Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas music traditions

The year was 1962 and the popularity of vinyl albums and recordings was in full swing.  Practically anything that could be, was recorded either on reel to reel or vinyl, which included an array of Christmas music. 

The first such recording can be traced back to the early 1900's.  Since then everyone from Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole to Weird Al Yankovic to the Chipmunks and the Partridge Family have recorded yuletide favorites.

And in 1962, an established charactor actor best known for portraying Western characters, released his own Christmas album.

Fast forward a few years or so and in a supermarket in suburban Chicago, a young mother strolls through the aisles with her toddler son carefully placed in a grocery cart, his tiny legs kicking away through the little holes by the handle bar basket nearest her.

At the time, little did they both know that the album  purchased would remain in their family for what now is approaching 50 years.  A Christmas tradition that spans many miles and many states.

Walter Brennan, who holds a record three oscars for best supporting actor and who's acted along side such greats as John Wayne and Henry Fonda, recorded Twas The Night Before Christmas...Back Home. It's become a tradition in my family ever since that stroll in the supermarket. (thanks to technology, it's now on CD as part of a double album.)

Traditional songs such as White Christmas, Silent Night and O Come All Ye Faithful are included along with originals, Henry Had a Merry Christmas and Old Time Christmas Stories, each performed with a choir (as the backdrop) while Walter spins yarns and tales using that recognizable twang of a voice.

Here are four of my favorites:

White Christmas

(I'm dreaming of a White Christmas, just like the ones I used to know. Where the tree top glistened and children listened to hear sleigh bells in the the snow.)

Snow means the north wind blowin' cold
Another log on the fire to keep out the chill
Snow means stayin' indoors for the old
And for the young, sleighin' on the hill
Snow means that the mail won't come from town
And the pond will freeze over enough to skate

Snow means  I'll finally get around to shovelin' a path to the gate
Snow means a Merry Christmas morning
So let that ol' north wind blow
Another log on the fire will keep us all warm
I sure like to see it snow

So may your days be merry and bright
And may all, may all your Christmas' be white.

Silent Night

(Silent Night, Holy Night, All is calm All is bright. Round yon virgin, Mother and Child, Holy infant so tender and mild...)

Seems to me around Christmas
Alot of folks change
Maybe they're a whole lot nicer to one another.
Some of them speak, why I never figured, they'd know'd my name
Cause up til now, well they, they just never bothered.

Yesterday, I seen a banker give money to a hobo
That fella was  probably hungry without no place to stay.
But that banker got more then him out of that money, you know.
He got alot more than what he gave.

So, at this time of year, I guess
Folks are reminded of, of  love, faith and hope
I guess it kinda takes Christmas sometimes
To, to bring out the best in folks.

(Silent Night, Holy Night)

A Farmer's Christmas Prayer

Yea know Lord it's been a while since I've talked with ya
I've been so gawl dern busy with the crops and all
Well I guess I just forgot to take time out

But I ain't a-forgetten that good crop of corn
Ya done give us this year
Eh, and that little heifer ya brought us
Is, is growing like a weed, yes sir.

Without that crop Lord, I guess I'd have to do without that new plow
And Ma would n't have that Sunday dress she's so proud of now.
Oh, I guess we wouldn't have alotta things Lord, if it wasnt' for you.

And that new Church in the valley, Lord,
Well, its about the finest thing that you could ever do
The town's mighty proud of it. We're all gonna be there on Christmas day too.

Oh, you know Billy's going to make it home from the Army for Christmas this year, Lord
We all wanna thank you for that, 'cause we sure do miss em.
It seems like just yesterday, we was buyin' him Christmas toys
He'd be running all over the house ( laughter)  makin' alot of noise.

Ya know, Ma and me, we laugh about that every now and then.
Oh it's going to be good to have him home again.

Well, Lord, I suppose I've used up about all my time
And there must be alot of others a-waiting in line
I reckon during this time of year
Lots of people are waiting to share their Christmas cheer
So don't you worry none about us Lord
Cause me and my family, is going to have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


Old Time Christmas Stories

(Let me hear an old time Christmas story to bring back memories, cause Ma is gone and the kids are grown and now there's only me)

If it's about decoratin' the Christmas tree, I still wanna listen
Or hangin' a stockin' by the fireplace, just makes my old heart glisten'
The story about boy who got a pony
Or a girl who got a little doll
Them old stories on Christmas eve, eh, they suit me best of all.

