Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Family Traditions - Sugar Cream Pie


I wasn't born in Indiana, but my Dad's mother was. Her brother left Indiana as an adult, as did Grandma, to go to Montana for land to homestead. 

My uncle is buried out West. I try and visit his grave when I can.  He made a good life for himself, serving in World War I and coming home to the simple life of a farmer, homesteader.  He was 84 when he died, on his motorcycle. Not in a crash, but from his heart simply ceasing to beat as he raced down the road about a zillion miles an hour, a giant grin on his face. 84, an age others were in their rocking chairs. 

His name was Royal Crown Brown and he's buried in a city Mom and Dad lived in before I was born, moving about the time they adopted me to another city and State, where the women in our family are now buried. He had never married,  had no children. Dad said by the time he was ready to settle down, he was well into middle age and all the girls were long since married.  So he simply continued about his business, living a somewhat unconventional life to the hilt.

When he died no one stepped forward to bury him.  Grandma had passed, no one else in his immediate family would claim the black sheep of the family, but my Father did.

Dad never put "rules" on how someone should live for them to be family, heart and spirit was all that mattered. Dad remembered well the Uncle who gave him his first rifle at age 8, who told him stories about honor and battle, the man who lived the life he wanted to without apology, one of hard work and self-sufficiency. So even though Dad had the bills of a young, growing family to pay, he paid to have Uncle R. brought to the nearest military cemetery for a burial with the consideration and respect he was due as a veteran, with family there to hear the taps.

I don't really remember him, I was too young.  I wish I did.  Dad said he'd have liked me, and I know I would have liked him. All I can do now is bring him a handful of sunflowers to be placed among all the many bare soldier's graves on this peaceful hillside.


I loved the years I spent in Indiana and we're looking at property down there to build a weekend place.  Besides my friends, I miss the State Pie.

Yes, a State Pie, just as states have a State Flower (Peony)and a State Bird. After driving interstate 65 work I'd say the State Bird is the Orange Cone.


The Sugar Cream Pie -  the treat that's on almost every table at a potluck, the secret Hoosier Handshake, that simple dessert that everyone has a favorite recipe for.

The local origins likely lie with the Amish or Quaker families of Indiana who created it in pioneer days. It's popular in Pennsylvania  Dutch country and versions of it exist all over (such as the  Quebec Sugar Cream Pie). It's something the thrifty could make when the apple bin was empty with ingredients every farm kitchen had.  It's so popular that the Indiana Foodways Allaiance has even created a  a "Hoosier Pie Trail" with must-stop eateries for visitors looking to try their state pie and Indiana family owned Wick's Pies ships them to more than 25 states. 

The Range is not on the official pie trail, but we make a decent pie. There are many variations but they are all similar, you need cream, sugar and something to bind them together.  Some use flour, some use cornstarch.  Some mix the dry ingredients and liquids directly in the pastry with the fingers, some cook on the stove and finish both pie and crust in the oven.  A few are egg based, but those tend to be a little more temperamental.  This recipe uses no eggs.  Like anything made out in farm country, the secret is using the freshest ingredients possible.

Topped with  Cinnamon and/or freshly grated Nutmeg, it's even better on the second day.  So tomorrow, if anyone stops in off the trail, there will be pie (with only a tiny piece missing) on the table while we raise a toast to friends, family, and Uncle R.C..

Sugar Cream Pie on the Range

Single 9 inch pie crust recipe (the one on the sidebar for apple pie, readers have liked)
3/4 cup vanilla sugar*
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups half-and-half cream
1/2 cup whipping cream  
3 Tablespoons cornstarch 
1/2 cup sweet cream unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon Saigon Cinnamon
grated fresh Nutmeg (you won't need a whole one).
Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Stir in the cream. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly., stirring constantly so it does not burn or develop lumps. Remove from heat. Stir in butter until melted. Stir in brown sugar and vanilla. Pour into pie shell. Sprinkle with cinnamon and a little grated nutmeg (I also used a couple teaspoons of the butter and dotted it on the top before baking, but you don't have to). 

Bake at 325 degrees F about 30 minutes or until edge is bubbly and the piecrust is becoming golden. Cool completely on a wire rack.  It will always be a bit jiggly but it will set up some as it cools. Serve at room temperature.

* to make vanilla sugar, place the following in an airtight container and let sit 8-14 days.
- 1 vanilla bean, whole or scraped
- 2 cups granulated sugar 


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Browncoat Publishing Company

I have to get a new "author picture" for my next book to my publisher in two weeks.  I have one where I look like a very distinguished but pretty author.

Or I have this one.

They'll probably want the first.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Splody!

Some women deal with stress by traditional methods. Ice cream. Shopping. Good old fashioned tears. Tried that. Doesn't work.

I prefer things that go boom! Black powder therapy. Cannon ready. Range style.You just need a few spare parts from the shed, garage, or evil laboratory and perhaps a friend or relative to divide the blame. And a golf ball.

