Tuesday, July 27, 2010

We're Not Gonna Take It: Horrible Driving

I haven't written a "We're Not Gonna Take It" post in a while and my recent road trip to Maryland and back provided me with the perfect subject for this installment.  I have often said that my life would be much easier if everyone learned to drive from Father of Ken, but since many people seem to have learned to drive from people who have their heads up their you-know-whats, I will share Father of Ken's driving wisdom in the hope that they may learn to drive properly.

Let's begin with average driving around town.  Here are some simple rules to follow:

1.  Use turn signals.  They exist for a reason.  If you need help with this, see this diagram.

2.  Speed limits exist because the appropriate authorities have determined that it is safe to travel at a certain speed.  Unless you are driving in inclement weather or your car is about to blow up, at least drive the speed limit and no slower.  Most people are on the road because they are going somewhere and they don't build thirty minutes into their schedules to putter after you while you poke along.  On the other hand, please do not drive 20 mph over the speed limit and tailgate those who prefer not to get speeding tickets.

3.  The four way stop.  This is not as difficult as people make it out to be.  Here's how it works:  pull up, stop, see who else is there.  When those people have gone, it is your turn.  Do not attempt to go before it is your turn and for the love of God do not sit at the intersection at a dead stop staring at everyone else in terror until the sun goes down.

4.  If you wish to multitask in the car, please limit yourself to two tasks at a time.  Drive and talk on your phone, drive and smoke, drive and change the radio station, etc.  Do not attempt to drive, talk on the phone, smoke, change the radio station, paint your toenails, and balance your checkbook all at once.  Some of us value our lives.

Now, here are some pointers on highway driving.

1.  As you enter a highway, please do not pull out in front of someone who is already on the highway.  Wait two seconds for the person to pass and then pull out.  You are no more important than anyone else.  If you are attempting to merge onto a highway from an on ramp, please do not come to a dead stop at the end of the ramp unless it is absolutely necessary.  The whole point of the on ramp is to allow people to merge into traffic while accelerating so that no one has to come to a stop.

2.  Once you are on the highway, if it has more than a single lane in each direction, you cannot just randomly choose which lane to use.  The far right lane is for driving.  The left lanes are for passing.  Not that difficult.  Please do not drive slowly in the left lane when the right lane is completely clear.  When you have passed someone, move into the right lanes so that others may pass you if they wish to do so.  Part of the point of the interstate system, specifically, is to allow people to travel longer distances at consistently high speeds.  Generally, I should not have to brake on the interstate.  I should be able to set my cruise control and go.  Side note:  when the road is crowded, have some patience, people with lead feet.  If there is someone in front of me, I can't go any faster.  Tailgating me is not going to do anything but increase your chances of getting into an accident that will be your fault.  I promise to move into the right lane as soon as I can.

3.  Use signals when you merge.  Otherwise, how am I supposed to know where you want to go or what you are doing?  Once you have merged, though, turn the signal off.  

4.  Try to maintain a consistent speed.  It is so annoying and difficult to drive on a highway or interstate with someone who goes from 30 to 70 and keeps passing you, then slowing down, then passing again.  If you have cruise control, try it.  You might like it.

5.  Be kind to truck drivers.  These guys never did anything to you.  Understand that it takes them longer to slow down, speed up, etc.  Don't tailgate them.  Allow them some space when there is road construction.  Let them merge in front of you when everyone has to form a single lane.

6.  If you want to travel the country in an RV, practice driving it first!  The same goes for driving with a trailer.  No one wants to try to share the road with someone who doesn't know how to safely control a large and dangerous vehicle.

7.  Generally, try to remember that you aren't the only person on the road.  If highway or interstate driving makes you so uncomfortable that you end up driving 30 mph on a 65 mph highway with your turn signal on for half an hour after you have merged and slamming on your brakes repeatedly for no apparent reason, you might want to find another route.  Others have places to be and things to do.  Maybe if we could all be a little more respectful and follow the same set of rules, driving would be easier and less frustrating.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Some Guys Have All the Luck

I spotted this gem in the K-Mart parking lot yesterday when I took Kenna to get a pedicure at PetsMart.  It was one of those moments when I looked and thought, "Oh, a school bus."  "Wait, that's more than a school bus."  "Holy crap, that is one busted up school bus!"  Click on the photos to enlarge them:

The back--sort of a combination porch/raised trailer.  The trailer park ambiance follows  this contraption wherever it goes.

