Friday, November 25, 2005

THE YEAR OF THE PUMPKIN BISQUE.....and other Thanksgiving Day Disasters

At the time they occur, culinary disasters at holiday times are considered just that. Disasters. But they live on in family lore and their retelling year after year provide laughter around the holiday dinner tables, thus helping aid digestion. UM, ok, I'm tring to put a good spin on it. And with good reason as I have my own disaster(s) lurking in my past.

The most recent was the pumpkin bisque. I had enjoyed the pumpkin bisque served at the Oglebay Inn and Resort in Wheeling, West Virginia and wanted to recreate it myself. Two years ago, I had decided that for Thanksgiving that year, we would start off the meal with pumpkin bisque and end it with pumpkin pie.

One thing you need to know about me is that I enjoy cooking, experimenting with cooking and have had good success with those experiments. But the bisque was not one of my success stories. Pureed pumpkin has an appearance and consistency of something that is the opposite of appetizing. I attempted to cosmetically enhance the bowls of bisque with a dollop of softened cream cheese and parsely. It was not helping.

We sat down, dug in and the Ugh's! and ack's! reverberated around the table. That was the year we met my son-in-law's father for the first time. He was sitting across the table from me and his reaction can only be described as comically valiant. He shuddered slightly, his eyes kind of crossed, he took a deep breath and started to take another spoonful. His momma obviously raised him to be polite. I grabbed his bowl before he could get another taste.

Tim was my soon-to-be son-in-law at that point and he declared the bisque to be delicous. He even had seconds. Suck-up. My mother, being a typical mom, said it "wasn't that bad."

My daughters -- being daughters -- gagged, wretched, and declared it to be the most vile stuff they've ever tasted.

My dad was quiet.

The story of Pumpkin Bisque was retold this year around the table and Tim stated he enjoyed it so much he had four bowls. I told him to quit sucking up.

The Year of the Pumpkin Bisque is (in)famous in our family for another reason. It was also the year my mother contributed a v!brator to the festivities. But that's another story for another day.

Everyone has had a holiday disaster; I invite you to share yours in the "comments" section.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


When one has a daughter with the nick-name, Her Royal Highness, Princess Meghan, one has a certain image of said daugther. Something like this......

.....or this on a casual day......

And one expects, and accepts, certain behavior from said Princess. Example; when she was still in high school, I noticed the light was out in her bathroom. I left a lightbulb on the sink for her. The next day, I noticed she was in there, door opened. I asked why and she said she didn't know how to change the light bulb (the makings of "how many princesses does it take to change a light bulb" joke) When she left for college, she had an appointed courtier to handle that task for her, and he did. I even expect to receive middle of the night phone calls from Boston, the first time she ever stayed in a hotel room by herself. "Mom I can't sleep, I'm afraid, I'm having nightmares. Please talk to me on the phone until I fall asleep", and I did.

In addition to these behaviors is a sweet and giving spirit and someone who loves her grandparents and goes out of her way to spend time with them when she's home; someone who will help out a friend in need, and cries at sappy movies like her mother.

So, it was quite a shock to my system when I received this picture last weekend in an e-mail telling me she had gone deer hunting. Yes, my baby girl, HRH Princess Meghan had been on a royal hunting party.....OUT WHERE BULLETS WERE FLYING AROUND!!!

This was a behavior I hadn't expected. I'm not saying it's something unusual in our family. I've been in a duck blind myself. And...there may or may not be some road signs in Wayne County, Illinois which may or may not have bullet holes supplied by yours truly. Wait, that was a very long time ago.....I'm sure those signs have since been replaced (and any applicable statute of limitations have run).

BUT, HRH PM has never had a gun in her hands and SHE WENT HUNTING! OK, she said she didn't do any actual shooting; but OTHERS WERE!! And SHE WAS OUT THERE!! My brother-in-law says that she looks like she looks like the newest member of the "Kaintuck Militia". (I suspect a student of another gender was involved)

And in other news, a study was just released that St. Louis is the third most dangerous city in the country.

I may need that gun.

And because I don't want to cause any bad feelings between my two princesses..... equal time: HRH Princess Jenni and Her Prince Charming, Tim.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


If you've heard about these upside down Christmas trees and thought "who would seriously get one of these" Thinking about it, that is. I have several reasons. One is a space consideration. The other is just to aggravate my daughter. Over the last several years, we've developed a Christmas tradition of her dissing the tree; and I must say, she does an admirable job.

I typically decorate sometime in the first two weeks of December. For the last 5 or 6 years, Jenni has lived away from home, so it's just Meghan and I. Decorating isn't her forte and she's already spent time at her Dad's helping him, so by the time I've asked her, she has an over-abundance of attitude built up.

About four years ago, she sat on the couch, arms crossed and criticized the HECK out of the tree. "there's a hole"..."the trunk is crooked"...."it's too short". I finally had it, made a reference to being visited by the Christmas B!tch and proceeded to take the lights off the tree and started to put things away. I told her I was going to pitch the tree and get a Poinsetta so I wouldn't have to spend Christmas listening to her dissing the tree. She changed her attitude and started cooperating.

