Childhood Memories, PAZAZ™ Style

When we lived in Fairfax (when I was much shorter) my parents would make every holiday a special treat. As I grow wiser (older) I understand that there is even more joy realized from giving than from receiving. I also have witnessed first hand the beauty of remembering my youth vicariously through my daughters eyes. This experience has unfolded through-out her life as she blossoms into a beautiful young women.

The first holiday memories began at my elementary school, Deer Park in Fairfax California. The teachers from that elementary school embraced the Holiday Season with a fundamental love for teaching that began with Halloween and ending with Easter.

Drawing was not my forte… actually neither was handwriting but Halloween incorporated colors and formats easier to navigate than the complex drawing of a manger or an angel. I knew I could draw a broom stick, a ghost, and a pumpkin (although never round) and so these three Halloween staples became my go to pictures. Clouds could be represented with cotton balls and the moon (although never round) would be peering down upon a ghost (you’d have to use your imagination to actually determine it was a ghost).

The good part about Halloween was the candy… the bad part was having to stand there while my parents dressed me in some god awful costume while I invariably had to pee. After I experienced the typical diabetic coma it was on to the next holiday, Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving started at school drawing turkey’s. My turkey looked like a Steven King anomaly replicating a lop sided alien creature not even close to the turkey we ultimately devoured on Thanksgiving day. My parents would always complement my drawing in which case I knew at that point their vision was failing them.

The Thanksgiving dinner would be the longest drive of the year navigating the many obstacles to land eventually at our friends home down in Belmont California. The delicious feast culminated in lots of primal noises and recycled smells. Finally the older participants would begin to snore while passed out in large overstuffed (just like us) chairs. My parents intuitively would wave their good-byes and pronounce another successful excursion into the land of gluttonous delight.

The final kid worthy holiday of the year is of course, Christmas. That was back in the good old days when we would greet everyone we met with, “Merry Christmas” and not “Happy Holiday”. That was before “Black Friday” became the rallying cry and not homemade gifts crafted by local artisans… I digress.

The beauty of Christmas involved lots of singing both at school and at home, wonderful homemade cookies and fudge that only reared their collective heads once a year. In addition to all that there was the magic of surprise. The unexpected journey to the land of make believe with a grandfather like figure guiding a sleigh with reindeer dispensing toys to all the children of the world.

Our Christmas tree was a statement about my parents and their amazing creativity on full display. They would cut down a branch from a tree (usually an oak) that was barren of all leaves. They would then paint the branch white and stick the branch in an old bucket securing it with cement. They would put the colorful balls on the tree finishing the tree with angel hair, snow (from a can) and finally a multi-colored light showering the tree with an almost “Northern Light” look. I would be awed by that tree as no one to this day (that I’ve seen) has created such a spectacular variation on a constant theme.

Enjoy the Holiday gauntlet and take time to bring the perspective of giving and thankfulness into your home as you never forget or lose the child within you. That is the greatest gift you can give yourself, to remember the spirit that brought out the best of what this very special Christmas Season truly means.

Set The Table, PAZAZ™ Style

First I will address the setting of the table for Thanksgiving. Then I will delve into the metaphorical side of this discussion providing an introspective look into setting the table for your life.

When setting the table for your Thanksgiving Feast it is important to decide what type of experience you are going to offer. Will it be the “Every man for himself” dive into the trough i.e. buffet style. That is where you set up the dishes in the kitchen and let the carnage begin.

Will it be “Family Style”? This is when you offer platters of food dispensed on the actual table you will be feasting? Then, everyone either patiently waits for the platters to gain momentum to eventually circle the table or one “Lucky Soul” is in charge of the allocation allotted for said feast participants allowing extra time for those whom are picky, to dispense the culinary instructions.

“No I want white meat, not so much dressing, could I have extra gravy, oh no, that’s too much food”. The correct response is to of course respectfully submit to these requests with one hand dolling out the food while you are quickly grabbing the goblet of wine to be procured into your gullet to dull the pain of this once a year holiday exercise.

The last way to enjoy this lovely Thanksgiving Holiday centered around food, friends, and family is to plate the different dishes onto an entree plate that will satisfy the exhaustive repetition of seconds while providing enough sustenance to quaff even the most ravenous appetite.

