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November 2007

Memory Almost Full

Paul_mccartney_memory_almost_full I love the title of Paul McCartney's latest album - "Memory Almost Full" - with what I assume to be a play on computer jargon and a reference to the middle -aged brain.

Lately, I've been experiencing mind over-load and it is resulting in major blips in the system. Work has been stressful, with multiple assignments, shifting deadlines, negotiations on story placement and more. There's a lot going on with the family - more than the usual dramas and traumas. The holidays are coming, which means planning, shopping and entertaining.

This all seems to be shaking out in ways that make me feel mostly like an idiot and occasionally a little worried. Yesterday, for instance, I was drivingPaul_rolling_stones_2007 down the winding road from my house that leads to a highway. When I got to the intersection, I completed blanked on where I was going. Subsequently, I didn't know which way to turn. (It came to me after about a minute that I had a haircut appointment.)

That evening, when the Weatherman and I were cleaning the kitchen after an early dinner, I realized that I had completely forgotten my physical therapy appointment. This is something I've been doing twice a week for two months, same time, same place. Absolutely forgot.

This morning, I don't want to tell you how long I spent looking for my glasses. (They turned up in the pocket of my robe.)

When your computer memory fills up, you have to dump some stuff. If only my brain was like hardware, I could pick and choose what I want to keep and what I'd like to jetison. Instead, I can't remember who I'm having lunch with, but the theme song of "Gilligan's Island" is firmly entrenched in my head.

Does Sir Paul share my pain?



Cultural Exchange

07akon One of the many nice things about my children getting older and more independent are the cultural exchanges taking place. When they were little, of course, they were stuck with my taste, which is why both my son and daughter know all the lyrics to songs by the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the entire soundtrack of West Side Story.

But now my musical and literary tastes are expanding. The Boy makes me CD mixes. The most recent one includes artists I had never heard of including Akon (pictured), Spoon, and Fastball. I have developed a real fondness for Akon, whose songs are a mix of toughness and tenderness, sometimes with a little humor thrown in.Entry_ann

My daughter and I tend to exchange book ideas. When she was home over Thanksgiving, she told me she was wrapping up the novel she was reading and needed something new. We went to the bookshelves to browse. She had enjoyed Ann Patchett's "Bel Canto," so I lent her Patchett's earlier, "The Patron Saint of Liars." Awhile back, she had recommended "Special Topics in Calamity Physics" by Marisha Pessl, which I loved.

Often the joys of motherhood are the totally unexpected ones.


Lazy Chicken Curry

Chickencurry It's Monday night, so I can't be expected to cook from scratch. So here's how I made the chicken curry:

I cut up an onion and sauteed it in vegetable oil. I had some boneless chicken thighs, which I cut into strips and then added to the onions. After the chicken was cooked through, I drained off the extra grease, and then added a bottle (here comes the lazy part) of Trader Joe's curry and simmer sauce. I simmered the whole thing while cooking up some basmati rice.Gingerpaste_2

I served this with fast-and-dirty ginger snow peas. That is, I cooked frozen snow peas in the microwave half way through, and then added about a teaspoon of butter and a squirt of this ginger paste that I found in the vegetable section of the grocery store. Finished cooking the snow peas and stirred up the butter/ginger mixture around it.

The curry was served with fresh, chopped cilantro. I added some shredded coconut; the Weatherman did not. Fast, easy, tasty.


RX - MD Apology

Rx_pad_pen Sitting down? I got a letter today from a doctor who apologized for keeping me waiting. I'm not kidding. This doctor had kept me waiting for over an hour. Worse, when I arrived, the receptionist said, "Oh Gee, he's running really, really late." When I asked why no attempt had been made to contact me ahead of time, so I might have delayed my arrival, she replied, "Oh, he never does that."

In fairness, he did apologize when I came in, but I must say the written note - though it appears to be a form, suggesting that he kept dozens of patients waiting that day - still takes the sting out.

Incredibly, this isn't the first apology note I've gotten from a physician. My internist also once kept me waiting for more than an hour. The thing that drove me around the bend on that one was that I had the first appointment of the day. She didn't even attempt the old "patient emergency" excuse. Instead she cited school drop-off and traffic as culprits for the delay. I countered that I had negotiated a drop off at the same school and the same traffic and had still gotten to the office on time. I was so angry that my normally low blood pressure registered high.

Anyway, her note was handwritten, and even came on a cute card featuring a sheepish-looking black Labrador retriever. Like most people, I hate to be kept waiting. But  send me a note, and all is forgiven.


