Those Who Serve

Usually when I do a Memorial Day post, I’ll put in this space pictures of soldiers, or monuments, or a collection of editorial cartoons designed to remind you that it’s not all about the barbecues. This year I was looking at some memorial sites and it occurred to me that while we have lots of memorials here in the US, there are several thousand soldiers who never made it home, alive or dead. And it got me to thinking about how soldiers of any nationality are memorialized. Here are some images of war memorial activities and places in other parts of the world.

Australian War Memorial, Canberra
British veterans on the parade ground outside Westminster Abbey commemorating the 7oth anniversary of V-E day, 2015.
Cambridge American Cemetery in England. Over 3800 American soldiers are buried here.
French President Francois Hollande re-kindles the Eternal Flame at their Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, May 2016. Out of frame (a few feet to the photographer’s left) are American soldiers who joined the ceremony.
I’m pulling this caption in its entirety from the Air Force’s website: A spectator plants flowers on a headstone at the Netherlands American Cemetery prior to the start of a Memorial Day ceremony May 25, 2014, Margraten, Netherlands. Dutch families can adopt a gravesite and maintain it as a way of showing respect for the actions of the fallen service member.
Soviet War Memorial in Berlin
Sailors from Navy Munitions Command East Asia Division Unit Guam join their sister village of Talofofo at a Memorial Day service held near the Talofofo Mayor’s Office May 24, 2014
Memorial Day ceremony, Seoul, South Korea.

I think one of the things that struck me most was that they’re largely indistinguishable from their counterparts here in the US. Wherever we are in the world, we honor those who gave everything they had in service to their country.

Peace.

Mug Protocols

Captain Stemkowski: Don’t drink my coffee from my cup, Jilette!

No Mercy (1986)

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I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Florida. My uncle died last week, and his memorial service was scheduled for this past Saturday, so Wife and I made our plans, got in the car and headed south on Thursday evening. We left Baltimore at about 6:30 and stopped in Manning, South Carolina at about 3:00 AM Friday, where we crashed in a motel for about six hours, then had breakfast and hit the road again. There was a pretty bad accident on I-95 that stopped traffic somewhere in the realm of Ridgeland. We were maybe a hundred yards back from the accident so it was pretty easy for us to see the helicopter land on the highway and then fly right out again. They don’t waste time when that bird is on the ground, I guess. At any rate, we managed to get to my mother’s place in Port Richey by 6:30, almost exactly twenty-four hours after we left home.

I got re-acquainted with my cousins, one of whom I hadn’t seen in literally years, and introduced my wife to them, and the tone was as merry that night as it was somber the next day. I’m starting to turn into a go-to guy when it comes to saying stuff at funerals, so I prepared something on Saturday morning and—because my brother’s printer didn’t have any ink in it—I saved it to Microsoft One Note and read it off my tablet instead.

But I’m not going to tell you anything about my uncle, or his memorial service, or anything else I might have done in Florida (which wasn’t much, really). I’m here to vent about the Mug Protocols.

You don't see these much anymore. My ex wife had a wooden one and nearly burned up the kitchen when she left it in front of the oven vent during a self-cleaning cycle. This actually started…oh my gosh, about twenty years ago. I was staying at my grandmother’s house, and we’d just returned from a restaurant. Everyone was in the mood for some coffee, but I’m a tea drinker. So I put the kettle on for tea and started up the coffee maker. The hot water was ready first, so I grabbed a mug from the little mug tree that my grandmother had on the counter, put the tea bag into it and poured the hot water in.

A minute later there was some murmuring over what I’d done. Apparently I’d grabbed the “wrong” mug. I looked at it again: it was just some mug, the first one I saw on the mug tree. It was a giveaway from Duval Federal Credit Union, and it read “Duval Federal, You’re Incredible!” on one side. It’s possible that they think this phrase has an internal rhyme to it; I don’t really know. What I do know is that I’d inadvertently taken my stepfather’s traditional coffee mug and soiled it with my tea. After some questioning I discovered that everyone in the house had a mug that was “theirs”. Most of them didn’t even live there, but that was no matter. So every time I made a cup of tea, I’d check with everyone to ensure that I was using an unclaimed mug. This was the beginning of the Mug Protocols.

