Altamont, Sept. 26, 2013

Our daughter, Cindy had a birthday a few weeks ago. That we have already talked about, but we did not do justice to one part of the party that was really very special,  the birthday cake.

I have to go back to when Cindy was born to fully tell the story. Jim and I gave each of our children nicknames when they were born. We did not plan, to do that it was just something that happened with Christa, our first child, and continued with each birth. 

Christa was born on St. Patrick's Day and everyone thought she was going to be named Patricia. Jim and I chose Christa-Marie which surprised everyone including Father Bill Walsh (who popped into the room before visiting hours started).

While cuddling my sweet little bundle of joy, and squeezing my husbands hand, we exchanged radiant glowing words about our newborn and I whispered to Jim that she was as sweet as a blueberry muffin. The name was not planned, but it stuck and to this day she is still our blueberry muffin.

Our second child was so small that she was called, l'il Bit. Her name is Elizabeth and she does not mind it when mom and dad call her L'il Bit.  But, her friends call her Liz.  Liz and L'il Bit are close enough  to her full name.

When Cindy came along someone said that she was as cute as a bug and that is what has stuck. She is our Cindy Bug. One of our friends has loved ladybugs for years and gave Cindy a ladybug pin from her collection. Since that day Cindy has received many pieces of jewelry, hats, pictures with ladybugs on it and the list just seems to be endless. She loves them, and enjoys each and every ladybug she receives.

At her birthday party Cindy received a cake that was really special. It was shaped like a ladybug with the red wings and black spots. On one end it had a cute ladybug standing there in three dimensions. The cake was really a wonderful piece of art work.

We have seen other cakes this friend has made and each one is unique. The baker makes and decorates cakes as an avocation only for friends. One that she did was done for a Star Wars enthusiast. The figure of Yoda was so good that the recipient wanted to preserve it so he put it in his freezer and it is probably still there.

While waiting for the cake to be cut friends were gathered  around the pool, chatting  in the living room, or scattered elsewhere around the house. Listening in on different conversations gave this correspondent an idea of which one to join.

 One conversation touched on a cuisine that I was not familiar with, but willing to learn about. They were talking about Hummus.

Hummus  is a Middle Eastern and Arabic food dip or spread made from cooked, mashed, chickpeas blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. It is popular throughout the Middle East, as well as  around the globe.

Many cuisine-related sources describe hummus as an ancient food, or connect it to famous historical figures such as Saladin, a great Muslim leader who united and lead the Muslim world and recaptured Jerusalem for the Muslims.

Saladin and Richard the Lion heart are two names that tend to dominate the Crusades. Both have gone down in Medieval history as great military leaders.

The basic ingredients of hummus are chickpeas, sesame, lemon, and garlic and has been eaten in the Middle East for thousands of years. Though chickpeas were widely eaten in the region, and they were often cooked in stews and other hot dishes, pureed chickpeas eaten cold with tahini do not appear before the Abbasid period in Egypt.

Of greater interest to our group, was the content of the hummus that was being served rather than the history or background of hummus.

Hummus as we have already described it, is a dip or spread that is made from chickpeas. In fact, hummus is the Arabic word for chickpea. You may notice that many hummus recipes call for garbanzo beans, not chickpeas. Don't worry, garbanzo is the Spanish translation of chickpea. They are called cece beans in Italy.

Hummus tastes different everywhere. Some types of hummus have a strong lemon flavor, some have an overwhelming garlic flavor, and some hummus has a spicy tone.

When making hummus, you have to keep your own taste buds in mind. If a recipe calls for a lot of tahini and you don't like tahini, scale down the amount or simply omit it.

Hummus really does make a great alternative to chips and dip. Serve one type of hummus or a variety with hot pita bread wedges, pita chips, fresh veggies, or try different appetizer ideas with hummus. Here are some excellent hummus suggestions with a variety of ingredients make hummus more exciting! Hummus with tahini, roasted red Pepper hummus, roasted garlic hummus, black bean hummus, sun dried tomato hummus, spinach hummus, spinach and feta hummus. As you can see the list is limited only by your taste and imagination.

Presentation is very important when it comes to hummus because it looks bland most of the time. Bland usually equals boring and you don't want the hummus to be passed up because it looks boring. Sprinkle red pepper flakes or paprika on top to add a little color. Serve hummus in brightly colored bowls. Presentation can be almost as important as the taste.

No matter how you eat it, hummus is a healthy snack and is certainly better for you than the old standby of salsa and tortilla chips.

Sports schedule

Guilderland High School students and parents  interested in checking out the game schedules for all of the school's teams are advised to go to 0http://tinyurl.com/sportsPak-schedules and use the menu to select the applicable team.

For game notification changes go to http://tinyurl.com/SportsPac-subscribe and follow the instructions.

Marriage jubilee

Couples celebrating their 25th, 40th or 50th as well as other special wedding anniversaries are invited to attend the annual celebration to be held at the Cathedral of All Saints in Albany on Oct. 5, at 2 p.m. Those planning to attend were asked to register by Sept. 25.

Food pantry

The Altamont Food Pantry housed at St. Lucy/St.Bernadette's Parish Center is always in need of canned beets as well as other vegetables and stuffing mix.

All donations for the Food Pantry can be left in the gathering space of the church.

Library hours

The Altamont Free Library is now operating on its winter schedule. The library will be open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The library will also be open on Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m.

Rehab

Sheila Stempel of East Berne is now in rehab at the Our Lady of Mercy Life Center in room 323 following a hospital confinement. Her mailing address is as follows; Our Lady of Mercy Life Center, 2 Mercy Care Lane, Room 323, Guilderland, NY 12084.

Canning

Interested in learning how to can food safely? The Guilderland  Public Library will be holding a class on Thursday, Oct. 3, at 6 p.m.  Sandra Varno, master food preserver from Cornell Cooperative Extension will demonstrate canning dilly beans and making a simple freezer jam.

To register or for additional information call the library at 456-2400 or go to www.guilpl.org.

Haunting hours

This year the State Capitol will again hold haunting  tours open to the general public. The tours will be held Monday through Friday at noon and 5:30 p.m.  The tours are free of charge. Tours last about one hour.

Pre-registration is required. To register call 473-7582.  Additional information will be forthcoming.

Birthdays

Happy-birthday wishes are extended to: 

— Carol Donato, Albina Morrett, Kathy Rucinski and Christi Anne Wey on Sept. 27;

— Mike Bresney, Daniel Doherty and Linda Gaige  on Sept. 28;

— Michelle Blackman, Sue Blackman, Ryan Dzingle, Mandi Percoski Tooker, and Ronelle Tymchyn on Sept. 29;

— April Bastiani and Zachary Connolly on Sept. 30;

— Kenichi Chiba on Oct. 1;

— Willie Burnham, and Heather Holly on Oct. 2; and

— Linda Devenpeck, Lauri Fay, Eric Long, and Jean Perl on Oct. 3.

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