The Discipline Dilemma


My dog Cali was better behaved and more respectful of the priest at the Blessing of the Animals Sept. 30, 2017, than some kids are in church. If animals can behave, shouldn’t kids?

When is it OK to scold kids who aren’t yours?

I was sitting in a pew at confirmation orientation for my daughter (who was on the other side of the church) when three teen-age girls behind me began talking. It wasn’t a stray comment or two. It was constant and it was loud.

Between their chatter and laughing, I couldn’t hear the priest say how impressed he was with everyone’s behavior. I considered turning around and telling them to be quiet, or motioning them to join me in the vestibule for a dress down.

But I chickened out. You know how mean girls can be. I knew they were by themselves – no mom would tolerate their behavior – but I was unsure what, if any, role I had. Did I have an obligation to tell them to be quiet and respectful in a house of worship? Or was understanding and keeping my mouth shut part of being a good Christian?

Instead of focusing on the Mass, I was wrackeIMG_1904.jpgd with indecision. My shoulders stiffened a few times and I nearly turned and then . . . nothing. I decided to keep quiet. But I was thrilled when the Smart Mom in front of me calmly turned around and gave them a look that said, “Are you serious? Shaddup already.”

I forgot about the Mom Stare. With a turn of the head and narrowing of the eyes, it conveyed the message. After the MS, the girls stopped talking – for about two minutes. When they started up again, Smart Mom calmly turned her head again. Genius.

The thing about teen-age girls is the things they find funny are idiotic by anyone else’s standards. You try to be patient and remember you were once their age and then boom – something pushes you to the brink. In this case, it was one of the girls walking backwards on her way back from communion.

A friend said it was just as loud in her corner of the church, but noted, “Look at the bright side. At least they’re here.”

True. It’s not all their fault. Somebody dropped the ball. It’s up to parents to tell kids it’s not OK to talk in theaters, scream in stores, climb on restaurant tables, talk in houses of worship, fool around in class, scroll I-Phones in class and argue with coaches.

I took 6-year-old twin boys (long story) on a Target run last week. Though adorable, they were screaming in the store. It didn’t take long for customers to give me the “shut those kids up” dirty look. Keep in mind that my daughter hated shopping as a young child and I stayed home for nearly five years rather than inflict her screaming on other shoppers. Yes, I’m that considerate.


Faced with stereo screaming, I immediately found myself quoting Barney: “Let’s use our indoor voices!”  Somewhere in the recesses of my brain was the purple dinosaur that my daughter loved so much. Say what you will about Barney, but he teaches the basics: Keep your voice down inside. Clean up after yourself. Please and thank you are the magic words.

When I was growing up, you didn’t challenge adults. My mother didn’t yell, but my father screamed so loudly you could hear him in the front yard. No, make that the street. Let’s just say you didn’t want to annoy him. As my nephew once said, “That’s one scary dude.”

I don’t think a lot of kids respect adults today. I’m shocked by some of the things that come out of my kids’ mouths. I’ve done my best to discipline them and command respect, but I get some pretty horrendous back talk. So do other authority figures. When my son called a serve out in a recent college tennis match, his opponent began throwing F-bombs at him and his coach.

The coach marched up to to the kid and said, “Who do you think you’re talking to? I played for a top 10 college team. I could beat all of you with my left hand.” I understand his rage. As a coach, you expect some respect.

Kids need authority figures to set them straight. We had to tell our college kid that online gambling isn’t a good idea, nor is sleeping in the dorm hallway when you stumble back at   5 a.m. We had to tell my daughter that it’s not OK to watch Netflix in study hall even if everyone else is doing it and the teacher doesn’t care.

A few weeks ago, I was playing golf with three guys when the twosome behind us drove a ball within two feet of us. We politely told them to cut it out. Two holes later, they almost hit us again. A guy in our foursome pulled out his best Dad voice, screaming “That’s twice now. Don’t let it happen again. This is completely unacceptable.”

We speculated that he was in the military, most likely the Marines, to have such a scary  Dad voice. We decided to toe the line for the rest of the round, just to be on the safe side.


The Blessing of the Animals celebrates St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and ecology. Among the animals blessed on the Town Green in Guilford, CT., was a chicken. Here, Cali gets her first of two blessings.











The Best Boss Ever

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Just because you’re not writing doesn’t mean you’re not still a reporter. When Nick Fradiani won American Idol, his hometown of Guilford, CT., had a parade and was treated to a free concert on the Green. With a budding celebrity in our midst, I couldn’t miss the event.

The pressure’s on.

My former editor is following my blog.

After three months of silence (bliss) on his end, he dropped me an email sharing his thoughts and insights. It doesn’t sound like much, but I value his opinion. A lot. “No need to thank me. Just keep doing the blog. I enjoy reading it,” he wrote. Do you love this guy or what?

Though most reporters have love/hate relationships with editors, J is the kind of boss you want to please. He trusts you. He doesn’t hover, direct or insert his own voice into the story. He’s there if you need him, but likes when you figure things out yourself. He’s got lots of underlings, but makes you feel like you’re the only one.

At one point, The Curmudgeon pronounced J the only person in the universe that could be my boss. I agree with him.

You see, I don’t really do well with bosses. I’m the independent type (attitude problem?) so when a supervisor bosses me around, I want to run. I was fired for the first time in my life last year by a boss who took herself and product way too seriously. She wanted me to write in her voice and tore me to shreds with her vitriol. I took it (and her paltry wage) because I felt lucky to find a job at my age, but I was miserable.