XmasMugs_1At some point, while I was down there (back then), I was in a dollar store and I spotted a Christmas-themed latte mug. I wanted a Christmas mug for school, so I picked it up and took it back to my grandmother’s, fully intending to take it home at the end of the visit. As frequently happens to me, I neglected to bring it home with me, so my grandmother just put it away in the cabinet. The next time I came down, everyone made a point of noting that “my” mug was in the cabinet on the top shelf. By this time I’d completely forgotten about the mug, so I had no idea what they were talking about until I opened the cabinet and saw the Christmas mug up there. At the end of that trip I left the mug behind again, and again I forgot about it until my next visit. In the interim, though, they’d all got it totally ingrained into their heads that this was MY mug and nobody else was to use it. Once I left, my grandmother stashed it away until I came back.

Several years later, my grandmother decided that she was getting too old to live on her own, so she moved in with my mother. In order to do this, she had to divest herself of nearly everything in the house—furniture, bed linens, glassware, cookware, you name it. Whatever wasn’t getting sold or given away was going to go either into my grandmother’s bedroom in my mom’s house, or it was going into a storage locker. And those lockers fill up fast.

countertopI actually managed to get a couple of things from this purge, but my one regret is that I didn’t get my grandmother’s cutting board. It wasn’t a genuine cutting board; it was actually a cut-out from a Formica countertop where they removed the piece of counter so they could put the sink in. It was a deep red (red countertop!), and was a rectangle with curved corners and a hole drilled through it, and then a cut from the hole to the edge. See, they’d drill the hole, and from there they’d use a jigsaw to cut the main hole in the counter. The picture at left is for an oval sink, but I think you get the idea. Either my grandfather or my uncle had rescued it from a construction site about a million years ago, and my grandmother took it and used it for a cutting board for years and years. And even all those years later, despite the abuse from thousands of knife cuts, the countertop/cutting board still looked pretty good. But I spoke up too late, and it was gone.

So the first Christmas after my grandmother moves in with my mom, and I’m there for dinner, and after dinner we’re going to have some kind of dessert and, of course, hot beverages, and I reach into the cabinet to pull out a mug for my tea. Of course, without even looking and the first mug I grab is Duval Federal. Nope, can’t use that one but I’ll leave it out for my stepfather. “How about this one? Can I use this one?” Yes, that one’s fine. Then my stepfather pipes up, “You know, your mug is in the other cabinet.”

“Oh, yeah!” my mother exclaims. “Look in that cabinet over there, on the top shelf.” The cabinet in question is actually on the opposite side of the kitchen. I open it up and there, on the top shelf, is “my” Christmas mug. They were all very pleased with themselves for saving that mug when they were getting rid of all my grandmother’s other stuff, and for holding it aside for my use.

But here’s the kicker: when I went down
this past week to attend the memorial service, after Friday’s dinner I start pulling mugs out of the cabinet and I start asking “Is it OK to use this one? How about this one? After all, I don’t want to violate the Mug Protocols. Is there one designated as mine?” My brother says “Yeah, I’ve got your mug,” and shows me a souvenir Baltimore, Maryland mug that my mother bought about ten years ago when she was visiting. “You want it?”

“No, Brother, I really don’t care. I just don’t want to upset anyone with this mug business.” And that’s when it somehow turned into MY quirk, that I just had to have a certain mug or things could get ugly for everyone.

“You know,” my mother said, “your tall mug is still in the cabinet up there, if you want it.”

“No, Ma,” I said. “I’m not drinking out of a Christmas mug. I really don’t care what I drink out of, so long as it holds my tea. It’s you guys who get all up in arms if I use the wrong mug.”

They’re not hearing me, I think. I’m just going to have to continue to observe the Mug Protocols. Either that or quit drinking hot beverages when I’m in Florida.

In the Press.

Dennis Miller: I don't wanna go on a rant here, but America's foreign policy makes about as much sense as Beowulf having sex with Robert Fulton at the First Battle of Antietam, I mean when a Neo-Conservative defenestrates, it's like Raskolnikov filibustered deoxymonohydroxinate
Peter Griffin: What the hell does rant mean?

—Family Guy, “Peter Griffin: Husband, Father… Brother?” (12/6/01)

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So for the last couple of years, I’ve been doing a Memorial Day post that’s been largely photos, with a little bit of side information thrown in. This year won’t be a lot different, but let me start with a little history:

Memorial Day was originally the brainchild of a pharmacist in Waterloo, NY named Henry Welles. Noting that New York State had experienced greater losses in the Civil War than any other state, he organized a community-based memorial in 1866. A parade was held, and people gathered to decorate the gravestones of the men who had died. This became known as “Decoration Day” and spread to many other communities until, in 1868, General John Logan proclaimed May 30 to be a day of commemoration for the Union soldiers who died in the Civil War. Meanwhile, a judge in New York’s Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court) named Francis Finch was inspired by his tours of the South following the war, and wrote a poem titled “The Blue and the Gray”, which was published in the Atlantic Monthly. This led to a widespread interest in a national movement to establish a single day of commemoration for the soldiers who had died on both sides in the Civil War. New York became the first state in the Union to recognize Decoration Day as a holiday, beginning in 1873. By 1889, “Decoration Day” had become “Memorial Day” and was a national holiday celebrated on May 30 every year until 1971, when (like so many other holidays) observance was moved to the last Monday in May.

