Whiny Whiny Whiny

13 12 2011

I know damn good and well I have no reason to complain. My lifestyle is awfully great, especially in light of the 99.9% of people who are in dire straights instead of my minor discontent.

My major problem is work, and yes at least I am employed. We opened our company 10 years ago with no pay (because that’s how starting a new business usually works.) Within one year we were not only paying ourselves, but had insurance, a small business retirement plan, and began to hire other employees. Life was sweet!

The economic downturn did not affect us too horribly until this year. My business partner handled money very well, and we tightened our belts to weather the storm. However we appear to be back on the ropes again. Our expenses outweigh our income (largely due to a city entity defaulting on a large sum of money that they feel was a risk we should absorb rather than their organization). That is a whole other story however.

The biggest problem I am facing now is that I am bored with the BS part of my job, the fun is not there anymore, my enthusiasm is gone, and I don’t know how to rekindle it. I am very good at what I do, and I absolutely love my clients, but work is drudgery, annoying and completely unexciting. I know that’s why it’s called work and not vacation, but less than three years ago, I could not see a distinction between work and vacation.

Perhaps it is time to retire – I really don’t have that answer yet. I realize this is a very dull blog, but this one I am writing for me.

I am not sure how I’ll get out of this blue funk, and my heartfelt apologies for so many of you who wish this was the biggest problem you were facing. I think we all have some kind of cross to bear, and although mine is an awfully small cross, it feels very heavy and is extremely annoying. I wish all of you the best in the burdens you are carrying, and sincerely hope this does not come across as too much self pity. Each and every one of us deserves better – I hope you all find it!





How To Behave

12 12 2011

Lately every time I pick up a magazine, newspaper article, or more likely read a post from social networks, I find countless tips on etiquette, proper attire, how to behave in every possible scenario I might encounter.

I feel like I have time-warped back to the Fifties. One article insisted that if the invitation calls for “Business Casual” one should only consider dark slacks, a jacket, and a suit coat (khakis were listed as a definite no-no.) Ties were listed as optional.

It was also suggested that if you were not close friends with the host(s), you should research what type of gift to bring as a thank you for the invitation. If you find the host(s) like wine, that would be appropriate – if they enjoy sex toys that require the use of a car battery to operate, I assume that might be a welcome gift – if they are animal lovers, a small petting zoo would be a thoughtful present.

My personal complaint about the revival of new politically correct rules of etiquette is very simple. I don’t give a rat’s ass about what I am supposed to do, or not supposed to do. I don’t need these rules. I think I have enough sense to not bring a menagerie of animals for a gift, and I have never appeared at an event in Underoos.

The fact that people need to follow instructions about their behavior indicates that social networking could eventually take us back to the stone ages. Do we really need to know what not to say; what not to talk about; and how to act around other humans?

I think the answer might be “yes”. I am going straight to Google right now to brush up on my interpersonal skills. I hope I have at least a couple left. Until then, talk among yourselves. A few suggestions: the weather; whether Michael Bolton has the greatest voice ever; where can you still buy Underoos? These topics should keep you busy until it’s time to say goodnight (assuming that is still the correct thing to do.)





MOM

22 09 2011

This does not count as a blog, but it is an apology to those few who read this stuff.  My mother passed away on August 23, and I have simply not felt like writing anything since then. 

However, I do have an obligation to write a blog every week, so to complete my promise to myself, I still must post 9 more blogs by the end of the year, and I fully intend to do so.  If any of you have missed me, I am fine and just buried in work (probably a good thing).  Look for new and possibly more politically incorrect blatherings soon – I also have a few new recipes to share so bear with me, I will return soon.  Thanks for your thoughts – all is well and good.   

 





Gingery Sweet Potatoes

22 08 2011

Gingery Sweet Potatoes.





The Best Ever KCRiverFest

11 08 2011

KCRiverFest once again lived up to it’s reputation as one of Kansas City’s greatest family-oriented Festivals.  A full-fledged carnival brought a whole new level of excitement to the event; and the free children’s area filled with giant inflatables (thanks to an anonymous donor and private supporter of the Festival) was a huge hit with families of all ages.

Zambelli once again put on a spectacular fireworks display, choreographed with the Shades of Blue Jazz Band (Air Force), and the inaugural lighting of the new Christopher Bond Bridge (photo above)..

