Identifying Those Early Memories

While  I muddled through trying to find a topic on which to post tonight (since, for once, I’m not either working or sleeping), I wandered all the way through old posts, back to 2011 and our post on the anniversary of the Challenger explosion.  I was re-reading an exchange in the comment between reader, Teapot, and Kristy about how Teapot, as a kid born in 1981, really didn’t remember Challenger like those of us born in 1980 (or earlier).  Kristy’s comment pointed out that in her research, so far, anyone post 1980 really did not remember Challenger the same way, and that the next really big world event was the fall of the Berlin Wall.  I thought, “I should have replied back and asked Teapot if the fall of the wall in Berlin was her first “global event” memory”  and that was followed by the thought that, Challenger was not really mine.

Prior to Challenger,  I have a very vivid, scary memory of a hostage crisis on a plane.  But I still don’t know what it really was. Read the rest of this entry »

Curtsying to Norby

Late October was homecoming weekend at Ye Olde Alma Mater of Kristy and I. Being outside the state and busy with work/studies, obviously neither of us went.  I can’t speak for Kristy, but I never saw myself as a Homecoming type.  I still don’t.  For the most part, I am in contact with the people from college I want to be in contact (save for 2 or 3 that I haven’t heard from in longer than I’d like).  Some people I wonder about, and if I really wanted to know more I could set aside my Facebook, but…some books are better left on the shelf.

So seeing people isn’t really a draw, but I do miss the place.  I have a fixation with places that is a topic for a whole ‘nothing post.  In this case, the place is campus.  And in particular, I miss Norby.

If you’ve ever visited The College of William and Mary, you’ve probably met Norby.  He’s right out front of the famous Wren Building.  Norby, shorth for Norborne, “Lord Botetourt” Norborne Berkeley, 4th Baron Botetourt*.  He was Governor of Virginia and a member of the Board of Visitors of The College.  These days he’s posing on a pedestal between the Wren Building, The Brafferton and the President’s House.

Very early on in our time at The College, we developed a tradition of curtsying to the statue as we passed (generally on way to our evening walks through Colonial Williamsburg).  I think it was me who suggested the move first  but I can’t swear to that.  All I know is that months after we’d started this activity, I found a book on the history of The College in the local section of the bookstore which validated the habit.  Apparently, many, many moons ago, curtsying to Norby’s statue was required of freshmen co-eds (the guys bowed and doffed their freshmen-required beanies).  It was amusing to find we’d unknowingly revived an old tradition–and a little sad to now that beyond our small knot of friends, the tradition was dead.

The book wasn’t clear about the details of the old version of the curtsy, but ours was simple:  we’d come around Wren, up the sidewalk toward Norby’s back, then loop around to his front, line up (usually there were 4 of us) then execute our best, deepest curtsy, then we’d trot off down the sidewalk straight toward Confusion Corner and down DOG Street.  Then we’d give the same deep curtsy coming back.  I’m really surprised no one ever asked or commented.  Granted, it was usually evening (often after dark, or in the deep twilight), but it’s right in front of the President’s House and the offices in The Brafferton, to say nothing of the Wren Building and the Confusion Corner traffic.  You’d think we’d have gotten a comment at least.

I’ve held to it–even the few times I’ve returned to campus since graduating when passing Norb, I’ve paid the proper respects.  But for me, it’s been more than half a decade since I’ve set foot on campus.  It’s enough to make even the hoopla of Homecoming seem nostalgically attractive.

*Botetourt for the Virginia un-initiated, is pronounced Bah-teh-tot

A Good Old Fashioned E-Mail?

Does NO ONE send a good ol’ fashioned e-mail anymore?

As I cleared out the notifications, updates and generally-computer-generated drivel that hits my inbox each day, I had trouble finding any e-mail from another human that was more than 2 paragraphs in length.

I remember the early days of e-mail, when I had some great correspondents with whom I would exchange chains of e-mail back and forth.  Truly letters in an electronic form which formed into these great, extended conversations, captured in text.

I haven’t had one of those in ages.

Even the less in-depth and lengthy e-mails I used to get have all but dried up.  I find myself, really, really missing opening my inbox to find at least one or two good e-mails, written by a human, to me, with more than a perfunctory statement, or a quick sentence and a link.

