Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy Old Mac

New Year’s Eve and it’s time to fire up the old Macintosh Plus for its annual countdown. The old Mac turns 20 in March; still going strong. I start it up once a year just for the countdown.

The Mac booted up just fine displaying the charming message “Welcome to Macintosh” and displayed the date: 12/31/ 5. The time was a little off, but easily corrected.

We’ll spend the evening playing some of the old games on the tiny, 9-inch black-and-white screen.

Ah, the simpler times.

Take that you pesky Daleks!

Happy New Year to all of you and here’s to 2006, Daleks and all.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Spuds ‘R’ Us

I’ve been cutting down on the spuds this year in a vain attempt to reduce the overall girth of the household.

OK, it’s probably just a vain attempt. Who knows?

However, tonight’s dinner cried out for spudmania.

White fish on spinach with cream sauce.

The fish yelled for potatoes. The spinach yelled for potatoes. I capitulated.

But, what potato dish to do? It had to be something new so I pulled out my French Country cookbook and found the following:

Thin slice some potatoes and rinse them well and dry them off. Season.
In a large pot boil up some cream and butter and garlic.
Dump in the potatoes and simmer for 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, butter a baking dish, heat the oven to 350.
Dump the potatoes into the baking dish and cover with Gruyere.
Bake for 90 minutes.

Very much like potatoes au gratin, in fact, almost exactly like potatoes au gratin except that I have never simmered the potato slices in cream before.

In short: Rave Reviews.

There were no actual fights during the serving of this meal, but there was a tense staredown over the ultimate crusty bit in the pan on the table.

“You going to eat that?”

“I was thinking about it. You?”

“I was thinking about it, too. I’m older, you know. It’s my right.”

“It’s my birthday. Birthday trumps right.”

Short pause.

“Arm wrestle you for it.”


“You heard me. Chicken.”

“I’m not chicken and I’m not arm wrestling you and it’s still my birthday.”

“Yeah, maybe. For two hours maybe.”

“That golden bit of cheesy, buttery potato ambrosia ain’t going to last two seconds. Loser.”

“Yeah? Well, you just wait a few months until my birthday and we’ll see. Yeah, we’ll just see!” And a little tear fell to the table.

The teary bluff was called, the golden, cheesy, buttery potato morsel was scooped up, deposited down the hatch and the Birthday Girl slumped back in her chair, a smile upon her lips, drool running out of the corner of her mouth and proceeded to utter contented noises.

We didn’t bother putting her to bed. We just threw a sheet over her and turned off the kitchen lights. Some things are best left undisturbed.

Thursday, December 29, 2005


We’ve been in Austin the past couple of days. That statement doesn’t excuse the lack of postings on this blog because we enjoy a very broadband, wireless experience in Austin and, in fact, can connect to eight totally open networks in our condo.

Such nice people to let us surf the Internet on their dime, so to speak. And, you know, I’m really sorry for that couple across the hall who got hauled away by the FBI for accessing that sensitive website. Hey, I was only curious!

Anyway, I decided to secure our wireless network so I gave it some weird name I can never remember, but, fortunately, my Macintosh remembers and reminds me that I’m about to connect to “that weird network” and is that OK. Yeah, that’s OK.

Austin, Texas is a cool town because it’s three things at once:

1. It’s a university town, University of Texas. Woo Hoo, go Longhorns! Rose Bowl, 2006! Wooooooo, Bevo!
2. It’s the State Capital and has lots of cool stuff to do like the Capitol and museums and libraries and stuff like that.
3. It’s a restaurant mecca with cuisines out the wazoo.

We took advantage of all three. First, we cruised though the UT campus several times trying not to run down engineering students who had a habit of reading textbooks in crosswalks. What’s up with that?

Second, we avoided all the museums because once you’ve seen a stuffed Davy Crockett, you’ve seen them all.

And, third, we took advantage of every Mexican restaurant Austin has to offer, except for Taco Bell and Jack in the Box.

On the third point I’ll mention Trudy’s in particular.

Trudy’s, on 30th street just off Guadeloupe is located in a rambling house, and full of students, faculty and Austin glitterati.

We, of course, fell into the ultimate category.

Offered a table in the centre of the restaurant, we quickly downed a couple of the house margaritas before our dinners arrived. The margaritas were not diluted with mixture, rather represented the tequila appropriately.

Maybe too appropriately.

Dinner was, thankfully, a reasonable proportion of food. That is to say not a Houston Papadeaux quantity: enough to feed a navy.

The smoked chicken enchiladas were tender and flavorful and the chicken chipotle was tangy and interesting.

A lovely dinner in a vibrant restaurant.

Later that evening was the following conversation:

“Hey, at Trudy’s did you notice that couple across from us?”

“You mean the striking blonde about 5’10”, 130 lbs., possibly of German descent but definitely Northern European, with the way-too-tight eggshell white top, wearing grey ski pants, thong, red pumps and no socks, with the guy who was, like, four times her age?”

