Tag Archives: Evelyn Alexander

The One About Feeling Helpless, Far From Home

It was April 29, 1992.  I was renting a room in someone’s townhouse in Rockville, Maryland.  I had finished my undergraduate studies at Johns Hopkins a few months earlier, and had moved to the DC suburbs to pursue my Master’s degree.

April 29, 1992.  I was a week away from my 21st birthday, and I had spent a very intense 10 days volunteering on a successful primary campaign in Philadelphia.

April 29, 1992, was a Wednesday.  After sleeping in following the victory party, I hopped into my car to return to Rockville.  I got home at about 6 pm and flipped on the news.  I was horrified to see Los Angeles, my hometown, going up in flames, as a riot moved through following the verdicts in the Rodney King police beating case.  I was 3,000 miles away from home.  I felt helpless.

It’s April 29, 2015.  For the past two days, I’ve watched the tensions in Baltimore manifest themselves in rioting and burning.  I lived in Baltimore – granted, not primarily the parts that are filled with strife right now.  But I’ve walked down North Avenue, past that check-cashing place, past that hair extension place.  I’ve seen the desperation, the boarded-up homes in East Baltimore, just blocks away from Johns Hopkins Hospital.  I’ve been to Mondawmin Mall.

I’m 3,000 miles away from the city that is the only other city that I’ve considered “home” in my life.  Baltimore – that gritty, segregated, flawed city you probably first saw on “Homicide” or “The Wire.”  Baltimore seems to be precariously balancing on the thin line that separates most of America today.  And again, I’m 3,000 miles away from “home,” and I feel helpless.

Interestingly, I’ll be in Baltimore for a long-scheduled conference next week – happy to say it’s a conference that (so far) has not changed its plans to meet there.  I’ll find a way to show my love and support for Baltimore, my home away from home, next week.

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The One About Staying Hydrated

So I was sitting at O’Hare Airport last Friday night, on the floor, staring out the window, eating airport food, chatting with a friend who had been on the same college visit trip.  A pilot walked up, wheeling his Jeps behind him.

I’m a pilot, so I like to chat with pilots.  So we start chatting.  He invited me to come up to the cockpit before the flight; not the first time I’ve been invited up and on a few occasions, I’ve taken them up on it.

Captain Evelyn

I think I really just wanted another excuse to show you this picture. From an overnight flight to Boston in 2013.

So we board the flight – 8:15 pm out of Chicago for LA.  It had been a long week.

About a half hour into the flight, a guy – Asian, about 30 I would say – came walking down the aisle as if headed to the bathroom.  I was sitting on the aisle on the left side.  A row ahead of me, the walking guy sort of stumbled into the guy sitting on the aisle on the right side.  The sitting guy sort of pushed back on him, and he made it one more row and basically fell into my lap.

My first reaction was, “oh my g-d, how rude, look where you are going!”  And then I realized that I was supporting his entire body weight and he was clearly not in control of himself.  And he wasn’t drunk.

The sitting guy realized that the now-stumbling guy is having some type of medical situation, and came up behind him, with his arms underneath the stumbling guy’s arms, and when it was clear that continuing to stand up was not an option, he laid him down in the aisle.  He asked the guy what day it was, and he responded clearly that it was the 11th.  I asked him what his name was.  “Jonathan.”

We called the flight attendants, who brought a cloth to put on his face.   I offered him some water and pulled out my trusty dark chocolate raisinets, in case we had a blood sugar situation on our hands.  The way he was laid in the aisle, my hands were at his knees, so I kept one hand on his knee and kept telling him, “We’re with you, Jonathan.”

Then the announcement came that you never want to hear on an airplane:  “Is there a physician on board the aircraft?”  Two people from first class responded.  The flight attendant pulled out an emergency kit, and the first doc immediately began using the stethoscope and the sphygmomanometer (I am shocked at how many people know this word and don’t have to look it up!  Pat yourself on the back, smartie!)

Jonathan’s blood pressure and pulse rates were high.  I asked him if he had eaten or drunk anything that day – remember this was an 8:15 pm flight.  He said no.  I was relaying information back to the other two flight attendants – the first one was straddling him in the aisle (which I sort of thought was odd and a little bit constricting but what do I know?) and two more were behind him.  At some point it occurred to them to tell the cockpit.

