Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Patrick Henry Charter School

First, I am sorry about the off topic commentary and rants of late, but hold on for one more. Second, most of my readers do not live in Richmond, so likely this is of no interest to you unless you just love to delve into the craziness of local politics. I also have to apologize that this has ABSOULTEY positively nothing to do with food.

So why am about to post on something not of interest to most of my readers???? Because I am using the only vehicle I have to get the word out to folks in Richmond that read my blog that might have a dog in this fight. So there (kidding!!).

I would love to go into a litany about the love /hate relationship I have with the city in which I choose to call home, however, for once in my mouthy life, I will attempt to show some restraint and stick to the topic at hand, schools. Though, let me be frank, it is killing me!

Richmond, is not in a totally unique position. I believe, that in America we have a public school crisis. This crisis will rock our country in about 20 years, when we are having a hard time competing in a world economy because our kids are going to lack the critical and analytical skills needed to compete against workers educated outside the U.S. That said, Richmond seems to take special pride in cultivating terrible schools.

Then came a dedicated group of parents that wanted a change. They were tired of seeing their friends leave to go to the county once their children got school age. They loved their city and they wanted the kids of Richmond to have an innovated and cutting edge school. They have worked tirelessly, for YEARS, to bring about Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts (PHSSA). Each step of the way Richmond Public Schools has thrown up, what the average person, would see as near insurmountable obstacles. I, for one, am ashamed to say, I never thought they could do it. This band of 20 or so folks, scaled every obstacle. Their support continued to snowball and their grassroots effort took hold. Richmond wanted a change and PHSSA embodied that change. They set about doing what Richmond had been failing to do for 20 or more years. Provided an opportunity to each and every child within the city to not only an adequate education but a stellar one.

After years and years of work they are set to open their doors in July (it is a year round school). For those of you that don’t know what a charter school is let be back up a little and explain. A charter school is a public school, it is available, at no cost, to any student (in this case any student in the city of Richmond). However, the total cost of opening the doors is born by the charter school. They only get public funding once the doors are open. Once open, a Charter school still has to pay some of there own way ,unlike a public school, but that cost is covered by fundraisers and grants, not by charging admission. PHSSA has been able to secure all the funds needed to open their doors. Now, at the twelfth hour, after hundreds of thousands of dollars have been secured, Richmond Public Schools is trying to renege on funding promised and needed once the doors open. I wish I could say I was shocked I am not.

Someone asked me why, why wouldn’t Richmond Public Schools want to add to their accomplishments a Charter school? She went on to say, every area she has ever known that has had charter options has thrived. It is a good question. Richmond is an amazing city, that has thrived not because of great leadership but in despite of bad. I can’t imagine the booming city Richmond could be if it could just simply say 4 words, “We have great schools.” This really is a matter of if you build it they will come. So what could Richmond possibly stand to loose by not supporting this?

Simple, it will be a glaring monument to the fact that Richmond leaders had failed their residents. It took 20 people to do what a city either could not or would not. It will be an unquestionable documentation to the fact that Richmond Public Schools had not only failed their children but have continually done so, not for lack of resource but simply for lack of want. It is shameful and they know it.

So if you live in Richmond and want to support PHSSA please come to the school board meeting February 1st details linked here

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bacardi Wants Your Money, However Leave Your Opinions at the Door

Okay, I will come back, at some point to tell you about the eggplant parm, trimmed down, however (It was very good) I am taking a moment to “share.” Please indulge my little rant and do with it what you will.

Let me give you the back story… my husband received, as a gift, for Christmas a bottle of Disaronno. Disaronno is typically too sweet of a drink for me, but I thought it would make an interesting modification on a Manhattan. I was right. I am not sure what possessed me but I thought I would e-mail them and share my idea. I sent an e-mail simply requesting information on how I could send a recipe idea I had using their product. Silly, I know, but I guess I was (pardon the pun) full of the spirit.

