Thursday, November 29, 2012

New York, in pieces

I spent last week in New York State for Thanksgiving, as I usually do. I didn't really do anything exciting, but it was nice to have a quiet trip where I hung out with family, read books, and played with the dogs.

Here are some random shots of the trip in chronological order:

The Old Port Ewen Bridge

When my grandfather turned the corner and started driving us across the old bridge into Port Ewen, NY, my first question was, "Are you sure this bridge is still open?"

Look at it:

the old port ewen bridge

See the rust? The peeling paint? The cracks? According to my mom, this bridge was supposed to come down when she was a teenager and the new Port Ewen bridge was constructed, but apparently they're just going to wait for it to fall down instead.


I wanted to remember to put a book that I looked at on my amazon wish list (linked here in case random people want to send me presents), but I don't have a smart phone, so I do this instead:


I have so many photos of books in bookstores.

Pickens General Store, Heuvelton, NY

Rather than braving the big box stores on Black Friday, my mom drove me into Amish country to go to Picken's General Store in nearby Heuvelton. The building is a former vaudeville hall, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places:

pickens hall

Inside, the store is on the first floor:

general store

cheese curd thursday

straw hats

cabin quilt

and the second floor is a performance venue:

venue (1)

venue (2)

with a small collection of antiques and historical objects:

antique books

It was a nice trip, and got us out of the house without taking us anywhere near the crazy rioting people.

Sad Santa

sad santa

Something about that Santa decoration seemed more bleak than festive to me.

The Globe Mall

Mom and I tried to spend part of Small Business Saturday at the Globe Mall, where there is an indoor flea market and antique mall, or, rather, where there was an indoor flea market and antique mall.

They picked Small Business Saturday to be the weekend when they closed and moved to another building to re-open next week, leaving behind only peeling paint and a collection of broken dolls:

globe mall (2)

trash collection

globe mall (1)

The Globe Mall, like a lot of Northern New York, has seen better days.

Carved Turkey

I found it momentarily amusing that my mom was carefully carving one of the solid milk chocolate turkeys that my grandparents gave us for Thanksgiving into tiny slivers:

carved turkey

It never occurred to me to slice it up. Every year I just gnaw mine, slowly and messily.

The Frosty North

It snowed the day that I was supposed to leave, enough to delay my flight out.

81 South, with snow

Everything turned out ok, though, and I had a really nice mini-vacation and trip home.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Homemade Mini Quiches

If you're like me (and, if you're not, maybe you should be?) you often end up with little nubs of cheese in your refrigerator.

lots of cheese

Sometimes those lumps go together, and I usually just dice them and sprinkle them on homemade pizza. Other times, like today, they don't really go together all that well, and I sit around with these little scraps of cheese and wonder what to do with them. The other day, for example, I realized that I had blue cheese, havarti with caraway seeds, and cheddar with chocolate shavings, and I can't melt those together into anything without it ending up kind of vile. (If you look at the above photo, I also have a lump of stilton with mango and ginger, but that's just going onto crackers.)

Thinking about it while I walked through the grocery store, I decided to try dicing it into quiche. There isn't enough cheese for a whole quiche, and I still had the problem of not wanting to mix those particular cheeses, but there was plenty of cheese for mini quiches, so I grabbed a box of shells and a cup of heavy cream, and I was ready to go.

Here's what you'll need if you want to play along at home:

1 box of frozen premade (but not prebaked) mini pastry shells
Cheese of any flavor
4 eggs
1 cup of heavy/whipping cream
Salt, pepper, and any herbs you think might be good
Bacon bits (real ones or turkey bacon)

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

The pastry shells said to defrost for twenty minutes before baking. I figured that it would take about twenty minutes to finely dice the cheese and mix up the filling, so I set my shells out on a cookie sheet (covered with parchment paper in case of drips), and started slicing cheese.

You want the cheese diced up pretty small, so that some of the quiche filling gets in between the pieces. You also don't want the cheese to melt into one big lump in the bottom of the quiche. Once I diced the cheese, I dropped one type into each of the shells, and then added some bacon bits:

quiche shells (1)

Then I mixed up the filling. 4 eggs and 1 cup of cream whisked together should give you enough. I added salt and pepper, and then threw in a handful of dried chives. I mixed my filling in a mixing bowl with a spout (one of the best items I liberated from my mom's kitchen when I moved out), which made it really easy to pour into the shells over the cheese and bacon:

quiche shells (2)

For a full sized quiche, you'd bake 40-50 minutes until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, but I didn't know what to do with mini ones. I set the timer for 20 minutes, checked, set it for ten more, checked again, and watched them puff up while baking:

baking quiches

Your oven may vary, but my knife came out clean from three different quiches (I checked more than one because sometimes my oven heats unevenly) after 33 minutes. I pulled them out and let them cool on the baking sheet for a half hour, and then I cut one:

finished mini quiche

and then I ate three of them and put the rest in the freezer.