The first doc (the second doc didn’t really do much the whole time!) told the flight attendants to get him sugar water and tomato juice.  He was dehydrated.  He needed sugar and salt.  Electrolytes.  The flight attendants brought Sprite and tomato juice, and then they all left.  The original guy one row ahead of me helped Jonathan up to his knees.  I opened both cans and poured a cup of each, and he downed both of them.  He literally got up and walked away, leaving me holding two half-full cans, and that was that.

And I thought that was the most exciting part of our flight until I got off, and saw the pilot I had chatted with before, who said to me, “Did you see Buzz Aldrin on our flight?”  And he showed me pictures.  Indeed, Buzz Aldrin, wearing a bright red flight suit that said “Dr. Buzz Aldrin” on it – though he doesn’t want to talk to you (I tried – saw him at baggage claim – told him I was a pilot – I could see him in his mind wanting to say to me, “You fly a single-engine putt-putt and I’ve been on the f@#$#@#ing MOON!”) and won’t let you take his picture.  Yes indeed Buzz Aldrin was also in first class on that flight.

Don’t forget to stay hydrated, boys and girls.

 

 

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The One About the Millennial Approach to National Security

millennial 2A few years ago, I attended a seminar that was geared towards helping people who sell products or services know their audiences better, based on their age group.  We heard from social scientists who have spent a considerable amount of time studying members of The Greatest Generation, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and now Millennials.

So to be honest, I’m not surprised that Edward Snowden, the person who took it upon himself to reveal top secret intelligence gathering techniques of the National Security Agency, also known as PRISM, is 29 years old.  Millennials, I learned, are a group that feels strongly about community.  They work well together in teams, believe that groups come up with more desirable results, and are less concerned (as a general rule, there are exceptions, of course) about individual accomplishment than older cohorts.

And they invented crowdsourcing.

Edward Snowden, a high school dropout with top secret clearance (um, hello? anyone else see an issue here?) decided to crowdsource the concept of security surveillance.  Metaphorically, he posted it on Facebook to see how many “likes” it would get.

I believe it’s fair to note that he’s a high school dropout, and to remind you that high school seniors study US Government in their last year of high school.  This might be where Snowden would have learned that we live in a REPUBLIC, in which we elect representatives to make policy decisions for us, and not a direct democracy, in which everyone gets to decide every issue one by one (well, in California we have direct democracy on many things – you can see how well that’s worked for us….)

millennial 1By the way, you can see “how Millennial” you are here.  My score came up 29 out of 100, making me older than Gen X and younger than Baby Boomer.  Damn I’m predictable.

I wrote another piece about some ladies’ advice to me about our previous pooch awhile back.  I guess we are all pretty predictable!

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The One About Driving in L.A.

Radical thought for the day:  It’s more important to pay attention to what is going on in front of you than behind you, when you are driving.

I was behind a Prius on Mulholland Drive yesterday, for what ended up being an eternal stretch between Coldwater and Laurel Canyons.  I have often wondered if Priuses have gas pedals at all.  This driver was lollygagging along, maybe 20 miles per hour, hitting the brakes on every curve, car in front of him nowhere in sight.  I thought I couldn’t get more fed up with him when he stuck his cigarette out the window and flicked the ashes.  “You are going to set us all on fire!” I said to myself.  OK not to myself, out loud.  With the window open.  Actually really loud.

So putt-putt we kept going, and yeah, I was tailgating him.  And yeah, he did the slam-on-the-brakes thing and I was not deterred.  “MOVE,” I thought, this time actually inside my head.

And then he whipped out his iPhone.  [I continue to wonder what all of the people who have taken a picture of my license plate do with that image.  There must be dozens, hundreds of them.  What good does that picture do?]  And he stuck it out his driver’s window.  So I darted to the right side of the lane, hoping to reduce his ability to capture my license plate.  Then he moved the phone to the middle of his car, and I darted back to the other side of the lane.  Then he stuck it out his sunroof.  We played this game for a few moments and then it occurred to me that he wasn’t trying to take a picture of my license plate, HE WAS VIDEOTAPING ME driving behind him.

So after a few minutes of this foolishness, I determined that  he was never going to drive any faster, that he was clearly spending way too much time focused on what was going on behind him and I would wave the white flag.  I pulled aside and let the car behind me go ahead of me.  Enough already.