All Quiet on the Home Front

Wavinggoodbye It sure is quiet around here. Up until last night, the house was full. Both kids were home, their friends kept coming and going, the phone kept ringing and there was just a much higher energy level all around. Every bed was taken, all the food got eaten, and there were usually multiple conversations going on.

The funny thing is the kids found the Thanksgiving break to be incredibly relaxing - the perfect antidote to their fast-paced lives. The Weatherman and I, on the other hand, were a bit overwhelmed by the level of activity. (This is particularly pathetic since both kids would go out with their friends after the Weatherman and I went to bed.)

Now we're back where we started - both at the beginning of the marriage and the beginning of the holiday - two adults, two cats. Actually, the cats came late to the family. Anyway, sending both the children back today - our older daughter on a train into Manhattan, where she has successfully established herself as a young adult, and The Boy back up to college - both of them healthy and happy, reminds me once again of all the things I have to be grateful for.


In Kids' Stealth Foods, Similar Strategies Dished

By KATE STONE LOMBARDI
Published: November 25, 2007
Irvington

Cookbook190
Missy Chase Lapine in her Irvington kitchen.

SEVERAL years ago, when Missy Chase Lapine was in her kitchen concocting purées of baby spinach leaves, blueberries and lemon juice, she couldn’t have dreamed it would lead to Jerry Seinfeld calling her a wacko and likening her to an assassin on the “Late Show With David Letterman.”

Ms. Lapine is the author of “The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids’ Favorite Meals” (Running Press, 2007). When Mr. Seinfeld’s wife, Jessica, came out with “Deceptively Delicious,” (HarperCollins, 2007), readers pointed out remarkable similarities between the two books. Mr. Seinfeld was not amused.

In October, the comedian described Ms. Lapine as “angry and hysterical,” noting that she had three names, and “if you read history, many of the three name people do become assassins — Mark David Chapman, James Earl Ray.”

Ms. Lapine, who said she had never accused Ms. Seinfeld of anything, seems mystified by the venom coming her way. On a recent weekday visit to her home, she appeared more a harried suburban working mother than a potential killer. It was superintendent’s day, so school was closed, and her daughters Emily, 9, and Samantha, 7, were home. Both had dentist appointments later in the afternoon. Emily had a friend over for a play date. Ms. Lapine’s husband, Rick, was working from home. The dog kept bringing over a toy in his mouth.

There was a macaroni and cheese casserole in the oven — not your typical version, but one made with a purée of sweet potatoes, carrots, zucchini and a little cauliflower. Ms. Lapine was enthusiastic in describing how the dish is “secretly enhanced with the world’s best nutrients” and made with low-fat organic cheese and high-fiber pasta. She was less anxious to discuss the Seinfeld brouhaha.

“Are we there already?” she asked when the topic was brought up. For the record, Ms. Lapine published her book in early April. She was featured on the “Today” show on NBC. As of Nov. 25, “The Sneaky Chef” will have spent five weeks on the paperback Advice, How-To and Miscellaneous list of The New York Times.

In October, Ms. Seinfeld promoted her book on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Ms. Winfrey called Ms. Seinfeld “a pioneer” and hailed her innovative cooking concept. The blogosphere went wild about her book’s resemblance to Ms. Lapine’s. Add to the mix that Ms. Lapine, the former publisher of Eating Well magazine, had twice submitted her proposal for “The Sneaky Chef,” including 42 recipes, to HarperCollins, Ms. Seinfeld’s publisher, which twice rejected it.

“I have no idea how this happened,” Ms. Lapine said. “But there were a number of strikingly similar recipes that other people noticed between the books, because it’s hard not to notice things like avocado in chocolate pudding or spinach in brownies. Those are not your everyday combinations.”

Jessica Seinfeld, through her publisher, said she had not stolen or borrowed from anyone else’s work. “I never saw any other puréeing books, or even recipes, including ‘The Sneaky Chef,’ before my book came out,” she said.

Ms. Lapine said she started working on her recipes when she discovered that her younger daughter, a picky eater, had food allergies and a strong gag reflex. Desperate to get nutritious food into her then-underweight child, she began coming up with healthy purées that she could slip by Samantha’s sensitive palate.

Ms. Lapine is surprised that she has come under so much fire for her mission to help children eat healthier foods. In addition to drawing scorn from Mr. Seinfeld, she has been chastised by critics who say that children will never learn to recognize and enjoy vegetables if they are disguised. Ms. Lapine said her method had been misinterpreted.

“I never said, and I don’t believe, that sneaking is a substitute for teaching good nutrition,” she said. “I cannot give you a get-out-of-jail-free card on that one. You still have to teach your kid good nutrition. You have to lead by good example, but sneaking takes the pressure off parents and allows them to guide, rather than force their kids to try new things.”

