When I first pictured taking over the Stinkin’ Skunk Ape Fish Camp, I envisioned a sign out by the road in pastel colors with a swooping, graceful font that read Blue’s Lotus Lodge. This is not what happened. The rumor mill of Catfish Springs became convinced that I had hired Lorraine’s sister Lerlene to do the sign. Lerlene is our local artist; her style is noted for oversized objects in blinding colors. She has been commissioned to do a series of oversized vegetables for the produce section of the Whatcha Need Mart and just recently her Welcome to Catfish Springs sign was put out on the highway.
It looks like a catfish strung out on cocaine in blinding shades of lime green, hot sun yellow and turquoise.
My Blue’s Lotus Lodge ended up looking like a psychedelic artichoke with chaotic Chinese take lettering.
I’ll be honest. I hated it. I cried. It was all I could do to smile and thank her for it. But over the next few weeks, I had a change of heart. It was eye-catching and got lots of comments, albeit not always complimentary ones. It did make it easy to find the retreat, you sure couldn’t miss the sign.
And then a drunk driver smashed into it over Halloween and blew it to splinters. I found myself really torn. This was my chance to go back to the original design, the pastel colors, the flowy script. But my retreat had already gotten the identity, “the place with the crazy sign”. Meanwhile, Lerlene had had articles written about her in local and state magazines. She’s really getting some notoriety. When she offered to make a replacement sign, it seemed impossible to refuse and possibly stupid.
“It’ll be even bigger and better than the last one,” she’d said encouragingly, giving me a conciliatory hug.
I knew she was busy with other commissions, so I didn’t expect my sign until sometime in January. In the meantime, I’d had Hey Baby, What’s Your Sign? in Gainesville make and install a black and white utilitarian sign.
Imagine my surprise to find that the temporary sign was gone, and the new sign was in place. I had to stop the truck to take it in. The psychedelic artichoke was back but whereas before it was floating in a field of plain white, this time it sat in a fiery, rainbow lake. Multi-colored spotlights radiated out from its leaves like searchlights seeking heaven through a dreamy fog of turquoise fading to a horizon of deep plum. The colors were even richer than before. It was dazzling. I was crazy about it.
But it was not alone. It was flanked by two shiny, aluminum trees with branches in red, green, and gold and a forest of four-foot-tall plastic candy canes in the foreground. Green garlands wound around the legs of the sign accentuated with white twinkle lights. Three wire framed deer with white lights seemed to be prancing down the retreat road.
It was all so over the top, so unlike anything I would have done and yet wonderful, I was overcome with emotion. Knowing that I’d be out of the way, Lerlene must have had a team working feverishly to get this all done while I was gone. I loved it. I was so touched by the effort and fantastic outcome, I got choked up. I eased off the brakes and followed the deer to see what else had happened while I was away.
Like corned beef and cabbage but never tried cooking it yourself? I thought this was some tricky thing — it’s easy-peasy if you have a slow cooker!
And if you don’t have one, why not? They’re so convenient and not expensive. You just put in the ingredients, push a button and walk away! You can keep stuff warming overnight– don’t even need to do cleanup! Finish the leftovers tomorrow. Done!
You will need:
a package of corned beef
a small cabbage
1-2 containers of vegetable stock
a few small potatoes
a few carrots
You’ll have to forive me, but I’m an intuitive cook. I can’t tell you how many carrots or potatoes, but you’ll want to have balance with the size of the meat so each serving will get a nice mix of meaty bits, potato, carrot and cabbage. Know what I mean? It’ll depend on your pot size and the meat size.
Corned beef comes in a sort of a baggie package with a seasoning packet. They come in various sizes, so pick a small one if you have a small crowd or a larger one if you are feeding more people. As long as it will fit in your cooker, you’re fine!
Chop up your veggies–the cabbage, carrots and potatoes into bite size chunks and put them in the cooker.
Open the corned beef package and slide out the meat, placing it over the veggies, FAT SIDE UP. Open the seasoning packet and sprinkle it in the cooker.
Add vegetable stock and/or water until it is touching the meat. Turn the cooker on to HIGH. Cook for about 8 hours* or until the meat will pull apart with a fork. Turn down to warm once it is cooked and tender.
*This will vary depending on the size of your cooker and the size of the meat. Veggies should be soft and meat should pull apart easily.
What is that seasoning flavor?
The basics in the corned beef flavor are:
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
So if for some reason you don’t like or are allergic to any of these, you can make your own spice and omit the one you don’t like. Or, if you really like a spice, you might add a little extra. Like it a little spicy? Add more pepper flakes or some hot sauce.
I was clearing off my desk the other day, which led me to another pile of detritus–I ended up sorting through that and found a recipe I’d meant to try that sounded delicious: cold soba and salmon salad. Long story short, I had an incident with a road-rage-filled motorcyclist on the way to the grocery store, so my mind was no longer focused on shopping as I dashed through the store worried that Mr. Rage might be doing harm to my vehicle in the parking lot. A police officer followed me out of the parking lot and partway home to be sure I wasn’t in any danger.
