Reflections

There is a variety of reasons and COVID is probably up there on the top but I have been spending a lot of time reflecting on my past. Moments that I remember. Unclear what I am going to do with these moments except write them down and spend time with them….and share.

When I began post-college work life, I was hired by Macy’s into their training program. After spending three months learning the ins and outs of the organization with 20 other people, we all got “placed” in different stores. The first job was to manage a department. Mine was cosmetics in Kings Plaza, BK.

My knowledge of the corporate world was only what I learned over the past three months. Politics, which is an essential part of the game, was completely foreign to me. This is coming from a kid who had three jobs while going to high school from the time she was 16. I had a car and off I went. The only conversations we had around the dinner table prior to my Dad walking out the door were about politics and the coming of WW3.

All I knew was that I wanted to get ahead and get ahead quickly. I was a bull in a china shop. I adored the people who worked for me. I focused on how to make them better at what they do. Similar to motherhood. Playing nice to the people who I reported to, who I didn’t respect, well that was not something I was very good at.

The people who I directly reported to were two to three years my senior. It was like being at camp and having counselors or counselors in training as your guides. The first person I reported to was a crazy creative with permanently run tights, an uncombed long mop of hair, smudged goth-like make-up who always seemed in a panic. She moved on and out quickly.

The second person I reported to was an extremely uptight rosy cheeks woman with a permanent fake smile etched on her face who pretended to be super smart but didn’t really know what she was doing either although was always carrying a bunch of documents in her arms. There were so many great people at Macys during that time but unfortunately, neither of them were my direct superiors. Keeping in mind I was 21-22 and they were maybe 23-25.

The woman who was my peer, who oversaw the jewelry department next to cosmetics was so smart and totally understood politics. Her father (and mother) were amazing people. Her father had built a company from ground up in the suburbs of Detroit. He was thoughtful, a visionary, and a great mentor to his daughter. She gave me some advice which I did try to follow and thank god for her. She is still one of my closest friends today.

The height of my frustration was when the rosy cheeks pulled me into her office with the head of personnel to tell me that I was too aggressive and that I would be better suited in a different industry. I asked them what industry outside of retail, would they suggest?

I remember thinking, you must be kidding me. I loved what I was doing, my numbers were incredible and the store manager loved me. I felt like I was being pulled into a coup but two people who were probably annoyed at me for being so dismissive to them. At that point of my life I probably intimidated them. Not a good look on my part. Granted, I shouldn’t have behaved like that but I honestly didn’t know any better after watching my father dismiss anyone and everyone even a waiter who would serve us in a restaurant. I was so shellshocked by this meeting that I did what any other aggressive person would do who had their eye on moving up the ladder quickly, I went to the big boss.

I didn’t tattle, I played politics. The store manager was a woman who was an incredible role model. She was tough, she was smart, she thought big and she took no prisoners. She went on to have an incredible career who commands respect the minute she walks in the room. I adored her.

I walked into her office and told her I was confused. She said keep doing what you are doing. You are great. It was the first time I began to understand the working world. It only took me a few more years to realize I really wasn’t employable. I am quite sure I am not any different now only older, wiser and a bit more mellow.

Spicy Mushroom Lasagna

This was such a winner. You can even use the spicy mushroom ragu and pour it over spaghetti instead. This came out of the new Ottolenghi cookbook. I have them all.

I didn’t follow the recipe exactly so here is mine below.

  • 2 lbs. cremini mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 lbs oyster mushrooms
  • 2 1/2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 ounce dried wild mushrooms
  • 2 dried red chilis (roughly chopped, seeded for less heat)
  • 2 1/4 cups of hot vegetable stock
  • 1 onion peeled and chopped ( I used 6 big shallots instead)
  • 1 carrot peeled and quartered
  • 3 plum tomatoes quartered (I used a small can of cherry tomatoes sans sauce)
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • heavy cream ( you can eliminate this )
  • 3 oz. grated pecorino
  • 3 oz grated parmesan
  • 1/2 cup chopped basil leaves
  • 1 big box dried lasagne sheets

Preheat the oven to 450.

You can pulse the cremini and oyster mushrooms in a food processor to get them finely chopped. I did it by hand because I prefer the mushrooms to be a bit chunky. Put these in a large bowl and mix with olive oil and salt. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes. The mushrooms should get golden brown. Set aside and take the oven down to 425.

Combine all the dried mushrooms, chiles and hot stock in a large bowl and soak for 30 minutes. Then strain the liquid into another bowl getting at least 1 1/2 cups of stock from the mixture. Chop the mushrooms up. Set aside.

You can put the onions and carrots into a food processor and get them finely chopped or chop by hand like I did for some chunk. Heat on medium-high 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the onion mixture and fry for about 8 minutes or until golden. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper and cook for another 7 minutes. Add the dried mushrooms mixture and the roasted mushrooms to this and cook another 9 minutes. Do not stir. You want this to get crispy and browned on the bottom. Add the water and reserved stock and bring to a simmer at a medium heat and cook for about 25 minutes. Stirring on occasion. It should resemble a ragu. At this point you can add in a few tablespoons of cream if you so desire. I did. Simmer for another 2 minutes and take off the heat.

