Thursday, October 29, 2009

Adventures in Mayonnaise

Oven-Fried Potato Wedges

Recipe courtesy Paula Deen
50 min
Level: Easy
Yield: 6 servings
3 large baking potatoes
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon onion salt
1/2 teaspoon House Seasoning (recipe follows)
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups cornbread mix

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Wash the potatoes and cut each into 6 thick wedges. Mix the mayonnaise with the hot sauce, onion salt, House Seasoning and pepper. Coat the potato wedges with the mayonnaise mixture and roll them in the dressing mix. Place in a greased baking dish and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Serve with your favorite dip.

House Seasoning:
1 cup salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder
Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

OK, so why is this recipe here? Well, my niece Kate was watching the Food Network and saw Paula Deen create this concoction. Turns out Kate detests mayonnaise. The thought of dredging potatoes in mayo, and then serving with a dip that in this case was ALSO primarily mayo, left Kate, quote, "with a little bit of vomit in my mouth."

Naturally we have been teasing her without mercy ever since. Here is good-sport Kate at Costco at the massive mayo display. I imagine her stomach is churning. Oh, the horror!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mount Rush Hour

My niece Kate and I had a Texas adventure. We checked out the Lone-Star-State-skewed version of Mount Rushmore, placed by sculptor David Adickes (who also did the Sam Houston Statue and Presidents Park, seen earlier on this adventure) near the I-45 and I-10 interchange in Houston.

Giant busts of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Sam Houston, and Stephen Austin give morning commuters something to look at as they creep into downtown from the suburbs. Consequently they are known as Mount Rush Hour. Here I take a look up Abe's nose.

Kate took a shot of the highway, as well as creepy wheelchair guy. The number of empty malt liquor cans had us wondering why there wasn't any grafitti. Respect for the statesmen, I guess.

A few miles away is David Adicke's SculpturWorx Studio near downtown Houston. There are a bunch of his giant president heads in the parking lot, most behind barbed wire. But I most enjoyed the huge rendition of the Beatles, looking as tall as the Houston skyline.

Here Kate poses with our current President's bust. As I mentioned at Presidents Park in South Dakota, he is white, just like all the other presidents.

I pulled this picture of Adicke working on the Obama Bust. Here he is cleaning out Barak's ear. "You could grow potatoes in there!"

I noticed one president was headless; look between Clinton and John Quincy Adams. Maybe Ringo knocked it off with a drumstick.

I figure it was Andrew Jackson's head, seen below with Theodore Roosevelt.

Kate and I have some other blog-worthy Houston area adventures planned, so stay tuned.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mean Green

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So I have received several pleas for more TEA. I have been hanging out in Houston with my sister and brother-in-law for the past couple of weeks and will likely stay a couple more. But I suppose that does not mean that there are no adventures to be had.

Last weekend I went to see my nephew Will Powell and niece Sinclair Watkins, who are both juniors at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. I was joined by my sister Sarah (Will's mother) and niece Kate, who was in Houston for a wedding next weekend (from Portland... remember my very first stop?). We took the CRV, freshly out of the body shop.

I am not used to having passengers! Sarah has been bugging me to be part of the blog, wanting her picture included since she knows so many of the other folks who have had their pictures posted. So here she is.

On the way to Denton (north of Dallas) we passed the Sam Houston Statue in Huntsville, Texas. It was done by the same artist that did the presidential busts at Presidents Park in Lead, South Dakota, that I visited earlier on the journey. At some 70 feet, it is supposedly the second biggest statue in the USA. Any guesses on the biggest?

On arriving on campus, we met up first with Sinclair and her roomate Angela, and then found Will. He was riding his fraternity's float in the homecoming parade. It was heartwarming to see him hop off to give his big sister a hug. Equally fun was walking back along the parade route to his frat house, and having dozens of people call out his name: "Hey Will!" Ah, to be young and popular.

I do believe Will was born to be a college student.

Here is Will's fraternity float as it moves along the paraded route. Note the "Mean Green" on the back. While the mascot is actually the Eagle, UNT goes by Mean Green. Kinda like Georgia Tech being the Yellowjackets but going by Rambling Wreck.

After visiting Will's frat house (suspiously clean, but it was homecoming) we stopped to see Sinclair and Angela's apartment. Here are Will, Kate, and Sinclair in Sinclair's room. She had virtually every inch covered with posters and music and art paraphenalia.

