Friday, May 30, 2014

Penguin Point - Fried Chicken Keel and Pineapple Turnover

The time had come
The time was now
Jason A. Hoffmana
Would you try a keel now?

I was hungry after a small lunch and figured that dinner would be late due to my wife's schedule that day so I decided that the Penguin would get my money instead of some Scottish clown. Aside from the chicken strips I had not yet tasted their chicken and so it was the keel for me. Keel? Leg, wing, thigh. All these I know but keel? And rib? Gimme a rack of chicken ribs! Instead they make the breast of a chicken into three pieces, lopping off the top to make the keel, an all white meat piece with no bones but a small bit of cartilage. The coating was not at all crispy, reminding me of grocery story chicken. It's flavor, and that of the meat which was moist but not dripping with oil, which was enjoyable but a tad too salty. $2.29 isn't a bad price for white meat but for $6 I can get an entire chicken at Kroger of about the same quality and saltiness.

One thing I like about Penguin Point is that they have a huge menu and constantly rotate new items. Right now they have a Spanish Footlong Hotdog for $3.49. I'm not sure what makes it Spanish... possibly they don a sombrero when passing you your food. But as you can see from the picture I did not order the Spanish Footlong Hotdog, or else it's the oddest hotdog ever served. Instead I fell prey to another special item ("Back for a limited time!"), the Pineapple Turnover. As you can see from it's imperfect shape, these are made up and fried on the premises when you order them. In fact it was so hot that it made the lava inside McDonald's pies seem like ice cream. I was able to handle this four inch pastry only after putting on my welding gloves which I keep with me at all times because my wife is so smokin' HOT! But I digress. What we have here is a circular piece of dough with a plop of pineapple filling, folder over, sealed, deep fried, and topped with some powdered sugar icing whose flavor seemed to overpower everything else. Yes, I could taste the pastry and it was surprisingly flaky, but I only caught hints of pineapple. They also sell cherry, peach and apple turnovers though at $1.99 for a tiny treat I'm going to be hard pressed to part with my moolah.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Music Review - Alice Cooper - From The Inside

The year is 1978. Alice Cooper has just spent some time receiving treatment for his alcoholism*. Always the trend setter, this was before the Betty Ford clinic so Cooper went to a New York sanitarium where he met a number of colorful characters, many of whom ended up as subject matter for his next album, From The Inside. In my mind this album marks the end of his first solo period, four albums in three years. Fortunately this last of the pack finds Cooper back on his game. Maybe it's not a full-on classic but unlike Lace And Whiskey it is much more hit than miss.

For some reason, lyricist Bernie Taupin was taking a break from Elton John and linked up with Cooper but the effect is negligable. Bob Ezrin is AWOL but his absence is filled by five different bassists. Uh oh. But even superflous bassists can't sink this ship as Alice had plenty of time while drying out to fine tune a load of fantastic melodies. But let us first take out the trash. "Wish I Were Born in Beverly Hills" and "Serious" are both fairly generic rockers, though "Serious" has a nice bridge. "For Veronica's Sake" is about a dog, or a woman, that the singer has chained up at his home and so he needs to be released. How's that melody go? I seem to have forgotten it. Musically "Nurse Rosetta" is ahead of it's time, sporting lots of keyboards, a funky clavichord, and an early 80s sound... in 1978. Thematically it's about a priest who fantasizes about his nurse... not quite my cup of tea**.

Now on to the meat! The title track is an upbeat, lively ditty with slick pop background vocals and an especially dramatic instrumental section packed with strings. "The Quiet Room" has easy listening verses juxtoposed with a sharp edged, twisted chorus of "They've got this place / Where they've been keeping me / Where I can't hurt myself / I can't get my wrists to bleed!" "Millie and Billie" is a sweet and demented duet with lyrics like "God made love crazy so we wouldn't feel alone" and "I liked your late husband Donald / But such torture his memory brings / All sliced up and sealed tight in baggies / Guess love makes do funny things." Classic Cooper. The orchestral accompaniment, singable melody and the chilling instrumental outro make this one fine, fine song. "Jackknife Johnny" is a sad song about a returning Vietnam vet who lost his marbles while "Inmates (We're All Crazy)" is a fitting album closer, starting with an orchestral intro and building to an insane singalong chorus. It's dark humor for sure, though a bit lighter than "I Love The Dead," a close musical cousin.

