Friday, December 18, 2015

Chapter 15- Are We Grown-Ups Now?

So in 1978, Diane started at the University of Chicago, pursuing an economics degree. I chose Michigan State, partly for its well-rated dietetics program, partly for scholarships I could get, and partly for the drinking age being 18! Ironically, shortly after I arrived, the drinking age was raised. But in a couple months I turned 19, allowing me to buy beer and wine in Illinois. Then the next year Illinois changed their law! No grandfather clauses, so I stocked up on wine.

My first year was spent in an all girl dorm, freshmen did not get to choose where they lived. It was better than I thought it would be and I made some good friends. And of course we were not isolated from boys, they were in our classes, at work and at parties. Toga parties were all the rage the first couple years. Most of my classes were not that hard, so I had a nice balance of study, work and fun.
my college yearbook photo

Sophomore year I applied to be in a rather unique dorm, Williams Hall. Structurally, it was like the other classic old brick dorms, but each floor had a kitchen and we could cook for ourselves instead of relying on meal plans. Luckily, a roommate accepted me and I got in. I wanted to try being vegetarian after reading Diet For A Small Planet. There was a small food co-op a few blocks away so I had no trouble getting the sorts of ingredients I needed. I successfully ate vegetarian for a whole year, making only a couple exceptions for family events. Though my floor mates obviously cooked too, I made a bit of an impression for being able to make souffles and birthday cakes. I don’t know where I got the spinach soufflĂ© recipe, but I still make it.

Williams Hall also housed the campus test kitchen. I first volunteered to be on the taste panel, then I got to work behind the scenes with the dietitians in the test kitchen. I still had hours in my old dorm’s cafeteria too; I learned some culinary tricks there, but more in the test kitchen of course, like how to fix a cheese sauce that had broken down, by beating in hot water a little at a time.

I enjoyed the classes in my major, so I thought I was on the right track. The science of nutrition and related courses were interesting, and the food lab classes were fun. I really enjoyed food science where we got to “torture” food items to see what happened. We even had a little guillotine to measure how tender the pastry was. Junior year I started dating a musician who lived in the same dorm. He was a non-traditional student and fascinating person, but later I realized he was an alcoholic, so though it lasted longer than some other relationships I had in college, I eventually had enough.

Diane got engaged to her long time boyfriend John in 1980, and planned the wedding for September 1981. I stayed in Michigan to work & take a summer course that year, but came home every so often. On one of these trips, we got busy looking at bridal magazines while making Swedish Tea Rings. Then we got inspired by some designs we saw and decided to check for them at the local bridal shop. We forgot we had tea rings in the oven already!  We had a great time shopping, but came home to blackened tea rings and angry parents. Swedish Tea Ring is a family specialty; my mother made it for many occasions, sometimes as a thank you gift. I carried on with it, and the bridal shopping incident was the only time I totally ruined it. Years later, I got a second place in the Minnesota State Fair for it, and another second place finish in 2016. I use all white flour when baking for competition, but started experimenting with whole wheat flour for general eating at home.

A couple months before Diane’s wedding, Muffin passed away at the age of 13. I was heartbroken, feeling especially bad for not being home at the time. My parents got new kittens from the same shelter after a bit, but they were shy and I was never home long enough after that to get close, because it was time to make my own way in the world. Diane also managed to graduate from college somewhat early, so she was out before me and soon had a job as an insurance claims adjuster. I met with various recruiters before I graduated in the spring of 1982. I had been in a coordinated undergraduate program, meaning I was fulfilling internship requirements while still in college, so I was eligible to take the Registered Dietitian exam at the first opportunity after graduating. By this time, I was having doubts about whether I liked the actual work. Hospitals had a very hierarchical, authoritarian structure that rubbed me the wrong way. But I didn't know what else I could do at that point, so I accepted an offer from Service Direction, which provided food service management to various facilities. I was given a choice of a small rural hospital in Iowa or Minnesota. I picked Minnesota, and so began my journey to the north and presumed adulthood.

                           Spinach Souffle

Recipe By: unknown
Serving Size: 2

-= Ingredients =-
8 ounce Spinach ; chopped
4 tablespoon All purpose flour
3 tablespoon Butter
1 cup Milk
1 cup Cheddar ; shredded
1 pinch Nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon Marjoram
1/4 teaspoon Salt
4 large Egg ; separated

-= Instructions =-
  Cook spinach in small amount of water and drain. Set aside.

Make white sauce: Melt butter over med low heat,  stir in flour. Add milk gradually, stirring constantly. Cook until smooth.