She did me a favor firing me. As a friend advised, “Now you can tell your kids you were fired and it wasn’t the end of the world.”

I’m at an age where I’d rather volunteer or pound rocks than work for someone I don’t respect. I cringe when middle-age workers share horror stories of being jerked around by bosses half their age. I understand their humiliation and sense of defeat. It’s never easy being bossed around, but it gets harder with age. When one of Lyndon B. Johnson’s (yes, I’m watching the Ken Burns’ Vietnam documentary) daughters admonished him for lighting a cigarette after a 14-year break, he said, “I’ve now raised you girls. I’ve now been President. Now it’s my time!”

We all have our breaking points. Back in the Dark Ages, an editor told me she wanted me to wear a beeper. Since I was a conscientious reporter for eight-plus hours every day, I told her I’d prefer not to wear an electronic “leash.”

I balked and eventually won, but she wasn’t happy. I did my best for her, but she wrote in my yearly review that my production could be better. I refused to sign it and complained to the managing editor that I felt “unappreciated.” “Hey, now you know how I feel every day with my wife,” he said. Uh oh. How did we get on this subject?

Another editor reminded me that she was my supervisor, not my friend. I didn’t want to be her friend, but I did expect her to be cordial. She was excessively cold for our tiny newsroom, where we joked and bantered all day. We were a chain of small daily and weekly newspapers (rags?). I made $12,000 per year. One photographer joked that our piddly funeral benefits would cover a wooden casket and a case of beer.

We were there because we wanted to be, not for the money or glory. After her “friends” proclamation, I was halfway out the door. I didn’t want to work for her. There’s more to life than work. If you doubt it, consider that no one from my mother-in-law’s working years came to her funeral. Only a few of my father-in-law’s former colleagues showed up for his, a fraction of the folks I expected.

J is an entirely different animal. Blessed with an incredibly acerbic wit, he’d proffer story ideas in a wry, sarcastic tone that bordered on whining. He’d get mad and frustrated with reporters and bureau chiefs, but I never saw him lose his cool or berate anyone. He was always a gentleman.

Perhaps his best talent was coming up with offbeat story ideas. He’d scour the newspaper, including the classifieds, looking for anything that caught his eye. He’d throw a lot of them my way, pitching with the best possible spin.

Some highlights:

  • A story about people paying to light virtual candles instead of going to funerals or wakes. We had no idea that this, online obits, guest books and condolences would become the standard.
  • A piece about a parakeet laying eggs after looking at herself in the mirror. Yes, I agreed to write this gem. I think it may have been the last story I wrote for him.
  • A story about the Dalai Lama and Richard Gere at Yale University. Gere was my major celebrity crush since “An Officer & A Gentleman.” He wore an impeccably tailored Armani suit. I covered the press conference, but my knees shook for hours.

But most importantly, J was my lifeline to my former life when I was home with my kids and thought I’d lose it. I’d call him up to ask if he had anything for me and he’d deliver. I think he realized that as much as I love my kids, I missed writing, the newsroom chatter and the adrenaline rush that comes with breaking a story.

I emailed him last year when my son went to college and I had a lot of time on my hands. “Please sir, can you spare a story?” He wrote back a few weeks later to tell me he was retired. Yikes. When did we get old enough for that?

Being the kind man he is, we went out to lunch in New Haven, CT., to catch up and plot job hunting strategies for senior citizens. Since he lives on Wooster Street in New Haven, CT., home of world-famous Pepe’s Pizza, I suggested Italian. “Anywhere but Pepe’s,” he said. “There’s no way in hell I’m standing in line for pizza.”

I told The Curmudgeon that J’s now on a blog blast. “You’ve come full circle,” he said. I guess so.









I’m a Liebster, You’re a Liebster

liebster2.pngRight about now Chrissy from Chrissy’sFabulousFifties ( must think I’m a slug. The kind woman nominated me for the Liebster Award almost a month ago, and guess what? Squat.  It’s one of my problems. I start things, but don’t finish.

Run a half-marathon? (Not) Swim twice a week? (Chlorine is doing a number on my hair.) Remove the junk from the garage? (Maybe Christi wants to walk the dogs.)  Yard work? (Does anyone want to walk the dogs?)

The Curmudgeon has relentlessly hounded me for years to “complete your tasks.” OK, so he may be right about this one thing.

This inability (tragic flaw?) to complete tasks has almost convinced me I need planner. I know people (Waking Up on the Wrong Side of 50) who swear by them, but I’ve never used them. There’s a little rebel in me that abhors schedules. Perhaps it’s because so much of a mom’s life revolves around other people’s schedules. We cherish our “free” time.

So here you go Chrissy. Many thanks for the nomination. I love your blog because you take readers into your heart and mind with every post. You’re honest, direct and funny. You truly are bold, sassy and fabulous. Never change. We need more of you in the world today.

Here are Chrissy’s 11 questions:

  1. What do you like most about blogging?  I write about whatever I want. It’s mine, so I’m accountable to me. So much of newspaper reporting hinges on what editors deem newsworthy. Blogging gives a platform to write about the people I meet, issues that concern me and silly things that happen in my life.
  2.  What is your favorite season: June (spring/summer) is my favorite month. The days are incredibly long, school’s ending, flowers are blooming and the grass is lush green. June is the promise of summer adventures, fun and freedom.
  3. What is the one change you would like to make to your blog and why? I wish I had gone with the premium package so it had a few more bells and whistles. I didn’t want to spend money on something that I wasn’t sure I’d stick with. You know, like a gym membership you drop after 6 months.

