Cold Mac & Cheese and other musings

September 30, 2008

Ha Ha Ha doggie, you can’t get me!!!!

Filed under: Uncategorized — D.J. Lutz @ 2:48 am
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Cat here.  Dog has left the living room and is outside chasing squirrel.  What a waste of effort.  Good exercise I suppose, but for what?  Squirrel just climbs the oak tree and hangs out with his buds until dog goes back inside.  Silly dog.  You’ll never catch squirrel, even on a good day.

What dog doesn’t realize is that the kitchen door was left open, allowing me to scamper on in.  I have been catching some sun on the outside of the kitchen windowsill and have had my eye on the ice cream dishes left on the counter.  The people are watching the television, complaining about someone’s lack of experience to run the country.  Funny, I didn’t know the vice president did anything but go to state funerals and hunting trips.  I guess I pay too much attention to those people.  Back to the ice cream!

I’ll just stay on the counter, eating the leftover French vanilla, until dog comes in.  One good meow and dog will go nuts!  That will allow me to jump from the counter to dog’s crate and then out the door.  Dog won’t have a clue!   Hee hee hee!  Here comes dog now.

Time to go!

September 28, 2008

Just what the dog wanted…

Filed under: Uncategorized — D.J. Lutz @ 1:50 am
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“I have returned, triumphantly of course, to the house this evening, after an exhilarating row with the now vanquished and exiled cat,” said dog, on her way to the water bowl to refuel for another nap on the couch. Later, dog smelled cat again, but this was different.  Not the same cat?  Could there be another?  Could it get any worse?

Yes.

Man and woman had also returned…from a house down yonder…where they were….

cat-sitting

two cats.

So for dog, yes – it did get worse. Three cat smells, yet only one cat to chase. There would be only one solution to this Kobayashi Maru:

Back on the couch and take a nap!

September 26, 2008

Cap’n Crunch and Chocolate Milk… and how I learned creativity.

I enjoy trying to be creative. Many of you do, also.  Why not?  It’s fun.  Usually. Creativity can be applied to music, acting, studio arts, sewing, you name it.  Even writing. Of course, don’t confuse being creative with making something of value to someone else. That’s a whole ‘nother deal.

When I was in college, as an aspiring freshman music performance major, I remember Donald Erb coming to the campus for an interview with the search committee formed to find a new composition professor.  Nice guy, as I recall, though I never took a class with him.  I did get a “free” comp lesson during the process, and while I did not really learn anything about the creativity of music composition, I did manage to learn the difference between music written to look good on paper and music written as a consequence of aural thought.  That’s a mouthful, so let me explain…

Dr. Erb needed to be seen teaching a class and also teaching one or two students individually.  I was one of the two chosen for individual lessons in composition.  The other guy was an older student, one who had already taken composition classes.  I was “the beginner.”  At the end of the day prior to my lesson, which was to occur in front of the search committee, I was told to bring in something from my portfolio. Did I mention I did not have a portfolio.  At the time, I wasn’t sure what a portfolio was, let alone what was in it.

Being 18 (and a half!) years of age, I thought I knew much more than most. So I did what any lazy know-it-all kid would do.  I waited until the next morning to write a piece suitable for the lesson.  Sitting in the cafeteria, eating my traditional bowl of Cap’n Crunch with chocolate milk, I scribbled down a dodecaphonic line (musical sense not required) and then developed the other five voices using standard textbook techniques. I picked random instruments for the voices, trying to stay away from conventional pairings. I had no idea what it would sound like.

Dr. Erb and the committee thought it was outstanding. We never did play it. No one in the room could hum it.  They all just looked at the formulaic approach I used to “create” the “music.”

Later that year, I had a different music professor, the jazz studies guy, show me how to create a typical jazz band chart.  He took sheets of manuscript paper and a pen, some cigarettes and the obligatory cup of coffee, then proceeded to write out each individual instrument’s part.  I asked him how he could do this without a score first to organize the music.  “I know how it sounds in my head; now I just have to write it down.”  The guy composed probably a dozen full charts that year, all were played, and all received accolades from the audiences.

So now I am trying my hand at writing.  I learned from a publisher’s website that they only wanted novels that fit certain niches, those that would sell.  They have a bottom line to consider, so I understand their point, but Poe had to publish his own works for a while.  How many good authors don’t fit their “niche?” Like the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop, “the world… may never know.”