The other side--the writing says:  "Endeavoring to keep the Unity of Spirit Through the bond of Peace."  Whatever that means...

Do click on the last photo at least and check out the camper top that is STUFFED full of crap.  This is hoarding on wheels.

Sleeping Snakes

Gentle readers, it has been a harrowing week for Ken and McKenna.  On Monday, I found a snake skin in the laundry room and, upon further inspection, I was fairly certain that there was a snake coiled up in the corner.  Since I couldn't see it very well and had no idea what I was dealing with, I decided to call for help.  Jason the Snake Remover wasn't able to come until Tuesday afternoon, so Kenna and I sequestered ourselves in my bedroom until he could get here and find the snake.

Of course, Tuesday just happened to be a day that I had an open house scheduled and, when I called the realtor to tell her about the snake, she informed me that she had just received a phone call from another agent who wanted to show the house on Tuesday afternoon.  The buyer was only able to see the house on Tuesday and she wanted to come, snake and all.

As I suspected, Jason the Snake Remover arrived just after the realtor and her client, so it was kind of a mad house around here.  While they looked at the house, Jason, Kenna, and I worked on the snake problem.  Based on the snake skin, Jason thought I had a fairly good size snake (maybe a rat snake) traveling between the laundry room and the basement.  He did assure me that the snake was not venomous and he also told me that I didn't have an infestation (thank God!).  Unfortunately, the snake had disappeared, so all we could do was put some traps out in the laundry room, basement, and outside of the laundry room to catch whatever snakes we could.

Snake skin in the yard, where Jason left it (I have no plans to move this sucker):

The plan of attack is to put these traps out, catch whatever is living here, remove it from my property and release it far away, then close the points of entry, and spray snake repellent around the perimeter of the house and the property.  For what we're paying to have this done, we get a three year transferable warranty, so any time there is a snake or snake skin in the house, Jason comes back and takes care of it free of charge. 

The outside trap:

One of the laundry room traps:

I would pay a million dollars to have Jason fix this problem--I do not care how much it costs, I just want the snakes gone!  So, Jason left at about 6:30 and by 6:50/7:00, I heard a rustling noise when I put clothes in the dryer.  We had one.  When I called Jason to tell him, he couldn't believe we had one so fast.  So, he came back this afternoon to move  our laundry room guest to a new abode and while he was here, he checked the other traps.  We had another one in the basement, so he left with a water snake and a milk snake.  He's coming back tomorrow morning to check the traps again.

In other animal news, I saw a doe and three baby deer in the creek the other day--they are a lot cuter than the snakes and they stay far away from the house.

Stay tuned for snake updates--hopefully, these two are the only ones living here and the plan to snake-proof the house will proceed quickly.  I haven't really slept for the past two nights knowing that a snake was in the house and I haven't eaten a full meal either because I don't want to spend too much time in the kitchen.  Hopefully tonight I will get to eat a decent meal and sleep for a solid 8 hours.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Two Tribes

Before I get to the main topic of this post, Mother of Ken's Double Chocolate Pie, here are some photos of last night's thunderstorm:

The light was so strange during this storm between the sun setting and the storm clouds, everything was a strange acid orange color that freaked me out a little.

Anyway, on to the pie.  I have to take something to eat after a meeting tomorrow night and I wanted to make something cool, so I decided to make Mother of Ken's Double Chocolate Pie.  I love this pie, but I don't make it very often.  I guess if I did, it wouldn't be so special...

So, this takes several steps, beginning with baking a 9 inch pie shell and letting it cool.

The next step is the meringue layer.  Combine two egg whites (save the yolks for the chocolate part), 1/2 tsp. white vinegar, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. cinnamon in a bowl.  Beat with an electric mixer at high speed until foamy.  Gradually add 1/2 c. sugar, beating until the egg whites form stiff, glossy peaks.  Spread the meringue on the bottom and up the sides of the pie shell.  Bake at 325 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until it is golden brown.  Cool on rack.

For the beginning of the filling, melt 6 ounces of chocolate chips and let cool.  Combine the cooled chocolate, 2 egg yolks, and 1/4 c. water and beat well with a whisk.  Spread 3 tablespoons of the chocolate mixture over the bottom of the meringue layer.

