Julian had a terrific birthday party on Saturday. Lots of his friends and all of his grandparents, and others stopped by to join in the festivities. His parents had games and many activities for the kids set up in the backyard. Happy Birthday, Julian! Click on the first picture to embiggen, and then click the right side of the pics to run through them.
Here’s a little video of Julian playing his new 3/4 size Squire guitar.
What’s better before fireworks than Mexican food? Pretty much nothing. Here’s (L-R) Emily, Amy, Don, some random homeless guy, Brenda, Alexis, and Austin about 2 hours before the Rehoboth Beach fireworks.
It’s supposed to be lucky to eat beans on the first of the year, or so says the “Organization of American Bean Producers.” So, we started 2016 out right with a batch of Cowboy Beans using Brenda’s Dad’s recipe. Yum!
Like any good cook, Brenda’s dad had no written recipe for this, he just made it up as he went along. It’s sweet, tangy, and bacon-y. What’s not to like?
5 or so slices of chopped, uncooked bacon,
about a pound of hamburger,
about 1/2 chopped onion,
about 4 cans of various kinds of beans,
about 1/2 cup ketchup,
3-4 tablespoons of vinegar or more (depends on how tangy you want it),
1/2 cup or so brown sugar,
a tsp of mustard (powdered or prepared),
salt, & pepper.
You can also throw in green peppers, molasses, chili powder, liquid smoke (hickory flavor), or whatever you have laying around that you think might taste good.
Cook the bacon, onion, and hamburger and drain. Throw in everything else and play around until it tastes good to you.
Today is the winter solstice here in Freedom’s Land. On the east cost, where I am, that occurs at 6:03 this evening a little while after the Lions beat the Bears. [UPDATE: 20-14 Lions!]
That means that today is the shortest day of the year and technically the days should be getting longer starting tomorrow. Yay! But don’t pull out that seed catalog quite yet, it’s still going to look pretty wintery for a while longer.
Winter Solstice occurs when the sun’s daily maximum height in the sky is at its lowest, and the North Pole is tilted furthest away from the sun. This results in the least number of daylight hours and the longest night of the year.
The length of a solar day varies because the axis of the Earth’s rotation is tilted – 23.5 degrees from vertical – and because its speed fluctuates as it orbits the sun, accelerating when it is closer to the star’s gravitational pull and decelerating when further away.
It takes a while for the clock and the solar days to align: evenings draw in towards their earliest sunset a couple of weeks before the shortest day, and mornings continue to get darker until a couple of weeks after.
Back in the day, Winter Solstice was called “Yule” and northern Europeans used to burn a huge Yule log to keep away the night (the original fire pit), and to celebrate the coming longer days by eating while the log was burning. That’s why Yule logs are huge – so they would burn as long as 12 days (12 days of Christmas), in order that the celebratory eating would last as long as possible. The wisdom of the ancients runs deep.
Brenda, Amanda, and I, along with four dogs spent the long Labor Day weekend at the beach. It was glorious! Saturday started out a little cloudy as you can see in the picture on the left. That’s Amanda on her bike, ready to ride to the beach. In about an hour the clouds disappeared. The water temperature was perfect. I spent more time in the water floating like a manatee in 2 days than I have during all the summer visits this year combined. Last night, Brenda and I went into Rehoboth and had dinner at Claws. It was great of course, plus I had a leftover fish breakfast this morning. Bonus!
The only downside is that Labor Day traditionally marks the end of summer. Absolutely unbelievable how fast the summer went this year. Once again, I feel as though I’ve wasted the summer.
Marshall Crenshaw wrote an angry song back in the early 1970’s, called “Summer’s Over.” Some lyrics:
“I put my foot through my TV screen when I got up today…I’m mad, cause summer’s over.”
It wasn’t always about the hot dogs. Originally, believe it or not, Labor Day actually had something to do with showing respect for labor.
Here’s how it happened: In 1894 Pullman workers, facing wage cuts in the wake of a financial crisis, went on strike — and Grover Cleveland deployed 12,000 soldiers to break the union. He succeeded, but using armed force to protect the interests of property was so blatant that even the Gilded Age was shocked. So Congress, in a lame attempt at appeasement, unanimously passed legislation symbolically honoring the nation’s workers.
It’s all hard to imagine now. Not the bit about financial crisis and wage cuts — that’s going on all around us. Not the bit about the state serving the interests of the wealthy — look at who got bailed out, and who didn’t, after our latter-day version of the Panic of 1893. No, what’s unimaginable now is that Congress would unanimously offer even an empty gesture of support for workers’ dignity. For the fact is that many of today’s politicians can’t even bring themselves to fake respect for ordinary working Americans….
I know that these days it’s not kewel to speak well of unions. And a lot of that of that is labor’s fault – some of them have become bureaucratic, some were taken over by organized crime for their juicy pension funds, but mostly they did not understand the relentless propaganda that the 1% would employ against them and they failed to rebut it. They assumed, incorrectly it turns out, that reasonable people would ignore the nonsense, such as “right to work” for peanuts laws.
People forgot that their income is my spending, and my income is their spending. If I (or a bunch of us) stop spending because I’m laid off, or I lose my house, or I’m sequestered, then your income goes down too. You’re better off when we’re all better off. Even crusty old arch-conservative Henry Ford understood this. When confronted by his fellow top-hat-wearing one-percenters over the $5 a day he paid for his factory workers, he supposedly said: “I got to pay them $5 a day. If I don’t, they can’t afford to buy a Ford.”
