Saturday, July 31, 2010

Ugly world leaders, part 2.

Hello, dear friends. I’ll bet you knew this was coming. After a suggestion this morning from Sam’s cousin Darrell I’ve decided to continue expanding my gallery of ugly world leaders. Darrell thought I should include Richard Nixon, Kim Jong-il and Henry Kissinger. I completely agreed with the latter two but countered that Nixon, although somewhat disgusting in many respects, was not what you’d actually consider butt-ugly. And then I decided to add two more of my own, both of whom were runners-up to yesterday’s top five but didn’t make the final cut. In case their names aren’t familiar I’ll include a few statistics along with a sincere wish that you’ll consider a night course in modern history.
Kim Jong-il has been Supreme Lunatic and Leader of North Korea since July 1994; Henry Kissinger was U.S. secretary of state from September 1973 through January 1977 under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford; Winston Churchill was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom twice ... from May 1940 through July 1945 and again from October 1951 through April 1955; and Eleanor Roosevelt was First Lady to President Franklin Roosevelt, who was in office from March 1933 through April 1945. After her husband’s death Mrs. Roosevelt was appointed U.S. delegate to the United Nations General Assembly, where she served from December 1946 through December 1952. Her looks did NOT improve with age.

Please allow me to make an important statement here: I AM NOT A MEAN-SPIRITED PEOPLE-HATER. With the exception of maniacal dictators like Hugo Chavez, Moammar al-Gaddafi and Kim Jong-il, I really admire the other world leaders pictured in today’s post and yesterday’s. I mean, Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle were popular heroes from World War II, Henry Kissinger was a master of foreign policy and diplomacy, Golda Meir was a much-loved Israeli leader, and President Lyndon Johnson was responsible for the Great Society, an agenda of sweeping social reforms to eliminate poverty and racial injustice in the United States. They were all amazing, accomplished (and unfortunately ugly) people.

If you can come up with any others I’ll be glad to take suggestions. Thank you for reading this and please try to keep cool. It’s 102° in Dallas today and I’m not going ANYWHERE.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The top 5 ugliest world leaders of all time.

The subject of this post was sparked by an old Seinfeld episode that Sam and I watched the other night, where Jerry, Kramer, George and Elaine were sitting in a restaurant trying to name the ugliest world leaders they could think of. This one’s definitely a no-brainer. Right off the top of my head I named the five ugliest leaders EVER, with Sam in total agreement. (It’s possible that Genghis Khan might have been uglier but there are no photos on the Internet to prove that theory.)

The photos below are in no particular order because I think this crowd is pretty much on equal footing in the looks department. However, I do think it’s a little scary that Golda Meir and Lyndon Johnson could have been twins separated at birth.

For those of you who flunked modern history and/or don’t know who these people really are, the following information may help: Charles de Gaulle was President of France from January 1959 through April 1969; Golda Meir was Prime Minister of Israel from March 1969 through June 1974; Lyndon Johnson was Vice-President of the United States during the Kennedy administration and our 36th President from November 1963 through January 1969; Hugo Chavez has been the loudmouth President of Venezuela since February 1999; and Moammar al-Gaddafi has been Libya’s loony “Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution” (translation: Dictator) since September 1969. These last two would be the perfect guests at a “Dinner for Schmucks.”

If you can name any ugly world leaders that I missed please feel free to send an email or post a comment. Thank you for reading this.

A bowl of happiness to share with friends and relatives.

I promised you my recipe for Marcy’s Wild West Guacamole, and here it is ... right on schedule. Trust me, this is one of the best guacamole recipes EVER and you’ll have a hard time not eating the entire bowl by yourself with five pounds of tortilla chips or even a big spoon. If you’ve never made guacamole before and don’t know how to cut an avocado, I’m including a nice video demo I found on YouTube.
  • 6 to 8 ripe Hass avocados
  • 1 medium purple onion, diced
  • Bunch of fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • ¼ cup diced jalapeƱos (from a jar)
  • Several generous shots of Tabasco sauce
  • Cayenne pepper and salt to taste
With a large sharp knife, cut each avocado lengthwise around the seed, twist open the two halves and remove the pit. Scoop out the soft contents with a soup spoon and discard the skins. Mash the avocados in a large bowl but make sure everything stays chunky. Add the rest of the ingredients, then call some friends and have a party!
A few important tips: 1) I always use sliced jalapeƱos that come in a jar and dice them in fourths before I add them to my guacamole; 2) fresh cilantro is MANDATORY, so buy a bunch from the produce department, yank off the little leaves and chop them up; and 3) feel free to use a decent amount of salt and cayenne pepper because they really add to the flavor. (Unsalted guacamole is annoying.) Thank you.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Killing time.