My next story will introduce Angelina Delacruz de Espinosa, former Marine MP, back from Iraq and living in Virginia with her grandparents. All she wants is a “normal” life with a good husband, a few kids, maybe a dog.  Before she might attain that goal, however, she encounters false love, deceit, danger, corruption and a healthy dose of soul searching. Angel’s life does change, dramatically in fact, but not in the way she expected when she arrived, divorce papers and discharge orders in hand.

While the publisher stated the “formula,” so to speak, needed to gain entrance into the specialized niche of marketable books, I shall endeavor to write the story of Angelina Delacruz as I hear it “in my head.”

Stay tuned.

September 22, 2008

Flying Donuts

Filed under: Uncategorized — D.J. Lutz @ 10:59 am
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Dash Summerwell felt pretty good for it being a Monday morning.  He had successfully ironed his business attire without incident, had some breakfast, and put his little girl on the school bus, all without waking the dog up to the point where she would want undiscriminating attention.  Mondays don’t always start this way. Tuesdays, either. By Wednesday, Dash was usually resigned to the fact that life, or fate, really wanted him to stay on his little hamster wheel in hell.

Today would be different, he told himself. A cheerful attitude going into work would make the time fly faster. Dash wasn’t particularly happy with his job. The old phrase “time to make the donuts” actually applied to Dash Summerwell.  He worked at his cousin’s bakery, Flying Donuts..take a leap and try one! Donuts themselves were not the problem.  His cousin Drew was more of the issue.  Drew had received the bulk of their grandfather’s inheritance years ago. Against popular wisdom, meaning saving or investing the bulk of the windfall, he opened a donut shop.

Drew refused to seek business advice, convinced that he could manage well by himself.  He did need production help, however, and thusly convinced Dash to be the head of the Production Management Team.  The fact was that Dash was the entire team.  He had sole responsibility for making the donuts every single day.  The shop was a success, mainly because Drew accidentally rented space in a strip mall, in a storefront that was wedged between a diet center for ladies and a children’s dentistry.  Dash didn’t know which neighbor created more customers, the unhappy clients from the diet center needing a fix of comfort food or unhappy parents trying to appease their cranky kids after a trip to the dentist.

Suffice to say, most of the customers walking into the Flying Donut were less than joyous.  By the time they had devoured one or two of Dash’s famous Bavarian cream filled pastries, smiles abounded.  That was the part of the business that Dash truly enjoyed.  Nothing like turning around a sad day for a kid who just had his mouth poked at by an old dentist that should have retired years ago… Drew, however, never seemed to get the same satisfaction. He was all about profits.  He constantly pushed Dash to cut back on ingredients, yelling at Dash and the countergirl if there were leftover donuts at the end of the day, and ironically throwing a tantrum if donuts ran out during the day. Drew Summerwell made life in the donut shop difficult at best.  He even took one bulb out of each light fixture, saying that the one remaining bulb per fixture should be enough to light the shop. What a tightwad, Dash thought. Could his business acumen get much worse?

Yes, today would be different. Dash Summerwell would keep a smile on his face the entire day.  He was not going to let his cousin Drew ruin a perfectly good Monday, one that had started out so well already. When Dash arrived at the store, he saw an official looking sign taped to the inside of the door.  “Business closed. By order of the Office of the Sheriff. Back payment of rent must be delivered, in certified funds, to landlord, before premises may be reoccupied.”

Yes, this Monday would be different…

Finger pointing or chicken fingers or chicken finger pointers?

Filed under: Uncategorized — D.J. Lutz @ 3:47 am
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I promise that this will be my last rant about Hurricane Ike and the recovery efforts.  Really…

Right now there are many organizations and many people putting in long hours bringing help to the areas along the Gulf coast hit by Ike.  I cannot say enough good things about those people. Could it be more efficient? Maybe.  Could they use more help and more supplies?  Probably.  Was poor urban planning along with lax building code enforcement an issue?  You can debate that one all day.  However, circulating the wire services today is a picture of one surviving house amidst blocks of now vacant lots, where structures literally were washed away by the 14 foot storm surge.

Why was that house left standing?  The owner said it himself.  After Rita (a few years back) he rebuilt according standards that the engineers had suggested.  His house was elevated to 19 feet and the structure was built to withstand 130 mph wind. He had 5 feet to spare!

That others could have done the same is a moot point now.  Let us hope that the zoning and code enforcement people notice what happens when you think ahead.

Meanwhile, a few days ago I saw a headline asking “where are the celebrities?”  Meaning that every star and wanna be star in Hollywood had their name and face associated with some kind of relief event for Katrina, but no one has stepped up for Ike.  I realize that New Orleans took a hard hit.  Heck, I lived there for a few years so I know how bad the scene was before Katrina ever formed off the coast of Africa.