In this Thanksgiving scenario the table should be set with a napkin ring wrapped around the napkin centered on the table cloth aligned with the center of the chair to whom the place setting is in front of. To the left is the dinner fork and then the salad fork placed in the outside position. To the right is the dinner knife, steak knife, and spoon on the outside. Glass wear should be placed as follows: Water glass inside knife, champagne glass at forty five degree angle followed by white wine glass, and pinot glass. Pinot Noir is the appropriate choice for this delicate Turkey as you want to compliment the flavors and not wack them in the head with too big a red wine.

As the above description suggests there is more to preparing a dinner for the holidays then meets the eye.

As with dinners “Setting the Table for your life” is another dimension or facet of enjoying a fruitful, satisfying, and productive life. Life is a chess match that requires a certain amount of knowledge, luck, and planning to achieve your desired goal. Two things I know for sure:

1. At the end of your life I don’t think you’d say, “I wish I worked more”.

2. If your money isn’t working for you while you are earning it then that beautiful phrase “Income beyond your time and effort” will only be a mirage.

Money is simply a tool to provide the type of living you deserve. Vacations and more time with your family and friends is the result of planning to live the type of life many only dream of. Enjoy the fleeting time we have on this planet so that you can have time to enjoy what truly matters… giving the best part of you to create a loving and memory filled existence… “To do what many won’t to live a life that many can’t.”

Life is a Musical… PAZAZ™ Style

As fate would have it today, November 16th, marks the last Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “The Sound of Music”, to open on Broadway. Other famous musicals written by Rodgers and Hammerstein were “Carousel”, “The King and I”, “South Pacific”, and “The Flower Drum Song”.

Rodgers and Hammerstein were the biggest force on Broadway when Broadway was the biggest force in popular entertainment. They produced plays, musicals, concerts, and revivals. They presided over Broadway runs, London transfers, national tours and major motion pictures frequently all at the same time. They held onto everything they could controlling their own destines while being lionized and envied. However, when asked about keeping everything in perspective Richard Rodgers simply stated, “We’re not US Steel.”

I bring these facts to light because at one time I was in several musicals both on stage or playing my violin from the “orchestra pit”. I found the thrill of either watching and playing the violin during on stage performances or learning to sing and dance to a musical number a great joy.

This prolusion above is a reference to art imitating life. So often in our everyday lives we focus on the minutiae rather than a sustainable dance. This dance within our hearts could enrich our experience while fulfilling the very basic instincts that drives our happiness.

Certain things come to mind that always bring a smile to our faces… Sunsets, Balloons, Waterfalls, and of course, oceans/beaches. Just think if we could dance past problems while smiling to dissipate the very energy that sucks the life out of us. I always tell my daughter, “It’s not what happens to us, it’s how we react to it.”

Our musical gifts are about enjoying the music around us that defines the energy that sustains us.

Maybe… in the future, we could enjoy the simple beauty of a flower instead of staring at the fence around it. Tis the season of joy, giving, and culinary rewards… lets keep it simple while we focus on the truly important things in life, our inner dance, a genuine smile, and each other.

A PAZAZ™ Moment in Time…

As we continue our journey into the future our perspective on almost everything changes. Our look at the importance of friends, family, and materialistic things adjusts like the adjustment from a chiropractor, only different.

For most people, family and friends become so much more important as materialistic things take a back seat to everything. We realize that the joy from a materialistic item is fleeting while the joy from a hug, a kiss, a smile, a kind word tends to morph into a memory that embodies the best of what humanity treasures. This treasure goes into a vault that we choose when to open and what to look at.

Some of us plan for the future, others are content to let life dictate their circumstance and others have completely given up. But no matter what your outlook on life I believe we all hold certain moments of our past as “very special” memories that give us cause to smile. This smile engages the psychological apparatus that triggers our deepest most compassionate key to the vault.

The smile I am referring to is a reflective response to an event that usually involves a family member or significant other. When we open the vault to look at this very special memory we are sometimes saddened by the fact that the person we are thinking about is no longer with us. The message seems clear enough that humanity is about relationships and how these treasures help mold our circumstances and whom we become as people.

Sometimes I like to watch old westerns and remember when those were made my parents were in their 30’s, 40’s, or 50’s and what they were doing during that time period. This causes me to go to the vault and remember their sacrifices for me while they lived a happy and very musical life. Again, this precious take on a time period involving my parents becomes more significant as I get older. It becomes more important, it becomes that smile I take out of the vault and realize the importance of all they did for me while taking their eyes off themselves. This becomes a lesson for me to learn how to be a better person through random acts of kindness with no quid pro quo in return… and there in lies the reward.

