galette iron

berarducci brothers galette iron

Back in the dot-com days, Dave, Jen and I all worked together in a cube in a big empty building in Laurel. Jen would make us all kinds of tasty foods (she thought that I was too skinny and Dave’s meals too bland) and share them with us each week, and one day she brought in some little waffle-looking things. She explained that they were called galettes, and her ancient Pennsylvanian ancestors had made these while carving out a living mining coal and making moonshine. The recipe calls for prodigious amounts of butter, sugar, eggs, and most importantly, Four Roses whisky, which give the galettes a certain holiday flavor.This recipe is a family secret, passed down from her grandmother on a handwritten index card (now half-obliterated with butter) and guarded jealously, almost as much as the galette iron itself.

It’s made by an outfit called the The Berarducci Brothers Mfg. Co., from McKeesport, PA; it’s Model G1-3, “French, Belgium Iron”, size Large, and I can’t find a fricking thing on the Web about it other than the fact that the Brothers have long since ended production. More sleuthing to be done.

Date posted: December 30, 2003 | Filed under history | Leave a Comment »

I spent about fifteen minutes dropping a bunch of songs on Jen’s iPod this evening so that she’ll have something to listen to at work tomorrow. Then I asked her to dig out her CD collection so that we could start adding them to the server, and she came back from the box collection with a stack about thirty feet tall. I knew I was marrying this woman for something; she’s got Appetite for Destruction (a CD I impulsively sold at the Soundgarden ten years ago when I purged the hair metal from my racks), Duran Duran’s Greatest Hits (guilty, guilty pleasure), Hall & Oates’ Greatest Hits (A-dult…Ed-u-ca-shun), Beck’s Odelay, The Stray Cats, Big Country, The Ocean Blue…

I also sanded and prepped the floors in the Pink room and the office upstairs for coat number two of polyurethane. It’s supposed to be unseasonably warm again tomorrow, and I mean to take advantage of it.

Date posted: December 29, 2003 | Filed under house, music | Leave a Comment »

Jen and I celebrated our first Christmas together in our new house, and we had a great time together. After rushing around for last-minute gift ideas we returned to home base to get pies baked, presents wrapped, clothes washed, dinner made, and our yuletide on. She bought me the Cadillac of Norelco shavers, the kind with the goo and the attachments and a mirror and all kinds of other gear. It’s probably more powerful than my laptop, and it shaves my face smoother than a baby’s bottom. She also bought me the first book of Maus (mine has been AWOL since college) and a copy of O Brother, Where Art Thou on DVD, which is super-keen, and then she went nuts at the store and bought me some swank Kenneth Cole and DKNY shirts, for which I must now practice my Blue Steel.

I got Jen an iPod of her own this year as well as a day of beauty at a local spa: 2 hours’ full-body and scalp massage, manicure, pedicure, shampoo and blow-dry. I think she’ll be well taken care of there.

We then packed up the cars and headed south to the Lockard family home for the first of two openings, where we have been practicing our Christmas-Fu. Let us just say that our technique is rusty, because we needed to leave the dojo to seek the comfort of sushi and multiple bottles of Sapporo last night. Christmas-Fu makes you thirsty, we have found—or could that be the Christmas ham….?

Today Jen is leading an expedition out into the wilderness to look at bridesmaid dresses, which will most likely end up resembling a recreation of the Donner Party massacre. I’m trying to find something to pack half of my Christmas vodka into to send along with her, but being in a strange house limits me to empty Windex bottles or just sending her out with the whole fifth tucked in her pants like a pistol. Which, in retrospect, wouldn’t be a bad thing, really.

We hope you’re all having a wonderful weekend with your loved ones.

Date posted: December 27, 2003 | Filed under family, history | Leave a Comment »

I’ve been sort of on house hiatus since the Thanksgiving push. In the four weeks leading up to Turkey Day, both Jen and I were running at a fill-tilt boogie trying to make the house look like something other than postwar Berlin, and ever since the driveway emptied I’ve been ignoring the projects upstairs like a fart in church. Home Depot’s monthly sales are down at least 5% because I haven’t been averaging three visits a day—this is a place where they just hand me an orange apron when I walk in the door. Yesterday I picked up another gallon of polyurethane and started sanding the blue room with the Packers game on. I sanded the floor down to a baby-smooth sheen, and this morning put the poly down, taking advantage of the warm weather to open the windows and air it out.