I like those stories around Chrismas time
Of the sleigh rides and the snow
And the story of the Three Wise Men
I'm sure you all know

And we can never forget about ol' Santa Claus
And all the things he's done
Eh those ol' time Christmas stories
I love 'em, everyone

And then there's Mary and Joseph in the Manger
The story I'm sure you remember
And the baby born on Christmas Day
The twenty fifth of December

Yea I like to turn the pages back
To my childhood days of fun
Cause the ol' time Christmas Stories
Eh, I love 'em everyone

(Tell me another Christmas story of happy days gone by, cause Ma is gone and the kids are grown..)

And now there's only me.

My old time Christmas story about buying that record was just shared with me. All these years I hadn't known and now that I do makes it ever more special.

So as you spend your Christmas eve shopping or any day for that matter, what may seem as an innocent purchase or gift, could be come a lasting memory or family tradition that will last a life time.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Come on Rise Up...

To a sell out crowd on Sunday night at St. Paul MN's  Xcel Center, Bruce Springsteen gave every reason for the crowd to rise up out of their chairs, sing and applaude.

Polar opposite of Dylan on Wednesday, The Boss engaged with the crowd including acknowledging 88 year young woman who's seen Bruce many times and then having a young girl sing along up on stage.

From the first note struck to the fading of the last lyric of his "Born to Run", Bruce put on a non-stop, voice belting, fist pumping, heart beating, tear flowing,  foot stomping concert that may be the best ever seen.

Although, he let the crowd carry him from a mid floor stage to the main stage(literally) and never missing a note, Bruce carried us. Carried us through a memorable performance of songs including some new ( Wrecking Ball) and old ( Rosalita) and even requested tunes like " Saving Up", a song on the first album of Clarence "Big Man" Clemons, his long time saxophone player who passed away last year. Pounding out classics such as " Spirit in the Night", "Darlington County"  "Bad Lands" and "Thunder Road", The Boss didn't disappoint.

"My City of Ruins" and "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" may have left no dry eye in the place. The crowd drew quiet during the poetic City and Bruce gave a warm sentimental photo tribute to the Big Man during 10th avenue.

Some may disagree with his politics, there was little of that, and not interested in his music at all. But in these days of digitally manufactured music, Springsteen reminds us that great old fashioned Rock n Roll continues to rise up!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

What was that Mr. Dylan?

In an arena suited for 20,000 people, Bob Dylan would've best performed his gig last night in a 5,000 seat theater instead.

I wasn't sure if I was at a speak easy back in the 20's or in the Artist's Quarter ( a small jazz club )down the street from the Xcel center.

Dylan being Dylan can do what he wants and that's exactly what he did. Never engaging the crowd, played mostly at the piano, jazzing up his songs, leaving the crowd sitting in their seats wondering What is this?

Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits fame didn't help this snoozer of a show either, playing a little blue grass and some slow smokey riffs as an opener to Zimmerman.

 Knopfler played "So Far Away" giving the audience a prelude to the rest of the night....

Wishing we were so far away from the arena, staying at home and listening to the traditional sentimental clarity of Dylan's poetry through digital or CD or even an album. At least we wouldn't have needed subtitles to understand him.

Rating: 2.5 Guitar picks out of 5.

Friday, September 14, 2012

UBL? Yes, UBL!

They say life isn't easy. We're handed stuff that makes us wonder, how am I ever going to overcome this? It seems as though there are no easy days.

Life as a Navy Seal seems the same but in a different way. Train, train, train and train and this is no ordinary training, wait, wait, wait and no deployment or mission may ever occur. But then word comes. Dedication to a purpose so much so you leave family and friends behind. Secret. Operations and deployment so secret you're unable to communicate with parents, wives, friends for extended periods of time.

UBL? Yes UBL.  UBL stands for Usama Bin Laden( the spelling used by the CIA) and the mission, Operation Geronimo/Neptune Spear was on.

