Reposting this Chef Joey yum yum. ❄❄❄Make it special for the holidays!🎁🎁🌃 – R.T.
Text and recipe by Chef Joey
💜Rich, Chef Joey, Gigi and Santa!
What is a magical dessert that sounds too good to be true?
It is none other than Crème Brulée!
This delicious concoction, traditionally made with vanilla flavoring, first started appearing in cookbooks around 1690. It was translated into English mid-1700’s but kept the name. By 1800 it was called “Burnt Cream” in England.
Other names are Crème Anglaise. In Spain it is called Crema Catalana and is the dessert served once a year on Saint Joseph’s day (March 19). But instead of vanilla, it is flavored with the zest of lemons or oranges. You can do Nutella, chocolate, raspberry, etc – that’s what is so great about this dessert!
I recently reintroduced myself to this dessert, thanks to my new friends Stephanie and Penny who were constantly being served custard, which is cooked on top of the stove vs baking. It is an easy technique, and you don’t have to put the sugar on top and burn it.
It’s a delicious concoction that takes minutes to prepare and can be made ahead of time and keeps for a couple of days!
You will need ramekins for individual servings – or a glass pie plate will do for family style.
For the basic recipe you need:
1 quart of cream
6 eggs, separated
1 cup of sugar
and a vanilla bean!
I’ll list them below again. The fun is you can substitute the vanilla and add lemon, orange, almond, chocolate, pistachio, coconut etc – endless combinations!
So turn your oven on to 325, separate the eggs and save the whites for breakfast.
Add ½ cup sugar to the yolks and whisk until light in color and very fluffy.
In the meantime, add the seeds from the vanilla bean to the milk/cream in your sauce pan and bring to a boil.
Let it sit for 15 minutes to cool down, then slowly add it to the eggs whisking constantly.
Prepare your baking pan by placing the ramekins in the large rectangle pan.
Fill the ramekins with the filling, then pour HOT water into the holding pan – so it comes up just over halfway up the ramekins or pie plate.
Place in your hot oven and bake for 45 minutes.
The center should be a little jiggly and yet firm to the touch. Depending on your oven, adjust the cooking time.
Remove from the oven, take the ramekins out of the water, place on a cookie sheet and bring to room temp, then refrigerate.
They are ready to eat like this or dust with the rest of the sugar, just a light coating, and using a blow torch, fire it evenly on the sugar until it melts! You can do it under the broiler, but just keep a close eye on it!
I just watched the recent video “allegedly” (as the news reports put it) showing a man who was beating the living hell out of a camel in a live Nativity scene, and I’m bristling with anger. “Those poor camels have been smacked, kicked, choked by being pulled to the ground every time they try and stand up. My kids and I are absolutely heartbroken seeing them treat the camels this way. We didn’t even get the worst part recorded,” wrote the person who posted the now-viral video.
The display in question — which takes place annually at a medical center in Kentucky — has been canceled this year in light of this disturbing incident, but the facility claims that it has been renting animals from the same company for more than 20 years.
It’s chilling to watch YouTube videos of the center’s Nativity scenes in prior years and see the sheep, camels and donkeys used as props. As someone who has two donkeys who were rescued from abusive situations, I can only hope that all these animals weren’t also “allegedly” smacked, kicked and choked.
One thing that isn’t “alleged” is that animals used in Nativity displays are magnets for abuse. In 2014, a little donkey was crushed to death after a large man climbed into his pen and sat on his back to pose for pictures. He slowly died from injuries, which were likened to being “burst inside.” Other incidents include the barbaric beating of a donkey by three men in Virginia and the arrest of a West Virginia man who was caught sexually molesting a sheep used in a Nativity scene.
Some animals, frightened and confused, have broken away from displays. Anyone who has ever been around donkeys knows that they view dogs as predators. Even after two years, my miniature donkey Sam still becomes fearful and agitated when he sees my seven-pound Chihuahua. So it came as no surprise when I read about an incident involving a Nativity display in Richmond, Virginia, in which dogs attacked and mauled two sheep, causing a terrified donkey to bolt into the street, where he was struck by a car. All three animals had to be euthanized. A camel named Ernie was also hit and killed by a car when he escaped from a Maryland churchyard.
