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The greatest modern songs? My head is spinning!

The world's hardest contest?Each year, WXPN-FM out of Philadelphia (the station with whom I have an enduring love/hate relationship) asks listeners to submit their nominations for songs based on a theme. This year's theme is nearly impossible for someone who loves music as much as I do:

"885 All-Time Greatest and Worst Songs"

This is almost undoable on many levels. First, what kind of songs do they mean? Songs played on WXPN? They've played opera arias on WXPN such as "The Flower Duet" by Delibes. Can we submit those? They've played show tunes and movie themes? Are those eligible?

So you can see the theme is too broad. Even if you toss out show tunes and opera arias/classical and stick to contemporary music, the theme is still too broad. Should Benny Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing" be included or perhaps "Rhapsody in Blue" by Gershwin or will they be a throwaway votes, once again sending Bruce Springsteen into the top ten?

If I vote for "The Christmas Song" sung by Nat King Cole and "Thunder Road" by Springsteen wins this contest AGAIN, I am going to blow a gasket.

I don't live in the heads of WXPN radio show hosts, and I don't know what they mean by "All-Time Greatest Songs." This is an unfortunate case of GM Executive Syndrome, where all those at WXPN making the decisions are thinking too insularly, as if all of their listeners think just like them.

Last night, my husband Bill and I discussed our top ten lists. I told Bill I wasn't going to name artists who should be on anyone's top ten list and then select one of their songs. Instead, I would try to recall the songs that really moved me, that sent me into orbit, the first time I heard them. And there are so many that didn't make my list such as these great tunes:

  • "Spinning Wheel" by Blood, Sweat and Tears
  • "Fields of Gold" by Sting
  • "Wicked Game" by Chris Issac
  • "Another Star" or "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder
  • "Walking on Broken Glass" by Annie Lennox
  • "Don't Know Why" by Norah Jones
  • "Up, Up, and Away" by the Fifth Dimension
  • "Baby, Now That I've Found You" by Allison Krauss
  • "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen
  • "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin

I can't fit everyone who needs to be on my list on my list. How can I not include Billy Joel, James Taylor, Stevie Wonder, and The Beatles? Or Steely Dan, Annie Lennox, Sly and the Family Stone, and Ray Charles?

So, who did make my list? Well, I'm still finalizing it. In the meantime, I'll leave you to ponder my quandary while listening to this little gem from my lifetime:

And a noodge to WXPN--once again, you didn't list a #hashtag on the contest info page. Sheesh! You guys are killing me. (It happens to be #885countdown but I had to go digging for it.)


Finally, a recipe for moist ground chicken burgers!

Ground chicken burgers are a nice subsitute for beef, provided they are moist.Round about this point in the summer, I'm looking for reasons NOT to grill the good old hamburger or fix the all-too familiar hot dog. I've had my fill of both.

(Parenthetically speaking, I am also one of those people who never knows what to do with chutney when I get it as a gift. Which means someone always gives me chutney, and, in fact, the chutney in my cupboard has been sitting there since the holidays untouched until yesterday!)

Okay, back to my dilemma. Usually in August, I I'm desperate for workable, practical substitutions in recipes for ground beef--such as ground turkey, veggie burger which I use in taco salads, or even ground chicken.

I need to put it right out there that ground chicken and I have a past--a checkered past. It can cost plenty and has dried out quickly whenever I've cooked it before, leaving me high and dry with family or guests.

For some reason, whenever I fix ground chicken, it has either been too dry after cooking or too darn soggy and sticky to form into meatballs or patties. (This just happened. My chicken burgers using an Internet recipe turned into chicken goo. So one keeps adding breadcrumbs, which is one reason why the chicken comes out too dry. The other is that it doesn't have a lot of fat content, so you have to find ways to put the fat back into chicken burger.)

That's why I am so excited (or as my friend's granddaughter says, "I so 'cited!") to share this recipe with you for a deliciously moist chicken burger patty.

Gale's Glorious Summer Chicken Burgers

1) Take one pound of fresh ground chicken or defrosted frozen ground chicken and place it in a medium sized bowl.

2) Add a half cup shredded cheese to the bowl. I used low-fat mild cheddar and had several tablespoons of gorgonzola leftover in a tub, so I threw all the gorgonzola in the mix, too.

The ingredients in this chutney perfectly complement chicken!3) Add several tablespoons (4-5) of fruit chutney. I used Stonewall Kitchen's Old Farmhouse Chutney, which is made from apples, cranberries, peaches, and raisins, to name a few fruits. 

Sidebar: Where they came up with the name "Old Farmhouse" I'll never know. I lived in a 100-year-old farmhouse for 17 years and had to leave the farm before I'd ever heard of chutney.

4) Mix well. Shape into four or five chicken burgers.

5) Grill or broil. After turning the burgers, spread a little bottled chili sauce on top and let that heat through.

I can't say I have EVER truly savored a chicken burger before I fixed these moist juicy burgers. 

And I found a super way to use the dreaded chutney Christmas gift.




