Comfort Food Favorites

August 14, 2017 – Who doesn’t love a bowl of their favorite cereal?

As a kid, I thought breakfast was the best meal of the day because of cereal. Of course, I grew up when Corn Pops were called Sugar Pops and that was a beautiful thing.

Cereal not only filled your tummy back then, but it also entertained you. Remember reading the cereal box while eating? My sister and brother liked to do the same, so we had to take turns with the Frankenberry and Count Chocula boxes, and getting the prize inside the cereal box.

For many adults like me, cereal remains a favorite comfort food, and it’s still a special treat to sit down with a bowl of Lucky Charms or Coco Krispies. It just makes you feel like a kid again. I like healthier cereals, too and a nice bowl of Crispex with a sliced banana usually does the trick. And I’ve recently discovered the wonderful flavors of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Bethlehem Inn Granola.

So what are the top breakfast cereals of all time? Here’s a list from Buzzfeed ranking them from worst to first. Of course, there are a few I’d add and take off the list, but reading it will make you run for your bowl and spoon!

It’s All Relative

July 24, 2017 — My father always says the 1950s were the best time in our country’s history.

He’s not alone since it is a sentiment shared by many people of his generation, who also believe that life in the 1950’s was simpler and more enjoyable.

I was born in December 1959, so I can’t say I remember life in the 50s, but I do remember the early 60s, which weren’t that different. Traditional roles were the norm, men were the breadwinners of the family and few women worked outside of the home after they married.

Back then we believed our politicians, didn’t question our doctors, and enjoyed a booming economy. There was sense of confidence within the business community that almost any problem could be solved quickly. The government helped boost this confidence by imposing price controls on commonly used goods to slow quickly rising costs. They also passed antitrust regulations to prevent corporate takeovers from strangling competition in the market place. Small businesses were also abundant, including mom and pop stores such as newsstands, candy stores, shoe repair shops, drug stores and food markets. People shopped locally back then, and the small stores thrived.

So, it was a good time for many in this country, but certainly not for everyone, especially those who were discriminated against since the 50s predate the civil rights movement and women’s liberation. Still, my father is correct with his statement, but so am I when I tell my son that nothing compares to the 1970s or 80s. It’s every parent’s prerogative to tell their children that the world was better back when they were young. But I try to remember that even now, at a time when it seems like it couldn’t get any worse, we’re still living in someone’s best time.

The best education I know

June 12, 2017 – Forty years ago this past weekend I graduated from high school. Many members of my graduating class flooded Facebook over the weekend with our graduation photos to show our pride and promote our 40th year reunion coming up in November. Of course, we all said the same thing…we can’t believe those 40 years passed so quickly.

Back then, Jimmy Carter was president, the first Apple computer was on the market, Elvis died at 42, Star Wars was playing in theaters across the country, and a gallon of gas cost 65 cents.

I wanted to share just how different my life turned out from what I originally planned, and perhaps offer a few pearls of wisdom to new graduates. However, looking back on what I can remember about my 17-year-old self, and what I expected to accomplish, I’m drawing a blank. I don’t recall thinking about my future at all in 1977. There are no memories about what I wanted to be or where I thought my life would go. I hadn’t thought about college yet, or a career and I certainly had no plans to get married and have children. Even though I didn’t make a plan, all of those things simply happened along the way when they were supposed to.

Turns out, like many teenagers and some very fortunate adults–according to “The Power of Now” author Elkhart Tolle–I was a live in the moment kind of a person. Tolle, whose philosophy states that living in the now is the truest path to happiness and enlightenment, believes that to be the ultimate goal. Too bad back then I didn’t realize what I had achieved.

I’d like to think I’m still that way, but I realize that I missed out on bits and pieces of my life worrying about things that I have no control over. Even though I do my best to live in each moment, I’m not always able to, and I don’t believe many adults can. But I’m OK with that, because I stay in the moment more often than not.

So, if I was to offer any sage advice to new graduates, it would be to live in the moment as often as you can. Tolle’s theory of “The Power of Now” is right on, it’s just not practical for many of us to live that way every second. I believe it’s necessary at times to think about and plan for the future. And it might even be helpful to go a little crazy once in a while; if anything, it makes you appreciate the good times.

I read once that a Chinese philosopher said, “When you do the dishes, become the dishes.” In other words, be aware of what you are doing in the moment and do it well. Very wise words.

Life teaches many us many lessons along the way, whether we have a plan in place or not. And even if we have a plan, it doesn’t always let us follow it they way we expect to. A happy compromise is an open mind and expandable plan with plenty of room for change. That’s the best life advice I have to offer.

Congratulations to the class of 2017!

A Letter to My 5th Grade Math Tutor

May 22, 2017– Dear Miss Kasmir:

On behalf of my parents and me, I wanted to apologize for the horrors you endured when trying to help me with my math skills.

You left my home frustrated and in tears on many occasions, especially when I didn’t make any progress, didn’t pay attention to what you were trying to show me, or dropped my pencil under the table for the umpteenth time to escape your instruction for a few seconds. You probably told yourself I was hopeless, and it turns out you were right.

According to a new study, “the size of one’s brain structure and the connections between it and other regions can help identify the children who will hardly benefit from one-on-one math instruction.” In other words, the article states we shouldn’t bother to hire math tutors for our kids because in many cases, it is useless.

That sounds harsh, yet the study indicates that scientists can predict how much a child learns from math tutoring based on the measures of brain structure and connectivity.

