T-shirt question

OK, all of the laundry experts out there ….

As referenced in a video blog post a week or two ago, the Relay For Life organizing committee (as well as all of our team captains) received their T-shirts much earlier than usual this year. In the past, those T-shirts were given out right before Relay. They would be worn for the first time at Relay and would then become a fond souvenir for repeat wearings after the fact.

This year, however, we’ve gotten our T-shirts several months early, and are being encouraged to wear them at preliminary events – like today’s Celebrity Waiter Luncheon – and in other situations where we might want to promote Relay.

WP_20150317_001In a happy coincidence, our committee shirts are green, so several of us, including me, wore them to today’s luncheon, which happened to fall on Saint Patrick’s Day.

This photo was taken in advance. I promise I wasn’t quite this sweaty during the actual luncheon.

Anyway, the point is, I wore the shirt today – and will probably wear it again, for things like Bark For Life or the Times-Gazette’s Community-Wide yard Sale.

But I still want it to look nice on June 5, when the actual Relay gets here.

I hand-washed the shirt in cold water tonight. Was that a good idea, or overkill? What else can I do to keep the shirt in good shape between now and June?

uncle walt’s archives

When the Disney Channel first went on the air, it was a premium channel, not ad-supported, although not every cable system charged for it. It was aimed at the whole family. Some offered it for free, as a way of boosting subscriptions. And it was originally conceived, in part, as a way of leveraging the huge vault of content the Disney company had acquired over the years, some of which hadn’t been seen in years.

As time went on, of course, the channel’s emphasis shifted, and now the Disney Channel is mostly about new content, some animated, some live action. There are several different channels, all aimed at kids — The Disney Channel is aimed slightly more at girls, while Disney XD is slightly more for boys, and there’s a separate channel for younger kids. But it’s kind of a shame that there’s no full-time showcase for some of that older material.

So it’s nice that Disney now has a deal with Turner Classic Movies to occasionally showcase older Disney content, in a Sunday-night package hosted by Leonard Maltin. It’s been running tonight, with a mix of movies, cartoon shorts and Disney TV episodes. I just wish there was some way to see some of that content more often. I also wonder what Walt would think about the fact that, with all of the channels owned by ABC and Disney, this material has to find a home on someone else’s channel.

Still plodding along

Well, back in December I mused about starting another self-published book – not a novel, like my first book, but a collection of essays – some rewritten from favorite sermons I’ve preached, others taken from content on the blog, others original to the book.

I have not forgotten this – I open up the file every now and then and tinker with it. I need to buckle down and set myself a schedule. I did do something today that I should have done to begin with – I set the project up as a master document in LibreOffice, so that I can more easily work on and organize the individual essays as I see fit. This should make things a lot easier, and it makes the project a little less intimidating.

I have thought about calling the book “Spiritual Secrets of the Frisbee®,” after one of the essays, based on content I used both for a sermon and for a devotional at Mountain T.O.P. I need to check with a college friend of mine who’s an intellectual property attorney and see if I can do this, and if so, what sort of disclaimers I need to include so that the Wham-O people are satisfied. I am afraid that the Wham-O people might want me to include the word “disc,” as in “Frisbee® disc,” and that just wouldn’t read the same. Of course, maybe another title will occur to me between now and whenever I finish working on the thing.

I guess self-publishing is the ultimate act of hubris. I’m not Bible scholar or even an ordained minister. Who’s going to be interested in my not-so-deep spiritual insights? But I like the way the book has been going so far, and publish-on-demand means one can, for better or worse, self-publish with very little risk. It also means that many people can and do self-publish, which makes it harder to get noticed.

Tomorrow’s entree

chili_9000_jarI was at Walmart this evening and ran into my co-worker Jason Reynolds. He noticed that I looked like I had some specific items in my basket and asked me what was for dinner tonight. I told him that I was going to church for dinner tonight – but tomorrow night, I’m making chili.

I’ve been anxious to make chili ever since receiving some items from Penzey’s a few weeks ago, and this is the first real chance I’ve gotten. Unfortunately, Walmart still didn’t have any chili grind beef. So I bought a pound of pork stew meat on manager’s special, just to save a little money, and a pound of beef stew meat at full price. Tomorrow, I’ll cut them up into smaller bits.

As I explained in another recent post, chili grind meat or small chunks of meat are better than regular ground meat in long, slow-cooked, Texas-style chili recipes. This will not actually be a slow-cooked chili, though – at least, not according to the clock on the wall. I’m going to warp time by using the kitchen equivalent of a TARDIS: my pressure cooker.

I will use the basic parameters from Alton Brown’s pressure cooker chili recipe, although I won’t use his exact ingredient list. The chili powder I got from Penzey’s (they make several different kinds) is Chili 9000, which is a little non-traditional, and I want to enjoy it, so I’m using a little more of the chili powder than Alton calls for and eliminating a couple of other things.