“No, the family with the baby!”

“Uh, no.”

Austin. Can’t wait to go back!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Old Hand, New Store

Christmas Eve and it’s going to be a long night.

One present left to buy.

The big one for Someone Special.

The mall is all but deserted. The kiosk vendors are packing up their cell phones, woodcarvings, hair straighteners, sun glasses and massage chairs and, in some cases, erecting Easter displays. Somehow the sight of an Easter bunny with a Santa Claus backdrop is disquieting.

I trudged through the ever-thinning crowds as store after store turned off their lights and brought down their security gates.

Oh well, I thought, as I made my way to the exit, looks like a gift certificate or an IOU or an envelope of cash dredged from the bottom of my closet will have to do. I’m out of ideas and out of time.

About that moment I spied a familiar shape shuffling towards me.

It was the Old Hand.

“Yo, bud,” I called out, “what brings you to the mall at this late hour?”

The Old Hand moseyed up and stood in front of me full of Christmas cheer and holding a bag full of goodies that nearly crawled out of their confines in joy.

“Hey, yourself,” the Old Hand greeted me warmly, “Season’s greetings to you, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Your sacking arm is recovering nicely, and I was talking with Carlos the other day and he sends his best.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I replied downcast, “happy whatever to you and Carlos. Well, I gotta go.”

And with that I turned away and headed towards the door.

“Hey,” the Old Hand called, “what did you think of the New Store that opened up this week?”

I turned around and asked, “What new store?”

“The one down from Foley’s. You checked it out, didn’t you?”

True, I had been down by Foley’s but I didn’t see any new store. There was The Gap and Buckles and the Watch Store and the Bagel Shop, but nothing new.

“No,” I replied, “I didn’t see the new store. What do they sell?”

“All sorts of stuff,” the Old Hand replied, “I think you’d find what you’re looking for there.”

“I dunno,” I replied dejectedly, “I’ve been all over the mall all night and I’m empty handed and it’s 10 PM. I’m just going to crawl home and…” I trailed off.

“Follow me!”, the Old Hand said enthusiastically, “You won’t be disappointed.” The Old Hand disappeared down the mall calling “Follow me!”

I turned and followed the Old Hand who was nearly skipping down the deserted mall walkway. Man, I thought, he can move when he wants to.

I hurried along.

Shortly we pulled up in front of a store I had overlooked during my shopping. The bright sign above the doorway flashed “New Store – Opening Soon.”

As we crossed the threshold I heard an all too familiar tinkling sound and through a fog in the back of the store, in slow motion, blonde hair swishing back and forth ever so slow, came Gizelle; hips pivoting, long legs reaching out atop 8-inch spiked heels. She was as ever beautiful.

Breathlessly, Gizelle stopped, towering above us and asked, “Is there something I could show you? Boys?”

Boy, howdy, could you, I thought, but said out loud, “I’m looking for a gift.”

“This way,” Gizelle replied without even asking me who the gift was for or how much I wanted to spend.

We followed Gizelle through aisle after aisle of exquisite gifts until finally she stopped and pointed to an object on the middle shelf.

“This will this do,” she stated petulantly.

I looked down and feasted my eyes on the perfect gift ever. I closed my eyes as in a dream, opened them again and, yes, it was still perfect. I checked the price tag having already decided that money was no object and the price was reasonable.

“Oh, yeah, babe,” I said, “this is way cool. I’ll take it. Do you gift wrap?”

Gizelle regarded me as she would an insect and replied, “Of course.”

The gift wrapped, the Old Hand and I left the new store and made our way to the mall entrance.

“Thanks, Old Hand,” I said as I shook his hand, “This gift is the most perfect gift I’ve ever found. It embodies what I feel, you know what I mean? It’s not just a thing to buy and give, but it expresses what my heart wants to say. It’s, well, perfect.” My voice trailed off.

“Yeah, I know what you mean,” said the Old Hand, “Well, Merry Christmas to you and yours and we’ll see you next year, old pal.”

And with that the Old Hand disappeared into the gently falling snow and in a moment was gone.

Just before I headed out the mall doors myself I spied the mall manager doing his nightly duties. I strolled up to the manager and told him…

“That new store of yours is a stroke of genius and I wanted to thank you personally for saving my hide on Christmas Eve.”

“Oh”, the mall manager said, “what new store?”

“The one down by Foley’s, where the Texas Store used to be before it closed.”

“There’s no store there,” the mall manager replied, “it’s still an empty property.”

Together we walked through the now deserted mall towards Foley’s where the New Store should be. As we rounded the corner we passed The Gap and Buckles and finally…

For Let

The storefront was dark and empty. Gizelle was nowhere to be seen. We peered through the window but there was no life inside.

“Are you sure this is where you bought your gift?”

“Yeah, I’m sure, look,” and I opened my bag clearly labeled New

The mall manager looked in and let out a low whistle, “Whoa, man, that’s a cool gift. Wish I’d found my wife something that cool. You say you got that here?” The mall manager looked around wistfully.

