Monday, December 31, 2007

1967 ICE BOWL


Today marks the fortieth anniversary of the legendary "Ice Bowl", the NFL Championship game played at Lambeau Field between the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys. A one-yard quarterback sneak by Bart Starr won what is considered to be the greatest game in pro football history.
The Ice Bowl got its name due to the fact that the game temperature was MINUS 13 degrees. That's pretty damn cold. One spectator, an elderly man, DIED due to exposure during the game. Many spectators passed out once they started warming up after the game. Apparently the quantities of alcohol consumed finally registered.
I was only ten at the time. Being a girl, football to me was pretty much what made the adults scream like maniacs in front of the tee-vee on Sunday afternoons. (Although I was a member of "The Donny Anderson Fan Club".) But I DO remember this day was incredibly cold. My parents and their friends were planning on attending a New Year's Eve party at church, and there was much concern about the cars not starting after the party was over.


Fast-forward forty years to 2007. I will be having a much warmer New Year's Eve. We batten the hatches and stay home on what I like to call "Amateur Night". I'll make us some steak and crab legs for dinner, Dale will make a cozy fire. Moet for me and Martinelli's for Dale. One thing we like to do is build a fire in the backyard firepit and burn old financial records....shredding is so tedious. This way..POOF..and its done. Of course we will be listening to the 'ol police scanner. This night always brings out the best in people for some reason.

I wish everyone a safe and sane New Year's Eve and please don't drink and drive.
Best wishes for a healthy and prosperous 2008.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Apron Strings


This post has been on deck for a few weeks. I made this apron as a Christmas gift for my niece, so I couldn't post until after I had given it to her.
It's just so darn cute, I almost didn't want to part with it. If you can't make out the details, its little Jell-o molds! I'm so pleased with the way it turned out that I have another one ready to start next week. It will be a different fabric, but the same style.
Who will be the lucky recipient?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Gonna Burn Some.......Lavender??!

I drive the 405 to get to work. It is not the commute-from-hell that it could be as I go contra-flow. Speed limit, 40 minutes, no big deal.
Since I'm on the road a lot, I get to see some interesting things. One of the highlights of my commute is that I pass right by the "Goodyear Airship Operations" facility in Carson. Yep, that's where they tie up the Blimp. It is a freaky thing to see lift off or land. One of these days I hope I can ride in it.
The other day as I passed the Goodyear facility, I saw a rather shocking billboard. The humorously-named Kumho Tire Company is apparently making Lavender-Scented tires! I thought it was a joke at first, but I checked their website and sure enough...the world's first "Aroma Tire". And they have plans to make orange and jasmine-scented ones soon.
Tires are kind of stinky when you come to think about it, why not make them smell nice? I like that they chose lavender. It has a calming effect. Just think, if thousands of people had lavender tires, maybe there might be less incidents of road rage. Who knows? Well that, and slipping Valiums into the water supply.
I will be in the market for some new tires soon, if the price is right, I may just get me some Kumhos.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Night 2007

Dale and I took a drive down to Hermosa Beach last evening, just before sunset. Quite a few people walking on the pier. Kids were there trying out their new bikes and skates. The weather was mild and the wind was not as strong as it had been the night before. Because of the wind, the views were sparkly and clear.
This is a view towards the north-west. The far curve of shore is the Malibu area.

We had planned on having a bite to eat at The Mermaid, but they were closed. Dale said the only other time they had closed was when JFK was assassinated. The times really are changing.
We rode down to Hollywood Riviera, parked, and listened to our last Christmas "Dragnet" episode and then listened to Dylan Thomas read "A Child's Christmas in Wales".

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

We have a pretty low-key Christmas. Neither of us have any family in the area, so we don't have the big extravaganzas like most people. Dale's daughters slept over last night--we watched "Christmas Vacation" and "A Christmas Story" and ate cookies. This morning we slept in and then opened gifts. Those guys are all watching "The Simpsons--Season Nine" right now.
One of the things I wanted to do this Christmas was make Tourtiere, the traditional French-Canadian meat pie. I had been inspired to do this after reading the wonderful post by Mimi at French Kitchen in America: A Traditional Tourtiere
I remember my Gramma Ethel making this not just at Christmas, but for family gatherings in general.
My dad sent me her recipe. This recipe is different from most in that it uses a baking powder biscuit dough for the crust rather than the pate brisee that I usually see in other recipes. We are sure she used lard instead of shortening as well. I wanted to used lard, just to be traditional, but believe it or not, the grocery store was out of lard! I know people use it to make tamales and this is the height of the tamale-making season. I didn't want to make a special trip to the Hispanic grocery store, so I ended up using good old Crisco. My arteries got a reprieve. For now.
So I made the tourtiere and it was GREAT! I sort of spaced-out on adding the water to the meat mixture as Gramma's recipe states, and the mixture was looking pretty crumbly, so I added two eggs as I saw in Mimi's recipe. I was also a little unsure of cooking this thing at 450 degrees, which seemed a little high. What I ended up doing was 20 minutes at 450, covering the top with foil, turning the heat down to 400 and cooking it for another 15 minutes--just to make sure the filling was nice and hot. Instant read thermometer at 160 degrees was just right. Turned out perfect! Dale and I each had two helpings. I had the feeling Gramma was pleased too!

