Monthly Archives: November 2010

Thanksgiving Traditions

Tyler Florence used to have a show on Food Network where he would help people who were trying to recover a long, lost recipe. People would ask for help on recapturing Grandma’s Beef Stew or some other childhood favorite. Taking information about the person’s ethnic heritage, foods available in the location that they lived, and other family history, he’d come into a person’s home with two recipes. One would be a proximity–or best guess–on how the person’s grandmother might have made the dish and then he’d give his own take on how he likes to prepare the dish. I couldn’t find the show listed on the Food Network,  so I don’t think its still on the air. The closest I could find was something called “Rescue Chef.” Since it’s Thanksgiving week, I started thinking about “lost recipes” and other traditions that have gone by the wayside. My Aunt Jo always talked about her mother’s, (my Great Grandmother Anna Ruth Buchanan Sullivan’s) Ambrosia Salad. The recipe was so special that she even had a specific dish that it was put in. My Aunt Jo inherited the dish and when you entered her home, she’d point up to the top of her cabinets to the large ceramic bowl. I have never tasted my great grandmother’s Ambrosia Salad.

It makes me sad because it is a tradition that has been lost. Even though my mother just passed away this year, it won’t be the first Thanksgiving I’ve spent without her fantastic feast. For he last 15 or so years I have observed Thanksgiving with my in-laws who’s Greek heritage comes with its own host of traditions. I’ve gone at least 15 years without my mother’s Turkey stuffing. My husband’s family doesn’t serve stuffing. Instead they have a delicious rice alongside their beautiful roasted bird. Still, this year, because of the loss of my mother, I have been wondering if I’ve already lost the recipe of her stuffing. Stuffing was never a major dish at my mother’s Thanksgiving dinner, but it was always my favorite. In fact, the very first Thanksgiving I spent with my in-laws, I made my husband “swing by” my parents house afterward. I told my mother I was in culture-shock without her stuffing and she packed up a care-package for me. Stuffing was not in my husband’s traditions so he didn’t really get it. All the more for me. 
I see magazine covers touting “traditional” oyster stuffing, or cranberry raison stuffing or some other obscure concoction, but they all seem so foreign to me.

A roast turkey prepared for a traditional U.S....Image via WikipediaMy mother’s stuffing, was so simple it was almost a crime. Its not a recipe she would brag about–and she really could brag about being a great cook. Some of her recipes even won awards. This was just plain ol’ warm your tummy, stuffing. It was simply bread chunks, celery, broth and seasonings, baked until there was a crust on top. Easy, squeezie, lemon peazy. Still, what I wouldn’t give to have a bowl full of it now. 
My husband’s family has a Thanksgiving tradition that’s also slowly dying out. Right after the dinner most of the elderly would gather at one table and play nickle poker. They’d have their coffee and pumpkin pie while vying for the pot. In recent years, fewer and fewer people have gathered at the table. Most of the older folks have passed, and the younger ones want to see the latest and greatest video game being played. It will only be a few more years now when this tradition is no longer observed. 
There’s still hope for the younger ones. Even though my son had never had Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’, he has had my mother’s stuffing. True, I cooked it, but it was her recipe. I didn’t expect the reaction I got, so I only made a little of it. The tradition must be somewhere deep inside his DNA, cause he ate most of it and asked me to make it again the next night. Now, when ever I prepare turkey — once or twice a year — I make my mother’s stuffing. All this is my long-winded way of asking what other traditions have been forgotten?
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Teacher Oz is A Tribute To Educators

Billy Joel performing in Jacksonville, Florida...Image via WikipediaAnyone interested in history or is a student of history will appreciate this fantastic website called Teacher Oz’s Kingdom of History. What drew me in was a link to Billy Joel‘s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” In it, an educator from Texas named Tracey Oz, provides links to sites that explain each of the words in his lyrics. The result is a page that provides detailed information on the major historical events of the 20th Century.
 For instance, the suicide reference links to  Religious Tolerances’ explanation of Jim Jones’s People’s Temple. The links are so in-depth that you can get lost in each one.

