Monthly Archives: January 2016

Let Them Eat Cheese—for Dessert

Cheese tower
I love, love, love cheese. But serving cheese before dinner can oftentimes kill everyone’s appetite.

So I like to change it up and serve my cheese after dinner. It’s the perfect way for your guests to appreciate it in smaller portions, with a more mindful and enlightened purpose.

There is no better way to finish off your opened bottles of wine after dinner than with a nibble here and there of cheese.  And offer up some dessert wines for an even better experience.

Cheese makes a superb contrast to overly sugary desserts, making it the perfect alternative, offering just a hint of sweetness to finish off your meal. There’s nothing quite like the complex flavors in cheese to end a meal. I enjoy and crave it as much as sugar.

Honey, jam, chutney, mostarda, fresh or dried fruit, nuts, prunes stewed in port wine, crusty French or dark bread, and homemade panforte will further enhance and beautify your cheese platter.

Most cheese belongs to one of three basic categories: soft, firm, or blue. For a well-rounded variety, you should choose one from each group.

For me, a trio of cheese is the perfect ending to a night of entertaining. You don’t need to overload the plate with a ton of cheese—three samplings should be sufficient. I don’t know why, but in the world of cheese, a three-cheese offering is usually what’s served up: a creamy, a hard and of course, a blue.

Unless you want to make a cheese statement, like building a cheese work of art. Then you should go for it—and add all the cheese your heart desires. I happen to love this three-cheese wanna be wedding cake. It’s super simple to create and will definitely impress.

Cheese Platter Idea

Some category recommendations:

Soft: Brie, Brillat-Savarin, Camembert, Constant Bliss, Epoisses by Berthaut, Stinking Bishop

Firm: Cheddar, Comté, Double Gloucester, Gouda, Saxon Shires

Blue: Cremificato Verde Capra, Gorgonzola Dolce, Stilton, Valdeón, Cambozola

Need further cheese clarification?

Brie: My favorite brie is St. André from the coast of France and is lavish and tasty enough to take center stage on your cheese plate.
It is a pasteurized cow’s milk cheese, covered with a satiny, edible rind, although I usually eat around it to better enjoy the deliciously rich, buttery, and silky, salty center.

Brillat-Savarin: This decadent triple cream cheese from Normandy is perfect for dessert. The mushroom and hazelnut flavor combined with its buttercream texture make it one of the silkiest triple creams you will ever taste. Serve with crusty, French bread, or drizzle a tiny bit of honey over it for a standout flavor.

Camembert: This creamy cheese has an earthy, woody taste, with a hint of mushroom and nutty overtones. It has a buttery flavor with a soft, yellow interior and a thin, edible white rind.

Constant Bliss: This dream cheese reminds me of kettle corn: sweet and buttery, with a mild hint of saltiness. At the finish, there is an almost citrusy grapefruit flavor to it.

Epoisses by Berthaut: Made in a tiny town in the Burgundy region of France, Epoisses by Berthaut is one of the great cheeses of the world. But it might also be one of the stinkiest. It’s so pungent that it is banned on public transportation in France—a country remarkably tolerant of its strong cheese aromas. But don’t let the smell turn you away because it’s rich, creamy interior and edible reddish-brown coating is so worth it.

Stinking Bishop: Made from pasteurized cow’s milk, dating back to the Cistercian monks who once settled in Dymock  Gloucestershire, in the south west of England where this cheese is made. Suitable for vegetarians, it is a spectacular cheese experience and when served at room temperature, it will dramatically run across the entire plate, so give it plenty of room.

Cheddar: The older the cheddar, the better the cheese as far as I’m concerned. My favorite is Cabot’s clothbound cheddar.
It has a wonderfully crumbly texture and nutty aroma, and the flavor is deeply savory and slightly tangy with a caramel sweetness to the finish.

Comté: This creamy, nutty-tasting French version of Gruyere absolutely deserves a spot on your cheese platter. It has an earthy flavor and a delightful texture.

Double Gloucester: Rich, buttery Double Gloucester is crafted with extra cream for a mild yet flavorful cheese, with notes of nuttiness, citrus, and hints of onion. The full-cream used to make Double Gloucester gives it a rich, buttery taste and flaky texture.

Gouda: As long as you find a Gouda that’s aged for longer than two years, you’ll revel in the sweet, caramel taste and slight crunchiness of the cheese.

Saxon Shires: A wonderfully flavorful layered cheese, Saxon Shires is also known as “Five Counties Cheese” because of the variety of cheeses that make up its five delicious layers.
The texture actually changes piece by piece, for a unique taste experience in every bite. The five cheeses are Double Gloucester, Caerphilly, Cheshire, Leicester, and Cheddar. This cheese has a dramatic appearance and an especially pleasing flavor. If you’re a fan of any of these British classics, this is definitely worth a try.

Cambozola: A mild and triple creamy delight with just a hint of blue veining.
Think Gorgonzola crossed with Camembert, which makes it the perfect choice for those who are intimidated by the intense blues.

Cremificato Verde Di Capra: This Italian cheese is light and lemony and perfect for blue beginners. It’s very dense, almost like fudge, yet creamy. There is only a hint of salt and blue bite.