Stir in cheese gradually . Add seasonings and remove from heat.

Beat egg yolks, then stir into sauce. Stir in spinach.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold sauce carefully into whites.

Spoon into a dish that has been greased and coated with fine bread crumbs.  Bake at 400 for 10 min, then 325 for 40-50 min.

                           Swedish Tea Ring

Recipe By Donna Nelson Simonian, with some modifications by me
Serving Size: 24

-= Ingredients =-
2 package Yeast ; dissolved in
1/2 cup Water ; warm
1 1/2 cup Milk ; scalded, then cooled
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Butter
2 large Eggs ; beaten
1 teaspoon Cardamom
1 teaspoon Salt
3 cups Whole wheat flour
3 cups All purpose flour
4 tablespoon Butter ; softened
1/2 cup Brown sugar
4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 cup Raisins

-= Instructions =-
Add butter, sugar, salt, and cardamom to warm milk.

Measure 2 cups of of whole wheat flour into mixing bowl. Stir in dissolved yeast and milk mixture. Alternately add small amounts of  both flours and eggs to keep a thick batter until ingredients are combined. Continue adding flour gradually until a kneadable dough forms. Knead until smooth and springy, on a floured surface or in mixer with dough hook, adding flour in small amounts as needed.

Place in greased bowl, turn to grease top, cover and let rise in warm place until double, about 1 hour. Punch down, let rise again.  Punch down and form into 2 balls.  Roll each into a 9 x 13 rectangle. Spread butter on 2/3 of surface, leaving a margin to seal when done rolling. Sprinkle buttered area with cinnamon, brown sugar, and raisins. Roll up like a jelly roll. Form into  a circle  on greased pan. Make cuts from the outer edge to 3/4 of the way in, about 1 inch apart.  Turn cut sections slightly on side. Let rise until almost double.

Bake at 350 degrees 25-30 min. until golden brown.  May frost or glaze if desired.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Chapter 14- High School

At the beginning of high school, it was mostly a continuation of junior high awkwardness for me, with the added problem of being in the same building with my dad! As head of the Foreign Language Dept. at Hinsdale Central, he would often find out what I got on my tests before I did! There were some perks though, he could tell us which teachers were best for certain subjects, and we could all ride there together in one car if we wanted, though this also made getting everyone in and out of the single bathroom we had quite hectic in the morning.

During my sophomore year, I started dating, the first was a fellow teacher’s brat that I knew better than most because we vacationed at his family's cottages near Hayward, WI. That started my real social life of parties,and getting to know other people in band, choir and drama. I sung in concert choir and was considered good enough to get some voice lessons, but never got solos or leads. Some friends were on stage crew, so I joined them. It was a blast, so many things go into a show: building sets, sound, lights, props, curtains, moving sets. I got to try nearly all of it. We also had great parties, often pot luck dinners. My lasagna was in demand. I did it all the hard way then, cooking the noodles, making my own sauce.  I still like to make my own sauce, but the recipe at the end of this chapter saves a few dishes at least.

While not letting on to most of my friends, I continued getting As in most classes, even calculus. Didn't like it, don’t remember a bit of it, but I could do it. Computer programming was more fun, we were lucky to have the chance to take that, but the classes were quite small. In the first year we were using Fortran and punch cards, by my second year we had moved on to Basic and cassette tapes. The assignment I remember most vividly was moving a knight around a chess board in such a way that it covered every square, but never twice. It took me a while but I got it. While I didn't choose this direction, unfortunately it seems, it is still fairly easy for me to think in terms of flow charts.

I liked my language and literature classes , and most aspects of social studies, too, but was most fascinated by sciences. Our chemistry classes with Mr. Hake were like going to stand up comedy performances! To this day I remember him saying “Fluorine is the brazen hussy of the elements, she’ll combine with anything”  One December day, we had a lab to do involving boiling a sugar solution and “protein pellets” I think I was the first to figure out we were making peanut brittle! So between liking science and having a strong interest in food and nutrition, and thinking cousin Laurie’s job sounded really cool, I chose to major in Dietetics.

The grading system changed while I was at Hinsdale Central, at some point they awarded an extra point for getting an A in advanced placement classes. This left them unable to figure out who was really valedictorian, so they named a 14-way tie, which included me, but a better speaker got to give the commencement address. Diane distinguished herself in a different way, she had mostly As too, but also got it all done in 3 years so we graduated together. Uncle Clay and Grandpa Nelson had passed on by this time, but Auntie was there to share the day with us.

