Posts Tagged ‘Americana’

When I was four and Tracy was five, my parents took us to amusement park central, Southern California. We obviously went to Disneyland, though the only things I can remember about that visit are the Enchanted Tiki Room and the Adventure Thru Inner Space. I don’t even remember Cinderella’s Castle. If you look closely below, you’ll see me and Tracy standing in front of it, with Papa Don nearby on the right, making sure we don’t get kidnapped.


I have a vague memory of The Enchanted Tiki Room and all the crazy animatronic birds in that tropical setting, though my Mom said I fell asleep about five minutes into the show. But I was wide awake during the Adventure Thru Inner Space. They actually shrunk the riders on the trams as they went through the ride. It would turn us into the size of atoms. At least that’s what I thought. There was a big microscope thing with a glass tube and we could see teeny tiny riders moving through it inside. I was mesmerized by it. The Adventure Thru Inner Space was eventually replaced with Star Tours, and well, I guess we all know where that idea is headed now.

During that trip, we also visited Universal Studios and Knott’s Berry Farm. Imagine planning that vacation now. Of course admission tickets weren’t $3,000 dollars back then. Park refreshments probably weren’t that expensive then either. In fact, here Tracy and I are enjoying tasty, ice-cold sodas with Woody the Woodpecker:


You think we’d stop slurping those sodas long enough to smile for a photo. But hey, there was likely a month of Powdered Milk that preceded those treats, so the brain freeze was probably well worth it.

Since I was only four, I just have a few specific memories about the Happiest Place on Earth, but I remember a “feeling,” like a happy, sunshine-y feeling. I really have no recollection of Universal Studios either, except for watching a cowboy get shot off a building. And I don’t remember a thing about Knott’s Berry Farm, except for visiting the replica of Independence Hall, with its replica of the Liberty Bell inside. Here’s a tiny, blurry glimpse of me and Tracy standing in front of it:


Even though we’re micro-sized in the photo, you can tell we’re wearing matching clothes again. We were basically Irish Twins, and Mary Ann always dressed us alike. She either made our clothes or ordered them from the Sears catalog. Here’s another example:


Just kidding, that’s not us. We didn’t get the part.

Here’s Independence Hall at Knott’s Berry Farm again:


See that narrow path next to the flag pole? I believe that is the actual spot of my first clear memory as a human. It’s where I fell down, and immediately started crying. Not because I was in pain, but just for the drama. See, I think I fell down on purpose so I could yell and cry so my parents would turn around to see how far behind them their precious child was, and in danger of being lost or kidnapped. I think I was about five feet behind them, but when you’re four, it seems like miles. So I wailed, and my Dad came back, surveyed my traumatic injuries, and held my hand for the rest of the day.

A few years later, my grandparents started giving us Knott’s Berry Farm jelly samplers for Christmas. I couldn’t wait for that thing. There was Cherry Jelly with real chunks of cherries in it. But even better, there was Mint Jelly. Obviously Mary Ann wouldn’t serve that with lamb, so I ate it on toast. No one else wanted any, so more for me. I practically licked that jar inside out when it was empty. I’ve still never had lamb with mint jelly. Pretty sure I never will.


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blue mooncourtesy of kevin phillips – pixabay


Tonight is a blue moon. It only happens once in a blue moon. (Thank you, I’ll be here all week.) Apparently, a blue moon isn’t a moon that looks blue in the sky, it’s when two full moons occur within the same calendar month – and the second one is called the blue moon.

So what’s the big deal? Well, spiritually you can take advantage of this time to purge, to bring things to a close, to start fresh. If you’re pregnant, you might want to try to take a nap and make sure your hospital bag is ready to go. If you’re a werewolf … sorry, you have two transformations this month. For me, I like to think the energy of this blue moon will bring me extra luck. Or it will simply create low and high tides. Whatever.

When I was a little kid, I remember going outside and just staring at the moon. I remember hearing there was a man in the moon, and that the moon was made of cheese … but mostly I just remember looking for astronauts. I was five when man first landed on the moon. That was a big deal back then. It was all everybody talked about. I was so amazed just thinking that a rocket ship could blast astronauts into space and land them on the moon. I’d squint really hard trying to see those astronauts walking around up there. It’s weird to think back and realize we were experiencing a major part of history. Wow, I must be old.

