Thursday, September 30, 2010

Computers in Cars = Stupid

The dumbest thing you ever did was put a computer inside of a car.
So before writing this blog I had to ask myself...

All cars manufactured today contain at least one computer. It is in charge of monitoring engine emissions and adjusting the engine to keep emissions as low as possible. The computer receives information from a many different sensors, including:
  • The oxygen sensor, air pressure sensor, air temp sensor, engine temp sensor, throttle position sensor, knock sensor, oxygen sensor
Using the info from these sensors, the computer can control things like the fuel injectors, spark plugs and the idle speed to get the best performance possible from the engine while keeping emissions low. The computer can also sense when something has gone wrong and can inform the driver with the "Check Engine" light. A mechanic can read a diagnostic code from the computer and fix the problem. Depending on how expensive the car is, there can be all sorts of other computers. For example:
  • There is probably a computer controlling the automatic transmission
  • If the car has anti-lock brakes, there is a computer reading the wheel speed and controlling the brakes
  • Many air bag systems have their own computers
  • A car with keyless entry or a security system has a computer for these systems
  • Advanced climate control systems often have computers
  • Some cars now have motorized seats and mirrors that can remember the settings for multiple drivers, and these contain computers
  • Any radio or CD player with a digital display contains a computer of its own
  • Cruise control systems use computers
In other words, a modern luxury car is a rolling computer network. It is amazing how many embedded controllers a car can have.

Is it amazing? Or slightly terrifying that technology can do so much these days? I mean if you've ever seen Battlestar Galactica then you know how the cylons (robots) were capable of creating a holocaust and potentially destroying all of mankind. But that's a different story, and a fantastic tv series.

So.. what you've all been waiting for: Why Computers in Cars are a Terrible Idea:

Last night I was going to go hang out with my friend, when I put the key in my car's ignition and nothing happened. Yes, the radio and dashboard lit up fine, but nothing else. Not a crank, not a air clicking sound from the battery, nothing. So my dad deciphers via iphone call to me that it's probably the starter, and my battery is dead. OK. So I get my roommate's boyfriend to check it out to see if he agrees, and he notices a little glowing green key lighting up on my dashboard. "What does this symbol mean?" We all don't know so we look it up in my driver's manual.

Immobilizing Antitheft Device.

(thanks google images)
 Also known as: your car (computer in car) no longer recognizes your key. The key that is specifically made and sculpted JUST for your car, oh and don't bother trying the spare, because it won't work either.

Yes, I was/am completely locked out of my car. Thanks for towing service and paying for a diagnostic test... my car will be "reprogrammed" and I'll be able to access it again.

But can we talk about how bullshit that is?
The same thing happened to my roommate's car a month ago.

So thank you, HONDA, for making my car shut down for no apparent reason. Your immobilizing antitheft device only works against its car owner.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sunday is my Favorite Day

What's more therapeutic than cooking? How satisfying is it to know that you created something that makes somebody else happy? And then you too get to enjoy that glow of satisfaction while enjoying your creation. Awesome, welcome to my Sunday.

I enjoy my sunday because I spend a lot of them cooking- and I always cook something new. For example a couple weeks ago I made Blueberry Buckle.
right before the baking process

And this is the After Picture
 So my oven cooks unevenly sometimes and the crumble topping looks a little burnt, but words can not describe how delicious it is passed its outer crumble shell. Now if you've EVER heard of a Blueberry Buckle, then you know that it has the same consistency as a coffee cake ... so it would basically taste like a condensed blueberry muffin. Fabulous.

So yesterday I finally went grocery shopping after procrastinating for probably 2 weeks.. and after spending, you know, $80 I feel like I'm set for a while. My whole purpose for groceries was I could make 2 things: a mushroom & tuna casserole and apple-crisp. If you don't know, it's apple season (check out my previous post). I have never made either of these recipes, until yesterday. I used to watch my mom make apple-crisp all the time, so since it's that time of year, it was my daughterly duty to make it.

I had my friend Amanda come over for some girl time chit-chat while I was preparing the mushroom & tuna casserole.  So it's an easy recipe- consisting of Mushrooms, Onions, cream cheese, fettucini noodles, milk, salt & pepper, and swiss cheese for topping. Easy.