Under the pseudonym Mark Owen( who has been revealed as Matt Bissonette), along with Kevin Maurer tells of the SEAL operations and missions including the assassination of Osama Bin Laden in the controversial book, No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden released just last week.  Pentagon officials state that the book wasn't vetted through the normal process leading to the controversy and but now have recently said punishment is unlikely. Many don't agree. A non-disclosure agreement was signed and now violated by Bissonette. Some say the brotherhood and secrecy of the SEAL and its mission have been compromised.

Boots were on the ground and just over 30 minutes, Osama Bin Laden was body bagged.  Not sure what information is confidential or credible, but Owen details training as a SEAL, various missions including the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips from Somalian pirates, to the mysterious deployment for a mission who's purpose was yet to be given.

30 minutes. Owen and the SEALS put you in fatigues and NVG's, ( Night Vision Glasses) fly you to Pakistan, crash a helicopter, hot foot you through the compound, "clearing" rooms one floor at a time until you're on level three.

And there he stood...


(63rd book read this year)

Monday, August 27, 2012

What have you done since High School?

" well, not much...just walked on the moon!"  That's a response that Neil Armstrong could've given at a high school reunion, but after reading his authorized biography, First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen, it's a safe bet that he wouldn't. 

Neil being a much private person, didn't care for publicity or the lime light and even fought off paparazzi. Yes, those flashbulb popping, rag reporters even went after astronauts. Given his propensity for privacy, it's astonishing that he'd authorize a biography of himself at all. But thankfully he did.

We learned quite alot about this man, this pioneer, this brave American from reading this book back in January 2010.  Can you imagine standing on the moon and looking back at earth? (Wondering, how in the heck am I going to get back there?!).  One can only imagine the feeling of taking that first step, that first step not on a country foreign to us all, but an entirely different planet!!!

How many of us remember the actual date of this legendary moon walk?

Did you know there are very few photos of Neil on the moon? For no apparent reason, his time spent strolling the moon surface wasn't photographed  as much as we think. Why? Well he was holding the camera most of the time. And one of the most famous photos of all isn't actually him. It's Buzz Aldrin. 

James R. Hansen, finely detailed 700 + page book, teaches us less about the final frontier and more about the man who 'cared more about flying to the moon, then walking on it'.

With the passing of Mr. Armstrong on Saturday, many tributes and rememberances have poured in, however here's one that tops them all... - - - on a clear night when you see the moon smiling back at you, think of Neil and give him a wink.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Teammates....Johnny Pesky

Johnny Pesky was a player, a coach, a broadcaster and a...teammate.  In critically acclaimed author David Halberstam's book,  The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship, learn how Pesky, Dimaggio ( Dominic , not Joe ), Bobby Doerr and Ted Williams became more than just teammates.

They became friends, a friendship that lasted 60 years. Halberstam tells of a trip Dom and Johnny took. A trip to see an old friend.  With Ted Williams ailing, Pesky and Dimaggio travelled to Florida, a 1,300 mile trip, to see their friend and fellow teammate...for the last time. Doerr,  stayed back to tend to his ill wife.

Baseball may not be of your literary interest, but The Teammates is more than baseball. It's about friendship, memories, love and respect.

Halberstam's book touches 'em all!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Almost Cut My Hair!

...Actually I did. About ten hours before the Crosby, Stills and Nash concert last night.
Not one to really conform, I do find myself with some trepidation, adhering to the corporate world, although I try to push that envelope as far as it will go, so cutting or trimming my hair was, gosh do I have to say it?, was to conform to a policy understood in the conservative world we call business. Now that conservatism is up for interpretation, but that's a subject for another day.

Back to cutting my hair or in this case, David Crosby's.  By the looks of him last night, I think he's only had a strand or two cut from his grayish white locks for the better part of  several years.  If long hair gives one strength as the biblical figure Samson has portrayed, well Crosby's long hair has strengthened his lungs.

After years of drug abuse, Crosby still belts it with the best of them and his lead vocal of "Almost Cut My Hair" was no exception.   Given what he's been through, self perpetuated or not, his vocals made your hair stand on end!  Need more? Check out Crosby's memoir's, Long Time Gone, or Since Then.

Him along with Graham Nash and Stephen Stills sent us back to the decade of long haired protesters and hippie-freaks.  I choose the latter moniker carefully as if I were to be of age during Woodstock , I too would've been among the hippie culture.

