Friday, February 24, 2012

Humph. Seems I've let this go again. OK, I did promise, so here's the recipe for Mommy Cake.

Mommy cake

Original recipe by my grandmother ("Nanny Ruth"), modified by my mother. Sugar-free version by my wife, Kathy.

1 cup sour cream (8 oz)
1 tsp baking soda
1 egg
1.5 cups flour, sifted
1 cup sugar
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/4 lb butter, melted
1tsp vanilla
6 oz chocolate chips (1 cup)

Mix baking soda and sour cream.

Add in egg, butter, vanilla & sugar w/electric mixer on high.

Sift in flour and baking powder and mix till smooth.

Stir in chips by hand.

Bake in greased 9"x9" pan at 350ยบ for 45 minutes. Cool on rack.

For a sugar-free version, substitute Splenda for sugar, and for each cup of Splenda add an extra 2 oz of sour cream, a half cup of dry milk, and an extra 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. Shorten the baking time by 5-10 minutes.

Note that the recipe can be doubled easily for a larger cake. If you do this, lengthen the baking time by 10 minutes. And if you’re a real chocoholic you can easily put in more chips.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Holiday tradition

Four years ago, our neighbor's house burned down. They were on vacation, thank G-d, and we saw the smoke and called it in. It was a hot, humid, summer day, and the firefighters were taking 10 minute shifts in gear fighting the fire - it was THAT hot. They couldn't save the house, but they DID get it stopped in time so that our neighbors could save some photo albums - you know, the IMPORTANT stuff.

We saw how hard the firefighters worked. They were risking their lives, not knowing if there was anyone in that house or not (we didn't know at the time that they were on vaca!). They did it because it was their job. My wife thought it would be a nice gesture if we made them a "Mommy Cake" (I'll get to that in a minute) for a thank you. So, since our city has three firestations, she started baking away and I delivered them on Labor Day. We figured that since these guys were out working on what most of the rest of us get as a three day weekend, the least we could do is give them some home cookin'. 

So for the last four years, on three day weekends & Christmas, the firefighters in our city get a delivery. A double-batch-sized home made Mommy Cake, one for each fire station. Last year, we decided it'd be a nice gesture to deliver one to the Police Department, too.

That's what I just got back from doing. Thanks, guys - I know you're out there in crappy weather and good, on holidays and weekends, all just in case I, and my fellow residents, need you in a hurry. It's appreciated.

Now... Mommy Cake.

Some years ago, when my mom was newly married, her mother mailed her a recipe, telling her it was a nice cake to make for when folks came over for coffee. (They did that sort of thing in 1950!) It was a sour-cream based coffee cake with cinnamon and walnuts. So Mom made it for the family and it was OK.

Until the fateful day when she went to make one and realized she didn't have any walnuts in the house. So... she left out the cinnamon and walnuts and added in chocolate chips.

To the best of my knowledge, she's never made it with cinnamon and walnuts since.

We grew up eating this wonderful food. What's it called? Well... Mommy made it, so Mommy Cake it became!!

And if anyone actually comments on this, yes, I'll post the recipe. (Evil of me, I know...)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

First car

From ASM826 by way of Jay G:

So here's the meme. Long answers or short.

1. What was your first car? Model, year, color, condition?
2. What adventures did you have in it, good or bad?
3. What happened to it, what's the end of the story?

OK, I'll play along, too...

1966 Dodge Monaco station wagon. White with fake "wood" paneling on the sides. Condition... well... Mom bought it new. (I was 6 at the time...) Gave it to me when I turned 17 and got my license. (She got a miserable, never-to-be-sufficiently-damned 77 Aspen to replace it. AGAINST my advice, I might add. She regretted not listening to her son that time, too.)

Here's a couple of pix of different 66 Monaco wagons. Neither one of these was mine... condtion of mine was somewhere in between these two.

Mechanically, it was in perfect shape. Had like 110K when I got it or so. Body... not so much. Both rear quarter panels were rusted out and covered with sheet aluminum from my dad's company metal shop and painted white to sorta match the rest of the car.

Adventures. Well, aside from 11 years of riding in it as a kid, I learned to drive in it!! Yeah, I can hear you now. So what, you say. Guys... this beast was 18' long. (one version had a full-sized rear seat that swung up out of the rear deck!) You could sit three people across in it, and I mean adults... with no crowding! If the roof didn't have a rack on it, you could launch and recover F15 fighter jets off of it! And there I was, learning how to drive in it. Why, no... parking big cars doesn't intimidate me; why do you ask?

I never did have to learn how to make out or make love to a girl in the backseat of a sedan... the rear seat of the wagon folded down. Plenty of room in that rear deck!

I remember when we discovered that the gas tank had rusted out... it was dripping on the driveway. We had to drain the tank and pour it down the sewer (Hey, this was '77!). What killed me was that the tank was 3/4 full... and it was a TWENTY FOUR gallon tank! Gas was pretty expensive; I think it was like 55 or 60 cents per gallon! Dad showed me how to patch it, since it took four weeks to get the new tank in. Take a few layers of aluminum foil, mix up some 5 minute epoxy, clear away some of the surface rust on the tank and apply patch. Cover the outside with epoxy, too. Lasted 4 weeks without losing so much as a drip (Have I mentioned yet that my dad could fix anything except a broken heart or a soap bubble?). 'Course, since I was so sensitive to having had to dump 18 gallons of gas, I was running the tank pretty low for those four weeks... and ran out of gas for the first and, so far, only time in my life. 1 block from a gas station. Uphill from it. And I could NOT budge that car by myself to the corner to turn and coast down the hill! Had to get a can and walk back uphill.