Even if they aren’t hurt or killed, animals used in seasonal displays often live in a perpetual state of discomfort and stress. Like all donkeys, my Luna is naturally cautious and doesn’t like sudden movements or loud noises. Yet donkeys and other animals are carted from one event to the next and subjected to a constant barrage of unfamiliar noises, camera flashes and activity while strangers try to touch them. Donkeys also have a hard time seeing things directly in front of their noses, so the sudden thrust of a hand at their muzzle or between their ears can easily frighten them, causing them to bite or kick
There are also other dangers lurking in the manger. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that such displays put the public’s health at risk— and children are the most vulnerable to diseases including anthrax, salmonella, rabies, E. coli and ringworm. Infections are spread through direct contact with animals or even by simply touching the area surrounding an exhibit.
It doesn’t take a wise man or woman to see how quickly a season steeped in magic can turn tragic when live Nativity scenes are involved. I would never consider subjecting Sam or Luna to such a cruel spectacle.
And after watching this haunting video of Christmas present, I hope kind people will join me in refusing to patronize live-animal Nativity displays so that they can be relegated to Christmas past—where they belong.
This year’s Annual Holiday Program for our neighborhood families celebrated, in addition to the Spirit of the Season, two other events: our 50th such Christmas Party and the first major event in our newly renovated gymnasium.
The program was attended by more than 1,100 people who enjoyed performances by the Friendly House Afterschool Program, Friendly House Teens, a clown act, the Imperial Lion Dance Team, Herbalife Dancers, Irish Step Dancers, Santa, WAIT, Ritmos Academy, In Da Zone (IDZ) and Novian.
– Gordon Hargrove, Executive Director
In our last issue I told you my ol’ friend Tony Hmura died at the very ripe old age of 93. I explained how this alt-right Worcester character was in truth a pretty compassionate guy who, for years, ran his own little nutty social service agency out of Leader Sign Co., his small business (and love of his life for 65+ years) on Canterbury Street.
Tony never dug deep to find the reasons for people’s addictions or problems because he didn’t spend time analyzing himself and his own pain. He was a working class guy who made signs! His motto? JUST DO IT! Neon, paint, corrugated plastic, saws, hammers, drills – you name it. Tony loved the physical, loved to be out in the elements, subduing them. The little guy – he was about 5′ 3″ tall and skinny – was happiest working with his son Bryan, in their huge company truck/crane, running up ladders, running on roofs…fixing, building. He was into …
… not …
Tears were a waste of time, for Tony. Life called for ACTION!!!!!!
So Tony had his hands-on solutions to problems Freud would have psychoanalyzed to death. Tony’d take hookers out for hot dogs at Coney Island, so they’d have a “square meal.” He’d give the emaciated neighborhood booze hounds 10 bucks, knowing they’d run straight up the street to Rendell Package store to buy their vino, not once thinking about eating. For years he’d buy 5-pound bags of Purina cat chow and dump a bunch of cat food in the bowl outside his shop for the feral cat colonies he cared for. Tony loved cats – thought they were beautiful – and did a great job of feeding and watering (every day) all the wild kittens and cats who, like the wild inner-city people, made their way to Leader Sign’s door step. But he was never interested in trapping/spaying/neutering them. Or having them vaccinated for rabies. He didn’t understand the feral cat issue – or even knew what a feral cat colony was. I called all my animal rights gal pals and got them ready to go with traps etc to Leader, but Tony never got behind the effort, wasn’t there at the shop to help them – or approve of them on his property. Maybe a group of Tony’s feral cats were “fixed” and vaccinated. Maybe not. He didn’t really get the point. For him, he had beautiful cats at his door step looking for food. So he fed them.
