Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Once in a Blue Moon you'll see a picture like this.




Happy Blue Moon!

(Nikon D60, 200mm Nikkor VR, f11, 125/sec, handheld!)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Fondue 6






The Best of Twelve Two Two Fondue VI

Kink Ponders




What is this "Christmas" of which you speak?

Sugarplums




Dancing in their heads. Merry Christmas, Bill and Kink!

Dippy




Have I been in the cheese dip? Uh, no, why do you ask?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ten Pack

It's December 20th.

In two days it will be Twelve Two Two and there will be Fondue. Watch this space for a live video feed of the festivities starting Tuesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, have you had enough of the Ten Best lists yet? Not me! Those lists save time and are non-fattening. Great combination.

Here's a selection of stories from Twelve Two Two Fondue past. I call it a Ten Pack rather than a "top ten" or a "best of" because I just picked them myself.



Lightly Toasted

Social Dis-Ease

Pick Right

Crab Redux

The Giver

Casa Bonita

Go-Te-Bo

Lawnmower Man

Manchester 0, Dragonfly 1

Home Again



I hope you enjoyed them.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ten Years Ago

I thought it would be fun to post our annual Christmas letter from 1999. Party like 1999, Garth! Also, we had a recent "Nobbs Sighting." Yes, the old boy is still kicking around the neighborhood.



1999


It makes you wonder if something is wrong when the cat chooses to live on the streets rather than stay at home. Granted, the Farrell’s moved in June but only about a mile from the old place, certainly not justification for Nobbs the Cat abandoning pretty nice digs with a swimming pool and an endless supply of Cat Chow for a life of sleeping in doorways, eating out of trash bags and picking up aluminum cans for spare change. He hitches a ride home every so often for some fresh shrimp to eat and clean clothes to sleep on, then he saunters back to the mean streets of Sugar Land where he is king. Well, so long as he’s happy.

In fact, his is not unlike the kid’s lifestyle. They use home as a place to eat, sleep, make phone calls and catch a lift to the next of their never-ending activities. If the van could talk it would describe its year as a continuous, frenetic journey between soccer games and tournaments and referee clinics, basketball games, driving lessons, Boy Scout meetings, campouts and adventures, orchestra and band concerts, birthday parties, and emergency shopping trips to purchase school supplies on Sunday nights at 9 PM. Oh, yeah, and picking up Nobbs every week or so for a hot meal and a delousing. Life in the 90’s.

All journeys have their highlights and this year has been no exception. It got off to an exciting start with soccer goalie Helen breaking her wrist trying to defend against a hard kick. The score: wrist 0, soccer ball 1. Today, Helen’s wrist is as good as new, in fact, even better. Helen knew that when Nobbs broke his toe last year it had to be amputated, so, all in all, she’s feeling pretty good about how her wrist turned out. She now has the uncanny ability to predict changes in the weather, a handy skill to have here in south Texas, and she manages to get out of activities that require heavy lifting because of her “poorly wrist”, don’t you see. Nobbs can still climb trees to murder birds, so everybody’s happy.

Still in January, Bill ran his first marathon, yes, folks, that’s 26 point two miles, and to this day he’s more than a little irritated at whoever tacked on that two-tenths of a mile at the end because after passing the big 26 mile marker the finish line is way the heck down the street. It just doesn’t seem fair. On the bright side he gets to do it again in a few weeks. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since he was limping around the house on sore feet whimpering “Oh!”, “Ah!” and avoiding stairs. Houston Marathon, January 16th, 2000. He’ll be there.

Spring was a blur of soccer games and referee clinics. Helen, Sarah and Claire qualified as soccer referees and actually got paid for strutting around in nifty, black uniforms, waving flags, blowing whistles and generally looking officious. Claire also played on a team, as did Chris who complained about bad calls made by whistle-blowing, officious-looking referees. Soccer generally involved being three places at once with two vehicles, and occasional trips to San Antonio which introduced Claire to the art of map reading at night and caused Helen to “lose it” only a few times. Soccer was interrupted, briefly, for a skiing trip to Colorado to visit the Day’s in their splendid mountain home. Everybody returned intact and well-fed.

In June the Farrell’s moved to a spacious new house gaining a swimming pool, two extra rooms, an enormous kitchen, and losing, to some extent, one ungrateful cat. Summer was punctuated by a few short trips with people going in all directions: Sarah to Bartlesville, Chris and Bill to Scout camp, Claire to Las Vegas (doesn’t it just figure) leaving Helen with a magical week of being “home alone”. We won’t count Helen’s sojourns to Rio de Janeiro on “business”. The whole clan descended upon Phoenix for a few days in July to visit the senior Farrell’s who celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in December followed shortly thereafter by Farrell Senior’s 80th birthday. A fine way to end the century by any account.

Life became less hectic as Sarah earned her driving license in September and was able to perform chauffeuring duties when Bill and Helen were stuck in traffic on the way home from work. She serves as a taxi for Nobbs, Chris and Claire. Nobbs seems the most grateful.

And, that, as they say, is that for 1999; end of the year and, as far as we’re concerned, end of the century. Claire (who else?) is in charge of the New Year’s Eve party. We’ll have champagne, set all the clocks in the house to go off at midnight, pick up Nobbs and feed him shrimp until he barfs on the carpet. It’ll be great! See you next century!

Postscript
Born this day in Billings, Montana, to William and Maddie Farrell, young William Farrell (b1919-d2005), Architect, Army veteran, friend to many and my father. He would have been 90 today.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Just in Time

I wondered how I was going to occupy all my free time over the holidays.

Wonder no more!

Doodle Jump meets Santa.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Shorter Shopping List

Found on the kitchen counter:


Shopping List

bacon
toilet paper


Well, that makes sense. Everything goes better with bacon!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Shorter Christmas Poem




"The Kat was on the mantle with care

in hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there."

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Short Rave

About a million years ago I built a crystal radio. The parts were right out of the Flintstones: plywood, copper wire, cardboard tube, a semiconductor diode and a capacitor tuner which was the most 'elaborate' part of the setup. Once assembled I could pick up lots of static and faint AM radio stations. No batteries required.

Little did I know at the time but part of the static I heard was radiation remnant of the Big Bang itself. It would have been way cool to know that, but at the time it was just annoying. Now when I hear static I think it's way cool and I am One with the Universe.

Some years later I built a Heathkit Short Wave radio that operated on many bands in the short, medium and long waves. I scanned the airwaves for hours at a time listening to Morse code, foreign languages and static, none of which I understood in the faintest. I did wonder, however, how true those stories were of people who "learned to speak English" by listening to radio. I listened to a lot of Spanish and never learned anything other than "pendejo" is a term of affection.

The Heathkit Short Wave radio was a serious contraption, and considering I had no freaking idea what I was doing putting that thing together it's a wonder it worked at all. Granted, I could follow the instructions but I can only imagine how many cold solder joints I made or how many components I put in the wrong place. I remember having a bunch of parts left over which either were spares or I didn't install them. Who knows? The radio worked in spite of myself.

Fast forward a few years or decades (and this was a few years or decades before the present) and a friend of mine showed me the latest and greatest in portable short wave, all band radios. The Sony ICF-2001 was about the size of a modern laptop (which hadn't been invented yet) and was (gasp, be still my heart!) DIGITAL!

Yes, you could "punch in" a frequency and pull up a radio station exactly. No "twiddling" of dials or knobs. No messing around with side bands and all that other stuff that brought in more Big Bang static than Big Bopper music. Just tap-tap-tap and it was Pendejo City! I was so impressed I bought the company. Well, not exactly. I made a mental note to find one of those Bad Boy short wave radios and that's what I did.

That was the plan. What I didn't count on was Sony taking the technology both up and down a notch; more powerful and smaller. Enamored, never the less, I sprung the cash and scored the goods; the Sony ICF-2002. Running on four AA batteries the 2002 took me to Pendejo City any time I liked and also brought in AM and FM stations free of the Big Bang. I had a lot of fun with that radio and learned to swear in 39 languages.