I’m blaming social networking.  Mostly Facebook, since I hate that the most.  I’m sure I could portion out some of the blame to Twitter, but since way more people I know are on Facebook, I’m going to blame that.  With everyone so busy posting there, who has time to sit down and craft a message specifically for one person?  I, mean, if they care about you and are worth knowing, they’re totally following you and reading everything you post, right?

But it’s no substitute.  It’s too public and impersonal.  I want pen-pals, not a source for press-releases.

Is it too much to hope that I might open my inbox again and find a good, juicy e-mail from a friend to start up a chain of correspondence?  Too much to hope for something written to ME?

Cammy’s First Cabbage Patch

One of the defining elements of 80s child-culture was The Cabbage Patch Kid doll.  I wanted one so bad.  I asked for one year after year, but my family was broke for the earliest part of the 80s when the dolls really exploded on the scene, and even after we emerged from the lean times, the frugality that had seen us through continued to run strong in my parents.  Those damn dolls just seemed exorbitantly high.

Originally Mom bought a look-a-like head and arm set at Wal-Mart with the intention of putting it together for me, but it never happened.  I think part of this had to do with the fact that–in addition to thinking they were over-priced–Mom never found the dolls cute at all.  I’m not 100% certain, but I’m pretty sure if I quizzed her, she would say she thought they were “funny lookin'”  And, well, they are.

But that never stopped me from wanting one.  It wasn’t just the doll part (and I did love my dolls–still do), it was having a doll like the other girls had.  By the time I was in first grade and (we were no longer flat-ass broke-just moderately busted), I was the only girl I knew who didn’t have one of these coveted dolls (even girls whose families were still flat-ass broke).  Some of them had MORE THAN ONE.

What I had was Jennifer, a cloth doll my mother had sewed, face and all (made lovingly for me during our flat-ass broke period for my 4th birthday).

Read the rest of this entry »

Coffee On the Prairie

Would we have coffee with… Laura Ingalls Wilder?

Cammy: Heck yeah.  I’ve got questions for this woman that have been accumulating since I first found out that Little House on the Prairie was at least partly based on reality and that there were entire books behind pioneer TV series.  How large a roll did Laura’s daughter Rose play in writing the books?  What’s her opinion of the TV series (with its completely divergent-from-the-books storylines)?  And let’s talk about the million-and-one-prequel-follow-up-spin-off novels marketed to kids now (I remember when you had the 9 books in the series, plus On the Way Home and West of Home–I am ol’ skool).  Having just ploughed through a collection of Laura’s letters and notes from her later travels, and some excerpts of her work on the Missouri Ruralist, I’m actually interested in talking to her about farming.  Yes.  Farming.  She seems to have been a keen observer on the look-out for new and better ways to farm, and after she and her husband suffered the failure of a single-focused-crop farm, they embraced farm diversification (multiple crops and livestock types).  The concept is one I support, but it flies in the face of the corporate farm entities and it would be interesting to get her take on it.  And I wondered if she realized how many girls (this one included), took solace in Laura’s battles with Nellie Oleson in dealing with their own childhood nemesis?  Even if I don’t get to quiz her, I owe her at least a cup of coffee for being behind the first chapter book I ever received and a set of books that loom large in the pantheon of literature-of-my-formative-years.Kristy: Most definitely! These were also the first chapter books I received. Tattered copies which had definitely been my sister’s and may have been my mother’s.  And I absolutely loved them. I didn’t even know there was a television series until much later, but yes, I would be interested to hear what she thinks of it. I’d love to hear her just talk about life in the various places she lived. There are plenty of totally impertinent questions I’d like to ask (but probably wouldn’t) like: her younger siblings, if I recall, were conceived when the family was living in a one room house. Um… did she and Mary know what was going on?  I’d just like to hear what she thinks of life in America in general now; I have to think modern suburbia would have been Pa Ingalls’s worst nightmare (he moved out of he Big Woods because his nearest neighbor was only a mile away or some such). And like Cammy, I owe her a cup for fostering my love of reading and my love of cultural history.