Suffice it to say, my nerves were all jangly as I began to prepare dinner. I hadn’t been able to find soba noodles at all, I forgot the cucumber and was not going to wait to chill the dish as I needed to eat something.
It was just as well that they didn’t have the soba noodles as they are kind of chewy and don’t absorb flavor as well as other noodles in my opinion. I am keen on lo mein, so I was happy, but I’ll put links below for recipes with soba noodles. Also, I couldn’t face waiting for a chunk of salmon from the seafood counter, so I got a package of sliced salmon instead and used the whole package. It was enough for two people but a chunk would have been nicer. The thin slices made for much quicker prep time though.
I got the water boiling for the lo mein noodles while I chopped the peppers — I got an assorted package of multi-colored small peppers–sliced up five of them and two medium sized zucchinis and browned them in a skillet with a generous amount of sesame oil. When they were done, I scooped them out, set them aside in a bowl and popped the sliced salmon into the skillet, breaking up the slices into pieces and essentially warming it thoroughly. By this time, the noodles were done. I drizzled some sesame oil over the noodles in the colander, then tossed them into the skillet with the salmon and added the veggies back in. I sprinkled toasted sesame seeds over it and stirred it all up.
For a quick, healthy, tasty dish–even put together in less than an optimal mind-frame, this came out great! It sure helped to fortify my nerves. It could have used a couple drops of hot sauce or maybe some dill… wish I’d thought to add dill. Maybe a good squeeze of lemon juice.
Links to cold soba recipes I’ve not tried but sound fantastic:
I remember this moment like it was earlier this morning. I was an early teen watching television. Commercial break, ho hum. The commercial had a creepy sing-song to it, and what I thought was a Prell commercial with Jacqueline Smith brushing her hair became a trailer for Suspiria. The hair-brushing figure turned around to face the camera with a skeleton face. I levitated off the couch and was down the stairs before I knew what I was doing.
This was my introduction to the giallo genre. Giallo is an Italian creation derived from cheap paperback thrillers popular in the 60s. That trailer terrified me so much that it took forty years for me to sit myself down and watch Suspiria. It turns out, it’s not at all what I expected. It wasn’t scary at all, in fact, at a glance, it could be dismissed as a silly 70s movie best seen while under the influence of hallucinogens. Certainly not the kind of movie that would earn commendation for a great plot, clever dialogue or anything remotely close to terrific acting. It’s campy and weird…but it’s the weird that gives it artistic merit. Strange camera angles and vivid colors create a lush dreamy/nightmarescape. Dario Argento’s Suspiria is always listed in the top must-see giallo films.
This subgenre of slasher/detective/mystery has influenced a myriad of directors and continues to have a cult following. Slasher films are not my favorite; men hunting women to cut them up does not appeal to me as the real world has too many predators, I don’t need to watch this as entertainment. I do like mysteries and artsy films. Mario Bava, like Argento, is considered a master of the giallo. I gave Blood and Black Lace a go. The plot is simple: a serial killer has targeted fashion models at a particular design house. Atmospheric, stylish, fast-paced, with plenty of suspects, this mystery was engaging and cinematically stunning. This should be mandatory viewing for film students. Look at this still for a second–the whites of her eyes matching the white white bra, the blue of her eyes, the color of the water. Perhaps it is the fake blood and fantasy (by which I mean that she’d hardly look like this if she were really murdered) that doesn’t run me off. She’s gorgeous. The shot is beautiful. Pure cinema.
Links to trailers and articles on giallo below– I’ll be on to the next one soon: The Bird with Crystal Plummage (1970). Contemplating getting a boxed set of Argento and/or Bava’s best films.
Was looking for something retro and exciting and found Mirage with Gregory Peck, Diane Baker and Walter Matthau. The opening has catchy music–before the story began I was making a mental note to hunt up the soundtrack. The film opens with Gregory Peck’s character, David Stillwell in a New York City office that’s had a sudden power outage. Lots of people milling about in the dark, confusion, what’s going on. I was hooked right in.
He finds his way to the stairs and meets an attractive woman who seems to know him. Inexplicably, at the bottom of the stairs when she sees his face in the street light, she looks frightened and runs away. Once outside Stillwell finds a crowd gathered around the body of a man who seems to have jumped from the top of the building. From here the story takes off in now familiar and unsettling territory of a main character suffering from memory problems compounded by the appearance of men with guns trying to kill him and a rising body count.
Stillwell seeks help from a psychiatrist who sends him away. A sign for a private detective gives him hope, maybe a detective can help him figure out who he really is. Unfortunately, the detective, played by Matthau has never worked a case before but with reluctance, takes on Stillwell’s peculiar case.
