Monday, June 30, 2008

Growl List

I’m growlly. Very growlly. GRRRRRRRRR… I hate everything today. Here’s a list of things I hate most in the order that they occur to me:

1. Snails on berry bushes

2. People who litter

3. Cats that don’t like being touched

4. Summer Humidity

5. Stinging jellyfish on swimming beaches

6. Paper cuts

7. Running over slugs on your bike

8. Sand in your shoes despite not having been to the beach in months

9. Store clerks who argue with you about whether dollar coins are real money

10. Earwigs

11. Gristle

12. People who say “No Offense” and then insult you

13. Pond weeds that wrap around your legs when swimming

14. Women who “hover” and then don’t tidy the toilet seat

15. Animal neglect or cruelty

16. Having to wake up early for non-fun tasks

17. Listening to stories about people’s digestion or food sensitivities.

18. Tailgating (the traffic complaint, not barbeques)

19. Flat soda

20. Truck Nutz (puts me in the mood for “Truck Castration”)

21. When your nail breaks at the quick. Ouch!

22. Very short people who lean all the way back on airplanes

23. Blood blisters

24. Mosquito bites

25. PBS or NPR Pledge Drive Programming (“And now… a 62 hour long John Tesh concert!!")

Friday, June 27, 2008


On Sesame Street, when I was a lass, there was a purple fellow with long incisors named “The Count.” He counted things. One of his key numbers was a song that went “Batty batty bat. Batty batty bat. Batty batty bat. 1. 2. 3. Count!” The chorus was sung by tiny high pitched bat puppets. Thus a love of bats was born.

I even recall making my own bat puppet, probably using my mom’s best wool, complete with googly eyes and little teeth. Funny to think I could make a professional quality one now.

This continued into college. I still carry a trading card from a pack of cigarettes featuring a fruit bat. Someone gave it to me after a night of beer and frollicking. Later, I walked down Lakeshore Path and saw a tiny brown bat clinging to the side of the cement water building. I was admiring it and this freaky beatnik starting talking to me about the wonderousness of nature and the world—everything! I drew his attention to the bat and he said “Yeah, and the bat too!”

The pet guy who used to be on the Martha Stewart show has a pet fruit bat. I am deeply envious. He fed it grapes and explained he had no idea how old it is. It was full grown when it was given to him and that was 30 years ago!

For Halloween, Knut bought me a beautiful little bat skeleton. They truly are amazing. The power of flight, sonar, and snuggly soft fur.

Today, in fact, I am wearing a beautiful hand cast silver bat bracelet. It’s from Marty Magic. It was a princely sum 6 years ago and now even more! I’m glad she’s doing well; she has a very fine hand at minatures. I bought it in college. Perhaps on the same day I met my little bat clinging to the cement wall?

See some lovely bat photo here at National Geographic!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ruminatin' on Roadkill

Roadkill causes the strangest behavior in people. This is my normal reaction:
  1. Oh no! Look away.
  2. Wait, what kind of animal was that?
  3. A raccoon! Ewww… it’s all over the road! Look away.
  4. Poor raccoon.

I’m pretty sure this is how most people react. Some, of course, have more interesting reactions like “Hmmm… that’s a good sized deer. I bet we could make sausage” or “A skunk?! In downtown Chicago?!”

I also can’t figure out how animals migrate to either the median or the side of the road. Possibly they retain some Schrodinger’s Cat abilities; because some are so squished they couldn’t have made it on their own. Alternatively, people wouldn’t just throw ‘em onto the shoulder. I suspect ravens might have the intelligence to move a meal to a place where they could gobble unmolested, but ravens are pretty rare overall.

(A note to city dwellers, if you think you’ve seen a raven, you haven’t. You’ve probably seen crows or grackles. Once you’ve seen a raven, you cease to mistake anything for a raven. You also giggle at tiny mysterious Goth girls calling themselves “Raven” because ravens are huge muscular threatening birds with the sort of alien intelligence in their eyes. They’re fascinating, but not in a pretty fluttery birdie kind of way.)

What’s interesting is that the above reaction occurs whenever I see something lying in the road no matter what it is. Only this morning I caught myself saying “Oh, poor coat!” and then thought “Wait a minute!!”