I’ve always thought the moon was cool. When I was a kid, it was my major source of entertainment when riding in the car at night. I didn’t have a tablet, or Nintendo DS, or a Kindle, or whatever hand-held device is cool these days, so instead of fighting with my sisters in the back seat of the car, I’d just look out the window at the sky. I loved looking at the stars and the moon. That moon would always follow us. Every time we drove home from my grandparent’s house – which was almost every weekend – that moon was there. Even if we exited off the highway, made a turn, whatever … there it was. Magical. It was like my special friend, always making sure I got home safe and lighting up my room so monsters wouldn’t come out of the closet. I still watch the moon when I’m driving at night. Well, I mean I don’t actually stare at the moon when I’m driving, that’s ridiculous, but Jay is always driving so I stare at the moon. There’s just something about it. I’m excited to check out the blue moon tonight. And if it disappoints, I can always have this:

blue moon bottle

Oh yes. I know you guys (my three loyal readers) think I’m a snooty-snob who only loves fancy amber microbrews with Red in the name (like Red Hook ESB), but l found a new brewskie to love. And her name is Blue Moon. We were visiting Jay’s brother and went out that night and there was no Red Hook on the menu. Oh, the humanity. So I opted for a Blue Moon. I’d had it before, as my bro-in-law Brian likes it, but I always thought it was just your average beer. But this time, they threw a few fancy orange wedges in there. Hmm. Interesting. Quite the taste sensation. So I bought some Blue Moon at Costco cuz you can get 3,000 bottles for like $15 dollars. Blue Moon says they brew their beer with coriander and orange peel. More interesting. That’s like two of my favorite flavors; didn’t recognize them in there before. And I’ve amped it up lately. I pour fresh-squeezed orange juice in Blue Moon. (When in Fresno …) Who would’ve thought I’d like something sweet with beer. Now I add like a half-cup of orange juice or more to a beer. De-li-ci-ous. I think I’m on to something here. Well, at least I’m getting some extra vitamin C.

I just went outside and looked at the moon. It looks full already. Kinda creamy-colored, a hint of orange peel. I’m pretty sure I saw an astronaut.

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I found this handy cookbook at an estate sale and obviously couldn’t resist … even though it cost a whopping 25 cents as you can see by the fancy sticker. It was copyrighted by the Hearst Corporation in 1958. I don’t know if it’s that Hearst Corporation, but you may need a hearse after trying one of the recipes inside. What intrigued me about the particular recipe I’m making fun of tonight was the name, and naturally the ingredients made me shudder:


First of all, what is Ham Ling Lo supposed to mean? I could make lots of jokes about it, but they probably wouldn’t be politically correct. Second of all, why in the world did people eat “canned luncheon meat” back then? I remember my Mom often kept cans of deviled ham in the cupboard. I also remember never wanting to eat it. It was in a little metal can, wrapped in paper — paper that had a picture of a devil on it. It’s like they did everything they could to keep you from getting to that deviled ham inside. That was very noble of the deviled ham-maker’s, but apparently it didn’t work in my house. Of course, any deviled ham sandwich I found in my lunchbox during my childhood was quickly tossed into the garbage can at school. You couldn’t trade deviled ham sandwiches. Or liverwurst. I think they’re the same thing. Anyway, see that little brown drop on the recipe page? That’s the 50-year-old tear of someone who had to make this recipe.

So, deviled ham, pineapple, pineapple juice (hurl), peppers and celery. Well that just about covers everything I hate. Yes, I saw the potatoes, but even they can’t help this recipe. Not even this fancy picture of Ham Ling Lo can make me change my mind:


Well, that’s part of the Ham Ling Lo in the upper left corner. You may not have noticed it because you were fixated on the fancy casserole topped with deviled eggs in the upper right corner, or the green gooey casserole that looks like it’s topped with plastic toast. I won’t even try to find those recipes for you; I’m not that heartless.


