Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

One pill makes you larger........
          Go ask Alice.........
"Mad Hatter's Tea Party" is the title of the City of Torrance's entry in the 2009 Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade. I think it is pretty cool looking.
I missed out on being a float decorator again this year. The day of the orientation was the same day as the dry run of "Legend of Real Spooky Place" back in October, so I wasn't able to make it. When I spoke to the coordinator in December she said they had all the volunteers they needed. Apparently this is a popular event. PLUS they make you pay THEM 10 bucks! Oh year for sure! Jared Sidney Torrance, the founder of Torrance, lived in Pasadena and was a mover and shaker in the origins of the Tournament of Roses, so our city has pretty much always participated in the parade. They usually win some sort of award each year.
I only worked until 1:30pm today and driving home I could tell already that the madness was beginning. We've been listening to the scanner on and off since I got home and things are definitely hopping. The last thing I heard was someone found part of a human spine on the beach just south of Redondo Beach Pier. YIKES!!!
Tonight is amateur night and we stay home. Dale laid in a whole bunch of wood, so we will be having a nice fire. He also picked up some sushi at Mitsuwa and I stopped and got some ceviche at Los Paisas. We also picked up some Kyo-Chon chicken. I finally found some chestnuts too. We like to graze all night. Whoo-hoo!!! Dale just informed me there is a "Twilight Zone" marathon tonight!     ........Next stop Willoughby.......       
Since it was rainy on Christmas, we didn't get to put out our luminaries, so we will do that tonight.
Wishing everyone a healthy, happy and prosperous 2009!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Winter at the Beach

Winter time is a great time to go to the beach. Not as many people as in the summer for sure, but the views are more dramatic in winter. The winter storm blew out of here on Friday, so Saturday was a good time to check out the beach. The storm washes all the particulate matter from the skies, so we get some pretty incredible views all over the Southland.
We started in Hermosa Beach. This view is looking SW. The Redondo Beach/King Harbor area is the dark line. The darker landmass is the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and way off in the distance is Catalina Island. From where I was standing to the PV Peninsula is about 8 miles or so, as the crow flies.

Next we stopped in Redondo Beach and watched the sun set and listened to an episode of Dragnet. Sunsets here are usually cloud-free so it was cool that there were these wispy clouds to make things more dramatic.

Check out Dale's photos--his camera is way more bitchin' than mine!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Best Gadget Ever?!?!? NOT!

What potential! What promise! What an utter disappointment!

Imagine my delight when I spotted this item in the 50% off aisle at Target. Just think of the possibilities!
This would be so cool--finally I would be able to communicate my innermost feelings with my fellow drivers.
What would I like to say to those wonderful people that share the 405 with me?
Hmmm......"hey asshole" comes to mind pretty quickly. "you idiot" would be useful.
"Hang up and drive" would work too, but I'm not sure if the targeted driver could talk, drive AND read at the same time.
Actually, I had an idea for this sort of thing over 20 years ago--one of our engineering interns and I had toyed with this idea, but of course never did anything with it.
Seriously though, I really wanted to use this in the house or at work as a sort of "digital sculpture" that I could have on my desk and display pithy comments. (I saw something like that in a museum once, and I'll give 10 bonus points to anyone that can tell me the artist's name.)
So I started reading the instructions and found out that the device has a "built-in PROFANITY FILTER"!!!! WTF?!?!? I guess the manufacturer wanted to cover his ass in case some idiot programmed in "HEY ASSHOLE, YOU DRIVE LIKE A DICK" and then got capped in some road-rage incident.
The device came with some really lame pre-programmed messages such as:
"If you can read this, I can hit my brakes and sue you."
"Out of my mind, back in ten minutes."
"I brake for no apparent reason."
You get the picture. I don't know about you but those are lame enough to make me want to run that driver off the road just for being such a doofus.
Another problem is that it only has a 12V plug like for a cigarette lighter, so I wouldn't be able to use it at home anyway. I'm going to get a second opinion on if I can modify it to work the way I want.

