Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Take A Flying Leap!

Today is February 29, aka Leap Day.  The quadrennial event that adds a day to our shortest month, perhaps to make it feel like a REAL month?

But really, why do we need Leap Days/Leap Years?

Leap Years are needed as an adjustment to keep us in sync with our (meaning the Earth) traveling around the sun. It takes approximately 365.242199 days (a tropical year) for good ol' Earth to circle around the Sun once. If we didn't add a year once every quadrennium (okay, I think I made that word up!), eventually our summers would be covered with snow and icy and we wouldn't need to head south for a warmer winter!

The Gregorian calendar has 365 days in a year, so if we didn't add a February 29 nearly every 4 years, we would lose almost six hours off our calendar every year. After 100 years, our calendar would be off by 24 days!

Did you know that Leap Year is NOT automatic?

Some guy named Greg Orian* set up three criterion must be met to be a leap year:
  1. The year is evenly divisible by 4;
  2. If the year can be evenly divided by 100, it is NOT a leap year, unless;
  3. The year is also evenly divisible by 400. Then it is a leap year.
This means that 2000 and 2400 are leap years, while 1800, 1900, 2100, 2200, 2300 and 2500 are NOT leap years.

The year 2000 was special as it was the first instance when the third criterion was used in most parts of the world since transitioning from the Julian to the Gregorian Calendar.

Leap Day has some fun traditions and odd events.

One of the more famous is that women can propose marriage to men. In some places, Leap Day has been known as “Bachelors’ Day” for the same reason. A man was expected to pay a penalty, such as a gown or money, if he refused a marriage proposal from a woman on Leap Day. During the middle ages there were laws governing this tradition.

In Scotland, it was considered unlucky to be born on Leap Day, just like Friday 13th is considered an unlucky day by many. In Greece it’s said to be unlucky for couples to marry during a Leap Year, and especially on Leap Day.

People born on February 29 are all invited to join The Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies. Members are known as Leapers!

According to the Guinness Book of Records, one family holds the records for both producing three consecutive generations born on February 29 and of the number of children born on February 29 in the same family.

*Do I need to explain the Greg Orian reference?  Gregorian.  'nuff said!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

TUESDAY TALLY: 60s Television

I'm showing my age when I talk about growing up in a house with one black and white tv.  No remote controls, no recording devices. I don't remember the make, maybe an RCA, but I do remember it had three knobs: one for channel 2-13 (the VHF channels) and another for 14 up (the UHF channels), and the volume. That's all there was three channels, three knobs, black and white... and we were happy to have it.

Where I grew up, we had THREE channels: 5, 12 and 25; at that time they were the NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates. At some point channel 19 was added, broadcasting PBS programing from a Saginaw area college campus.

I was thinking about the old shows the other day and started making a list.  I even did a little research.  It was fun to check out the list and say, "oh yeah," "yup, I remember that one," "oh that was good."

Of course my list could be longer, but here's a list of shows I remember watching during the 60s:

Adam 12, Addams Family, Andy Griffith Show, Batman, The Beverly Hillbillies, Bewitched, The Big Valley, The Brady Bunch, Carol Burnett Show, Courtship Of Eddie's Father, Dick Van Dyke Show, F Troop, The F.B.I., Family Affair, The Flying Nun, Get Smart, Gomer Pyle USMC, Green Acres, Hazel, Hogan's Heroes, I Dream of Jeannie, Ironside, It Takes A Thief, The Jetsons, Julia, Land of the Giants, Love American Style, Mayberry R.F.D., The Mod Squad, The Monkees, The Munsters, My Three Sons, Petticoat Junction, Room 222, Rowan/Martin's Laugh-In, Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Star Trek, That Girl, Wild Wild West.

Obviously these shows were not on for the entire 10 years of the 60s.  But I do remember watching these shows on a fairly regular basis. They were decent-quality shows worth watching!

Three channels on a black and white TV, and so many memories!

TV Trivia: Petticoat Junction, The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres were 60s TV shows that were interrelated in location (Hooterville) and some characters (Sam Drucker).  Gomer Pyle was an occasion character on the Andy Griffith Show and on Gomer Pyle USMC.

    Monday, February 27, 2012

    Les Miserables: The 2012 (Musical) Movie Preview

    Prisoner 24601, Jean Valjean, is released from prison and breaks parole to create a new life for himself while evading the grip of the persistent Inspector Javert. Set in early 19th-century France, the story reaches resolution against the background of the July Revolution of 1832. An adaptation of the successful stage musical based on Victor Hugo's classic novel. Stars: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway.

    Anyone who knows me, knows I LOVE Les Miserables.  Les Mis as they say in the theater world.

    Les Mis is one of the longest running stage productions in history and will, sometimes in 2012, be a musical movie.

    Hollywood did this a few years ago with Phantom of the Opera.  That show was wonderful and I expect nothing less of this production.

    Hugh Jackman will star as Jean Valjean, the lead character. Russel Crowe will portray Inspector Jevert and Anne Hathaway will play the female lead as Fontine.

    I'll be interested (and praying) that the entire show is performed in song, as in the stage play.  Added prayers for the A-list actors that they have the voice for the show.

    Other notable actors in this show include: Amanda Seyfried as Cosette, Sacha Baron Cohen (aka Borat) as Monsieur Thénardier, and Samantha Barks as Éponine.

    A minor role of Bishop of Digne will be played by Colm Wilkinson, who played Jean Valjean on stage for year.  I was fortunate enough to see him in the role more than once.  I also saw him as the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera in Toronto.

    I look forward to the premier of this musical movie!

    Sunday, February 26, 2012

    Memories for Generations

    Childhood memories are some of the best memories we hold in our mind. The pureness of a child's viewpoint coupled with our adulthood desire to hold onto our youth make those scenes in our head very vivid. They become more special when they're shared by other family members. It adds validity and detail along with smiles when with one another.