Then over to Will's apartment. We found two of his roomates watching Harry Potter. Each college student has a different experience! His room was littered with clothes in varying degrees of cleanliness. Reminded me how lucky we were to have laundry service at Davidson! Here are Kate and Will in his room.

Next we headed over to the football stadium to partake in the oldest of football traditions: tailgating. Will's frat had a big tent with all sorts of food and, of course, beer... well, beer only technically: Natural Lite and Coors. Sarah instantly became several boys' "mom" as technically underage drinkers can only consume in the presence of their parents.

We did not go to the game, a night affair (UNT lost to Florida Atlantic 44-40). Instead Sarah, Kate, and I headed back to Houston. Highlight of that journey was a rousing game of "Alphabet Signs" (I am easily entertained after many miles solo). J proved a challenge, as well (as always), X. Of course going many miles without any signs in northern Texas added to the challenge.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Chinese Hummers

I got an email from my friend Sloane Graff: "Well, it looks like your crusade worked. Read in the business news this morning that GM is selling Hummer to the Chinese. Will be a great vehicle for running over protesters in Tiananman Square...."

Meanwhile I am ending "Flip A Hummer." I was offered a truck as my rental while the CRV had its rear end done, and being in the Texas spirit, I accepted. It was enormous. It had a "hemi" (though I still do not know what that means). Comfortable though (except for having to practically climb into it)! And I did fit right in here in Texas. But it does seem a bit contradictotory to be condemning Hummers after driving such a behemoth.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Zydeco, Frogs, and Gushers

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Wow. Well over ten thousand miles...

My sister Sarah claims that there is "nothing" between Baton Rouge and Houston. When her daughter (and my niece) Kate was in New Orleans at Tulane and then with Chevron, Sarah made the journey many times. But I beg to differ...

For starters, from Baton Rouge to Lafayette is the Atchafalaya Swamp Freeway, an 18-mile bridge across the Atchafalaya River and its accompanying swamp. I got in the spirit listening to zydeco music and imagining all nature of critters living down there.

Then there is Rayne, Louisiana. A large metal frog statue greets visitors to Rayne. He's even dressed up in a top hat. Besides this happy frog, there are several murals painted on buildings around town and on the underpass for Interstate 10. Rayne claims to be the Frog Capital of the World and you can tell they are very proud of their frogs.

And what about Beaumont, Texas? It is Home of the World's (3rd) Largest Fire Hydrant. Apparently it was once the World's Largest Fire Hydrant, but has since been supplanted. At 24 feet high it is still impressive! It was built by Disney to promote the re-release of the animated 101 Dalmatians, and then found a willing permanent venue in front of Beaumont's venerable Fire Museum of Texas, a 1920s-era fire station where vintage trucks, historic nozzles and firebells are exhibited.

Also in Beaumont is the Boomtown Museum. Here the world's first oil boomtown is recreated with typical clapboard buildings of the era, including a post office, a saloon, and wooden oil derricks. The Lucas Gusher Monument (25 feet tall, barely taller than the Fire Hydrant) commemorates the beginning of the world's modern petroleum industry that began with the 1901 gusher drilled by Anthony F. Lucas.

Before crossing into Texas I had stopped at the Isle of Capri Casino in Lake Charles, Louisiana to further stimulate the local economy. I had wanted to stop at Harrah's Casino, but I could not find it. Good reason: it was "Rita-sized" according to a patron at Isle of Capri: washed away in Hurricane Rita. Casinos are a good spot to find Hummers.

Finally into Houston. The setting sun against petroleum laced smog makes for a pretty picture.

I will be in Houston for a couple of weeks, so entries may be spotty. But y'all check back now, hear? The Excellent Adventure is far from over...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I Can Spell Mississippi

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Wednesday September 30 I travelled down blue highways (US 61 and the Natchez Trace) along the Mississippi River and got to see the state in all its glory.

First stop was in Clarksdale, Mississippi, at the Shack Up Inn. Supposedly this is Mississppi's orginal "B&B" --in this case Bed and Beer (established 1998). It is made up of former tenant houses, gathered together from the middle of cotton fields, fixed up with air conditioning and indoor plumbing. "The Ritz it Ain't," they advertise. So now middle class folks can have a great weekend drinking beer on an authentic porch. I guess it's supposed to be cute. Or slumming. Or whatever. I must admit I found the concept oddly appealing. Apparently it is hugely popular with British tourists. Whodathunkit.

