Ain’t It Amazing?

Today I …

Looked at pictures of friends enjoying today’s sunrise in the Carribean,
Then looked at a video of friends across town building an igloo.
I chose a movie on my phone, then watched it on my TV.
I took a tour of my daughter’s new apartment in California,
And followed my son on the East coast as he bought groceries.

Even on a day when things aren’t that great, if you really stop and think about it, those things are pretty freaking amazing! Just imagine what your 10 or 12 year old self would think, if they could somehow be transported into the future and could see the everyday magic we take for granted.

Rest And Peace

Float decoration is hard work, long hours on your feet, concentrating on fine detailed work.  We were feeling a little fatigued and needed a little rest from our manual labor of the past couple of days, so we took the day off from float prep to do what Downtown Dad and I do best on vacation – look up dead relatives, and old addresses from our past!

The first stop was Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena.  A peaceful place where three out of five members of my mother’s family are buried.


Here’s my grandfather, the one who invented the drill that matches your grip for bowling balls.


Here’s my mother’s mother.


Here’s my mother’s twin brother who died of Leukemia at 16 years old.

A couple of years ago, my sister and I scattered my mother’s ashes in and around our home town of Goleta, California.  I also scattered some in Sioux City, Iowa where she was born. Turns out both my sister Vicki and I still have some ashes left, and we both think the rest of them should be interred with a headstone next to her twin brother.  I’m currently working with a counselor at the cemetery to see if we can do that.

Our next stop was Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale.  We went there to find the graves of two of Dave’s shirt-tail relatives, but I knew there were more stars from the golden age of Hollywood buried there than any other cemetery – so, while he searched the hillside for familiar names, I searched Google on my phone to see if there was any way to find out where these celebrities’ final resting places were.

Turns out there is a list of people buried there, but there is a catch.  There are privacy laws, and the office can’t give out crypt or plot locations unless you are a relative.  ….unless… you can find and follow the secret instructions to locate your fave dead celeb… which I did.

There are really only two celebs that I really even care about, and both happen to be buried there at Glendale Forest Lawn.  Humphrey Bogart, and Walt Disney.  Bogie is buried in a private garden, behind a locked door which can only be opened with a golden key issued at the time of burial to the surviving family member.  Walt Disney, on the other hand is a classic example of hiding in plain sight.

At the top of the hill is a building called the Freedom Mausoleum. You can’t miss it, there is a 13 foot high statue of George Washington at the front door. Just to the left of the front entrance is a small private garden with a gate. I have to admit I was quite amazed that I was able to stand inside this private enclosure, alone, not three feet from the plaque that bears his name.


To the right of the plaque is a small statue of the original Little Mermaid which as strewn with flowers, and several tickets from Disneyland. What an awesome experience!  I have to admit, I’m still feeling the weight of it.

Check back tomorrow to hear about our further adventures in float decoration!

Christmas With the Crankys

There are so many Christmassy lines that fit just now…

‘Twas the night before Christmas….

Oh the weather outside is frightful…

We need a little Christmas, right this very minute…

Let me set the stage.

Downtown Dad and I made a conscious decision to – like the Kranks, “skip Christmas” this year, since all three kids are otherwise occupied with significant others, or away at college. We’re flying out to sunny California to decorate a float that will be in the Rose Parade.

We had an early Christmas Eve dinner with friends. Reservations confirmed, made 6 weeks ago for a 6:00am departure on United from frozen Fargo, arriving on a bright balmy Christmas morning in LA.  A bargain rental car to toodle around in.  A night at the Pasadena Hilton for an elegant Christmas evening before moving into our AirBnB home for the week.

(That’s the sound of a record scratching)

Suddenly, at 7:30pm, 11 hours before we are supposed to take off, we get a “robocall” (not even a real person on the other end) from United Airlines saying our flight had been – not delayed – CANCELLED! But not to worry, they could rebook us TWO DAYS LATER!  TWO DAYS?!?! WTF?!?!

Thus ensued a flurry of calls to Cheapo Air, Expedia, United, and the Pasadena Hilton to try to re-arrange the hopelessly toppling dominoes of our trip.

Cheapo Air came through right away with flying colors (pun intended) by getting us on a flight on American Airlines, on the same day, just much later.  While this was a start, we soon realized that we wouldn’t be able to pick up our rental car, due to late arrival, and therefore would not be able to make our reservations at the Pasadena Hilton.  Calls to Expedia gave us two options, cancel the great deal rental car and rebook for twice the price for one that would be available when we arrived, or cancel our hotel reservations, but to do that we’d have to call in the morning and speak to the manager, since that could only be done by special permission.