I just “wasted” a couple of hours just following the marvelous links on the one page, when I wandered down to the bottom to click on her index. My eyes popped out of my head! The Billy Joel song lyrics page was just the tip of the iceberg. The vast amount of history found in her pages is so comprehensive, so astounding, I’m drooling.
I read somewhere that colleges are having trouble with students using Wikipedia as a resource for their assignments. The problem with Wikipedia is its often incorrect, as the information is entered by volunteers. You don’t have to worry about the validity of Ms. Oz’s research. I also like that she tells students how to reference her website in their papers.
Its easy to see that this educator has such a passion for her calling that it would be so cool to be her student. But don’t take this history lover’s word for it. She has received kudos from The History Channel, librarians, historians, grad students, and most importantly other teachers.
This website not only covers the 20th Century History of the US, but Ancient History, Military History, World History, Religious History, Art History, Biographies, etc. etc.
Educators and parents will especially appreciate that she has dedicated one page just for them encompassing education, lesson plans, study skills, teaching links, and all links relating to education.
If that wasn’t cool enough, she even has some “fun” topics, like the history of food.
Come on already! Go visit her site! Teacher Oz’s Kingdom of History

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There is Something Very Wrong With This

Seriously? What happened to respecting our Commander-in-Chief. OMG.

How to Save the News

How to Save the News – Magazine – The Atlantic


Self-Deprecating Advertising? Really?

Advertising sure has come a long way since I went to school. Recently, my husband and I were snickering ourselves silly when we saw a television ad in which the announcer actually said “Call 333-3333* and We’ll Pick Up the Phone.” In 2002, TrendSpotter reported an upswing in Self-Deprecating Advertising. A water bottle company issues an undesigned, plain bottle with only the words “Another Bloody Bottle of Water.” A handbag designer gets a lot of buzz when they portray their product as barf bags.
But, I wonder if Microsoft Windows Phone 7 $500 million dollar advertising blitz really knows the message their sending. PC World interprets the point of the ad as the phone that will “save us from our phones” and will get users “in and out and back to life.”

Sure, their marketers might have you believe that there’s a “HUGE” problem with self-involved Android, BlackBerry, and iPhone users who have dropped out of life. But will these users actually consider buying a phone who’s advertising message is “Hey, the Windows Phone 7 is so boring you won’t be distracted?”
I mean, Really?

*not the actual phone number

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Enhance your blog with Zemanta

ZemantaImage via WikipediaI’ve been kind of busy lately, but an article by TechCrunch, a news feed I follow on Google Buzz, prompted me to write.
In Find Photos For Your Blog In Three Easy Steps, TechCrunch reported a new startup to help bloggers find art for their columns. The site is called Wylio. What it does is search for photos across the web to add photos to your blog.  Lets face it, the world of blogging would be so much more drab if there weren’t some kind of graphic to break up the text. My interest was piqued so I checked it out and have to admit that it looks promising. And then I remembered I already had Zemanta installed. Zemanta does what Wylio does and more. The drawback with Wylio is you have to go to its site and enter a specific keyword, then copy the result and paste it into your blog. Zemanta, however, works right beside you as you are typing your blog. As you type it will suggest meta-data, media, related articles, etc.
Zemanta is an extension for browsers (it supports Firefox, Google Chrome, and Internet Explorer). It also has plugins for Joomla, Drupal and WordPress. In other words, its got you covered.
I must confess that I had forgotten all about Zemanta’s benefits–having turned off what I had deemed unnecessary add-ons a while back to speed up my surfing when things were getting too slow for comfort. But I went a little crazy and turned off practically everything.  After reading the article, I turned Zemanta back on to take another look. I fell in love with it all over again.
Being an artist, I like to create my own artwork, but sometimes I just don’t feel like firing up Freehand (or Illustrator, or Photoshop). Sometime’s I just want to write. So, I don’t always use the photo feature. The photo on the right was pulled up by Zemanta. The art was among 400 pictures that Zemanta found that coordinated with some keyword in this blog entry. It also found around 24 related articles, from RSS links ranging in dates from 1 day ago to 1 year ago.  (Only one was 1 year ago. Most links were within the last 3 months.) Another benefit of Zemanta is that you can take it or leave it. You don’t have to use any of their suggestions, but its always handy to have while you are writing.
If you’re a blogger, check it out. It might be just what you’re looking for.