Some editorial cartoonists’ take on Memorial Day. I’ve tried to choose a bunch that didn’t take too left or right a slant. With one exception I think I succeeded. In that last case the overall message was the thing that shone through, and the political angle was a side note:

John McCutcheon 1900John McCutcheon, 1900. The caption for this cartoon is:
“You bet I’m goin’ to be a soldier, too, like my Uncle David, when I grow up.”

 

Satterfield 1919Robert Satterfield, 1919.

SCO 13603 Hy Rosen 1963 Memorial Day Cartoon, Tue May 15, 2012, 12:29:34 PM,  8C, 5320x6544,  (320+848), 100%, copy 4 stops,  1/60 s, R20.5, G10.4, B22.2Hy Rosen, 1963.

Chan Lowe 2003Chan Lowe, 2003. Not much has changed in this arena, unfortunately.

Locher 2004Dick Locher, 2004.

Joe Heller 2004Joe Heller, 2004.

wahl-052907Andy Wahl, 2007.

Kevin Moore 2008-05-27Kevin Moore, 2008.

Bish 2010Randy Bish, 2010.

Dave Granlund 2012Dave Granlund, 2012.

Joe Heller 2012Joe Heller, 2012.

Steve Sack 052812Steve Sack, 2012.

 

Thanks again to all who serve, and who have served.

UnSafe way

Patty Bouvier: I can’t believe Homer ruined another family barbecue.
Homer Simpson: [offended] Hey! Everybody pees in the pool!
Patty Bouvier: Not from the diving board!

The Simpsons, “Dangerous Curves” (11/9/08)

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Wife and I are planning to take a trip in a few weeks. For the second time, we want to go see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in the flesh, then have our Thanksgiving Dinner in a restaurant. Friday will be a Tourist Day for us, although given that I’m a transplanted native, it won’t be especially touristy. But I’ve already digressed and the story hasn’t even started yet.

Thanksgiving Dinner is typically hosted at the Parkville Palace (i.e., our house), but since we’ll be away, Wife wanted to do a nice family dinner before the holiday. Everyone’s calendars matched up nicely for last night, so sometime last week she set the date.

Lies! Lies, I tells ya!This meant some high-speed meal planning for me, but Wife advised that I not make it as fancy and multi-course as our usual Turkey Day offering. Oddly enough, I was more than comfortable with that idea. So when I spotted a Safeway circular in the newspaper that offered up some complete meals for a reasonable price, I said to myself “Hey, this might do the trick.” There was a choice of the turkey dinner, the ham dinner or the prime rib dinner. (I would have loved the prime rib, but Wife’s family has this habit of ordering their meat overcooked, and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.)

Now, the turkey dinner has all of the typical trimmings, with the mashed potatoes, the gravy, stuffing and cranberry sauce among a couple of others, but the prime rib and the ham have the same side dishes. If you can’t see them in the picture, it’s Scalloped Potatoes au gratin, Corn Medley (what kind of songs do you hear in a corn medley?), Green Bean Casserole, a dozen dinner rolls and an apple pie. All you have to do is warm it up. Simple, right?

On Friday afternoon I called the toll-free number in the ad. This is actually where the trouble started, only I wasn’t smart enough to read the warning signs. The guy who answered the phone was, to be generous, not the brightest bulb on the string. The first thing he asked for was my first name, which is reasonable. My name is not something that people automatically know how to spell, so I immediately spelled it out for him. He didn’t get it on the first try, so I spelled it for him a second time. On this second attempt he read it back to me; it came back as something like “C, R, L, E”. I asked him, “Does that look like anybody’s first name to you? Let’s try it once more.” He finally got my name, then my phone number. OK, says I, we’re sailing smoothly now.

This is Parksville. It's in British Columbia, and apparently does not have a Safeway in it. The next question was my zip code. From this information he deduced that I was located in Baltimore City. Based on this fact, he asked me which of the four stores in Baltimore City I wanted to use: Lauraville, Canton, Charles Village or the one out on Baltimore National Pike. I told him that I didn’t want to use any of those; I wanted to use the one in Parkville. This, he couldn’t find. As it happens, part of the reason he couldn’t find it was because he was looking for a Safeway in “Parksville”, but even after I straightened that out, he still couldn’t figure it out. Then he suggested that if I do a Google search, it’ll show me where the four stores he’d mentioned are.

