Monday, November 29, 2010

Looking at the World with Blinders On

Hamtramck, Royal Oak Township, Pontiac.  I could go on and on.  What will it take for our state to realize that they can no longer function with so many separate communities trying to provide their own services?

Yesterday's Detroit Free Press had an editorial called 'It's Crunch Time'.  No, they were not talking about your morning cereal.  They were talking about how we operate as a state with reduced incomes.

I do not believe we should be waiting for a community to be run by an Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) before making changes.  It's too late by then and takes too long to fix the problem.  We need to start changing before the EFM is called in and the community is placed on 'life support'.  If one of these communities actually is allowed to file for bankruptcy, the entire state will be affected.

I hope that someone in the new administration dusts off the report to Jennifer Granholm on Fiscal Services.  It is dated 2006.  Among the suggestions was to move assessing functions to the county level.  Makes a lot of sense to me. 

And while we are at it, let's move tax collection and elections there as well.  We are no longer living in the nineteenth century, but we still operate as though we do.  (Hello, Michigan Townships Association (MTA).  Get with the new century!) 

Why should the local tax collector collect the tax, then pay the county and each individual school district, and then the county pays the state, and then the local settles with the county, who then collects delinquent taxes?  In other states, all taxes are collected and distributed at the county level. And despite what the MTA says, it is not really so cool to drop your taxes off at the local tax collector's home and then sit and have a cup of coffee, as may be done in the small rural townships. They have the US mail service there too.
If we can't get rid of these 1,242 township governments, the let's change the laws regarding who does what.  I have long said and even testified in Lansing that we need to get rid of townships, so this is nothing new for me. 

Michigan can start rethinking about how it does the business of the state, or it can continue its decline.  Those rose-colored glasses are turning into blinders and we need to make some changes.  And soon.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

One Man's and/or Woman's Opinion

Last week I had lunch with a friend who follows my blog.  We were discussing the Oakland Press paper and she asked me what I knew about the editorial page selections.  Specifically, she wondered about the letters to the editor and guest opinions.

Well, I am the wrong person to ask.  I am not the editor, but I have asked the same question of editors in the past.  I remember calling an editor and asking him how they decided which letters to print.  I was told that they printed almost everything they got, within reason, since some folks would write all the time.  I was also told that the fact that they printed a letter did not mean they agreed with it.

I found my friend's inquiry rather pertinent when I saw an editorial last week about culling deer.  Anyone who reads my blogs knows how tired I am of the destruction they have caused in my yard. But the majority of letters to the editor seem to be from nature lovers who would likely abandon Michigan to allow all the wildlife to take over.  The editorial pointed out the errors of their thinking and supported the control of deer.

There are certain syndicated writers on the op/ed page  that I always read and others I only read when I want a good laugh at their inanity.  Likewise with folks who write 'guest opinions'.  I am sure that the paper cannot agree with everyone who writes in, but they provide the opportunity to folks to have their say.

One just has to hope that at some point the editors form an opinion and write an editorial so we see where they stand on the issues.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Black Friday

For all intents and purposes, I am likely done with holiday shopping.  That is because I buy things all year long as I see them and put them away.  (Regarding the previous post, I have also forgotten about gifts I have purchased and find them many months, or years, later.)  I have all of this year's 'stuff' right now in a spare bedroom.

So, I will not be hitting the stores on Friday.  To tell the truth, I have never shopped on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  Last Tuesday I went to Macy's to pick up something and they were having an early bird sale.  I am sure the 'early bird' was trampled to death by all the shoppers.  I ended up leaving because the lines were too long at the registers.

What I would like to know is who in the world is going shopping at Kohl's at 3:00 in the morning?  I guess if you work midnights this is great.  For those of us who normally sleep during the night, I'll be dreaming about shopping.  Maybe.  Probably not.

Update:  This came in an email today from Chico's.  My kind of day.

Finally, a Menu

After several weeks of debating with myself and searching through recipes, I have finally published my Thanksgiving menu.  Yes, published.  I print out a menu for everyone to see.  While this may sound strange, I have a very good reason for doing so.

During the thirty-eight years I have lived in my home, I have cooked a LOT of holiday meals.  I have served a LOT of food at parties, too.  I have also NOT served food.  This is because I would forget it in the fridge or even on the stove. 

So, the printed menu serves as reminder to at least look for the food on the list.  I am sure my forgetfulness will only get worse.  Looking for a vase for the potpourri I purchased today, I found instead my candle vases from last Thanksgiving.  I had forgotten about them.  The vase I was looking for?  Who knows.  And I can't find the table runner I wanted to use.  This all comes from having too much 'stuff'.  Both in my house and in my brain.  System overload.