Tony used to brag about his furry kitty visitors – he told me their colors and described their markings with a smile. A tone of wonder. He was a nature freak, but didn’t admit the fact. For instance, he also left cat food and scraps outside the front door of his Auburn home. Often I’d visit to see a styrofoam take out carton filled with spaghetti or bits of bread or pizza crusts to the right of his WELCOME door mat. The Auburn feral cats, along with some very fat happy squirrels, were also cared for by Tony. The swans in the pond behind his house were counted – babies especially. The geese weren’t as lovely – but Tony liked them, too.
Christmas was the time of year Tony tried to make life better for poor kids and people in the ‘hood. For many years he was the “secret” Polish Santa – in an Irish-WASP-dominated city! This was Tony’s way of promoting his ancestry and saying Screw You! to Worcester’s movers and shakers, who always managed to keep Tony out of the loop. Always the narcissistic self-promoter, Tony marketed his Santa brand – had a ton of special Polish Santa silver dollars minted, in his image (a scrawny Santa that looked exactly like Tony), which he gave out to any body and every body this time of year, dressed as the Polish Santa, of course.
Every Christmas the Polish Santa would hit many of Woo’s seedier bars and night clubs to give his Polish Santa silver dollars, along with a $50 bill, to the rough but always very grateful waitresses or “show girls” – some offering themselves up to the Polish Santa for more presents … Oh, Santa BABY!
Tony might have nibbled but never committed himself – he was too rich for a girlfriend/second wife. He wanted to keep all his money to himself. Women were mostly for sex.
Often, with a just-visiting-for-the-holidays gal pal from Naples, Florida, (Tony bought a sexy Mrs. Claus red suit for her) he would fill a sack with cute stuffed Disney animals and plush toys and hand them out to school kids – usuually at St. Mary’s – way before today’s asshole pastor took over the little Polish school and neighboring church.
One year, his gal pal didn’t visit – so I got the call. I said: Yes, but the Christmas toys have to be given to a classroom of little kids at Canterbury Street School.
I told Tony the kids were needy and would love the presents and seeing Santa (Tony paid a lot of money for an amazing Santa outfit). And NO, I wouldn’t wear the sexy Mrs. Claus outfit with go go boots.
Tony had aspirations but he was, at his core, a pragmatist: OK, he said.
So the next day Tony and I went to a nice big box store and bought 15 cute little girl toys and 15 cute little boy toys, a ton of wrapping paper and red and green ribbon. We went to Tony’s house where he turned on America’s Most Wanted and I slaved over the gifts. Wrapping THIRTY Christmas presents in one go – complete with ribbon, red for girls, green for boys – is not really fun in one sitting. Especially with America’s Most Wanted blasting on the TV. Old Tony sat in his Lazy Boy and drank a glass of Moxie (yes, I was surprised they still make it) and annoyingly cracked open and ate pistachio nuts, his favorite snack.
Finally, I was done and annoyed. I told him: LOAD THE GIFTS IN YOUR CAR TRUNK YOUR SELF! Pick me up tomorrow and we’ll go to Canterbury.
Tony, in between sips of Moxie, said, Yep.
Next day Tony picked me up. As the Polish Santa. We drove to Canterbury Street School. He was told: We have two kids who are Mormons. You can’t bring in presents because it’s against their religion.
Tony walked back to the car, tear-assed. WHAT THE FUCK! said the Polish Santa. And added: Put the Mormon kids in another room!
Shit! said Santa’s exasperated helper. They can’t. You have to respect all families’ religion and you can’t discriminate. Especially in a public school. Even one filled with poor kids who would have loved getting Christmas gifts from Santa (even the Mormons).
This was the kind of politically correct explanation that was anathema to Tony. He hated hearing stuff like this – stuff that was right and true but still deeply fucked up. The new America. The America that he didn’t understand. The America that had left him behind.
That’s bullshit, Santa said to me.
I know, I said. And sighed. Then I suggested we go to St. Mary’s school where he could still have fun giving gifts to kids dressed as Santa.
Tony said OK. We drove to the little school on Richland Street, met the nun who at that time was school principal, walked down perfectly spotless, silent corridors and entered a third grade classroom whose students promptly rose to their feet and said GOOD AFTER NOON SISTER…
The good nun explained what would happen. Tony passed out the gifts. The kids sang a song for him as a thank you. The nun lead us out, thanking Tony profusely. I think he gave her a Polish Santa silver dollar.
