It’s Faux Spring In Connecticut!

We did one really good thing today. We barbecued! Helaine was the chef. My job was to rehook the propane tank to the grill. I can’t tell you why but they spent the winter unhooked.

There’s been a post on the blog every day for years. Today will be no exception though not much has happened. Pajamas all day for Helaine and me. Most of my day was at the keyboard doing a small web design project I’ve undertaken. The finished product will be used, but it’s more for my training and discovery than anything else.

While the child slogs through the California rainy season, Connecticut finally popped into spring tease season. I’m only saying that because winter will surely reappear–if only briefly.

Holy crap! Every year I’m amazed by the number of branches and limbs that crash to the yard each winter.

We did one really good thing today. We barbecued! Helaine was the chef. My job was to rehook the propane tank to the grill. I can’t tell you why but they spent the winter unhooked.

Over the years we’ve amassed a few propane bottles, so I hoisted the heaviest one and tried to attach it. It wouldn’t. After about five minutes I realized it had interior threads while the grill is looking for exterior threads.

How the heck did that happen? Where did it come from? What do I do with it?

In the end little of my tumult mattered because it’s faux spring.

The sky was blue. The burgers were superb.

Weather Only A Mother (Nature) Could Love

What was snow overnight has waffled between snow and sleet and rain. Sometimes we’ve gotten two or even all three at once! It’s the chef’s platter of weather.

sfcplot.CT-large.pngThe word “unpleasant” was front and center in my forecast last night. That’s not a standard condition in the forecaster’s lexicon. It seemed to fit then and it’s verifying right now. It is unpleasant!

What was snow overnight has waffled between snow and sleet and rain. Sometimes we’ve gotten two or even all three at once! It’s the chef’s platter of weather.

Helaine flies home from SoCal tonight. She’s due in just before midnight at Bradley Field¹. I anticipate the flight will be fine. The weather will not.

You have no idea how much I miss her. I’m glad she visited Stef. I’m doubly glad she’s coming back. California can be very alluring. Malibu, Westwood, Melrose and Disney in just a few days.

Hopefully she won’t read this entry until she’s back in Hamden. The attached photos might be too much disincentive. She might not get on that plane!


¹ – Allow me to use its old school name from a more genteel era when we could meet friends to the gate and wear shoes everywhere.

Weighty Decisions

When Helaine and I started dating she starting baking. Is the way to a man’s heart through his stomach? Yes. Well at least it was the shortcut to mine. Helaine bakes butter cookies tasty enough to bring world peace!

FeetonScale.jpgWhen I first started hosting PM Magazine/Buffalo one of the TV critics (there were two back then) wrote it might be nice for Chef Tell to fatten me up! May I please have that metabolism back?

I know I weigh too much because for the last year I have avoided getting on the scale (or looking at my 401-K).

As a bachelor I was totally disorganized. There was usually no food in the house. I could gorge on Hydrox cookies, when I had them, because I’d also go days without eating or minimal eating.

When Helaine and I started dating she starting baking. Is the way to a man’s heart through his stomach? Yes. Well at least it was the shortcut to mine. Helaine bakes butter cookies tasty enough to bring world peace!

We got engaged, she moved in and I began to eat well and on a regular basis.

Helaine is the best thing that ever happened to me. Eating regularly on the other hand has taken its toll. I’m close to 40 pounds over my Buffalo weight!

You might not notice my girth on TV because I buy clothes often enough to (mainly) fit into what I wear. Trust me–it’s there.

I don’t want to look my age. I also don’t want to be unhealthy. I am dieting.

OK–I’ve dieted before. It only works for a while because dieting is a treatment, not a cure. I’m trying to diet smarter.

My attack is different this time because I am going directly after the low hanging fruit, what I eat after I get home from work. Think cattle free range grazing!

I still have a little fruit at night but nothing that’s been ‘manufactured’. I’m also avoiding that occasional bag of pretzels I’d snatch from the vending machine.

The easy first four pounds are off. Now comes the more difficult part.

I’m never going back to my Buffalo weight. If I can lose another 15 pounds I’ll be ecstatic, but even 10 more will make me happy.

It’s in the mid teens outside today. Hopefully in another few months the warmth will return and Helaine and I will be able to start walking Sleeping Giant. You can’t exercise your way to weight loss, but it will help.