It’s my plan to do some grocery shopping at Kroger today, but I might have to wait until after dark because right now the temperature is 98° with 50% humidity, and there’s NO WAY I’m going to park my car in the sun for 45 minutes and wind up with third-degree burns. So to kill some time I’ve decided to multi-task: I just ordered a fabulous handbag on clearance at (see below) while I work on the Howdygram’s new summer contest, which I hope to launch by the end of the week after I figure out what the prizes are. (The prizes are extremely important.)
Incidentally, the main reason for my trip to Kroger today, aside from the fact that I’m dangerously close to running out of fabric softener, is AVOCADOS. The big ones are on sale for $1 each, and that means it’s time for Marcy’s Wild West Guacamole. Sam thinks I make the best guacamole on earth, and he may be right. I’ll post the recipe tomorrow so you can try it at home.

Stay tuned for news about our summer contest, and thank you for reading this. Don’t forget to floss.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Poetic justice and other tales.

I’ve got two cool news stories to share with you, so here goes. You might want to go grab a lemonade or a couple of peanut butter cookies.

Cool News Story #1
Rick Norsigian of Fresno, California, who spent $45 on two boxes of glass plate photography negatives at a garage sale 10 years ago, has just had them authenticated as the lost works of iconic American photographer Ansel Adams ... worth an estimated $200 million. Adams, the best-known American landscape photographer of the early 20th century (see image below), lost his studio to a fire in 1937 and believed that most of the negatives from his early years (1919 through the early 1930s) were gone forever. This discovery of Adams’ lost photographs is being hailed as the missing link in his career. (Oy, why can’t this happen to me?)
Cool News Story #2
It has been reported that “Real Housewives of New Jersey” cast members Teresa and Joe Giudice have filed for bankruptcy. According to court documents, the Giudices are $11 million in debt and are accused of hiding assets and lying to the court about the value of others. Even worse, on August 22 the entire contents of their gaudy, 10,000 square foot gated mansion in Towaco, New Jersey, which is in foreclosure, will be auctioned to repay creditors. Items include a grand piano, two six-foot wide flat-screen televisions, massive gilded furniture, their wedding bands, a suit of armor and at least nine chandeliers. To read the entire list in PDF format, click here. (It’s a mighty impressive 13-page document. Give it a shot.)
These self-absorbed deadbeats also owe $12,000 to a fertility clinic and $5 million to Joe’s former real estate partner ... an issue that may also send Joe to jail after it was discovered that he forged the partner’s signature on fraudulent loan documents. They’ve stopped making payments on their Cadillac Escalade, and the bank has already taken their other homes in Jersey shore and Lincoln Park, New Jersey.

In light of the above, in last night’s episode Joe had the gall to present Teresa with a six-carat yellow diamond ring for their 10th wedding anniversary. I can only hope it was a QVC knockoff. And I’ll bet you thought this show was boring!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Weather, hedonism and egg salad.

Howdy from Texas! It’s a quiet Monday afternoon here with some substantial storms on the way, and I’m pleased to report they’re moving north from Corsicana at a mighty impressive clip. The sky turned dark about 15 minutes ago and there’s a lot of thunder and lightning now. Trust me, this is a very large deal because we’ve been extremely low on precipitation since spring. May and June left us with a seven-inch deficit, and we haven’t seen a drop of rain here since July 9.

Sam and I had an exquisitely wonderful weekend doing our very best imitation of two hedonistic slugs. We took several extended naps, went to lunch on Saturday at the Black-Eyed Pea in Rockwall, watched some good movies and ordered a pile of Chinese food last night for dinner. The only activity that even remotely resembled work occurred at bedtime when I decided to run the dishwasher.

Today hasn’t been much different. When my thoroughly significant other left for work about an hour ago I made egg salad, watched the end of a cute Rosalind Russell movie on TCM (“Design for Scandal” with Walter Pidgeon) and eventually drifted into the study to write this post. I guess I’m still feeling lazy and unmotivated, although I might try to drum up enough energy to empty the dishwasher and throw in a load of laundry. I’m not promising anything, though.

