Archive for January, 2015

Fear of filing

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

On Saturday morning, Steve and I were sitting at the table waiting for the caffeine to take effect and discussing the to-do’s for the day. I was sipping my coffee when Steve saw a look come across my face that looked like someone had substituted salt for the Splenda.

“What thought just crossed your mind?” Steve asked. “Taxes,” I answered. “I knew it!” he said. He knows me well enough that just the thought of preparing the information for our CPA brings on a wave of nausea.

Am I the only one who dreads the process of filing their taxes? As the end of the year approaches, April 15th randomly pops into my mind and my stomach sinks. But when that happens during December, I can quickly dismiss the anxiety. “Oh that’s right, there’s absolutely nothing I can do about the taxes now because we won’t even have all the forms and documents until next month.” That thought adds to my enjoyment of the holidays. My jaw unclenches and immediately I feel better.

But then January comes around and I have to face the inevitable. One would think that by this time in my life I would have to come to grips with it. Why I don’t have the same attitude about doing the taxes as any other routine chore. Shouldn’t the taxes be like cleaning the toilet? Sure, it’s not the most pleasant task, but just get it done and move on.

I think the difference is, that even though we have a wonderful accountant (God bless people who are willing to spend their lives immersed in tax code) who I trust completely to make sure that we’ve followed all the rules, the process conflicts with my control freak nature because I have no certainty that IRS won’t find some inconsistency in our tax return and there it will be in the mail one day, mixed in with the Bed Bath & Beyond coupon, and the bills and credit card offers…a letter from the IRS saying that we owe lots of money…plus interest.

Or maybe our tax return is perfect but we win the lottery – the lottery that no one wants to win and draw the unlucky number to be audited.

But do I really want to live in fear of the IRS? I think I’m approaching taxes as if the IRS is a big bully and I’m a little third grader cowering in the corner of the playground just waiting for this meanie to steal my glasses and stomp on them. I’m way too old to be living that way. I have to take a new approach.

So, that said, if a letter shows up from the IRS, we’ll deal with it. It’s happened before and we lived through it. Audit? We’ve been through that too and it didn’t kill us. And if an audit should happen, I know that we haven’t done anything wrong and we have the numbers to prove it. So in my fantasy dialogue with the IRS, I’m going to tell the IRS what my long dead father used to say when he wanted to put a nail in an argument, “Put that in your pipe and smoke it.”

Now, we’re did I put those prescription receipts?

Celebrating at Cucina Paradiso

Sunday, January 11th, 2015

Usually on Friday night, we’re happy to be tucked in at home, scrolling through Netflix for something light to watch to cap off the week.

However, last Friday was Jennifer Lynn’s last night home from college before going back for spring semester so doing something more special than watch me nod off on the couch was in order. We wanted to go out for dinner but where to go? We wanted cozy with dependably great food and service… Cucina Paradiso it is!

When we arrived for our 6:30 reservation, it was almost a little shocking to step inside the restaurant and feel the energy level. As Steve said, the joint was jumping. Date night couples waiting to be seated, full tables of families, diners eating at the bar, wine bottles being passed around. I realized how much I had forgotten that not everyone is in bed by 9:00pm. “Oh that’s right! People actually go out and enjoy themselves on Friday nights!”

We are especially fond of Cucina because we had the opportunity to work with owners, Dennis and Malena more than a decade ago. As I recall, they were our first clients when we started our own marketing business. So it was hugs all around when Malena greeted us; we compared notes on the ages of our kids and introduced them to our youngest who is now 18. We commiserated with Malena on how quickly they grow up.

Throughout our meal, we commented on what an art it is to run a successful restaurant. When it works on all levels like it does at Cucina – the décor, wait staff, food, and price – that makes for a memorable experience. It’s no wonder that it was standing room only at the hostess station for people waiting to be seated.

The food was absolutely wonderful. Jennifer who is adventurous in all aspects of her life including food said that her Duck Ravioli was delicious. For me, I kept wondering why the roast chicken that comes from Cucina’s kitchen tastes so much better than mine? I suppose it’s the difference between someone cooking who really understands food and knows how to bring out the best flavor. My goals in cooking are more along the lines of not having anyone die.

We talked, laughed, savored every bite and in-between chatted with our daughter’s favorite teacher from elementary school who we hadn’t seen in years but happened to be there celebrating her birthday.

After we had licked our plates clean, we ordered desserts to split; Semifreddo  and a Pear and Spongecake Terrine. I know it was a really special night because Steve capped off his meal with Drambuie on the rocks. The last time he did that might have been on our honeymoon.

Everything came together that night to create an experience that leaves a lasting warm glow. For us, it was a Big Night.

Brunch for dinner

Sunday, January 4th, 2015

Our youngest daughter, Jennifer Lynn has always enjoyed cooking and baking. So while she’s been home on winter break from her first semester in the dorms at college – in addition to not sharing a bathroom with eight other girls – she has really enjoyed being able to whip up a batch of cookies or make a breakfast burrito whenever she’s in the mood to cook.

So a few days ago, she told me that during her time at home, she wanted to make Eggs Benedict. She wasn’t really sure if this craving was fueled by a fond memory of having the dish for brunch at a restaurant or re-watching all the episodes of PBS’s Sherlock …starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

In case you’re not familiar with Eggs Benedict; it’s basically a heart attack on an English muffin. It starts with an open-face toasted English muffin which is innocent enough assuming that you don’t butter it. But then each half of the muffin has a layer of bacon or ham topped with a poached egg. If that isn’t enough to send your LDL levels soaring, the eggs are topped with Hollandaise sauce.

What’s Hollandaise sauce? An emulsion of egg yolks and melted butter flavored with a few teaspons of lemon juice. Think of it as sauce that has hit its cholesterol saturation point. Keeping leftover Hollandaise sauce and serving it more than once would be a death wish.

Given that Eggs Benedict is lethal stuff and Steve had triple bypass surgery eight months ago, I thought we should perhaps put a Surgeon General’s Warning on the edge of the plate. We’ll just chalk this meal up to a once-a-year holiday treat; the next day Steve resumed his typical menu of skinless chicken, protein bars and nonfat milk.

Hollandaise sauce only has three ingredients but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to make. We were doing just great, whisking the yolks over low heat and slowly beating in the butter but in a matter of seconds, between the time Jennifer and I topped the first poached egg with the sauce and turned back to the stove to get a second spoonful, the sauce “broke,” turning into a lumpy, oily mass of lumpy scrambled eggs. Internet to the rescue – it turns out that by mixing a small amount of the broken sauce into another egg yolk – oh good, another helping of cholesterol please – the sauce can be saved.

Our sauce was rescued and back to its smooth mayonnaise-like texture when we started the process of poaching the eggs. It sounds easy enough…bring a couple of inches of water to a simmer and then slip in an egg. It’s not. When it doesn’t work, the resulting floating mess of egg whites in water is pretty disgusting. A few more YouTube how-to videos and we finally had the technique down.

When we finally sat down to eat, the Eggs Benedict were absolutely delicious. There are conflicting stories about who created this combination of tricky techniques, precise timing and heart-stopping ingredients. Whoever it was, they were an evil genius.