L to R, me, Auntie, Diane

                         Minimal Mess Lasagna

adapted from a church cookbook
Serving Size: 12

-= Ingredients =-
1 pound Ground beef
1/2 Onion ; minced
1 quart Pasta sauce
12 ounce Lasagna noodles
1 cup Cottage cheese ; 2% fat
16 ounce Moreland cheese ; shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan ; grated
1 1/2 cups Hot water

-= Instructions =-
Brown ground beef with onion, drain excess fat.

Place enough sauce in bottom of 9 x 13 pan to just coat it. Add a layer of uncooked noodles. Cover with about half of the ground beef. Sprinkle with 1/2 of  cottage cheese, the 1/3 of mozzarella, and then 1/3 of remaining sauce. Repeat. Cover with a layer of noodles and press down gently. Pour 1/2 of hot water over all, cover with remaining sauce and then remaining mozzarella, then parmesan. Pour in rest of hot water around edges.

Cover with foil and bake at 350, 45 min- 1 hr. Remove foil and bake 20-30 min more until bubbly.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Chapter 13- Halloween

Halloween was a major holiday for kids when I was growing up. Trick or treating was practiced with enthusiasm and endurance! Diane and I would each carry a large grocery bag or pillowcase as we headed 5 blocks in either direction, no little plastic pumpkin would cut it for the kind of haul we planned on. It was probably when we were old enough to go with just each other that we did so well we had to make a pit stop at home and empty the bag so we could start over. Neighbors left their lights on so we would know it was a house you could stop at; we knew that we should skip completely dark houses- either no one was home or they wished not to be bothered. Most homes had a jack o’ lantern or two as well, but store bought decorations were not yet common. We always had at least two jack o’ lanterns so Diane and I could each design one, but even when we were old enough to do some of the carving, I think mom and dad got stuck with the worst of the pumpkin cleaning.
2010 jack o lantern, I do the cleaning and carving now

We were lucky to usually have one of a kind costumes sewn by our mother. I think the first year that I was a witch, Diane was Little Red Riding Hood. I really liked my witch costume and stuck with it for quite a few years, though I’m sure larger versions had to be made. As mentioned before, I may have been influenced by Samantha on Bewitched, but I was also proud of my ability to cackle properly like the Wicked Witch of the West. Diane went for more variety, I think she was Arnold the Pig from Green Acres one year- my mother made a fabulous paper mache pig head.

After we’d made the rounds, the sorting and bargaining began. There were some things we were willing to trade, but no one was giving up their Snickers or Milky Ways! Sadly, in later years, we also had to look for signs of tampering. When we were very young, my mother had often made popcorn balls to hand out. Then some psychopaths started putting razor blades in popcorn balls and certain kinds of candy, so my mother stopped making them for other people- they would have no way to know if they were safe. Packaged candy could be checked , so everyone went that route. However, incidents like this probably started the decline in trick or treating; the door to door style was much less popular when my own kids started, though there were still parties and hayrides, so it was still a big candy pig-out.

We think our mother used this recipe from Betty Crocker to make the popcorn balls. Popcorn had to be made in a pan on the stove back then, there were no microwaves or air poppers. You would heat some non-smoking oil such as peanut oil in heavy skillet, put in 2 kernels, cover, and when they popped, add the rest , cover quickly and shake the pan frequently to pop them evenly. The only kind of convenience popcorn was Jiffy Pop, which was a foil pan full of popcorn with a foil lid that expanded with the popcorn as it popped, but it still had to be used on a stove. In searching for an image of this, it seems these are still being sold for campfires. I have also heard popping corn the old fashioned way is making a comeback as people don’t like the chemicals in microwave popcorn.

Popcorn Balls
Makes 12-15 large balls

7 cups popped corn
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp. Salt
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp. Vanilla

Put popcorn in an extra large bowl. Mix sugar, water, syrup, salt & butter in a saucepan. Cook to 250 degrees or until a few drops form a hard ball when dropped into cold water. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Pour in thin stream over corn, stirring constantly. Mix well. With buttered hands, form into balls.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Chapter 12-School Days

I have always looked forward to September, my favorite season of fall begins and for most of the Septembers of my childhood, I was actually excited to go back to school. I genuinely liked reading and learning, and got good grades easily. My mother gave me a good jump start by teaching me to read a little before kindergarten. Not that it was completely utopian, there were still nasty boys trying to bully us on the way home, or the occasional times I’d get in trouble for sticking my foot in my mouth. Some teachers liked me better than others and vice versa. But I still love the smell of freshly sharpened pencils.