All things come to an end, however, and for the ICF-2002 it was a bad set of batteries which leaked (twice) and corroded the circuit boards rendering the radio mostly useless. I say "mostly" because in its final days in 2008 it served as our only link to the Outside World in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike which knocked out power to our house for over six days. With the radio we could pick up AM, FM and TV audio broadcasts that told us how quickly, or not, the service companies were working to restore power to the area, the priorities and the predictions.

Much like my days centuries earlier with my crystal radio set, we huddled around the little Sony and dreamed of chocolate bars dropping from airplanes as the power siege lifted. I like Ike! Not.

So, after power was restored and we went about getting our lives back in order I spent a little time learning what Sony had done in the intervening years. Turns out not much and a whole lot. The ICF-7600 is a much-updated version of its ancestor and totally computer controlled. It didn't take me long reading phrases I had no idea of the meaning but sounded totally cool like "synchronous detector circuits" before my Shiny Object Gland took over and I was hammering Amazon like a starving monkey on a coconut.

In due time I retired the ICF-2002, conducted an autopsy to determine how far the battery damage actually went (extensive) and the new radio moved into the hood. Similar operation, similar size but this guy will live on a diet of lithium batteries, hopefully less prone to leaking and causing damage.

It was a good run of over 20 years for the ICF-2002. Who knows what the technology will be like in 2030!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Snow? Ha!

This was yesterday.

The weatherman called for "snow in the morning."

Snow? Ha!




This is today.

Snow! Not so ha.



When it snows in Houston we do crazy things. Like run around outside in t-shirts and sandals screaming, "It's snowing! It's snowing!"

We make snowballs the size of hummingbird eggs and pelt each other with them. We have to get very close because most of the snow-bird-egg-balls melt before reaching their target.

And take pictures of palm trees with snow on them because NOBODY'S EVER SEEN THAT BEFORE!

Check it out! Snow. On a palm tree!! Is that crazy or what?????



And it brings out the best in people who apparently have never seen snow!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Hoarse, of Coarse

I woke up this morning a little hoarse this morning, pranced around, nibbled on some hay and farted a rainbow.

That is, I was dreaming I was a little horse but woke up with a big hoarse and a very colourful room.

(I heart rainbows!)

(I heart coffee more!)

Following my heart into the kitchen for a hot cup of Joe, I called Kink to give him a Morning Snax but instead of hearing myself say, "Hey, Kinkers, ya want a Snak-O?"

it came out more like this:

" y ers n Ssss O ? "

Although I was thinking real loud, I was squeaking like an old hinge on a rusty gate being swung by a quartet of bullfrogs. I tried a chorus of Sweet Adeline in one-part harmony to no effect.

Kink was still in the other room oblivious to my condition. I decided to write him a note only to find the pen was out of ink.

Great Caesar's Ghost! My hoarseness had affected my literacy! I could read but I couldn't write. I was a half-literacy. That gave me more pause for thought. Half-literacy. Which half was I, lite or racy? Based on the last time I weighed myself I certainly wasn't "lite" which meant I was "racy."

It all made perfect horse sense. I was a racy hoarse.

If you're confused then think for a moment about me going through this before having a single cup of coffee.

Coffee! That might cure my racy hoarseness.

Alas, that was not the case. After cup three I was hot to trot, champing at the bit and I think I had become a Colts fan.

It didn't get any better throughout the day. Why is it when you're having a little trouble with your voice that people ask you one inane question after another?

Oh, your voice sounds terrible! Does it hurt? I said, DOES IT HURT? Alright, don't say anything, be that way!

(Memo to self: find a way to tell people that your voice is broken, not your ears.)

Have you tried gargling with (salt water, vodka, oatmeal, cod liver oil, hot tea, grape jelly ... )

I had the SAME thing and I couldn't talk for 12 years.

Nod your head for 'yes.' Do you want tuna or turkey?



So, at the end of the day after all that advice and heartfelt concern I sit here with Dr. Google and here's what he has to say:

"The best remedy for hoarseness is to not talk."

Now, why didn't I think of that?

Monday, November 30, 2009

I Can Haz Care



Yeah, you finished your Fourth NaBloPoMo in a row. You can haz pat on bak now.

I cares.

Rly.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Trying Angles

A report on National Public Radio the other day reported on something I've known intuitively for years: sandwiches taste better if they're cut diagonally.

Triangles taste better than rectangles? Apparently so! It was on the radio. Must be true.

The reporter even went so far as to dig up (literally, I think) an historian who argued that the triangle was one of the original Platonic Solids and, thus, by dint of being Greek, I guess, tasted better. I never knew one could have a Platonic relationship with a sandwich, but there you have it. It was on the radio. Must be true.

Sandwiches taste better if they're cut diagonally. Furthermore, people know this either innately or by experience which explains why people preferentially select triangle-shaped over rectangle-shaped sandwiches.

I pondered this for quite a while, several minutes at least, and mused about my own sandwich eating preferences and concluded that I must operate at a simpler, less Platonic, level. Call it "reptilian."

See sandwich. Eat sandwich.

That's about it.

I tried to harken a time in which I thought, "Ah, the Rectangle! Four 90-degree angles on the inside, four perfect corners on the outside. My, oh, my is this sandwich going to be good!"

Nor, I confess, could I recall a time thinking, "Ah, the Triangle! Oh, and an isosceles Right Triangle at that. Why, bless Plato, this sandwich is going to be good!"

Nope. All I could dredge up were vague, disturbing images of my forked tongue flicking in and out, and then everything went blank.

So, being unable to confirm the NPR report, regardless of the fact that it was on the radio, must be true, I set out to conduct my own scientific study on Sandwich Shape Preference.

I started out by constructing two identical sandwiches: turkey salad with tomato, avocado and Romaine lettuce on home-baked wheat bread. (See Figure 1, below.)



Figure 1


Next, using my best English steel carving knife honed to surgical standards I cut one sandwich perpendicular to the crust to form two rectangles, and the other sandwich was cut along the diagonal to form two triangles. Identical ingredients served on identical plates, the only difference being The Cut. (See Rectangle Cut and Triangle Cut, below.)


Rectangle Cut





Triangle Cut


The next part of the experiment was a little tricky. I wanted to solicit the opinions of twenty people at random, but where to get twenty random people? Turns out the solution was right in front of my nose, rather, my house.

The walkers.

On a Sunday there is a continuous parade of neighbors out for a stroll or walking their dogs. All day long. Back and forth, often the same people. Very random and very perfect.

So, I decided to stop people as they walked by the house to get their opinion and settle the sandwich shape debate once and for all, scientifically.

Now, do you have any idea how many people either start walking faster or even break into a run if you stop them and ask a simple question like, "Do you want to have a look at my turkey sandwich?"

Seriously! After an hour I had to change my approach totally. First, be polite. Second, sound more scientific. Third, invoke authority.

"Excuse me, sir or madam, would you be interested in offering your educated analysis for a project somewhat under the guise of PNR?"

"Are you working under the auspices of N-P-R?"

"More like under the influence."

"Yes, I'd be delighted."

In no time I had twenty considered opinions and the results were both unequivocal and conclusive.

Rectangles are preferred. TWENTY to ZERO! Yes, every random person picked Rectangle. No hesitation.

I know, I was shocked, too. This shakes my faith in radio. Can nothing be trusted? What about Plato and the Solids and the aesthetics of triangles over rectangles. Was that all just hype? What else has NPR got wrong? Does this mean that in Lake Woebegone the women aren't strong and all the children aren't above average? Or instead of Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me we should tell people right away? Should Science Friday be on Wednesday? Should we only consider Some Things?