Earlier this month, Ms. Lapine announced an agreement with Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian in Manhattan, which is serving Sneaky Chef foods to their patients. She is working on her next book, “The Sneaky Chef: How to Cheat on Your Man in the Kitchen,” which hides vegetables in staples like chili and stews.

Her husband admitted to being a choosy eater, eschewing peas and cauliflower and swearing that he’ll never eat broccoli.

Ms. Lapine raised an eyebrow. “Oh, yeah?” she asked. “I stopped telling him after awhile what was in his meatloaf and mashed potatoes.”

E-mail: westweek@nytimes.com


Are You Cooking?

Rockwell It's the question of the week - "Are you cooking?" Chatting with friends, standing on line at the grocery store, at a routine doctor's appointment - the query persists.

Why am I so embarrassed by the answer? Because the answer is, "Er, no, I'm going to my Mom's," which is always followed by the defensive, "But I am baking the pies and making the cranberry relish." This would be a perfectly acceptable answer if I was a 20-something or a 30-something or....well, let's stop here.

I'm suppose to be representing the sandwich generation - you know, caring for parents on the top, teenagers on the bottom, and doing the brunt of the work by representing the filing that holds it all together. But for this holiday, I am happily reassuming the role of child.

What can I say? My Mom is a terrific cook who insists she's glad to do it. My kids - 19 and 22 - will be part of the clean-up crew. And I  - let me just add this  without an ounce of further defensiveness - will be hosting Christmas dinner.


Westchester Talks Turkey

Turkey1a What would I do without the massive Westchester County Government public relations department? Just today, I received a hold-the-presses press release, titled "Turkey Tips for the Holidays."

Without this critical bulletin, I may not have known to "remove all wrappings and anything inside the turkey."  Perhaps it wouldn't occur to me to "always follow the manufacturer's cooking and storage instructions." Then there's the startling news that I should "remember to always wash hands, utensils and any surfaces that are in contact with turkey juices."

County Exec Andy Spano just released the proposed $1.78 billion county budget, and right now there is ongoing lobbying as money is divvied up between services for foster children, battered women, child care, infrastructure and so much more.

Is it possible that one place to cut back would be the public relations staff?


Say It Ain't So - Pirros Split

Pirros As a reporter who has covered Westchester County, New York, for more years than she cares to admit, I have long kept a Jeanine Pirro file. I just did a quick NYT archives check and was surprised to discover that I have only written 26 articles about the former District Attorney. It felt like more.

Long before the Clintons made Chappaqua their home, Al and Jeanine Pirro were Westchester's power couple, and Heaven knows they were never dull. Every time Jeanine was poised for higher office, Al would get indicted for something. There were links to garbage collectors with ties to the mob, there was the tax fraud case for which Al served 29 months in federal prison, there was the incredibly humiliating paternity suit revealing a child Al fathered out of wedlock, and most recently, back-to-back speeding tickets. Oh yeah - there were also Al's drug and alcohol problems.

All this was a bit of a set back for a woman who was the tough-talking chief law enforcement official for the county.

I'll admit I always had a soft spot for the woman who got up at 5 a.m. to get on her exercise bike and who, when named as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People by People Magazine, told the reporter that her secret for looking great was "gallons of eye concealer." God knows she needed it.

I, for one, wish her happiness in her new single life.


Forever Young With the DMV

Littlegirlissmilingposteri12141093 I look adorable on my New York State Driver's License. And why wouldn't I? The photo, after all, was taken 18 years ago, when my hair was still naturally blond, before I had crows feet around my eyes, and nearly two decades of general wear-and-tear, not to mention gravity, had done their job on my face. Nysdriver_liscense

The whole NYS licensing process has been in the news a lot lately, since Gov. Spitzer proposed that undocumented aliens be allowed to procure this form of photo id. The governor caved under a barrage of criticism. Evidently there is nothing more precious than a government-issued photo id, and if we hand them out willy-nilly, our streets will soon be crawling with terrorists.

(In my view, without issuing valid driver's licenses to people who need them to drive to work, take their children to school and generally get around, we will  have no way of tracking these folks.  Moreover,without licenses, they will be uninsured should they hit you.)

Anyway, what kind of cracker jack security does the government think these drivers licenses provide? You can renew them by mail every 10 years,which is why I still retain the bloom of youth in my photo. Believe me, the picture looks more like my daughter than it does like me. Yet it has gotten me through every security check I've had to clear, at every airport, in and out of the United States, in and out of secure buildings. The security personnel don't even do a double-take.

What is wrong with this picture?