We had to wear dresses or skirts to school in the 1960s. My mom sewed a lot of these, and I can tell from photos they were both cute and practical.  I don't recall anything frilly or princess-like unless it was a costume for a play or Halloween. Nor did the dresses look anything like adult clothing, they were clothes you could play in, and we did have recess twice a day that involved a fair amount of running, climbing and ball games. Finally in 1970, the Powers That Be decided we could wear pants on cold winter days, and by the next year I think they were allowed in all seasons. As we approached the teenage years, my mother did not try to sew as many of our clothes; besides, Diane and I liked a trip to the mall to see how well we could do with a set amount of money to spend. Sometimes that caused us to buy a shared item, and that was known to lead to fights over who got to wear it first!
2nd grade, home sewn dress

We had progressive reading classes, so I did not get bored by being stuck with work that was too easy. Later , there was progressive math too. I did not enjoy math as much , but was persuaded to go advanced in 6th grade so I could get out of taking it later. We chosen few gathered around telephones with headsets and a thing called a telewriter, and Mr. Nugent would teach us remotely from a nearby junior high. Computers were not yet common and PCs did not exist at all, so this was really state of the art technical stuff! But the coolness factor did not make up for the tedium of being drilled on equations every day. The “take it now so you don’t have to later” argument repeated until I got all the way to calculus in high school, and then finally got to college and discovered I already had more math than I needed for my major!

Homework was not too intense in early grade school; I remember being able to spend time playing before settling down to do it, and then still having time for TV after supper. As the pace picked up in later grade school, Diane and I could look forward to our homework helper- Muffin was a master of sitting on the papers or books we had spread out on the kitchen table. Sometimes we would whip up a batch of cookies to fuel ourselves. The early 1970s was also when my mother went back to work, her teaching certificate was no longer current, so she started at a florist until she could get it reinstated. I think she liked the creative aspects of that job.

Muffin "reading" also shows sofa reupholstering in progress

 So around this time, it often became easier to have supper on time if Diane or I pitched in to make it. We were quite competent at it, though we weren't attempting anything complex. I remember Tator Tot Casserole being a very popular thing at the time though I now see it as the American food industry’s messed up version of Shepherd’s Pie. I still make it sometimes, and the cast iron skillet option is my own idea to save dish washing. My mother never used them, she had some paranoid notion that they were unsanitary! Once in college I learned that they actually do add iron to the food cooked in them. Since I’d had some trouble with anemia when I was younger, I decided cast iron skillets were good insurance against a recurrence.


                          Tator Tot Casserole

Recipe By: don't know where my mother got it from! Everyone was making it.
Serving Size: 4

-= Ingredients =-
1 pound Ground beef ; or ground turkey
1/2 cup Onion ; chopped
1 can (12 oz) Cream of Mushroom soup ; or cream of celery
1/2 cup Milk
Salt & pepper ; to taste
1 pound Green Beans ; frozen, thawed, or fresh in season
1 package Tator tots

-= Instructions =-
This is one of those recipes that works great in the cast iron skillet, you can go from browning to combining to  oven in one dish.

Preheat  oven to 350.

Brown ground meat with chopped onion, Drain if needed.

Stir in soup, milk, salt & pepper to taste. Stir in green beans,

Cover with tator tots and bake about 30 min until tots are heated through and crispy

Sunday, August 2, 2015

chapter 11- Summertime

Some of the early summers that I can remember were spent away from home. Until we got Muffin, my dad was taking summer teaching jobs at universities in other states, and we would have some kind of house sitting arrangement with a local professor. Though Burlington, Vermont was the first, it made some deep impressions. Coffee ice cream at the U of Vermont, the stuff that would later become Ben & Jerry’s, was a fairly regular treat. It may say something about me that the only other 2 things I remember clearly were 1) impressing the neighbor kids by being able to count to 20 , and 2) touring a maple syrup factory! It smelled absolutely divine.

The next summer was in Michigan, my most distinct memory of that was my mother bleaching all our toys because someone we had played with got chicken pox. Somehow Diane and I got through our school years without having it.

Then the last summer away was in Lafayette, Louisiana. Diane and I wasted our opportunities to eat great seafood most of the time, choosing to order hamburgers instead! We did enjoy the spectacle of Cafe Diablo though, so my dad would always get that when we went to Don’s Seafood. I remember having a hard time with the heat, humidity and some kind of allergy, and there were also lizards hanging around the porch. Diane thought it was great fun to pick them up and throw them at me, but sometimes their tails fell off! We got to stay in New Orleans for a couple days on the way home, I have some vague memories of a voodoo shop, prostitutes on Bourbon Street, and a restaurant that put us in a back corner because my dad wasn't wearing a tie.

