Friday, April 30, 2010

MARAC - Friday morning

After arriving safely in Wilmington yesterday afternoon, in plenty of time for my meetings in the afternoon (Thank you jfla!), I made my way through the halls of the Doubletree Wilmington, meeting and greeting with my MARAC colleagues. I spoke with a few people about heading out for dinner in the evening, and before I knew it, we were a group of 15, who arrived at the Iron Hill Tavern for dinner. Among the guests at dinner were Spellbound, ArchivesNext, jgreen31, and that Ed guy from PA. We all enjoyed several good beers and some outstanding food and great courtesy rides to and from the brewery via the hotel shuttle.

Returning to the hotel after dinner, I had time for a quick dip in the hotel pool before it closed, which I soon realized was below what was serving as the MARAC Hospitality Suite. Luckily, I was not wearing a speedo. Back up to the room and fell asleep in my comfy hotel room bed, in the dark. I had some responsibilities this morning, state caucus meeting and a plenary address, and I had every intention of attending them - until I woke up at 9:00 (full disclosure, I did wake up at 6:00, but the lure of the dark, the comfy bed, and the lack of small children asking for a show - pushed me back down for a few more hours of slumber).

Downstairs to see the assembled archival group while we waited for the first block of sessions to begin. I opted for Session 1, Congressional Collections Collaborations, which featured the Archivist for the United States Senate, who discussed the collaboration between the Congress and the National Archives. Karen gave a very good presentation recapping the creation and work of the Advisory Committee on the Records of Congress and how the National Archives (and the Archivist(s) of the United States) had worked very closely to help protect the records of Congress. And its especially nice when an archivist closes her presentation with quote from Lewis Carroll.

The next speaker is Sheryl Vogt, from the University of Georgia, who spoke to the existence and work of the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress (ACSC). As my head starts to throb (pollen counts are through the roof here, too), I am making a plan to head up to my room to take something, so unfortunately I will miss out on the final speaker, Betsy Pittman from the University of Connecticut.

The afternoon will feature more sessions, but first a lunch meeting with my Local Arrangements Committee co-chair for the Alexandria MARAC Meeting, which will be in Spring 2011 and one of the co-chairs of the Program Committee to discuss logistics. Tonight, I will meet with my panelists for the session tomorrow, which I am chairing. There is also a movement afoot for several people to go to a minor league baseball game tonight, the Wilmington Blue Rocks vs. the Winston-Salem Dash at Frawley Stadium here in Wilmington. A spontaneous JAL Tour event!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

MARAC - Thursday morning

I've written this post while I await a friend to pick me up to drive to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) Spring 2010 meeting, to take place in Wilmington, Delaware. There will be lots to do and good sessions to attend, including one in which I will chair and offer comment on several oral history projects going on in the MARAC region.

Upon arriving today, I will attend a meeting of the Finance Committee (which I will rotate off of after this meeting) and assist in conducting the audit of MARAC's books. There will be no Steering Committee meeting for me tonight as I did not win my election in March to be the next Maryland Caucus Representative. Oh well, there is still another job in MARAC that I would like and hope to have the opportunity to seek that position again next year.

There will be more later, perhaps infused with alcohol related prose as there is sure to be drinking tonight. There is a collective hush over the DC area today as the Washington Capitals failed in their attempt to make it to the next round of the playoffs, falling in Game 7 to the Montreal Canadiens. I am sure that we will drink tonight to try and forget that stinging loss among other reasons - well, not that we really ever need a reason . . .

Monday, April 26, 2010

Rainbow Cookies

Rainbow cookies are one of those things that you just eat when you see them. They are also (for me) very Long Island. They rank right up there with bagels, black and white cookies, egg creams, and all of those things I enjoyed growing up. When I saw this recipe (and the blog post from Amateur Gourmet Adam Roberts), I no longer wondered why they are so easy to eat. Um, FIVE sticks of butter!? Sign me up - but get me an appointment with my cardiologist, too.