Clearly, the conclusion to be drawn from this scientific experiment is not to accept things at face value. We must place a higher premium on skepticism. We should all move to Missouri. There's more at stake here than Triangles or Rectangles, Boxers or Briefs. I believe that we are talking about Civilization or Savagery.

Seriously. Think about it.

In conclusion let's contemplate the once-maligned Rectangle whose tarnished reputation was given a slight buff today. Here's to you, Rectangle, well done! (See the Winner, below.)





The Winner

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Who You Calling a Goober?




Goobers.

Not a great sounding word, but good eating as they say.

I'm talking about boiled goobers, aka boiled peanuts.

Once you start eating them, get comfortable. You're going to be there a while. I'd suggest laying in a supply of cold beer, too. And some tall tales.

Let's see. Goobers, check. Beer, check. Tall tales, check and double check. (Is there any other kind?)

Boiled peanuts take planning. First, it's not easy to get raw peanuts year round. They usually appear in the Fall, like about NOW and don't last long at the supermarket. I bought two bags this year on a whim. I saw "Raw Peanuts" and thought "Boiled Peanuts" and the rest was history.

The process is easy but time consuming. You have to boil the peanuts in a large pot of water with plenty of salt for 3-4 hours. I let the peanuts soak in the brine after cooking for another hour to let them soak in as much brine as possible. Then I drain and refrigerate them overnight.

Chilled boiled peanuts are fun, if messy, to eat, succulent and salty. Don't forget salty. That's the best part. Next to the beer and tall tales.

When I was a kid we used to hike to Old Man Carter's for boiled peanuts. It was a long way. About two days hike. Uphill. And it was always snowing. We couldn't afford shoes so we wrapped our bare feet with barbed wire for traction in the snow.

Old Man Carter would always tell us that he just sold out to make us cry, then charge us double because he could.

Then it was a three day hike home. Uphill. In the snow.

But worth it, yes, every frostbit amputated toe was worth the trek. I saved those toes and I've got them in the fridge here in a jar labeled "Gerkins" just so I don't get in trouble with the FBI.

Ah, I seem to be getting ahead of myself in the Tall Tale Department. Oh, well, there's always tomorrow!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Nobbs Sighting

Nobbs



Short version: We raised Nobbs from a kitten. He ran away.

A longer version: We moved to Houston about a decade ago when housing was tight and found "a place" to call Home until we could find "another place" to call Home. In the 18 months we lived at "a place" our cats, Nobbs and Sandy, staked out their territory. Sandy, more of a homebody, staked out the kitchen and the couch. Nobbs, the explorer, ranged about a mile in radius. He could be sighted far and wide around the neighborhood, so much so that the kids on the next street over thought he lived there. They named him "Cow" because of his striking markings.*

After we moved to "another place" Nobbs was never quite settled and could often be found slinking around the old neighborhood nearly two miles away. His range had increased considerably. Nobbs was always a survivor and we called him the Dust Bin King of the neighborhood because of his uncanny way of living in the rough: eating out of trash cans, mooching off of people and living off the land. Nobbs had quick reflexes, sharp claws and a hair trigger. You'd cross Nobbs at your peril.

Nobbs would disappear for weeks at a time only to show up at the window ready for some chow and a long nap. Then he'd be off again. We found that he had taken up residence at another house in the neighborhood and his absences grew longer and longer. Finally he stopped coming home altogether.

After about a year he showed up in a yard and I saw him as I drove by. I stopped and called him and he trotted over as if he owned the place, which he did. He was wearing a collar with the name "Domino." Nobbs, Cow, Domino - he's a man of mystery. I went on my way and he went on his.

Another year passed without a Nobbs sighting and we figured either he moved to a farther neighborhood, or his adopted family moved or he had gone to the Great Dust Bin in the Sky.

Not so.

Recently I was driving through the neighborhood and there he was, big as day, sleeping in the tall grass. I pulled over, got out my camera and gave him a call. He perked up his ears, trotted over and gave me a rub around the ankles as if we were old buddies. Then he turned tail, walked into a flower bed and went to sleep.

What a character. One of these days he's going to show up pawing at the window for some chow and a nap and, you know, he's welcome to it.







*The name "Nobbs" referred to a peculiar broken bone at the end of his tail that fused into a knob. Later in life he got his tail caught in something and it had to be amputated, the stub of which is seen in the photo. What's with our cats and strange tails?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

New Yam in the Hood

Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Chipotle Cream Sauce

It takes lots of paperwork to change the Thanksgiving Dinner Menu. Lots of paperwork.

First there's the Petition to Substitute which has to be signed by at least four people.

Then you have to get past the Recipe Review Board and the Intolerance Panel.

The Quantity Compensation Committee might demand a backup dish to be provided from the Approved List.

Fail to follow protocol and you could be looking at sanctions ranging from a few hours of Normal Family Derision to twelve months of Hell To Pay or a permanent place on the Wall of Remembrance.

"Remember when we had asparagus mashed potatoes?"

"Ewwwwww! Or how about the garlic cheese cake?"

"My favorite was the peanut butter stuffing. We had to throw away the entire turkey."

"No, no! My favorite was when the oven got switched off by mistake and nobody noticed until it was time to eat and the turkey was all raw and everything. Remember? We had to eat a cheese ball and drink beer until the turkey was done. Wait a minute, that wasn't so bad. Never mind."

Surprisingly, those mini-disasters did not qualify for the Wall of Remembrance. No, the Wall is a special place for Memorable Meals such as:



Scorched Cabbage with Pork that required the house to be aired out. In December.

Rubber Band Chocolate Mousse caused by many chunks of undissolved gelatin. One-quarter yum, three-quarters patooie.

Goat Neck and Honey Stew. Putting the "ewwwww" in stew.

Peanut Butter Salsa ice cream. No, it didn't taste better than it sounds. Worse. Much worse.

Cantaloupe Cream Soup in the Shell. One of those few things that actually tasted better coming up than going down.



As I am the only one in the family who not only enjoys but looks forward to my Special Candied Yams, a recipe honed to perfection over 25 years, I decided that it would be a safe bet and easy sailing through the Review Boards to propose a change to the "yam" part of the meal.

I was right! Not an eye was batted when I proposed grilling the yams outside and serving them with a smoked chipotle pepper cream sauce.

"You'll be grilling them outside?"

"Yes, Madam Board President, outside."

"Well, anything you do with a yam outside is fine by me. I presume you won't be bringing them back inside, then."

"Uh, negative, Madam Board President, the yams will be returned to the domicile whereupon they will be relegated to their own serving dish so as not to, uh, so as not to, that is, uh ... "

"Contaminate?"

"Yes, Madam Board President, thank you. 'Contaminate' the other delicacies."

Madam's eyes narrowed, her lips pursed as if sucking a very large lemon through a very small straw.

"Very well. Permission to Substitute granted for a probationary period of one meal. Case dismissed, next case!"

Great. I had permission, a plan but no recipe. More of a vague notion. Grilled yams and a spicy red sauce. I consulted my sidekick and expert chef, Emeril LeGoogle.

In short order I had a recipe put together but, alas, no experience. The Wall loomed.

Here's the blueprint:



Chipotle Cream Sauce
6-8 dried chipotle peppers, soaked in hot water (or simmered) for 15 minutes, peeled.
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
some pepper soak water (from above)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
salt

Sauteé onions and garlic in a little butter. Put to one side.
Peel peppers and discard seeds, stems and skin.
Blend in a food processor onion mixture and peppers.
In a small skillet add cream and syrup to the mixture, blend and bring to a simmer. Sauce will be thick and you'll have to adjust it with cream and water.

I found the sauce to be a little bitter and thought lemon juice might help by providing some sweetness and tang.

Grilled Yams
2-3 medium sized yams, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch slices
olive oil
salt/pepper

Brush the yams with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill on a medium heat 5-10 minutes a side, depending on the yam, and pay more attention to the grill than I did to prevent burned spots. Brush with more olive oil if the yams dry out. When cooked the yams should be soft enough to easily insert a small knife, fork, skewer, etc



Although I wasn't totally pleased with the sauce and I scorched several of the yam slices, I tried a distraction with a nice presentation.



