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I think I’ve mentioned I love Friday the 13th. I’ve always loved Friday the 13th. When I was a kid I simply loved Fridays. Which is strange, because that often meant Friday Night Casserole for dinner. But Fridays after school were also the start of the weekend, and when it was a Pay Day Friday we were able to pick up our favorite fast food or go out to dinner. And then we’d sprawl out on the living room floor to watch our favorite prime-time lineup: “The Brady Bunch,” “Nanny and the Professor” and “The Partridge Family”:

So when I combine Friday with 13, I can’t go wrong; 13 has always been my favorite number. I don’t know why. It’s just awesome. And I’ve won my fair share on the roulette wheel betting on 13 Black. It’s also a baker’s dozen, and you can never go wrong with one extra donut, amiright.

Some people freak out and think Friday the 13th is totally unlucky and scary. Probably because of scary movies. One time after the original “Poltergeist” came out, my sisters and I pulled a prank on my Mom, figuring we’d freak her out when she woke up on Friday the 13th. After she went to bed the night before, we placed dining room chairs on top of the kitchen table and scattered a few around the room. And we opened up a bunch of kitchen cabinet doors. We taped this note to the dining room table, and by the reply she left, you can tell we didn’t scare her one bit:

fri-the-13-note

Anyway, I always look forward to Friday the 13th being a lucky day. They don’t happen that frequently. The last Friday the 13th was in May. And that was the exact day Jay and I received a letter in the mail letting us know we were chosen to be “Wheel of Fortune” contestants. True story; stay tuned.

So don’t sit home like a scaredy-cat on Friday the 13th. Get out there. Go buy a lottery ticket. Ask that special someone out on a date. Send in an audition tape to “Wheel of Fortune.” The next Friday the 13th isn’t until October, so today’s your only chance for another 10 months. Well, if you’re Irish, you have St. Patrick’s Day coming up. You know, luck of the Irish and all that. Plus all the alcohol. So essentially you have another lucky day in just two months.

Of course, if you’re planning a camping trip this weekend at a place called “Camp Crystal Lake” you might want to change your plans.

 

 

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I’m sitting here looking at my Netflix copy of “Twilight: New Moon.” No, I didn’t see it at the theater. I’m not a Twihard, or a Twimom. I did see the first one, but none after that. Now I need to watch it so I can write an article about it for work. But I changed my mind; I’m more interested in working on this blog post so Edward and Bella will have to wait. Maybe for an eternity.

When I was a kid there was a certain awesome soap opera we loved. Not the type of soap opera you’re thinking of like “Days of Our Lives” or “General Hospital.” Though I admit I did love “Days.” That’s what we called it. My Mom loved “Days” and as kids we’d watch it, too. I can remember coming home from my full half-day of kindergarten and Mom would have a nice little lunch prepared: usually a half PBJ sandwich (or something like Land ‘o Frost turkey luncheon meat with American Cheese), a serving of potato chips, a half an orange and a glass of milk. Mom would bring the tiny kid table out into the living room so I could sit and eat my lunch with her, Dr. and Mrs. Horton and the rest of the “Days of Our Lives” family.

Even when I was in college, everyone would schedule their classes around “Days” so we could be home to watch it. No, we didn’t have DVR’s to record it, or even VCR’s for that matter. Shoot, if we wanted to rent a video in college to play drinking games along with, we had to go to the one video store in town that had about 50 actual VCR’s that you could rent, because no one actually owned a VCR then. We’d have to put down about an $80 dollar deposit to take one of those VCR’s home for the night, too, and that’s a lot of beer money. Watching a video was something special back then, so we’d make sure we had a lot of people over and a lot of beer , and hopefully a rented copy of “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” to laugh at—and to drink to every time Pee Wee did something ridiculous. Yes, we got pretty wasted.