“Yeah,” I said, “I think so.” And, suddenly, it all seemed not as clear.

The mall manager shook his head, and we walked back up the mall to the main entrance. We said our good-byes and I headed off into the parking lot.

As I got to my truck I heard some laughing and looking up, I thought I saw Gizelle climbing into a low-slung, red sports car, the Old Hand sliding into the driver’s seat. I closed my eyes, shook my head and when I opened my eyes again the sports car was gone.

Is this a dream, I thought? I looked into my bag and gazed upon the perfect gift. I guess not.

Shouting into the night I proclaimed, “Merry Christmas, Old Hand!” And in the distance I heard a throaty varrrooommm and a high-pitched, tinkling laugh.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Pain of Bread

Christmas shopping done; I was heading back to the barn at flank speed.

“What’s the rush to get home?”

“I’ve got to get my bread started.”


“What bread?”

“French bread! Baguettes! My specialty. I found a new baguette recipe that I want to try. Claims to make the bread, how do you English say, ze more airey, like ze cloudz.”

“Light would be good,” she said licking her front tooth.

I must say, the dentist did a fine job on that repair. You can hardly tell it was chipped.

“Hey, look over there, it’s La Madeline bakery. Why don’t we just stop in and buy some baguettes?”

“What?”, I was shocked, “buy bread when I can make it myself AND I have a new recipe? Sacre bleu, what a thought!” (I was getting into the French thing.)

We were getting close to La Madeline’s entrance.

“But, La Madeline’s bread is b…” she said hurriedly, biting off the last word.

“Buh, what? You said their bread is ‘buh’ and then stopped.”

I thought for a second then said, “Were you going to say their bread is ‘bitter?’ Or, was it ‘buttery?’ Can’t say I’ve experienced either. ‘Batter?” Their bread is batter? That doesn’t even make sense.”

Slowly a revelation began to dawn on me like biting into a mouldy chestnut or hearing a particularly bad mixed metaphor.

“You weren’t going to say, were you,” I said in my best Spanish Inquisitor’s voice, “you weren’t going to say that La Madeline’s bread was better, were you?”

Crickets chirped. Somewhere in the distance a coyote howled mournfully. A tumbleweed rolled by. Silence.

Choosing her words carefully she explained, “No, I wasn’t going to say that La Madeline’s bread is ‘better’ , per se , rather I was going to say that it would be a better use of your time to buy La Madeline’s admittedly inferior-to-yours bread so you could concentrate on the more intricate, delicate aspects of preparing Christmas dinner, without being distracted by unrising yeast, malfunctioning ovens and weevily flour. That’s what I was going to say.”


Quickly, I turned into La Madeline’s entrance, cutting off only a couple of drivers who acknowledged my skillful maneuver with cheerful honking of horns and seasonal holiday hand waving.

“Merry Christmas to you, too!” I waved back excitedly.

“People are so nice this time of year,” I observed brightly.

As I strode into the bakery I thought of my wife’s incisive observation that buying French bread would be a better use of my time. Always thinking about me, I thought, how about that?

Later, with loaves in hand I returned to the truck.

“You were gone a long time. Was it crowded?”

“Nope, the place was mostly empty. I got to talk with the Master Baker Guy, Jean-Paul, or Pierre or something.”


“Well, being somewhat of a master baker myself, I gave Jean-Paul or Pierre or something some of my baking tips and techniques. I don’t know how much he understood, being French and all, but I used my best French accent and I think he got the message.”


“And, well, he listened attentively, although it was obvious he had something in the oven because he kept checking his watch, so I wrapped it up quickly, bought my loaves and left.”


“And, as I was leaving he wished me a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. In French, no less! What a guy. I think he was grateful for my tips. He said, and I quote,”

Imbécile, ne laissez pas la porte frapper votre derrière comme vous partez.

“What a guy. We ought to come back here more often. Such a friendly place…”

Friday, December 23, 2005


Thanks to everyone around the world who celebrated Twelve Two Two with fondue. Here are some highlights.

First, thanks to s'kat for the link, description and pictures.

HoldTheRaisins also held a fondue with fun for all.

Here at Chez 12TuTuFondue we were visited by Pammer of Outside Voice shown here with the Old Hand in full Kroger regalia.

Everybody who attended Twelve Two Two Fondue II had a great time, wherever they were! Here's to next year!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

It is...

December 22, 2005 - Twelve Two Two

Live on the webcam!

The day for


The World celebrated fondue on Twelve Two Two 2005! Thanks, all, for joining in the fun!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Fantasy Meets Reality

First, the news.

Twelve Two Two Fondue II is less than 24 hours away.

Host your own fondue party on December 22, to celebrate Twelve Two Two.

With that Claire and I went shopping for dinner and stuff for the party. After buying a Christmas tree and libations we ended up at the Kroger’s.

“Where’s the Old Hand?” Claire whispered.

