Making History in Philadelphia


Inside Independence Hall. At the tables sat the representatives from the Colonies. On the dias was George Washington.
Historic actor in front of Starbucks in Center City, Philadelphia

The art of compromise was never more apparent than during a trip to visit Independence Hall the day after the official nomination of Hillary Rodham Clinton as the Democratic presidential candidate. After evenings of booing and chanting and protests, Independence Hall seemed a civil way to spend a late morning.

The visit is free, but you do need to get timed tickets at the Visitor Center, a simple matter. Once you pass through security, the Park Service will guide you into an air-conditioned room to go over some of the basics of American history – such as how the British instituted a tax on the American colonists to pay for the French and Indian War. The main taxes were sugar, tea and stamp (paper). Here we were reminded that the states at that time felt like individual countries, but one uniting factor was taxation against representation.

We were instructed about how Thomas Jefferson was chosen by the Second Continental Congress to write what became the Declaration of Independence because he was diplomatic, unlike some of his Northern brethren. He learned how he wrote it in less than three weeks, but there were more than 80 revisions made during the meetings ultimately led to the signing on July 4. There were issues that weren’t resolved, such as slavery. Benjamin Franklin wanted wording abolishing it; but the language wasn’t included because it would cause the Southern states to revolt. Thomas Jefferson, in fact, had a slave with him in Philadelphia. So compromise was in order for the greater a good, an issue that would be revisited 80 years later when Abraham Lincoln visited the same spot. Perhaps knowing this was the intent of some of the founding fathers.

I was thinking about this an hour later as we sat down to lunch at the City Tavern, a reconstruction opened in 1976 and on the same site where George Washington once met with the Marquis de Lafayette. The menu isn’t original to the 1700s (thank heavens), but you can feel how parties with different opinions would gather and resolve their differences over drink. Behind us were supporters of Bernie Sanders (who dined at the same restaurant as we did the night before) who were going to leave before Clinton gives her acceptance speech on Thursday. This too parallels what we heard at Independence Hall. There were representatives from the states who left and declined to sign the Declaration of Independence. That is our right in this country – the right to express our differences.

“However hard it may be to picture the founders resorting to rough-and-tumble tactics, there was nothing genteel about politics at the nation’s onset,” wrote Ron Chernow in the Wall Street Journal. “For sheer verbal savagery, the founding era may have surpassed anything seen today. Despite their erudition, integrity, and philosophical genius, the founders were fiery men who expressed their beliefs with vehemence.” Ron Chernow is the author of “Washington: A Life” and “Alexander Hamilton.”

Chernow wrote that in 2010. I anticipate that 2016 may come close.

Signing off in Philadelphia




DNC: First Lady saves convention

Two-hour bus ride to the Wells Fargo Center


Convention Day 1

The train hadn’t even pulled out of Union Station in D.C., when the news that Debbie Wasserman Schultz, head of the DNC, wasn’t going to resign until the end of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. It was hotter than you know what in D.C., and apparently the Democrats didn’t mind stewing in boiling water.

I’m not a delegate to the DNC; I’m a guest of a Superdelegate. I do, however, have a lifetime of work experience with the media and personal understanding of the issues. I’m a single working mom, supporting a teenage daughter and am thankful that Obamacare has allowed us to be insured for a major medical condition and prescription drug coverage. I pay a price, but at least I can buy it. I am looking at paying for college. I have experienced job loss among family, friends and personally as a result of the changing global economy. And, as a woman and mom, I certainly would love to see, and have my daughter see, a woman elected president of the United States of America. My first political experience was working the phones for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy when he ran for president.

That said, I was stunned by the tin ear the Clinton campaign has to what seems to be common sense. Schultz had to go. And she certainly shouldn’t be gaveling in the convention. Instead, Superdelegate tells me that neither the Obama folks nor the Clinton folks are going to force her out. Instead, they are going to let an entire news cycle focus on DWS instead of party unity, which is a major issue.

Indeed, the next morning after the PA delegate breakfast, Superdelegate tells me the Clinton folks want to focus on this being the work of the Russians in support of Trump when the point is DWS should apologize and resign immediately. Instead we spend the day with her fighting to gavel in the convention at 4 p.m.

Maybe it’s all the partying that has been going on. The night before U.S. Rep. Brady of Philadelphia hosted an exclusive nonpolitical bash at the SugarHouse Casino, with a spread of Philly foods (roast pork, cheesesteaks, soft pretzels), and music (Bobby Rydell), and more politicians than I saw in D.C. This was under the umbrella of nonprofit Phantastic Philadelpia and there were more than 1,000 people registered. I spotted Ryan Bizzarro from Erie, but one of the most photographed men in attendance (besides Brady) was Ben Franklin (the man under the wig is quite good). Since the party was stretching into the wee hours, I’m sure the delegate meetings at 8 a.m. were a hard wake-up for many.