Vicarious Enjoyment Via A Superfan

The CBC Radio 3 Blog community was home to a discussion of superfans recently.  Normally, I would find the rabid superfan a little off-putting.  They tend to be louder, pushier….a lot of things ending in -er, most of them unpleasant.

But at tonight’s rodeo/Reba concert I got to watch a superfan who actually made my own concert experience better.

About 5-6 rows ahead of me tonight, there was a girl, who looked about 11, and her Dad.  The kid was sporting her “All The Women I Am” Reba shirt and a lot of barely contained excitement.  You could tell in one look at the kid that she was stoked about this.  Dad appeared to be patient and mildly amused.  I think I noticed them because it reminded me so much of my first Reba concert when I was 11–Dad took me, and displayed the same amused patience.  Throughout the rodeo, she was watching, paying attention–Dad was pointing things out and clearly explaining–but radiated a kind of tense anticipation.

When Reba finally took to the stage, the entire Sprint Center stood for the first two songs, but after the rest of us had settled back in our seats, that kid was still on her feet, clapping and singing along.  She stood the entire concert (her seat position and her height prevented this from annoying anyone behind her–and the volume meant that her singing along could in no way offend anyone around her).  At one point I saw her glancing down at her palms, clearly contemplating whether the sting of all that clapping was worth it.  I suppose it must have been, because she shrugged and kept going.  She even sang along with the medley of older stuff.  And when I say older, I’m not talking about “Fancy” or anything from the 90s.  I’m talking “Can’t Even Get the Blues”…from 1982.  Her Dad was probably still in school when that one came out.

I actually found myself wishing I was seated next to her.  As it was, other than my empty seat, and the PDA couple directly in front of me (side note: there was also a Radio 3 Blog discussion of concert PDA), I was surrounded by un-impressively passive people my parents’ ages.  They totally didn’t get into the concert, which was physically painful, because in the stripped down and truncated version of the performance (rodeo concerts tend to be less elaborate), there were maybe 4 slower songs (1 of which was “Because of You” in which Reba turned the mic on the audience for large chunks).

How much nicer would it have been to have been along side the kid, bopping along with her?  To catch a little of that enthusiasm and feel like it’s totally okay to keep clapping and enjoying the hell out of the moment?  Even at a distance, I feel like I  got something out of seeing this girl watch the show, and I guess that’s enough.

I hope she enjoyed the concert as much as I did–though I strongly suspect she may have enjoyed it even more.

 

Farewell (for now) Pine Valley

Yesterday was the last new episode broadcast on television of All My Children.  Though I have resisted the urge to turn this blog in o one all about ABC and its soap cancellations I thought the occasion deserved marking.

Before we get to the heart of the matter, to update you all on where things stand: Prospect Park has purchased the rights to All My Children and One Life to Live.  As of now the plan is for both shows to return in January as internet broadcasts.  Details are extremely sparse at the moment, but Prospect Park has reiterated several times their desire to maintain the high quality of the shows.  Rumor has it they are trying to resell to other networks such as Bravo.  They are currently in negotiations with actors.  Frank Valentini, OLTL’s Executive Producer who is famed for budget miracles has signed on with a title that is something like Head of Serialized Dramas.  Brian Frons, head of ABC daytime, continues to be an idiotic, misogynistic jackass.  My hate for him has grown to such levels that I will no longer allow Cammy to accept the blame for the Spanish Inquisition because it is clearly Mr. Frons’s fault.  Also the hot air coming out of his mouth and ass are what is melting the polar ice caps.  And the last name he was born with was Rochester.

But this post is not about how Brian Frons blows goats.

It’s about the fact that All My Children holds a very special place in my heart, and I am sad to see it go.

AMC reminds me of watching with my mom when I was home sick from school.

It reminds me of playing on the floor while my Mom folded laundry or sewed or did something else while watching.

I’m fairly certain, looking back, that the first time I was ever really a “shipper” for a couple it was Hayley and Charlie.

And the fact that, mock it if you must, the show has made major contributions to the history of American television.