“Nobody sees the Old Hand, Claire,” I replied, “he’s like Bigfoot or the Yeti. Mysterious, but there when you need him.”

“What about Carlos?”

“I haven’t seen Carlos, oh, wait, there he is!”

Sure enough, Carlos was just getting off shift and heading out the door.

“He’s cute.”

“If you like ruthless,” I recollected our past encounters.

“You know,” Claire continued, “this is a nice place, Kroger’s that is.”

I had to agree. Aside from the electrocution events of this summer my shopping experience had been, on the whole, positive.

Snapping back to reality I sprung into action.

“Claire, we have a fondue party to get ready for! We need a 100 pounds of cheese and fifty bottles of wine!”

We grabbed two shopping carts each and headed into the store. Victory would be ours.

Monday, December 19, 2005

For Evan

Evan’s been working the meat counter for as long as I can remember. He’s outlasted all the checkers and sackers, and store managers, produce stockers and folks in the front and back office.

Evan is a survivor.

Evan is also a professional. His meat and fish counter is immaculate and always laid out in an interesting and entertaining fashion. Soon after we moved to this part of the world and started shopping, Evan recognized us as ‘regulars’ and began to greet us as we foraged for our daily fare.

Soon I learned that being asked which cut of meat I wanted was really a formality. I could say “that one”, pointing in a vague direction and Evan would instinctively grab the best cut on display.

So, it was somewhat of a surprise when I ordered a couple of filet mignons that Evan deviated from his normal routine. I could see two very El Primo cuts at the bottom of the tray, partly covered by decorations made of Romaine lettuce and red bell peppers carved into the shape of little palm trees.

Evan’s hand reached almost that far, but hesitated and picked a couple of steaks not quite as filet mignon-ish as the two choice cuts below.

“What about those?” I asked.

“What those?” Evan replied defensively, “you mean those dried up, old, yesterday cuts? You don’t want those.”

“They look pretty good to me,” I countered.

“Naw,” Evan looked around, “they’re not that great. I’ll probably wrap them up for myself so a customer doesn’t get disappointed.”

Evan looked pretty earnest and a little nervous at the same time. Obviously, he wanted those two cuts and I was raining on his parade.

I decided to play along and agreed to the cuts Evan selected for me. Relieved, Evan was chattier than usual as he weighed and wrapped the meat and wished me a Merry Christmas and a speedy checkout.

Later, I returned to the meat counter when Evan was in the back room and placed a second order.

Checkout was indeed speedy. Carlos had been promoted to Floor Supervisor and was working the checkers into a check-out frenzy. Hands were a blur and customers were being hurled through the lanes at a dizzying pace. Not that anybody minded. We all had places to go, things to do and people to see.

I made my way home, fired up the grill and created a splendid dinner with the Next-But-Perfect filets. Rave reviews, nevertheless.

Meanwhile, it was shift change at the meat counter…

“Checking out, Evan?” Chuck asked.

“Yep. Got plans for tonight. Green pepper encrusted filet mignons, Chalk Creek zinfandel, and some morel mushrooms that a friend of mine FedEx’d me from Oklahoma. I’ll do those in butter and brandy. Gizelle’s in town for the Southern Supermodel shoot and I’m certain those perfect filet mignons will really impress her. I’m counting on it, if you know what I mean.”

Evan pulled out the filet tray and reached under the Romaine camouflage.

His hand met bare tray, not filet.

Frantically, he hauled the tray out of the cooler and tossed lettuce and peppers left and right. Wide-eyed he looked around, searching.

“The steaks,” he managed to say, “they’re gone!”

“Yeah,” Chuck said, “some guy bought them earlier this evening.”

Evan stared at Chuck resolutely. “Really?” he said.


“Ratso rizzo.” Evan hung his head in resignation. His evening plans with Gizelle were dashed.

Evan sighed.

“I was hoping, you know…” his voice trailed off. Evan pulled on his coat, adjusted his cap and headed out the back door.

Chuck called after him, “Wait, Evan, I’ve got something for you.”

Evan turned around and Chuck handed him a package of meat, about two filet mignons in weight.

“What’s this?” Evan asked.

“Some guy bought those filets you were trying to save and told me to give them to you at the end of your shift. He didn’t want some doofus buying them by mistake because he knew they were special. Nice guy, huh?”

Through misty eyes Evan looked down at the package. Written along the side of the butcher paper was an inscription.

“Merry Christmas, Evan!” Signed “The Sackmeister.”

Evan showed the package to Chuck, “Look, the Sackmeister.”

“Yowza,” muttered Chuck, “that’s a pretty nice present. I didn’t know the Sackmeister had a heart.”

“I dunno,” Evan said, “this time of year does things to people. Good things, ya know?”

“Yeah, I guess,” agreed Chuck, “Merry Christmas, Evan!”

“Merry Christmas, Chuck. And Merry Christmas, Sackmeister, wherever your are!”

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Four Days, More Forks

Four days until Twelve Two Two Fondue II. Here’s the blueprint:

It’s a party!

