Catalog Companies Suck

junkmail

You could say catalogs are in my blood.  I have always loved catalogs and been an avid catalog shopper since ordering my first set of personalized pencils from Miles Kimball of Oshkosh, WI when I was like 10 years old.  I worked at a catalog name processing company in the 90s, with such clients as J Crew, Vermont Country Store, Lillian Vernon, Figi’s and personal favorites, Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn.  I love catalogs. I look forward to getting catalogs.  I shop online with my catalogs. I want to buy things from catalogs.  Lots and lots of things… But, alas, the catalogs don’t want me to buy things from them because everything I want to buy IS FUCKING BACKORDERED ALREADY AND IT’S ONLY FUCKING NOVEMBER 28.

WTF???!?!!

Happy Thanksgiving!

sss

Well – Happy Thanksgiving to everyone out there!  I will be celebrating this all-american holiday like most people – by drinking too much and consuming a large meal consisting of 10% protein and 90% carb fest.  Did you know the typical thanksgiving dinner has around 3,000 calories?  And that doesn’t even count the alcohol… for shame!  Oh, well – it tastes good anyway.

I posted a picture of stuffing instead of the ubiquitous image of the golden turkey because I don’t even like turkey that much, but I looooooooove stuffing.  In fact, give me a large plate of stuffing and a couple of glasses of wine, and I’m set, thanks.

Have a good holiday!

A Request! Baked Macaroni & Cheese from McCall’s

mcmac

Not that I am pandering or anything (cough) – but I actually got a request today that I could actually fulfill.  A request for McCalls Baked Macaroni & Cheese from the wonderful and frightening McCall’s Great American Recipe Collection.   Anything for a reader, and of course, another aficionado of the sublime wonderfulness of that which we call Macaroni & Cheese.

BAKED MACARONI & CHEESE

1 pkg (8 oz.) elbow macaroni
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 cups milk
2 cups (8 oz.) cheddar cheese, grated
1 large tomato, thickly sliced

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.  Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain.
  2. Meanwhile, melt butter in medium saucepan. Remove from heat.  Stir in flour, salt and pepper until smooth.  Gradually stir in milk.  Bring to boiling, stirring.  Reduce heat, and simmer mixture for one minute.  Remove from heat.
  3. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of cheese and macaroni.  Pour into a 1 1/2 quart shallow casserole dish.  Arange tomato slices over top.  Sprinkle remaining cheese.
  4. Bake 15 minutes until cheese is golden brown.  

Makes 4-6 servings.

You’re welcome.

The Shame of Being Thrown Out of the Redhead

rh

If you’re a Chicagoan like me than you probably already know about the infamous Redhead Piano Bar.  If you’re not from Chicago, all you really need to know is that the Redhead is an extremely cheezy, old-school piano bar where people sit around until 4am singing Billy Joel and Elton John songs loudly while shoving dollar bills into the tip fishbowl on the piano.  Oh, and it’s also a horribly overpriced tourist trap with watery drinks and scary clientele, most of whom are attending some sort of convention in town and looking for some sort of sordid hookup with a stewardess or something. Oh, and they have all sorts of silly rules about what you can and can’t wear, how you line up outside and get in, what the cover charge is, and big burly doormen to enforce said arbitary rules.  Oh, and I love the place for some reason.

My husband absolutely hates it, but nine time out of ten if we go out downtown, we’ll end up at the Redhead long after I should have called it a night.  I don’t know what lures me in every time – perhaps it’s the worn carpeting and the stale stench of cigarettes that a new smoking ban will never erase.  Maybe it’s the frightening bathroom, usually filled with 22 year olds vomiting, complete with the ancient uniformed sad bathroom attendant getting a dollar for a paper towel.  Or, maybe it’s just the thrill of passing the gauntlet of tests and rules and actually getting in only to be rewarded with nothing but the realization that this is a sad little place trying cash in on some former glory no one can remember.  Whatever it is, I’ve been there a million times and each time I say to myself the next day that I will never go back because it is so lame.  But, yet, I return again and again.