While I was combining the mix in the casserole dish and was adding the shredded cheese on top I then asked myself- isn't this a strange combo of food in a casserole? But I guess I don't know anything about food, because it was DELICOUS. Thank you google for providing me with a unique new recipe that really hones in on the greatness of mushrooms, (which is also an in-season food).

I didn't get a picture of the casserole, but I did snap a picture of the apple-crisp for dessert.

Mom would be proud
Advice of the day: Always serve apple-crisp warm and with a little vanilla ice cream on top. YUM

Happy Fall!

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Matching Taste with the Season since 6500 B.C.

We all feel it, the brisk cool air that hits your nostrils on a September morning. That certain dampness that makes you grab your sweater on your way to work, even though you know it will be a high of 98 degrees later on because of the Mississippi sun. I am thankful for it every day I wake up, mainly because that brisk air in the morning reminds me of that crisp taste of my favorite fruit.
            It is absolutely apple season. I know I’ve told at least 6 of my friends by now that it’s apple season and they just look at me and say, “oh?” and shrug off, what I felt, was stimulating news. Apples are something to be excited about; says that a medium sized apple contains only 80 calories. That’s 80 calories containing fiber, antioxidants, water and sugar. Be picky if you want, because there are 2,500 varieties of apples grown in the United States every year. We’ve apparently been eating them for a long time anyway; Archaeologists actually have evidence of people eating apples as far back as 6500 B.C.
            So since it is apple season, and it is absolutely worth celebrating, I’ve decided to reach out and share my favorite apple recipe with you. Using my community’s cookbook, Square Table Cookbook, I was able to quench my crunch with their Crunchy Apple Walnut Salad. If you’re asking me- apples are the only way to bring in the fall season.

Crunchy Apple Walnut Salad

¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons apple juice
2 tablespoons balsamic white vinegar
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

2 Braeburn or Fuji apples cut into bite-sized pieces
6 cups red leaf lettuce or other salad greens
¼ cup chopped walnuts
Parmesan cheese, grated

  • For dressing, in a jar, combine ingredients and shake well
  • For salad, in a serving bowl, combine apples, salad greens and walnuts. Pour dressing over salad and toss. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
6-8 servings

*Permission to use the Crunchy Apple Walnut Salad recipe granted by the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council. Square Table Cookbook is a community cookbook and a fundraiser for the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council and can be ordered on their website 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How Family Recipes Get Preserved

College Graduate Keeps Tradition for 4th of July
            It sneaks up on us as we grow up that we enjoy reliving our past. There is a comfort in those family traditions surrounding the holidays. The recognition of this has come after I graduated from college and plummeted into the real world. By securing that first full-time job, moving two states away from my parents, and paying for my own car insurance; all of this happening as we approach for what my family knows as a big holiday- July 4th. Being on my own made me realize this will be the first holiday of many that I will not get to enjoy family traditions.
            July 4th for my family was a trip to my Grandparents farm for the holiday weekend. It is a holiday that had certainties of running through the fields to fish in the lake, waiting for the sun to set for fireworks, and barbecuing with the perfect side item of my grandmother’s potato salad. I wanted to make my July 4th celebration a continuation of the traditions I grew up with on the farm, I wanted to make my grandmother’s Potato Salad.
My grandmother doesn’t write down recipes, she has that photographic memory I never inherited, so when I ask her over the phone how to make the potato salad I end up feeling lost in translation. The 4th of July preparation has commenced with less than a month away, and at least 10 guests are all looking forward to home cooking.
After several trials and tribulations with my lost-in-translation potato salad recipe and various resources from the web, I decided to consult our local bookstore. There were all kinds of community cookbooks; it’s like a compilation of grandma’s recipes from across the country captured in one book. It was in the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council’s Square Table Cookbook that I found Shout Hallelujah Potato Salad. Just reading the title made me know I had to try it, the hint of spice into a savory, creamy potato gave a whole new meaning to potato salad.
            I knew with the Shout Hallelujah Potato Salad recipe I wouldn’t have my grandmother’s tradition, but I could craft that potato salad to be my own and start making new traditions.