As I was saying, “Days” was a pretty big deal. Soap operas in general were a big deal. But the one awesome soap opera I referred to earlier wasn’t “Days” or “General Hospital” (even though John Stamos’ character, Blackie, was the stuff dreams are made of), or even “The Young and the Restless.” I’m talking about the granddaddy gothic version of them all: “Dark Shadows.”

http://www.retrothing.com

I’m sorry if you’re too young to know about Dark Shadows. It was the creepiest, campiest thing ever, and we loved it. I can’t remember specifics about the series, probably because I was just a little kid and I imagine I covered my eyes a lot. But the star was Barnabus Collins, a bonafide vampire, along with other creatures of the night all living (or not living) in some mansion in coastal Maine.

http://www.screened.com

“Dark Shadows” also featured ladies with names like Angelique and Victoria to make it fancy. My sisters and I always loved scary stuff when we were little (still do) and “Dark Shadows” was the highlight of many an afternoon. It was second only to “Creature Features” on Saturday nights with that show’s creepy, campy host, Bob Wilkins.

I think Dark Shadows is available on Netflix, so I’m gonna return this New Moon thing and throw Barnabus into my queue. Then, I think I’ll go string myself a garlic necklace just for good measure.

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Is there really any reason to stuff a bell pepper? I’m sorry, maybe I’m in the minority here, but a green bell pepper is not a craving of mine. Not for a second. But to make it a main dish? Who’s smokin’ crack around here? I mean, did people sit around in the 70’s and go, ”Man, I am starving!! I could really eat a big old green pepper stuffed with something! Anything!!” Well, apparently my Mom did, because she would serve up those things at least once every other month. I’m thinking this would coincide with a 6 for $1 green bell pepper sale at the local Shopper’s World.

Shopper’s World was the ‘70s version of Costco. I mean a really small, stupid version of Costco. There was one just up the street from our house in Vallejo. I remember there were carts … not shopping carts with the little kid seats, but carts that you pushed like at Home Depot. Yeah, that’s it, ‘push carts.’ My Mom could pile some serious canned goods on to one of those things. The only fun part about shopping at Shopper’s World was when my sisters and I would push each other around on a cart before it was loaded up with 300 Campbell soup cans and 2-for-1 green beans. We could get that cart moving pretty fast, but we’d have to dodge getting a cigarette or two in the eye. Yes, people could smoke in the aisles at grocery stores back then. The humanity!!

The Shopper’s World was located right next door to our favorite candy store, The Wagon Wheel. Yes, that was the liquor store you learned about in my last post. Treats for adults and kids alike. We knew better than to bug my Mom to let us run over to The Wagon Wheel to get our Skittles fix while she was on a shopping mission. I think she allotted just so much time in her busy schedule for shopping, and candy wasn’t on the list. There were chores and lunches and a “Days of Our Lives” episode to get back home to.

If Mom didn’t feel like loading up the wood-paneled station wagon with the four of us kids to drive up the street to Shopper’s World, she could hang out at the house and wait for the Vegetable Guy to make his rounds. There was actually a man who drove a vegetable truck around Vallejo back then so all the Mom’s could shop for fruit and veggies from the comfort of their front lawns. Our vegetable guy was a short Italian guy who wore a beret and looked like the man from one of my favorite childhood books, “Caps for Sale.”

Except our vegetable guy had a hook for an arm. He was nice and everything, and his green table grapes were the stuff dreams are made of, but still as an eight-year-old, I couldn’t get past that arm. I’d hang back on the porch when he pulled up. Which is why I probably never saw him sneak those bell peppers into the bag. Plus the fact he had us all hopped up in a green-table-grape-free-sample-stupor.

Well, I imagine by now you’re clamoring for Mary Ann’s amazing Stuffed Bell Pepper recipe. The truth is, I don’t think she really had a recipe for it. Who would create a recipe for that? I think you’re safe just to recycle the ingredients from her famous Porcupine Balls recipe for this one like she did … just prepare that slop and shove it into some hollowed-out green bell peppers. Throw it in the oven for, oh, who knows, a half hour? Then just TRY to get your kids to the table. I dare you.

If you’re still reading, and you really want to make Mary Ann’s Stuffed Bell Peppers, well here’s the fancy ingredients for Porcupine Balls that make up the wonderful innards of the peppers. You deserve it.

