Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ford Maddox 4x4

Thinking of changing the blog name for 2015. I live in the American Midwest, and I read.

Maybe I should sleep on it.

Happy New Year everyone.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

On My Soapbox

I've never regretted my age. I've never longed to be younger, look younger, act younger. I don't dream of going back in time to warn my younger self of dangers to be avoided. There's an industry built around making people feel displeased with themselves-several really, and do you know what it is? It's bullshit. Part of growing old is losing the desire to feed that business plan. I'll decide when I'm unhappy, not when the Self-Help-Industrial-Complex says so.

As the New Year approaches, we're going to be flooded with messages aimed at making us feel bad about ourselves. I live down the street from a plastic surgeon's office with a flashing electronic billboard advertising a, "Mommy Makeover" as I sit trapped at the traffic light. "Your swimsuit is ready...are you?" I don't need mind games just because I happened to hit the light at 90th and Dodge. My body's fine, and if my swimsuit isn't, I can buy a new one.

If I want to take exercise, I will. If I wish to reduce, then I shall. If I (god forbid) want a "Mommy Makeover" (I don't) then that will be a decision I arrive at without any taunting from flashing billboards, television talk shows, or what passes for newspapers these days. It is the very worst sort of peer-pressure, except that it comes from those who profit from our insecurities, rather than our peers. My peers aren't assholes. If yours are, get new friends. I don't care what my friends look like,  if their cupboards are disorganised, or what dietary plan they follow. I've never been terribly competitive, or ambitious.

We're here for such a short time. The thought of getting up each day feeling somehow less than up to the job because your hair is frizzy, or you've gained a stone, or your ears stick out, or your house is messy, or you really can't stomach kale juice no matter how hard you try...Sigh. Is it worth it?

If you feel bad, it ought to be your own doing, not something inflicted upon you for profit.

Just try to keep things in perspective as the resolutions nonsense gets into full swing. You've made it this far doing your own thing, so you're probably doing something right.

Don't like it? Don't fucking look. My suit, and my body are ready to go swimming. Happy New Year. 

On the (Pin) Ball

With Mr. ETB'S time off coming to an end, we wanted to finish off the holiday on a fun note-so we went over to Bronco's Burgers to play the pinball machines.
Bronco's has been around for 50 years, and is a bit of an Omaha institution. I only ate there (or rather, attempted to) once, whilst pregnant, and left most of the food, so that should give you an idea of how bad it was. Mr. ETB has more self-hate than I do, and enjoys a meal there occasionally. Today, we just went to play the pinball machines.
Worth a stop for the kitsch value anyway. Not many places you can go in a polyester jumpsuit and fit right in.
Well...maybe not *right in* but not as weird as I'm capable of. I feel like Little Edie in this getup.
I had better than expected luck at the thrift store today. I like Lady Manhattan blouses from the 50's and 60's and I found three today. That was cool. I also scored another vintage Pendelton fully lined wool shirt, and a beautiful cable pullover from  New Zealand... and a custom made emerald green formal from the 60's with a matching bolero jacket, which I need. I swear I do. This makes what, four? Sigh, at least I'm consistent. 

We didn't buy this. Someone will, of that I'm certain.

Outfit Particulars:

1970's polyester jumpsuit-Goodwill
Red platform shoes-K Mart
Turban-Made it myself\
\Hair flower-Tiff and Tam
1960's faux fur coat-Thrift World
Black cardigan-Goodwill
\Large brooch-Hand-Me-Ups
Handbag-Thrifted years ago

Quick, snap a photo with the sun in my eyes! Thanks.
The deep freeze arrives tonight. By mid-week we'll be well below zero. Ah well, it was going to happen sooner or later. I'm planning to make a gigantic batch of baked beans tomorrow. The oven needs to be on for several hours, so I try to do it on a cold day and then we can benefit from the heat rising upstairs to Danny's bedroom directly over. There will be a steamed brown bread (made in a coffee tin) as well, because,..tradition. The molasses and cornmeal in the bread does go nicely with the baked beans.