I will totally make these again, and you should, too.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Twinkies Saved the World

lois with breaking news

Thanks for the update, Lois.

As you may or may not have heard, Hostess has gone out of business, spelling the temporary end of Twinkies, Hostess Fruit Pies, Wonder Bread, and a bunch of other stuff that most people probably don't buy in a week but are now suddenly, if Facebook is to be believed, realizing that they can't live without. I think this photo sums up most of what I've read:

ferro lad reacts

Most of my friends have reacted in the following ways:

1) "Oh, that's sad. Oh well."


3) "One less thing to make children fat. Good riddance."

I'm not particularly broken up about the whole thing. I do think it's a little sad that I will possibly never again have a fried Twinkie:

fried twinkies

but then I remember that, despite my love of fair food, fried food, and snack food, I've only ever had a fried Twinkie once, and didn't finish it. The filling in the center coagulated and got so sweet that I had to stop halfway through. It was so sugary that I felt like I might vomit, but now I feel kind of bad that people might never have the chance to violently sicken themselves on deep fried snack food the way that I did.

I feel like America has lost something.

Not only that, but I'm worried about the disastrous consequences that the loss of Hostess snack cakes can have on our society.

How will Batgirl foil well-dressed jewel thieves?

batgirl hostess ad

How will Wonder Woman save astronauts from a fiery death?

wonder woman hostess ad

And why aren't those fruit pies burning up on re-entry? What the hell are they made out of, and why did we cover the space shuttle in heat resistant tiles when we could have just covered it in apple pies instead?

Hostess snack cakes helped Captain Marvel prevent an alien invasion:

captain marvel hostess ad

helped Spider-Man find love:

spider-man hostess ad

and once even saved Thor from a family of rampaging hillbillies:

thor hostess ad

which, I've heard, could be the plot of the upcoming "Thor II".

Hostess snack cakes helped Hawkman quell a riot:

hawkman hostess ad

helped Green Arrow rescue some endangered schoolchildren:

green arrow hostess ad

helped Captain America rescue Nick Fury:

captain america hostess ad

and helped Aquaman clean up a beach and save the suntan lotion and bikini industries:

aquaman hostess ad

Hostess snack cakes are part of the fabric of America, one of our many icons, and once they even helped Batman save our American icons:

batman hostess ad

from the Pigeon Person, who was stealing all of our statues, possibly to poop on. (Don't look at me like that. When have you seen a pigeon do anything with a statue BESIDES poop on it?)

So, where does this leave us? What will become of us in this new, harsh, Twinkie-free world?

ferro lad's travesty

invisible kid, snack cake

We'll be fine. Calm down, people, and for the love of God, stop buying Twinkies for $40 a box on e-bay. Hostess will be auctioned off, someone will buy the brands, and you'll see Twinkies and Ding Dongs and Wonderbread again.

In the meantime, try to avoid the impending crime wave.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pictures of October

October and November (so far) have ended up being such hectic months that I just realized this morning that I never did my monthly photo roundup for October. There aren't many pictures that I didn't post during the month, but here are the ones that are left.

The Apple Barn

My friend Justin, from high school (and, I guess, junior high, too, now that I think of it) came to visit my neck of the woods for a wedding, and we thought it would be nice to meet up and be in the same room together for the first time since 1998. I suggested The Apple Barn, because we all know that I love the apple fritters and will make any excuse to eat them.

Despite the fact that we talked out this whole dinner in exacting detail on Facebook, Jud and I somehow got confused on which week dinner was actually taking place in, so I went to the Apple Barn two weeks in a row (a tragedy that I somehow endured), and we had a fantastic time together with his wife, catching up on old friends and acquaintances in between stories of my work with college students. (This was a sometimes inappropriate for dinner discussion, as in early October butt chugging was still in the news around here.)

While I was waiting for Jud the second time, I walked around and took a few photos:

the apple barn

apples for sale

and then we had a really good dinner.

The UT Arboretum

Kristin and I ran up the road to the UT Arboretum and tree collection because I had heard it was really nice, and it was, but it's also a bunch of trees. We had planned to have a nice picnic lunch, but when we got there we found out that you weren't allowed to picnic, so we just walked around for a while and I took some photos:

arboretum trails

I tried to take a photo of a spiderweb, but I guess you're supposed to do that early in the morning when they are covered in dew and show up better:


The leaves were just starting to turn, though, so I did get one nice photo of that:


Gabby's Nasty Ass Soap

Somehow this didn't make it into my entry about visiting Albuqurque:

nasty ass soap

I didn't buy any.