1 pound of ground beef
2 cups of cooked white rice
1 can of tomato soup
2 tablespoons of minced onion (or cut up a little bit of real onion to make it fancy)
Salt and pepper to taste

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Chapter 2 – Gluttony

They say that Gluttony is the second of the Seven Deadly Sins. Well, if it really is a sin, Jay is going to hell in a hand-basket…or a rocket. The definition of gluttony is “excess in eating or drinking.” (Uh-oh…drinking in excess is also gluttony? Sorry Coens.) Jay does eat in excess a lot. He just loves food; he can’t help himself. He will be full, to the point of being uncomfortable, and still keep eating. When I turn on the Food Channel, I’m still surprised that Jay hasn’t replaced Adam Richman on Man vs. Food. There should be 300 trophy t-shirts from restaurant challenges in our closet.

Jay isn’t overweight like you’d expect. You’d never know he was a gluttonous fool. He even takes pictures of food at family gatherings. Sometimes the result of Jay’s indulgence isn’t pleasant for him…or me. One time we were up at my Dad’s and Jay was eating everything. My Dad’s wife Phyllis makes fancy little snacks that she sets out on the counter, and one time she had left some of the treats out all day by accident. I’m guessing they contained some sort of dairy product because after dinner (and after indulging in large amounts of Phyllis’ creations), Jay said he didn’t feel so well. I saw a glaze come over him…he jumped up from the table and tried to make it to the bathroom. He didn’t quite make it, well; actually he made it to the bathroom wall, and the floor, the lid of the toilet and the wall behind the toilet. He immediately went to lie down, and yes, I had to clean up the mess. If that isn’t true love, I don’t know what is.

After Jay felt the rush of fame acquired after the first “What’s Jay Eating?” post on this blog, he decided to let me know anytime he felt one of his “concoctions coming on.” Now I grab the camera and follow him into the kitchen to watch the master at work. This usually happens within 15 minutes after a full dinner. This special creation below came about after a healthy and hearty meal I fixed for him comprised of tri-tip steak, mashed potatoes and spinach salad. See, I do feed him. As I write this, we just finished a full dinner and he is relaxing on the couch with a 10-pack of miniature Hershey Bars, two huge Lemonheads and a bag of some Cinnamon Toasty cereal. And that’s probably just the beginning. Oh no, he just turned on Man vs. Food. Oh well, at least I’ll have more material for my next post.

Here’s how one of Jay’s concoctions plays out. First, he sets out all of the ingredients:

He starts layering them in to a huge bowl. Jay starts with a foundation of Rocky Road ice cream, and then adds some mini shredded wheat cereal and crunch berries:

Then he cuts up some fresh strawberries to make it fancy:

Next, he drizzles on some chocolate sauce for good measure:

Adds milk:

And tops it all off with some Sour Patch Kids.

I hope he makes it to the toilet tonight.

Note: I just asked Jay to proof this. While I was semi-gagging he proclaimed, “There’s an art to eating that bowl.” So now he’s an artist…

P.S. Check out this funny blog: http://thegoodgreatsby.com. I won his Caption Contest this week, so you know he has good taste!

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Well, I thought it might be a good time to remember one of our “favorite” dishes from Friday Night Casserole. Yes, THE Friday Night Casserole. In case you missed it the first time around, enjoy. And if you’ve already seen this one, hey, enjoy it again. I do actually have some new material for you. If you look above, you’ll see a tab for a new page I’ve created — FAQ & Glossary. It’s a work in progress. But there’s a little something there for your entertainment, and to explain some of the crazy/strange/ridiculous Coen terms and sayings you may have experienced on this blog. And if you’re a Coen, or an honorary Coen, you just might remember saying or hearing a few of these cool phrases yourself.