    I share one of those special family memories with my dad, brothers and nieces and nephews. From time to time it comes up in conversation that reminds us of all the good times.

    I can trigger this memory for my family, with three little words: soft boiled eggs.

    A Sunday morning breakfast of soft boiled eggs with buttered toast was commonplace in the Esch home.

    Even now, I can close my eyes and see my dad -- the Sunday-morning egg-maker -- carefully placing eggs in a battered Revere Ware pan, covering them with water, and placing it on the burner to bring the water to a boil.

    While waiting for the bubbles of water to rise in the pan, he'd drop bread into the toaster until it was a golden-brown. Once buttered, he would then cut the toast into five or six strips, which were place in the bowl of our bright yellow boiled-egg breakfast bowls.

    Once the bubbles of the boiling water started, dad would turn over the egg-timer and let the sand inside flow... breakfast was just three minutes away!

    As last grains of sand slipped through the timer, the eggs were removed from the water, placing them in eggcups on our little bowls. When we were kids, he would tap tap tap on the shell to crack it for us, then run the knife through to pull of the end.

    And there would be a bright yellow yoke, runny and gooey and ready for a sprinkle of salt and pepper followed by a toothpick to stir it up.

    After saying a blessing, we'd take our little strips of toast and dunk into the egg. A delicious start to the day.

    All those years ago we didn't realize that soft boiled eggs would be a memory shared by generations.

    Saturday, February 25, 2012

    Movie Critique: The Wizard of Oz

    Dorothy Gale is swept away to a magical land in a tornado and embarks on a quest to see the Wizard who can help her return home.

    In this charming film based on the popular L. Frank Baum stories, Dorothy and her dog Toto are caught in a tornado's path and somehow end up in the land of Oz. Here she meets some memorable friends and foes in her journey to meet the Wizard of Oz who everyone says can help her return home and possibly grant her new friends their goals of a brain, heart and courage.

    Stars: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Burt Lahr, Margaret Hamilton.

    Do you really think I would review The Wizard of Oz?

    In my book, it's a Five Bucket Movie.. One of the classics.

    Premiering in 1939, The Wizard of Oz was an annual favorite of my youth, showing on CBS often around the Christmas holiday season.

    There's something totally different about the movie when you see it on the Big Screen. Fortunately I was able to do just that on Tuesday, February 14, at the Bad Axe Theater, Bad Axe, Michigan.

    It was an amazing experience.  The lights dimmed and the movie rolled.  No previews, no cartoon, right to the movie. Just the roar of the Metro-Goldwin-Mayer lion and the opening credits.

    I've seen this show so many times I know most of the dialog and all of the songs!

    What I didn't expect were the things I would see on the big screen:
    • a small "crate" with the name Toto on the floor of Dorothy's bedroom as she sits crying after Miss Gulch takes her beloved dog away.
    • the amazingly-poor bald-head make up on the Lollipop Guild munchkins,
    • how you can see the Wicked Witch of the West drop into the stage as she departs from Munchkin land.
    • the string on the Cowardly-Lion's tail that rises up to a puppeteer above.
    • the teardrops on Dorothy's face as repeats, "There's no place like home, There's no place like home."
    Of course some of the theatrical magic was lame! The Wizard of Oz was produced in 1939.  The use of sepia-tone for the scenes from Kansas while using vivid color film for scenes in Oz were cutting edge ideas.

    I'm certainly not complaining about any of it.

    The Wizard of Oz is, and always will be, a beloved classic movie to me.

    Wizard of Oz Trivia:
    The Tin Man role was originally was going to Buddy Ebsen, but due to allergic reaction from the aluminum powder makeup, Ebsen was taken out of the casting and Haley replaced him.

    There was originally a scene where the Witch sends a pink and blue bug (known as the "Jitterbug") into the haunted forest "to take the fight out of "Dorothy and her friends." When the Jitterbug bit one of the characters, he/she would start dancing helplessly. This is perhaps the most famous deleted scene of them all, but the actual footage no longer exists. All there is left of the Jitterbug scene is home movies that the composer, Harold Arlen, filmed during rehearsals, and the sound track of the song.

    Behind the scenes, deleted scenes. (10 minutes)

    Friday, February 24, 2012

    It's So Trivial

    I think you would agree that people can learn a lot just by listening.  You may not learn anything overly important or even really worth knowing, but you've gained knowledge.

    In the evenings after dinner, especially during the winter months when it's often cold and certainly dark outside, I find myself near the TV tuned to Jeopardy. You the show where they give you the answer and you need to come up with the question.

    Sometimes, while not really paying attention, I'll find myself turning to the TV and saying, "I didn't know that," about a clue and correct response.

    All that silly information comes in handy from time to time. Like this past Christmas when my family played a board game called Logo. I loved it because the game is about a topic I (somehow seem to) know a lot about: useless details about product creation, marketing and advertising.

    It's useless because having that knowledge hasn't advanced my life and may have cause my nieces and nephews to never play the game with me again.

    It's fun to learn something that makes you go, "Hmmm.  Really?  I didn't know that."  Therefore, for your trivia bank, I'll share these 10 things I don't really need to know, but I know anyway:
    1. Only one McDonald’s in the world has turquoise arches. Officials in Sedona, Arizona, thought yellow would clash with the natural red rock.
    2. Joyce Hall, who made millions developing the Hallmark greeting card brand name, was a man.
    3. The Statue of Liberty is located on Liberty Island which was called Bedloe's Island before the statue arrived.
    4. The first nation to issue adhesive postage stamps was the United Kingdom.
    5. Denmark celebrates the U.S. Independence Day/Forth of July.
    6. Jimmy Carter was the first President to be born in a hospital.
    7.  USA PATRIOT Act is an acronym that stands for “Uniting & Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept & Obstruct Terrorism.”
    8. Of all the words in the English language, the word 'set' has the most definitions! (You'll have to trust me on this one, unless you plan counting the definitions of all the words in a dictionary.)
    9. Graffito is the singular for graffiti.
    10. Celery has negative calories! It takes more calories to digest a piece of celery than the celery has in it to begin with.
    There you have it:  Ten pieces of fairy useless information you probably never really needed to know, but now you do!

