Thursday, March 13, 2014

Throwback Thursday - Give it up For 'The Flim-Flam Man'

by Rose A. Valenta

My Uncle Harry has it in for complainers. I feel that God has to look out for them more because they are misguided; so is Harry, but he is clueless.

Harry smelled my bacon cooking this morning and invited himself over for breakfast, as usual, with a solution to yet another social issue.

“Look at how many complainers there are,” he said. “Some people only complain about a few things, like the high price of food, clothing, and shelter; while others complain about practically everything. Do you realize how many personal attacks there are because Kilroy was here and Paul, the late Psychic Octopus, picked Spain to the win the World cup? Some people have no sense of humor. Whatever happened to honest solutions and self-motivation?” He said.

“Harry, what have you been smoking?” I asked. “I just rolled out of bed; put the cat out; started cooking bacon and eggs; still need coffee to wake up, so I can put on Tyler Florence and enjoy myself; and you come over here talking about Kilroy and self-motivation. I was already motivated before you came over.”

“See, you’re complaining already, just what I’m talking about.”

“How do you want your eggs this morning?” I asked.

“Did you check the expiration date on the carton?” he responded.

“Harry, can I get a straight answer, please?” I asked. “Obviously you forget that I’m always in the world of discombobulation before coffee.”

“I’ll take them scrambled, but not watery like they were on Sunday.”

“Oh! Okay, here is the frying pan and two eggs. I guess you can get self-motivated. I’ll be in the next room watching Tyler. The bacon is cooked already. It’s an honest solution.”

“It’s my day off, like Sunday!” He said in disbelief.

“Yes, and I just asked God for inspiration. I said ‘God please help me deal with this man, who questions my cooking; doesn’t pay for the food; watches that idiot Bill O'Reilly, who forgot to ask the President Super Bowl-related questions, on my TV; stores his flip-flops on my screen porch; and thinks he can solve the world’s problems because he is being influenced by chronic complainers.”

“What chronic complainers influence me?” He asked.

“FoxNews!” I answered. “They could be 'Mikey' in a cereal commercial. You're addicted. Just think about how much more pleasant your world would be today, if you put on ‘Funniest Home Videos’ or, since it's Women's History Month, a nice documentary about Eleanor Roosevelt, instead of Fox News on the TV.” I said.

“Very Funny!” He said sarcastically. “Obama’s got the whole world on a sinking ship, and you want me to watch comedy or a woman's life story, who could have beaten Eisenhower hands-down if the Democrats weren't so stupid. They chose to run Adlai Stevenson? Ha!”

“It’s the way you look at things, Harry. Why dwell on politics every day, when you know Obama's term is almost over?”

“Like the Mayan Calendar ran out in 2012 - its too late, and we owe $17 trillion.” He said.

“Oh, so you saw that movie too! No wonder you are grumpy. You would prefer that they skin Obama alive in 2014, so you can watch and buy Gold because the world might come to an end after all? How will you spend your earnings? That makes a lot of sense. You’re going to have to trust me on this, Harry. If you watch every comedy movie ever made via Netflix between now and the primaries, instead of Fox News, your blood pressure will drop 20 or 30 points," I said.

"Nothing will change, Fox has made a soap opera out of our Commander-in-Chief called Rodney Dangerfield Incarnated. You will be pleasantly surprised at the new list of candidates for 2016. Maybe the media will show some respect for the next person we elect. After all, Obama is our president, not the dictator they depict. He consults with the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs, as well as the Attorney General. As far as I know, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is not a communist,” I added; plus, if you have any doubt about his sense of humor, watch the real interview he did with Between Two Ferns."

“Damn! and you didn't have coffee yet? Will you make me some scrambled eggs, if I wean myself gradually?” He asked.

“How about watching the cooking channel with me today?” I answered. “Tyler doesn’t spew hate and makes a helluva good old fashioned American apple pie. Then, we can go out to the movies and see the old comedy for throwback Thursday The Flim-Flam Man.”

“Okay, it’s a deal,” he said.

Yes! Give it up for The Flim-Flam Man!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A 'Little Chicago' Story

by Rose A. Valenta

When I was growing up, I used to spend most of my summers visiting my Grandmother in Olean, NY. If you have never heard of Olean, it is a great little community just over the New York State line from Bradford, PA. It was also a major bootlegging stop during Prohibition. In the 1920s, the press nicknamed the town "Little Chicago" because of its connection with organized crime, bootleggers and Al Capone; who often visited there.