Grandma D's Three-Color Cookies
from the kitchen of Deborah DiClementi

Preheat oven to 350 F.
(Double batch makes two pans worth.)

Beat 8 large egg whites with one cup sugar until fluffy but not quite stiff. Set aside in bowl.

Beat 2 7-8 oz tubes of almond paste

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 sticks butter, softened
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 2 Tbs. almond extract
Reduce speed, add 4 cups flour.

Fold in egg whites.

Separate evenly into 3 bowls.

Leave one white, add green food coloring to one and red to other.

Pans should be buttered, layered with parchment and buttered again.

Melt about 22 oz Callebaut bittersweet chocolate over a water bath.

Melt about 18 oz seedless raspberry jam in a pan and set aside.

You now have 3 colors in separate bowls . . . eyeball and put half of red in one pan, half in the other then do the same with white and green. Cook for about 10 mins, you want them soft and slightly underbaked so you really must watch them. Turn them 1/2 turn at 5 mins.

Spread jam evenly over the green layer.

Carefully remove white layer, flip it over onto a cookie sheet if need be, then slide it onto the green layer.

Spread jam evenly over white layer.

Lay the red layer on top. All three layers will now be stacked in the green pan, which is very convenient. Put in fridge to chill slightly, maybe 15 mins.

Do the other pan's worth.

Now spread, as evenly as possible, warm chocolate over the top. I hate to do this to you, but it has to be not too thick and not too thin. If it's not just right it will crack.

Now place in fridge until set. In a cold fridge (and I always turn mine up for this) leave about 30 mins.

Take out and just flip over on your hand and place back in same tray.

Layer chocolate on this side.

Chill until set, 30-45 mins.

Now, these are actually fresh for a couple of days without cutting. BUT they cut better immediately. If you cut them the next day just be sure to leave them out for a while so the chocolate loses a little stiffness.

The hot knife is not great with these cookies I don't like what it does to the chocolate edges and it's not too kind to the soft almond centers.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Why I am Supporting Mike Callahan for Mayor

Election season is again upon us here in Cheverly. As most of you know, my faithful readers, I ran for a seat on the Town Council from Ward 2 last year. I was not successful in my candidacy – but I like to think the incumbent discovered that he should be working to communicate better with his constituents. This year, Mayor Julia Mosley announced her retirement and, as expected, Ward 1 Council Member Michael Callahan and Ward 2 Council Member Micah Watson (the man I ran against last year) announced they would run to succeed her. A third candidate, Tom Foley has also declared for Mayor. The election will be held on Monday May 3.

For what it’s worth, I am publicly endorsing Mike Callahan for Mayor. Now there are those of you out there who would say, well sure, he’s against the guy that he couldn’t beat last year. However, it is important to note that if Watson is successful in getting elected, his seat as Councilman would open up and there would be an appointment process to choose a replacement. I am still interested in sitting on Council and I would be interested in the seat, so one might wonder why I wouldn’t support Micah Watson.

Over the period of time that I have met Mike Callahan and gotten to know him and his family, I have come to know a man who is dedicated to Cheverly. He has long standing ties to the town, having lived here for more than 25 years, raising a family, and volunteering with so many of the organizations and charities that make Cheverly great. Mike’s professionalism and his career experience lends itself to the challenges and issues that he would be presented as Mayor. He is passionate about Cheverly and more than anything, he, like many of our fellow residents, really wants to keep Cheverly great. He knows what he wants, he knows how he is going to get it, and he has a plan to make it happen.

Mike’s main opponent in this race, Micah Watson does not have the rich ties to Cheverly that Mike can call upon. As I said on several occasions when running against Micah for Council last year, I don’t think Micah is a bad guy, I just don’t think he is the right guy for Cheverly.

Cheverly needs a mayor who can fully devote himself to the town and its needs. Cheverly needs a mayor who can communicate with its residents and be completely approachable. Cheverly needs a mayor that has firm roots in the community, long established and able to build consensus and accomplish the goals for Cheverly to succeed. Cheverly needs a mayor that is fiscally responsible, with a proven record of being the watchdog that Cheverly needs in these uncertain economic times.