We Went To See Julie And Julia

Movies are among the last of our experiences with exacting attention to detail. Movies are meant to be examined through a magnifying glass. The good ones hold up.

julie-and-julia.gifHelaine and I went to the movies yesterday to see Julie and Julia. This is the movie about Julia Child and separately Julie Powell who decides to spend a year preparing and blogging about every recipe in Child’s seminal “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”

365 days. 536 recipes. One girl and a crappy outer borough kitchen.

How far will it go? We can only wait. And wait. And wait…..

The Julie/Julia Project. Coming soon to a computer terminal near you. – from the opening entry in Jule/Julia Project blog

On a sunny afternoon on the Labor Day weekend you might expect the movie theater to be empty and you’d be right. The sparse crowd was decidedly older. “All the handicapped spots are filled,” I noted as we walked in.

The presentation began with the most inappropriately chosen trailers ever matched to a movie! First up Tyler Perry’s upcoming “I Can Do Bad All by Myself.” It went downhill from there. There were scary movies and guy movies, but as far as I remember no other chick flicks were promoted to this lily white assemblage of mainly senior citizens.

I loved the movie. Truly.

Meryl Streep is effortless as Julia Child, ex-pat wife of a Paris based diplomat (Stanley Tucci–who is the 3-in-1 Oil in Julia’s life ). She is drawn to a cooking school out of boredom with her life. Streep is probably our finest living actress and there’s nothing in this performance to show otherwise.

JJ_wallpaper_07_800x600.jpgAmy Adams was sweet as the Child obsessed chef/blogger. I’ll call her effortless too, though for most of the movie her character kept her emotions out in full view.

An admission. When Helaine kicks me out (sooner or later she will) I intend on moving in with Amy Adams. Amy doesn’t know that yet. Don’t tell. I don’t want to spook her prematurely. She fills the role formerly held by Marianne of Gilligan’s Island.

Set primarily in 1950s Paris and modern day New York City the movie is a character study… or studies. Julia and Julie’s lives are interconnected though they never meet&#185.

As the film was playing I thought about what makes movies so special (and so expensive). Movies are among the last of our experiences with exacting attention to detail. Look at the sets and costumes. Movies are meant to be examined through a magnifying glass. The good ones hold up. This was a good one.

Call me a heretic, but we left the movie and had dinner at IHOP. Julia Child is rolling over in her grave.

&#185 – Nora Ephron is also responsible for “Sleepless in Seattle” in which the primary characters didn’t meet until the very end.

Our Busy Weekend

We found out his Mac notebook doesn’t have a VGA out port. He couldn’t plug in to the projector. Seriously–no VGA plug? I am surprised even though my friends with Mac always tell me how much they like their machines and how frustrated they are by some tasks they can’t perform or programs they can’t run.

For the Foxes this was a busy weekend. We had events Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday evening was spent with Harvey and Sandy in Woodbridge. They have an annual Chanukah party. We’ve been going most years for as long as I can remember. Ages ranged from 11 weeks to too old to gracefully ask.

We get to Wodbridge totally on smaller secondary roads. At one point we take a narrow 2-lane road twisting along the shore of a reservoir. There’s water on one side and a fence on the other. Saturday evening was extremely foogy. No fun driving in that.

menorahs-w250-h250.jpgDuring Chanukah Jewish families light the menorah each night at sundown. The tradition at Harvey and Sandy’s party is all the families bring their own menorahs and light them at once–which was great because the party used to be early in Chanukah.

Saturday each family lit seven candles plus an additional ‘helper’ candle. Helaine and I discussed standing by with 9-1 dialed on the cellphone. The dining room was noticably warmed by all those candles.

We look forward to the “pigs in blankets” served each year. As we walked in someone was carrying them to the basement. That’s where the kids usually hang out. Did we go downstairs just for the pigs? I’ll never tell.

Harvey always has fun toys to play with. This time he had X-Plane installed. Running on his Mac with a flight yoke and pedals it was amazingly fun to fly. It was impossible for me to easily control.

One of their three grown, daughters&#185 was home. She works in New York as a production assistant on some Bravo productions. Both Helaine and Stef were impressed she was working on Top Chef, which they enjoy and I’ve never seen.

