Tuesday, February 2, 2016

LET THEM EAT CAKE

Ok, it was a Sunday and there was no football on in the afternoon.  I saw the Finest Hours on Saturday so I did not feel like going back to another movie.  All the dogs were fed and sleeping and grocery shopping was done for the week.  1 PM on a Sunday and nothing to do.
Then it hit me, I am going to bake cake from scratch.  Yessiree  no boxed cake for me today.  This was going to be my first venture in to scratch baking.

Step one; find a suitable recipe.  Thank God for the internet, there are thousands of the “Best  Cake Recipe Ever” posted every where.  Picked one
Step two: buy all the ingredients that I will need that I do not already have.  In my case that meant everything but flour and sugar.  I never bought a bottle of buttermilk before.
Step three; mix the “dry” ingredients together.  Mix the “wet” ingredients together
Step four; mix the wet then dry ingredients together, alternating between  wet and dry to avoid those pesky lumps
Step five; place in the oven on two different racks so that half way through the baking you can switch them  to insure even baking ( who knew all of this)

350 degrees for 38 minutes and voila 3 perfect round layers of cake. ( perfect at first glance that is)


On to the frosting.  Lots of butter, cream cheese  more sugar and a pinch of salt.  Lots of beating till soft and fluffy, then add 12ounces of melted bittersweet chocolate and voila.
Chocolate frosting.

Let the cake cool, then  put the layers together.  Cover with a thin layer of frosting which is like a skim coat to keep all the crumbs. f
rom messing up the final product.  Pop into the refrigerator for a couple of hours to harden the skim coat.  Then take it out and pile on the frosting.

Hmmmm sounds great, Looks OK.  Final verdict:

They have this new invention in the Grocery store. Made by a guy named Duncan. I hear he makes frosting too.  I found very little satisfaction in my efforts for the reward. But then again maybe I just stink  as a baker.  I will leave that task to my brother Rich

Better in the garden than near the oven

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

That song in my head

Hallelujah

Everyone has a time that they hear a song and they can’t get it out of their head.  Most of the time it is an inane jingle or a summer pop song that seems to be playing on every radio station you turn to.  After a while, what was once hot becomes unbearable.  What was once the most popular song around becomes everything that is wrong with music.

But sometimes I hear a song that just seems to stay with me.  A song that has a haunting melody and lyrics that you think you understand, or a verse that hits home. For me, Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah is that song.  Released in 1984 with covers performed by over 200 artists including Jeff Buckley (# 1 on the Bill Board charts), Rufus Wainwright, Jordan Smith, KD Lang and even the Four Canadian Tenors with Celine Dion.


Hallelujah has been used in movies and TV shows and was sung at the 2010 Olympics as a song of peace by KD Lang.

It is a song, that when first released had 4 verses and now some say has 6.  Mr. Cohen claims there were over 80 verses and the song took 5 years to write.  Some artists add verses to reach their particular audience.  Even the artists that perform it have hugely different ideas of what the lyrics mean.  Regardless of who sings it, it almost always receives a standing ovation when it is performed live.  It is a grabber of your heart and emotions, even though people disagree on what the words really mean.

I guess that is a true meaning or music and art.  It reaches each of us in a different way.  Certain words and phrases catch one ear while missing others.

For me Hallelujah sings of hope, faith, love, disappointment and being thankful for all things in our lives.

Leonard Cohen explained it:

“Finally there’s no conflict between things, finally everything is reconciled but not where we live. This world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled but there are moments when we can transcend the dualistic system and reconcile and embrace the whole mess and that’s what I mean by Hallelujah. That regardless of what the impossibility of the situation is, there is a moment when you open your mouth and you throw open your arms and you embrace the thing and you just say ‘Hallelujah! Blessed is the name.’  And you can’t reconcile it in any other way except in that position of total surrender, total affirmation. That’s what it’s all about.”


Even with the song writer’s explanation, we will continue to interpret this song, some will add verses and remove others to make this melody fit their needs.  It is a classic and one that I carry with me all the time.  It sticks in my head, makes me think, makes me emotional regardless of where I am.
The final verse that was in the original Cohen release, but often left off during performances, brings it all home to me.