Halloween Pumpkins

I saw these on campus on my way to rehearsal for my play:


And that was it for October.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Acting Lessons

On Monday, I had a small part in our campus production of "8", the play by Dustin Lance Black about the Proposition 8 trial for California marriage equality. I played Jeff Zarrillo, one of four plaintiffs, a role originated by Matt Bomer.

Matt Bomer and I, as I'm sure you are aware, are very similar. Go google him, then come back and compare.

The resemblance is uncanny, right?

This production marked my return to the stage after a long absence, my first work since playing "guy violating noise policy" and "rowdy drunk student who talks too much" in the Summer 1996 Orientation Skits at SUNY Cortland, so I was a little worried that my acting chops might be rusty. In order to combat that, I watched a lot of movies while rehearsing my lines, and spent the final weekend before the play watching movies in which someone put on a stage production. (I was going to watch movies about making movies, but decided that I should focus on the stage, which is a totally different animal.) It turns out that I only own eleven movies where a stage production is mounted (not counting movies where the production in question was a pageant, cookoff, fashion show, or cheerleading competition; doing so would have swollen the movie total to somewhere around twenty), but I learned something from each one of them.

Here are the valuable lessons that I gleaned from my viewing:

1) The Little Mermaid: The lesson here is that you should be sure to show up to your part and do your best. Your fellow performers, whether they are fish musicians, your father's crab, or your mersisters, have all worked really hard, and you will let them down and bring shame upon the kingdom if you miss your debut for any reason.

Especially if that reason is that you're off searching shipwrecks for a fork to comb your hair with.

2) Mean Girls: This quote sums up the lesson best:

"But I'm always on your left!"

Hitting your mark and following your blocking exactly as you rehearsed it is incredibly important. If you don't do it just like you did during rehearsal then someone is going to screw up and kick a radio into Jason's head, and Miss Norberry might not be there to jump onto the piano and haul your cookies out of the fire.

3) Moulin Rouge: Your production won't really come together unless everyone believes in the underlying message, whether it's "freedom, beauty, truth, and love" or it's the idea that all people should be equal under the law and that families with same-sex parents are just as valid as more traditional family models.

Also, you should make sure that none of your leads have consumption if you want to run for more than one night.

4) Valley of the Dolls: Again, I offer a quote:

"The only star that comes out of a Helen Lawson play is Helen Lawson, and that's me, baby!"

Every cast has a star, and if that's not you then you should be super nice to everybody, so that when the star demands that the director cut out all of your lines your agent will feel bad for you and get you onto a telethon singing a song that's just an endless bridge continuously building to nowhere, which you'll then parlay into a nightclub act and then stardom of your own.

Barring that, you should just be the star. Look out at the world defiantly while you stand inside a giant plastic mobile and loudly sing, "I'll plant my own tree, and I'll make it grow!" and let everyone know that you'll get to the top even if you have to do it all yourself.

5) All About Eve: Make sure you have no understudy. That way she can't manipulate your friend into draining the gas from the car, making you miss your train and giving her the chance to call all of the press to watch while she steps into your role and usurps your spotlight.

Also, Butler can be both someone's name and someone's job. It's a valid point; an inane one, but still a point.

6) Black Swan: Be perfect, even if that means stabbing Winona Ryder in the face with a nail file or slowly going insane and losing touch with reality to the point that you can't be sure if you stabbed Winona Ryder in the face with a nail file, if your evil double stabbed Winona Ryder in the face with a nail file, if Winona Ryder stabbed herself in the face with a nail file, or if Winona Ryder never got stabbed in the face with a nail file at all.

7) Scream 2: If you have personal pain, draw on it to bring realism to your role, whether your pain is the discrimination and casual oppression that you have faced as a gay man in America, or the pain of having a copycat serial killer stalk you while murdering all of your friends in college just like a serial killer stalked you and murdered all of your friends in high school.

8) Stage Fright: One of your costars may or may not be a murderer, but you shouldn't let that hinder your craft. If anything, it should drive you to take on a second role so that you're playing a character playing another character, but you should also try not to become the murderer's next victim.

9) Torch Song: Don't try to sing if you're not really that good a singer. Especially don't try to sing in blackface.

10) The Big Cube: Once an actor, always an actor. The theater will always call you back, no matter how long you've been away or if you've been given LSD by your stepdaughter's boyfriend.