Send an email or post a comment when you have a minute because I’d enjoy a little contact with the outside world. Thank you for reading this.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Hot breaking news for movie fans.

Dust off your DVR ... Tuesday, July 27, is Doris Day Day on Turner Classic Movies. They’re featuring five of her lesser-known films, including: 1) “The West Point Story” with James Cagney and Gordon MacRae; 2) “The Winning Team” with Ronald Reagan; 3) “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” with Gordon MacRae (small-town cornball musical based on Booth Tarkington’s Penrod stories); 4) “With Six You Get Eggroll” with Brian Keith (a direct rip-off of Lucille Ball’s 1968 hit “Yours, Mine and Ours”); and 5) “The Tunnel of Love” with Richard Widmark (in a rare comedy role) and Gig Young. Although I think Doris Day was terrific in every movie she made, the only one in the list above that I actually like is number five ... mostly because Richard Widmark is pretty damn cute when he’s not a psychopathic killer.

For the record, my personal favorite Doris Day movies are “Midnight Lace,” “Teacher’s Pet,” “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” “Pillow Talk” and “Love Me or Leave Me.”

And now ... for those of you looking for a refreshing summer beverage, please don’t miss this slide show on about the 20 worst drinks in America. Pictured below is a can of Arizona Kiwi Strawberry, their winner for “worst juice imposter” with as much sugar as seven bowls of Froot Loops.
If you want to drink something wonderful with no fat or sugar, try my recipe for Marcy’s Goofy Fruity Shake. Thank you for reading this.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The lighter side of dental disasters.

I’m a firm believer that people can find humor in practically ANYTHING, including the fact that my front tooth fell out yesterday, post and all, and — thufferin’ thuccotash! — all of a sudden I’m talking like one of Sam’s favorite Loony Toons characters. This is in addition to another front tooth that fell out LAST month (see my post from June 8), all leading to some potentially crappy dental experiences that may be coming up shortly. And so, for your possible amusement (and my own personal distraction), take look below at a couple of photos from a fun new website we discovered ... Friends of Irony.

On Monday night’s episode of “Real Housewives of New Jersey” Danielle showed up at the police station with a couple of Italian lawyers to file charges against Jacqueline’s 19-year-old daughter, Ashley, for yanking out a handful of her hair extensions during that parking lot brawl at the country club fashion show. This was much better than any of the other story lines, such as Teresa going shopping, Danielle taking a self-defense class in case another teenager decides to grab her fake hair, and Caroline’s son Albie getting dumped from law school for being a dolt.

And while I’m on the subject, I finally figured out a few other relationships in the cast. The housewives on the right, Dina and Caroline, are sisters AND sisters-in-law (they’re married to two brothers), and the housewife on the far left, Jacqueline, is a sister-in-law, too, because she’s married to Dina and Caroline’s brother. Got that? The other two aren’t related to anybody except possibly the Gambino crime family.

Please let me know if you have any questions, and thank you for reading this.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A restaurant that scares us to death.

After two visits one month apart, Sam and I still can’t figure out what’s what at Zinsky’s, an upscale New York-style deli located in a large strip mall at one of Dallas’ busiest commercial intersections (Preston Road and Royal Lane). We’ve been there twice on Saturdays, once for lunch and once for dinner, and both times there were no other customers in the restaurant. Nada. Zero. ZILCH. This is mighty weird, because Zinsky’s, although a little overpriced, has excellent deli food for a city like Dallas. (Note: If you’re originally from New York, Chicago or L.A., a more accurate adjective here would be “average” instead of  “excellent,” because nothing EVER measures up to an authentic Jewish deli from back home.)

So what we have, then, is a cute restaurant with upscale decor, a jam-packed deli menu, decent food and NO CUSTOMERS. We’re trying to understand why. It’s not the prices, because even though most sandwiches are $12 to $14, Zinsky’s ingredients are first-rate and the Flintstone-sized portions are HUGE.

One issue might be the waitstaff. We had the same server both times, and he was cheerful, energetic, helpful, attentive and COMPLETELY UNNERVING. When we walked in the door yesterday (four weeks since our last visit) he not only remembered the beverages we ordered but also where he seated us last time. Frankly, it really creeped us out.

