Saturday, December 30, 2006

German Iron

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Wedding Party

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Wedding Photo

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Wind River Mountains 1979

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Italian Cream Cake

Christmas dinner always starts the day before. This year, I made a deal. Since we would be having dinner at home, I would make Doreen’s birthday cake if she didn’t make me go to church. I was also cajoled into making an Onion Tart (from Cooks Magazine, so you know it will not be simple) for our Christmas late night snack. (It can be eaten warm, cold, or room temperature. Very flexible, that tart)

A deal was struck and I started cooking. My lovely and talented sister-in-law Becky had sent us a recipe for Italian Cream Cake a while back. We had never made it before this week. I have never made a cake, ever. So this was going to be an adventure for me.

Doreen left on some Christmas errand, and I was left in the kitchen with the cake and tart in front of me. And the prospect of cooking a goose, braising Brussels sprouts, making the stuffing, helping with the red cabbage, beets in horseradish sauce, and potatoes in the morning. It was daunting.

I just snapped to it. Baking a cake could not be that hard, I was telling myself. The recipe seemed simple. I checked it, and checked it again. That meant that I would only have to got to the grocery store twice in the process of cooking.

The first thing to do was to separate the eggs and beat the whites stiff. We have a beater. I can separate eggs. But how stiff is stiff? And we only have one mixer bowl. So that meant moving the beaten egg whites to another bowl. I was hoping that they would not lose their loft. (I think they did)

Egg whites beat up quite well. It doesn’t take long at all to get them to various degrees of stiffness. I opted for a “soft peak” and figured that was good enough (I don’t think it was). I slid the egg whites into another bowl and let them sit.

Then for the batter. Butter, Shortening. Creamed. Yowza! That stuff just POPS out of the beater bowl if you don’t keep your eye on it. Egg yolks. Flour. Soda. So far so good. Then the recipe says “Add sugar”


I look at the recipe list. No sugar in the ‘cake’ part. Only in the “icing” part. I look again. No sugar. So how much? Two tablespoons? A half cup? I figure that I had better call Becky.

Thank goodness she was home! 2 CUPS sugar.

And I can’t find our sugar. We have some brownish, organic sugar from Domino (not our first choice, as Imperial is just down the street in Sugar Land)

OK, then I add all the sugar and the buttermilk. Whoops. You are supposed to alternate. Oh well. Beat it. Beat it good.

Finally add coconut (flaked) nuts (pecans, chopped and toasted) and vanilla. Fold in the egg whites. By this time, they are starting to separate. Oh well, I just folded them in anyway.

I then have to prepare the pans. Luckily for me, I asked my lovely and talented sister-in-law how to prep the pans. She said Crisco, flour, and then cut wax paper to fit the bottom.

Do you know how hard it is to draw on wax paper? Try it sometime.

So I incised the paper, and cut it to fit. Smashed it down on the greasy mess inside the pan, and then poured in the (delicious) batter. I popped it in the over, and set back to watch.

The batter rose. Then it rose some more. And some more. I was worried that it would overflow the pans, but all it did was create a nice dome.

The thing is, you don’t really want a nice dome on a layer cake. But I would worry about that later.

The cake was cooling when I decided to go after the icing. The cream cheese icing. The cream cheese (which I forgot to buy) icing.

Back to the store. I walked to the local Kroger and got the cream cheese.

I made the icing. It was delicious. So was the cake.

It was an adventure.

That was the cake. I still have to tell the story of the Onion Tart.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas Shopping

Christmas did not start well in the house. I got sick about a week before the holiday, and did not want to recreate the laid low aspect of Thanksgiving. (Perhaps holidays make me sick. I would not be a bit surprised. Although I believe that my wife thinks I fake it. I am not sure how you can fake bloody mucus, but it sounds like a useful skill to cultivate.) So I went to a “Doc-in-the-box” to see if there was anything they could do.

There was not. I got some antibiotics as a consolation prize (Here, take this amoxicillin! IT will be good for you.) I also bought some Cold MD, some expensive placebo that seems to do its job well. But I got over it.

We are getting each other a big screen “tv” for the holiday, so I only had to worry about small gifts for Doreen. Two were quite easy – books from her wish list. And she seemed to like them, as well. Good for me.