The single was, surprise surprise, another ballad*** that apparently did quite well for him. "How You Gonna See Me Now" is a touching first person song of a man being released and wondering how his wife will receive him, framed as a letter. "Please don't see me ugly, babe / 'Cause I know I've let you down in so many ways" is typical of the lyrics. Sure, a bit cheesy and the music is on the schmaltzy side but it works. In yet another trend setting move it could also be said that this song is an early power ballad. As a final innovation, a "mini-movie" video was made of the song, years before MTV and Duran Duran. I can't find verification but I'm fairly sure that's Coopers wife and kids in the video, complete with creepy eye makeup at the end.

It was during this clean period that Alice appeared on The Muppet Show as well as a single Marvel comic book issue. He may have returned to the drink when we made the decision to appear in the Bee Gees movie Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band as a moustached villan. I should also note the great album cover which opens up on the front to reveal all the characters contained on the album.

Rank: Essential Cooper

* Reportedly two cases of beer and a bottle of whiskey... per day.

** I was more than a little freaked out when I saw Cooper in concert and he sang this song with his daughter playing the part of Nurse Rosetta. Icky!

*** It's almost like he was addicted.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Worlds Most Expensive Vegetables - Part 9

Ah, Memorial Day weekend! Fortunately I did most of the gardening work in the proceeding week so I was able to relax. Seen to the left is my weird attempt at a melon, gourd, and squashie patch. Sure, I could spend hours and hours removing the grass around my mounds but then what would I put in it's place? So for now it stays. Looking at the picture it almost looks like a cemetery, what with the two large rocks that serve to keep the hose from trampling the small plants but here look like tombstones. Oh well. Most of these were started from seed in wee little pots so that they have a jumpstart. I have no luck with starting small seeds like tomatoes or peppers but big ol' squash and melon seeds and I get along just fine. Sometimes herb and flower seeds work out for me but this year my two year old "helper" has seen fit to play in the dirt of my herb seed pots and so I have to start again. But not the melons. They sprouted with little effort and are now enjoying the sun. One oddness was from some orange watermelon seeds I impulse purchased for fifty cents. I had them in the same seed starting warmer as the rest but they wouldn't go even after all their peers had left their wombs. Figuring it just wasn't going to happen I removed the peat pots and set them outside with the rest of my failures and two days later, after they dried out, they sprouted!

One enjoyable thing about new land is finding sun and shade patterns. There's a three foot strip of land behind my two out buildings right next to a neighbors field that I had written off this past winter because surely it would be in shade from the two buildings. Nope! It's full sun! So as an added bonus I put down two more melons mounds, this time encased in an experimental single two-foot square box. We'll see how that goes, eh?

Checking in on the peas I see that they are climbing nicely, though not yet giving us any tasty pods. Speaking of eating, I brought it some more tiny spinach plants for a salad. I made sure there wasn't a tiny bug in them this time.

And those green beans are starting to sprout. I was a bit concerned because the weather took a turn for the cold right after they were planted and I feared that they would rot instead of sprout.

My only expense this week was $15 for four hefty tomato cages (seen on the left). You get those bitty ones for a buck or two and any self-respecting tomato plant just crushes them. But these... these are MASSIVE! The wire is about as thick as a pencil. BWA HA HA!!! That brings my total up to $448. Yikes!

Because I have no better place to put this, here's my now-crushed Mountain Dew knock-off can collection from back when I drank brominated vegetable oil. Mtn. Dew and Dr. Pepper knock offs have some weird and original names which gives them a leg up over something like "Orange Soda." Unless you're talking about "Holy Cow Orange." Alas, I no longer have a need for their visual clutter and soon they shall bring me sixty cents per pound.