The car behind me pulled ahead and I got back right behind him.  Having been behind me as I moved back and forth (but always inside the lane!), this next car thought I was the asshole, and he pulled BACK over to let me BACK in front of him!  No!  I resisted, and then let two additional cars in front of me.  I really just wanted to get where I was going at this point.

Finally close to Laurel Canyon, Prius driver pulled into a swanky private drive and continued to videotape the procession that passed him, including me.

And so I return to my thesis:  it’s more important to pay attention to what is happening in front of you than behind you.  If everyone in L.A. would just look up from their lap and follow the car in front of them, I am pretty sure we would all get where we are going much faster.  While I was not the paragon of good driving during this episode, I was not the one breaking the law and photographing/videotaping while I was driving!!!!!!

I know you have your own stories to share – here’s your chance!  Comment below. 

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The One About Networking

Networking – we all do it, and many of us hate it.  But if you’re a small business owner, or if your job rewards you for bringing in new business, it’s a staple in your life.

Networking is an art.  People don’t do business with people they’ve just met once – they need to get to know you.  They need to trust you.  And you need to really stand out as the master of your craft, product or service.

So you go to your local Chamber of Commerce, or some affinity group, in the hopes of networking and building relationships.  I’ve made some good friends and served briefly on the board of the Los Angeles Jewish Chamber of Commerce, and I go to a few women’s networking groups as well.

About two years ago I was introduced to an organization whose structure was a bit different for me:  the two people with the title “Managing Director” were actually owners of the Los Angeles franchise of a national, for-profit networking group.  They held events and seminars that helped members grow their businesses.  It always struck me as odd that someone owned this so-called networking group.

Last week I went to another group with this same structure, and the person who owned the local chapter invited someone higher up in the organization to be the guest speaker.  While the people attending the meeting were very interesting, the program was nothing but a pitch for the group.  Interestingly, no one has followed up with me about membership.

And today, a friend who is also involved in the college admissions process and I attended a meeting for a women entrepreneurs’ group.  We each paid $75 for this meeting, held from 11:30 to 1:30 today (hello, does that scream LUNCH TIME to you or is it just me?) at an office building in which they did not validate parking.  When we arrived, there were 7 of us in the room:  the two “Managing Directors” (owners) of the franchise, their administrative assistant, my friend and I, plus two more people:  a manicurist in the process of transitioning to selling life insurance, and a custom frame store owner.

There were two cocktail-sized plates on the table with about 8 (as my friend described them) 2×2 sandwiches stacked on them.  There was a basket with cookies.  And some bottles of water.

We each took a few minutes to introduce ourselves, and then the sales pitch began.  Despite the fact that the Managing Director who did most of the talking started by saying that people hate to be sold but love to buy, from the moment we walked into the room, she was selling us this group.  She wouldn’t tell us how many members the group had (ie how many people will I be networking with, if I attend a meeting that has more than 7 people at it?) and when we presented our business challenges for input from the group, she was the only one who spoke and her answer was always that we needed coaching, which you receive for “free” with your $290 membership fee and $16.95 monthly dues to this organization.

She clearly realized that it was ridiculous to have people pay $75 for a not-quite-lunch meeting with four people, because she immediately offered us a $30 discount on next week’s meeting, which she claims will have 60 people in attendance.

I left a few minutes before the meeting ended because, well, I was tired of the hard sell.  The structure really irks me;  I think networking, which is forced to begin with, should be as organic as is possible under the circumstance, and I don’t think a structure in which someone owns the group has the best interests of its members at heart.  If you make money from every single person who joins, you can’t truly be looking out for all of them – you are looking for your own bottom line.

So I drank at least three bottles of water – $25 apiece as far as I can tell.  And then I came home and ate lunch.

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The One I Never Wanted To Write.

Squirrels of the Westside, you can relax now.  Madison has left the building.

This is Madison.  

I met her on March 6, 1999.  I was 27 years old and apparently I did not yet have a gray streak in my hair.  It was a Saturday.  I went to the West LA animal shelter and walked down the middle of the row of female dogs.  She was the only one who came running out and licked me through the fence.  I said, “I’ll be back for you,” because her card said that she had not been at the shelter for 7 days so she wasn’t yet available.  The shelter was closed on Sunday and Monday.

