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Hot love


Short Takes 

And how was your day? - A mini movie

Penguins - Yes, they can be nasty too

Paying homage to Bill Gates - A small GIF picture

Drudge Report '99® - Matt recognizes Dynamite owners

View from our office - There's a big telescope in them thar hills

Lunch at the beach at Del Mar, CA - Twelve months a year!

Santa Claus - Off duty

Perfect couple - A quiz

Time of Day - The old fashioned way

Time of Day - The artistic way


Fight Spam! Click Here! - This is an attempt to fight web crawlers


Artificial Floral Decorations

All are San Diego County Fair Winners

1999 Birds of Paradise (Tom) - Blue ribbon

2000 Toaster (Tom) - Blue ribbon, again!

2001 Fountain (Tom) - That's plastic water!

2001 Bird's Nest (Charlene) - Second place

2002 Flower Cake (Charlene) - Blue ribbon!


Guaranteed Recipes


This recipe was one of our mom’s favorite’s.  She never imagined that it would be broadcast to millions of hungry people on a world wide network of computers.

Mix beans, salsa, paprika, pepper, and 1/2 cheese in a two quart casserole.  Top with remaining cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until cheese is browned.  Let cool a bit and serve with tortilla chips.  Serves four normals or two teenagers.


San Diego County Fair Entries


ALMOND KISS COOKIES (2003 Blue Ribbon)

In large bowl, beat butter, sugar and almond extract until fluffy.  Add flour; beat at low speed until blended.  Cover; refrigerate one hour.

Shape 1/2 tablespoon of dough around each kiss covering completely.  Roll in hands to form a ball shape.  Bake at 375 degrees on ungreased cookie sheet for 12 to 14 minutes.  Cool completely.

Sprinkle cooled cookies with powdered sugar.  Melt chocolate chips and shortening together over low heat. Drizzle over cookies.  Makes about 6 dozen cookies.  



Charlene Francl wins big at this year’s San Diego Fair!  Not only did she win a Blue Ribbon for her truffle brownies but she won a Special Award for Excellence.  This one is “really wonderful” according to Cliff, her official taster.

1 C              Butter                  

¾ C             All-purpose flour  

½ C             Confectioners’ Sugar

3 Tbsp         Semisweet cocoa 

¼ tsp           Ground cinnamon 

¼ tsp           Salt                      

1 lb              Semisweet chocolate, Finely chopped          

½ C             Sugar

4                  Eggs

1 tsp            Vanilla



Sweet ground chocolate & cocoa


Optional topping:

Caramel ice cream topping

Vanilla ice cream



Butter and flour a 10-1/4 inch tart pan with removable bottom.


In a bowl, mix flour, confectioners’ sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt until blended.  Add ½ C butter, cut into chunks.  Beat at high speed until well blended.  Press mixture evenly over bottom of pan.


Bake in a 350 degree oven 15 to 18 minutes or until crust begins to pull from pan sides.


Meanwhile, place half of the chopped chocolate and ½ C butter in a bowl and microwave at half power for 2 to 2-1/2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.  Stir in granulated sugar.  Add eggs and mix well.  Stir in vanilla and remaining chopped chocolate.  Microwave additionally as necessary.  Pour mixture into warm crust.


Bake in a 350 degree oven until filling barely jiggles when pan is gently shaken, about 20 minutes.  Let cool on wire rack at least 2 hours.


Remove pan rim.  Dust tart lightly with sweet ground chocolate & cocoa.  Cut into squares to serve.


Optional topping:  Top portions with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream and drizzle with caramel topping.



Remove foil and paper cups from candies.  Cut cookie dough into 12 equal slices.  Cut each slice in half.  Roll slightly in hands and drop into miniature muffin pans.

Back at 325 degrees 12 to 14 minutes until edges are slightly brown.  Immediately push peanut butter candies into center of cookies and top with chocolate morsel.  Return to oven with heat off for 5 minutes, leaving oven door open.  Cool in pan.


Yields 24 cookies.



Crumb mixture:



Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In large mixer bowl, combine all crumb mixture ingredients.  Beat at low speed until crumbly.  Set aside 1 ½ cups.  Press remaining crumb mixture on bottom of 13 x 9 inch baking pan.  Bake for 20 minutes until edges are lightly browned.

Stir together both filling ingredients and spread over hot crust.  Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.  Continue baking for 27 to 32 minutes or until lightly browned.