DWS was booed at her own delegation meeting. Finally, there was an intervention and she did not bring the gavel down at 4 p.m.

Getting there was quite the trip. The protesters, mainly Bernie Sanders supporters, blocked off streets. After a 2-hour ride that was supposed to take 20 minutes, we walked the remaining mile in 97-degree heat, passed through Secret Service security and Superdelegate took his seat, actually he stood because there were no seats left for the PA delegates. I had a seat in the nosebleed section.

Fortunately, a bus driver gave me the tip to take the subway back to the hotel – a 15 minute ride, tops. Here I could watch Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders speak (and actually hear and see them). FLOTUS was amazing. Much more inspiring than Hillary. I hope HRC can at least have a small glimmer of that type of inspiration on Thursday, when I will stay at the Wells Fargo Center to see her speak. Mainly to feel the reaction of the crowd, without the media interpretation.

The Bernie supporters, however, still aren’t buying his support of Hillary Clinton. His speech was impressive. He outlined what his agenda had actually accomplished – pushing Clinton more toward the anti-establishment than the middle, which is where she would like to go.

Today’s roll call will be telling. That’s when HRC will become the nominee. I expect the protests to continue.

Market Monday: Exploring a Virginia Farmer’s Market

It was so hot this weekend visiting the Virginia Meads that even the chocolate nor the doughnut sellers decided not to go the farmer’s market in Falls Church this weekend. There are 50 vendors at the market during the height of the season, so there were plenty of other vendors did show up, giving us plenty to choose from among the tomatoes, peaches, berries, cheeses, baked goods, organic meat producers and flowers that braved the 90-degree temps at 9 a.m.

imageWe arrived when it was a few degrees cooler at, oh 86 degrees a little before 8 a.m. By the time we left, it was too hot to even consider making any more decisions.
The stories of most of the vendors are fascinating. There’s the baker from Paris, Bonaparte Breads, of Savage, Maryland, who had exquisite pastries. The pane au chocolate were perfect, but she had selections that included multi-berry tarts, a blueberry and peach tart, quiche, almond croissant and lots of beads. I think standing in the sun for this alone was worth it.

Then there was Chris’ Marketplace, sellers of the most divine crab cakes. Chris Hoge, chef and owner, has been written up in Saveur, Gourmet and the Washingtonian. A fisherman who has worked the entire East Coast and down into the islands, says his secret was a sauce that accidentally fell into a plate of crab. The resulting seasoning was so perfect that is the reason for his success, he said. He’s got a second business going as well, making sopas from a traditional Mexican corn. He didn’t have any samples this weekend.
My sister-in-law Jenna picked up a bottle of wine from North Gate Vineyard, based in Loudoun County, Virginia. We talked wines, including Presque Isle Vineyards. it is a small world. Owned by Mark and Vicki Fedor, North Gate became a fully licensed Farm Winery in 2007. They produced their first grapes in 2002. An interesting dry wine they suggested was the Rkatsiteli, (you pronounce the “R”), which originated in the Republic of Georgia. A crisp white, it would be delish in the summer.
In addition to the fresh vegetables, fruits and flowers, we appreciated the prepared foods, which solved the dinner problem before I had finished my second cup of coffee. Cold Pantry Foods had a half-dozen types of frozen pizza to buy. The owners, Bob and Carol Vogel, started in business by selling pestos. But pesto is a limited product – so they use the pesto in all of their pizzas, which have a broader appeal.
We finished at a stop at Cavanna Pasta, which had a super array of homemade pastas. If I wasn’t traveling to Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon, I probably would have brought a cooler full to take home. We settled on the sausage tortellini and containers of homemade vodka sauce and a ragu.


imageAmong the other highlights were Sexy Vegie, out of Baltimore, which offered lots of hummus along with salads. I bought a beet and apple salad, which would have been great topped with some local goat cheese from a nearby vendor (Sexy Vegie is vegan). Alas, I left before I could enjoy it, but I’m hoping to recreate it later this summer.
Finally, I will get to taste the wares of Stachowski Brand Charcuterie, from the D.C. Metro Area, because Jenna bought some lamb sausage to bring to Erie at the end of this week for my father.

While hot, this was a great way to get a taste of this region of Virginia and have an easy dinner at the same time. Kudos to the folks in Falls Church.
Erie, are you listening?
With all of the bounty of the region, why is it so hard for Erie County to coordinate this effort. I would think as part of the Health Department war on diabetes and obesity, this could be a worthwhile project.
I am in Philadelphia this week watching the Democratic National Convention and will post more from the other end of our state.
In the meantime, this is one of my favorite summer recipes that was inspired by Martha Stewart.

Corn, Tomato and Avocado Salad

3 ears of cooked corn, kernels removed
2 cups sliced grape, cherry or other small tomatoes
2 to 3 tablespoons finely diced red onion or 2 green onions, sliced
1 avocado, seed removed, and diced
2 tablespoons lime juice
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 jalapeño, finely chopped (optional)

In a medium bowl, toss tomatoes with lime juice and salt and allow to sit for about 15 minutes to draw out the juices. Add remaining ingredients and serve.