    Thursday, February 23, 2012

    Two bells... am I well?

    Oy Vey! I can't begin to count the number of times I've awakened from sleep, opened my eyes feeling oh so refreshed, only to look at the clock and see that's it's just 2:00 am.  I may have only been asleep for two or three hours, but I feel totally refreshed and ready to start the day.

    So what do I do? Usually toss and turn and try to get back to sleep.  Often I can, for at least a couple more hours.

    Insomnia, by definition, is trouble falling asleep or staying asleep through the night. It  may come and go (episodic), last up to 3 weeks (short-term), or be long-lasting (chronic).

    Yeah, that's about right.  Except the definition doesn't say that you may feel totally rested.

    Am I just one of those people who needs less sleep than others?

    I'd like to think that's the case.

    I have, for years, been able to function on just a few hours of sleep each night for at least a couple weeks.  Then I sort of "hit the wall" and see about 24 hours of just napping and doing nothing to get back in sync.

    Science has learned that the sleep habits we learned as children may affect our sleep behaviors as adults. When we repeat these behaviors over many years, they become habits.

    Poor sleep or lifestyle habits that may cause insomnia or make it worse. Going to bed at different times each night and not getting enough exercise are really the only lifestyle habits I possess. I rarely nap during the day, my bedroom is dark and quiet with white noise, I don't lay in bed when I'm awake.

    I also limit my caffeine intake and generally don't take medications, so they're not a factor either.

    I did, for about eight years, take Ambien to help me sleep.  It's a prescription medication designed to help you stay asleep.  Unfortunately when you do wake up, you may not know it.

    I believe it was created by Satan himself.  It took me about a year to wean myself from the dependency I had on it.


    I know I'm not alone in my sleeplessness.  In my pre-internet days, my mother and I used to joke that we needed a way to let the other know we were awake at night so we could play cards.

    Honestly, stress plays a major roll in my sleep patterns.  When I'm stressed out, I'm exhausted when I'm awake and not tired when I'm trying to sleep.

    Thankfully I've been taught how to control the stress and get back to sleep.

    For now, I'll just keep riding the insomniac train and try to enjoy the trip.

    Wednesday, February 22, 2012

    Movie Critique: Safe House

    Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds ) is a CIA rookie who is manning a safe house in Cape Town, South Africa, when Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) the CIA's most wanted rogue agent is captured and taken to the safe house. During Frost's interrogation, the safe house is overtaken by mercenaries who want Frost. Weston and Frost escape and must stay out of the gunmen's sight until they can get to another safe house. Stars:Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds and Robert Patrick.

    It's always a good sign when CIA-operative-gone-bad movie when you don't know who to trust until the end. And Safe House certainly sticks to that movie formula. 

    Filled with some twists that might bring you to the edge of your seat, the movie keeps you wondering what's on the super-sercret file that everyone seems to want and is willing to kill to get their hands on it.

    I'm a fan of both Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds as actors and find them both perfect in their roles. And there's a romantic element to the storyline, but irrelevant to the show and, sadly, left open-ended when the movie ends.

    Gun fights and car chases/crashes from some holes in the plot and about the time you start getting bored, crazed gunmen burst into the scene and suck you right back into the action.

    It's a go-see, especially for the action/suspense movie lovers.

    Screened on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012 at Bay City 8, Bay City, MI

    Tuesday, February 21, 2012

    TUESDAY TALLY: People I'd Like To Meet

    In our lives, we all have people that we would like to meet. There may not be a reason, but you'd like to meet them, speak with them and, perhaps, get to know a more personal side of them.

    He's my list, people dead or alive:
    1. Ronald Reagan. By far, the greatest President of my lifetime. I would dare to say the greatest President in the history of the county.
    2. Pope John Paul II. He was much younger than popes of recent history and, was the first from Poland.  His 'youth' allowed him to travel more than other modern-day pontiffs and his charasmatic personality drew people of all faiths to him. He was an amazing spiritual leader of the world.
    3. The Queen Mum. I'm talking Queen Elizabeth II's mother.  she just seemed pretty dang cool.
    4. Mother Teresa. Can you imagine if you could just live with her for a year?  A month?  Even just a week?  Wouldn't your life be totally blessed?
    5. Rudy Giuliani. His leadership during the days that followed 9-11 were outstanding.  I have been fortunate to hear here speak in person. I'd vote for him for President.
    6. Walt Disney. His vision and determination are rare. When he failed (and he did) he started over, learning from his mistakes.
    7. Barbara Bush. When she was First Lady, I used to refer to her as America's First Mom! She's homey and loveable and just seems like a mom-next-door.
    8. Howard Stern. The self-proclaimed King of All-Media (he has the number 1 radio show, had two best-seller books, starred in a top-grossing movie and now, will be a judge on America's Got Talent), is one of the most brilliant men in America today.  If you base your opinion of Howard Stern on what you've read or on his outrageous radio show, you just don't know Howard Stern.

    Monday, February 20, 2012

    Friendship 7

    Friendship 7 being launched
    February 20, 1962
    Not long after taking office in 1961, President Kennedy challenged us -- yes, all of America -- to send men to the Moon by the end of the decade.

    The Russians were far ahead of us, sending first a dog, then a man (Yuri Gagarin) into space.

    The U.S. had only managed two short 15 minutes suborbital flights.

    Then, 50 years ago today, a young Marine Corps fighter pilot from Cambridge, Ohio, crawled into the tiny, cramped Mercury spacecraft dubbed Friendship 7. Transported into space atop an Atlas rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., Glenn circled the Earth three times, becoming the first American to orbit the planet.

