Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Little Ditty


Good Lord. It's been far too long since I posted. So, rather than spend a lot of time trying to come up with something to write, here is a video that will get a song stuck in your head for life, courtesy of the late and fabulous Madeline Kahn and my other favorite blue Muppet.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsCOTsE4atQ

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

To the Nefarious Ludwig Von Butterick


Dear Mr. Club President and Scrapbooking Meanyhead,

Allow me to respond to your nefarious laugh with contemptuous and defiant harrumph…[harrumph!].

How very low of you, dear president, to lash out at the defenseless and foul-smelling town of Bethville. I do not use the description “foul-smelling” in order to belittle the once thriving civilization. It just seems logical that it would have developed a horrible stench what with the hundreds of dead, rotting zombies laying everywhere. Thank goodness the wind has been from the south for the last two months. I’d much rather deal with the aroma of Momburg’s Annual Hemp Burning and Canned Food Drive than the stink of the dead undead. Everyone prefers the munchies to unceasing dry heaves.

There seems to be a bit of confusion around our Benville storage facility, Mr. President. We have no sticker stockpile that I know of. Is it possible you’re referring to our large array of skratchensnifstikars? We do have quite a few sitting around in our secret storage facility. They are very rare indeed, but are most undesirable to have around.

Skratchensnifstikars are rare, cultured cheese curds that were used as projectiles during the invasion of Floydopolis by German dairy farmers in the late 1970s. They are derived from Skratchensnifstik cheese, a hardened olive green variation of gouda. They were originally created by accident in the late 1930s, while the mad Nazi revolutionary scientist and dairy farm enthusiast Vincent Von Lederhosen was trying to make a type of ammunition that the soldiers could also eat if stranded behind enemy lines. Needless to say, Dr. Von Lederhosen was written off as a psycho for not including some type of laxative into the mix. Several test subjects were lost due to extreme constipation.

By all means Mr. Von Butterick, feel free to take some of our scratchensnifstikars off our hands. We would be most grateful. Might I suggest however, that if you should choose to eat them they be mixed with some sort of prune juice or bad meat. I’d hate to see the very criminal mind that overcame Bethville to fall to a cheese curd. We are quite enjoying the planning of our surprise attack on your teriyaki restaurant, and a dramatic final battle wouldn’t have as much oomph if the main culprit wasn’t there to get hit upside the head with frozen halibut…….drat, I’ve said too much.

As for your clever attempt at blackmail, please remember that your mother is still employed at the Benville Knitting Emporium and would be most upset if she heard that her precious Viggie were involved in such treacherous acts.

Regards,

The Extremely Hungry and Historically Inclined (at least about food)

Mayor of Benville

Thursday, September 13, 2007

To the Honorable Mayor of Benville


Dearest Mayor of Benville,

Greetings! Let me start this missive with an extremely nefarious laugh! Mwahaahahahahahahahahaha!

My name is Ludwig Von Butterick, and I am the president of an evil corporate takeover and scrapbooking club. I take over corporations. I take over towns. And then I document the whole thing in my scrapbook. No one can stop me.

Very recently I took over the glorious hamlet of Bethville. It recently came to my attention, via our club newsletter, that Bethville was overrun by zombies. So I have taken it upon myself to slowly turn it into a casino hotel and teriaki restaurant. A slightly wicked teriaki restaurant where people will be forced to eat their delicious teriaki with plastic utensils! Mwahahahahahahahahaha! And soy sauce will not be free of charge! And a 85% gratuity will be added to all parties of 5 or more!

Now that you know all about my evil plan, I can share the real reason for my letter. I heard a rumor that you have a secret storage facility there in Benville, where you keep a stockpile of scratch-n-sniff stickers. I MUST have these stickers for my scrapbook. If you don't give them to me, I will be forced to blackmail you. You see, I know something about you, Mayor of Benville. Something very dark indeed that will surely lead to your impeachment if it were to come to light.

Yours in evil,

Ludwig Von Butterick, President of Evil Corporate Takeover and Scrapbooking Club and General Meany

Friday, September 7, 2007

Literary Lameness: Stephenie Meyers Makes Vampires Suck More


I know that not everyone in the world can be a fan of Stephenie Meyers' vampire series. So for those of you who have thus far missed out, here is a brief and crappy synopsis. Followed by the feature presentation.


Brief and crappy synopsis:

Bella moves to Oregon to live with her father, a cop who is completely inept. She goes to school and meets Edward, who happens to be a vampire. Interestingly enough, Edward has an entire family of vampires. He is over 100 years old. I guess he likes to go to school during the day to keep up appearances. Edward and Bella fall in love, but Edward has to get used to the smell of Bella's blood which is apparently crack to all vampires. Somewhere along the way, a vampire named James decides that he wants to get Bella's blood all to himself. Edward kills him. And now all the other vampires in the entire world are hell-bent on revenge. And let me not forget that Bella has another friend, Jacob, who is a werewolf. Vampires and werewolves are mortal enemies. So if Edward and Bella marry, which they must do to be able to fornicate (as much as vampires can), Jacob will not be happy. Jacob is enormous. I expect him to be at least 8'11" by the beginning of the next book. And he always feels feverish.

It's weird. Go with it.



Presenting…

Lunar Cycles

A PLAY BASED ON THE FOURTH BOOK IN THE VAMPIRE TRILOGY BY STEPHENIE MEYERS

ACT 1

[Scene: Edward and Bella are finally getting married….in a few days. For now, they are sitting around Charlie’s house having a very dull conversation.]

Edward: Bella, I love you. My heart…it aches for you every second that you are here and when you are away from me. So, it aches all the time. Sort of like a tooth might ache if it were to decay. Which my love will never do.

Bella: Thanks, Edward. You’re nice. I can’t wait until we get married and you turn me into a vampire like you. That will be fun.

Edward: I long for that day as well, my darling! My love! My delicate flower!

Bella: Do you smell something burning?

Charlie: [enters stage left] Yeah….sorry about that. It seems I’ve burned the kitchen down. I was just boiling some lettuce and POOF! the stove exploded.

Bella: Oh, Charlie. When will you ever learn?

Alice: [enters] I foresaw a stove exploding in a vision. I am here to make sure that Bella is well protected since James has an evil twin brother out there running around hell-bent on revenge again. Oh no! I’ve said too much.

Edward: Never mind, Alice. Bella wasn’t paying attention. She is far too busy thinking about cupcakes and fairy dust to fear for her life. Besides, you and I both know that nothing seriously dangerous will happen until 15 chapters from now. So we can both relax and go hunt pumas in the woods.

Alice: We’ll have to leave someone in charge of Bella’s safety just the same. How about Emmett?

Jacob: [enters] What about me? That’s right, Edward, Alice, Charlie, and Bella. I am back. Much taller, still feverish, and so muscular now that I find it very difficult to put on any clothes at all, lest my girth rip right through them.

Bella: Jacob! You’re back! Tell us more stories about the Quileute Tribe. They are really, really fascinating.

Charlie: Yes, please tell us some stories about people we don’t give a crap about for the next 15 pages. And while you’re doing it, hold these Pop Tarts in your hands. Our toaster was lost in a recent explosion. Dash it if I still can’t cook this many books into the series!

Edward: I take my leave of you now, my darling Bella. Keep my heart safe! It is in your possession now, meaning that it belongs to you. I don’t need it anyway, as blood doesn’t travel through my body providing oxygen to my cells and removing the carbon dioxide.

Bella: That’s so beautiful, Edward. I’ll be here reclining on Jacob’s extremely ripped and hairy chest.

Edward: Farewell, my love!


ACT 2

Jacob: And then my great-grandfather Black huffed and he puffed, and he….

Jerry, Evil Twin Brother of James [bursts into room]: Ha ha ha! I am an evil vampire, hell-bent on revenge. I am so evil that I have a very diabolical mustache. You are mine now, Bella Swan. I vant to suck your blooood!

Bella: That old line? Puh-lease. Vampires are soooo not like that. Actually, they are very passionate creatures who like to drive really fast cars, buy me things, and throw me lots and lots of parties.

Charlie: What? I dozed off. It seems I’m oblivious to any form of danger. All I do is eat all day and scold Bella.

Jacob: I am a werewolf, your sworn enemy, blood-sucker! I will now rip you limb from limb.

Charlie: Who’s hungry? I could go for a pizza right now, Bella, if you aren’t going to bother to cook me anything tonight. Hey, look! I have a gun. And there are bullets in it!

Jerry, Evil Twin Brother of James: Curses! A werewolf! I shall now slink away into the shadows to await a better chance for revenge.

ACT 3

[It is Edward and Bella’s wedding night. They are in Edward’s fancy gold-plated bedroom.]

Edward: I shall now turn you into a vampire. In a few minutes anyway. And then you can finally see if I have any actual functioning sex organs. But first, I am going to kiss you a lot in a very chaste way and tell you that I love you in a thousand different ways.

Bella: That is super nice of you, Edward.

Charlie: I’ll just be over here in the corner. Actually, would you two mind if I ordered some Chinese food? I’m kind of hungry. And Bella didn’t get a chance to make me a pot roast to tide me over for the rest of my life.