Food U

Cia_sign I love food - shopping for it, cooking it, looking atCiamenu it, eating it, you name it -  so I was sure that when I visited the Culinary Institute of America, an expansive cooking school for wanna-be professional chefs, it would feel like coming home.

Not so. It was a very pretty campus, with spectacular views of the Hudson River. It has some interesting student-run dining rooms. (As to our lunch, I'd say the students need a little more work on preparing vegetables, as well as in learning not to over-salt the food. The soups, however, were Cia_front excellent.)Flowers_cia

But going on a tour of the classrooms made me realize that I am just a recreational cook who enjoys preparing meals for family and friends, but that's about it. You can specialize in two things at the CIA (they really do use that abbreviation, giving the place a kind of covert feel).   

You can go the general culinary arts route, where you will learn about everything from preparing vegetables (I guess our lunch students slept through that class) to properly matching wines with different dishes. (There was a woman on our tour who actually said, "You mean they teach you to serve white wine with fish or chicken and red wine with meat?" The tour guide graciously explained that it was a little more complicated than that.)

View_cia Alternately, you can be a bakery student. We passed chocolate class and cake decorating class and candy class - seriously. One chef even offered the tour group some fresh chocolate eclairs, and incredibly, my sister and I turned them down. That's how stuffed we were from the salty lunch.

Anyway it's food-food-food, 24-7, with a library full of cookbooks and food journals, a store full of cooking utensils and recipe books, display cases of cookery tools, and in the end - paradoxically, it kind of makes you lose your appetite.

That said, I'm glad that more than 2800 students are going that route, so they can cook for me when all I want to make is reservations.


One Shivers, The Other Doesn't

11wecold583_2

 

By KATE STONE LOMBARDI
Published: December 11, 2005
I'VE been thinking lately about my wedding vows. My husband and I have been married for more than 22 years, and a lot of those promises have come in handy. Take "in sickness and in health." We have both been tested by various maladies and have come through fine so far.

When it comes to "for richer or for poorer," without going into too much detail, let me just say we have stuck together in leaner times as well as more prosperous. Yet there is a pernicious issue that continues to divide us as a couple, and I'm wondering why the marriage vows didn't address it.

Why didn't we pledge our troth "in cold and in warmth"?

This is a serious issue. In all the premarital conversations we had about our values, about rearing the children, about our goals and dreams, never once did we look each other in the eye and say, "Listen, I need the bedroom to be toasty," or "I can't sleep unless there's an arctic breeze."

It would have been good to know, and it also would have been helpful to have made some pre-emptive vows over this issue. Because neither one of us has mellowed on the subject. I am forever cold, sometimes reduced to wearing gloves in the house, while he is constantly turning down the thermostat, because, as he sees it, "It's like an oven in here."

While we would never have dreamed of a prenuptial agreement over money, I can now see the wisdom of a contract that specified the thermostat setting. (Oh, the naïveté of youth, when the early blush of romance makes the room seem just a little warmer than it is.)

I credit one product for getting us through the last two decades, and that is the brilliantly conceived dual-control electric blanket. My husband, of course, never turns on his side, while I am in the habit of preheating my half of the bed, so that when I'm done brushing my teeth, I can throw myself from the freezing-cold bathroom tiles into my cozy little nest. Lately I've been threatening to buy one of those Colonial-style nightcaps to keep the top of my head warm.

This year, with soaring oil prices, heating the house has gone beyond a matter of personal preference. Now we are back in "for richer or for poorer" territory. Families are trying to figure out ways to beat the price of heat, retrofitting fireplaces with wood-burning or pellet-burning stoves, stocking up on space heaters and shopping for the best prices for home heating oil. (The county government maintains a heating-oil-price database; click on "Consumer Watch" at www.westchestergov.com.)

Though current heating oil prices have given warmer partners the edge in the continuing negotiations on the appropriate temperature at home, the battle is not over. In a highly unscientific survey, I have discovered that it is a rare couple that is like-minded when it comes to the thermostat.

That said, the differences do not line up by gender; that is, there are warm male and cold female couples, and cold male and warm female couples. A gay couple I spoke to were also split on the subject, with one partner needing two down comforters while the other was uncomfortably warm on top of the covers wearing only his boxers.

Sheilah and David Chason of Mount Kisco are your typical she's-warm-and-he's-cold couple. Mrs. Chason loves fresh air. She prefers the bedroom at a crisp 60 degrees even though she sleeps in the nude. Not so her shivering husband, who wears flannel pajamas, socks and occasionally a sweatshirt to bed. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Mrs. Chason's parents were from Wisconsin and Minnesota; perhaps a tolerance for cold is in her genes.

My sister, Amy, has a related, equally unscientific theory. She believes our body temperatures are set at different thermostats, based on where we grew up.