    That spaceflight, lasting a mere 4 hours, 55 minutes and 23 seconds drew America together with a common goal.

    He was hero to everyone.  He was the beginning our love for adventure beyond Earth's atmosphere.

    I always had a love for the space program. I'm not really old enough to remember the Mercury flights, but my eyes were always glued to the TV for nearly every Apollo flight.  I was sick with worry when Apollo 13 encountered a problems during their mission and there was a distinct possibility the crew might now return safely.

    When the Apollo program ended, I continued to follow the NASA programs.  Sadly, launching spacecrafts became routine and many of the news outlets didn't bother to interrupt their regular programming.

    It was only after the first Shuttle disaster that we started paying attention again.

    While John Glenn wasn't the only American Space Hero, he will remembered as the man who united us in a race for space.

    Godspeed John Glenn!

    Sunday, February 19, 2012

    Once In A Lifetime

    If you're lucky, sometime in your life you'll get to enjoy a "once in a lifetime" event. You know, one of those things that you just know will never, in all likelihood, happen again.  Something that you'll tell your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

    I think my nephew Chad would say he's had a once in a lifetime experience.

    Chad lives with his wife, daughter and son in Alpena.  He owns a business there and is active in the community. His son plays hockey.

    As luck would have it:
    • The Detroit Red Wings Alumni Association was playing a benefit game in Alpena last night (Saturday, February 18, 2012). 
    • And Chad's Uncle Joe Maust is a Red Wings Fan.
    • And Uncle Joe flies his own airplane.
    • And for some reason, unknown to me, THE Stanley Cup was at the benefit game and needed to get to Philadelphia.
    • And Joe was asked to fly it from Alpena to Philadelphia.
    • And, since Joe had to fly into Alpena, he needed a ride to the benefit game, and he and the cup (and it's guardian) needed a ride back to the airport.
    •  And Chad, living in Alpena, and having large vehicles... 
    You know what the once in a lifetime event is, right?

    I guess these pictures are worth a thousands words!
    Chad in his office with the Stanley Cup on his desk.

    The Esch family with the Stanley Cup.
    From left, Morgan, Chad, Mike the cup handler, Nicholas, Sharon.

    "Uncle Joe" Maust (left) with the cup and
    Mike, the cup's official handler.

    Saturday, February 18, 2012

    Movie Critique: Star Wars Episode 1 - Phantom Menace 3D

    Two Jedi Knights uncover a wider conflict when they are sent as emissaries to the blockaded planet Naboo. Stars: Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson and Natalie Portman 

    This installment of Star Wars isn't new.  It was originally released in 1999. But like some much of Hollywood today, if you can enhance and rerelease, you're good to go.

    This time around, it's shown in 3D.

    Sadly, the 3D glasses didn't help.  I don't think the technology is there to take an old master and create the amazing 3D effects like the movies that are originally produced with 3D in mind.

    I think it would have been more fun to see the original Star Wars from the late 70s with the 3D technology.  Perhaps George Lucas thinks the original Star Wars trilogy is no longer relevant.

    Don't get my wrong, I still liked the show, but it wasn't an improvement.  If you enjoy the Star Wars movie franchise, you'll want to see this show.  But if you're just curious about seeing a Star Wars movie in 3D, you may want to save your money.

    FOUR POPCORN BUCKETS (0 to 5 Rating)
    Screened on Saturday, February 11, 2012 at Saginaw 12, Saginaw, MI

    Friday, February 17, 2012

    Deliciously Different

    Deliciously Different... that's the 1921 marketing slogan used by James Vernor for his ginger ale.  Talk about truth in advertising!

    If you grew up in Michigan, you probably asked for Vernors rather than just a plain ol' ginger ale.  You really didn't want another ginger ale. Is there another ginger ale?

    Woody the Vernor's Gnome featured on the Vernor's sign.
    According to legend, prior to the American Civil War, James Vernor, a drugstore clerk in Detroit, attempted to duplicate a popular ginger ale imported from Dublin, Ireland. When Vernor was called off to war, he stored the syrup base in an oak cask. After returning from battle four years later, he opened the keg and found the drink had changed by the aging process in the wood. He had never tasted anything like it and declared it "Deliciously different."

    Great story huh? Well, it's just that... a story. In a 1936, Vernor's son suggested that the formula was not developed until after the war. This was confirmed in a 1962 interview with a former company president.

    A few true facts: Vernors is the oldest surviving ginger ale sold in the United States; until the late 1980s, Vernors was a regional product (Vernor sold franchises throughout Michigan and in major regional cities such as Toledo, Cleveland and Buffalo).

    Even as a national brand, Michigan accounts for 80% of Vernors sales. Michigan, Ohio and Illinois are the highest-selling states. It is also popular in Florida, which has large numbers of retired or relocated former Michigan residents. Vernors is a Michigan thing!

    For years, the Vernors headquarters on Woodward Avenue in Detroit offering tours which ended in a soda shop where Boson Coolers* were a specialty.  I recall my mother talking about visiting her sister in Detroit and going to the Vernor's plant.

    I've looked at other ginger ales, but Vernors is my only choice.

    Somewhere through the years, Vernor's became Vernors.

    (*Boston Cooler: Vanilla ice cream blended with Vernors Ginger Ale)

    Thursday, February 16, 2012

    This Blog Nearly Ended!

    This week has sorta sucked.  I'm sure it's in my head but something seems to be brewing and it isn't calming like my favorite Oolong tea.

    I'm dealing with things a minute at a time and going from there.  That's all I can do, right?

    So today I get a text from a friend and when I try to reply, I get a message that my phone has no more memory.

    What the heck?

    Google's Picasa Logo
    I get looking and I see that ALL the photos I've posted to my blog is in an album ON my phone.  But it gets worse... along with those photos are four copies each of various blog profile photos AND repeated copies of the BNB banner that appears at the top of this blog.