I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah



Sunday, January 24, 2016

Save The Brook Run Theater?



For the record I do not question his credibility *

Seems a struck a raw nerve at the Mayor of Dunwoody’s first Town Hall Meeting.

The topic was Parks and Recreation and the question on the screen was about programming of actual park activities for the citizens of Dunwoody.  The Mayor quickly passed over the subject as he is satisfied that Dunwoody citizens have all of their needs taken care of by Murphey Candler Baseball and Football.  Others can play at the Morgan Falls facility and leagues (Sandy Springs).  Therefore there was no need for Dunwoody to have any programming at its parks.  End of subject.

Well I do not happen to agree with that position at all. There are ways to provide park programs that do not include huge baseball facilities like Murphey Candler or Morgan Falls.  Summer rec programs, gymnastic facilities, volley ball programs, lacrosse and summer day camps are just the tip of the ice berg.

former Councilman Ross
Prior to the Mayor making his point he made reference to a report that was submitted by Danny Ross regarding the feasibility of saving the theater at Brook Run.  The Mayor went on to promote his bias by reminding everyone that this building contained more than a theater but offered meeting rooms and so on.  His not so subtle plug for his position on saving the theater.  In fact he was the only Councilman last year to voice any support for renovation of the theater and by my observation was a key reason he choose to run against former Mayor Mike Davis.. Mike was vocal in his opposition to the theater.  I could not dismiss the fact while he took the time to mention Mr. Ross and the feasibility study that had just been released, he glossed over and dismissed the idea of programming for the parks in the City.
 
Entrance to the theater
 I asked that he at least put forth the same amount of effort to explore the communities need for programming in the parks as he has shown for his position of saving the theater.  I went on to mention Mr. Ross’s name and his report that puts the estimates between $7.5 million to $20 million to renovate the theater.  It was obvious that the Mayor had not read the report yet because he mocked my mentioning of the wide range of cost estimates with a sarcastic comment, then quickly changed the topics and moved on.

After the meeting I was greeted by Mr. Ross’s wife who question why I attacked Danny by name and that I was the only one to mention him or get personal.  Neither is true.

I mentioned Mr. Ross, because the Mayor had singled him out for being responsible for  the submission of the feasibility study. I did not attack him at all. I simply
repeated that he had written the summary.  See, if you are going to write it and take the credit for it, then you own it if the results get challenged.

When I was asked about the report, I commented that I was not surprised that a report that was backed by the proponents to restore the theater was then released with the headlines that the feasibility study showed the theater should be saved.  The follow-up question was “do you think the report was padded”?  My response was simply “I do not know” 

It is hard to determine what the responses to the survey questions really mean when the questions and names and groups that participated are not included in the report under a promise of confidentiality.   At that point the conversation ended with a sharp response from Danny that the discussion was over because I questioned his credibility.

*I do not question his credibility.  I question his objectivity which can sometime obscured by Danny’s unquestioned passion and love of this community. 

Some points for future discussions have to be:
  • 1.      If a report or study that is supporting the push for a theater renovation is going to be seriously considered by this new Council, then in the spirit of open and transparent governing, the participants who responded to the interviews need to be identified. 
  • 2.      What were the questions that were asked and if there was follow up, who determined which respondents would merit a revisit? (To my knowledge the DHA for example received 1 call)
  • 3.      A full and open discussion about the location of the community theater in Brook Run in the first place.  The report’s comparison to the location being similar to the theater in Balboa Park in San Diego or the Fox on Peachtree is far-fetched at best.
  • 4.      A full and open discussion as to the level of restoration of the theater.  There is a huge difference between $7.5 and $20 million dollars.  ( do we really want a landmark theater furnished with used seats)
  • 5.      IF and only if the city were to agree to move forward, should city funds should be required?  
  •  6. A new nonprofit with members appointed perhaps by the city council, the mayor, representatives of a civic association, the Chamber of Commerce should run the program. 
  • 7.      Time lines for the funds to be raised and when the renovations are to begin must be set.  If they are not, the theater could sit for years with  little or nothing being done.
  • 8.  Could the land where the theater now sits be put to a better use?
  • 9.  How do you insure that IF the project's projections of revenue fall short, that the city will not be stuck paying the upkeep in future years? 
The key development model being used today is Live Work and Play.  We have live covered, we have work covered, but lack desperately in the area of play.  WE just have to discuss what defines the play portion.  Maybe there is a way we can do both, but one should not be dismissed so casually by this new administration.