Gorgonzola Dolce: Almost spreadable, with a consistency of vanilla ice cream, Gorgonzola Dolce is soft and creamy with a hint of tang and sweet to it. Its bright white interior is laced with streaks of blue, giving it an impressive appearance to match its incredible flavor.

Stilton: Also known as the “King of English Cheeses,” the Blue Stilton is a semi-soft, creamy and crumbly cheese that gets tastier with age. Stingingly sharp and salty, the balance of these two traits are incredibly harmonious and satisfying.

Valdeón: This bold, salty and sharp blue is from Spain. You know it’s the real deal because it comes wrapped in sycamore maple leaves. Be forewarned that this cheese is in-your-face and not for cheese wimps.

For an enjoyable, unforgettable and tasty combination of both firm and blue, try the layered combo of Stilton and Double Gloucester, called Huntsman.

Huntsman: This layered dream cheese is made from two British standards. Double Gloucester, a mellow, tangy, and delicious double cream cheese and Stilton, the richly-veined, smooth yet creamy blue whose flavor is distinctive and surprisingly soft.

Huntsman cheese

The beautifully layered presentation of these two classics feature artistic layers of the orange-hued Double Gloucester enveloping the Blue Stilton and makes a most stunning impression on your cheese tray.

Here are some recipes I found along the way to add even more dimension to your first-class cheese plate:

Rosemary Raisin Pecan Crispy Bread
Rosemary Raisen pecan crispy bread
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/8 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup honey
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
1/8 cup sesame seeds
1/8 cup flax seed, ground
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
Preheat oven to 350° degrees. Mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl.  Then combine the buttermilk, brown sugar, and honey and mix it well.  Then combine the raisins, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flax seed and rosemary and stir until blended. Grease an 8×4 bread loaf pan and pour the batter into it. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until golden and springy to the touch. Remove from the pan, place on a wire rack and cool. The bread needs to be very cool before slicing it, so you may want to put it in the freezer for a few minutes. Reduce the heat in the oven to 300 degrees. Once the bread is cool, slice it as thin as possible, and place them in a single layer on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake them for 15 minutes, then turn them over for another 10 minutes or until crispy and golden brown. Makes about 4 dozen crackers.

5½ oz. shelled pistachios
5½ oz. blanched almonds
6 oz. dried figs, quartered
3½oz. mixed peel
1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
2 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted
1oz. plain flour
1oz. butter
5½ oz. honey
5½oz soft brown sugar sifted
Confectioner’s sugar, to serve
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square cake pan and then line the base with parchment paper. Combine the pistachios, almonds, figs and mixed peel in a mixing bowl. Sift the pumpkin spice, cocoa and flour over the mixture and stir well to combine all the dry ingredients. Then melt the butter, honey, and brown sugar together in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the mixture is combined well and just starts to boil. Pour the mixture on top of the dry ingredients, and mix well. Transfer all ingredients to the cake pan and make sure it is level by pressing it down with the back of a spoon. Bake in the oven for approximately 45 minutes, or until it is bubbling slightly. Remove the pan from the oven and cool completely, before removing from the pan. Dust panforte with confectioner’s sugar, and slice.

Dried Fruit Mostarda
8 oz. dried apricots, quartered
4 oz. dried cherries, halved
4 oz. dried figs or prunes, quartered
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon cayenne
Kosher salt, to taste
Place the dried fruit in a saucepan, and cover, just barely, with water or sweet white wine. Bring the ingredients to a boil over medium-high heat; occasionally stirring, and until the apricots and cherries are plumped and the liquid is reduced, about 30-40 minutes. Let cool.

BFF or Frenemy? When to Call It Quits

Best friends
I lost touch with my first best friend when I moved cities at age fourteen. The sudden loss of my then BFF broke my heart and I still think back on the devotion and love we shared and then lost, and sometimes wonder if our friendship would have lasted the test of time.

Since then, many besties have come and gone, for one reason or another. The old adage that we can’t choose our family but we can choose our friends is only true so long as we make the right choice.

And even though I’ve tried to choose my friends carefully, I have over the years developed less and less tolerance for those whom I once thought I picked well.

Making and keeping a BFF takes perseverance and there has to be mutual affection and respect for one another. An unwritten code of empathy, kindness, harmony, solidarity, support, and compassion combined with friendship etiquette is essential to a long-term alliance.

Anyone who has a BFF gets what I’m saying here.

Friendship etiquette is something that ensures the growth and tranquility essential for a healthy and reciprocally beneficial relationship. Friendship etiquette also means that there exists between two compadres an understanding, loyalty, and acceptance when there is not a shared like or interest in something or someone. You silently agree to stand behind and up for your BFF because that’s what a good friend does. You have their back whether you agree with them or not—in good times and especially in bad.

Additionally, friends don’t become your frenemy because your life might happen to be better than theirs at some moment in time. Friends take pride in the progress and success of their BFFs.

An actual friend will revel in your successes and knows when you’re in trouble. And they do what it takes to combat and control their possible jealousies and inner demons because we all have our insecurities.

True friends understand that even though they are BFF’s their lives are divergent and separate from each other. And they recognize that only through give-and-take respect can they secure an unforgettable and life-long attachment.