Playing all their hits and a few new songs, CSN didn't disappoint, well maybe.  The performance of Southern Cross, a lyrical portrayal of a man and his sailboat heading for southern islands, cut through the waters like a speed boat being chased by the DEA.  Stephen Stills for whatever reason chose to swiftly perform one of CSN's most loved tunes.  Perhaps listening to the song five or six times before the show set my expectations too high?

Nash, being one to always be political, kept the tone muted by commenting to basically get out and vote. He dedicated, In Your Name to the victims of the recent Sikh temple shooting in Milwaukee and introduced us to a friend who they'd met some twenty years ago in the same venue, singing Our House in her honor, with the crowd singing along.

An interesting anecdote to the song Our House  can be found in the book, Canyon of Dreams: The Magic and the Music of Laurel Canyon.  Think - flowers, a vase and a fire.

Stills added a Girl from the North Country, a Dylan cover, as he told a tale of traveling in northern Minnesota and did it justice, indeed.

A set list that included( in no particular order):

Almost Cut My Hair
Wooden Ships
DeJa Vu
Helplessly Hoping
Long Time Gone
Just a Song before I Go
Southern Cross
Love the One You're With
Daylight Again/Find the Cost of Freedom
Immigration Man
Our House
Girl from the North Country
Marrakesh Express
In Your Name
Lay Me Down
Teach Your Children

The nearly three hour show including a short break ended with an audience sing along of Teach Your Children and much to the disappointment of this attendee as well as many around me, the classic tune inspired by Judy Collins wasn't included. No, No Suite Judy Blue Eyes this time.

But, whether your favorite tune(s) was heard or not, CSN still gives us strength, long hair or short, to "Carry is coming, love is coming to us all!"

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Goodbye Norma Jean....and Tony and Me, The Odd Couple

What was one to do during approximately 40 hours of flights and layovers during the last 10 days?  Read, of course. So early in the week of July 28th,   as I prepared for my first trip to the  country of Thailand, I glanced about my library, pondering fiction and non fiction.  Chose a Stuart Woods, a James Lee Burke, two of my first and his first Dirk Pitt adventures by Clive Cussler .

For non-fiction, I wasn't sure.  A small book by author/photographer, Lawrence Schiller has been at the top of the heap of literary selections on my coffee table for some time now and I thought, why not. Perusing my showcase of entertainment/media memoirs an odd thing struck me so I glanced at it and selected that book as well, a short remembrance by Jack Klugman.  Serendipitously, these two books connect on subject matter and with Schiller's book the date upon which I read it. More on that later.*

Now one could argue, six books in ones luggage is a bit much, why not a kindle or e-reader. Well, we've broached that subject enough - - no, no e-readers in this house.

40 hours of travel time I also thought, since I'm going with the wind, how about Margaret Mitchell's tome? I've never read it, so make it seven books.

With two pieces of luggage in hand(plus a carryon), one not quite full, the other a third full, off I went to Phuket Thailand via Tokyo and Singapore.

I cut my teeth on Cussler's first two Dirk Pitt (no relation to Brad Pitt, fiction or non) adventures in The Mediterranean Caper and Iceberg. Dirk Pitt - think, Jack Ryan of Tom Clancy fame, with a more oceanic flavor, a touch of James Bond and a bit of McGyver thrown in. Both great journeys, with Iceberg being my favorite of the two.

Another chapter in the life of Dave Robicheaux in James Lee Burke's, A Stained White Radiance. Burke captures a piece of your heart as you witness the growth of  his adopted daughter, Alafair. A young Colombian girl who he rescued from a plane crash in Heaven's Prisoner's.

Then there's a night at Elaines. No not Elaine Benes of Seinfeld fame,( don't you wish you could dance like her?)  but Stuart Wood's characters love for the famous eatery, in NY called Elaines.  The back drop for many if not all of Stone Barrington's crime solving exploits, this one being Lucid Intervals.

Somewhere above the south China sea between Singapore and Tokyo during my return flight, Lawrence Schiller's book found it's way onto my seat 32J's tray table. Schiller, one of the first to photograph Marilyn Monroe penned this short but insightful, pictorial experience in Marilyn & Me: A Photographer's Memories.

