November 24, 2010

Shopping locally

If you're a regular newspaper reader, you've probably seen the full page ads placed by American Express urging you to support the local businesses that create jobs, boost the economy and preserve neighborhoods around the country by "shopping small" this Saturday.

I can't think of a better excuse to avoid the mall than supporting Larchmont's small business owners by doing my holiday shopping here in town.

But, if you're still on the fence about it, here are some suggestions to get the ball rolling:

November 10, 2010

Holcaust Fraud, Israel Settlements

Sometimes it's hard to be Jewish -- and I'm not talking about keeping kosher, learning Hebrew or not celebrating Christmas.

No, I'm talking about when the Jews are their own worst enemy, and I'm trapped between my love for Judaism and the Jewish tradition and my deeply embedded sense of justice. The news reported on the front page of today's New York Times was a prime example.

First, the settlements. Netanyahu's insistence on building 1,000 additional settlements is going to scuttle any hopes of peace. I usually hold my tongue when Israel does something I don't like (how they treat Palestinians, Gaza's occupation come quickly to mind) but the arrogance in this is beyond comprehension.

And even more galling: the news that Jews defrauded the programs established to provide assistance and compensation to victims of the Holocaust.

The Jews have plenty of enemies and we shouldn't be providing ammunition to them.

It's pretty discouraging.

October 29, 2010

Trick or Treat for UNICEF

Tonight’s NBC news noted it’s 60 years since the first time young children collected pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters for UNICEF.

“Do you remember that?” I asked my husband, who grew up in the Deep South bayous of Louisiana.

“No, that was thought part of the international conspiracy,” he said, grinning.

We are a bit too old to remember the first year UNICEF was part of Halloween, but as an elementary student growing up in South Orange, NJ, in the 50s, I regularly collected for UNICEF – always, I confess, in tandem with my own request for sweet offerings of a different nature.

October 28, 2010

Cookbooks and the recipes we cherish

Pork has never been made a regular appearance on my table, which may be why, after each of my few feeble attempts to cook a pork chop for my pork-chop-loving husband I sugest he just order them in a restaurant. (FYI: John highly recommends Palmer Crossing's chops)

After the last attempt he asked me, "Has pork always been cheaper than beef?"

I looked at him in bewilderment. How was I to know?

I was raised in a kosher-style house. We didn't drink milk at the dinner table, but usually had butter on the vegetables. We ate lobster and shrimp in restaurants, but I don't think my mother knew how to cook them. And the only pork I can ever remember in her fridge was bacon - served exclusively on BLTs.

October 23, 2010

In spite of everything...are people really good at heart?

I had forgotten the power of The Diary of Anne Frank, which we saw today at the Westport Country Playhouse.

The theater was filled with middle school aged-children: the Playhouse was hosting “family day” to encourage this next generation to learn not only about the Holocaust, but about the play’s eternal message of optimism and hope.

Like so many, I first read the book when I was about Anne’s age, which meant I of course identified with Anne, and tried to emulate her eternal optimism. I’ve seen the play and movie several times, but not in the last 20 years or more. And so I was, to put it mildly, blown away, yet again, by this story.

September 10, 2010

Happy New Year, Ya'All

NEW IBERIA, LA - I've been in synagogues all over the country and around the world, but rarely stray far from home for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. So when we booked Jet Blue's All You Can Jet passes and decided to spend the first week in Southern Louisiana, I realized this would be a perfect opportunity to join the small congregation in New Iberia, where the Jewish families my husband grew up with worshipped.

We'd walked around the outside of Gates of Prayer on our last trip and recognized many of the names memorialized on the stained glass windows, including the Wormsers, who owned clothing stores in Franklin, Jeanerette and New Iberia. But the building is open only for worship, and we were in New Iberia for lunch on a weekday.

September 8, 2010

What's Cajun?

Over the past decade or so, since Cajun food became a fad, there's been a mistaken belief that Cajun food is about spice that burns the inside of your mouth, instead of just giving you that nice warm feeling as it makes its way down to your stomach.

Those in the know, my husband John Boudreaux included, have always been slightly amused - dismayed may be a better word - at this.

