Archive for ‘People’

September 29, 2013

Hannelore’s Amazing Fish Sauce

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This past April Jim and I traveled to DC to visit our friends, Hannelore and Didier. Newly relocated to DC from Vienna, Hannelore is the Bureau Chief for the ORF (see this link for more) and Didier is a retired French journalist. They had led an amazingly romantic life with postings all over the world. Most recently, they have been in Vienna where they have raised their children, Charlotte and Alex.

Hannelore is one of those cooks who seems to effortlessly assemble ingredients, no measuring, and everything tastes fantastic. We arrived after a difficult drive down I-95 to a delightful dinner of salmon, fresh salad and rice. Hannelore threw this Thai Fish sauce together in about 30 seconds and it has become a standard in our household.

Equal parts lime juice and fish sauce

Diced dried chili pepper


This sauce was so simple and yet so tasty. The trick is to not go overboard with the chili pepper. One is fine, two makes it pretty hot. You can see the chilis in the photo above.

Of course, having this base recipe is a great launching pad for variation. If you are pressed for time, the basic sauce takes two minutes. If you have more time, there is room to riff. I love to add chopped scallion and diced ginger. It amplifies the Thai theme and adds more body and chewiness. This sauce works well with tuna, salmon and would probably do wonderful things with chicken.

Try it. Play with it. Heaven knows where Hannelore learned of this sauce, but it is the perfect example of something which can be shared and amplified. Enjoy!!

September 8, 2012

Cast on, Baby!!

A good knitting friend of mine shared a link to a video made by her local yarn store. Not only do I love the video for its sheer love and joy in all things fiber and yarn, but I love the community that clearly exists in that yarn store. What a great and diverse group of people all joined together by their love for creating things, for making something of beauty and for sharing that experience. So, so cool.

This video isn’t for everyone, but it is worth devoting a few minutes to just to share in their sense of fun and enjoyment. Who doesn’t need more of that in their lives?

September 5, 2012

Seen on the Streets

With perhaps more fervor than taste, this crafty fellow was seen on the Chicago elevated train. Thanks to my sister-in-law, Becky, for giving me something for inspiration.

July 18, 2012

Greetings from Cochapata

Ellie returns from Peru on August 8th. It will be a joy to see her. She will have been gone two months and, with few exceptions, she has been out of touch for the entire time. In our contemporary world of Twitter, Facebook, email and texting, it seems even more odd to be “off the grid” as it were for so long.

Happily, last Saturday we did have a chance to hear from Ellie. Thanks to the wonders of Facebook Video chatting, we spent about 90 minutes talking to her and we got to see her at the same time!

It was a sort of mid-term break and Ellie and the other volunteers gathered back in Cusco to touch base, re-connect and get a shower. Ellie said the minute they hit town they went from Starbucks to McDonalds and to virtually every fast food place in Cusco. It was a riotous re-connection with civilization.

Ellie says her family is nice. In fact most people in her community seem to be pretty welcoming. The Peruvians tend to be a bit reserved and there is the language barrier, but overall she said they feel welcome. She is called “Gringita.” I can imagine that with her height and blonde hair, she stands out a bit.

Living conditions in her community are pretty primitive. Her family has a dirt kitchen floor. They do have electricity in the form of one hanging bulb and a tv which receives two channels. Ellie shares a room with the 16-year-old daughter in the family. She said the daughter seems very reserved, but Ellie had launched a charm offensive and was determined to make friends.

Ellie and her two partners take meals with different families to spread the burden of feeding extra mouths. She said the primary diet is potatoes and they have potato soup for all three meals most days. Her host mother was incredulous that Ellie was so inept at peeling and cutting potatoes. After some translation issues, Ellie deduced that her host mother was asking if Ellie had kitchen servants. Well, I suppose she does in a way, Jim and I have both had a turn in the kitchen. I don’t think that’s quite the same. Ellie’s host mother was equally incredulous to learn that Ellie’s father cooked and her mother worked in an office. That is only one small indication of the cultural gulf between the community Ellie is visiting and the culture in which she grew up.

Running water in Ellie’s house is the pump in the yard. There are no showers or baths. Obviously, this limited availability of water impacts many aspects of their lives including cooking, cleaning and washing clothes.