    What the HECK?

    A Google search turns up a lot of "Why are my Picasa photos showing up on my Android phone AND why can't I delete them??

    Seriously? I can't delete them?


    For those of you wondering, Picasa is a photo filing site for Google/gmail customers.  Since my Android phone AND this blog, are tied to a gmail account, Google thought it would be nice to share automatically story my blog photos to Picasa.  In turn, Piscasa thought it would be nice to share the photos with my Android phone.

    WHO THE HECK came up with those brilliant ideas?  Defauting those options are just annoying.

    Reading Android and Picasa forums I found plenty of comments about deleting the Picasa albums.  But that would mean all my blog posts wouldn't have photos any longer.  There were also comments about deleting blogger blogs to resolve the issue.

    I was getting more P.O.'ed by the second.  Deleting the blog was looking better all the time.

    There had to be another option.  And there was: Unsync the Picasa account with the gmail account on my phone.

    POOF!  Blog deletion averted!

    Wednesday, February 15, 2012

    Sweet Overdose

    I had a wonderful Valentine's surprise treat waiting for me when I made my lunchtime stop at the Scheurer Ambulance garage yesterday. A red and white bag containing a plastic bowl, with a delicious looking treat that made my teeth hurt at first glance.
    As much as I'd like to be the Zwieback Pie scene
    at the Esch House, it was swiped off another website.

    My longtime friend Julie Quick, as nurse in the hospital's surgical unit, brought me a taste of Zwieback Pie she had made from scratch, probably like her grandmother did during Julie's childhood.

    I think the gift was prompted by my "Samples Welcome!" comment to Julie's Facebook post around the Christmas holiday about the Zwieback Toast* and Zwieback Pie* recipes and her attempt to match grandma Wahl's bakery skills.

    Can you die from a sweet overdose?

    It just might kill someone like me: hypoglycemic and lactose-intolerant following gastric-bypass surgery. But I've learned how to enjoy these creamy and overly-sweet concoctions by eating small portions over a period of several days! I'm looking forward to this yumminess for days!

    As Julie told me, "You gotta commit to making Zwieback Pie."

    The commitment comes from the long process needed to get to the end product.

    Loaves of Zwieback Bread are kneaded and baked, then sliced and toasted in the oven. Then the Zwieback Toast is crushed (like graham crack crumbs) to make the pie crust.  One Zwieback loaf toasted and crushed is enough for two pies.

    Next comes the creamy-custardy filling: 2-1/4 cups sugar, 6 cups whole milk, 9 egg yokes... all very healthy! Of course if you use 9 egg yokes, you've got 9 egg whites as well... may as well top off this amazing treat with a nice meringue!

    Zwieback Toast crust, custard filling topped with meringue... do you teeth hurt too?

    Can you die from a sweet overdose? I don't know, but what a way to go!

    The name Zweiback comes from German zwei ("two") or zwie ("twi-"), and backen, meaning "to bake". Zwieback hence literally translates to "twice-baked." 

    *Recipe links may not be those used by Julie or Grandma Wahl.

    Tuesday, February 14, 2012

    Valentine's Day

    Today is Valentine's day... the day dedicated to love!

    For single people, it's S.A.D. (Singles Awareness Day).  Isn't that the dumbest thing you ever heard?

    When did the Valentine's Day thing start?

    The most popular dates theory on the origins of Valentine's day dates back to the time of the Roman Empire during the reign of Claudius II, 270 AD. Claudius believed single men made better soldiers and therefore didn't want men to marry during wartime. Bishop Valentine went against his wishes and performed secret wedding ceremonies.

    Valentine was jailed and later executed February 14. While in jail, he wrote a love note to the jailor's daughter signing it, "From your Valentine.

    In 1537, England's King Henry VII officially declared February 14th the holiday of St. Valentine's Day.

    Here's some Valentine's Day Fun:

    • Casanova, well known as "The World's Greatest Lover," ate chocolate to make him virile. 
    • More than 35 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold for Valentine's Day. 
    • Over $1 billion worth of chocolate is purchased for Valentine's Day in the U.S. 
    • 73% of people who buy flowers for Valentine's Day are men, while only 27 percent are women.
    • 15% of U.S. women send themselves flowers on Valentine's Day. (How sad.)
    • Red roses are considered the flower of love because the color red stands for strong romantic feelings.
    • 189 million stems of roses are sold in the U.S. on Valentine's Day. 
    • California produces 60 percent of American roses, but the greater number sold on Valentine's Day in the United States are imported, mostly from South America. 
    • Approximately 110 million roses, mostly red, will be sold and delivered within the three-day Valentine's Day time period. 
    • Approximately one billion Valentines are sent out worldwide each year according to estimates by the U.S. Greeting Card Association. That's second only to Christmas. 
    • Teachers will receive the most Valentine's Day cards, followed by children, mothers, wives, sweethearts and pets.
    • About 3% of pet owners will give Valentine's Day gifts to their pets. (How sad.)
    • In the US, 64 percent of men do not make plans in advance for a romantic Valentine's Day with their sweethearts.

    [Next week: Top 10 Tuesday will become Tuesday Tally... You try coming up with 52 lists of 10 items sometime.]

    Monday, February 13, 2012


    Did you read the heading of this blog post? It says "Bull****."  I suspect you understand that I'm masking a curse word from total view.

    Mentally when you see it, you know what word I'm referencing, but the impact isn't quite as harsh.

    Now I'm far from a prude... and I've been know to use a few choice words now and then.  I also have some standards when it comes to the printed word.

    Imagine my surprise when I pick up a newspaper (that I never pick up) and read a story beneath a headline that catches my eye. The story was about a recent court case and sentencing of the defendant.

