Archive for July, 2014

Food plus Patrick Swayze = girls’ night in

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014
Sami Gillette

Having money to spend and going somewhere opulent to spend it definitely has an appeal. Yet, often I’ve found that being creative and spending less money in the pursuit of fun can be much more rewarding. That’s what happened this weekend.

My friend Mary Rose and I wanted to meet up in Syracuse, where she resides. At first we discussed meeting at a restaurant. Normally I would love to join her for a nice dinner and a glass of wine with all of the appropriate ambiance. But together we have very expensive tastes, which I unfortunately can’t afford.

So, after relaying my concern about the cost she suggested we have a girls’ night in at her place.
That was by far the best decision.

We gorged ourselves on a variety of homemade, fabulous food and drinks. There were two different types of cheeses to go with the baguette I brought – one of which Mary Rose had me try with fig jam. It was a great blend of sour and sweet and the flavors melded beautifully.

I had also brought raspberries, pineapple and sliced tomato to serve as an appetizer with the bread and cheese. Mary Rose had made a fresh zucchini salad, which was a new experience for me. She had sliced the zucchini paper-thin and length-wise. She tossed the vegetables with a homemade vinaigrette, prosciutto and parmesan cheese.

“If this isn’t good, I’m going to be mad!” she laughingly said. She had found the recipe in a magazine earlier that day and was eager to try it. Mary Rose had no reason to be upset – the salad was refreshing and as vibrant on the tongue as it was on the eyes. I couldn’t help but go back for seconds.

To go with the salad she had made roasted chicken breasts and thighs that were nicely seasoned and reminded me of the barbecue chicken that the fire department always makes during the summer.

In keeping with the freshness and lightness of the meal, she also made fresh blueberry lemonade mixed with top shelf vodka.

By the end of the meal I was content and felt altogether spoiled. What made it even better was watching the movie “Dirty Dancing,” (1987) starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. Mary Rose had never seen it before and seemed to really enjoy it.

I wasn’t surprised that she was a fan. Who doesn’t love a leather wearing, tough guy who is also an expert, elegant dancer? She didn’t understand the Swayze obsession… until she did.

“Nobody puts Baby in the corner,” may not be the most significant line in the late 80′s, but it was certainly the best way to end a great girls’ night in.

A Generation of “Stuff”

Monday, July 21st, 2014
Matt White

I was a humble child – not because my Dad wanted me to be and certainly not because I wanted to be – because I grew up in the eighties.
In the eighties, technology indispensable and expensive. Not the Vain, “I must have the next generation of iPhone TODAY!” expensive; just in general due to the proximity of innovation of things that we take for granted today.
There was no such thing as “disposable” in the household that I grew up in. My grandmother would use paper towels then drape them off from the dish rack to dry them like some folks do with cotton terrycloth hand towels. Likewise ziplock bags were rinsed out and left to dry for re-use, and plastic silverware was washed and put back into the bow for the next gathering; a custom which I never really understood – why not just use silverware?
The children of today – including my own gaggle – live in a dispensable, plastic world. They’ve grown up knowing nothing different. To them, there is no real value in these gadgets much more than two weeks after they get it, even if after pining for weeks or months – only to be distracted by the next best thing that comes along.
I assume that the clever ways of the marketing think tanks made it impossible for us to pin-point exactly then this trend started, a kind of absurd “Jedi mind trick” we “consumers” are all under the influence of, so that we don’t remember way back when things lasting more than a year was “a thing.”
I applaud folks who posses the powers of abstention. Those who have the ability to bypass the system of cyclical obsolescence. My buddy Shawn Magrath is one such super-human. He managed to find a way to wade through the swampy jungles of the smart phone marketers, ad campaigns and inciting offers.
Shawn has an old flip-phone (gasp!) that he’s been toting around for roughly five years, which is pretty amazing considering that it itself is made of cross-linked chinese polymer.
So, I envy Shawn; he’s younger than I an has never used a so-called “smart phone” – yet, Shawn has a masters degree in Educational Technology. He must know something the rest of us do not. Go figure.
Personally, I feel very sad that we have chosen this path of instant gratification and pacification over being able to cherish and hold onto things. We’ve become so addicted to life in the fast lane that we need everything instantly, even if it means we don’t physically own anything in the end.
My children tend to marvel over our family photo albums. The was a time in my life when I would take a dozen rolls of film at a time to the drug store for developing. Now, I take a picture with my phone and send it to Facebook so that I can reference it in the future on an electrified screen on a whim.
I’ve duped into the same manner of thinking, though. My purchase of one of those Kureg coffee machine about two years ago – 70 percent because I talked myself into it, 30 percent because it was a legitimately good idea – is a fine example. I mean, why brew a whole pot?
It took me a year to become completely disgusted with the idea of throwing a plastic k-cup (or two, in my case – I like strong coffee) in the trash for one single cup of coffee. And it mention it tastes horrible, and you can’t argue that point. So I went back to my trusty Bunn, which makes 12 cups in three minutes without fail.
I used to believe that I wanted all the coolest and fanciest things as an adult because I didn’t have many of those things growing up – but the more I think about it, the less I agree with that sentiment.
Midway through my life, I’m beginning to understand that less is more and the most beautiful things are drenched in simplicity.
Now onto the real struggle – convincing my kids (who know no other way) to appreciate simplicity.
Wish me luck.