I think that Cheverly will be best served by Michael Callahan. I urge all of you across the Town to get out on May 3 and vote for Mike as the next Mayor of Cheverly.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Goin' to the Candidates Debate

Actually I am there already. I am online and semi-live blogging the Candidates Forum for the three candidates who are running for Mayor of Cheverly. As most you know, my dear readers, I ran for a seat on the Town Council last year, but was not elected. The three candidates are Michael Callahan, current Ward 1 Council Member, Tom Foley, and Micah Watson, current Ward 2 Council Member.

The debate opened with a testimonial for outgoing Mayor Julia Moseley, who is retiring. Debate moderator Aimee Olivio went over the rules and then turned it over to Mike Callahan who gave his opening statement. Callahan stressed his fiscal responsibility and his devotion to Keep Cheverly Great - a statement that many of the residents have said to him is most important to them.

Callahan was followed by Dr. Tom Foley, who gave his opening statement. Foley's primary issue is the Town's fund balance, which has increased dramatically over the past several years, during which time, both Callahan and Watson have been on the Council. Foley wants to reduce taxes and offer a tax credit to residents and allow the fund balance to be reduced somewhat.

The final candidate to speak was Micah Watson. He stressed his career in public service and his efforts on the Town Council and his love for Cheverly.

Of the three candidates, Callahan and Foley offered the most passionate statements about what Cheverly means to them.

The first question went to Dr. Foley and was focused on what attributes and knowledge he would bring to the office of Mayor. The same question was asked of the other two candidates. Dr. Foley mentioned his outsider status and his understanding of the Town's financial structure. Mr. Watson talked about the relationships he has forged in Cheverly. Mr. Callahan talked about his twenty five years in Cheverly and his career managing a 20 million dollar revenue stream.

After a question to the three candidates about peace, there was a short break while another set of bleachers was pulled down to accommodate the large number of people who are in attendance.

The next question concerned public service experience. Mr. Callahan responded by emphasizing his work in the private sector. The responses turned (based a lot on Mr. Callahan's response) to coalition building.

The next question was about public use of public buildings. Dr. Foley is concerned about groups that might be shut out of using public buildings. Mr. Watson echoed the comments and would support a wider policy of using public buildings. Mr. Callahan also agreed but cautioned about the possibility of increased costs to allow greater use of the buildings.

The next question was about the current Town Attorney and what role the Town Attorney would have in the decision making process and if he would consider making a change. Mr. Watson would look at all of the issues before making a decision about retaining him. Mr. Callahan would "absolutely retain" the current Town Attorney. Dr. Foley also believes he would retain the current Town Attorney.

This was followed by a question about Code Enforcement and what would the Town would do about abandoned properties in the Town. Mr. Callahan was first to respond and hopes the Code Enforcement Officer would occasionally get out on foot to see what is going on in the town. Secondly, he believes the Town is doing a good job on abandoned properties but that each house should be handled on a case by case basis. Dr. Foley agreed with Mr. Callahan that abandoned properties should be dealt with on a timely basis and fully resolved. Mr. Watson responded first to the abandoned properties and also responded to the Code Enforcement issue. He believes it should be a more proactive response.

The next question concerned the infamous "booms" that occasionally rock Cheverly. Dr. Foley responded first and believes that a reward should be offered, which might prompt an employee of the alleged boom maker to turn his boss in. Mr. Watson then discussed his efforts to try and stop the booms, one of those efforts was the placement of a camera on top of a local fire house to see if the origin of the booms could be isolated. Mr. Callahan broadened his response to talk about noise in general, mentioning the issue of helicopters landing at the hospital and the road noise from Route 50.