    4. What is the main theme of your blog? That’s the $1 million question. I guess it’s a little like Seinfeld, a blog about nothing. It’s very stream of consciousness. It’s the people and lessons I’m learning along the way.

    5. What is your favorite hobby? Golf. I played when I was a kid, and just picked my clubs back up about three years ago. I love it, and I’m calling it a hobby rather than a sport because I can’t score to save my life.

    6. What is your dream job? Parenting a 4-year-old. They’re potty trained, past the terrible 2s, think you’re the best and give tons of hugs.

    7. How many blogs do you follow? This is a little like someone asking you what you got on your SATs. You’re a tad embarrassed by the number so you inflate it. I’m going to be honest and say 30. I’m new and just getting the hang of it. If I read a post I like, I’m quick to follow a blog. I’m that way with Facebook too. If I like something, I let you know. It’s the least I can do.

    8. Who is the most important person in your life. My husband. I adore him.

    9. What is your favorite book? Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. While reading it, I was completely blown away by McCourt’s writing. It was like looking at a piece of art, and I wondered how anyone could write so beautifully. I’ve loaned it out to friends who don’t feel the same way. That’s OK.

    10. Are you a morning person or a night owl? I like mornings, but it takes me awhile to get going and don’t even talk to me before I’ve had a cup of coffee (50 percent decaf these days.) I admire people who are perky in the morning, but I don’t understand how people can be chatty at 7 a.m. For a study of morning vs. evening people, go to a Hampton Inn breakfast and look around. People either look raring to go or dazed with bedhead.

    11. Do you write your blog at morning or night? Morning, often in bed immediately upon waking. It’s when my brain is rested, fresh and not bogged down with the stuff of the day.


    My nominees: Quirky, honest and self-deprecating. A New Zealand mother decides it’s time for her family to follow their dreams. Can I come along for the ride? A blog written from the perspective of a dog. I love it. I wish I had thought of it. A young mom of three shares her journey after a spinal cord injury. Gripping, honest and a rare glimpse into the everyday challenges of moving on after a life-altering injury. The title says it all. And I like her because she told me in no uncertain terms that I’m a bad ass. I like having her in my corner. You got a problem with that?

    11 Questions for the nominees:


    1. Why did you start blogging?

    2. Do you have a writing background?

    3. How often do you post?

    4. What’s your favorite dessert?

    5. Coffee or tea?

    6. Favorite movie?

    7. What makes you laugh out loud?

    8. Best place you’ve ever visited?

    9. Something you like about yourself?

    10. Best way to spend your spare time?

    11. Who’s had the most influence on your life?

    The Official Rules Of The Liebster Award 

    If you have been nominated for The Liebster Award AND YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT, write a blog post about the Liebster award in which you:

    1. thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.

    2. display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note that the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post.)

    3. answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.

    4. provide 11 random facts about yourself.

    5. nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 1000 followers. (Note that you can always ask the blog owner this since not all blogs display a widget that lets the readers know this information!)

    6. create a new list of questions for the blogger to answer.

    7. list these rules in your post (You can copy and paste from here.) Once you have written and published it, you then have to:

    8. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!)


Of Tomatoes & (Wo) Men

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What do you do with hundreds of ripe cherry tomatoes? Start making sauce.

Note: This is the third in our Wednesday series Our Life in the CSA. Today, the Kale Queen and Rainbow Chaser share their favorite tomato recipes.

But first, a word from yours truly:

It’s great having a gourmet cook – and I don’t mean “Foodie” – in the family.

My brother-in-law (California Boy, CB for short) joined our clan in the early ’90s when he married Rainbow Chaser and always wows us with his culinary prowess. A Long Beach, Calif., native, he learned to cook before it was fashionable for boys (or men) to don aprons and launch kitchen wars.

Like most things in life, men bring a fierce competitive spirit to cooking and baking. I recently attended a University of Connecticut football tailgate party where a guy insisted I sample his baked flan. He professed to being a baked flan pro. I didn’t know such people exist, but I’m happy they do. Hail to all men who cook.

CB is the one who told me about Epicurious, poured my first cup of Starbucks Christmas Blend and introduced me to the wonders of balsamic shallot reduction. So what if he exclaims”Oh My God!” when he samples it? He’s not bragging. It’s that good.

He’s the only guy I know who brings his own (sharpened) knife to carve the Thanksgiving bird and is willing to wear a frilly ruffled apron for the job. (Note to self: buy a basic chef’s apron for the dude before this year’s feast.) Everyone knows the carving process can’t be rushed. CB takes upwards of 45 minutes, deconstructing the bird with surgeon-like precision and cutting the breasts into thick juicy slabs.

When I asked the Rainbow Chaser what’s on tap this week, she suggested Roasted Eggplant Tomato Stacks.  Apparently, CB is smitten with the robust side dish since an escape to Paris over the summer. I can’t say I blame him. I made them with white eggplant and tomatoes from my CSA share and topped them with some Parmesan cheese. Magnifique!


From Paris with Love: Roasted Eggplant Tomato Stacks.