If you’ve ever had the honor of having a true BFF, it’s fairly easy to name the qualities you expect in a close friendship. And you go out of your way to be a legitimate and honest friend.

But is your BFF really for forever? The following questions should give you the answers you’re looking for.

Are they genuinely happy when something good happens to you?

Do they listen to your stories without changing the subject to something about them?

Do they give you a break when you’re clearly off your game, knowing that everyone has a bad day?

Do they cancel their plans to be with you in your hour of need?

Do they check in on you when the weather’s bad or just because?

Do they feel your sadness when something bad happens to you?

Do they accept your friends?

Do they say the negative things they feel about you to your face, and say only positive things about you behind your back?

If you’ve been a faithful friend or have a loyal sidekick, the answer to all of these questions should be yes. If not, maybe your BFF is not who you thought they were.

And jealousy is the quickest way to destroy a friendship. Let’s be honest, there will always be a friend out there with a better life than yours—a more successful job, a more luxurious home, in better shape, with a closer significant other. And maybe they’re more beautiful, handsome, or spontaneous.

But you say you love them, right? You want them to be happy, healthy, and prosperous, correct?

The wannabe BFFs say they love you, but the authentic BFF lives it. Because your friendship is worth safekeeping, and they know it’s the real deal and that a BFF once found, is irreplaceable.

Keep in mind that your BFF will always include others in their lives, which doesn’t mean that they stop being your best friend. A BFF needs to be confident enough to give their friendship shared freedom.

You’re friends for a reason. You chose each other because the two of you have something you don’t find often enough, if at all. You mutually share things like consideration, trust, empathy, support, and you love spending time with them. A BFF is a gift that can’t be measured like material goods.

Being a BFF means being truly ecstatic about your friends’ success and happiness even if you’re not up to the same speed. In every BFF, there is an element of responsibility to care about what your friend needs and take the lead sometimes. Your BFF is always on your mind, and you don’t play games.

It takes two to make a BF—there is no such thing as a one-sided friendship. A bona fide BFF is one of the best things that can happen to us. They listen to us, do things with us, and bring out the best in us. They make us better people, share new experiences, make us laugh, and are always there with broad shoulders for us to cry on in times of trouble. A BFF is considerate and your problems are their problems.

If your BFF is not like this, then, take a closer look at your friendship. Do they lack empathy and/or consideration of your feelings? Have they said and done things that have hurt you or caused offense? And when you try to explain to them that you are terribly hurt by what they’ve said or done, do they still play the victim?

If you’re always overlooking the bad behavior or demands of your supposed BFF, and/or walking on eggshells when you’re around them, it’s probably time to say goodbye.

As hard as that might be, take the energy and caring you’ve been wasting on your frenemy and find yourself the BFF you deserve.


The Teri Tome—My Top 20 Posts in 2015

The Best of 2015
I launched The Teri Tome on March 18, 2015.

I was actually ready to roll it out earlier in March, but it was imperative to me that I waited until the 18th.

Why you ask?

Because for Jews, the number 18 has reverential status. The Jewish prayer, usually read silently, and known as the Amidah is also called the “Shmoneh Esreh,” meaning “The Eighteen,” which refers to the number of separate blessings that originally comprised the prayer.

Additionally, in the Jewish numerological tradition of gematria, the number 18 has long been viewed as corresponding to the Hebrew word “chai,” meaning “alive,” derived by adding the eight and tenth letters of the Hebrew alphabet, chet and yud.

According to Wikipedia, gematria is Greek, meaning geometry and is an Assyro-Babylonian-Greek system of code and numerology.

Gematria was at some point adopted into Jewish culture where a numerical value to a word or phrase was assigned in the belief that words or phrases with identical numerical values bear some relation to each other or bear some relation to the number itself.

Many Jews who write a check on the occasion of a celebratory event, will use a multiple of $18, which is synonymous with “l’chaim,” or “To Life.” So if you ever receive a check from a Jew with an odd numerical value like $270, you’ll know why.

My husband and I like to tell the following anecdote regarding a used car we once purchased in Florida while visiting family. The next door neighbor of my sister-in-law quoted us a price of $17,500 for the purchase of his several-year-old Mercedes E350. My husband made a counter offer—of $18,000. The neighbor looked at us like we were nuts, but he immediately shouted, “Sold!” He thought he’d gotten one over on us, but that car ran like a lucky charm and gave us many years of good riding.  So there.

Back to The Teri Tome.

By the end of 2015, I had written 59 posts. Out of the 59 posts, 35% of them, representing the top 20, have garnered anywhere from a high of 10,470 hits for the #1 post, to a low of 1,023 for the #20 post.

Now I’m not sure if these are impressive numbers or not, but they’re good enough for me.

Although 36% representing the top 18 posts, would have been my preferred numbers of choice. And if you’ve been paying attention to the above verbiage in this blog post, you know why.

Anyway, here are the links to my top 20 blog posts for 2015.

Drum roll, please…

#1: My Sun Phobia—Just Call Me Draculess
I am no fan of the sun. And believe you me, the sun doesn’t like me either.

#2: My Arduous Journey from Bridgeport to Westport—and What I Never Should Have Worn
Nothing like throwing a little Bridgeport fashion into the Westport shee-shee mix. NOT.

