Monday, June 30, 2008

Mom's Macaroni and Cheese

This recipe post appears primarily because I saw this post on another blog about the best Macaroni and Cheese in the District of Columbia. Mac and cheese is one of those comfort foods that you can always turn to. The post listed several restaurants in the DC area that offer the "mother of all comfort foods." But you have to be willing to pay dearly for them (then again, didn't I just note that it had been some time since the Brave Astronaut had been out to a nice dinner?). Of the ones on the list, I have eaten at number 5 and 6, but have not had the M&C:
  1. Rustico
  2. Zola
  3. Equinox
  4. Hank's Oyster Bar
  5. Vidalia
  6. Les Halles
  7. Logan Tavern
I will readily admit to eating my fair share of the boxed macaroni and cheese (yes, the one with the orange powder) and hey it was good. My son is quite fond of the boxed M&C, but we do get him the organic versions or white cheddar. The orange powder is still a little alarming. I will refrain from the recipe that uses the boxed M&C, ground beef, onions, and Cream of Mushroom soup. Some things need to be left in the past.

But the post about good M&C reminded me of how much I loved my mother's version. She would make it from scratch and I never saw her do it from a recipe, so I am winging this recipe. But it's not hard.

  • block of cheddar cheese (pound?)
  • block of Swiss cheese (pound?)
  • milk
  • elbow macaroni
  • bread crumbs
First my mother would melt the cheese with the milk, making a white, creamy sauce. Simultaneously she would cook the elbow macaroni (my recollection is that she used a full box). When the macaroni is finished, drain, and place in a large oven-safe casserole dish.

Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni and stir well (there should be enough sauce so that there is good coverage of the macaroni). Set aside to cool. (This was the best time of the day, I had the bad habit of sneaking into the kitchen to snatch cheesy elbows off the top of the casserole and then making it look like I hadn't been there.)

Sprinkle the top of the casserole dish with bread crumbs and place in the oven long enough for the bread crumbs to get crispy and the M&C to bake through. Serve (we always had hot dogs with our M&C). Enjoy!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday's Meme #2

As with last week's meme, this one also comes courtesy of the House of Lime. I also saw a variant of this on Geof's blog.

1. What was I doing ten years ago?
  • Same stuff, just in a different state (in a way, a little depressing)
2. What were five things on my list to do today?
  • Stay on top of the workload
  • Make a new To Do List at the end of the day for next week (it's a ritual)
  • Pick up my son at daycare (by 5:30)
  • Update the JAL Tours Baseball list and send out a payments received email.
  • Square things away at the house (that's a perpetual one)
3. Snacks I enjoy?
  • Wise Onion Garlic Potato Chips (give me a bag and they are gone - and they are hard to come by south of the Mason-Dixon line.
  • Chocolate, but really who doesn't enjoy chocolate.
4. Things I Would Do If I Were A Billionaire?
  • Stop working. Endow a position at one of my former places of employment. Stop working. Travel. Stop working. Go anywhere I wanted at a moment's notice. Did I mention stop working?
5. Three of my bad habits?
  • Man, the last meme only wanted one, now I have to list three? Well, still the occasional smoke. Although I seem to be better about it, I used to be a bad knuckle cracker. I also have a bad sarcastic side, not so much a bad habit as it is just annoying.
6. Five places I have lived?
  • Syosset, New York
  • Albany, New York (college)
  • Poughkeepsie, New York
  • Bethesda, Maryland
  • Cheverly, Maryland (good thing it's only five, that's all I got).
7. Five jobs I've had?
  • Newspaper delivery (and Pennysavers)
  • Valet Parking Attendant (possibly the best job I ever had)
  • Pizza Delivery Man
  • Social Studies teacher
  • Archivist
8. How did you name your blog?
  • Hey, it's what I do. Make Order out of Chaos

Thursday, June 26, 2008

My 500th Post!

And now some statistics (most courtesy of sitemeter - you can look at the stats by clicking on the logo on the right).
  • Number of published posts on Order from Chaos: 500
  • Number of posts in the queue in various forms of readiness: 34 (10 scheduled, 14 drafts)
  • Date on which Order from Chaos started: September 5, 2006
  • Today's date: June 26, 2008
  • Number of days this blog has been around: 659
  • This is equivalent to three quarters of a blog post per day.
  • Number of page visits in June 2008 (to date): 1,180
  • Number of page visits in June 2007: 861
  • Number of page views in June 2008 (to date): 1,531
  • Number of page views in June 2007: 1313
  • Average number of visits per day: 50
  • Average number of page views per day: 67
  • High number of visits and page views in June 2008: 74 / 109
  • Most popular blog post (as noted by sitemeter in June, by search term): The World's Hardest Quiz
  • Rank on Google for the post when one searches for the "worlds hardest quiz": 2nd
  • Second most popular blog post (and it has been so since shortly after it was posted): New Jersey Rest Areas (both the quiz and the answers)
  • Rank on Google for the posts when one searches for "new jersey turnpike rest area": 5th (the answers)
  • Location of furthest visitor from the Brave Astronaut console: Australia (David - is that you?)
  • Location of closest visitor from the Brave Astronaut console: lovely downtown Cheverly, MD
  • Number of recipes posted: 85
  • Tags applied to posts "in order of height and popularity" (first five): About Me, 122; News, 108; Recipes, 91; History, 84; Archives, 78

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

[The Seven Dirty Words You Can't Say on Television]

But evidently can say on the Internet (definitely NSFW!)