Whip 1 c. heavy cream until it begins to thicken, then add 1/4 c. sugar and 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, beating until stiff peaks form.  Spread half of the cream mixture over the first chocolate layer.

Fold the remaining chocolate mixture into the remaining cream mixture.  Spread evenly over the cream layer.  Cover and refrigerate for four hours or until set.

Yummy!  I am having a really hard time not eating this before the meeting...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Reminiscing: 500 Tasty Sandwich Recipes

And an extra end of the week treat, 500 Tasty Sandwich Recipes.  This one was published in 1952, a time when limp celery stalks were considered to be the most sophisticated garnish.

Let's get this party started with a fabulous sandwich tray and some shots of tomato juice!  "With deftness and imagination in garnishing, this dazzling array can be prepared from a few simple fillings and spreads."  Presumably, these include chicken liver sandwiches, chicken and egg sandwiches, cottage cheese and egg sandwiches, cottage cheese and jelly sandwiches, and egg and anchovy spread.

Welcome to the wonderful world of sandwich butters, which you can use to create delicacies like this:

For your next party, don't forget that "flavorful prune bread makes tempting cottage cheese sandwiches."

Mmm...tasty.  How do you get cheese to melt like that anyway?

This, gentle readers, just may be an example of the worst food photograph ever taken:

Bacon cheese rolls on the top and cornucopia sandwiches on the bottom right:

Sandwich loaves are always some of my favorites, especially when they are frosted with cream cheese and made to look like tiny cakes:

Wondering what is going on in the top right photo?  Well, gentle readers, that is a sandwich loaf frosted with cream cheese and then sprinkled with egg yolks!

Closed sandwiches might be more your style.  If so, might I suggest the "Man's Delight" or the "Baked Bean Sandwich"?

We've got some real classics here: tongue sandwiches, ham and prune sandwiches, and Jack Horner sandwiches.  It's always fun to cut them into shapes, too.

I have tried to find a recipe that might shed some light on the atrocity in the bottom right corner, but I still can't figure out what that is supposed to be other than an open faced sandwich.  It looks like asparagus spears piled onto sandwich bread with melted Fruit Rollups on top--that can't be, can it?

Nothing like an "Open-Faced Ham Surprise," is there?  Plus, "asparagus tips make these crowns as gay as a new spring bonnet."

Now we're getting serious--double-deckers and triple-deckers!  Nothing like a club sandwich smothered in cheese sauce, especially if it is a liver sausage club.  Look at the recipe for "Pyramid Sandwiches."  In a single (albeit tall) sandwich, you could eat bread, butter, chicken, Russian dressing, lettuce, eggs, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, tomatoes, cucumber, cream cheese, olives, anchovies, watercress and radishes.

I know I can't wait to make a sandwich now--how about you?

Coming soon:  Oriental Cookery and 250 Ways to Prepare Meat.

Reminiscing: Barmate--Home Bartenders' Guide to Expert Drink Mixing

Okay, so this one isn't so bad (except for the illustrations and lame captions), but it certainly transports one back to an era when roosters were common centerpieces and Big Foot attended cocktail parties wearing glasses and a bow tie.

Now, I wasn't alive in the 60s, so I'll have to ask those of you who were to answer this question.  With all of the hairspray that is obviously required to secure those hairstyles and all of the smoking going on (not to mention the fireplace), this seems like a recipe for disaster.  Were there many small household fires caused by the combination of hairspray and cigarettes?

Lame cartoon #1:

Lame cartoon #2 and an admonition not to use "powdered" sugar in cocktails:

Ahahahahahahahahahahaha...lame cartoon #3:

Lame cartoon #4 for the geriatric crowd:

Straight from Sardi's:

Some recipes for you:

Lame cartoon #...I lost count...  I want to try the Scarlett O'Hara, though.

More recipes, and this page looks like it has seen some action:

Like these glasses?  You can buy them for $3.50 a set!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Reminiscing: Body Building Dishes For Children

One of my gentle readers inquired about how I come to be in possession of these cookbooks after my last "Reminiscing" post.  It all began with a special selection of cookbooks given to me by Aunt and Uncle of Ken for Christmas two years ago.  Since then, Mother of Ken and various other relatives and family friends have contributed to the stack.  I also look for these gems at flea markets and antique stores.  I believe that today's offering comes to us from the antique store up the road from my house and it may be the worst one to date.