The CSA’s heirloom tomatoes, ripened to deep yellow, purple and – of course, red hues, are ideally consumed uncooked. But the summer bounty exceeds our ability to eat them fresh, so I’ve been forced to get creative.

My family discovered this side dish in Paris. On our last night, we went to a popular bistro that was on our radar for two weeks. The dashing French waiters delivered succulent meals produced by their middle-aged father, who wore a paper food service hat. Every so often, the father circulated through the cramped bistro to ensure his guests were happy.

One of the best take-aways is a simple yet succulent eggplant and tomato side dish. It’s on permanent rotation on our dinner menu since our return. It is a delicious way to use some of the flavorful tomatoes that are so abundant now. The intensity of flavors is enhanced by the roasting process, which improves even bland store-bought varieties.


2 medium-sized eggplants (as cylindrical as available)

3 – 4 ripe tomatoes

6 garlic gloves – pureed with extra virgin olive oil

2/3 cup EVOO

1 TB Dijon mustard



Finely chopped fresh basil or pesto


Cut eggplant into ¾ inch thick slices.

Cut tomatoes into ½ inch thick slices.

For garlic puree – chop 6 (or more if you’d like) garlic cloves, add 2/3 cup olive oil and 1 TBS Dijon mustard. Puree in food processor or blender until mixture is smooth (about 1 minute).

Salt both sides of eggplant and layer on baking pan on top of paper towels to absorb moisture. (Putting an extra baking sheet on top of paper towels promotes moisture absorption).

Wait 10 minutes for moisture to be absorbed by paper towels. Remove paper towels and place eggplant on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake eggplant for 20 minutes in 350-degree oven.

Remove eggplant from oven and glaze with garlic puree and place basil on top. Place tomato slices on top. Glaze tomato slices with garlic puree and place basil or some pesto on top. Salt and pepper to taste. Return to 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes until tomatoes bake down into the eggplant.

Serves 6



Simple Supper: Fresh Cherry Tomato & Basil Sauce (served here with Ricotta).


I have a confession to make. I didn’t get my CSA share this week. My husband asked me not to.  We’re drowning in produce from our garden and can’t make a dent in our CSA share. Or we could, but then our harvest might go to waste and Nice Guy doesn’t want to freeze anything. He wants to eat what’s in season.

NG is accomplished at growing green beans.  In past years, we’ve eaten them every day for weeks—multiple helpings of dinner-plate sized servings. Last year, he extended his growing expertise to cucuzza, Italian zucchini.  For weeks, we ate it in every imaginable configuration and the precious fiori di zucca, squash blossoms.

This year, he discovered an Italian seed company and ordered what seems like every seed imaginable. Tonight, he was planting perfect rows of seeds in the dark with a headlight to guide him.  In short, he is very competitive, making the most of square foot gardening.  I think he is trying to outgrow Christina, our CSA maven (and good friend).

Back to the Italian seeds: earlier this summer, he planted a number of pomodoro seeds around the asparagus. They took a while to get going, but we now have hundreds of cherry tomatoes in the queue in the kitchen and hundreds more awaiting harvest.  This week, we’re working our way through the tomatoes and lingering Romano green beans.

A fresh cherry tomato sauce will get us off to a good start. Many associate plum tomatoes and San Marzano in particular with Italian cooking. However, on our first visit to Campania, the region in southern Italy that includes Naples, I noticed that cherry tomatoes were used exclusively for many pasta sauces.  I ordered a cherry tomato sauce for my first meal there and was so captivated I ordered it again—and again.  When I returned home, I researched recipes and found that cherry tomatoes are often used for fresh sauces in Campania and Sicily because the tomatoes have good flavor year-round.

This recipe is based on one from Anna Callen, a favorite Neapolitan food writer.  It’s great served with a plate of steamed green beans on the side and a glass of chilled Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio.


Dresses one pound of pasta

¼ cup EVOO

2 cloves garlic thinly sliced

1 sprig Italian parsley, chopped

2 lbs fresh cherry tomatoes, halved

½ cup loosely packed fresh basil, chopped

Salt and freshly milled pepper to taste


In a sauté pan, heat olive oil and add garlic.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes on low heat (do not burn). Add the tomatoes and cook covered for about 10 minutes.* Add the basil, parsley, salt and pepper to the sauce. Cook uncovered for 3 minutes longer. Do not allow liquid to evaporate.  

Cook one pound pasta of your choice according to package directions.  Save ½ cup pasta cooking water.  Drain pasta and return to pot. Pour sauce over pasta together with reserved pasta water and stir gently to combine.  Serve, if desired, with a scoop of ricotta and freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese. We prefer ricotta with the fewest ingredients possible. One good local source is Cutrufello brand, which is gluten-free. For this dish, I used gluten-free penne (Jovial brand, which is a Connecticut importer of Italian gluten-free pasta).  It’s also good with spaghetti.

*The original recipe calls for cooking the tomatoes 10 minutes uncovered.  I prefer a more cooked tomato sauce, so I cover the pan and cook at low to medium heat.  If you prefer a result with tomatoes that are more intact, cook uncovered for the first 10 minutes.


This week’s CSA share was heavy on tomatoes, spurring us to get creative in the kitchen.