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Single Lucha Libre Mask Necklaces

Loyal fans of this blog may remember these cute little luchador masks from my Shrinky Dink Ruler tutorial. I made them waaaay too big to have five on a necklace.

I originally toyed with the idea of making them into magnets but I thought a single layer probably wasn’t strong enough to deal with the day to day realities of being on a fridge. I didn’t want to just get rid of them because they’re quite nicely done. What to do.

I can’t think why it took me so long to remember Lauren’s suggestion that I make necklaces with one single mask. Here they are! A single mask on a ball chain necklace. They’re very attractive and tough at the same time. Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so because I sold Blue Demon last night! I’m sort of hoping Aztec Skull doesn’t sell because I want to keep that one, but etsy is all about clearing your toy collection so you can make more toys!

Since all of them besides Blue Demon and Santo are original designs, I had to make up names for them (hence “Aztec Skull”). I decided not to go Spanish with the names for two excellent reasons: I know roughly 10 words in Spanish (half of them involve counting to 5) and I figure the majority of the etsy audience is in the same boat. Maybe 20 years from now my little Aztec Skull will be repeatedly bootlegged and I’ll see a real one in the ring. Heck, they did it with UltraMan.

Up for Sale! $4 per Necklace!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Whaling, Whaling, Over the Ocean Blue!

I’ve recently become aware of a Facebook group called “F*** OFF JAPAN… LEAVE THE WHALES ALONE.” This strikes me an as unusually rude (and frankly ineffectual) try at conservationism.

I’m a bit ambivalent towards whaling. Mostly because I’ve eaten whale and am not particularly enamoured of its “fish-beef” flavor. Imagine roast beef that’s gone off. They sell whale all over the place in Norway and Norwegians have a fairly active whaling industry. According to Wikipedia, Norway kills about 600 a year. Mostly they hunt Minke whales, which are pretty small for whales, but still huge. There is a skull of a minke whale in the basement of the Stavanger museum that is longer than I am tall, still drooping with dried out baleen.

It does occur to me that since each animal is basically school bus sized, you could potentially feed a lot of people with the death of a single animal. They are also not endangered. Because of its rarity, whale meat is fairly expensive and I imagine a lot of people earn a decent living off the lives of a relatively small amount of animals. This is a marked difference to, say, chickens. One large chicken feeds about 5 people so when you add up all those Sunday dinners, it’s at the cost of quite a number of animal lives.

On the other hand, whales have near human length life spans and long gestation and parenting phases. With animals that live so long, it can be difficult to correctly interpret conservation numbers. At the moment, Norway is still well within the quota of whales it can hunt, but I imagine the data can be pretty tricky to collect.

So it’s definitely not the debate over whether whaling is a good idea or not to which I object, it’s the general disinterest in information over emotion.

For instance, a few years ago MTV had an ad for Europe that showed a CGI mother and baby hump backed whale playfully frolicking while whistling Enya. Then it flipped to black with the slogan “NORWAY IS WHALING AGAIN!” I don’t think anyone hunts humpbacks, certainly not Norway, and hunting a mother with calves is a bad economic idea. It’s just a good use of sentimentality.

When I was in college, I was on the bus listening to a particular inane conversation between two classmates. It went something like this:

“Eww!! I hate lobsters! They’re like giant bugs.”

“Yeah! I don’t know how anyone can eat anything that ugly. Like big ugly bugs.”

“Yeah, but like cows are cute. I don’t want to eat them either.”

“Yeah, but like chickens are okay.”


Apparently, there’s a minimum and maximum level of acceptable attractiveness for edible animals. Despite the fact that crustaceans and mollusks are plentiful, nutritious, and of minimum intelligence they aren’t cute enough to eat. Cows are too attractive, so you can’t eat them either. I can’t quite figure out how other commonly eaten animals rank in this system. Presumably rabbit is too adorable, but what about sheep? I know snails are too ugly, but how about pigs?

I guess I just get annoyed at superficial opinions.