So, without further ado, I bring you:

Back in 1952, this is how the Culinary Arts Institute believed children should be fed--let's hope this cookbook wasn't a bestseller.

The captions for these photos are quite something.  For the top left photo:  "A pottery casserole all his own for baked cereal is quite apt to coax the young man to eat."  For the bottom left photo:  "Here is a substantial luncheon dish for healthy, husky appetites."

As if those aren't bad enough, the opposite page has a recipe for "Cream of Salmon Soup," the appearance and texture of which I cannot imagine.

"When prospecting for minerals, consider the oyster, rich in iodine, iron and copper."  The photo of the oyster stew is so awful that it seems impossible to top, but then there's the next page.  Vienna sausages dotting the top of the lima bean chowder and recipes for "Liver Vegetable Soup" and "Liver Soup."

"Poached eggs in croustades on the holiday table make even the snowman bounce with glee."  The snowman only has one eye.  That snowman doesn't care about the poached eggs--he wants to find a stuffed green olive to stick on his face!  He also looks like he has overindulged in egg nog--perhaps that's how he lost his eye?

I can't decide which is scarier--the snowman or this:

"For a really hilarious dinner nothing equals this schoolmate of Donald Duck."  "Hilarious" isn't the word I would use to describe that hideous creature.  How about "grotesque" or "atrocious"?  Hey, Mother of Ken--I have an idea for a centerpiece at our next family dinner...

"For an afternoon of serious roller skating or cycling, fill up tummies with this hot planked fish and vegetable dinner."  Good luck getting anyone, let alone a kid, eat that pile of brain matter and eyeballs.

If that doesn't work, try some good old fashioned liver.  "Liver is your most valuable source of vitamin A and for once-a-week appearance, bake it often and serve with high-vitamin vegetables."  The same page has recipes for kidneys and hearts, so if one organ doesn't tempt their taste buds, perhaps another one will.

On the vegetable front, there's nothing better than artichokes stuffed with...I can't even describe that chunky, gooey filling.  If nothing else works, you can always put vegetables in  a ring mold, which makes everything more appetizing, no?

Some kind of hash?  Those eggs remind me of the summer that I went to art school and we learned how to make things out of this special clay-like substance that you had to bake in the oven.  I made Mother of Ken (who hates eggs in any form as do I, so I still don't know what inspired me) egg earrings that looked just like these eggs.  For posts, I used paper clips.  She never wore them ;-(

I don't know what any of this is supposed to be, but does anyone else see the sad, deformed face of the Gingerbread Man from Shrek in that top right photo?  Just me?

Mmmm...  "Peas cooked in lettuce."  I understand that those white blobs in the bottom right photo are mashed potatoes, but what else is in that dish?

Sandwiches...made with liver and liver sausage on a bed of cottage cheese?  And what is with the turkey cookies?  Why are they such different colors?  

"Zucchini boats with a cargo of buttered crumbs and tomatoes will tempt even the sleepiest."  What does that even mean?  And why did they waste bacon?

Bottom right--bunny salad.  Don't all children want to dig into bunnies that look like those mice that people buy for their cats to play with?  How about some "Clown Salad" or "Duck Salad" or "Jack-O'-Lantern Salad" or "Poinsettia Salad"?  The basic idea seems to be to combine a random can of fruit with some cottage cheese and marshmallows and perhaps a little something green like lettuce and then to give it a seasonal name.

This caption says it all (top right photo):  "Food for the youngest must not be chilled but the others feel very grown up with prunes and cream nestled in cracked ice."  The photo makes it look like vanilla ice cream topped with some blood clots.

Remember the episode of Seinfeld in which Susan brings her doll collection to the apartment she shares with George?  One of the dolls looks like his mother and the rest are scary as hell--that's all I can think of when I look at these photos.  And check out the shadowy creeper in the bottom right corner...

Children of the 1950s, if you were expected to eat any of this, I am very sorry and I hope that you were not permanently scarred by the one eyed snowman centerpiece, the "mock duck," or a creepy doll display presiding over your dessert.

Trying to describe the photos in this cookbook has made me realize how limited my medical vocabulary is.