Lesson learned: Pinching the first set of flowers off newly planted strawberry plants is painful but must be done for long term success. At least that's what the instructions said and I'm going to believe that these professional berry growers know their stuff.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Music Review - Alice Cooper - Lace & Whiskey

The year was 1977 and Alice Cooper had been touring since 1970. To cope he was drinking heavily and footage of performances at this time period show that he was no longer able to hide it, though interviews with the man find him saying that no one knew because it appeared to be part of the act. I disagree. Hearing live recordings of that era, such as the bonus tracks of the deluxe Billion Dollar Babies reissue, find Cooper making many mistakes. If it had been an instrumentalist messing up that much they would be replaced or have their amp turned off, i.e. Glen Buxton. However since the rhythm section was sober and tight the show could carry on with Alice slopping* everything up.

As a result of this drinking, Cooper and friends thought that a new personna would be fitting. How else can you explain such a poor decision? Gone is the ghoul and in is Maurice Escargot, a noir-era detective, and the album Lace And Whiskey. If the album is a concept album it's a very loose one as only a couple songs might fit the story. Otherwise it's just Cooper without his makeup.

This was one of the last albums I had to track down, probably in 1986 or so, and was underwhelmed**. There are two awesome songs and a bunch of filler. The first "awesome" is the ballad "You and Me" which I originally heard on The Muppet Show where Cooper sang it with Ms. Piggy, though Ms. Piggy had been transformed into some monster. This stunningly perfect song captures the simple joy of domestic love with lines like "We share a bed / Some popcorn / And TV." Yeah, it borders on cheesy with the gushing strings but those same strings also help a heart to ache. The line "You and me we ain't no movie star" reveals Coopers continued fascination with becoming a star of the screen, but that's another topic for another time. The other "awesome" is another ballad, a weepy confessional "I Never Wrote Those Songs."*** Such a sad, lonely song****. "My tape recorder/ It must be lying / 'Cause this I just can't believe / I hear a voice that's crying... / That's not me." Soft horns, piano, acoustic guitar, a nostalgic feel and even a sax solo all blend to make one's teenage heart ache. And if that's not enough how about lines like "I've been living in my own shell so long / The only place I ever feel at home"? Speak about dialing into the self-absorbed tortured-artist psyche of the youth! But for Alice it was genuine: he was lonely. Until the mid 70s he had been surrounded by his blokes, his high school pals, and they made this incredible journey together, touring and exploring the world. Then Alice decided that he had to do his own thing for a bit and now he had new friends but they weren't the old friends who have watched your back during the days when you had nothing. It was during this time period that these old friends decided that Alice wasn't coming back to the band and so formed their own, Billion Dollar Babies, with Michael Bruce singing lead vocals. This is another gem that The Wooden Nickle was able to get for me. It was nice, often catchy, but didn't have any killer tunes.

As for the rest of the album (L&W, not the one by Billion Dollar Babies), well, there were a couple of halfway decent songs. "It's Hot Tonight" is built on an infectious, wonky guitar riff and "(No More) Love At Your Convenience" has a melody that will stick in your head. Too bad it's a disco song and Cooper can barely be heard over the female background singers. Yes, a disco song. Cooper has this affinity for disco that he won't admit but this style of music shows up throughout his catalog. It's okay Alice, come out of your disco closet and embrace the beat.

That leaves five songs. While relistening to this album I honestly did not remember most of them. "Road Roats" is from or for some movie of the same name that I haven't seen. Again, it's that desire to be a movie-star thing. This isn't a bad song, being semi-tame gritty rock with piano, but it's monotonous. "Damned if You Do" is a countryish song and "Ubangi Stomp" is 50s rockabilly sung in Elvis voice, neither of which I remember. Was I drinking along with Alice every time I heard this album? "King of Silver Screen"***** has no memorable music to speak of but the extended spoken word ending where Cooper says he wants to be a starlette and make someone a great little wife, all backed by a rendition of a patriotic song, was vagularly familiar. Weird and messed up, but familiar. "My God" starts with nearly a minute of church organ and then continues with encouraging lyrics that could make a decent worship song with a few minor changes.

