Author Archives: charlesprogers
Post by Josh Zinn.
One of the biggest embarrassments I ever experienced as a child was believing that other people would be as interested in celebrating the birthday of my dog, Whiskers, as I was. In my mind, it was plainly obvious that my faithful companion was more than deserving of a celebration marking his fourth/twenty-eighth year; thus, I spent hours hand-crafting invitations for each person in my third-grade class (minus that smelly girly, Felicia, who had scabs all over her arms, sucked the liquid out of dandelion stems, and always wore too much rayon). Alas, however, even the promise of confections, canines, and Nintendo wasn’t enough to lure a single one of my so-called “friends” away from their Heathcliff and Inspector Gadget reruns. I was devastated; Whiskers nonplussed. We both ate a lot of cake.
I was reminded of this massive mongrel mistake recently whilst watching the television show Drop Dead Diva. Though a program about a beautiful but vapid model that dies in a horrific car crash and is reincarnated as a brilliant but overweight lawyer might not initially appear to have much in common with the trials and tribulations of a boy and his birthday dog, similarities abound. Case in point: Neither the lawyer, Jane, nor Whiskers are able to find much love in a cold, cruel world that dismisses them as second-class citizens based upon their outward appearance. Point 2: Jane has a guardian angel that feeds her nuggets of advice while Whiskers was fed nuggets of chicken by his guardian angel, me! Point 3: Jane pines for her modeling days and beloved boyfriend, Grayson. Whiskers, on the other hand, pined for the rubber pork chops he had chewed up alongside several of my beloved Chewbacca action figures. It’s all just too uncanny!
Drop Dead Diva is about as intellectual, thought provoking, and stimulating as its witty-by-way-of-secretaries-having-margarita-night-at-Chili’s-and-sloshily-coming-up-with-it title suggests. Like my dog’s deserted birthday party, it’s one of those programs that appears (and probably is) empty and sad, but is nonetheless filled with semi-delicious cake that you can gorge on when no one else is there to witness your rapid descent into self-pity. Sometimes, when you and your dog are dramatically ruminating over the meaning of friendship, a little junk food is the only guest you need.
Post by Alison Hein.
Masa harina, a Latin American dough made from hominy, gives these sweet corn cakes a smooth, full-bodied texture and distinctive flavor. Then, whole sweet corn kernels add little pops of pure maize when you dig in for a bite. These elements are especially nice when serving the corn cakes chilled, as we do here, then alluringly topped with smoky salmon and parslied sour cream. Wonderful for breakfast or brunch, but toss together a side salad and you’ve got a light, refreshing summer meal.
Prepare the batter in advance and fry these babies up just like pancakes. Put them in the refrigerator to chill, or, if you want, stop right here and serve them warm with salted butter and Vermont maple syrup.
Parslied sour cream appears elegant and time-consuming, yet it’s a cinch to whip up – simply toss all the ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth. It looks lovely, keeps well in the refrigerator, and its creamy herbal base adds fresh pizzazz (try it on baked potatoes, or even sandwiches).
All you need is a little smoked salmon, for a super summery meal – a sweet and smoky breakfast in bed.
Sweet Corn Cakes
1 cup masa harina, or substitute cornmeal
½ cup unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups milk
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup sweet corn kernels, fresh or frozen
Dash of cayenne
2 to 3 tablespoons corn oil, for frying
Combine masa harina, flour, baking powder and salt in large bowl. In separate bowl, stir together milk, egg and honey. Gradually add milk mixture to dry ingredients, stirring frequently, until well-mixed. Fold in corn kernels and cayenne.
Heat oil in heavy pan or griddle on burner over medium to medium high heat. Ladle ¼ cup of batter into pan for each corn cake. Cook one to two minutes per side, flipping once, until corn cakes are lightly browned and crisped. Add more oil and adjust heat as necessary. Serve hot with butter and real maple syrup, or chill and top with smoked salmon and parslied sour cream.
Makes approximately 10 sweet corn cakes.
NOTE: For gluten-free corn cakes, replace the white flour with an equal amount of masa harina.
Parslied Sour Cream
1 cup sour cream
¼ cup parsley (flat leaf or curly)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon lemon oil (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Add all ingredients to blender or food processor and mix together until smooth. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Makes approximately one cup of parslied sour cream.
Sweet Corn Cakes with Smoked Salmon and Parslied Sour Cream
2 sweet corn cakes
1 to 2 tablespoons parslied sour cream
4 ounces smoked salmon
Additional parsley for garnish (optional)
Place corn cakes on plates. Spread about two teaspoonfuls of parslied sour cream on top of each cake, and top with smoked salmon. Garnish with a dot of sour cream and parsley sprig, if you like.
Makes 2 servings.
Post by Laura Cheng.
I used to love Nick at Nite. I still do. And although Nick Jr. has now been the dominate channel in our household, one of my favorite shows is still I Dream of Jeannie. I can’t talk about I Dream of Jeannie without mentioning her bedroom. That was my favorite part, when the producers would flash from Major Nelson’s ordinary suburban home to Jeannie’s exotic and glamorous lair. Jeannie’s opulent bedroom is encased in wall to wall fabric and highlighted in opulent jewels. Fabric valences along a bedroom wall panel elicits the same magical effect that I get when I see Jeannie’s digs.