I’m already looking forward to it.

spice update

I posted here a week or two ago about Penzey’s Spices. I had just placed an order – most of which was a gift for a family member, but I took the opportunity to order a couple of things for myself. I got Penzey’s taco seasoning for the first time, and made tacos with it today. Yum. I also have some Chili 9000 – one of several different chili powders they offer – and I’ll be using that some time soon. Walmart was out of chili grind meat today, unfortunately.

I have eaten on a weird schedule today – my biggest meal, those tacos, was sort of in mid-afternoon. So I was a little peckish just now and wanted a snack. I have a loaf of my homemade sourdough bread, and I decided for some weird reason to make cinnamon toast. I have cinnamon, of course, but then I remembered I also had a little bitty jar of Penzey’s apple pie spice. I never ordered it – it was a little “thank you” gift with a previous order, maybe a year ago. It’s mostly two different kinds of cinnamon, but with some nutmeg and clove. I did make an apple pie with it – my first ever – which turned out quite well.

So I made cinnamon toast with the apple pie spice. Unfortunately, I walked away and burned it just a little, but it’s still edible, and the apple pie spice gives it a nice interesting flavor.

DR. SEUSS, EAT MOR CHIKIN, AND HOW TO BE YOUR OWN PLAY-BY-PLAY ANNOUNCER

Today was national Read Across America day, although various schools may celebrate the whole week (or next week, if they have some sort of testing or other conflict). My experience as a guest reader at a couple of different elementary schools, reading Dr. Seuss to the kids, was one of the things that prompted me to sign up for the “Raise Your Hand Tennessee” program, for which I’ve been a volunteer more than two years now.

I’ve told you this several times before, but when I first signed up for “Raise Your Hand,” I think one of those “Read Across America” appearances was sort of what I had envisioned. That wasn’t what it turned out to be at all, of course. In Regan Aymett’s first grade class at Learning Way Elementary, I am usually leading a small group of kids through some sort of simple game or worksheet, rotating small groups a few different times during the hour.

I love it. I miss it when I don’t get to be there – such as the past two weeks. Two weeks ago was Presidents’ Day, and last week the schools were out due to weather. So it had been three weeks since I’d been with the kids.

I arrived this morning at my usual time, but that was also the same time as one of those once-a-year Read Across America volunteers. So I sat there and waited as he read “Green Eggs and Ham” to the kids. I took a photo with my smartphone so that I could get it into the newspaper. To be completely honest, I was a little jealous, although my personal preference would have been “Fox In Socks.” Does that make me a bad person?

After he left, we went into our normal routine. I ended up working with three different groups of kids during what was left of our normal time. We were doing a couple of worksheets. On one worksheet, the kids had to figure out which letter was silent in various words and mark through it. The groups were progressively better as the hour went along – the first group really needed me to walk them through it, and even then they didn’t always get it. The last group could have done it by themselves while I was down the hall.

The last group included one kid who’s become one of my favorites this year – which is not to say he’s not frustrating some of the time. He immediately started by asking if the boy next to him could copy off his paper – “He’s a new student,” explained my friend. I explained that, no, each person had to do their own worksheet. (The newcomer did just fine without copying off anyone.) My friend did fine, too, but he insisted on announcing each of his answers as he wrote them on the worksheet. I kept trying to tell him not to do that, but it went in one ear and out the other. And, no, he wasn’t feeding answers to the new student, who was working at his own pace. I think he was just serving as his own play-by-play announcer.

I really enjoy my weekly hour working with the kids, but it leaves me with a lot of deep admiration for the talented, dedicated, highly-trained and often-unappreciated professionals who work with these kids day in and day out.

Oh, the other thing that happened this morning was that when I first checked in at the office, the secretary told me that Regan and her kids might still be in the gym. What was going on in the gym, you might ask? A visit from the Chik-fil-A cow. Sadly for me, the first graders were actually on their way back to the classroom by the time I caught up with them, and so I missed seeing the cow.

As I think about it tonight, I wonder – is it really a good idea to expose first graders to signs reading “EAT MOR CHIKIN”? I mean, learning to spell is hard enough as it is….

Let the band play on

For nearly half my life – for the vast majority of my adult life – I have been involved with the Nashville Symphony’s annual concert in Shelbyville. I covered the first two or three concerts, which were sponsored by Berol Corp., but then when First American Bank took over as sponsor, in maybe 1991 or 1992, the late Scott McDonald formed a steering committee and asked me to join it. I’ve been on that committee ever since, and the past few years I’ve been co-chair alongside with the committee’s long-time chair, Dawn Holley.

Last year, for the first time, the concert didn’t have a primary sponsor, and I was the one who stood up in front of everyone, welcomed them, and introduced Vinay Parameswaran, the symphony’s associate conductor, making his first appearance in Shelbyville. I’m told he was wonderful.

I say “I’m told” because, right after giving those words of welcome, I had to leave Calsonic Arena. It was Election Night, and I had to be at the county courthouse to collect election results as they came in. I’d spent months working with Dawn and others on the concert, and then I had to miss it. I sprinted up the center aisle, through the waiting crowd, and out the door of the arena before the first note of music was played.

You want to know the worst part of that?