George Carlin was one of those comedians that was always there when I was growing up. I even had a few cassette tapes of his performances. But he was such a visual comedian that he was best seen on TV or in person. He will most certainly be missed.

I saw George Carlin once live (at the Westbury Music Fair). The stage at Westbury rotates (it's a theater in the round) and he just kept moving the whole time. I had noted with interest in last week's Washington Post that Carlin was supposed to receive this year's Mark Twain prize from the Kennedy Center. I had thought about getting tickets to that event.

While the above clip is the one that he will likely be most remembered for (I mean the case did go all the way to the Supreme Court), it is the clip below that I will always associate with him. I think about it a lot (and it is why I always unpack whenever I go away on vacation, even overnight). I thought a lot about this routine when I read this post on another blog along with the accompanying article in Time Magazine. as well. I was going to do a full post on the topic, but that would be just one more thing and I am pretty sure that I am already well over 100 items.

Good night George.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

#25 - William McKinley, 1897-1901

Our 25th President, William McKinley was the third to die at the hand of an assassin. McKinley was a well liked politician (if there is such an animal) and was elected to the House of Representatives, where he served 14 years and was twice elected Governor of Ohio.

After leaving office in 1896, he started running for the presidency at the urging of his friend and political adviser, Mark Hanna.

When he was elected President in 1892, he was swept into power by the largest margin of popular votes since 1872. A renown tariff expert, one of McKinley's first acts was to call Congress into special session to combat the waning Panic of 1893. He rammed through Congress, the highest tariff in history.

McKinley also led the nation into war, despite his desire to avoid war, he made a declaration of "neutral intervention" in 1898 before Congress who authorized war against Spain. The nation was largely pushed toward war through the efforts of newspaper publishers William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer's "yellow journalism." McKinley pursued the war with great vigor, establishing a protectorate over Cuba and annexing the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam after obliterating the Spanish around the globe. War became inevitable after the mysterious explosion of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor. The Spanish-American War featured the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, who went off to Cuba to lead his newly formed "Rough Riders" into battle. Of course, that man, Theodore Roosevelt will be featured here next week.

Foreign policy was where McKinley made his mark for, in addition to the Spanish-American War, he also engineered the annexation of Hawaii.

Shortly after his reelection in 1900, McKinley was in a receiving line at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, when he was approached by Leon Czolgosz, who shot McKinley twice at point blank range. The first bullet was discovered and removed, the second could not be located and doctors decided to leave it in. McKinley lingered for several days, even rallying at one point. But he succumbed to gangrene in the area of the second bullet. His last words are reported as "It is God's way, His will be done, not ours."

The Facts
  • born January 29, 1843 in Niles, Ohio
  • died September 14, 1901 after being shot in Buffalo, New York, eight days earlier.
  • party: Republican
The Election of 1896
(the election of 1896 is considered by historians to be a "realigning election" and it is the election that marked the rise of the Progressives as a political force.)
The Election of 1900
  • William McKinley / Theodore Roosevelt (R) - 7,228,864 (51.64%) / 292 EVs
  • William Jennings Bryan / Adlai Stevenson (D) - 6,370,932 (45.52%) / 155 EVs
  • McKinley was the last President to be a veteran of the Civil War.
  • McKinley, a native Ohioan, attended law school after the Civil War at Albany Law School.
  • McKinley was the first president to run a "front-porch" campaign, which featured little travel.
  • Upon seeing his assassin being beaten by his bodyguards, McKinley reportedly cried out, "Don't let them hurt him."

Are you looking for Grover Cleveland?

He's here. Further, I will note that today is the 100th anniversary of Grover Cleveland's death.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Lyndon Johnson's Spinach Parmesean

Really? Can you really see Lyndon Johnson sitting down to eat this? I'm quite sure someone told him he needed to come up with a recipe and he told someone to go "stick it" and the person heard "spinach."

Johnson's Spinach Parmesan
  • 3 lbs. chopped spinach
  • 6 Tbsp. Parmesan, grated
  • 6 Tbsp. minced onions
  • 6 Tbsp. heavy cream
  • 5 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/2 cup cracker crumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
Cook spinach until tender, drain thoroughly, and chop coarsely. Add cheese, onion, cream, and 4 tablespoons of butter. Beat egg and add to mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour into shallow, well-greased ring form. Sprinkle with crumbs mixed with remaining butter. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Garnish with crackers or puff pastries.

