Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Delray Beach, Christmas Fantasy, Great Restaurants: Fort Lauderdale Things to Do

Delray Beach is one of several sea-side towns that offer quaint charm a pleasant drive from Fort Lauderdale.

A Winter Festival was being celebrated when I visited last weekend.

The many restaurants were decked out in holiday finery. After enjoying the rare treat of raw oysters, I sauntered over to the village square where Santa was holding court.

A snow machine had produced some of the white stuff for children, disappearing by the time I arrived.

Two young blades were testing their skills on the ice. From their dress and moves, I suspected they were more at home on skateboards on cement.

A horse of a different color invites visitors into Ted's desert and gift emporium.

Ted's is a feast for the eyes, as well as a treasury for your sweet tooth. This photo looks in from the door.

Christmas trees, glittering with decorations, seemed to be everywhere.

Bits of holiday cheer popped up in surprising places -- here, a mermaid in Mrs. Santa suit on shelves with candy gifts, top right.

Santa turns up on a vintage coffee sign -- itself tucked surprisingly among fishy wall art.

Santa in a gold suit goes sailing.

Santa draws attention to glittery gifts.

Two huge glass chandeliers of blown glass were exceptional works of art.

When you visit Fort Lauderdale and are looking for things to do, rent a car and take a drive to see some of the seaside towns.

Delray Beach, with its plentiful restaurants, is a pleasant spot for brunch, lunch, or dinner. Next further north is Lake Worth, which also has some exceptional luncheon spots, at least two with French themes. Last if you want to continue driving northward, quiet Stuart is worth seeing.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Stop Calling 'Em Terrorists; It Gives Punks Too Much Power

Calling the bomb-makers and other irritating crazy violent people terrorists gives them too much power.

I'm not terrified, are you?

Millions of Americans go about our lives every day, completely not terrified. We may be concerned, especially when we or a loved one boards an airplane.

We may be irritated, annoyed, exasperated, and fed up with these misguided miscreants.

But let's keep some perspective on this.

Calling them terrorists puffs them up with importance. It creates the impression that they hold one of the most powerful nations in the world in emotional bondage.

It suggests that Americans are sheep who are intimidated by a few crazy yahoos.

Let's stop creating a reality that does not exist and giving them credit they do not deserve.

Call them criminals, punks, severely delusional, sociopaths, psychopaths, and -- for the suicide bombers who are underage -- juvenile delinquents.

Believing one is a terrorist may be attractive to some people. Being called international scum, probably not.

Communication and psychology researchers have known for some decades that language constitutes in some part our reality. See, for example, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.

Journalists, wise up. Choose the words you use to describe renegade bomb-makers wisely. Diminish them; don't build them up.

I'm not terrified. Are you?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Billie Swamp Airboat Ride, Gators, Turtles:
Fort Lauderdale Things to Do

It was a perfect day for the Billie Swamp Airboat ride. The sky was blue as tourmaline and a light breeze riffled the air.

Even though I’ve lived in South Florida for most of the past 28 years, I’ve never been to the Big Cypress Park in the Everglades.


Chickee huts, native structures of the Miccosukee Indians, are everywhere.

They serve as picnic pavilions, places to store old farm equipment, and shady play areas for children. Some backyards have several.


These chickee huts may be seen from the dock of the Billie Swamp airboat ride.

The airboat is noisier than one might anticipate. Earplugs are distributed with one’s pass for the ride.


The ride is relatively brief. Nearly 15 minutes of the half-hour jaunt was spent parked in still water while the guide answered the prattling questions of a child.


Among the facts learned: There are 2.2 million square miles of Everglades and 6 million alligators.


As a longtime Florida resident, an alligator sighting is no longer a thrill. Mostly, one hopes not to see them crossing the road or climbing from the water into one’s yard.

They find little dogs and small children tasty.


We also encountered water buffalo and ostriches (or possibly emus) in one area of the swamp. Water buffalo were imported for the entertainment of the visitors who expect to see wildlife.

Their milk is used to make expensive Buffalo mozzarella.


I was especially intrigued by what appeared to be a mysterious portal in the shrubbery, photo above. I have a quartet of door and archway art on one wall of my home.


There is lots of nothing to see on the reservation, as the U.S. government was fond of giving Native Americans the least valuable parcels of land.


The Miccosukee have made the best of it, breeding cattle, rock mining, and of course the big money-maker, running casinos.


There is a small restaurant with a limited menu on the premises. I had the over-priced gator tidbits. It wasn't the first time I've had gator but it's not on every menu in the state either. Yes, it tastes like chicken.

There are some brightly-plumed jungle birds, snakes, and turtles in cages for visitors to see.



Sunday, August 01, 2010

Bubble Frenzy Stirred by Lady Gaga’s Dress Updates Long-Standing Entertainment Tradition

The bubble frenzy stirred by Lady Gaga’s bubble dress is only the latest in the uses of this ephemeral children’s activity in popular culture.

