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Archive for the ‘Essays’ Category

 

Fahrvergnügen: Driving Pleasure

On May 28, 1937 the Nazi party (then, under the control of Adolf Hitler) formed a new, state-owned automobile company entitled Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens (roughly translated to mean The society to create the German car). Later in the year, the company’s name was simplified to Volkswagenwerk which roughly translates to The people’s car company.

Volkswagen’s first headquarters and automobile factory was located in Wolfsburg, Germany. The company’s initial objective was to build military vehicles in preparation for Hitler’s European invasion plans, as well as the mass production of small and inexpensive – yet equally fast – automobiles to be sold to the general public. Additionally, Hitler was building a network of highways, called autobahns, all across the country for the public to drive their new Volkswagens on.

Hitler contracted with Ferdinand Porsche, an Austrian automotive engineer, to provide the designs for the vehicles that Volkswagen would produce, and the very first Volkswagen – the KdF Wagen (Kraft-durch-Freude, translated to mean Strength through Joy) – was displayed at the 1939 Berlin Motor Show. However, when World War II began later that same year, production at the Wolfsburg factory was halted… and by the time the war ended the plant was in ruins. Nevertheless, the Allies rebuilt and revived the Volkswagen Motor Corporation, knowing that the German auto industry would be important to the economy and recovery of the country following the war.

From 1942 – 1944, Volkswagen massed produced the Schwimmwagen for its military personnel. This amphibious military jeep was used by all personnel, and was only 4-wheel drive in first gear. Later, from 1968 – 1983 Volkswagen manufactured just shy of 91,000 of their Type 181 (LHD) and 182 (RHD) jeep/dune buggy hybrids, a modified version of the Schwimmwagen, for the public market… selling them as the Thing in the U.S., the Safari in Mexico, and the Trekker in the U.K.

Initially, U.S. sales were diminutive compared to that of the rest of the world, mainly because of the company’s original connections to Hitler. However, an advertising campaign that ran in 1959 dubbed the KdF Wagen “The Beetle” – using the tagline “Think Small” – and that seemed to trigger some public interest, ultimately making Volkswagen the top selling import over the next few years.

The German government sold sixty percent of the company’s stock to the public in 1960, making the company no longer a nationally owned corporation, and within twelve years there had been more the fifteen million VW Bugs produced. In 1998, Volkswagen redesign the Beetle, dubbing it The New Beetle, while still producing the original KdF Wagen model until 2003. The very last Original Beetle rolled off the production lines In July 2003. In the 1970’s Volkswagen introduced new, spottier models – such as the Rabbit and the Golf.

  • In 1969, Volkswagen merged a few small subsidiaries to form the current Audi – which is where the four ringed logo is derived from.
  • In 1990, SEAT, S.A. became the first non-German subsidiary fully owned by The Volkswagen Group.
  • Between 1991 – 1995 Volkswagen steadily purchased interest in Škoda automobilová a.s., until they owned Škoda Auto outright.
  • In 1998, Volkswagen acquired Bentley, Bugatti, and Lamborghini. Although Volkswagen technically owns Rolls-Royce and Bentley, purchasing them both at the same time, they do not own the license to use the Rolls-Royce trademark.
  • In 2008, Volkswagen purchased controlling interest in Scania AB. However, they have owned the entire company outright since 2015.
  • In 2009, Volkswagen became the parent company to Porsche and purchased stock interest in Suzuki.
  • In 2012, Volkswagen bought out Ducati (under Lamborghini) and MAN SE (under Volkswagen).

 

I have driven Volkswagens, and standards in particular, almost exclusively for nearly twenty years. I currently drive a 5-speed, black, 2004, Jetta GLS (2.slow)… but, the Thing is actually my dream car – as odd as that might sound for someone like me. The VW slogan “I Bleed Blue” runs deep and true in my family. My eldest son, who is 22 and a new father, currently drives a 5-speed, white, 2007 Rabbit (the second Rabbit he’s owned) and my 19-year-old is presently shopping for his first car – his first Volkswagen. Even my new grandson has a Volkswagen, a little red Bug… walker. I guess you can say it’s in our blood, and by nature we start the VDub Love early.

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Lasagna

Lasagna, an article by Raven Hawk

I have never had any formal cooking lessons, and I have never wanted to be a chef. I don’t cook anything particularly gourmet, but I do cook reasonably well. As a mother of four growing boys, I have to be able to put an edible finished product on the table each night (and reasonably fast). Meals have to taste good too. If I can’t do that, someone is going to chew my arm off.

When I was growing up, we ate traditional family meals; nothing extravagant or exceedingly fancy. We ate a lot of casseroles and simple meals that consisted of a vegetable, meat, and instant mashed potatoes (or very dry white rice). We didn’t eat a lot of deserts, but when we did we had home-made fruit pies. My mother was pretty famous, within our extended family, for her strawberry-rhubarb pie. She even grew her own strawberries and rhubarb in our back yard.

I always thought that my mother learned to cook, clean, and take care of her home and children from her mother. Growing up, I thought people taught their children trades and life skills so that when they were grown they would be able to pass those skills on to their own children, and theirs, and theirs, and theirs forever. I didn’t know if that was true or not, but I do know my mother was always too busy to teach me anything (even when I asked). So, I learned everything by trial and error – especially cooking.

