Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Old Friends and "Sweden Invades California"


The Memorial Day Weekend, summoning the unofficial start of Summer, was a quiet but pleasant one for us.

It began on Saturday evening with a drive to Laurie's old stomping grounds, La Crescenta. . .

St. Francis H.S.
Class of 1965

In this picture I am next to Tom Nuccio, the pride of bella Italia's Piedmont region, and Terry Terrazone. They are two of the good guys and we all graduated from St. Francis together a very long time ago.

We gathered at Terry and his wife Elin's home to celebrate the engagement and impending wedding next February in Miami, Florida of their son Nathan to the lovely Isa Pozo.

Isa is very outgoing, probably in part due to her Cuban and Puerto Rican roots. She is a nice young lady and they make a stunning couple.

Good luck to the two of them!

On Monday, Memorial Day, we got the chance to share fika with friends visiting the USA from Sweden.

Laurie, Sarah and Johanna
at Casa Contreras

Sarah is that special someone in Hässleholm Hurricane Lucas Grip's life. She works for a Swedish travel company that arranges group tours and from time to time her company sends her and her co-worker Johanna to sites around the world to get first hand knowledge of what potential buyers will be getting themselves into.

Last Spring, Sarah and Johanna were sent to Cuba for a week. This year they are touring sights in the Dakotas, Yellowstone, Monterey-Carmel, Los Angeles and Dallas.

On Memorial Day they stopped in Camarillo, first at the huge Outlet Mall and then at our home for that most Swedish tradition, afternoon fika.

To review, fika is simply friends meeting for conversation, coffee and a dessert of some kind. Laurie opted for a delicious chocolate cake with thick, rich chocolate frosting.

I liked it.

We spent about an hour discussing the folly of ever visiting the Camarillo Outlet Mall on any weekend much less a Holiday Weekend, places to visit and eat in Los Angeles and the scenic Highway 1/Pacific Coast Highway route from Camarillo to Santa Monica via Malibu on their way to their hotel in tony Beverly Hills.

They were excited by the things they had seen so far in their first trip to the western United States and anxious to see a movie star or two in La-La Land.

Sarah and Johanna

Good people, fun times,
GREAT friends

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Wacky EuroBall Football News


EuroBall Updates

HE'S BACK!!!
#28 in your program, #1 in your heart!

The biggest news on the EuroBall scene, other than Stan Bedwell's Kragujevac (Serbia) Wild Boars stunning EFAF Cup Semi-Final game 35-22 victory in France over the Thonon les Bains Black Panthers, was the return to action of Catania wide receiver Claudio Mangano. A big plus for the Elephants in their final push to make the 2011 IFL playoffs.

As for the Wild Boars, great nickname by the way, they will play the winner of the June 4th,
Søllerød (Denmark) Gold Diggers at
London Blitz game for the EFAF Cup at the end of June.


In Barcelona, Spain today, the Swedish Women's National American Football Team took on their counterparts from my favorite Iberian peninsula country, España.

Sweden was heavily favored to win this "friendly" competition. The reason for this is that this is the first time that Spain has fielded a women's National team while the Swedish ladies started playing international games in 2008. Experience gave the Scandanavian eleven a huge edge in their 36-14 victory.



2011 Division I Södra Standings
The top two teams at the end of the regular season will play in the 2011 SAFF Division I Playoffs with the top two teams from each of the other three Division I Conferences.

Kristianstad Predators (5-0)
Ystad Rockets (4-1)

Limhamm Griffins (2-2)
Lugi Vikings (2-2)
Ekeby Greys (0-4)
Hässleholm Hurricanes (0-4)

Week 6 Results
Kristianstad 51 - Limhamn 44
Lugi 15 - Hässleholm 14
BYES: Ekeby and Ystad

Week 7 Games
Saturday, June 4th
Lugi (2-2) at Ekeby (0-4)

Monday, June 6th
Kristianstad (5-0) at Ystad (4-1)

BYES: Hässleholm (0-4) and Limhamn (2-2)

SAAF Division I Södra Notes: Kristianstad (5-0) and Ystad (4-1) continue their march to the 2011 playoffs as all Division I Södra teams near the midpoint of the ten game season. Week 7 sees these two teams playing for the second and final time this Spring in a rematch of their Week 5 game at Kristianstad won by the Predators 13-0. If Ryan Bolland's Kristianstad squad can prevail, they would be two games ahead of Ystad with only four games to play. If the Ystad Rockets avenge their loss, then the two squads would be fighting it out for the Division's top spot the rest of the Summer. Either way, I think that the rest of the Division will have a very tough assignment in trying two catch either of these two clubs.