In a one quart saucepan, melt chocolate chips and butter over very low heat, stirring often, until smooth (2 to 3 minutes).  Drizzle over bars.  Cool completely.  Cut into diamond-shaped bars.



Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan with vegetable oil spray.

In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar, and vanilla with electric mixer on high speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.

Add cocoa, sour cream, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; mix in at low speed.  When ingredients are well blended, scrape down sides of bowl.  Add flour; mix only until blended.

Spread batter in prepared pan.  Bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 60 to 70 minutes; do not over bake.

Place pan on wire rack to cool for 30 minutes.  Loosen edges of bread with knife and invert onto the rack.  Turn bread over and let cool completely.  Dust top with confectioners’ sugar before serving. Makes 14 slices.


CHOCOLATE KISS COOKIES (No ribbon but really good!)

In large bowl, beat butter, sugar and lemon extract until fluffy.  Add flour and almonds; beat at low speed until blended. Cover; refrigerate one hour.

Shape 1-1/2 tablespoon of dough around each kiss covering completely.  Roll in hands to form a pyramid. Bake at 375 degrees on ungreased cookie sheet for 8 to 12 minutes.  Cool completely.

Sprinkle cooled cookies with powdered sugar.  Melt chocolate chips and shortening together over low heat. Drizzle over cookies.  Makes about 6 dozen cookies.


PECAN CRESCENTS (1997 Blue Ribbon)

Sift the flour once, measure and resift with salt.  Cream the butter until light and fluffy then add powdered sugar and vanilla and mix well.

Work in flour then add the chopped nuts.  Roll into pencil-shaped rolls to desired thickness 2 to 2½ inches long and form into crescents on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until delicately browned.  When cool dust with powdered sugar.



In top of double boiler, melt chocolate over hot water; stir occasionally.  Remove from heat.  Add sweetened condensed milk, salt, and vanilla extract.  Stir only until smooth.  Turn into waxed paper-lined 8-inch square pan; spread mixture evenly and smooth surface. Refrigerate about 2 hours or until firm.  Turn candy onto cutting board.  Peel off paper.  With a sharp knife, cut fudge into serving-size pieces.  Store in airtight container.



Preheat: Set oven to 350 degrees.

Combine: Flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl.  Set aside.

Heat: Morsels, stirring constantly, making sure that all morsels are completely melted.

Stir In: Butter and heat until mixture is smooth.  Transfer to a large bowl.

Stir In: Brown sugar. Cool 5 minutes.

Beat In: Eggs and vanilla extract.  Blend in flour mixture.

Stir In: Nuts.

Spread: Evenly into a greased 8x8 pan, preferably glass

Bake: At 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Cool: Cut into 2 inch squares.



Preheat: Set oven to 375 degrees.

Measure: Flour by sifting or dip and pour (do not pack).

Blend In: Nuts.

Boil: Bring corn syrup, shortening, and sugar to boil in saucepan over medium heat stirring constantly.

Stir In: Remove from heat and gradually stir in flour and nuts.

Drop: LEVEL teaspoonfuls about 3 inches apart on a lightly non-stick baking sheet.  Keep batter warm (on low heat) between batches so it remains pliable.

Bake: Only 6 cookies at a time on one cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 2 to 5 minutes until golden.

Cool: Five minutes before removing from baking sheet.  Makes about four dozen cookies.


LEMON CHEESE BARS (1996 White Ribbon)

Preheat: Set oven to 350 degrees.

Grease: Lightly grease 8x8 baking pan, preferably glass.

Mix: Flour, butter, and ½ cup confectioners sugar until blended.  Mixture will be crumbly.

Fill: Pan with crumb mixture, reserving ½ cup.

Bake: 20 minutes until lightly browned.

Beat: Cream cheese in small bowl with mixer at low speed until fluffy.

Add: Half and half, vanilla, egg, and remaining confectioners sugar.  Beat until smooth.

Pour: Cheese mixture over baked layer in pan.  Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.

Bake: 35 minutes or until golden.

Cool: Five minutes then refrigerate until cold.

Cut: Into bars and sprinkle with confectioners sugar.  Serve.  Bars may be safely stored at room temperature for two days after initial refrigeration.



Preheat: Oven to 350 degrees.

Cream: Butter.  Sift firmly packed brown sugar then add brown sugar and granulated sugar to butter.  Cream mixture well.