Here is the response I got back:


Dear Vanessa,

We are frequently received information, ideas or inventions (“Information”) from people who are not our employees. It is our policy to return, unopened, all identifiable unsolicited Information. If, due to inadvertence or due to lack of knowledge of contents, an envelope is opened, it is our policy to forward the Information to our Legal Department who then returns it to the sender with out giving it any consideration.

Should you want to submit your information to us, please write to:

Bacardi U.S.A., Inc.
Legal Department
Attention: Advertising & Trade Practice Counsel 2100 Biscayne Blvd Miami, FL 33137

and request a copy of our “Unsolicited Information / Idea Submission Policy” (Policy) for completion before submitting your information. Information received before compliance with our Policy with be return without consideration and we assume no risk, obligation or liability whatsoever regarding the reception, retention, confidentiality and consideration of you Information.

Best Regards,

I am leaving the customer service representatives name off, because she was just doing her job and should not be included in my disgust. So follow me on my ride of logic.

Here is basically what she said, if anyone ever wants to contact our company via mail, they are required to write and ask for permission to write to us, once and only once that permission is granted, they may then write. Furthermore, lets say I purchased their product and had a problem with it, and I wrote them to address my grievance. Lets also assume, I didn’t know I had to write and ask permission to write (ughhh…duhhh), they would just send my letter back unread and unopened. Really. Really???

It seems to me the proper response to my question was:
Dear Vanessa,

Please don’t bother, we really don’t care at all about our customers. Your satisfaction, is really and totally irrelevant to us Really. I mean seriously, we are not joking about this. If you have a problem with it, please write us and ask for permission to complain. If permission (oh, and this is such a LONG shot!) is granted, you must twirl around twice prior to licking the stamp or we will not be able to give consideration to your complaint.

Stuff it sucker,


Grrrr. Look let me make it clear that if they simply responded, that they don’t accept recipes, I would have no issue. I get it, they probably get thousands of recipes from silly girls like me that think they stumbled on to some great new drink. What I have an issue with is that this is their policy for ANY UNSOLICATED mail. Really. Really? Wow. It is sad to me. Maybe I am just sick of companies that seem to have forgotten that they need customers to make money, and that possibly it would behoove them to treat their customers decently. However, I can’t blame them because, we seem to have forgotten the ultimate power we have as consumers, not to purchase their product.

So on that note, I will in no way be a consumer of Bacardi products. The list includes:

Bacardi Rum (that was a surprise huh!)
Martini and Rossi
Bombay Saphire (the most overrated martini gin in this girls humble opinion)
Grey Goose
42 below
Havana Club Drambuie
Eristoff Vodka
B&B and Benedictine Liquores

Maybe I should send them a letter letting them know I am not a customer any longer.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Trying to Get On the Wagon

Okay you know when you start getting harassed by relatives to blog again, that you have totally fallen off the wagon. Joel and I try to eat reasonably healthy (too bad a bottle of wine in one sitting isn’t considered such…sigh), but along with the thrones of other fools we decided to recommit to healthy eating after the holidays. Thus my leaned down eggplant parmesan.

Before I get yelled at that this is not healthy… I know, I get it. I am not calling this boiled chicken breast, steamed broccoli, with a side of water. It is, after all, eggplant parmesan---ish.

I didn’t bread the eggplant. I sliced and salted it and let is sweat for about 45 minutes to an hour. I then with a brush coated a non stick with oil and cooked the slices. I covered it with a lid to try and hold in most of the moister. To my surprise.. .it caramelized nicely and all said I used ¼ of oil for 1 and a half eggplants.

I then sautéed 1 lb. lean ground beef, with fennel and onion, and seasoning.

In a pot, threw more fennel and onion and sweat that out and then put a container of crushed tomatoes and 4 grated garlic cloves and abut ¼ of wine and let that cook down.

Then I layered starting with eggplant, then beef, sauce, and repeat. I ended with sauce and large amounts of parmesan and then sliced fresh mozzarella and baked at 350 for 30.

Sorry for the short handed instructions…getting back on the wagon can be hard J I will let you know later how it turned out!

Happy new year all!!