Schiller talks about being a true beginner giving us a glimpse into negotiating fee's for his photographs as he finds an opportunity to transport himself into the stratosphere of famous photographers that have gone on before him.   Having access to Marilyn both allowed and being a bit assertive, Schiller's works found their way onto the cover of Life magazine and many more. During the movie, Something's Got to Give, Schiller captures Monroe with co-star Wally Cox* and regrets the missed opportunity to spend dinner with them at Marlon Brando's home.

Learn about Marilyn's concern about her career fading as Elizabeth Taylor was making much more money per film than Marilyn and how she insisted that she approve his photos before publication.

I turned to what would be the final chapter and gasped. Having read Schiller's book on August 4th, the last chapter is entitled, August 5, 1962. The death of Marilyn 50 years ago today and here I was reading his book the day before the anniversary; serendipitously connected, I hadn't realized it!

Schiller provides shutter speed insight on meeting Robert Kennedy at Monroe's house , offers his opinion but appropriately closes the lens cap on the mystery surrounding her death and prefers to remember her just as he saw her, funny, playful and angelic.

I believe the jumbo jet had yet to land in Tokyo so I grabbed the other memoir, this one by Jack Klugman; Tony and Me: A Story of Friendship.

Just the thought of Jack Klugman and Tony Randall, makes you want to start humming the opening theme song to their show, The Odd Couple

Revealing how they both met and how each got their start in TV, Klugman in a soap opera , Randall in his breakthrough role in Mr. Peepers also starring, Wally Cox*,  Klugman opens up not only on his relationship with Tony, but gambling and his own shy and aloofness when it comes to trusting people.

Funny and ancedotal, Klugman tells of how they struggled to find the right style of clothes for him to wear as Oscar Madison. Then one day, they suggested he wear his own clothes! The producers actually bought his clothes from him to wear on the show!  The book also includes a DVD of outakes from the show.

After suffering the loss of his voice due to throat cancer surgery, Klugman credits Randall, with revitalizing his career and writes a warm loving, honest tribute to the man many of us know as Felix Unger.

Having survived the heat, the sun and humidity of this asian community, a round of golf at the Blue Canyon course, an elephant trek through a mountain range, the seediness of Patong Beach, an overindulgence of mango, banana, pineapple and the liquid that goes with them as well as the consumption of what seemed like a fifty pound bag of rice, it is good to be home.

I never got to Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, but the simple reference to wind reminds me of Elton John's eloquent tribute to Marilyn...

 "And it seemed to me, you lived your life, like a Candle in the Wind..."

* so we connect two books and one which the day it was read, Marilyn Monroe starred with Wally Cox in the movies, Tony Randall starred with Wally in TV and Norma Jean dies a mysterious death on August 5, 1962,  all serendipitously connecting without forethought.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Forty-one Shades of Grey...

You've heard of Fifty Shades of Grey, how about Forty-One shades of Gray? No, not the shades of gray in my hair, although I'm certain I have 41 strands. And frankly, gray in this case is much darker as in black. Black being typed words, shades being books, 41 being number of books read in the first part of 2012. And if you're wondering about the correct use of the word grey/gray, both are acceptable. You can look it up.

Filled with Woods, Stuart not Tiger, some Harlan Coben, James Patterson, a trip to New Orleans, literally and figuratively through the writing of James Lee Burke , some great non-fiction from Rebecca Skloot on cancer cells in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Tom Mueller on extra virgin olive oil in Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil and a reality, somewhat humorous,  check by Carrie Fisher in her two memoirs, the first six months of 2012 has been both fun and educational.

We went to Montreal, figuratively speaking, with Kathy Reichs in her first two books and her forensic anthropologist  character Temperance Brennan  and made a trip to Hawaii, both literally and figuratively through the books by Sarah Vowell in Unfamiliar Fishes and Susan Casey in The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean.

Sarah Vowell taught us the history of the islands and the fight against annexation  by the US, the historical sites still standing, leper colonies and cultural differences between the white man called Ha Ole and the polynesians.  A must read for anyone visiting the islands or wish to learn more about them.