Todays family and friends are the cornerstone of our support systems that transcends time and provides the happiness we thrive on and hold onto throughout the navigation across the vicissitudes of life.

The holidays bring these “Moments in Time” to the forefront which results in the consummation of a thought propelled by a person that at some point in time made a difference in our lives. To them and for us lets celebrate those “Moments in Time” as we remember what’s really important and to whom we are blessed to have in our lives…

Ramping Up For The Holidays

The Holiday gauntlet is fast approaching featuring Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Years Eve, and then Valentines Day. Each holiday constitutes certain traditional recipes orchestrated by family members that are produced with a loving hand for those dearest to us.

These recipes engage (in many cases) secret ingredients that only those privy to the original chefs inner circle would know… “The Circle of Trust”.

One example of what I’m talking about relates to my daughter, Chelsea. Ever since my daughter was shorter she loved my spaghetti. Eventually… when she moved away to college she asked for my spaghetti recipe. Well, as many of you know (when I was the hall monitor at Craig Hall in Chico) I was very strict about the consumption of alcohol. My daughter asked me why her spaghetti didn’t taste like the recipe I created for her and I casually mentioned, “Did you put a half cup of red wine into the sauce?” Chelsea went ballistic asking me why I didn’t happen to mention such an important ingredient to which I replied, “You were on a need to know and at that point in your life… you didn’t need to know”. To this day we still laugh about that… well actually I’m the only one that laughs as Chelsea grunts and moves on to another subject.

Getting back to the subject at hand lets start with an up and coming holiday, Thanksgiving. This is such an important holiday because it is really the only holiday, the entire year, that focuses on food. This is what reality chef stars would call, “A food driven holiday.”

Centered around the traditional Thanksgiving holiday are certain culinary mainstays that are time honored dishes passed down from generation to generation. I don’t care what anyone else says this is a day for Turkey. According to the National Turkey Federation (yes that’s a real federation) last year 51.6 million turkey’s were consumed. No other holiday comes close to this staggering turkey fest regarding the consumption of said beast. Just to accentuate my point there is the “Turkey Bowl” on Thanksgiving featuring two NFL teams. No other bowl is represented on Thanksgiving for if there was it would simply “run afoul”.

For some reason, still not clear to me, Detroit is one of those teams (probably has something to do with the sponsorship by some car manufacturer). I always tell my daughter that if something doesn’t make since just follow the money. Having said all that my point is there is no “Ham Bowl” or “Fish Bowl” there is the one and only “Turkey Bowl”.

Now is the time to purchase(go to my PAZAZ™ Kitchen Tools to create “The Magic of Cooking” with Kitchen tools for the discerning chef. To follow is a recipe for the Thanksgiving Turkey only successfully prepared using my PAZAZ™ Silicone Baking Mat, Heavy Duty Aluminum Baking Sheet Pan, and finally the Steel Mesh Cooling Rack.

This recipe packs all the flavor and juiciness into an amazing stress free experience guaranteed to satisfy even the most discerning guest.

1st- Buy the turkey based upon 1.5 lbs per person (if you live in Mississippi 3 lbs per person) 6 people would be a 10 lb turkey. If frozen take out one day in advance and place on PAZAZ™ Steel Mesh Cooling Rack inside of PAZAZ™ Heavy Duty Aluminum Baking Sheet Pan.

2nd- Don’t wash the bird just dry it with a paper towel.

3rd- Don’t brine or baste the bird these are wasted steps (like writing your congressmen) Just simply salt and pepper and let her fly.

4th- Don’t cook stuffing inside of bird it will be overcooked and dry. Cook stuffing in a side casserole.

5- Cook bird at 350 degrees (13 minutes per lb) to inner temperature of 160 degrees (Check it PAZAZ™ Style… if it flies away it needs more time) take out and cover with aluminum foil. It will continue to cook to make up that extra 5 degrees. Place bird on PAZAZ™ Steel Mesh Cooling Rack on top of the PAZAZ™Silicone Baking Mat inside of the PAZAZ™Aluminum Baking Sheet Pan. This will cool the bird while you are performing your version of the Cirque du Soleil show to the delight of those you love and care about.

6. Take the drippings from the turkey and incorporate them into the gravy to add the needed flavor that will send your mash potatoes (over the top).

The holidays should be fun and creative. Remember, its not to late to pick up a new tradition that will take your event filled season to another PAZAZ™ level.