Well, maybe this time I really won’t go back because this time, my friends, after getting in the door, I was thrown right back out into the chilly Chicago night.  Why you may ask?  It wasn’t my dress – I had actually been dressed up after having dinner with friends from out of town at a famous Chicago steakhouse.  It wasn’t my attitude (cough) as I was thrilled to be at the Redhead, even more so since the three companions I was with had no desire to go at all and I had singlehandedly talked them into going.  No, it came down to one thing and one thing only:  Mandatory Coat Check.

Yes, the idiocy of the Mandatory Coat Check got me thrown out of the Redhead.  One of the people in my party had a winter coat and they told us that we were REQUIRED to check it at the coat check.  WTF?  Isn’t a coat check an AMENITY?  What if I need something in my coat?  What if my coat is part of my “look?”  What if I get cold?  Well, according to the others in my party I didn’t really have a chance to explain my points as I was told to “Get Out” as soon as I questioned the policy.  Then some words were exchanged and I was led to the “door of shame” and unceremoniously dumped outside. Granted, I don’t remember much about the altercation, but I do know I was just standing up for my rights as a United States Citizen to Keep and Bear Coats.  Er, uh –  I guess my friend’s rights, since she was the one with the coat.  Why the hell should I have to check my coat if I DON’T WANT TO? It’s a FREE country!  I want my coat with me dammit! Um, I mean my friend’s coat.  I guess she didn’t care about it as much as I did.

Turns out that my getting thrown out the door happened so fast, that the friend in question had actually checked her coat to avoid trouble and turned around after receiving her claim ticket to see me being escorted out the door.  Oops.

Yes, I owe her $3.  And I’m never going to the Redhead again.  Well, probably maybe never.

Airport Bars of the World: STT

stt

ST. THOMAS, US Virgin Islands  – Cyril E. King Airport
Hibiscus Bar
Located in the Jet Terminal next to the Cafeteria

Well, it was only a matter of time until I report on the newly-remodeled Hibiscus Bar since I spend much time there when going back and forth between Chicago and St. John.  Sadly, this is not one of my favorite bars – in fact it’s one of my least favorite.  It’s crowded, the bartenders are agonizingly slow and surly, the food at the cafeteria borders on inedible and the drinks are expensive.

The last time I was there, a gentleman standing next to me waited more than 20 minutes for a single beer – no lie.  Luckily, because of my dedicated thorough research I have done for you I can give you the three easy tricks to getting your proper load-on before you board the plane:

  1. Stay Left. Sit on the left side of the bar as the cash register is there and the bartender seems to never get to the other side of the bar to help people.  Instead, he takes an order, gets the drink, takes the money, gives the change and then helps the next person behind the first person.  As now the first person has his drink and leaves, this repeats itself over and over and the people on the right side of the bar never get served.
  2. Double Up. Need one drink?  Order two.  Need two?  Order four.  Even if you are sitting at the bar itself, this is a wise strategy as although you may be sitting on the left side – service can still be slow due to all the walk-ups who are sitting in the cafeteria.  By the time you get your orders and finish them, you’ll be right at the same time you would be at a regular airport bar with normal service.
  3. Get There Early. I mean hours early.  You just never know what is going to happen during the process of getting to your plane in the Caribbean.  There are so many things to go wrong and usually will that we literally leave our house in St John five hours ahead of time.  Granted, we have to take a ferry and a taxi to get to the airport, but once we get there you just never know what can happen.  This is also a good reason to stake out your seat at the bar on the left side and never leave until they call final boarding for your flight.

All in all I can’t complain too much about the Hibiscus Bar as there is no alternative since it is the only bar in the Jet Terminal.  There are no carding statutes, no rules about how many you can order at once, no limit on how much you drink and no regulations to keep you from taking them to go.  So, I guess that makes up for slow service and surly bartenders.

