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As many of you know, I am an attorney. Today in the mail I received a letter from a business known as the National Academy of Family Law Attorneys. Inc. advising me that I am a spectacular attorney and I have been chosen from their “rigorous selection process” to receive their “prestigious” Top 10 Attorney Award. The letter goes to tell me that this association has been in existence since 2013 (really?) with the primary goal of recognizing the top 10 family law lawyers in each state for their “hard work”. I am urged to return my acceptance by a specific date or my spot will be given to the first alternate. The second page entitled “Award Acceptance Form” contains spots for all the necessary information for me to receive my “prestigious” award including the spot where I can indicate how I want to pay the $250 Award Administration Fee to them for this honor. When I fork over $250, they will provide me with a plaque telling me how wonderful I am as a Top 10 Attorney.
There are days when my self confidence may slip a little low, but honestly, I don’t think I need to fork over $250 for a plaque to remind myself of how special I really am. Plus, it would help if they got my name correct. I haven’t been “Smith” since 1992 and I am not licensed in Vermont under that name at all. That, and the fact that a Google search doesn’t come up with any such organization on the first page of hits, is more than enough to make me say, thanks, but no thanks.
I think I’ll file this one where it belongs…..in the trash.
Dinner last night was homemade French Onion soup with homemade baguettes. It was delicious and well worth the effort of making it from scratch. While I was at it, I made some more sandwich rolls for lunches.
Lunch rolls all ready for tomorrow.
The onions, about 8 cups of them, thinly sliced sauteed for a nice long time to get a beautiful golden brown and form the base of the soup.
The baguettes right from the oven. These were thinly sliced and popped into the toaster to crisp them up to use as the croutons. Of course, had I prepared better, I could have made the bread a day or two earlier and let the slices crisp up without the use of the toaster. Alas, I am not that prepared.
The soup bowls are getting assembled and prepped for some broiling.
The finished product …. was …. delicious.
If nothing else, living where we live teaches one patience. When it snows, yes they plow the roads and yes, they do a wonderful job of it….but they do not have the city-it’s-gotta-be-done-now mentality. Usually the plowing comes toward the tail end of the storm, after all we have 2 guys plowing about 60 miles of roads and they do a fantastic job. Same as with ice, the hill will get sanded, but there have been a few of us that have gotten stuck or it took a few tries to get up the hill or we gave up and caught a ride with a neighbor. At the tail end of winter, frost heaves make an appearance and the roads have some wonderful whoop-dee-doos to contend with while driving. During mud season, which is fast approaching, no one goes anywhere too fast since our dirt road, like many others throughout New England, turns into a gloppy mess. Today is one of those days that teach you to be patient.
We woke to an internet problem, the DSL router was not working and the telephone company confirmed that they were experiencing a problem that left us disconnected. For a lot of people that is not a problem, after all we survived for decades without the technology that we take for granted now. But, when you work from home and your internet connection is necessary to do a day’s work, it can be a problem. So…this morning, we packed up our stuff and headed into town to Panera to get some work done while the internet problems are being resolved. I try really hard to find the up-side for my own mental health. Normally, Tom and I are working in our respective offices, in two different parts of the house. Today, we are seated across for each other, stealing a smile every now and again…it’s pretty nice.
Patience, it all teaches us that sometimes, we need to be a little patient.
The veggie ends that I saved are growing nicely. The kitchen window sill is filled with lots of green things which is a welcome sight when you look out the window and realize that nothing green will be growing out there for quite a while yet.
Right now, I have about a dozen scallions in various stages of growth, a bunch of basil and a lovely bok choy. The other day, when I chopped up the last of a stalk of celery for some roasted cauliflower soup, I added that to the dish. I am anxious to see how that works.
While the leeks and scallions by far have the most roots, the bok choy, which has grown beautifully, is only just now starting to sprout a couple roots from its base. The basil is not showing any real root growth yet, but lots of leaves.
Valentine’s Day has always been a somewhat strange holiday for Tom and I. He used to sell roses years ago so the whole holiday has a different taste for us. The holiday is quite a manufactured money maker and we have tried to instill in our boys that fact. There are 364 other days of the year to show the one you love how much you care and how special they are to you.