As for our favorite SAFF team, the Hässleholm Hurricanes, another contest brought another tough loss, this time to the Lugi Vikings by a count of 15-14. All reports are that the 'Canes showed improvement which is good news indeed. The unfortunate story line was that Lugi was down 14-0 at the half and was able to come back and snatch the victory from the Green and Black at the very end of the game with a TD and a two point conversion.

Damn.

Read all about it through the eyes of NorraSkåne ace reporter Johan Hammarqvist at:


Italian Football League Standings
The top four teams at the end of the regular season will play in the 2011 IFL Playoffs.

Bologna Warriors 8-0
Parma Panthers 6-2
Ancona Dolphins 5-3
Catania Elephants 5-3

Milan Rhinos 4-4
Reggio Emilia Hogs 4-4
Milan Seamen 3-5
Bolzano Giants 3-5
Lazio Marines 2-6
Bologna Doves 0-8

Week 10 Results
Catania 42 - Milan Seamen 34
Lazio 50 - Bologna Doves 0
Bologna Warriors 67 - Ancona 66
Reggio Emilia 28 - Bolzano 27
Parma 43 - Milan Rhinos 28

Week 11 Game - Final Regular Season Games
Saturday, June 4th
Parma (6-2) at Milan Seamen (3-5)
Bologna Warriors (8-0) at Lazio (2-6)
Milan Rhinos (4-4) at Bologna Doves (0-8)
Ancona (5-3) at Reggio Emilia (4-4)

Sunday, June 5th
Bolzano (3-5) at Catania (5-3)

IFL Notes: "Defense Wins Championships" - Bear Bryant, Legendary University of Alabama Coach

SIXTY-SEVEN to SIXTY-SIX???

Yes indeed, the top two teams in the IFL, the undefeated Bologna Warriors with the best defense in the league and the Ancona Dolphins with the best offense in the IFL, met on Saturday. As usual, good defense stopped good offense. The combined 133 points scored is the second highest total in IFL history. The 2010 Catania-Reggio Emilia game lit up the scoreboard for 145 points and was won by the Elephants 75-70.

With their victory, the Warriors sewed up the regular season IFL championship and a Semi-Final home game as the #1 seed in the playoffs which start on June 25th. The only question for the Warriors is will they rest some of their players in their meaningless season finale vs. the 2-6 Lazio Marines?

Week 11 is the final week of the IFL regular season and the last two playoff spots are still up for grabs. The Parma Panthers (6-2), Ancona (5-3) and Catania (5-3) will wrap up the #2-3-4 seeds respectively if they all win this coming weekend. In this scenario, Ancona earns the #3 seed over Catania by virtue of their 60-41 victory over the Elephants in Week 2.

Wins by the Milan Rhinos and Reggio Emilia would create at least a three way tie for a playoff spot with Ancona. If that happens and Catania were to lose as well, then there would be a four way tie for the last two playoff spots as all four of these teams would be 5-4 on the season.

Interesting. . .

For our favorite IFL team, the beloved Elephants of Catania, the easy way into the playoffs is simply to beat Bolzano next Sunday. . . "Just Win, Baby!"

DAI RAGAZZI!!!

Friday, May 27, 2011

WALLANDER Starring Kenneth Branagh


Ystad, Sweden Train Station

Inspector Kurt Wallander's
Favorite Ystad Bakery

Wallander's #1 Ystad Hot Dog Stand

Why all of these old pictures of Ystad, Sweden and references to author Henning Mankell's famed crime solver you ask? Well, let me tell you a story. . .

Every Sunday, the Los Angeles Times' Calendar Section includes a list of the Top Ten selling books in America.


A few weeks ago I noticed that included in the Top Ten list was a new Henning Mankell book, The Troubled Man. In it, he resurrects my favorite Swedish/Skåne/Ystad police inspector, Kurt Wallander.

Last year, after Uffe Palmbrink put me on to Mankell's great nine book series of Scandanavian crime writing, I made it my goal to read the entire series before returning to California.

