Tuesday, July 5, 2011


The July 4th weekend was off to an ominous start with the sad news that two friends, ages 49 and 62, lost their jobs recently. I'm mentioning their ages, because as Washington, D.C. dithers over the debit ceiling with Republicans demanding cuts in Social Security and Medicare, it's more than time to mention the dirty little secret that nobody mentions.  Once you reach a certain age in the United States of America, corporate America doesn't want you. There's no incentive to keep you there.  It is assumed that you will get sicker as you age and therefore cost the company in terms of productivity and insurance premiums--all of it untrue.  What is true is that senior corporate workers generally tend to make more money than younger employees, so by ridding themselves of this more expensive workforce, companies save more money.  

We also have fewer jobs to go around, and that favors younger workers--and that, I suppose is fine.  But what are people expected to do in-between the time they get laid off, and retirement age?  I don't hear anything about this in the national conversation.  Jobs are scarce and many people of my generation are sinking towards retirement, their next eggs exhausted from having to keep the roofs over their heads until a new job or social security arrives.  That means a leaner retirement than previous generations who didn't have to worry about an honorable retirement after a full adult life of employment.  

My 49-year-old friend spent approximately eight months searching for a new job and when he got it, found himself in the middle of office politics, not of his making, and was out on the street again after a mere four months.  It took six months to get the job he's just be let go from.  He's been in the position for approximately two years.  My 62-two-year-old friend worked in the fashion business in sales and marketing and found herself "over the hill" in her mid-40s.  She got a job working for a magazine and was happy doing that for nine years and then in a budget crunch got let go.  It took her eight months to find work, this time at a publishing house.  It lasted over six years, until a budget crunch eliminated her position--a mere three and a half years before she is set to retire. 

Another girlfriend has been out of work a year and a half now.  There are no jobs for this hard-working PR executive who had a very nice career for many years.  She still has seven years to go until she can retire and she's terrified she will only have her social security to fall back on when she does retire.  

This is not a question of retraining.  And a year and a half of unemployment insurance is not going to help.  Rather than the cut-cut-cut mantra of the Republican party, Washington would be better advised to sit down with the banking and corporate community and figure out ways to put America back to work. Stepping off my soapbox now.

Rhubarb syrup made from scratch.

I was out in the garden, on my knees planting New Guinea Impatience over the 4th of July weekend. Of course once you start, you notice so many other things demand your attention. I decided  to re pot a jade plant that was outgrowing its pot in my bedroom, and then, added newly rooted coleus to my balcony planters.  

Summer blew into Portland at last this weekend.  Even July 4th was brilliantly sun-shiny with gorgeous clear blue skies and a few lazy clouds.  This means one has to tend to the garden with diligence--no slacking off.  

The real pain of the summer garden is the watering.  How I wish I had a house that had a sprinkler system installed (it's very expensive) and on a timer.  My friend, Trish who does have an important garden, has this kind of system, which she treated herself to this year. But I must water on my own. I just gave the grass it's first drink and it heaved an audible sight of relief.  Between Beau's daily waterings and the lack of the hose getting anywhere near that small patch (and I do mean patch) in my backyard, it was looking sad. When my brother Scott was here in the early spring, we re-seeded the empty patches, which is like trying to grow hair on a bald man.  Rogaine will take you only so far. The spring rains were doing the watering chores and there was some sprouting (like peach fuzz on a bald pate), but it was pathetic.  Meanwhile the grass that was there was growing out of control.  Beau wouldn't even walk in it because he'd disappear. 

About three weeks ago, I made the decision to mow it. But the grass was so high, I feared it would clog the mower. So I took the weed whacker to it and within 30 second the machine turned off by itself, the plastic thingies that "whack" the weeds, twisted on themselves and were snarled up in the mechanism.  I had to hired a professional mower! 

My friend, Robert came over and gave me a two-hour lesson on how to operate the mower (didn't know how to use it), the weed whacker (there was more string underneath a cap--WHO KNEW?), and the leaf blower (it has a clutch or a choke, or something like that).  I shouldn't be allowed to operate heavy machinery. 

The week before, we had a farmer's market open on my birthday.  Trish and I went to check it out.  The vegetable vendor who can be found in her local farmer's market in Hollywood, was there on Sunday.  He's got great prices. I found a big bunch of Italian parsley for 50 cent!  He was selling gorgeous ruby red rhubarb and I bought two pounds at $1.75 a pound--it's $3-4.00 everywhere else.  

Back at home, I opened this gorgeous new cookbook that I'm reviewing called HEARTLAND, and there was a recipe for Rhubarb Syrup. The header on the recipe suggested the syrup was great for pancakes, French toast or waffles, but that didn't interest me at all.  What I was interested in was using the syrup as a basis for a Country Girl Cosmo or a Margarita.  Since I already had the vodka in the house, I went with the Cosmo.  The syrup has beautiful color and was easy to make. I froze half of the syrup for future use, and made the cocktails on Sunday when John came over for dinner.  It's a pity they call it a Country Girl Cosmo--makes it sound like such a sissy drink but it is anything but.  Yes the ladies will love the color, but it's got a good kick to it.  In addition to the rhubarb syrup, it has a tiny trace of orange extract, and lime juice. 

Country Girl Cosmos made with Rhubarb Syrup

Beau's diarrhea is back with a vengeance, and frustrated with my vet and angry they couldn't see us last Friday, I found a new vet, which is a bit of a schlep since it's about 20 minutes south of my home, but we may have an answer this week. The vet thinks it might be his pancreas that is giving him troubles. And I may put him on a total hypo-allergenic diet of duck and potatoes or bison and potatoes.  Beau woke up from his nap on Wednesday and he could barely walk and was listless all day Thursday.  Friday morning, he wouldn't eat and that alarmed me. Because it was the start of a holiday weekend, we couldn't get a vet to see him. The vet bill is its usual horrendously high self. I spent nearly $300 at the vet in March and this new bill was over $400--$274 of it was a blood test to determine if the problem is pancreatic. By Friday night, Beau was out of bed and demanding dinner. It was like nothing had happened to him. Other than the diarrhea, he's been his usual ebullient self. 

I brought him with me to Trish and David Hamilton's house for dinner on their lovely terrace.  It was a magical night weather-wise, and Trish grilled salmon wit peaches, and served it with a wild rice, fennel and grape salad and a mixed green salad.  We finished dinner with a rhubarb crisp, coffee and a delicious bottle of Oregon-grown pinot noir (a lot more drinkable than any California pinot noir I've ever drunk). Beau has little patience for the Hamilton's French Bull Dog, Porter.  I love this impish, always-in-trouble two-year-old dog.  Beau will start telling Porter off and chest bumping him.  I finally put him in my lap where he stayed as long as my thighs held out, before he moved over to Trish's lap. 

It is often said that summer doesn't really arrive in Portland until after July 4th.  Certainly that was true in 2010 and now this year.  We're do for another three days of this glorious sunshine.  So let Portland summer #3 commence. 


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