Rating: True Cooper Fans/Completists only

Originally I was going to review The Alice Cooper Show but in listening to it again I'm not finding much to say that I haven't already said except that I'm surprised that I had this one in my digital collection but only had Constrictor on cassette. It's a live album containing songs he's still playing live twenty-five years later. Not much else to say.

* Yeah, I made up that word.

** My first clue should have been the fact that three different bass players are used. Never a good sign.

*** I learned to play opening acoustic guitar part on the keyboard, thanks to the sheet music folio I had of this album as well as Welcome To My Nightmare and From The Inside, lucky finds at a sheet music store in the mid 80s. Check eBay this Thanksgiving if you want to buy 'em from me!


***** More movie star theory proof.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Worlds Most Expensive Vegetables - Part 8

This weekend I had some of the worlds most expensive spinach leaves. Yummy! We thinned out a few spinach plants for salads so I guess I'm starting to get a return on my investment. KA-CHING!

As far as gardening, it was an unseasonably cold and wet weekend so not much got done. I spent another $22 for dirt, two giant marconi pepper plants (the plants weren't giant but the peppers soon will be) and a six pack of cherry tomatoes. I've been looking for sun gold, having thoroughly enjoyed a plant last year that I picked up at a plant sale the local hippy-dippy food co-op was having, but gave up and bought the ones every store in the area seemed to be selling: sweet 100. The marconi was also one I had to search for but well worth it. Sweet like bell peppers, these plants vomit out massive elongated peppers all season long. After buying the last two Rural King had I broke off one while planting. Oops. Here's to hoping it will still grow, especially in my weird, messy plot inside the shell of a raised bed. Yes, that's cardboard and yes, it looks like chaos but the plants don't mind. It'll look pretty on a plate. Pictured here, clockwise from the upper left (because I know you care) is cilanto, a marconi, a celebrity tomato (I didn't realize it was determinate until I got it home... poopy!), another marconi (damaged), and two sweet 100 cherry tomatoes.

Checking in on the raspberries, the ones I brought over from the old house are going well. I still can't believe that they survived our record-breaking cold winter just being heeled in on a pile of mulch at my dads but obviously they had no problems. Of the plants I just purchased, the blackberry is slow to break out of it's dormancy, as the plant seller stated, and two are starting up. However one, the Heritage Raspberry, isn't doing anything, except perhaps snickering at me.

Also planted this past week was about ten thousand green bean seeds, or so it seemed. After much reading I found that it was recommended to plant them three inches apart in two foot plots. That close? Really? We'll see. I'll put in another plot of Kentucky Blue and Slenderette in two weeks. No picture 'cause it's just dirt right now. My kids think I really like dirt but it's not that fun to look at.

This weekend was also the start of the long-anticipated Hoffmana melon patch! I purchased five types of seeds from Rare Seeds dot com and then dried some seeds from a cantaloup and a honeydew that were just waiting to be eaten. The melons, not the seeds. RareSeeds dot com gave me a bonus pack of melon seeds to make a grand total of eight types. And then I found a pack of orange watermelon seeds for fifty cents and figured "Why not?" These I sprouted two weeks back, mostly with success, and this weekend I put five of them into the garden with the remaining four to go in tonight. Squashies, cucumbers, and gourds are being sprouted now.

Lesson Learned: My smaller kids love worms but grubs freak us all out.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Worlds Most Expensive Vegetables - Part 7

I finally have a plan. Well, I've had many plans and many alterations but I think this is how things are finally going to shake out. I marked where I hid my leprechaun's gold but it's in code. Good luck!

The sweet potato slips arrived late on Saturday afternoon. What's a guy to do... the next day was Mother's Day? Based on earlier research I had prepared three ten foot beds but the more I read the more I realized that the beds should be three feet apart instead of the 12" or so. Ooops. Also to make the oft-suggested mounds (one foot tall? Seriously?) I needed dirt. And sand. $17, if you please, plus $20 for the slips. It also struck me (ouch) that I could use the pre-dug dirt in the middle row and added to the top of the other rows for added height. Kids love a good trench! It was also suggested to cover the dirt with black or clear plastic to warm the soil in these northern climates so I'm experimenting with that. And with all this work, some gardeners state that you can just put the slips about anywhere and they'll take off so maybe all this work isn't even necessary!

