Category Archives: Education


Yes, I went to two cooking schools. I am a reader, scholar, educator, consultant, retiree¬† but I just cheated. I did not look at the entire recipe for Croquembouche, just for ingredients and timing. I skimmed it, handcuff me now. OK, I’m going to add a bit of melted 70% chocolate before the crowning glory. That might be a life sentence according to Careme, the inventor.

It should be not so if I feed our friends. I haven’t made this for years, since cooking school, and will let my husband wave the caramel atop the structure I create. He is a physicist and would like the science of the sugar. Yes, Father, I have sinned. I did not read the entire recipe.

If you build it…. now I know he has to design and build it, it may be a pyramid, who knows? I’ll help with that and do the chocolate. To my memory he has never made a caramel cage. Cheers! Dee


Morning Has Broken

It’s a couple hours ’til that here and we were up late due to fireworks displays that are always done on the 3rd big-time. Nice display, not Pyro Paula but close. I think the “big city” lets the little ones have their displays on the 4th.

Leadership. I was twelve. Everyone in class was a year older and I was a teeny girl. The natives started getting restless. I asked them to stack the chairs in the back of our wonderful light-filled, wood-floored classroom and grabbed the first album I saw and placed it on the record player. The former Cat Stevens sang Morning Has Broken. Then I put on Gordon Lightfoot’s If You Could Read My Mind.

I was a dancer and early gymnast. I had everyone stand an arms’ length apart and we did a light stretching session for 30 minutes. The teacher never showed up. We ended up with a very quiet and relaxed class who got along and went on with their day.

That day, thanks to courage and the right music, I became the leader Dad always wanted me to be. I organized and calmed down 30 kids, all older than me, just by playing music and relaxing their muscles. Lean to the right, lean to the left. Try to reach your toes. Stay ten seconds, nine, eight…..

I wish schools now would do that every day, ADHD would be at a minimum! The chaos that is awakening, dressing and eating a toaster waffle and catching the bus impacts a child’s day, especially if it is me, being taunted on the school bus by three bullies down the street. They did it once, and 12 family members (kids), from them and their cousins, addressed the bullies non-violently and the bullies never spoke to me or harassed me again. I remain in touch with those families. Not the bullies.

We lived in the country, outside a small village. At birthday parties we built hay forts at the neighbors’ and ran around in cattle dung. Of course my sister and I had to wear white blouses, skirts, lace anklets and patent leather Mary Janes to do so when everyone else was in jeans or overalls and boots. You wouldn’t like to be me after the first such party at age eight. Oh no, my little sister couldn’t be blamed at all. I was responsible as the eldest.

Leadership is a gift and a burden. Dad would tell you that, may he rest in peace. I believe it is a presence and a sense of purpose, smarts, and knowing who you’re dealing with at the moment.

Years ago the light from the 2nd floor windows, bare wood floors and the music helped calm thirty unruly students when our teacher failed to attend class. At age 12 I had no teaching certificate, but at the end of that “class” everyone talked to each other and got along. That was my certificate. Happy 4th! Dee

Set, Spell a Bit

It’s cool on the porch today, sweet tea and biscuits?

It is nice under the umbrella table now, some iced tea and fresh cherries?

North and South, it is our nation and I grew up in the North (father-in-law says I singly staged the War of Northern Aggression). I assure him it is not my fault as I could never be that old. I married Texas and the South.It seems 1860’s to me but it’s only 15+ years.

How about some chicken enchiladas? I made them for the hands.

Would you like some beef rouladen with spaetzle? Then I learned about Lady Bird Johnson’s recipe for Pedernales Chili, 1962. They cooked for 5,000 including JFK at the Johnson family ranch in Pedernales, outside Austin. It’s Texas. No beans. I purchase and grind my own beef and choose my spices. I’ve never made it for his family. His cousin S made a good version of chili, a wonderful Texas gal, and she added beans! That Lady Bird chili I started making years ago brought my sensibilities about The Empire State and The Lone Star State together. We have a lot in common!

The funniest thing is that both our families hail from infamous towns in Switzerland. My husband grew up on a dairy, and I on what might be called a “hobby farm” with Dr. B and a northern family.

The southerners still don’t “get” the flavors of lebkuchen and mincemeat, but bet they would love prime rib and Yorkshire pudding over the holidays. Alas, I only cook there for Thanksgiving and m-i-l and I spend up to five days preparing for the feast. She loves having our old dog Zoe there for the marathon because it saves on vacuuming!

In every country I’ve visited and spent much time in, I have found the southern regions more amiable. I once had a non-conversation with a Greek cigar merchant knowing good morning, thank you, you’re welcome (kalimera, efharisto and parakolo), laughing and doing hand movements while my sister and I tried to purchase a few cigars for my father as a souvenir. You girls want to smoke cigars? No, they’re for Dad!