Amy, who spent her childhood in Westchester and is used to the cold, is engaged to a man raised in Fresno, Calif., where it is always warm. They can't even agree on the car temperature: she wants the air-conditioning blasting; he is shivering. After insisting that he get his thyroid checked (he's fine), she has grudgingly agreed to disagree. Ah, love: the wedding is set for May.

Interestingly, many couples seem to experience huge differences in comfort over just a few degrees. As Mrs. Chason said of her husband, in a tone of near-incredulity, "if it was up to him, the thermostat would be set at 70," though by day they keep the home at 68 degrees, which is not far off.

David Perlin of Chappaqua, who travels frequently for business, recently returned home from an overseas trip and proceeded directly to the thermostat.

"As soon as I walked in, I sensed the heat in the house and it was much too warm," Dr. Perlin said. "The thermostat was at 71, and I turned it down to 68, which is a much more comfortable temperature for the average adult."

Mrs. Perlin, it is safe to say, considers herself an average adult. She is certainly an accommodating one. Dr. Perlin reports: "She's not really freezing, although she does walk around with a blanket all the time."

There are times when an unpleasant tone of moral superiority creeps into the temperature negotiations, usually on the part of the partner who is advocating the less costly option. While Linda Atkinson is used to wearing socks to bed and snuggling under a down comforter during the winter, in summer things really heat up over the temperature.

Her husband, Nick Doob, "doesn't believe in air-conditioning," she said, and when the bedroom temperature in their Hastings-on-Hudson home creeps to more than 80 degrees, Ms. Atkinson retreats to the one air-conditioned room in the house, a guest room. "He tries to woo me back into the bedroom by saying, 'Linda, it's really cool in here,' and I adamantly refuse," Ms. Atkinson said. "He acted like he had a higher moral ground than I did." Nevertheless, the couple have remained together for 26 years.

Occasionally, the tables will turn for a couple. For most of their marriage, Stephanie Gary of Chappaqua was freezing; her husband, Art Tatge, was warm, and the thermostat was adjusted back and forth. But now, Ms. Gary says she is having hot flashes, and what she calls "subarctic" temperatures make for comfortable indoor living.

"Art is walking around the house in sweatshirts and parkas because he fears for his health," Ms. Gary said. "Even the dog, who sleeps in the bedroom, is now under four blankets. In terms of fuel oil bills this year, we're golden."

Synthia Pommiss, the program coordinator for Family and Couple Services at New York Presbyterian Hospital Westchester in White Plains, counseled one couple in similar circumstances in which the husband bought a one-piece flannel sleeping suit, complete with hood and footies, so that he and his wife could remain in the same room.

How well couples work out temperature differences depends a lot on the general state of the marriage, Ms. Pommiss said. If they have had successful negotiations early on some of the typical marital sticking points like money and sex, they are more likely to resolve body heat issues. Still, it is complicated, Ms. Pommiss said, because couples need to acknowledge each other's reality - that the other really is experiencing the same temperature differently.

"The trick in marriage is not to take it as a personal affront," she said. "When we take it personally, we feel that the other person doesn't care enough about us, otherwise they would do something for us to make it better.

"Then it's not about hot and cold anymore, it becomes a symbol of how one feels about each other."

I think Ms. Pommiss is definitely on to something. Now please excuse me while I adjust the thermostat. It's freezing in here.


Hot Times at the Inn

Beekman_arms I'm one of these people who is always cold. The Weatherman and I often argue over the thermostat, a subject I have written about in the NY Times.

Well, if the Weatherman had been with me last night, I don't think he would have made it. I am staying with my sister at a charming inn, the oldest in the United States, built in 1766. It is also the hottest inn in the United States, and I'm not talking trendy.

Last night, when my sister and I were sweltering - I'm talking all windows open, pajamas off, ice cubes-on-the-back-of-the-neck roasting - we decided the last time we had been this hot together was when we took a sauna together on another sister getaway.

At around midnight, in desperation, I threw some clothes on and went down to the front desk, where the sleepy guy on duty told me how to turn off the radiators. (They were so hot to the touch, I had to use a towel to maneuver the lever.)

Anyway, this morning I noted the little card on the bureau, exhorting us to "Save Our Planet" and "conserve the earth's vital resources" by reusing our sheets! I know old buildings are difficult to heat, but this just seemed like an amazing waste.

Today we are going to visit the Culinary Institute of America. If they're roasting over there, I hope it's chicken.


Hey Mama

Kanye385_233364a_2 The Boy often expands my musical horizons by putting together new music mixes for me. The most recent cd he made me included the song "Hey Mama" by Kanye West. I loved the music and the lyrics, which included lines like, "Hey Mama, I just want you to be proud of me" and "You're unbreakable, unmistakable, highly capable..."