Back in the 1950′s and 1960′s about 35% of American workers were unionized. It was not so coincidentally, the peak years of the American middle class. Union membership fell off in the 1980′s and the middle class has been dwindling along with it. The data is clear in these two charts to ruin Labor Day. Wages as a percentage of GDP (the overall economy) are at an all time low. Blame it on de-unionization, tax policy, or to a lack of investment in education, but for whatever reason, gains in productivity have not translated into higher wages.
Here’s some Labor Day music from Irish commie union thugs the Dropkick Murphys. Happy Labor Day!
I made one of my favorite things tonight: Chicken Enchiladas a la El Azteco. El Azteco, or “El Az” as it reverently called, is a tex-mex restaurant in East Lansing, Michigan, home of Michigan State University. When I attended MSU back in the stone age, El Az was a dingy basement restaurant on M.A.C. St., which is off of Grand River Ave., right across from the Student Union. Now, El Az is a full-fledged 2 story restaurant about a half a block from its old location that features rooftop dining and pretty much the same wonderful food that I enjoyed 30 something years ago.
They had 2 kinds of chicken enchilada. One had a red sauce, and it was okay. The other was called “chili verde” and a green and white sauce (get it? green and white? MSU?) that was hotter. That’s the one I liked. I found a recipe on the internet that is allegedly from an ex-employee of El Az. It sounded completely crazy, but when I made it, well, that was it! Here’s the recipe. It makes way too much food, so you can cut the recipe in half, or better, just freeze half of the sauce and chicken for future eating.
1. Chicken. You need a mess of chicken, like 4-5 pounds. So I used thighs because of, you know, the cheapness, and they have a lot of flavor. Boil the chicken until tender. It’s best to boil with some celery, carrots, onions, and tomato paste, but you don’t have to. When it’s done, shred it with 2 forks and put it in a bowl.
2. The sauce. Chop off the stems from 10-12 jalapenos. You can remove the seeds and pith from the peppers if you want a milder sauce, or leave them in for a hotter sauce, or remove half of them for a medium sauce. Put the peppers in a food processor and process. You need 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup. No, wait! Don’t go away. I know It sounds nuts, but work with me here. Add the 2 cans of soup to the peppers, then add a 16 ounce container of sour cream. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons or so of cumin depending on your level of cumin love, and a 1/2 cup of water. Stir.
Heat a corn tortilla in pan & flip it over so it’s soft. put in a little chicken and some shredded cheese and roll it up like a fat cigar. Put it in a baking dish. Do this many times until the pan is full. Spoon the sauce over the enchiladas and cover with grated cheese. You can put some scallions on top if you want. Then bake at 350 until the cheese starts to brown. Eat the enchiladas. Yum!
I was watching the Michigan-Michigan State game yesterday (28-14 MSU – heh) and during halftime was flipping though the channels and stumbled upon the Travel Channel’s “Food Wars.” The episode was “Detroit Coney Wars – American v. Lafayette.”
Although I was a big Athens fan during my misspent youth, that was simply because it was the closest. I’d be eating sooner. You understand. But American and Lafayette are the originals – a kind of Mecca for coney connoisseurs. Plus, they sell beer.
American Coney Island opened in downtown Detroit in 1917, by Greek immigrant Gust Keros. Keros and his brother got into an argument quite soon after and split their restaurant into two parts–the present day Lafayette and American Coney Islands, which are next door to each other. Both restaurants are still owned by the descendants of the two Keros brothers.
In the Food Wars episode, they had fans from each restaurant voting based on a blind taste test. To the credit of the fans, they all chose their preferred restaurant in the blind taste test, even though the coneys each restaurant serves are almost identical. The tie was broken by a food writer from one of the newspapers who voted for American.
Sorry, forgot to post for a couple days. I know you’re clicking the page all day long hoping for a post. And I disappointed you. Again. Well, dry those tears, here’s something boring and banal! At last!
Amanda invited John over for dinner. Gabe, Erin and Julian were supposed to come over, but Gabe isn’t feeling well, so they stayed home. Too bad – their loss. Amanda wanted a chuck roast, natch’. So we had that, potatoes and gravy, and those garlic beans everyone seems to like. And a red velvet cake. Yum! Good food and interesting conversation – a good night.
Oh, on a humorous note, while I was making the gravy, I unscrewed the pepper cap on one of those huge Costco bottles of pepper and, funny thing, someone had removed the plastic strainer from the bottle so I dumped about a pound of pepper into the gravy. HA! It’s funny because it didn’t happen to you! So we had powdered gravy mix instead. Delicious!
Last time we had the beans, Erin wanted the recipe, so here you go:
1# green beans – French style are nice
3 tablespoons or so soy sauce
1 tablespoon or so balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar or Splenda
2 tablespoons or so sesame oil
2 teaspoons of crushed garlic
Steam the beans until tender, but not too soft. Cook the garlic for a minute or so in the sesame oil. Mix up the soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar and dump that in with the oil and garlic, then add the beans amd mix them up so that they are coated with the sauce. Eat the beans.
To display your local weather, click on the 3 short lines at the top right of the widget. Delete “Washington D.C.,” and start typing the name of your nearest fairly large city. When the correct city appears in the drop down list, select it. Wait for the Page to reload, and there’s your weather. The page should remember your city.