    Apparently the family wasn't happy with the sentence as one of the exclaimed [quote]: "We’ll appeal. Bullshit,” a family member exclaimed bitterly as he left the courtroom. [end quote]

    Really?  You had to print that word in the newspaper.  Did it add that much to the overall story?

    I decided to ask the writer/editor that very question.  Here's the exchange:

    Dear Ms. Jerome,

    Was it really necessary to print the word "bullshit" in the Krohn avoids jail time story on the FRONT PAGE of The View?
      Did it add to the quote?  Would you have printed the "F" word if he had said, "This F***ing stinks"?  Finally, may I ask where you got your journalism education?  I know my journalism professor is rolling in his grave. Please review the standards of your publication in the future.

    Thank you.

    Bill Esch

    Pigeon, MI
     It took her a few days to get back with me, but here is her reply:

    Dear Mr. Esch:

    I'm sorry that you feel the choice to use that phrase was inappropriate. Before the article was published, I discussed the use of the word with my publisher. We both felt it contributed to the story because it expressed the frustration and anger felt by the Halek family. I knew I risked offending some people, but my job is to report what happens in the real world. That's what my journalism professors taught me to do. Ideally, people wouldn't disrespect the court by swearing at the judge, but it happened and I felt it should be reported.


    Kelly Taylor-Jerome
    News/Sports Editor
    Huron County VIEW
    I commend her desire to defend her decision.  I would do the same thing. It's not a good idea to admit your lapse in judgement when you're a journalist.  Better change course on a go forward basis.

    Now I have a question: Where the standards of good journalism gone?

    My guess is that the world of sensationalism and tabloid-rag writing (eg: National Enquirer) are the norm.  We don't want the news, we want to be entertained and read the dirt.

    And it all makes me very sad.

    Sunday, February 12, 2012

    The Greatest Love Of All...

    Yesterday another great voice was silenced with the death of singer, songwriter and actress Whitney Houston.  She was found dead during the mid-afternoon (PT) Saturday at a Beverly Hills, California, hotel. She was 48.

    Because the greatest love of all
    Is happening to me
    I found the greatest love of all
    Inside of me 

    The greatest love of all
    Is easy to achieve
    Learning to love yourself
    It is the greatest love of all

    While I wasn't a particularly huge "Whitney" fan, her voice was nearly unrivaled and unmatched. I'm saddened at the thought of what creative masterpiece we'll never hear from her.

    It was commonly known that she found demons of drugs and alcohol addiction for many years.

    The demons seem to look for the most talented and destroy them quickly. Judy, Michael, Karen and now Whitney, to name a few, left us far too soon.

    Hopefully, she's found the piece she most assuredly lacked in her life on earth.

    Video: The Greatest Love Of All

    Saturday, February 11, 2012

    What's Cookin? Twix Bars!

    One of the guy's at work brought these bars in for us to enjoy.  His wife is a great cook and we're fortunate to get his left overs!

    Twix Bar Fake-Out

    1/2 cup butter
    1/4 cup white sugar
    1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    3/4 cup butter
    3/8 cup white sugar
    3 tbsp light corn syrup
    1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
    1 cup milk chocolate chips

    Beat butter and 1/4 cup sugar in mixer until pale in color. Add flour to form a crumbly dough similar to pie crust. Press dough into an 8 inch square baking pan that has been greased and lined with parchment paper. Bake shortbread base at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on the edges. Leave in pan, cool in fridge.

    To make caramel layer, bring to boil: 3/4 cup butter, 3/8 cup sugar, syrup, and sweetened condensed milk in a saucepan. Stir constantly once boiling for 7 minutes. Caramel mixture will thicken and become pale in color. Spread caramel on COOLED shortbread base. Let caramel layer cool for 30 minutes in the fridge and then an additional one to two hours in the freezer to get the caramel layer stone hard.

    To make the chocolate layer, melt chocolate chips over low heat. Spread melted chocolate directly onto cooled caramel layer. Let cool for hour and then stuff your face!!

    Friday, February 10, 2012

    Movie Critique: Red Tails

    Red Tails is based on real events of a crew of African American pilots in the Tuskegee training program, faced segregation while kept mostly on the ground during World War II, and are called into duty under the guidance of Col. A.J. Bullard. Staring:Cuba Gooding Jr., Gerald McRaney and David Oyelowo.

    After a bit of a slow start, Red Tails tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen who became a part of American history when "Negros" were not thought to be smart enough to sweep the floor, let alone fly airplanes and perform military air manuvers. 
    Action on the ground is lame, as is the overall script, but the historical value of the movie (which scratches the surface of the overall Tuskegee program) makes it worth seeing -- even if it's only on your TV off a DVD.

    Screened Thursday, February 2, 2012 at Bay City 8, Bay City, MI

    Thursday, February 9, 2012

    Good Bye Bud

    Today we'll say our goodbyes to one of Pigeon's last great cheerleaders.

    Bud Schaaf died during the early afternoon on Saturday, February 4th, at his home with family by his side. He was recently diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer which claimed his life.

    I've known Bud (his given name was Sheril) and his wife Virginia all my life.  Their son Bob was a school classmate. But I think I got to know Bud because of his love for the community he lived in.

    Whenever you saw Bud, he always had a story to tell or a joke to share. He was just fun to be around. He invested time in the people of Pigeon to make it a great life in a small town.

    You never really knew what he was going to come up with.  Stories of the war -- he served during the Korean War, or maybe some crazy trick he had been part of playing on a friend.

    He was a part of Pigeon! After returning from the war, he and his brother Ollie, owned Pigeon Tile Works; he worked at the Pigeon Co-op Elevator and he and his wife owned and operated Schaaf Hardware for four years.

     For 30 years he was Pigeon's Santa Claus with his real-life wife as Mrs. Claus. He was tireless when it came time to sell Farmers' Festival buttons and he served as the Farmers' Festival Sheriff. He would "arrest" anyone who wasn't wearing a Festival button and present the "traitor" to Judge Roy "Hang 'Em High" Lawrence.