Sally Rand introduced the bubble dance to the stage. She and other exotic dancers used a large balloon to play an erotic game of hide-and-seek with the audience.

My mother is fond of recounting her time as a Navy wife in the midWest. Young and naïve, she didn’t find out for quite some time that the kindly couple who often stopped to chuck her babies under their chins were a bubble dancer and her husband, who accompanied her on the piano.

At an afternoon party for military families, they performed their act, without the erotic striptease. The children loved the bubbles.

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Hollywood sanitized the use of bubbles to simultaneously show and hide the female body. Bubble bath girls appeared taking utterly feminine bubble baths in foam up to their necks.

Andrew Einhorn has devoted an entire book to this cultural topic.

Thus, absolutely nothing erotic was visible. Yet, the knowledge titillated of a naked women’s body shimmering in clear water beneath the ephemeral surface. Salacious allusions of foam to cream add another dimension to this iconography. Lawrence Welk, who once fired a Champagne Lady singer for showing too much leg, reintroduced bubbles as family entertainment.

Welk's prolific use of the bubble machine constituted a new bubble frenzy that persists to this day. It drives up the price of this item of Welk memorabilia.

Lady Gaga -- the most original glamorous eccentric in quite some time -- is wrongly hailed as an innovator for the bubble dress.

Rather, she is an inheritor of an entertainment tradition who has made bubble frenzy uniquely her own.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Fashion Guru Throw Down: Tim Gunn versus Simon Doonan

Tim Gunn (Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style (Tim Gunn's Guide to Style)) is nice, but Simon Doonan (Eccentric Glamour: Creating an Insanely More Fabulous You) is funny.

Tim Gunn has got to be one of the most pro-active professors in the United States. I can’t think of any other faculty member – outside of sports coaches’ promotion of college football, basketball, and other sports – who has brought his school to national attention with its very own hit TV show.

Parsons School of Design was never really off-the-map. But Gunn’s brainchild, Project Runway, created with model Heidi Klum, created a fun forum to showcase students’ work.

Gunn always has a kind word for hard-pressed students in the pressure cooker of the Project Runway deadlines.

His slogan, “Make it work” has achieve a degree of national fame.

Doonan is mostly unknown to TV audiences. He’s been a guest presenter on America’s Next Top Model.

Doonan can be caustic, but his fashion lessons strike to the heart of the fashionista who deplores following trends.

Doonan’s slogan, “Say no to ‘ho” perfectly captures a lesson I wish more of my female students would take to heart.

The line between Las Vegas showgirl and college girl has grown so perilously thin it barely exists when it comes to campus dress.

I’m also in love with Doonan’s pronouncement that jeans and denim are over. If only it were true. Meanwhile, Gunn, in his Guide to Style, counsels pairing various accoutrements – a good pair of leather boots, a blazer – with jeans for a casual look.

If I were going out for a café lunch on a gray day when my spirits needed propping up, I’d choose Tim Gunn as my lunch companion.

The rest of the time I’d pick Simon Doonan. I’d laugh so much my face would hurt. I love that.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cuisinart ICE 50 Ice Cream Maker & Quest for Perfect Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

The Cuisinart ICE-50 ice cream maker set my feet firmly on a quest to concoct the perfect homemade vanilla ice cream.

After deliberating more than a year to make the purchase, the box sat on my floor unopened for another two weeks.

Finally, I started to research ice cream and how to make it.

One of my early newspaper jobs was typing recipes for the weekly food section. This taught me that all versions of any particular recipe have certain ingredients in common.

Cooks may disagree on the proportions and finishing touches, such as herbs, adding nuts or some other flourish.

One of the first thing I noticed about ice-cream and how-to-make-it tips: ingredient proportions vastly vary.

The best explanation of the necessary ingredients is Stephanie Jaworkski’s for custard-base ice cream, preferred by many cooks.

From Jaworksi I learned the contribution of each main ingredient:

  • Cream gives the ice cream its rich taste. Too much, however, can create butterfat lumps.
  • Sugar makes the mixture smooth but can prevent freezing when there’s too much.
  • Egg yolks add smoothness.
  • Flavoring also is a personal choice.

I expect egg yolks also help the ice cream to thicken. Cheap ice cream brands substitute gelatin or cellulose for egg yolks.

My first venture was chocolate ice cream. The recipe used eight egg yolks for four cups of liquid. Three cups of half-and-half was recommended plus a cup of heavy cream.

I like high butterfat content, so I made that two to two cups of each.

I reduced nine ounces of sugar to eight, because some readers found the recipe too sweet. I kept the cocoa at a half-cup.

Important steps in preparing a custard-based ice cream are
(a) heating the mixture until it just barely bubbles, between 160-180 degrees.
(b) Allowing the mixture to cool on the counter so that no liquid forms on the lid in the refrigerator.
(c) Refrigerating at least eight hours before churning so the flavors can blend.

This chocolate ice cream recipe was too thick and stopped churning after only 20 of 40 desired minutes.

It was good, but a tad too creamy even for me and very rich.

