue and seasonal allergies have kept me from posting for the longest stretch ever. If only I had one of these to soothe...

This giant ice pack (surreptiously photographed at the Whitney) is a Claes Oldenburg original. We went to see the exhibit on Friday, with Izzy's friend T., who is related to the artist. The show includes some larger than life pleather items, including French Fries "with a splat of ketchup" (Izzy's words). These pieces are sure to amuse and T. could not keep from touching them, as she had previously been allowed to do so. You try telling the museum guards that...

Our visit to the museum was preceded by a lunch at Cafe Sabarsky, my stand-by in the neighborhood, where the spatzle is nearly always a hit. Though not so much with Izzy's friend T. who only deemed the toast worthy of eating.. Picky eater boot camp awaits!

We followed our museum visit with a trip to the 72nd Street playground, where T. terrified her mama when she climbed the spiderweb.

T.'s mama was weary after that so they left and we stayed on, to sail the remote control sailboats nearby. Somehow we ended up crossing town for a fix of Grom. By then we were too exhausted to stay in the city for dinner so we dragged ourselves home.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Busy Boy: Campaign Volunteer

Here he is, at the Grove Street Path Station, looking a bit shy. Izzy eventually got the hang of it and he helped encourage Jersey City residents to vote for Steve Fulop, running for re-election as Councilman for Ward E.

Funny to watch how commuters were far more apt to politely take a card from him than from the older volunteers. I am glad I enlisted his help and even if he doesn't quite understand what it all means, it is a good introduction to politics.

Since we were volunteering at the dinner hour, there was little time to cook so we ended the day with some Chinese takeout.

And the results are in, with Fulop winning over 60% of the vote. Here's to a bright future for Downtown Jersey City... If only the mayoral results were as encouraging...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Izzy's Day Off

Izzy was all tuckered out last night, after the long day of centennial partying and playing with his friend M. He was so exhausted that he didn't wake up at his usual early hour and instead I had to check in on him at 8:20, whereupon he lazily opened one eye and remained in bed. When he finally crawled out of bed it was 8:30 and with school starting at 9:00 he needed to skedaddle. When he was dressed and ready to go downstairs, he complained of feeling tired and cold. He put on a sweatshirt and we went downstairs.

Over breakfast, he kept insisting he was cold. I checked his forehead and he didn't feel especially feverish but I took his temperature and it registered 98.6 (which I took to mean 99 since it is a forehead thermometer). As I knew some of his classmates had been sick, I decided it would be best to keep him home.

We made a whole list of chores and activities to accomplish and he accompanied me to the supermarket, unpacked the groceries, helped with the laundry and assisted in transplanting some daffodil bulbs from one area of our yard to another, all before lunchtime.

The gardening was by far the highlight and we both took immense pleasure in digging up large mounds of dirt. This is what I had wanted to do on Mother's Day so I was secretly pleased that Izzy was home. Odd that he seemed to have more energy than a barrel of monkeys..His ailment was apparently a mild one...

As we sat eating our lunch of Chopped Spinach Salad with Trout and Wild Rice, I shared the fact that I was glad he had stayed home. It was then he shared a revelation of his own.

"Mama. I tricked you," he said laughingly. "I wasn't cold. I just pretended I was so that I could stay home and garden with you."

I looked at him in disbelief, as his morning performance was award-winning and he generally loves going to school. I wasn't quite convinced it was all a hoax and I mentioned that he usually loves school. His response. "I do like school but I just needed a day off." Quite a day it was!

Although we had a grand old time, I do have to wonder...Do I have a Ferris Bueller in the making??

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Very Momentous Birthday Party: Grandpa's 100th...

There were two cakes. One was vanilla with chocolate frosting, as per Grandpa's request.

The other was his favorite strawberry cheesecake, easier for him to eat right now.

Not that much cake was eaten, after we filled our bellies with bagels, cream cheese, lox, whitefish salad, sturgeon, quiche, fresh fruit and grilled vegetables.

Grandpa and his 99 year old brother, Julius, engage in lively conversation. The "Yiddish twins" are 364 days apart. Amazing!

Couldn't get Izzy to pose with the birthday boy, but I needed a memento of this momentous occasion.

Here Izzy takes a break from Legos as the party carries on around him.

Posing with Grandpa..

Just like last year, my brother and his girlfriend S., did a wonderful job hosting, and a fine time was had by all. Looking forward to 101.

A "petit cadeau" for Mother's Day...

Did I awake to a breakfast tray filled with softly coddled eggs, freshly buttered brioche and fresh fruit? Nah, that was in my dreams.

I awoke to my usual routine.. scooping a "petit cadeau" from the cats' litter box. I grumbled as I scooped, lamenting that even today I had to perform this odious chore, as nobody else will even consider it (although I have been letting Izzy know he may take over the privilege when he is 12).

The rest of the morning was a flurry of preparation for Grandpa's 100th which we were off to celebrate so I gladly dispensed with all thoughts of litter boxes.

Until our return home at the end of the day, when I found the above, waiting in our stairwell. What could be a more fitting surprise! Two large boxes of kitty litter. At least someone* thought to bring me a gift on Mother's Day.

Happy Mother's Day to me! Hope there was more than kitty litter in store for the other Mamas out there!

