True confession time: After the mosquitoes forced me off the deck at dusk most summer evenings, I spent way too much of time watching reality TV shows: "Double Divas" fitting bras to impossibly large-bosomed women, Uncle Si on "Duck Dynasty" carrying his favorite blue Tupperware glass of iced tea, Randy helping brides "Say Yes to the Dress," and Hilary and David helping homeowners decide whether to "Love It or List It."
Let's also not forget all those incredibly rich people seeking homes in the Bahamas, Australia and every other exotic cormer of the world on "House Hunters" ($5,000 a month rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Tuscany? Really?). Or the many chances to watch "Storage Wars," "Auction Hunters," "American Pickers" and "Pawn Stars."
Which brings us to the one that had me slapping myself in the head repeatedly -- "Toy Hunters." The head-slapping came after realizing the toy they were looking at was one I had owned as a child -- and they were paying big bucks for it now. I now know what my husband felt like when his mother threw away all his baseball cards -- "We'd be rich, Mag," he'd moan every time he thought about it.
On one of the shows, Jordan (the toy hunter) is thrilled to find vintage Coloforms. Remember them? There was a shiny coated background on which plastic stickers could be placed -- and then peeled off to make another scene. I would spend hours playing with them.
I'm not sure whether it was the times or if it was me -- but the simpler the toy, the more fun it was. I can't imagine kids today being content to "draw" metal shavings beards and hair on "Wooly Willy" with a magnet or using a "Magic Slate," where you drew a picture on the shiny plastic top sheet and it appeared on the white plastic sheet behind it. When you wanted to start over, you erased everything by pulling the sheets away from the waxed cardboard backing.
Are Viewmasters still around? In addition to the regular one, I had one that was like a movie projector -- the images could be projected onto the box that was designed to look like an outdoor movie screen or on the wall.) Some of the Viewmaster reels came with a record you could listen to and change the slide when a special prompt chimed. You could look at stories or see wonders from around the world.
How many of you out there had pop beads? They were small plastic beads that snapped together and could be pulled apart over and over to make new necklaces and bracelets. How about the small wooden tops you wrapped a string around and then pulled to make the top spin? Or a wooden paddle with a small ball attached by a rubber string? Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs and Erector sets?
We also used to play board games for hours. My favorites were Fascination, where you guided metal ball bearings through mazes. A small beacon would light up when the first person got all three through. A similar game was "Tickle Bee" where a plastic bee was guided through a maze with a magnet. Does anyone remember playing "Tiddly Winks" or "Pick Up Stix"? And all girls had to have "Mystery Date."
If only my mom hadn't thrown them all out ...
I tried a new dish the other night, courtesy of my friend in Wyoming.
While it calls for pepperoni and mozzarella, I'm sure you could use the same technique with a variety of other stuffing ingredients.
PEPPERONI AND MOZZARELLA STUFFED CHICKEN BREASTS
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 ounces mozzarella cheese
Approximately 16 slices pepperoni
1 large egg
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup bread crumbs
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Slice each breast in half diagonally to create two diamond-like shaped pieces. Using a small, sharp knife, cut a pocket into the side of each breast piece.
Be sure not to cut all the way through the meat but rather just into one side so that the fillings will stay in.
Stuff each piece of chicken with 1/2 ounce of cheese and about 4 slices of pepperoni. Lightly season each piece with salt and pepper. Set the stuffed chicken aside.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Begin to heat a large skillet with 6 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium/high heat.
Collect three shallow dishes and put the flour in one, the egg in another and the bread crumbs in the third. Beat the egg until it is an even consistency.
Coat each piece of chicken in the flour, then the egg then the bread crumbs. Use your hands so that you can keep the open side of the pocket pinched closed and keep the fillings in.
Test the oil in the skillet to see if it is hot enough by dropping a small pinch of bread crumbs in. The bread crumbs should sizzle and dance a lot. Place all four pieces of chicken in the skillet and cook until it is golden brown and crispy on each side. This should take no more than 2-3 minutes.
Remove the chicken pieces from the skillet and transfer them to the baking sheet and place it in the oven. Finish baking the chicken for about 25 minutes (longer if you have larger pieces).
Remove from the oven (check to make sure the chicken is cooked through) and serve immediately.