11) A Mighty Wind: If your show is going to be for one night only, make sure it's the best one night only that it could possibly be, even if it means you have to kiss your now-insane ex-boyfriend.

I think that on Monday night we definitely made the best of our one night, and I didn't have to kiss anybody or stab Winona Ryder in the face with a nail file to do it.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The KFC Museum

Last week, when I was in Albuquerque, Kristin sent me a text that we needed to get out of town and go on a road trip. I agreed, because it seems like forever since we went somewhere fun. I didn't really have any ideas (Santa's Land, one of my perpetual "We have to go there!" places, has once again closed for the season without a visit from us), so Kristin suggested The Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum, or, as it is known colloquially, the KFC Museum.

"Do you want to go to the KFC Museum?"


Yesterday morning I got up early, got ready to go, and waited for Kristin to come pick me up, and then we were on the road, to a strange and distant land known as Kentucky, our neighbor to the north:

Welcome to Kentucky!

After only two hours in the car, we neared our destination, and Kristin tried to put a damper on my excitement.

"Now, I don't want you to get your hopes up, but it's not that great."

Not that great? How could a museum dedicated to a uniquely American facet of our cuisine, Kentucky Fried Chicken, made with Colonel Sanders' secret recipe of eleven herbs and spices, possibly be "not that great"? People in 105 countries known that "Kentucky" means "chicken" because of Colonel Sanders, and I refused to believe that the museum dedicated to this pioneer of business and Southern culture could possibly be anything less than a shrine.

And, of course, I was right. It is a shrine. A tiny shrine that takes up a small part of a regular, plain old KFC restaurant:

most of the museum

Everything on the right side of the picture, from the "Pure Oil" sign over, is the museum. Everything on the left is a KFC.

I should have listened to Kristin.

Really, my first indication should have been in the parking lot. They don't even have a sign that says "Museum". The sign looks like this:

KFC sign

The building itself looks somewhat historical, and still has a vintage sign:

sanders cafe sign

but you can see right there from the rounded addition that they've added a modern KFC restaurant to the place despite the historical status:

national register of historic places

The state of Kentucky does have a historical sign out front:

kentucky history plaque (1)

kentucky history plaque (2)

but again, this isn't really a museum. It's a KFC with some display cases:

historical diorama

museum case (1)

museum case (2)

museum display

museum case (3)

a somewhat dirty statue of Harland Sanders on a bench that you're supposed to have your picture made with:

harland sanders statue

kristin and the colonel

and a dark, windowless wood-panelled dining room that, I suppose, may or may not be historically accurate but is also a weird mix of styles from different decades:

the dining room

There are a couple of displays in the dining room: a model of the motel rooms that used to be attached to the cafe, a model of Harland Sanders' kitchen that had vintage Borax boxes on the counter but modern faucet hardware in the sink, and a model of Col. Sanders' office:

The colonel's office

I guess if you're hungry and on the way to somewhere else the museum is a good place to stop, but it was almost as disappointing as the National Knife Museum. Arguably, it may even be worse than the National Knife Museum, because that at least had a gift shop and some hideous animatronic animals. This seemed kind of like they couldn't tear the building down because it was on the historical register, so they pulled out a bunch of old KFC stuff, nailed it to the walls, and called it a day.

Kristin and I weren't ready to call it a day, though, and instead decided to press on to Lexington and visit Joseph-Betth Booksellers, which Kristin remembered as a huge independent bookstore with lots of obscure, hard to find titles but which has instead given over more than half of their floorspace to food, clothing, trinkets, toys, home decor, candles, and what is apparently the kind of business model that killed Borders. Still, I did find a book that I didn't know I wanted because I didn't know it existed, and we had a nice late lunch/early dinner at the Bronte Bistro inside the store.

The mini creme brulee is an excellent use of two dollars:

mini creme brulee

On the way home, Kristin had to stop for gas, so we also stopped for a minute at the slightly decrepit fireworks store next to the gas station:

half-lit sign

and marvelled at the collection of weird statues:

pink elephant (1)

pink elephant (2)

and broken down amusement park rides (seriously, they had not one but two rusting inoperative ferris wheels):

broken ferris wheel (1)

broken ferris wheel (2)

broken ferris wheel (3)

broken ferris wheel (4)

on their front lawn.

We didn't buy anything, since neither one of us is allowed to have fireworks in our apartment complexes and both of us are liable to blow off a finger by accident, but it was a nice end to a fun road trip day.

I can only hope that the museum and shrine to Long John Silver or Chef Boyardee is more exciting and befitting of their stature as pillars of American culture.