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Back to the garden?

GARDENING AGAIN




OK so it is 22 degrees outside, the coldest day of the year I think.  I am driving my daughter’s Camary (actually my mother’s 2002 Camary) with a driver’s window that does not stay up.  It broke under my watch meaning I will pay to get it fixed.  The car was under my control because I volunteered to have her bumper replaced after she had a slight accident.  However since I was driving when the window stopped working, I am required to get it fixed for her.  It is the law of parenting. 

Sorry I went off subject.  Where was I. Oh yes I remember it is freezing outside.

I do not know why, but. In the midst of all this cold my mind wondered to planting a spring garden.  I seem to recall that there is a COMMUNITY GARDEN located somewhere in Brook Run.  I figure what better place for me to go in the freezing cold than a garden.

So I need a plan.  First I need to contact the Garden to see if there are any plots available for me to rent.  For a small fee I can get (hopefully that is) a 4x8 plot that I will rent for the year.  Second step is to build a raised bed for that plot.  Something about 4’x8’x 12 “.  Cedar is best but since I have joined the ranks of a retired old farts on a fixed income, I will opt for straight pine.  Not pressure treated pine but plain old white pine will have to do.  It is CHEAPER and will last about 5 or 6 years.  I should be done with my gardening by then.

Then to my archives to look up the recipe for the perfect planting mix.  A mix full of nutrients that are totally organic.  No Miracle Grow allowed in this garden.  I will then need 8 lag screws to put the whole thing together.  Call Pattie, throw in the soil and get ready to plant.  Boy this all sounds so familiar.  Like Yogi Berra once said, “like deja vu all over again”

Now I am not going back to the Garden to pick up hours.  I am going back to keep my mind off of the awful presidential election races.

Pattie is going back to as is Tracey.  The “old guard” will be trying to go home again.  All we need is Rick and the party is complete.


UPDATE:  Pattie is in one minute and out the next

Monday, January 18, 2016

550,000 + MEALS A YEAR !



No matter how you slice it, 500,000 + meal is a lot of food that is going to people who might not otherwise  have a single hot meal all day.  You can't cook those numbers, but you have to cook all of those meals to start to meet the demand in Metro Atlanta.


Now I doubt is many of you have ever seen a half  a million of anything at one time.  I know I have not.  But I have seen what it takes everyday to put those kinds of numbers together for Senior Connections..  It is non stop work every week and just when you thought your were done, the next week rolls along.

Now I am not talking 500,000 hot dogs,  or 500,000 hamburgers, no sir I am talking dozens of variations of meal to meet the needs of an entire community of senior citizens  with different restrictions and preferences.  Menus that are tailored for renal patients, diabetics, and allergy sufferers.  Hot meals, cold meals and breakfasts that are all part of the mix.  I am talking a full service kitchen that prepares meals everyday to meet each of these needs and more.


They start early everyday in the kitchen located of 5238 Peachtree Road in Chamblee.  Note books filled with all the variations that need to be cooked, assembled and delivered for that day and the upcoming week.  Hundreds of pounds  of fish, chicken, beef along with vegetables,  greens and a potato or pasta are pulled from the freezers and coolers in preparation.

Cases upon cases of frozen corn muffin batter, garlic toast, or whole wheat rolls are pulled  and panned up for baking.  No meal would be complete without a cookie either chocolate chip, sugar or oatmeal.  These cooks and volunteers  begin the process everyday.

Some days there are groups of volunteers from church groups or garden clubs.  Other days there may only be one or two individuals. Regardless of how may show up to volunteer, the meals must prepped, cooked, assembled, packaged and delivered.  It does not take a genius to see that the more people who are willing to donate their time, the easier it is to achieve the number of meals that are required daily.