The problem was, the tree quit cooperating. It WAS crooked. We could not get it to sit straight in the stand. We ended up putting magazines under one side of the stand, which made it somewhat unstable. In order to stabilize the stand, we used an intricate system of duct tape, rope and two five-pound bags of rock salt; all of which was hidden by a lovely tree skirt. We finished decorating the tree, topped it with the angel and went into the kitchen to get dinner.

When we came out of the kitchen a few minutes later, the tree had slid slightly to the right and the angel appeared as though she was about to do a half-gainer onto the couch.

The next year, I decided that was my last live tree and bought a fake tree. A nice fake tree. On tree decorating day, Meghan took her place on the couch, arms crossed and proceeded to diss the fake tree. When she gets a good rant going, it is sometimes best to let her go and when she runs out of steam, get her back on course. When she finished her rant, I asked her if the Christmas B!tch could please leave so she could help me out, and she did.

I was apparently under the wrong impression that fake trees were easier. Oh. My. Gosh. What a pain in the A$$. Color coding. Tabs. This part into that part. I soon became the Christmas B!tch. We finally got it assembled and decorated and stood back to admire it. Eh. We weren't impressed; but over the Christmas season, it was kind of nice not to have to worry about watering and vacuuming needles.

After Christmas, Meghan had the idea that instead of disassembling it, we just take it down to the basement as is so we wouldn't have to go through the color coding, tabs, and this part into that part next year. I thought that sounded like a good idea and also left the lights on it. That was a real good idea until we got to the part of the basement stairs with the right turn. The tree didn't take the turn well. When we finally got it all into the basement, it was missing some limbs and the lights were dangling. At that point, I had had it with Christmas, and just threw a sheet over it and decided to deal with it next year.

335 days later, it was next year.

Meghan and I went down to get the tree and take it back up the stairs with that turn. More limbs were knocked off. As well as one of the legs. We got out the duct tape, rope and two five-pound bags of salt and finished setting up the tree. A week or so later, Jenni and Tim arrived for Christmas. Tim's comment was that you seldom see a fake tree leaning like that.

After that Christmas, I pitched the fake tree and return to a real tree. Last year, I got a pretty decent one, I must say. Meghan wasn't home to help me decorate and it really wasn't as much fun without the annual visit from the Christmas B!tch.

Since then, I have moved and have a lot less room for a tree. And by "a lot less", I mean, none. To have a tree, it will require taking out the love seat....and put it where? So, I was thinking of a small table tree for the end table in the corner by the window.

Then I saw the story about the upside down Christmas Tree. It can either be hung from the ceiling or put on a stand. This could really work. And it would give the Christmas B!tch more material.

But it costs $299 to $499? OK, so maybe not.

I do wonder, though, if this trend will catch on with our Jewish friends. An upside down Menorrah?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


I joked with my daughter today about voting. This is because "Something" always happens when I vote. The last time, I had a little old biddy shake her finger at me and shout, "You didn't read your white card, did you?" I had gone to my usual voting place, not knowing it had changed. I've never had my voting place change and didn't expect it to. I thought she was going to take away my voting rights for two elections for that infraction.

Tonight, my bus got home late, but I still had time to change clothes, grab my laptop and walk up to the polling place. My plans were to have dinner at Kaldi's Plaza across the street.

I arrived 7 minutes to 7. Following the signs, I went down the stairs and encountered a little old lady who looked startled to see me. "You don't want to vote do you?" she asked, shaking her head "no" to prompt me.

When I say "little old lady", I towered over her from my lofty 5'2". I seldom get to do that with adults.

I attempted to boom in an authoritative manner, "Yes, I do."

"Well", she quavered. "We've nearly torn everything down."

"Put it back up, it's not 7 yet." I was feeling my oats as an Amazon.

I walked into the room and caught 5 women in the act of packing up. They looked up; startled, then looked at the clock. They sighed as a group and started opening their Official and Mysterious Books of Voters.

The one apparently in charge (you could tell because her hair had the most purple in it) said "OK, but she's the last one."

I looked at the clock, it showed 7:02. I looked at my cell phone, it was 6:55 according to it. I didn't say anything because I was voting, after all.

They weren't happy about it and they let me know by slamming things around and sighing a lot.

I sure hoped I was voting opposite of them.

The door opened and a man walked in, reaching for his wallet to prove his identity.

The women all turned to look at Purple Hair for validation. "Are we going to let him vote?" one asked.

The man challenged them. "And why wouldn't you?"

Purple Hair said, "OK, but lock the door, he's it."

Then she pointedly looked at the clock.

The man pulled out his cellphone and said, "Your clock is wrong; it's 6:58."

Purple Hair said, pointing at the clock "We opened the polls by that clock and we should close by that clock." I looked at her closely, but she wasn't the one I tangled with at the earlier election. She had a different style of finger pointing.