#3: Bullies Are Cowards and Why I Refuse To Turn the Other Cheek
I despise bullies. There is nothing worse than a coward who takes other people down to bring themselves up.

#4: How to Market Your Book
I’m still trying to figure this one out. My marketing skills are a work in progress, but I hope this post gives people a few solid tips.

#5: Writing the Perfect Book Blurb in 25 Words
I’m really proud I was able to do this. Come on, saying anything in 25 words for me is near impossible.

#6: Wedding Centerpieces that Won’t Cost You the World Versus Wedding Centerpieces that Can Save the World
This title doesn’t really work. What I really wanted to say was, stop spending ridiculous money on those stupid flowers. There has to be something else you can put on your wedding tables, girls.

#7: ISIS Seizes Syrian City of Palmyra: One of the Most Important Cultural Centers of the Ancient World
Another treasure lost to the maniac fanatics out there.

#8:  Addiction, Depression, Suicide, Chronic Pain and Their Symbiotic Link
While reading this post, if you think I’ve made a mishmash out of addiction, depression, suicide and chronic pain, it’s because they are all linked and related in so many unfortunate ways. A heartbreaking and devastating mishmash.

#9: My Elusive Father and the Chance Meeting I Blew
I spent a lifetime dreaming of one day meeting my father. And there he was unbeknownst to me—sitting right next to me at a local Westport bar.

#10: American Express Small Business Saturday
I get it. American Express was tired of shoppers abusing their awards program, so they canceled it. But they could have easily limited the promotion to one card per person, and that would have been the end of the abuse.

#11: Happy Mother’s Day!
In 1868, this special day was organized to allow mothers of Union and Confederate soldiers to come together in the hopes of eliminating the divide between them, as a result of the Civil War. Why does it always come down to red and blue? There has to be a way of finally eliminating the divide, no?

#12: My Love-Hate Relationship with Facebook
Okay, Facebook No Longer Just Has A ‘Like’ Button, but I still love it and hate it.

#13: Book Marketing Flyers for Dummies
Anyone with Word can create this easy DIY sell sheet.

#14: Khalid al-Asaad the Man vs. Cecil the Lion. Where’s the Outrage?
This photo of the beheaded al-Asaad and the story of his life and death just about broke my heart. Yes, that’s his head at his feet.

#15: The Y Chromosome
Men determine the sex of a baby depending on whether their sperm is carrying an X or Y chromosome.  An X chromosome combines with the mother’s X chromosome to make a baby girl (XX) and a Y chromosome will combine with the mother’s to make a baby boy (XY).  When my husband does something stupid I always ask myself, WHY? And then I answer my own question: Blame it on the Y!

#16: Bravo’s New Reality Show “Secrets and Wives”
This blog post is less about the show and more about the fact that these bimbettes live on the North Shore of Long Island and love nothing better than to put down those of us (like me) who reside on the South Shore. Puleeze.

#17: The Easy, Breezy Summer Dinner Party
This was my first stab at posting a food blog along with some BBQ pics, and it got some fairly impressive page views.

#18: Happy Birthday Pam 6/2/52-5/20/09
No surprise to me that my sorely missed and beloved cousin sits at #18.

#19: The Ending of My Life Will NOT Be Happy—But I Need to Be the Boss of It
I have been impatiently waiting since 2009 for my attorney husband to update my will. Pending a revised will, durable power of attorney, living will, health care proxy and DNR (no pun intended, but I’m not holding my breath), this post is my quick and dirty amendment to the Last Will and Testament of Teri Dawne Schure.

#20: How I Lost 100 Pounds and Why Fat-Free is so Overrated
How did I do it?  That’s what everyone always asks. Pretty simple: Eat Real food. Not too much. Mostly plants. BORING.

In Search of My French Roots—and the Money Shot

A sign welcoming visitors to Caribou, Maine is seen in this picture taken July 18, 2014. Citing amenities such as an airport and recreation center as evidence of excessive spending by the city government, a group of Caribou residents have started a movement to secede from the northeastern most U.S. City and undo a municipal merger which took place in the 19th century. REUTERS/Dave Sherwood
I have always dreamed of taking one more trip back to Caribou Maine where my maternal family hails from.

Caribou is the most northeastern city in the United States and a mere 10-12 miles from the province of New Brunswick in Canada. The estimated population in 2010 was 8,189.

The summers in Caribou are spectacular but the winters are frigid. The cold comes from Quebec into the valley along the Aroostook River and doesn’t move out for at least four months, giving Caribou a winter climate on a par with North Dakota and Minnesota.

The average seasonal snowfall for Caribou is approximately 109 inches. The first freeze of the season usually occurs sometime in mid-September, and the last freeze around mid-May. So Caribou has about 130 days of freeze-free weather. In January, the average low is only 1 degree.

I have always fondly recalled the long driving trips I took to Caribou with my mother and grandmother both in summer and winter. My memories of those trips have faded over the years, but I can still vividly recall picking wild blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries by the bushel-full right off the side of the roads flanked on both sides by a tapestry of majestic emerald green potato fields in the summer.