I learned how to adopt a shelter dog before I figured out I could paint my walls!

I showed up right when they opened at 8:30 am  on Tuesday and claimed her.  I didn’t get to pick her up until the next day, as she had to be spayed.  It being 1999, shelters didn’t tell you that you were getting a pit bull, so I thought I was adopting a “lab/dalmatian mix.”  For the next month, when I walked her, people would say to me, “Oh, what a cute pit bull you have!” And I would say “no, no, no, she’s not a pit bull.”  Little did I know.

Madison was quite the handful when she was a pup.  We failed puppy class twice.

Madison sunning herself on my patio in Santa Monica.

When I was building the little brick planter you see here, I had an unopened bag of mortar in my atrium, and I came home one day to find her with her nose in the bag, her black face covered in gray.  All I could see was the whites of her eyes.  She looked at me with that guilty look – “Mom, I didn’t mean to do this!” and I whisked her off to Petco for a bath.  “Wash her before she hardens,” was my special request.
Madison bounced off the walls with energy for the first five years.  I distinctly remember returning from one of our many 2-4 mile per day walks when she was about five, and running into one of my neighbors in the alley behind my condo.  After we spoke for a few minutes, Madison sat down and just waited for us to finish.  “How did you get her to calm down?” my neighbor asked, because everyone knew what a rambunctious puppy she was.  “I waited five years,” I responded.

Madison liked paying taxes about as much as I do. Picking up our tax return, 2005.

For two thousand, four hundred and fifty days, I had Madison all to myself.  I was the only person she had to share the bed, the couch, the chairs and everything else in the house with.  I was the only person who carried around as much of her dog hair on me as she had attached to her.  Then in October of 2005, that all changed when Benjamin came into our lives.  Madison had no idea that she would ever hit the jackpot twice in one lucky lifetime.
We were a package deal, I told him, and I’m quite sure that I was not the most enticing part of the package.   I can’t tell you how much he loved her but it sure looked like an 89 on a scale of 1 to 10.  I wish I could upload the 22-second video of him and her sharing a few spaghetti noodles, á la “Lady and The Tramp” to illustrate this point (but I can’t figure out how to do this).
Always happy to be fed from the table, Madison was about 8 when the whole dog-food-made-in-China-has-melamine-in-it scare came along, and I threw

out all of the cans and bags of dog food I had in the house and just started cooking for her.  Because life always takes you in directions you never expected, learning how to make nutritionally balanced food for her went from being a hobby, to a passion, to a business.  Always my best customer, Madison would stand in the kitchen with drool pouring out of both sides of her mouth when I made stir-fried broccoli.  Yes, just broccoli.  She was a vegetable-loving pooch.
My parents were quite smitten with Madison as well – they referred to her as their “grand-dogter.”  We would send her to their house whenever we went out of town, and she would come back a pound or two heavier.  Grandma always had an egg yolk or two in the freezer, labeled “M.”

The reason for this post, of course, is that we are no longer blessed to share our lives with her.  After 13 years and 18 days (with me) and 6 years, 4 months and 5 days (with Benjamin), Madison left this world.  She had cancer, and while

 they told us it was the mildest case of lymphoma they had ever seen, in fact, the cancer had spread to her bones.  So while we were treating her for what we thought was arthritis, her bones were getting weaker from osteosarcoma.  On March 28th, she finally told us that the pain was too great.

Losing a pet is unbelievably hard.  I can’t even begin to put it into words.  I’ve expressed condolences to so many friends, but until now, I had no idea what they were feeling.  We were there with her when she passed, and for the first few days, I had to fight to remove that last image from my brain.  I would so

much rather dwell on the fact that Madison excelled at being a dog.  She was an excellent sleeper.  She could take up any amount of bed space available!  She could leave you dangling off the side of a king sized bed.

She was an excellent kisser.  You could not escape from our house without being kissed.  When she was a puppy, I used to describe her as “aggressively friendly.”  She REALLY wanted to kiss you.  And G-d help you if you opened your mouth anywhere near her – her tongue would go right in!

My favorite picture of Madison ever, taken by Erin Searcy.