Space Odyssey


Note: Today marks our 34th wedding anniversary. It’s been quite a ride with The Curmudgeon. Today’s post is in honor of him and our marriage. Though he never reads my blog, I made him read this. “Oh no, not another one! I’m your subject too often. I want a cut of the action,” he said. When I pointed out I don’t get paid for blogging, he said, ‘Yeah, what action?'”

Like a lot of couples, my husband and I have a fairly strict division of labor.

He’s the primary bread winner, pays the bills and buys salt for the well. I handle the house, grocery shop, cook, outfit the kids, manage transportation and deal with the dog. It’s way more traditional than when we first got married and both worked full time, but kids change things. At least they did for us.

A few years ago, my husband and I formed our own corporation. He’s president/treasurer while I’m vice president/secretary. We have our own checks and a stamper with our corporation’s name on it. I do the bulk of the work, which is fun and rewarding.

I receive no salary, a reality that my brother-in-law David wants changed. He told my husband that I should be compensated. When he called to find out if I had been paid, The Curmudgeon responded, “No. We’re one unified body hurtling through space.”

Huh? I had no idea he thought of us as space junk.

To bolster his argument, he pulled out the most recent credit card statement and went over my expenses. “I see you played golf three times,” he said. “And what’s this?” When I explained that I bought a baseball cap because I left mine home, he said, “You just bought a baseball cap a few weeks ago. Are you starting a collection?”

The thing about not pulling in a salary is there’s always some  justifying going on. When I was employed, I had cash in my pocket and bought whatever I wanted. Now? There’s always a tinge of second-guessing and guilt. I know other women who don’t feel it, but I do. (Well, most of the time.)

Though we rarely fight over money, my husband and I are opposites. He’s a typical New Englander: basic, sensible and frugal. He loves his Honda, wears leather “mandals” from 2006, has a briefcase from the ’80s and launders his own dress shirts. He doesn’t care a lick about things, one of the traits I love most about him.

I’m a little more extravagant or what some might call an impulse buyer. I don’t shop often, but when I see something I like I buy it, like the pink salt rock sitting on my kitchen table. Who knew grating salt is next to impossible with ordinary kitchen gadgets?

Several years ago we were having a St. Patrick’s Day party at our house. My mother-in-law died after the invitations went out, and we debated whether we should have the party or cancel. We decided to have it, figuring she (who was 100 percent Irish) would want us to celebrate and be happy. Quite honestly, it was a welcome diversion from a terribly sad chapter in our lives.

With only four days before the party and two kids under 7, my husband OK’d ordering food from a catering place. I ordered a tray of scalloped potatoes without asking the price (silly me). When I went to pick them up, I nearly fell down when I was told the potatoes cost $300. I hyperventilated the entire way home, wondering how to tell The Curmudgeon.

I won’t go into details, but he sternly reminded me that potatoes cost $5 a bag. One of my son’s friends who overheard the conversation asked, “Are your parents getting divorced?”

Fortunately, we didn’t. But we still bicker over money. When I asked if he thought I should buy a dress for a wedding, he replied: “Who do you think you are, mother of the bride?” I didn’t reply, but I did buy a dress.


A Tale of 2 Pestos

Note: This is the second in a series about my family’s participation in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture.) Stop by every Wednesday for new recipes. This week’s installment is by the Rainbow Chaser and the Kale Queen.

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What do you do when you’re knee deep in kale? Make Florentine Pesto.

My younger sister Janet is the most resourceful cook I know.

When she got married in the early ’90s, she and her husband ate baked potatoes in various incarnations every night for a year to save money. I admired her discipline and resolve, making the most available (and inexpensive) ingredients to make ends meet.

She’s come a long way since her potato days. Today, she’s a mom of three and a teacher working on her Ph.D. Though often pressed for time, she loves to cook and bake on weekends. Drop by her house on a Sunday afternoon and she’s whipping up homemade granola or cutting a slice of crumb cake.

I’m always fascinated to hear what she’s doing with her CSA shares because nothing goes to waste. Today, she shares her recipe for Carrot-Top Pesto.


Carrot-Top Pesto and tomatoes are sensational on toasted crusty bread.


After three decades of cooking, my approach was pretty well set. I worked off recipes. If  I didn’t have all the ingredients, I abandoned the dish until I could source them. I bought the same produce every week, scrutinizing refrigerated, misting shelves in search of romaine, Boston bib, and spinach, eschewing rows of unfamiliar leafy greens. I only threw different veggies in the cart if I needed them for a new recipe. That’s how how I discovered Swiss chard. I felt reckless – and uncertain – when I bought the red variety. I wasn’t comfortable experimenting.

I love the idea of eating the rainbow. I believed I earned my stripes by filling my cart with more volume from the produce department than any other. I had green covered, yellow from zucchini and my RO BIV from the fruits and berries that are so familiar and sweet. I was content with my approach to vegetables when I learned that my sister the Kale Queen was getting pesticide-free vegetables from a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Since I’m the thrifty type, I was eager to join the CSA. I didn’t really care about what I got. I just wanted in.

I joined the CSA 14 months ago, and my weekly share has had a profound effect on the way I cook and eat every day. Many people complain about CSA’s because they don’t pick the produce in their share, but I’ve found this to be the biggest boon. Relinquishing control boosts my creativity in the kitchen, expands my palate, and increases my knowledge of vegetables. I have a rutabaga on my counter – I Googled images to figure out what it is, and I’m eager to try it. I hadn’t eaten a beet since the 5th grade and now I love tossing them in salads.