The next question asked the candidates to identify a problem in Cheverly and how they would deal with it. Mr. Watson responded first and identified communication as a larger problem and also mentioned Public Safety and infrastructure in the Town. Mr. Callahan's response focused on the need for greater economic development on the borders of Cheverly. Dr. Foley turned his response around by focusing on what does work in Cheverly, namely the head of Public Works, the Town Administrator, and the Chief of Police. He wants to see more people getting involved and building a larger sense of community.

This was followed by a question regarding bridging the gap that is believed to exist between the police and the residents of the Town. Mr. Callahan responded that one of Cheverly's greatest assets is Chief Robshaw but Callahan also acknowledged the youth of Cheverly's force and hopes the force will interact more with the youth of Chevelry. Dr. Foley would like to see more, if not all, of the police force to live in Cheverly. Mr. Watson acknowledges there is a gap, but was not entirely clear about how to resolve that, other than to echo Mr. Callahan's comments about the strengths of the current police chief. He would "rule nothing out" in listening to ideas about how to best connect the force to its residents.

The next question was about activities for teens in Cheverly and what the mayor could do to resolve issues that can come up with teens with too much time on their hands. Dr. Foley responded first, getting a laugh by saying that "teenagers are always a problem." He would like to see more organized activities. Mr. Watson wants to come up with programs to engage teenagers, but did not offer any concrete proposals on what could be done. Mr. Callahan discussed a proposal the Council has on the books to find opportunities for teenagers. He further remarked about the existing services (Cheverly Soccer Club, the Boys and Girls Club), which many residents are now aware are available.

The next question was about Tax Increment Funding (TIF) and how it would impact the Pointe at Cheverly. Mr. Watson responded first and used part of his time to explain how TIF works and then expressed his support for the Pointe at Cheverly and hopes the Council and future mayor be more forward leaning in their fiscal planning. Mr. Callahan agreed the Council had supported the TIF program for the Pointe at Cheverly but countered that he believes the plan may not have gone far enough and more investigation and communication should be undertaken before proceeding further. Dr. Foley talked about a meeting he had with Mr. Callahan about TIF and the Pointe but wasn't convinced that it was the right move for Cheverly and wished it had not gone forward. For the first time in the evening, additional time was given to the candidates to respond to this issue.

The next question was how the Mayor would administrate the Town Council and make meetings more efficient and build consensus for agreement on the issues they are running on. Mr. Callahan responded first and hopes that Council members would be more prepared for meetings and that possibly consensus could even be reached beforehand. Dr. Foley would "run a stricter ship" and noted that Cheverly is a "weak mayor" system and the role of the mayor is limited to what they can actually do. Mr. Watson also noted his desire to have meetings run more efficiently and hopes the Council would agree with much of the issues he is campaigning on.

This was followed by a question regarding the development of Tuxedo Road on the edge of Cheverly. Dr. Foley was not aware of the plan but pledged to learn about it and would work the issue if elected Mayor. Mr. Watson discussed a plan that has been around for several years and hopes that it would move forward sooner rather than later. Mr. Callahan is afraid the plan has stalled and would want to talk to each of the businesses along Tuxedo Road and see what their goals are and how Cheverly can help.

The next question involved a planned addition to the Town Hall building and what their position was on the previous plan and would they support an expansion. Mr. Watson responded first, slightly dodging the question, saying the planned expansion predated his time on Council and never took a position. He would talk with residents about any planned expansion before doing anything. Mr. Callahan turned the question around and discussed the reconfiguration of the Town Hall space and wait and see if the residents really want and demand an expansion. Dr. Foley concurred with Mr. Callahan.

The next question regarding pedestrian and bicycle access to the Cheverly Metro Station. Mr. Callahan elicited a laugh from the audience by saying the bridge over Route 50 could be blown up and start over. The existing bridge is not pedestrian or bicycle friendly and all issues need to be explored to resolve the issues. Again, Dr. Foley concurred with Mr. Callahan. Mr. Watson recounted the need for better transportation solutions and additional infrastructure to deal with the intersection.