Sweet memories of maple syrup: a family legacy

Sunday, July 13th, 2014
Sami Gillette

There are many people in the world who grow up never knowing their father, or never understand what he does and who he is. I was fortunate enough to be raised in a family where my dad was not only present, but where I was able to participate in his business.

He produces maple syrup and has been doing so since his grandfather taught him the craft as a young child. There is a small, run down sugar shack behind the Methodist Church in Poolville that my dad built as a teenager for his first large scale production. The sugar house behind my house is much bigger than this first sugar shack but the memories are just as dear.

My experience growing up involved going to the woods with my dad and siblings to tap trees, collect sap and do small tasks in the sugar house while he boiled. I remember tasting the sap – clear and slightly sweet with only a small percentage of sugar content. In contrast, the syrup has a golden amber color that mirrors its sweet, deep flavor. Many of my favorite memories revolve around the neighbors, friends and families that would come visit and help during sugar season. There would be laughter, comradery, teasing and sometimes complaining as everyone worked together in the intense, lengthy process that is maple syrup production.

Often we would celebrate the beginning of the season with pancakes, usually in the afternoon after many hours of work. My mom would make pancakes, eggs and sausage for the all of the people who were in the sugar house. I would eat until I couldn’t eat any more and then, as stealthily as I could, run my finger over my plate so I could taste every last drop of the syrup.

People who buy maple syrup in the store or use artificial syrup (yes, I’m judging you) may not know how much effort goes into producing one gallon of syrup. It take approximately 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. That adds up quickly as my dad needs to make enough product for his retail and wholesale clients each year.

Despite the hard work, maple syrup production is something that my dad loves and will never give up. It represents a legacy, tradition and regional heritage that he is proud of. First begun by Native Americans who lived in the region, maple syrup production is one of the few industries that manages to be innovative but stays true to an unchanging, age-old process. It is a lifelong endeavor for my dad, and will always be a part of his identity. I feel so lucky that he has been able to share it with me and my siblings.

Gillette’s Maple Products is located at 125 County Road 20, Sherburne. Call 674-4026 for more details or to place an order.

Where have I been the last four months?

Thursday, July 10th, 2014
Patrick Newell

According to our website, March 4, 2014 was the last time I posted a blog. In case you were off the grid the past few months, I left the newspaper for New Mexico, and recently returned after a 3 1/2-month absence. I wrote back-to-back columns over the past two weeks detailing my time away from the paper, although I steered clear of the specific details of my return.
I won’t delve too deep into my decision to return to New York, but let’s just say finding a job in the newspaper business in 2014 is an extremely difficult task. Those who already have a steady job in the media hold on to said position until retirement or death – whatever comes first.
With the impending departure of Shaun Savarese, the sports editor during my hiatus, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to once again step back into my old role. Thank you Shaun for your time covering Chenango County sports, and I wish you well in your next endeavor.
To the Chenango County readers, it is truly a blessing for me to chronicle the achievements of local athletes. I’ve said it many times and I’ll write it again: Yes, this is a job, but it never feels like work.