Friday, June 20, 2008


I am convinced the media creates most of the fear in the world. I mean, if you just go along from day to day, you worry about things like getting hit by cars, leaving the stove on, or getting catching a cold from your colleagues. Watch CNN for an hour and your simultaneously worried about drought, floods, serial killers, bioterrorism, zombies, giant subterranean man eating clams, rabid gila monsters, glue sniffing teens, monogamous gay couples, and japanese long horned beetles.

Most of these are either not really a threat or strictly the kind of threat that we can figure out how to defend ourselves against, except for gila monsters and gay couples. They just want to be allowed to be themselves and live comfortable productive lives.

Which leads me to this great page!

Benjamin Radford writes great essays dealing with the slight of hand of the media, the hype, and the misinterpretation of data. He also contributes to Skeptic Magazine (look for his hilarious account of a haunted house investigation!)

The book is great, and he has several essays posted for free. Here are some of my favorites:

The Today Show's Fake 'Stranger Danger' Test

A Closer Look at Internet Predator Laws

Is Barbie Really an “Ideal”?

Predator Panic: A Closer Look

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Krauss Plant Music

We saw Alison Krauss and Robert Plant last night, which was very cool. I particularly like Alison Krauss, she has such a sweet voice and I’m partial to old fashioned country music (as opposed to new fangled country. Think Johnny Cash vs. Garth Brooks. I’m not crazy about cowboy hats or pick up trucks either).

I do like some Led Zeppelin songs, but I’m not hard core. They’re firmly in the realm of “boy music” along with Pink Floyd. For the record, No! I will not get drunk in your dorm room and watch The Wall! I refuse! I like intellectually interesting music. Either witty lyrics or complex mixes of sound. I quite admire “Wall of Sound” technique and the use of unusual instruments in music, like timpani in “Da Do Ron Ron” or African chant in Paul Simon’s Graceland album. It just tickles me. I like to be surprised.

This has led me down the path to stuff like Senor Coconut performing Kraftwerk songs with Latin sound or Brazilian jazz interpretations of Christmas carols or Japanese pop music that just twists Western styles in a whole new way. Or even The Who or Roy Orbison who tell stories in their song quite different from the usual “Oooo… Baby… Oooo…” kind of stuff.

The opposite side of this is that Cat Steven’s lyrics make me want to bang my head against a wall.

Anyway, this concert merged the rock and the country in an interesting way. They took Zeppelin songs and slowed them down and added fiddles, bass, and more melodic country vocals. Then they’d take classic country and zip it up with heavy bass or drums. A great sound and a fun night. Too bad it was so cold, though! I’m still chilly.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Life and Death of Peanut Men

I’ve always been crafty.

Mom is always amazed when she sees bored children since we were always investigating _something_. Jamie and I made quite excellent volcanoes in the sandbox with the garden hose (Mom built the sandbox! It’s genetic!) and Tom pretty consistently took every mechanical thing we own apart to see how it worked. I once tasted every flower in the backyard except for the dreaded deadly nightshade. Begonias are sweet and juicy. Tulips taste bitter and waxy, which is fortunate because they’re poisonous.

I also invented a weird gel by mixing white glue, washing powder, and spray starch. This had a strange gummy consistency but only stuck to itself. Very peculiar, but I recreated it several times. I believe it may have been a colloid.

I had a couple of craft books for kids (I was born in 1980, but most of the toys we played with were late 1970s) that featured kids in groovy outfits building exciting things. I can still feel the longing to create a life sized alligator out of paper mache and chicken wire, just like in the photos. They did have some smaller scale projects including peanut men.

Peanut men, or ladies, take advantage of the usual bi-legume peanut shell shape. To make, draw a little face on the upper half of the peanut shell. Add eyelashes or curly hair lines if the peanut exudes a feminine mystique. Stick a toothpick through the join of the two nuts for arms. Cut another toothpick in half and stick the two halves into the bottom shell for legs. Then find two single nut peanuts and stick them onto the leg picks. If you balance correctly (always a tricky situation for the under 10s) they’ll stand up.

I made a whole set of these on a hot summer afternoon and left them on a paper plate near the TV in the kitchen for the family to admire. The flaw here is that these people are made of delicious salted in the shell roast peanuts.

