Friday, May 27, 2011

My Look Back: 1942

Jane Russell in 1942 posing by the beach
 Photo by Eliot Elisofon from LIFE Photo Archive
Summer is swiftly on it's way and for many of us that means vacations to the beach.  This weekend I'm also thinking about Memorial Day and all that it means to me.  Which brings me to this look back at 1942.  I have family who served in Vietnam and most recently one of my youngest cousins packed up and joined the army.  Needless to say I honor our service men and women and here is a little list of trivia I found when I took a look back at the year 1942.

  • The first American forces land in Europe by way of Northern Ireland.
  • Muhammad Ali, Manolo Blahnik, Isabel Allende, Jimi Hendrix, Sandra Dee, and Martin Scorsese are born.
  • The FCC's minimum programming time of 15 hours per week for a TV station is reduced to 4 hours a week (who knew there was a minimum??).
  • Archie Comics makes its debut.
  • Instead of 3 time zones, Mexico goes to having 2 time zones.
  • Bing Crosby records the album White Christmas.
  • Anne Frank begins writing her diary and she goes into hiding at the age of 13.
  • Little Golden Books commences publishing.
  • The cost of a first class stamp is .03 cents and the unemployment rate in the United States is 4.7%.
  • Casablanca starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman premieres.
  • The first "gold record" emerges when RCA Victor sprays Glen Miller's millionth copy sold of Chattanooga Choo Choo gold.
  • The 14th Academy Awards are held in Los Angeles.  Best Picture goes to How Green Was My Valley starring Maureen O'Hara and Walter Pidgeon.  It beats out The Maltese Falcon, Suspicion, Citizen Kane and Sergeant York.

Friday, May 20, 2011

I'll Have a Shingle with a Shimmy and a Shake in the Alley

Photo by Nat Farbman, April 1959 from LIFE Photo Archive
What the heck is the title of the post you say? It's diner lingo! A shingle with a shimmy is buttered toast with a jam or jelly spread and a shake in the alley is a shake on the side. Diners are right up my alley in so far as nostalgia goes. I love the coziness of the food, the throwback feel, and the sense of an American tradition. Locally I have three favorite diners that I would highly recommend if you are in the area.

Pie n'Burger in Pasadena, CA
913 E. California Blvd. (*Ooooh, and according to Yelp, a new Pie 'n Burger food truck is coming!!)
The Rocky Cola Cafe in Whittier, CA
6757 Greenleaf Ave. 

Andy's Coffee Shop in Pasadena, CA
1234 E. Colorado Blvd. (even the address is classic!)

I'm also listing some trivia about diner history and of course diner lingo. You can also visit this awesome website for more:

  • The word diner comes from "dining car" because a diner is supposed to be a prefabricated structure that is brought to a permanent location where it will serve as a dining establishment.
  • Diners started as converted wagons in the late 19th century (the earliest of lunch trucks). When electric steetcars began replacing the horse drawn wagons, they were converted into dining cars for a cheaper price than actually purchasing a new prefabricated dining car.
  • After women got the vote in the twenties, diners begain re-vamping their image in order to gain a feminine following. They basically prettied up their places with flower boxes and fresh coats of paint. Bathrooms were also added.
  • Streamlining of dining cars began in the 1930's and when buses replaced trollies, trollies were converted into dining cars as well.
  • The 1940's and 1950's were the boom era of the diner. Demand for them skyrocketed and designs followed a more futuristic appeal, especially in the fifties.
  • Many diners were and are open 24 hours and many were located strategically near factories that were open all night to cater to night crew laborers.
  • Typical wallet-friendly menu items of most diners include hamburgers, fries, shakes, coffee, and of course classic breakfast items like pancakes, eggs, bacon and waffles (you know, all the healthy stuff).
Can you guess what this order would be in regular talk:

"A Stack of Vermont with a Baby and Throw it in the Mud"

Photo by Will Hastings from Flickr Creative Commons

(Answer: Pancakes and a glass of milk with chocolate syrup)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Book Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Harper Collins, 2008; 321 pages; ISBN  1554681723
My Goodreads Rating: 5 stars

OK, so I admit that I picked up this book because of the dog on the cover.  I am a sucker for Labrador retrievers, and I actually have two lab-mixes at home (their names are Frida and Che, and yes, I cry my eyes out every time I watch Marley and Me or even those Humane Society commercials), so I was very intrigued by the idea of a book told from a dog's perspective.  But Enzo the dog is no ordinary dog.  He is a human soul trapped in a dog's body (for this particular life cycle, according to him).  His owner, a race car driver named Denny, talks to Enzo like he is his pal and he watches TV with him, even leaving it on for him, which is where Enzo learns about the world and of course, about the art of race car driving.  Enzo is a very philosophical soul (that is why he believes in reincarnation, and he is certain that his next life will be as a human being), and he thinks that the techniques that Denny uses on the race track can be applied to every day life.  As Enzo recalls his life with Denny, including many ups and downs (marriage, a child, tragedy, triumph, and the like), he also takes stock on his role in Denny's life and all that he has learned and hopes to learn and do as a human being.  I know the book spent many weeks on the bestseller list, and rightly so.  I'm pretty sure animal lovers (especially dog lovers) will enjoy the story, but I also strongly feel that the book is for everyone, whether or not you have a furry companion at home.  It's smart, funny, sweet, and very honest, and yes, I also cried during this one too.  A highly recommended read.

Photo: From website

Friday, May 6, 2011

Read a Book, Sip a Cocktail No. 5

Photo from
For this month's pairing I was going for the magical and mesmerizing qualities of the book Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen.  I thought it would be perfect for spring.  I wanted to include apple in it because of the enchanted apple tree in the story (and there are also a ton of other flavors, foods, and even wines mentioned in the story, that truth be told I was hungry half the time I was reading the book).  So I combined apple flavored vodka, a lavender infused simple syrup, and good 'ole apple juice.  The result is a sweet martini that is both floral and light.  I was kind of scared about experimenting with lavender because it is a scent that pervades most things (in a good way, but still).  However, it was actually not overpowering at all.  You taste the apple first, then the sweetness, and then the lavender sort of hits you at the end with a slight hint of spring.  I really enjoyed it and I decided to call it The Enchanted Apple.

The Enchanted Apple
1 1/2 oz. Apple vodka
1 oz. Lavender infused simple syrup*
2 oz. Apple juice
How to: In a cocktail shaker mix ice, vodka, simple syrup and apple juice.  Shake for at least 30 seconds.  Serve in a chilled martini glass.  *To make the lavender infused simple syrup, take 1/2 a cup of sugar to 1 cup of water and cook over medium heat (watching it and stirring every so often).  When the sugar has dissolved, take the syrup off the heat and let it cool.  Drop in some dried lavender flowers (about 4-6 tablespoons), and store in a glass jar overnight.  Strain the simple syrup to remove the buds. Make sure you use food grade lavender buds, and not the potpourri kind. Also, you can buy plain simple syrup instead of making your own to save some time. 
I started the lavender infused simple syrup with these buds, 
and my kitchen was smelling so good!

The finished product was very refreshing and enchanting! :)