Caribou Maine Potato Field

And in the winter, I will never forget how we would make fresh maple syrup from a spigot stuck in a tree, or ice skating, sledding, fretful drives on snow-covered roads, moose sightings, and snowmobiling. Caribou maintains over 170 miles of Aroostook County’s 1,600-mile groomed snowmobile trail systems—which have been rated the third-best in the nation.


But what will remain forever etched in my mind was that, winter or summer, Caribou had some of the most beautiful landscape I had ever seen, and a far cry from my poverty-stricken home base in Connecticut. I recall on so many lonely nights in our railroad apartment on Huron Street in Bridgeport, dreaming that Caribou was my home.

My grandmother was French-speaking and bilingual even though she hailed from the U.S. It didn’t matter whether you were on the American or Canadian side of the border at the time she grew up in Caribou, both French and English were spoken in the home. Her English was sometimes indecipherable, mainly because her enunciation of words as well as her accent were extremely thick. She called it the “Valley accent.” Anyone from the St. John Valley, whether it was the Maine or Canadian side, had a similar Franco-American accent.

For example, she would pronounce: the as “dah,” or three as “tree,” potato as “budayda,” mother as “mudder,” father as “fadder,” or the number 233 as “thoo turty tree.” To be honest, as a child who grew up hearing her speak both English and French, it was often easier for me to understand her French than her English.

I recall her telling me compelling stories about the Acadians’ arrival in the St. John River Valley, after being exiled from Canada, where many of the refugees had settled around 1755 to escape the British roundup, as well as her heartfelt memories of her life in and around Caribou. But I never wrote anything down nor did I pay much attention to the tales. How I wish I would have.

And my grandmother would sprinkle all of our conversations with sayings like, “The one you have, is worth more than the two you think you might get,” or “If the young knew and the old could,” or “After the storm comes good weather.” But her favorite saying was “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,” which means, “the more that changes, the more it’s the same thing.”

My grandmother also had several endearing pet names she would call me in French. Her favorite pet name for me was “Mon petit chou,” which means, “My little cabbage.” Now I really didn’t like being referred to as a gassy vegetable, but she said it with such fondness that I grew to love her quirky nickname for me. But my favorite pet name she called me was “Mon couer” which means, “My heart.” I was her heart, and she was mine.

It was my grandmother’s long life dream to someday move back to Maine, buy a small house and live out the rest of her life there. Unfortunately, the last time she was in Maine was with me—when I was about 7 or 8 years old.

It probably seems strange that someone who loved and dreamed of her home as much as she did, never returned for a visit. But it was a costly and time-consuming trip to make, and she never had the time off or the money to get back home. I often ask myself why I didn’t give her the money to go. I certainly could have. That question haunts me all the time.

In 1977, my grandmother sat me down to break the devastating news that she had been diagnosed with lung cancer. She was 58, and I was 24.

I was beyond words—dumbfounded, and afraid. But she wasn’t afraid of “the cancer” as she called it. She was afraid she wouldn’t make it back to her beloved Caribou. She asked me what I thought about her finally making the move back to her roots. She laid out a whole plan. She would drive over the steel bridge across the Aroostook River to Fort Fairfield Road in Caribou and take in the beauty of the rolling hills and fields where she grew up. She would go back to Eagle Lake, where she was born and then take the magnificent drive along the St. John River Valley to Van Buren. She’d buy a small house somewhere, and plant vegetables and fruit. She’d get back into canning and gardening, and maybe add a few chickens for fresh eggs.

I was agitated, but she was calm and rationalized that based on her diagnosis, she knew it was terminal and so it was finally time for her to make her move.

I was adamant that she stay in Connecticut. I convinced her not to go. I begged her not to leave me. And I pushed her to go through chemotherapy and radiation. And then I pushed her some more to have surgery to remove one of her lungs. I pushed and I pushed and I pushed.

I look back on all that now, and I realize how selfish I was. I should have encouraged her to live out her dream—the only dream she really ever had. She had such a difficult life, full of so many disappointments, with no possibility of a dream come true.

But I was in desperate need of her unconditional love, and her continuing presence. It was all about me.

What I should have done was to drive to Caribou with her, and help her find a place to live. I should have supported and assisted her in achieving the one and only dream she ever had.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

Needless to say, she never made it back to Caribou, or anywhere else. In 1983, six years after her cancer diagnosis, she lay dying in a hospital bed. She was distraught over her failing health, but she was more distressed about her decision not to move back to her cherished Caribou. “It’s not too late,” I reassured her, although we both knew it was a lie. She died that night.

Thirty-two years after her death, I decided to finally make the trip back to Caribou—for her. I did some research ahead of time, to make sure I visited and photographed all of the places she spoke so highly of, and that meant everything to her. Places like Grand Falls in New Brunswick, Eagle Lake, Presque Isle, Van Buren, and of course over the steel bridge and across the Aroostook River to Fort Fairfield Road in Caribou.

My first stop was in front of the Welcome to Caribou sign, where my husband took my photo. Unfortunately, the weather was rainy, cold, and disappointingly miserable.

My second stop was to Van Buren, along the St. John River Valley, where Maine is on one side of the narrow St. John River, and Canada on the other.