The carrots are starting to come up. I'd show you a picture but who wants to look at a few tiny leaves coming out of the dirt? To me it's exciting because I can taste their carroty potential. Instead take a gander at the snow peas which are just starting their training.

Here are some helpers as they check the pyramid for signs of strawberries. Nothing yet but one found a rather large and colorful bug in the garden.

And then there's the greens. Spinach is needing to be thinned and added to a tasty salad and Mr. and Mrs. Romaine are coming along nicely. The buttercrunch and mesclan mix are apparently slow starters.

The total so far: $411. GULP.

Lesson learned this week: Tiny helpers are great, especially if they like worms and having them help means that mamma gets a nap on Mothers Day.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Music Review - Alice Cooper - Welcome To My Nightmare

So there I was, just some young punk who had recently discovered Alice Cooper. At this point most of my knowledge of the music was based on his appeareance on The Muppets so one of the first albums I purchased*, if not the first, was Welcome To My Nightmare. At this point I didn't even know there WAS an Alice Cooper band, silly schmuck that I was. I didn't know that a guy named Tony Levin played on this album (sans the yet-to-be invented Funky Fingers that he didn't know he was going to invent). I didn't know that a guy named Bob Ezrin was back in the producer seat. I didn't know that guitarists Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner were co-writing at a furious pace. I didn't know that some guy named Vince had recently legally changed his name to Alice. I didn't know that the only reason this album existed was because Vince, er, Alice wanted to go bigger and more theatrical while the rest of the band wanted to return to their raw rock roots**. I didn't know about the TV special or the subsequent record breaking tour***. I didn't even know that I didn't know these things. All I knew was the music and the creepy, campy, varied orchestral rock of this album hit home hard.

Let's talk about that music, eh? The opening title track is a mishmash of rock, disco, jazz and orchestral, held together by a superb bass line. This glam rock song is immediately offset by the creepy stoner rock of "Devil's Food". I tells ya, when the flange kicks in to underscore a musical punch... shivers! And even more bizarre, the flange doesn't let up but gets tossed around from drums to guitars to backup singers. Then Vincent Price starts his masterfully delivered monologue (a trick stolen by Michael Jackson for his Thriller album) and it's game over! But of course, it's only just beginning. Price's chilling words are but an introduction to "The Black Window", another heavy rocker. My magic headphones revealed one astounding bass line, perfect for business or pleasure. Horns enter near the end, softening the rock and giving a more campy feel, a perfect lead in for the "Some Folks" but even here, the bass is sliding up and down the neck, foreshadowing the slide trombone which eventually joins the party. To quote Mr. Price, "Delicious."

"Some Folks" is nastily played on a detuned piano, a kind of jazzy vaudeville rounded out with more horns as Cooper sings how some folks "just love to see red" and "love to feel pain", though never going much further than that, giving the listener an unsettled feeling as if everyone around him keeps a disturbing and dark secret. Try as it might this song can't keep it's cool and it too eventually erupts into a frenzy. Fear not, child, because the next song, "Only Women Bleed," is a pool of tranquility in this dark night. Without this mega-hit song Alice Cooper the soloist might have returned to the band with his tail between his legs but as such, this Wagner-penned ballad is against domestic abuse, despite the ambiguously icky title, and scored big with the ladies. The song is a small step away from being campy but the orchestral strings and the ramped up rock ending keep the lunatic from jumping off the bridge.

The gleeful "Department of Youth" follows and it's a bit too cheery, a bit too cleaned up though I do love the playful mention at the end of then teen heartthrob Donny Osmond. Fear not for all is redeemed by the chunky guitar riffs of "Cold Ethyl" that aim right at your gut. Plus the constant cowbell.