I wonder if I will see any of these signs in use on the road and what the genius messages will be.

What's Wrong With This Picture?

This is the roof of Dale's car at 7:30am. That's frost. On the car. In SoCal. 
The weather widget on The Daily Breeze site says 36 degrees, but our backyard thermometer was 40 degrees.  I knew we should have lit the tiki torches under our citrus "grove" last night to keep the fruit from freezing!
So then I click over to JSOnline and their weather widget says it is 48 degrees! And raining! The snowTrizzles are melting!
Will one of you global-warming doubters please tell me why, on a December day,  it is warmer in Milwaukee than in Torrance??

Friday, December 26, 2008

Meyer Lemons

The Meyer lemon tree is full of lemons. In years past, the crop yield has supplied me with enough lemons for baking and vinaigrette making. This year however, I think I am going to have to get creative in order to make use of the abundance. One thing I am planning is to make limoncello, the Italian digestif. But that uses just the zest, so I need to figure out what do do with all the juice. I guess lemonade will be the house beverage at Fartwood Manor for a while.
Yesterday I made these totally awesome Meyer Lemon Cranberry Scones. They don't look too scone-like and the texture is more cake-y than what traditionally passes for a scone. Not too sweet and full of lemony zest and a nice tang from the cranberries. Be warned--the dough is REALLY wet, so make sure to have your board and hands covered in flour when you pat it out. It will be a mess, but totally worth it. Remember not to work the dough too much or else you will end up with tough scones. I used the leftover egg white to glaze the tops and next time I make these I will sprinkle a little sanding sugar on top for a little sweet crunch.

I also made some devilled eggs. 

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

                                     Warm wishes for a joy-filled Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve Grab-Bag

I have too many random items today that would be pretty much impossible to coherently tie together, so this post is going to be a Christmas grab-bag. Consider it my gift to you.

Fortieth anniversary of Apollo8. Remember listening to that on Christmas Eve?!

Dale grew up in AnnArbor, MI, so we follow the news in that area almost as much as we do our local news. Detroit is in a world of hurt right now, so this story is pretty cool.

I hope you have enjoyed my podcasts from the other day--I just came across this song and had to share it too.

Here is a link to another blog with some pretty freaky Christmas song offerings. I've only listened to half of them, so be warned if they turn out crappy!

Fellow blogger Another Monkey turned me on to this AWESOME "spin" on the dreidel song.

AWWWWW Who is this cute kid?!?!
Dang, Santa looks like he's gonna eat me for lunch!
Merry Christmas
Happy Hanukkah

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

OK People.......

It's nice to be in the Christmas spirit and all, but NO ANTLERS! This is lame. You are lame. In fact, this makes you SO LAME that Santa will pass your house by.
I never saw the antlers before, but today I saw them two times!
Even the wreaths.....maybe OK on a semi. But on your AstroVan...not so much.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Old Time Radio Shows

Old time radio is a favorite at Fartwood Manor. In fact, many of my posts have been written with an OTR show playing in the background. My favorite is Dragnet. Love that sexy Jack Webb.  Dale has amassed a large collection of shows and there are also some good sites that have streaming broadcasts.

WGN will be broadcasting a bunch of classic Christmas radio shows on Christmas Eve--on the tee-vee. Apparently they will show an HD image of a flaming fireplace and the audio will be the radio programs. I'm a little unhappy with the scheduled time slot, but hey.....I guess you can TIVO it to watch/listen at a better time.  It boggles the mind, doesn't it?

Our Christmas night tradition is to listen to Dylan Thomas' "A Child's Christmas in Wales", while watching the flames in our REAL fireplace. After that, it is time for the police scanner. Always a Christmas treat!