Another issue might be inconsistency. I ordered the same sandwich on both visits (pastrami and chopped liver on rye with Russian dressing) and they were completely different. The first time I got thick-cut pastrami and almost no chopped liver; yesterday the pastrami was shaved (it was perfect) and the chopped liver was nearly two inches thick. Sam, however, wasn’t too thrilled with yesterday’s lunch. He ordered a sandwich on challah layered with turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce. The turkey was fine but the stuffing was almost nonexistent and you couldn’t taste (or find) the cranberries, which made the whole thing so dry a person could choke to death. For $14 you’d expect a little more attention to accurate sandwich assembly ... especially when you’re the only customers in the house and there’s nothing else going on in the kitchen. Also, they seem to run out of key items like roast beef. And they forgot to serve pickles. NO PICKLES.
Although I like Zinsky’s and would probably go back for an occasional pastrami fix, I’m not sure Sam is too interested in a repeat visit. I’ll have to work on him a little. RATING: B-.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Little things mean a lot. Seriously.

The last 24 hours have been AMAZING around here, with a steady stream of UPS and FedEx deliveries after my late-night online shopping spree a few days ago. The best stuff so far: my new kitchen trash can from Wal-Mart and the custom 44¢ postage stamps I ordered from

The best trash can EVER. It’s made by Hefty, has a cool push-button pop-up lid and uses standard 13-gallon kitchen bags ... and it’s also the biggest kitchen can I’ve ever seen. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT. (The can I had before was a silly stainless steel thing from Bed, Bath and Beyond with a useless shape that didn’t hold very much.) You can order this Hefty kitchen can in tan, white or black (mine is tan), and I paid $13 with FREE SHIPPING. However, the white and black ones cost 50¢ more. I can’t explain why.
Custom 44¢ postage stamps. Even more thrilling than my new kitchen trash can are the custom stamps that came today from Are these adorable, or what? I got so excited that I stuffed and stamped our Christmas and Hanukkah cards six months early. (I had them printed a few months ago. I’ve always been an over-achiever.)
This was actually a comforting and useful activity on the hottest day of the year. It was 101° today; the humidity was 60% and made it feel more like 110°. NO WAY AM I GOING ANYWHERE IN THIS KIND OF HEAT. You can’t park the car outside, because when you get back in you could wind up with third-degree burns from the seat belt and steering wheel.

Incidentally, let me know if y’all ever want custom postage stamps for a special event ... such as wedding invitations, an anniversary or birthday party, baby announcements or just something with your logo on it. I can design them for you and order them. Postage comes in three sizes and a lot of different denominations. Just send me an email for details, and thank for you reading this. Try to keep cool. Consider watermelon.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Guilty pleasures.

I’ll begin by wishing everybody a happy and healthy Bastille Day. Celebrate the holiday in true Howdygram style ... get yourself an order of French fries and watch “A Tale of Two Cities” (the incredibly wonderful 1935 version with Ronald Colman) on TCM. Viva la France, y’all.

And now for my favorite guilty pleasure. I sincerely hope nobody is going to laugh at me about this, but a couple of months ago I got hooked on Bravo TV’s “Real Housewives of New Jersey.” I am without excuse and can’t figure out why I bother to watch, because these women are superficial, loud, Italian “Joisey” showoffs with obnoxious children, all living in gated mansions with the biggest furniture I’ve ever seen in my life. They have silicone boobs, voluminous hair extensions, wear four-inch heels around the house and go to daily nail appointments to make sure they always look their very best at the strip mall. (The entire state of New Jersey is one gigantic strip mall.) Last week they all got into a brawl at a country club fashion show and chased each other through the parking lot. It was great.
Theresa, second from the left, has a Neanderthal hairline and four hairy daughters who look exactly like her. The two on the right, Dina and Caroline, are sisters. The others apparently have no particular relationship to each other except for one common thread: everybody HATES the one in the middle, Danielle, who causes way too much trouble and always seems to be whining to a lawyer or the police about one exaggerated crisis or another. She’s actually pissed off so many people that she goes everywhere now with a bodyguard and thinks everybody wants to kill her. (She may be right.)

The show airs on Monday nights, so stay tuned for a Howdygram synopsis of each new episode. Thank you for reading this.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Remembering Herb.