Do a good thing for your neighbor, pay it forward and volunteer a few hours a week, a few days a week or a few weeks per month.  Get your Homeowners Association, your Boy Scout Troop or baseball team to have a volunteer outing together and help those in your community that need it most.





Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Marcus Jewish Community Center: A Community Jewel


Marcus Jewish Community Center



Over the past 30 years I have volunteered my time with countless organizations in Dunwoody and DeKalb County.  About 15 years ago I was introduced to  the Marcus Jewish Community Center.  I should probably do some more research, but when I first moved here it was just called "Zaban". Irwin Zaban donated the funds to acquire the original property in Dunwoody. Additional funds came in from Billy Marcus, Arthur Blank and others and The Marcus Jewish Community Center as we see it today became the "hidden" jewel in Dunwoody.

The MJCC offers many programs that are open to the public as well as its membership.  Along with these programs there are volunteer opportunities as well.

http://www.atlantajcc.org/

The Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta (MJCCA) is committed to strengthening the quality of life in Atlanta and is recognized as one of the most highly-regarded Jewish community centers in the nation. Our NAEYC-accredited preschools, award-winning camps, outstanding cultural events, and invigorating sports and fitness programs engage and connect the community.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Senior Connections Paying it forward




https://www.seniorconnectionsatl.org/


So my jump into the world of nonprofit "volunteer" work began the first week of December.  My goal was to complete as many hours as possible, as quickly as possible. Little did I know that this was actually going to be fun and rewarding.

Going in I thought I would drive as part of the Meals on Wheels program that Senior Connections offers.  Pick up some meals, deliver them to to house bound seniors a couple of hours a day and I would be done.  Well it did not quite work out that way.  It seems a lot of people like to drive meals. So instead, my calling would be in the kitchen helping to make those meals and be a fill in driver when needed.

That all changed when I delivered my first meal the next day.  I was no longer doing this because of the hours, but because it actually felt good.  The first delivery was to a lady that met me at the door and invited me in.  I thought it was just to carry her hot meal to her kitchen, but what she really wanted to do was talk.  Seems she does not get to see many strangers during her day so I was going to hear everything she had to say.  I learned where she was born, who takes care of her, how she did not like her eye doctor and how she hoped to see me next week.  The meal was not what she was hungry for, it was the conversation.  The same thing happened at my next 4 stops.  What could have been a 1 hour delivery schedule took me 3.
  
That day gave me a new appreciation for the volunteer work I was doing in the kitchen. Working alongside some dedicated full time employees, I was helping to prepare s hundred meals each day for delivery later in the week.  From a simple task of placing a piece of bread and packet of butter into a bag and sealing it, to actually working on the line that assembled complete meals to be frozen for delivery later in the week.  I now know that behind each of those meals is the effort of dozens of people that truly care for the needs of our seniors across all of DeKalb.  That this work would be providing more than just a meal for these senior, it would be providing a little bit of sunshine in their day.




Who knew I could bake corn muffins for 1000?


Below is a brief note from Allison Glass the volunteer coordinator for Senior Connection in Chamblee.  She loves hearing from volunteers that want to work.

Senior Connections, a home and community-based service non-profit organization, is gearing up for a busy year ahead. Our mission is to provide essential home and community-based care that maximizes independence. Each day the organization’s employees touch the lives of seniors throughout metro Atlanta, whether through the delivery of meals and in-home care or through the creation of a safe living environment from home repair and community outreach at the senior centers.
Senior Connections prepares and delivers meals to seniors throughout Metro Atlanta and we have been providing services in Decatur and DeKalb County for over 40 years. Volunteers are needed daily to pack meals Monday through Friday and to deliver meal routes Monday through Saturday.  Deliveries can be done out of Senior Connections’ Chamblee building, Decatur First United Methodist Church and the Bruce Street Lithonia Senior Center.  Volunteering for 2 to 3 hours per month is a great way to help senior neighbors who count on Senior Connections for a healthy meal.  Often, the only person a senior may see that day is a volunteer. 
To learn more or to fill out a volunteer application, visit www.seniorconnectionsatl.org/volunteer or contact Allison Glass, Volunteer Manager, at 404-488-6167.