The Acadian culture still remains a significant part of everyday life in Van Buren, which is part of Aroostook County. At the Acadian Village there, I admired the ethereal 1,700-pound Italian marble statue of Evangeline, the lovesick Acadian refugee of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem about a couple parted by the British expulsion. His epic poem was published in 1847 and titled Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie. It was a work of fiction but based on historical fact. It was a story of a couple’s devotion, love, and ultimate separation on their wedding day, due to the deportation by the British, of the French Acadian people from Nova Scotia in 1755. Evangeline, the bride-to-be, wandered unsuccessfully for years in search of her one true love. As a result of his poem about Evangeline, Longfellow, who was born in Portland Maine, went on to become one of the most famous poets in America.

Acadian Village Evangeline 9-14-15

My third stop was to drive over the steel bridge to Fort Fairfield Road to see if it would spark a memory of where my great grandmother Julia Nadeau once lived. It was stormy and rainy, and there was a foggy mist obscuring the landscape. I wasn’t getting the money shot I had hoped for, that was for sure.

What struck me the most about its bewitchery was that fifty-plus years after the first time I laid eyes on it, the landscape had barely changed. It was still the same lush, endless fields and farms of emerald green I remembered as a child.

I had waited decades to stand at this very spot, drove over 600 miles, and wouldn’t be able to photograph it.

And then I realized that even if the day had been a spectacularly perfect one, no photo could have ever captured the panoramic, pristine beauty and serenity of the landscape before me. The one and only searing image of the money shot, would best and forever remain in the caverns of my mind. I had little regret because I knew that the beauteous view at the top of Fort Fairfield Road would stay with me for the rest of my life.

As I stood at the upper part of Fort Fairfield Road taking in the breathtaking spectacle of farm after farm, for as far as my eyes could see, I was overcome with an aura of peace and tranquility that I hadn’t felt in years.

When I got back to the car to drive away, the skies opened up and the sun peeked out just slightly. I could swear it was my grandmother looking down at me and saying, “After the storm comes good weather.”

As my husband drove away, I took a picture of the sky with my cell phone, and then softly replied to my grandmother that we were home.


World Daughter’s Day

Mommy and daughter hands

World Daughter’s Day is celebrated on January 12 each year and in its honor, here is what I would like to say to my daughter:

I won’t be around when you’re an old woman and I never possessed the power or ability to create an amazing you, but I always believed that you were extraordinary.

I hope that the way I lived and worked will stick in your brain and remind you that challenging times mean nothing in the scheme of things, and will only make you stronger.

When your hair turns grey and your skin sallow, I hope your eyes shine as brightly and magnificently as they do today.

I hope you remember that your happy todays are equally as important as your unhappy yesterdays.

I hope you dance—even if it’s slowly and you’re not that good.

I hope you have a husband, a child or a friend you can spend the end of your life with.

I hope your mistakes and the mistakes of those who love you have long ago been forgiven and maybe even forgotten.

I hope you face your fears and scare them away.

I hope you belly laugh, dance like a fool, and sing at the top of your lungs—a lot.

I hope you do work that you love, but if not, that you always aspire to be the best at what you do.

I hope you let your children be children, and when they wreak havoc, jump up and down on their beds, or snuggle with each other under the covers to share their deep dark secrets when it’s way past bedtime, you let them.

I hope you celebrate every birthday with those you love, but as importantly, you find time to share your special day with someone who loves you.

When you look out the window and you see the snow blanketing the streets, take your kids out for a sleigh ride—no matter how late at night it is.

More important than having children you adore, I hope you have children that adore you. But always remember that you need to be patient, loving, attentive and kind to be worthy of their adoration.

I never have to hope you’ll shine because I know that’s who you are.

And I hope. I really, really hope…that you remember me fondly and with love.

Why Iowa?

Iowa A

Many states are jealous of Iowa’s #1 status and question their lack of minorities: According to the 2014 United States Census Bureau, 92.1% of Iowans are white vs. the USA percent of 77.4.

In 1972, due to scheduling conflicts, the Democratic National Party innocently moved its Iowa caucus earlier than the New Hampshire primary. Since the caucus wasn’t considered to be in the same league as a primary, nobody paid much attention.

Here’s how the caucus works: There are no voting polls at all. Instead, registered Iowan voters assemble in a public place, town hall style, to review the candidates and choose who should get the primary nomination. The Republicans write their choice on a piece of paper and are counted by hand. The Democrats physically move into clusters based on the candidate they support, and the size of each group is manually tallied.

And while a caucus isn’t considered to be in the same league as a primary, Iowa’s ability to be the first state to weigh in during the presidential campaign has become the envy of most others.

The fluke change in timing in 1972 forever supplanted New Hampshire as the first contest.

That year, Jimmy Carter, after winning Iowa, won the presidency. The Republican response was to immediately move their Iowa caucus earlier as well.

There you have it—Numero Uno status for Iowa.

And until both parties make a fundamental change in their rules, Iowa will continue to remain first out of the gate.

Additionally, in 1972, New Hampshire took legal steps to protect its “first primary in the nation” status by passing a law that gives its secretary of state the power to change the date to precede any other primary by one week. A genius political move on their part.

Even though both the Democrats and the Republicans have it in their rules that Iowa goes first, it’s not legally binding. But if a state holds their primaries earlier than Iowa, the number of delegates the state can send to the national convention is reduced, a punishment wielded by both parties as a huge disincentive. No state wants to cut back on delegates.