Twenty-five years later I named every mezede (appetizer) on the table for Dad’s 70th birthday aboard a sailing yacht. The staff, chef included, were speechless. Hey, I’m smart, and I listen. Spanakopita, dolmades, keftadakia, risosalata, taramosalata, tyroppita and I went on to include eggplant, octopus and more. I make a great moussaka but my husband will not eat eggplant. Go figure, he’s from Texas! Cheers and good cooking! Dee

Inspiration and Aspirations

Never mind perspiration. I awakened thinking I was late on a Sunday to take her out. Turns out the sun was bright and it was 5:30 in the morning and I awakened her.

If I were to opine, I’d say that when her eyes first opened as a pup she realized she was living in squalor. She knew she was a mutt, and wanted to get out of there pronto. Luckily the folks that allowed her to have worms, coccidia et al dumped her litter at the local shelter. Neither I nor my husband ever grew up in those conditions but we understand them and are grateful for shelters who take care of needy animals.

We were married a year and “settled in” as much as a software guy can be coming off the dot-bomb era so decided to get a dog. We met Zoe and were smitten. She was taken. We saw other dogs but liked “Camilla.” They called the next morning, said the hold was released and that she was ours. She was so excited coming home in that cardboard box she jumped right out!

I threw the box in the back seat and she relished sitting on my lap and driving in the car (windows closed, of course, AC on). Oh this was the second shelter to nudge nudge. wink wink change the name. We were down to a list of five. After 20 years of volunteering with shelters and also helping spay/neuter over 2,500 feral cats we settled on a name. Zoe, Greek for “life.” It has suited her all these years as she is the happiest dog I’ve ever met.

Her aspirations were realized. A good family and new/no hips. Yes, by the time she was four months old, at under 20 lbs. she had the worst hips her surgeon had ever seen. I did two weeks of research and we got her in to Val the Vet at six and nine-months of age for two FNHO’s, femoral head and neck ostectomies, they took out her hips. Back then they didn’t have titanium hips for smaller dogs so she had to grow her own hips and that she did. We walked her, my husband had her sneak into the pool for water therapy and she just took it on, life as usual.

Zoe is a trouper. All these years later she is kind of a mascot in our community and all the kids call out “Look, it’s Zoe!!!” My name is irrelevant. She is so kind and gentle to people, little ones, other dogs, even cats. She does have a forever home and has since she turned six weeks old. She is an inspiration to me for the light she gives others, and an aspiration as to what one can do with no hips.

I’ve had two dogs. The first was abused by a Deputy Sheriff, terrified of men in uniform, men with a cap, men in general and all children. I cured her of that in a month. Well, until my Navy neighbor came out in his dress whites. I just said “Chani, it’s Chris!” and she ran up to him and luckily didn’t get any yellow fur on his uniform. He usually wore a tee-shirt and camo shorts to work. She had never seen uniform or lid.

Zoe was to be raised from the day she turned six weeks old, a little puff ball, to now, with love and training and knowing she would be with us for the rest of her life. We’re family. We have inspiration, aspirations and have shared some perspiration to get there.

I like to think our little family has harmony. My brother just says Zoe is needy. Well, she has her own sign language (stare language) and sometimes he and usually I, know what she wants or needs. Out? Need “Precious” that is her only toy?

There was a terrible story yesterday about a tremendously malnourished, frightened and probably abused dog. She looks like my Chani before rehabilitation. Now with a foster family, I hope she gets the food and care she needs to find her own forever home. I know we saved Zoe, as in Texas rather than have two hip surgeries many would have put a bullet in her head. She chose well. Zoe has taught us too, and made a lot of friends. I will be with her, holding her, until the last moment of her life. Right now she’s happy and healthy.

Zoe was offered a mowed goat pen first time in Texas 13 years ago, so I asked¬†my husband to go without us. Then his dad scrubbed an old dog crate and put it in my husband’s old room. Zoe walked in and out in a few seconds and wanted the bed. Now she stands on the sofa on “grandpa’s spot” and watches him come home from feeding the cattle. As she ages I do not wish to fly her anymore. If I’m driving, she has her own setup in back with 4″ orthopedic bed…and she still loves the car. When we fly in “grandma” is always upset that Zoe is missing, even bought her a matching stocking to ours last year because “she’s family.” We do up to five days of cooking and need someone to pick up crumbs. That would be Zoe. Here’s to the dogs in our lives! Dee

Catholic School

This is college. Homework one night was for the entire class to see a documentary rumored about something concerning hookers and the love canal.

Of course students were asking why we were assigned, in a history class, in a Catholic college, to see such a film. Of course they secretly wanted to see it.

I lived in the area (not the immediate area) at the time and was well aware of the Hooker Chemical Company’s illegal disposal and covering and lies and deception regarding hazardous waste. As I was underage I only heard it on the news or newspapers and certainly was not working for them nor did my family have anything to do with that industry.

The planned community near Niagara Falls, NY was sited on landfill that held the toxic waste. After covering it over, Hooker sold it to the school district for $1, to build School 99. People died. I believe it is still a Superfund site.

I probably told a few friends before the class assignment. Everyone else thought it would be a lurid film that would not be shown in that place. I wanted them to see it, without knowing what it was about, so they could know what these people were going through.