Recipe from The First Ladies Cook Book (1966)

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Brave Astronaut Alpha to Omega

I've found a couple of memes in my Google Reader in the past few weeks (and no, I'm not doing the makeup one), so over the next few weeks, I will snatch them for some content here on the blog. (Sorry, summer doldrums are setting in - but I will admit to enjoying sitting at the computer when the A/C is on, the vent chills my legs to the point of numbness.

So here's the first one. I saw this meme here. Feel free to pilfer and post on your own blog.

A is for your age:
  • 40 - and remember, younger than Mrs. BA (and soon to be two years younger than her).
B is for your burger of choice:
  • Just the other night, Mrs. BA and I enjoyed Five Guys burgers. The fries are also outstanding. My burger will usually have cheese, a full complement of condiments (mayo, ketchup, mustard), pickles, and maybe onions.
C is for the car that you drive:
  • A Mazda 5 - and no it's not a minivan, thank you.
D is for dog’s name:
  • The last one I had - his name was Gus. But I'm more of a cat person.
E is for an essential item you use each day:
  • For as much as I depend on my car, I really should live in LA. It's not essential per se, but it gets me to and from work.
F is for your favorite television show:
  • current: most likely Lost
  • recent: The West Wing (please come back to Bravo!)
  • old: M*A*S*H* (I'll always flip to it if there's nothing else on, because that usually is)
G is for favorite game:
  • I like card games and of the many out there, Liverpool is a family favorite. It's a version of rummy. Board games means Scrabble (and its online companion - Scrabulous on Facebook).
H is for hometown:
  • Syosset, New York
I is for instruments played:
  • I was a nerd in high school, but no instruments were lugged around by me. I played a mean recorder for a while.
J is for favorite juice:
  • Pineapple. But I don't get it enough. The orange juice monopolies rule the world. When I drink OJ, I like to "chew" it, i.e., lots of pulp. Sorry Mrs. BA.
K is for what you’d like to kick:
  • Heh heh, well tonight I'll be watching some Russian and Cuban a@@ get kicked.
L is for last restaurant you dined at:
  • The aforementioned Five Guys. I can't remember the last "table service" restaurant I went to.
M is for your favorite Muppet:
N is for number of piercings you have:
  • Thanks but no thanks. I have all the holes in my body that I need. I have no desire to add to them.
O is for overnight hospital stays:
  • Knock on wood, so far, none.
P is for people you were with today:
  • I ate by myself today (which I know drives Mrs. BA crazy) but the lunch crowd was a little limited today, with NJM away on vacation and ADR working from home. OSG is also away so I didn't see him either. I did see C in DC in the afternoon. And, of course there was the Red Dawn party this evening.
Q is for what you do in quiet times:
  • Heh, heh, you're dirty. But then that wouldn't be quiet time anymore would it? But read would probably top the list.
R is for regrets:
  • "Regrets, I've had a few" - thanks Frank.
S is for status:
  • Happily married. Happiest I've ever been.
T is for time you woke up today:
  • Again, later than I wanted. But it was about 7:15am
U is for what you consider unique:
  • If I told you, would it still be unique? My mind keeps wandering back to my marriage as unique. I have never been in a relationship like this before and what Mrs. BA and I have seems so special to me as to border on the unique.
V is for favorite vegetable:
  • I have a thing for brussel sprouts. But there are few veggies that you could put in front of me that I wouldn't eat. Now, Mrs. BA on the other hand . . .
W is for your worst habit:
  • The ones with the really big wimples. A stiff breeze and I'll fall over. :) But smoking would have to rank up there. As a former smoker, you never really quit, you just stop doing it as much.
X is for x-rays you have had:
  • At least one on the leg that I broke when I was a senior in high school. Several sets on the back that I have standing appointments with my chiropractor and massage therapist to keep in line.
Y is for yummy food you ate today:
  • Tonight for movie night, we are having really good pizza, along with mojitos. So that's what's at the top of the pile for today.
Z is for zodiac sign:
  • Sagittarius. Hey wait, is that why I like water?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Wolverines! A New Dawn Has Arrived

Tomorrow night, C in DC, ADR, and others will gather in the den of the Brave Astronaut to watch the "seminal movie of the 1980s" (ADR quote). Note for trivia buffs, Red Dawn is the first released movie to carry a PG-13 rating, although it is not the first movie to receive the PG-13 rating. This particular movie got it first and was released after Red Dawn. Any guesses?)