I said, “I know exactly where those four stores are, and I’m not going to any of them when there’s one less than a mile from my house.” Then I asked him if he had Google. When he responded in the affirmative, I suggested that he do a web search for “Safeway 21234”. Lo and behold, he located the store in Parkville. I was kind enough to spare him the necessity of trying to pronounce “Waltham Woods Road”. Then he asked me again if I wanted the store at Waltham Woods Road. I told him “Yes, and if you ask me a third time I’ll probably say ‘yes’ again.”

A few more seconds of typing, then: “And what was your phone number again?”

We’d been on the phone for eight and a half minutes and, of the four pieces of information he’d gathered from me in that time, he’d already lost one of them. “That’s it,” I said. “I need to speak to a supervisor.”

Another eight minutes, this time on hold. Finally the supervisor came on. I’m not going to recount the entire conversation because you probably have that part figured out. It’s all apologies and obsequiousness and “We’re sorry you’re not having an excellent experience” kind of crap. But he did take my order and confirmed that I’d have to go to the Deli to pick it up, 24½ hours hence.

And I went there the next day and everything went perfectly.

Ha, Ha! I was just yanking your chain, there! And so was Safeway, apparently!

At 4:05 I arrived at the store, grabbed a cart and headed toward the Deli. The clerk behind the counter asked if she could help me. I told her that I was there to pick up a dinner. She looked at me blankly. I tried again: I ordered a Ham Dinner for pickup at four o’clock. She still didn’t know what I was talking about, so she turned to a co-worker: “Do you know anything about a Ham Dinner?” The co-worker nodded, then said, “but we don’t have it.”

Excuse me?

She then started saying something about how they have the ham, but they don’t have “the kit”. The kit is apparently a package that contains all the other parts of the meal that aren’t ham. No package means you don’t have the meal. (Remember also that this means they don’t have everything for the Prime Rib Dinner, either.) This second clerk then disappeared into the walk-in refrigerator, but she emerged empty-handed and shaking her head. Again she told me the thing about the ham and the kit. Oddly, I didn’t find a repeat explanation comforting. I saw a sheet of paper in her hand and asked, “Is that my order? May I see it?” I looked at the sheet only long enough to establish that my name and phone number had been correctly recorded. That IS my phone number, and I haven’t gotten any calls from you.” I was getting a little more strident by this point. “I have a bunch of people en route to my house and I have nothing to give them. What am I supposed to do? Calling you guys was supposed to take the stress out of this whole deal.” She suggested that we talk to the manager.

I followed the clerk over to the manager’s office. In this office is a woman—the assistant manager—and I swear to god she’s eating an entire pepperoni pizza out of the box. I mean, it’s sliced and all, but she’s clearly doing this thing some serious damage. She continues chowing down her pizza while the deli cl
erk tells her about how “this man ordered the ham dinner and we have the hams but we don’t have the kit, and now he’s yelling at me because it’s not here.” Because it’s apparently my fault that I’m upset about placing an order that A) nobody filled; and B) nobody contacted me about a problem. Between bites, the assistant manager suggests that, rather than looking for a kit that isn’t there, she gather up the discrete pieces and give those to me. Because part of this was said with her mouth full, she wound up having to repeat it to the clerk, who heaved a big sigh and walked back to the deli area.

Hey, you know what? If I’m such a bother to everyone, I don’t need you either. I walked out of the store, not bothering to see if the deli clerk had even noticed I’d left. Given that I stopped immediately outside to text Wife about what had happened, it doesn’t appear that she did.

So here’s the Postscript to this tale: I went to the Shoppers Food across the street and put together a meal of my own: Spiral Sliced ham (about 8 lbs), frozen corn and a red and green pepper for chopping up into the corn and sauteéing slowly in butter; frozen Stouffer’s macaroni & cheese, frozen broccoli for steaming, an apple pie and a couple of tubes of biscuits. Dinner was about an hour later than we’d planned, and the total cost was nearly $10 cheaper than the Safeway meal.

This morning I mailed a letter to the Safeway folks. We’ll see what they have to say.

S’meeps? P’ores?

Burton “Gus” Guster: I have peeps, Shawn.
Shawn Spencer: You have two peeps. And one of them is made out of marshmallow.