After an uneasy night’s sleep, we started what turned out to be 5 hours of circuitous phone calls, the details of which I’ll spare you, suffice to say that we never found anyone at the Pasadena Hilton that would or could authorize our cancellation, so we were out that money.  We were able to notify the car rental agency to let them know we’d pick up the car the next morning. We ended up getting, and having to pay for, another hotel room walking distance from LAX.

Still cranky at United, for their short notice notification, I took my beef to Twitter, letting them know what a fiasco they’d caused us.  I actually got a reply back with a link to their Customer Service Team’s email complaint form.  Not sure what good will come of it, but I filled it out. I also gave a parting shot Tweet back to United saying I wasn’t going to hold my breath for a reply.

So, here we sit, still in the snow, at home when we should have been sipping a cold beverage in LA 5 hours ago, finally about to leave for our rebooked flight.

I knew that that this would be an adventure…..


The Perfect Pie Crust

I’ve always thought that whatever filling happens to be between the layers in a pie, served only as the liquid to moisten the star of the whole pie show – the crust.

I must admit to having used frozen, mix and rolled pie crusts over the years, but as you might suspect, they were convenient, but lacking.

This year, I decided to put all of my creative efforts into making the Perfect Pie Crust – and I think I may have achieved it.

I read over and over that Lard was the essential ingredient for tender but flaky crust. I also wanted to use butter.  So with reckless abandon and with no regard to caloric count, I used half lard, half butter.  I think that may be the magic.

So, without further ado – here is what I consider to be the Perfect Pie Crust. This is enough for one two-crust pie, or two single-crust pies.

1/2 cup lard

1/2 cup butter

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

5 to 7 tablespoons ice water

Mix butter and lard in a food processor, add salt.

Add 1 cup of the flour and pulse to mix

Add 2nd cup of the flour, pulsing till the mixture is coarse

Move the dough into a bowl, and add ice water 2 Tablespoons at a time, mixing gently with your hands just until the dough forms a dry ball.

Turn out onto a floured pastry board and gently roll to the size of your pie pan.


As you can see, we had to sample it first, just to make sure that it really was perfect. It could be that I also used the Perfect Apple Pie recipe which helped the pie crust achieve it’s own perfect-ness.  But that, my friends is another blog post.

A Small Apocalypse

 “I sat in the dark and thought: There’s no big apocalypse. Just an endless procession of little ones.”   ― Neil GaimanSignal to Noise

I have never shopped on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

At first, it was because that was never a tradition in my family and I was unaware that this was even a thing. Later, with a family of my own, it was because I barely had enough money to put a meal on the table, much less a Thanksgiving feast. Buying gifts would have to wait for the paychecks that would come in the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Also, maybe I’d taken the story The Gift of the Magi  too literally, but I had this crazy notion that a Christmas gift should be special, selected with that particular person in mind – certainly NOT an off-brand piece of electronics scored in a tussle with 1,500 other bargain-frenzied lunatics.

Now that I am older, (and yes, I’m aware that I sound like the crone on the porch hollering “Git offa my lawn”) year after year, I feel like our society devolves, and becomes more animalistic. The people who throng en masse, through the doors of some big box store seriously seem to be less than human, lusting not for the kindly spirit of giving, but for the carnal pleasure of battle.  And for what? They are not starving, or wrestling over the last drops of fresh water in the world. No, nine times out of ten they are gouging and scratching another human over a $10.00 item.

Watching video reports of the violent, senseless way shoppers surge through the doors, reminds me of scenes from movies about the end of the world, about some kind of apocalypse.  Webster defines Apocalypse as “A great disaster : a sudden and very bad event that causes much fear, loss, or destruction.” This herd shopping mentality does cause fear (at least in me) and certainly loss and destruction, but sadly, as in Neal Gaiman’s quote above, it is not sudden nor final. This kind of moronic mindless behavior repeats itself over and over, year after year, steadily chipping away at our civilization.

Our “traditional” family observance of Thanksgiving will happen over the weekend, as that is when all the members of our family will be together. Last night, Downtown Dad, Bobby and I had a non-turkey dinner at a restaurant, and as we drove home past the acres of parking lots teeming with cars, an infestation of bodies clambering to get through every store entrance, it was like we were witness to an apocalypse or maybe, more succinctly the annual Shopocalypse!