Clearly, had this data been available in 1970, I would have been labeled as one of those children, and it would have saved both of us a lot of grief. Or, at least I could have served as an interesting outlier. Apparently, my gray matter in the right hippocampus of my brain is not as large, nor does it connect as easily to the area that relates to math problem-solving skills. Who knew?

I think about you now and then, and wonder what you did with your life. I know you were studying to be a teacher when you tutored me, but I heard that you decided it wasn’t the right path for you. If that is the case, I’m glad the time spent with me set you on a more appropriate journey to your life’s goal.

Your first and perhaps last student,

Jane M. McMaster

Visions of Hotcakes Danced in Our Heads

2f64616173a616731dac6156882e3e9cDecember 23, 2016Since I started this blog back in 2010, I’ve told and retold the story of my Grandfather and his famous Christmas hotcakes. Running the story each Christmas has become as much of a tradition as leaving cookies and milk for Santa. 

Christmas Hotcakes

When I think of my grandfather – known lovingly as Pop Pop throughout our large extended family – lots of warm and comforting memories come to mind.

Most often, he’s standing in front of a microphone at a family party singing a favorite song from 1919 that begs, “Don’t put a tax on the beautiful girls, I won’t last a day without love…”

Or, he’s sitting at our dining room table playing Scrabble with my parents after one of our Thursday night dinners.

I also vividly see him standing in the kitchen preparing his famous hotcakes.

Pop Pop made hotcakes every Sunday for his kids before church. Then, he’d make them for us during our summer vacation at the beach because he usually came with us. He’d love to get up early, walk to the grocery store and buy what he needed to whip up a fresh batch. We’d wake to the sound of him whistling in the kitchen with the griddle sizzling.

“Who wants hotcakes?” he’d ask as soon as he saw our sleepy faces.

We all did. They were one of the things we looked forward to while on vacation. And we loved them the next day, too, and maybe even the day after that. By day four, we’d have rather eaten a simple bowl of corn flakes or a Pop Tart, but we never had the heart to say so, and we ate them anyway. It was a small price to pay to please a man who brought so much joy into our lives.

He also made hotcakes for us on Christmas mornings, and we’d eat them as if we never had them before, then he’d fall asleep on the sofa while we opened presents.

Pop Pop passed away in 1977, and I still think of him and his hotcakes every Christmas. Gone but not forgotten, poured but never duplicated, Pop Pop’s hotcakes were the centerpiece of our Christmas morning and our summer vacations.
Those memories will be with me always.

Summer Sounds

sounds of summerSeptember 2, 2016Today marks the beginning of the Labor Day weekend, the unofficial end of summer.

I have to venture back to childhood to remember what I miss most about summer once it’s gone, since adults rarely get to experience it the way a child does. Summer seemed endless back then, with each day passing slowly, some feeling like an entire year.

As a child, how summer sounded is the easiest to recall. Here’s what I remember from the two places where I spent the most time:

The Jersey shore…
• Echoes of seagulls (and the smell of Coppertone).
• Vendors walking along the beach selling “Fudgy Wudgies” and newspapers.
• “Watch the Tram-car please,” on the Wildwood boardwalk.
• Rock music playing by the amusement piers.
• Announcements of lost kids on the boardwalk.

The old neighborhood…
• Big Wheels racing down the street.
• Hucksters peddling “Jersey tomatoes.”
• Mister Softee or Good Humor trucks.
• Crickets on a hot night.
• Baseball games playing on transistor radios.

It’s hard to say goodbye to summer, but there’s plenty to love about autumn to take away the sting. It makes me smile to think that the sounds of fallen leaves crunching beneath my feet, the crackle of a fireplace and fans cheering at football games are close behind.

Visions of hotcakes danced in our heads

f1b888ad9fd1f4971fed3a08b11b799bDecember 21, 2015It wouldn’t be Christmas without thinking about my grandfather. As I’ve done since this blog began in 2010, I’ll retell the story of his famous Christmas Hotcakes because it is worth repeating…

When I think of my grandfather – known lovingly as Pop Pop throughout our large extended family – lots of warm and comforting memories come to mind.

Most often, he’s standing in front of a microphone at a family party singing a favorite song from 1919 that begs, “Don’t put a tax on the beautiful girls, I won’t last a day without love…”

Or, he’s sitting at our dining room table playing Scrabble with my parents after one of our Thursday night dinners.

I also vividly see him standing in the kitchen preparing his famous hotcakes.

Pop Pop made hotcakes every Sunday for his kids before church. Then, he’d make them for us during our summer vacation at the beach because he usually came with us. He’d love to get up early, walk to the grocery store and buy what he needed to whip up a fresh batch. We’d wake to the sound of him whistling in the kitchen with the griddle sizzling.

“Who wants hotcakes?” he’d ask as soon as he saw our sleepy faces.

We all did. They were one of the things we looked forward to while on vacation. And we loved them the next day, too, and maybe even the day after that. By day four, we’d have rather eaten a simple bowl of corn flakes or a Pop Tart, but we never had the heart to say so, and we ate them anyway. It was a small price to pay to please a man who brought so much joy into our lives.

He also made hotcakes for us on Christmas mornings, and we’d eat them like we never had them before, then he’d fall asleep on the sofa while we opened presents.

Pop Pop passed away in 1977, and I still think of him and his hotcakes every Christmas. Gone but not forgotten, poured but never duplicated, Pop Pop’s hotcakes were the centerpiece of our Christmas morning and our summer vacations. Those memories will be with me always.