The Christmas tree doesn't come down until the 6th (and yes, there will be Three Kings Cake to celebrate) so that leaves this week blissfully without much to do. I certainly won't be going out in the arctic blast (go ahead and laugh Canadians-I know I'm weak) and with Danny being off school, I suppose the best thing to do would be to watch as much Retro-TV as possible. Danny's discovered The Odd Couple, and Wonder Woman which are fun to watch from a distance of forty years.

Oooh, it is nearly New Year's Eve. I wonder if Broncos will be open?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Having a (Fart) Blast!

As you can see, we never did get that snow yesterday. I'll bet all the idiots that were out panic-shopping for bread and milk feel foolish now. We did get the cold though.
Seemed like a good day to head over to the museum to stretch our imaginations and try out the Fart Blaster. I took a black Sharpie and wrote, "Mama's Fart Blaster" on the side, just in case it got mixed-up with someone else's.

Tucked away with the other religious icons was this likeness of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. What's more, it matched my suit.
On a wall in the basement, they encourage visitors to leave a 6 word message, or a drawing.
Well what did you think I was going to say?
This is an echo-y spot.
UGH. I got two letters to describe the smell of those farts, P&U!
I don't think this is a fair fight.

Outfit Particulars:

1970's Hyde Place American made tweed suit. A rare find, $3.99 Thrift World
1960's handbag-Ruby Begonia;s, Lincoln, NE
Lavender cashmere top-Marshall Field's 80's
Stranded necklace-A thrift store in Massachusetts
Hat-Fibre Arts Show, Omaha
 50's Gloves-Mum's
Charm bracelet-old, but a 40 year + work in progress
Coat-Evans in Chicago, about 25 years ago
60's grape cluster pearl pin-Thrift World, I think
Fragrance-Elizabeth Taylor Gardenia (Mr. ETB's request)
Silver leather belt-Thrifted

Tomorrow, I'm going to head over to the Whole Foods and stand in the bean aisle until someone gets close enough to hear the fart blaster. Should be great fun. I've been kicked out of better places.
No kid, this is Mama's Fart Blaster. See there on the side, it even says so.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Better Bundle Up

Winter's arriving at last.
I'm ready, even if it makes me look like a polar bear.
I feel so betrayed. Yesterday's sun and 50 degrees has given way to cold, cold, cold. By the start of next week we'll have single digit high temperatures. We're expecting snow tonight, which would be nice at this point. No fun in having snowshoes if you never get a chance to use them.

I hope everyone had a nice holiday. We spent the day relaxing and playing games. I did some laundry because I just couldn't help myself. I am my mother's daughter.

I didn't do any real boxing day shopping, but I did stop by the supermarket and Walgreens. I bought Danny a 1/2 price nutcracker with bagpipes and a kilt. He can stay out until Burns Night. I've named him Haggis. I also found a half-priced set of Jean Nate bath splash and body lotion. I know. But at 5 bucks, I can have my bit of nostalgia and then give it to one of the teenagers on the street. My sister wore that stuff-in quantity. It might be OK in smaller amounts and a well-ventilated space. They had a Halston set for the same price, which sort of made me sad. I remember when it was a pricey scent, not the sort of thing you bought in a gift box at Walgreen's.

 I've had this acrylic cardigan for ages now, but I never think to wear it. With the pressure to wear all the velvet before Christmas over, I have the rest of winter to try and wear my clothing that is less attention getting.
Let's talk about this pullover.
 Oh my! Get a good eyeful there Mr. Giraffe.

That's better. Look at that smirk.

I recall these sweaters being around and thinking they were somewhat cheeky. I remember a monkey with his arm down the neckline, and perhaps a bear, but when I saw the giraffe I knew it was coming home with me. At .99 cents it was hardly a big investment. It is a bit stretched out from the years, but still a fun thing to have in a vintage wardrobe.