Bella: I’m scared, Edward. How will you turn me into a vampire? Will you drink my blood and then make me drink yours, like they did in Interview With the Vampire? Or will you drain all the blood from my body, bury me, and wait for me to rise again, like in Dracula?

Edward: Gross! No! All you have to do is…

Alice [bursts into the room]: Edward! Something very, very wicked is coming this way! We must flee!

Bella: What are we running from?

Edward: A great hunter of vampires. One who is known only as Buffy!

Narrator: Long story short, they were all slain, thus ending the least-interesting vampire story of all time.

THE END

Friday, July 13, 2007

To the Exalted Mayor of Bethville


To the Mayor of Bethville:

I am finally breaking my silence, because I have just seen the op-ed piece in the Bryan-BCL Daily Times Post Herald News Report informing readers of the recent terrible tragedy in Bethville. I felt it my duty as a public official to write on behalf of my constituents. Though, after this letter, I will once again refuse to acknowledge any attempts at contact by the Bethville mayoral office. While the citizens of Erikaford have, for the most part, ceased to be angry about the Mango-Bidet Incident, my chief of staff is adamant that we continue to refrain from engaging in any relations with your administration. And though she was far more offended by the entire incident than I was, I still give my full support to our bantam, coke, sprite, and unicorn embargo. I also insist that you remember you are not welcome in Erikaford. If you show up uninvited to our next county fair, which happens to be the Annual Pantsing and Bearbaiting Choral Night, not even another thirty diplomatic envoys from Tansalton will pardon you. I hope you will carefully remember what happened the last time you tried to sneak into one of our festivals behind a large picket sign that rather unconvincingly read, “Coke—it’s bad for you.” Our Municipal Litter Catalogers are still finding pieces of your mayoral limousine all over town. Tempers run high here. That being said, my letter is attached forthwith:

Erikaford is very sorry to hear that your town has been besieged by vultures, which have—-to put it delicately—-soiled the Bethville Lazy-Eye Victims Memorial and Waterslide Park and taken to roosting in your city hall offices.

(Some free practical advice from myself: Encouraging personal hygiene amongst your citizens, so that they don’t smell like rotten garbage, would have been a better use of your sanitation budget than buying that automatic bubblegum-scented street cleaning machine.)

With grudging sincerity,
The Mayor of Erikaford


"There is not much you can do to stop me."
-Erik Mays, founder of Erikaford

Thursday, July 12, 2007

To the Exalted Mayor of Bethville


My Dearest Mayor of Bethville,

I was so sorry to hear of the Bethville resident losses. I hoped the Benville Professional Golfing Team and Amateur Crochet Association members would arrive in time to at least save the Bethville baker. He made the most wonderful strudel. I’m sending this letter along with several of my personal houseplants. Each comes with a name, personalized sunning attire, rations for the next 3 or 4 weeks, and portable living quarters. They should keep you company until the population can be replenished. They keep to themselves mostly. A few loud mouths in the bunch, but for the most part they are quite entertaining. Watch Reggie though, he has a bad habit of hiding your car keys whenever you absentmindedly set them down someplace.

Each one of my houseplants comes with its own personalized watering can as well, but unfortunately I’m going to have to hold on to those. The parade clydesdales got into the Benville Town Hall fountain last night and completely drained it. They’ve been "watering the lawn" for the last 4 or 5 hours and the chlorine is making the grass turn neon green. We used every single bucket, tin can, tea kettle, crock pot, milk carton, coal scuttle, coffee cup, cereal bowl, water balloon, bronze cauldron, glass bottle, beaker, canteen, Mason jar, bedpan, buffalo bladder, and plastic bag we can find, and they’re still flowing like beer at an Oktoberfest. At least the trail makes them easy to find when we lose one.

More news on the cunning Mr. Damon, it seems our plan to leave him space-bound failed. He was spotted descending 2 miles north of Bayleyonia. I contacted the Mayor of Bayleyonia shortly after receiving the news, and thankfully they have Mr. Damon in custody. According to their interrogators, he cleverly concealed several lawn darts in his socks before starting his ascent to space. For now, he’ll be kept in the Bayleyonia community dungeon where he’ll be forced to eat mushroom and rye sandwiches and watch nothing but movies from the 1940s. I’m satisfied for now...it sounds horrible, almost as bad as the silent western and force-fed banana flavored food torture of Floydopolis.

Again, I do express my deepest sympathy at the loss of your population my dear mayor. I’ll reschedule the Benville Ahlzheimer’s Ward Blackout Bingo Night to be held in Bethville instead. None of the Ahlzheimer’s Ward patients should remember how to get back, so please consider them Bethville residents. They are very kind people and are never afraid to offer you a grape soda. The only drawback is you have to introduce yourself repeatedly, so building a relationship with any of them is nearly impossible.

Please stay in touch, and please pick up the place a bit would you? All those bodies and broken clubs laying everywhere kind of hinder the whole retro mood you were going for when you designed the place.

Regards,

The Urinarily Overwhelmed and Agriculturally Dramatic Mayor of Benville

Monday, July 9, 2007

Let's Tout the Benefits of White Lead!


There is nothing I can write that will make this ad campaign any more horrendous...and kinda funny in a very, very sick way that makes me ashamed to laugh at now that I think about it. Check it out! White lead! The wave of the future! Use it in hospitals! No, really!

Friday, July 6, 2007

To the Honorable Mayor of Benville


Most Life-Saving Mayor of Benville,

Thank you ever so much for the use of your Zombiegone and please present the enclosed golf sweaters and crochet clamps to the Benville citizens who rescued me. I would have delivered my gifts of thanks personally, but unfortunately my mayoral mechanic, Alphonse, was turned into a zombie and is now lying facedown on the front lawn of the Bethville Public Library and Craft Emporium with half of his brain eaten away. Terribly unfortunate as he was an excellent mechanic. Anyway, the only vehicle that is currently in working order is the mayoral tandem bicycle, which is dreadfully difficult to pedal by one's self.

As you can imagine, Mr. Mayor, I am quite bored and lonely here in Bethville. Not one of the other Bethville residents was spared during the zombie attack. I am reminded of the now infamous Bethville Inquisition of 1987. Fortunately, that time, new residents were bussed in from Floydopolis after it burned down in a tragic welding accident. I suppose I will have to rely on my own devices to repopulate Bethville alone.

That said, Mr. Mayor, I am very sorry to hear of your affliction with ill-timed humor. I was always curious to know why you thought it was so terribly hilarious to carry around an ice cream cone at the Bethville Lactose Intolerance Awareness Parade and Square Dance, offering bites to all the attendees and shrieking with laughter. I thought perhaps you had been down at the Bethville Schnapps Emporium beforehand.

Anyway, I must get back to the First Annual Bethville Lonely Movie Watching and Popcorn Eating. Do drop by one of these days.

Sincerely,

The Very, Very, Very Lonely and Thankfully Sinus Congested Mayor of Bethville

Monday, June 25, 2007

To the Exalted Mayor of Bethville


My Dearest Mayor of Bethville,

I must apologize for my most recent letter, the contents of which implied that I too am a brain-craving zombie. I assure you, the only thing I crave is a pastry that does not pose an immediate threat on my life. No, my dear mayor, I am most certainly safe from the unfortunate attack on Bethville by ravenous zombies. I must say I am a bit jealous of your situation. Roast chinchilla is heavenly with the right kind of chutney.

I must inform you that I have a mild condition, making me joke at very inappropriate and often dangerous times. It's haunted me since birth, more often in one-on-one conversation or public speeches. Even the slightest opportunity to slide some immature humor into a conversation and I'll take advantage of it. By slightest opportunity I mean short breaths, hiccups, small coughs, loss of eye contact, excessive blinking (6th grade was hell), an abrupt change in subject, shifting of weight, or the use of an adverb in a grammatically incorrect manner. Imagine someone introducing their "softly grandmother"...perfect opportunity.

My most recent slip was during our 6th Annual Benville Apple Bobbing and Carmen Miranda Enthusiast Festival. Three members of the Benville Chamber of Commerce were busily dunking their heads in the long porcelain tank filled with 18 inches of water and red delicious apples, when I very unthinkingly exclaimed "Hey, isn't that the old restroom urinal trough from the Benville public swimming pool?!", followed by much of my unshared laughter. After 20 minutes of sputtering, vomiting and shrieking in terror, the chamber of commerce members made it very clear that such a joke was most inappropriately timed.

And now....down to business.

I regret to inform you that your beloved butter churner, previously body-double #2, is now helplessly on his way to space. I know it may sound strange, one's journey to space, but a trip very rarely made by your normal, average, everyday butter churner is now underway. Allow me to elaborate.

When Mr. Damon arrived, we immediately locked him in the mayoral dungeon until we could think of a clever way for him to repay his treason to Benville. After staying up all night watching old gangster movies, the body-double staff suggested casting his feet in cement and throwing him in the ocean. We waited a day and half for the cement dry until we realized the nearest body of water was four hours away. So the only logical solution was to remove the cement, tie his feet to several weather balloons and allow him to drown in the depths of space instead. Quite a brilliant idea if I do say so myself. Saved us hours of drive time.