Combine: Egg, vanilla, coconut extract and milk.  Beat until smooth.

Sift: Flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together.  Add to above and beat until smooth.

Add: Oats and raisins.  Mix well.

Drop: By rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart on non-stick cookie sheet.  Place 1/8 tsp raspberry and 1/8 tsp blueberry preserves to each cookie pressing into cookie with back of spoon.  Top with level teaspoonful of dough.

Bake: At 350 degrees on non-stick cookie sheet for 10 minutes or until golden brown.


PEAREST OF THE PEAR (1995 Red Ribbon)

This recipe won second place at the 1995 San Diego County Fair! The cake was nicknamed after the Fairest of the Fair, Kyah Lattimer from Fallbrook, the avocado capital of the world. Its really good, especially if it is allowed to "mature" a few days.

Sift together bleached flour, baking soda, and salt. Cream butter. Gradually add sugar creaming well.  Beat In unbeaten egg yolks.  Add dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Blend well after each addition.  Blend In baby food pears, pure vanilla extract, and pure almond extract and mix well.  Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold into batter.  Turn mixture into a 9X9X2-inch pan, well greased and lightly floured on the bottom.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes until cake springs back when touched lightly in the center.  Some cakes will pull slightly from the sides of the pan.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.


Amateur Poetry


During 1996, the San Diego Zoo celebrated its 80th birthday. In honor of the occasion, we wrote a new verse to the standard Happy Birthday Song that we all have learned to hate hearing every year.  Our poem was carried on the zoo's Rose Parade float in Pasadena that year.  Here are our lyrics, you know the music:

Hippos, birdies, and gnus,  

Harpies, bald eagles too,  
Hoppy rabbits, hairy mammoths
Love our San Diego Zoo!  



Kyah Lattimer, Fallbrook’s own,
was crowned the Fairest of the Fair.
The sweet young lady held court this year,
at the Del Mar County Fair.
Charlene Francl’s Sugar Pear Cake,
was nicknamed the Pearest of the Pear.
The sweet young cake was painstakingly baked,
for the Del Mar Bakeoff Fair.

T’was the first time for both,
one took the Red, the other a Blue.
We hope Kyah will achieve her goals,
and that next year Charlene gets blue too.


Hot Squirrel Love

The California Ground Squirrel mating game is hilarious and goes on for over a month. The females have given birth and, with an average of 5 to 16 babies per litter (most of which get knocked off by something higher on the food chain), we’re now overrun with the cutest little rascals. They have all learned how to climb up the bougainvillea and feast on the sunflower seeds and bird food on the balcony. Heck, they figured that out after only two weeks above ground when their little bodies were only 3 to 4 inches long and their bushy tails were also 3 to 4 inches long. They’re so tiny I’m afraid they’ll get blown off by a gust of wind! Even in July they are still thin and tiny.

Actually we have two kinds of squirrels: the behemoths who patronize the feeding station in the gazebo and the wee ones (a.k.a. wee ’uns or bairns (SCOTTISH for child) who feed on the balcony outside the living room. Last week I walked into the kitchen and a little cutie had his paws on the kitchen window and his little nose pressed to the glass (there is a shelf to pass food through onto the breakfast porch). They are nothing if not extremely curious. If we left the door open, they’d walk right in. On one occasion a dove (these birds do not seem to be very bright) had "bought the farm" (a broken neck) and the un-interred body had fallen into a large squirrel hole. A wee one energetically pulled the dove’s body out and dragged it on to the patio outside the master bedroom. Here’s the curious part. The wee one seemed to be doing something with the dove’s feet and possibly pecking (as it were) at the neck. Another wee one came up to the bird and stared it down, unable to determine if it was alive or dead. Eventually I couldn’t take it anymore and went out to give the dove a proper burial. Curiosity had gnawed off half of one of the bird’s feet (they also tried to chew up a sand chair but nylon doesn’t really taste that good) and curiosity was just checking on that floppy neck. Although the squirrels haven’t been in the house yet many other things have.

I went to pour myself a cup of coffee the other morning and a lizard maybe 4 inches long jumped out from behind the coffee warmer. A few years ago I would have jumped. After dealing with barn owls flying through the living room, dead mice in the corners, fishing a mouse out of the Jacuzzi drain in the guest bath, bees in the wall (they swarmed for weeks then left), bobcats and coyotes staring at me as if I’m a nuisance, I just trapped the little guy/girl and set him/her free on the breakfast porch. I wouldn’t even think of killing a mouse anymore (rats are a different story). We’ve really made friends with the environment and are worlds away from the high rise fraidy cats we were in Chicago when a bee would make us crazy.