Ethel's Tourtiere

2 pounds lean shoulder pork, ground once
1 large onion, diced
sage
salt
pepper

Cook the meat in a cast iron fry pan over low heat.
Add seasonings and onion.
Simmer until meat is cooked.
Pour in water to cover and cook several minutes.
Skim off grease.
Thicken meat sauce with flour and water, like gravy.

Make biscuit dough, divide in half and roll out top and bottom crusts.
Place bottom crust in 9" pie plate, top with meat mixture.
Place top crust, flute edges and add decorative vent holes.

450 degrees, 20 minutes
(check with instant read thermometer, if not 160 degrees, cover crust with foil, turn oven down to 400 degrees and cook till 160 degrees)

Baking Powder Biscuit Dough

2 cups flour
1 Tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup milk

Cut shortening into dry ingredients, add milk to make a soft dough.
Roll out.

Here's the meat cooking. Obviously, I didn't use the cast iron pan.

Before

After

I also had fun the last week or so baking Christmas cookies. I was feeling a little guilty when I bought 4 pounds of butter the other day, but what the heck, its Christmas, dammit. And its not like I eat them all myself, right?!
Three new recipes this year--Double Chocolate Cherry Thumbprints and Almond-Orange-Cardamom Cookies both come from The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
The third is a re-creation of a cookie I remember our dear family friend, Auntie Clara used to make. It is a striped icebox-type cookie. I started with this Butter Cookie recipe. I used half the recipe and divided that into three portions. To one I added cocoa powder, chopped nuts and cinnamon. To another I added chopped candied cherries, red food coloring and almond extract. The last one has poppy seeds and grated lemon zest. Sandwich them together in a loaf shape, then slice. I used the other half of the dough to make the star cutouts.
The Chocolate-Orange Biscotti are a repeat, as are the Molasses Cookes, Date Bars, and Tutti-Fruitti Bars, which came from my 1950 Edition of "The Betty Crocker Picture Cook-Book"


Yesterday, I harvested some of our backyard's bounty and squeezed up a jug of orange juice to drink as we opened gifts. These are (I think) Valencia oranges, so they aren't really for eating out of hand, but perfect for juice. I'm sad and embarrassed to say I rarely make juice. Usually the juice it a little too sour for my taste and I add a little simple syrup. This batch did not need any sweetener.

I think I'm going to wrap up this post, grab a couple of cookies and watch "Season Nine". Maybe later, a trip down to the beach.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas To All


We're having our usual quiet Christmas Eve. A bunch of grazing tid-bits to nosh on. A blazing fire. "Christmas Vacation" on the DVD. Frequent updates from the NORAD Santa tracker. We will take our walk around the neighborhood later on. Dale brings his jingle bells and we ring them as we walk past homes we know have small kids.
Hope your Christmas is filled with Peace and Love.

Merry Freezing Xmas!

I got up pretty early on Saturday morning, and was greeted with this. Oh, I know there's thousands of people stuck in Kansas snowdrifts or people lost in the snowy woods of the Sierras. But I'm just sayin'. That....this......ain't........right.

The ice lasted pretty long

BRRRRRR!!1! 38 degrees!

The car got pretty frosty


Santa was thinking of his warmer past life.

Friday, December 21, 2007

My Cool Ornaments

I'm the lucky owner of some Steinbach ornaments. They are hand-made wooden ornaments from Germany. Most of them I received as gifts from my Aunt Nancy. She told me she would get them at Marshall Field's where there was a yearly "special sale" or something. I really like them. I never had an Xmas tree as an adult until (I think) 1998--so I would just set them out on a table or desk each year to enjoy them.
Santa has a little cloth pack of toys on his back.