I prepared a serving for Madam Board President.

"Ummm," said Madam Board President thoughtfully, "as a rule I'm not a big fan of yams and, in fact, I'm a microscopic fan of candied yams."

Madam Board President fixed me with a stare and paused for effect.

I started to sweat.

She continued, "However, these yams are not quite as bad as I had expected. The spicy smoked pepper sauce complements the sweetness of the yam and they go together better than either one separately. To be honest, though, the sauce needs work and you'll have to improve it next time."

Next time, I thought?

"You are hereby granted a Recipe Extension for a period of one year to work out the kinks. Speaking of whom, where is Kink?"

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Manchester 0, Dragonfly 1

"Hey, you guys, keep it down! I'm trying to watch the almost-not-quite World Cup-ish game on the tube here!"

"It's not a 'tube.' It's a High Definition Liquid Crystal Display Light Emitting Diode backlit Binford 3000 Strato-Viewer. Tube is so last year."

"Whatever. This is a Big Game and I'm watching it so pipe down. I've been waiting to see this game for over a decade. Or at least since this afternoon."

"Who's playing?"

"Manchester and some other team. Doesn't matter. Be quiet!"

"All right! All right! Excuuuuuuuuuuse me for breathing. I'll go play in the freeway or something. Hey, look, there's Kink outside."

Opening the back door …

"Hey, buddy boy, what are you doing outside? Having fun? Come in and get a Kat Snak."

"Meowwww-ffff!"

"Meowwww-fff? What do you have in your mouff, little buddy? Come on, give us a look, that's a good kitty."

"No, Kink, don't let it loose!"

"Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeekkkkkkkkkkkkk! Kink let a dragonfly loose in the house! A GIANT DRAGONFLYYYYYYYYY!! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKKKK!!!! WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!"

"That's no dragonfly! That's a pterodactyl!!"

"EEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!! PTERODACTYL!! WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!"

"Someone get a net!"

"Someone get a cricket bat! Did I say that out loud?"

"Someone get some duct tape."

"Duct tape?"

"Yeah, it's good for anything. We can stickify the dragonfly!"

"YOU GUYS KEEP IT DOWN I'M TRYING TO WATCH THIS VERY IMPORTANT GAME THANK YOU VERY MUCH AND THE HORSE YOU RODE IN ON!"

"Look! The dragonfly is buzzing around the kitchen light! He likes the light! Quick, turn off the kitchen light!"

**click**

"Oh My Gosh, it's heading to the TV! Quick, get the net!"

"I got it! I got it! I don't got it."

"GET AWAY FROM THE TV! I CAN'T SEE THE GAME! IT'S ONLY 20 SECONDS LEFT! CATCH THE DRAGONFRICKINGFLYADACTYL LATER!"

"I've got an idea! If we turn off the TV and turn on the porch light, the dragonfly will go out the back door all by himself! Ready? On three. One, two … THREE!!"

**CLICK** **beep fweep beep**

"AAAAAARRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHH! THE GAAAAAAAAME!"

"YEAAAAAAAHH! THERE HE GOES! THERE HE GOES!"

"THE GAAAAAAAAME!!"

"HE'S OUT!! HE'S OUT!!"

"QUICK, SHUT THE BACK DOOR!"

"QUICK, TURN ON THE LIQUID TUBE DIODE THING!"

"QUICK, WHERE'S KINK?"


… and who could have predicted that, eh, Chris? No, Marv, you're not going to see an ending to a game like that if you live to be a hundred. Could you believe that last-minute play, Chris? No, Marv, I saw it live and on the instant replay and I still can't believe it. That's for sure, Chris, and I can tell you this is one game I'll be telling my grandkids about. What an ending. What an AMAZING, ASTOUNDING, AWESOME ENDING!! We saw Sport History tonight, Marv. Once in a lifetime, once in a lifetime. Well, that wraps it up for tonight. I'm Chris. And I'm Marv and we'll see you in a decade or maybe tomorrow. After that finale they might just retire the sport! Good-night, everybody!


"You ruined the game!"

"We saved the dragonfly!"

"Where's Kink?"

"He must have gone back out. Oh, look, open the door, here he comes!"

"What's he got in his mouth … "

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Not Our Sponsor



In a word, BLECH!

In other words, ACK! YUCK! BARF-O! CHOKE! YAAAAK! ARGGA-BARGGA-BARGGA-BARGGA! PITOOIE!

File this under: Sounded good. Tasted not so much.

Kink wanted to bury it. Smart cat.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Evil Weevil Redeaux

Weevils. Paprika. Again.

Yes, again. Weevils ait my paprika!

I didn't even notice as I dumped them into my stew. No weevil screams. No weevil shouts of, "Weevil overboard!" Just shake, shake, shake, stir, stir, stir.

Only later when I removed the lid and stirred the sauce did I notice "foreign bodies." Dead foreign bodies. Floating.

I fished their little corpses out one by one, rather than starting over with dinner. According to the Food and Drug Administration weevils are "mostly" protein with some "crunchy bits." (Unless, of course, they've spent an hour in a stew hot tub.) I gave the sauce an extra good stir and ran some draglines along the bottom. No more weevils surfaced.

Note to self: buy sieve.

Unfortunately, I didn't discover the Weevil Holiday Resort in Paparika until I had dumped a sightseeing busload into my stew.

Unfortunately, I didn't discover the little freeloaders until they were free-styling in my sauce.

Fortunately, my family won't read this until tomorrow.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Eleven Two Two

Party Alert!

This is a Party Alert!

Twelve Two Two Fondue will be held exactly one month from today on, you guessed it, December 22nd!

Hence the name.

Twelve Two Two Fondue began as a fondue party on December 22, 2004 and has continued annually since.

This will be Twelve Two Two Fondue VI. Sort of like Rocky VI but with food and a plot.

You are all invited!

You are all invited around the World to host your very own Twelve Two Two Fondue party and webcast it, send us live pictures, stories, videos and your leftover cheese. (Waste not, want not. I always say that.)
It's twue that 12-22-fondue has been hosted in many countries and on all Seven continents. And, yes, I do count my friend the Polie who at least thought about eating cheese while in Antarctica. The penguins, of course, ate Fish Tacos.

So be there or be square. The Fonduemeister commands it.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Perspective

It was the best of nights. It was the worst of nights. It was the Fall of rain, and rain was falling.

There was a chill in the air but not enough to deter the mosquitoes who, judging from their size, had been feasting on pizza and beer.

Snugly wrapped in my Victoria's Secret Hot Devil outerwear I observed that nothing beats Fall camping.

From across the fire I heard, "I'm cold and I'm wet and I'm going to my tent. Whose idea was this anyway?" There was some shuffling and muttering that faded into the distance.

Snugly wrapped in my Victoria's Secret Hot Devil outerwear and silence I observed that nothing beats Fall camping.

The fire crackled and hissed as the drizzle met its doom but soon the drizzle turned into serious rain and I decided to turn in, too.

My tent, my domain. It needed fixing up because I just tossed my stuff in after I set it up. First, I inflated my Thermarest sleeping pad to the full Blue Whale setting for maximum comfort, redistributed the down in my personal sleeping enclosure ("sleeping bag" is so 60's) and checked the surroundings for any vermin who decided to join me for the night.

Safe and sound I snuggled down for a short not-quite-winter's nap. Dark-thirty would come soon enough and as camp cook I'd be expected to have hot coffee ready before dawn. That's a tough assignment because Dawn has coffee ready early!

I slept like a baby. That is, waking up every two hours crying, but otherwise I enjoyed the pitter patter of rain on the tent, the gentle wind and especially being snugly wrapped, etc, etc.

