MY FRIEND KATHY

Our family moved to Florida in June of 1960.  That was long before 436 was six lanes and there was no I-4 at all.  The Bear Lake area was a brand new development and it was safe to be outside and play.  I was four years old when we arrived. 

Three houses down from us was the first family I remember knowing.  Kathy was the oldest, she was my age.  Kay was two years younger.  Terri, Patti’s age, was not even born yet.

Kathy, Kay and I always played together.  Whether it was Barbie or bike riding, swimming or playing games, it feels like I was always at their house.  We went to separate schools through eighth grade so we had different schedules.  During the summer we were either swimming in their pool or playing endless games of canasta at their kitchen table.    

There was this one album called Hootenanny with the Highwaymen and we used to laugh, dance and sing along with it over and over again.  Kathy and I still talk about those silly songs.   I particularly remember Mr. Noah.  I can still hear us singing away in my memories.  It was a wonderful carefree time in our lives. 

When I returned home from my visit to New York the summer I was 12, Kathy threw me a surprise Welcome Home party with all my friends.  This was a wonderful surprise in itself, but that a lot of these people were more my friends than hers made it truly special to me.  She really did everything possible to make it a great party. 

As Kathy and I entered high school, we kind of left Kay behind.  We lived in a new world of boys and dreams of tomorrow.  We used to go for walks after dinner and talk and talk and TALK about everything and anything.  Mostly boys I am sure.  We both had boyfriends from church, and we had boyfriends from school, I don’t remember us ever fighting over a boy. 

We had different friends and interests at school, but somehow we always found time to take our walks. 

We both got married and I was the one that moved away.  There were lapses in time but we managed to stay in touch.  Whenever I was home, we would always get together and it was like we had never been apart. 

Life has taken us to different cities, even different countries and we ended up living 5 miles away from each other, totally unplanned.  This is the way it has always been.  We each live different lives but know the other one is right there, just around the corner.

Our friendship has survived marriages, divorces, children and no children, deaths of parents and everything in between.  Kathy reminds me that the people I love have different journeys than mine and the best way to love them is to let them go.  I remind her to trust God and keep marching.  We share a very deep faith and hold each other up as best we can when needed. 

Kathy and I have always joked that 2010 would be our 50th Anniversary.  So here it is, June 2010, Happy 50th my dear friend.  I think we should at least be good for another 25!  Thanks for being there for me all these year.  I love you.

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I AM NOT A COOK

I am not a cook.  This is not a “fishing for compliments” statement, I REALLY am not a cook.  When I was married to my ex, he was a good cook.  If I felt he was starting to resent cooking, all I had to do was attempt to make a meal and he would be good for another 6 months.  He was very positive about my failures and usually would just ask me to let him help. 

Fast forward many years I am now married to a great guy who doesn’t like to cook.  Now we have a problem, neither of us like it.  We eat out more than we should out of laziness and sometimes survival.

I love to watch the cooking shows.  I have a friend that calls them Food Porn.  I like the cooking lessons and the competitions as well.  There is one show that the Chef’s talk about the best thing they ever ate.  There is a specific topic and they tell you where to get whatever “it” is.  I love that show, thinking someday I might actually leave the culinary mecca of Orlando and go to those restaurants and try one of those best things.

One episode in particular, one of the guys talked about a rice dish that his mom makes in her restaurant and promises it isn’t the best just because it’s his mom’s.  He even says that it is the most requested recipe and is posted on the restaurants web site.  I decided I could make this particular dish.  My ex used to make cheese, rice and peas all the time and we loved it.

Now I have learned to read the recipe before I start so I can find the little things that trip you up.  This particular one is a two parter.  You have to make a Crema Agria Preparada (Sour Cream Mixture) first so the flavors can blend together.  That is easy enough, sour cream, onion, garlic and cilantro leaves.  I got it covered.  This is easy!

The rice part isn’t so easy.  They call for converted rice.  I have no idea what that is so I call mom and ask.  She doesn’t know either.  Rice is rice so I just use my regular generic white rice.  The recipe says to take the cooked rice and spread it on a baking sheet to cool.  I find this odd but I have learned to follow instructions.  I am more than 30 minutes into this recipe.  I have already used the bowls to create the sour cream mixture blending together in the fridge, the pot to boil and now baking sheet to cool the rice.

Now I preheat the oven to 375 or 350 if using Pyrex.  I don’t know what Pyrex is and they don’t tell me what size pan I will need so I decide 375 is fine and I can always turn it down.

Now I have to heat oil in a heavy skillet.  I hand weigh all my skillets and decide the cast iron one is the heaviest.  I have to heat oil in it over medium high heat until “very hot but not quite smoking”.  Where is the line?  When do you know it is going to smoke so you know it is hot enough?  After it doesn’t smoke, but is hot enough, you reduce the heat to medium and add the onion and garlic and cook until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.  Now I am to add my roasted, peeled, seeded and deveined and diced poblano chilies .  Which of course I did not do.  I have to stop the onions & garlic.  Since I am not clear how to do this I have to Google for instructions.  Now armed with this information, I head to the grill outside and start roasting my peppers.  When they are done, you are supposed to put them in a bag and the blackened skin will just come off.  NOT.  I pick and peel to get the char off, devein and chop.  I turn the heavy frying pan back on, do I have to go to the almost smoking part again or just get it back to medium?  I go for medium and add the peppers.  After I stir one minute, I have to let cool.  Do you know how long it takes a cast iron pan to cool?  I decide to put this in another pan so it cools faster.  Now mix it with the rice.  On the baking sheet cooling?  Couldn’t be, so I get a bowl and put rice in there, not big enough, dump into larger bowl and add mixture.  And corn and sour cream mixture and shredded cheese.  (Had to use the food processor to shred the cheese by the way.)