This Boring Life. I love taking pictures of urban landscapes, city archaeology, and historical architecture. Unfortunately, my commute to and from work requires a 20-minute stint on the Beltway, where the only things I see are the brake lights in front of me and the sound walls on either side of the highway. Now that I’m a country mouse I don’t get to see the same subjects I did before, so it was with great happiness that I found Satan’s Laundromat, a photoblog from Brooklyn, where I can live vicariously through the lens of another person.

Love Is: a woman who isn’t happy to see a Scout sitting rusting in our driveway, but who still calls me in from the other room to tell me she sees one on TV.

Date posted: December 23, 2003 | Filed under house, photography | Leave a Comment »

Jen and I have gotten about 95% of our shopping done and the wrapping wrapped up. I have to stop in tonight to return one thing and pick up a replacement for one of our other gifts, but after that’s done we should be set. We also have a midsize SUV reserved for the drive north to my parents’ place—between my awesome sister finding us furniture to bring home and the Christmas gifts, we should be driving to New York pimp-style with room to spare. It will also be a relief to not worry about the Tortoise blowing a gasket in mid-Pennsylvannia.

I spent about an hour putting together playlists on the iPod this weekend. There are 80’s, 70’s and 60’s playlists, an easy-listening playlist (for having folks over and enjoying mellow conversation—you don’t want your Public Enemy bum-rushing the show when it comes up in your 80’s playlist) and a driving playlist, which is about 350 hand-picked upbeat tunes from a wide variety of genres. I’m spinning that one right now, and it’s great.

Mmmmmmmmm, Pudding. Sunday afternoon Todd and Heather had us over with Nate and Kristen for an early dinner; Heather knocked herself out as usual (some people throw together a peanut butter sandwich for you—Heather throws together a frittatta, a tasty dish which most people can’t even pronounce) with a roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, potatoes, beans, and wine. Damn good. After dinner Todd appealed to the inner boozehound in us all and busted out the apertifs, tempting us with tasty scotch, bourbon, and, well, more scotch. Todd, where were you Thursday night when we needed you?

Here are some selected pictures from the weekend.

Date posted: December 22, 2003 | Filed under family, friends, music | Leave a Comment »

This afternoon, I decided I was going to see what my garage is actually built out of. I’ve had dreams ever since we got in this house of backing the Scout into the garage, pulling the top off, and starting the long process of tearing the body down to the frame for a retub. Pipe dreams, perhaps, but the backing the Scout into the garage part has been sounding particularly good given the amount of snow we’ve received in December. There are two reasons I haven’t done this already: a makeshift front wall where the garage doors used to be, and a 6″ raised wooden subfloor inside the structure. So it was with great curiosity and a mild fear that I jacketed up, crowbar in hand, and walked outside to face the unknown. The Scout started on the second try with a squirt of starter fluid and I ran her until the idle smoothed out (God, I love that truck), and while she warmed up I went inside and moved the assorted car parts and lumber out of the way to areas that didn’t look like they were wet.

The first floorboard came up pretty easily, and to my dismay I found no concrete underneath—the original footprint of the garage is an uneven dirt floor. At some point in the last ten or twenty years (based on the age and color of the concrete) a 2′ footer was poured down the middle of the foundation and 2×6’s were laid every 18 inches from edge to edge, then covered with plywood. Given the grade and condition of the wood, I’m going to have to find some other way of protecting the Scout for a few years until I can dig the dirt out and have someone pour me a new floor. In which case I may just have somebody bulldoze the whole structure and start from scratch. Sigh.

→ This is a syndicated post from my Scout weblog. More info here.

Date posted: December 21, 2003 | Filed under house, Repairs, Scout | Leave a Comment »

Or: How To Give Your Employees The Finger
And Make Them Thank You For It.