I feel like I live on a farm with my weekly bounty.  I eat what’s in season and sometimes there’s more than my family can consume in a week. Of course, that’s why pickling and canning were developed, but I’ve never done these things until now. I just pickled my first carrots. I had a few weeks’ worth, so I took the plunge. Speaking of carrots, I finally realized that those gorgeous greens on top are not food waste – they make a delicious pesto. I make pesto on Sundays, hours after my share is delivered. I make it very quickly, and it’s a huge relief to have it on hand to top broiled salmon, toss in pasta or combine with tomatoes to crown crusty bread. It has a fresh zip that’s a bit different from typical pesto.

The following is my adaptation of a recipe that appeared in the Sept. 26, 2016 issue of Time:


2 cups carrot tops

3 tbs. walnuts, pistachios or almonds

½ cup of fresh basil

2 garlic cloves

¾ cup olive oil

¼ cup Parmesan

Blend ingredients in a food processor, adding more salt or olive oil as needed.

Can be frozen for up to six months.

Note: I omit the Parmesan. I adjust the amount of nuts – usually adding more. I only add salt to taste after blended.

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Maybe the best use of kale yet: Pesto.


We’re waist high in kale. One of my favorite ways to use kale is in pesto. I first had kale pesto in Florence, Italy.  We stayed in a great bed and breakfast and decided to try the small osteria downstairs.  We were intrigued by the pasta of the day.  When I asked about the ingredients, our waitress endearingly told me that it was, as we Americans would call it, “black cabbage.” That stumped us: we had never heard of black cabbage.  We ordered it anyway and it was simple and delicious. Afterwards, I searched online for black cabbage to no avail.  I searched for the ingredients and, I hoped, a recipe, by describing the region where we ate it in Italy and some basic descriptive terms. Bingo: Food & Wine had a recipe for Tuscan kale pesto.  I tried it and it pretty much duplicates our dish. As I gathered my kale last night, I decided I’ll make this recipe once a week until we can see our feet in the kale patch.


  Yield: 1 and ½ cups

 pound kale

½ cup olive oil

1 clove garlic

1 lb pasta (spaghetti or linguine)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the kale.  Cook for 7 minutes.  Lift out with strainer and drain in colander.  Add the drained kale, olive oil, garlic and 1 tsp kosher or sea salt to the bowl of a food processor.  Process until relatively smooth.  Add pasta to remaining boiling water in pot and cook according to directions on box until al dente.  Drain, reserving ½ cup water.  Add pasta back to large pot and toss with pesto, adding reserved water to achieve desired consistency.  Serve in large bowls topped with freshly grated pepper and Parmesan or Romano cheese if desired. Grilled chicken and a glass of Trebbiano D’Abruzzo are great accompaniments.

Note: This recipe originally appeared in Food & Wine.


Ladies Who Drive Me Nuts


A woman walked into the supermarket the other day around dinner time. Her hair was perfect, she was wearing 4-inch spike heels, skinny white jeans and a peasant top. She had an air that screamed, “I’m just a little bit superior.”

OK, maybe it was just me. My hair was a mess, and I was wearing a golf skirt (never a particularly good look) with a few golf balls bulging in the pockets. The FlyLady (Finally Loving Yourself) would frown; she advises followers to always fix their hair and face and dress to shoes before leaving the house.

I shared this with the Kale Queen and she confessed to dressing up to grocery shop. As a professional and a bit of a minor local celebrity (she’s the former town attorney), she doesn’t want to encounter people looking like a schlump. I understand. But I don’t care what I look like in the supermarket. I don’t notice people food shopping unless it’s an adult wearing pajama pants.

This got me thinking. There are a bunch of things that women do that baffle and well, drive me a little nuts. See if any resonate with you.