Combine both cheese and the basil in a small bowl.

In a 9X13 baking dish or a 12″ round dish, spread 1/5 of the sauce on the bottom. Top with 1/5 of the cheese mixture. Top with the hard lasagne sheets breaking them up to fix where needed. Repeat this three times and finish with a final layer of sauce and cheese.

Drizzle some olive oil and cream over the top and cover with tin foil. Bake for 15 minutes. Then remove the foil and increase the temp to 450. Bake another 12 minutes, rotating the dish half way through. Take out and let cool for about 5 minutes. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil, and cream if desired and serve.

This is so good. I will make it again and again.

Veggies

My roomies are very much into veggies for most meals except for once a week. I have been trying to step up my game. I made four different vegetable dishes for dinner the other night.

The crowd favorite was the peppers. I picked up this kombu vinegar at Cervos and used it to make a sauce. You could use an Asian black vinegar too but the kombo gives it a nice umami kick.

Pan fried a bunch of tiny peppers until they blistered. Salting them along the way. At the end I poured in a mixture of 2 tbsp. soy sauce, 1 tbsp. sugar and 2 tbsp. vinegar. It gets thick quickly and coats the peppers. Serve immediately.

Thanksgiving 2020

This Thanksgiving is a strange one in a strange year. One that will be for the history books. It will a year where so much changed but right now nobody really knows what that is going to look like. There will be countless challenges ahead but history has shown us that we are resilient and will forge ahead to each challenge and find ourselves better on the other side.

You can only look for the silver linings when everything else seems dark. When we sit around the table tonight, I want to reflect on what good happened to each individual this year. What they are thankful for.

Everyone has been affected by this year differently. One thing is clear that we have all lived with overwhelming anxiety and fear from COVID and divisive politics and much more.

I am thankful for the amount of time that I have spent with our children this year, more than I would have in a normal year. I am thankful for slowing down and taking time to think vs react. I am thankful for the really good friends that have been drawn closer to our lives. It has been a crazy year but if I look through the weeds, this Thanksgiving I am grateful for forcing me smell the flowers every day of the week.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Feeling Bleak?

I can see and feel the desire for many in NYC to have a place that they can get out on the weekends or until COVID ends. Certainly not everyone can afford that but for those who can it is a joy even though it is bad for NYC’s economy.

As work environments change we will see more people not have to come into the office 5 days a week but perhaps one day a week. If you choose to live a few hours outside of the city (or any urban area), having to come in one day a week isn’t a big deal. More people who have already chosen to plant themselves outside of the city, in the short term, might find themselves rethinking about the long term when COVID dies down.

We have already seen an escalation of prices in the suburbs, Hudson Valley, Hamptons and other outlying areas around NYC (but I assume the same is for other urban cities) that people have chosen to have second homes. Those areas are getting more and more expensive. That will become more difficult for the locals that live there particularly the teachers, firepeople, constructions workers and all trades that support a city. More housing will be needed to keep the people that support those communities there.

NYC has a $9b deficit.  I don’t know the deficit of other cities but I am assuming it is not pretty either. How do we change cities quickly and get them back on track?  Over the last eight years there has been very little capital put towards moving NYC and many others into the future.  We have relied on the same and not upgraded.  Education, transportation, homelessness are a few to name.

What are the true ideas for restoring NYC from the top?  What type of tax breaks?  How about the reality of commercial real estate? Can we give those people some incentive to reconstitute their buildings for schools and middle income living? Real estate developers won’t do it unless there is a reason to?  Can we change the zoning in certain areas?  

Our country has not spent enough on infrastructure. Our schools, our roads, trains, transportation, healthcare, and anything else you can think of is almost stuck in 1980. Almost 50% of city budgets to go education. Is now the time to completely change education into different models with all the companies providing online curriculums? How do you get rid of bad teachers, custodians, and old building while cutting the edge by 75% when it comes to education?

I have spent a lot of time in the past week walking around the city. Parts of the city are reminiscent of 1980. Certainly the homeless situation is getting there. I keep thinking about how are we going to get out of this mess.

I hate to be a downer because I do consider myself an eternal optimist but winter is coming and I fear it’s going to be bleak.

Digital Divide

On July 27, 1998, at the New York Historical Society, Silicon Alley Reporter put on the first Rising Tide Summit. The threesome behind this event were Jason Calacanis, Gordon Gould and me.

The event began at 830am and ran until 1130pm. It was the first of these kind of events that are now the norm. Interactive conversations between the attendees and speakers. We covered technology and each vertical technology had touched. If technology had not changed an industry, it certainly was going to at one point. After the last presentation, the party began. We were not lost on having this event at the New York Historical Society.