I got the baker ornament in Heidelberg. I also got a nutcracker for my dad there.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Xmas Countdown

The days are winding down to Christmas. I'm done with my shopping (most was done online) and have only two gifts left to wrap. After posting this entry, I'll bake off my last batch of cookies.
All of the traditional "to-do's" are pretty much done: Watch Rudolph and Charlie Brown specials. See the Torrance Santa arrive. Tree procurement. Bake cookies. Check out King Harbor boat parade. Sunday we will check out the light displays in Sleepy Hollow. The only thing we didn't do was go ice skating at Paramount Iceland. The creaky bones just weren't up to it. And I learned on Sunday that we are hosting this year's installment of the Felton Xmess Party. Hey no problemo!

On Sunday, before watching the Packer game, I made this Pear Clafoutis.
I used these cute Forelle pears instead of the big kind. Totally yummy.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

lolbrett



Another record broken. Geez, at the end of the season, Brett better buy Dan Marino dinner or something. Poor guy.

During the broadcast there were a couple of Brett Favre "tribute" slide shows. I was really amused at the accompanying musical selections: Journey's "Don't Stop Believing", Pearl Jam's "Better Man" (other than the title it did not make sense), and The Pixies' "Here Comes Your Man".

Thnks 2 Dale 4 captionz.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Oh Tannenbaum!

Last Saturday we went tree hunting. First stop was at the Torrance YMCA lot. "The Y's Men" they call it. Get it? (nudge, nudge). Nice trees, but the day was young, so we scoped out our neighborhood Lowe's. No need to even get out of the car here. We could see the trees stacked against the fence had large brown patches on them. Next stop....Lawndale! We always have good luck there with our fireworks purchases, so why not Xmas trees? The selection was not so great, so we decided to go back to the "Y's Men".
As we drove down Prairie Avenue, a 40-foot inflatable Santa beckoned us to yet another tree lot. After a quick U-turn we entered Bishop and Matthews Xmas tree heaven. The trees were wonderfully fresh and each one was standing in a container of water to keep it that way.
We ended up with a Nordmann tree. It is a favorite in Europe. Short, dark green needles with almost a silvery sheen to the undersides.
Some nice young men lashed the tree to the top of the car and we were off. Once at home we did the traditional washing of the Xmas tree. Hey, there might be bird poop or spiders in there, you never know!
Sunday we decorated. We have a pretty eclectic theme for our tree's decorations. Just stuff that we have collected throughout the years including an assortment of tin toys and miniature musical instruments and two sets of Shiny Brites.
One thing I really like is our lighting system. We have 2-inch round globes as well as the small twinkling lights. The combination of the large and small is really neat.


No tree can be without some Packer ornaments.

The blimp's lights actually light up and blink! Its so cool!

Here's a detail of the tree skirt I made a few years ago.

The finished tree.

Afterwards we had some yummy scalloped potatoes and ham!


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I Heart Brave Combo

Brave Combo is nominated for a Grammy! Yay! They have won twice already, hopefully they can add a third.

Brave Combo is the best band you never heard of. To say they are "America's premier contemporary polka band" really doesn't do them justice. Their music covers a myriad of styles and genres: Tex-Mex, rock-n-roll, blues, classical..you name it. The sheer musicianship of its members is incredible.
BC has been around since 1979. I'm almost embarrassed to say I only learned of them about 10 years ago, which is a good story in itself--Dale and I had been dating for a few months and one day he asked if I wanted to go see a "really weird" band he and his friends really liked. Up to this point Dale's musical taste was impeccable (and still is), so I said sure. I had also not yet met any of his friends, so this was to be what I now jokingly refer to as my "trial by polka." The show was great, and I met all the friends and I have been a BC fan ever since. I chided Dale for being worried I wouldn't like polka music...I AM from Milwaukee, aina?

I picked up the new BC album "Polka's Revenge" at their show in August. It has been in constant rotation on my iPod ever since. Every song is great. "At the Polka Fest" is a tribute to making the world a better place through polka music. "Let's Get Going" is a fun song that sounds like the singer is on helium. They changed Bach's "Ode to Joy" into the "Joy Waltz" and they kicked-up The Who's "I Can See For Miles"--even adding some of Sting's "Every Breath You Take" for good measure. My favorite is "Swir, Swir Oberek". I don't know what's going on in that song, but it has one insane tempo. Plus a couple of Polish and Czech songs for good measure.

Check out their site and get yourself one of their CDs.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Xmas on the Tee-Vee

Just finished watching "A Charlie Brown Christmas". I always enjoy watching this one which is a blast from my childhood past. Now, I'm getting into the holiday spirit.

Tomorrow the amazing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" will be on. This is another show I look forward to watching each year. It is the longest-running holiday special in television history and has been digitally remastered. Wow, I can't wait!