She was an excellent squirrel chaser, at least when she was younger.  She caught four in her lifetime (two actually survived the encounter!).  As she grew older, she became more of a squirrel observer.  (see the post about how harmless she was)

She was an excellent eater.  She would take food so gently, you would never know she had a superstrength pit bull locking jaw.

Madison taught me what unconditional means, which is really what dogs are for.  No matter how long I was out of the house, or out of town, or whether I yelled if she did something bad, she always gave love unconditionally.

The other day we had some friends over for dinner, and I braised chicken in a large saute pan.  It was the first time since she’s been gone that I truly felt her absence.  For the last 13+ years, I would have put the pan on the floor for her to lick before washing it.  But there was no reason to do that now.  What a strange, empty, feeling I had cleaning up that night.

Whenever you tell someone that you’ve recently put a dog down, they express condolences, wait a moment, and then ask you if you’ve gotten a new one yet.   I’ve been told that adopting the next one will make me forget the pain of losing Madison.  I think there’s actually a pool at Benjamin’s office about how long it will take.

It’s hard to imagine that there will be a time when I won’t think about her every hour.  I know that time will heal this wound, and that there will be a next dog.  But there will only be one Madison.

Good night, sweet beast.

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The One About Black Bean Brownies

Well my last post generated a bit of controversy and lots of comments.  I’ll go back to cooking and recipes and leave my non-parent critiquing of other people’s parenting to the side, for now.

I have heard about using black beans in brownies for years.  I will admit I was skeptical.  So skeptical, in fact, that I made TWO black bean brownie recipes the other day, to compare and contrast.  The first ones came out SO BAD that I almost did not make the second recipe.  This recipe is simply horrible.  Do not try it.  Just trust me.  They were not chocolatey.  They were not delicious.  They tasted like wet sponge.  I threw the entire batch in the trash.

This recipe, on the other hand, came out amazing!  They are like the winning lottery ticket that I almost didn’t buy.  They are chocolatey, and gooey and fudgy inside.  These are Melissa Costello’s version – she runs the 30-day vegan cleanse sessions which I did last summer.  They are gluten-free and sugar free.  It’s possible that I may have added a few tablespoons of brown sugar, because the first recipe was so not sweet.  I also used regular chocolate chips and Melissa has you use grain sweetened or vegan chips.  Other than those minor changes, I have to tell you – make this recipe.  Make it now.  You’ve been looking for a great brownie recipe.  This is not a great black bean brownie recipe, it’s just a great brownie recipe, period!!

 

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The One About Making Excuses For Poorly-Behaved Children.

I get some interesting people-watching done at the park, while walking Madison.

We were at the park last weekend and there was a woman, probably around 30ish, with a young son, probably around 7.  An older man was with them as well; I assumed him to be the boy’s grandfather.

They had some toys with them, and a bucket of golf balls (there’s a pitch-and-putt course at this park).

They were about 30 feet away from us, when I saw (and heard) the boy erupt into a scream at the top of his lungs, addressing his mother, who was inches away:  “GO GET MY SCOOTER!!!!!!!”

And again.  “DID YOU HEAR ME?  I SAID, GO GET MY SCOOTER!!!!!!!!!!”

I was a bit shocked that she seemed not to have a reaction to this ridiculous behavior.  She spoke with the older man throughout the boy’s screeching.

A few minutes later, the mom walked away from the boy and the grandfather, towards me and Madison.  She had her car keys out.  She walked past us and smiled.  I smiled back, and just offhandedly asked, “Are you going to get him his scooter?”

She thought a moment before she responded, and when she responded, she was not rude.  “Before you judge,” she said, “I have ADD.  Sometimes I don’t listen to my children, and I need them to remind me.”

“No judgment here,” I said, and we parted company.

For the next half hour, we walked around the park, Madison hunting squirrels and birds, and me thinking about this woman’s situation.  And the kid.

The kid whose mom makes excuses about why it’s ok for him to scream at her at the top of his lungs, and rewards him when he does.  The kid, who one day will scream at a teacher or a school staff person, or a playmate, and wonder why he ends up being punished for his behavior.  This poor kid, who is being trained by his enabling mom that if only you scream loudly enough, you will get what you want.  Sometimes.

I thought about what I wanted to say to this mom again on our way back around the park loop, to tell her I really wasn’t judging her, but I was concerned about the mixed messages this child was receiving.  We didn’t see her again as we came back around.  We did see the boy sulking through what looked like a golf lesson.