But for her birthday I had to venture into the bowels of consumerism, and attend the Galleria. Yipes! I was smart, though. I had read that The Galleria was opening early on the holidays. Sweet! So I just went into work late one day, and stopped by the Galleria at 9:00 AM on the dot. No problem parking, no traffic.

And, unfortunately for me, no stores. Yes, the Galleria itself was open, but none of the stores inside were. So I had to go back later that day.

I went in at 2:00. I got back to the office at about 4:00. All that time was just horribleness. From the traffic, to the parking, to the purchase, to the departure. If I had not had a specific gift in mind, I would have baled. But as it was, I made the effort. I think it was worth it.

Monday, December 25, 2006


We visited Nicaragua about seven years ago. I know that was not the year of turning 50, but I was just thinking about it.

You can see the story here.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Selling my car

You can bid on it here.

Do so! It is a great car.

I have never sold anything on ebay. This is a heck of a way to start!

I have sold cars before, but only in person. I have known several people who have bought cars on ebay.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Other People's Dreams

There is a line from the latest Bob Dylan disc Modern Times that makes me recall a quote which I cannot quite find the correct attribution for:

There is nothing more boring than other people’s dreams.

I have searched for this online and have come close, and have even see it “sort of” attributed to Mark Twain, but when you read the fine print, it is not clear he is the one who said it first.

On the newsgroup Alt.Quotations a contributor generously found this:

Other people's dreams are about as universally interesting as accounts
of other people's gardens, or chickens, or children.
~ H.H. Munro(Saki)1870-1916, A Bread And Butter Miss

Which certainly conveys the meaning.

And I have seen this:

"Other People's Dreams aren't very interesting, usually"

Kurt Vonnegut, from Slaughterhouse 5

And finally, the ill attributed quote here:

so lacking in interest as to cause mental weariness; "a boring evening with uninteresting people"; "the deadening effect of some routine tasks"; "a dull play"; "his competent but dull performance"; "a ho-hum speaker who couldn't capture their attention"; "what an irksome task the writing of long letters is"- Edmund Burke; "tedious days on the train";
"the tiresome chirping of a cricket"- Mark Twain; "other people's dreams are dreadfully wearisome"

look at the positioning of the semi-colon. Not Twain, but there is never an attribution after that last quotation mark.

In any case, the quote made me think of a couple of things.

First, does the author mean that other people’s aspirations are boring, or other people recounting their night time hallucinations?

I would disagree if it were the former, as other people’s goals and aspirations tell a lot about them as individuals.

If it were the later, I would say a qualified yes. If you are a subject of this other person’s dream, that is always interesting. If this other person is important to you, then their subconscious is also important to you and should be ignored at your peril.

The second thing this made me thing of was another quote (this one from Proust when writing about Venice):

“And as there is no great difference between the memory of a dream and the memory of reality…”

Cogito ergo sum
, indeed.

In any event, the original verse which spawned this rambling post was from the song Thunder on the Mountain and is:

Shame on your greed, shame on your wicked schemes
I'll say this, I don't give a damn about your dreams

Bob Dylan's Lyrics

In Bob Dylan’s latest CD – Modern Times – there are a couple of interesting literary and folk allusions.

In one song he says that he “Sleeps with his head in the kitchen and his feel in the hall.” In another he talks about having a “toothache in his heel”

The first line is in Working Man’s Blues on the Modern Times CD, but also in the old blues song (among others) She Caught the Katy:

My baby she's long,
My baby she's tall,
She sleeps with her head in the kitchen,
And her big feet in the hall,
Still crazy 'bout that hardheaded woman of mine.

And from Bob:

Now the place is ringed with countless foes
Some of them may be deaf and dumb
No man, no woman knows
The hour that sorrow will come
In the dark I hear the night birds call
I can feel a lover's breath
I sleep in the kitchen with my feet in the hall
Sleep is like a temporary death

The second is (of course) from Old Dan Tucker:

Old Dan Tucker was a mighty man,
Washed his face in a frying pan,
Combed his hair with a wagon wheel,
Had a toothache in his heel.

And from Bob (the song is Ain’t Talking):

Ain't talkin', just walkin'
Carryin' a dead man's shield
Heart burnin', still yearnin'
Walkin' with a toothache in my heel

It makes me wonder what else I am missing from Bob’s music.