WGN Presents ‘Yule Log’ Set To Classic Radio Shows

Holiday Special Premieres Dec. 24

By Linda Moss -- Multichannel News, 12/3/2008 12:16:00 PM

WGN America will air Yule Log: The Golden Age Of Christmas, nine hours of holiday memories from the Golden Age of Radio, starting Dec. 24, officials said Wednesday.

The network, part of Tribune Broadcasting, will usher in Christmas by offering holiday programming from 9 p.m. Dec. 24 through 6 a.m. Dec. 25 using authentic presentations of classic radio programs set to the visual of the Yule Log hearth.

With new Yule Log footage (shot in HD) using the fireplace in Col. McCormick's (former Tribune president and editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune) office at Tribune Tower in Chicago, WGN America claims it will offer an alternative to the traditional Yule Log. While the flames burn, viewers will be hear timeless shows from the Golden Age of Radio.

Also on Wednesday, iN Demand Networks said it would be offering three Yule Log programs for Comcast, Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks to offer to their subscribers on-demand.

Classic programs which will air during WGN America’s Yule Log: The Golden Age Of Christmas include:

-- It’s a Wonderful Life (from the Lux Radio Theater 1947) A staple of Christmas television, an angel helps a compassionate but despondent businessman by showing what life would have been like if he never existed and stars Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed.

-- A Christmas Carol (Campbell Playhouse 1939) A holiday classic featuring miserly Ebenezer Scrooge who learns the error of his ways when visited by ghosts on Christmas Eve in this adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel.

-- Burns & Allen (1942) Featuring the comedy duo of George Burns and Gracie Allen.

-- Fibber McGee & Molly (1949) Fibber McGee and Molly were played by husband and wife team, Jim and Marian Jordan, with Fibber a brash, loudmouth while his ever-suffering wife, Molly, kept the peace with her sense of humor.

-- The Great Gildersleeve (1942) A spin-off from "Fibber McGee and Molly" featuring a pompous bachelor (Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve played by Harold Peary, and later Willard Waterman) who takes domestic charge of his young niece and nephew.

-- Jack Benny Show (1952) Jack Benny stars in this sketch comedy variety show, one of the longest running and most successful comedies in the history of radio.

-- Miracle on 34thStreet (from the Lux Radio Theater 1947) Six year old Susan has doubts about Santa Claus, but after meeting a special department store Santa, Susan is given the most precious gift of all, something to believe in. Maureen O'Hara and Edmund Gwenn star in this heart-warming Christmas classic.

These classic radio programs were provided by and edited for WGN America by Victor Lisle at WGN Radio. Yule Log: The Golden Age Of Christmas will be presented in 60-minute blocks without commercial interruption.

Yule Log: The Golden Age Of Christmas allows families to resurrect the innocence of a golden era and offers a nostalgic experience for viewers as they listen to memorable radio programs while opening presents, having dinner, and spending the holiday together,” Sean Compton, Tribune Broadcasting senior vice president of programming and development, said in a prepared statement.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Merry Fartwood Xmas Podcast

Here's a fun Christmas mix I put together. It contains some old favorites of mine from when I was a kid. Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians are pretty much THE soundtrack to my childhood Christmases. These tracks were recorded from ancient vinyl, so you will hear the tell-tale "hiss and pops" that make vinyl so special. I have also included old songs that are new favorites--I call it "The Dale Influence"--like the selections from The Beach Boys, The Mills Brothers, The Ventures, and The Swingle Singers. The rest are just songs I like...some sweet and some irreverent.