Mission accomplished, but I wanted more. Now it looks like I have it!

O.K., truth in advertising time, there is actually one other Wallander tale that I have not read. In June, 2004, in the Netherlands only, a 90 page Wallander short story called The Grave was distributed as a complimentary gift to people who purchased crime novels. I do not believe that this story has been translated to English.

DAMN THE DUTCH!!!

Except for Hans de Heer of course.

I went to the Barnes and Noble book store in Ventura and, sure enough, they had the new Wallander book in hardback only for a mere $27.

Given our current economic constraints, I decided against buying it. What to do?

The answer was simple, I looked back once again to something that Uffe taught me last Winter, get a library card. Often times, the old ways are the best ways.

With Uffe clearly in mind, I went to the Camarillo Public Library to see if they had a copy of this tenth/eleventh installment in the Wallander saga. Not only did they have a copy, they own three copies!

Unfortunately, all three were checked out. On the library's computer I noticed that they also had one copy of a DVD on the Wallander series. YAHOO!!!


Famed English actor, Kenneth Branagh, with the help of the BBC, turned three of the Wallander books into three separate 90 minute English language movies in 2008. The three books in question were Sidetracked, Firewall and One Step Behind.

Now, Uffe always swore by Swedish actor Rolf Lassgård in the role of Wallander but I never got a chance to see him as Ystad's favorite detective. I thought that Branagh did a splendid job interpreting Inspector Wallander's flawed, interesting and complex personality.

The fact that all three films were shot in Skåne, i.e. Southern Sweden, brought back stunning visual images and fond memories of my time in Hässleholm.

The only negatives that I had were the English accents replacing the Swedish ones and hearing all the English actors use the word "bloody" over and over again when they got upset.

Also, the common book-to-movie time constraints issue was present. Although the central character, Wallander, was well developed, there simply was not enough time to enrich the fabric of the other on-going characters. Only by having read the other books can one realize how well Mankell develops and matures all of his charcters over time.

Still, it made for a great two days watching three very good DVDs.

By the way, in 2010 the BBC and Branagh joined forces again to produce three more Wallander films (Faceless Killers, The Fifth Woman and The Man Who Smiled) adapted from the books of the same name.

Can't wait!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mrs. Olson's Coffee Hut - One of the 59 Best Breakfast Places in America


About a week ago I received an e-mail from Esquire magazine that included an article titled "The 59 Best Breakfast Places in America."

To my surprise, they listed a restaurant in Oxnard only 20 minutes from our home called Mrs. Olson's Coffee Hut. To my much greater surprise even though Mrs. Olson's Coffee Hut opened in 1974, I had never heard of it, much less tasted their wares.

So, thus emboldened, I drove to the Hollywood Beach area of beautiful Oxnard today to expand my horizons.

And my waist line.

Modest Looks

This instantly got my juices flowing because the #1 rule of my style of dining is "Any Hole-in-the-Wall Bistro = AWESOME dining experience!"

The Bacon Breakfast Burrito

Esquire highly recommended the Breakfast Burrito. Who was I to argue?

It was large but manegable. The ingredients were prepared perfectly and after ten minutes I was now ready to face the world.

Rule #1 NEVER fails!!!

As for location, Mrs. Olson's Coffee Hut is just a half block from the Pacific Ocean.

Hollywood Beach has lots of sand

Yes, that is the Pacific Ocean.

Nice beachfront homes, NOT CHEAP!!!

For more information on Mrs. Olson's Coffee Hut or any of the other 59 restaurants on the list that might be near you, go to:
http://www.esquire.com/features/food-drink/best-breakfasts-0309?src=nl&mag=esq&list=nl_enl_fot_non_050911_best-breakfasts&kw=ist

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Coaching for STRAWBERRY Pizza?


Another full week in SoCal, but I must admit that I watched a lot of old movies in our family room in the mornings over the past seven days.

The view from our family room

Thank you Laurie for working so hard on our backyard!

Rio Mesa H.S. Spring Practice Day 1

On Monday we held the first of our 12 three hour Spring practices and were greeted by 55 enthusiastic Varsity candidates. In the C.I.F. Southern Section, the rules do not allow us to issue any kind of pads until the start of our Fall practices in mid-August.