Friday Night Casserole

There were two kinds of Fridays in our house: Pay Day Friday and Casserole Friday. We loved Payday Friday. Dad would come home from his job at Mare Island with a wad of bills. Sometimes he’d let us hold them. Then everyone would hop into the wood-paneled Ford Station Wagon and head for A&W, or the family restaurant Palby’s for a big night out. Ahhh, A&W…sitting in the station wagon parked next to the scratchy-sounding order sign machine thing. My family ordered burgers and root beer—in those fancy frosty mugs of course—however, I always ordered a fish sandwich and grape soda. And yes, they all made fun of me. Except for Coleen who also preferred the fish sandwich. And she believed you weren’t allowed to have a burger until you were an adult. She finally had her first Big Mac at the ripe old age of 10. Tracy had to wait till she was 11.

Now for Palby’s: if you never lived in Vallejo or visited the bustling Solano County metropolis with its abundance of 1970’ish restaurants, you might’ve missed Palby’s. Sucks for you because Palby’s was awesome. Palby’s was on Highway 80 between Vallejo and Napa in the area that’s now known as American Canyon. Palby’s was like a freaky dinner theater for kids. Look out the window and there were peacocks. There were seals. But we didn’t eat them. I preferred the deep fried shrimp myself. I recall my little sister Pooh always ordered the ribs and proceeded to happily get the sauce all over her face. Thinking back, Palby’s seemed like a Winchester Mystery House to kids, because there were all these different areas with trippy things to see. Or maybe there was just the lobby and the main dining room and I had an over-active imagination.

Sometimes on Payday Friday, Dad and one or two of us kids would just pop over to Munchie’s on Sonoma Boulevard for 10 cent hamburgers. Munchie’s was a burger joint in a cool round building that sold cheap hamburgers and fries and I just liked saying “Munchies.” Sometimes we’d just grab 300 tacos from Taco Bell, when all they really had was tacos.

But, if it wasn’t a Payday Friday, and you didn’t make plans to get in trouble and stay after school–or better yet, offer to babysit for the neighbor’s heathen kids–you were going to experience Mary Ann’s Friday Night Casserole. God have mercy on your soul.

Ingredients:

No rules apply!!!

Check the cupboards for stray cans of stewed tomatoes, cream of mushroom soup, deviled ham or anything else that resembles vomit. Next, go to the fridge and grab any and every leftover you can find saved in old margarine and Cool Whip tubs—these are important casserole ingredients.

Leftover examples:

Pork ‘n Beans
Kentucky Fried Chicken Cole Slaw
Canned spinach
Taco meat
Chopped up Fish Sticks
Creamed Chip Beef Sauce
The last slice of Olive Loaf luncheon meat that will never be eaten
Macaroni and Cheese
Spam
White Rice
Filling for Stuffed Bell Peppers
Bread heels
Chicken Pot Pie
Deviled eggs
Creamed corn

Directions:

Throw all of the ingredients you found into a 13 x 9 casserole dish. Feel free to add canned tomato sauce or a packet of onion soup mix to make it fancy.

Bake at 350 degrees. I’m not sure how long you’re supposed to do this. Just hang around the oven to make sure nothing explodes.

Serve to your happy family. Well, they were happy before dinner. Now they hate your guts and are secretly flipping you off below the table. A few of them might be dry heaving into their towel bibs. You will definitely want to plan a huge dessert for later in the evening (stay tuned for “Jello Mold” and “Mayonnaise Cake”).

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When I was a kid, my Grandparents and my Aunt and Uncle bought a cabin just outside of Lake Tahoe. It was kid heaven…creek walking, funny drunk relatives, Oreo cookies, snow and Poker Night. I’m not just talking about adults playing poker–the apples don’t fall far from the tree, even if the seedlings can only afford to ante up pennies.

Our cousins, the Sax’s, had a cabin in the same subdivision. Usually each set of families would vacation there at the same time. Those were the weekends that Oly increased the poker revenue tri-fold. The Sax’s were so fancy that their outhouse had two seats. Yes, my cousin Shelly and I were not too modest to use that outhouse at the same time.