This movie was the topic of conversation at the lunch table on several occasions. This was magnified when it was learned that the "Collectors Edition" had been released. A few days later, I found myself in Costco and spotted the DVD right there among the newly released movies. I snatched up my copy and we have decided to have movie night at the Brave Astronaut pad. Normally Friday nights is movie night for LBA, but he is still at the beach with his cousins, so it's grownup movie night.

We are having pizza, mojitos (hey the Cubans are part of the invading armies), beer and wine. There might even be a dessert or two. If you're in the neighborhood, c'mon over. We're starting at 7:00.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ride Sally Ride!

A space note from the Brave Astronaut. As noted here before, I have several blog posts running around in my head, but here is something to be noted for this day in history.

Sally Ride becomes the first woman to ride on the space shuttle and thereby the first American woman in space.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

#23 - Benjamin Harrison, 1889-1893

Benjamin Harrison, our twenty-third President, has a number of presidential trivia items in his favor. Notably during his administration, he sought to make several foreign policy successes, chief among them the formation of the Pan American Union, which later became the Organization of American States. Harrison also submitted a treaty to annex Hawaii, but his successor (and predecessor), Grover Cleveland, withdrew the plan. It was also during Harrison's administration that the Sherman Anti-Trust Act was passed (1890).

Although born and raised in Ohio, Harrison made his political mark in Indiana, where he lost a race for Governor, but later served in the United States Senate, where he helped to champion post-Civil War issues. As an Ohioan, he also graduated from Miami University of Ohio, known to archivists around the country. Harrison Hall, on that campus, holds the political science department. To date, he is the only President from the Hoosier State.

Harrison's wife, Caroline, died of tuberculosis in 1892, shortly before the end of Harrison's tenure. After the presidency, he returned to Indiana and married his second wife, Mary, less than four years after Caroline's death. She happened to be Caroline's niece. (All together now, EW! - I know what Mrs. BA is saying when she reads this, "Women grieve, men replace").

The Facts
  • born August 20, 1833 in North Bend, Ohio
  • died March 13, 1901 in Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Party: Republican
The Election of 1888
  • Benjamin Harrison / Levi P. Morton (R) - 5,443,892 (47.82%) /233 EVs
  • Grover Cleveland / Allen Thurman (D) - 5,534,488 (48.62%) / 168 EVs
    • One should note the loss of the popular vote and yet he was elected President upon receiving a majority in the Electoral College. So yes, it happened before.
The Election of 1892
  • Grover Cleveland / Adlai Stevenson (D) - 5,553,898 (46.02%) / 277 EVs
  • Benjamin Harrison / Whitelaw Reid (R) - 5,190,799 (43.01%) / 145 EVs (this political ticket marks the only presidential ticket in history where both of the candidates were alumni of the same university)
  • James Weaver / James Field (Populist) - 1,026,595 (8.51%) / 22 EVs
  • Harrison is the only grandson of a president (William Henry Harrison). He is also the great-grandson of a signer of the Declaration of Independence (Benjamin Harrison)
  • He is the only president to be succeeded and preceded by the same man (Grover Cleveland).
  • He was the last Civil War general to serve as President.
  • Electric lights were installed in the White House during the Harrison administration, although neither Benjamin or Caroline would touch the switches as they feared electrocution.
  • Six states joined the Union during Harrison's administration (ND, SD, MT, ID, WY, and WA), the most states admitted since George Washington's presidency.
  • Harrison is known as the "Centennial President" as his presidency marked the 100th anniversary of the inauguration of George Washington.
  • Harrison is noted as the first president to travel across the entire country by train and the first president to attend a baseball game.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Recipe: Grilled Asparagus

Don't you think it is so cool when your pee smells after you have asparagus?

Grilled Asparagus with Tarragon Wine Vinaigrette
  • 1 pound medium asparagus, trimmed
  • 2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. minced shallot
  • 1/3 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 6 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. fresh tarragon, finely chopped
  • 1 large hard boiled egg, grated or finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated
  • handful of peanuts, chopped or sliced
  • salt and pepper
Preheat the grill. When its hot, grill the asparagus for five or six minutes rolling the stalks every minute to ensure you cook the whole thing. Be careful not to char them. Remove the stalks from the grill and set aside.

Whisk the vinegar, shallot, mustard, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Slowly stream the olive oil, whisking as you add it until the mixture emulsifies. Then whisk in the tarragon.

Toss the asparagus with two tablespoons of the vinaigrette and divide it among four plates. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the asparagus and top with grated egg, cheese, and nuts for crunch. The recipe serves four.

[This recipe appeared in the Southwest Airlines Spirit Magazine and is from Chef Jon Ashton.]

Saturday, June 14, 2008

What to do at the beach

[written on the DSL line for the house at the beach where Mrs. BA's family has descended for a week at the beach.]

The Brave Astronaut family has headed for the Delaware shore for a long weekend. LBA will get the best part of this deal as he will spend the entire week out here hanging with his cousins. Mrs. BA, and Son of BA and I will have to return home on Monday night due to a lack of annual leave.