Back to your zombie predicatment, the Benville residents experienced a very similar situation a year ago during the annual Ben Stein Impersonation Contest and Marinated Game Hen Raffle. Since then, we put together an emergency instruction manual to rid the community of zombies and anyone bearing the slightest resemblance to Ben Stein.

Step #145 in the manual reads as follows: Use a sharp, blunt instrument to remove the head of targeted zombie/Ben Stein. For maximum efficiency and point-value use an axe, Scottish broadsword or chainsaw.

Fortunately for Bethville, the Benville Chainsaw Emporium and Warehouse is incredibly overstocked. Unfortunately for Bethville, the 21st Annual Pacifist Awareness and Anti-Chainsaw Usage Seminar was held just two nights ago in Tansalton and a majority of the Benville residents attended. They are still passionately opposed to the use of chainsaws.

However, I think I can help. I will gather the Benville Professional Golfing Team and Amateur Crochet Association members together for an emergency conference. After I tell them Ben Stein is lose in Bethville and is endangering its beloved mayor, they should be on the way to your rescue post-haste.

Please, my dear mayor, stay in your attack shelter until their arrival. I'm including a bottle of Zombiegone Ointment with this letter and sending it by carrier pigeon. That should provide you some slight protection and rations for another day.

Regards,

Ever So Helpful and Challenged in the Ways of Well-Timed Humor,
The Mayor of Benville

To the Exalted Mayor of Bethville


My Dearest Mayor of Bethville,

BRAINS!!

Regards,

The Hopelessly Lost Mayor of Benville

Thursday, June 7, 2007

To the Honorable Mayor of Benville


Dearest Mayor of Benville,

I am currently writing this letter from the safety of the titanium-lined attack shelter under the village of Bethville. Incidentally, the time locks engaged, and it seems I am trapped here for the duration of the zombie attack. Yes, you read correctly. We are experiencing a zombie attack here in usually-pleasant and glamorous Bethville.

It all started yesterday afternoon during the Bethville Dill Pickling and Boris Karloff Impersonating Showdown. One of the competing Boris Karloff impersonators took a wrong turn on the way to his dressing room and fell headfirst into a vat of pickling brine. There he remained until he was fished out many hours later by a very unlucky competition pickler. At first the Bethville residents found it amusing that he kept chasing them and screaming "BRAINS!" But as soon as he actually caught someone, their amusement turned to concern. Luckily, at the time, I was enjoying some quiet time in the mayoral lavatory and reading room when I heard the screams of concern. I quickly packed some rations and things to amuse me through the zombie attack and dashed to the mayoral escape pod. Which brings us to the present time. I am delivering this letter to you via my confidante and former mayoral butter churner, Matt Damon, as I felt he would be safe from attacks of this nature. I ask that you please send more things to amuse me until the attack ends, as I am almost finished with my current book of crossword puzzles.

That said, Mr. Mayor, I hope this letter finds you well. And I hope it catches you before you depart for the Bethville Petting Zoo and Acupunture Seminar, which was to take place this afternoon in Bethville Square. Unfortunately, I've been forced to cancel this event as the petting zoo animals are currently serving as my mayoral rations. I should be okay until the roasted chinchilla runs out, but if you have any ideas on how to destroy 1,500 zombies before that time, please let me know.

Sincerely,

The Zombie-Besieged Mayor of Bethville

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Ingrid Newkirk Is Going to Hate Me Henceforth


Xiang Xiang, the only panda bred in captivity and released into the wild, was found dead on February 19, the apparent victim of an attack by other wild male pandas--another senseless killing of the wimpiest mammal on the planet. Personally, I think an angry woodchuck could take a panda that's been bred in captivity. I'm pretty sure I could have walked up behind Xiang Xiang and yelled "BOO!" and he would have had an embolysm. So, he was certainly no match for wild pandas, even if they were good-natured and were simply asking him to pass the steamed bamboo...when things took a turn.

First of all, look at any random picture of a panda. More than likely, it's sitting on its rotund butt stuffing its face with bamboo. Am I right? Or it's looking at the camera with its head cocked ever so slightly to the side, in manner of Shirley Temple on the Good Ship Lollipop. Now take a look at a picture of a grizzly bear. Scary, right? Up on its hind legs making its alpha-male grizzly roar. Or haunch-deep in a river fishing for salmon. There is probably blood from a fresh kill on his muzzle. Now, look at what pandas eat. Bamboo? Seriously... That's the bear equivalent of tofu. A hungry grizzly will eat a human or another bear to stay alive.

All I'm saying is that the Giant Panda needs to change its image in order to not go extinct. A panda needs to maul somebody right away or eat someone's poodle before it's too late.

Friday, May 18, 2007

I [Heart] Sasquatch


Dearest Sasquatch,

My beloved! Shaggy-haired, mysterious creature of the woods. The one who snuck into my camp last night and ate my entire bag of marshmallows. When I saw you, I knew we were meant to be. There you stood, panting and matted. There I crouched, attempting to pee in a way that wouldn't get my shoes wet. Our eyes met. I screamed in terror. You moaned in a horrified manner and fled into the night. But I haven't forgotten you.

I know you may be reluctant to associate with me. I admit that I've been seen on the arm of Bigfoot. And the Abominable Snowman has been trying to woo me for quite some time. But they mean nothing to me. I am loyal to you and only you, darling Sasquatch!

I long to comb the tangles out of your body hair. I long to clothe you in oversized cotton trousers and comfortable button-ups. I long to buy you shoes and socks and deodorant. I long to teach you the ways of the Christian church, so that you will stop sacrificing rabbits to your pagan gods. I would love to teach you how to read so that you can memorize the sonnets of Shakespeare and recite them to me in your charming woodsian voice. I will teach you to buy me only the flowers I'm not allergic to and only fine quality chocolates. You will learn to compliment me only in the most flattering ways, even when my hair is frightful and my bag doesn't match my shoes. Darling Sasquatch, I will make you love me.

Sasquatch. My hairy, sweet Sasquatch. I will show you more love than all of those who have ever photographed you under mysterious circumstances or made castings of your footprints.

Your darling, beautiful, charming and exalted Mayor of Bethville

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Mourning the Season of Baking


Alas, baking season is coming to a close. Soon, the heat in my non air-conditioned kitchen will be so intense that I'll only be able to venture in there once a day to get more ice cubes for my sweltering brow. And as very disheartening as this is, it is always good to remember that October is not so very far away. Soon, there will be chocolate chip pumpkin bars again. There will be gingersnaps. There will be oatmeal raisin cookies. And yes, there will be Christmas tree sugar cookies with green coconut.

But first, a long, hot, and quite sweaty summer lies in front of us. And how does one survive the summer? Perhaps you could try a few of these techniques:

1. Carry a popsicle in each armpit.
2. Hold a wet t-shirt contest in your living room.
3. Utilize the Gonzales method: profess a complete lack of awareness of the high temperature, cast doubt on the results of supposedly objective measuring equipment, and explain that, until the facts are in, it's too soon to tell whether it's even summer at all (suggested by the Mayor of Tansalton)
4. Place ice cubes on your pulse points and between your legs/thighs/breasts and allow to melt while watching cliché porn as loud as possible so as to annoy the neighbors. The annoyance will force the neighbors to turn up AC in an attempt drown the moaning and groaning out, and hopefully the cool air will flow between vents. Or neighbors will be so annoyed they will vacate their AC-ed apartment. Using MacGyver skills, you can then break in and enjoy the cool. (suggested by the Mayor of Jodyville)
5. Take a dip in the East River.
6. Stand underneath the giant fans in the Union Square subway station.
7. Seduce your local ice cream truck driver.
(all submitted by the mayor of Erikaville)
8. Get a sprinkler.
9. Take repeated cold showers.
10. Jump in the Central Park fountains.
11. Ride your bike really fast down Broadway without stopping for lights and enjoy the breeze.
12. Stick your head out of the subway window while riding above ground in Queens or Brooklyn.
(again from Jodyville...)

And of course, you can always initiate the Bethville tradition of laying around drinking entire pitchers of margaritas when the heat becomes too unbearable, swearing at your cat for being too furry and far too close to you.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

To the Honorable Mayor of Benville


Dear Sizeist-Discriminating Mayor of Benville,

I feel it is my duty to shake a very haughty and well-manicured finger in your direction. I find it quite offensive, while not being a corpulent or unshaven woman myself, that you would prevent the Society of Corpulent, Anti-Shaving Women from having their 2nd annual demonstration and gala in Benville. I know that last year they caused some ruckus. The Benville Hot Springs overflowed from too many oversized occupants and flooded Benville Cemetery. But that did work in your favor, as you turned it into a most properous rice paddy. And later in the year during the Autumn Hairy Corpulent Women Apple Picking and Ladder Repair Seminar, the women got very intoxicated on apple brandy and ransacked the mayoral offices. But they wrote you a very nice letter of apology, and I believe it was quite heartfelt. Therefore, I feel you are being unjustly cruel and sizeist toward these lovely, however ungroomed and portly, women. They are very courageous to take a stand against leg and armpit hair upkeep and dieting.

