Johnnie’s Memorial Day Tree (And the Legend of the Wonderful Tree Lady)!

Depending on how long you’ve been hanging out with us, you may not be aware of this year round tree thing that goes on at our house.  I (Steve) don’t remember exactly when it started.  Although, even in the days after we first got married, it wasn’t that unusual for us to leave our Christmas tree up significantly longer than the holiday called for.  I think we used our nocturnal schedule and constant sleep-deprived state as a partial excuse but, the truth was, we just liked having a decorated tree to brighten our days, particularly on days that may not have been so bright.

Those were the days when we had a real tree and, like many of you, we made an event out of going to find the perfect tree.  And we always did.  Well, there was that one year when we got a tree that acted like it was made of rubber.  Of course, it had to wait until we’d spent hours decorating it to begin its bobbing and weaving routine.  It may have even bounced a bit when, after spending hours removing the decorations, we opened the window and threw it out.

It was probably not long after the rubber tree incident that we decided that we might be tempting fate by leaving a live tree up as long as was our norm.  We’d never had a tree catch on fire and wanted to keep it that way.  So, after a long search to find the perfect tree that didn’t need to be watered and wouldn’t shed, we made the switch.

By the way, has anyone else found that “wouldn’t shed” part of the equation not to always be true?  We’re constantly surprised at the trail we leave behind each year when we bring the Christmas tree up from the basement.  Well, we did want one that was as close to real as possible.

But, that’s the Christmas tree and this post is about the Memorial Day tree … and others.

See, we didn’t just have one Christmas tree.  There was the tree in our living room and the tree on the landing and the little tree in the kitchen and the little tree on the downstairs landing and the tree downstairs at Johnnie’s parents house and most of them were being decorated by the wonderful tree lady I’m married to.

So, somewhere along the way, probably after we moved into the Chicago area house we now own, after we took down our living room Christmas tree and I was expecting to begin helping Johnnie dismantle the tree on the landing, I was surprised to see the Christmas motif on that tree had been replaced by other decorations.  That first year, I believe, it was for St. Patrick’s Day.

I loved it, Johnnie’s Dad and Mom love it, our friends love it  and, after hearing how much we all enjoyed her creation, and seeing that her magical spell had worked on all of us, the tree lady smiled and thought to herself, “Hmm, I might be on to something here.”  And so began, what has turned into, a year round celebration of whatever season or event seems to spark the tree lady’s muse.

We occasionally talked about the trees on the air and some wonderful listeners have been nice enough to send us some hand made ornaments that are part of the tree decorations.

We’ve shared some of the tree lady’s creations on our other social media sites but they haven’t found their way into this blog before.  So, with all of the preamble and the “Legend Of The Tree Lady” behind us, may we present the Memorial Day tree.

Memorial Day Tree

As I said earlier “we just liked having a decorated tree to brighten our days, particularly on days that may not have been so bright.”  Many of the days we’re all going through right now easily fit in to that “not so bright” category.  So, we hope sharing a bit of the tree lady’s magic in this forum serves to brighten your day a bit.

But now, boys and girls, before we leave you, although she flies around so fast, it’s hard to capture her on film … or pixels … here’s a rare photo of the tree lady and her little friend, LiBear-ty.

The Wonderful Tree Lady & her little friend, LiBear-ty.

Now, remember boys and girls, if you’re good, stay safe and wash your hands, you may see more of The Wonderful Tree Lady’s adventures in future posts.

Posted in Johnnie's Trees, Partly Personal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

10 Years Already?!?!?

Has it really been 10 years since we started this blog?  Well, according to the calendar and double checking it back to the date of our very first blog post, the answer is … Yep!

It kind of snuck up on us too but, it turns out, it was on May 19th of 2010 this blog first saw the light of day and dark of night.  As the Grateful Dead once said, “What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been!”

We’d been doing, what we called, our “Blog After Dark” for WGN radio.  In fact, back in the comparative stone age of cyberspace, long before Facebook, Twitter and the rest, we were the first show on WGN to really embrace and regularly talk about computer technology.  At the time, that embrace led to us being the recipients of messages from management questioning why on earth we would devote time to something nobody would care about.  The powers that were, changed their tune when they saw that our “Website Wednesday Night” computer feature was turning into one of our most popular segments bringing in new listeners from a very wide gathering of demographics that ranged from listeners in their teens to those 90 plus.  And, trust us, that’s not an easy feat for any broadcast to achieve.  So, we had the feeling we were on to something.

We also had the feeling that nothing lasts forever and, since our “Blog After Dark” was on the station’s website and their property, should the day come when we were not with WGN on a regular basis, a blog that we controlled would be one way of maintaining our cyberspace presence and staying in touch with our listeners.  That day came and, although we are very actively involved with Facebook, Twitter and our other social media sites, this blog has allowed us to continue our conversation with you and do it in a longer form than is the norm for those forums.