Outfit Particulars:
Tissavel 1970's faux fur and suede coat-Goodwill
Jones New York skirt-Goodwill
1970's (possibly 60's) Cyn-Less pullover with giraffes-Thrift World
1970's Taiwan-made acrylic cardigan-Goodwill
Furry boots-Goodwill
Knit hat-Fibre Arts Show
Hand-Sewn (not by me) carpet bag-Thrift World
Coppery earrings-K Mart
1960's Niello brooch-Hand-Me-Ups
Fragrance-Lentheric 12 (lovely, now I must seek out a larger bottle)

We have tons of leftover paella, so I bought lettuce and tortillas and that will be tonight's version-sort of like a fish burrito. We're slowly making a dent in the cheese (I get weird about not having enough cheese at Christmas, and then I go crazy and buy a pound of Quickes aged cheddar only to discover it is SO strong I can't eat it). Cheese is nice with horseradish, but the cheese ought not taste of horseradish-at least not unintentionally. I already made my New Year's potted cheese with mace and Port, so I can't hide it in there. I guess there's a try-before-you-buy lesson. I have high hopes for the potted cheese. Every New Years, I attempt to re-create the potted cheese one of my dad's customers sent home at the holidays-for me. Not my sister, not my mother, that crockery filled with crumbly bits of Wisconsin-made heaven you had to pry loose with a knife had MY name on it. I was polite, and always chatted with the owners when I was riding along on the route with my dad-and they remembered me for it at Christmas. See kids? Behave nicely, and there might be a crock of King of Clubs come Christmastime. Anyway, every year I try to recreate the potted cheese and get really close. Do you have any idea how frustrating that is? Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking-but you're wrong. it wasn't just was cheese with my name on the gift tag! Anyway, like the Cubs fans like to say, "This is gonna be the year!" Good to have goals, right?

Speaking of New Year's Eve...
I was at the supermarket picking out sparkling grape juice with Danny. It is non-alcoholic, and comes in a variety of flavours. Some fellow, about my age sees me telling Danny to just pick one, and thinking it was real champagne gives me the harshest glare any stranger has ever given me. I'm telling you the truth when I say it took EVERYTHING in me not to chase him down the aisle yelling, "Do you know where the candy cigarettes are?!?"

 This bag is nothing but a piece of rug sewn together-no lining or anything. I think I will try to take it apart, line it and re-sew the handle into something sturdier.

And now I'll just snuggle up in the lovely cashmere slipper socks Mr. ETB bought me (Thanks, honey!) with a cup of cocoa, and wait for the snow to begin. They said it would start around 5 PM. It is 4:28. That's plenty of time to get comfortable.

Hope you have a lovely (and warm, if you're in the Northern hemisphere) weekend.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Yes, and No

To the person in Nottingham that found my blog searching for, "Is goose fat OK to fry poatoeos in?"

Yes, it is not only OK, it is delicious, and most vegetables would benefit from a quick pass through hot goose fat. However, I'm going to go out on a limb and judge that by the time of day you visited, and the way you spelled potatoes there may have been a bit of festive drinking going on at your place. Here's the thing-alcohol and deep fat frying don't mix. You're drunk and thinking, "Goose fat chips sound good!" and you're correct. Trouble is, you're pissed, and if you fill a pan with hot fat and start to nod off...well, you know that won't be good. So, in answer to your query, potatoes and goose fat are a match made in heaven, but if you attempt making them in your condition heaven may well be where you end up.

Try it some time when you're sober-you won't be disappointed!

Happy Christmas 2014

Time for the baubles to go back in the box.
I hope you found everything you wanted in your stocking. I know I did.

And the traditional Christmas Day Walk, complete with Silly String.

Thanks to everyone that  takes the time to visit, and comment and share your expertise here.

Onward to 2015!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Buche de Noel

No El? Why don't you take the streetcar instead?

That joke never stops being funny. 

This is 2014's effort, and it went easier than ever before. 

Ever try making meringue mushrooms when it has been pouring rain for days? Yeah, not good. So instead of making meringues that would require a trip through the dehydrator, I went for buttercream instead. I have to say, I'm pleased with how they look, and unlike meringues they shouldn't go soggy by serving time. 