Later childhood summers were spent doing more mundane Midwestern mid-century things. Girl Scout camp, riding bikes to the library or the swimming pool, park district arts and crafts, and more time to read, color and play with friends.

Summer was also time for picnics. Most of the ones I remember were simple family affairs, sometimes just grilling and eating in our own backyard, or larger gatherings of extended family. We must not have been in Vermont for the entire summer of 1965 because there is a photo of all of us cousins on my mother’s side at a family picnic.

 Besides some of Auntie’s wonderful pies, something you were likely to see at a family picnic, large or small, was my mother’s potato salad. I am not sure she followed an exact recipe, but I helped with it often enough to know what was in it. I've since added a few touches of my own after seeing some what some chefs did with large batches. The garnishes in this photo are entirely my own doing though!

If the picnic was at our house,  Shish Kebab was nearly as likely to be on the grill as hot dogs or hamburgers. This was my dad’s project, the one thing patriarchal Armenian society allowed men to cook. Fortunately, he did not respect that limitation and cooked many other things, and was considered the green salad expert in the house.


                             Potato Salad

Recipe By: Donna Nelson Simonian, with a few additions by Nicole
Serving Size: 8

-= Ingredients =-
1 ounce Onion ; minced
5 ounce Celery ; chopped fine
6 large Egg ; hard cooked & diced
1 1/2 pound Red potatoes ; cooked & cubed or sliced
1/2 ounce Pimento ; chopped
1/2 medium Cucumber ; sliced & quartered
2 ounce Green pepper ; diced
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
4 ounce low fat plain yogurt
1/4 teaspoon Salt
2 dashes Tabasco sauce
2 teaspoon Mustard
1 tablespoon Sugar ; or honey
1 clove Garlic ; minced
1/2 teaspoon Dried basil
1/2 teaspoon Dried marjoram
1 tablespoon Fresh parsley ; chopped

-= Instructions =-
Combine mayonnaise, yogurt and seasonings in bottom of large bowl. Fold in remaining ingredients, adjust seasonings to taste. Chill at least 2 hours.

May wish to save one hard cooked egg for garnish. Slice and sprinkle with paprika and arrange slices on top of salad. A tomato rose looks nice on this, too.


                             Shish Kebab

Recipe By: Pierre Simonian
Serving Size: 4

-= Ingredients =-
1/2 cup Wine, red
1/2 cup Olive oil
1 large Onion ; sliced
1 tablespoon Tomato paste
1 clove Garlic ; minced
Salt ; to taste
Black pepper ; to taste
1 pinch Paprika
1 pound Lamb ; cubed

-= Instructions =-
Combine marinade ingredients in ziploc bag. Add meat ( meat amount may be doubled and there should be enough marinade) and marinate several hours or overnight, turning halfway through to ensure even soaking.  Thread meat on to skewers along with veggies such as green pepper, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions if desired.  Grill over moderately hot coals, turning to brown each side.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

If I wasn't a Psycho Muser before, I am now!

(cross posted from a Facebook note)

The insanity began with trying to get tickets for a once in a lifetime chance for American fans to see Muse in a small venue, Webster Hall in NYC, capacity of 1500 for a band that can sell out stadiums. Predictably the site crashed when the pre-sale began, but we Musers were all committed to helping each other get tickets, planning to get the 2 allowed even if we did not need it because we knew someone would. I never got through to the ticket choosing part of the page, so Wendy Smith was my saviour, allowing me to buy the 2nd ticket she got. Similar arrangements worked out for other people, but it was a very stressful morning!