Dale has been busy gathering a bunch of Old Time Radio (OTR) shows with the Christmas theme, so we'll take a break from "Dragnet" for the holiday season.

Here is a cute lil video

Sunday, December 2, 2007

They're Baaaaaack!


Yay! I have lemons again! Meyer lemons to be specific. It only took 10 months or so, but they're back. This makes me VERY happy.
Normally, the lemon bush will produce almost year-round, and unlike say, peaches, the fruit can remain on the branch for quite a long period of time without rotting. Same thing with the oranges, limes and avocadoes I have. It's like having a mini fruit store in the backyard.
I can't tell you how convenient it is to be able to just go out in the back yard and pick a lemon when I want to make some vinaigrette or other dish that needs the typical "2 tablespoons lemon juice" or some grated zest.
My lemon emergency began last winter...maybe January, I forget exactly when. We had a pretty good cold snap for about 3 days. The backyard thermometer registered 30 degrees. (You non-California people can stop laughing now, OK?) That is pretty unusual for this area being so close to the ocean. As a result, the lemons that were on the bush got all rotten and mushy and fell off. It has taken this long to grow another crop. In the meantime, I have had to resort to PURCHASING lemons in the store. 59 cents for a LEMON?!?!?! That's usurious! Give me a break.
Anyway, I gots me some lemons again. Happy days.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Xmas Lights



Most of the Xmas decorations went up last Sunday. Oh sure, there were some cuss words and statements like "I'm getting too old to be up here on this damn ladder." The crappy string of C-9's that go around the eves are on their last year of service. They aren't really C-9 bulbs...rather they are mini lights with bulb-shaped covers on that break and then can't be replaced like a regular bulb could be.
Then we couldn't find the mini lights that go on the bushes. We couldn't remember if they were tossed out last year or what. That meant a trip to Lowe's to get more lights. Of course, I found the tub of missing lights on the patio table on Thursday when I was BBQ'ing. So we have LOTS of lights now.
Today we put up our new Xmas item....a light-up Santa head. It is really cool, just like in the 50's. I got it from one of my favorite online stores: Vermont Country Store. This place has all sorts of old-timey stuff--food, clothing, gadgets, you name it. It's like going to your Grandma's house.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Thursday, November 29, 2007

.............sigh............

OK, it's over and the Packers lost. And Brett got hurt.
Good things:
--Rodgers looked pretty good.
--Everyone played well except for all the penalties
--It was not an embarrassing performance

at least the food was good!


Packer Kitty can't bear to watch

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Showdown in Big D


I am so not going to be able to concentrate on work tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Anticipation Aggravation




Just stocking up for Thursday.......arrrrgh, it's killing me!

I think I'll go light a candle too.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

LA Auto Show and Why I Hate People


Friday we took our somewhat annual trek to check out the LA Auto Show at the LA Convention Center downtown.

One of the traditions is to take the Metro downtown. So we hopped on the Money (green) Line in Redondo Beach then transfered to the Crip (blue) Line which drops us a block from the Convention Center. On the return trip, Dale got stopped by the Transit Police for not having the correct ticket. The fare structure changed since we last rode, so we bought the wrong tickets. D'oh!

Although we do check out the cars at the show, the main reason we go is to check out the exhibits. Dale's employer designs and manufactures most of the exhibits--in fact, the company "invented" the whole auto show concept way back when. I finally get to see all the stuff I hear about in the months prior to the show. This year many of the auto makers had totally redesigned their exhibits, so I wanted to check the new ones out.

One of the exhibit trends this year was the use of what is called an "LED wall". Thousands of tiny LED's (about 1/8" square and spaced about 1/2" apart) are mounted on horizontal bars. Thousands of these horizontal bars are then stacked vertically to form a panel. The panels are then suspended and form a sort of humongous tee-vee screen that displays images. It was pretty impressive. I think it would be neat to get a 4 foot square one for the house--ambient mood lighting.

This is a not so good example but you get the idea.

The car I wanted to check out was VW's SpaceUp. Sort of like "honey I shrunk the VW bus". It will come in an all electric model, I sure would like that. I thought I had heard that VW was going to bring back the Scirocco, but I didn't see any evidence of that at the show. Overall, the exhibits were good, but not too many cool concept cars.

Space Up! Elf Up! Mep.


VW's "paint and trim" display was pretty clever.

Another of our Auto Show traditions is having a "Tijuana Dog" at one of the street vendor carts along Pico Blvd. A jumbo hotdog wrapped in bacon and then fried on a flattop griddle. Served with griddled onions and peppers....street food doesn't get better than that. Imagine our disappointment when we saw NO vendors on the street. Maybe there was a crack down or something. We were so bummed.