So there we were, on our first stop on our Jet Blue "all you can jet" journey, driving from Madisonville, LA  where his sister lives to his home town in Franklin, when he got a hankering to visit a restaurant he frequented in his many trips to LSU in Baton Rouge.

Pat's Fisherman's Wharf in Henderson is off the beaten path, but in the 40+ years since John graduated it has developed a reputation as the crawfish capitol of the world.

September 1, 2010


A few weeks ago my husband spotted a small notice about Jet Blue's "All you can jet" offer. For just $499, we could go anywhere Jet Blue flies from September 7-October 6th. After a quick check to be sure we could get trips to see the grandchildren,we decided it was just too good a deal to pass up.

So for the next four weeks, I hope to post some of the highlights of our ventures. First stop will be Louisiana to see friends and family, and of course get our fill of that great Cajun cooking.

How nice it is to be retired!

August 12, 2010

Recycling now a little easier

A blurb from the Town of Mamaroneck just caught my eye: we no longer need remove the bottle caps from plastic bottles before putting them out for recycling.

Seems like a small thing, but surely they add up. Maybe the added weight of all those caps will boost our recycling rate— which was a respectable 62 percent of all solid waste in 2009 —just a bit.

Of course, it would be a lot better— and a lot healthier, too —if we weren't using plastic bottles in the first place.

No one needs soda or fruit juice, and we have healthy clean water coming from the tap here in Larchmont. Invest in a water bottle — you can even keep it in the freezer to make sure it's cool when you set out. The environment will thank you.

Maybe we'll get to the point that there's so little solid waste in Larchmont-Mamaroneck that we can go to one-day-a-week collection. That  would surely help the tax rate.

August 11, 2010

If you aren't homeless, leave these tomatoes alone!

When I started plants from seeds indoors this spring, I tried to carefully label each pot. But thinking doesn't make it happen, and when the zinnias I transplanted to my corner garden began to grow, lo and behold, most of them were tomatoes.

My corner is a busy corner, passed each day by hundreds walking to and from the train, Turtle Park and the Palmer shopping district. I always lose a few flowers to people who must think I'm growing them for their dining room tables, and I've even caught people lifting whole plants from my garden.

So when the tomatoes began to grow among the dahlias, I wondered whether even a single tomato would make it to our table. Sure enough, even though the beautiful tomatoes growing on these almost six-foot-tall plants are yet to ripen, they're beginning to disappear.

And so I made a decision. These tomatoes would be grown to benefit the homeless; I'll donate the majority of them, along with other produce from my garden, to the "Nourish Your Neighbor" campaign that Ed Merians first announced on The Loop.
I've posted a sign on the plants saying: These tomatoes are to feed the homeless. If you are not homeless, please leave them alone!
I'm waiting to see if it works.

July 29, 2010

So long, tree

As one who has been known to complain about the Village DPW crew (why, for example, do they prune the forsythia in September, thus ensuring there will be nary a yellow bloom come the spring?), I want to give credit where credit is due.

In June a large branch fell from the street tree in front of the house.

When I went to pick it up, expecting I'd need to use a bit of muscle, I was surprised to find it weighed no more than a few ounces. The limb was totally rotten, with just the bark holding the sawdust and dirt together.

We called the Village, and soon thereafter a crew arrived to pick up the limb and look at the tree. They agreed that the tree was in terrible shape and needed to be removed.

Until just a few years ago the tree had been completely shaded by a much larger and dominant tree across the street, and this tree had but a few spindly branches on the top. Its only function, it seemed, was to provide a home to squirrels, which had been living in the tree since we moved in.

June 17, 2010

Organically grown or local - what would you choose?

I've been an organic gardener since I planted my first tomatoes almost 40 years ago, and I am something of an evangelist when it comes to the virtues of compost and the dangers of fertilizers and pesticides.

Nevertheless, when I'm in the grocery store, I more often than not pass by the organic produce and opt for what I was raised on: foods grown conventionally. With the growth of farmer's markets over the past decade, however, I've been paying more attention to the place of origin, and try to buy locally grown produce whenever possible.

Last week as I wandered around the Farmer's Market researching a piece for the Larchmont Patch on where to buy the best fruits and vegetables, I realized most of  the produce on display was not organic. The dilemma crystallized in my mind, and I realized it was time to give a little more time to the choices I make.