Dawn came all too soon and before I knew it I was standing over a hot stove brewing the first pot of coffee of the day. It was still raining, cold, and everything was wet, but the smell of brewing coffee revived my spirits and I was sure it was going to be a grand day.

Hark! Was that the sound of thunder? Er, no, it was the sound of grumble. Trudging towards me was an obviously unhappy camper.

"Top of the morning! Could I interest you in a cup of hot, freshly brewed coffee? Did I mention that it's free?"

"Whatever."

Not the reply I was expecting, usually people ask to have my baby for a cup of hot coffee on a cold wet morning, I just poured out a cup of brew and handed it over.

"How was your night?" I asked, knowing the answer.

Camper looked up and related a tale of woe, call it the Rime of the Ancient Wet Camper. Camper told me that he pitched his tent in a depression that filled up with water. His tent leaked. His sleeping bag got wet and then cold. He forgot his stocking cap so his head was cold, and his socks were wet so his feet were cold. He tried mopping up the water in his tent using a t-shirt but when he opened his tent to wring out the shirt, more rain came in than shirt wrung water went out. There was more woe to tell but I was all woed out and don't remember the details.

He was cold, wet and not a happy camper.

"So," he asked, "how was your night?"

I thought about how I had selected a site for my tent which was on harder, more uneven ground, but higher than the surrounding pasture. I thought about how I had planned for the Fall weather and, since it had been raining all day while I was packing, threw in some extra socks and clothes just in case. I thought about how I had re-sealed the seams of my tent so they wouldn't leak and how I had brought an extra ground tarp because I knew the ground would be wet when I pitched my tent.

I thought about my sleeping pad inflated to Blue Whale comfort and that I had brought an Indian blanket which made it Sleeps-Like-Blue-Whale.

I thought about how I was woken up hours before dawn by a sudden intensity of rain, but in my Blue Whale warmness quickly drifted back to the Land o' Squid and deep six sleep.

I thought that because I was prepared for the weather I had a great night, enjoyed it immensely and would look back on this weekend as a great camping experience.

Yep, one of the best nights ever.

"Well," he persisted, "how was your night?"

Not wanting to ruin his coffee I replied,

"Much the same, my friend, much the same."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Manjula Strikes Again

A recent edition of Manjula's Kitchen featured Spinach Salad with Walnut Ginger Dressing.

I was intrigued with the idea of using ginger juice which is obtained by grating fresh ginger onto a cutting board then squeezing the ginger pulp over a small bowl. The ginger juice drops out quite freely and it doesn't take much grating to obtain a tablespoon or so of juice. I'm sure I'll find other uses for this technique.

Here are the main ingredients: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, ginger juice, walnuts, salt/pepper/sugar and (not shown) lemon juice. These are buzzed up in a small food processor. Add a little water if the dressing is too thick, a function of the walnuts, I think.



Chop fresh spinach leaves into bite sized pieces and toss with chopped tomato and chopped apple.



Add the dressing, toss and finish with feta cheese. I didn't have feta, but I had some fresh goat cheese that worked out great. Note the sloppy presentation! Serving guests the salad looks better with the dressing drizzled around the leaves, garnished by the cheese and tossed just before serving.



And, finally, Baked Salmon with Rosemary. Salmon is placed on a bed of rosemary and sliced red onion, topped with rosemary and lemon, and baked at 500 degrees for 20 minutes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bacon Wrapped Twinkie?

If you value your health in the SLIGHTEST, do not go to this website.

You have been warned!

This Is Why You're Fat dot Com documents those gastronomic inventions that have to be seen (not eaten) to be believed.

Some of my "favorites" are:


Bacon Wrapped Pigs in a Blanket - actually, that doesn't sound too bad!

Deep Fried Chocolate Cake - slices of cake batter coated, deep fried and served with ice cream.

Ultimate Hot Dog - cheese infused hot dog, batter coated, deep fried, wrapped in bacon and deep fried again.

El Niño - giant "taco" made out of a pepperoni pizza folded over ground beef, onions, cheese, lettuce and sour cream

Deep Fried Brat Loaf - bratwurst, sauerkraut and bun, batter coated and deep fried

(there's definitely a theme to these dishes!)




And, finally, my favorite, two taste treats in one, the Taco Burger:

Jack-in-the-Box taco stuffed into a Jumbo Jack Burger with Cheese.

Ain't it purdy!



So, what would you do if you could create a taste treat likely to kill you?

Me, I'd create an enchilada dinner taco: chicken enchiladas and refried beans with extra beef, cheese, lettuce and sour cream in a taco shell.

Oh, hang on, I've already done that.

Nevermind.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lowku


Leaves fall on the cat
He dreams of birds in the sun
He chases them all

Monday, November 16, 2009

Doodle Jump

I have a new addiction! We all need those.

This one is a game that you can play on your iPhone or iPod Touch called Doodle Jump.

The object is to get your little doodle guy to jump from one platform to the next earning points as you go. The more platforms you jump the higher your score. To help you along the way are springs that boing you past several platforms, a propeller cap a rocket pack that fly you to great heights. Of course, to make it challenging you have to grab the cap and pack while jumping. The platforms are not in a straight line so you have to constantly move the iPhone back and forth to "steer" the doodle guy left and right. Also, he can only jump so high so you have to guestimate which platform he can reach in a jump. Miscalculate and you've got an ongoing plummeting to one's demise situation followed by starting over from scratch.

To impede your progress there are a series of challenges: moving platforms, platforms that break under your weight, platforms that pop when you land on them and others that pop if you don't land on them soon enough. There are elevator platforms that move up and down, and very tricky platforms that you have to move into position with your finger while keeping the doodle guy from missing and plummeting to his demise and the end of your high score aspiration.

There are also hazards like a variety of monsters that you can land on for a boost, but if you hit them on the way up your doodle is knocked cuckoo and plummets to his demise. There are also black holes and an alien spaceship to make you disappear, presumably the same as plummeting to your demise.



As with any great addiction my main problem is finding enough time to tend to it. Typically I'm engrossed in a game concentrating on the moving platforms, avoiding the aliens, when Kink decides to conduct a Gravity Experiment.

What to do? Dodge the alien or sweep up the debris in the kitchen? You're right, the experiment is over and the debris can wait.

What I can't wait to do is play again! Must. Doodle Jump.

To make time I've started going to appointments early. Like way early.

"Excuse me, sir, but your appointment isn't until tomorrow."

"No prob. I can wait." Boing, boing, boing ...

Did I mention that Doodle Jump goes "boing, boing, boing?" Oh, yeah, and pop, pop, and sproing, and whoosh, and thuppa-thuppa, and gronga-gronga-gronga, and, of course, the ever disheartening plummeting to one's demise sound, a long Doppler-shifted whistle into the abyss.



After much consideration and experimentation, I found a great way to extend my game play. By mounting my iPhone on the steering wheel of my truck I can "steer" the doodle guy while driving. Perhaps that would be better written steer the doodle guy while "driving."

I can't take full credit for my invention, though. Judging from what I see on the road lots of people are playing Doodle Jump.

Hey, gtg, doodle guy's calling me.

l8r

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Not Half

"Yes, sir, what'll it be tonight?"

"Uh, I'll have a half of ESB."

"Sorry, squire, we're all out of halves."

"OK, make it a pint."

"Right, pint of ESB coming up."

That was "our little joke," a jest among friends, an amusement, a diversion at my local pub. I'd go in and ask for a half-pint but, alas, they'd be out of halfs and I'd be forced to drink a pint. Or four.

On some nights four was half way.

In darts if I got about half-way, say, to 150, I could go out with triple 20, triple 20, double 15. But not after four. Who am I kidding? Not after zero!

Half full or half empty?

Me, I'm a half-empty kind of guy. Yes, it's twue. Half-empty. That's because I knew it was full at one time but now it's not. It's half-empty and going down. I mean, it's nearly December! What happened to July? Did we even have a July? I don't remember, which raises an interesting question: Is the year nearly empty or is it nearly full? Do we start with a full year and empty it out or do we start with an empty year and fill it up?

