Today on the tray: Ladybug picnic

picnic basketApril 23 is National Picnic Day.

According to Punchbowl.com, “People have been eating their meals outside in the beauty of nature for centuries. In fact, our modern-day idea of a picnic evolved from Medieval hunting feasts and Victorian garden parties. These were usually quite sophisticated affairs, which involved multiple courses and elaborate preparations.”

ladybugPeople often think of insects, particularly ants, as picnic-spoiling pests—but ladybugs (coccinellidae) are a different story. Come picnic with the ladybugs in this Sesame Street classic, “Ladybugs’ Picnic.” The ladies have a grand old time—competing in sack races, telling knock-knock jokes, and toasting marshmallows.

Ladybugs’ Picnic is brought to you by the number 12.


“Ladybugs’ Picnic,” Sesame Street (1971)

Today on the tray: Evil mushrooms

poisonous mushroom

Poisonous Amanita phalloides

April 16 is Day of the Mushroom (not to be confused with National Mushroom Day—that’s October 15).

Day of the Mushroom sounds like a movie where mushrooms take over the earth, doesn’t it? While there are good mushrooms to be sure, some can be pretty evil. The Amanita phalloides variety, for example, can cause organ failure and death. And then there are Witchiepoo’s evil mushrooms on H.R. Pufnstuf. They can turn you into a mushroom just by touching you.

psychedlic mushrooms

Psilocybin or “psychedlic” mushrooms, which probably inspired the H.R. Pufnstuf show

That’s what happens to Freddy the Flute in the 1969 episode titled “Flute, Book and Candle.” Despite Pufnstuf’s warning (“Don’t anyone touch the evil mushrooms!”) poor Freddy winds up in a patch of the evil talking fungi and is touched. One of the mushrooms is smoking a cigar, so you know he’s evil. What I don’t understand is this: If Freddy can talk, and the mushrooms can talk, and everything else on Living Island can talk—how come Freddy can no longer talk once he becomes a mushroom?

Watch the episode below. Pufnstuf’s warning is at 2:12. Freddy’s mushroom transformation is at 3:15.


H.R. Pufnstuf, “Flute, Book and Candle” (Nov. 22, 1969)

Today on the tray: Pecans

pecansApril 14 is National Pecan Day. Let’s celebrate by time-traveling back to 1962 and baking a pecan pie using the recipe from the Imperial Pure Cane Sugar box.

“Autumn’s fresh pecans—plump and tender for Imperial Harvest Pecan Cake…” Did the same actor do the voiceovers for every commercial from the ’50s and early ’60s? I swear they all sound alike.


Vintage commercial, Imperial Sugar Harvest Pecan Cake (1962)

Here are some fun pecan facts from NationalPecanDay.com

  • Pecans are known for their buttery flavor and soft crunch.
  • The pecan tree is the only nut tree native to North America.
  • Pecan is a Native American word, of Algonquin origin, used to describe “all nuts requiring a stone to crack.”

Born on this date: Tiny Tim and David Cassidy

Tiny Tim, the performer known for his vibrating falsetto and his ukelele, and David Cassidy, the Partridge Family heartthrob, were both born on April 12 in different years (Tiny Tim in 1932 and Cassidy in 1950). Tiny Tim died in 1996.

I can’t help comparing their long hair—Tiny Tim with his greasy ’60s locks and David Cassidy with his blow-dried ’70s mane. I wanted hair like Cassidy’s, but the most my mother would allow was a modified Danny Bonaduce.

Here are some pretty groovy performances by each of the birthday boys.

Below, Tiny Tim sings his signature song, “Tip-Toe Thru the Tulips,” on Laugh In. Dick Martin’s reactions are priceless.


Tiny Tim sings “Tip-Toe Thru the Tulips” on Laugh-In (1970)

Here’s one of my favorite Partridge Family/David Cassidy performances, “Bandala,” from the episode “Soul Club.” The Partridge family has never looked so white, banging their tambourines and swiveling their hips while pseudo Black Panthers accompany them on violins at an inner-city block party/fundraiser. Richard Pryor and Lou Gossett Jr. are in this episode.


The Partridge Family performs Bandala in the episode “Soul Club” (Jan. 29, 1971)

Today on the tray: Egg salad

egg salad in bowlThis week (the week after Easter) is National Egg Salad Week. Essentially it’s a way to get rid of those leftover hard-boiled eggs that the Easter Bunny left behind.

The University of Illinois Extension offers some Facts for Families for National Egg Salad week, including this:

Hard-cooked eggs should be stored in the refrigerator and used within one week, advises Carol Schlitt, University of Illinois Extension nutrition and wellness educator.