At this point, moderator Aimee Olivio announced there were still a number of questions unanswered and she wanted to reduce the time of responses to one minute. The first question in this new period concerned sound barriers on Route 50. Dr. Foley was not aware of any plan and both Mr. Watson and Mr. Callahan called for increased lobbying and pressure on state agencies to see if the noise levels could be abated.

This was followed by a question regarding trash and littering following pickup by Town sanitation. Mr. Watson would like to see better communication and a better sense of neighborliness to make residents aware. Mr. Callahan would like to see an anti-littering campaign and more facilities for improved walking about the Town of Cheverly. Dr. Foley would like to see an aggressive anti-littering campaign and perhaps the placement of trash cans around the Town.

Next question was about fully loaded trucks cutting through Cheverly Avenue. All three would like to see this curbed and would involve the police to enforce it.

Next question was about the Town of Cheverly's financial support of the Cheverly Prom. Dr. Foley would like to see the event only funded through ticket sales. Mr. Watson would like to see the event be self-supporting but does not object to the Town's support. Mr. Callahan believes that Cheverly should support it fully, because Cheverly Day and the Cheverly Prom is our time to promote the Town.

This was followed by a question regarding instant runoff elections if a candidate does not achieve a majority. All three candidates agreed the idea had merit and bears further investigation.

The next question was about securing grants for the Town. All three men believe that grants should be pursued but they all should be clearly targeted to needs in the town.

The next question (for which the candidates were given additional time to respond) dealt with animal issues, specifically a dog park in Cheverly and the problem of feral cats. Dr. Foley addressed the feral cat issue and would like to see a town-wide TNR (trap - neuter - release) program. Mr. Watson also believes in a TNR program and would like to see a dog park in Cheverly, but the idea has not come to fruition. Mr. Callahan also would like to see a dog park in Cheverly, but it needs to be on the right parcel of land and not infringe of neighbors rights. Mr. Callahan also spoke to the larger animal rights issues (chickens, bees) and wants to see additional dialogs.

The final question before closing statement asked the three candidates to outline their vision for Cheverly. Mr. Watson spoke first and offered his record of experience of building alliances and consensus. Mr. Callahan talked of "alliances being what I live by." From his experience in the private sector and his tenure on Town Council, he has constantly sought to build alliances and partnerships to make things happen. Dr. Foley admitted that he would have to start fresh, making new alliances to get things done for Cheverly.

Moderator Aimee Olivio concluded the debate to thank everyone for coming and for the great questions. She then turned it over to closing statements, starting with Mr. Watson. He offered his five promises for Cheverly if he is elected. Dr. Foley gets a bump for mentioning "What is Past is Prologue" and notes the quote in inscribed on the National Archives, but discussed that he would come in as Mayor and hope to streamline the processes of the Town. He concluded with a statement about speed cameras and chastised the Mayor and Council (including Mr. Watson and Mr. Callahan) about using a loophole in the state law to create a revenue stream for Cheverly, which will also serve to augment the already inflated fund balance. Finally, Mr. Callahan used his time to in part, respond to Dr. Foley's allegations and to discuss budget issues and that the next Mayor will need to focus on continuing to protect the financial health of Cheverly.

Following some closing announcements, light refreshments were served and an offer to mix with the candidates.

Monday, April 19, 2010


I have been jonesing for cake of late. Mrs. BA was kind enough to make a great cake for Easter, which had slivered almonds and raspberry filling and some really good icing. It hit the spot. This past weekend we had a visit from friends who brought more cake, and it was good. In fact, I think I will have another piece before heading up for bed.

You can console yourself with this recipe for "St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake" courtesy of the Amateur Gourmet.

St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake
via Smitten Kitchen via Melissa Clark

For the cake:
  • 3 tablespoons milk at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
For the topping:
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling.

Make the cake dough: In a small bowl, mix milk with 2 tablespoons warm water. Add yeast and whisk gently until it dissolves. Mixture should foam slightly.

Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Alternately add flour and the milk mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition. Deb suggests switching to a dough hook at this point (which I did) to beat dough on medium speed until it forms a smooth mass and pulls away from sides of bowl, 7 to 10 minutes.

Press, stretch and nudge dough into an ungreased (Deb says to grease it, so I did with cooking spray) 9-by 13-inch baking dish (Deb suggests a glass baking dish) at least 2 inches deep.

Cover dish with plastic wrap or clean tea towel, put in a warm place, and allow to rise until doubled, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Make the gooey topping:
Heat oven to 350 degrees. To prepare topping, in a small bowl, whisk corn syrup with 2 tablespoons water and the vanilla. Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Alternately add flour and corn syrup mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition.

Spoon topping in large dollops over risen cake and use an offset spatula to gently spread it in an even layer.

Bake for 30 to 45 minutes (start checking at 30 minutes); cake will rise and fall in waves and have a golden brown top, but will still be liquid in center when done. (I took it out when the sides didn't jiggle but the middle did.)

Allow to cool in pan before sprinkling with confectioners’ sugar for serving.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Pizza Night is Friday / Pizza Recipe on Monday

Friday night is usually pizza night at the Brave Astronaut launch pad. Because we can, we usually order in. But I might be inclined to start making my own pizza dough as this recipe is silly easy.

From the Washington Post:
This simple technique by Jim Lahey of Co. pizza restaurant and Sullivan Street Bakery in New York is based on his famous no-knead bread. It makes for a very sticky, loose dough that seems as if it won't be easy to work with, but it's very forgiving and performs well with the broiler method featured in the related pizza recipes.

MAKE AHEAD: After the dough rests, it can be refrigerated or frozen. Let it come to room temperature before dividing it into balls and letting it rise, then baking. Or the balls can be transferred to individual freezer-safe plastic food storage bags along with a drizzle of olive oil; refrigerate for several days or freeze for several months. Defrost at room temperature and let it rise before baking.
  • 3 cups bread flour, plus more as needed and for the work surface
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant (dry) yeast, such as SAF brand
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water
Combine the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add the water and stir until blended. The dough will be very sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest for 12 to 24 hours in a warm spot (about 70 degrees).

Lightly flour a work surface. Place the dough on it; sprinkle the top of the dough with flour. Fold the dough over on itself once or twice, using a dough scraper if necessary and sprinkling with more flour if needed, then cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces (about 4 ounces each). Shape each one into a ball, again sprinkling with flour as needed. Generously sprinkle a clean cotton towel with flour and cover the dough balls with it. Let them rise for 2 hours before stretching or tossing into shape, topping and baking.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

April is a grand month.

On Monday afternoon, I kept the streak alive by attending the Washington Nationals home opener. So far, I have not missed one. I also attended the first game for the Nationals ever, when they debuted on the road in 2005 (against Philadelphia). For those keeping track (it was a topic of discussion on Monday):
  • April 14, 2005 - RFK Stadium - vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks (W, 5-3) - George W. Bush threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
  • April 11, 2006 - RFK Stadium - vs. the New York Mets (L, 7-1)
  • April 2, 2007 - RFK Stadium - vs. the Florida Marlins (L, 9-2) - Dick Cheney threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
  • March 30, 2008 - Nationals Park - vs. the Atlanta Braves (W, 3-2) - George W. Bush threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
  • April 13, 2009 - Nationals Park - vs. the Philadelphia Phillies (L, 9-8) - DC Mayor Adrian Fenty threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
  • April 5, 2010 - Nationals Park - vs. the Philadelphia Phillies (L, 11-1) - President Barack Obama threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
There is nothing quite like Opening Day. A sort of hope springs eternal moment, which for the Nationals lasted all of about one inning. But they did manage their first win this evening. My American League team, the World Champion New York Yankees, took two out of three from the Red Sox, so it's been a good week there. Tomorrow night, I will sit down with my fellow "owners" in my fantasy baseball league to fill out our rosters for our teams. I have a list and hope to get some players that might just get me to finish in the money this year.