My Grandparents were born and raised near Olean, before 1900. They married in Olean and raised seven children there. Unfortunately, Grandma was widowed young and had to obtain a position as a baker at The Olean House, an upscale hotel, to support her children; where she managed to get promoted to head baker. She was well-known in the community for her expertise at baking the best cakes and pies. Whether she ever baked an Italian Rum Cake for Capone, she never said. However, she always brought baked goods to family gatherings, her NSDAR ladies (Olean Chapter 1117), and often donated recipes to church cookbooks that were being produced for charity.

One could describe her as the Walter Staib of Olean - traditional recipes using original methods of baking.

I was her youngest granddaughter and she took me under her wing in the kitchen. It was a lost cause, however, because even a simple thing like cupcakes turned out like hockey pucks when I tried to make them. I remember once, she actually stood over my shoulder while she dictated a cake recipe. It was one of her famous orange Bundt cakes with orange glaze. Sure enough, it came out of the oven like a paper weight. It had risen less than an inch. I wrote an essay about it in my book, Sitting on Cold Porcelain, called “Thanksgiving Plans – Remember the Titanic.”

I got married in Philadelphia, Grandma retired from the Olean House, and we visited regularly. She was still sharp as a tack at 90 years old. She managed to take several solo trips to Florida to visit her younger sister before she passed.

Somehow, during that time, a light bulb went on in my head and I learned how to cook. I never did get the hang of baking a good cake, however, but there was Duncan Hines and the box cake only turned out lop-sided once. That’s when she put me wise to turning the tins upside down and icing the flat sides together.

I remember Grandma being very active at her Church. She was a member of the United Brethren Church and the Eastern Star. I think about her often during the holidays. So, it must have been ESP when I logged on to eBay just after Thanksgiving last year, and did a search for my grandmother’s name and “Olean,” because I found a church cookbook up for auction that she had contributed to almost 40 years ago. In it was a brown bread recipe with brown sugar, raisins, and nuts. I was thrilled. I’ll make my girls one of Grandma’s recipes for Christmas, I thought. Then, I groaned, remembering how it could turn out.

Surprisingly, not bad!

My daughters are grown now and have children of their own. Two of them only have a vague recollection of visiting their Great Grandmother in Olean, but they know all about her from my stories. This past Christmas, they had a special gift from Great-Grandma that I would like to share with you. You can make it anytime for sandwiches as a delicious substitute for whole wheat. It is not sweet:

Millie Chappell’s Brown Bread

1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
3 cups buttermilk
2 cups flour
3 cups graham flour (order online, I can’t find it anywhere else)
4 tbsp. shortening (melted)
4 tbsp. molasses
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
Add raisins, nuts, or dates as desired. I used raisins and pecans.

Mix all of the dry ingredients together, except the brown sugar. In a separate bowl, mix all of the liquid ingredients and the sugar. Combine them both making a batter. Grease two bread tins and fill them slightly more than half full with the batter. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for one hour. It makes two loaves… and all that jazz.

Yay! I’m Roxie Hart in the kitchen!

© 2010-13, Valenta, All rights reserved.

To read my column Skinny Dipping click here

To buy my book “Sitting on Cold Porcelain” click here

Video Source: YouTube - Copyright: Miramax

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Stimulus for President’s Day

By Rose A. Valenta

President’s Day is an annual Federal holiday celebrated on the third Monday of February. It was originally celebrated on February 22nd, President George Washington’s actual birthday. However, in order to include President Abraham Lincoln, who was born on February 12th, the celebration was consolidated to fall in between those two dates and generically called "President's Day."

Although, George Washington was our first POTUS under the Constitution, we completely forget that the 13 colonies were operating as a government before that under the "Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union" with John Hanson of Maryland as the first POTUS. John was born on April 14th, so I am including him today, because he participated in drafting the U.S. Constitution.

I'm not sure I like a generic President's Day. The achievements of our American Presidents are legendary, so there is no need to elaborate, but since our current President, Barack Obama, is so fond of signing “stimulus” packages to help off-set our national debt, it would make more sense for us to celebrate all our significant President's birthdays separately.