But tomorrow is Father's Day and I will be getting in a little golf. And I'm given to understand there will be crabs for dinner.

I had actually started a much longer post about beach-related items, but it fell by the wayside as we tried to get ourselves together for our beach weekend. I'll try and work on a summary of stuff next week. After Monday's recipe and Tuesday's president of course.

I will however close with condolences to the Russert family. Tim Russert is the reason I started watching "Meet the Press." This election and the future will not be the same without him.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"Mom, He's Touching Me!"

This is ridiculous. Two Buddhist teachers have not been more than 15 feet apart in the past ten years.
"If they cannot be seated near each other on a plane, they do not get on. When she uses an airport restroom, he stands outside the door. And when they are here at home in their yurt in the Arizona desert, which has neither running water nor electricity, and he is inspired by an idea in the middle of the night, she rises from their bed and follows him to their office 100 yards down the road, so he can work."
There is something to be said here that their relationship is celibate, that is they have given up sex. At least they won't be making any more crazies. Mr. Roach is quoted as saying, “If you are consciously patient with people during the day, you will see more beauty.” I am a pretty patient person (sometimes) and I see lots of beauty. I don't think I need to go live in the desert and shun my worldly possessions to see more.

Then there's this story from our kiwi friends.
"The number of sex workers in New Zealand does not appear to have increased since legislation decriminalising prostitution became law, according to a new report."
Economic hard times are certainly a global problem as the report noted that "around 93 per cent of sex workers cited money as the reason for getting into and staying in the sex industry." This post could easily degrade into a NSFW post, so I will leave it right there and would like to hear what you all think.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

#22 & #24 - Grover Cleveland, 1885-1889, 1893-1897

George W. Bush is the 43rd President of the United States. He is the 42nd person to hold the office, all because of Grover Cleveland, who has the distinction of being the only man to serve non-consecutive terms as President. Cleveland is also regarded as one of the most respected and honest politicians of the Gilded Age.

Although born in New Jersey, Cleveland made his mark in New York politics. He served as Mayor of Buffalo, after serving as Sheriff of Erie County. His success as Mayor swept him into the governorship of New York in 1882. His meteoric rise to the Presidency was nearly derailed when it was revealed that Cleveland had fathered a child out of wedlock. Cleveland confronted the issue head on and it quickly became a non-issue.

Once he became President, the first Democrat elected after the Civil War and the only Democrat to serve between 1860 and 1912, he quickly moved to do away with corruption, party politics and scandal. During his administration the Interstate Commerce Commission was established to regulate railroads and later trucking in the United States. The ICC was abolished in 1995.

Cleveland, who had been a lifelong bachelor, married Frances Folsom in 1886 in a grand White House wedding (the only president to be married in the White House). Folsom was twenty-seven years younger than Cleveland, but the marriage was seemingly a happy one and Folsom became a very popular First Lady.

After losing to Benjamin Harrison in 1888, Cleveland returned to New York City to practice law and planning his return to Washington. Frances Cleveland is reported to have told a White House staff member in March 1889, "Now, Jerry, I want you to take good care of all the furniture and ornaments in the house, for I want to find everything just as it is now, when we come back again. We are coming back four years from today." He easily defeated Harrison in 1892. Cleveland's second term was marked by a severe economic depression, which Cleveland believed had been caused by the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. Cleveland called Congress into special session and arranged for the law's repeal, which had been passed in 1890. However, the depression deepened and Cleveland was forced into a deal with J.P. Morgan, which was viewed by ordinary Americans that Cleveland had sold out and had lost touch with everyday America. These views were reinforced by Cleveland's handling of the Pullman Strike in 1894, when he sent U.S. troops to stop the violence at the Pullman facility in Chicago.

Cleveland went to the 1896 Democratic convention and faced a deeply divided party. William Jennings Bryan rose and gave an impassioned speech on the Gold Standard ("You shall not crucify mankind upon a Cross of Gold") and the party nominated Bryan to be their standard-bearer in 1896, though he lost the election to Republican William McKinley (come back next week!).