I managed to get us (Wendy, Lisa, Crystal, Maria, Amanda and me) a room in a not too expensive hotel not too far from the venue, Wendy took care of flights, so this dream was ready to come true! Wendy and Lisa's mom gave us a great head start by allowing Crystal and I to sleep over there so we could be ready to grab the light rail at the crack of dawn. I am not often seen at this time of day, so the paleness may be real.
me, Lisa, Wendy and Crystal
Soon after we were in the air on the way to the Big Apple, my first time, I got a few glimpses during descent, but our flight path did not give me a good view of any landmarks. Lisa fortunately knew her way around the subway a bit; our first ride included a dude ranting to all who would listen , seemed one part Black Lives Matter and one part religion.  We arrived at the Hotel Pennsylvania way early for check in. Once again, some luck and Muser teamwork helped. Another group of Musers had arrived early and already eaten lunch, so they offered to watch our bags while we went to lunch. Crystal found Friedman's, a trendy spot near the hotel,with her gf app,  so we had to wait a bit for a table, but it was well worth it; everything was prepared with attention to detail and the portions were huge too. The fries were amazing, so we split an order, though my giant Asian chopped salad would have been enough food. Then it was finally late enough to check in. 
Hotel Pennsylvania
I would say the Hotel Pennsylvania was slightly faded elegance, large beautiful rooms, but some minor cosmetic repairs needed in spots, nothing that detracted from being able to relax and have fun though. We had a huge suite with 4 beds and 2 TVs that never got watched :-) Soon Maria had got through customs and joined us.She flew in from the UK, and she was not alone in being a long distance traveller, Catherine from Australia of course, but also many other US states represented. So we started sorting out who was going to shower first, where and when to go to dinner since Amanda's bus did not arrive until 6:30. Then we found out people were queuing at the venue already!! So we hoofed it over to see if it was true, since I had already dressed to go out I was not wearing good shoes at the time and got a minor blister. And it was true, 8 people had started queuing! So we planted ourselves and got numbered  ( I got 11) and then figured out who was going back for our "camping supplies" Clearly I needed to change so I volunteered, and Crystal went with me on pleasant cab ride with a mellow chatty driver. We returned with sleeping bags and more suitable clothing but the second cab driver was completely different; he had the aggressive driving style I expected from a NYC cab driver :-). Meanwhile, others willing to queue overnight had been arriving, and Amanda caught up with us there. Soon some decided to order pizza since none of us had had a proper dinner. A place was within walking distance so we did not even need sidewalk delivery, and so this was how I had my first real NY pizza! We also lucked out that the weather was near perfect for overnight camping, clear and not too cold.

Our queue was down the sidewalk a bit from the venue at this time because there was a Noel Gallagher show going on. Attendees of that gig seemed pretty surprised to see us on their way out. :-) We did cause  quite a bit of comment from a variety of passers-by. Most simply wondered who we were lining up for. A self-proclaimed "sexy bum" offered his services. There were also a couple other drunks that seemed to think we would not be warm enough without their help, but Mandy, who has a way with words, was able to convince the worst of them to leave. Catherine also had some good responses "we're conducting a social experiment" or "we're actually homeless but the police won't run us off if we say we're queuing" I am not sure what time this photo was taken, before or after we got shifted around.
me, Catherine, Mandy and Wendy

Those of us numbered 10-18 or so were in front of post office garage so we knew that might not last, at some late hour we finally had to move. First we tried across the street, and one of the bouncers at the nearby billiard place came out and was very nice to us. Then about 15 min later his not so nice boss came out and told us to get lost. So we returned to the original side and a few were able to cram in, but we were kind of out of space. A few of us decided at this point to take short shifts sleeping at the hotel and then come back when Webster Hall was able to let us use more of their sidewalk at 4 am. So I got a couple hours of sleep in a bed closer to a toilet. Before that we'd been using a nearby Whole Foods or the bar across the street. Dawn rewarded us with the sight of the Muse sign going up on the marquee and not long after, the arrival of the Muse truck.  At this point, we took turns looking for bathrooms and breakfast, I got a very nice deli breakfast sandwich.  
A second truck arrived shortly and then equipment unloading began. We wondered how it would all fit on a small stage and indeed a couple things were wheeled back in. It was also challenging for the guys to get some of the bigger stuff up the stairs.] Meanwhile some who had not been back to the hotel earlier went now to freshen up. Gradually the sun hit our street in full and it started to get quite warm. I looked forward to the bar across the street opening for lunch, but that was a while off yet, so my next bathroom run was to Walgreen's and included a purchase of cold water and sunscreen. The queue started growing more rapidly now, reaching the movie theater at the corner. We grabbed shade when we could, benefiting from a truck that pulled up to repair something in the venue. Venue staff were looking out for us too, at the hottest part of the afternoon, Kristina brought us popsicles! 
Then we saw street barriers being fussed with, and figured our Muse boys were due to arrive soon. Some of the staff doing this were more prickly and squeezed us into an unreasonably small sliver of sidewalk, though before they got to that, Morgan Nicholls walked quickly by. A few of us knew him by sight and said hello. 
Wendy's photo of Morgan and me
After what seemed like forever, a shiny black SUV pulled up and our guys entered with a quick wave only as they were running late. I managed to get one decent photo of Matt.
Matt ( and Lisa's hair and hands!)