  • The Supermarket Strutter: See above.
  • The Speed Racer: There’s an unwritten code in pushing supermarket carts. I don’t know how we learn the correct pace, but it’s not fast or aggressive. Today, a Speed Racer nearly knocked me over whizzing through the aisle. Not cool.
  • The Inconsiderate Shopper: Is there anything more maddening than gazing at kitchen cabinet polishers from a distance and having shoppers walk right in front of you without excusing themselves? When I walk through someone’s line of vision, you can bet I’m saying “excuse me.” It’s just common courtesy.
  • The Compliment Taker: The woman whose dress you compliment at a wedding to be polite. She stares at you and says, “Thanks,” never returning the compliment.
  • Fake-Shy Women: Women who are aloof at parties. When you complain to your spouse that they’re unfriendly, he says they’re shy. They’re not shy. They’ve got a lot to say, just not to you.
  • Buttinsky Moms: Women who butt into their kids’ relationships with other kids. We’re all tempted sometimes, but it’s important to remember it’s kid stuff. As they used to say in preschool, let them work it out.
  • One-Way Facebook/Instagram Friends: You like their posts and they never give you a like or heart. Meanwhile, they’re liking all their other “friends” and “followers.” You wonder why they don’t like you.
  • The Interrogators: Women who ask, “Are you working yet? Well, why don’t you write a blog?” Uh, I am. “How many followers do you have?”
  • Thoughtless Party Guests:  You invite them to parties for 10 years and they never reciprocate. You send them invitations or Evites and they don’t RSVP.
  • The Inexplicable Inviters: Come to the bridal shower, not the wedding. When did this start?
  • The Obnoxious Shoppers: Women who bark at cashiers and other store workers. I was at Ikea one day with my kids and a woman threatened to bring a kitchen trash can full of waste to the cashier’s station because she forgot to buy the top the previous day and he said she couldn’t buy just the top. You know it’s bad when even your kids say so. I have a lot of sympathy for store workers since working at Sears Service Center in college. I was the one who called people after they stayed home waiting for the service guy and told them he wasn’t coming. Most people took it pretty well, but there were exceptions.
  • The Break Seekers: Mothers who show up at the playground looking for a nap around 3 p.m. when the second shift of parenting begins. They park their car, let their kids out and have other moms watch them while they sleep. Yes, this happened to me.
  • Loud Breathers/Moaners in Yoga: Instead of your breath, you’re focused on,  “When is it going to stop?”
  • Excessive Workplace Cleavage: The female body is a work of art. But some women flaunt cleavage in professional settings. This happened at a cross country meet. A female trainer gave my husband and every other guy a free show while she tended to an injured runner. They loved it, but it made me very uncomfortable.
  • Bathroom Talkers: Women who conduct business in public restrooms with total disregard to where they are or who else is in the room.
  • Supermarket Snubbers: That moment when you see someone you know and she avoids eye contact and slips into the next aisle. I’m guilty too, but what’s the big deal? Just smile, nod or say hi.
  • Rude Play Date Makers: This is one of my biggest pet peeves. You’re at the pre-school playground with your 4-year-old daughter and a clutch of women plan their next playdate in front of you. Can you say social outcast?
  • The Scolders: Sorry, but after you’ve run your own ship, moms don’t want to be scolded by other women. This happened to me the other day when a woman upbraided me over the phone. The mom in me responded, “I really don’t appreciate your tone.”
  • The Proud Mommies: Women who share their kids’ entire academic records, including how many honors and AP classes they’re in, on the sidelines of a sporting event.
  • Calamity Janes: Women who call their friends every day and launch into monologues about their problems without asking how you are.
  • Ungrateful Organizers: Women who ask for help the day before an event and then give you the grunt work while they do all the fun stuff.
  • Perfect Moms: You want to commiserate, but can’t because their kids are perfect and they’ve never been bored or stressed staying home with kids.
  • Abusive Moms: These are the women who make you think, “If she’s like this in public, what’s she like at home?”
  • Advice Seekers Who Ignore Your Advice: Women who ask for your input and ignore your advice all the time. A friend complained about this the other day. Her friend always asks for parenting advice, but never listens.
  • Sour Pusses: The Curmudgeon gave me the head’s up on this one. He was at a law school lecture and a prominent criminal defense attorney advised: Never pick a female juror with a mouth like a chicken’s ass.
  • Oblivious Mothers: Women who shop and look unfazed while their infants or children scream or throw tantrums, disrupting the entire store for what seems like eternity. Ditto for church. That’s why there are crying rooms.


Things I Wish I Taught My Kids


My kids’ toothpaste tube.

My son returned to college and my daughter’s back at high school. I realized over the summer that I failed to teach them a lot of things. Here’s a partial list:

  • When a sack of your good clothing is missing for two months, ask the friend who you went away with if he’s seen it. When he finds it in his trunk and brings it over on the day you’re leaving, don’t leave the smelly towels in the hamper.
  • If you ignore my pleas to do your summer reading, I’ll ignore yours to set up the appointment for your learner’s permit test at the DMV.
  • Always wear a shirt when cooking chicken cutlets in oil. Actually, always wear a shirt when cooking.
  • You can’t eat two McDonald’s chicken sandwiches at 5 p.m. and expect to be hungry for dinner.
  • Make your own hair appointments. I have no idea if your hair stylist is on vacation.
  • Put the milk back in the refrigerator and top back on the jelly.
  • Clean the sink after shaving.
  • Squeeze the toothpaste tube from the bottom.
  • Close dog food bag after feeding the dog.
  • “Cleaning the kitchen” includes wiping down the stove and counters.
  • Garbage cans and the recycling bin can’t sit in the driveway for four days before being returned to the garage.
  • Clean the ping pong table after an unauthorized night of beer pong.
  • Don’t let your friends sleep in our bed. No matter how much I like them, some things are sacred.
  • Turn down the car radio before you drive into the neighborhood. I can hear you from a mile away.
  • Don’t get mad at me when I correctly name a Drake song “Passionfruit” and insist it’s “Passionate.” Are we seriously arguing over this?
  • Don’t fight over whether tennis or running is harder. They’re both challenging in their own way.
  • You can wear clothes more than once before throwing them in the hamper.
  • Use the hamper.
  • Your (actually my) jeans are always tight after laundering. That’s why there are deep knee bends.
  • The left lane of the highway is the passing lane. Return to the right lane after passing cars so they don’t cut us off. It’s not the car’s fault it has only 4 cylinders.
  • It’s not polite to tell your mother she has a lousy singing voice.
  • It’s not a good idea to have conversations with girls in the car next to you while you’re driving on the highway. That’s not a good excuse for missing your exit.
  • Don’t wait until you’re on 1 percent to charge your phone. And please, don’t unplug my phone because yours is dead.
  • I have no idea where your charger is.
  • You can’t always rely on GPS. You need a general idea where you’re going and how to get home.
  • Keep track of your wallet. I have no clue where your credit card is.
  • Don’t let clothes sit in laundry baskets for six weeks.
  • Don’t douse a DuraFlame with water after a bonfire and expect it not to reignite all night.
  • Cleaning your room doesn’t mean putting all the junk in another room.
  • You can’t do all your laundry for college in one day. You can’t bring wet clothes to school and dry them there.
  • I have first dibs on Dad’s loose change for Coinstar. It’s OK if you’re taking it this time to buy my birthday present.
  • Don’t call or text Dad every day without throwing me an occasional bone.
  • Don’t stare at me blankly when I mention stationery. It’s for writing letters.
  • Don’t call me from camp and tell me your head hurts so much you can’t go to the infirmary. I will be tempted to either drive two hours to pick you up or send an ambulance.
  • When I say dinner is at 8, it’s not OK to begin a workout at 7:50.
  • Setting the table means napkins too.
  • Yes, hamburgers are supposed to emit red juice when you’re cooking them.
  • Don’t come home from working as a camp counselor and complain that you’re exhausted from the kids. Welcome to my world.