I’ve got some time on my hands because Sam is working late tonight so I thought I’d put together another post ... this time about my dad. July 12 marked eight years since he passed away; yesterday would’ve been his 90th birthday. This terrific photo was taken in 1943 when dad was in the Army Air Force and stationed in London.
Dad was a truly memorable character with sparkling gray eyes and a dry sense of humor. In addition, he ...
  • was obsessed about classical music and played the clarinet in a fine arts quartet;
  • had a HUGE extended family of first and second cousins, most of whom were a lot older than him (his mother was the youngest of nine children);
  • learned to drive a car when he was 12 years old;
  • played in the Lakeview High School marching band and performed for President Franklin Roosevelt when he visited Chicago in 1934;
  • spent the summer of 1965 harvesting tart cherries from a tree in our back yard and filled the freezer with his own homemade cherry strudel and pies;
  • loved family road trips and taught me to read maps when I was seven;
  • adored Laurel and Hardy movies and could recite Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s On First?” routine word-for-word; and
  • blasted his stereo before breakfast on Sunday mornings, particularly Richard Rodgers’ “Victory at Sea” and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s Greatest Hits. (On national holidays we were treated to John Philip Sousa.)
It’s interesting how the memories get clearer with each passing year ... I can even remember the sound of his voice. And I miss him more than ever.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Shopping at midnight and news you can use.

There’s something really satisfying about shopping online. You can do it in the middle of the night when nobody’s looking, you can be barefoot and don’t have to wear a bra, you never have to fight for a parking spot, and if you pick the right websites you won’t even have to pay SALES TAX.

My sleeping patterrn has been a little out of whack for the last few days so I’ve been amusing myself with middle-of-the-night shopping sprees. Purchases to date have included:
Incidentally, you should definitely check out the shopping possibilities on Wal-Mart’s website. Those wrinkle-free sheets are extremely inexpensive, really live up to their name and they’re soft as silk. I already have two sets and just bought a third. Plus almost everything they sell ships for only 97¢ ... even my new trash can.

One more thing. In case you’re wondering what the hell is “custom 44¢ postage,” this is basically a sheet of 20 postage stamps with your own custom artwork instead of a picture of the Liberty Bell or the state flowers of New England. I never bothered ordering custom postage before because it’s sort of a pricey product that usually sells for twice the face value of the postage (which covers the cost of customizing the artwork). But right now has them on sale at HALF PRICE since there’s another postage increase on the way and they’re trying to unload some inventory. So I created my own artwork and ordered four sheets of stamps in various designs. They’re so cute you could pee in your pants!

Do you like to follow tales of political corruption, extortion and shakedowns? If so, the Howdygram strongly recommends the Chicago Tribune’s website for news from the ongoing criminal trial of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich in Federal court. Two recent photos of Blagojevich appear below in case you don’t remember what this yahoo looks like.
Thank you for reading this and have a nice day. You might want to think about ordering a pizza or something.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Will the real Paula Deen please stand up?

I used to really like TV cooking shows, but not so much any more. The chefs are all a bunch of self-absorbed celebrities who think they’re big hoo-hahs. Eventually Emeril even had a pumped-up studio audience and a LIVE BAND, like he was Johnny Carson or something.

One of the most unwatchable TV chefs these days is Paula Deen, who has FOUR DIFFERENT COOKING SHOWS on the Food Network. She’s a sixty-something southern belle with an irritating, cackling laugh, voluminous diamonds on every finger, a tidal wave of dyed silver hair and the whitest veneers modern dentistry ever invented. Take a look at her before-and-after pictures from 2009 following a plastic surgery transformation and some intense Photoshop airbrushing. (Oy.)
Paula’s worst feature, however, is her RECIPES, and for this she earns the Howdygram’s latest Einstein Award. Everything this woman cooks is an artery-clogging monstrosity with wads of butter the size of a small child. To prove my point, here’s a video clip from one of her recent programs. I suggest you watch this with a shot of Pepto Bismol nearby.

In case you weren’t paying close attention to the video, Paula’s favorite heart attack sandwich is an oversized burger, a fried egg and three strips of bacon between TWO GLAZED DOUGNUTS.

Thank you for your attention. Don’t forget to floss.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Things that are really important.