So, for those who are interested, here is the menu:

Brie en croute, Fig jam, Sliced apples

Sparkling Pomegranate Juice


Chestnut Soup


Salt-Roasted Turkey w Giblet Gravy

Mashed Golden Potatoes

Roasted Butternut Squash

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts w Shallots & Bacon

Spinach Salad w Pears, Walnuts, Goat Cheese - Raspberry Vinaigrette

Brandied Cranberry Chutney

Cranberry Walnut Cornmeal Bread


Chocolate Raspberry Chambord Torte

Coffee and Assorted Teas

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Seems We've been Here Before

Back on June 21 I blogged about my experience at the airport.  I only mentioned that I had the 'full body' search.  I did not go into details. 

Well, have we all now read about the complaints?  I, for one, whole-heartedly agree with the complainers.  If a complete stranger did this to you in any place other than the airport, you would be yelling for the police.  Lot of good that will do you here.

So, let me say that the experience was disgusting.  Did the TSA agent think there was something other than breast tissue in my bra?  What was she expecting to find in my crotch area?   All because zippers on my cargo pants set off the alarm. 

As I said then and say now, do I look that dangerous?  If this is the best our TSA can do, I'll take the train next time.

Update:  Check this out:  http://www.smartertravel.com/blogs/today-in-travel/ways-to-fix-the-pat-down-problem.html?id=6271146&source=dealalert&value=2010-11-25+00%3A00%3A00&u=36C228E284

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Talk about some heavy reading

When I use the term 'heavy reading', I usually am referring to non-fiction books about theories on some financial or economic matter.  But in this instance I am talking about the latest book I am reading, 'Fall of Giants'.  The book is over 1,000 pages and weighs over three pounds.  It is the first book in the century trilogy by Ken Follett.  Now, I certainly hope that it does not take the author another 20 years to finish this trilogy. 

Mr. Follett, who is one of my favorite authors, wrote 'Pillars of the Earth' in 1989.  The sequel, 'World Without End' was published in 2007.  My friends and I were asking each other what we remembered.  Heck, at our ages, it's remarkable that we even remembered the title.

So, I am a little over 10% of the way through this first book.  Heaven help me if I drop it on my foot.

Food, food, food

The last ten days have been like a food fiesta.  Three classes at Schoolcraft, two work days at the hospital pastry kitchen and one demonstration and chocolate tasting.  Add to that my prepping for Thanksgiving and, as I said, it's been 'food, food, food.'

I think my menu for next Thursday is finally set.  I have had a last minute change in dessert.  So 'last minute' that it occurred this afternoon.  That resulted from my 'French torte' class that I had today.  We made an absolutely exquisite Chocolate Raspberry Chambord Torte.  We made and then assembled chocolate chiffon cake, lady fingers, chocolate raspberry mousse, and chambord syrup into a 10-inch confection. 

Now, while I am pretty sure I could have come home from class and made decent headway into eating the entire thing (and then passing out), I decided to freeze it for the holiday.  So, no pumpkin cheesecake bars and no apple cranberry cake.  And no slaving over a hot oven on Wednesday.

I also did not have to cook dinner tonight.  I had plenty of leftover food from last night's class.  So, tonight for dinner I had a stuffed cabbage, slice of lamb, potato boulangere, and some sausage and sauerkraut.  We made the sauerkraut in class several weeks ago.  Tomorrow I can eat the rest of my leftovers, consisting of hunter's style chicken stew and shrimp and sausage jambalaya.

Last weekend I had leftover chicken curry and basmati rice with naan bread that we made in class.  While I have never been a fan of curried foods, this was delicious, and not just because it happened to be the dish I prepared in class.  It is definitely something I will make again.

So now I am on to reviewing the upcoming class schedule for next semester.  So many foods, so little time.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Sobering Experience

This past Saturday was the Gleaners Food Bank 'Scouting for Food' event.  When my sons were active in the Boy Scouts, I drove around dropping off bags at homes one Saturday and picking them up filled with food on the following.  At least once a year, postal workers also drop off bags to be filled with food.

On Saturday morning I placed my bag of food on the front porch and then forgot about it.  It always gets picked up.  So, I was rather surprised to see it still sitting there on Sunday morning.

The bag said that if pick-up was not made, to call Gleaners.  I did exactly that this morning.  I got a recorded message that directed me to their website:  http://www.gcfb.org/.  Once there I went to http://www.pantrynet.org/ to find a local food pantry where I could drop off the donation.