You’re all invited!

Yes, everyone. All of you. Even you who are reading this now.

Fondue Party
Twelve Two Two Fondue II
December 22, 2005
7pm local time
At Your House
RSVP 12tutufondue

Send me pictures and descriptions of your party as it’s happening and I’ll post them on the site throughout the day. Here’s the address:


“How many people have you invited for Thursday?”

“Uh, I dunno. A few?”

“What’s ‘a few?’”

“Well,” counting fast on fingers, “a dozen or couple of dozen?” I searched for the proper spin to this, “Give or take a couple of twenty. Or so.”

“I see,” said the Practical One, “and how many fondue forks do we have? Maybe 6 or 8?”

Being short of fondue forks was not so much a miscalculation as a little problem that ripened all too quickly. Fondue forks. Everybody sells fondue forks. Dime a dozen.

Or not.

It turns out that nobody sells fondue forks outside of an entire fondue set. Ratso rizzo, I was already thinking of how I could convince the Practical One that toothpicks could substitute as fine fondue forks. Very fine, indeed.

Then a little shop caught my eye. Coffee, Tea and Kitchen Stuff. An obscure specialty kitchen supply store.

I pulled in.

Entering the store I was greeted by a tall, bearded man wearing a chef’s apron and sporting a name tag that read:


Obviously, I was fixated on the name tag because “Wolfgang’s” first words were:

“You’re wondering if my name is really Wolfgang, as in Wolfgang Puck, yes?”

“Yes,” I wimpered.

“Ah, I thought so. Wolfgang is not my name, it’s Ed, but it’s curious how many people come in the store, take one look at my name tag and walk straight out.” Ed paused. “Since you’re still here you must be desparate.”

I nodded.

“Well, what is it? Fruitcake tin? Jell-O mold? Perhaps a spatula?”

I pulled myself together, looked “Ed” in the eye and said, “Fondue forks. Lots and lots of fondue forks. Enough for all of Switzerland.”

Ed was taken aback. He had met a worthy opponent.

“Fondue forks? Hmmm, normally they don’t sell them outside of fondue sets. You wouldn’t be interested in a couple of hundred fondue sets would you?”

Not even resembling Bill Gates I replied, “No, I wouldn’t. If you don’t sell the forks stand-alone, I’ll just leave and go to Target. I’m sure they’ve got an entire Fondue Fork Department.”

I could tell Ed was shocked and embarrassed. Target! Fie on Target! A pox on Target! From the bowels of Hell I reach out and stab thee in the heart Target!

Ed breathed heavily, collected himself, brushed down his chef’s apron and mumbled something about “checking in the back.”

After much rattling around and clattering, boxes being ripped open and cursing, a much disheveled Ed returned with a plastic bag filled with fondue forks.

“Here,” he said and handed me the bag.

I looked inside and there must have been a hundred fondue forks. I asked, “So, what do I owe?”

“Nothing,” Ed replied, “today is Fondue Fork Day. All forks free. Yours. Go forth and multiply or whatever.”



As I moseyed out the door a lady entered, went up to Ed and asked if they sold fondue sets.

“Yes, we do,” Ed replied to her, he paused and looked in my direction, “but the forks are extra.”

I beat a hasty retreat.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Free Bird

“Where you at?”

“I’m about 5 minutes from home. Just coming into the neighborhood.”

Much later…

“Where you at?”

“Almost home.”

“You said that 20 minutes ago. Where you been?”

Long pause.

“Free Bird.”

“The long version?”


“Was that you driving by the house three times?”


“What part did you get?”

“Rhythm air guitar.”

“So, that was you driving by the house, batting the steering wheel, eyes closed, like a lunatic strumming an air guitar.”


“Steering with your knees?”


“Singing too loud?”


“Well, where are you now?”

“In the driveway.”

“Should I come get you?”

“No. I’ll cool down in a few minutes and come in on my own.”

Free Bird. It should be a Controlled Substance.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Home Office

“Yo, Mr. --------, nice apron! And hat! Is that a new hat?”

The Old Hand removed his hat, ran his finger across the embossed Kroger and carefully placed it back on his head, smoothing the bill in a practiced gesture.

“Yep,” the Old Hand replied, “the Home Office in Wilmington sent me this today. Spiffy, huh?”

The Old Hand performed a slow turn showing off his teal and maroon apron, festooned with “flair” buttons and his new salt ‘n’ pepper “golf” shirt.

Carlos let out with a low whistle of approval. “Yeah, man, that’s way cool. From Ohio you say? That’s weird.”

“What’s weird?” the Old Hand replied.

“Well, I got this in the mail today,” Carlos explained, and he turned to show the Old Hand his new, black apron (festooned with flair), white shirt and tan hat.

“Cool,” intoned the Old Hand.

“Wait, there’s more,” Carlos continued, and he reached his hand into his pocket and produced a handful of Kroger key rings. Primo booty by any standard.