The  entertainment by Bradley Gaskin; the ever memorable group Riverrock; and my personal favorite, Julia Othmer, once again brought down the house.  Many other musical performers added to the wide spectrum of musical tastes, and the Americana Stage was a huge hit with the Ragtime and Barbershop Quartet loving crowd.

Thanks go out to all of our supporters – the multiple volunteers who are critical to our success, and of course the Port Authority, the City of Kansas City Missouri, and Friends of the River-Kansas City.

There are far too many entities to thank for all of the coordination that makes this Festival successful, but mostly it is you, the residents of Kansas City and all of the surrounding communities that make this event fun for all of us.

Thanks again for another fabulous year – we have even bigger plans for 2012, and look forward to seeing you again next year!





African Spice Paste

8 08 2011

This is a spice paste made in Africa using a pepper called Peri-Peri (origin is actually Portuguese), that can be found in a few stores locally in Kansas City, but easily available on the internet.  This recipe is for Chicken Breasts, but is easily adapted to Pork Chops or even Steak.  Use a mortar and pestle to grind the seeds (just makes you feel like you are part of the tradition – a spice grinder works just as well).

Ingredients:

8 Peri-Peri Peppers, Dried (the only way you can find them here)

 2 tablespoons coriander seeds

 1 tablespoon cumin seeds

 1 tablespoon caraway seeds

 2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic

 1 tablespoon black peppercorns

 2 teaspoons sea salt

 5 tablespoons olive oil

 4 large chicken breast halves (or equivalent pork or beef)

1 12- by 12- by 3-inch disposable aluminum roasting pan.

Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking with medium-hot charcoal. Coarsely grind chiles, spice seeds, garlic, and peppercorns in mortar and pestle, then stir together with salt and oil in a bowl to form a spice paste. Rub paste all over meat.  Oil grill rack, then grill meat ( skin sides down first if using chicken) over coals, turning over occasionally and moving around if flare-ups occur, until browned, 4 to 5 minutes total. Move meat to area with no coals underneath, arranging  so that thicker sides are closest to coals, then cover with inverted roasting pan and grill, turning  over once, until just cooked through, 15 to 17 minutes. Transfer to a platter and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 4





Tilapia Tacos

28 07 2011

Now that summer is in full swing, those strawberries are begging for new uses.  They are plentiful (at least in the midwest), affordable and beautiful.  Here is an unusual way to take advantage of their availability – enjoy!

Summer Tilapia Tacos with Strawberries, Serranos, and Bok Choy

INGREDIENTS

Cooking spray (preferably olive oil flavored)
1 pound tilapia, boneless and skinless 
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 small (6-inch) corn tortillas
2 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped
2 serrano chile peppers, seeded and chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Juice from 1 lemon
2 cups chopped bok choy

Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat a glass baking sheet with cooking spray. Place fish on baking sheet, coat with cooking spray; season with cumin, salt and pepper. Stack tortillas, sprinkle with a few drops of water, and wrap tightly in foil. Cook fish, tortillas until fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork but is still moist, and tortillas are hot, 10 to 15 minutes. Saute bok choy until tender.  In a bowl, combine strawberries, serranos, chives, (cilantro to taste if desired), and lemon juice. Flake fish into pieces; unwrap tortillas. Divide fish, strawberry salsa and bok choy evenly among tortillas. Fold and serve.  Serves 4 people.





Too Hot To Cook

21 07 2011

FRESH FRUIT CROSTINI – awesome poolside food!

Ingredients:

2 large baguette loaves

1 large cantaloupe

1 large honeydew melon

1 pint strawberries

Butter, Garlic, and Italian Seasoning

Fresh choice of berries (optional)

Goat Cheese (optional)

OK this does a take a  few minutes with the oven on, but 20 minutes later the oven comes off and never comes into play again.

Take standard baguette loaves and slice into 1/4″ slices, brush with garlic butter and italian seasoning and toast in oven for 10 minutes per batch (if you are careful you can get this done in one batch).  Crostini should be lightly browned and allowed to cool completely on racks.

Peel, trim, and seed, and hull, and prepare all fruit.  Cut into thin slices (you will need one slice of each for each crostini).  Sprinkle with a little sugar or splenda if so desired.