He should repeal the consolidated holiday. It would stimulate our economy to have three President’s Day sales in February and April, and if all applicable Federal agencies, schools, and financial institutions were closed on February 12th, 22nd, and April 14th; employees and students would be cutting coupons and out spending more money on millions of consumer products. This would be a win-win situation for both shoppers and retailers.

Not only that, but how can we justify an almost hit and miss celebration to pay tribute to the impressive sacrifices and achievements of such honorable men?

With an in-between birthday - Lincoln’s belated?

If they did that to somebody like Ann E. Dunwoody, she’d be pissed and she’s only a retired four-star general! She wants her NordicTrack ViewPoint™ 3600 right on her special day.

We need American retailers of all bottom lines like Best Buy, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Bloomingdale's, Costco, Brookstones, Fingerhut, Hallmark, JCPenny, Pier 1 Imports, Pep Boys, Saks Fifth Avenue, Sam's Club, and Victoria’s Secret to come together to work, struggle, and convince the powers that be to pull off three President’s Day Sales for the betterment of our economy and to pay tribute to three of our greatest heroes.

In the words of President Barack Obama, “What do you think a stimulus is? It's spending - that's the whole point, seriously!”

I want to go to Macy's, I ain't loafin':

Thursday, December 26, 2013

New Year’s Resolution 2014 – Occupy Camp David

by Rose A. Valenta

"A fool and his money are soon elected." ~ Will Rogers

After all the years that I have made a list of New Year’s resolutions for the good of my family, I’ve decided to turn over a new leaf. This year, I am making one for our POTUS:


" I will spend all my vacation and holiday time at Camp David"

Camp David

Pictured above is Camp David, the Presidential Retreat that I have been paying for every April 15th, since I joined the American work force. My parents paid for it from 1942 until they died. As you can see, it is a great place for our President to spend holidays and vacations. It is already paid for and its on-going maintenance is covered by 70 years-worth of taxpayer contributions.

The American people understand that being Commander in Chief is a tough job and requires some R&R, but as long as we are faced with a $17 trillion deficit that won’t get paid off until the Second Coming, it is only fair that the POTUS develop a frugal job description for himself and his successors, you know, one that falls under the fiscal cliff, which mandates spending vacation time at a resort designed for the purpose. After all, when a soldier takes liberty he pays for the entertainment out-of-pocket. This is not too much of a sacrifice considering that the President will only have to spend off-hours at Camp David for four years. After the POTUS is out of office, he/she can take the family on exotic personally funded vacations, instead of the extravagant vacations that are currently being taken and straining the American people’s budget.

Nobody gets a free ride in this economy, not even “Head of White Household.”

Just who is in charge of T&E Expense Management at the White House?

You can see where this is headed, right? I am not turning over a new leaf. I will continue to shop at places like Sam’s Club, WalMart, and Costco; as I am already doing a good job economically. My family vacation will remain frugal. My vehicles will continue to be certified pre-owned. My President better wise up.

In the famous words of Will Rogers “There are three kinds of men: The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves."

This year's tab

Yeah, well, not on my dime, BO!

Happy New Year!
Rosie
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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Better Than NORAD?

"There are three stages of man: He believes in Santa Claus; he doesn't believe in Santa Claus; he is Santa Claus."

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) did a great job tracking Santa again this year; but it didn't compare with the early Christmas Eve reports of reindeer poop on the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State building that circumvented modern technology and allowed kids to track where Santa and his reindeer really had been. These sightings are based on help desk reports from the North Pole. As you know, reindeer poop was in demand during the past few years for those folks, who were put on Santa’s naughty list. Entrepreneurs even packaged the stuff with poems like this one:

Santa saved a precious gift
and it's especially for you.
Just a little something extra
and it comes from Rudolph, too!

He knows that you've been naughty
instead of being nice.
Once again you're on the bad list
and he's checked it over twice.

Santa hopes this little poem
doesn’t throw you for a loop.
All you’re getting this year
is a bunch of reindeer poop!

The Elves

Recycled reindeer droppings can be used for mulch, potting soil, pranks, fertilizer, and fiberboard. You can contact the North Pole directly for Reindeer Poop® franchise information. Proceeds from the franchise initiative support Santa's workshop.