In the beginning, I used cook books and I failed miserably. Nothing tasted like it should taste, and nothing looked like it should look. I didn’t understand the directions. I confused abbreviations for ingredients, such as teaspoon and tablespoon, and I didn’t know the difference between baking soda and baking powder. I didn’t know why recipes specified special vinegars or sugars, and I mixed up spices all the time. I should have given up, but my father taught me not to be a quitter.

Image that very first batch of chocolate chip cookies I made when I was ten. I distinctly recall, to this day, measuring out the Tablespoon of baking soda and coarse salt, instead of the teaspoon the recipe called for. Boy were they fluffy! I served them after dinner with huge glasses of milk thinking I’d made prize winning cookies. I was all smiles and full of pride at my wonderful accomplishment, and on my first try, only to be crushed to a sobbing wreck as my father spit his first bite back out declaring them, “the worst cookies he had EVER tasted.”

Over time, I got better at reading the instructions. I learned some tricks and I even learned how to adjust the recipes some. Then, one Christmas I was given a cookbook that actually explained things like basting and broiling, which helped more than I can ever give it credit (or the person who gave it to me). However, there is still one thing that I don’t cook, something that I refuse to cook. One thing, that after all this time, all these years of trial and error, I am still a complete failure at.

I don’t cook IT because I have never been able to get it right. Simply put, my attempts at lasagna have always come out either too soupy or way too dry. I’ve tried dozens of recipes and I’ve even tried doctoring them up. I simply can’t make a lasagna that you can cut into and pull out a beautiful square of saucy, meaty, cheesy noodle perfection, unless it’s cold and straight out of the refrigerator (which is cheating, by the way). So … I just don’t try at all anymore.

Instead … I improvise.

I don’t make lasagna, instead I make lasagna roll ups. I make stuffed noodle deliciousness filled with meats and cheeses and topped with sauce, and … It Is Perfection! I may not be able to make the perfect lasagna, but I can make something that tastes, smells, and has all of the same great ingredients as lasagna (and it’s better because it can be single serving size).

For those of you struggling in lasagna hell, like I have been for years. Throw away the recipes, the no-cook, no-boil noodles, and all of the tips and tricks from your family and friends that never work for you anyway. I have your solution. It’s Lasagna Roll-Ups, and now you can make lasagna too.

Recipe (makes 4)

Ingredients

1/4 lb extra lean ground beef

(or ground turkey, or a mix of pork, beef and/or turkey)

3 tablespoons chopped onion (optional)

(can also sauté diced bell pepper and/or garlic)

1 jar (14-oz.) tomato pasta sauce

1 egg white

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (3 oz)

4 (8×2 1/2-inch) frozen precooked lasagna noodles, thawed

(or cook 4 noodles, drain)

1 cup fresh baby spinach leaves, washed, stems removed

Instructions

Heat oven to 350°F. In an 8-inch skillet, cook beef and onion over medium-high heat, until beef is thoroughly cooked, stirring frequently; drain. Stir in 1/2 cup of the pasta sauce. Remove from heat.

In bottom of ungreased 8-inch square (2-quart) glass baking dish, spread 3 tablespoons of the remaining pasta sauce.

In medium bowl, beat egg white. Stir in ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, oregano and 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese.

Spread 1/4 each of ricotta mixture, spinach leaves and beef mixture over each lasagna noodle. Starting with short side, gently and loosely roll each noodle; place seam side down over sauce in baking dish.

Top roll-ups with remaining sauce. Cover with foil. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until bubbly and thoroughly heated. Remove foil; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese. Bake an additional 2 to 4 minutes or until cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

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Diamond Diamonds

Diamond Diamonds, and Essay by Raven Hawk

I

used

to work in

a jewelry store.

I was the top sales

man, or should I say

sales girl. Because I had

never been big on fancy jewelry

and big fancy gemstones before I

started working there, I was more fond

of the colorful stones. In fact, I hated diamonds.

They were colorless and lackluster, or so I thought.

The longer I worked at Goodfellows Fine Jewelers, the

more I learned about these precious gems, and now I know

diamonds are not a women’s best friend, but they are a man’s.

Men give women diamonds to say they love them, to get themselves

out of trouble, and to even relive memories. Sometimes men give diamonds

as bribes and sometimes to make themselves look wealthier or cooler than they

are. Women accept diamonds knowing what they are – flashy rocks. Diamonds

are also the best friend of the African continent, where more than half of all of

the world’s diamond-mining takes place. Rough mined diamonds can either be

polished and cut for gems to put in necklaces and rings, or used in industry

because diamonds are the hardest natural substance mankind knows

about. Gem quality diamonds are rare. Industrial diamonds are a

dime a dozen, and are used to cut granite, drill oil, polish and

grind all forms of material. The only known limitation

industrial diamonds have is that they react oddly

when they come into  contact with iron at

high temperatures (in fact diamonds turn

to graphite under such conditions).

So you love them or hate them,

flash them on your wrist or

cut grave markers with

them – a diamond

is a man’s best

friend

!

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