Wednesday, July 22, 2009

...but there were NO MONKEYS

On Saturday, Mr K and I returned to Thun for the "International Barrel Organ Festival." First, and most importantly, there were no monkeys. Zero. Well, unless you count the vast army of stuffed toy monkeys that most of the organs were festooned with. Of course we were disappointed, but the sight of a ferris wheel looming over the river cheered us up considerably. Mr K has recently fitted me out with my own camera - he was doubtless getting sick of my "hey come takes pictures of this, hey can we look at the pictures, hey can you hurry and edit them so I can put them in my blog, hey how do you make a magnet, hey can you take a picture of the cats right now" etc - you get the general idea. So there I was, in gorgeous Thun, snap-snap-snapping away with my very own camera and camera bag and memory card and cleaning wipe with a kitteh on it - so nice! I digress...

So first things first, we popped in line to buy two tickets for the ferris wheel - this turned out to be easily the best 10 CHF we spent that day - the view couldn't be beat. I mean, wow. Mr K used his fancy-pantsy camera to make a swanky high-def video of one turn around the wheel - you can watch it on Youtube. I love the way at first you only hear the wind and then the organ music comes sneaking in, followed by some crowd noise and then back to the wind - I could watch that video on a loop all day.

The barrel organs were really interesting - neither of us could remember ever seeing or hearing one in person before - they're oddly beautiful and much more complicated than I imagined. Most of the players were dressed in different old-fashioned-looking styles, ranging from the very complex to those who just added a straw or top hat to a normal outfit. One of the highlights of the day was a mini-concert three organists performed together - again see Youtube for the high-def video. The music was so wonderful and sweet.

When not snap-snap-snapping or list-list-listening, we spent our time snacking, naturally. We started the day with tasty pretzels (one poppy seed and one with raclette cheese) and then later moved on to a chocolate covered banana, a real-sugar-Coke, a beer for Mr K, and whatever else looked good at the time. It was nice, but these people should really visit Texas to get an idea of what amazing stuff fair food can be! (We were slightly disappointed that the chocolate covered banana stand was not a frozen chocolate covered banana stand - I've heard there's always money in that kind of thing.)

Anyway, the festival was charming and we had a great time. This weekend, a barbeque with friends and relaxing because the calendar's looking pretty full for the next six weeks!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

One little big step

As you've probably gathered from my overly wordy blog, I like to write. Recently, I signed up for a six-week-long creative writing class from UCLA Extension. While I've participated in NaNoWriMo multiple times in the past, signing up for this class marks my first formal foray into creative writing. My big problem is, though I love to write, I am terrified of letting other people read anything I've done. In an effort to "do better," I'm going to post my first exercise from my class here and you're welcome to (gulp gasp) let me know what you think. Depending on how this goes, I may post more in the future. Our first assignment was "show, don't tell" and here's what I submitted:

The tabletop fan sat motionless, the newspapers in front of it unrustled. Of all the things to miss, it was the silence of the newspapers that was getting to him. Henry Midfield huffed in annoyance - this slight movement sent his glasses slip-sliding down the sweat of his nose where he caught them and shoved them back into place without noticing. The ice in his drink had long since melted and, next to his chair, the papers that needed grading sat untouched.

Across the room, the TV and radio stared mutely at him, their power buttons black and beady, like the eyes of frogs caught in the porch light. The silence sneaking in from the kitchen only made him more aware of how he had grown used to the hum and chatter of hard-working appliances.

At first the silence had been a pleasant novelty – something about which one could make small talk with neighbors and overly chatty cashiers. Now, though, in its third day, the silence seemed to be hanging back, an injured animal planning its revenge and it was making everyone just a little more unpleasant than usual.

Outside, the neighbor's children were sullenly splashing in a muddy looking wading pool. Sunset was approaching. Normally it was about this time that Henry uttered his first curse of the day, directed at but never spoken to the neighbor who installed a floodlight on his garage that burned through Henry's kitchen window, marring the pleasant banality that should have marked his post-dinner washing up. Today there was no floodlight and no washing up – two more things he never expected to miss.

He swayed up from his damp chair in the living room and waded through the humidity into his kitchen. The room felt cramped and the faded blue plastic cooler set directly in front of the refrigerator only made the room seem smaller. The cooler, like some scratched-up modern-day treasure chest, held the last of the food he had been able to rescue from the refrigerator – none of which was even remotely appetizing at this point.

Lurching back to his chair, Henry sat down and placed a cigarette between his lips, but didn't light it – even that flash of fire would be too much. The ashtray next to his chair was nearly overflowing with unlit but well-gummed Marlboros – the sight of it made him sick. Henry wiped the sweat from his forehead and, squeezing his eyes tightly shut, flicked his lighter and inhaled.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

160 for the 4OJ

That title looks like a vanity plate - allow me to explain. This is my 160th post to this blog, which seems like a pretty darn big number to me... and from I learned '4OJ' is the super-cool-way-hip way to say "the Fourth of July" - I think they made that up, but it doesn't matter.

None of that matters when there's food to talk about!

As has become our tradition, we celebrated the 4th by filling our apartment with non-Americans and feeding them silly. Our menu this year focused on hot dogs and all the fabulous ways you can eat them. We started with a tray of pigs in blankets as an appetizer (along with a bowl of onion dip since I've gotten all our friends hooked now.) For side items, I made pasta salad, potato salad, ambrosia salad, cole slaw, baked beans, corn salad, green salad, and fresh pickles. Taking my cues from a collection of cookbooks and a brief search of Wikipedia, we offered toppings and written directions for six different variations of hot dogs:

  • the Willy Dog: (Alabama) ketchup, mustard, chili, sauerkraut, pickles
  • the Kansas City Dog: sauerkraut and melted Swiss (emmentaler) cheese
  • the Carolina/West Virginia Dog: chili, cole slaw, mustard, onions
  • the classic Chicago-style Dog: tomato, cucumber, dill pickle, sweet relish, yellow mustard, celery salt and NO KETCHUP
  • the Coney Island Dog: chili, onion, yellow mustard
  • the 7-Eleven Dog: a pile of chili and canned cheese
Our toppings bar (supplemented with rare imports provided by my mama) consisted of Cincinnati chili, diced onion, sweet relish, dill pickles, chow chow, Emmentaler cheese, cheddar cheese, Easy Cheese, canned nacho cheese, ketchup, mayo, Miracel Whip, Dijon mustard, grainy mustard, French's yellow mustard, spicy mustard, sauerkraut, Cholula, Tabasco, celery salt, and Old Bay.

Most people tried one or two variations, with chili and cheese being the most popular toppings. Steph "freestyled" her hot dog, pioneering her own unique Swiss-style dog (I have no idea what she put on it.) The star of the evening, as usual, was Dani "the Fromaginator", who made it his personal mission of the evening to eat one of each variation. All got positive reactions but the 7-Eleven style... we'll see what he thinks of the real thing in November!

Obviously all that salt is going to make you a bit thirsty - in order to combat this, our friends were kind enough to bring rivers of beer and wine and various other drinks. Max went so far as to hunt down an exclusive import: Miller Genuine Draft. We added a couple libations of our own to the mix - Lynchburg Lemonade and three flavors of jello shots.

Around midnight we grabbed sparklers and descended on our small playground courtyard for a moving (as in full of awkward movements) tribute to the 4th. Our friends were kind enough to finish the dishes for me and bag up all the bottles for recycling, allowing Mr K and I a much needed day of rest on Sunday. And that's our 4OJ - how was yours?