My children buy only organic vegetables, mostly locally grown (it is, of course, a lot easier in Oregon and California) and I applaud them for it. After all, my grandchildren -- four under the age of eight -- have a long way to go, so healthy habits are important.

But my formative years were more than a half-century ago, so part of the reasoning for not always buying organic is my age. If pesticides haven't hurt me yet, I rationalize to myself, surely I'll be okay for the time remaining.

Growing all my own food really isn't an option. Besides the limitations of the Larchmont climate, my garden is post-stamp size. Decisions, decisions. 

What do you do?

June 8, 2010

The lettuce is in

I was only half-way through the assignment for the Larchmont Patch to find the best hamburger in town when we left for San Francisco. While I managed to eat plenty of greens on the trip, we did take a dip into decadence with the the potatoes fried in duck fat that we found irresistable. 

But then we returned and I needed to finish the research.

While the Sherwood's blue cheese burger ran a close second, the award has to go to the classic burger at Chat 19. If you're wondering why, read the full article on the Patch that was published today.

Thankfully, the lettuce in my garden is in its glory, so it's back to eating healthy.

May 25, 2010

Decadent in San Francisco

The last time we were in San Francisco, we were disappointed to find the Washington Square Bar and Grill was closed, so we were glad to find this week that this historic newspaper hangout had reopened under new ownership.

Our cab driver -- from Armenia -- had never heard of the place, and when we said, "Just take us to Washington Square," he looked at us, shook his head and raised his eyebrows  "Washington Square? It's just a square," he said.

Ensconced at the bar, listening to a great piano player hitting the keys, it felt a bit like old home week. After a while, the young barmaid – a Maine native, with French Canadian blood coursing through her veins that made my Cajun husband think she was a long-lost relative – brought our neighbors at the bar a delectable dish.

"Potatoes fried in duck fat," she told us. They looked too good to pass up.

"Potatoes fried in duck fat?" my husband-the-heart-patient said, incredulous that I would order them. "Are you trying to kill me?"

"Oh, we'll balance them with a salad," I told him. And so we did.

The potatoes were as good as advertised. Really. So next time you're in the City by the Bay, find your way to Washington Square and try the fries. You'll not regret it.

May 19, 2010

Chickens, anyone?

At last month's Sustainability Expo the portable chicken coop had lots of lookers - but no takers. It seems Larchmont and Mamaroneck residents, with their small yards, aren't ready for eggs on demand.

That's apparently not the case in Half Moon Bay, where we went to ride bikes along the beach with our grandkids. And the hardware store on Main Street had one of the best signs we've seen in a while.

Half Moon Bay began as a rural agriculture area, and there's still a lot small farming in the area, particularly pumpkins, Christmas trees and vegetables. So it's more than likely many folks raise chickens, too. But then again, the hardware store is just across from the local saloon, so who know which kind of chicks can be picked up on Main Street.

May 10, 2010

Dandelion wine, anyone?

One quick look at my yard is all it takes to conclude that I am not a lawn fanatic. As long as it’s green I don’t really care if much of the color is provided by weeds. I’d rather spend my time on the flowers and vegetables than on cultivating a carpet of clover-free grass.

So you might wonder why I’ve spent time each morning and evening for the last week scanning my yard for the telltale seed heads of the dandelion, trying to catch them before they open into a full sphere when the individual seeds will catch the slightest breeze.

It began on a whim, when I recalled a scene many years ago of my elderly neighbor picking dandelions along the street across from her house. She told me that picking the seeds would stop them from flying across the street to her lawn.

May 4, 2010

Larchmont trees, old and new

Larchmont residents value their trees, as was evidenced by last week’s Arbor Day celebration and the announcement that Larchmont has been named a “Tree City USA for the 29th consecutive year. But while children were helping plant the first of three bald cypress trees in Constitution Park on April 30, across town in Vanderburgh (Turtle) Park, a crew from Evergreen Arborists was taking down one of the Village’s oldest trees that had succumbed to Dutch elm disease.

The large elm tree in Turtle Park was more than 100 years old.