When I got up the next morning, disaster! Peanut shells and toothpick legs were spread with wild abandon. Salty carnage, the peanut men had been savaged by hungry dads during the night.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Where's my Pickinic Basket?!

We’re off to Ravinia two times this week. Ravinia is a music pavillion in the northern suburbs of Chicago, but the key thing about it is that it has lawn seating. People come bearing picnics and blankets (and everyone over 40 brings camp chairs, which seem to lose the spirit of the thing to me, but I suppose it’s helpful for the rheumantism) and settle down to enjoy live music piped over the large leafy park.

I had two New Years Resolutions this year:

1. Take more photos

2. Have more picnics

We never did much in the way of picnics as a child. If fact, if we went to Ravinia, we usually brought a bucket of fried chicken. However, in Norway, picnics became something of a necessity to us. Eating out is very expensive and there aren’t too many places to do it. So, when we would take advantage of the 10 pound Ryan Air deals out of Haugesund, we would drive an hour or so through the tunnels and ferries with a packed lunch, to be enjoyed whereever space was available and/or scenic.

I got it down to a science. The archetypical Sjurseth picnic consisted of:

Sandwiches: a baguette filled with roasted deli chicken, salami, letttuce, paper thin sliced tomatoes, oregano, and dressed with vinegar and oil. Sliced into individual portions.
Sorlands Chips: Yummy Norwegian kettle cooked chips with Salt and Pepper
Apples: 2
Clementines: 4
Bottled Water

Dessert: Cookies if a special occasion, candy bars if not

This is a lot of food and we didn’t necessarily eat it all in one go, but it’s very nice to know there are tasty available sandwiches when it’s 11pm in rural Lutheran Norway and you aren’t even sure if the gas stations are open. Normally, I would pack it in two small mesh Old Navy Halloween bags (which got a lot of attention in Norway), but we have a cute little picnic backpack that Knut carries around sometimes. It even has a wine caddy and a cheese board.

I think for our Ravinia trips we’ll probably be a bit more formal. Everyone keeps talking about cold chicken and potato salad, which are very fine picnic foods indeed.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Disco Knut Doesn't Need to Advertise!

Our awesome friend, Robin, threw a 1970s Disco themed party on Saturday. It was a blast! She had all the decorations and a DJ who played disco records all night. We danced and partied until we sweated our blue eyeshadow off!

And our costumes were a labor of love.

I wore stuff I actually own: a brown jersey knit dress with a smocked empire waist, a brown loosely crotcheted long coat, cork soled wedges with brown leather flowers, a triple string of big wooden beads, and makeup that seriously looked like a blow up doll. Blue eye shadow was all I had to buy.

Knut’s outfit, however, was out of sight!

The Elvis glasses were the first thing we bought. Knut never took them off.

Tiny shorts were a must, but no one wears ping pong shorts anymore. We went to Target to try to find a pair that would work. Knut’s a big guy at 6’ 2” and I first found a pair that were pretty short but not nearly tight enough. He tried them on but they were just too modest. I spotted a couple more pairs in the rack that people had tried on. The clerk told me “Those are mens” and I said “I’ve got a man in the dressing room.” “Take ‘em to your man, then!” she laughed. I found a smaller size (they’re still a little bigger than I would have liked) and the core of his outfit was born.

I then picked out the baby blue t-shirt because it just looked 70s. On to the sock aisle.

If they still make the knee length tube socks with yellow stripes, I have no idea where to find them. These were supposedly knee length, but we had to cut the toes out for Knut to get them all the way up. I painted the yellow stripes on. Knut actually didn’t know what tube socks were. “Where are the heels?” he asked. I explained that _everyone_ wore striped tube socks in the 70s and early 80s. My brothers had dozens of pairs. Apparently that trend never made it to Europe. I did raid my parents’ basement in the hope of finding an authentic pair hiding out somewhere, but to no avail.

Now for the shirt. Originally, I had thought to do a 1970s Cubs logo, but suddenly visions of R. Crumb filled my mind. What expressed the zeitgeist more than “Keep on Truckin’?” I used a white shirt transfer (the ones where you have to reverse the image) to get that fuzzy vintage look.

Knut added his Converse and a thing gold chain. The Afro was courtesy of Robin, but he looked pretty cute without it too.