Going back to the glass half empty thing, if it's nice and sunny, bright and happy, then the contents of the glass are evaporating and going down, but if it's cloudy and raining, dark and mournful, then the contents of the glass are filling up.

Therefore, according to that logic, if your glass is half empty you should be bright and happy, but if its half full you should be cloudy and sad.

I was thinking about opening up a restaurant half way between Houston and Austin. Actually, that point is in the middle of nowhere, although since it's somebody's ranch I guess it's somewhere, at least to the rancher. Anyway, I was going to call it the Half Way House. Coming or going it would be half way. However, since a "half way house" is a place where you go to recover from something I figured it probably wasn't a great idea. After all, I've heard of Centerville and Middleton but never Halfway City.

So, here we are smack dab half way through November. Fifteen days behind us and fifteen days in front of us.

What to do, what to do. The first half of November was pretty good. I'd hate for things to go downhill from here, glass half empty or not.

I know!

I'll do it all over again. I'll simply subtract 15 from each day which makes tomorrow November 16-15 or November 1st. I don't know why I didn't think of this before.

Now, if only I can get every day in December to be the 25th I'll have it knocked.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pineapple Man



If someone told me 20 years ago that today I'd be growing pineapples on my computer I would have said, "Whatever you're drinking I'll have a double!"

(probably a piña colada)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Last of the Last

Creole Crab Dip

Makes about 2 1/2 cups
Active time: 15 minutes Start to Finish: 15 minutes


2 garlic cloves
1 cup sliced bottled roasted red peppers
1 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/4 cayenne pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 lb crabmeat, picked over
1 1/2 Tbsp finely chopped chives



*With motor running, drop garlic into a food processor and chop.
*Stop motor and add roasted red peppers, vinegar, cayenne and 1/2 tsp salt to food processor and purée until smooth. Add mayonnaise and process until combined.
*Transfer roasted red pepper mixture to a heavy medium pot and heat or a low heat. Gently stir in crabmeat and cook until just heated through, then stir in chives.

That's it.

That's it. That's how Gourmet Magazine ends 70 years of recipes, articles, reviews, stories, interviews and celebrating all things food.

That's it. The final recipe from the final issue of Gourmet. RIP, November, 2009. The "Thanksgiving" Issue. Big, brown, roasted turkey on the cover, no different than the 69 previous big, brown, roasted Thanksgiving turkeys.

Only this is the last one. No more turkey. No more "discoveries" that Martha Washington can haz the best turkey recipe evah: put the turkey into a hot oven and cook until it's done.

Marvelous!

Adios Gourmet. It's been a good run.

You know, the thing I noticed about the final issue was the smell. Rather, the lack of smell. In recent years some of the major advertisers in Gourmet have been perfume companies who placed sachets of perfume or scratch-n-sniff pads on the pages. Seriously, there's nothing more off-putting when you're reading a recipe or trying to follow it in the kitchen than to be smacked in the nose with Chanel No. 5 or whatever.

I wrote a letter to Gourmet about the perfume ads but never got a reply. I suggested that perfumers develop scents more in line with kitchen smells: BBQ No. 5, or Bacon No. 5.

Yeah, I'd wear Bacon No. 5. I'd wear No. 6, 7 and 8, too!

Back to Gourmet. I subscribed to Gourmet for nearly 20 years. I would have made 20 years and beyond if the magazine hadn't folded! Duh. I even bought the annual recipe books, the Best of Gourmet. They line my kitchen bookshelf along with Julia Child, Emeril Lagasse, Alton Brown, Molly Wizenberg, James Beard, Jamie Oliver and many, many others.

About 10 years ago, having kept all the Gourmets since I started my subscription, I had a great purge. I simply couldn't keep much less keep track of all the magazines and recipes. Something had to be done. So, I went through each magazine with my handy dandy clipping tool and I extracted all the recipes I thought I might possibly cook, and articles that I might read again given a hundred years or so. Recipes like "bacon wrapped shrimp with Thai dipping sauce" survived, while "beet fritters" went to the landfill. Harsh, but it had to be done.

Looking at the ultimate Gourmet I asked myself what recipes would I keep and to be honest, this rare issue is a winner from aubergine to zucchini. I balked at "deviled eggs with pickled beets" but I might give it a try for old time's sake if for nothing else. (Actually, I was encouraged by the direction to "discard the beet mixture" which moved this recipe from the No Way category to Maybe.)

So, there you have it. Seventy years of turkeys, beets, titanium spoons, impossible to find ingredients and, all in all, wonderful food, wonderful times, wonderful experiences and always the excitement of what the next month would bring.

I'll miss Gourmet. Yeah, sometimes I took it for granted but I always looked forward to the next issue, knowing it was just a few weeks away.

As for the November issue, it's a keeper. Uncut, as it were. It goes on the Kitchen Bookcase with the other big guns.

On, and for a touch of irony, on the back cover the advertisement is for Chanel Coco Mademoiselle, and the model looks like she's starving ...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Oh, Yeah?

I've been told that posting a picture with a few comments isn't really blogging and barely in the spirit of National Blog Posting Month.

Oh, yeah? OH, YEAH?

Well, Ms. Smarty Pants, check this out ...


(insert picture below)


Oh, gee, no picture. Too bad, so sad.

Coulda had a cute picture of Kink in a Basket, but nooooooooooooo. You had to go and complain and all.

Bet you're sorry, now.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

If Like was Like ...

If Life was like UNIX things would be so easy.



Thank you, xkcd.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Double Trouble

If you think you've got trouble when this happens ...



... just wait until THIS happens!



Monday, November 09, 2009

Gravity of the Situation

These are my Tiki Shakers: Tiki Salt and Tiki Pepper.

Aren't they just wonderful? Genuine ceramic. They were on sale. I couldn't believe my luck!

My family thinks they are special, too, so special that we should only get them out of the special locked cupboard in the garage attic on Very Special Occasions, like during a total solar eclipse. I think one's coming up in 2045 and I'm going to be ready. Totally.



Which brings us to the subject of Gravity and Kink. (You knew that Kink was going to be part of this story somehow. Not to disappoint.)

Kink has been experimenting with Gravity for some years now. He's consistent with his experimental approach, although results vary widely.

Here's the blueprint:


1. Locate an object near an edge approximately 1 meter or greater from the floor.
2. Push the object to the edge and observe as potential energy is minimized and kinetic energy is maximized.
3. Observe intently for at least one second.
4. Assume a nonchalant air of aloofness.
5. Lick tail.


(I recall doing all but Step 5 in Physics Lab which probably explains why I got a "C.")

Not all of Kink's gravity experiments have been captured on film, although many have been observed. Most are harmless consisting of pencils, keys, plastic bits and pieces, newspapers and magazines. The basic rule is this:

If you don't want it on the floor, don't put it on a shelf (or countertop or chair or table or, well, you get the picture.)

Here's the aftermath of one of Kink's early gravity experiments: my (ex) favorite coffee cup.



Gravity experiment number 2 involved an object less sentimental, although it still brought a tear to my eye, but you would not believe the mess it created. OK, you'll get SOME idea.



So, knowing Kink's insatiable curiosity about gravity and its effects, imagine my horror when I discovered this!



Nobody in the family owned up to encouraging Kink to experiment with the heirloom Tiki Shakers but I'm pretty sure they didn't walk out of the locked attic cupboard by themselves.

My guess is that Kink simply miscalculated the date of the next total solar eclipse.

Yeah, that's it.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Turkey Talk

"So, what do you guys want for Thanksgiving this year?"

"Anything but turkey!"

"No turkey!"

"What? Turkey again? Can't we have something else?"

Apparently, they misunderstood the question. The question wasn't whether or not to have turkey, that was a given. The question was what to have with the turkey. Side dishes. Appetizers. Drinks. Desserts.