At this point, I was thoroughly intrigued and entertained. My thoughts ran from “I am loving this!” to “Why have I not seen or heard of this movie before?” But already the film has gone from a Hitchcockian feel to a comedic one. So far so good… I don’t want to give away much more of the story. I’ll say right here that it is worth a gander but
I soon found out why perhaps I’d not seen this before. Had I stopped here, I would have looked forward to a funny and thrilling story as the bumbling detective helped Stillwell figure out the big questions– it is clear that someone is going to great lengths to make him feel crazy. Why? Are they trying to kill him or scare him. Why? The woman from the stairwell returns and won’t say what she knows. Can he trust her?
I was so into the story…
You know how sometimes people will collaborate on a story — here, you write the beginning and without looking at what you wrote, I’ll pick up the story from the last line and go with it? Mirage hits a peak of entertaining expectation and takes a dark nosedive into the politics and dangers of nuclear energy. The body count goes up. The comedic element disappears completely. Is this even the same film we started with?
I can’t recall a film that has demonstrated this kind of personality disorder or disappointed me so much so fast. As a rule, I wouldn’t bother to review a book or film that just didn’t do anything for me. We all have different tastes and maybe it’ll float someone else’s boat. I won’t shoot down the balloon just for sport. But this one… I put it out there with a big hairy question mark. I’ll have to research what happened with this film– why is it so darned unbalanced? A truly bad movie has no redeeming qualities and is a waste of time. This one evokes too much and lingers far too much for me to dismiss it. Gregory Peck! Terrific actor and a fine performance. Matthau is hilarious! I just don’t get why this one went right off the road…
In 1952 the French novel Celle qui n’était plus (She Who Was No More) was published by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac.
In 1955 the French film Diabolique based on the novel was released. (Excellent. Atmospheric. Recommend if you can handle subtitles.)
In 1964 Hammer did it again without Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, castles, crypts or a healthy budget for fog machines. One might not recognize this gem as a Hammer film at all.
In 1996 Diabolique was remade again with Sharon Stone. It’s quite good, too.
But don’t dismiss the Hammer version, it’s atmospheric and suspenseful. In this version, Janet’s mother went mad and killed her father on Janet’s birthday. She was soon packed off to a boarding school for girls where she frightens the other girls with her terrifying screams at night. She is plagued by recurring dreams that her mother is luring her to a room at the asylum; Janet is tormented by the fear that she will go mad like her mother. She is soon sent back home to the cold care of a distant guardian, a hired nurse and a housekeeper. Her terror continues as she hears and sees things no one else does. Is she going mad? She has another birthday looming. The birthday cake with candles is a trigger of past trauma; the birthday seems nothing to celebrate…
Jennie Linden does a terrific job as a terrorized teen. Moira Redmond– trivia point, she tested for the Emma Peel role in the Avengers–she has that cool beauty–won’t say more but she has a juicy part! Even though I’d seen Diabolique, I wasn’t quite sure how this was going to end. Had me anxious to find out! The dog wanted to go out with eight minutes left to the end. Aargh!
Vince, a volatile screenwriter in need of a career boost, invites an ingenue to his place to tell him the story of a book he’s to make into a screenplay. He soon loses interest in the story and the girl and sends her off to find a cab around the block.
The next morning, the cops are at his door. She’s been found murdered. Vince has a thin alibi–a beautiful neighbor saw the girl leave alone. Vince is grateful to and intrigued by this cool woman. In short order, they are mutually smitten and become a hot item. As the investigation keeps circling back to Vince as the prime suspect, Vince’s behavior suggests they may be correct. Laurel is torn between being madly in love with him and terrified of him.
If you like films of this era, don’t miss this one. Terrific performances by both leads. Edgy and suspenseful with a timeless story–while ink jars and old cars are gone, dangerous, passionate relationships spark up every day.
small cabbage (I got the small squatty kind from an Asian market, it has looser leaves than a regular green cabbage but you could use any cabbage)
currants or raisins, dried cherries, blueberries
Wash and destem the B sprouts, then halve. Wash cabbage and cut roughly the same amount of cabbage as you have sprouts. I used about 1/3 of the small cabbage to one pack of sprouts for one meal for two people. If you are cooking for more people or like leftovers, you may want 2 packages of sprouts and use 2/3 or even all of a squatty cabbage. This is super yummy, so you might want to make a big batch!
Stir fry on a medium heat with a liberal amount of sesame oil. You may want to even add some water to partially steam it. When all the greens seem to be browning up, turn the temp down to low and add in your dried fruit– sorry folks, I don’t measure, I go by eye-ball– a nice visual scattering — I tend to be a bit heavy handed, it’s up to you — if you like fruit, add more. Stir until the fruit has had a chance to mingle with the oil and is well mixed into the greens.