And I was right about the socks! People laughed themselves silly over them.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Summer Cream Beer Bottle Pie Magnets!

The latest creation from Chez Anthrid: Summer Cream Pies!

Summer Cream Pies include:

Strawberry Glaze: Tiny polymer canes slices form miniature strawberry slices carefully laid in concentric circles leading towards a bright ripe whole strawberry centerpiece. Layers of red tinted glaze make this just as glossy and juicy looking as the original.

French Silk: Thick polymer clay whipped cream tops a rich glossy chocolate base. All of this mousse-y goodness is topped with curls of dark chocolate. A slice is cut out to show both decadent layers.

Key Lime: Real key lime pies have a pale yellow, ever so slightly green tint from the fresh tiny limes. This miniature pie follows in their footsteps. Since key lime is so tart, a swirl of whipped cream topped with a minute slice of lime (less that 1/4 of a inch long) is a welcome addition.

Grasshopper: Rich chocolate pudding flavored with crème de menthe was a classic 1950s
concoction, inspired by the cocktail and this polymer clay pie matches up with a glossy chocolate filling topped with a dollop of whipped cream and bright green mini mint leaves.

Coconut Cream: This tropical treat consists of rich custard combined with pulverized coconut and coconut extract. This mini pie features a glossy luscious pale yellow filling topped with dollops of whipped cream sprinkled with toasted coconut.

Should you feel compelled, they're for sale at

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Chilling Tales for a Hot Day Redux!

It’s a hot sunny day, but I still think we could use the chill… of a GHOST STORY!!

This is my personal ghost sighting! I have seen one ghost and one UFO and I’m always disappointed when people don’t treat me like a crackpot whenever I tell the stories. When I see Bigfoot, someone better treat me like a crackpot! Possibly my otherwise rational and practical outlook is unfairly shielding me from the outraged reactions I deserve.


Here goes! Imagine I’m holding a flashlight under my face…

Blind Turn

July of 1999 was warm and humid in Illinois, even at two O'clock in the morning.

I was reasonably carefree 19 year old girl behind the wheel of my grandmothers 1985 blue-rinse Oldsmobile with my friend Ryan beside me. We had had a fun evening with friends, first going to a movie at the big Randhurst theaters and then having a midnight snack at a 24 hour restaurant before heading home.

Ryan and I were busy talking and laughing and gossiping about friends from high school when I decided to take a shortcut.

We lived in the old Northwest suburbs of Chicago where the rich folks of the city built their summer places before urban sprawl set in and engulfed them. The short cut I had decided to take was through the old Lutheran campgrounds, a leafy, unlit, heavily forested site on the bank of the Des Plaines river consisting of perhaps 15 white painted cabins, a small swimming pool, and lots of privacy. Churches and other organizations often had day camps there, but very few of the cabins were in use these days. It was a lovely alternative to drive along that quiet path rather than go past all of the Dairy Queens and gas stations that littered the major roads.

Ryan and I, still talking and laughing, turned off Busse Road, making the sharp turn downward sloping path that led under the overpass by the river. The road had gone into a blind turn when I interrupted Ryan’s chatter by hitting the brakes and shouting "Oh My God, that woman is going to get herself killed!"

Directly in front of us, hidden previously by the concrete wall of the overpass, was a woman bicycling almost in the center of the right lane. She shone whitish in the brightness of the headlights, a thin older woman in a floppy knee length skirt on an old fashioned bicycle without reflectors or any lights. I was furious, not only because she was bicycling on such a deserted road at that time of night, but because she made no indication that she had seen or even heard my car.

I passed by her carefully in the dark, giving her a wide berth. I looked in my rearview mirror a second later just to make sure that she was okay. She was no longer there. I yelped in surprise. Ryan turned around to look for her too, but she had vanished. We looked at each other in shock. There was absolutely nowhere where she could have gone. One side of the road was thick rough Mid-Western forest that was hard to navigate even on foot and impossible by bicycle; the other side was a 10 foot high wall of concrete that held up Busse Road. Behind us was only the Des Plaines River lapping at the bank and there was not a soul in sight.

