Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I'm thankful for the Bonnie Rogers Rule

Every year, the Utah Historical Society director sponsors a paper plane contest the day before Thanksgiving at the Rio Grande Depot (where I work).
He makes a big deal out of it, spends a ton of money on the prizes (and repeatedly tells us how much he spends on them) and sends out an email with detailed rules and guidelines about paper weight, size, extraneous objects on the plane, etc. The ironic thing is, each year, everyone breaks the rules. And we all expect it. It's actually a contest to see who can cheat the best.

The prize? a box of Cummings chocolates.

The categories? duration, distance and artistic quality (that is a new category since the "arts folks" moved in -- that's us).

Bonnie Rogers, who no longer works here, was infamous for dropping a piece of toilet paper or confetti and always winning in duration, and then she won artistic quality because it was like a piece of performance art. So because of Bonnie Rogers, she has a rule named after her that prevents anyone from winning in more than one category.

Above is a picture of the men (I think they're all architects who work for State History) discussing their designs. The man with the big tube won for distance because he basically blew a small plane out of the tube and it flew clear across the gallery onto the north mezzanine. He's holding his box of chocolates. I think his name is Tim.

Here is a contender. Cute, but not a winner:

Here's Jim being boring and not participating:

My plane didn't stay up very long or go very far.

If we were a rule abiding bunch it would have been disqualified because it exceeded all size and weight limitations. Fletcher (coworker) actually built it for me. He doesn't participate either (lame). But look!

Because all the people that had the best "artistic" planes won in the other two categories, I got the third prize by default. If you like chocolates and you know where I live, you know where to find them. I refuse to eat them all.

This lady won for worst performance. You can't really see much.

Here's my performance. Again, you can't see much. Mostly just my form and how I throw like a girl.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Me and "my" beemer*

I feel like people are watching me.

You see, I'm housesitting for my sister and her husband this weekend. With the house comes the responsibility of two cats and a fish. But it also comes with a brand new BMW she asked me to drive for the weekend so I could pick them up in it -- I guess because it's already equipped with Jack's car seat and such. I tried to propose an alternate transport plan to my sister explaining how I didn't want her car to be my primary mode of transportation for the weekend. She looked at me like I was crazy.

Let me explain: I drive a '98 Chevy Prizm. It's worth maybe $1500 right now. I have little concern about what happens to my car at this point. I just want it to get me from here to there and to keep me warm on the way. The only automatic thing about my car is the transmission. I have to roll down the windows manually, unlock the doors manually...turn a key manually. The BMW does all that for me. There's no key to this car -- It knows when I want to come in. The trunk closes all by itself too. It's like magic. I bet if I was sick of being stopped at a traffic light, all I'd have to do is rub the emblem on the steering wheel and my green light wish would come true.

After my sister gave me a brief tutorial on how to make the thing go, I left the airport. The hypertensive thought of "Be careful, this isn't your car" soon wore off as I sunk into the heated seats and let Coldplay guide me through a surprisingly comfortable transition. It wasn't long before I came to terms with the reality that this car... is... awesome.

What should I do now? I thought. I kind of wanted to pick up friends and see if they needed to run errands or anything. My thoughts quickly shifted to the idea of -- no joke -- antiquing. Yep, I went from zero to yuppie in 0.8 seconds.

I hit this consignment store on 8th South that I always drove by but never stopped to go inside. I parked the car on the street, really nervous to leave it there by itself. I looked back after I reached the end of the street to make sure it was still OK. When I was done shopping I walked back to the car, floated my hand above the handle and the car granted me entrance. I climbed in and thought, "I love you BMW."

My antiquing adventure continued in Sugarhouse. When I locked the car by gently pressing the door handle I turned around only to receive glances from passers by. I wasn't sure what the glances meant, but I knew it had something to do with the car I just got out of. It made me feel uncomfortable and I crossed the street pretending I was unaffected.

The store I walked into was pretty high end. An upholstered stool was like $600. I spotted a small mirror similar to one I saw at IKEA a couple days ago. IKEA's price? $20. This one? $180. I walked around wondering if this is where rich people think they need to shop. The owner walked up to me and asked, "Can I help you?" I told her I was just browsing and then she looked me up and down. No joke. She sized me up. Excuse me for walking into your store! You think my Old Navy wardrobe, half-styled hair and absent makeup isn't good enough to shop here? You wanna see my BMW parked out back?

The car and I have gotten along the past 24 hours. I even reached for the premium gas pump at the Chevron (mostly because I feared the fuel tank would spit the regular unleaded back out at me). I'm at my home right now, and the beemer is parked out front along the curb. I heard some talking outside earlier. I ignored it for several seconds but then I looked out the window and saw three guys examining the car and even looking inside the windows. I opened my front door with focused aggression and they scattered like shrapnel.