The last presentation of the day was given by Andrew Raseij. He was the co-founder of MOUSE. An organization which I became the first Chairperson of. He brought 15 Black, Brown and Latino kids on the stage. None of them had access to a computer in their home. That still sticks with me today.

You would think that 30 years later that this problem would have been solved. All you need is WIFI and a computer. Seems pretty simple, right? COVID has forced education to change to online learning and many students do not have access to WIFI. They are living in places where there isn’t any. They are finding themselves doing their work on their phones in places where they can at least access the hotspots.

It is unacceptable. Every building should have WIFI. Every city should have free WIFI. There should be no zones in any place in this country where you lose service at any time. There is zero reason why we can’t have mesh networks that allow each city to amplify WIFI throughout each street, store, library, apartment, home, office, garage, restaurant, etc. How is it that 30 years later under-served communities are still falling short of access to a tool that has become part of our daily lives and businesses? We should all be connected.

It is time for elected officials to make this a priority. Everybody should have access to WIFI. And as we move into the future, our education system is going to be blended, more online and less in brick and mortar. Why should some fall behind simply because of no access to WIFI. We should want every kid to have the ability to succeed and not having access is unjust.

The digital divide still exists today and there is absolutely no reason it should. It is utterly appalling. Shame on us.

Impeding Freedom?

Where did the notion that freedom means being able to walk around without a mask during COVID with an AK47 slung over ones shoulder?

In NYC if you are pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt you can receive a ticket and get up to three points on your license. 50% of drivers who are killed in a car accident were not wearing a seat belt. Seatbelts save roughly 15,000 people’s lives a year. It is a safety issue for everyone.

Since 1980, MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) have saved almost half a million lives. Most states consider drunk driving a felony. I support that drunk driving is illegal so people don’t do it.

You can’t get a drivers license until a certain age, depending on the state. You can’t buy liquor until you are 21. Cigarettes can’t be bought until you are 18. Can’t vote until you are 18. Can’t sign up for the military until you are 18. Can’t work until you are 18 unless it is a certain kind of part-time job as in kids in this country are not sitting at factories working at 13. All of these are laws that our country holds for a reason. Is that taking away our freedom?

Both drunk driving and seat belt wearing have had non-profit organizations do a great job of educating people to obey the rules. Is that impeding freedom? You can’t murder someone, you can’t break into someone’s home, you can’t steal someone else’s property, you have to pay your taxes and you have to send your kids to school vaccinated. Those are just a few laws that create a civilized society.

The politicalization of mask wearing has created this anger from many who believe that wearing a mask is taking away their freedom. I have seen nurses in North Dakota describe how people are dying in hospitals and refuse to believe that they have COVID because it doesn’t exist and die angry instead of connecting with their loved ones. How awful is that?

How about the freedom of those trying to not get COVID? Would those people feel the same way if someone broke the law by driving drunk without a seat belt that crashed into their families car and ended up killing someone they loved?

Masks save the spread of COVID. Anyone who protests that wearing a mask is impeding their freedom should be locked up inside their house where they can walk around without a mask until the pandemic comes to a close.
Perhaps there should be a law around that.

Sylvia Center

I missed the event this year but am still giving. There are so many events every years in NYC and this year there were none. Give to those organizations you still care about.

I love what Sylvia Center does. Helping young people eat healthy is one of the most important lessons that you can learn early because it will carry with you through out your life.

Inspiring healthy eaters every single day. If you are inspired, you can give to the Sylvia Center here.

Winter is Coming

I have spent a lot of time walking around lower Manhattan this past week. The streets are not as busy but there is still a beat on the street that still feels good. Winter is coming and COVID is beginning to rage again. Stores and restaurants continue to shut permanently. Things will change, new spots will open, rents will go down and over time everything will look like itself but different.

One of the last bastions of grit in Manhattan is the lower east side not far from the entrance of the Manhattan Bridge. Nicknamed Dimes Square. There is Dime’s on on side and their grocery store on the other. Emily and I walked down there for lunch. Delicious vegetarian offerings. We had the black rice salad made of a variety of different vegetables with a ginger ponzu sauce on the side to pour over and mix up. The other is the power bowl made of black beans, black rice, avocado, pumpkin seeds and a spicy sauce. I also loved my fennel ginger lemonade.

Dimes grocery store is a version of well curated products and some fresh product.

On the other side of the square, a few stores down from the Dimes restaurant is Cervos. Grocery meets sandwich shop and natural wines, sherrys and amaros. I would love a Cervos in the west village. We all need a Cervos in our neighborhood.

Walking through each neighborhood is the only way to really get a feeling for what is happening in the city. The weather is refreshing but you can feel that winter is coming. COVID is rearing its ugly head just like it did last March. I am hoping that our supply chain has got better. I am hoping that people wear masks. I am hoping that the places that have survived the epidemic will hang in there a few more months. When the winter thaws, flowers crop up and I am truly looking forward to seeing where we all end up.

The vaccine is coming and not soon enough.