Friends enjoying the grub
Shout Hallelujah Potato Salad
(Featured in the Square Table Cookbook p. 60)

5 pounds petite gold potatoes
5 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1 4-ounce jar diced pimientos
4 drops Louisiana Hot Sauce
4 ribs celery, chopped
2 teaspoons celery salt
1/4 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 cup sweet salad cube pickles
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Paprika for garnish

In a large pot of salted water over high heat, boil potatoes with skin on until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain in colander and peel off skins with fingers while holding under cold, running water. Cool potatoes, chop into small pieces, and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add eggs. In a small bowl mix drained pimientos with hot sauce. Add to potato mixture. Add all remaining ingredients except paprika. Do not stir. Mix by hand, mashing some potatoes and leaving others in chunks. Add salt and pepper to taste, transfer to serving platter, and shape into mound with a spoon. Dust with paprika. Cover and refrigerate 3-4 hours.

20-25 servings

*Permission to use the Shout Hallelujah Potato Salad recipe granted by the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council.
Square Table Cookbook is a community cookbook and a fundraiser for the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council and can be ordered on their website

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

From Drive Thru to Dinner Party

A Different Graduation for a Recent College Student

I’ve recently come to realize that summer is slowing uncoiling from my grasp- soon kids of all ages will be back in the hustle and bustle of school and for the first time in my life I will not be one of them. I entered summer with a college diploma and ended my summer with a wake up call to reality – a job. “You mean I work nine to five and I don’t have homework?” This is still a common conversation I have with myself from time-to-time. My busy life has changed from: classes, work, different social events, and cramming for tests to: work, cleaning my house, and making sure I have clothes for work.  My eating habits have changed also from the drive-thru diet of the college student to cooking in my own kitchen.
            I have time to cook? Who knew! I don’t cook just anything. I have been on a mission to master the culinary roots of my new North Mississippi home. I’m a Missouri girl which is not necessarily the South, but I was lucky to have a Momma raised in the Mississippi Delta. I was spoiled on home made anything! So I have enjoyed learning that I do have her ability to cook. I don’t know the recipes by heart, and I won’t feel truly accomplished until I can make gravy from scratch. Until then, I’ve decided to stick with the recipes my mom did actually write down, and when I can’t find what I want from those I go for my copy of what has become my favorite cookbook; Square Table.
This isn’t just any cookbook, it’s my community’s cookbook, but one with a collection of recipes all from Oxford, Mississippi. I’m learning about my community’s traditions with recipes and stories told from famous Oxford chef, artists and authors.  The home cooked meals I create entertain my friends and fellow co-workers. You definitely feel more grown up once you’ve hosted a dinner party or proudly brought a dish you have cooked to a social function.
The friendships I made in four years of school now live as far away as Baltimore, South Florida, or Utah. When those friends visit I want to be able to give them a meal that really captures my new hometown, in all it’s flavor. I like to call it the Yoknapatawpha Special. The appetites are worked up after we’ve toured Faulkner’s house Rowan Oak, left an empty Wild Turkey bottle with a note on Faulkner’s grave, walked the historic square, and heard great live music. The meal that makes the trip is called Supper at Rowan Oak: smoked ham, red potato salad, sweet slaw, sweet onion pie, buttermilk biscuits, and pecan squares. I always serve it with Yoknapatawpha Tea seasoned with a little Wild Turkey whiskey.  

Yoknapatawpha Tea
4 English Breakfast tea bags
12 large fresh mint leaves
3 cups boiling water
1 cup orange juice
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 cup sugar
6 cups water
Sprigs of mint
Orange slices

Place tea bags and mint leaves in a 3-quarter pitcher. Add 3 cups boiling water and steep until cool. Discard tea bags and mint leaves. Add orange and lemon juice, sugar and 6 cups water to tea mixture, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Serve over ice and garnish with mint sprigs and orange slices.
3 quarts for Serving

*Permission to use Square Table Cookbook’s “Yoknapatawpha Tea” recipe granted by the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council

The Yoknapatawpha Arts Council can be reached at (662)236-6429 

I'm an Official Blogger!

Thanks to friends who have inspired me to start my own blog, I guess I'm a real person now!

I mainly wanted to start a blog to keep up with the stories I write for work- I help promote a really awesome cookbook (Square Table Cookbook to purchase!) and ya know, I do other fun office things, but writing stories has got to be one of my favorites. Thank god I am able to apply what I learned from my journalism degree into my life- my work life even!

So for fun recipes, personal insight, and anything else I can offer- I hope I can entertain anyone who glances at Around the Square Table.