Now and then you just need to “Go Long” and have room for a few more words!

And so, here we are.

We thought this might be an appropriate occasion, hopefully interesting and possibly informative to those of you who have recently joined us, to answer a question or two and show you what doors you might want to look behind to find stuff.

So, why is “Both Sides Now” the name of this blog?

Well, “Both Sides Now” refers to a couple of things.  First, just as we approach any shows we do, we both contribute to this blog and share posts about things that both of us feel are worth spending a little time on.  Sure, now and then one of us goes solo but, for the most part, this is a team effort.  Second, when we stopped doing a regularly scheduled overnight radio show, among other things, it meant that now we were going to be able to spend some time on both sides of the clock.  Also, if you look at the photo on this blog’s homepage, it could be a sunrise or a sunset and, depending on the day, we like to see a bit of both.

What’s with this “Life After Dark” reference we see in the upper right hand corner of this blogs home page?

Although the name of our show was always the Steve & Johnnie show. Some people think that “Life After Dark” was the name of our show on WGN.  Actually, “Life After Dark” was a catch phrase we came up with to describe what we were doing with the show.  Even though we were on in the overnight hours, our agreement with management was that we were NOT going to program for people who were sleeping. WGN radio’s promotion department loved our description and ran with it.

How do I find more of Johnnie’s recipes or one of your posts about music or something specific from your past posts?

If you look on the right side of the page and scroll down below the dated archives, you’ll find the Categories listing.  As we do each post, we try our best to make sure it is archived in an appropriate category.  So, just click on the category that resembles what you’re looking for.  If you’re new to our blog, you might want to thumb through some of the category listings to see what we’ve been up to in this space for the past ten years.

How do I find out when you’ll be doing an event appearance or radio show?

All of our appearances are listed on our Events page that is linked on our sunrise/sunset picture and in the Categories listing.  For the moment, due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, all of our personal appearances have been put on hold.  If we have an upcoming radio appearance and/or when our personal appearances resume, that’s where to look.

Can I make a comment about one of your posts?

Yes and please do!  The best way to do it is to click on the title of an individual post, then scroll to the bottom where it says “Leave A Reply.”  Just say whatever is on your mind and submit it.  Don’t be concerned if you don’t see your reply immediately because we moderate them to make sure we and you don’t get any spam mixed in.  You wouldn’t believe the amount of spam you don’t see.  Well, yeah, you probably would.  Anyhow, the point is, we love hearing from you and answering any questions you may have, so have at it.

How do I subscribe to this blog?

Well, thank you for asking.  Just scroll down the right side of the page below Categories & Meta and you’ll see “Follow Blog via Email.”  Click on that, let us know where to send it and you’ll receive a notification any time we post a new blog.  Don’t worry, we don’t spam.  REALLY!

A friend sent me a link to a page on your blog, but I don’t know who you are.  So, who are you?

Again, look at that sunrise/sunset picture and click on the About link.  You’ll find more about our respective backgrounds than anyone should be subjected to.  Don’t worry, there won’t be a test.

And now?

Well, hopefully we’ve answered some questions you may have had.  If you have more, just ask.

Y’know, when we started this blog ten years ago, no one would have envisioned the world we find ourselves living in thanks to the Coronavirus Pandemic.  One of the many things the pandemic has taught us is that the computer technology that makes this blog possible has become an even more vital part of our daily existence than when we ever thought it would.   A virtual walk outside into cyberspace communication is at least one form of staying in touch with each other at a time when that touch can make a difference in our day.

We plan to keep on posting and keep our fingers crossed.  You have no idea how hard it is to type with crossed fingers!!

10 years … and counting!  Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Stay safe.

Steve & Johnnie

Posted in Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Partly Personal, Radio, WGN | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Here’s Johnnie’s Dutch (Deutsch) Baby, Baby!

A Dutch baby pancake, sometimes called a German pancake, or a Dutch puff, is a large American popover.  If you’re in the Chicago area, chances are you may have visited one of the Walker Bros. Original Pancake House locations to get their version of this treat.  This is my own version of this classic, made gluten-free.  

Preheat oven to 425 with 10″-12″ iron skillet in oven

-3 extra large or jumbo eggs

(4 if you are using large eggs)

-1/2 cup milk

-1/2 cup all purpose flour

(I use King Arthur measure for measure gluten free flour)

-1 TB sugar

-1/2 tsp vanilla extract

-1/2 tsp lemon zest (optional)

-1/4 tsp salt (eliminate if using salted butter)

-2 TB butter

*Toppings: confectioner’s sugar(powdered sugar) and lemon wedges OR warm maple syrup

While the oven is pre-heating to 425 with the skillet inside, mix all ingredients but butter and toppings.