See, at the cabins you didn’t DARE go to the bathroom in the actual indoor bathroom!! Geez! Even though the Coen bathroom was so big you could fit 14 toilets in it, the only thing we were allowed to do in there was brush our teeth in the sink. It had something to do with the plumbing…so, you better make damn sure you made a visit to the outhouse before bed, because you sure as hell didn’t want to go out there at night. That meant waking up a cousin or two and BEGGING them to get up, put on another layer of clothes and venture out there with you with a flashlight, and no protection against Bigfoot.

Upstairs at the Coen cabin was one huge room with seven double beds and a double mattress on the floor. That is a LOT of snoring–especially when all those adults had been indulging in Oly all night. We kids were always banned to the upstairs once the serious poker playing started downstairs. Little did they know that us youngins were upstairs playing our own game of poker…for pennies, but still. All of us cousins usually started our gamble-fest in the evening after dinner. We would set up the little plastic record player and listen to the 45’s “I Like Beer” by Tom T. Hall and “My Ding-a-Ling” by Chuck Berry over and over and over again. All my sisters and my cousins Kristi, Michelle and Cathy would goof around, pretending we knew how to dance, and my cousins Mike and John would entertain us with their lip syncing…then all of us would take turns jumping on all the beds and doing super flips from one double bed to another, complete with our 4-point landing on the mattress on the floor.

Sometimes we’d play games like Charades…there was no TV, so we had to do something. We’d perform our silent renditions of songs like “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor On The Bedpost Overnight” and the parents would guess it because they were un-cool and actually knew that song. I guess that meant we were un-cool also. We didn’t use the fancy arm and finger signals like in real Charades…we just flailed around acting out our words.

We’d walk the creeks and go on adventures and discover secretly marked boulders that we were sure had been left behind by visiting aliens. We’d hide from the younger cousins and hope that all the adults would drive into Tahoe to gamble so we could have free run of the cabin under the rule of a cool older cousin.

While vacationing at the cabin one summer, my Grandpa brought a two-pound can of smoked almonds that my youngest sister, Melissa, discovered. One night she proceeded to eat the majority of the can, and then proceeded to sleep next to me on one of the double beds upstairs. And then proceeded to throw them up all over the fancy new sleeping bag my grandparents bought for me at Christmas. Oh well, I still love her, and I still love smoked almonds. Just not of the regurgitated variety.

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I highly recommend this dinner choice for a great start to your Mother’s Day weekend. It was always a favorite when I was a kid.

Yahoooo! It’s Friday night and though not a Payday Friday, for some miraculous reason there are no leftovers in the fridge!! After learning that Friday Night Casserole is not the dish of choice for the evening, the kids are doing a celebratory dinner dance to the Jackson Five in the living room. Here’s what you do. Go to the cupboard and grab all the cereal boxes you can find. In the early ‘70s these would consist of two or more of the following:

Cap’n Crunch
Trix
Cheerios
Fruit Loops
Quisp
Frosted Flakes
King Vitamin
Lucky Charms
Apple Jacks
Fruity Pebbles
Kix
Rice Crispies
Honeycomb
Rice Chex
Wheat Chex
Corn Chex
Year-old plastic bargain bag of hardly-touched Puffed Wheat

Put all the boxes on the kitchen table. (Okay, forget the Puffed Wheat, you can’t fool the kids. Just put it back in the cupboard…it’s a contender for Friday Night Casserole.) If you have the assortment of mini cereal boxes leftover from camping, put those out on the table…..you’ll get extra brownie points from the youngins.

Place some bowls and spoons on the table and holler for the kids. Have a pair of scissors ready in case one of the boxes has a groovy semi-plastic cutout of Bobby Sherman’s 45, “Easy Come, Easy Go” attached to the back.

After they praise you for being the world’s coolest Mom, they will consume enough sugar to keep them hopped up until Saturday morning where you will find them all sprawled out in front of the boob tube watching Sid and Marty Kroft kid shows, interrupted every so often by a Conjunction Junction commercial.

Yikes!! Sleestacks!!

Conjunction Junction, what’s your function? Hookin’ up words, and phrase, and clauses…

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