The class sent Tony a cute homemade thank you card.
Next year I pushed Tony into donating toys for Chandler Elementary, another Woo inner city school filled with poor kids. I called the school to explain. They said no thanks to the Polish Santa but they would take his presents. Well, back Tony and I went to the big box store to get toys. Back to his house did we go where I slaved over gift wrapping again.
We drive to Chandler a few days later. No we can’t enter a classroom and no, the gift will not be given to grade 4 but to the special needs teacher for his one on one work with special kids. I thought that was nice. Tony did too. The principal shook Tony’s hand and thanked him.
Tony never got a thank you card or a call to come back, though I said the Polish Santa would love to adopt a classroom.
Yes, we did it all on the fly. But…so what?
Back at Leader Sign Company, a disappointed Polish Santa and his feisty elf sat, trying to make sense of the world we lived in. Yes, it was good to help. But it was bad to run with your feelings. Just do it. There were forms to sign, CORI checks to be run, fingers to be printed…everybody was equal but nobody was alike. There were all these trigger points ready to trigger off at any second. If anyone could trigger … panic, it was right wing Tony Hmura. Even as the Polish Santa!
It’s Ok, Tony. I said. Next Christmas we’ll do it right.
I was lying to my friend. The world didn’t work the way it used to. Tony was part of that violent, weird, old America. He didn’t have the keys to this new one. He didn’t know how to start the dialogue. Couldn’t understand.
But now the Polish Santa is buried in Notre Dame cemetery on Hope Ave., hopefully making merry with bare-assed cherubs and Jesus Christ himself, who I believe has forgiven the Polish Santa his main sins of cupidity and lust. Now for Tony it’s just peace and looking down on Leader Sign and Canterbury Street and wishing he could be a part of the chaos again.
The homeless shelter system in Massachusetts is primarily designed for adults, with staff focused on helping residents reach self-sufficiency. Often there is less bandwidth to support the extensive needs of children experiencing homelessness. According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, frequent creative play is integral to developing executive functioning skills in young children.
Horizons for Homeless Children’s Playspace Program, started in 1990, embodies our belief that every child has the right to joyful play experiences.
Playspaces are child-friendly rooms that Horizons has installed in more than 120 partner shelters across the state of Massachusetts. There are 12 shelter partners in Worcester, and 19 shelter partners in Central MA. Playspaces are designed – and play resources are carefully selected – to reflect the needs of children ages 0-6 experiencing trauma. Horizons’ Playspaces are created to give children a dedicated place to play and grow, and build connections with other caring adults who are committed to their success.
Our volunteers or Playspace Activity Leaders (PALs) are the heart of the Playspace Program. Our 1,200 PALs attend weekly shifts in Playspaces across the state and bring the joy of play to thousands of children. We currently offer 340 Playspace shifts a week—which is 680 hours of play each week for the children residing in shelters. Playspace not only gives children time to play; it also gives their parents time to take classes, pursue permanent housing opportunities, or spend much needed time on self-care.
This holiday season, we’re asking you to help support the Central MA Playspace Program. Volunteering as a PAL is a wonderful way to make a difference in the lives of young children experiencing homelessness in your community. We’re also in need of donations; we accept both financial gifts and items from our wish list. We have a specific wish list of items we are in great need of that has been created around the needs of the children we serve. Your donations help support Horizon’s Playspace Program.
To learn more about volunteering, visit us online at www.horizonschildren.org.
An interview with Mary S., a PAL from the Central Region who recently celebrated 20 years volunteering with Horizons:
Why did you start with Horizons?
When I first heard the commercial for Playspace Activity Leaders (PALs) for Horizons for Homeless Children on the radio, I felt a tug in my heart. It is hard to imagine a person without a home, especially a child. It was at that moment that I knew Horizons was going to become a part of my weekly routine. It became such a natural part of my routine and 19 years later, the 6 months felt like 6 minutes and the 19 years feels like 19 hours but the number of children and families that touched my heart are countless.