The big names came out for New Orleans because it was such a unique city, a party city, a city meant for the inconsequential fun that those Hollywood types love so dearly before they go back to their million dollar homes overlooking LA or the Pacific.  I guess they were all at the Emmy’s tonight.

Kudos to the musicians, though, such as Harry Connick, Jr and those of that ilk that are trying to not only save the indigenous musical heritage of the area but to also help the musicians themselves.  That work is ongoing to this day, even as huge tracts of land remain in shambles.  At least progress continues to…well, progress. Of course, the national media only show the Quarter these days, giving us the impression that life is back to normal, which is an impossibility, in my opinion.

So Houston and especially Galveston are the big name towns now.  What about the smaller towns?  Texas has started a good effort to get to those lesser known areas, but I have yet to see any telethons.  Come on, people.  We watch Jerry for a few hours a year and raise millions.  Surely somebody big can do the same for this event.  Willie?

For the rest of us regular people, drop a donation by your local Red Cross.  It’s the least we can do.  Not all of us live in an area where hurricanes are an issue (okay, I do, but that’s not the point here) but tornadoes, floods, forest fires, heck even wayward meteors can cause havoc anywhere.  The Marines have a saying that goes something like this:  Marines take care of Marines and Marines don’t leave any Marine behind. I say change Marine to American and you got the right attitude.

Don’t point fingers. Finger pointers have no backbone, much like a chicken finger.  Either pass the Ranch dressing or…better yet,  “Do something about it.”

See you local Red Cross office tomorrow.  It’s the start of another week.  They’ll be glad to see you.

Thanks for reading.

September 21, 2008

Checkmate has been consolidated

Filed under: Uncategorized — D.J. Lutz @ 2:07 am
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Yes, that’s right.  Instead of having to scroll through eleven posts, the story of Checkmate is now “linked” as a page on the right.  See it?  There it is.

On a side note, I have gone three days without the laptop.  Repair issues.  This unscheduled time off from writing has allowed me to reconsider the cookbook project.  There will still be a cookbook, but in a slightly different form.  This will probably end up a year long project, at least.

So it’s time to create a new story…

Stay tuned.

And try the satay.

September 17, 2008

A sign of the times….

Filed under: Uncategorized — D.J. Lutz @ 2:40 am
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AIG getting an 82 billion dollar loan?  Fannie and Fred rescued? Others bailed out, and yet others left out in the cold?  Could it get worse????

Yes.

Today, we didn’t have regular coffee until 10 AM.

And the salmon salad… just say no.  Trust me.

On a serious note, hold accountable the people that bent the rules or took the far fetched gambles using other people’s money.  They made enough money over the years that unemployment will not be an issue for them.  Use some of the bailout money to help the hourly and mid and lower level salaried people who are now in danger of being out on the street. It’s the least America can do for its own people.

September 16, 2008

Don’t forget the chips

Filed under: Uncategorized — D.J. Lutz @ 11:11 am
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Writing about that extremely simple turkey wrap got me thinking.  For those that know me, thinking has gotten me into more trouble than you could imagine, so I tread lightly in those waters.  Turkey wraps are one of those things you can get anywhere, sandwich shops, fast food places that offer them as a healthy alternative, even convenience stores and gas stations.  I know that.  I have even bought them on occasion in those very venues.

But once you write it down, you realize that you can do the same thing in less than five minutes. It’s not that hard, people!

Which brings me to the famous peanut butter, honey and banana crunch sandwich.  I learned of this in a class designed to make us all better teachers.  Ironically, the instructor had travelled from Florida just to teach our class (in Virginia) due to the proximity of our building to a golf course.  The course was a quarter mile down the road…so much for dedication to education.

The crux of the class was to design and execute lesson plans.  The subject could be anything.  Food was popular.  I chose to instruct the class on the proper technique for making coffee with a Mr. Coffeemaker.  The best “class” however, was the introduction of the peanut butter, honey and banana crunch sandwich, which is today one of my favorites, much to the amazement and probable dismay of my family.  They just don’t know what they are missing!  I’ll share.  Try it.  You’ll like it as much as I do, I’m sure!

Two pieces of bread, your choice as to type.

Peanut butter on one slice.

After peeling (an important step) carefully slice banana lengthwise, then halve the two sections.  You should end up with two halves of a banana, each cut lengthwise.