By all reports, Kanye West, a hip-hop superstar, was very close to his mother, who had run the English department at Chicago State University, until she quit three years ago to help manage her son's career.
Hip hop music is often derogatory towards women but Kanye's song was just the opposite: "Hey Mama, I want to scream so loud for you, 'cause I'm so proud of you."

All that ended on Saturday, when Donda West, 58, died after complications from cosmetic surgery.

LIke many women living in this culture that celebrates the young and offers a surgical "cure" for aging, I sometimes have been tempted by the thought of looking youthful and pretty again. Until I remember that surgery is surgery. Mostly things don't go wrong. But ever so often they do. And even that tiny risk is simply not worth it.


 


A Resource for the "Other Westchester"

Colwe450

By KATE STONE LOMBARDI
Published: November 11, 2007
Valhalla

IN most ways, it was a typical groundbreaking ceremony, with local dignitaries in hard hats posing with shiny new shovels. The speeches, the posing for pictures, were all de rigueur.

But while they were there to hail the beginning of construction of Westchester Community College’s Gateway Center, designed primarily to serve the county’s immigrant population, the ceremony symbolized more than a new building. It also reflects the county’s rapidly changing face.

There’s no shortage of debate about immigration today, but you can’t argue with the demographic facts. Hispanics make up 15.6 percent of Westchester’s population. In Port Chester and Sleepy Hollow, almost half the residents are Hispanic, while in Mount Kisco and Elmsford, a quarter are. Immigrants represent one fifth or more of the residents in the cities of Yonkers, White Plains, Peekskill and New Rochelle.

These numbers are based on the 2000 census; they will surely rise in 2010, in the next census. They also reflect only Hispanic residents living here; people from countries outside Latin America flock to Westchester, too. Twenty-two of every 100 Westchester residents were born in another country.

How many are documented, and how many are not? The federal, state and county governments cannot give you an accurate answer; neither can I. One thing certain is that while immigration law is federal policy, there isn’t an aspect of life in this county that remains unaffected by it, including schools, hospitals, shelters and law enforcement.

Immigration affects the community college as much as any other local institution, if not more. The college teaches more than 4,000 students English as a second language; classrooms are overflowing, and parking lots are jammed on weekends. The college also offers English classes at many of its extension centers, including in Ossining, Port Chester, New Rochelle and Yonkers.

The college has long had a policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell” when it comes to undocumented immigrants, said Joseph N. Hankin, president of the college. He believes the new center, which is meant to provide immigrants with a comprehensive opportunity to learn about America’s language, history, economy and social make-up, is in keeping with the school’s mission.

“There are two Westchesters,” he said. “There is the one homogeneously affluent stereotype, and the other is that there is a large group of individuals who are not being educated. We serve and intend to serve the other Westchester, the one where students wouldn’t go on to college if it weren’t for us.”

The center’s Language Institute will offer academic content, so anyone studying English can at the same time learn computer language. All the college’s academic business programs will be housed at Gateway, as well as a professional development center that will serve businesses and students.

There will be space for volunteers to help immigrants practice language skills. Services will be offered for students interested in becoming citizens or permanent residents. The center also hopes to become a clearinghouse for the many local organizations now working with immigrants.

Isabel Villar, executive director of El Centro Hispano in White Plains, which helps immigrant families, looks forward to working with the center. “I arrived here without any knowledge of English,” said Ms. Villar, a native of Cuba. “I’m grateful the college has the vision to fight for the most crucial gift anyone can give: an education.”

Demographic trends made the project a natural, Dr. Hankin said. Not only is there a swell of immigration, but as baby boomers retire, the need for a trained workforce will expand. “Wayne Gretzky said, ‘You don’t skate to where the puck is; you skate to where it’s going to be,’” Dr. Hankin said.

New York State has committed $17 million for the building, the county has pledged $14 million, and $9 million has been raised from private sources. The county executive, Andrew J. Spano, was one of the shovel-wielding dignitaries. His administration, of course, deals with the fallout from federal immigration law at nearly every level.

“We’ve got 750 people on probation who are illegal immigrants; 235 are felons,” Mr. Spano said. “I can’t get rid of them. So what am I going to do with someone who wants to work? We’re going to help. A sick kid who comes into a clinic? We’re going to help. Someone who wants an education? We’re going to help them. We can’t solve the immigration problem, so I’ve chosen to help manage it.”