AMC began by making the Vietnam War a central issue, when virtually no one dared even acknowledge it on television.  It was the first show in America to have a female character have a legal abortion.  It had a heterosexual female character with AIDS in an era where many people still called the disease “gay cancer.”  It wrote an actress’s facelift into the script so that it could deal with the issue of plastic surgery and all its implications decades before Nip/Tuck.  It gave daytime television its first (and sadly, one of very few) black supercouple.   It’s also been ahead of its time in its depictions of anorexia, homosexuality, drug addiction…

And on Monday, instead, we will have a show telling us such revolutionary things as, “hand towels can be used as napkins if your friends are slobs” and “fresher food tastes better.”  (Who knew?)

I’m hoping that AMC and its sister show will continue to blaze new trails, but regardless, I wanted to take this moment to remember.

Don’t Mess with Nanaimo (Bars)

I’m not a purist with much.  I’m not a purist with food.  Generally speaking, the more wacky culinary combinations you come up with, the happier I am.  Cucumber basil lime sorbet?  Yes, please!  Pineapple black bean enchiladas?  Delicious.  I have my limits.  I’m willing to try bacon in my ice cream, but not oysters.  But generally, I’m very flexible.

 

But I think we all probably have some dish that you just can’t mess with.  Back in college I once made something with red potatoes, I couldn’t even tell you what it was anymore, but I remember Cammy thinking it was a crime against nature.  Her comment on trying my dish was something along the lines of, “It’s good.  But this is not what you’re supposed to do with red potatoes.”  For me a big one is the use of whole wheat tortillas in enchiladas.  Or brown rice or whole wheat pasta in dishes that normally call for their whiter counterparts.  It’s one thing if you make a whole new dish and throw some whole wheat spaghetti in there.  But don’t just throw marinara on there and expect me to not taste the difference.  Then there’s my mother’s tendency to add salsa in dishes where it doesn’t belong.  Like lasagna.  It’s just not right.

 

Well I discovered a couple weeks ago, that Canadians have a recipe you don’t mess with: Nanaimo Bars.

 

If you haven’t tried Nanaimo Bars before, let me recommend that you go out and try them right now.  There’s an official recipe online, go try it.  We’ll wait.  They are that good; you don’t want to miss them.  I love Nanaimo Bars, but, of course, being an American, I didn’t grow up with them. I didn’t discover them until I was in my late twenties.  (I first heard about them on a soap opera message board of all places.  Incidentally, new rule: anyone who makes fun of my soap obsession cannot eat my Nanaimo Bars!)  But it seems for Canadians (and I have a whopping sample size of two) they have a special place in their memories.

 

The first time I made them after coming to Indiana my friend S. walked into a party and gasped, “Who made Nanaimo Bars and can I hug them?”  She practically got misty over them talking about how they were just like the ones her grandmother used to make (her grandmother is from Nanaimo).  I felt all warm and fuzzy at helping her revisit nostalgic memories.

 

What I didn’t know, because no one told this hapless American, is that you really shouldn’t play around with that recipe.  And here’s the thing: the interwebs are full of all sorts of different flavored Nanaimo Bar recipes.  My Newfie friend sent me a bunch of variations (all folklorists have at least one Newfie friend—Newfies actually care about folklore) from a bakery someone in her family used to own.  So when my friend D threw a tacky party I decided to make Cherry Nanaimo Bars.  They use maraschino cherries, which, let’s face it, are inherently a little tacky, and the middle layer of the bars turns an almost neon pink color, so they look extra tacky.  Also, they are delicious.

 

Except the reactions from my Canadian friends, S and K were much like Cammy’s response to my red potatoes.  “They’re good, but this is not how you’re supposed to make Nanaimo Bars.” Now I don’t think either was that offended; both ate several.  K’s favorite part is the bottom later, the recipe for which was unchanged.  But you could just tell from their faces they were thinking, “Why would you do that to a Nanaimo Bar?” K informs me that mint ones have become common enough to be acceptable.  But neither had seen cherry ones before and… let’s just say no one asked to hug me for making them.

 

Clearly in our culinary experimentations, we need to be careful not to tamper with other people’s childhood memories.  No matter how well we do it, they will not thank us.

Coffee With….The Muppet Master

Would We Have Coffee With…..Jim Henson?