And then there's the song cycle. Harpsichord and uneasy accordion open "Years Ago" where Cooper sings as a small, lonely boy, soon to be identified as a fractured personality of a disturbed adult named Steven. Cascading piano and pizzicato strings introduce "Steven", an emotion-packed (for teens, that is... otherwise I have to admit that it's somewhat cheesy, but good cheese!) foray into this mind as it's returning to reality with lines like "I must be dreaming / Please stop screaming." The full orchestra returns with a punch in the chorus that segues into an extended instrumental passage, surely one of the cornerstones in the foundation of my love of "more serious" orchestral/classical music, showing me how music without words can convey as much, or even more, emotion than music with words. The dream ends with a splatter of reality in "The Awakening" as the protagonist wakes up in the basement with crimson on his hands. One is left to wonder exactly what he's done but the masterfully orchestrated music leaves little doubt that he was not finger painting.

The album ends with "Escape*****" which could possibly be part of the song cycle but is really more of a step out of the concept album with Cooper singing about being trapped in the music business. Overall it's a nice but generic rock song and once again they use cowbell and a fine sounding bass, possibly a MusicMan****. It's no wonder this album is considered a classic example of a concept album as even the missteps somehow seem to fit into bigger picture. It's also quintessential Cooper where he gets everything right. It's the kind of album where, if someone wonders what the hype is all about concerning this Alice Cooper fellow, you just have them listen to this album.

Rank: Essential for all music lovers

* The first I owned was the Greatest Hits album, a present from me mum on Valentines Day.

** See the breakup for Styx for yet another example.******

*** 120+ cities in eighteen months. This has since been broken many times over.

**** I wouldn't mind having me one of those.

***** Allow me, for a moment, to share a memory concerning this song, if I may. You are free to ignore, of course. In junior high (this was before the concept of middle school) kids were herded onto school buses before and after school that would take them to the high school where they would change to the buses that would take them home. The trip lasted about five minutes, just long enough for a song. Back in these days kids had large, portable music devices that went by many names nationally but were called Boom Boxes where I was raised. Often on these five minute trips one kid or another would unleash his boom box and play some loud rock song as we drove. Those were very patient bus drivers. So impressed was I by these future DJs that when it came time for me to get a new gym bag for the year (this was also before backpacks) I made sure that my boom box fit inside. Eventually I decided that I'd take my turn with the music. Was I not an eighth grader, king of the school? For my song I chose "Escape." Had the year been 1975 or even 1976, this might have evoked a positive response. However it was 1984. The kids who knew this song and album were no longer kids, they were college graduates. The kids on the bus with me, well, they wanted to hear something they knew. I learned a great lesson that day about people and their musical tastes as well as my own (ill-fitting) place in society.
****** I stand corrected thanks to this interview with Dennis Dunaway. The band was broken up by THE MAN who thought they could make more money with less people and cutting budgets.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Classic Album Review - The Choir - Free Flying Soul

The Choir has just released another album, The Loudest Sound Ever Heard so I figure it’s appropriate that the next “Classic Album Review” is of the only Choir album on the list, Free Flying Soul. Those aware of this band are probably scratching their heads as to why my top Choir pick wouldn’t be one of their other albums, and with good reason. Over the course of their career this band has released a surprising number of very solid albums (Chase the Kangaroo, Oh How the Mighty Have Fallen and Circle Slide are all tens) but this album has captured my heart.

After years and years of touring and writing and recording the band was in top form. Coming off their Kissers and Killers album there’s still quite a bit of grit in these songs, which me likey! This aggression is couched in solid songwriting, interesting arrangements and killer melodies. There’s also an animal theme with song titles of “Salamander”, “Sled Dog”, “The Chicken” and others. Considered a dark album, Free Flying Soul is full of inspired and vivid poetry. The eerie, quiet “Polar Boy” is a stark personal revelation of need with lines such as “He’s got his purple nose / Pressed against your icy window / Perhaps you will allow / Polar boy in so he can warm himself / By your fire.” “Away With the Swine” is a rocker that sits easily alongside Kissers and Killers songs… gotta love those fuzzy guitars and that fuzzy bass!