I don't think I've ever driven quite as fast or quite as badly as I did driving the rest of the way home that night. The only thing we, two normally chatty and unsuperstitious people, said to each other during the drive was "What happened back there?"

We've talked about it since and Ryan definitely is still shaken by it. We still don't understand what happened or where that woman could have gone or who she might have been.

I've been down that road dozens of times since and nothing else has ever happened.

Has your blood turned to ice? Good to hear!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

THANKSGIVING Beer Bottle Cap Pies

I’m a big fan of Thanksgiving.

I like the whole concept of a day where you bring your family around and cook all day and then you eat when it’s all ready.

When I was a kid, we spent every Thanksgiving in Minneapolis, where a big dinner was followed closely by the pre Christmas trip to Daytons! Minnesota didn’t have sales tax, so a good little bunny could hope for a few presents. In fact, I got my very first gingerbread house kit on one of these excursions.

Obviously, it was a good move to judge by my turn to built gingerbread staburs and igloos. Maybe next Christmas I should do a gingerbread pig sty to house the darling marzipan pigs… Hmmm…

In any case, the highlight of Thanksgiving was always the pies! Mom and I are good pie bakers and there was a Trinity of Autumn flavors: Pumpkin, Pecan, and Apple. I’ve faithfully recreated them in a medium more likely to last past the holidays.


Pumpkin pie is the classic staple. I’ll admit we always used canned pumpkin, but the results were creamy and rich. This miniature pie is filled with glossy reddish brown polymer clay custard and topped with a decadent swirl of whipped cream.
Pecan pie was preferable made with pecans straight from my aunt’s family home in Alabama. This bottle cap pie does have a layer of polymer clay caramel topped with individually made and detailed pecan halves. The glossy sweet look comes courtesy of syrupy glaze.

Apple Pie was our branch’s specialty. We made the real ones with Jonathans or Macintoshes we picked each year in Wisconsin. These little beauties are polymer clay segments held in with tinted glaze. The effect is completely that of a warm oozy apple pie.

Like the other ones, these are made in beer bottle caps, so they’re very small and have a little magnet affixed to the back. They’re now up on Etsy

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

To Do List

Gosh, I am all over the place today.

I was knocked out yesterday with a sinus headache (I think I was only awake for half hour intervals) but am now feeling cheerful again.

My agenda:

Take photos of the new beer bottle cap pies. Exciting new flavors! Coming SOON!

Pot flowers for Mom and Dad (Mom and I shopped for plants in a a downpour. Nothing will keep me from buying pentunias! NOTHING!! When I still lived at home I would always get a few interesting plants like chenille or candy corn plants, but now that I only go to look after things, we buy low maitenence plants. Mom has a charming lady of the manor style. She loves flowers and gardens, but hates being in the sun or digging in the dirt. I also cleared and mulched around the roses. Right now the phlox and bluebells are threatening to overrun the place. It’s very nice now because we have those big light resin pots. I just pot ‘em up and put them around the perimeter. Add some hanging plants on garden hooks and the phlox is free to run wild. Looks very pretty.)

Post pies to etsy.

How much of this will I get done? That’s always the mystery!

Friday, June 6, 2008


We went to the Cubs game last week. Cubs vs. Dodgers. It was a pretty tense low scoring game, but the Cubbies managed to win in the 10th inning. Go Cubs!

Knut, surprisingly, seems to be the cure for the Billy Goat Curse. He’s never been at a game where the Cubs haven’t won. Unfortunately, no one’s offered to pay him for this service, but we have high hopes. Personally I find it too difficult when the Cubs do well. Last year, they threatened to get into the World Series and they’re famous for not having won since 1908. On one hand, I love the Cubbies and want them to do well. On the other hand, I think it’s awesome that a team with their record still sells out all the time. That’s devotion!

For you southsiders, here’s

The Legend of the Billy Goat Curse

The Cubs were in the World Series again in 1945. During the game 4, Billy Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern (made even more famous by the John Belushi SNL skit featuring “CHEESEBOOGER CHEESEBOOGER NO FRIES CHIPS!”), bought two box seats. One was for him; the other was for his goat.

However, goats tend to smell pretty bad, even those who have box seats, and the management insisted that the goat leave.