Casey writes about catching a wave but her book was no Surfin' USA, more like Surfin' the World.  She takes us around the pacific ocean, including Maui, and Oahu and the ring of fire  (- circle of the ocean and it's coasts where the most dangerous waves perpetuate and occur) - to teach us about the ocean and it's ferocity of waves, a bit on climate change, shipwrecks and great bio's on those manic surfers, including Laird Hamilton, who live, eat and sleep the chance to surf the biggest waves the planet can produce. Read it and you'll never look at the ocean the same way again!

How many books the second half of the year? I'd like to finish the year over 100. Books that is, if it were age, well, I'm certain all my hair would be grey. Speaking of which, I've seen more people in airports and planes reading Shades of Gray that  I'd rather have the rest of my hair turn gray then read the next two volumes of EL James trilogy, so those two books won't be included but perhaps more non-fiction as I've started reading Douglas Brinkley's The Great Deluge, an insightful, eye opening account of New Orleans and Katrina, maybe more of James Lee Burke's Robicheaux series down on the Bayou, finish out Stuart Woods' Stone Barrington series, and pick up a new author, say Philip Margolin, whom I've read only one of, or Clive Cussler, whom I've read none of. I'm behind on reading David Baldacci and Kathy Reichs and have yet to read St. Paul boy Vince Flynn's latest, along with John Grisham, Jack Higgins, Tom Clancy and the ever entertaining tomes by Ken Follett.

What books are you reading or have been recommended?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

To each his own...

You've heard the phrase, " each his own" ?  It's meaning,  every person is entitled to his or her personal preference(s).

I'm certain you've heard of Paul Newman?   Actor,  film director, professional race car driver.

But have you heard of Newman's Own?

Strange how people connect, network and become acquainted.  Through the many books I've read and music I've heard, that circle of literal and musical artists and their interwoven relationship/ degrees of separation is astonishing, well at least to this writer. There are thousands of examples, but lets focus on one for now.

Paul Newman and one of his best friends started Newman's Own food company. His best friend being, A.E. Hotchner. If you're not familiar with Mr. Hotchner, he's a biographer/author who wrote the biography of one of his best friends, Ernest Hemingway. 

Who'd of thunk it that one of Hemingways' best friends is in the basement of Paul Newman's home, concocting a mixture of special ingredients to create, Newman's Own Salad Dressing.

 Since, 1982, Paul Newman and his foundation has given over $300 million to various charitable foundations and is the organization behind the children's camp called, Hole in the Wall Gang, named after the gang in his movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

You can learn more about Paul and A.E's relationship and the company Newman's Own in the books:  Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good : The Madcap Business Adventure by the Truly Oddest Couple

and...Paul and Me: Fifty-three Years of Adventures and Misadventures with My Pal Paul Newman
Two wonderful enriching books about life, friendship and seasoned with entrepreneurship. 

Speaking of salad dressing, I recommend Newman's own Lite Honey Mustard, drizzled over some romaine lettuce, vegetables, a circle or two of a red onion and a quartered strawberry, which I whipped together last night.

For the main course, Shrimp Scampi.  Where'd I find the recipe? In a book of course! A cookbook and to be exact, it;s called, Cook This, Not That!: Kitchen Survival Guide

Starting with olive oil, Newman's Own of course, I started the saute process.  Now, the recipe calls for a variety of serving options. I chose linguine.  Helpful hint: This being the first time I've attempted this culinary cuisine, I highly recommend having the linguine ready for serving before sauteing the shrimp. Why? Cause it takes very little time to cook the shrimp, garlic, onions etc, which is great but you have to hustle if time management isn't your strong suit and forgetting or waiting to cook the pasta later, I rushed through it.  Next time, will be better.

However, it turned out scrumptious. With seafood being the main ingredient I struggled with the wine selection, white, red, white, red. Then when I chose pasta as the bed, I uncorked a bottle of Kings Estate Pinot Noir that I brought back from my trip to Oregon.  A great pairing.

Musical ambiance was provided by Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Jimmy Durante through the miracle of music transmission - an iPod, well and outdoor speakers too.

All and all a great meal, cooked through the guidance of a book with ingredients while using some ingredients that serve a  charitable foundation. (bare with me on the photo format, for the life of me I can't seem to get them in landscape view.)