Psych, “He Dead” (8/14/09)

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Wife and I were looking through the Sunday newspapers this morning. I was reading the comics first, then moving on to the rest of the editorial copy; Wife was reading all of the sales supplements, what I like to think of as Porn for Women. Because I’m progressive that way.

Wife happened to notice in one circular that Marshmallow Peeps were on sale pretty cheaply. She wanted to get some to send to Daughter up at school. For whatever reason, this got my mind running: Peeps are made of marshmallow, but all we ever seem to do with Peeps is eat them. We never toast them up, or put them in cocoa or anything else; why is that?

I said to Wife, “You know what we should do? We should make Peeps s’mores.”

She gave me that look that most people would interpret as “What the hell is the matter with you?” but I choose to read as, “My god! That’s brilliant!”

Better yet, she actually went out and bought me the stuff to make Peeps s’mores. The bad news is that she came back with the Peeps bunnies, not the chicks, but that’s OK, it still worked out. In fact, it may have worked out better because of the bunnies’ flatness as opposed to the overall roundness of the chicks.

Here’s what I did. I’ve included pictures to help you keep up.

Bunnies, prepare to meet your Maker.

I preheated the oven to 350 degrees.

Then I put some aluminum foil on a cookie sheet. I put them on foil in case of accidental meltdown, just to keep some of the mess down. It’s a typical s’mores setup: graham cracker, then a piece of Hershey bar, then the Peep bunny.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blinded by my science experiment.

 

The bunnies spent exactly three minutes in the oven. Two-and-a-half minutes might have been better, since the chocolate was pretty runny.

It’s tough to tell, but the bunnies poofed up a little from being in the oven.

If you look closely at the picture, you can see where the bunnies’ eyes and nose dots dissolved into brown puddles.

 

 

 

 

Peeps 3

Finally, of course, I took another piece of graham cracker and pressed it down on the Peep. In the s’more closest to the camera you can see the chocolate oozing out, which is not really what I wanted to have happen, but for a first effort it’s not disastrous, it’s just a little messier than you expect. Especially when you actually bite into the thing and then the chocolate runs in pretty much every direction.

So that was my little foray into Fun Food this week. My next mission is to find something interesting to do with jelly beans.

Breakfast for Dinner

When you’re doing the hard driving, sometimes the trips up and/or down I-95 can be pretty uneventful. My travels to Florida ran much in this vein. I’d packed some sandwiches so I didn’t have to stop for lunch, and in fact I stopped only for gas or to use the rest room. Oddly enough, I don’t think I ever stopped for both. As a result, despite my leaving later than I’d planned, I wound up in Walterboro, South Carolina (approximately Exit 48) for the evening of December 23. This isn’t too bad; I usually stop in Florence, SC for the night and have a pretty long drive ahead of me the second day.

(Naturally, it wasn’t until the next day that I learned that Walterboro is maybe 10-15 minutes’ drive from some relatives of mine; I could have saved some money on lodging for the night.)

Bah.Here’s a tip if you’re traveling down the I-95 corridor: there’s just no good way through the Washington, DC area, so just skip it altogether. When you get to Baltimore, take either I-895 or I-695 to I-97 and take that down to Route 301 south, which will bring you back to I-95 just north of Richmond, VA. You won’t save any time at all, but you’ll be spared the madness of the Mixing Bowl south of DC, where there is NO GOOD TIME to travel through.

Anyway, Walterboro.

I stopped for the night around 8:00. I was kind of hoping to make it to Hardeeville (around Exit 10), but I figured, I’m hungry now and why stop twice? I popped into a place called the Country Hearth Inn, which is a small-ish chain, and got a room for the evening for only $31 after taxes and such.

In this part of the country, the location of your room is apparently pretty important. Rooms on the first floor are more expensive than rooms on the second floor. My room was cheaper because it was second floor. Go figure.

Here’s another aside: I don’t really get the mentality that a hotel room has to have fourteen thousand amenities when you’re on a road trip. I’m stopping to eat, sleep, and get generally relaxed for the next leg of the trip. I don’t need a pool, or chocolates on my pillow, or a flatscreen TV. This is a crash pad. I want a clean room, a place to take a shower and a clear picture on the TV. I don’t even need 75 channels, since the TV is just a talking lamp at that point; I’m happy with local TV plus CNN or some such. Everything else is just gravy. So for that little bit, there’s no way I’m shelling out $80 if I don’t have to. And fortunately there are plenty of places on I-95 which are willing to fill this request. Country Hearth Inn turned out to be one of them.