I’m not a parent, so I have no right to tell parents how to deal with their children.  But I’m a person, and I know that there’s almost no reason for a child to address someone the way he spoke – screamed – to his mother.  To any adult.  To any other human being.

And one day, this kid will be just another over-entitled, too-full-of-“self-esteem” teenager, or 20-something, whining to his therapist about what a horrible place the world is.  And what a horrible mom he had.

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The One About How All Australians Are Not Laid Back and Cool.

So a guy drove up my street last week.

I know that doesn’t sound like earth-shattering news, but consider this:  I live on a very steep hill, and the street dead-ends at the top (I guess you could say I live on a cul-de-sac, in a way), and there are only four houses on the whole street – one of them is mine and one is below me – so only the people who live in the two houses above me really ever drive past my house, including my next door neighbor who lives alone, and the new owner who just bought the little tiny shack at the top of the hill, and his son.

When you consider all of that, it’s rare for a car to drive up my street.

And when it happens, I tend to look out the window, given that my office overlooks the street, to see who it is.  And have I mentioned that my street is about 10 feet wide?  Here, take a look:

I took this picture a few years ago when  the little shack up the hill was on the market, the then-owner inviting potential buyers to “build [their] dream chateau.”

You can see, not alotta space there.  The street curves up to the left and at the very, tippy top, there is a place where you can turn around.

So this guy drives up my street, and I watched him go just to where the road curves to the left, and then stop.  And then he moved forward a bit, and then stopped again, and then, as I have watched many people do over the past few years, he began to back down the 8% or so grade that is my street.  And like most of them, he was not backing down straight.

Now you don’t have a ton of options here on my street.  To the left is rock.  Slate.  Not gonna move if you back into it.  And to the right is a slope covered in ivy that would be very happy to welcome you down, down, down, and smile as you crash into the house in front of me.

And if, by chance, you are able to back your car successfully down my street, there’s still the chance that you would graze my front planter, which I very proudly designed in stacked stone tile.  And my tile guy is no longer with us, so I’m not happy about it getting bumped.

So I walked outside as this guy zigged and zagged his car down my street, backward.  His window was open so I said to him, “you know, if you go all the way up, there’s a place for you to turn around.”  And I discovered he was Australian.  What a lovely accent those Aussies have, huh?  And they are all laid back, nice folks, right?

You should have heard what came out of his mouth.

I actually wish I remembered it verbatim.  He was not interested in my suggestions would be putting it mildly.  He started yelling at me.  “You are insane!”  he yelled.  “You are a bitch!”  among other colorful names.

As I actually really only wanted to make sure that he didn’t hit my planter, I stayed out on my driveway watching him.  He got close to the main street, of course backwards, and then realized he would have to back across a blind corner into oncoming traffic.  I offered to go into the street and stop traffic for him (which I have done for others similarly situated).  And then the language got even more flowery.  “You’re a crazy bitch!” he told me.  A few times.  “What’s the matter with you?!”

I was so disappointed, for two reasons.  First, he had a dog in the car, and he got himself so worked up and angry that I was worried that his driving, which was erratic to begin with, might cause an injury to the dog.  And second, he had a beautiful Australian accent.  I hope he did not ruin Australian accents for me.

But the good news is I’m pretty sure he’s not coming back to my street again.

Here's a picture from a calmer time - if you squint and look on the right side of the street, you might see the three little deer who came down to munch on the ivy!

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The One About Yummy Christmas Treats

Do you know how easy it is to make fudge, and almond brittle?

Fudge takes about 15 minutes, and that includes toasting the walnuts first.  You basically just have to stand there and stir.  Click here for my favorite recipe.  Whomever invented Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Creme is my hero.

And when I learned how to make brittle a few years ago, people started treating me like an absolute genius.  It’s not much more complicated than fudge.  In fact it has six ingredients – and one of them is water.  Patience is the most important ingredient here – and having a candy thermometer is an absolute must.  You cannot stick your finger in and tell when a candy mixture is 300 degrees.

Click here for the recipe.  I make it with both roasted almonds and roasted cashews.  Makes a great gift and when you break it into large shards to give to people, thankfully smaller shards break off for you to taste!

Enjoy!

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