With that said, I'm terribly sorry to hear that the attempts on your life have continued. Might I suggest that you stop eating anything from the Benville Bakery? Last week I was driving through Benville in the mayoral chariot, when I stopped in at Benville Bakery to pick up a chocolate cream-filled cupcake. To my surprise there was a large parakeet cage buried in it. Naturally, I demanded to speak to the manager, and he was most rude! He refused to exchange the cupcake as I had already licked off all the frosting.

As for the morgue space, I'm afraid that the Bethville Morgue is also overloaded at this time. Unfortunately, a cross-country bus tour of centenarians passed through Bethville during the Bran Muffin Bake-Off and Glenn Miller Orchestra Dance Competition. It was all too much for them, I'm afraid.

I am quite disturbed to hear that Matt Damon is causing such havoc. When I hired him several weeks ago to churn butter at the Bethville Dairy, I had no idea that he was a criminal. I have to say that he was also terrible at churning butter. He kept stopping to pose for the paparazzi, and my butter never got churned.

I am enclosing a large easel and some magic markers just in case your mayoral typewriter is stolen again.

Do take care, Mr. Mayor.

Sincerely,

The Mayor of Bethville, Advocate of Corpulent and Hairy Women's Rights and One Who is Forced to Eat her Toast Unbuttered

To the Exalted Mayor of Bethville


My Dearest Mayor of Bethville,

How nice it is to finally be writing to you again. Please forgive my absence. I’m afraid the attempts on my life are far from over, and the stakes are higher than ever before. It seems “chuck” has exhausted every source of gardening utensils in the tri-county area, and has resorted to stealing my office supplies to use as a substitute. Their methods have not changed however; still baking them into various pastries in the hopes that I might overlook the blatantly obvious obtrusions caused by a handle, blade, power cord or 4-cycle engine and swallow one whole. A few weeks ago, they rudely stole my typewriter and placed it in a Danish. My body-doubles have been working around the clock to find it again so that I might reply to your letters.

That reminds me, may I borrow some of your morgue space? It seems ours is quite overstocked.

Now down to business:

I understand body-double #2 was kind enough to read through my mail and send out replies. Please disregard Mr. Damon’s letter. He has been identified as a body-double-double-agent working undercover in my mayoral employ. I originally assigned body-double #32 the task of responding to my mail. He works slow, doesn’t spell all that well and prefers to write in what he calls “poopie letters”, but he has a heart of gold and a good work ethic so I figured what the heck. While composing a condolence letter to the Clooney family, however, Mr. Damon snuck up behind body-double #32 and overwhelmed him with an overdose of common sense. Body-double #32’s feeble mind couldn’t handle the brain overload of simple mathematics, silverware etiquette and the truth about Scientology, so he unfortunately met his demise. Mr. Cruise will be missed. Mr. Damon then resumed the task in hopes of isolating Benville from all outside communication.

In my absence, I have been in deep investigation of the illustrious “chuck”, identifying several moles in the Benville organization that are fueling the attempts on my life. Mr. Damon has been under close surveillance for some time, and I fear he has finally caught our scent. Just before evading my loyal body-double pursuit brigade, he stole my typewriter and delivered it to chuck’s garden utensil contaminated pastry bakers, cutting off the only source of outside communication in Benville. (Yes I agree, it is probably time to discuss improvements to Benville’s communication system, but that is neither here nor there. The issue here is Mr. Damon.) He then proceeded to steal one of the Benville mayoral mopeds and journeyed east to the mysterious community of Tansalton, a city we’ve suspected is the originator of “chuck” for quite some time. My sources say he was last seen at the Tenth Annual Tansalton Volunteer Rescue Workers Benefit and Celebrity Rug Toss and was addressed there as a guest of high esteem. We will keep tabs on the suspicious city of Tansalton, and will inform you of any foul play.

On a lighter note, you will be glad to here that the Benville water tower has been drained of its strawberry daiquiri contents and filled with water once again. You were right, my dear mayor, that was a very bad idea. Everything was fine and good until the shuttle bus from the 2nd Annual Corpulent Women’s Anti-Shaving Demonstration stopped by. They figured they could get a quick rinsing before continuing on to the Bethville Kitten Grooming and Banana Cream Pie Jubilee. A horrifying sight, my dear mayor, horrifying. Please inform the citizens of Bethville that the foul scent will no longer be wafting from Benville, and that Benville will NOT be holding the Annual Corpulent Women’s Anti-Shaving Demonstration next year. We are taking a firm stand against public display of unshaven corpulent women.

Regards,

The Paranoid, Ill-Tempered Mayor of Benville

To the Illustrious Mayor of Tansalton



Dear Mayor of Tansalton,

I would be honored to attend the 13th Annual Pot-Belly Pig Appreciation Society Punch Party and Curly Fries Fry-Off, but unfortunately, I have a previous engagement on that day. It seems the Mayor of Erikaville has scheduled the Semi-Annual Erikaville Cock Fight and Recreational Cocaine Snorting for that afternoon, and I am scheduled to picket it. I feel it is my duty as a civil servant to share my deep disapproval of the forms of entertainment in Erikaville. I knew when she originated the Erikaville Unfiltered Cigarette Smoke-Off and Stuffed Animal Beheading in 2003, that there would be lots of trouble between Bethville and Erikaville.

Mr. Mayor, I'm afraid that the wheelbarrow you returned with your letter is not the wheelbarrow I loaned to you. In fact, it is not a wheelbarrow at all, but a box of Turkish tea biscuits. As much as I enjoy tea biscuits, whether from Turkey or anywhere else in the world, I really do need that wheelbarrow back as it's where I store my mayoral paycheck stubs and kitty litter. Please send the actual wheelbarrow back to me as soon as possible. I will be wearing my contact lenses this time.

I'm sorry to hear that negotiations with Curleyburg are not going your way. I find that when I have a mayoral disagreement, it is helpful to write a strongly-worded letter. Do let me know if you need any pointers.

I am enclosing a darling doggie outfit for the charming Fantasia. I hope he likes the little silver booties. They were crafted from recycled aluminum foil. Saving the environment is one of my top priorities in Bethville.

Toodles,

The Mayor of Bethville, Strong Supporter of Recycling and Not Letting Sea Gulls Eat Those Plastic 6-Pack Thingys

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

To the Exalted Mayor of Bethville


Dearest and Most Generous Mayor of Bethville,

Thank you ever so much for allowing us the use of your wheelbarrow. I especially appreciated the flame decal, which makes it seem like one is shoveling shit a whole lot faster, thereby minimizing the unpleasantness of the task at hand. I sincerely hope you aren't offended by my coarse language, but when one deals with a chronic ghastly problem as we here in the enclave of Tansalton have been for over a year now, one gradually dispenses with the niceties.

I am concerned that my inclusion of the photographs of our beloved Official Township Poodle, Fantasia, may have been too forward. If it had been up to me, I would not have pressed the issue at all. However, Fantasia is up for contract renewal this month, and the negotiations have been contentious. You see, our Official Township Theater Company and Ballet Troupe Playhouse and Cafe is only able to mount one show quarterly, and this leaves Fantasia with very few opportunities within Tansalton. I was hoping to organize events with nearby playhouses as a way of retaining him. My constituents need a figure to help inspire their hopes and dreams, especially with the three-year-long redistricting battle with nearby Curleyburg with no resolution in sight.

I do sincerely apologize for missing the Bethville Kitten Grooming and Banana Cream Pie Jubilee. Aside from not wanting to further antagonize Fantasia by consorting with kittens, it just so happened to coincide with our 10th Annual Tansalton Volunteer Rescue Workers Benefit and Celebrity Rug Toss. Matt Damon was a surprise guest. However, as a conciliatory measure, I cordially invite you to our 13th Annual Pot-Belly Pig Appreciation Society Punch Party and Curly-Fries Fry Off, on May 19th at 2 PM. Kindly RSVP with my assistant, Ms. I. Gore.

Signed with deepest respect and admiration,

The Afflicted Yet Ever Pleasant Mayor of Tansalton

Monday, May 7, 2007

To the Most Illustrious Mayor of Tansalton


Note: My friend Tansal has joined the mayoral letter writing alliance.


Most Illustrious Mayor of Tansalton,

Thank you so much for the basket of muffins that you left on the steps of the Bethville town hall this morning. I had no idea that you were such an accomplished basket weaver. And thank you as well for the charming photographs of your poodle in his ballet costume. While I'm sure he's a wonderful dancer, I am afraid that I have cast all the parts for the Bethville Playhouse all-canine production of Julius Caesar. Perhaps next season.

I heard recently, Mr. Mayor, that you are facing some issues with nearby Curleyburg, that the Curleyburg landfill has started to overflow with garbage and that the spillage has infused your water supply with the flavor of horse manure. I've been terribly disheartened to hear this news, so I am sending over the best wheelbarrow in Bethville to assist with the cleanup of said landfill. I would send over some laborers as well, but unfortunately, all the Bethville gardeners are currently incarcerated for money laundering.