When oven is heated remove the skillet and put the butter in the hot skillet. It will sizzle. Carefully hold the hot skillet and roll the butter around to coat.  Then, immediately pour in batter.

Bake at 425 for 12-15 mins

It will puff up and turn golden

Dutch baby puffed up

Remove from the oven and it will soon deflate

Dutch baby deflated

Sprinkle powdered sugar over it and serve from the skillet or in slices with lemon wedges to squeeze over the sugar (or serve with warm syrup)

Dutch baby served

Enjoy!

Johnnie

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R.I.P. Little Richard

Here’s Little Richard Album Cover

That original album (Vinyl, thank you very much!) is safely ensconced in our music room.

When it first landed, there was nothing safe about it.

It was scary!  At least, that’s what a lot of 50s mid-America’s adults thought about “Long Tall Sally,” “Tutti Frutti” and some of Little Richard’s other singles that made up a large part of the album’s contents when they were first released.  Many mainstream radio stations only played Little Richard’s songs when Pat Boone covered them in a much gentler fashion that made them palatable to the mass audience of the time.  In later years, Little Richard would thank Pat Boone for the royalties he received and the resulting attention he got from teenagers curious enough to seek out the source of the songs.

It’s a huge testament to the impact he had on Rock & Roll that, in his first recording sessions for RCA, Elvis Presley covered 4 of Little Richard’s records, “Long Tall Sally,” “Rip It Up,” “Ready Teddy” and “Tutti Frutti.”  Additionally, on his 1956 TV appearances on both the Dorsey Brothers’ Stage Show and The Ed Sullivan Show Elvis, again, showed his respect for, and the influence of, Little Richard with live performances of “Tutti Frutti” and “Ready Teddy.”

Long Tall Sally” and “Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey” are just two examples of Little Richard’s influence on The Beatles and every time you hear Paul McCartney scream, you’re hearing how well he followed, and still follows, Little Richard’s teachings.

Little Richard with The Beatles

It really is impossible to overstate the impact of this man on, not only the record industry but, the pop culture he helped define and, quite frequently throughout his off and on again career, struggled to live with.

Little Richard was quite open about his struggles with his life in show-business, his sexuality, religion and a lot more in Charles White’s authorized biography, “The Life And Times Of Little Richard.”

Life And Times Of Little Richard

Richard’s retreat from and return to his recording/show-business career and his religious calling were constant and ongoing battles throughout his life.  One of his later career highlights was really sort of a melding of the two when he performed the gospel-tinged “Great Gosh A’Mighty” in the film “Down and Out in Beverly Hills.”  This song was Richard’s last charted hit.

In his final years Little Richard lived a mostly reclusive life in Nashville that, quite frequently, found him in the news with rumors surrounding the state of his health or, yet another, possible return to the recording studio, stage or pulpit.

Along with Charles White’s book, we’re sure you’ll be able to find far more scholarly writings about Little Richard than this blog provides, but we wanted to share a personal example of just one night in this amazing man’s career and the impact and memory it left with us and the others who were there to witness it.

In August of 1995, WGN radio sponsored a night at the Ravinia Festival with Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard.  WGN’s legendary morning man, Bob Collins, emceed the event and, along with several other members of the WGN radio family in attendance, we were eagerly anticipating the show.  As was the case on many tours involving large egos, Jerry Lee and Little Richard rotated who opened and who closed the show on any given night.  We’re not sure if Jerry Lee was in a snit because he wasn’t that night’s closer or what but, that night, “The Killer” gave far less than his usual “Killer” performance both in time spent on stage and energy expended and left many in the audience disappointed.

No matter.

When Little Richard hit the stage we all got a lesson in how it’s done, who did it first, how it was built and how to keep on keepin’ on from the, self described, “Quasar Of Rock & Roll” his own bad self!

Yes, he did the hits but, that night, Richard, felt like giving us a little history in between songs.  He talked about his beginnings and influences.  We heard his stripped down mastery of boogie woogie piano.  We had the rare experience of seeing and hearing Little Richard sing country AND DO IT WELL!  We  saw a master entertainer making sure the net he was casting included ALL of his audience, even the youngest, when he did his “Richardized” version of “Itsy Bitsy Spider.”  We saw one of the original Rock & Roll wildmen tick off Ravinia security when he invited the audience to join him on stage.

That night, the “architect of rock ‘n’ roll” showed us what made it ROCK & ROLL!  And we LOVED it!!

Awop-Bop-a-Loo-Mop Alop-Bam-Boom!  Great Gosh A’Mighty!

He sure loved to ball!