Alas, it's end was with a BANG! and a whimper. Down on Long Beach Island, there's a stop sign that's mounted about 10 feet up... much higher than you normally look for a stop sign. I'd had my license for a month and blew through it... and hit a 67 Continental. Blasted his front wheel into his engine compartment and (I learned many years later, since my parents didn't want to worry me about it *growl*) totaled it. The Dodge? Shifted the front bumper back an inch or so and moved the hood up. Drove it home (125 miles) and discovered that I'd made the power steering pump leak, too. And a day or two later a hood hinge broke it's weld and popped up through that strip of metal between the hood and the windshield, scaring me out of a year's growth (Hey, that's why I'm so short!).

Our mechanic told us it wasn't worth repairing the power steering so we donated the car to my high school for use as a shop car. I found out later that they were dead wrong about not worth repairing, but by then it was too late...

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Lodge Night

Lodge Night

He slowly opened the door to his locker. 
He hung his police uniform on the hooks and took out his suit. 
It was Lodge night.

He watched as the last employee left his business, locked 
the building and made the evening bank drop. He then
headed off with a whistle on his lips and a spring in his step. 
It was Lodge night.

The young man helped his wife clear the table.
He then said good night to his children and 
snuck into his room to change his clothes.
Upon leaving he smiled at his wife and kissed her. 
It was Lodge night.

It had been a hard day. Navigating through the 
complexities of the legal system was rewarding 
work. It was also tiring. Normally he would have been
headed home for a relaxing evening. But tonight was
not normal and he felt none of the usual fatigue as 
tonight was Lodge night.

Life had not been pleasant since his wife died. 
His family lived far away and with each passing year it
became harder and harder to do the simple things in life. 
And most of all he missed his life long partner. Tonight he felt a 
little less pain and life didn't seem nearly as bad. 
It was Lodge night.

The accident had been terrible. But there was some consolation 
that his skills as a doctor had saved a life. Still it would not
be easy and there were possibilities of complications. But for a while 
he could place his worries in the hands of others as 
tonight was Lodge night.

It is hard looking for work when the job market is scarce. 
Each day he faced the nameless horde of people who 
continue to tell him that he was not needed. He faced rejection
and the possibility of hardship at every turn. 
Tonight he knew he was wanted and needed; 
it was Lodge night.

He sat alone in the small room wearing clothes that 
were not his. He had received warm welcomes from 
a number of men he didn't know and a few he did. Now 
with an ancient relic of a bygone age they told him to 
wait patiently, yet he looked forward to it with anticipation. 
It was his first Lodge night.

From all walks of life we come. We donate our time
to an age honored tradition. We donate our money 
to help those who cannot help themselves. We gather 
in fellowship and part in peace. For a while we can lay 
aside our differences and worries to bask in our 
shared experiences. We can talk with men who 
are our equals, men who work to better themselves. 
And we serve as mentors to our newly-raised Brethren.

Tonight is Lodge night and I am glad I am a Mason.
                                                                                Author unknown

I promise I'll do a post about the Masons soon. I don't have a lot of time right now, so let me just say that this poem sums up perfectly how I feel about the Fraternity... I can't read that last line without getting a little emotional - I've been a Mason for 23+ years and becoming a Mason is the BEST decision I have ever made in my life.

Here's a link for y'all if you want: Franklin Lodge AF&AM, Grafton, MA

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Moose hunting

Collected on the Internet:

When hunting moose, shot placement is critical.

Best place to shoot one is next to a front end loader.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

How to feel old

Want to feel old? Are you old enough to remember flash bulbs and (more recently) flash cubes? Good... this is necessary. Now... find someone who is under 20 and try to explain a flash cube to them.

They will look at you like you are crazy, I guarantee it.

Just went through this at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. A movie was playing in one of the exhibits where the narrator mentions something looking like a flash bulb. Wife and I commented that no young person would understand that line... so a few minutes later I decided to put it to the test. See results above.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

The secret of my success

Or, how to increase your salary, impress your boss and make your job easier.

Ready for the secret? Here goes...


I know... doesn't sound very profound, does it? Yet that's the "secret", at least for any sort of job in a technical field.

I started as a computer technical support staffer many years ago. I still remember how I got started supporting phone systems. My boss told me that I was in charge of every piece of hardware in the computer room, including the PBX. I said, "But Ted... I don't know anything about phones!" His reply was "Oh, just call the vendor for any moves or programming changes."

That's NOT what you say to me if you want me to leave it alone. I watched over the tech's shoulder as he made programming changes. I asked him about the wiring. And when we upgraded the PBX the next year, we got them to toss in two classes: basic database and voice mail.

Over the years at that job, I took three more classes from the manufacturer. I joined the regional user's group and took classes at the regional user's conference. I subscribed to a mailing list for Nortel users. I read articles in some of the freebie magazines.

Every time I came back from a class, I wound up immediately implementing some of my new-found knowledge to solve some problem or other that we were looking for a solution for. And gee... whaddaya know? My title went from tech support to telecom administrator to telecom manager. And my salary climbed to 250% of what I'd started at.

What am I reading today? A chapter on traffic data analysis reports for the PBX that my company uses. You see, this company uses a different PBX than the last one did... so I get to learn all over again.

The more I know, the less I have to call the vendor about... and the more I get to impress my boss when I tell him "Oh, I can do that!"