Our Life in the CSA



When you’re in the same CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) with four sisters, the conversation invariably turns to produce.

Q: What do you do with three radishes? A: Cut into matchsticks and toss on a salad. Q: Mountains of kale? Pesto!  Assorted greens that you can’t identify? Smoothie!


The thing about our CSA from Livy’s Lettuce & Greens in Prospect, CT., is there’s always an element of surprise. Though we’re knee deep in tomatoes in Connecticut, we’ve only received a few in our weekly shares. (Our share czar Christina is equally baffled by the scores of green tomatoes clinging to vines, promising a bumper crop in a few weeks.) But we’ve received tons of bok choy, kale, rhubarb and lettuce, with carrots, beets, scallions and even free-range eggs tossed in.

Being in a CSA means every week is an adventure. Digging through your share is like tearing into an Easter basket, discovering little surprises  (say, three radishes) hidden in the fake green grass. In honor of our produce sisterhood, I’m making Wednesdays CSA Day. My sibs (and yours truly) will share recipes inspired by our shares. And yes, we get veggies in the winter. They’re grown in hydroponic greenhouses.

A few tips for anyone joining a CSA:

  • Clean out your refrigerator’s produce drawers before CSA pick-up to accommodate your share. This requires way more space than a typical supermarket run.
  • Sort outside if possible. Dirt, wilted leaves, stems and other mysterious debris litter counters after sorting.
  • For maximum preservation, use Debbie Meyer GreenBags. My sister Janet recommended them and they’re a game changer. I bought a 20-bag packet at Bed, Bath & Beyond. They work and are reusable.



My CSA life began a few years ago. I was at a garden center to replenish
my annuals. At check-out, I saw a large cooler in back with a sign, “CSA pick-up.” I’d
read about CSAs, but the up-front commitment deterred me in the past. I asked the
young cashier about the cooler and she told me she grew the vegetables and threw
open the top. It was early spring and I was awed at the sight—fresh unblemished
spinach, arugula and perfect heads of Boston lettuce. She gave me handfuls of the
greens to take home and refused payment. I was thrilled to find a source of
plentiful, local fresh greens so early in the season. Within days, I signed up for a
share after my husband and I calculated that the price for our half share ($25/week)
was well below what we paid at the supermarket and the quality far superior.
We’ve faithfully renewed our membership even though at times the
quantity has been a challenge to incorporate. There’s no doubt our vegetable
consumption has increased dramatically as a result. We probably now eat
vegetarian 4 nights out of 7. And, I very much like that I’m supporting local
farming and agriculture, know where the seeds come from and what’s in the soil.

Christina, who runs the CSA, always gives me a lot of kale. It started as “You’re the
person who makes smoothies with the kale.” (I wasn’t.) And now it’s because one of
my sisters told her she doesn’t like kale, so I have inherited her portion. I actually
think I get three times more kale than everyone else, which is great when my
children are home because as urban hipsters kale is their salad green of choice (or is
it now Brussels sprouts?), but other times requires some brainstorming. To make a
dent in it, I became the person who makes smoothies with kale. My recipe
is more art than science and takes well to improvisation. In the summer, I
have this most every morning:


Packed with nutrients, this breakfast smoothie is a winner.


¼ cup rolled oatmeal
1 TB ground flaxseed
½ ripe banana
½ fruit of choice (apple, peach—whatever is in season)
a handful of frozen blueberries or pineapple
½ to 1 cup low-fat plain yogurt or nondairy alternative, such as silken tofu or Kite
Hill plant-based yogurt
2 TB walnuts
approximately ½ cup kale (three large stemmed leaves)
a sprig of orange mint if I’m in the mood to pick some from my garden
Optional: a few shakes of cinnamon or ginger
Whirl in a heavy duty blender (such as Vitamix, Nutribullet or Ninja) at gradually
higher speed (the noise annoys my husband, so I usually prolong this step). If the
consistency is too thick, add one-quarter cup or more of milk, orange juice,
water/ice, or coconut or nondairy milk. My preferred consistency is similar to a
milkshake. Pour into a tall glass, admire its beauty and retreat outside with the
paper or your preferred electronic device, and feel virtuous with the recognition that by 8 a.m. you’ve consumed close to half the daily nutrients that are
recommended to live to 100.

NEXT WEEK: Two takes on pesto.