I discovered a place called Hospitality House  in Walled Lake.  I called and discovered that they were open today, so I put the bag in my car and drove over.

I have donated to Lighthouse, Salvation Army, Open Door, veterans groups, but I have never actually gone inside a food pantry.  My heart dropped when I opened the door and saw the room full of people.  Young and old.  It was literally 'standing room only'.  Suddenly, my donation had a face.  Many faces.

Making online donations and giving away our used goods or canned food is very impersonal.  Seeing all of these people waiting to get food, was a very sobering experience.  My understanding is that the response to Saturday's food drive was overwhelming.  But it is not too late to donate whatever you can.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Go Figure

I have started to plan my Thanksgiving dinner.  After 30 some years of cooking, I stopped making the old stand-bys and have tried new material.  The only stumbling block I had this year was on deciding what green vegetable to make.

I sent out an email to family members asking them to rank five choices in order of preference.  I was very surprised by the results.  Placing 'dead last' was broccoli.  And I mean DEAD last.  The voting was so lopsided I will likely never serve this to my family again.  One voter said he could move it to first place only if it was in a bowl swimming in melted cheese.

Next on the 'do not eat' list was green beans.  And I must have a gazillion different recipes for making them.  They're so easy to fix too.  Oh well.

In third place, smack dab in the middle, is Brussel sprouts.  That will be on the table since there is a tie for first.  I'll get to that solution in a minute.

For the Brussel sprouts I am going to carmelize them in the oven along with shallots and pancetta.  The oven will be on anyway for Mr. Turkey so they can share space.

In first place, in a tie, are Spinach and green salad.  So, to accommodate that situation I will do a spinach salad.  I'm still debating on the composition of same, but I've got time.

Maybe the results of the vote are just a reflection that green vegetables don't top anyone's list of favorite Thanksgiving foods.  And I sure hope no one wants stuffing or pumpkin pie, cause they are not on the list this year.  More on the menu later.

Friday, November 5, 2010

An Oxymoron?

Title of an email I received today from one the the baking companies I follow: 

 Secrets to successful fruitcake

I am sure some folks think that no matter what you do it will not be successful.

Live Long and Prosper

I am doing a NYT crossword yesterday and the first clue is 'Sci-fi role started in 1966'.  Well, I hate TV and pop music trivia because I don't store much of that knowledge upstairs.  But, the down clue for the first letter was year in which Michelangelo began work on 'David'.  Aha.  Must be 'MD something'. (MDI)

So.  A character strating with 'M'.  Wheels start spinning.  I was in college in '66, so not watching much TV.  But 'Mr. Spock' jumped into my head.  I have seen all the 'Star Trek' movies and have seen enough of the series over the years to make an imprint in the old noggin. 

And then I thought, WOW.  Not only did Leonard Nimoy start playing Spock in 1966, he played Spock Prime in the latest movie in 2009.  (In that same period of time, actually 1963-2008, we've had six different actors protray James Bond.)

Is there any other TV and movie role that has gone on for so long with the same actor?  I couldn't think of any, but if you know of one, let me know.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What a Ride

It has been a hectic nine days since I last wrote this blog.  I've had trips to Ann Arbor and Lansing for meetings, fulfilled two of my volunteer jobs, worked a poll for the election of a successful candidate, made a trip to the emergency room with chest pains, and survived another power outage.  Along with just running my normal errands and keeping my house and yard in shape for winter.  No wonder I had no time to write.

During this past week, two gentlemen who I've known and had dealings with on government committees told me they were retiring at the end of the year.  I have great respect for both men and their wealth of knowledge when it comes to government.  Taking their knowledge with them to retirement will leave a void both at the company for one and in State government for the other.  (I also know two other long-term State employees leaving at the end of the year.  Can you spell BRAIN DRAIN?)

In conversations with them over the past few years, both have mentioned at one time or another that they do not know what they will do in retirement.  Do?  I could give them some of my list of items.  I have a longer to-do list now than I had when I was working full-time.

Maybe it is because I am home that I see more things to take care of, but I doubt it.  There is also the 'fun factor' of things to accomplish while I am still able.  Places to travel to on my 'must-see' list.  And there are the culinary classes at Schoolcraft in the continuing ed program.  This semester it is a Friday night series on various food preparation techniques and in a few weeks a class on making French tortes.  A classmate suggested last week that I enroll in the full-time program.  Right.  Who has the time?

Besides, I have finally reached the point in life where I can sit down and read a book or watch a movie without feeling the overwhelming need to get up an do something productive.  And when you reach that point, retirement becomes a real treasure to enjoy.