As the park is just across the street, I’ve been able to watch from my front porch the accelerating loss of trees in the park. Five years ago in a letter to then-Mayor Ken Bialo I wrote:

May 2, 2010

Childhood innocence can still exist in Larchmont

A wonderful story in today's New York Times involving two Larchmont residents: Jason Bay, the new Mets fielder, and 11 year-old Gabriel Tugend, who lives near the Village's newest celebrity resident.

As his Mother wrote,
I found something sweetly old-fashioned about all this. Gabriel wrote the note without any parental interference. He and his friends could walk past the home of a player on their favorite team, and it wasn’t a fancy mansion behind security gates. With the various scandals and multimillion-dollar salaries that sour many people on professional sports, it was redeeming to see their enthusiasm and hopes.
The story gets even better - but I won't spoil it for you.

Read it and smile.

May 1, 2010

Starting from seed

Inspired by Monica Flaherty, whom I wrote about in the Larchmont Gazette, I decided to bite the bullet this year and get a head start on my garden by starting some plants from seed.

Scouting out the seeds available from Tony's Nursery, Stop and Shop and Home Depot, I picked up the usual suspects: lettuce, cucumbers and spinach. And then there was the basil seed, ready to be watered, in a small pot that I'd picked up at a Christmas Tree Shop several months ago.

While Monica doesn't believe in using peat pellets, preferring to start everything in larger cups, I had bought some pellets on sale at the end of the 2009 gardening season, so I decided to use them. Sure enough, within days, the seeds had sprouted, and I was hooked.

Soon the shelf in my office was overtaken by seedlings. Inspired by my success, I went back to Tony's and picked up zinnias and impatiens. I began imagining that I'd have enough plants from a single $1.69 packet of seeds for the entire garden.

April 28, 2010

Help a needy Mom this Mother's Day

We never celebrated Mother’s Day when we were growing up. My mother used to say, “You should love me every day, not just one day a year.” So while my friends were busy buying cards and gifts and going out for dinner, I pretty much let the day go by like any other Sunday.

When I had children of my own we pretty much followed the same practice, although by then I’d relaxed a bit and appreciated the breakfast in bed they’d bring me.

April 20, 2010

A knitting celebration

Last night I joined more than 30 other women who knit to celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Silver Canvas, Larchmont’s knitting store. And all of us, as the invitation suggested, were wearing our own creations. (See the story on The Larchmont Patch).

It was absolutely delightful! From simple scarves to elegant evening sweaters, the creations were imaginative, beautiful and – most important, as they all were created under the tutelage of Alice Giupta, owner of The Silver Canvas -- they fit perfectly.

I learned to knit when I was five and, except for a few years between high school and children, I’ve been knitting ever since. Now most of my knitting is for my four grandchildren (my goal is one sweater per child, per year) and it was only this year that I decided to make something for myself.

The sweater that I’m wearing (and which I wore to Alice’s party) is the Anhinga pattern by Norah Gaughan. I thank my friend Vicki for prompting me to try the pattern. It’s quickly become my all time favorite pattern.

For me, knitting is a wonderful way to relax, rating second only to gardening.

I find that I when I’m knitting I “think without thinking” about things that are bothering me. The soothing click-click of the needle, the steady lengthening of the item, are a soothing mantra.

If you’ve not yet tried it, stop in at The Silver Canvas and ask Alice when her next set of classes begin. Of give me a call and I’ll give you a hand.

March 29, 2010

Cookin' Easy

This being the start of Passover, the kitchens of many people I know have been a real beehive over the past few days. Into the tumult comes some welcome relief. So if you’ve not yet had a chance to read today’s “Editorial Observer” in the NY Times, put the spoon down and take a gander. And, if you have the chance, look at the video on YouTube.

In this age, when Julia Child’s cookbook is all the rage again and The Food Channel seems to be the most popular choice every time I fly Jet Blue, Laban Johnson and Larry Bly remind us that cooking can be fun and doesn’t need to be a full-day affair. Or, as Lawrence Downes writes in the piece,

“Perfection belongs to God, not us, the Southern writer
Flannery O’Connor would have told you, her eyes boring holes in yours
as she poured Coca-Cola in her coffee.”

Gotta love it.