That said, Mr. Mayor, I am also writing to extend you an invitation to the Bethville Kitten Grooming and Banana Cream Pie Jubilee. It takes place on April 29 and begins at 2:30 in the afternoon. Grooming supplies will be provided by Bethville Groomers, Spa, and Haircut Emporium. You will need to bring your own kitten, however. Do come and join in the festivities! I insist, as I have been able to forgive you for the unfortunate incident at the 2005 Bethville Horse Castration and Potluck.

Ta ta!

The Honorable, Forgiving, and Licorice-Scented Mayor of Bethville

Friday, May 4, 2007

Raise Your Milk Duds and Toast My Uncle Bud


Although I vowed that this blog would be about nothing but happy things, like sunshine and unicorns, sometimes sad things happen. My uncle Bud passed away yesterday. He had a stroke several months ago that left him incapacitated, and he was in a nursing home. It was one of those things that was expected but is still painful when it happens.

Uncle Bud was one of those men for whom chivalry would never die. When I visited him and Aunt Mary several years ago, he insisted on driving me back to my hotel and walking me to my room, so that I wouldn't be accosted by the Overland-Park-Kansas-variety crazies.

Uncle Bud was not the happiest man. My mom always said it was because he missed his sister and their mother. (Both women died young.) So he always carried with him a little element of sadness that grew harder and harder to cover up as he grew older. But when Uncle Bud laughed, it was the loudest and jolliest sound I ever heard. That laugh made being around him a treat.

I have discovered that if you can remember how someone laughed, you never really forget that person. Uncle Bud loved the Royals, introduced me to Milk Duds, celebrated St. Patrick's Day like a proper Irishman, and had a laugh that you could feel from the soles of your feet to the top of your head.

I'll miss you, Uncle Bud.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

I Give You...More Cupcakes


As promised, I've been doing lots of exploratory work into finding delicious cupcake recipes. It's a lot of hard work, but some poor schlub has to do it.

Orange Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
makes 2 dozen cupcakes

3 c. flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
14 tbsp. butter
2 c. sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. orange extract
orange zest to taste

frosting:

one 8 oz. package of cream cheese
4 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. orange extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 c. powdered sugar
2 tbsp. orange juice
orange zest to taste

Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt in medium-sized bowl. In a larger bowl, mix together butter, sugar, eggs, orange extract, and orange zest. A little orange zest goes a long way, so I wouldn't add more than a tablespoon. Add dry ingredients and mix well. When thoroughly mixed, pour into paper liners in muffin tin. Bake at 350 degrees until tops are golden. Let these thoroughly cool before frosting.

For frosting, beat together cream cheese, butter, extracts, powdered sugar, orange juice, and zest. (I squeezed a bit of juice from the orange I happened to be "zesting.") When thoroughly creamified, frost cooled cupcakes liberally. Sample personally to check for deliciousness.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Bananas at Their Finest


The sad truth about bananas is that they pass the point where you can just peel and eat them within three days. (Unless you are one of those people who doesn't mind a few brown spots.) I happen to be one of those people who deliberately buys several bananas with the hope that a few of them will brown a little too quickly for my taste. Because that's when I get to bake.

Banana Bread

1 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter
1 egg
3 bananas (ripe)
1-1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda

Cream together butter, sugar, egg, and bananas. In separate bowl, mix together flour, salt, and baking soda. Add to wet mixture and mix well. Pour into greased bread pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour or until middle springs back when touched.

Since bananas are sweet and smooth and have such a dominant flavor, banana bread is one of those things that needs extra texture and a little bit of "something else." That "something else" can be anything. Bananas love company. I like to throw in raisins, chopped apricots, or chocolate chips. When my sister makes banana bread, she likes to sprinkle the top of the loaf with cinnamon and sugar before baking (and she hates it with apricots). I like to coat the inside of the pan with cinnamon and sugar and then sprinkle the top with chopped nuts and about a 1/4 cup of brown sugar. You can't really go wrong with adding whatever you like to banana bread.

More on bananas in later posts...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Multipurpose Charm of Biscuits


biscuit- n. [bis-kit]
1. any of various hard or crisp dry baked products
2. a small quick bread made from dough that has been rolled out and cut or dropped from a spoon

Pretty much everywhere else in the world, a biscuit is a crispier cookie or cracker. But the word "biscuit" has come a long way from the original Medieval Latin term bis coctus, which literally means "cooked twice." Ironically, the American "biscuit," is cooked only once and is really more of a scone by English standards. What it really comes down to is how you eat your biscuits. Whether you spread them with Devon cream and raspberry preserves or smother them with white gravy, the basic biscuit is really the same thing. This recipe is for the "drop biscuit" method which doesn't involve rolling and cutting.

Drop Biscuits
makes 10-12

2 c. flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 to 2/3 c. butter-flavored shortening (you can use butter here, but the texture will be a bit different)
2/3 c. milk

Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add shortening and mix until the texture is even throughout. I use about 2/3 cup of shortening because it makes the biscuits just a little bit more buttery and soft. For a more crumbly biscuit, use 1/2 cup. Add milk and mix. At this point, I usually knead these by hand because the dough is really thick. When the texture is consistent throughout, drop spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes. They will be very lightly brown all over the tops. Don't overbake these! Cool on waxed paper or a cooling rack.

Now, you just have to decide whether to throw a fancy tea party for some dainty ladies or a giant breakfast for some lumberjacks.

Pssssssst! More on scones later!
For more on lumberjacks, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zey8567bcg

Saturday, April 21, 2007

To the Honorable Mayor of Benville


Dear Mr. Damon,

Well, hello there. I can see that the mayor is working his way through the cast of Ocean's Eleven in his search for body doubles. I do hope he's paying you what you're worth. If not, I am looking for someone to work freelance churning my personal butter at the Bethville Dairy. If you're interested in churning butter...otherwise I might be able to find another position for you and your muscles.

Anyway, I am completely aware of the mayor's temper and ability to give the silent treatment. There have been several instances where his temper got the best of him and he was very nearly impeached for his actions. For instance:

1. The time I planned the 2005 Bethville Henrik Ibsen in the Park Festival for the same weekend as the Benville Monster Truck Rally and Cookie Toss. He was quite put out when the more sophisticated Benville residents flocked to Bethville to see me perform the role of Nora in "A Doll's House." He snuck backstage wearing a dark, curly wig and tried to force his way onstage to assume my role, before the Bethville bouncers escorted him from the park.

2. And then there was the time he poured laxative powder in all the punch bowls at the Blueberry Cotillion and Spider Monkey Preservation Telethon because the blueberry custard gave him diarrhea.

3. And let's not forget the time he kidnapped the grand prize winning partridge at the Bethville Fowl Appreciation Festival because no one attended his Annual Pancake Supper and Worming. Really quite petty to my notion.

That said, Matt, think about my offer. You can churn my butter whenever you're ready. Give my best to the mayor.

Toodleoo,

The Sophisticated and Quite Attractive President of the Newly-Founded Matt Damon's Muscles Appreciation Society and Mayor of Bethville

To the Exalted Mayor of Bethville


Hey there Ms. Mayor,

Body-double #2 here, just going through the Mayor's mail. He's kinda mad at you right now. He keeps going off on how you should run yer own city and leave his alone. He said something about "he'll fill the water tower with strawberry daiquiris if he frickin wants to" or something like that. Anywho, don't kill the messenger. I'm just letting you know he's not too busy or anything, he's just giving you the silent treatment. I'd give him a couple days, just let him pout for now. He'll send you a formal reply when he blows some steam. He kinda has a hot temper.

I took some pine tree air fresheners from the mayoral limosine and stapled em to the back here. Should do you for now until I can coax him into calming down and thinking over the whole daiguiri tower thing.

Anywho, uh, thanks for the letter, and uh, he'll be writing soon.

Matt Damon
The Official Mayor of Benville's Body-Double #2

To the Honorable Mayor of Benville


Dear Mayor of Benville,

Please keep the finger and consider it a gift from the former mayor of Bethville. I'm sure he would want you to have it. He was a staunch supporter of prostate upkeep.

That said, Mr. Mayor, please do not be alarmed by the red stains you will find all over this note. I am writing to you from the site of the 2007 Bethville Ketchup and Barbecue Sauce Festival, Cherry Picking, and Blood Drive. As you know, every year tens of patients die in Bethville from not receiving necessary blood transfusions after assassination attempts, mishaps with kitchen appliances, and unfortunate meetings with bears in Bethville Forest. I've personally donated 8 pints today. I'm barely able to hold my mayoral quill to pen this note, but the knowledge that I'm doing something so very selfless has kept me going. If one bear attack victim can live to see the next Bethville Watermelon Picnic and Rabies Prevention 6-Mile Run-Walk, then I will know my efforts as Bethville mayor have not been in vain.