The news around Buffalo was saturated with this story, perhaps still the largest environmental disaster in US history. Sadly, Dee

Hog Wild

On A Cook Abroad (a BBC production) I saw a horrific scene of dogs going after a wild boar (cingiale in Italian). They’re nasty critters, I know as they take down calves at my in-laws’ ranch in Texas.

On the show featuring Monica Galetti the dogs were feasting on the boar’s flesh when one hunter slit the boar’s throat. I know that le Francais think you’re so superior to Americans. Let me tell you how we do it better. And this is Texas, where you think folks are all backwards. We’ve got an edge on France.

Why would a top end London chef want gnawed meat ravaged by dogs? To her credit, Chef Galetti showed shock and remorse.

Trap the wild hogs humanely in a large enclosure with food. Bring a truck and trailer and fashion your wire “hallway” to get from large trap to hallway to cage. My father-in-law and his friend never touched the hogs. Drive to a place in a nearby town, put them through a weigh station (I never got near the crazy beasts) and I charted the weight, stay out of the way and get out pen and paper, that was my job. Get paid by the pound. Two hogs are not nearly enough to pay the mortgage but money is money and neighbors get together to make tasty large enclosures not to make money, but to save their crops and cattle.

Hogs are transported to Ft. Worth Texas for slaughter and the meat placed on planes to FRANCE. Texans do not want to eat them, yet.

None of them have been roughed up by humans or dogs. As long as France and England want wild boar on the menu, Texas will continue to provide it. No gnawing dogs. Cheers, Dee


A lot of it is based on manners, and if your parent(s) didn’t teach you any you are at a loss in the world. Back in the day I had to balance a dictionary on my head, take violin, ballet and piano and call family friends aunts and uncles. Not all at the same time.

Please and thank you always, thank you notes were also a must. Shake hands, allow hugs. Also cheek kisses from older women (one I loved as a grandma) with lots of lipstick.

Client service is not included here but I’m good at that, at least I was before retirement. Customer service is included.

Manners. Greet the customer, treat him/her with respect. If a supermarket clerk asks me how bad the rain or snow is outside, I answer. They’re trying to be friendly as they hear thunder and watch the skies open up. “Is there anything I can help you with?” Unless it’s an over-eager bra saleswoman bursting into your dressing room while you’re naked, that’s a good thing.

Leave your personal problems at home. Whether a flower store or a desk that is designed to make people who pay your salary feel safe and sound, go the extra mile and make things happen.

Late last night our brand new smoke/carbon monoxide detector (installed yesterday by professionals) started chirping. No-one would help me. I was asked if my husband was home to fix it. No. “Well then you’ll just have to get up there and start pressing some buttons.” We pay this person’s salary.

This hiree then said she would not lift a finger to help me, except to put in a work order for the next day. I had a massive headache for listening to these sharp sounds for four hours and my dog’s ears had to be hurting. I checked this morning and she never bothered to put in a work order!

My husband makes more in a day than she does in a month. We pay her salary. Yet she slings out nasty comments and cannot even greet me when I see her. That is callous, rude and unprofessional.

A new system was installed again this morning and as of now it is chirp-free. Yea! There have been over 100 employees/contractors here during our tenure. Let’s say there were 100. Ninety-nine would vouch for me and my husband and dog Zoe, likewise on our end. There’s just one bad apple.

More rules. Be professional and do your job. Greet people as if you are happy to see them. If there is an issue, correct it or know who can do so and contact them if the situation warrants. I can tell you right now that I do not feel safe with that person late at night as if Zoe and I were to be attacked, robbed, raped it could be right in front of the windows where she could see, she’d never bother calling 911.

Laziness is not an option. You may not wish to work wherever you are working to get through school or have a first job but you must know that getting the job done is your priority. Recommendations go a long way for getting into a four-year school, military, anything. If you treat all your customers like you’re above them and they are dirt when they pay your salary, you’re going to have a problem finishing your education AND getting a job afterward.

Attitude matters as well as manners. Also, lying to customers and promising to do something you’ve no intention of doing and think you’re sly and beating the game, does not work and will come back and bite you in the behind. So will smugness and haughty behavior. In the end I don’t really care if you dress for work better than I dress to take out the dog. I’m retired.

If you want a job somewhere, present yourself well, get hired and do your job the best you can. I’ve been friends with old-fashioned elevator operators, janitors, restaurant staff (one just stopped me at the butcher counter the other day after their restaurant closed two years ago), butchers, drycleaners, folks at our new hardware store.

Our old elevator operator, Tony, ran a hand elevator in a significant building in which I worked. He’s probably retired now but last I heard they put in electronic elevators and moved Tony to Security where I hope he made a lot more for his pension!

These were gorgeous wood elevators with a brass wheel for control and he hit the floor on the mark every time for the six years I worked there. It was like it was my magic elevator, he knew my floor and he always started the morning with “bella ragazza,” beautiful girl in Italian. Now that is customer service. Ciao, Dee