Place the banana slices on the peanut butter.  If they don’t all fit, eat one or two until whatever is left does fit.

Drizzle some honey on top of the banana.  Top with a crunchy handful of potato chips.

Place remaining slice of bread on top.

Eat.

Simple, yes.  But in culinary talk, you have the creamy texture of the peanut butter and banana juxtaposing against the rigidness of the chips.  You also have the sweetness of the honey matching the saltiness of the chips.  These facts, my friends, make the peanut butter, honey and banana crunch sandwich Gourmet.

Mmmmm.  Goes good with any table wine.

Who knew that broccoli could taste good cold?

By now you may have learned that vegetarians are among us. And it’s not that bad…really.  I am all for vegetables, as long as they taste good.  For 40 some years I didn’t like okra, until I found a great recipe that called for it.  I don’t remember what it was, and I can’t find the recipe right now, but I know I have it since I never throw any recipe away, but…the okra “made” the dish as I recall.

Which brings me to broccoli.  While a former US President may not like the stuff, I like to stir fry it, steam it, and use it in both chicken divan and a broccoli cheese quiche.  If you think those aren’t manly foods, then the next time I cook them I’ll swig down a Schlitz Malt Liquor if that’ll make you feel better.

Today at work, the cafe featured, among other items, a turkey wrap.  I like turkey, and it was a cold item which went well with the 90 plus weather we are having at the moment.  It was not only delicious, but suprisingly easy to make.  It’s going in my book, but I’ll share the recipe here.  Nothing exotic.  You could have probably come up with it yourself if you really thought about it.  I didn’t think about it, hence my salivary amazement.  Try it and see what you think:

Ingredients:

Plain wrap, about 12 inch in diameter, larger if you want. No need to get the flavored type.

Deli sliced turkey breast (or black beans with a touch of salsa for the vegetarian, non vegan version)

Shredded cheddar cheese, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes

Steamed broccoli, chopped and chilled

Ranch dressing to taste

Directions:  (you’ll love this part!)

Put everything on the wrap, in any order.

Roll up the wrap, folding the ends inward like a burrito wrap.

That’s it. Serve with a pickle spear and some chips.  Throw in a soda or an iced tea.

See?  Easy, quick, and a great way to use up left over broccoli from dinner last night!

I won’t mention that dark greens like broccoli are good for you.  Just enjoy the wrap!

Thanks for reading!

P.S. I am still watching the Ike relief efforts. Donate to the Red Cross.  They have the mobile kitchens I spoke of earlier.

September 15, 2008

Know what’s really important…

Filed under: Uncategorized — D.J. Lutz @ 12:55 am
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I like Palin.  She represents to me the idea that anyone can become President of the United States, or Vice President in her case.  Can she and McCain get the job done? I guess first the issue is will they get elected.  They have had a spike in the polls, but I think it still looks to be an uphill battle.  Obama has freshness on his side, a desire to push the Democrat agenda, and to compensate for experience in foreign policy, he has chosen Joe Biden as a running mate. When it comes time for the election, I fear that people will vote not for who will do the best job getting Congress to work in a bipartisan fashion to do good for the country, but for a team that has someone that (a) matches their race or gender, (b) belongs to the political party that they themselves have always belonged to, probably the same as their parents and grandparents, or (c) isn’t connected to George Bush in any fashion (and that is the most ridiculous reason.)

They’ll vote, yet most won’t concern themselves with election promises come February.  They won’t even know what topics are up for debate or vote in Congress.  Heck, most will still not know who their elected representatives are, below the level of Governor. Sad, if you think about it.  If only people took as much interest in those other representatives.  You never know when a small town mayor may hit the big time…

Elections come and go, but what’s really important anyway?  PopTarts and ice cream, I tell you!

Pressing F7 in the machine at work, for a mere 65 cents, gives me a pair of strawberry PopTarts that supply me with 20% of my daily recommended amount of many essential vitamins, plus something like 8 grams of protein. I haven’t looked it up, but I think that’s comparable to a baked chicken breast!

Ice cream, my personal favorite for dinner on occasion (don’t expect to see that statement in my new book…) is another misrepresented food group.  I had the vanilla peach variety tonight, which helped me maintain an adequate supply of calcium, plus 24 grams of protein (if you eat the whole container, which can happen.) Okay, so maybe it also gets you 1200 calories, but I mowed the lawn today, so I think it all evens out.

I can’t say that you should make these two gourmet foods the summation of your dietary stores, that would be silly.  Add a can of Spam every once in a while, though…

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