And now to some important mayoral business. It has recently come to my attention, via anonymous note, that the Benville water tower is actually filled with frozen strawberry daiquiris. Need I remind you, Mr. Mayor, of statute #59873 in the mayoral code, that water towers be filled with water and only water. Not iced tea. Not milk. And, no, not even tropical punch. Like any mayor, I understand the need to tie one on after a long day meeting with the town council and driving myself around Bethville Lake in my luxury mayoral golf cart. But your citizens need to shower, Mr. Mayor! Telling them to just run through the sprinklers on the town hall lawn, which feed directly from the Benville aquifer, is really inexcusable. The odor of the Benville residents is wafting, Mr. Mayor! Please take care of this as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

The Very Anemic but Powder Fresh Honorable Mayor of Bethville

Sour Cream...Not Just for Baked Potatoes Anymore


Sour cream cookies are neither sour nor creamy, so a mention of them draws mixed reactions from different people. People who don't like sour cream tend to look rather disgusted. BUT DON'T BE MISLEAD! Sour cream cookies are perfectly delicious. With the consistency of a sugar cookie and a distinctive tangy flavor, it seems almost a travesty to frost them.

Sour Cream Cookies
passed down from Elfleda Smith
makes 4 dozen unless I bake them

2 c. sugar
1 c. shortening
2 eggs
1 c. full fat sour cream
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. lemon extract
3 cups flour

Cream together shortening and sugar (as always, the shortening can be substituted with softened unsalted butter) in large mixing bowl. Add two eggs and beat well. In smaller bowl, stir baking soda into sour cream. Add to the egg mixture and beat again. Add extracts and flour and mix well. Since these are cookies that will be rolled and cut, there needs to be enough flour in the dough to give it a rather stiff consistency. Just trust your instinct if you feel like you need to add more flour. If you can handle the dough and shape it, then it is just right. Cut dough into halves, wrap each in waxed paper, and refrigerate for at least three hours.

The dough should be quite stiff when you roll it. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lay one of your dough balls between two sheets of waxed paper. I always sprinkle the waxed paper with a little bit of flour and keep a small measuring cup with more flour close by to keep the dough from sticking to the paper. Then, roll the dough flat with a rolling pin. I like these to be quite thick, so I roll them out to about 1/2 inch. But anywhere between that and 1/4 inch works fine. It's always good to get a bit of flour on your cookie cutters before cutting dough with them. Cut shapes and place them on a greased cookie sheet. I use a round cookie cutter for these because at this thickness, they tend to lose their shape. If you find the dough getting too soft, just refrigerate for about twenty minutes. Continue cutting until you use up both dough balls. Bake at 350 degrees until edges are lightly brown. You don't want to let these get too brown, or they get too crunchy. Nobody likes that...

For a slightly tangier flavor, you can add a bit of lemon zest to the dough or cut the vanilla out altogether and add two teaspoons of lemon extract. If you must frost them, just don't tell my dad you did it. He likes them, and pretty much everything else, frosting free.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

To the Honorable Mayor of Benville


Most Life-Endangered Mayor of Benville,

I'm very pleased that you enjoyed the cupcakes. I enclose another dozen with my compliments and an absence of gardening tools. And I'm terribly sorry to hear about the loss of your body doubles. I will keep my eyes out for any potential doubles and will personall frisk them for weapons before sending them your way. In the meantime, I am also enclosing several of my best personal bodyguards to protect you. You'll just need to inflate them and draw some menacing eyebrows on them with the enclosed black magic marker.

Well, assassination attempts aside, I hope you will be attending the first annual Bethville Battle of Gettysburg Reenactment and Ninja Throwing Star Trade Show next Friday! I have personally hired several of the best marksmen in Bethville for the reenactment to make it extra exciting. And the group of ninjas I found to take part in the event seemed very, very excited to meet you. And let's not forget the displays of garrote wire and feather pillows through the ages. Fascinating! I sincerely hope you will be in attendance.

That said, I am off to rehearsals for my latest stage debut. I'm starring as Julia Child in the Bethville Playhouse stage production of "Battle of the Undead Chefs!"

Sincerely,

The Most Stage Presence Having, Charmingest Mayor of Bethville



My Dearest Mayor of Bethville,

I would be delighted to attend your first annual Bethville Battle of Gettysburg Reenactment and Ninja Throwing Star Trade Show next Friday. It doesn't sound the least bit dangerous, so I think I will be just fine attending myself without body-double protection.

Thanks again for enclosing another batch of Bethville Crematorium gift shop cupcakes. The first seven were quite delightful as expected, complete with hickory sprinkles and an absence of gardening tools as you promised. However, when I reached the eighth, I discovered a partially burned finger instead of hickory sprinkles. This, as you can imagine, was most disturbing. I had to pick off several millimeters of the pastry's surface to eliminate the "ick factor" before downing it in one swallow. Now, I enjoy a good challenge as much as the next authoritarian mayor, but this simply required far too much effort for pastry consumption. I must request that the next batch, if you would be so kind, would be sent without the decorative seared appendages.

Oh, and may I keep the finger? It fits perfectly in my Do It Yourself Prostate Exam kit. I lost the last one in a most embarrassing kit malfunction, and I need to wait another four or five hours before I can get it back.

Thank you ever so.

Sincerely,

The Awkward-Walking, Pastry Connoisseur, The Mayor of Benville

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Lalalalala-Lemon Bars


I've always thought that if you sprinkle powdered sugar on something, it makes it all the better. Even better than that? Sprinkling that powdered sugar on something with a sweet crust and lemon filling.

Lemon Bars

2 c. flour
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 c. butter
4 eggs
2 c. granulated sugar
1/3 c. lemon juice
1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder

Sift 2 c. flour and powdered sugar. Mix in butter. Press into 9x13 cake pan. Bake 20-25 minutes until light brown. Beat together eggs, granulated sugar, and lemon juice. Mix in remaining flour and baking powder. Pour over crust and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar and cool. Makes 30 bars.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Cupcake Snobbery


What is it about cupcakes that makes me want to do a happy dance? Probably that they are cakes that you can eat all by yourself. And at most bakeries, they offer a variety of flavors and frostings, so you can get whatever kind you want without having to be agreeable and settle for boring white cake with lame vanilla frosting.

Personally, though, if a cupcake isn't the best I've ever had, I'm not going to eat it. Nothing is worse than biting into a cupcake and suspecting that it was baked and frosted yesterday. When the edges are all dry and crumbly. And even worse, when it's decorated beautifully but has no flavor. A pretty but gross cupcake is a travesty like no other. Therefore, I'm currently on a mission to find cupcake recipes that produce flavorful, moist, and perfect cupcakes. Plus, I have just a little bit of a passion for unique and interesting new flavors... So, as I find and try out these new recipes, I will be sure to post the winners.

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes
makes 2 dozen

2 (1 oz.) squares unsweetened chocolate, melted
3 eggs
1-3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. vegetable oil
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. grated zucchini
chocolate frosting

Melt chocolate. (I always melt things like this in a microwave-safe liquid measuring cup, in the microwave for about 3 minutes. Stir every minute or so and cook again until melted.) Beat together eggs and sugar until light and frothy. Mix in oil and chocolate.

In a smaller bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add to egg mixture. Stir in zucchini. (I also threw in about 1/2 a bag of Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips here for extra chocolatey meltedness.) Spoon batter into 24 paper-lined or greased muffin cups, filling to about 3/4 full. Bake for about 20 minutes or until tops spring back when touched or inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove from pans and let completely cool. Then, slather with chocolate frosting and sprinkles or chopped nuts.

These are moist and delicious and excellent for using up that zucchini that is ready to go bad in your crisper.

Monday, April 16, 2007

What I'm Reading: The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster


David Zimmer has just written the definitive book on silent film star Hector Mann. Mann has been missing and assumed dead for over 60 years, but then Zimmer gets a letter from a woman claiming to be Hector's wife. Hector is still alive but near death and wants to share the remaining films in his collection with the man who wrote this incredible book about him. The ones that he made after his disappearance. The ones that no one has ever seen. Hector's will stipulates that all of these films be destroyed within 24 hours of his death. So time is of the element.

Completely excellent!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Why Don't You Love Bread Like Bread Loves You?


Why are the diet "experts" so hard on bread? What did bread ever do to them? All bread has ever wanted to do is sit warm and crusty in its little basket waiting to be dipped in olive oil. It wants you to toast it and slather it with butter. Bread wants to be peanut buttered and jellied. Bread just wants to be loved. Well, good news, bread. I love you.

I know that with all the low-carb hype in the news today, it's really hard to just give in and love bread. I know; I spent two years on the Atkins Diet. Having a sandwich became this nefarious act of endulgence. I was only allowed "low-carb" bread that was full of wheat gluten, flaxseed meal, and soy flour. I told myself I was happier not eating bread, that I really did like to eat hamburgers with a knife and fork. Bread just got in the way! Now, I could take this time to go off on how much I hate diets, but I won't. This isn't about diet hate; it's about loving bread. So, all I'm going to say is that you can have a healthy relationship with bread. And the best way to do that is to learn how to bake it. Because, that way, you can control exactly what goes into it. And homemade bread is the best bread there is. Here is a simple and delicious recipe to get you started.