Ellie and her partners teach English in the local school and help their families with their animals. School is only held four days a week and some days the teachers don’t show up. The women tend to leave school early because they are needed tending the animals.  Almost every man in the village is a farmer and they are in the fields all day. The children care for the animals which include sheep. Aside from potatoes and the animals which are raised and slaughtered for food, the diet is pretty unbalanced nutritionally. Ellie said the men and women in the community are all very strong from working so hard, but the high percentage of carbohydrates in their diet makes them a little puffy.

Ellie said it is pretty stressful living in such a different environment, but she also feels she has learned a tremendous amount about how many people in the world live and the tremendous challenges people face who live in poverty, cannot afford to get an education and are basically destined to stay in their villages. This is all quite different from the expectations with which we grow up in our society.

The day that Ellie and her partners were to head to Cusco, they were delayed. Their host family for breakfast had killed a sheep in their honor. Ellie watched it being butchered and then they were served sheep’s liver for breakfast. I asked how it was and her response was, ” After three weeks of potato soup three times a day, it tasted pretty darn good.”

As of last week, Ellie was writing in her journal each day. I think she will be grateful to have this account of her adventure. There are bound to be many events which slip her mind. I am very proud of Ellie’s strength, her respect for the culture in which she now finds herself, her newly gained recognition of the benefits she enjoys in life and her desire to contribute to the world. I think that she will have learned so much in the weeks she has spent in Peru and that it will impact her for the rest of her life. I am both filled with admiration of what she is doing and a little envy.

November 3, 2011

Woolie Excursion to Saugerties

It seems like New York Sheep and Wool 2010 was just minutes ago, but here we are coming up on the big weekend once again. This year we have extra fun planned with a visit to Shaye and Jaime’s new house in Saugerties, New York!

One of the best aspects of NYSW is the expectation that much will be the same, but there will also be new things to discover. It is this mix of expected and unexpected that makes it a comfortable tradition with a bit of discovery.

I cannot say that Jim woke up Saturday morning shouting, “Hooray!!” But he was a good sport and barely mumbled complaints as we piled into the car for the two hour drive north to Rhinebeck. I think the idea of visiting Shaye and Jaime helped him gird for a day of crazed knitters and sheep.

The roads were clogged with traffic and the parking lot already packed when we arrived at 10:15. Due to the rain, large portions of the parking area were unusuable and they were bussing people from further locations to the fairgrounds. It was a typical Sheep and Wool day weatherwise, a bit blustery and cold with a sky changing from blue to grey with swirling clouds. It always pays to dress warmly.

Of course, a big aspect of the festival is the parade of hand knit sweaters, shawls and scarves. It is always fun to see people sporting their meisterwerks and, as with all yarn events, it is permissable to walk up to a stranger and fondle their garment asking personal questions such as, “what yarn is this?”

First thing we do each year is head to the souvenir tent to buy the year’s t-shirt. Every year a specific breed is honored and I have a big collection of t-shirts with various breeds. Jim wanted to buy a pair of fingerless gloves for one of his colleagues at school and we found the perfect pair before we even hit the souvenir tent. That made Jim a little happier. He had also brought along his Flip video camera and he busied himself taking lots of videos of sheep shearing and other activities.

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September 30, 2010

Bobbie’s Girls

This is a difficult post to write. I have thought about what I want to say and how I want to say it for many weeks. I will never do justice to what I am trying to express in this post. Ellie and I have decided to change the name of our team. Originally, we had chosen the name Team Frost with a plan in mind. No, we weren’t striving for tremendous originality, we had decided that we would allow the highest donor to name our team and “Team Frost” was chosen as a placeholder. However, we have decided to change that plan and we are re-naming our team in the memory of one of the bravest and most remarkable women either of us have ever known.

On July 12th this year my mother, Bobbie Isserman, died. Bobbie’s last weeks were spent in the ICU where she continued to battle for her life with a tenaciousness, courage and grace few people could ever hope to match. Bobbie’s last decade of life was marked by those same qualities. Having been diagnosed with cancer of the jaw in the fall of 1999, Bobbie braved jaw reconstruction, chemo and radiation and a subsequent surgery. Ultimately, Bobbie overcame the cancer which had infiltrated her jaw, but her health was forever ravaged by the effects of the radiation and the chemo. She had trouble chewing, swallowing and eating. She suffered from a damaged circulatory system which was further impacted by a previously-existing heart condition. Throughout her physical ordeals, Bobbie refused to have let her life be ruled by pain or to allow her health issues to impact her quality of life. She never complained and rarely bemoaned the issues she dealt with daily. She would observe that “being alive beat the hell out of the alternative”.