Sunday the occasion was totally different. It was my friend Farrell’s mother’s 90th birthday. Being 90 is a difficult job. Ruth is equal to the task.

I wrote about Ruth in August 2005. She was about to get caught up in one of the biggest news stories of the decade.

I just got off the phone with my friend’s mom in New Orleans.

We’ve never met in person, but she knows me. I’ve fixed her computer by remote control. She’s seen me on TV while visiting her daughter in Connecticut. I’ve known her son for over 25 years and he’s a trusted friend.

She understands I’m looking out for her.

“Leave,” I said. “Leave now.”

ruth_meisel.jpgRuth lives in Connecticut now, near her daughter. Her home was flooded and destroyed in Katrina’s aftermath.

A few days ago Farrell sent me an email, looking for a way to make a slideshow of family photographs. I suggested Animoto. Farrell came with the slideshow in his laptop…his Mac laptop.

That’s when we found out his Mac notebook doesn’t have a VGA out port. He couldn’t plug in to the projector. Seriously–no VGA plug? I am surprised even though my friends with Mac always tell me how much they like their machines and how frustrated they are by some tasks they can’t perform or programs they can’t run.

I found a way to convert the slideshow video to an m4v file (never heard of it before) which was somehow compatible with another laptop–a Dell. We used ‘sneaker net’ in the form of a USB stick to move it. The slideshow did go on.

At age 90 you get a note from your congressman (Rep. Rosa DeLauro) and a proclamation from the governor declaring your birthday as Ruth Meisel Day in Connecticut.

Ruth wore a crown. It’s good to be Queen.

&#185 – Sandy went to the hospital to give birth to their second child. It was only after the delivery they discovered there was one more child in there. Really.

Saturday Lunch Isn’t Easy

OK–let’s hit pause for a second. In this life the lowest form of low is the person who says, “Don’t you know who I am?”

I’m not sure how to tell this story. I got a call Thursday from my friend Mike. Mike and his wife Patty were coming to Connecticut from Nashville. Would we like to have lunch Saturday? Uh… yeah.

There are lots of reasons to like Mike. Yes, he’s my former boss and the guy who brought me to Connecticut, but that’s not enough. America is littered with guys (and women) who used to be my boss. He’s a really good guy and, in my presence, has always done the right thing.

Mike is gregarious. He laughs spontaneously more than any person I know. I can still close my eyes and hear him cackling after I said something moderately funny on the news. He was also into computers early. I remember his (and my) mid-80s obsession with “Seven Cities of Gold” for the Commodore 64.

Finding a restaurant for Saturday lunch isn’t as easy as it sounds. I called Assaggio in Branford where I’d gone for my birthday. Nope–dinner only on Saturdays. I continued down my list.

As I was finishing my next call the phone rang back. Assaggio. “The chef will be there preparing for the evening. He insists you come,” said the voice on the other end.

OK–let’s hit pause for a second. In this life the lowest form of low is the person who says, “Don’t you know who I am?” I won’t do that. But I understand why this offer was made and that it might not be available to everyone. I get it. So, I was uncomfortable, sure… but this restaurant is so good and they were being so nice.

Our lunch was great. Unfortunately for Mike and Patty they also had dinner plans. I have no idea how they’ll do that without waddling back to Tennessee.

Rest assured–Ryan, our waiter (excellent) got somewhere between a 40 and 50 percent tip.

As If I Knew What I Was Doing

I know my way around the backend of a webserver. Still, I think anyone could have installed this without too much trouble.

Back 25+ years ago while I was hosting PM Magazine/Buffalo I ran into a nice young girl woman producer. She made sure I hit my mark and properly intro’d Captain Carrot and Chef Tell.

Obviously she had her act together because her career has really done well and she’s been responsible for some pretty big TV hits and has some Emmy awards to prove it. Recently she and her business partner split and she decided to take me up on an offer I’d made many times over the years–put up a website for her.

I did a little work this weekend and more last night. The site’s not ready to unveil yet but it’s coming along.

This site is based on MovableType, free blogging software (though useful for more than blogging). I use MT because Peter Sachs who installed it also used it! He put in what he knew–and I’ll always be grateful. For my friend’s new site I decided to try WordPress. Again, this is free software, heavily supported by a very active community.