Oooohhh, there’s obviously something wrong with Johnny. But wait, what’s that “P.S.” at the bottom? Ketchup? Nope, I’m fairly certain even my Dad wouldn’t eat that sandwich …

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When I was a kid, Halloween was my favorite holiday. I loved it more than Christmas. It was that cool time of year when the leaves would fall from the trees during windy evenings and the breeze still had a hint of warmth. Okay, I guess it also had to do with the fact that on Halloween night I would get CANDY, CANDY and more CANDY. I loved dressing up and loved creating my perfect costume. When we were little, my Mom would make Halloween costumes for me and Tracy:

                             ” Help, I’ve lost my sheep! And my dignity.”

In later years, Mom would sometimes buy us costumes from the store — probably K-Mart, and most likely a blue-light special. Little girls in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s had about two costume choices: nurse or witch. I chose the nurse. I liked those little candy pills that came in the little plastic nurse’s box. Hand-me-downs were also a part of Halloween: Coleen and Melissa would be wearing those Little Bo Peep costumes a few years later.

When I was a lot older (at least 9 or 10), I would pride myself in making my own costume. I wasn’t your typical girly-girl who wanted to be a Princess or Fairy or Bride for Halloween. I was immensely proud of a ‘bum’ costume I designed … complete with a pair of my Dad’s old pants I stuffed with pillows to look fat. I guess homeless people were fat back in the day. I rubbed used coffee grounds all over my face to resemble a five-o’clock shadow. “Brother, can you spare a dime? Or a Snickers?”

When I was just starting elementary school, there was a super dry spell in Halloween festivities for children in the San Francisco Bay Area. There was a crazy serial killer named the Zodiac on the loose (maybe you’ve heard of him). During those Zodiac rampage years, no trick-or-treating was allowed in the greater Vallejo area. I hated the Zodiac. I was too young to understand the awful truth about the Zodiac — all I knew was some crazy person had ruined my favorite holiday and all of us were banned to school cafeterias and community centers to celebrate our Halloween. Trick-or-treating around a cafeteria just isn’t the same once you’ve experienced the real outdoor festivities, especially when that nasty warm corn smell was still lingering in the air from lunch time.

We’d parade around the cafeteria in our costumes getting candy and snacks. Oh, and there was bobbing for apples, or as I like to call it, Hello Hepatitis! What the bleep? What were those adults thinking? Hey gang, let’s grab a huge rusty pail from the backyard scrap pile, fill it with water from the hose and throw some apples in it. Then for kicks, let’s have the kids dress up like dorks with crazy makeup all over their face, run around the block begging the neighbors for candy in the cold, then drag them and their runny noses over to the big rusty water pail full of apples and stick their faces in it. Then let’s have ‘em bite at the apples with their candy-corroded teeth long enough so that their spit mixes together in the water. If one of them actually snags an apple in their teeth, they WIN!! They win an APPLE!!

Even as a kid I knew something was terribly wrong with bobbing for apples. But there were more dangers lurking around in Halloween goodies. My Dad made us well aware of the potential razor blade or cherry bomb or “drug injected by needle” that just might be hiding in our mini Three Musketeers bar. When we got home from trick-or treating during the non-Zodiac years, we had to line up and pass our bags over to Dad for official inspection. Dad would check for pin holes and the like in our candy wrappers. Many times he would have to taste test our candy to be sure they were safe for us. He had to check A LOT of our candy. Well, he didn’t want a cherry bomb to blow our cheek off.

One time I didn’t listen to my Mom and Dad’s lecture about eating candy at night and I snuck lots of candy from my trick-or-treat bag into my room right before bed, and proceeded to eat most of it. That night, I had the dreaded “eating-candy-before-bedtime nightmare.” About werewolves. Dancing werewolves. If you missed that post, click here.

These days, Halloween has somewhat lost its’ magic. We have a ton of cool Halloween decorations, but never decorate because no one trick-or-treats in our neighborhood. Our neighbors have a light that illuminates the entire cul-de-sac, but strangely enough, they forget to turn it on Halloween night. So we usually go to where the nieces and nephews are to see all their darling ladybug, Thomas the Train and Tinkerbell costumes. And Jay makes sure to check all their trick-or-treat candy for dangerous items.