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September 15, 2010

The Few, The Proud…the family of a Marine

The summer has sped by all too fast. I love the warm weather and sun. I love living with the windows wide open and the breezes blowing through the house. I love the long days and the sun coming up early in the morning. I have watched the weeks progress through the summer with half my mind on enjoyment and the other half dreading the end of summer. There has been one event, however, which has ameliorated any distress about the end of summer. That event has been Alex’s September 10th graduation from boot camp on Parris Island.

Marine boot camp is thirteen grueling weeks of training. Training is broken into three phases. The first phase is the most hellish. Recruits are subjected to torrents of abuse and heavy physical activity. The point is to get each indivitual to stop thinking about themselves and to become a part of a team, to think of the group and not one’s own wants and desires. The second phase is focused on skills training including marksmanship and riflery. The third phase wraps up all previous work and implements what the recruits have learned. Boot camp culminates with the Crucible–54 hours of sleep and food deprivation and physical challenges dependent upon teamwork. Once a recruit has finished the Crucible, they are technically a Marine. The Crucible concludes with a ceremony where each recruit is presented with his Eagle, Globe and Anchor by his Senior Drill Instructor.

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August 2, 2010

The Graduate

The past month has been tumultuous with both good and bad things taking place. More on some of that later.  I can’t believe it has been longer than a month since I last posted. Well, let’s look at something very good then to get things moving forward.

June 21st was our son, Peter’s graduation from the F. L. Chamberlain School. High school graduation is a milestone in everyone’s life. Graduation is the demarkation between childhood and adulthood. Upon graduation most people are either moving on to college or beginning a career. Certainly the future is filled with a level of independence and responsibility not before experienced.

Graduation is a joyous time in most lives and a celebration for both the graduate and his or her family. That was certainly the case for Peter.

Peter is 19 and for the past three years, he has not lived at home, but away at school. This was not really a chosen course, but one made necessary by the challenges that Peter has faced in his life. For a long time Peter suffered from undiagnosed problems which included significant depression, social isolation, failing grades in school and the inability to cope with daily life. Happily, Peter was diagnosed about a year ago with Aspergers. Having a diagnosis doesn’t change reality, but it helps to put a handle on things.

Peter has made tremendous progress and we are all tremendously proud of his achievement in graduating high school. This summer Peter is taking a class at Westchester Community College. His idea of a fun summer class is pre-Calculus. Peter is also learning to drive–something he is now ready to do. The plan is for more classes at WCC this school year and then (fingers crossed) on to a four year school.

Peter is exceptionally bright. He has a fantastic sense of humor and a most winning smile. It is a joy to have him home and to see him starting on his path to adulthood. We are all looking forward to watching him in the coming years.

June 18, 2010

Parris Island in the Summer

Ellie, Alex and I were sitting at breakfast Monday when the phone rang. It was a sunny summer morning. The doors and windows were open and the air was fresh and cool. It was the kind of morning that makes you happy just because everything seems too perfect. Now you all know Ellie of course, but you may not all know Alex.

Alex is my first born. He is just short of six feet tall, good looking and intelligent. He has an easy going demeanor until you get to know him better and beneath that exterior is a pretty hot temper. He doesn’t get angry fast, but when he gets angry, you don’t want to be on the receiving end. There is lots more to Alex, too, and for the past six months we have been discovering what else sits below the surface.

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June 2, 2010

Welcome to the World Baby Girl!!

Today is June 2nd. Today is Ellie’s 17th birthday. Today is the day every year I celebrate my daughter’s life and think back on the joy and love and friendship she has given me. It is hard to believe that 17 years ago I first laid eyes on that little girl. She has been a truly special person from the moment she was born. And I am lucky that even as she turns 17, she still counts me as both a mother and a friend. I don’t think that many moms are granted that degree of access at such a difficult time of life. (Although when she sees this post, things may change…)

For her birthday this year, Ellie wants to maintain some traditions and make at least one new one. Every year Ellie has a pool party. If you are born in June and have a pool in the backyard, this seems a logical choice. Jim and I live in terror of the evening each year. Hordes of rambunctious teens descend upon us and in turns plunge into the pool screaming with laughter and splashing like small whales, then they head to the pizza table demolishing unreal quanitities of food and soda, they crank up the music and head back to the pool for more bedlam. This goes on until way after dark. Amazingly (fingers crossed), we have had no drownings or injuries and just lots of great fun.

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