Cammy:  Do I even have to say it?  I mean, it’s not like I’ve been quiet about my love for the Muppets.  Of course I want to have a cup of coffee with Jim Henson.  Like so many other “Coffee With…” nominees, it’s partly as a (totally inadequate) thank you.  The Muppets on Sesame Street contributed heavily to the early childhood educational experiences of tons of us, and for us lucky 70s/early 80s kids, The Muppet Show made a wide variety of high quality entertainment accessible to us small fry (while still entertaining our parents).  Does he know just how much of an impact that’s had on those of us now in our 30s and 40s (he spent plenty of time trying to bring puppetry to an adult audience instead of just kids…it just took us Muppet-kids growing up, I think).  I’d like to ask him what he thinks of the way CGI is coming to replace more and more of what would once have been done with puppetry (ahem, YODA).  And, what Muppet did he think was the most under-rated?
Kristy:  Well Cammy just about said it all.  Absolutely.  Of course.  For all the reasons Cammy listed.  Like a huge chunk of our generation I was raised on Sesame Street and the Muppet Show.  So yeah, I need to thank him.  But like Cammy I’d also like his take on developments in film technology since his death.  I’d also like to know what he thinks of Henson Company projects after his era.  How does he feel about projects like Farscape?

Blue Moon Ice Cream Recipe

One of my friends has been bugging me to make Blue Moon ice cream.  He even offered to pay me to do it.  I was totally willing, but I had no idea what Blue Moon ice cream is.  Apparently it’s something which is made only in the northern Midwest (which explains why I never encountered it).  I told him I’d make the ice cream figuring there had to be a good recipe online.  Well… it seems no one really knows what flavor Blue Moon is.  Some people say raspberry, some say pineapple, some say blue curacao and white crème de cacao.  It seems there are several dairies that make it and none of them have ever disclosed their secret ingredients.  Since my friend had specifically requested it, I asked him what flavor he was looking for.  He informed me that the worst Blue Moons are the fruitiest and his preference was for blue curacao (… which is fruity… he seemed to think it was an almond flavor, but that’s beside the point)  So knowing what I was looking for, I went looking for a recipe.

Every recipe on the internet for a blue curacao based Blue Moon involved buying vanilla ice cream from a store and folding in the liqueur.  Well anyone who knows me and my love of my ice cream maker knows I’m not going to do that.  So I had to come up with my own recipe from scratch.  Without knowing what my final product was supposed to taste like.  Knowing it had great emotional association for my friend.  Fun times!

Fortunately, it was deemed a rousing success.  I think my friend just about made himself sick on it he loved it so much.  In my continuing obsession with naming all my ice cream recipes after fictional characters this has been named alternately “Maddie Hayes Ice Cream” and “Mystique Ice Cream.”

About 5 cups of dairy product (combination of milk, half and half, and heavy cream.  I used 1 cup milk, 2 cups half and half and two cups heavy cream.  Ordinarily I use a higher ratio of milk, but I had less milk than I thought in the refrigerator)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 tablespoon cream cheese (low fat is fine, fat free is a crime against nature)
2 ½ ounces blue curacao
1 ½ ounces white crème de cacao
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Splash of almond extract

Set aside one cup of heavy cream (or half and half if you’re not using any heavy cream).  But three tablespoons (or so, no need to be precise here) in a separate bowl and mix with the corn starch.  Set to the side.  Put your remaining dairy product in a saucepan over moderate-low heat.  Once the milk mixture is warm, whisk in the sugar and stir till dissolved.  Meanwhile, whisk the cream cheese in a large bowl (or preferably a large liquid measure) until really soft.  Continue heating the milk mixture until lots of small bubbles form (not to boiling) and then add in the corn starch mixture.  Whisk frequently until the mixture is thickened (I’m very imprecise on this part and just go by the way it ripples when I stir—you want big soft waves not little ripples).  Pour into the bowl with the cream cheese and whisk quickly until the cream cheese is dissolved.

Mix the spirits and extracts together.  Allow the custard to cool somewhat then add in the spirits.  Then pour in the reserved cream until your total volume is six cups.  Put in the refrigerator and chill until cold.  Then freeze in your ice cream maker following the directions of your machine.  Put in the refrigerator until hard.

The amount of liquor in this means that it will never freeze really hard.  But it is fairly delicious.