    It was all in fun and Bud was perfect for the job.

    During the warm summer evenings, you would often see Bud and Virginia sitting on the swing in their yard, waving to people driving past while visiting with friends and neighbors to stopped to say hello.

    I stopped by the funeral home last evening and visited with Virginia, their daughter Sue and other family members.  The casket spray included tomatoes, cucumbers and what looks like leaf lettuce.  Bud was a gardener and the flowers adorning his casket were a fitting tribute.  Other arrangement included Santas and Santa hats.  Bud would have loved that.

    Today Pigeon has one less cheerleader.

    We're all lucky he was cheering for our team!

    Wednesday, February 8, 2012

    I get a little crazy

    Sometimes I get crazy in the head when I watch or read the news.

    Very little puts me over the top quick than all the reports of abuse of children in one way or another.

    This week, nutjob Josh Powell blew up his house after his two sons arrived for a supervised visit.  His wife disappeared a couple years ago.  I think it's safe to assume he killed her.

    If killing his kids wasn't enough, we now know that both the boys' bodies had "chop" injuries as well.  There as a hatchet found at the scene. I pray the kids didn't know what happened to them.

    This afternoon the local news is covering the investigate of the totally-unfit 21-year-old Sanilac County (Michigan) mother who was videotaped forcing food into the mouth of  her then two year old son.

    The video, which was posted to YouTube, is one of the more disturbing scenes I've endured.  I nearly vomited.

    Must further away, in Los Angles, an elementary school has replaced the ENTIRE teaching staff, after a second instructor was charged with lewd acts.

    Lewd is the word CNN used in their report.  I can't even think of a word that is appropriate for what was going on there.

    For weeks we've been hearing about Jerry Sandusky and how other adults KNEW what was going on and did nothing.

    What the hell is going on?

    Is it any wonder I get a little crazy sometimes?

    Tuesday, February 7, 2012

    TOP 10 TUESDAY: Cartoons

    Cartoons today are nothing like that when I was a kid. Maybe I've outgrown the silliness or perhaps cartoons from 40+ years ago were just better.

    I know that some of my favorites were Warner Bros. Looney Tunes characters who have since gone onto make appearances in television shows, films and advertisements.

    The name Looney Tunes is a variation on Silly Symphonies, the name of Walt Disney's series of music-based cartoon shorts. From 1942 until 1969, Looney Tunes was the most popular short cartoon series in theaters, exceeding Disney and other competitors.

    So here are my Top 10 Cartoon picks:
    1. Bugs Bunny
    2. Road Runner
    3. Rocky & Bullwinkle
    4. Jetsons
    5. Pink Panther
    6. Flintstones
    7. Underdog
    8. Tweety and Sylvester
    9. Tom & Jerry
    10. Yogi Bear

    Monday, February 6, 2012

    FEB 6, QE II Diamond Jubilee

    I've always been fascinated with the English monarchy. So I would be remiss if I didn't mention that sixty years ago today, upon the death of her father, King George VI, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary became Queen Elizabeth II.

    Commonly called the Queen of England, she is actually the constitutional monarch of 16 out of 54 sovereign states within the Commonwealth of Nations, and the Head of the Commonwealth. As the British monarch, she is also the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

    She wasn't born to be Queen.

    Her father was the second son of King George V. The firstborn was her uncle Edward. He ascended the throne as King Edward VIII upon the death of George V in 1936. However, less than a year later, Edward revealed his desire to marry the divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson.

    For political and religious reasons, he could not marry Mrs Simpson and remain king. Edward abdicated in order to marry, and Elizabeth’s father, becoming George VI, ascended the throne as the third monarch of the House of Windsor.

    During 1951, King George VI's health declined and Elizabeth (who had married Prince Phillip in 1947) was frequently standing in for him at public events. In October of that year, she visited President Truman in Washington, D.C.; on the trip, her private secretary, Martin Charteris, carried a draft accession declaration for use if the King died while she was on tour.

    In early 1952, Elizabeth and Philip set out for a tour of Australia and New Zealand via Kenya. On February 6 1952, just after returning to their Kenyan home, word arrived of the death of Elizabeth's father. Philip broke the news to the new queen. She was just shy of 26 years old.

    Martin Charteris asked her to choose a regnal name; she chose to remain Elizabeth, "of course". She was proclaimed queen throughout her realms, and the royal party hastily returned to the United Kingdom.

    Queen Elizabeth’s reign of 60 years is the second-longest for a British monarch; only Queen Victoria has reigned longer at nearly 64 years.

    Recent legislation in the commonwealth, which allows the firstborn child of Prince William, the future king, to ascend the throne, has brought the monarchy into more modern times.

    A celebration of her Diamond Jubilee is planned for June 2012 when London weather will be more enjoyable.

    Sunday, February 5, 2012

    Super Bowl Ad Preview

    Yeah, right here on BNB you can watch several of the ads scheduled to appear during this year's Super Bowl game.

    In no particular order, here they are, with a few BNB comments added just for the heck of it.

    Audi: Vampire Party A play on the Twilight and other vampire shows, this ad is clever in the feature it promotes.
    GE: Power and Beer Great cross promotion.
    H&M: David Beckham Wearing only his underwear, David Beckham proves that sex sells.
    Coca-Cola: The Catch  Who doesn't love the Coca Cola bears?
    Dannon Oikos Yogurt: The Tease Seeing John Stamos get head butted is worth watching this one.
    Acura: Transactions  If you're a fan of Seinfeld, this is funny.
    Kia: Drive the Dream We all dream differently.
    Honda: Ferris Bueller Reprise Matthew Broderick as we've seen him before.  Cute and Clever ad.
    Chevy Volt: Aliens This is one of two "alien" ads for the Chevy Volt.
    Downey: Stinky Another reworked ad... this time it was Mean Joe Green/Coca Cola reworked.  Fun!
    Doritos: Hot Wild Girls If you fight with your "smart" phone, you'll get a kick out of this one.
    Chevy: Happy Grad Oops!  Sorry son.