The 2016 National Conventions: Republicans will meet in Cleveland, Ohio from July 18-21, and Democrats will meet in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from July 26-28.

Farrah’s Blanket

Rare German passport with Red J

I’ll call her Farrah. And her husband Franz.

They were Holocaust survivors who spent a lifetime trying to recover from the unrecoverable. They were now too old to stay in their home any longer and were living with their daughter and her family. Their house was to be sold, so its contents had to be reviewed, sorted and mostly given away. Some of it would be saved, but most of it was scheduled to be picked up by a Vietnam Veterans of America truck. Their family did not want to upset Farrah and Franz, so they didn’t let them know that their house was being cleared out. It was for their own benefit. Why cause them any unnecessary pain? Hadn’t they been through enough?

The first two days, the family went through the house and divided up those cherished possessions they wanted to keep in the family for themselves and their children. The next two days were spent separating the junk from the items to be donated. Each member of the family was assigned a room to clean out.

For hours, Farrah and Franz’s family stuffed trash bags with old clothes, pots and pans, towels, knickknacks, cleaning products and various other household items.

One particular family member was given their bedroom to go through. I’ll call her Tess. She was upset. She mumbled aloud: “Is this how it goes? A couple survives the unthinkable, builds a lifetime of memories in their home, raises a family there, and then it all ends up in garbage bags?”

Tess thought about her own home and how disregarded she would feel if anyone—even her immediate family—rummaged through her venerated possessions, and made decisions about her life’s accumulations.

When Tess entered the bedroom, the dresser drawers were mostly empty, but for some sachet, hotel soap, and handkerchiefs. The bed was already stripped. Just a bare mattress and the frame were left. On the lone chair, there was an old wool blanket. It was small and worn. It was drab, almost colorless, and itchy.

Tess was allergic to wool, so she carefully picked it up with her right thumb and pointer finger. She dropped it into the garbage bag, looked around, and closed the bedroom door behind her.

As Tess roamed around the house, surrounded by Farrah and Franz’s belongings, she felt their spirit, and she got to know them in ways she hadn’t before. Beautiful beveled mirrors and rolled up Oriental rugs earmarked for family members, Sabbath candlesticks, a spice box full of aromatic cloves, and on and on and on. Tess was given permission to take the spice box and wondered if one day someone would take it from her in the same manner.

The trash was put out in piles on the sidewalk. A mound of black garbage bags was now the only proof that someone had lived and loved there.

The next day Tess received a call at work from Farrah’s daughter, asking if she had seen a blanket. Farrah now knew that her house had been picked through and she was furious and insisted on someone taking her home. She was adamant about saving her belongings. But mostly, Farrah wanted her blanket. Tess was informed that it had tremendous sentimental value, and Farrah was beside herself over the loss of it.

Tess was horrified and told Farrah’s daughter that she had thrown the blanket away. It hadn’t looked like anything worth saving. It looked old and ratty. She apologized profusely, but the damage was done. The blanket was gone.

Farrah accused her daughter of throwing it out. She accused her son of throwing the blanket out as well. She never accused Tess, because she told her daughter and her son that Tess would have never thrown out her treasured blanket. In fact, Farrah had convinced herself that Tess was not even there.

Tess felt disgustingly callous and stupid for being involved in the first place. All the family members told her not to worry and to stop taking it so hard. They assured Tess that Farrah would get over it soon enough.

The following weekend Tess visited Farrah, who railed against the family for what had been done. Her house had been violated, her belongings destroyed, and her revered blanket thrown away by some idiot.

Tess wanted to confess to Farrah that she was the idiot. She wanted to beg for her forgiveness and get some kind of absolution from her. But Tess didn’t ask. And she couldn’t tell. So Tess kept her cowardly mouth shut. But she did ask Farrah why the blanket meant so much to her.

And this is what Farrah told her.

It was early 1938, and the political situation in Vienna was becoming quite dangerous. We saw our freedom as Jews in Austria and Central Europe shrinking and threatening to collapse. It was a very dismal future for a young Jew. The Nazis in Germany were blackmailing the Austrian politicians and provoked all kinds of riots and demonstrations. The Nazi party was illegal at the time, but they became more and more virulent against the Jews. They bombed Jewish stores and beat up Jewish students in the Viennese University. Many of the non-Jewish students were already Nazis and gave a lot of trouble to the Jews in Vienna. The police ignored this and looked away since most of them were also Nazis by then. The situation was becoming unbearable. And then all of a sudden, our world crashed in. Adolf Hitler summoned the Austrian Chancellor in March to Germany, where he terrorized him and forced him to make all kinds of concessions and compromises. This Chancellor had succeeded a Catholic World War I veteran, who was murdered by the Nazis in 1934, so he was fearful he would be next. Even though the Chancellor believed in Austrian independence, he had been pressured by Hitler and blackmailed by the Nazis for four years already. He also believed that the Western nations like France and England would help him out of this terrible situation. And he also still trusted that Mussolini in Italy would support Austrian independence.  At this time, more and more Nazis were coming out of the closet, openly showing their illegal swastikas. On March 11, we were anxiously listening to the radio because we didn’t know what was going to happen to us. But we always had hope that somehow we would get out of this. But getting out was not going to be our fate because our Chancellor made a radio announcement that he could not resist the brute force any longer. He said that he did not want to fight the Germans because after all we were all Germans. He signed off with the wish, “God save Austria.”         