E-mail: westweek@nytimes.com


Flush With Vindication

12floush1902 When I was a child, public restrooms made me very, very nervous. You just never knew what you were going to find in there, and the toilets themselves were plain scary. I had a special fear of toilets overflowing -  a particularly horrifying specter when your are really small and wearing anklets and patent leather Mary Janes.

Today's NY Times has a story on how modern toilets, with their automatic flush sensors, are particularly frightening to little ones. A slight movement can set them off, and they make a loud noise. Personally, though I have reached adulthood and can handle a public restroom if I must, I don't like the things either. Ever so often, they go off when you are still sitting on them, inevitably spraying your bottom with God-knows-what.

The article says a few entrepreneurs have come up with devices to block the sensor, which is a plus, as long as parents are sure to flush after their toddlers are done. Because there is nothing worse then walking into a stall and discovering a non-flushed toilet.

OK - just thought we'd start the week on a really important topic.



Women's "Business Attire"

Boscovsbiz_3 Last night, I went to an event at a very fancy restaurant in Manhattan. The invitation called for "business attire," a term that always throws me into a tizzy.

For men, this is a no-brainer. Just throw on your business suit and you are good to go. But I've been surprised to discover that most other women don't seem to have a problem with this either. Why? Because of the ubiquitous black pants suit. Everyone seems to have one.  Hillary Clinton has about 400. But I do not own a pants suit - never have, and probably never will. For some reason, they make me feel like I am playing dress-up and I am just not comfortable with the look.

Besides my actual business attire - that is the outfits I wear when I'm working - swing between jeans and a comfy sweater on the days that I am writing and non-jeans or a skirt and a slightly more tailored sweater on the days that I am out reporting.

My biggest dressing dilemma came early in my career when I was covering a story inside Sing Sing prison. What to wear?  Sure, I needed to look professional, but I didn't really want to look attractive. (I ended up in baggy gray wool pants, and a baggy forest green shirt. Guess what the prison uniform is at Sing Sing? Gray pants and forest green shirt. I'm not kidding.)

Anyway, I just wore a black dress last night. No one seemed to care. Business as usual.



Tell Me Something I Don't Know

Facebookproductivityjpg_2 The other day I emailed an article from our local newspaper to The Boy at college. It was about his former high school soccer team making it to the State semi-finals. "Sounds like an exciting game!" I wrote, thinking he would be thrilled to hear the news.Cellphone

"Uh, Mom," he said later, when we were on the phone about another matter. "I kinda knew about that five minutes after it happened. My friends on the team texted me from the field."

Oh. Ok. Later that week I tried to update him on something else that had happened at his old high school.  Please - it had long been a subject a discussion on Face Book.

The Weatherman already knew you couldn't tell The Boy anything new, because  he used to read him the scores from the newspaper's sport section in the morning. "Yeah, Dad, I know. It was on ESPN.com last night. And I watched the video highlights."

I wonder why print journalism is dying...


Picture This

180pxjulie_myers_lg There's a photo out there worth a lot of money. TheOrange_jumpsuit picture is of Julie Myers, the assistant secretary of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division, posing with an employee of the Homeland Security Department.

So what? Well, the employee, a white man, was dressed for Halloween in prison stripes, dark make-up and dreadlocks. Myers not only posed with him, but judged his costume as "most original."

I wonder why people of color don't trust our leaders to protect their rights and interests?

Ms. Myers apologized and the employee has been placed on leave, but none of that addresses the original judgment or the workplace environment that leads an employee to consider this an appropriate costume.

Anyway, an ICE spokesman told the AP that the photos have been discarded, so I had to make do with two separate images. Just as well - I don't ever plan to post incredibly racist images on my blog.


Why The-Weatherman-Should-Never-Leave-Me Dinner

Lamb_dinner A cool fall evening. A fire in the fireplace. And such a yummy dinner! I served lamb, sweet potatoes and spinach.

The sweet potatoes were just baked, and the spinach -fresh and from my favorite farm stand - was quickly sauted in olive oil and chopped garlic. And then I put just a tiny dash of soy sauce in it.

As for the lamb, I swear by Julia Child. This recipe is for half a leg of lamb, but it's also fine for those smaller lamb roasts from New Zealand that you see around so much these days. Just cut the recipe in half.




6 lbs lamb

Mix together:
1/2 cup dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 small garlic clove
1 teaspoon rosemary
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
2 Tablespoons olive oil

Coat meat with mixture. Roast 1 to 1 and 1/4 hours at 350.


Lock Down

Schlage_bc_deadbolt_lock_2 Part of the problem with being a reporter is that you tend to see too much and it can affect you as a mother. I've discussed this with our local district attorney, who has the same problem. You are exposed to murder and mayhem, and then you come home to your own precious children and envision every horrible thing that could happen to them.Windowgrille2

So it was when - shortly after interviewing parents whose daughter had been brutally raped and murdered by a man who broke into her apartment - I visited my daughter's new digs.