For about six months, I thought I had missed the very last such concert. Without going into details, we thought that the pieces weren’t going to come together for a concert this year. No one had said so officially, but Dawn and I had taken it as a foregone conclusion, and I’d told a few friends not to expect there to be a symphony concert in Shelbyville in 2015.

But now, it looks like we’ve gotten a reprieve. We found out a few weeks ago that the concert has been scheduled, and we had a teleconference today to do some planning for it. The concert will be Tuesday, May 5.

There are still some details that need to be worked out, and we still really need a primary sponsor if there’s going to be any long-term future for the concert. But I can’t tell you how happy I am that I didn’t miss the very last one.

the spice of life

If you love to cook at all, you really need to go to the Penzey’s web site and order something – or, at least, sign up for their mailing list. The recipes in their catalogs are worth signing up for.

Penzey’s is a Wisconsin-based mail order company which sells herbs and spices. They’ve now added some brick-and-mortar locations as well, but the closest one to me is in the Memphis area, so for me they’re still a mail-order house.

They have a variety of different products:

  • Individual spices: These range from the ordinary to the exotic, and are all of high quality. Ever seen a chef on the Food Network scrape out a vanilla bean, but you can’t find whole vanilla beans in your local supermarket? Penzey’s has you covered. Need some exotic spice for Indian or Thai cooking? Ditto.
  • Seasoning blends: They have a number of their own proprietary seasoning blends, including five or six different types of chili powder, salt-free blends, and on and on.
  • Gift boxes: This was how I first learned about Penzey’s; one of my sisters-in-law gave me a gift box. They have them in every price range, from stocking stuffers to big expensive housewarming or wedding gifts that let the happy couple set up shop with all new, fresh spices. Some of the gift boxes are packed in actual, usable bay leaves and whole nutmeg nuts. (Whole nutmeg, by the way, is the way to go. Grate it when you need it, and the taste is much, much better than the pre-ground stuff.)
  • Pepper mills: I’d love to have one of their pepper mills – I usually buy cheap ones from Walmart and then just replace them when they break or wear out. Of course, they have a variety of different peppercorns to go in the mills. They also sell matching salt shakers, with slightly larger holes than the normal shaker to accommodate coarse salt.

Seriously, this is a good company that makes good products. And, as I said, they have great recipes in their catalog, so it’s worth signing up for the mailing list (or just go ahead and order something, which I assume will put you on the list as well).

things snl ought to bring back

NOTE: I will be liveblogging the “Saturday Night Live” 40th anniversary prime time special at this website Sunday night.

I have really enjoyed VH1 Classic’s “SNL Rewind,” a rerun of the vast majority of “Saturday Night Live” in reverse chronological order (except for a few themed programming blocks) over the past week or two, in preparation for the show’s 40th anniversary special on Sunday night.

One thing I’ve noticed (and I didn’t necessarily see all of these episodes during “SNL Rewind” – in some cases, I was just reminded of them) is that at certain points in the show’s history, they’ve been willing to monkey around with the format a little bit. Some of these variations were things I wish they’d revive – at least every now and then:

Onscreen graphics: I loved the little bumpers they ran during the original years of the show when going to commercial (“COMING UP: Is Roy Rogers Trigger-Happy?”), especially the ones where they’d zoom in on some unsuspecting audience member and put something on screen like “Won’t put out until the third date.”

Show-long running gags: As much as people malign the Dick Ebersol years, when Lorne Michaels wasn’t running the show, one thing they did well during that time was have fun with the format of the show itself. This included things like the extended coverage of Buckwheat being shot or the telephone poll over whether or not to boil and eat Larry The Lobster. They had an episode with multiple hosts. There was even a little of this during the show’s original run – such as the “anyone can host” contest.

The ill-fated first season of Lorne’s return – the one with Randy Quaid, Robert Downey Jr. and Joan Cusack – included an episode like this, based around the conceit that SNL had brought in Francis Ford Coppola to direct.

Standup or specialty performers: Some older SNL episodes had not only a musical guest but a comedy guest. Andy Kaufman, Joel Hodgson and even Harry Anderson appeared on SNL this way. I don’t suggest that they get a different run-of-the-mill standup comedian every week, but the occasional unique comedy talent would be better than another iteration of “What’s Up With That?” or whatever running sketch they’re running into the ground this week.

Trying new things in general: The Ebersol years had – and I had forgotten this – occasional segments similar to Jay Leno’s or Jimmy Kimmel’s man-on-the-street segments. I’m actually not advising that they do this specifically, but an occasional piece of unscripted comedy, taking advantage of SNL’s New York City location, might not be a bad thing.

There’s a lot of hand-wringing in some quarters that says the show as it is currently composed is doomed – it’s no longer appointment television because everyone knows that if something really funny happens, you can simply go online and watch the clip of that individual sketch the next day. There’s been some talk that whenever Lorne decides to retire, the show will go with him. But I think they should at least see if new hands could bring a fresh approach, and a willingness to play around with the format. If that happens, people might feel the need to watch the show live again.