From time to time I have been known to say "I hate people". I try to be a lover, not a hater, but sometimes my fellow humans just let me down. This isn't when someone cuts me off in traffic or the clerk at the store cannot communicate with me in English. Nah..that's just the price of doing business nowadays and I just let it go.
No, I'm talking here about incredibly self-centered behavior, complete breakdowns of common sense and the utter disregard of human civility.
An example would be a parent that sits their diapered child's rear end on the counter at the store. Or someone who thinks it is OK to park their RV in front of your house. For a year.
Well this one pretty much takes the cake in the "I hate people" category. Last week, after the first or second day of the Auto Show, Dale gets a super rush order to make a new wheel sign because they had to swap out the Honda Odyssey that was on the show floor with another one. It seems that someone took a crap in the cup holder. Repeat after me...."I hate people".

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Time Travel

Thanksgiving was pretty low-key. Neither of us has any family in the area and our friends have their own family doings, so our day was a quiet one.
The day began with the Packer-Lions game at 9:30am. The guys played a nearly flawless game that continues to show the team's talent. This coming Thursday's game against Dallas, another 10-1 team, will be exciting. Wednesday night I made a Cranberry Coffeecake to eat as we watched the game.


I also made this nice frittata to eat during half-time.


Since we had no "real" plans for a Thanksgiving feast, last week when I asked Dale what we should do, he said "Let's go to The Mermaid." So that is what we did.


The Mermaid Restaurant is a trip back in time to the 1950's Southern California beach city culture. It sits at the end of Pier Avenue facing The Strand in Hermosa Beach. It is a dive bar in the sense that you pretty much go there to drink, not for the ambience--even though it faces the ocean. It is not a sleezy place, although it does have patrons that are euphemistically known as "characters" or "local color". This is the kind of place that has "regulars". The restaurant is of the dinner house type with Naugahyde booths, a piano bar, and a somewhat nautical motif. Steaks, chops, fish, shrimp cocktails as well as burgers and sandwiches. "Mystery soup" is listed under the soup choices--you gotta love that. The food is considered quite good, is reasonably priced, and has a loyal following.

The Mermaid is the kind of place you might not venture into on your own. Even though I have lived in this area for close to 30 years, the first time I went in was about five years ago with Dale. Dale's Mermaid experience goes way back to the early '70s when his family first moved to this area. Eventually he ended up working at The Mermaid for many years, parking cars and bussing tables. Dale has many stories about his time there--a big, dysfunctional family atmosphere.

The soul of The Mermaid was its owner, Boots. Originally from South Dakota, he bought the place in 1954, and never changed a thing since. By all accounts he was a no-nonsense crusty old guy with a heart of gold. He had his ways and his rules and that was that. If you didn't like it, you could leave. He did not tolerate swearing and kicked out boisterous patrons.
He passed away this past July at age 85.

Because of Boots' passing, the fate of The Mermaid is uncertain as is the fate of the huge chunk of beach-front property he owned. Good Stuff (you can still see it on Baywatch re-runs), The Poopdeck, and The Mermaid take up about a block of prime real estate fronting The Strand, and he also owned about a half of the block east of the beach. These properties represent the last hold outs to the Hermosa Beach Pier gentrification....er, I mean "beautification" plan. Everything else is all bright and shiny for the scenesters from wherever. The Mermaid was the last example of the way things used to be down at the beach. The developers are salivating. The price tag is 27 million dollars. The heirs might not be able to pay the estate taxes. We'll see how this plays out.

OK...enough of the depressing stuff and on to THE FOOD!


In addition to the regular menu, there was a special Thanksgiving prix-fix menu. $13.95--a bargain!

I started with a KetelOne on the rocks....hey...when in Rome!
First up was soup. We chose the special soup--Cream of Sweet Potato. WOW, this was so good! Nice and thick, it was pretty much just pureed sweet potatoes.
Next was salad....huge plates of fresh leaf lettuce--none of that frou-frou mesclun mix here! My bleu cheese dressing had lots of big chunks of cheese.

The entrees were tasty as well. A scoop of potatoes, a mound of stuffing with 4 thick slices of turkey on top, gravy, a piece of sweet potato, and a couple stray veggies made the plate. Everything had a nice, fresh home-style flavor to it. I was 100% satisfied. We took our pumpkin pie to go.

After dinner, we took a little stroll on The Strand to work off a few calories, and reminisced on the beachy times of old.

(P.S. For some unknown reason, you have to click twice on the BOOTS link to get to the correct page. Make the effort, it is a nice story to read) Here is a subsequent update to this story.