Her apartment is in a busy neighborhood on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It's small, cute and she shares it with several other girls. But the apartment is not secure. There is only a flimsy lock on the main door, and fire escapes lead easily into the bedroom windows.

"Did I send you that article I wrote on the family who lost their daughter?" I asked her.

"Mom, you read it to me and sent me three copies."

"Well, alright then. The guy broke into a locked, sliding door with no security bar."

So we said we'd pay for the locksmith, and now I'm in Operation Full Tilt Nag until this gets taken care of. Talking to those parents was like facing your own worse nightmare. So keep calling me "psycho Mom." Just get the locks installed.


Three-Ginger Gingerbread

This gingerbread is perfect for the holidays, though I could eat it all year long. The only tricky thing about making it is that the cake always falls. I find this to be true no matter what I bake it in and for how long. But don't worry - it is so delicious no one will care what it looks like. I'm pretty sure this recipe originally comes from Bon Appetit.

3 cups of all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup unsulphered light molasses
1/2 cup water
2 large eggs
1 Tablespoon minced, peeled fresh ginger
1/2 cup crystallized ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 4" x 8" x2" baking pans. (The original recipe calls for one springboard pan, but I don't own one. Give it a try if you do. I've made it in a cake pan too.)

Sift first 6 ingredients into a medium bowl. Combine sugar, oil, molasses, water, eggs and fresh ginger in large bowl, whisk together. Mix in crystallized ginger. Stir in dry ingredients.

Pour into pans and bake until tester inserted in center comes out clean - about 60 minutes - longer if you use one pan.

Serve with fresh whip cream. Everyone will love you.


¡Feliz cumpleaños!

Sombrero Last night we went out to a Mexican restaurant with some friends. It was one of those places with a Mariachi band that serenades the diners. During the course of our dinner no less than six tables claimed they were celebrating birthdays. Of course these folks got the full treatment - a song, a sparkler, the applause of everyone else in the restaurant.

You'll note that I say, "claimed." I suppose it's technically possible that about every third table had someone celebrating their big day. But it has long been my theory that there is something about Mexican restaurants that brings out fake birthday claims. I know of at least one member of my immediate family that had been photographed wearing a huge sombrero, surrounded by margaritas and singers, on a day that was decided not her birthday. (This was not me, if that narrows it down for those who know my family.)

You don't see this in French restaurants or Indian restaurants or other spots. What is it about Mexican restaurants? It's got to be the Mariachi band....


The Party's Over

Minersdance11600 This just in - sometimes high school kids drink. And in other breaking news, at a big public high school dance, a handful will show up drunk.

Apparently, though, this is just too much for the principal at our local high school, who just canceled school dances for the rest of the year, because a few kids showed up at a dance last month inebriated.  Part of his reasoning, he explained, is that this happens every time the school holds a dance. (And at every other high school dance in the U.S., I would add.)

It wasn't enough to suspend the offending kids who showed up after drinking, which he did.  The roughly other 800 students who come to school dances have to be punished too, by being deprived of this traditional high school rite of passage.

I am trying to understand this educator's reasoning. No school dances means that kids will stop drinking? That a supervised school event is far more dangerous than kids hanging out on their own? That the offenders will now hang their heads in shame because they've ruined it for all the others?

I think the guy is just being petulant - I told you not to drink and a tiny percentage of you did and now the party is over for everyone.  Short sighted and stupid.





Cat Care or Vet Rip Off?

Cat_2 My dentist told me months ago that I need a crown, but I've been avoiding it because we don't have dental insurance and I don't want to fork over the bucks right now to do it. (OK, that and I'm a wimp about dental pain.)

So why did I just pay over $460 (that is not a misprint - $460) to have my little cat's teeth cleaned? I can't decide if I'm a complete fool or a really good Mom to my kitty.

When I was told that Madeline - a stray whom we have had for two years - had terribly dirty teeth, complete with plaque and gum disease - I almost laughed. What did they want - for me to floss her? But then the vet told me that the bacteria could travel to her heart or other organs and kill her. So the next thing I know, she is in her little carrier, heading for general anesthesia and the cleaning. (This part I get. You couldn't possibly work on a cat's teeth that was awake.)

As if all that wasn't enough, now that the procedure is over, the Weatherman and I have to give Maddy antibiotics from a dropper twice a day for a week. Believe me, this is a two man job.

Has anyone else ever done this with a pet? Am I nuts? How long can I put off getting my crown? And can I get general anesthesia too?