Plusses: No rules, they have alcohol
Minuses: Slow, crowded, bad food

A T-RATING® of 2 out of 5

t-21

Macaroni & Cheese with Tomato

mac

I don’t know what it is with me and macaroni and cheese.  I swear, if for some reason I was told I could only have one last meal it wouldn’t be lobster or steak – it would be a big bowl of macaroni and cheese.  It doesn’t matter to me what kind.  Anything from the custard-y type to the baked type to the béchamel type to the old blue box is fine with me.  There is nothing better than that combo of heart attack on a plate.

I made this last week as a side dish to Caribbean BBQ Ribs and it was all I could do not to eat the whole thing in one sitting.  Next time you want something decadent, different and easy – this one’s a winner.   I won’t talk about nutritional info – no need to spoil the party.

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 1 (10.75 oz) can condensed tomato soup
  • 1 1/4 cups milk (whole milk preferred, although I did use 1%)
  • 3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 8 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1 medium tomato, sliced thin
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Pour in pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
     
  2. In large bowl, combine macaroni, soup, milk, cheese and 6 tablespoons butter. Pour into 9×13 baking dish. Top with bread crumbs and dot with remaining butter. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.  Add sliced tomatoes over top in decorative pattern and broil on high for a few minutes until tomatoes are slightly brown.  Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

St. John Sunset

sunset_shays_birthday

As you can tell by my spotty blog performance as of late, I am on vacation down at our house on St. John in the Virgin Islands.  We were celebrating a good friend’s birthday and this was the sunset we were rewarded with.  I had to share!

Super Sugar Crisp/Coffee Conspiracy

ssc

I’m not a big coffee drinker.  I mean, yes, I have coffee, but I don’t really like it all that much.  I hardly ever go to Starbucks, and I never drink coffee in a restaurant unless I am completely hung over or if it’s an Irish Coffee – which is really just a warm whisky delivery system.  But, sometimes I do drink coffee just for the hell of it (although I have to drink it with a packet of Sweet ‘n Low and sometimes milk) and I recently made an odd discovery.

I always noticed when I drank mainstream coffee like Folgers or Maxwell House with my little burst of fake sugar it tasted like… something.  Something familiar.  Something from a long time ago.  I don’t know when I realized it, but suddenly I knew what it was.  It was Super Sugar Crisp. Yes,  coffee with sugar and milk tastes exactly like a big bowl of my favorite childhood cereal, Super Sugar Crisp.  (Yes, I know they did away with the ‘sugar’ in the name way back in the 80s sometime and now it is Super Golden Crisp, but it will always be Super Sugar Crisp to me.)

So, I began to think about why in the hell does Super Sugar Crisp taste like coffee?  Was it to hook children on the taste of coffee at young age so they would like crummy coffee later in life?  If so, who would benefit from such a clandestine scheme?  The Post Coprporation is the manufacturer of Super Sugar Crisp.  Do they own a coffee brand?  Well, strangely enough – yes.

A cursory Google on the Post corporation shows that Post began marketing Maxwell House coffee in 1929.  Super Sugar Crisp was introduced in 1949.  Post later became General Foods and Maxwell House was the #1 coffee brand in the United States well into the 1980s. 

Another cursory Google seems to show that I am the first person to stumble upon this vast conspiricy to hook kids on crappy coffee though the use of crappy cereal.  How deep does this conspiracy go?  Who knew what when?  Am I in danger exposing this vast ploy? 

Coincidence?  You be the judge….

The Beauty of 1958

sweetkitchen

I found this cool video exhalting the beautiful clean lines and hip electronics of 1958 via one of my favorite websites, jezebel.com.  The video orginally was produced as a documentary exploring the latest in technology asthetics in the post-war Eisenhower-era boom time.  I find it stragely calming – like those movies from the same time where people go about their business just before the nuclear bomb hits.

Click here to see video.

Thanks, jezebel.