I have just spent the weekend with both my sisters and their husbands. It got me to thinking about how we relate to each other. I am the middle child of three. I have often felt adrift in the family; I’ve always had a sense of not belonging. When I was in high school and working at the town library, I even went so far as to look up my birth announcement to see if I was really a part of my family. Before writing this, I looked at some interpretations of how birth order affects behavior. Some of it I agree with and some not. A middle child is often a rebel, an underachiever, a champion of underdogs and a people pleaser. I do know that this weekend I tried really hard to make everyone happy and congenial. I’m exhausted.


Here’s a word that was an answer in the New York Times Crossword Puzzle on Saturday. I’ve run across it before but never knew its derivation or pronunciation.

ukase -1. An authoritative order or decree; an edict. 2. A proclamation of a czar having the force of law in imperial Russia. (

Well, this is embarrassing. It’s from the Russian ukaz meaning edict. I took three years of Russian in college but I guess we never had an edict.

Air Pudding & Wind Sauce

Air pudding and wind sauce is our family’s term for dessert. I’ve never been a dessert eater so I’ve never really learned how to make the goodies that get so many people in trouble. When the kids were little and asked what was for dessert, they would invariably get the answer, “air pudding and wind sauce.”

I do have a couple of standard emergency foods, though, along the same lines. One is null soup and the other is dust toast. The recipes –

null soup – take all the non-starchy vegetables in your refrigerator, cut them up and put them in fat-free chicken broth. Rutabagas are especially good in this because they give the illusion of being a sort of potato. Cook until vegetables are cooked but still crisp.

dust toast – take two slices of 40 calorie bread (I use 9 grain), toast, spray with “I Can’t Believe It’s Butter” spray, sprinkle on cinnamon and sweetener. This is goes very well with a cup of tea late in the afternoon.



Twenty-eight years ago, there were worries aplenty. The staff at the hospital was engrossed in watching “Roots” in the labor room while I was trying to deliver Jonathan. I wanted to yell at them, “Hey, I’m the main event here!” Finally, only 40 hours later, I had the best (and it seemed the biggest) boy baby ever. And although I’ve worried about him his whole life, he has survived my overly avid attention and become the wonderful guy he is today. So, no worries about him today, just a loving “Happy Birthday!”

Two small “f” words

For some reason, we were sitting around the table this morning (my sister, Phyllis and brother-in-law, Gary) thinking about three letter words that begin with “f.” Here are two –

fob –
1. A small pocket at the front waistline of a man’s trousers or in the front of a vest, used especially to hold a watch.
2. A short chain or ribbon attached to a pocket watch and worn hanging in front of the vest or waist.
3. An ornament or seal attached to such a chain or ribbon. (
This is from the low German fobke meaning pocket.

fop -A man who is preoccupied with and often vain about his clothes and manners.
This word comes from Middle English fop, foppe, a fool. (

Sisterly Advice

My sisters are both visiting down here in Marco Island. It’s the first time we have all been together in a long time. The have both offered some advice for my diet tips.

My sister, Phyllis, says – hollow out a half a bagel and fill the depression with low-fat cream cheese, cinnamon and sweetner. Heat it up in a toaster oven.

My sister, Peggy, says – don’t drink two margaritas in a row! These are John’s killer “Earl Gilmore Memorial Margaritas.” For the recipe, see Braisin’ Hussy. They are not nearly as much fun the next day!



It used to be that I worried over air travel. (I know. I wrote about this before.) But there seems to be all sorts of fearful traveling modes. A look at the headlines on my “My Yahoo” page confirms this – “Ford to Recall 792,000 Vehicles Due to Fire Risk ,” “Truck Plunges Off I-95 Overpass in Md,” “Rail crash carnage in Los Angeles.”

Are things getting scarier out there or do we just have more news?


I love palindromes. They are so cute and quirky. If you have a favorite, please send it along.

palindrome – A word, phrase, verse, or sentence that reads the same backward or forward. For example: A man, a plan, a canal, Panama! (

Slow Down!