Our linemen are working hard on hitting sleds and then shields during team time. In the meantime, our "skill" position players hone their passing game skills and spend a large amount of practice time on 7-on-7 passing drills.

It was a good first week, but we have a long ways to go before we play San Marcos in September.

STRAWBERRY PIZZA???


Oxnard hosted the 28th annual, two day Strawberry Festival this weekend.

As you probably know, this Saturday, May 21st was the predicted end of the world, i.e., "The Rapture."

The only Rapture that I had on my mind was eating a slice of the Rio Mesa H.S. Athletic Booster Club's world reknown Strawberry Pizza dessert. It is only sold for two days a year at this festival. I'd missed it the last three years because of my coaching duties in Europe, I was overdue.

Way overdue.

The Basics

Lots and lots of flats of strawberries to feed the assembled multitudes. Besides the thousands of flats that would be turned into every conceivable way to serve strawberries, you could still buy flats like these to take home!

Our first goal was to find the Rio Mesa booth that held the secrets to the universe, their fabled Strawberry Pizza.

What is that sign in the distance?

EUREKA!!!

But First. . .

We stopped in at the Hueneme Rhinos Pop Warner team's booth to lay a foundation for the sweets that were to come.

More football teams need the nickname Rhinos, what better animal for any 11?

Rhino Coaches Grilling

But what are they making?

Carne Asada

This is the best ingredient in any Mexican dish! I had a carne asada burrito while Laurie opted for the full on carne asada plate.

They were as good as their rich aroma!!!

Two Strawberry Lemonades

These delicious libations helped to wash down the carne asada and started our strawberry overdosing.

We were now ready for the Big Deal of the Day.

This must be the place!

Now, I will try to talk you through the making of a Strawberry Pizza but if you want more details, go to http://Strawberry-fest.org/about/strawberry-recipies

Laurie says that the recipe listed on-line is not accurate but what the heck, give it a try.

Step #1

Buy or make a nice, big, round, sweet pastry dough base in the shape of a large pizza.

Step #2

Next, slather on a glaze made up of a combination of butter, cream cheese and powdered sugar.

Then cut it into as big or small pizza style slices as you like.

Step #3

Slice up a ton of strawberries and slop them generously onto the individual pizza slices.

The R.M. Assembly Line at Full Tilt!

Step #4

Add a big dollop of whippede cream and one ripe strawberry and, violá, you have a slice of Strawberry Pizza!

For the diet conscious people reading this blog who are into low-carb eating, we can skip the pastry crust and go with a. . .

Strawberry Parfait

Laurie and I each had a slice and it was oh so good!!! No parfait for these two hardy eaters. After saying hello to the many Rio Mesa people working in the booth and fully sated, it was time to venture out to see what else the festival had to offer.

Popcorn? Really?

Interesting

Deep Fried Snickers???

I had to really think this one through. I had eaten a delicious deep fried Twinkie years ago and loved it with a little strawberry jam added, hmm, I wonder?

First, if I bought one I would be supporting the Rio Mesa Music Program, definitely a worthy cause.

Secondly, I love Snickers bars.

Third, I love anything deep fried.

SOLD!

A Deep Fried Snickers

The powdered sugar, chocolate drizzle and strawberry slices were nice lean cuisine touches I must admit.

Goodness!!!

I wonder what they look like?

They look like this

A girl was raving about her first bite and implored me to buy some. Hey, they looked good but I was already in the middle of an out-of-body sugar rush experience and was somehow strong enough to say "NO!"

I can't believe I did that.

Strawberry Alcohol, What a Concept!

Live Music As Well

The Festival had something for everyone including the L.A. All Stars of Funk. They got many people up and dancing to be sure.

The Three Crowns of Sweden?

Laurie got in line to buy a Shock Top beer and the guy in front of her had on this great T-shirt with several country's including the one of our favorite Scandanavian nation.

Huge Turkey Legs

They even sold these huge turkey legs for people to gnaw on!

O.K. enough about the food, how about things for the kids?

Bounce to the Sky!!!

Strawberry Shortcake is in the house!

"Every woman's crazy 'bout a
sharp dressed man!"

The last part of our pleasant day at the festival was spent walking through the various crafts booths where we saw. . .

Ceramic Elephants,

Metal bugs to decorate the garden,

Artisans at work,

Cool dudes selling bronze works,

60's Tie Dye Clothing,

and Wooden Lion Fish

All in all, a fun day. If you are in the Ventura area next May, stop on by the 29th Annual California Strawberry Festival in Oxnard.