April is also the month when the first major of the year is played in golf. The Cathedral of Golf, also known as Augusta National, hosts The Masters. This year has particular significance of a particular golfer you know as Tiger, but lets just call "Cheetah." The Masters is the one tournament I try to see as much of as I can - the scenery, the course, the players - it is the very best. Tonight, the clubhouse leader is Fred "Boom-Boom" Couples, followed by 60 year-old Tom Watson and Phil "Lefty" Mickelson, along with a few others. And that "Cheetah" guy? He's tied for 7th and, you heard it here first, he will not win this tournament. I mean I would like it if he never won a major again, but unfortunately that's not likely to happen - but I don't think he should be out there yet.

Finally, April is the month when hockey season comes to a close. As a resident of Washington DC, I am very impressed with the play and performance of the Washington Capitals and I root for them, provided they are not playing against my team of choice, the New York Rangers. Now this presents a difficult situation, for if (and at this point it's not a done deal by any sorts) the Rangers make the playoffs, they will likely face the Capitals in the first round. The Rangers will play a home-and-home series with the Flyers, who are immediately above them in the standings. If the Rangers can win both those games, they likely make it. It must be noted that ADR will likely implement his policy of not speaking to me for the duration of the series, which was a little unnerving last year, but this year I'm ready for it. For the record, I am rooting for the Rangers until the season ends. When and if the playoffs arrive for them, I will see what happens. Last year my position was that I wouldn't root actively for the Rangers. I will probably do the same this year, because the disappointment the Rangers hand out is not worth it.

On Monday, I have a dentist appointment. After it, I will squeeze in my first nine holes of the season. And who knows, it could be a "Cinderella story, outta nowhere, a former greenskeeper, now about to become the Masters champion."

Monday, April 5, 2010

Swedish Meatballs

The local IKEA is a good place to go with kids, especially in the [now finally-ending-never-thought-it-would] wintertime. You can set up children in a variety of places to play (although LBA will tell you the only thing worth doing is watching the TV that plays movies near the cafe, sigh). You can then feed them for only a few dollars. One of the staples of the IKEA cafe are the Swedish meatballs.

My mother would occasionally make meatballs growing up, calling them Swedish meatballs, but really just meatballs served in a beef broth over egg noodles. And there was not one thing wrong with that. My MIL makes a pretty good meatball as well, and serves hers inside a really good red sauce.

Cheverly Chef Scott whipped up a case of Swedish meatballs for Oscar night a few weeks back. Here's his take.

Swedish Meatballs, oven-baked
from Anne's Food
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion, very finely diced
  • 1-2 small cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 egg
  • salt
  • white pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
Mix everything to an even mix, and form small, round balls.

Put in a large roasting pan, and bake for about 20 minutes at 350°F. Shake the pan a few times to ensure an even surface on your meatballs.

When my meatballs were done at this point, I took the pan out of the oven and shook them. And this is going to sound nasty, but stick with me; they were coated with coagulated proteins. And that's not the name of a new punk band! No, the fat and liquid in the beef cooked out in the oven and stuck to the meatballs. I took a slotted spoon and picked each one out and gave it a shake, the proteins rolled off and they were all set. I put the meatballs in a bowl and poured off all the fat and proteins. My meatballs lacked some color, so I put them back in the pan and did give them a quick fry over high heat to get some deep browning carmelization on them. This also gave me the opportunity to leave some bits and nibbles in the pan for the pan sauce.

When I had some good color on the meatballs, I removed them, back to a bowl and started on a pan sauce. I tossed in 1 TB of butter and 3 finely diced shallots. Season with salt and pepper and allow to simmer and saute for 2-4 minutes, until the shallots are tender. Add 1 TB of flour and stir to blend into the butter and shallots. Cook for 1 minute. Add 1 cup beef broth. Stir to incorporate and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add 1 TB of sour cream or heavy cream. Stir. Add the meatballs and 1 heaping TB of chopped parsley. Stir to coat. Serve with rice, potatoes, noodles or on their own.