Alternate thin slices of fruit so the cantaloupe is on the bottom, the honeydew in the middle, and the thinly sliced strawberry on top – shingling the fruit makes it more attractive.  Garnish plate with fresh berries, or simply sprinkle a few blueberries on top of each crostini.

I top each crostini with a small slice of goat cheese, but that is completely up to you – I think it adds a bit of unusual freshness, and this is ridiculously easy to make without having to go outside!





Most Children Left Behind?

29 06 2011

When I was in school, teachers had curriculum to follow, and much of what I was forced to learn I felt at the time was not important. I believe those teachers understood that it was not what I learned but that I learned how to learn. The things I found boring and useless were interesting and fascinating to other students. Those educational interests are what will lead you to different places in your life. You should be able to think for yourself, find the values in what you know and believe, develop self-esteem, and work in an industry where you can always learn, grow, and prosper. This line of thought led me to examine the pros and cons of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). It is more complicated than I would have guessed, but I hope to cover many of the salient points of the topic.

PROS: If all tests are carefully designed to be consistent with the learning expected in every classroom, there should be a distinct connection between curriculum, assessment, activities in the classroom, and most importantly, cognitive learning.
2.) Common standards are important because it is difficult to compare grades across schools and teachers because of local “norms”. A level playing field in education would be the ideal situation – unfortunately this situation does not exist.
3.) Decades of study now show that the quality of teachers’ tests are very weak compared with rigorously developed long-term tests.
4.) One reason the American educational system is failing is because there have not been high stakes for failure. A number of studies have indicated a strong positive relation between high stakes consequences and performance on assessments.

CONS: Standardized tests oversimplify knowledge and do not test higher-order thinking skills. SAT scores between the 1970s and 1980s declined. Why? More students decided to attend college than ever before and they took the SAT tests. This does not indicate a scoring decline, but rather a skewing of the numbers. In fact, SAT scores have been on an upward trend from the early 1990s through the 2000s.
2.) Standardized tests do not take into account the interaction between teachers and their students in the complex social system in todays classrooms. The largest single factor in the problem with our education system appears to be the instability of both families and communities.
3.) Important learning outcomes are simply not measured by standards testing. Standardized tests measure little more than socioeconomic status – administrators and teachers should not be held responsible for scores reflecting what has happened to their charges before. These tests fail to differentiate instruction for different kinds of children, and condemn low-achieving students to learning in an unproductive and boring system.
4.) High-stakes accountability systems create negative consequences: higher dropout rates and lower retention skills, not to mention unethical test preparation/teaching to the test.

My point is simply that the cons outweigh the pros by a very large margin. It is time for No Child Left Behind to go away or change drastically. Maybe this time our teachers and educators can work together to devise a better model for a system. Politicians are obviously not where we should look for this type of direction. One of the principal authors of “No Child Left Behind” was Margaret Spellings, who served in many capacities under George Bush, mostly in the field of education. Ms Spellings has never worked in a school system, and has no formal training in education. In fact, she appears to have less qualifications than I have discussing this very topic.





FOR CLAYTON HUNTER – Sodium Free BBQ

20 06 2011

A great friend recently had open heart surgery to remove something he accidentally placed on his aorta. He has been instructed to remove salt from his diet, with the added stipulation that he increase his protein (meat) intake. I am an avid smoker (not just cigars, but bbq items as well). One of my biggest complaints and challenges have always been the amount of salt in both prepared products and most recipes found published. And so with my good buddy in mind, I set out to create a recipe for a salt free dry rub. it is a little bit on the spicy side (the way I like it), but can easily be toned down to suit your taste. Enjoy and live well – less bloated – and maybe even a little longer.

Salt Free Meat Rub

Just mix all ingredients well and rub into Brisket or Pork (probably works well on Turkey, Chicken, Lamb – whatever.)
6 Tbls. Smoked Spanish Paprika
9 Tbls. Granulated Suger
9 Tbls. Dark Brown Sugar
3 Tbls. Toasted Cumin Seeds
3 Tbls. Chili Powder
3 Tbls. Chipotle Powder
3 Tbls. Fresh Ground Pepper
3 Tbls. Cayenne Pepper
3 Tbls. Onion Powder
3 Tbls. Garlic Powder
2 Cups Salt Free Italian Seasoning
6 Tbls. Ground Jalapeno Powder

Makes enough for two flats of brisket and 6 pork tenderloins.