I’ve been on a quest to find a new Chinese restaurant that delivers ever since I had a fight with an employee from King China Restaurant in Garland. I’d been ordering from them once a week for almost TWO YEARS and never had a problem, but when I called two weeks ago to complain that my Szechwan scallops tasted spoiled they send this weird guy who barely speaks English to my house to ARGUE WITH ME. He was still squatting on the doorstep with his face in my container of food when I slammed the door. Since then I’ve tried ordering from Skillman Wok, May China and China City in Garland, but in all three cases the food was only average. Actually, Skillman Wok was BELOW average because nobody likes runny chow mein, and China City screwed up my soup and sent the wrong kind. I’ve also ordered from Chan’s, but they only have one thing on the menu that I like (Pan Fried Noodles with Shrimp) which can get pretty damn boring. And the last time I ordered they threw in way too much baby corn. (I hate baby corn.)

To tell you the truth, I’ve always lamented that my favorite local Chinese restaurant, Chi’s Wok, was dine-in or carryout ONLY, because eating there is depressing (three tables, no ambiance and zero air-conditioning) and carry-out is a pain because they’re squeezed into a little strip mall at the busiest intersection in Mesquite and you have to fight for parking with a laundromat and a convenience store. And then, like a gift from heaven, this morning’s mail delivered some incredible news, right there on the inside cover of our weekly Mesquite “ad pages” flyer: CHI’S WOK NOW OFFERS HOME DELIVERY. Even better, delivery is FREE, they actually have their entire menu on a website, and the restaurant is under NEW MANAGEMENT. I’m so excited I could beat myself up with joy. Aside from the thrill of free delivery and an online menu, the new management part is excellent because the former owner was a crab who’d actually refuse to make Shrimp Egg Foo Young if he wasn’t in the mood.

Here are some food pictures from their new website ...
If this is making you hungry, get over here within the next 45 minutes because I’m getting ready to place an order as soon as I finish this post. Bring some extra napkins, and thank you for reading this.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A collection of unrelated, miscellaneous news.

There’s been so much going on around here today I almost don’t know where to start. First, at 11 this morning the three Mexican tornadoes showed up to clean our house, our landscapers mowed the front and back yards and Schwan’s delivered our frozen food order. And then ... Sam walked in with several sacks of groceries from Wal-Mart, including bagels, bananas and what appeared to be a lifetime supply of Coke Zero in two-liter bottles. Altogether this was so damn exciting I almost couldn’t contain myself.

In other news ... big storms are on the way. A tropical weather system in the Gulf is producing several waves of thunderstorms and torrential rain and all of them are headed straight for the Dallas area. The first line of storms should be here by 7 p.m. According to news reports we’re expecting up to three inches of rain per hour. Naturally, I’ll believe it when I see it. There’s usually a huge difference between the forecast and reality. (Translation: everybody who works at is a pathological liar.)

Here’s a follow-up story to my June 27 restaurant review of CiCi’s Pizza. According to the Howdygram’s visitor statistics, the next day (June 28) someone at CiCi’s executive offices visited my blog and read the article! Sam and I assume they’ve got a specialized search service that prowls the Internet looking for anything that mentions their corporate name. Well ... mazel tov and welcome to our friends at CiCi’s Pizza. Please forgive us if we never go anywhere near your food again. And last but not least, on Tuesday morning I had an eye doctor appointment. My prescription changed slightly so I decided to order a new pair of glasses, which will be ready sometime next week. Although I’m sure most of you already know this, eyeglasses are TOO DAMN EXPENSIVE. Even with vision insurance coverage they’re costing me $198. I told Sam it’s probably to our advantage to drop the coverage altogether. We’re paying $240 a year for family coverage ... but I only saved $200 on my glasses and eye exam, and Sam doesn’t wear glasses at all. This is NOT a bargain. Thank you for reading this.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Always take advantage of a golden opportunity.

Happy Fifth of July to those of you who think today is a big hoo-hah because the banks are closed and there’s no mail delivery. Sam and I didn’t really have any specific plans so we decided this might be a fine time to liquidate some old jewelry for cash. I wouldn’t joke about this. In case you’ve been living in a cave, gold prices are at an all-time high right now, which means there are lots of good reasons not to clog up your jewelry box with stuff you don’t need. I hauled out several pieces I haven’t worn in at least 25 years (a cocktail ring, two gold chains and several pendants with 14K mountings and semi-precious stones); Sam contributed the wedding ring from his first marriage. We made a list of three gold and diamond merchants in the Dallas area and headed for the freeway.