Speaking of trees, I saw the most heartbreaking thing this morning. Blondin the squirrel has been hiding food in our tree for months now, and yesterday we saw a flock of large crows discover his hiding place. I tried shooing them off, but you know birds, and I couldn't watch the tree all day. Today, poor Blondin sat on that branch ducking his head repeatedly in the hole looking upset. The crows must have cleared him out. Poor little squirrel had this awful look of disbelief as he kept looking, and looking. Of course I offered him some bread, but he seems so sad.
"I've been robbed!" he seems to be wailing. Poor thing. I never thought I could feel sorry for a squirrel, but that was just heart wrenching to watch. We'll have to leave him a nice Christmas breakfast of dried corn and stollen.

Monday, December 22, 2014


Danny: (Shaking Magic 8 Ball he got for his Birthday) Will the Dow close over 18,000 today?
(shakes it, looks at answer). Let's try this again, will the Dow close over 18,000 today? (Looks at answer, irritated). Ma? (sarcastically) I think this thing is defective, it doesn't give me the answer I want.

Sometimes I think I should be concerned that I have a child that understands what a short sale is.

Stollen, When I Should Have Been Buying

As I type, the scent of butter and sugar are filling the house. We're just one Buche Noel away from being done with the holiday baking. It is 40 degrees F and pouring rain, so unless something changes radically, we're not going to be having a white Christmas this year. Fine by me. We do the bulk of our celebration on Christmas Eve, with the Feast of the Seven Fishes, which in our house translates into paella. Christmas Day, we eat leftovers, and play board games.
Do you see what I see? No, no, not baby Jesus-I'm talking about this hideous cardigan. It screamed at me in the thrift store, so here we are.

Get a good look...because you won't be seeing it again. On the positive side, it is so strange, I needn't worry about seeing myself coming and going. 

With such a short time left to the holidays, I had to make an effort to get all the festive clothing worn for the year. I don't know why I have so much velvet, but I do. 
 This was just an inexpensive skirt from Principles about a decade ago, but I love it. As I'm afraid I may well, "Love it to pieces" I keep it for wearing at the holidays. I don't think it was made to last as long as it has.

The red raincoat is getting plenty of use this year. It is part of an ensemble, though I've yet to wear the skirt. I think this is the last of my Christmas scarves that need wearing (to justify the space taken owning them) but I'd better check the collection one last time to be sure.

Outfit Particulars:

Vintage Christmas cardigan-Hand-Me-Ups
Headband-Tiff and Tam
Poinsettia earrings-K Mart

Lurex-ish black top-Can't remember-90's
Velvet and rayon skirt-Principles, early 90's
Sparkly black belt-Shop Ko
1950's standed grey beads-Thrifted about 25 years ago in Western, Massachusetts
Pink lucite bangle-Goodwill
Black and grey bangles-Hand-me-Ups
50's clip pink pearl earrings-Hand-Me-Ups

60's red polyester raincoat-New Life Thrift
Black Boots-Target, ages ago
Skinny jeans (on a decidedly NOT skinny body) K Mart
80's red acrylic pullover by Picket and Post-Hand-Me-Ups
Oscar silk scarf-Hand-Me-Ups
Rhinestone hair combs-Sally Beauty Supply
 Vintage Shiny Brite Christmas Corsage-Thrift World
Knit handbag-Sears, about 15 years ago (maybe more)

I still haven't tried out the fragrance decants as I have a terrible head cold and can't smell accurately. Frustrating? Oh hell yes, so to make myself feel better I went online and ordered some vintage Yendi, and a bottle of Lentheric 12. Yeah, I know-it makes no sense to me either. Eventually, I'll be able to breathe through my nose again. I hope.  I haven't thrifted since before Thanksgiving, so I suppose it wasn't *too* extravagant.

I just pulled the completed stollens from the oven-I could sure smell those!

When they come out of the oven, you brush them with butter and start layering on the icing sugar. It melts on the bottom layers, but keep going, adding more and more until they look like this. Cool completely before wrapping and storing for a couple days before serving. The extra one is destined for my husband's group at work. They get half a day off Christmas Eve, so I thought this would be nice with coffee in the department.

I didn't forget, and wear my apron out this time-doubt anyone would have noticed. The pre-Christmas hysteria is setting-in and the supermarket was a madhouse. Seems a bit late in the game to be starting, but I guess a small turkey would thaw in time. Personally, I'd go for a capon were I cooking poultry, but they're more expensive than goose now.