I was sitting in a restuarant in Grand Cayman eating a salad. After all, chubby people must be seen in public eating diet food. A woman in a bikini came in with her boyfriend and ordered a cheeseburger and french fries. I took great umbrage at this. How can this thin person eat the things I want to eat and still stay thin? So I watched her. The food came; she did nothing – not test a fry or pick at the bun or even eat the pickle. She just sat there and talked with her boyfriend. A little while later, she picked up a fry and bit the end of it off and then put it down. More talking. Then she spent some time cutting the cheeseburger in half. A small bite. More talking. This went on for quite a while. Then they left. She maybe ate a third of it. It was all I could do to keep from running over and snatching some of those fries.

The moral of the story is if you eat more slowly you will either 1) get the sensation of fullness before you gulp down everything on the plate, 2) the food will get so cold and unappetizing that you won’t want to eat it, or 3) you’ll realize you are late for your next engagement and have to leave before you can finish what’s on your plate.



I despair for the lowly adverb; the modifier of verbs and adjectives. The media will be the death of this once proud form. “I’m feelin’ real good!, “Man, that wide receiver ran quick,” “That train was running too slow.” This is a scary dumbing down of the English (American) language. I was listening to commentary by Brad Gilbert on ESPN2 today. He is the former tennis coach for Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick; he is obviously not their former English coach. Gilbert has definitely decided that the adverb is obsolete. It made listening to him cringeful. Examine your language, are you using the -ly words?



I was paging through the site looking for a word for today. (Is paging the correct term?) I came across the word demagogue. Here’s a word whose meaning has mutated over the years.

demagogue – A leader who tries to stir up people by appeals to emotion, prejudice, etc., in order to achieve power. (
But originally it meant a leader of the common people.

The root of demagogue is the same as the root for democracy. It comes from the Greek demagogos meaning a leader of the people, which derives from demos, the people + agogos, leading. ( BTW, -cracy is from the Greek, -kratia, meaning power or rule.)

Solid vs. Liquid

As I’ve said before, I am not really a sweet-eater. Diet tips about eating whole fruit instead of juice just didn’t seem to apply. But the more I think about it, the more I realize it’s true. Would I rather have a glass of potato juice or a baked potato? Which would be more filling? Well, that’s an easy answer. Carrot juice or a carrot? I’d go for the carrot. So, if you get up in the morning and have a glass of orange juice consider changing your routine to eating an orange instead. It’s more fillng and has fiber as well. Of course, maybe you just like potato juice.



When I was a kid, everywhere we went, I always wanted my father to put the bumper sticker on our car – “Frontiertown!,” “I Saw Santa at the North Pole,” “Catskill Game Farm.” I knew when we got back to Red Bank that all my friends would see the stickers and wish they had been to all those great places. Really, I didn’t even care if I knew the other kids who saw our bumper sticker, I was proud to have been there and everyone else should know, and regret, perhaps, that they had not. Fortunately, my father never caved into my little girl ego.

So now I am seeing all these bumper stickers – “Support Our Troops!,” ” Proud to Be an American,” etc. Are these people just like I was when I was a little girl? They are proud to show these stickers but there is, perhaps, the desire to proclaim that one is a better American or more patriotic. True patriotism doesn’t come from a bumper sticker. I think it comes from supporting the ideals of our country as written in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. How many bumper-stickered patriots have even read those documents?

BTW, I checked on the internet and most of the places that sell these stickers are in the “for-profit” arena.


Perhaps all this display of patriotism is a case of jingoism.

jingoism – Extreme nationalism characterized especially by a belligerent foreign policy; chauvinistic patriotism.(

The derivation of jingoism is from 1878 and is the refrain of a music hall song written by G.W. Hunt supporting aggressive British policy toward Russia at a time of international tension. (“We don’t want to fight, But by Jingo! if we do, We’ve got the ships, we’ve got the men, We’ve got the money too.”) (


This is going to sound really stupid but this idea (which I made up myself) has helped me in a lot of restaurant situations.