The golf ball is essential. Seriously, chrono this, post the numbers and you could seriously transform golf.
Now I'm not going to explain how to build one. Sure enough I'd leave out one step, someone would lose an eye and the next thing you know, I'd have 5 drooling personal injury lawyers on my porch (zombies!)

Do your homework, check your state and local laws for restrictions on such things (many modern subdivisions have a "no cannons" covenant). Don't mix blackpowder with tequila, alpacas or enclosed areas. But there are directions on the net on a number of legal, family-friendly, build this science experiment in your garage kind of websites and there are even golf ball cannons for sale, that look like something out of Bladerunner (and are about $280 and up).
With the right amount of black powder, dry, loosely packed material (yes that is cloth) and a quick but thorough check of the area to make sure no people, animals, news choppers, Conservatives, homes/property or any one's Twinkies Stash are in the line of fire and beyond.

FORE!!

Almost 1000 feet. You couldn't even see it go. A quick sponge out with the world's biggest home made Q-tip to to extinguish any burning powder remnants and cool the interior a bit and it was time for strike 2. 

Of course, the successful first strike raised the question.

What would this thing do with aircraft gun sights? Then, with sights, you could take it deer hunting. Kill AND gut the deer in one. . . . . (one stop shopping)

Beats the hell out of shopping.
Coming up Next Week - Bowling Ball Mortars and the Single Girl.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Remington 870 - A Range Review


Like the Mossberg 500, the first time I saw the Remington 870, and saw what it could do, all I could think of was "why didn't I get one of these before?".  They are well priced, totally reliable and very adaptable for many uses, the Remington being used by both civilian and military. Whether you want one for self defense for the home, hunting or just sport shooting, you'll quickly find out that there is a reason the Remington 870 is the most popular slide action shotgun on the planet. Add in to that the appeal that it's still U.S. Made by the Remington Arms Co., Inc.

The Remington Model 870 Wingmaster pump gun is probably the best known and best selling pump action shotgun in North America. First introduced in 1950 as the "Wingmaster", it replaced the Model 31, a gun that was well received but it still stumbled in sales when compared to the popular Winchester Model 12.

Prior to the 870, many firearm parts used forged and machined parts The 870 utilized stamped steel parts to replace many of those bit, making it more profitable to sell, and economical to pick up. Due to its twin action bars it is non-binding and very smooth to operate. It didn't look "clunky" either, always a sleek piece with a streamlined receiver.

There are as many variations of the 870 as there are types of shotgun purpose, ranging from the Classic Trap with highly polished blue steel to a glossy walnut stock to plain black "meat guns" with black plastic stocks and dull black metal finishes. There's cammo and shiny and black and blue and brown. If you have a taste in finish or style you can probably find it in the 870. Available gauges include 12, 16, 20, 28, and .410 bore and your choices of ammo, even greater. Barrel lengths range from 30" down to 18" depending on model and purpose. There are plain and ventilated rib barrels, with various sorts of sights. Most barrels come with interchangeable Rem Choke tubes of one type or another, but a few are still bored and some are rifled. Still, due to its twin action bars, it's a sleek and smoothering piece, no matter what finish you pick.

Barrels are user interchangeable and there are a great assortment of barrels available at low cost, adding to the versitility of the firearm. (simply open the action and unscrew the magazine cap to remove the barrel.) From what I hear, Remington offers accessory barrels of various types in lengths from 20" to 30".

The 870 features a bottom-loading, side ejecting receiver, tubular magazine under the barrel, dual action bars, internal hammer, and a bolt which locks into an extension in the barrel. The action, receiver, trigger system, safety catch and slide release catch of the Remington Model 870 shotgun are similar to those used on the Remington Model 7600 series pump-action centerfire rifles and carbines.

The original 870 models were offered with fixed chokes. In 1986 Remington introduced the new Remington "Rem Choke" system of screw-in chokes (also fitted to Remington model 1100 auto-loading shotguns at the same time). Initially, the Rem Chokes were offered on barrel lengths of 21, 26 and 28". From what I understand, it was not offered on 30" barrels, deer guns, target guns or as a retrofit.

Those are just the basics I've learned from talking to folks about this fine firearm. Here's what I thought of it after actually getting my hands on one. Again, I'm not an expert marksman, or a gunsmith and if you have any questions on the ownership or operation of this or any firearm, ask the manufacturer or your favorite NRA instructor.

Safety: The safety is located on the triggerguard, to the rear, in a cross-bolt fashion. You press to the right to make the weapon "on safe" and to the left to take the weapon "off safe". Pressing back and forward for "on safe" or "off safe", like the Mossberg does, seems more instinctive to me though. I also didn't like that the safety must be actuated with the trigger finger and in doing so, you must move the finger away from the indexed position to behind the triggerguard. I like the old AR15 theory, you use your thumb for the safety, and your trigger finger for the trigger.

Slide Release is found on the left side of the triggerguard, to the front. I have fairly long fingers for a woman and would have no problem reaching the slide release with my trigger finger.

The action: fast and smooth as silk, what more can I say?