We've had rice, Southern "dirty" rice, Bill's Southern spicy "dirty" rice, étouffée and jambalaya stuffings, cornbread stuffing, cranberry this and that, root vegetables including parsnips, carrots, roasted (boiled, baked, mashed, twice mashed, thrice mashed with cheese and baked) potatoes, sprouts, this, that and the other thing sometimes fried, steamed, baked, scalloped, but never microwaved.

It's too much. Too much! You've got to whittle down the side dishes or you just can't eat it all, even after a week of trying.

Imagine my surprise when such opposition came to the main, and fixed, event - turkey.

The turkey is the centerpiece of the dinner. The Guest of Honor. The Che de la Resistance.

I've roasted my turkeys using many recipes. My favorite recipe, however, was dictated by Martha Washington (yes, George's wife) who wrote:


Place the bird in a hot oven and cook until done.


Seriously, you will never find a better recipe than that, and, all things considered, it's been the best regardless of what Robert Siegel would say.

But, no turkey? I was at a loss for words much less ideas, so I enquired further.

"OK, no turkey. What do you want instead?"

The conversation degenerated quickly ...

"How about tofu?"

"Yeah, sculpted into the shape of a turkey and tasting like turkey!"

"How about turkey sausage?"

"Yeah, sculpted into the shape of a turkey and tasting like turkey!"

"How about a big ham?"

"Yeah, sculpted into the shape of a turkey and tasting like turkey!"

"How about a goose or a giant salmon?"

"Yeah, sculpted into the shape of a turkey and tasting like turkey?"

I decided it was time for an intervention.

I said, "How about a fresh, young turkey sculpted into the shape of a turkey and tasting like a turkey?"

The crowd considered the option and voted and surprise, surprise, turkey won by a landslide.

Feeling good about the election I went out on a limb and announced:

"And this year I'm going to put the turkey in sideways instead of straight in the oven."

Silence filled the room.

"Sideways?"

"You mean you're going to put the pan in this way instead of that way?"

Harrumph, mumble, mumble, grouse, grouse, more harrumph.

"No, we've decided that if we're going to have turkey it's going to be nothing fancy, no "Gourmet magazine" turkey, just regular old standard turkey like we have every year. Just so it's sculpted like turkey and tastes like turkey.

Well, you know, I replied, if I try real hard I think I can do that.

Now, what about side dishes. Sweet potatoes anybody?

"Ewwww, yuck, no, not sweet potatoes again!"

"Akkkkkkkk, anything but sweet potatoes!"

"Didn't we have sweet potatoes last year? Can't we have something different?"

I sighed. OK, no sweet potatoes. What would y'all like instead?

"How about tofu! Sculpted to look like and taste like sweet potatoes …"



Slowly, I turned …

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Roti See, Roti Do

The Roti.

Indian flat bread. Perfection of such a simple recipe (flour, water and heat) has eluded me for years. My rotis come out like little hubcaps, Frisbees, disci, platters, cutting boards and Space Shuttle heat shield tiles. Yes, I make those for NASA out of flour and water in my very own kitchen. Years of perfection, I tell you.

No longer. I am now the Roti King, or at least the Prince of Rotis.

What changed?

I found a mentor who showed me the way, a veritable Yoda of Indian cooking:

Manjula Jain

Manjula has posted a series of Indian cooking videos on YouTube, just search for "manjulas kitchen" to find them. There's nothing like seeing a dish being cooked to understand what is meant by phrases like "reduce the liquid until the sauce thickens" or "add enough water to form a soft dough." How reduced, how soft? Those are questions that a cook answers while gaining experience, usually at the expense of not getting it right.

It turns out that my failure to produce nice, soft, pliable, chewy, delicate rotis lay in how I cooked them, rather, overcooked them, undercooked them and basically botched the process.

Manjula taught me several things about making rotis:

1. How thin to roll them.
2. Use a very hot, iron skillet or griddle.
3. Turn them twice, and on the second turn press and rotate.

The first time I tried making rotis after watching Manjula I felt the Power in my fingertips. My first rotis came out restaurant perfect. I was amazed, and you will be too. Now, rather than dreading the thought of trying to cook Indian bread I'm looking up more bread recipes to extend my range.

Thank you, Manjula!

And, now, watch as Manjula does the roti.

Friday, November 06, 2009

No Comment

I am not going to comment on the fact that Christmas decorations are up at the Mall. The giant tree which, I swear, they took down in July is back up. Why bother? Why not just leave the thing there year round.

I am not going to comment on the fact that Kroger's had Christmas plates, glasses, candles and cards on display a full week before Halloween, however, not a single Trick-or-Treater dressed as either Santa Claus or a reindeer. (Did get one retro Ninja Turtle which was refreshing.)

I am not going to comment on the number of house decoration company trucks I've seen in the neighborhood. No sooner was the Harley riding inflatable skeleton deflated than Frosty the Snowman rolled into view.

I am not going to comment on Gourmet Magazine going out of business after 70 years, once again teaching me the lesson of never subscribing to a magazine, even one you've subscribed to for over 20 years, for more than one year at a time. Hopefully Mr. Google will be a source of recipes for Baked Armadillo with Fireant Stuffing.

I am not going to comment on the golfer who hit the side of my house and when I went outside he hit a ball to almost exactly the same spot. I learned two things about that golfer. One, he has a bad slice. Two, he has no friends because as they drove by in their carts I shouted over the fence, "Which one of you morons has the bad slice?" and his "friends" ratted him out with gales of laughter, derision and what sounded like dog noises.

I am not going to comment about the effect of beer on golfing.

And, finally, if asked if I have my Christmas shopping done yet or even started my standard reply will be,

"No comment."

Thursday, November 05, 2009

November 55th

November 5, 1605

Guy Fawkes and fellow conspirators are caught attempting to blow up the House of Parliament building in London along with King James I and the entire Protestant, and even most of the Catholic, aristocracy and nobility who were inside.

November 5, 2009

Cabinet work is complete and the new 55-inch LCD LED HD TV has been installed. Guy Fawkes might have understood the words "cabinet work" but the rest would be a mystery. Actually, it's mostly a mystery to me which is why I live on Default Street.

I'm sure that tonight there's a documentary on Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot if only I could figure out how to change the channel.





The Original Poem for Guy Fawkes Day

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli'ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow;

By God's providence he was catch'd (or by God's mercy*)
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring. (Holla*)
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
And what should we do with him? Burn him!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Food Pyramid Redesigned




Looks reasonable to me!

How would you order YOUR food pyramid?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Kink at Three - Happy Birthday!



Kink's official birthday is October 1, but he didn't want to make a big deal out of it, so it's taken me a month to get the film developed. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Oh, yeah, you're right. I have a digital camera. Rats, foiled again!

Kink became quite the Mighty Hunter this year and he can catch a leaping lizard faster than you can say "Orphan Annie."

I think it's because of the night vision goggles I bought him last year.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Floored

"There's furniture in the kitchen."

I wiggled the newspaper to indicate "transmission received" and feeling all Maine-like for no particular reason other than it's Fall Back week muttered an "Ay-yup" for emphasis.

"Oh, I get it." (She's a fast study, my daughter.) "The guys had to move all this stuff from there to here because they're going to paint the floors there."

"Refinish."

"Whatever. How long is this stuff going to be in here?"

I put down the paper, fixed my daughter with The Glare and transmitted the answer telepathically.

"Oh, until the floor is dry, cured or whatever, about two days."

I'm glad I learned telepathy. It saves a lot of time.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Paying the Piper

Or in this case the plumber.

It all started with a damp patch in the front yard which led to a call to the Lawn Sprinkler guys who said: Not our problem.

Then it was a call to the plumber who said, "Youse gots a bad problem." The solution to the problem involved, in part, tearing a giant hole in the closet of a person who wasn't too terribly happy about the giant hole.