I took this picture only in the sense that I took it off of a Shoney's website. Once checked in, and with my bags and stuff in the room, I got back in the car and wandered the immediate neighborhood in search of food. Most exits on I-95 have lots of places to eat; a few have only a couple of options, and one or two have none at all. This was one in the second group. All of the choices were pretty typical: Cracker Barrel, Subway, Waffle House, Shoney’s, McDonald’s and a couple of others. I didn’t want -fast food, but I didn’t necessarily want the sit-down-meal-with-the-bum’s-rush experience that you sometimes get from Cracker Barrel, so I went to the Shoney’s.

I’d forgotten that Shoney’s had the option of eating via a buffet, so shortly after I’d reached my table I was greeted by a server who pointed out that the buffet was almost entirely breakfast foods. This really appealed to me. “Outstanding!” I said. I rather like having breakfast food for dinner once in awhile. Wife, for some reason, is not, so we rarely do it. The waitress then asked me what I wanted to drink. I ordered a Coke and hit the buffet.

My plate didn't look quite like this, but it was close. Sure enough, there was a wide variety of stuff available: eggs, toast, grits, biscuits & gravy, sausage, bacon, home fries, cheese (for the grits, I think), pancakes, French toast, etc, etc. I took a look and said, “Yes, please!” When I got back to my table, the waitress was just delivering two glasses of soda to me. I asked her, “Is this Happy Hour?”

She said “Of course it is!” Then, “OK, not really, but I figured you’d been on the road and you looked kind of thirsty.” Smart waitress, that.

And I, who have been eating quite sensibly for the last eight weeks as a side-effect of Wife’s diet, had myself two plates of breakfast for dinner.

Cookies!

Danny Concannon: You keep glancing over like you’re afraid I’m going to steal something.
Mrs. Landingham: No. I’m just not used to having members of the print media in here.
Danny: I’ll try not to get ink on the furniture.
Mrs. Landingham: Aw, Danny. And I was just about to offer you a cookie.
Danny: And now?
Mrs. Landingham: No.

The West Wing, “The White House Pro-Am” (3/22/00)

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I mentioned a couple of posts back that I baked up some cookies for the Patti Rothberg concert, and they turned out to be quite the hit. No kidding; I was hearing good stuff about them from people who didn’t realize that A) I was nearby, and B) I was the guy who baked them. And, when I told them what the mystery ingredient was, they said to me “Oh…you have my attention.” It was almost a shame that Wife was there; I could have gotten me some of Patti’s castoff groupies that night based solely on my cookies. (note to self…)

So, being a generous soul, I’m going to share this recipe with you. I’ll note that I did get the original from the Washington Post several days ago, but I see in looking back that they, in turn, got it from somewhere else. I’ll cite that specific detail at the end. I’ll also add in a few of my own notes as I go along. Enjoy! And, if you make these, let me know how they came out.

 

Chocolate Chunk Cookies With Nutella

 

· MAKE AHEAD: The dough can be frozen for up to 1 month. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days.

· Makes 38 to 42 cookies

Ingredients:

  • • 2 1/3 cups flour (level off in a measuring cup)
  • • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • • 1 teaspoon salt
  • • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • • 1/4 cup unsweetened or regular Nutella (may substitute hazelnut paste)—I used the regular Nutella and it makes for a sweeter cookie but basically works great.
  • • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • • Scrapings from 1 split vanilla bean (may substitute 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)—I used the extract. Again, no problems.
  • • 3 cups (12 ounces) bittersweet chocolate (preferably 60 to 66 percent cacao content), coarsely chopped into 1/4-inch pieces or larger—with this, I bought a bag of chocolate chunks from the supermarket. Nestlé makes them, but some places now have a store brand version, too.
  • • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts (optional)—I used walnuts. This recipe is expensive enough.


Directions:

  1. Position the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 375 degrees. Line 2 or 3 rimmed baking sheets with silicone liners or parchment paper.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt onto a piece of parchment or waxed paper.
  3. Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer; beat on medium speed until creamy. Reduce the speed to medium-low, then add the Nutella and beat until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition, then add the vanilla bean scrapings, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed.
  4. Reduce the speed to low. Gradually add the flour mixture, beating just until the dough comes together.
  5. Stir in the chocolate pieces and, if desired, the nuts.
  6. Drop heaping tablespoons of the dough 2 inches apart onto the baking sheets, flattening them slightly by hand as needed. (At this point the mounds of dough can be frozen, well wrapped, for up to a month.)
  7. Bake for 4 to 5 minutes, then rotate the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back. Bake for 4 to 5 minutes until lightly browned (or a few minutes longer for crisp cookies). (When I did 5 minutes, I got cookies that were TOO soft; they were limp rather than chewy. I went an extra minute or two in each period. Of course, this could just be my oven, so your mileage may vary.)
  8. Transfer the sheets to a wire rack to cool for at least 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies to the wire rack to cool completely before serving or storing. Repeat to use all of the dough.