Stay cool. Eat local.




Wednesday Musing: Class Reunion

reunionThe reunion of the Villa Maria Academy for Girls Class of 1981 reunion (and every other class that was celebrating a 5-year celebration of freedom from our alma mater) was this weekend. Despite living in the same town where I graduated from high school, I have never attended a reunion. Indeed, when I graduated I vowed never to step foot back into those halls along West Eighth Street.

Like most vows of 17-/soon-to-be-18-year-olds, this was not a promise I could keep. Various writing assignments over the years would take me back there, although most of the time I tried to find someone else to go. It was not a happy place for me.

I think high school is a largely divided time. There are those who love it and remain fond of their years there. I see this with the parents who eagerly sit on the sidelines at football games at Fairview High School even when they have no children playing. I’ve heard more people introduce themselves with, Prep Class of 19XX as a modifier.

It’s true I met a lifelong fried at Villa, which as all girls and independent of Cathedral Preparatory School at the time. We met through alphabetical happenstance – Mead and Miller – of seating charts. She was a tall, blonde, tennis-playing extrovert. I was a short, overweight, brunette who was a serious introvert. Somehow we became friends. She called me Watson to her Sherlock.

She went off to Smith College, and then to the University of Chicago Law School, where she settled. I went to Boston University and then to work for my family’s newspaper (with a stint at a newspaper in Peoria, Ill., during a 5-year break from Erie). I saw Claudette over the years more often than any of my classmates who lived in the same town as I did.

So, after 35 years, we decided to go to reunion. Or at least part of the reunion. We skipped the event on the patio at the school – I’m still not stepping foot in there if I don’t have to. Instead we went to an event hosted by Kristin Carnes Talarico and Laurie Balkovic Bretz at the Erie Club.

Claudette took the time to remind me, during the 20 minute drive, that we liked our classmates. It was the administration we didn’t care for. This is true. There were some teachers who changed my life, such as John Kupetz (English) and Sister Susan Doubet (Calculus).

So we walked into the Erie Club, where about 30 of our 140-some classmates had gathered. I caught up with Marcy Rahner, Sally Walker, Andrea Nagle Deveau, Dana Frazer, Mary Heise  Blatt, Mary Therese Bowen, Kerry Hughes, Paula Maus Cameron, Chris Weber Podufal and many others.

As we caught up, I mentioned that my daughter was going to high school in the fall.

“Villa?” Some asked.

“Fairview.” I said.

Heads nod.

Many of us agreed that Villa was not a particularly good school academically. Most of us noted when we went to college, our classmates – even from public schools – were better read and prepared for college than we were. My math skills were on the mark, thanks to Sister Susan, but engineering turned out not to be for me. At least not at a school as large as Boston University. Thanks to John Kupetz, my knowledge and reading of American authors was sound enough to get me into sophomore and junior classes. But my overall reading of English literature was sadly behind. There were huge gaps in my knowledge of world history and cultures. I had a lot of catch up to do. And I was in the advanced classes in high school.

But that’s ancient history. And now I’m caught up on classmates, and if I missed anyone, I now have e-mail addresses. But my focus is on the future, not the past. I have a daughter about to navigate those same grades, different hallways.

Claudette did remind me that plum season will be coming up and one of her favorite dishes is plum chicken.

roast chicken with plumsPlum Chicken

1 whole chicken, or 1 whole chicken cut up (about 4 to 5 pounds)
Olive oil
3 to 4 sprigs rosemary
2 cloves garlic, whole and unpeeled
1 quart plums, cut in half and pitted
3 tablespoons honey
1 cup chicken stock (for the cut up chicken, optional for whole bird)

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Pat dry chicken or chicken pieces and place in a roasting pan. Rub with olive oil and then generously season with salt and pepper. Place rosemary and garlic underneath the bird in the pan. Roast for 30 minutes.


In the meantime, mix plums with honey in a bowl.


Tuck all of the honeyed plums into pan with the chicken and return it to the oven to roast.


For the chicken parts, roast for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and stir in the stock. Return pan to the oven and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest 10 minutes before serving.


To plate, put a piece of chicken on each plate and spoon some juices over.


If roasting the whole bird, roast for 20 minutes and check to see if the pan is dry. If it is, add half the stock. Return it to the oven and cook for another 20 to 35 minutes (depending on the size of the bird); the internal temperature should be 165 degrees in the thigh. Allow to rest 10 minutes and then remove chicken to a cutting board to carve. Reserve any juices and return them to the pan with the plums. Stir and spoon plums and plum juices on top.


Note: Discard rosemary before serving. You can squish out the garlic from its paper shell and stir into the pan juices or discard.