Two of the biggest summer events that I have covered the past 19 years are right around the corner. This weekend, hoops will dominate the center of Norwich with the return of Gus Macker. It seems so long ago when then-Norwich mayor, Joe Biviano, sought out ideas to spice up Norwich’s summers. I can’t remember anything else Joe did while in office other than rubber-stamping Gus Macker, but this tournament has proven a smashing success for nearly two decades, and it shows no sign of slowing down.
The second big event, and this applies to my personal affinity for golf, is the annual Canasawacta Country Club Men’s Member-Guest tournament. I have covered several local tournament, but this one is the biggest, draws the best overall competition, and oozes camaraderie, family, and fellowship. As a lifelong golfer, It really doesn’t get much better.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickLNewell

Love and crime in ‘Great Expectations’

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
Sami Gillette

The movie “Great Expectations,” directed by Mike Newell (2012) is a lovely, poignant adaption of the classic novel by Charles Dickens. Ralph Fiennes plays an intimidating, but later sympathetic Magwitch and Jason Flemyng plays a loveable Joe Gargery. The main character, Pip, played by Jeremy Irvine, is as handsome, earnest and naive as one could hope for and does a convincing job of portraying Pip’s confusing, convoluted journey to win Estella’s heart.

But the characters who steal the show are Miss Havisham, played by Helena Bonham Carter, and her coldly beautiful protégé, Estella (played by Halliday Grainger). Miss Havisham is at times easy to hate, funny, sympathetic and pitiful. Estella remains aloof and calculating, but hints of her need for love and warmth shine through.

While “Great Expectations” is a love story, it is also a study of society and capitalism. This critique can be seen in the relationship between the lawyer Jaggers and his assistant Wemmick. Though the characters are only secondary in film, they serve as important players throughout the novel.

In the novel, both characters refrain from any sentimentality or pleasantness because their jobs focus around the cold reality of the state system. Only by distancing themselves from their personal lives can Jaggers and Wemmick have an unobstructed view of the world and the systems that make it up.

Early in the novel Wemmick reveals this separation through his desire for “portable property,” which is the only thing that can move between the spheres of the private and professional – usually taking the form of money or small material possessions.

By emphasizing the importance of portable property Wemmick seems to be excluding sentimentality, which cannot be disposed of easily like portable property.

Jaggers furthers the importance of sensibility, rather than sentimentality, in the passage when he describes the idea of a “pleasant home” as “poor dreams.” By describing these “dreams” as poor Jaggers suggests that they are burdensome in the realm of his office and, consequently, not worth talking about (393). This aloofness allows them to work within and around the rules of the state and society of Dickens’ London. Only by disguising their personal lives can Jaggers and Wemmick thrive in their positions as servants of the state.

Jaggers tells Pip and Wemmick that “he lived in an atmosphere of evil… [children were] generated in great numbers for certain destruction” (393). In this line a more detailed picture of Dickens’ fictional London is created. There many people’s fates are determined by their circumstances of birth and the social structure, which responds to crime with punishment, rather than promoting the betterment of the individual.

In response to this dreary circumstance of London Jaggers reveals that there “was one pretty little child out of the heap who could be saved” (393). Estella, the daughter of the criminal Magwitch and Maggie, a murderess, is adopted by Miss Havisham. This change in circumstance as a young child is the only thing that saves Estella from the sad fate experienced by both her biological father and her mother. Through her adoption Estella was able to escape her “destiny” of crime. Yet, the price is high because she is just a toy for the amusement of the rich Miss Havisham.

At the end of the film Estella and Pip are finally in circumstances that will allow them to be together. But rather than a joyous, romantic occasion, both seem weary. Their innocence is lost and life has taken a toll on both of them. Perhaps that is the point. They will find solace in each other, despite society’s flaws and life’s imperfections.