Recipe Source:

From The Perfect Finish: Special Desserts for Every Occasion, by Bill Yosses and Melissa Clark (W.W. Norton, 2010).

130 calories, 6g fat, 4g saturated fat, 15mg cholesterol, 90mg sodium, 18g carbohydrates, 1g dietary fiber, 11g sugar, 2g protein.

Doing it Right

Buddy: The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.

Elf (2003)

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This is the definitive version. Don't let Arthur Fiedler fool you. I know that in the past, I’ve railed on about Christmas music, specifically the fact that when it comes time for radio stations to begin their All Christmas All The Time programming, they ordinarily have ridiculously small playlists which have no sense of history whatsoever. “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey gets played hourly, while Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” goes ignored. It’s not that I don’t like the Mariah Carey song, but when there are so many versions of a relatively small pool of songs out there, it gets old in a big hurry. Hey, ten bucks is ten bucks. Worse yet is the Straight No Chaser version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, because there’s just no way that that song isn’t tedious. Even the parody versions are just painful after the second go-round (Bob & Doug McKenzie notwithstanding).

At any rate, I was given a tip by a friend on Facebook that a station in Colorado was playing ACATT and that I might want to tune in via their Internet stream. I was reluctant, but since I was baking cookies and wanted to hear some Christmas music, I figured “why not?”

Holy cow, this station is actually good at All Christmas All The Time. The station in question is KTRR-FM, billing itself on the air as “Tri-102.5”, and they actually do ACATT right. This is their non-Christmas artwork. Out of season they're a "Light Rock" station, much like the Baltimore ACATT station is. Except, Baltimore's Christmas station sucks. I don’t know who the Program Director is there, but my hat is off to that person. It’s got a mix of the modern and the traditional, the old artists and the new, the familiar recordings and a few that might be new to some people; it was incredibly cool. I was able to listen for literally hours without getting bored. If I had anything to complain about, it would be that pretty much all of the songs I heard were “modern” Christmas songs; there wasn’t an awful lot of the more traditional Christmas carols going on. What’s the difference? Carols are more overtly religious. Tri-102.5 doesn’t avoid them but they appear to prefer songs about Christmas. In the long run it’s no harm, no foul.

So I strongly suggest that you tune in, especially on the weekends when that Fabulous Deejay, Keith Allen, is on the air. Call him at 1-800-964-1025 and request something cool for your Yuletide celebration. Chances are, he’ll be able to play it. And tell him I said Hi.

Road Show

Homer Simpson: [after hitting a deer statue] D'oh!
Lisa Simpson: A deer!
Marge Simpson: A female deer!

The Simpsons, “Bart Gets an Elephant” (3/31/94)

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New Paltz Logo - 3 Color This past weekend I headed up to New Paltz to see some of Daughter’s handiwork.

This time around, she was working on Noises Off, a three-act play which, each time, covers the first act of a play-within-the-play called “Nothing On”. Daughter’s main job was as the Propmaster, so during the show itself she didn’t really have an awful lot to do. Most of her work comes before the show, when she has to acquire or fabricate props, or in-between shows, when she has to repair them. (And don’t get her started on the prop sardines.) As a result, she was able to actually sit with me during the show and chit-chat between acts, so that was pretty fun. But I’m getting a little bit ahead of the story.

Wee One was sidelined from cheerleading because of an injury, and it was supposed to be the end of the season for her. But she managed to bounce back quickly and, about ten days ago, was given clearance and put back into the cheer routine. So Wife took Wee One to the last cheerleading meet of the season, and I headed to upstate New York, solo.

For most of the trip, I listened to an audiobook I’d downloaded (Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys, if you’re interested, and the narration by Lenny Henry is awesome). Since I’m still without my iPod, I accomplished this by plugging the Aux plug into the headphone jack of my laptop and listened away. When I got off the highway, however, I decided that I wanted to concentrate a little more on what I was doing. So I shut off the audiobook and I tuned in to local radio.

Because I was alone, I got to do something that I’m pretty sure Wife hates: I hit the “scan” button and tuned in to all of the radio that Ulster County had to offer, ten seconds at a time. There was the usual mix of rock, country, classical, and so forth, and then I heard…

No. Way. Back that sucker up.