The website installed in under five minutes. There was some information to fill into forms to get the program to properly speak with the server, but that was fairly painless. I’m not a neophyte. I know my way around the backend of a webserver. Still, I think anyone could have installed this without too much trouble.

What really impressed me with WordPress was the ease of modifying the look.

Hold on. Let me take a step back. What software like WordPress, MovableType, Joomla, Drupal and other do is separate content from look. I can change how this website looks without messing with my entries. Everything should fall right back into place. For web design that’s power.

I was able to take a template and modify it to fit the look I wanted in just a few minutes. I was astounded how easily I was able to accomplish my goal.

My friend’s website is hosted on a plan that costs her $9.99 a month, includes three domains ( would be a domain), unlimited mail addresses and more storage space and bandwidth than she’ll ever use. And since I’m doing my part free, it’s quite a deal.

When I’m done, I’ll post the link. Right now I just want to put out the word, it’s easier than you think.

Pronunciation Argument

It’s fair to say, my pronunciation drives them nuts.

culinary_boner.jpgThere’s a small language battle going on in the Fox family. It started when one of the contestants on Bravo’s “Top Chef” got excited and said he had a “Culinary boner.” I wasn’t watching at the time, though Stef was tickled enough to save it on the DVR and showed me when I got home.

Good grief! Bravo had so much response, they’re selling t-shirts with the phrase.

I pronounce the word culinary, kyū’lə-nĕr’ē. They say kŭl’ə-nĕr’ē. It’s fair to say, my pronunciation drives them nuts. It probably wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t also pronounce Whitney (Eli invented the cotton gin a few miles from here and the main drag is named in his honor), hwĭt-nē,

Stef points out, everyone on Top Chef and everyone on Food Network say “culinary” without the “Y” sound. Even ads for the Culinary Institute of America go sans “Y.” Agreed. but this is TV where “ask” is often pronounced “ax” and the word “orientated” is used incorrectly on a regular basis. TV is not my language authority.

This is one of those times when having three in the house is tough. I am easily outvoted. Maybe we need to bring in a speech therapist as a boarder?

The Art Of Seduction

Helaine and I have been married 23 years. I’m a lucky guy. I won the marriage lottery.

There was a time when marriage didn’t seem that appealing. I had been burned in relationships. I was a guy. Guys don’t commit!

Helaine set out to convince me she wouldn’t be deleterious to my mental health. She did that through baking.

Damn you Helaine, that’s not fighting fair!

When you cook your ravioli in the Chef Boyardee can because all the pots are otherwise filthy, homemade food of any kind is appealing. So, Helaine seduced me with her acumen in the kitchen. She is a great cook and a better baker.

The were cakes and torts and kugel&#185, but the clincher was the butter cookies.

Oh my god!

It is impossible to convey the powers of these cookies. They are light and crisp and flaky and oh so buttery. They might be the perfect food (as long as nutrition is removed from the calculation).

Twenty three years later, we’re still together… but no more butter cookies. It’s not that she doesn’t love me. It’s that butter cookies (and everything else) have taken their toll on my once boyish physique.

Helaine has gone away for a few days. I’ll write more about that later. But, as a going away/Valentine gift, she left a plate of my old friends.

The attached photo was taken a few evenings ago. There’s nothing left to shoot.

&#185 – From Wikipedia: Kugel (Yiddish: קוגל kugl or קוגעל, pronounced koogel or kigel {being that the “u” takes on an “i” sound in eastern european Yiddish}, also often referred to in the diminutive kugele, kigele) is any one of a wide variety of traditional baked Jewish side dishes or desserts. It is sometimes translated as “pudding” or “casserole”.

Farther From Shore

Aboard the Norwegian Star

We have cleared Cabo San Lucas, the southern tip of Baja California. With the main coastline farther east, we are a lot farther out to sea, now heading south southeast toward Manzanillo.

As anticipated, dinner last night was at Versailles. We approached, at 7:20 PM only to find a long line leading up the stairs. At the restaurant’s entrance was a crowd of people clustered around a host with clipboard.

Helaine went down the stairs, figuring we’d have to get our names on the list and wait. As she approached, the host asked for any threes or fours… and the rest, as they say, is history.

Did we cut in line? I’m not really sure. If it’s just serendipity, does it count as a bad deed? Hopefully not.