So, my stomach wasn't only full, but my heart too. Using Newman's Own dressing and olive oil, I not only fulfilled my appetite but by using two of the many products of Newman's Own, I've contributed to improving the lives of terminally ill children, if only for a brief moment.

His pizza is pretty good, pasta sauces are fantastic and the "Oreo-type" and Fig Cookies are delicious.

Bon Appetit, not only for your hunger, but for your heart too!


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Why does asparagus make your...

For those lovers of asparagus including yours truly, there's an interesting biological phenomenon that takes place after one eats it, well for some of us at least.  Now some may find this topic not worthy of conversation or discussion and deem it a bit embarrassing or immodest.

But part of life is discovery. Discovering things about ourselves that unless asked, we may never know.

So.... why does asparagus make our pee smell?  Well the answer lies in our genes and enzymes or lack thereof.  Some people don't possess the gene for the enzyme to break down mercaptin, a sulfur compound found in asparagus. The breakdown of this substance, which occurs during the digestive process,  is what creates the odor.   If you don't have the gene, then no smell. Now you know.

Why do old people grow hair in their ears?

Can I  lose my contact lens in my head forever?

What causes an ice cream headache?

These life mysteries can be answered in Mark Leyner and Dr. Billy Goldberg's funny and knowledgeable book entitled, Why Do Men Have Nipples? Hundreds of Questions You'd Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Martini

Once you've read it, don't forget to read their follow up book called, Why Do Men Fall Asleep After Sex?: More Questions You'd Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Whiskey Sour?

I've not read their follow up but it's sure to be as educational and fun as their first.

Now, back to asparagus.  Grilled salmon and asparagus are on the menu tonight.  George Foreman is grilling the salmon ( not really but his grill will and I'm using the same salmon rub as last time) and as far as the asparagus recipe, check out Paula Dean's by clicking on this link: Recipe.

After eating this delicious, healthy meal, I might just need to plug my nose.

Bon Appetit!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Letters to her Son...

What can be more personable than a hand written letter. Letters written between friends, lovers, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons.

In this instance, hand written letters from a mother to her son, a WWII soldier.  Among the many exhibits at the National WWII museum in New Orleans, a mother's letter(s) to her son were on display. Reading part of it, "....your Dad and so much..."  some words were hidden but we all can  fill in the blanks.

This woman not only dated her letters but wrote the time on them as well. What a great personable way to relate to her son by time "stamping" her letters.  In reading them, you could catapult yourself back to that date and time, visualize a woman at a desk or table, writing a letter to her son, a son that she would never see again.  A very impressionable display.

There are many items available for viewing, helmets, guns, planes, maps, diaries, etc and short films as well. One in particular is a must see and that's the 4-D movie, Beyond All Boundaries.  Shown in an Imax size theater and narrated by Tom Hanks, this movie puts you right in the action with sound effects, props and chairs that vibrate.

Personal items such as the letters first mentioned and journals too. How would one maintain their sanity while in captivity?  One soldier wrote his thoughts in any paper he had, then hid them in a tobacco canister while he was a POW. And to think, they've survived all these years.

Why is the museum located in New Orleans? The answer is on the first level as you walk through the door. It has something to do with a man named Higgins and a special boat.

And dont' forget to pay attention to the sidewalk as you walk to and from the museum.  The walks are made  with bricks donated in the honor of soldiers.

A big thank you to critically acclaimed author, the late Stephen Ambrose. Mr. Ambrose is the founder of the museum, a place where all citizens, of the US and the world can visit to learn  about World War II.

So as we say good bye to the month that contained D-Day and say hello to our month of independence, check out the list of books to learn more about those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.

Next time you're in New Orleans, make the National World War II museum a must see.

World War II Books by Ambrose:

Band of Brothers

D Day: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II

Citizen Soldiers: The U. S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany

Pegasus Bridge: June 6, 1944

The Wild Blue : The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany 1944-45

The Supreme Commander: The War Years of Dwight D. Eisenhower

The VICTORS : Eisenhower and His Boys: The Men of World War II

Americans at War

The Good Fight : How World War II Was Won

Comrades : Brothers, Fathers, Heroes, Sons, Pals

Other recommended WWII books:

Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

James Bradley's Flyboys: A True Story of Courage and Flags Of Our Fathers