Actually, there isn’t much of a story at this point. We accepted an offer from the first place we visited, walked out 15 minutes later with nearly $500 cash, ate a couple of burgers at Scotty P’s and then enjoyed a nice drive in Preston Hollow (our favorite upscale Dallas neighborhood) before heading home. That’s it. Except I should also add that I plan to use part of my jewelry money on Saturday to buy us a first-rate dinner at Lefty’s Lobster and Chowder House. We LOVE Lefty’s.

One more thing. Please do NOT be tempted to use any of those “mail us your old jewelry” scams you see on late-night TV. They have to be a bunch of crooks, and it’s definitely not smart to mail a sack of valuables to people you don’t know. Instead, search online for a few reputable local merchants who buy scrap gold and estate jewelry, read the customer reviews on Google and and then drop in to get a price.

This was your Howdygram public service announcement for July. Thank you for paying attention.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Things to do on the Fourth of July.

First, this is a great day to THROW SOMETHING FUN ON THE GRILL. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have any hamburgers hanging around. Get creative. Consider grilled eggs, grilled raisins or grilled rice. Seriously.

Second, CLEAN THE GRILL after you’ve tried suggestion number one and order Chinese food for dinner.

Third, stand in the living room window and SUPERVISE YOUR SPOUSE PICKING WEEDS. That’s basically what I’ve been doing for the last hour except for a short bathroom break.

And — most appropriately — fourth, WATCH MY FAVORITE INDEPENDENCE DAY MOVIES: 1776 and Yankee Doodle Dandy. You’re definitely in luck here because both are scheduled this afternoon on TCM. Sam and I are particularly nuts about 1776, the former Broadway hit musical that also happens to be inspirational, historically accurate, cleverly written and full of excellent songs. Take a look at the movie trailer and then check your local listings for the exact time to watch.

From all of us at the Howydgram, have a terrific holiday, don’t blow up any fingers and look out for low-flying flags. Thank you for reading this.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

We got our kicks on Route 66.

Sam and I are back home after a three-day trip to Oklahoma. I’ll pause for a moment if you want to sing a few bars. The lyrics are posted below. (Nobody’s listening. Go ahead.)
Where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain,
And the wavin’ wheat can sure smell sweet
When the wind comes right behind the rain.
Oklahoma, ev’ry night my honey lamb and I,
Sit alone and talk and watch a hawk
Makin’ lazy circles in the sky.
We know we belong to the land,
And the land we belong to is grand,
And when we say yeeow! Yip-i-o-i-ay!
We’re only sayin’
You’re doin’ fine, Oklahoma!
Oklahoma, OK!
Anyhow, we decided to skip the Arbuckle Mountains and Turner Falls (see my post from June 18) and take a drive instead along historic Route 66 from Tulsa westbound to Yukon, about 30 miles past Oklahoma City. The “mother road” (as it’s known by nostalgia buffs) winds through teeny towns, rolling hills and farmland ... most still dotted with remnants of the past: tacky motels with “tourist cabins,” little diners, souvenir stands, hilarious points of interest and vintage gas stations.
The food on our trip ranged from terrible to terrific, beginning with a nightmare of unrecognizeable pseudo-Asian crap at Golden China buffet in Denton, Texas, and ending with barbecue nirvana at Bad Brad’s in Yukon, Oklahoma, where everything was a perfect 10 — from the smoked meat and homemade sauce to the beer-battered onion rings and attractive plastic silverware. At other times we also ate Clif bars, Tic Tacs, Wheat Thins, a couple of bananas and a fine dinner at Lottinville’s Wood-Fire Grille in Oklahoma City, where they’ve got the friendliest servers on the planet.

We got home yesterday just two hours ahead of some mighty heavy rain from Hurricane Alex in the Gulf of Mexico, which apparently will continue through tomorrow night. (No complaints. We were in a drought situation here.) Our plans for the Fourth of July weekend include a few good movies on TV, my homemade potato salad and our standard ration of afternoon naps.

How about you? Anything exciting happening at YOUR house? I think we’re available on the fourth for a barbecue. I can bring olives and napkins. Thank you.