For years, we used to go out as a group and probably one of our best Valentine’s Day stories has nothing to do with us, per se. We had made reservations with a few other couples to go down to the Ironbound section of Newark for Portuguese food. Turns out that one of the couples had to cancel. While we were standing in the lobby of an extremely crowded restaurant waiting (we only had to wait 1/2 hour since we had reservations – weren’t we lucky?) a young couple came in and the guy walked up to the maitre d and politely asked for a table for 2. At least they were kind enough not to laugh in his face when he said he didn’t have a reservation, instead they told him that he could be seated at 11:30 (yes, that’s p.m.) mind you, this was around 7 ish. Turns out, we happened to have an extra two seats, so we went up to them and asked if they’d like, they could sit at the end of our table (and we promised to leave them by themselves as much as possible considering we were all sitting at the same table). Turns out, they agreed. We bought them each a Valentine’s Day drink, wound up laughing and talking together for a good part of the evening. It was a very nice Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day has morphed through our relationship from the initial over-advertised guilt ridden day created by a card company with the expensive flowers and traditional dinner in a restaurant that was over crowded and overbooked through those days of group Valentine dinners with friends, to the occasional missed Valentine’s Day altogether when it managed to coincide with Tom’s snowmobile treks, to the take out Chinese dinner eaten in front of the fire on the floor. Tonight, the plan was that our youngest son and his girlfriend were cooking us dinner. They were going to then watch a movie and we were going to watch a show by the fire. Plans however, still change. A couple hours ago, I got a call from my oldest that he and a group of friends were driving down from school to go snowboarding and obviously to have dinner at home. While Tim and his girlfriend are still cooking us dinner, I am cooking sushi for the boys that are descending upon us any time now. It will be a different kind of Valentine’s Day once again — but a good one anytime you are surrounded by the ones that you love and who love you back.
One thing that has not changed through the years, the constant tradition, is the chocolate covered strawberries. Every year for as long as I can remember, I have made chocolate covered strawberries for all my men.
However you choose to celebrate or if you even celebrate at all…..Happy Valentine’s Day!
My boys amaze me. I am constantly in awe of how much they do and how very capable and talented they are at what they do. While we certainly are supportive, I honestly cannot take the credit for exactly how much and how well they manage to do things. For example, this past weekend, Tim was a participant in the American Choral Directors Association Eastern Conference. He, and four other Mill River students, who auditioned last year were selected to be part of the honors choirs. Tim had the privilege of performing in the Chinese Honors Choir. He learned and memorized about 8 songs in Chinese which he performed with 99 other students from all along the Eastern United States. He and his classmates, who were 4 of the 9 Vermont students that qualified for this distinct honor, performed in the Symphony Hall in Baltimore, Maryland with nationally recognized choral conductors.
We drove down to Baltimore this weekend meet Tim and see the concert. It was an amazing experience and still would have been an incredible event even if my own flesh and blood wasn’t one of the students performing. The entire experience was wonderful. My boys have the ability to constantly amaze me and make me incredibly proud. Enjoy the pictures here and share my pride and the pride of my fellow parents in how wonderful these students were and what an incredible experience they had.
The conductor of the Chinese Honors Choir – she was wonderful and explained the words to the songs that the students performed in Chinese.
The entire Chinese Honors Choir performing at Symphony Hall in Baltimore.
There’s my guy…..
Today is a snow day and it’s our first real, actual snowstorm of the winter. Can you believe that? While other parts of the country were getting hammered with snow (talking about you, Jersey folks) we could see mostly grass on our lawns and fields. We awoke to several inches of snow on the ground and for the first time this season, I got to pull out my Sorrel boots and wander out in the snow. Honestly, there really hasn’t been enough snow at once to warrant boots – muck shoes have been fine.
Things are finally totally white — now this, this is what winter is supposed to be like here in Vermont.
I was out, bright and early, visiting with my other kids – the ones that are somewhat hairier than the ones that live inside the house. Honestly, who can refuse this face? Lots of goat love (or maybe it was just that I was feeding them).
For our kids, it’s probably impossible to know a world without smartphones, texting, video games, Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook. Hard to believe that Facebook has been around for a decade. While it took me a while to jump onto the Facebook craze, and I admit when I did jump, it was primarily to see what the kids were up to since teenagers talk very little to parents but they’ll share everything with the rest of the world. However, I remember the surprise of seeing faces from my past and having the opportunity to see what has transpired in the years or decades since we last saw each other face to face. Recently, it was a way to hook up with some people that were a part of our lives years ago and we fell out of touch with and probably didn’t even know that we moved from New Jersey to Vermont. It’s a sort of guilty pleasure, checking in to see what the people in your life are up to or find out the latest scoop on what’s going on around town, around the state or even around the world.