I’ve been in the corporate workplace for about eight years now. In that time I’ve been to a number of Christmas parties, ranging from the elaborate to the absent. I’ve been to lavish black-tie parties in DC where the dot-com I worked for blew at least twice the month’s VC money on top-shelf liquor and four-star food. I’ve been to parties that made me feel like I was at my high school prom, that incredible waste of $1,200, one night of my life, and two cases of good beer at the schmaltzy Rye Playhouse. I’ve been to a kegger where the christmas bonus was a black personalized M-65 field jacket. Each one of these was strange in its own way, but the unease was offset by a general desire to have a good time, or at least decent food and drink.

Jen has been coming home with frightening stories about her office, and I’ve found that the only true antidote for the situation is patient understanding and gallons of vodka tonic. So it was with great curiousity/trepidation that I put my suit on and drove us both to the glamorous Brooklyn Comfort Inn, in whose banquet hall her company party awaited us. Entering the building, passing the smoke-filled bar, we found the dining room, where someone had hung great gold dildoes from the ceiling and wrapped the pictures on the wall with green paper in some freakish parody of ‘festive spirit’. The employees gathered around in the center of the room by the bar like nervous antelope while the hotel staff arranged our food in stations around the room. The senior citizen DJ spun Christmas songs and contemplated suicide in the back corner.

After sampling some of our drinks from the bar, and realizing they had replaced the liquid in the bottle marked ‘Smirinoff’ with paint thinner, we plunged into the fray and met with some of Jen’s co-workers. They all seemed very nice, if not a little in shock, and I listened as they passed gossip about people who were and weren’t there. We sat over by the dance floor and contemplated the food selection: a table with a huge pile of baked potatoes, some limp, wet and alien-looking bacon, a huge lake of sickly Velveeta, and a bowl of cut butter the size of a child’s fist. Seriously, if I need that much butter for anything besides an entire Thanksgiving turkey, I’m going to be dead by age 40. There was a table near us with two kinds of store-bought pasta, three choices of sauce that smelled (and tasted) like burning, and a basket of small rolls with no butter in sight. Over on the other side of the room was a bowl of redneck Caesar salad—premixed iceberg lettuce, Stouffer’s croutons, and enough cheese to sink a battleship—some form of cat or dog meat in the role of asian chicken, and another huge tureen of stuff I couldn’t identify.

At this point, the antifreeze in the drink was making us dizzy, so Jen and I tried to choke some of the shit food down. She had about half a bite of the ‘pasta’ and looked at me with the “please hold out your hands so that I may vomit in them” face. Unfortunately I was also searching for a place to hurl, and so I could not help her in her time of need. I ditched our full plates and waited for them to start the ‘prize wheel’, which was run by a pair of hookers (seriously, when you’re wearing the kind of three-inch heels that are held on your legs by those ribbons that reach halfway up your thigh, you’re one of two things: a porno actress or a whore) and took about three years to finish. Prizes ranged from a $100 certificate to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse—not a bad haul—to a $10 coupon for McDonald’s. Now really, if you’re going to give me $10 to go to McDonald’s, you might as well just kick me in the nuts, because I’d rather feel that pain than try to act happy when you give me the fucking prize. Jen won $15 to a restaurant in Owings Mills that makes the worst sushi in Baltimore.

About the time Jen went to give her boss the department Christmas gift, I wandered back to the dessert table to find something to dilute the burbling pool of sick in my stomach, and found some cake with the wax paper still in between the machine-cut slices. At this point I was pretty shocked that they didn’t leave the box out on the table next to it, but I figured that processed chemicals would make a nice counterpoint to the splitting headache the liquor gave me, so I had a slice. Jen and I then decided it was time to leave to go find some real food, so we got our coats and scurried out the door before anyone else could walk over to bore the shit out of us. In the bar by the door we ran into a knot of partygoers furiously drinking and smoking and were held up by some bunny with bloodshot eyes and, like, the word ‘like’ between, like, every other, like, word in her, like, vocabulary. I grabbed Jen at the point when her hand was forming a fist to strike and we ran to the car to get home for leftover pizza and real alcohol.

What a fucking joke.

Fun links. We now return to seizure robots. Words can not describe. Ding! Fries are done. I’m going to hell. Badger! Mushroom! Snake! Don’t ask me why.