We walked in, and this dining room is magnificent… but in a different way from Aqua. This is very old style elegance. The fixtures and wall coverings all spoke to a distant point in time. Everywhere you looked were waiters, waitresses, busboys, assistants and captains. This is a ‘full’ service restaurant.

Looking around, my first thought was, this reminds me of the Titanic or Poseidon. It had that kind of stately, first class, old school cruising, feel. OK – probably not the analogy you want when you’re already on a ship.

There were four or five choices for entree, but we all had lobster tail. I started with the “light cooking” New England Clam Chowder as my appetizer.

Maybe it is light cooking, but it sure tasted rich. It was smooth enough to use as a lubricant! Something was making it creamy. My guess is… cream. Still they’re saying light cooking, so I’ll just live the fantasy and discard any fears.

On CruiseCritic, Helaine had read comments saying the lobster tail was dry. I have had more succulent, but it was still very good. One of the waitresses bathed it in drawn butter from a gravy boat.

Before I go on, I should mention how grateful we are to CruiseCritic. This is a really valuable resource. We learned a lot before we left home and came prepared. If you’re taking a cruise, this is a must bookmark site.

After dinner there was coffee and dessert. There is one thing I’ve noticed about the coffee onboard, it is strong enough to use as industrial solvent! I’ve seen them make it and they’re using Folgers. This doesn’t taste like the Folgers I’ve made.

After dinner, we headed to the casino. There was a structured hold’em game starting, $3/$6, and I sat down.

Hold’em is in a separate room, away from the main casino. The dealers aren’t poker proficient and neither are the players. I won a few bucks, but it wasn’t the kind of poker action I enjoy. I really wish it was in the main casino.

I will try again. I do enjoy playing poker and feel as a reasonably good player I should do well. There are many fish at sea.

The girls had walked through the karaoke bar earlier. Helaine wanted to burrow her head when she heard some of the off key singing. Now I wanted to try!

Helaine wouldn’t go, but Steffie would. We headed to the Carousel Bar and got the master list of songs. It didn’t take long to find “Jessie’s Girl” and put my name on the list.

I figured “Jessie’s Girl” would be an easy song to sing. I’ve heard it a million times. What I didn’t know was, Rick Springfield doesn’t sing it exactly as he wrote it! Of course that only became obvious while I was singing and looked at he words on he screen.

Two questions: Where did those extra lyrics come from? Where did they go?

As I finished, in walked Helaine. She heard the end of the song as she approached.

Helaine and Steffie were kind as I asked, and asked, and asked again, how I’d done. Of course I’m insecure. How could they not know that?

Rick Springfield does not have to worry for his job… and I won’t be filling in on summer vacations.

That was enough. We were off to bed – another restful night, gently rocked to sleep.

Breakfast this morning was in a buffet type cafe. I actually would have preferred a full service breakfast, but by the time we were up and dressed, breakfast wasn’t served.

It is cloudy today. There have been patches of sun, but mostly it’s gray. The seas are lightly undulating. We are heading into the wind, meaning it’s very breezy on deck (though interestingly, not on our balcony, where I’m typing this).

There are dozens of little activities scheduled every day. Some are of interest, most are not. There was a cooking demonstration scheduled, so we headed down to its location and began to watch. The chef, from Austria, was difficult to understand – but we were trying… and then… the announcement.

Over the PA came the voice of Tommy, the assistant cruise director. A school of dolphins had been spotted on the port side. Bye bye demonstration.

We got to the rail on deck 7 and saw a cluster of people, all trying to see the dolphins. Nothing.

Then, from out of the sea, a cluster of dolphins arched their backs above the water. I tried – and missed catching it on the camera.

Helaine said, this alone was worth the price of the trip! She was right, and with a little luck, we’ll see more.

We decided to head up to the pool to sit and sun ourselves. There were deck chairs on the starboard side, blocked from most of the breeze… and blocked from any sun by the clouds.

It didn’t take long for another voice to ring out over the PA. This time it was an officer, from the bridge. A large whale had been sighted over the port side.

We ran over. Nothing.

We kept watching, along with dozens of others. Still nothing.

Finally, in the distance astern of the ship, I saw a column of spray rising high into the air. Thar she blows!