“Check this out!” and Carlos offered the Kroger key rings for inspection.

The Old Hand examined the key rings impassively, reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of his own Kroger key rings.

“Where’d you get this stuff,” they both asked simultaneously.

“The home office in Ohio,” they both answered simultaneously.

“How weird is that?” one of them said.

Carlos frowned. “Hey,” he said, “you haven’t seen the Sackmeister lately, have you?”

“Naw,” replied the Old Hand, “not since you gave him that shellacking the other day. He’s been pretty low key.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Carlos mused, “the Sackmeister will be back, that’s for sure but right now we need to be thankful for Christmas Present. And Christmas presents.” Carlos chuckled at his own bon mot.

The Old Hand nodded. “Yes, and I for one would like to thank the Kroger Home Office in Wilmington, Ohio for these fine gifts. How about you, Carlos?”

Carlos looked up and beamed, “Right on, Mr. -------, those guys are the best. I mean, what a thoughtful gesture.”

Carlos turned away and wiped his eye, “Allergies,” he said.

“Yeah, I know,” the Old Hand said and placed his hand on Carlos’ shoulder.

Meanwhile, far, far away…

The Sackmeister typed in “moron-seeking rockets” and pressed RETURN. Twelve hits. Moron seeking this. Moron seeking that. No moron seeking rockets.


The Sackmeister clicked on eBay and entered a search: Kroger aprons Ohio.

200 hits.

Ah, so.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Cheese Fondue

I cook from the hip. “Iron Chef” is my favorite TV show because their experience is my daily life. What’s in the fridge? What can I do with it to make a meal?

That’s it. Give me some stuff and I’ll figure out what to do with it.

That said, I do use cookbooks and have a nice, growing collection of ideas and wisdom from the Great and the Unknown.

One book I like in particular is “Cooking for You” by Robert Carrier.

And, today’s recipe for cheese fondue comes from page 155 of his book. Here’s the blueprint:

1 lb cheese (8 oz Gruyere, 8 oz Emmenthal) grated
1 teaspoon cornflour (corn starch)
1 clove garlic
half pint dry white wine

1. Toss grated cheese with cornflour.
2. Rub inside of Fondue Pot with garlic. Add white wine and cook until wine starts to bubble.
3. Add cheese gradually and blend, stirring continuously, until smooth.
4. Add grated nutmeg, salt, pepper
5. Serve with chunks of French bread

This is a basic, cheese fondue recipe. Cut the French loaf into one-inch cubes and dip the bread into the cheese to coat.

Serve with lots of wine and Cuka Rocka playing on the stereo.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Global Fondue Event

Public Safety Announcement

Christmas season or not I’m going to install moron-seeking rockets on my car, and I’m going to use them. If you resemble that remark then you might consider staying off the roads for the next few days because I’ve got one nerve left and you’re standing on it.

Thank you for your attention, short span and all.

Seven days and counting

It’s a party!

You’re all invited!

Yes, everyone. All of you. Even you who are reading this now.

Here’s the blueprint.

Fondue Party
Twelve Two Two Fondue II
December 22, 2005
7pm local time
At Your House
RSVP 12tutufondue

Send me pictures and descriptions of your party as it’s happening and I’ll post them on the site throughout the day. Here’s the address:


People from all over the World have replied with plans for hosting their own parties. Join in the fun.

Check out the original entry for this blog on December 20, 2004, A Fondue Happening.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Hank eyed the possum.

Ms. Possum eyed Hank.

Hank looked around to make sure his retreat path was clear.

Ms. Possum didn’t look around. She was backed into a corner of the deck.

Hank didn’t look happy.

Ms. Possum didn’t look happy. Ms. Possum sneered showing rows of sharp, white teeth.

Hank swallowed hard and gripped the broom tightly.

“I’ll just nudge her out of this corner and she’ll trot over to the steps and down the deck?” Hank meant that to be a confident statement of intent and purpose, but, his voice raised an octave or two, it came out a question.

“You go, girl, I mean, Hank,” I offered from a safe vantage point. I wasn’t going to mess with a cornered possum. I was content to go inside, close the door and turn in for the night knowing that Ms. Possum would be long gone in the morning.

Not Hank. Ms. Possum must go. Now.

“They don’t bite, do they?”

“Only when cornered or provoked, Hank, and by the looks of things you’ve got two-out-of-two.”

I decided to turn up the heat a little, “They can jump 15 feet and run 40 miles an hour. They can outrun a horse, you know.”

“No, I didn’t know,” Hank replied uncertainly, “Maybe if I just nudge it a bit it will get the hint.”

Gingerly, Hank offered the broom to Ms. Possum as if he were selling it.

“Good evening, Ms. Possum! Could I interest you in this Fine Broom? Yes, indeed, it’s a Fine Broom and a Fine day for Sweeping. A fine day for sweeping, yes m’am!”