Billy paraded the goat around a few times, but he was angry that his beloved mascot was so insulted.

As he and the goat left the field, he cast the curse, “"the Cubs, they ain't gonna win no more."

And they haven’t been back to the World Series since.

Mysterious, isn’t it? The Cubs are a very old team and Wrigley field has an old fashioned picnic-like atmosphere adored by the Northsiders.

The mascot is, of course, the Cubbie Bear! There have been many incarnations of him, including this rather peculiar hat I’m wearing. In shape, it’s much more like the 1910s style, but the bear looks more like the 1960s Cubbie Bear. The inside is marked “Cooperstown Classic” but I can’t think when it’s from. Last year, a hot dog vendor and I had quite a long discussion about it.

Check out the guys behind us in this photo! Great old school fans. They gave the best running commentary during the game and hooted and booed appropriately. The older guy was going into the hospital the next day for gout surgery. Hope he’s okay! Knut told him it was the disease of nobility!

Go Cubs!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Chilly Story for a Hot Day

There’s something about gloomy rainy summer days that puts me in the mood for GHOST STORIES!! Wooooooooooooooooooooo…
After all, it was a rainy day in June that inspire Mary Shelley…

I love ghost stories. I don’t much care for those Real! Life! Ghost! shows, mostly because I find the thought of lingering after death as a blip on a magnetic field reader or a speck of dust in a lens flare to be terribly depressing. The stories however, are delicious…

Chicago has many good ones. This is the most famous.


Chicago was a bustling city in the 1930s and the South Side was home to some big industry. Fortunately, the Polish and German descended workers loved a good time after a hard day’s work and the dancehalls flourished.

A young man was on his way to one of these dances, driving shiny new car down Archer Avenue. He saw a pretty young blonde woman in a white dress walking along the side of the road. Being a gallant fellow and one never to pass up the chance to meet a cute girl, he pulled over and asked if he could give her a lift. She explained that she was also going to the same dancehall and that she’d appreciate the ride.

They arrived at the dance, and while the mood was lively and the music fine, the girl seemed quiet and withdrawn. When he danced with her, she felt cold so he offered her his jacket. She accepted it but soon asked if he could drive her home.

He was a little annoyed to leave a good party, but agreed. She gave him her address which was on a busy cross street that he knew well. He helped her into the front seat and they were soon zipping back down Archer Avenue. She clutched jacket around her and huddled in the corner of the wide bench seat. He was a little uncomfortable driving with such a strange quiet girl and kept his eyes on the road.

After many minutes of staring down the long deserted stretch of road, he decided to start up a conversation for politeness’ sake at least. He turned his head to look at her and his easy smile froze. The passenger seat was empty. It was as if she had never been there at all.

He sped home.

The next day, the young man worked up his nerve and found the address that the girl had given him. His palms sweated a little as his rang the doorbell, but it was a sunny day and he was ready for some explanation.

A middle aged woman answered the door and welcomed him in. As she busied herself in the kitchen preparing lemonade, his glance fell on a framed photograph on the piano. It was of a pretty blonde girl.

“This is the girl!” He told her.

“Oh,” the woman said, putting down the tray and taking the photo from him. “You’re one of those boys. This is my daughter, Mary. Have you met her?”

“Yes,” he said, “I saw her walking down Archer and I gave her a ride to a party. I even gave her my jacket.”

“My daughter,” the woman said slowly, looking directly into his eyes, “Died five years ago. She was on her way to the dancehall and was knocked down by a car.”

“But, but,” he stammered, “I picked her up! We danced! She asked me to bring her here, but while we in the car I looked over and she was gone! Right there on Archer Avenue!”

“I know,” she said sadly, “If you lent her your jacket, I know where we can find it. If you could just take me down Archer.”

Feeling helpless, he escorted the woman to his car and barely speaking they drove down Archer. About halfway down, she directed him to turn right into a driveway. He looked at the gates over this driveway. They read “Resurrection Cemetery.” He felt each hair on the back of his neck raise, despite the warmth of the sun.