To celebrate their tenth anniversary Facebook has compiled each of us a movie. Our own little movie about our lives since we’ve joined Facebook. I must admit that it was pretty neat to see some pictures from four years ago when I joined and how different the boys looked in what seemed like such a short amount of time. It was also pretty neat to see some posts that I had made that garnered significant comments. All in all, it’s pretty neat. Find yours at https://facebook.com/lookback/
Sometimes, you look up from your desk and see such beauty outside your window that you have to stop what you are doing and just admire it. Admire and be in awe of how beautiful the world around you really is and how small you really are in comparison.
This was today’s sunset. It was breathtaking. I hope you enjoy as much as I did.
I don’t think that we need to worry about being struck by an asteroid or aliens invading our planet or becoming zombie food. No, it is quite apparent that humans will be the end of humans. I don’t mean by means of war, although that could be a possibility, no I literally mean we are going to kill ourselves.
In the news you can read about what’s going to kill you today. Everyday (or so it seems) there is something new and different that we are warned to avoid. Most of them are things of our own making – processed, chemically created and/or enhanced items (usually food products) that will surely knock us dead. Today’s product – caramel color. Yes, it’s true, today you can potentially be killed by the color of your soda.
Personally, I am not a soda drinker. When I had issues with allergies and rashes years ago, high fructose corn syrup was among the things that I desperately try to avoid. Trust me, it’s not easy because it seems as if it’s in everything…. and I mean everything. I can make a damn loaf of bread or rolls without either sugar or high fructose corn syrup but evidently commercial bakers cannot. It makes you wonder if it’s some plot to get us all addicted. But….I digress. 4-methyliminazole, or 4-Mel, which can be contained in caramel color – the stuff that gives your cola its brown color. Chances are you won’t find 4-Mel listed on the ingredient label of your favorite soda because it’s usually just referred to as “caramel coloring”.
Consumer Reports stated that the amount of 4-Mel in various cola drinks can exceed acceptable levels (this is a whole other rant, trust me as a law student I took Food and Drug Law just before lunch — a very, very bad idea, we skipped lunch a whole lot that semester). The WHO and State of California both believe that high levels of 4-Mel are dangerous so much so that they have issued warnings and California instituted a warning label on products containing the compound.
The Food and Drug Administration is currently looking into the issue. For those of you interested in learning more about 4-Mel and its possible dangers you can look here. I’ve included some of the highlights from that page below.
1. 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI) is a chemical compound that is not directly added to food; rather it is formed as a byproduct in some foods and beverages during the normal cooking process. For example, 4-MEI may form when coffee beans are roasted and when meats are roasted or grilled. 4-MEI also forms as a trace impurity during the manufacturing of certain types of caramel coloring (known as Class III and Class IV caramel coloring) that are used to color cola-type beverages and other foods.
2. Foods containing added colors must list them either by name or as “artificial colors” in the ingredients statement on the food label. Because there are other artificial colors, the presence of “artificial colors” on a food label does not necessarily mean that caramel coloring is contained in the food. Also, the presence of “caramel coloring” on a food label does not necessarily mean that the food contains 4-MEI, because the term “caramel coloring” also may be used to describe Class I and Class II caramel coloring. Class I and Class II caramel coloring do not contain 4-MEI.
3. Eliminating 4-MEI in food is virtually impossible. However, in the case of caramel coloring, companies can take steps to reduce its formation during the manufacturing process. In fact, several companies have already reduced the amount.
4. To ensure that the use of caramel coloring in food continues to be safe, FDA is currently reviewing all available data on the safety of 4-MEI and is reassessing potential consumer exposure to 4-MEI from the use of Class III and Class IV caramel coloring in food products. This safety analysis will help FDA determine what, if any, regulatory action needs to be taken. Such actions could include setting a limit on the amount of 4-MEI that can be present in caramel coloring. However, in the interim, FDA is not recommending that consumers change their diets because of concerns about 4-MEI.
So, that’s what may kill you today. Perhaps we might want to think before we grab that can of soda.
I thought I’d share some photos of tonight’s dinner – a fish dinner since Tim is not home and making fish when he can’t eat it (and can really die from eating it) is just downright mean. So, tonight’s meal was haddock with a miso-mayo seasoned glaze and oriental style green beans with chili garlic sauce, soy sauce and garlic.