I am a starch and salt eater. I can pass up dessert easily. Chocolate, yuk. But put a basket of bread on the table and I am all over it. It’s the first thing that arrives in a restaurant at a time when you are the most hungry. What to do? Well, I devised kind of a good hand, bad hand scenario. I am right-handed. My right hand does most of the dirty work when it comes to eating. It dives into the bread basket, it opens the refrigerator, and it reaches into the bag of chips. My left hand is, at worst, an unwitting accomplice. So when I am at a restaurant, I put my hands in my lap and my good left hand holds my hedonistic right hand – usually around the wrist. It doesn’t always work because my right hand is stronger but it works often enough. Sounds dumb, but try it.



On the news today, two people died who were part of my generation’s collective past – Johnny Carson and Rose Mary Woods. Johnny Carson took over from Jack Paar on the Tonight Show when I was still too young to stay up and watch the program and gave it up when I was married with children. Rose Mary Woods was part of the Nixon White House. What happened in those minutes which were deleted from the tape? Mostly, it is sobering when people who were household names pass away. It’s a little like part of your own history passing by.


Crossword puzzlers know that there is a whole vocabulary of “crossword puzzle words.” You never hear these words in conversation. Here’s a word that was in a recent puzzle that could have been substituted by “ana,” “olio,” or “melange.” They all have slightly different meanings but basically mean a collection of things.

gallimaufry – A jumble or hodgepodge.


If you feel hungry in the late afternoon or after dinner, try having something hot. This could be a cup of tea or coffee or maybe a “Cup O’ Soup.” You will find that something warm is much more filling than a cold drink.


After enduring the boat ride from Marco Island to Key West, we stopped for lunch at the Roof Top Cafe. There is both indoor and outdoor dining. We were able to watch the boarding of the Key West Conch Train from our vantage point and listen to its shrill whistle, which is something you might keep in mind when choosing a table. As in so many restaurants here, there was the inevitable grouper sandwich served fried, blackened or grilled. I had it grilled. The fish was cooked perfectly. Not overdone. But once again it was served on an uninspired squishy bun. The coleslaw that it came with was gingery and light. It was made without mayonnaise. Jim felt it tasted a little like kimchee. John had picadillo that was was served with black beans and yellow rice. He gave it high marks. We also had a tasty Lolonis fume blanc. John had a Pilsner Urquell.

Pluses – pleasant outdoor dining (although a little noisy), friendly but not overbearing waitstaff, tasty wine, well-cooked fish and piquant picadillo.
Minuses – Noisy Conch Train, small portions and uninspired rolls.
Grades – John, B; Mary, B; Eileen, B-; Jim, B


I haven’t eaten at this restuarant in years, but after 20 years it is still in business. The one thing I remember the most is really excellent vegetables. It serves a Continental/Caribbean cuisine. Both times we ate here it was excellent.

Mary and John both give this restaurant A!



This is actual more like a musing. Many years ago, our good friend Barry wanted us to meet a friend of his. The last name of this guy was Golini. Now, since we liked Barry, we were inclined to like his friend. But we did not. Assuming that this must be some shortcoming of our own, we gave him a second try, wiping the slate clean. We still didn’t like him. We tried again. Same result. To this day, when someone in our family tries a second or third time to like something that they didn’t the first time, it is called “doing a Golini.” It might go like this – I had roasted beets in a salad the other day and really didn’t like them, but I see them on the menu and I guess I’ll do a Golini on them.”

What this has to do with anything is this. I am a good sport but not a good sailor. But I thought, okay, I’ve tried being on a boat before and it hasn’t worked out well but I’ll do a Golini on it. Today I sailed from Marco Island to Key West. At the end of the leg there, I had done the Golini and wanted to rent a car and drive back. After the first 30 minutes there was nothing to see but sky and water, I got burnt on the way there and froze on the way back. My stomach was upset and it was a noisy and jolting ride. People love to do this, what am I missing?