These were easy. Fairly fast. But not 100% what I was hoping for. A few things to try the next time I try these..
  1. Use a blend of ground meats; beef & pork, maybe a blend from the store of beef, pork, veal. Something to supplement and improve the flavor of the beef.
  2. I think the two types of cooking over cooked the meatballs. First in the oven, then on the stove top to get some color. I'm not sure if I should do them again in the oven for 10 minutes, then the stove top for a few minutes? They were cooked through in the oven, the extra time on the stove top forced out any remaining moisture creating a very dry meatball and the extra heat toughened them up. Or, maybe I can put a rack on my pan and cook the meatballs that way, so the fat and proteins drip away, and allowing for more of a roasted version, allowing for carmelization and browning.
  3. Even though the onions and garlic cook in the meatballs, I would saute them for a few minutes before mixing with the ground meat. Raw onions and garlic don't play well with my belly and they revisit me often, over the next few hours.
  4. And finally, double the gravy!

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Call I Already Answered

Just in case you were wondering, I am not running for Governor of New York State. Not right now anyway. But in a previous era, before I became an archivist, I was a teacher. I was one of those rare few who went off to college knowing what they wanted to be. I started my teaching career in the district where I went to school, which was a bit of a surreal experience.

One of my best teaching stories was when I was student teaching and was talking about the French and Indian War. To illustrate how the British forces scaled the cliffs from the St. Lawrence River to attack Quebec, I went from the floor, to a chair, and then stood on a desk, while I talked about the battle. When I announced that General Wolfe is killed during the heat of the battle on the Plains of Abraham, I jumped off the desk.

The following year, I served as a chaperon on a school trip with some of these same students to Quebec. As we toured the city and stopped at the Plains of Abraham, I had several students come up to me (mind you a year later, now), saying, "This is what you were talking about, wasn't it?" I nearly wept with joy.

While my teaching career never really panned out, I always enjoy watching movies about teaching. Just the other day I tuned in and watched "Stand and Deliver," starring Edward James Olmos as Jaime Escalante. I was sad to see that Escalante lost a battle with cancer this week. He was one of those teachers that I always wanted to be.

In no particular order, along with Stand and Deliver, a few of my favorite teaching movies are:

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Call to Serve

I have always enjoyed politics. I have run for elected office in several of the professional organizations to which I belong, and last spring, I ran for a seat on the Town Council. My father always tells me that I would make a really good politician.

Frequent readers may have noticed that I have been sporadically posting here and have renewed my efforts to try and post more here. This a partial explanation for today's post. One of the reasons I have not been posting here is that I have been busy with a lot of other stuff.

I was approached by the New York State Democratic Party to see if I would consider a run for the governorship of the Empire State. As you may know, the incumbent governor of New York has had his share of problems and will not be running for a term of his own. The current Attorney General of New York, Andrew Cuomo, is expected to announce that he will seek the office of Governor of New York.

However, the party has decided to look elsewhere for a fresh, new face. When I lived in New York, one of the positions I held was working at the Rockefeller Archive Center, processing the papers of Nelson A. Rockefeller, Governor of New York from 1958-1973. The party came to me and asked me what it would take to embark on this fool's errand.

I informed them that I would certainly need to move back to New York and establish residency. Not a problem, they said, for as an alumni of the State University of Albany, they would set aside a full floor in one of the dorm towers for me to live with my family.

Further, I explained that I had no war chest of funds to mount a serious challenge for AG Cuomo, who had better name recognition and the added advantage of his father's name and record to run on. Evidently when questioned about this, AG Cuomo agreed that I would make the better candidate in the current political climate and he would agree to run with me as my Lt. Governor.

I decided that I could put them off no longer. So, today, on this First Day of April, I am pleased to announce my candidacy for Governor of New York State. Will you join me?