“The Ocean” is a song I’ve skipped for so long I had forgotten it was on here. Listening to it again for he first time in years, well, it’s not bad but it doesn’t seem to fit the album. I don’t think I’ve been missing anything so I’ll continue to skip it. And besides, it’s followed by “If You’re Listening”, another simply amazing song of confession. Once again the song is album more air than it is notes, aching in its delivery. My wife says the song is ruined by the bass but I think the bass makes the song, a sub-octave fuzzed out tone that is almost a subliminal rumbling. The lyrics on this song are simply superb, scathingly honest in their willingness to accept the hurt our sin causes those around us. “If you’re listening to me now / I wouldn’t blame you anyhow for running me / Out of town.” Excellent guitar work on this one as well.

“Slow Spin” is, by every account, an odd yet brief song with spoken sections but it just works, kind of a quick sketch that knows not to overstay its welcome. “Leprechaun” continues the whimsy, capturing the image of a happy walk across the lawn with a big Chandler-written loping rhythm. “Yellow-Haired Monkeys” continue to provide a light breath after the previous heavy album, leading to “Butterfly”, an absolutely gorgeous song about wanting to inspire one’s children to take wing and fly. “You are precious more than I could express / Melody and word are poor at best / You are a gift to me / A treasure from Heaven / You were created to fly / To decorate the blue sky…” I’ve got to stop or else I could end up giving the entire song up as an example. Add to this Tim’s excellent bass line, sometimes slippery, sometimes groaning and Derri’s shimmering guitar tone and you’ve got a winner. Listening again I’m astounded that as the song progresses it just gets better and better. The album ends fittingly dark with “The Warbler,” a haunting midnight song if there ever was one- the song just sounds like pre-dawn after a sleepless of tears and fears. Despite the tone and feel Steve can’t help but to offer up hope in the lyrics “Never mind that drum dirge you hear droning” but instead celebrate despite your circumstances.

It’s difficult to believe that Free Flying Soul was written in 1996, 14 years ago. I didn’t get the album when it came about because I was in my musical abstinence period and thus I missed the chance to see The Choir play in Fort Wayne. BAH! But when the album finally made its way into my head it was exactly what my soul needed - a reality-smudged celebration of faith and family.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Penguin Point - Bacon Double Cheeseburger

Hold on, kiddies, as I might be getting a bit philosophical in this one. First, the coupon and the image presented: a glorious bacon double cheeseburger! Now of course only a fool would expect their sammich to arrive in such a pristine condition but as I look at this and the other equally tantalizing examples of foodstuffs presenting on their coupon page, I remember that this is a local company and that someone prepped and photographed these items and ya know, it kinda makes me feel a sense of local pride. There are advertising rules regarding food that is photographed and I once saw a clip where a burger was rushed from some New York Micky D's across the street to their official advertising agency where it was dissected and sterilized and preserved and restacked and layered to make the perfect image seen across this genetically modified land. Or at least that's what I remembered. I found the clip easily (and so can you) and I guess they use the exact same ingredients but it didn't have to be prepared in the store. And it wasn't even New York. I'd make a horrible witness.

Comparing Penguin Point to McDonalds would be like comparing my bank account to that of George Soros so I don't expect them to create such perfection. Here's a real burger and it actually looks pretty good. The bun, unlike that of their hot dog products, is nice and fresh. The bacon was decent as was the cheese. They didn't offer condiments so I took what they offered, which ended up being a thin red sauce. It wasn't ketchup and may have been BBQ sauce but I didn't detect a great change in the flavor because of said sauce.

Which brings up the philosophical. For some reason I have positive childhood memories linked to Penguin Point lodged in my brain. However when I eat their food, with few exceptions so far, I'm not getting a mouth full of flavor sensations. It's kinda generic. Decent but not amazing. Not to bring up the beast again, but if you go to McDonalds you find a distinctive flavor in their burger. No one else has this flavor and I strongly suspect it's opium-based or perhaps some addictive chemical brewed up by a pharmaceutical company. Like it or hate it (or addictively crave it) you can tell it's a McDonalds burger. Ditto for Burger King and Wendy's. But the burgers and such from Penguin Point are curiously non-descript, like they use the standard products available from our local restaurant food service and don't have their own recipe. In fact, I've seen the trucks from the local restaurant food service in their parking lot. Curious...