    I'm sure tomorrow morning there will be, as usual, plenty of chatter about which ad was the best.

    Enjoy the game!

    Saturday, February 4, 2012

    Movie Critique: Iron Lady

    Iron Lady is a look at the life of Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, with a focus on the price she paid for power. Starring: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent and Richard E. Grant.

    Before screening The Iron Lady, all I really knew about Margaret Thatcher was that she was England's first female Prime Minister, was one of the longest serving PMs, and was great friends with Ronald Reagan. She was elected PM around the same time as Reagan.

    While Meryl Streep's flawless performance portraying Thatcher is Ocsar-worthy (her makeup as well as her gestures and expressions were spot on), the movie is lacking in some major area -- including a decent plot.

    It starts with a haggard old woman purchasing a pint of milk at the local grocery.  It turns out to be Thatcher who has "escaped" her house and the watchful eye of her care-giver.

    Honestly, the overall story was quite uninteresting at times. The flashback scenes coupled with her delusional visions makes you wonder where you're at in the timeline.  When I have THINK about the movie I'm watching, it loses popcorn buckets (points) in my book

    I would have prefer more about her life getting into Parliament and becoming PM rather than the lame backstory after the fact. It was, however, interesting to see a more private side to this powerful woman.

    It's not the best movie I've ever seen, but would recommend seeing it.

    THREE POPCORN BUCKETS (0 to 5 Rating)
    Screened on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012 at Saginaw 12, Saginaw, MI

    Friday, February 3, 2012

    Camping Journal, Episode 1

    There's nothing like some warm spring-like days to get my mind thinking about summer camping!  It's one of my favor weekend getaways from May to September.

    Early February may be a little early for the 50 degree days we've been enjoying, but it's not too early to be planning some camp outs.

    I'm a tent camper, so I like I generally don't pitch a tent before mid- to late-May nor after the end of September.  Even with my catalytic propane tent heater, it can still get pretty dang cold when you're in a tent.

    But then, I've been sitting next to my campfire during the July 4th holiday, while wearing jeans, a sweatshirt, another jacket and gloves!

    Earlier this week I was checking out campground websites, noting opening weekends and how much they've increased their camping fees.  I love journeying into Canada or Ohio for a weekend.

    Think year I hope to check out some sites along Michigan's Ausable River, west of Oscoda.  It's totally primitive camping (no amenities!) and is not a physical campground with sites in one location.  Instead, it's a series of 102 individual campsites located along a 55-mile stretch of the Ausable River.

    Some of the sites, located within Alcona and Iosco Counties, are on the river's edge while others are 300 feet above the river.  I'll be opting for something on the river's edge.

    While I have a few months to prepare, it won't be long before I'll need to dust off the gear, account for everything and head out for a weekend.

    I can hardly wait!

    Thursday, February 2, 2012

    Groundhog Day!

    Today is the annual celebration which centers on the weather predicting abilities of a rodent named Punxsutawney Phil... it's Groundhog Day!

    Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania has been the official home of Groundhog Day since it was first celebrated on February 2, 1887.
    According to tradition, if a groundhog comes out of its hole sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather; no shadow means an early spring. Interestingly, the first day of spring is seven weeks away.

    The Groundhog Day tradition is based on the Christian tradition of Candlemas Day, when candles were blessed and distributed representing how long and cold the winter would be.

    Germans expanded on the traditional celebration by choosing an animal (the hedgehog) for predicting weather. Germans who settled in Pennsylvania continued the tradition, switching from hedgehogs to groundhogs -- which are abundant in the state.

    Groundhogs (also known as woodchucks) go into hibernation in the late fall and their body temperatures drop significantly, their heartbeats slow to five beats per minute and they can burn up 30 percent of their body fat.

    While legend/tradition states that the groundhog emerges to predict the weather, it's actually the male groundhog leaving their burrows seeking a mate!

    Punxsutawney Phil was "born" when a newspaper editor belonging to a group of groundhog hunters from Punxsutawney declared that Phil was America's only true weather-forecasting groundhog.

    I can only wonder what predictions Pigeon's famous Racoobuck could have made to put our little community in the national spotlight.

    Wednesday, February 1, 2012

    Movie Critiques

    As I write my blog posts, I find myself slipping to newspaper publishing mode.  My mind migrates to "features" that can be written ahead and posted later. Pieces that can be at least semi-regular submissions.

    Of course, committing to something even semi-regular adds to the stress of keeping things going here.

    Yesterday I launched one of those features: Top 10 Tuesday. Coming up with 52 Top 10s could be a challenge, but I already have a few topics in mind. Writing comments about each of the 10 items may be a unachievable goal, so I hope you'll to forgive me if it's just a list of Top 10 whatever.

    Another fun and easier to write feature goes hand-in-hand with my love of movies. I'm not so much for watching movies on TV via DVD or streaming off the Wii. I much prefer the "big screen experience."  You'll understand what I mean if you ever get to see a movie like The Wizard of Oz or Gone with the Wind at a movie theater.  The experience will be totally different than any movie viewing of your life.

    However, for the sake of the blog, I'll critique movies I view outside a theater as well.

    Every good movie review needs a rating system and Movie Critique is no different.

    I'll be use a zero to five "popcorn bucket" rating for each movie.  Five popcorn buckets is the best rating possible.

    Criteria for Movie Critique reviews will be simple: my personal opinion. There will be no behind the scenes rating for acting or music, cinematography or costuming.  Just my gut feeling and overview of the show.

    After all, it's my blog.

    So there you have it.  A couple new features of BNB and, more importantly, another completed blog posting! <smile>