When storing hard-cooked eggs, you may notice a “gassy” odor in your refrigerator. The odor is caused by hydrogen sulfide that forms when the eggs are cooked. This gas is harmless and usually dissipates within a few hours.

Hey, remember the “Nerds” series of sketches on Saturday Night Live, and how Lisa Loopner’s mother, played by Jane Curtin, always offered people her “famous egg salad”? Gilda Radner played Lisa Loopner, and Bill Murray played Lisa’s boyfriend, Todd.

Below, Mrs. Loopner offers Lisa some advice as Lisa prepares to go to her prom. (Go to 1:45 in the video for the egg salad part; full transcript here):

Now, listen, what I’m about to say is very hard for me to say. Lisa, dear… making a baby is like… it’s um… it’s like making egg salad. You, the woman, produce the eggs, and the man furnishes the mayonnaise—of course, you don’t need chopped celery for… Oh, I’ve just given you my egg salad recipe, and I was saving that for your 21st birthday!

“Nerds Prom Night,” Saturday Night Live (May 20, 1978)

Even if your egg salad recipe isn’t as famous as Mrs. Loopner’s, have a great National Egg Salad Week.

In memory of James Best

James Best died yesterday, April 6, 2015, at age 88.

The actor was best known for playing Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard from 1979 to 1985. He also appeared on lots of other shows over the course of a career that stretched back to the 1950s.


Clip from “The Fugitive,” The Dukes of Hazard (Nov. 3, 1981)

James Best sits up in his coffin on The Twilight Zone

James Best sits up in his coffin in The Twilight Zone, “The Last Rights of Jeff Myrtlebank” (1962).

I was never really a Dukes of Hazzard fan, To me, Best was memorable for his Twilight Zone episodes, “Jess-Belle” and “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank.”

In the former, Best plays a handsome country boy who is fought over by two young women, one of whom uses a love potion to secure his affection. (The episode was penned by The Waltons creator Earl Hamner.)

In “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank,” he plays a man who awakens, alive and well, in the middle of his own funeral, causing the superstitious townsfolk to fear him.

Today on the tray: Coffee cake

Drake's Coffee CakeApril 7 is National Coffee Cake Day.

I always think of coffee cake as the cake with the cinnamon crumbs on top that fall off and make a mess, but apparently the term can be applied more loosely to any cake intended to go along with coffee.

Coffee cake can come in handy in many situations, so it’s good to take some with you wherever you go. On Seinfeld, for example, Jerry uses Drake’s Coffee Cakes to bribe Newman in order to buy his silence about Jerry’s spending time with someone else’s girlfriend. See the scene below from the episode titled “The Suicide.”


Jerry bribes Newman with Drake’s Coffee Cakes, Seinfeld, “The Suicide” (Jan. 29, 1992)

So enjoy National Coffee Cake Day—and watch out for those cinnamon crumbs.

Today on the tray: Cracker Jack

Cracker Jack packageApril 6 is National Caramel Popcorn Day.

“There’s something exhilarating about salty, crunchy popcorn that’s been coated with sweet, amber caramel. Maybe that’s why a particular brand of the stuff is a mainstay at ballpark concession stands across America,” writes CD Kitchen—referring, I’m sure, to Cracker Jack.

Cracker Jack commercial

“What have you got there, little boy?” Man reaches for sleeping boy’s Cracker Jacks in creepy commercial.

This Cracker Jack commercial from 1965 just screams pedophilia, as the strange man furtively reaches over towards the sleeping child to grab his… Cracker Jacks. Or maybe he’s going for the boy’s toy surprise. Seriously, I can’t imagine that they would ever make this commercial today. (I don’t mean to cast any aspersions on the actor, Jack Gilford, whom you might recognize from Cocoon.)


Vintage Cracker Jack commercial (1965)

Today on the tray: Manischewitz wine

In honor of the first night of Passover, here’s a 1962 radio commercial for that staple of Passover seders, Manischewitz wine. Bob Crane, later of Hogan’s Heroes, does two different voices in this spot. Plus there’s a jingle!

Manischewitz tastes just like grapes right off the vine

Imported sun-drenched berries make the very wines divine

That’s why this famous label is your natural flavor sign

Manischewitz!

Man oh Manischewitz!

What a wine!

Today on the tray: Chocolate moose… uh, mousse

April 3 is National Chocolate Mousse Day. And though it is spelled differently, I’d also like to take the opportunity to recognize two of my favorite TV moose: Mr. Moose from Captain Kangaroo and Bullwinkle from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.

Let’s pay them both a visit:


In a running gag, Mr. Moose causes ping pong balls to rain down on Captain Kangaroo


Bullwinkle Moose tries on a variety of hats, with unexpected results.

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