Mississippi seemed a prime spot for Hummer Flipping. Here is one. I particularily liked the yellow color. The house it is parked in front of could easily be transported to the Shack Up Inn for a real dose of authenticity.

On to The Jim Henson Exhibit in the Washington County Tourist Center/Leland Chamber of Commerce in Leland, Mississippi. Jim Henson spent his youth in Leland. Kermit the Frog was "born" here, named for Henson's childhood friend Kermit Scott.

I particularily liked the greeting committee of cats, all seen in this photo. One is appropriately named Ernie, and the other far less appropriately Frisky (Mamma Cat is on the left). I got all this from the docent in the small exhibit, named appropriately (for Mississippi) Rita Sue.

Rita Sue gave me lots of info on Henson and Kermit, like how Kermit was originally made from Henson's mother's coat (and has changed remarkably little). Listening to Rita Sue reminded me of a golden rule of docenting: don't give more info than the visitor obviously wants. The small exhibit was crammed with Kermit and Muppet TaT (Trash and Trinkets). Naturally I had a photo taken with stuffed Kermit. I am on the right.

My next stop was in Vicksburg. Now you might have expected this historian to visit Civil War memorials, but I instead found myself at Margaret's Grocery and Market. Folks from around the world are drawn inexplicably by this shrine of folk art, painted red, white, and pink, and covered with biblical verses and found objects of every sort. It doubles as a church, the chapel being a simialrily adorned school bus on the property. But the real treasure is Reverend Dennis.

Reverend Dennis owns the place. Margaret was his wife, and the place is no longer a retail business. He was quick to greet me as "young man;" he is 94 years old. He literally has two teeth in his head. And he told the same stories multiple times. And I loved it.

His mother died in his childbirth; he was raised by his grandmother, a former slave, until she died when he was 10. Then he was raised by "white folks" so he has an appreciation for "both sides." He was wounded in WWII in the South Pacific (hence the salute in both photos). He has been preaching since he was 22.

He showed me inside the place; a hodge podge of religious items, photos, newspaper clippings, bric-a-brac, and odd items (for instance there was an M&M character standing with the ceramic tablets of the Ten Commandments). Mega TaT. But not for sale. Though donations gladly accepted. His guest book was amazing; folks from all over the world. I was happy to add my name.

I spent the better part of an hour with Reverend Dennis. He is another fine example of someone who touched me by giving of himself. He has been touching people with stories (and junk) for decades. And I hope many more.

As I drove through Port Gibson, Mississippi, it was hard to miss the the gold "Hand Pointing to Heaven" on the steeple of the First Presbyterian Church. Apparently the original hand was afixed in 1860, and has been replaced several times since. The town was spared destruction by fire during the Civil War due to its beauty (as was Natchez, down the road).

Natchez is the home of Mammy's Cupboard, a very unusual looking restaurant. Have you ever wanted to eat in a 28 foot tall woman's skirt? Well, this is the place for you.

One review described it as "a classic piece of vernacular architecture and, as such, is well worth a visit for that reason alone. How often do you see a restaurant in the shape of a mammy? She's been spruced up, and made ethnically vague: if you mixed all the different peoples of the world in a jar, and shook them up, you might get today's Mammy. " It is open for lunch only, so no chance to sample the fare (the desserts are supposedly fantastic).

I finally arrived at the home of my college friend Tim Stoll and his wife Peg, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We had a great time catching up. Tim's recent experience was most enlightening: he was laid off after years in marketing for a petroleum company. He has opened a franchise of The Alternative Board, where he gathers small business owners for business coaching and peer advisory boards. His desire to do something that involved coaching and mentoring took him out of the corporate world. Bravo, Tim. And bravo, Peg, who successfuly home-schooled all three of their daughters all the way through high school. Vain Tim insisted on wearing a hat as to not show his bed hair.

Easy puppy fix at the Stoll's. Here are goldens Wendy and Gracie. Petey, the 16 year old pound puppy (and you would never guess it!), was camera shy.

Now I head for Houston, where I will be staying for a couple of weeks with my sister Sarah.