While 10 million people from 212 countries had a good time tracking Santa Claus via NORAD, Google Maps and Google Earth, and the Twitter microblogging service, including 24 "Santa cams" around the world that were later put up on Youtube; some small folks were still having fun learning where Rudolph and friends really made pit stops.

I went online to see if there were any web sites dedicated to reindeer poop sightings, as Santa was feeling a bit guilty about some of the splatters, especially the one dropped in mid-town Manhattan at about 11:00 pm EST, flattening the roof of a taxi, plus, the hoof and Claus marks on the forehead of an old lady in Skidmore, Texas; but there were none to be found.

By the time the sleigh reached the New Jersey Pine Barrens, Santa and the reindeer were feeling the side-effects of all those chocolate chip cookies. In an act of desperation, Santa began dropping notes asking kids for nachos and beer, instead of milk and cookies.

You always wondered why the Washington Monument faded in two-tone, right?

Volunteers at the North Pole help desk fielded nearly 195,000 phone calls reporting a need for WINDEX®; over 940,000 e-mail complaints demanding that a pooper scooper be installed on the sleigh; and one from irate House Speaker, John Boehner, who is still tanning himself while it hits the fan.

The root cause analysis?

The 24-hour marathon of "A Christmas Story," interference by Randolph, and Christmas!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Who Moved My Mascarpone?

An excerpt from "Sitting on Cold Porcelain."



Yesterday, I took old Mrs. Russo shopping at the Italian Market in South Philadelphia. She was buying seven fishes. I had my goal list all ready:

• Olive oil, prosciutto, capicola, and imported pasta from Claudio’s
• Olive salad and cheese from DiBruno’s
• Lamb and pork roasts, and ground beef from Esposito’s
• Locatelli and fresh produce from Giordano’s
• Spices and coffee from the Spice Corner
• Some pastry from Isgro’s

I was looking forward to a refreshing walk, while enjoying the sights and smells of the South Philly marketplace and maybe do some Christmas shopping.

I was asked to pick Teresa up at her sister’s house.

Teresa Russo has been a friend of our family for years. She went to school with one of my aunts. She was born and raised in South Philadelphia. Her temperament is a bit surly, but expected, as she grew up in a tough neighborhood. She doesn’t get around much by herself anymore, so taking her shopping was my idea and good deed for the day.

I decided to take her to Pat’s Steaks for lunch.

When I picked her up, I noticed that the jacket she was wearing was wrinkled and out of shape.

“What’s up with the jacket?” I asked, as she got into the car.

“Flak jacket underneath.” She answered. “I got it from Louie ‘The Nose.”

“Come on, Teresa, you’re 80 years old. Who’s going to mess with you?”

“Hey, they let that Gambino guy off. You know, John ‘junior’ Gatti. Now, they call him ‘Teflon John.’ He don’t have friends in South Philadelphia. Two guys came down from New York last week and started something near the Sports Complex. I smell trouble, like we got the malocchio or something. Maybe we shouldn’t go today.”

“Teresa, people don’t believe in the ‘evil eye’ anymore. You shouldn’t be so superstitious. Of course we should go shopping. Those guys all hang out in a different neighborhood.”

“Yeah? What are we gonna do if they decide they want to eat something at Mama Mia’s and start a fight?”

“Teresa, they don’t mess with old ladies. Besides, we're going to eat at Pat's.”

“Speak for yourself, I’m not old.” She said.

When we got to the Italian Market and parked the car at the three dollar lot on Washington Avenue, we were approached by some guy, who said he was from HealthCare.gov and was taking a poll. Teresa broke his pencil and told him to get lost.

“OK,” I said. “I take back what I said. They don’t mess with NICE old ladies.”

“Statazete! (Shutup)” she snapped. “We should have stayed home. That guy was a pickpocket. Check your wallet.”

“I have it” I said. “Nothing is missing. Will you just relax and enjoy yourself? Put on your happy face, that should confuse everybody.”

Everything went smoothly until Teresa spotted a black limousine driving up 9th Street. She dove under a vendor table and about 50 live blue crabs and two dozen oranges went scurrying and rolling in all directions. Crustaceans were everywhere. I saw one of them booking down Montrose Street. You could hear the screams for blocks.

“What, are you on somebody’s hit list, or just crazy - are you alright?”

“Yes, I’m sorry.” She said.

“Yes, what? Yes, you’re crazy or yes, you’re OK?”