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Sorry for the lapse in posts…it’s been a very busy few weeks. Tonight I opened up the infamous “ABC of Casseroles” book, you remember the one:

I found some more treasures. You know how some people keep a bottle of that ipecac syrup stuff around in case they need to induce vomiting in a poison victim? This book is essentially the same thing. Simply turn to any page and you’ll immediately kick-start those spit glands. Tonight I’ve chosen a special recipe. The word scallops is in the recipe title, and for a minute, I thought I was in for a treat. Wrong. Well, you be the judge:

First of all, eggs should not go anywhere near scallops. Whoever created this recipe must’ve had a lot of leftover Easter eggs they had to use up. This recipe makes me sad, because scallops is one of my favorites. I once had sea scallops prepared with an orange champagne sauce that was to die for. I imagine you could die eating this dish, too. You know, scallops need to be prepared just right. Boiling them? That’s just plain lazy.

I might’ve been intrigued just a tiny smidge if only they hadn’t ruined it with the bell pepper and celery. Why couldn’t they be a little more fancy and use asparagus, or artichokes, or no eggs? I just imagine all these flavors blending together in the white sauce bread crumb bath. And that’s right, I have no desire to know what exactly white sauce is. Maybe they thought they could distract me with the cheese. Well, it would take a whole lot more than two measly tablespoons of cheese to make me try this dish.

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Mary Ann invented recycling. You won’t read that in any history books, but it’s true. Most people think the big recycling craze just started this last decade, but my Mom practiced the art of recycling way back in the ‘60s.

The most obvious recycling event at our house happened every August with the hand-me-downs. I don’t remember buying new clothes very much during grade school as I was always getting someone else’s clothes. I was the runt in my family. Even my younger sisters eventually outgrew me. But mostly, I inherited my older sister Tracy’s clothes. That was fine with me because I thought she had the coolest dresses, and I was lucky to get them two years after they had gone out of style. I also got my cousins’ clothes. Of course in grade school, once I had outgrown the hand-me-downs, Coleen and Melissa got them. But at least by then, the clothes had come back into style.

When Tracy and I were toddlers, my Mom made our clothes. They were really cute, and always matching. Tracy and I are practically Irish twins, and Mom usually dressed us as actual twins. I was the much shorter twin. She made us identical clothes through our early grade school years—I even remember being in a ‘fashion show’ in fourth grade. Tracy and I wore my Mom’s designs….polyester peach elephant pants with peach and blue halter tops. And she had us wear big straw hats and sunglasses. Move over Kate Moss and Heidi Klum. Did I mention this fashion show was held in our grade school cafeteria? We were famous for a few minutes, then went home smelling like creamed corn.

My Mom couldn’t help but be resourceful. Each year after birthdays or Christmas morning, Mom would quickly snatch up the discarded bows for the package-wrapping stash for the next big event. I’m guilty of this today. Well c’mon, I’m not gonna throw out a perfectly good bow; I just take off the used tape so the next person will think they’ve received a fancy new one.

Right now I’m looking at my stash of paper and plastic bags. I save every paper bag I get. Yes, I do reuse them often. Sometimes Jay uses them to drain his deep fried taco shells on. And the plastic bags—since I always forget to take my ‘green’ shopping bags to the grocery store, we end up with lots of them. But I have a fancy plastic bag holder that we store them in, and we reuse them for trash, taking snacks to parties and what-not.

Mary Ann had a different stash of plastic bags. I don’t remember plastic grocery bags when I was a kid, but I certainly remember clear plastic produce bags and bread bags. She did not throw those things away. In fact, she would rinse them out and carefully set them out to dry, by sticking them up on the louvered kitchen window. They came in handy for all kinds of things…storing homemade cookies, packing picnic lunches and my favorite—fancy homemade snow boots.