(Photo credit: ANDRE DURAND/AFP via Getty Images)

R.I.P Little Richard

Posted in Music, Political, R.I.P., Radio, WGN | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Video Road Test

Our Video Road Test, of the 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport GT is now posted on Consumer Guide Automotive’s Daily Drive website.

2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4 GT AWC

So, what did we think?

Just click on this link to take a ride with us and see for yourself.

And don’t forget, if you want to check some of our previous road tests and some of the other goodies we’ve been pouring into the Daily Drive tank, just point your browser right here.

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Timing, THIS And Our Own “U.N.”

Since “safer at home” became our new normal, there have been many nights over the dinner table with Johnnie’s Dad, John, when, along with prayers for health care workers, first responders, friends & family, one of us would comment on how lucky we were that the planets aligned and two lengthy hospital stays were behind us.

A little backstory is probably in order.

Since before Thanksgiving of 2019, much of our weekly calendar was filled with medical entries.  John’s health had been declining while we were at our Panama City Beach home and, from the time we returned to Chicago for the holidays and continuing as we segued into 2020, hospital stays and visits to the ER became a part of our regular routine. While we won’t go into specifics, suffice it to say that, good doctors & nurses plus, our own attention to detail, resulted in a FAR better outcome than the initial prognosis had suggested.  Following the second hospital stay, a 6 week admission to a step-down facility had the desired result and John, feeling and looking better than he had in quite a long time, was given the OK to return home.

If you heard us on WGN radio during this period of time, it was only because family and “extended-family” friends were at our house making sure Johnnie’s Dad was OK … and he really wanted to hear us on the radio.

It wasn’t long after this welcome homecoming that the COVID-19 outbreak went from a news story to the daily pandemic headline story and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a “stay-at-homeorder for the entire state.

Given John’s much better, but still recovering, condition there was no doubt that he should follow the Governor’s orders.  Adding to that the reality of the number of turns around the sun that all three of us have experienced and the on-going health issues the two of us have documented in previous blog posts, we’ve taken that “stay-at-home” order very seriously, too.

The seriousness of the situation, sadly, went from news headlines to personal experience as two of our next door neighbors became part of the story when they became victims of this horrible pandemic.  Their deaths left a hole in our hearts for two gentle people who had been dear friends for the better part of 30 years.

Like most of you, we’ve experienced a sea change of emotions as this new normal settled in.

With the exception of three grocery store excursions and one “safe-distanced” Easter dinner drop-off for family, we have been, and will continue to stay, safe inside for the duration.

This is the part where we share the lucky reality of our own, wonderful, “U. N.” … unselfish neighbors.  Without any prompting from us, some of our neighbors, knowing that all three of us fell in to the higher risk category, asked and ultimately insisted that they be allowed to make those weekly grocery store visits for us.

It is germane to this blog post to mention that, over the years we’ve been in this location, our neighborhood has, indeed, become a sort of mini-United Nations.  Japanese, Chinese, Iranian, Greek, Croatian, Hispanic and Serbian are just some of the nationalities that populate our block.  We’re not just saying this but, over the past several years, as the neighborhood has changed, we’ve frequently commented to each other that we just may have some of the best neighbors we’ve ever had.

When THIS is over … and that day WILL come … please bear with us.  We’ll try not to make too much noise, but we plan on having a seriously big patio party to say thank you to our own “U. N.”

In the meantime, please join us in staying “safer at home” … and don’t forget to wash your hands.

 

Posted in Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Partly Personal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Johnnie’s Gluten-Free Apple Pidumpling

Want a little more cocooning cooking for comfort?

This is what I call Apple Pidumpling (Get it, pie and dumpling?).

Johnnie's Apple Padumpling

Johnnie’s Apple Pidumpling

Apple Pidumpling

4-5 lg. cooking apples (Gala, Honeycrisp, etc.) Peel and slice…need enough apples to generously fill a round cake pan or 8″ square pan.

On the stove in a saucepan mix 3/4 cup of sugar, 1 cup water, 1/2 tsp each cinnamon and allspice or pumpkin pie spice and 1 tsp vanilla extract.

Cook and stir til sugar is melted.

Remove from heat and add 2 Tb cornstarch dissolved in cold water
The syrup should be thick with addition of corn starch..

Pour syrup over apple slices and toss to coat.

In the same bowl mix 1 cup Bisquik (I use gluten free Bisquik), 1/4 c sugar, 1/2 cup milk or more to make the batter pourable & a splash of vanilla.

Slowly pour this batter over apples to cover.

Melt 2 Tb butter and drizzle over top.  Lightly sprinkle top with coarse sugar (optional).

Bake at 375 for 50 min-1 hr til golden brown.

ENJOY!

Johnnie

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