He told her what he thought of that rule; which was followed by more book slamming and sighing.

I voted (only one issue so it was quick) and left, passing a couple on their way in to vote. My cellphone showed 6:59.

Good luck.


Interesting character study on the bus ride in this morning. After I boarded the bus and said my hello's to those who sat around me, I became aware of loud talking. I looked around in puzzlement, my fellow passengers near me rolled their eyes in exasperation and indicated a gentleman a few rows back.

He was loudly talking on a cellphone, totally oblivious to everyone else around him. Pointed stares in his direction were useless as he was blind. One had to wonder if he also had a hearing impairment as well. His conversation concerned his disdain for self-help books. Apparently, he really really dislikes them.

I quickly dug out my iPod and put in the earbuds. I could still hear him over my audio copy of Freakanomics. I switched to Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville. I continued switching to different albums, until I got to U2's How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. That seemed to drown him out. Of course, my hearing may have been impaired as well, but it was worth it.

Another stop later, another gentleman boarded who didn't seem to have the same social reservations the rest of us had. When he became aware of what was going on, he got up and approached the guy. I turned down my music so I could listen and pick up pointers on how to deal with the socially rude.

"Hey, buddy, you mind talking a little quieter?"

Buddy didn't even acknowledge him; kept talking about how publishers are the only ones who gain from self-help books.



"Buddy." Arm tap.

Buddy lifted his left hand and gave him a one-fingered salute.

OH-KAY, so Buddy is not a nice guy.

The other guy sat down, we all shook our heads in disbelief at one man's selfishness and I cranked up Bono.

Half way downtown, Buddy ended his conversation and put away his phone. With great effort, the rest of us refrained from applauding, but the sighs of relief could be heard through Tina Turner's Addicted to Love.

I removed my earbuds and started chatting with the people around me, getting caught up on each other's lives. We soon became aware of another noise. Buddy was snoring. Loudly. Sloppily.

Ironic that he disdains self-help books.

So, if it wasn't for his impairments, would he still be as rude as he is? Is he rude because of it?


Wednesday, November 02, 2005


The power cord to my Palm Pilot arrived today!! Yay and yipee. Now I can find phone numbers and know where I'm supposed to go.

In my rant the other day, I don't think I went into the whole thing about how I couldn't buy a power cord at Best Buy or CompUSA, etc. I had to go online to get it. Progress (??)

The other day, I had pointed out that all power cords seem to cost $29.99. I was quite floored when I opened the package today, I had gotten quite a deal. Apparently, they sent me a 4-in-1 power cord.

First of all......

......Palm apparently makes refrigerators. That plug is freaking huge!! It's about as big as the Palm Pilot itself.

After I got over that, I found that those prongs pop off (OK, I had to apply enough pressure, causing a nail to pop off as well) and based on where I am in the world, I can insert one of these prongs:

All of this arrived with a nifty little black nylon bag for storage.

OK now, here's the thing. I had to order a new power cord because I had lost mine....and they send me all of these options to use my Palm anywhere in the world.....which assumes that I'm going to be able to find them when/if I travel anywhere with a different electrical system. Based on history, that ain't gonna happen.

And quite frankly, I'm just a little scared of that big one. I'm afraid if I connect it to my Palm Pilot, I'll fry it and take down an entire power grid somewhere.

Now, I need to find someplace to store that bag o' prongs for safekeeping. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


A view of the 40-year old Gateway Arch from inside the 39-year old Busch Stadium.

Dignitaries, autographs and champagne toasts marked the first anniversary of the Gateway Arch's 40th anniversary. The wife and daughter of the architect were brought into town to mark the occasion; stories were told about how the first prototpye was made out of pipecleaners and the competition that took place for the design.

Barely a 15 minute walk away, another St. Louis landmark won't be allowed to celebrate it's 40th anniversary. At 39 years of age, Busch Stadium has been declared obsolete and, in the shadow of its replacement, it is being dismantled. It's somewhat reminiscent of a middle-aged wife being replaced by a younger, perkier and blonder neighbor.

Halloween Day was cold and rainy in St. Louis. In the late afternoon, I looked out of the window of our offices and saw that the lights were on in Busch Stadium; illuminating a scarred and empty interior. The seats are gone, the flags and pennants were gone; the scoreboard was gone. A lot of the "good stuff" had been sold and packed up and shipped to the fans who had bought them as souveniers and curiosities. In the background was the ever growing new Stadium; its new walls looking as though they were wrapping around the emptying husk of the old Stadium, closing in and sucking out the life of the older place. By turning ever so slightly to the left, the Arch was in my view. Tall, gleaming, proud, celebrated.

As I turned back to look at Busch Stadium, Jimmy Buffett's song, A Pirate Looks at Forty came to mind, especially the line:

Mother, mother ocean, after all the years I've found
My occupational hazard being my occupation's just not around
I feel like I've drowned, gonna head uptown

Two beloved St. Louis landmarks, both in the St. Louis landscape for four decades; but with diverse destinies.