FOOTBALL FROM AROUND
THE WORLD

American football continued to make inroads in new lands this week as the first ever organized game was played on the African continent.


The Drake University football team, a non-scholarship program from Des Moines, Iowa traveled to. . .

. . . Arusha, Tanzania

Once there, they would take on a Mexican collegiate All-Star team from the CONADEIP Conference in the first ever Global Kilimanjaro Bowl.

Part of the crowd of 12,000 in attendance

I sure hope this spectator was neutral!

Neat Decal
The flags of Mexico, Tanzania and the USA

Drake Bulldog Swarm

From all accounts, the novice fans were treated to a spirited game won by Drake 17-7.

For more details on the game go to:
http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/football/2011-05-21-drake-africa-football_N.htm?csp=34sports

I wonder if the Tanzanians need a coach?

EuroBall Updates

2011 Division I Södra Standings
The top two teams at the end of the regular season will play in the 2011 SAFF Division I Playoffs with the top two teams from each of the other three Division I Conferences.
Kristianstad Predators (4-0)
Ystad Rockets (4-1)
Limhamm Griffins (2-1)
Lugi Vikings (1-2)
Hässleholm Hurricanes (0-3)
Ekeby Greys (0-4)
Week 5 Results
Kristianstad 13 -
Ystad 0
Lugi 30
- Ekeby 0
BYES:
Hässleholm and
Limham
Week 6 Games
Saturday, May 28th
Limhamn (2-1) at Kristianstad (4-0)
Hässleholm (0-3) at Lugi (1-2)
BYES: Ekeby (0-4) and Ystad (4-1)
SAAF Division I Södra Notes: Ryan Bolland's Predators won a big game from Ystad 13-0 in a battle of Division I Södra's last two unbeaten clubs. In Sweden, where defense still wins championships, Ryan's team continues to shine, having given up a paltry 10 points in their four games.
Bottom line, the 0-3 Hässleholm Hurricanes desperately need a win this week against the 1-2 Lugi Vikings.

2011 Italian Football League Standings
The top four teams at the end of the regular season will play in the 2011 IFL Playoffs.
Bologna Warriors 7-0
Ancona Dolphins 5-2
Parma Panthers 5-2
Catania Elephants 4-3
Milan Rhinos 4-3
Bolzano Giants 3-4
Milan Seamen 3-4
Reggio Emilia Hogs 3-4
Lazio Marines 1-6
Bologna Doves 0-7
Week 9 Results
Bologna Warriors 42 - Catania 35
Milan Rhinos 40 - Bolzano 28
Reggio Emilia 55 - Bologna Doves 6
Ancona 64 - Milan Seamen 42
Parma 35 - Lazio 21

Week 10 Games
Saturday, May 28th
Milan Seamen (3-4) at Catania (4-3)
Bologna Doves (0-7) at Lazio (1-6)
Bologna Warriors (7-0) at Ancona (5-2)

Sunday, May 29th
Reggio Emilia (3-4) at Bolzano (3-4)
Milan Rhinos (4-3) at Parma (5-2)

IFL Notes: The 4-3 Catania Elephants continued to dig themselves into a non-playoff hole with their 42-35 loss to the undefeated Bologna Warriors. It looks to me like a team will have to win six games to make the four team playoffs and also hold any possible tiebreaker if it comes to that.

The Elephants then must win their last two games, both at home, against the 3-4 Milan Seamen and 3-4 Bolzano Giants to finish at 6-3. If they do this, they would finish at 6-3 and in a possible tie with Ancona, Parma and/or the Milan Rhinos. As for a possible tiebreaker, the Elephants lost to both Ancona and the Rhinos while they defeated Parma in the season opener.

The 5-2 Ancona team finishes with the 7-0 Bolzano Warriors and the 3-4 Reggio Emilia Hogs.

The last two games for the 4-3 Milan Rhinos are against the 5-2 Parma Panthers and the 0-7 Bologna Warriors.

Finally, 5-2 Parma still needs to take on the two Milan teams, the 4-3 Rhinos and the 3-4 Seamen.

The road to the playoffs looks tough for our favorite Italian squad but it is still very possible if they. . . "JUST WIN BABY!"