Happy Passover, Easter, or whatever it is you’re cooking for this week.

March 12, 2010

Square Foot Gardening

Today’s so cold and rainy it’s hard to believe that earlier this week I was working in the garden, turning the compost pile and “harvesting” enough pails of good rich compost to give the vegetable plot a good start on the early crops.

But the work that I did pales in comparison with that of Monica Flaherty, who I interviewed for the Larchmont Gazette. She’s inspired me to take up the square foot gardening method. So I’ve ordered the book and am getting ready to curl up with it this long rainy weekend.

February 19, 2010

Death comes calling again

Death came calling again -- this time taking Steve Doochin, a former colleague at the Union for Reform Judaism.

Steve had had a massive heart attack ten years ago while at a doctor's office. Because of that close call with death he recognized more than most that every day is precious.  He did all the right things - changed his diet, exercised, and more -- but, more importantly, he made sure to fill each day with love and hope and laughter.

I last saw Steve about a month ago when we met at the Nautilus for breakfast. He was as optomistic as ever about his search for a new position, sure that something was "about to fall into place." The ultimate networker, Steve had spent his life raising countless millions for Jewish causes, and there were large minyons of folks anxious to help.

February 17, 2010

A community of bloggers

Who knew there were so many writers blogging away in our little corner of the world!

The Larchmont Patch throws a light on all of us with interests ranging from ranch houses to chocolate, design to language, and lots of other interests in-between. Kind of nice. Makes you want to curl up with your laptop and read on.

February 14, 2010

The first robin

I'd only been awake for a few minutes and needed to rub my eyes a few times to believe what I was seeing. But there he was: A big fat robin, perched in my lilac bush, waiting with the sparrows for me to fill the bird feeder.

I grabbed my camera and got the best photo I could – not great, but proof that this harbinger of spring really was really paying a visit on Valentine's Day.

I couldn't recall ever seeing a robin with this much snow on the ground.

Surely the worms are still buried deep in the ground, far beyond the reaches of this brave fellow. So I did a Google search to see when robins normally reach the Larchmont area and found an interesting website that tracks sightings of birds. I posted my sighting and found that robins had been sighted on Long Island earlier this week.

I'm hoping this means the groundhogs were wrong.

February 9, 2010

Getting the Advil ready

Larchmont-Mamaroneck managed to escape the weekend's storm with nary a single snowflake. A welcome relief to us, who live on a corner and have an extra-long sidewalk to shovel, but a real disappointment to my California grandkids, visiting for the weekend, who really were looking forward to building a snowman — and a snowwoman and snowboy and snowgirl.

Too bad they're back in sunny California now. The storm that's coming promises to be a doozy, and it's doubtful we'll escape.

So I made sure we had a full stock of Advil and Aleve on hand before going to CVS this afternoon. I also brought in some firewood. My husband did his part as well —he picked up a case of wine.

We're all set for the long haul.

January 24, 2010

Winter's promise

In the deep cold of January, with winter's short days and long nights, along comes Tu B'Sh'vat to remind us that no matter how miserable we may feel, spring really is just around the corner.

Tu B'Sh'vat, the Jewish "New Year of the Trees," may make agricultural sense in the Middle East, but what is one to make of it in Larchmont?

A sunny winter day with the temperature climbing past 40 seemed like a good time to find out. Camera in hand, I set out for a walk around the garden.

January 17, 2010

Aching for long warm weather

A small backyard garden is beneficial not just for your health but also for your wallet, as today's New York Times notes in a story about an effort underway in San Jose, CA.

Started by Raul Lozano, the son of farm workers, La Mesa Verde is part of a national movement to make healthy food readily accessible in marginalized urban neighborhoods.

"You can get beer in the neighborhood, but not vegetables," Lozano said.

Living in Larchmont, we have easy access to vegetables and beer, but we don't have something the new gardeners in San Jose take for granted: 300 sunny and warm days a year.

Looking out my office window at the cold rain falling on this gray Sunday afternoon, I feel a bit of envy for Maria Alarcon, who picks broccoli for breakfast and wakes to the scent of onions and cilantro wafting her into her open window. I am already counting the days till spring -- and planning my garden.

How about you?