I hope to post a series of holiday snaps from my family photographs before Christmas, but just in case I don't get back here in time, here's a flip off to carry you through any unpleasant family gatherings you may have ahead of you. You know Uncle Charlie always misses the toilet. Always. Watch where you step, and Happy Holidays.
White Christmas? No, I'm afraid it will rain, dear.

Be getting my hat now.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Gallery of Birthday Cakes

I thought you might enjoy a look at some birthday cakes from the past decade (There were half-birthday cakes as well, but we'll save that for another post). To long time readers of the blog, you can feel free to skip ahead.

(Minimal decorating skills, but look at that happy baby!)
 Second (Cake skills are improving. Danny had a cold, poor little Rudolph-nosed baby)
 Fourth  (Cars)
I made dozens of those cookies until I got enough perfect for the cake. It took weeks. The cake was an orange sponge with fig filling. That was the last time I did anything exotic beneath the icing.
 Fifth (The Day the Earth Stood Still)
Never. Doing.This. Again. EVER. Hundreds of decorated cookies, the Washington Monument from sugar cubes, and the spaceship. INSANE. Still, Danny loved it, and it was one of his favourite movies at the time. The original. For fuck's sake, I shouldn't have to point that out.
 Fifth (Science)
What you can't see is how the sugar on the light-bulb really sparkled making it look like glass. I'm glad I did this cake pre-energy efficient bulbs because I don't know I would do those swirly bulbs in cake.
 (And the entire Periodic table in iced cookies)
I can't say enough nice things about those food colouring pens. I can't imagine piping this in icing.
 The Siege of Troy
Arrgggh. This cake gave me so much trouble. The icing wouldn't set, the cake fell apart, and as Danny likes to tell it, "There was some swearing I heard when I was trying to sleep." Yeah. But hey, the black and red pottery warriors came out well. There were also golden "Mask of Agamemnon" cookies on sticks. Those were cool. That was the year Danny wanted a copy of Chapman's Homer. I found him one, but it wasn't easy. I ended up ordering it from Waterstones. Thank goodness for the Internet and overseas shipping. He's still amused by it-Chapman was a bit of a blowhard, and it makes for good reading (but not in any way, shape or form a good translation).
There was a Greek Mythology quilt that year.
 The Trojan horse in cake sounded like a good idea at the time.
 Sixth-Monopoly, with iced cookies for the properties
(There was a Monopoly quilt to go with it).
 Chilly Willy the Penguin
(This was the year Danny went crazy for Woody Woodpecker and his friend, Chilly).
With current events added to keep the cake educational
And finally, this year when I asked what Danny wanted for his Birthday cake, I got a response straight out of last semester's study of WWI with a Christmas theme as a bonus.
Pro-tip: dental floss makes convincing barbed wire, in a pinch. I skipped the football and went for the iconic drawing that appeared in newspaper accounts of the truce at the time.

 When constructing a cake like this, skewers are your friend. I baked the cakes well ahead and then let them chill making slicing into shapes easier. This is two 8x11 cakes. The fence-posts are gingerbread scraps left from the gingerbread house. To decorate the cookies, I iced in white and grey with royal icing then used food colouring pen to draw on the details. The Christmas tree is an old earring. When making a cake that needs to withstand this sort of assembly, I use a recipe that is all butter and egg yolks. It is a firmer, sturdier cake that still tastes nice against the very rich decorator's buttercream icing. There's a time for fancy layer cakes, but Birthday cakes aren't it.

I wanted to keep the cake as respectful as possible (Acknowledging that trench warfare and cake don't typically go together). I understand the cynical impulse to mock the Christmas Truce, but I just can't. Of course it has entered into folklore 100 years later, and there probably weren't any impromptu football games in the No Man's Land, but that doesn't diminish what the Christmas Truce has to say-there were human beings in those trenches who'd been trying to kill each other, and for a day they acknowledged that, and were able to see each other as such, rather than a dehumanised, "Enemy." I tried to keep that in mind as I made the cake. 

I wonder what I'll be baking next year? 

Hey, everybody...only 5 days 'till Christmas!