Crosswalk blues

Last September I became a daily commuter on Amtrak and SEPTA (Philly's public transit system) to get to my job at Harcum College in Bryn Mawr. For the most part, it's a great way to get to work except for one sticking point.

Getting to my office means using a pedestrian crosswalk on Morris Avenue between the train station and the college campus.

Silly me, I thought if a crosswalk had markings on the road and neon yellow pedestrian crossing signs, drivers would well--stop and let pedestrians pass.

The reality is that I have been in the middle of the crosswalk and almost run over by moms on their cell phones, people hurrying to work, commercial vans--you name it.

Drivers have hurled obscenities at me for impeding their travels. I have felt so embattled using this crosswalk that I considered carrying a crow bar to arm myself against belligerent drivers who have called me, among other things, a "f#@%ing moron."

And I had a few choice things to say in response to these drivers, believe me.

When I called the Lower Merion Township Police, they patiently listened to my complaint but said they wished that we didn't have pedestrian crosswalks because they are not safe for pedestrians.

I already have high blood pressure. This final leg of my daily commute wasn't helping.

So, after months of worry and aggrevation, I gave up trying to use the pedestrian crosswalk. My commuting buddy and I have taken to a long way around to get to work--working beside the train tracks and through the back entrance of the Septa Parking Lot to get to campus.

While it's gratifying being in the right, it is more gratifying being alive. I mean, I know I am not going to live forever. But if I stop using that crosswalk, nature will just have to find another way to take me out.

Shame on all you drivers who are too distracted and hurried to allow decent people on foot to cross busy streets safely. And shame on me for giving up on humanity. Realistically, if the police can't help, if drivers won't cooperate with driving laws, then what else am I to do?



Purple is the new black

Editor's note: In my professional capacity, I am the Director of Communications at Harcum College, whose brand color is purple. This essay first appeared in the College e-newsletter:

At age 20, I purchased my first evening dress on a waitress’s salary. I plucked it off the discount rack at Boscov’s for a benefit show at the old Rajah Theatre. I might have paid $30 bucks for it. The two-piece ensemble was a royal shade of purple (much like Harcum’s signature purple) with a sparkling bolero jacket, which I thought would help me stand out on stage.

Sadly, my delight at nabbing a bargain gown was short-lived. I'd been blinded by the price tag. The dress was neither the right color for the gig nor an appropriate style for someone barely 20-years-old. In retrospect, I must have looked like a mother-of-the-bride who mistakenly wandered onto the Rajah stage en route to a wedding, compared to the other female singers looking svelte in basic black.

For decades after that show, as much as I admired purple in nature—purple pansies, purple martens, and purple sunsets— I avoided wearing any purple whatsoever: plum, violet, mulberry, orchid, mauve, and lavender. No matter the shade, all shades of purple were off limits.

Since I’d never made my peace with purple, naturally the universe would intervene, forcing me to face my purple avoidance issues when I applied for a job at Harcum College in 2013. On the first day of interviews, I was greeted by dozens of purple tulips waving in the spring breeze outside Melville Hall. “I love purple,” I told the interviewers, trying desperately to convince myself that purple and I had kissed and made up, while clutching a folder from Human Resources stuffed with profusely purple publications.

Cue the tumbleweeds and the tinwhistle. Were I to be offered this job, the color purple and I were in for a showdown in Melville Hall.

A few weeks into the job, I realized I simply had to embrace my inner purple. I mean, I must have loved purple at some point. Why else would I have chosen a boldly purple dress for a fundraising show many years ago?

Seeing many College personnel decked out in purple at my first New Student Orientation further amplified my deficit situation regarding purple garb. The only purple on me was the Harcum lanyard around my neck. So, I set about to correct that, with a little help from my Bon Ton charge card. First I bought a purple sleeveless tee. Then a sequin-studded purple smock. And a purple corduroy jacket followed by another purple shell, this one flecked with metallic silver.

Now, life is one big purple extravaganza. While there is only one official shade of Harcum brand purple, it’s been fun adding to my growing personal collection of purple paraphernalia, including a pair of purple polyester trousers, which Danyele Dove noticed last Friday. “You havepurple pants,” she said knowingly, like someone who has considered bumping up the purple quotient in her wardrobe, too.

I resisted the urge to say she’d be seeing more purple pants and jackets and maybe even a purple gown for the Centennial gala. Now that I’m a Harcum College employee, purple is hip. It’s down. It's up. It's definitely the new black.


A darling new ensemble for a book character! 

Okay, cutest blog post ever in support of one of my novels.

Kathy at My Nook Books & More wanted to do "something fun" for her post on the Grace Unexpected blog tour. So she joined forces with Jen at Books and Other Happy Ever Afters and came up with a Book Look--a fashion ensemble--for my title character in Grace Unexpected.

Too adorable, right?

From earrings to dress to shoes to jewelry to handbag, Grace is all put together for another day's work at Soap Rock University.

Please defibrillate me. I am succumbing to an attack of adorability.

Grace and I thank you, Kathy and Jen, for your grace and ingenuity!