However I'm not giving up my quest! I shall push forward and try more items from their menu. Maybe their fried chicken is the total bomb! Maybe I'll have another order of chicken fingers and gravy! I mean, that was total YUM but there wasn't anything special about either the chicken fingers or the "mixed from a powder" gravy but still I enjoyed the surprise.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Worlds Most Expensive Vegetables - Part 6

The good news is that I only spent two bucks this week. How could I resist those perky li'l broccoli plants, especially since the ones I started from seed are still only a single scraggly stalk? I added some stakes (not steaks... can't grow those in the ground, unfortunately) to prevent the hose from running over them and need to add another set on the far end. Maybe next year these will be in a raised bed as well but for now this will have to do. I just noticed that the picture is a bit deceiving. No, we don't live on a hill, I just take horribly slanted pictures.

Oh yeah, I spent $6 buying three heirloom tomato plants on Friday, two cherry and one paste. I plunked these deep down on the other half of the carrot bed with the intent of building up the dirt around them by a few inches when (if?) my dad delivers a load of dirt. And yes, at that time I'll smother the grass but I promise to be gentle.

Add in another buck for the organic sweet potato. While I ordered a bunch of slips of white sweet taters I've yet to see orange sweet tater slips for sale in any store so I reckoned I'd start my own. Yes, it's another experiment. Next to the spuds is the seed tray which contains another surprising experiment. About two months ago my wifey had purchased a cantaloupe and a honeydew. I took some of the seeds from these, washed 'em and let 'em dry and then recently put them into starting soil. I really didn't expect they'd do anything except rot but so far 90% have germinated and it's only been a week. I doubt honeydew will grow well way up north here but I'm willing to invest some space to give it a try!

Four more dollars for two organic herbs (seen here repotted and yes, that's duct tape on one of the pots... I'm frugal, not cheap, or so I tell myself) and that's it. I'm done. They were in the produce area and are meant to sit by your window where you can snip a few leaves for your latest culinary creation. But they were also on sale for $2 and are much cheaper than what the garden center wanted for non-organic herbs so into my cart they went! I'm putting all the herbs into pots in the hopes that I'll have a greenhouse built by winter and can then move them in for wintery herbal eatery. So I spent a total of $13, making the total so far $374. But that's it. I'm done. Really!

In the first photo you may have noticed a structure in the background. Yes, it's my strawberry pyramid, seen here under construction. And yes, that's a bunch of scrap 2X4s and empty Vitamin water bottles under some of that dirt. Am I crazy? Crazy like a rabid fox! I figured that the dirt under the second and third levels would just be wasted and eventually compacted so why not just fill it up with, well, pretty much whatever I had on hand that wouldn't poison the soil? I figured I saved at least five American fiat dollars with these shenanigans.
Here is the completed, filled, and planted pyramid. I tried to explain to my teen daughters my practical use of math in determining how much dirt to buy and how many strawberry plants to plant on each level but I guess I should have used a chalk board for illustrations because they got lost. Yeah, it's a little bit lopsided and the circles aren't perfect but it was very windy when I put the thing together and I did the best I could. I'm sure the strawberries won't complain. I'd like to point out that the roots on each and every strawberry plant I received from Indiana Berry (plug) was strong and healthy. I was one impressed goober! I would have taken a picture of said roots but my hands were quite dirty and though I care about you, dear reader, I don't care enough to wash my hands.

And speaking of berries, I also put in three types of raspberry and one type of blackberry, some of which may even produce fruit this fall. Here's to hope!

$361 + $2 broc + 6 +4 + 1 = 374 Romaine and spinach is sprouting like crazy. If I had a little toy bowl, like for a Barbie, I cold have a teeny tiny salad.