 couldn't resist zooming in on that smile

Then we tried to get ourselves back in queue order, and it was now late enough that people were getting their camping supplies put away. Then we heard some screaming and turned to see Matt, Dom and Chris leaving to go to supper. A few managed to get close enough for quick selfies with the guys, but I was not among them :-(  and after that bit of chaos , we re-ordered ourselves once more, and not long after staff gave us wristbands to identify who was of drinking age. And it seemed like a long time after that, but it probably wasn't, they began to let us in. This went fairly smoothly and those of us who got the 30 or so barrier spots were ones who had waited the longest, but I noticed the next row behind us was less orderly, People numbered both 29 and 76 were right behind me. A couple other girls further back, not sure they even had numbers , announced they needed to be on the barrier, and I told them there was no way they were getting my spot after I'd waited 24 hours! The place filled up quickly. 
looking back from my barrier spot

Bear Hands

Next I had to wait through the support band, Bear Hands, nothing wrong with their performance but it was not my thing.  Finally our 27 hour wait was rewarded ; Muse took the stage and opened with Psycho which had us jumping and moshing in no time. The floor itself was literally bouncing which scared me a bit, but this was not a new venue, figured it had been built to take it. However, this did make photography difficult, 2/3 of my shots were blurry. I managed to find a few still moments though, like this one , which I think may have been during Dead Inside.

For many of the rest, I can't quite remember which song the photo is from.

  matching drone pilot suits

The band was as fired up as the crowd, Matt managing to do a lot of jumping and twirling in the small space 

Apocalypse Please


It got quite warm and sweaty, but I kept my hair down for headbanging anyway :-) 


Reapers was amazing to hear and see live, a great rocking song where Matt's magic fingers are at their best, I almost could not believe what I was watching him do!  And it ended with guitar violence! Another special moment was Bliss, this next photo may be during that.

We had plotted beforehand to wear LED sunglasses on the barrier, similar to what Matt wore on the Resistance tour. We decided on wearing them for the first song of the encore, which was Bliss. Matt loved it and dedicated the song to us :-D  This was also my first time hearing it live. 

I was poorly positioned to get photos of Dom, so just take my word for it, he was looking buff! I did get this decent one of Chris.

Man with a Harmonica
Too soon, it was the closer, Knights of Cydonia. One last hard rocking song to test the strength of the dance floor.
Knights of Cydonia 

Then the band said good night quickly. I tossed a pair of crazy socks on stage for Matt, but not fast enough, he did not see them at all :-( I hope he got them later. I missed further chances for selfies and autographs somehow, though some of my friends were in the right spot after the show. So this set list is from Caitlyn 
Part of the problem with me being unlucky was indecision about where to celebrate- I was initially trying to save a table in the bar across the street, then we remembered one of our group was under-age, so we headed back to the hotel for a wine and pizza party. Getting a cab was impossible, so another subway ride, this one with an elderly lady serenading us with "Only You"  she was actually a decent singer, but it was surreal after where we had just been! 

So we got more yummy NYC pizza and wine.  I had no idea photos were being taken! Someone should have told me to put some pants on! 

Lisa, Wendy and I had to get up to fly back to Minneapolis though, so we did not quite party all night. We managed to get to the gate on time. I didn't really want to go home, especially knowing a lucky few friends were able to get in to the next Muse gig that night-the iHeart radio show was for contest winners only.  But I still feel incredibly lucky that I was able to be at the Webster Hall show; my number will fade, but I am keeping this wristband forever! 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

chapter 10- Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts had a significant role in our childhood, right up there with church, and we often met in church basements. Diane and I joined the local Brownie troop when we were old enough, starting our adventures in crafts, cooking outdoors, camping and many other things in second grade. I remember when you first became a Brownie, you wore your pin upside down until you did a good deed. My friend Kathy and I got our pins turned very quickly as we had car trouble on the way home from the initiation meeting! It was only a few blocks for us to walk to get one of our dads to help, and we were happy to take the responsibility of fetching them.
my sash full of badges

I had no idea that some 40 years in the future conservatives would say we were learning witchcraft! But maybe they did unwittingly find a grain of truth there; we were learning to appreciate and respect Mother Nature and to be self-sufficient in ways not taught in school. Cook-outs were my early favorite, aside from involving food, there was the whole starting a fire thing. I still like doing that and am rather good at it to this day, and it did come in handy during a time in my adult life when we went 10 days with no electricity.

I am writing this as the annual cookie sales begin. Diane and I sold our share of cookies and got very competitive with each other. In those days you could go door to door in pairs safely, so we were willing to cover the same territory we did as when trick or treating. However, there were other scouts on some of those blocks so we had to restrain ourselves. Some of the varieties we sold are still popular today: Thin Mints, Savannahs (now called Do-si-dos) and Trefoils.