One of my favorites is "Jingle Bells" from Fred Waring. It is so clever how the song keeps repeating with different song styles--hot jazz, glee club, player piano.
Another Fred Waring song, "Trepak",   adds lyrics to the classic Tchaikovsky song from "The Nutcracker Suite".  One of the lines is "have another vodka, have another always makes things right". Kind of weird to have on a children's album, dontcha think?
Every time I listen to Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree", I always hear another word in place of "pumpkin" pie. Do you hear it too?
The French tune, "La Tourtiere",  sings the praises of the tasty French-Canadian meat pie that is traditionally eaten at Christmas time.
It is only fitting that the children of the University of Michigan's Children's Psychiatric Hospital chose to sing "Do You Hear What I Hear?".
It wouldn't be Christmas without Mr. Garrison from South Park singing the xenophobic ditty "Merry F*cking Christmas",  would it? EXPLICIT  AND OFFENSIVE LYRICS--you've been warned!
I end the musical part of the show with "X-Mess Medley" by Dale's band Lunch--featuring the drummer boy himself singing the unforgettable (what else?!) "Little Drummer Boy". Make sure to listen closely at the end for the flying drumsticks!
At the very end of the podcast are two spoken word entries. The first is from the always festive Esquivel! followed by a audio file of The Beatles, recorded in 1964 for their fan club members. Those boys ain't right.
I hope these selections get you in the mood for a Merry Fartwood Xmas.

Part One           Part Two

New Ornaments for 2008

Whenever Dale and I take a trip, we try to pick up an ornament as a souvenir. This one is from our trip to Austin, Texas.

Dale picked this one up in Arizona, when he visited the Grand Canyon with his kids in June.

I got a whole pack of these in Wisconsin. Cute, eh? 

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Nightmares of Christmases (Almost) Past

I guess I'll have to retire these gems after the holidays. Or maybe I should keep them around as a reminder of what NOT to do.
I can't remember where I got them, but they've been a part of the Fartwood Xmas decor for a few years now.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Orange Snow   (LA Times)

Southern California got more than a little dusting of snow yesterday. My Midwestern readers can stop snickering now. This storm was pretty impressive by all standards. I've seen it snow plenty of times in the mountains and even the high desert, but this time was biggest I've ever seen here. One place in the Antelope Valley got 22 inches of snow!
The three highways that connect SoCal with NoCal were shut down for about 24 hours. Can you imagine I-94 being closed for a day? These highways do get closed periodically during the winter months--they are all mountain passes which are pretty dangerous in inclement weather. Not too good for a big rig to be coming down the snow-covered mountain, not to mention the jack-ass drivers that don't know how to drive in snow.
All the women sporting the oh-so-fashionable UGGs are going to find what a miserable failure they are in REAL SNOW.
No snow in Torrance or Huntington Beach, thank goodness--just LOTS of cold rain. I hope my citrus didn't get damaged. I have a bumper crop of lemons on the tree and the oranges are just about ready.

This photo from The Daily Breeze is looking north to the San Gabriel Mountains. I took my camera to work today hoping to get a shot like this myself, but the mountains were still a little hazy when I looked.

Blizzard Joshua (LATimes)

This guy has it all figured out....screw shoveling!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cruising J-Town

I'm a little weird. But I guess if you are a regular Bubbler reader, you probably figured that one out by now. But it is weird in a GOOD way, I assure you!
One of the things that makes me weird is...I like signs. New signs, old signs, hand-painted, neon--I enjoy them all.
Here are a few signs I saw on a recent trip to Los Angeles' Little Tokyo:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Billie the Brownie