Sure enough, I found myself listening to Frank Sinatra singing about those J-I-N-G, L-E Bells. Christmas music! Well, I reasoned, it’s close enough that stations could start sprinkling in the holiday tunes. But then the song ended and another Christmas song started, this one by Harry Connick Jr. Yes indeed, 92.1 Lite-FM in Poughkeepsie had already gone All Christmas All The Time. I’ve ranted on about this in previous posts, and I expect to do so again, so I’ll let it go for now. Anyway, that plus the displays appearing in the stores the last few weeks impressed upon me that ‘tis the Season and all that. But that’s not all…

I hit a diner and got a grilled cheese sandwich, then checked into my hotel. I dumped off my stuff and it was off to A Night of Theater.

The show itself was fun, as I mentioned above and everyone truly did a fine job. There were a couple of pratfalls that had everyone worrying about the health of the actors involved, and a couple of incidents where Daughter worried actively about the health of the props that had just hit the floor unexpectedly. In the third act, a lamp had been knocked off a table and out of sight behind the furniture. When an actor finally picked it up and returned it to the table, it was still lit. Resilient props, those.

The next morning, we had some breakfast and I wanted to get some apples from a local orchard. I actually had several orders to fill from co-workers, so off we went to a farm about seven miles outside of town, in the town of Gardiner. While there, we picked out roughly two-and-a-half pecks of apples, which is meaningless to anyone who isn’t in Farm Country, so let me convert that for you: we bought a metric shitload of apples. No kidding, I spent about $45 just on apples, and only five bucks of that was for me. My co-workers were really hot for apples, but I confess a lot of that was my own doing, so when I gave them the apples I deliberately allowed myself to be under-reimbursed by about a third. No harm, no foul, everyone’s happy and Do A Good Deed Now And Then, you know?

Anyway, on the way back to New Paltz, we passed a road sign. It had clearly been around for awhile, but someone made a recent addition to it. Naturally I turned the car around and went back so that I could get a photograph of it:

Deer Crossing

Now I know for SURE that ‘tis the season.

Fa la la la la, la la la la.

We Remember.


Chris Griffin: I was going to school, and this guy won't let me.
Peter Griffin: Oh yeah? Him and what army?
Chris Griffin: [points to soldiers in street] The U.S. Army.
Peter Griffin: Oh, that's a good army.

Family Guy, “E Peterbus Unum” (7/12/00)

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Hover your mouse over the photos to learn a little more about them.

War of 1812

The original Star-Spangled Banner pre-restoration) that flew over Fort McHenry on September 14, 1814 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write what is now our National Anthem. The War of 1812 is the only war on American soil that involved Baltimore to any important extent, and the Battle of Baltimore is considered to be the turning point in the war. Go visit the Fort and be fascinated.

The Civil War

Graveyard of soldiers' graves in Savannah, GA, taken in 1865. The Civil War was 150 years ago and the memorials still feel very "our side" and "their side". p

The Spanish-American War

This is a stereogram of a 21-gun salute to soldiers who died in the Spanish-American War. Taken in 1899.

World War I

The World War One Museum is located in Kansas City, MO. Did you know that there is no national monument to World War I, and that the reason for that lack is bureaucratic bickering? As of today, we have exactly one living veteran of World War I in the US. Frank Buckles is 109 years old, and still lobbying for a national memorial.

World War II

This is the World War II memorial in Washington, DC, which opened a couple of years ago. It's located at the far end of the reflecting pool opposite the Lincoln Memorial. For all the visitors, it's a very peaceful place. Many people sit on the edge of the water and put their feet in, although they're discouraged by some of the signage. But in a way it's a form of communing with those to whom it's dedicated. There's a lot of detail that can't be captured in the larger photographs.

Korean War

Korean War Memorial. A short walk from the others, and yet it feels unfortunately overlooked. Coincidentally this is called "the forgotten war". There are 19 statues; when reflected in the wall making 38, as in the 38th Parallel.

A detail from the Korean memorial. The number under the boy's leg is 54,246.

Vietnam War

The Vietnam War Memorial Wall. Perhaps THE quietest place in DC. Look also for the statues dedicated to the soldiers and the nurses. The tour guides are great at this one.

Persian Gulf War

This is a detail from a larger memorial in Rochester, Minnesota, called the Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial. It opened about ten years ago.

Iraq War

Proposal for Iraq War Memo
rial, Symbolic Transposition of effects of war in Iraq to the U.S. and England: 10 Downing St., Parliament, U.S. Capitol and the White House (detail), 2007, Sam Durant. This image comes up most frequently when you do an image search for an Iraq memorial.

Thank you all for your ultimate sacrifice.