Mom would build up a supply for winter when we took our annual trip to Lake Tahoe to play in the snow. Why bother with buying the kids snow boots or galoshes when you have 300 plastic produce bags and Wonder Bread bags? Mom would outfit us all in two pairs of socks and our sneakers and then put about five plastic bags over each foot—securing them with leftover rubber bands from newspaper deliveries.

They’d last about an hour until each layer had ripped through appropriately and our feet would get wet. Then we’d retreat to the brown wood-paneled station wagon to have some sandwiches—packaged ever-so-nicely in recycled plastic produce bags.

So the next time you’re at the grocery store and they ask you “Paper or Plastic?” I want you to think of me running around the snow in my fancy plastic bag snow boots. Do me a favor and tell the clerk you’ll take paper.

One more thing: I’m glad my Mom never put two and two together and tried to make our clothes out of those plastic bags:


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If you’ve been following this blog, you’re familiar with Papa Don, otherwise known as my Dad. Papa Don was a cool Dad to grow up with. He wasn’t always called Papa Don, he was just Dad, but my niece called him that as a youngin, so now we all do.

Papa Don was born cool. Just look at this baby picture. Does this kid have attitude, or what? He’s even motioning with his hand, like, “C’mon punk, you want some of this?”

In high school, Papa Don was apparently a bad-ass. I guess one time some punks were picking on my Uncle Bobby, his younger brother, when some kid ran up and said, “Hey man, don’t you know his brother is Don Coen??!!” They all beat it outa there.

Papa Don and Uncle Bobby have an Aunt Betty Lou that is very close to their age. Back then, Aunt Betty Lou was dating John, who later became Uncle John. Betty Lou and John used to like to park outside her house and neck, or whatever you called it in the ‘50s. But there was a bright street light that lit up their car, so my Dad and his friends would throw rocks to bust out that street light so Betty Lou and John could have their privacy. Then the city would come out and fix it, and then Dad and the gang would go and bust it out again.

When I was about eight, I sprained my arm by tripping over our cat, Midnight. I wasn’t the most graceful child. I don’t remember quite what happened, but the cat darted out in front of me while I was walking on the front lawn. I remember going straight down on my elbow, while my older sister, Tracy, and my best friend, Randy, also ended up on the ground, rolling with laughter. I was in agony and they were enjoying it. I had to go to the emergency room to get an x-ray and Dad was sitting there right next to me. I was babying my arm by bending it and holding my hand up near my shoulder cuz it hurt like crazy if I tried to straighten it out. The doctor came over and reached for my hand and said he was going to take the x-ray. Well, before I knew it he slammed my arm straight out on the table. I gasped and screamed and my Dad bolted straight up and went for the doctor. I think he was going to open a jar of whoop-ass right there in Kaiser Hospital. The doctor apologized over and over saying that the “surprise straightening” was the only way to get an x-ray cuz I wouldn’t like it if he had to slowly straighten out my arm. So my Dad calmed down a bit. Lucky for that doctor.

When my sisters and I were little, Dad would come home from his job at Mare Island and we would rush him, begging him to play “Monster” with us. He’d chase us around the house acting like a growling monster and we’d run and scream until the youngest, Melissa, would freak out and cry and beg him to stop. Then he’d settle down in his favorite chair while Mom made dinner and one of us girls would serve him a big icy glass and a bottle of RC Cola. We fought over serving him, cuz it meant we would get some of that delicious cola. Every once in a while he’d pour some for us in our color-coordinated plastic cups. We’d take a big drink and it was so strong it would make our eyes tear up.

There was a small section of the kitchen floor that would fill up with empty RC Cola bottles that Dad would let us recycle at the local liquor store. Yeah, back in the ‘70s the liquor stores had lots of candy, too, so they’d allow us in without an ID. We’d put all those RC Cola bottles in our little red wagon and venture out to the Wagon Wheel Liquor Store to cash them in. We usually had enough so we could each buy our favorite candy—mine was Skittles. I think my Skittles only cost about a dime then, so I guess that whole wagon-full of bottles added up to about 40 cents. Wow, that’s less than a stamp costs these days. Oh well, at least my Dad can still beat up your Dad.

Happy Father’s Day, Papa Don!!

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