If you ask a Milwaukeean of a certain age about their favorite Christmas memories, chances are you will hear about "Billie the Brownie".
Billie the Brownie was created in the 1920's by Schuster's Department stores to promote their toy department during the holiday season. In 1931, Billie branched out into radio and had a daily show that included updates on Santa's progress as well as a segment where Billie and his pal Larry would read letters to Santa sent in by area children. Boy, were those were different times! I've listened to a few of the shows and not only did Larry and Billie read out the kid's name, but also included their address! "....and here we have a letter from little Bobby Jones of 123 Main Street in Milwaukee...." Geez, talk about making things easy for the local pedophiles! Mostly though, they talked up the benefits of being good kids: More toys from Santa Claus! (read: Parents who will buy the toys at Schuster's!)
The radio show ended in 1955, so I never got to listen to it, but the lore of Billie the Brownie was still a big part of my own Christmas memories due my parents growing up with it. I learned that Billie was Santa's front man--it was Billie who reported back to Santa on who was good and who was naughty. Things would go like this:
Parent: "I think I just saw Billie the Brownie peeking in the maybe you should go clean your room, be nice to your sister", or whatever was the naughty kid crisis of the moment. Billie even knew our phone number and called the house a couple of times! (In retrospect, I think it was really Uncle Bozo--but at the time I was convinced it was Billie.)
If you want to take a trip down memory lane or just hear for yourself the magic of Billie the Brownie, here are some links to audio files: Billie1    Billie2

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Cautionary Tale for Christmas

Remember in August how you moaned and groaned that retailers were already pushing the Christmas stuff? Remember it wasn't even Labor Day yet and the shelves were stocked with wreaths and lights and fake trees and candles and mechanical Santas that go HO-HO-HO when you poke them in the stomach?
Well, guess what? If you didn't buy any of that crap then, you sure as heck ain't getting any of it now!
What? You didn't get enough twinkly lights to cover your eaves? Sorry, Bud--don't go to Target. The shelves where the lights were just LAST WEEK are now filled with wrapping paper.
You put off getting that sweet jingle bell wreath you saw at JoAnn's? Forget about's VALENTINE'S DAY at JoAnn's now.
Oh, and did you think that you could just wander over to Lowe's on DECEMBER 13th and expect to pick up a nice little tree stand for your 'effin seventy-dollar tree? You DID??

LOSER! What were you thinking?!?!

The only things left at Lowe's today were a few strands of orange lights, spools for storing the lights that all the smart people bought in August, a slightly soiled Jeff Gordon Christmas stocking.....AND......

..... the second-to-last mother of all tree stands. Talk about over-engineering. Hey, at least it was half-price! And next year we can go chop down a redwood because we will have the stand for it!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Death by Food

I haven't had a fast-food burger for about eight years or so, ever since I read "Fast Food Nation". It's probably been longer than that, but reading the book reinforced my thinking that this sort of food is something to be avoided. (Note: In-N-Out burgers are exempt from this ban, because they really are food and they are not fast.)
Let me assure you that I'm not one of those healthy eating freaks, only eating unadulterated foods straight from the farm. Anyone who's been reading this blog for a while knows my love of Tijuana Dogs, In-N-Out, breakfast burritos from the taco truck, and other junky food. Just no big-corporate fast-food. 
So why then did I eat a Double Whopper with Cheese yesterday? I honestly don't know. It sounded good at the moment. I had other choices. But I chose this.
It was actually pretty tasty. I had some onion rings too. They could have been hotter, but they were OK.
I ate this about noon and by 1:30 I was not feeling good. Not "running-to-the-bathroom" not good, just a general feeling of malaise--sort of anxious and hyper--I kind of felt like I was vibrating. I just felt WEIRD--like being high, just not in a good way. It was awful. The terrible feeling went away after a few hours and I wasn't hungry for the rest of the day.
I don't think I'll be doing that again.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Should I Or Shouldn't I?

So, I was doing a little holiday decorating here at Fartwood Manor: a couple of candles, a plush elf, a jingle bell wreath. The plan is to purchase the Christmas tree next Saturday and then decorate it on Sunday.
But now I've got a dilemma--do I use the Brett Favre ornament or not? Is it a piece of history that still deserves a place with the other ornaments or is it bitter reminder of a sad experience? Dale suggested just using a little white paint and change the 4 to a 12.
What do you think I should do?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