What do you enjoy most about being a PAL?
When I arrive at the shelter programs, I am greeted by smiles, hugs, and loud voices announcing the “Volunteers Are Here”! In addition, over the years I had the opportunity to volunteer with many PALS and work closely with shelter and Horizons’ staff, where everlasting friendships and memories were formed.
Why would you recommend being a PAL?
The gift of time of only 2 hours a week is priceless to young children and their families. Too often people feel that homelessness is too big to conquer, but I have learned that we can all make a difference in our own way. I really enjoy being a PAL and I cannot imagine a weekly routine without it!
Are there any specific stories that stick out in your memory?
When I think of being a PAL, I carry around images of sticky fingers, paint-stained clothing, dress-up play, crazy dance contests, and the time when a room full of crying, tired children, switched to laughter when I decided to sing a loud rendition of “Old McDonald Had a Farm”. There were many children who did not separate from their moms and after several weeks of having fun, they would join the children who did not want us to leave!
What impact has volunteering at Horizons had on your life?
I became a PAL because I truly believed that by spending time with a child I could make a difference — even if it was only for two hours a week. What I did not realize 19 years ago was how much it would change my own life. Each family comes to the shelter with their own challenging stories leaving family, friends, and personal belongings behind – looking for a better life. I have been inspired by the great courage, determination and strength evident in many of the parents to create something better for their families.
What one piece of advice would you give to a new PAL?
Have fun! Follow the lead of the children. If it is challenging to engage a child in a task, start playing, dancing or singing and they will eventually join in! Don’t hesitate to ask for help since, due to their unique experiences, they may exhibit some extreme emotions. The staff is always there to help!
Is there anything else about your experience that you’d like to share?
My pay is the peace I feel in my heart when I leave each week – and the satisfaction that the little bit of kindness we bring to the shelters can actually take someone who is overwhelmed and restore their sense of hope.
Inspired to get involved with Horizons?
There are many way to give back this holiday season – and beyond!
We have a wish list for our regional Playspaces, and are in desperate need of certain supplies. To get a full list, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also have three upcoming PAL trainings in Central MA:
Leominster : Thursday 1/19, 6-9pm
Worcester : Saturday 2/4, 10-1pm
Framingham: Wednesday 3/8, 6-9pm
Apply to be a PAL online by registering for training, please visit www.horizonschildren.org/PALapplication.
Children ages 0-12, must be accompanied by an adult
Raffles, Gifts for all Children ages 0-12 in attendance
First come, first served!
P.S. Toys, volunteers always needed this time of the year!
Join the movement!
Sometimes first aid isn’t a bandage, or CPR, or calling 911.
Sometimes first aid is YOU.
A young person you know may be experiencing a mental health or substance abuse problem.
Learn an action plan to help!
This free course teaches participants the risk factors and warning signs of a variety of mental health challenges common among adolescents …
… including anxiety, depression, psychosis, eating disorders, AD/HD, disruptive behavior disorders and substance abuse disorder.
Participants do not learn to diagnose or how to provide any therapy or counseling – rather, participants learn to identify and support a youth developing signs and symptoms of a mental illness … Learn the core 5-step action plan.
Places and Times:
First Congregational Church, Shrewsbury
January 25, February 1 and February 8
7 pm – 9:30 pm
St Andrews Episcopal Church, Grafton
January 10 and January 11
9:30 am – 1:30 pm
St. Bernadette School Pastoral Center, Northboro
January 12 and January 19
10:00 am – 2:00 pm
Register at syfs-ma.org or contact Christine Mowry at email@example.com
In holiday seasons’ past, the 1946 classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, was on many television channels all Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. It was as much a part of the festivities as Thanksgiving turkey and the Christmas tree. Today the movie is shown once or twice a year on one station only.
I am going to briefly recount the plot:
The main protagonist in the film is George Bailey. The venue of the drama is Bedford Falls, a small town in upstate New York. Bailey becomes manager of the “Bailey Building and Loan” after his father dies. If George Bailey had not stepped forward, the institution would have been shuttered by the evil Mr. Potter, “the richest man in the county,” who is depicted as the greedy capitalist incarnate.