As we advanced to Juniors, camping was another set of skills to learn though often it seemed more like a slumber party on steroids! I probably remember as many ghost stories as knots. We also played truth or dare and attempted levitation when it was supposed to be quiet time in the tents or cabins. Singing was a big part of camping, whether around a fire or while hiking, or on the bus on the way to day camp. I remember one strange song about Adam and Eve that seemed to have little to do with scouting but it was funny. Others, such as the Happy Wanderer or Blue Sky fit our activities perfectly.

Most girls dropped out of Scouts after Juniors which generally ended in 6th grade. I stuck with it a few more years and became a Cadette, it was more service oriented as you advanced, which suited me. However, eventually my social life became too busy as well, and I gave up going to meetings in favor of working on stage crew and going to basketball games.

When we didn't have Girl Scout cookies around, chocolate chip was the family favorite. We started with the recipe on the bag of chocolate chips, and I remember Diane powering through creaming the butter and sugar by hand with a wooden spoon. She could get it done fast! I tried a few other variations over the years, and then ended up with this, which may be very close to the one Hillary Clinton released during the 1992 presidential campaign.


               Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe By: inspired by Hillary Clinton’s version
Serving Size: 60

-= Ingredients =-
1 cup Butter ; softened
3/4 cup Brown sugar
3/4 cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
2 ea Eggs
2 cups quick oats
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Baking soda
2 cups Whole wheat pastry flour
12 ounces Chocolate chips

-= Instructions =-
Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter and sugars. Beat in vanilla and eggs. Stir in flours, salt and soda gradually. Stir in chocolate chips last.

Drop by scoops or teaspoons on parchment lined cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake about 9 to 13 min., depending on the size of the scoop.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Chapter 9 - Sundays

Our parents attempted to raise us Catholic, so that meant getting dressed up and going to church nearly every Sunday. I think this was also when some of the worst of my mom’s penchant for dressing us alike came out, causing more of the silly “Are they twins?” questions.

I don’t think it was the dressing up I minded so much as the boredom, having to sit still and not play with anything. Not wanting to go and having a minor tantrum was probably one of the most common reasons I got in trouble as a child, though I would sometimes try to get out of it by saying “The Devil made me do it!” Later, when I could understand more, I was not much more impressed. One of my earlier confessions included that I had thrown a snowball at the church building. I did not truly feel guilty about it , but was curious if it would get a longer penance than the usual “I was mean to my sister” and indeed it did!

I also found the content of the homilies (sermons) annoying. All too often it seemed to be about why the church needed more money, or else something really silly like the evils of hot pants! Around the time of junior high, leading up to confirmation, we were finally allowed to make our own choices and we stopped attending. Neither of us is Catholic now.

However, as noted in earlier chapters, Sunday might also be about visiting relatives. When it was not, we still usually had a nicer dinner than other days, a roast or perhaps pork chops, though that was one of the few foods my mother did not cook well. She was so paranoid about trichinosis that she often cooked pork chops until they were all dried out.

Easter Sunday was of course a bit more of all of the above except the tantrums. We would get not only new matching dresses, but sometimes a hat and handbag. My mother sewed a lot of our clothes, but I think some of the Easter dresses came from Auntie Margaret; she worked in a higher end department store and most likely got an employee discount.

Easter dinner was most often a ham, a potato dish, asparagus if we could afford it, salad, some kind of fancy dessert, perhaps angel cake and strawberries, but of course Diane and I were more interested in our chocolate bunnies. Scalloped potatoes were one common choice to go with the ham, but later on it might have been this recipe for Alsatian potatoes, though it actually came from a Christmas article in the Chicago Tribune. They go very well with ham.

                          Alsatian Potatoes

Recipe By: the Landis family
Serving Size: 10

-= Ingredients =-
4 pounds Potatoes ; Yukon gold best
4 tablespoon Butter
4 large Eggs ; beaten
4 tablespoon Flour
6 cloves Garlic ; crushed
4 tablespoon Parsley ; chopped
1 pinch Nutmeg
1 pinch White pepper
1/8 teaspoon Salt

-= Instructions =-
Peel and trim potatoes.  Boil until tender, about 20 min. Drain.

Mash in butter, then beaten eggs. Beat in remaining ingredients and beat until potatoes are fluffy.

Transfer to shallow buttered baking dish. Bake at 350 for 15 min. until lightly browned. Drizzle with a little more melted butter before serving.