Eight egg yolks also left with me all those egg whites to use and makes this an expensive ice-cream recipe.

My next outing was purely my own devising: Two cups half-and-half to one cup heavy cream, three egg yolks (1 yolk per cup of liquid, cutting the chocolate recipe’s ratio in half), and less than a half-cup of sugar.

I followed the same procedure for cooling the mixture and marrying the flavors overnight in the frig. The vanilla extract is not added until the mixture is put into the churn. I used one overflowing teaspoon.

It churned beautifully for the full 40 minutes, froze smoothly, and tastes like the best vanilla custard ever. So far, I am using all organic ingredients. The one exception was the cocoa, but it was a good brand.

I have half the custard on standby, and I’m going to experiment with a flavor completely of my own.

I love the Cuisnart ICE-50 ice cream maker. It is easy to use, and anyone can become an ice cream chef overnight.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mid-Century Modern Buildings -- Fort Lauderdale Things-To-Do

Walk a few blocks from the beach at Oakland Park Boulevard to see some fine mid-century modern architecture.

Architectural sightseeing is free and one of the interesting Fort Lauderdale things-to-do.

One area, a few blocks that looks forlorn, reminds of gaudy former times when then beach was populated by low-rise buildings with details that perpetuate some of the clean lines of the Art Deco buildings for which Miami South Beach is famous.

Many of these architectural gems are being replaced by tall, architecturally undistinguished highrises that blot the shore from view.

Some projects apparently failed in the real estate market belly flop.

That leaves many treasures standing. A few are meticulously maintained and painted in authentic colors of the mid-century era.

A Fort-Lauderdale-Things-to-Do list ought to include a walk around this area before the mid-century modern buildings have been destroyed and replaced.

Another design influence of the mid-century modern beach residences is the clean lines of Scandinavian modern exterior and interior design.

Manhattan Beach has an interesting spiral tower that simultaneously hides the stairs and reminds of the steel skyscrapers of the real Manhattan Isle.

Windows are emphasized with boxes similar to the graphic lines of Art Deco – which in turn borrowed some of these graphic stylistics from Egyptian design elements.

The ochre yellow building also incorporates a circular design element, similar to the steamboat gothic feature of some Victorian homes.

These porches provide a place where residents could sit and chat in the gently cooling alternation of the sea and land breezes that sweep the barrier island.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Presidential Speech USA Isn't Ready to Hear

My Fellow Americans --

I wish I had better news for you.

Due to the reckless quest for profits by a global corporation, the Gulf of Mexico has suffered unprecedented ecological damage.

Even sadder, the best minds in government, academia, and the oil industry do not know how to fix this.

The damage from the oil spill may not be fixed for years, or decades -- and perhaps not ever.

I will hold BP responsible. But let's face it, some things can't be put right, no matter how much money BP spends and how much effort all of us put forward.

But make no mistake about it: It is not just BP oil and the government that are responsible for this disaster.

It is your fault, too.

You don't want to give up your SUVs, your fancy gas-guzzling sports cars, flying off to vacations here and there around the globe, air-conditioned homes, or even to cut down on use of high-speed internet connections.

You don't want to walk or bike to where you need to go. You will drive 10 or more miles to pick up a carton of milk, instead of waiting until the next time you are on that route.

You don't want to deny yourself the tiniest comfort.

The result is a nation that is overweight, at risk for heart attack, strokes, diabetes, and other preventable illness.

This tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico is all of our responsibility.

The time is now to walk, to bike, to take the bus, to go to a park near your home instead of a far-away vacation, to run fans whenever you can instead of the air-conditioning, and to admit that the only reasoning BP was drilling a mile under the sea was to satisfy our endless addiction for oil.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Fort Lauderdale Things to Do: Walk Seven Isles

Your Fort-Lauderdale-Things-to-Do list may not include taking a walk around Seven Isles.

Isle of Venice, a street branching North off Las Olas Boulevard, has some gems of mid-century modern architecture.

Mid-century modern is an outgrowth of Art Deco, for which South Beach in Miami is so popular.

It features clean lines and sherbert colors, such as aquamarine, peach, pink, and lemon yellow. Whitewash also is popular.

If you are looking for Fort Lauderdale things to do that are completely free and you enjoy getting away from the beach tourist zone to see how residents live, Seven Isles is accessible by bus, bike or scooter rental, or walking if you are up to it.

Some features of mid-century modern architecture are:

  • Soaring roof lines with clean angles.
  • Eyebrow windows – that is, windows have a detail above them.
  • Details, such as relief palms or tropical-themed murals.
  • Louvre windows.

Having lived in a 100-year-old building with these, I know how drafty they are in winter. Buildings were designed to let in the sea breezes back then, however. Now you will see air-conditioning units protruding from walls where they have been cut to accommodate this technology.

Seven Isles was dredged with navigable canals. This makes homes and condominiums among the pricier real estate.

Here are buildings on Isle of Venice you will see during your Fort-Lauderdale-things-to-do-walk.