Sunday, November 29, 2009

What you're missing

Since Google still hasn't fixed the Blog Feed issue, I thought I'd start posting announcements about my Book Blog updates here. I just finished reviewing Carrot Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke. If you want to read it, just click this link to Mariandy Reads! and go to it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving flashbacks

Happy Thanksgiving! This is hands-down my favorite US holiday. It hasn't always been my favorite holiday -- when I was a kid, it ranked #5 after Christmas, Halloween, Easter, and Independence Day - so this is a relatively recent thing.

When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was relatively low-key at my house. Meaning: we didn't have huge numbers of family or friends over. It was usually just the four of us, sometimes with my maternal grandparents, or a special uncle and aunt. Mom would always cook the traditional turkey meal, sometimes along with low-country Carolina food - fresh fish and shrimp (which would be deep-fried Calabash-style) and roasted oysters (fresh from the beach, shells caked with salty mud -- Dad would have to spray them with the garden hose before Mom would let them in the house!) We'd take long walks on the farm, watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and football (I was a Dallas Cowboys fan back then), and sometimes we'd get the shotguns out and do some target shooting. I was particularly adept with the .12 gauge, even though my shoulder would always be blue for two days afterward. :-)

Flashforward thirty-some years. I'm all grown up, and living five hundred miles away. I'd like to go "home" for Thanksgiving, but it doesn't make much sense, given the distance and given the proximity of this holiday to Christmas, when I'll make the trek anyway. For the past several years, I've cooked the Thanksgiving meal all by myself, and served anywhere from three to nine people. In terms of my cooking, last year was probably the best so far. The Indiana free-range turkey was perfectly roasted and the sides were all amazing. We spent the day eating, watching the National Dog Show, and playing Rock Band on the Wii. It was a very simple but totally cool day.

This year on a whim, I decided not to cook. Instead, we drove down to Story, Indiana - in Brown County - and had a late afternoon meal. We'd never been there before, so the trip in itself was an adventure (we saw dozens of deer grazing in the recently-harvested corn fields). The Story Inn - "inconveniently located since 1851" - is an institution in south central Indiana. For one thing, it's supposedly haunted by The Blue Lady. We didn't see her, but the iPhone's Ghost Radar was going crazy when we were dining in the Old Mill room.

The food was, um, not as great as my cooking, but pretty darn good. We started out with some fresh-out-of-the-oven sourdough bread and freshly made honey butter, followed by a cup of butternut squash soup topped with bacon. There were three entrees to choose from: 1) roasted Indiana turkey; 2) maple-glazed ham; or 3) prime rib. I got the turkey, Sandy got the ham, and her Mom got the prime rib. (Sandy won this round. Not that the turkey or prime rib were bad but the ham was AWESOME.) For sides, we got turkey stuffing, mashed golden potatoes and gravy, green beans, yams, and cranberry sauce. And then there was dessert. Again, we had a choice . . . and again we each chose something different between pumpkin pie, apple caramel pie, and pecan pie. AGAIN, Sandy chose the best - the apple caramel pie was to die for. We were so full, we practically needed someone to take us out in a wheelbarrow.

It was a good day . . . and another nice Thanksgiving. But it's not the food that makes it my favorite holiday. It's a combination of historical significance and the realization I have so much to be thankful for. I'm glad we have a Thanksgiving holiday. When you really think about it, we should be giving thanks everyday. Let's try it.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Read along with Mariandy

A few weeks ago, I noticed that the feed to my blog Mariandy Reads - over on the right side "Shameless Plugs" list - is not updating. It looks like I haven't read any books since The Unlikely Disciple. Truth is, I've posted two more book reviews since then. So if you typically read that blog, please check it out! In the meantime, all I can do is wait for Google to fix the error (I searched Help and apparently it's happening to several other blogs.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The book is here

The Wienerschnitzel Diary is now available on Amazon and CreateSpace. If you order from CreateSpace, I get a few dollars more. :-) Unfortunately, the delay in finalizing the book means that I haven't had much time to work on The Code. Oh, well.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My iTunes Top 25 - so far

Tonight as I was downloading some iTunes songs, I noticed a link for Top 25 Most Played songs. I decided to check it out, and was quite surprised to see my list. Considering I have iTunes on two computers, and have three active iPods, I kind of wonder how accurate it is. But . . . here ya go. Numbers in parentheses are the number of times the song has played.

1. Other Side of the World - KT Tunstall (44)
2. Dani California - Red Hot Chili Peppers (41)
3. Ooh La La - Goldfrapp (37)
4. Strict Machine - Goldfrapp (36)
5. Crazy (James Michael mix) - Alanis Morissette (34)
6. These are the Days - Sugarland (34)
7. Dead! - My Chemical Romance (33)
8. Black Horse & Cherry Tree - KT Tunstall (32)
9. Swamped - Lacuna Coil (31)
10. Jump - Madonna (30)
11. Day Too Soon - Sia (29)
12. UFO - Sneaky Sound System (29)
13. Zwischen Heimweh und Fernsucht - Pohlmann (28)
14. Back to Black - Amy Winehouse (27)
15. Come Undone (Edit) - Duran Duran (27)
16. Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth With Money in My Hand - Primitive Radio Gods (27)
17. This is the Life - Amy MacDonald (26)
18. Bring Me to Life - Evanescence (26)
19. Home - Great Northern (26)
20. I Kissed a Girl - Katy Perry (25)
21. What Have You Done - Within Temptation (25)
22. Mercy - Duffy (24)
23. Ich bin ein Auslander - Pop Will Eat Itself (24)
24. Maybe I'm Amazed - Jem (23)
25. Dieses Leben - Juli (23)

It's interesting that #13, #23, and #25 were from my time in Vienna last year. I wonder how long it will take for the songs on this list to shift around or drop off so new ones can appear. Maybe I'll check again in a few months and report any substantial findings.

What are your Top 25 Most Played songs?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pieces of the wall

Twenty years ago today, the Berlin Wall came down. The pieces above were chiseled out by Sandy a few months later. She just happened to be in Berlin on the day they closed Checkpoint Charlie - this piece of the wall came from near there. The piece was from the West side, evidenced by the paint (graffiti). The East side of the wall was out of reach of graffiti artists since it was surrounded by the death strip. Click on the link above to see a photo of the wall and death strip prior to 9 November 1989.