Anyway, animal mommies being better parents than so many human parents, they and the female elders will keep watch over their brood for the next four or five months. They are extremely territorial and colonial and there is no visiting another squirrel family’s home. The females chirp to warn the babies that danger is near. They sit up "picket pin" on their haunches as meerkats and prairie dogs do to see over vegetation and avert danger. Their are different degrees of urgency in their chirps the worst being an ear splitter which makes my wife toss the satellite tuner in the air (normally it’s velcroed to my wife’s shorts as she is a channel surfer) and run outside to fend off the predator. The litter mates wrestle with each other and play. I just watched two wee ones team up to take down a blade of grass like it was a 50 foot palm tree. It is so cute to watch. We set out a big cardboard in the yard (although they go absolutely nuts over bags of charcoal (their fave) and the squirrels claw it up, stuffing their little cheeks until they look like oversized balloons - I guess to line their nests against the winter’s cold. Either that or they’re on a really high fiber diet.

Now about the squirrels mating habits. I call the mating dance "hot squirrel love." About 4 months ago the squirrels were holed up (as it were) in their respective squirrel burrows because of "The Storm Of The Century." Bear in mind that "The Storm Of The Century" happened every week this winter. Anyway, after this particular gully washer, when the kids came out (they were about 10 months old) you could suddenly distinguish the boys from the girls. The boys had two big "things" between their rear legs which grew bigger, at times to the extent that the boys walked on tiptoe so the "things" wouldn’t drag on the ground. The male/female behavior was typical: The boys wanted to get it on and the girls would have none of it. No flowers, no gifts just "Hey baby let’s do it." You’ve never seen such high speed chases.

They did laps around the pool, through the wood pile, around the upstairs balcony, and even up the stairs to the breakfast porch. Next most popular activities in order were: serious butt sniffing, posturing by standing up on their hind legs while arching their backs and leaping in the air, and trying to do something in a side by side position which ended up with both parties doing a mid-air 90 degree turn in the air with both sides then retreating to their respective corners (bet you never did that). This went on for weeks.

In looking through the literature, the females will mate with more than one male and the males are free-spirited rogues who simply play fast and loose. Must be that male fear of commitment. It is also common for several generations of females to live in the same burrow. The females can also distinguish between whole sisters, half sisters, etc. and will treat their whole sisters nicer than their half sisters. Eventually the males got tired of the mating dance/game and simply took a flying leap toward the females back. The females simply ran faster and when they were doing laps on the balcony you could hear the thud as the males completely missed their mark and landed on wood. Towards the end of the lusting period, the females started some major teasing and held their tales straight up. By this time the males seemed more interested in eating the bird food (which the females store and eventually regurgitate to the babies). Read this letter after you’ve knocked back a few, substitute names here and there and you’ve got the story of somebody’s life.

The first litter came out on April 21st at 6 weeks of age and there were at least 8 litters in our immediate area. My wife is now running around like a crazy lady shooing off Red Shouldered Hawks (they are about 20 inches in height), coyotes, and bobcats. They darn well know the babies are out and are aggressively looking for a light, tender lunch. The hawks are so brazen they even sit at the entry to the squirrel hole waiting to pounce. Thank goodness the squirrels move like lightning. The only problem is they cannot just duck into the nearest convenient hole (any there are lots of them). They must go back to their own home. This results in some major league sprinting. One anxious little girl even ran over my foot in her haste to get to her home under the gazebo. You see every squirrel has their very own entrance to the burrow which is why Country Road is honeycombed with squirrel holes.

The burrows range anywhere from 5 to 200 feet on the gentle slopes of our avocado ranch, are used for several years, and have runways from hole to hole. Neat, huh? Sure they eat our fruit (plums, oranges, tangelos, pears, apples, etc.), they can demolish an avo in 3 minutes (including the nut!), chew on the ivy, and eat flower petals but they’re just so much fun to watch. On the plus side, they love snails. After a rain, they will pig out on snails which is really kind of gross cuz they crack the shells and chew the stringy bodies while the victims ooze slime or whatever it is that leaves those snail trails.


© 2006 South By Southwest


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