Tess was listening at the edge of her seat and with intense interest, but she wasn’t sure how this frightening story related to the blanket.

Farrah continued.

That night we hid in our apartment and heard a lot of noise outside. Around midnight, we looked through our windows and saw Nazis marching in the streets yelling “Deutschland erwache! Judah verrecke!” which meant, “Germany awake! Judah perish.” During this night most of the Austrian non-Jews, including our non-Jewish neighbors became Nazis. The situation after that became more ominous and dangerous for all of us Jews. The Nazis would round up Jews in the streets and send them to the police, first for interrogation, and then to concentration camps. Unbeknownst to us, we already had concentration camps in Austria. But what we did know was that it was time to leave Vienna. I was told by other Jews planning their escape that the best way to get out would be via the Westbahnhof railway station in Vienna, where we could get a train that went west into Germany, and then on to Luxembourg. Luxembourg is a tiny country which borders on Germany to the east. Its northern border is Belgium, and the rest of Luxembourg is surrounded by France. The rumor was that the easiest border to cross was Luxembourg. All of the other Austrian and German borders were pretty much sealed. Crazy as it sounds, going from Austria into the Nazi heartland of Germany was the best way to get out, although it was extremely dangerous. But anything was better than waiting for the Nazis to get us Jews in Austria. It was now the beginning of September, and the borders between France and Germany were mobilized by a lot of troops on both sides. I tried to convince my parents to come with me, but they wanted to stay in Vienna. They couldn’t make up their minds to leave their home and at an advanced age stray out into a strange country with all the risks of illegal border crossings. I asked my mother if I could take Ona, my 16-year-old sister, with me. I was 24 at the time. My mother was against it, fearing that we would be caught and sent to a concentration camp—or worse. But Ona wanted to come with me, and my parents finally gave in.     

Nervously wringing her hands together, Farrah breathed in deeply, and asked Tess for a glass of water, although she called it “vasser.” As she sipped slowly, she pressed on.

We embraced our family for the last time and got on a train which rolled toward the German border. A few hours later, the train came to an abrupt stop. I looked at Ona fearfully and realized that I had made a huge mistake to bring her with me. She was shaking and whimpering. I severely told her to be quiet. Some Nazi police boarded the train and were walking through asking everyone for their papers. I handed Ona a train blanket and ordered her to put it right up to her face and pretend to sleep. No shaking or crying I harshly told her. She leaned her face against the train window and covered most of her face with the blanket. By this time the Nazi was a few seats away from us. He asked a dark-haired young woman for her papers. When she handed her passport to the Nazi, he opened it, looked with disgust at her, and then violently slapped her face with the back of his hand, her blood spattering against the window. He yelled to another Nazi, who grabbed her by the hair and dragged her off the train.        

Oh my God, Tess thought to herself. Farrah handed her sister Ona a train blanket. This was the blanket I found in Farrah’s bedroom—in some garbage dump by now! Tess started to cry, burying her face in her hands. Farrah stroked her hair and lovingly shushed her. Perhaps the same way she did for Ona.

It was our turn now. The Nazi looked at me and he smiled widely. You see, I was beautiful and blonde with blue eyes. He thought I was Aryan. We had German passports, me and Ona. But they were stamped with a red J on the first page to mark the holder as a Jew. The Nazi looked me up and down sensually, and then at Ona, the blanket only covering part of her beautiful young face. She was also blonde, and more beautiful than me. I smiled flirtingly at him as he charmingly said, “Guten Nachmittag, Fräulein,” which means “Good afternoon miss.” “Guten Nachmittag,” I replied sweetly. And then he asked the dreaded question, but pleasantly and kindly: “Darf ich Ihre Papiere Fräulein?”which means “May I see your papers, miss?” I looked up at him warmly and handed him my passport while coquettishly replying, “natürlich lieber Herr” which means “Of course kind sir.” The Nazi, still smiling opened my passport, and he stared at it for only a second, but it seemed like an eternity. The smile disappeared from his face as his bright blue eyes looked intently into mine. I never stopped smiling. Then he turned his head toward Ona, who was shaking slightly under the blanket. And then he turned back to me. I was screaming inside but I never stopped smiling. And then you know what he did?

Farrah’s hands were shaking, and Tess took hold of them firmly, to settle her down. Tears welled in Farrah’s still lovely sky blue eyes, but she didn’t cry. It was only Tess who whimpered softly.

He looked again at Ona and then he carefully and gently closed my passport. “Danke Fräulein,” he murmured softly as he moved on to the next passenger.

Farrah was drained and deflated. Tess sat quietly—devastated. “The blanket is gone,” Farrah finally murmured flatly. “We hid between the raindrops.”

Tess pulled herself together and tearfully asked her, “Hiding between raindrops. How was it possible?”

Farrah’s answer: “Some of us—not enough of us—escaped the impossible. The Nazis tried to murder our souls but they failed.”