With practiced steps, the woman lead him between the rows of graves, until he recognized with dread his own jacket, apparently floating in air. It was carefully draped over a modest gravestone. The stone bore the name “Mary.” The woman handed him the jacket, gave him a sad smile, and explained “She’s always trying to come home.”

Good, eh?

There are various other bits about that same cemetery. A chapel that lights up at nights with now one inside, steel bars in the gates with slim hand prints burned into them, and a marble statue of a little girl who goes skipping through the graveyard at night.

Mary herself even shows up. Many people report picking her up and having her vanish. Some say they see a young woman dart into the middle of the street at night. When the car is unable to stop, it goes right through her. A particularly gruesome one goes that a couple sees a woman in a white dress walking along the side of the road. When they look at her in the rearview mirror, she has only a black void for a face.

Even on the most cheerful summer night, Resurrection Cemetery is creepy. A common Catholic custom is to leave lighted candles in little red jars on the graves. Seeing all those little red flickers reflected in the granite is enough to make you believe in the will o’ the wisp.

Well, has a scary story like that chilled you down in this hot muggy weather?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Dinner Pies

You caught me. I am a pie fiend.

Some people find them difficult, but I adore them. Actually, my chief criticism of the movie Waitress was that the pies she made weren’t that original to quality her as a “pie genius.” Brie and ham quiche? Easy peasy. Strawberry chocolate? Yummy, but not so original. I was watching Bizarre Foods set in Minnesota and a true pie genius created Sauerkraut pie. Now that’s bold!

In Norway, I developed a longing for Swanson’s Frozen Chicken Pot Pies. They don’t have those in Norway so I was forced to make my own from scratch. It worked out beautifully, but now every Norwegian who tasted it has developed an addiction. In Knut it took on a near Gollum-like quantity. A dinner of roast chicken was very carefully monitered to ensure there would be enough left over for pie.

On a similar bent, we had tons of ham left over from Easter so I baked some into a quiche with broccoli and Gruyere. Norwegians are not big quiche eaters and Knut was a tad dubious. I paired it with a vinegary mixed green salad and a certain ulv had asked for it ever since. Usually for me, I used a premade pie crust (I usually make my own) and they’re much better than they used to be!

This little pie set is all Dinner pies. You see a Chicken Pot Pie, a Quiche Lorraine, and a Vegetable Tart all baked in bottle cap pie tins. I’m quite pleased. There’s lots of detail and the Chicken Pot Pie really looks edible.

These are up on Etsy!

Monday, June 2, 2008


Today is a frustrating work Monday, so I’m going to take a page from Maria Von Trapp and focus on one of my favorite things… or, possibly, one of my worshipping sites.

Welcome to Superdawg!! Thanks for Stopping!

Superdawg is an awesome drive in restaurant here in Chicago. It opened in 1948 and is still run by the same couple. In fact, the gigantic smiley wieners (they are SUPERDAWGS!) on the roof are named Maurie and Flaurie after there owners. It’s very sweet, you see Maurie and Flaurie (the humans) out working the register or checking on the pickled tomatillos, usually while wearing a Superdawg jacket.

Mind you, I would love Superdawg for the architecture alone (which looks wonderful these days. It was a little run down when I was a kid), but it doesn’t hurt that it has terrific food. They specialize in hot dogs, hamburgers, milkshakes, and other favorites. Each hotdog or hamburger is nestled in a bed of crinkle cut fries along with a dill spear and a pickled tomatillo.

The hotdogs are terrific, but the Superburger is only rivaled by Schultz’s steak sandwich in Sheboygan, WI. It’s lovely and juicy and comes topped with mustard, onions, and brilliant green pickle bits genuinely referred to as “radioactive relish.”

Each dawg or burger comes in a specially printed box emblazoned with hilarious sayings like “Thank you from the bottom of my pure beef heart” and the Superdawgs in pin up poses.

As you can imagine, it is very popular and has been featured many times in food and Americana documentaries. The best thing is that you don’t have to leave Superdawg alone. You can grab a t-shirt, magnets, plush figures, and a host of other things.

If you’re despairing because you live too far away to visit Superdawg, don’t worry. They have a little online store with some of the souvenirs. You can also read testimonials of other devoted fans.

Maria was right! I do feel better!