As with the dolphins, I tried but couldn’t catch a good shot. And, as with the dolphins, hopefully this won’t be our last opportunity.

I’m picking this up after a nap. Helaine and Stef are getting their nails done.

A quick step onto the balcony reveals a change in the environment. I’m starting to feel a little tropical humidity. Not much – just enough to notice.

In just a while we’ll be having dinner, then seeing a comedian. Tomorrow I’m going to the Colima volcano.

My plan was to try and find someone to go with me, as there’s a minimum charge. I don’t think I’ve had more than a few words with anyone other than Helaine and Stef. Even if I go myself, I think it will be worth it. How often do you have a chance to see a real volcano up close?

Atlantic City and the Weather’s Awful

I’m writing this midday Sunday. There hasn’t been any sun or even the glimpse of the nighttime sky since we’ve been here. Sort of depressing.

As opposed to Las Vegas, this isn’t a good place for Steffie. The hotel, beautiful as it is, is very kid unfriendly. We are removed from the Boardwalk and midtown Atlantic City, though that would make little difference.

Helaine took Steffie to the Boardwalk yesterday, but they stayed only a short time. She was disappointed by the whole honky tonk, sleazy, scene. Of course that’s what Helaine and I like about it. More than anything, we enjoy the people watching, because there are characters of every sort.

We had dinner at the buffet at The Borgata with my friend Peter. I first met him in the early 70’s when I was working in Cleveland. He was the first person I ever met who owned a calculator! He still has it. Later, Peter became my boss – the program director at WPEN radio in Philadelphia. We have been very good friends for 30 years.

The buffet is definitely a Las Vegas contender. There were carving stations and lots of interesting, well prepared, dishes.

A chef was making some spaghetti sauce, I believe using vodka. I tried to take a photo, but was too late. So she put some vodka in a pan so I could have a photo op. Very appreciated.

Unfortunately, she was on the high end of service employees who don’t reach the same level as in Vegas. I’m sorry to do all these comparisons, but it’s only natural. And, time-wise, from where I live in Connecticut, Las Vegas isn’t that much farther away.

We had tickets to the comedy show at the hotel for 9:00 PM. I figured, since it was crowded, that I’d go down and register for poker before we went. That way I wouldn’t have to wait as long. As it turned out, my name wasn’t called until 11:30!

The comedy show, in the same room that Helaine and Steffie saw Rick Springfield the night before, was pretty good. There were three comics, “The Coach,” Jack Fontana, and Pete Correalle.

We all agreed Pete Correalle was the best. In some ways he was reminiscent of Seinfeld. He was in control and laid back.

I thought Jack Fontana, an ‘old school’ joke teller ,was better than “The Coach,” but I was alone in that impression. Either way, both were worse than great, better than bad. Entertaining, but not special.

Last night, the casino was as crowded as any casino I had ever seen. And the crowd was younger than any casino crowd I’d ever seen. Many of the women were dressed in that tawdry, slutty way that’s OK for women, as long as they’re not in your family.

I headed down to the poker room to wait out my table. When I say down, I really mean it, since the room is in the basement.

Like the main casino floor, the poker room was astoundingly crowded. I did get a chance to see what the floor people were carrying. They each have some sort of HP PDA with 802.11b access to the poker room system. So they can work the lists and do nearly everything that can be done from the podium.

I sat at a $6/$12 Hold’em table and slowly began to lose money. It wasn’t long before I was down $100. But I was playing decently (though not as tight as I’d like)&#185, so I figured I’d be OK.

My losses stabilized for a while and then I went down again. I had lost $130 or so when things began to turn. I won a few small pots. At least two times everyone laid down their cards to my bet on the river. I think I won because of my earlier semi-tight play. Then I won a few bigs hands.

By the time I went to cash in my chips, I had won $176. So, three sessions for $96, $5, $176. I’m happy.

As I walked through the casino, after 2:00 AM, things were still jumping. In the elevator, yesterday’s Rear Window had given way to Lost in Translation.

&#185 – It’s reasonable to ask, if you know you’re not playing right, why not just do it? The brief answer is, while you’re at a table, you’re always looking at the hands and evaluating them. But you’re also there to play, which is what you don’t do when you lay your cards down. This is less a problem on-line. Even though I can intellectualize the problem, I don’t always act with my intellect.