I called my friend Y. to thank her for dropping off our monthly supply of kitty litter. She picked the perfect occasion.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom? If only...(of songs and pizza)

"Chicka Booty, Chicka Booty, Chicka Booty" so goes Izzy's latest chant. Don't expect me to correct him. I find his version much more amusing and kid-appropriate. It seems that his friends at school have taught him these less than appealing lyrics and thankfully he has misunderstood them.

And so he taught them to another friend as they joyously cavorted in yesterday's spring sunshine at Liberty State Park, our first visit there this year. The day was so glorious that we stayed out later then usual and then ended up having dinner with our friends. As it was late, Friday night pizza prevailed.

Since we were at their house, our friends selected the pizza, with toppings which I would never before have considered. I have to admit I was skeptical but I was certainly willingly to give it a try.

Shockingly enough, the Bacon, broccoli and mushroom combination was a winner. I see many more of those pizzas in our future. And hopefully many more sunny days at Liberty State Park, while Izzy sings some other tunes...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Happy 100th Birthday Grandpa

Born in Vilna (Russia, Poland..somewhere in that vicinity), May 8th, 1909 and still kicking up a fuss today!

Birthday festivities to come on Sunday, surrounded by family and friends.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Lunch Uneaten..Yet again

The reason this time? The chicken was "too fatty".

This was a legitimate gripe. I should have made chicken salad for him but instead I made that for his teachers and he just had a plain chicken with mayo sandwich. Poor boy. How did he make it through the day with only two bites of a sandwich?

He was ravenous when he sat down for his snack and when I put the remaining chicken salad on the table, he ate a giant mound of it.

But back to that fatty chicken. Somehow that triggered a childhood memory of chicken fat and the following song. If you were a sixties or seventies child, you might remember it... I think it needs to be resurrected in today's classrooms, don't you think??

Monday, May 4, 2009

Tea For How Many??

Tea for two, Two for tea... No, no, no.. That's just a song. The reality is that I am always making teas but rarely now for two, more likely for three and most of the time for four or more. Once upon a time there were those bridal teas for 30 and other assorted affairs. But since then , the teas have been for more manageable numbers.

Then came the Teacher's Tea, during Teacher Appreciation week, which started out modestly enough, with tea being for something like 5 or 7 when Izzy first started school. Simple to whip up, with just a bit of assistance. Then last year, the numbers grew and this year I was more than a bit surprised to find out I would be making tea for 17. Seemed daunting but working as a team with, S. and D., we turned out a lovely spread. H. brought along the same gorgeous cake she made last year and I was on scone duty.

Teacher's Tea Menu

Assorted tea sandwiches

-egg salad
-tuna salad
-cucumber/cream cheese/ mint
-chicken salad


Blueberry-Buttermilk Brown Sugar
Apricot-Brown Sugar
Chocolate Chip Orange

Cakes and Cookies

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Vegetarian Plate: Roasted Tofu, Brown Rice Pilaf and Steamed Broccoli

The inspiration for this super-healthy vegetarian meal was a simply delicious brown rice salad that the lovely T. brought to a lunch at my house last week. As per T.'s instructions, I used a mixture of plain brown rice and a Lundberg wild rice mix. The whole thing was thrown together in about an hour, the time it took to cook the rice.

Roasted Tofu, Brown Brown Rice Pilaf and Broccoli Platter


1.5 blocks firm tofu (2 blocks for leftovers)
soy sauce

1 cup long grain brown rice
1 cup Lundberg wild rice mix
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp. olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced and lightly sauteed.
handful grape tomatoes
handful baby spinach leaves (chiffonade)
bunch of minced chives or herb of choice

1 bunch broccoli, stems peeled and cut into chunks, small florets


For rice:
1. Saute garlic in olive oil until fragrant but not brown. Add rice, stir in salt and two cups of water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer 50 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes and fluff with fork.

Then saute 2-3 cloves minced garlic and add to rice, along with spinach leaves and tomatoes. Toss in minced chives.

2. Meanwhile, steam broccoli in a large pot. Steam stems first for 5 minutes, add florets and cook 8 minutes more or until tender.

3. While rice is cooking, cut tofu into squares. Lay on baking sheet and drizzle with soy sauce. Bake at 450 for @15 minutes or until sizzling.

4. When all components are ready, arrange on a plate and serve. Drizzle rice with extra olive oil if desired.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Sugar Smack...Doughnuts For Snack

A similar issue came up at a neighborhood school, earlier this school year. My friend L. was appalled to find that her three year old was being fed doughnuts for breakfast and the staff defended this choice. Reason enough to switch schools, which she eventually did, for that and other reasons.

Never did I imagine that I would encounter a similar problem yet just the other day, Izzy informed me that his snack consisted of "these round doughnut things, kind of like bagel buttons but softer". Now I can forgive doughnuts for one snack during the week but when the next day came and he told me that doughnuts were on offer again, I became a tad less forgiving.

Of course switching schools is entirely out of the question, as we love Izzy's school. What makes this situation particularly sticky is that at Izzy's school, parents provide the snack. To what extent can the school monitor the snacks brought in? Parents are encouraged to provide "healthy" snacks but apparently healthy is interpreted quite loosely.

Thinking ahead to next year I ask, what is a health-conscious mama to do?

p.s. I am not opposed to all doughnuts. Say if you wanted to bring an occasional doughnut from here, you would find no opposition on my part!