During the next few decades Bailey repeatedly frustrates Potter. Bailey builds housing subdivisions, into which Potter’s tenants move to from Potter’s slum housing. Enraged to learn that Bailey is selling his houses at half their value, Potter tries to buy Bailey off by offering Bailey a job working for him with a salary at 10 times his current income. When Potter tells Bailey that he will shut down the building and loan if George accepts his offer, an enraged Bailey storms out of the meeting.
The final scenes of the movie take place when Bailey’s younger brother Harry, whom George saved from drowning in their youth, is reported by the local newspaper returning home after winning the Congressional Medal of Honor. (George could not serve in World War II because of an ear injury sustained in saving Harry.) Harry won the medal after saving 250 men on a transport carrier, by shooting down a Japanese Kamikaze. In the meantime, George is preparing for the routine federal audit of the building and loan’s books.
George’s uncle, Billy Bailey, on his way to the bank to deposit $8,000 of the building and loan’s funds, runs into Potter. Old Billy begins busting Potter’s chops, saying George stayed home from the war, “because not every heel was in Germany and Japan.” He gives Potter the newspaper with the account of his nephew’s war heroics – and accidentally leaves the $8,000 deposit inside the paper!
As Billy Bailey frantically searches for the money, Potter seizes this opportunity to finally destroy the Baileys once and for all. Potter keeps the money and tells no one.
After vainly searching for the missing money, Bailey goes to Potter to ask for a loan to balance the books. Potter asks Bailey what he has for collateral. Told that Bailey has a $12,000 insurance policy with $500 in equity, Potter sneers, “You’re worth more dead than alive,” and then in front of Bailey, calls the local prosecutor’s office to turn Bailey in for embezzling bank funds. For all his wealth and power, Potter is a mean and bitter old man.
Bailey makes his way to the edge of town, and remembering Potter’s words that he was worth more dead than alive, plans to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge.
At this point, divine intervention takes place in the form of Clarence Odbody, ASC (Angel Second Class.) Clarence wants to become an angel first class, for which the award is a pair of wings, by saving George from suicide.
When Bailey opines it would be better if he had never been born, Clarence realizes this is his golden opportunity to make George see his own self-worth.
He magically erases George from history.
George wanders into Bedford Falls, horrified to find it is now named Pottersville. His wife, never married – is the town librarian and an old maid. The scenic small town shops and family-owned retail outlets have been replaced with X-rated movie houses, pawn shops and liquor stores. George’s friends have been turned into brutes by economic hardship. Because George wasn’t there to save Harry from drowning, Harry died and wasn’t there to save the 250 men on the troop transport; all are killed by the Japanese Kamikaze. It now dawns on George that he did indeed have a wonderful life.
Clarence grants George’s wish for his old life back. George’s friends and family members flock into his house with enough money to more than balance the bank’s books. As the movie ends, there is a ringing Christmas decoration to announce that Clarence has won his wings.
This was the quintessential American movie, a slice of Americana as delicious as any pizza. There is the hero fighting evil against overwhelming odds (think Marshall Dillon, Rambo and, in cowboy roles, John Wayne); a villain with no redeeming qualities who everyone loves to hate (Potter); a love story between Bailey and his wife (like Talia Shire in the first Rocky movie) and the traditional American movie ending in which good triumphs over evil.
Watching this movie, one cannot help but think how America is a much different place.
Sixty years ago, it was not considered extraordinary that a businessman was a hero for putting his customers before “shareholder value.”
Nor was it considered unusual for a bank examiner to check a financial institution’s books. In the recent past, government prudently regulated Wall Street.
In the atomized world in which people are fixated on silently texting, Tweeting and Snap-Chatting on their smart phones “It’s a Wonderful Life” reminds us of a time when Americans were a real community. People helped each other out through the hard times. And they remembered – lauded – civic leaders who stood up for the less fortunate among us.