Ms. Possum grinned at the prospect of a new broom. Why, she nearly split her face in two she grinned so wide. As her mouth grew larger from furry ear to furry ear, her lips pulled back in a rigor mortis expression exposing rows or razor sharp, pearly white teeth, moonlight reflecting in dripping saliva. Her eyes became large, sparkling, obsidian discs. Raising up on her legs, her fur standing on end Ms. Possum expressed her appreciation of the Fine Broom by exhaling a great sigh, her eyes becoming larger, her grin even wider.

“Gaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh!” exclaimed Ms. Possum.

“Yaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh!” exclaimed Hank.

Suddenly, Hank forgot the rest of Salesmanship 101, “Closing the Deal” and beat a hasty retreat. Stage Left. He shot through the cabin door and closed it with a slam. Snick! The door locked.

Safe inside Hank returned the broom to the cupboard and joined us for some coffee by the fire.

None of us spoke for a while.

Finally, Hank observed, “That possum was pretty scared, poor critter.”

We sipped our coffee.

Hank continued, “I figger the best thing to do is let it calm down and we’ll deal with it in the morning. When it’s calmed down, that is.”

And with that Hank checked his watch, mumbled something about having to get up in the morning, long day, things to do, and shuffled off to his bunk.

After Hank settled down and we heard snoring noises, I gathered up a banana, part of a granola bar and some grapes, and put them in a small dish.

I went out on the deck. Ms. Possum was still backed into the corner licking her hind foot. Her tail twitched lazily.

I put down the bowl of food, and peeling the banana, ate half of it while Ms. Possum dived into the grapes.

“That ‘Gaaaaaaaahh’ thing was brilliant,” I said, “you really had old Hank going.”

Ms. Possum looked up, grape juice dripping off her pointy little chin and wheezed a little possum-laugh, her shoulders hunching up and down in mirth.

We chatted for a while, and then I said my ‘good nights’, went inside, and turned out the deck light.

Ms. Possum finished her snack, washed out the bowl, and took the granola bar home to surprise the kids. And, she had a tale to tell.

Didn’t we all!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Twilight Zone Returns

Camera zooms in on a blue Ford Explorer cruising down the highway on a calm day with blue skies, green pastures and McDonalds at every mile.

Camera angle switches to an interior view of a driver enjoying music on the radio, rapping his fingers on the steering more or less in time with the music, singing embarrassingly loudly more or less in tune with the music.

Voice over narrative by Rod Serling: This is Bill. Returning home from an ordinary weekend get-away that included some camping, a fire on the beach, hot dogs, potato salad and the other little diversions that comprise recreation in the Twenty-first Century. Bill is heading home. He has a full tank of gas, he knows the way and he’s looking forward to that hot shower that awaits him at the termination of his journey. What Bill doesn’t realize is that his next stop won’t be home. Not on this highway. This highway leads to another dimension of sight and sound. On this highway Bill’s next stop will be…The Twilight Zone.

Dum dum dummmmmmmmm…diddily dump de dump. (Bongo music)


When I was a kid I watched The Twilight Zone every Friday night and it used to creep me out.

I watched it, anyway.

Like a moth to a flame I was drawn to tales of the weird and weird tales. Twists of fate, the unexpected turn of events, the shock, the horror, the anticipation that something strange was going to happen.

In retrospect, Twilight Zone was never about horror. The monsters were in our own minds, not on the screen. We anticipated the worst. We anticipated something shocking. It was psychological. The stories were all fake. This stuff didn’t really happen.

Or did it?

In the Twilight Zone episode 91, “Little Girl Lost” (March 16, 1962) (Thank you, Google!) a little girl disappears through the wall under her bed into the Fourth Dimension. She’s there one minute and gone the next. Through the wall into a rift opened up into the Fourth Dimension.

I’m convinced that’s where single socks go.

I’m also convinced that a rift into the Forth Dimension swallowed a chestnut many years ago and a cell phone antenna today.

Years ago, as a college student, I was sorting chestnuts to roast. I was looking for chestnuts that were rotten or full of mold. At one point I dropped a chestnut and it rolled “somewhere.” Now, “somewhere” wasn’t a Great Where because I was in a dorm room, a concrete cube 10 by 10 by 10 with a single door. I heard the chestnut hit the floor, roll for a while, then…nothing.

I figured the chestnut rolled under the bed I was sitting near. Nope. We searched the room for a while and never found the nut. Eventually, we were distracted by beer and forgot about the disappearing chestnut.

A few weeks later, however, was the end of term and as we cleaned out the dorm room I was reminded of the Lost Chestnut and kept a sharp eye out for it. We all did. Finally, the dorm cell was totally empty of everything: beds, desks, chairs, carpets, kegs and the pesky nuclear reactor that we could never get going above 25%.

No chestnut.

It simply wasn’t there. It’s like it bounced twice, rolled a bit, and disappeared into the Fourth Dimension.


Today I was unpacking the blue Ford Explorer from a weekend of camping, fires on the beach, hot dogs, potato salad and a generally great time. I used my cell phone several times during the journey from the Wilderness to Civilization, so I know the cell phone sported its little nubby antenna.