That's right. Beat it hooligans! And stay away from my property. I'm going to have to keep close to my window until I return the car safely to it's secured garage. Look who's being watched now!

*I should be clear, now that I am a temporary BMW driver, I did my research and learned the term "beemer" refers to a motorcycle. A BMW car is called a "bimmer" -- but before the urban dictionary I had never heard that term. I could have used "bimmer" throughout this post, but please...I don't want to sound like a snob.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Foods of Durham Past: Yorkshire Pudding

Nothing makes me feel more safe and comfortable than the smell of Sunday dinner cooking. If you remember one of my first posts, I talked about the formula Mom used to determine what she made for dinner each day of the week.

One of the Sundayist of Sunday dinners at our house was roast and Yorkshire pudding. (What is it about a traditional "Sunday Dinner" that requires a huge cut of meat?) I don't know if my mom's mom made this or where my mom got the idea of making them. I don't even remember when I first tasted them. If you were to present this dish to me as an adult I would say, "What in the world...? Do I butter this? Put jam on it?"

I was trying to explain to a friend the other day what Yorkshire pudding is. The best I could come up with was a popover. But he didn't know what a popover was either. He asked if it was like a cream puff -- I said that was pretty close. I suppose it could be a denser cream puff drenched in meat juice. Or "sauce" was the word Carter used when he tried convince his girls to eat it (he didn't try very hard because if they didn't eat it, all the more for him). It's actually baked with roast drippings in it too, so I wouldn't try pumping cream into these if you were looking for a cream puff recipe.

I don't make them very often because it's kind of pointless to make Yorkshire pudding if you're not making roast and I don't really like to make roast. And they always stick to the stupid cupcake tin no matter how much I grease it. But I love them. I can eat a lot of them. I had about 8 leftover from dinner last weekend so I ate them all week.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Foods of Durham Past: Swedish Pancakes

What we have here is a very poor picture of a very yummy food.

Explanation: I took this with my phone at a friend’s crepe party last month because I knew I wouldn't get around to making them myself, but it is an important food of Durham past. Only we called them Swedish pancakes because that’s what Dad called them.

It’s not like I’ve never made them before, but they never live up to Dad’s. Why? Because I don’t have the big cast iron skillet – I have a cheapo non-stick pan that does the job, but they aren’t nearly as good as Dad's (I need my Sur la Table employee discount back so I can get me a skillet).

This really was Dad’s signature dish and it was a big deal every time he decided to make them – usually on Saturday mornings. He had to have the kitchen spotless, the apron would come on and there could be no distractions. Mom can prepare a meal in a cluttered kitchen, talk on the phone, watch television and teach a piano student, while Dad can have zero visual and audible distractions because he’s trying to flip a pancake for crying out loud. I could say it’s a Mom/Dad thing, but I really think it’s a male/female thing. Women are just better at multitasking.

Crepe parties are pretty popular and guests are typically asked to bring a “topping”. You get bananas, berries, Nutella, whipped cream, syrup, etc. But crepes at the Durham house were traditionally served with melted butter, sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar and squirted with fresh lemon juice and then rolled up.

My mouth is watering.

So at this crepe party I decided to bring butter, cinnamon powdered sugar and lemons. People didn’t try it at first, but after they got their familiar crepe with sliced fruit and whipped cream out of the way they gave my toppings a go, and they were surprised at how good it was.

This is how things typically went at the Durham home: Dad required that we tell him up front how many we could eat (I got better at gauging this as I got older. I’m not sure what my record is – maybe 5 or 6). The first pancake would either break into pieces or it would be mediocre. Dad would eat it or someone would settle for it. In fact, selfish little kids usually want their food first, but we knew the second pancake was always better than the first, so we all fought for the second pancake slot. Carter liked his “light” and I liked mine “medium” – meaning, a little darker. When we were really little Dad would put the butter, sugar and lemon on for us, and then ask if we wanted them cut in “big ones”, “little ones” or “triangles.”

We’d take turns eating them one at a time. So after everyone got one, you were back in the loop for seconds, thirds, and so on. Sometimes right before your turn, after Dad flipped your pancake, his face would light up with convincing anticipation as he declared the next pancake was most likely the best Swedish pancake he has ever made.

Would I eat them again? You better believe it.
Would I make them again? So I cheated and didn't make these myself. But it's been over a week and I needed a post. But yes, I will.
Would I feed them to friends? If they're nice.