Once the plumber finished, the hole remained. It had to be fixed by the House guy. So, I called the House guy to fix the hole in the sheetrock.

Hilarity ensued.

Yeah, said House guy, we can fix that hole for about $300. Deal, I said. I should have stopped there, but noooooooo.

Hey, House guy, while you're here do you think you could do something about our gutters that seemed to have settled into the wrong angle, that is, they dangle and the rain puddles in a triangle, the plants below they do mangle.

House guy said, Fo Shizzle!

And, while you're at it, House guy, how about that trim that's starting to wear, and our hardwood floors need refinishing and I could sure use some carpentry magic on this cabinet so I could buy a HD TV and what about this and what about that.

House guy was very accommodating. Very accommodating, indeed! Nothing was impossible, it just took time and money.

The moral of the story is that I could have done this stuff a little at a time over several years, but as a professional procrastinator I'd lose my certification! Not worth it. Better to do it all at once. Oh, and let's throw in a new washer and dryer, especially if it has a computer in it. Oh, and how about the lights in the garage that haven't worked in 10 years.

House guy said, Fo $hizzle!

Did I mention new toilets? How could I be so remiss??



Ain't they purty?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Train Story

It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot was poured …

"One for the road, Doc?"

"Sure, why not," Doc replied smiling at barkeep Leo. Doc and Leo had been friends for years and Doc knew that Leo didn't have to ask "one for the road." It was their joke and the punchline was always the same.

"Nasty out there," Leo observed watching the rain lash against the dark windows of the pub. The wind howled as each lash was delivered against the window as if in punishment.

"Yeah, I'd hate to be driving out in that, but … later, my friend, travel calls."

Leo continued, "At least it's not as bad as the Storm of 1899 when the train went into the abyss."

Doc downed-in-one the shot of Scotch, slid off the barstool somewhat unsteadily, and made his way to the door attempting, unsuccessfully, to pull his overcoat on and wave to Leo.

"G'nite," and Doc disappeared into the storm.

The short walk to the train station was uneventful though wet and cold. Rain bucketed down in sheets and the wind was relentless. Doc clenched his overcoat around his throat and trudged on.

Once aboard the train Doc found his carriage, stowed his gear on the overhead rack, shook out his coat and settled in to the seat next to the window.

On time, the train lurched forward and soon speeded down the track with a rhythmic clackity-clack.

Clackity-clack. Clackity-clack. Clackity-clack. Rock-chalk-jayhawk.

Doc looked out the window but saw little. Just a few lights in the distance, dribbles of rain streaming across the window and not much else.

Clackity-clack. Clackity-clack. Clackity-clack.

Doc's eyes closed.

There was a bump and a train whistle.

Doc awoke with a start and looked around alarmed. All was well, but he was not alone. A passenger sat across from him, dripping wet.

"Oh, hello," Doc stammered wiping condensation from his glasses on his handkerchief, "I must have dozed off! Ha. Ha."

Unmoved the passenger stared straight ahead. Though he didn't blink, water dripped from his eyelids, coursed down his cheeks and puddled on his shirt.

Attempting small talk Doc said, "Nasty night, eh? Good thing we're on a train, what?"

The passenger looked at Doc and with a wry grin, a touch of irony, said, "Oh, yes, good thing we're on a train. Good thing we're on this train. Yes, this train." And, the passenger's eyes drifted towards the black windows, streaked with rain.

Doc mulled the words, "this train," and after a long pause during which the passenger's eyes neither blinked nor turned from the rain streaked window, asked, "This train? Is there anything special about this train?"

As Doc's words hung in the damp air the passenger slowly turned his head and fixed his gaze on Doc. "Oh, yes," he said, "this train is very special. Very special indeed. In fact, it's called the London Special, didn't you know that?"

Doc thought for a moment but couldn't make the reference. London Special? No, he hadn't heard of that.

Turning to the passenger Doc said, "I'm sorry, but I'm not familiar with the London Special, although I do take this train every week. It's my regular commute train. Nothing special about it as far as I know."

The door at the end of the carriage opened and the Conductor walked down the aisle. "Evening, Doc," the Conductor said, "nasty night out. We might be a few minutes late into King's Cross."

Doc nodded and the Conductor continued to the next car.

"See?" Doc said to the passenger, "just a few minutes late. Not a big deal. Not a lifetime."

"Not a lifetime," the passenger mused, his eyes distant, "not a lifetime."

"Let me tell you a story," the passenger said, "a story about a train like this on a night like this with passengers like you and …" His voice trailed off.

"It was a dark and stormy night. The Conductor asked if it was safe and the word came back that it was safe enough, but, more importantly, we had to make schedule. That's what it was all about. Not the Hokey Pokey, but making schedule. So, off we went, on time and full of passengers."

"The night drew worse. Rain lashed the windows with such ferocity that passengers squealed with each thunderclap. The carriages rocked two and fro. It was a dreadful ride."

"The tricky part was Lands Bridge over the Down River. It was an old railway bridge, creaky on the best of days and terrifying on every other. It was so dangerous that the Company stationed men to signal the train if the bridge was deemed unsafe."

"So, one night, just like this night, the train to London approached the bridge during a bad storm. The waters had risen. The rain lashed down unmercifully and the bridge was unsafe."

"The lads in charge of signaling the train had been making merry and were quite merry, indeed. They played their cards and drank their rum and warded off the cold and rain."

"In short, the bridge washed out, the signal was not sent and the train plummeted into the abyss with no survivors."

Doc was fascinated by this story, "No survivors?" he said inquired.

The passenger paused. "No. Not everyone who should have died was on that train. There was one survivor. Tragic. One of the watchmen at the bridge was, shall we say, fond of the spirit and was well overly fond of the spirit that night. Yes, he was drunk as a skunk. He failed to light the lantern signaling the train that the bridge was inundated with water and, thus, the train crashed into the abyss losing all hands, feet, heads and bodies of all passengers on board. Legend has it that he was so filled with remorse that he hanged himself on the first anniversary of the calamity."

"Hanged from the very bridge the train failed to cross."

By this time Doc was beginning to feel sort of creeped out. He closed his eyes, leaned his head against the window and, clackity-clack, clakity-clack, fell asleep.

The train rumbled on in the dark.

In his dreams Doc heard screams of panic and despair, but they were dreams and he dreamed and dreamed, and dreamed ,,, "

"Tickets! Tickets, please!"

Doc awoke and tried to shake off the sleep.

"Tickets!" the Conductor shouted, "Tickets!"

Doc rummaged in his coat pocket and pulled out his ticket.

"Here it is," he said, "my ticket" and he held it aloft like a prize at the County Fair.

The Conductor punched the ticket and turned to move to the next carriage.

Doc interrupted him.

"Excuse me, sir, but you didn't punch my friend's ticket. He must have wandered off." Doc held aloft the ticket the passenger left on the seat.

The Conductor examined the ticket, turn to Doc, smiled and said,

"Nice one, Doc, nice one! An old ticket for me to punch. Cute. Some sort of All Hallows Eve trick?"

"I don't understand," Doc protested, "my friend was here and I dozed off and, …"

The Conductor dropped the ticket on the seat, looked down and smiled. "Doc," he said, "you've been here the whole time all by yourself. You're such a kidder! Whatever. We're about to arrive. See you next week."

Doc shook it off. Must have been a dream.

Doc picked up his stuff and made his way to the aisle, when he looked down at the seat opposite where the passenger had been sitting and noticed a ticket lying there. He bent down and picked it up. The seat was damp, almost wet and so was the ticket.

Before Doc could call the conductor back to check the ticket, he looked at it himself. It was a regular ticket from Manchester to London. One way. October 31, 1899.

Doc double checked.

1899.

Doc stepped off the train. The clouds had broken and the rain was lessening. Doc shoved the ticket deep in his pocket and walked to the car park. Another day, he thought, not a lifetime.