The Facts
  • born March 18, 1837 in Caldwell, New Jersey
  • died June 24, 1908 in Princeton, New Jersey (age 71)
  • Party: Democrat
The Election of 1884
The Election of 1888
  • Benjamin Harrison / Levi Morton (R) - 5,443,892 (47.82%) / 233 EVs
  • Grover Cleveland / Allen Thurman (D) - 5,534,488 (48.62%) / 168 EVs
The Election of 1892
  • Grover Cleveland / Adlai Stevenson (D) - 5,553,898 (46.02%) / 277 EVs
  • Benjamin Harrison / Whitelaw Reid (R) - 5,190,799 (43.01%) / 145 EVs
  • James Weaver / James Field (Populist) - 1,026,595 (8.51%) / 22 EVs
  • Cleveland won the popular vote in 1888, but lost in the Electoral College. All three of the elections in which he was involved we decided by 3 percentage points or less.
  • In 1886, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated, although it was Cleveland's administration that passed the nation's first immigration exclusion laws.
  • Cleveland was born Stephen Grover Cleveland (see also Woodrow Wilson, Ulysses S. Grant, and Gerald Ford).
  • Cleveland and Wilson are also linked in that, during his retirement, Cleveland sat on the Board of Trustees at Princeton University at the time when Wilson was serving as its President.
  • As Sheriff of Erie County, he was also Chief Executioner and personally hanged two murderers.
  • Cleveland answered his own phone in the White House.
  • Cleveland vetoed more than 400 bills in his first term, more than double the number of vetoes cast by all previous presidents. Cleveland used his veto powers 584 times during his two terms, which is exceeded only by Franklin Roosevelt, who served longer than Cleveland.
  • Cleveland was distantly related to the general Moses Cleaveland, for whom the city of Cleveland is named.
  • Cleveland had significant oral surgery to remove cancer in his mouth during his second term. The President was operated while on the presidential yacht and it was not until 1917, when one of the surgeons wrote an article about the procedure that the truth was known.
  • In the current series of Presidential $1 coins, Cleveland will be honored with two coins to mark his two discontinuous terms.
  • Grover and Frances Cleveland's daughter, Esther, was the first child born in the White House

Monday, June 9, 2008

Thomas Jefferson's Jelly

We've established that Jefferson was a smart man. We further know that he made wine at Monticello. It also seems that he had enough to branch out and make things with the wine.

Jefferson's Own Wine Jelly
  • 2 env. unflavored Gelatin
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 cups cranberry juice
  • 3/4 to 1 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 pint Madeira wine
  • juice of 3 lemons
  • strawberries
  • powdered sugar
Dissolve 2 envelopes of gelatin in cold water. Add this to the fruit juice, which has been brought to a boil. Add sugar to taste and a pinch of salt. Let cool. Next, add the pint of wine and lemon juice. Pour into mold that has been chilled. Set into the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Unmold and serve cold. Decorate with strawberries rolled in powdered sugar. Recipe from The First Ladies Cook Book (1966)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

40 Years Ago and a 46 year Senate Career

On May 29, I and many others took note of what would have been the ninety-first birthday of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. It will be Labor Day when this blog will get around to my favorite president, so you will just have to stay tuned.

Today the nation and the world mark another somber anniversary. It was forty years ago tonight that Robert Francis Kennedy was assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, after winning the California Primary. This event was recently brought to the front of everyone's consciousness when Hillary Clinton reminded that the primary season went into June before and bad things can happen to the front runner. Though it seems that it hasn't worked out all that well for her this week now, has it?

Bobby was the seventh of the nine children of Joe and Rose Kennedy. He lived much of his life in the shadow of his older siblings, particularly his brother John, who tapped him to serve as his Attorney General. After JFK's assassination, he and President Johnson did not see eye to eye and Kennedy left the administration and went off to run for the Senate from New York, to which he was elected in 1964. He soon decided to pick up the mantle of his brother's legacy and declared his intention to run for the presidency in 1968. There is an excellent chance that had Kennedy lived, he would have won the Presidency in 1968.

Robert Kennedy was buried from St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City and then transported by train to his final resting place at Arlington Cemetery, where he was placed near his brother John. His younger brother Teddy eulogized his brother in one of the most moving speeches you will ever hear.

Teddy is now the patriarch of the Kennedy clan, by virtue of being the last man standing. Edward Moore Kennedy is the senior Senator from Massachusetts, elected to the Senate (to the seat previously occupied by his brother John) in 1962. Here's an interesting trivia question, John Kennedy was elected President in 1960 and took office in January 1961, resigning his Senate seat in December 1960. Teddy was old enough to serve in the Senate, having not yet turned 30. Who sat in the seat to keep it warm until an election could take place in 1962?

Of course, Ted is in the front of many of our minds these days, even if you are from the other side of the aisle. The Lion of the Senate is sick. Kennedy has been diagnoses with brain cancer, and just had surgery to remove as much of the tumor as doctors could get to. He will now undergo radiation and chemotherapy to further extend his survival. However, patients with this type of tumor normally die within two years of diagnosis. Ted has not had the easiest of lives although if anyone could beat this, it would be him. I hope he can.

I noted with some interest just yesterday that Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg was named to Barack Obama's Vice Presidential Search Committee. Kennedy had endorsed Obama in January 2008, in a New York Times Op-Ed piece, "A President Like My Father."