I returned home to my house, apparently my house, not the Fourth Dimensional house, enjoyed a hot shower and prepared a nice lunch. Then I went out to put the camping stuff away.

That’s when I whacked my cell phone. It was a little whack. Just getting too close to the car or the wall or what I was carrying or whatever. I felt a whack where my cell phone lives on my hip.

Shortly later, like a minute, I noticed that my cell phone antenna, that little stubby thing that sticks up on a Motorola cell phone, was gone.


Gone. Missing. Absent. Detached.

I looked around and found nothing that resembled the grey, rubber antenna. I searched under the car, around the carport and in the flower bed.

No antenna.

“It has to be in this general area,” I thought.

But it wasn’t. I searched for an hour. Under the car. I moved the car. Under the Explorer. I moved the Explorer. In the grass. In the flowers. I looked in my pockets. Under my belt. In the cell phone holster. I expanded the search to the kitchen, bathroom and pool.

No antenna.

Finally, I gave up. It’s gone. Disappeared. In the Fourth Dimension. It was getting late and I had used up two sets of AA batteries searching the carport and flower beds.

Finally, I decided that this (and other) problem was best resolved by a good night’s sleep. As I drifted into the Land of Nod I distinctly heard the Antenna and the Chestnut.

“Yo, Antenna, Wazzzzzup?” Chestnut said enthusiastically.

“Not much, Chestmeister, just got here,” replied Antenna, “what’s with all the socks?”


Meanwhile back in the Third Dimension the following conversation is occurring.

“Is that a coat hanger sticking up out of your cell phone?”

“Yeah, it’s all the rage. I’m surprised you don’t have one.”


Exit one Bill. Denier of Reality. He lost a chestnut and a cell phone antenna into the Fourth Dimension. Bill denies this and continues to pretend that the chestnut and antenna went “somewhere.”

To Bill, they went “somewhere” but we know that Somewhere is signposted: The Twilight Zone.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Not the Santa!

My favorite time of the year is here: Christmastime!

Christmas lover; I am fond of Christmas. I like the music, the food, the spirit and, well, the whole thing. Bring it on, I’m ready!

Which is to say I’m never ready. Occasionally I’ve been “ready,” but generally it’s Christmas Here I come Ready or Not. I’ve learned not to mind but just let the season flow around me and soak it all in.

And that reminds me, you’re all invited to host a fondue party at your house on Thursday, December 22. Send me email updates and pictures as your party is happening and by hook and by crook I’ll post them here.

Global Fondue Party.

OK, back to Christmas.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” with James Stewart, I can watch that at least once, maybe twice if I’m cooking and only see bits and pieces. “Simpson’s Christmas”, a classic. All of them; I’m sure there’s been more than one. “Charlie Brown Christmas” I’ll listen to for the music but I’m not likely to plop down and watch it from start to finish.

As for Christmas music I can listen to it year round. It really puts me in a good mood at this time of year, though. Manheim Steamroller, Liz Story, Cambridge Singers…I’m all over it.

Now, lest we think that I’m a total pushover let’s spend a moment in the reality of the season. I went to the Mall this weekend. I usually avoid the Mall and I REALLY avoid the mall between October and February. However, this weekend I needed a particular item only available at the Mall so I went.

Big mistake. I won’t go into the details but they involved parking, parking, parking, crowds, crowds crowds and kiosk vendors selling flying things that basically scare the hell out of me. Who are these people and why are they selling this stuff? Score for me, I got my cell phone belt clip and beat a hasty retreat. That’s it for the year.

One of my favorite TV shows was Dinosaurs, about a dinosaur family and a rip-off of the Honeymooners. The baby dinosaur would often whack his father on the head with a spoon and exclaim “Not the Mama! Not the Mama!”

I sympathize with Baby D looking next door. Not the Santa! Not the Santa!

The Neighbor’s Christmas Display. If there’s not a law against inflatable, lit from inside, plastic Santas and Snowmen, there should be. At the very least there should be a hunting season on these gaudy, offensive blights and the owners should be required to fill them with hydrogen gas so they explode magnificently when shot.

“Come on, kids, let’s go see the lights and shoot us some snowmen!”


These monstrosities rise from the lawn at dusk like Yule time zombies glowing and swaying in the wind, maniacal, rigor mortis grins fixed on their cheap, plastic faces and proclaim to the world “Crass is good!”

Finally, I’m a terrible shopper. That is, I’m terrible at figuring out what to get for someone else.

In a perfect world everybody would get a quad processor Macintosh G5 with dual 30” monitors and 10 Tb of disc storage. And that’s just for email.

A few years ago I gave my daughter a really cool stapler. Metallic silver, ergonomic design and a Swingline, too! I’m hoping this year she’ll start speaking to me again. You’d think she’d appreciate quality, but noooooo.

Nobody gave me a stapler. I dropped hints, yes I did. Oh, well. There’s always this year.