Decorating the wall behind the headboard with sheers has a way of transforming the bedroom into a practical, enchanting retreat. I am in love with this soothing lilac and lavendar palette. It’s feminine, yet I could still convince my man to sleep in it without him feeling like I am undermining his masculinity. The gauzy sheers envelops the space. One wall of cascading sheers is all it takes to add dimension and a touch of romance. And it doesn’t hurt to have instant access to a tranquil garden patio right outside the bedroom. In the sunlight, the sheers are shimmering and brilliant.
The bedroom above takes the cake, but treatments need not be extravagant to be wonderful. The bedroom below uses a basic curtain and rod panel and keeps the focus on the other elements in the room. The structured pattern of the window treatment and rug are offset by the casual crinkle effect of the simple textile behind the bed. The similar lilac color creates a soft, soothing backdrop to the pop of orange. This particular panel has discreet slit openings, allowing the mounting hardware for the lamps and art to remain hidden from view. The panel color is neutral enough to be a wonderful alternative to white. And the design is easy enough that any DIY could accomplish.
If bedrooms had names, this one would be named “Candy”, it’s that sweet. No amount of convincing could get my man in here, but there is something charming that draws me to it. The fabric panel behind the headboard that cocoons the space definitely has something to do with it. It enhances the room and gives a pure and innocent “genie in a bottle” effect. Pale pink might not be the first color that comes to mind when designing an adult bedroom. It’s definitely girly, but it’s also modern, sleek and chic.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
I came across this at a local coffee shop and thumbed through it, expecting it to be full of all the usual wacky and weird things that every Oregonian knows, like the Vortex and the Shanghai Tunnels which supposedly were used to send unwitting and drunken sailors to slavery. But to my surprise, this book is well-researched and offers fascinating tidbits that I’ve never even heard of. We’ve all heard of Sasquatch but I never knew that Colossal Claude, Wallowa Wally and Marvin the Monster troll the Oregon waters! Not to mention the Melrose Creep, and all the myriad haunted haunts in this mostly Wild West state.
And let’s not forget all the fun the Rajneeshis brought to Antelope, Oregon in the 80s! And if you have never heard of the Enchanted Forest, it’s high time you did.
Everyone seems to talk about Portland these days and if you are taking a trip out here you would be remiss if you didn’t reference this off-beat historic, cultural, and tour guide to Oregon. And if Oregon’s not your thing, not to worry; there seems to be a “Weird” book for every state in the union. Happy travels!
Post by Josh Zinn.
Maybe it reveals too much about my personal life or the priorities of my parents, but ever since I was a wee tot I’ve had a deep fascination with the world of beauty pageants. Now, truth be told, I’ve never held much interest in the good deeds this year’s “Miss Southern Soy Belt” hopeful professes she can achieve by winning a crown (though she really does do a sensational job spreading awareness about the embarrassing pain of lactose intolerance, bless her heart), but being an audience to the numerous hardships this brave voyageur of beauty and intelligence (she has a bachelors in Communication!) must endure to claim her throne of dairy-free domination is a guilty delight on par with, well… It’s at least as good as the new, “BOLD and ZESTY!” flavor of Wheat Thins I sampled at Target the other night and that, let me tell you dear readers, ain’t chicken scratch.
The young competitors featured on TLC’s Toddlers & Tiaras, however, don’t have a much of an interest in saving the world from the side effects of cheese—that is, unless salvation takes them to Build-A-Bear afterwards. No, in the minds of these pint-sized pageant participants, the ultimate goal in life appears to be proving their jazzercise mettle in a vicious arena that’s conveniently located in the conference room of a moderately priced, Midwestern hotel. There, amidst an array of stackable chairs, rotund women in stirrup tights, and the desiccated remains of Pixie Sticks, these tiny purveyors of sunshine wage war with one another through song, dance, and Ritalin-induced fits of hysteria and ennui. As desperate mothers wipe the Cheetos crumbs from their bosom and waddle up to the stage to guide their child through yet another Lita Ford-inspired routine, the world waits with baited breath as to who will be crowned the Ultimate Grand Supreme of such “star-spudded” events as the Nicholas County Potato Festival Pretty Baby Pageant. Needless to say, only one small fry can come out on top.
Toddlers & Tiaras isn’t good for you. It isn’t good for your family, for your neighbors, or even for that annoying woman in the supermarket who feels obliged to comment on the tastiness of the frozen dinner you’ve just put in your cart. In fact, for many, watching its endless parade of prepubescent, prettified Pollyanna’s is akin to welcoming the apocalypse to the dinner table. That said, there’s something eerily calming, refreshing, and downright entertaining in knowing your life will never be as terrible or tacky as the families you see on the television screen every week. If it’s true that everybody loves a clown (author’s note: No, it’s not) then Toddlers & Tiaras is a three-ring circus of painted faces and problematic parenting that’s guaranteed to make your misery seem just a little bit brighter!