You Are Lame If You Buy This

I was at Kohl's the other day and as I walked past their huge section of Food Network cooking gear I spotted this item--the 100% genuine Rachael Ray Garbage Bowl. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
Let's just say I'm not a big fan of RR. The first time I saw her show, I thought it was interesting--a halfway decent meal in 30 minutes--that's cool. The second time I watched though, I was sort of creeped out by her perkiness. That feeling has stuck with me ever since and apparently I'm not alone in my feelings. I do however think she's got a killer kitchen set-up. I love the sort of retro feel it has--the vintage stove, the green tiles.
One of her "things" is the "garbage bowl". Actually, a good idea--to have a container on your work space--to help keep clutter at bay. On her set, she uses a vintage Melamine bowl. The same kind my mom used to make the pizza dough in.
Leave it to the marketing wizards to now offer to YOU the buying public...your very own RR garbage bowl! What a bunch of crap! How about using just any old crummy bowl or container you have laying around? You're only using it for garbage anyway.  I hang on to the small plastic bags from the produce department and use those as my garbage bowl of sorts. The bags also have a smaller footprint than a large bowl would have, so on my small workspace, that is a plus.
The RR bowl isn't even a good imitation of the old Texas Ware Melamine bowls either. The colors are sort of poopy if you ask me. Do yourself a favor and get over to eBay or your local vintage shop and pick up a real bowl and make yourself some pizza dough!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Banana Bread



We couldn't keep up with the bananas this week, so I made some yummy banana bread. It also gave me a chance to use some of the sultanas I got at the farmer's market.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Accordion Advent Calendar

The fine folks over at Let's Polka have come up with a cool holiday activity--An  Accordion Advent Calendar! Every day for twenty-five days they will post an mp3 of something accordion. That's like getting a little gift each and every day!
That reminds me...I need to load up the iPod with some Xmas selections. My co-workers (men) were already playing Xmas music today. They have some pretty lame selections, so I'll totally impress them with my Frankie Yankovic and Esquivel CD's for sure!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Los Paisas

Los Paisas is one of the Mexican restaurants we go to often. We first heard about it when The Culinary Detective was doing reviews in The Daily Breeze. He even covered the place when he had his show on The Food Network.
The original location is a combination meat market/mini-grocery/restaurant, tucked away in a bedraggled strip mall on Western Avenue at Torrance Boulevard. On the weekends they have a BBQ grill going in the front--chickens, carne asada and more. For a while, the tacos were a buck apiece, now they are $1.25--still a bargain!
We mostly order the taco plates which come with rice and beans. I usually get carnitas and Dale sticks to carne asada. I really like their beans--more body and flavor than other places. The rice is light and fluffy. The menu has a lot more stuff--caldos, burritos, sopes--which I'm sure are all good. They also offer imported (from Mexico) bottles of Coke and Pepsi, which is great since it doesn't contain HFCS.
My favorite thing is their shrimp ceviche. It contains the usual ceviche ingredients: shrimp, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, citrus juice and chiles, but it has this weird background flavor of allspice. I'm not a big fan of allspice or cinnamon in savory foods, but somehow this is just the right thing--it's awesome.
Recently, Los Paisas opened a second location, on Carson Street east of Normandie. Another strip mall, but this is a brand-new space. The theme here is "tacos y mariscos". We checked it out for the first time last week. The menu seems to be about the same, but with more fish/seafood items. Here is the famous shrimp ceviche tostada--

This is the carnitas plate--
The walls are covered with really cool murals. This one represents the Mexican state of Nayarit.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Another Reason Why I Heart Living in SoCal

Yesterday after the Packer game (sniff), Dale and I were getting ready to go out and do a few errands when we heard a loud explosion.
Dale shouted "earthquake!" and turned on the scanner. I was at the moment, let's say, "indisposed" and would have acutely felt any shaking. But there was none. So I said, "hey, maybe it's the Space Shuttle!"
Sure enough, we turned on the NASA channel and watched Endeavour glide into Edwards Air Force Base. Any time the shuttle lands in California, we can hear the sonic boom. Now, that's cool!