Stress relief, and Indiana’s vanity plate plight

Monday, July 7th, 2014
Shawn Magrath

My job can be stressful. As a reporter, I typically teeter a fine line between appeasing my readership’s right to know the full story and keeping important professional contacts. It can be a challenge, even more in small time Chenango County. Fortunately there’s an extensive club for people like me who are stressed. I know it as the National Association of Everybody.

Proving that I’m not alone when it comes to stress, a poll conducted by National Public Radio and the Harvard School of Public Health found that more than 25 percent of Americans have experienced a great deal of stress in recent months, resulting in increased health and behavioral issues crippling to their personal and professional livelihoods. In a cruel twist of irony, a survey previously issued by these institutes also show that a leading stressor among Americans is illness and disease.

So if stress causes illness and illness causes stress, how is this never ending crapstorm defined by the Affordable Care Act and when will I be eligible for workers’ comp?

For some with serious illnesses, stress relief may not be far off with the Governor’s signing of legislation on Saturday to make medical marijuana a reality in New York State. In spite of mounting pressure nationwide to legalize recreational marijuana, I applaud New York State legislators for the stipulations tied to medical marijuana that restrict administration to non-smokeable forms (i.e. ingested or administered via a vaporizer or oil base).

Even so, with the states of Colorado and Washington paving the way for legalized recreational marijuana, it’s only a matter of time before the Empire State follows suit. I’m already considering investment in stocks of tuna fish and Doritos.

Stress and pot aside, I came across a national news story from the Associated Press on Monday concerning the Indiana Supreme Court’s possible decision to outlaw vanity license plates. This because of one police officer’s personal plate that read “0INK.” The AP reported that the officer’s license plate has been revoked by the BMV – a decision that a local judge said was a violation of the officer’s freedom of speech. But the BMV said it would file a notice of appeal Monday, asking the state Supreme Court to overrule the judge’s decision.

Prior to his ruling in June, the local judge also cited similar instances when the Indiana BMV approved vanity plates such as “B HOLY” and “HATERS” while denying others like “UNHOLY” or “HATE.” To justify these inconsistencies, the BMV claims it’s permitted, under state law, to refuse issuance of a plate if it carries a “connotation offensive to good taste and decency” or that would be “misleading.”

Indiana’s license plate quandary makes me question my own New York vanity plate, “JU1CY.” Misleading, indeed.

Random thoughts from the editor, and coffee issues

Saturday, July 5th, 2014
Ashley Biviano

I’ve slacked in the blogging department lately. Therefore, here’s a quick little ‘editor’s update.’
The editorial staff recently said goodbye to the man who had been handling our sports section since March. I wish Shaun the best of luck in his future endeavors. Also, I owe him plenty of thanks for bringing coffee into my office some mornings. I’m not a morning person, and can be a total jerk until I finish that third cup. Thank you, Shaun, for making sure my mornings were less rough.
On a related note, Pat Newell, 18+ year sports editor, has returned to The Evening Sun. His first week back was as smooth as could be, and the editorial staff was able to keep the 30-year-old tangerine tree that he kept in our building while he was gone alive. We (well … I) named the tree Victor. He was in good hands, and Pat seemed happy to see that he was rotated and watered as instructed. To be honest, I didn’t water or rotate the tree once. The others made sure Victor was well taken care of.
I had a vacation I had planned (essentially) since last June. I was going to spend a week in New Hampshire at The Eleventh Annual Porcupine Freedom Festival in Lancaster (I wrote about it last year … you can find it somewhere on this site, if you’re interested). I went last year, but life happened and I couldn’t make it this year. Luckily I had friends who were able to use my campsite, and I wasn’t out too much money in the end. Anyway, I had spent some time showing Staff Writer Shawn Magrath the ropes of my job, and he handled things (with me semi-close by) for a couple weeks so that in case I happen to be sick one of these days or something, I’ll be able to take a day off.
Life becomes a little less stressful knowing there is a plan B.
That being said, I was away from my desk for a while to let Shawn do his thing, and went back to playing reporter for a little bit. Boy, I don’t miss that. The calls that don’t get returned, the emails that go unanswered, and the people who miss interviews. I’ll stick with my gig: build pages, answer emails, phone calls, and write the random story here and there when I have time to kill in the morning and something happened.
It feels good being back in my seat. Even though I was still working, it wasn’t the same. But I do thank Shawn and the rest of the staff for their hard work.
On a completely unrelated note, our building is going through some renovations, apparently. I come in each morning and something else has been moved or painted or the mirror from the ladies’ room has been relocated to the hallway. The coffee makers are unplugged.
The mirror thing … no biggie. I don’t look in mirrors really anyway. However, the coffee thing (as stated in the beginning) is a pretty big deal if we want a pleasant editor.
The Keurig we have in the kitchen is great. I can make a cup super quick, but we’re out of K-cups. Sam doesn’t drink coffee, but 80 cups split between three people only lasted a couple weeks.
We have another coffee maker that could potentially hold multiple pots of coffee (burners that keep it hot on the top and all that jazz), but it takes forever to heat up and be ready to brew if it gets unplugged.
Which now leads me to my ‘moment of the week.’
The ‘big’ coffee maker got unplugged. We have no K-cups. We do have – thankfully – one of those things where you can scoop the coffee into it and pop it in the Keurig and make a single cup.
Attempting to do this before any coffee in my system is a disaster waiting to happen. Coffee grounds landed all over the counter, I couldn’t manage to close the container thing once I scooped in the coffee, and I dropped grounds all over the kitchen floor.
Staff Writer Matt White made his way into the kitchen to witness my failure at the coffee making process. By this time, I had grounds all over my hands, on my shirt, and he had to assist in the closing of what I will name ‘the worst coffee thingy ever.’
Finally a cup of disgusting, watered down coffee with floating grounds was made and I drank the entire thing. Luckily, it wasn’t long after when the dinosaur coffee maker was ready to roll.
Moral of this long, long, story?
I probably should look in the mirror more.
… As it turns out, I built that day’s paper with coffee grounds all over my face. Perfect.