I am to add this all to a heatproof baking dish.  Aren’t all baking dishes heatproof?  I really don’t know.  I am thinking too much now.  It says to bake until heated through, about 30 minutes.  What oven shelf do I put it on?  I have no idea.

After almost three hours, I have easily used  at least ten bowls and pots, countless spoons and spatulas but it is in the oven.  I am so proud.  The kitchen looks like a tornado when through, my clothes are a mess and I have a ton of dishes to do. When the timer goes off, I take my Arroz con Crema (Creamy Rice Casserole) out of the oven and let it sit a minute.  I cannot wait to have some.  And you know what?  It is so-so.  It is NOT the best thing I ever ate ever.  Did I mess it up?  It is not as creamy as the picture shows but I am sure I did it right. 

I take a bowl of rice over to my mom’s, trying to convince myself that I made something really good.  I am pretty picky so maybe it is me.  Mom takes a bite and says she would throw the entire mess in the garbage.  Total defeat.  Again.

I have since learned that converted rice is Uncle Ben’s.  Who knew?  But I don’t think even Uncle Ben could help me.  As I said at the beginning, I am not a cook.  Really!

MAX WEINAR 1927 – 2009

Today, 6/4/2010 is the first anniversary of my Dad’s death.  This is what I said at his Memorial.  It is hard to believe a year has passed, I don’t believe that time heals all wounds anymore.  But I do understand that life goes on.  I miss him every day.

MAX WEINAR 1927 -2009

My dad was an amazing man.  Everyone knew a different side of him and I’d like to tell you about the side I knew and loved.   He was always bigger than life to me.  His approval was almost as important to me as getting him to laugh.

His favorite color was red.

Among his accomplishments, he worked for Chase Fertilizer in Sanford and Walker Fertilizer in Orlando, until it burned down.  He refereed basketball and football games for the Florida High School Athletic Association.  In the mid 70’s he was the Maintenance and Construction foreman building the Central Florida Zoo in Sanford with Mr. Jack Hanna.  All throughout his life he was in the construction business, and in the 70s & 80’s, he was construction foreman for now Commissioner Bill Segal, building in Wekiva, Polo Park, and Clarmont areas.

He was the ultimate control freak, way before it was a popular thing to be.  He ruled with intimidation, most rules were unspoken, and yet understood.  In high school, he never said that I could not date boys with long hair.  He simply said anyone with long hair would have to wear a bra in his house.  And I knew he meant it.  The horror of that thought kept me from dating boys with long hair. 

Dad loved confrontation.  He was never afraid of making someone else mad and I am sure, partially enjoyed it.  It did make him crazy sometimes, but he loved to stir the pot.  Even in the rehab center, my brother was visiting while Dad was yelling at someone and when they left the room he said, “wasn’t that fun?”  If you have ever been on the other side of one of his confrontations, you know how frustrating he can be.  But when he was on your side, you could not have a better ally.  He was always true to his beliefs. 

Dancing with mom was a passion.  When he got his knee replaced a few years ago he told me the only reason he wanted to do it was so he could dance with mom again.  If you ever saw them on the dance floor together, you understood why.  One of my favorite memories is dancing the waltz with dad.  He could twirl you so much that your feet left the floor.  It was wonderful. 

He loved mom so very much and it was always evident.  They were never a couple that let the children get in the way of their marriage.  They were always a united front and if there were differences of opinions, us kids never knew it.  When I was growing up, they went out alone on Mom’s Birthday (June 16th and their anniversary (December 9th).  The rest of the time, we were together as a family.  It was a rare occasion they went out alone.  Friday night grocery shopping was their date night.   Tuesday morning before he went into the hospital for the last time, I called him in the rehab center and asked how he was. Mom had just come in and said that she was his “ray of sunshine”.  It was so wonderful to have two parents who loved each other.  I will always be blessed by that memory.

Dad was a proud man too.  He didn’t want people to see him using a walker.  And he did not want to grow old.  He wrote me a letter years ago when I lived in Germany that “he would be retiring soon but he would still have to work.  It would be hard to just sit still and do nothing, that way you die a little each day.”  It was around that time that dad started cooking.  Most of you know what a wonderful cook he was but that was not always the case.  When we were kids, mom had to go up north for the funeral of her father and that left dad at home to cook for us kids.  We all went to the neighbors and asked if we could eat with them so we didn’t have to eat his cooking.  He made a meatloaf and Swedish meatballs that were so bad I still can’t eat them.  But he watched his cooking shows and he learned.  And he was the go-to guy when I needed to know how to cook something.  Teaching me to cook was the first time I remember him actually having patience.  I never got his talent but he celebrated with me every time I got it right.  His last couple days in the hospital he spoke a lot if gibberish, mostly not understood but words that came through were cooking instructions.  We heard bananas, Food Channel and spinach.  Patti’s friend told her that when he was talking gibberish, he wasn’t talking to us, he was talking to the spirits of his family.  Not only did that bring comfort but it made me laugh.  He was telling them how to prepare his welcome banquet.  Dad, always in charge.

I spent the night at the hospital with him his last night.  I could not leave him alone.  I wanted to be sure that he had someone there if he decided to go.  But he would have none of it.  He waited until Mom could be there with him as he breathed his last breath.  Mom, Barb, Max and Patti were there, while I was at home sleeping.  And they tell me it was peaceful and beautiful.  And we were all blessed by his life and his death.