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Bye Minnie, Rest Well

Minnie, March 1998 - May 2008

I'm a cat person, always have been. My mother was a big cat person as well, so I come by it honestly. I could recount for you the number of cats that have been in my family, but that would take longer than the Democratic Primary process. Suffice to say I have had several really good cats over the course of my lifetime.

Most recently, I had Minnie. Minnie was a survivor. She came to live with me and my first wife ten years ago. When we went to the shelter, we picked her and a black kitten. We lost that first kitten shortly after we got her in a manner I'd rather not recall. But Minnie remained. Not long after we got her, she got out of our house (she was an indoor cat) and was gone for nearly three days. We searched high and low for her and finally found her in the neighborhood. Minnie was not yet "fixed" so we were sure to be having kittens soon enough, but she had managed to fend off potential "suitors."

Minnie always liked men better. She had the habit of coming up and sitting on my chest and nuzzling under my chin (it was even better for her if I had not shaved). Minnie was one of three cats in my home in Poughkeepsie. When my first wife and I split up, we didn't have children, but I took Minnie in the divorce. We decided that she would be happier with me so off she went with me to live with my parents and their two cats. (That's another story all together - moving back in with my parents in my 30s, but I'm not going there today.)

Minnie adapted to her new environs very quickly and, as the only "girl" she quickly put her two larger "brothers" in their places. She was the queen and made sure that everybody knew it. My parents were both retired and Minnie enjoyed having the everyday company and the backyard that she could go out to, which was fenced in and they had all decided there was no point in jumping the fence because the food was inside the yard.

When I moved to Washington, I left Minnie in "foster care" with my parents. She was very happy there and she would have constant companionship with her new "brothers" and my parents. I was sad about leaving her behind but it was the best solution.

My mother died in 2006 and last summer my father moved to a new place. Minnie and her remaining brother went to my father's new digs. Another fenced in yard and Minnie enjoyed her new spaces.

Last Friday, my father called to tell me that Minnie had gone missing on the previous Wednesday. My father had let her out and she did not come back. Somehow she had gotten out of the yard and gone exploring. My father was very upset as was I. He looked all around for her and put up some flyers trying to find her. On Sunday, someone did.

We don't know what happened to her, there are a number of scenarios that run through my mind, none of them are very pleasant. My father took her up to the vet on Monday morning but we opted to not go through with an autopsy. Whatever happened to her, she's at peace now, I'm sure sitting on my mother's lap purring away.

I saw her last in March, when I was up to visit with my father. I'll miss her a great deal as I do all of the cats that have crossed my path. There is nothing like the unconditional love of a pet that, once it's gone, will leave a void that does not quickly fill.

Sleep well Minnie.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

#21 - Chester A. Arthur, 1881-1885

Our twenty-first president, Chester Alan Arthur, looked "presidential," with his impressive sideburns and facial hair. Unfortunately, he was also part of the powerful New York political machine and as a result, his presidency was not as successful as he had been in New York State.

Appointed to be Collector of the Port of New York by President Grant, Arthur became entwined with the machine, led by the New York Senator, Roscoe Conkling. While an honest man, he was caught up in an overhaul of the New York system undertaken by President Hayes and Arthur was ousted as Collector. Conkling tried to get President Grant the nomination of the Republicans in 1880, instead settling for the VP slot for Arthur.

Once Arthur succeeded to the presidency, he led the fight for civil service reform, distancing himself from Conkling and machine politics. Under pressure from the White House and their constituents, the Congress passed the Pendelton Act in 1883, which essential destroyed the "spoils system" in government service. The Arthur administration also enacted the country's first immigration law. At Arthur's request, the International Meridian Conference was held in Washington, DC in 1884, which established the Prime Meridian.

Arthur kept hidden the fact that he had been diagnosed with Bright's disease (which also afflicted future first ladies Florence Harding and Edith Wilson) and while he campaigned for the nomination in 1884, the Republicans chose longtime presidential aspirant, James G. Blaine, instead (I note here that Blaine had served as Secretary of State to several presidents, including Arthur). Arthur has the distinction of being the last president to submit his name for nomination and not receive it. Arthur died only two years later from a cerebral hemorrhage and was later recalled as a man who had "entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted," and yet "no one ever retired . . . more generally respected."

The Facts
  • born October 5, 1829 in Fairfield, Vermont
  • died November 18, 1886 in New York City (age 57)
  • Party: Republican
  • Robert Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln's son served in the Garfield/Arthur cabinet as Secretary of War.
  • Although born in Vermont, Arthur has more roots to New York, attending Union College in Schenectady. Arthur is buried in Rural Cemetery outside Albany (and I have been to both of those places).
  • I have another connection to Arthur in that, it was during his presidency that the Standard Oil Trust was established in 1882.
  • Arthur took the oath of office twice. The first time was in New York City, shortly after the death of Garfield and then again two days later upon his return to Washington.
  • Arthur's wife, Ellen, died before he became President. He vowed never to marry again.
  • In one of the final acts of Arthur's presidency, the United States Navy secured the rights to a coaling station in the territory of Hawaii, at Pearl Harbor.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Ziti with Onions, Sausage, and Fennel

Another blog that I have read for a while is the Amateur Gourmet. He recently got his own show on the Food Network, called the "FN Dish."