The space between the notes

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014
Sami Gillette

While the world is diverse in its populations, cultures and languages, there is one aspect that permeates every part of the globe – music. An art form, a political statement, an outlet for anger, an expression of love, or a pure form of celebration – music has all of these purposes and more, no matter the genre. A good beat, a smooth rhythm and a catchy hook can transport listeners and often express the human experience for those who aren’t naturally artistic or vocal.

“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything,” Plato once wrote.

Music can also provide relaxation and stress relief. It would probably shock the average person how much they turn to music as a release of some sort. For the good times and the bad.

Maya Angelou said it eloquently, “Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.”

People find such solace through music, no matter the genre. Preferences range greatly. In fact, “What’s your favorite type of music?” is a popular question on a first date. Some may even consider the answer insight into future happiness or a dire warning of complete, irrevocable incompatibility.

One of my favorite recent experiences was attending The Taste of Country Music Festival in Hunter, NY. Country music used to be a staple for me as a child – the songs of LeAnn Rimes, Shania Twain and Tim McGraw still flood my brain with memories. While I did move on to other genres, such as rock, pop and more recently R&B and hip-hop, the festival reminded me that country music can be profound, as well as inspire a great time.

“To the things, I believe in / My faith, your love, our freedom / To the things I can count on / To keep me going strong / Yeah I hold on, I hold on,” sang Dierks Bentley during his performance. This type of experience with friends around and the crowd singing along, connecting to a song that was his, but also ours, is one of the most powerful ways to stay in a moment.

These same type of moments were experienced during the BET Awards, which premiered this Sunday on BET. There was an array of great performances – some of the best are worth replaying over and over again. Yolanda Adams gave an amazing, powerhouse performance when she sang “Jesus is Love” in tribute to Lionel Richie, the BET Awards honoree. Nicki Minaj, Trey Songz, Chris Brown, August Alsina and Beyonce’s performances were also memorable, but with a very different focus. Love, sex and romance anyone?

What was most interesting about the show was the variety of ages and tastes that were able to come together in a celebration of music. New and old artists came together, recognizing their craft but also taking the time to acknowledge artists on the rise.

No matter one’s taste in music, it is there to be enjoyed and serves to bring people together. Love, rebellion, national pride, partying – those themes transcend all genres. One of the strongest abilities of music of any genre is its ability to remind us of our commonalities.