Whole Wheat Bread

3 to 3-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 package yeast
1-3/4 c. water
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
3 tbsp. butter or olive oil
1-1/4 tsp. salt
2 c. whole wheat flour

Okay, now the actual mixing of these ingredients is where it can get a bit tricky. Making bread takes some practice. Mostly because yeast is a living thing and if you kill it, your bread will not rise. So, some important things to remember about yeast:

1. Keep it refrigerated.
2. Replace it when it expires.
3. Don't overheat the liquid mixture.
4. Yeast eats sugar, so you have to use a real sugar, not a sugar substitute.

Before you mix any ingredients, turn on your oven to about 200 degrees. Bread dough needs a nice, warm environment in which to grow, so your kitchen needs to be warm. Mix your flours, salt, and yeast together in a large bowl. Heat your water, oil, and sugar to between 120 and 130 degrees. You can use a baking thermometer OR just dip your (very clean) finger into it. If it burns you, it's too hot. But if you think, "Hmmm, I could take a bath in this," it's just right--I never use a thermometer. Now, I use a bread machine to do all my kneading. If you have one then all you have to do is follow the directions. If not, that's totally fine. Kneading by hand is good for your arm muscles and is quite therapeutic. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry mixture. Mix it up as well as you can with a wooden spoon. Then, turn the mixture onto a lightly floured surface, and with very, very, very clean hands, dig in. Kneading of dough is just folding it into itself again and again until the ingredients are completely mixed. This should take about 8 minutes. When the dough is thoroughly kneaded, put it into a larged, greased bowl, cover it, and put it in a warm place to rise. (My mom would always set the bowl on top of the dryer while it was running or in the microwave while it was off. You can also put it on top of the stove, but set it toward the front, away from the oven vent.) Let the dough rise until it doubles in size (usually about an hour). Then, (FUN!) punch the dough down. See? Totally therapeutic. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide it in half. Shape each half into loaves. Put each half in two lightly greased 8x4x2-inch loaf pans. You can use foil pans if you don't own bread pans. Cover and put them back in the warm place and let them rise again. When the dough has nearly doubled in size, bake for 40-45 minutes at 375 degrees. Immediately remove the bread from the pans and let cool on a wire rack or waxed paper surface.

Don't cut these until they are completely cooled, or the bread will collapse! When the loaves cool, eat with much haste. See below for the alternative outcome...

To be used in case of yeast failure:

Okay, so you tried it, and the dough rose a little bit and then sort of flopped to one side, whimpered, and died. Yep, bread is a big, whiny baby. When this happens, I divide the dough into twelve or so "rolls" and put it on a greased cookie sheet. Give it another 45 minutes to rise and then bake at 375 degrees until the tops are nice and brown. Let these cool and then taste one. Does it taste somewhat like bread? Excellent! Use that bread pudding recipe I gave you in an earlier post. Never waste your bread dough!

Good luck, and remember that bread takes a bit of practice. Sometimes you surprise even yourself with how perfectly it comes out, sometimes it flops. Just keep trying. Experiment with some different recipes until you find one that works for you. Look for a recipe that uses molasses or honey for a different flavor. Bread just requires a bit of patience and some care. Once you master one loaf, your bread baking instincts will take over and all breads will become a cinch. Once that happens, you can invest in a bread machine and let it do all the work. ;-)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Chocolate Chipulation


All right...apparently people are quite offended by my allegation that my oatmeal cookies are more delicious than chocolate chip cookies. Let me just say that they totally are if you are me and prefer the moistulous oatmealization that they bring to my tummy. That said, I do take my chocolate chip cookies quite seriously. I've spent many years trying different recipes in an attempt to find a recipe that produces soft and moist cookies every time, ones that freeze well and keep for many days. Then, my college roommate gave me her recipe. I adjusted it just a bit for the lower altitude. If you are baking these in a higher altitude, reduce the flour to 3-1/8 c. and add just a bit more brown sugar.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
from: Lisa Ternes

1-1/2 c. Crisco
1/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. white sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs
3-1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 bag chocolate chips

Cream together your shortening, sugars, and vanilla. Beat in eggs. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Add chocolate chips and mix. Drop in teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees until very slightly brown.

I find that it's quite important to use an entire bag of chocolate chips, and not just a cup or two. And I also like a good quality chocolate chip, like Ghirardelli semi-sweet chips or Hersheys. You can also use M&Ms or crumble bits of your favorite solid chocolate bar if that's what floats your boat.

Friday, April 13, 2007

To the Honorable Mayor of Benville


Dear Mr. Mayor,

Happy holidays! Thank you very much for the large basket of fruit that you sent to my office last week. I ate all of it the moment it arrived, including the basket, and was violently ill all that evening. But your thoughtfulness was much appreciated. I thought of you fondly as I vomited bits of wicker.

I hope you enjoyed my gift as well. I spent hours and hours peeling all of those potatoes, boiling, and mashing them. Then, I just sculpted them in your image and dipped the whole thing in brown gravy to give it a nice sheen. I thought it safest to transport it to you on the backs of the Bethville burros, rather than my usual technique of asking you to come by and pick it up. It is quite heavy.

Anyway, to business, Mr. Mayor. It has recently come to my attention that you will be out of your office on business during the week of January 8th through the 12th. How very interesting. Could it be that you are planning to attend the 4th Annual Knicknack Extravaganza and Potato Chip Nibbling in Bayleyville? It is rather odd that you were asked once again to give the keynote address, especially considering the very nice note and large box of truffles that I sent to the Mayor of Bayleyville just last week. I suppose she is saving my keynote-giving talents for one of the more special occasions, such as the 15th Annual Scratch and Sniff Sticker Trade Show and Muffin Festival.

This reminds me, while you are away from your office, would you object if I stored some boxes there? It is just some mayoral paperwork that is of slight interest to the CIA and/or IRS. I will have it moved out of your office promptly on Saturday morning before your return. Unfortunately, the Bethville paperwork storage shed has been recently infested with important-paperwork-eating moths.

Anyway, Mr. Mayor. My best to you during the holiday season.

Sincerely,

The Esteemed, Stamp-Collecting, Very Talented Mayor of Bethville



Hello my dear Mayoress!

Thank you soo much for writing the office of the Mayor of Benville. I’m sorry, but he’s not in at the moment. He stepped out quick for a diet non-fat no cream lightly fluffed slightly sweetened non-dairy ginger bread latte with a lemon twist, and some ammo. He should be back in a few hours if you want to try again later.

On a personal note, thank you VERY MUCH for the mashed potato statue of our beloved Mayor of Benville!! It compliments the ladies restroom tile very well!

Again thank you soo much for writing, and sorry for the inconvenience you’ve experienced.

Ta!

Patty-Mae Mimsidelorienperriwinkle

Administrative Assistant to the Glorious Mayor of Benville



Dear Patty-Mae Mimsidelorienperriwinkle,

How lovely to hear from you. Unfortunately the mayor of Bethville is also currently out of the office and cannot respond personally to your letter. I am writing on her behalf, her very loyal and dashingly-handsome personal assistant, Marvin Muddlefingers. I am enclosing a dashingly-handsome photograph of myself for you to hang over your desk and swoon over.

As you will notice from my dashingly handsome photograph, I have a very distinguished chin dimple, firm pectoral muscles and buttocks, and a very handsome head of flowing blond hair. If I were a woman, perhaps a lowly administrative assistant, I would find myself quite attractive and want to reproduce with myself with much haste.

But enough about me. Down to mayoral business.

The Mayor of Bethville said to tell you to tell the Mayor of Benville that she greatly appreciates the potted plant that he sent two weeks ago as a consolation prize for the Honorable, Quite Lovely, and Very Humble Mayor of Bethville’s losing the title of 2006 Mayor of the Year. She also said for me to tell you to tell the Mayor of Benville that she hopes he will use his prize money for something useful, such as a set of encyclopedias because he is such a nitwit. Then, she said for me to tell you to tell the mayor of Benville, “No, no. Don’t write that, you moron!” After throwing a large desk manual at my head, she stormed from the office, leaving me to finish up this letter that you are now reading.

I can only imagine that my becoming pectoral muscles and firm buttocks drove her away temporarily to relieve the sexual tension that is quickly becoming a problem in our place of business.

Regards,

Marvin Muddlefingers

Personal Assistant to the Absent, Frightfully Short-Fused, Still Very Lovely, and Rather Overheated Mayor of Bethville

enclosures



Mr. Muddlefingers,

My name is Beatrice Doomsday, and I am the HR representative here at the office of the Mayor of Benville. I am writing to inform you that a Miss Mimsidelorienperriwinkle has filed a grievance against you for the previous said email, informing her that she is a “lowly administrative assistant”, and soliciting her to “…reproduce with [you] with much haste”. This sort of conduct is unacceptable from a mayorial assistant. If this behavior does not cease immediately, I will be forced to deploy certain CIA and/or IRS field agents to your place of business to seize and detain you until the grievance informational hearing can be held. I hear they are already looking for that location, so they are most anxious to hear from me.

Please respond with your intent to comply.