“Alright already - both!”

The guy, who rented the vendor table, was furious, cussing in Italian, and running around with tongs trying to gather up the runaway crustaceans before they pinched someone.

“Che cazzo...?” he shouted, “C'è un casino della Madonna qui.” (Meaning “What the hell…?” and his vocabulary went down-hill after that.)

After we paid him for the crabs that were still missing in action, I swore to myself that I would never do another good deed like this again. What started out as a fun shopping trip had turned into a total nightmare.

We never got to Isgro’s.

On the way home, Teresa apologized for her behavior all day. She told me she is into Ronny ‘The Rat’ for $100 to pay for the exterminator.

Apparently, while she was getting out her Christmas decorations two weeks ago, she found mice running around in her basement. Ronny had threatened her. She was supposed to pay him $125 by yesterday, or he would import a hundred mice and set them loose in her house. So, for the rest of the week, until she pays him on Friday, Teresa is spending nights with her sister.

“Ronny is a spostata (jerk).” She said.

“Teresa, the next time you need money, call me. I will lend it to you, no mice and no interest, capiche?”

I went home, poured myself a Chianti, and listened to a little Lou Monte.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Is Dayton the Boondocks of Ohio?

by Rose A, Valenta

Is it just me and logistics, or is Dayton the boondocks of Ohio?

Every other year, I go out to Ohio, to attend the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop at the University of Dayton. So, just this morning, I was online checking rates and times for United Airlines and Amtrak to Dayton, OH.

I don't know why I checked airfare; no one has been able to get me on a plane since I took AirSick Flight 19 to St. Thomas, several years ago, and those Northwest pilots in Chicago probably got caught playing Facebook games on their laptops, overshooting the airport.

I prefer train travel, but Amtrak only goes to Cincinnati via Kentucky, where you can hail a taxi, hop a bus, or rent a car for the last 56-green-miles to Dayton.

Coach or room, the train arrives there at 1:30 am. I considered how dangerous it might be to find myself alone in a train station, at that hour. I did that once in NYC and was accosted by a street person, who wanted half of my potato skin. It was dripping with butter, sour cream, and bacon bits. Not willing to give up my bacon bits, I gave him a small bag of Nachos instead. I nixed the train ride idea. Plus, on the way back, the only train leaves Cincinnati at 3:29 am Sunday the 13th, or else you have to wait it out until the 16th; at which time the train leaves the station at 3:29 am. The trip takes about 16 hours by way of Kentucky and West Virginia whiskey and paw-paw stops.

The plane, Tattoo, goes all over the eastern seaboard, with layovers in Hoboken, DC, and Atlanta; taking 5 to 6 hours.

How in the hell did explorer René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle manage in a dugout canoe during the 17th Century looking for a route to China via Ohio?

Since Dayton is only 545 miles away, I drew a straight line on a road map from Philadelphia to Dayton, and decided to check out Enterprise Rent-a-Car to drive. I've driven there in my own car before, getting it tuned up, tires checked, oil, brake fluid, window washer, and a fill-up; only to arrive at the same time as my friend, Joy, was leaving the Dayton Marriott bar in her bunny slippers and I looked as disheveled as she did, except I was sober!

It all started on Route 70 between Columbus and Dayton... you guessed it, flat as the world my Italian ancestor was told he lived in, right?

My Italian heritage stunted my growth, but I managed to get to be 5 feet tall. Consequently, I have to practically do a tarantella on the lug wrench to loosen the tire.

I detest lug nuts!

Do you remember the scene in "A Christmas Story," when Ralph utters an expletive, while helping his father change a tire and ends up sucking on a bar of Lifebouy?

That was me on Route 70. If there were any good Samaritans around, they all accelerated to get away from the crazy woman, who even looked like a deranged bunny out on the highway.

You have to know that the entire time I'm changing the tire, visions of Hervé Villechaize yelling "Mr. Rourke, the plane! the plane!" kept dancing in my head, while I'm berating myself with coulda shoulda woulda.

Try a little self-love, I thought, that always works. So, I priced the Enterprise leasing rate on a real classy Lincoln Towncar for a week. The cost is the same as airfare or room accommodations on Amtrak.

Oh yes! and a box of Godiva chocolates for the road. Whoo-Hoo!

Have audio books will travel.