In this recipe, he admits it is "a big heaping mess, but boy is it good." According to him, the recipe comes from "The Silver Spoon Cookbook," and a book that's called Italy's version of "The Joy of Cooking."

Zite with Sausage, Onions and Fennel
[adapted from Lydia Bastianich] [serves 6]
  • 1 Tbs sea salt
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage (without fennel seeds)
  • 1 large fennel bulb with stem and fronds (about 1 pound), trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 5 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions, halved and sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tsp chile flakes
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 1 pound zite (long tubes of dried pasta)
  • fennel fronds
  • 1 cup Romano, Parmesan or grana padano cheese, freshly grated
Boil lots of water with the salt (or more salt to make it taste like sea water) until rapidly boiling.

Remove the sausage from the casing and break the meat up with your fingers. Slice the fennel into 1/2-inch slices. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat and add the sausage, cooking, stirring and breaking it up with a spoon for 1-1 1/2 minutes until it is sizzling and beginning to brown. Push aside (you'll be pushing lots of things aside this recipe) and add onion slices and cook, stirring, until they are sizzling and wilting (2 minutes). Stir in with the meat.

Push aside and add the fennel and cook for 1 minute until wilted, then stir with the other mixture. Sprinkle in half the salt and push to one side again. Add chile flakes (more if you like it spicy) and toast for 30 seconds then stir them in. Move the mixture to the sides again, add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes until it is sizzling and caramelizing, then stir it into the sausage mixture.

Ladle 3 cups of the salted, boiling water into the skillet, stir well and bring the liquid to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 6 minutes until the fennel is soft but not mushy. Meanwhile, add the pasta to the pan of boiling water, stir and bring back to a boil then cook for about 8 minutes until almost al dente.

Check the sauce, which shouldn't be too thick--if necessary stir in more water. When the sauce is done adjust seasoning. When pasta is al dente, lift out of the pan with a spider, drain briefly and add to the sauce. Toss pasta with the sauce, add more pasta cooking water if too thick, sprinkle with fennel fronds and cook, tossing constantly, for 2 minutes until the pasta is perfectly al dente and coated with the sauce. Remove the skillet from the heat, sprinkle the grated cheese over the pasta and toss to combine. Transfer to warm pasta bowls and serve.


Sunday, June 1, 2008

In Case Anyone is Wondering

Today is June 1. Father's Day is two weeks away. I am finishing up a weekend as the sole parent, looking after my two sons. Mrs. BA was away this weekend at her 20 year college reunion. I'm not complaining, I'm just saying. But I've missed her and that's all that matters.

Tonight is also the annual Ford's Theatre Gala, which will be held at the National Theater as Ford's is still going under renovations. It is sure to be a great evening and it is the last one for our current president, so I am already looking forward to the next one . . .

Anyway, as Father's Day is just around the corner, I thought I would throw out a few ideas in case anyone was looking for a gift for me. LBA and Son of BA are you reading this?
  1. There's a new golf course in my county. Lake Presidential Golf Club has opened in nearby Upper Marlboro, MD. It is about a 20-25 minute drive (I've already checked). The rates are a little steep, so it would have to be a special treat, but it is something that those individuals who like to give me golf gifts should keep in mind. Even that Ed guy could get a gift certificate and we could play when he comes for the MARAC meeting in the fall. Yes, I'm shameless, so sue me.
  2. I need a new flashlight. I had a MagLite (a big one) and it seems to have sprouted legs and vanished. I want a new one. A big one. One with lots of candle power. A few weeks ago I was out in our backyard while I listened to an animal brawl in the woods. I had my little, feeble flashlight, which would have served me very poorly if this angry creature had sprung from the hedge.
  3. There are several books out there that I am interested in, but I'll be damned if I can remember the names of them. I just remember seeing them and thinking "Oh that would be nice to read." Then I remember that when and if I have time to read, it is usually a page or two before falling asleep with the book on my face in bed. So if you are thinking books, think paperback. One was about the long rivalry between Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, I think. Oh, and Stephen King has a relatively new book out.
  4. This movie is now out on DVD. I have the first one and it would be nice to have this one as well. Plus, since they are making a third one . . .
Oh, we also have tickets to the Nationals game on the 8th, so that should be fun, but I won those, so its not so much a gift as it is something that Mrs. BA and LBA are going to do, while my MIL stays home with Son of BA. But I wouldn't look down on a gift of more tickets, either. And I really want one of these or any of the variations . . .

Happy June. :)