Regards,

Beatrice Doomsday
HR representative for the office of the Mayor of Benville
@#$% with me and you’ll find the tables turned



Dearest Ms. Doomsday,

Thank you for your letter. Regretfully, it has come at a very bad time as Marvin Muddlefingers, dashingly-handsome personal assistant to the mayor of Bethville, is dead. He was the victim of an unfortunate accident involving a ceiling fan.

The mayor, as would be expected, keeps a trampoline in her very plush mayoral office, and uses it for exercise and stress relief. Right after Miss Mimsidelorienperriwinkle last heard from Mr. Muddlefingers, he dashed into the mayor’s office in her absence and bounced on her trampoline, knowing full well that he is prohibited from doing so. Unfortunately, the ceiling fan over the trampoline was on its highest setting, as the mayor seemed to be suffering from hot flashes that afternoon. Mr. Muddlefingers jumped a little bit too high and with too much exuberance and his very handsome head was severed from his very becoming, firm, and attractive body. The mayor returned to find her office in disarray. It was quite a mess indeed.

I am the mayor’s new assistant. Actually, right before accepting my current position, I was a paramedic. But seeing that there was nothing we could do for poor Marvin Muddlefingers, I decided to replace him instead. I am not quite as attractive as Mr. Muddlefingers and have been trained thoroughly in proper office conduct. Therefore, I would never tell you or Miss Mimsidelorienperriwinkle that you are very foxy women with large hooters. I know that that would offend you.

Thank you again for your letter. I will pass your deepest sympathy along to the Grieving, and Yet Perfectly Flawless Mayor of Bethville.

Toodles,

Larry Hottentottenrotterdam
Former Paramedic and Current Personal Assistant to the Very Sexy and Perfectly Coiffed Mayor of Bethville



Mr. Hottentottenrotterdam,

As an HR representative for the office of the Mayor of Benville, I am very knowledgeable in the area of escaped convicts. Therefore you must realize that I am aware of your true identity.

I personally helped the CIA and/or IRS track one “Lunatic Larry” across the eastern seaboard, and cornered him in an ambulance barn before he evaded our pursuit. Not only do you still carry the same first name, but you have remained in the same occupation for the last six months, traveling across the country in an ambulance, drifting from local government office to local government office impersonating a paramedic, getting to the scene of the crime where an innocent mayorial assistant has just been killed…or should I say MURDERED! How convenient Mr. Hottentottenrotterdam, that you arrive just in the knick of time to assume their previous position after they have conveniently become deceased.

Marvin Muddlefingers didn’t just “jump into a ceiling fan and get decapitated” did he…..LUNATIC LARRY! Tell me Larry, do you still have the same hair-do, or have you changed your appearance to avoid detection by your wanted poster!

Don’t try to run Larry, I have already dispatched the CIA and/or IRS agents to your location. They should be arriving momentarily.

Oh, and please let the Mayor of Bethville know that the grievance against one Marvin Muddlefingers has been withdrawn due to unexpected decapitation. Thanks.

Suspiciously yours,

Beatrice Doomsday
HR representative for the office of the Mayor of Benville
currently in route to the ladies to tighten her bun

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Power of Bread Pudding! Say AMEN!


Bread pudding. You can have it for breakfast. You can have it for dessert. And it's good all day long because it's awesome hot or cold. Not to mention that it requires the simplest ingredients.

Blueberry Bread Pudding

4 c. bread cubed
2-1/2 c. milk
3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 pt. blueberries

Whisk eggs in large bowl. Stir in milk, sugar, and almond extract. Add bread and let it soak for about 15 minutes. Then, stir in the blueberries. Pour mixture into a greased 8x8 baking dish. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. Bake with the foil on 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Okay, cubed bread? Please. Tear it into pieces. Nobody will care once they've tasted it. But wheat, white, or honey oat bread; it doesn't matter. The fun part is experimenting with the fruit. As with most fruit, you can use just about anything you have laying around, canned or fresh. Just adapt the extract accordingly. I like almond with all kinds of berries and vanilla with pears and apples. A good rule of thumb to remember is if you would sprinkle cinnamon on it, then use vanilla instead. Also, be sure to peel and stew apples or pears before adding them. All you have to do after it bakes is whip some cream to top it all off. (And don't even get me started on all the add-ins for whipped cream, or we'll be here all day.) And if you want to really get crazy, toss in a cup of mango and use 1/8 tsp. of rum extract in addition to the vanilla. This is really excellent drizzled in warm caramel sauce and served as a dessert. Or you can do the same thing with pineapple and use rum or coconut extract. See? There is no limit to what you can do with bread pudding. And it's just some bread, eggs, milk, and sugar!

To the Honorable Mayor of Benville


Note: For almost a year, my brother Ben and I have been corresponding as the mayors of Bethville and Benville. No, it makes no sense, but just go with it. We're lame, but we think it's hilarious.


Mr. Mayor,

Please excuse my abrupt greeting upon seeing you this morning. I meant no offense. I was on my way to the Bethville Crematorium and Patisserie to pay my respects to the previous and unfortunately late Mayor of Bethville. I was also late, but not in the same way that he was late. The former mayor was right on time, but unfortunately he was also dead.

Apparently, over the past weekend, he was jogging in Bethville Park when he tripped over a watering hose, left there by a careless gardener, no doubt, and impaled himself on a rake. The rake had also most likely been left there by the same careless gardener, who may have been, now that I think about it, less of a careless gardener and more of a crafty assassin. Anyway, I was enroute to his memorial service when I passed the Benville mayoral limosine and only waved. On any other day, I would have immediately pulled my mayoral roadster over to the side of the road and commenced to chit chatting with you. However, that was not to be on this sunny and rather sad Monday morning. Please accept this box of delicious cupcakes that I purchased from the Crematorium gift shop and my apology.

That said, I am writing you most urgently to see if you would be able to help me with just the teensiest little favor. I am in the process of crocheting a blanket for one of the Bethville carriage horses, and I need someone to try it on, gallop around the mayoral office, neighing in adulation of my gift, and eat some oats while wearing it so I can make sure that all the yarn colors I picked out match. You're the only person I know who has the same eye color as this particular horse. And you did go as the back legs and tail of Mr. Ed at last year's annual Benville Dress Up as Your Favorite Television Star Parade, Picnic, and Group Immunization, so you are qualified, having played the part previously. Do let me know if you can trot over this afternoon and help out.

Sincerely,

The Honorable, Most Fragrant-Armpitted, Cheerfullest, Patron of the Arts Mayor of Bethville



My Dearest Mayor of Bethville,

How very gracious of you to send your apology and delicious cupcakes when they were most certainly not needed. As of late, I have employed several body-doubles to ride around in the Benville mayoral limousine, carriages, mopeds and flying hotdog stands to create diversions in the event that I should leave my mayoral chambers. It was body-double #6 who informed me of your drive-by waving this morning. I have employed none other than George Clooney to ride in the mayoral limousine since he displays such an incredible likeness in appearance. Recently there have been many attempts on my life by crafty assassins posing as careless gardeners, and a few too many close calls have forced me to seclude myself from public view. When I do venture out for ceremonies, contests, body-double autopsies and the like, there are no less than sixteen body-doubles in various positions throughout the city. You happened upon Mr. Clooney just before he met his most unfortunate demise.

A crafty assassin posing as a careless gardener, or Chuck as I have come to call them for short, was at it again just this morning, attempting to cut my mayoral term a few decades short. Just after body-double #6 informed me of your kind gesture, he choked on a gardening trowel carelessly baked into the middle of a Benville Bakery pastry. He was making my afternoon snack run, and as required by the body-double #6 job description, was testing a random sample. It seems some type of gardening utensil was baked into every pastry in the Benville Bakery this morning, so your delicious cupcakes came at a most convenient time. Not to worry, I'm having the remaining 15 body-doubles sample my pastries before I commence consumption. We can identify most of the suspicious desserts rather easily, like the bearclaw we found discreetly filled with a rototiller, but the others I'm afraid will just have to be swallowed whole by my remaining body-double staff. It seems I'm going to be in short supply soon, so please, if you know any more 6-foot tall, Herculean figured gentleman with chiseled jaws and careless attitudes towards life, have them send me their resumes and glamour shots.

I'm afraid body-double #6 (Mr. Clooney) was also employed the day I made my appearance as Mr. Ed's hindquarters in last year's annual Benville Dress Up as Your Favorite Television Star Parade, Picnic, and Group Immunization, and it was he that made such a fabulous display to the public. (Of course, at that time he was only body-double #13 and had since then been promoted). I did choose the costume for him however, since he was such a horse's ass-
ociate enthusiast to begin with. He always was an avid fan of the horse-farming community and was therefore perfect for the assignment. I'll sift through my remaining body-doubles and see if I can find a suitable replacement to model your blanket.

Please do send more of the delicious cupcakes you acquired at the Bethville Crematorium gift shop, they were most delightful. I especially liked the gray sprinkles on the top. Such an unusual hickory flavor, but it complimented the frosting excellently!

Sincerely,

The Mayor of Benville, not to be confused with the recently deceased George Clooney