Date posted: December 19, 2003 | Filed under humor, links | Leave a Comment »

Apparently I write bad cowboy fiction in my spare time.

Now Is The Time For All Good Critics… December is the month of Big Lists where every pundit has to weigh in with their 50 Best or 10 Most or 35 Worst of something. Usually I wait until December for all the music geeks to emerge from their darkened rooms and type out a list of something so that I can go back and buy ten or fifteen of the albums I’ve been hearing about all year but wasn’t cool enough to go out and buy. Also, enough time has passed where the albums they may have liked in February have had to stand the test of time and deserve a second critique. Usually this method works out pretty well, with a few misfires here and there.

Update Dept. I have finished my Christmas shopping for Jen as of this morning; now to wrap the goodies quickly while she’s not there and place them under the tree. In related news, the daughters of the previous owner of our house are not stopping by to say hello—apparently it’s a little too soon after their father’s passing. So we don’t have to run around cleaning this weekend (although the house could use it) but look forward to the promise of a visit in the new year. Tonight is Jen’s office Christmas party, which promises to be an exciting study in both social science and chemistry: there’s an open bar, which is reportedly a departure from the ‘drink ticket’ method of the past. Score one for morale-building. (It’s kind of frightening how far second-shelf booze goes to brightening anybody’s mood.) So I dusted off the suit and spit-shined the shoes; I’m driving tonight so Jen can enjoy herself as much as she likes.

The Beat-Down. I would never have pegged Jack White to be the type to curbstomp anybody, but this poor sap apperently met the wrong end of Mr. White Stripe’s fists at some bar in Detroit. Funny stuff, that.

Wake Up. News flash to all you pro-lifers out there: RU-486 over the counter is not going to promote promiscuity. Promiscuity is alive and well without this pill. People have a natural urge to have sex, and because the US refuses to teach its children about sex, contraception, or childbirth adequately, the current trends of accidental or unwanted pregnancies will continue. Simply telling kids to abstain from sex does not work. You may as well wish for world peace. Giving women a way to prevent an unwanted or accidental pregnancy is a good thing. (Disagree with me? Listen to Loveline some night this week and listen to the questions your screwed-up kids ask on a daily basis.)

Hypocrite Who? God bless this woman; her asshole father did not deserve a daughter with this much dignity and class.

Date posted: December 18, 2003 | Filed under humor, music, politics, projects | Leave a Comment »

The Return Of The King was a great flick. All the best elements of the first two movies, wrapped up into a superb 2.5 hours of filmmaking. Perhaps the ending dragged on a little long; perhaps there could have been a little more Fellowship, but what I hear from the LOTR fans at my company, of whom there are legion, it was very faithful to the book.

Date posted: December 17, 2003 | Filed under entertainment | Leave a Comment »

Jen and I walked across Frederick Road last night to a lot next to the Presbyterian church where the Boy Scouts have been selling trees. After a few minutes of indecision, we settled on a short-needled tree about five feet high and carried it back across the street. Jen started dinner, I trimmed the bottom (note to self: buy an arbor saw) and we stood it in the hall next to the stairs to wait until the boughs fall.

Season’s Beatings.

The grading is done for my MICA class, although I have tonight to look at stuff and modify grades—I’m hoping that some of the students have really used the time to improve their designs. I took a page from Jen’s book and wrote out a page of comments for each of them to review, so I’m feeling pretty good about it overall. meanwhile I’m crashing from a bloodsugar low after lunch, so I may not be conscious for the next half hour or so.

B & E. I was gonna be quiet about this, but it looks like Dave has fessed up to locking his keys in Clifford with the engine running on Sunday. I’ve carried around a pair of Slim Jims in my trunk since the days of old and my parents’ reposession business, so it was a pretty easy deal to find the linkage in the door and pop the lock (I would have thought it would be harder these days, but I guess some things never change). I have decided to keep them out of the trunk and leave them at home, though, considering they’re illegal (OK, Mom?) but man, those things have come in so handy in the last ten years…

Date posted: December 16, 2003 | Filed under friends, history, house | Leave a Comment »