Now, How does it shoot? The gun has been indirectly marketed as a firearm for the "average man"; a weapon that just about anyone can pick up and feel comfortable shooting, with manageable recoil. But with shooters today including young women, teens of both sexes, Mom's and Grandmothers, and men ranging from "fun sized" to "big foot", there really IS no average. Most shotguns have similar stock dimensions on paper, with length of pull, drop at the heel, drop at the comb and cast, all being pretty much the same, until you put it up to your shoulder and cheek and pull the trigger.

Point-ability of a gun is directly related to both the weight, center of gravity, and mass moment of inertia of the gun. It's not just length, it's not material, it's some magic formula of width of the stock, the length and and width of the butt, the shape of the pistol grip, and how the grip transitions to the receiver and onto the sighting plane and rib of the gun. All these things, (along with the center of gravity and if you hold your mouth just right) come into play with how the weapon will feel in your hands and reacts as you fire.

Firing one for the first time reminded me of when I was a kid and an adult took the little Daisy rifle out of my hand and put a real long gun in it. It was heavy, it seemed to be as long as I was tall, and when I fired it, the recoil about knocked me down. There was a flash of powder and light as Thor's hammer struck in a slow, solid repercussion of sound and force that I felt all the way down my legs, in muscles and places I'd forgotten. Then the air cleared, a vacuum, an interval of recognition and amazing clarity and I knew something; in the tremble of flesh and the warmth of my hands. I wanted this. I wanted this again. I don't care if it will probably hurt me some in the process.

Remington has nailed that feeling. Sure it had some kick to it, but it was enough to make me know I was alive and I wanted this gun. I've only shot one 870 and it just felt right, like we were already old friends.


Prince Charming or Just another Toad?: There is no such thing as a perfect firearm and certainly not a perfect shotgun, but with sales in the 10's of millions, I think Remington has come close, there not really being too many superior pump guns out there, even for the price.

Early production 870s did have a design flaw whereby a user could either "short stroke" the action - not pull the forearm all the way back while cycling the action - or fail to press a shell all the way into the magazine when loading. This would cause the gun's action to lock up like a Quicki Mart safe after midnight, requiring rough treatment of the action or even disassembly to clear.

Before the gun was modified to correct this, gunsmiths catering to the tactical competition crowd were said to have cut a slot opening on the shell riser which would allow the shooter to use a small object like a key to push the shell back into the magazine tube and free up the action again. Some folks were said to simply have given the gun a short spank from butt to ground and the action might jar lose. Neither method, if they worked, was something a shooter wanted to have to do.

The issue was resolved with the introduction of the "Flexi Tab" carrier, the engineers having come up with a way for a little "tab" they cut in the shell riser that allowed a bit of give for the jammed shell. Guns with this modification can be identified by the "U"-shaped cut-out on the carrier, visible from below the gun. The cut-out allows the round to ride over the carrier without binding the action, so if you bind the action from a short stroke you simply briskly cycle the again and everything un-jams and you're back shooting.


The other drawback I could say to the weapon would be carrying it out in the field for long periods of times (make a wimpy girl remark and I WILL fling a muffin at your head :-) I'm 5 foot 8 and don't believe in the whole "diet until you look like a bag of antlers" theory so not only do you not have to shake the sheets out in the morning to find me, I can walk 10 miles chasing after pheasants and everyone else. Even so, my arm would be sore from hauling this firearm on the such trip.  Would it keep me from doing so? Absolutely not. It's not exactly lightweight, but the steel receiver really enhances the natural balance of the gun compared to an alloy, so it's a fair trade off. But after a long day chasing pheasants your arms will proclaim you've been carrying it for a long while. You can always go for a smaller gauge, with the right target placement, a pheasant is going to drop with just about any amount of lead you can get out of this firearm.

Trigger: The trigger group itself was first used in the automatic 11-48. Trigger pull was good, not too long of a draw and about 4 and a half pounds. I believe the 870 my coworker let me shoot had a trigger job, so I can't state with any experience what it would shoot like out of the box, but no complaints.

Tactical Smactical: I've no experience with one yet as a tactical piece, but I'm sure there are a number of reviews on that aspect of the weapon. I would say though that with the weight and balance, it would be an excellent choice. Want to "Pimp your Remington" ? There's all kinds of aftermarket parts for the 870 (stocks, grips, forearms and other toys) and someone who wants to beef up the size or weight of their 870 can do it as long as the better half doesn't notice the money you're spending (but if she or he now wants one of their own, bless you!). Additionally, I was told that several parts of the 870 will interchange with the semi-automatic Remington 1100 and 11-87, perhaps one of my readers can confirm that.

You can find about ANYTHING for this firearm, often at surprisingly reasonable prices. I can tell you that you don't necessarily have to add rifle sights or a pricy set of ghost rings to make your plain vanilla model 870 dance with slugs. Sure they make it easier, but like most firearms, it's more about the shooter than the piece.You don't necessarily have to have a setup barrel that's been back bored and ported to get maximum pattern performance and minimum recoil out of something you want to use tactical. Talk to some folks that shoot tactical, and see what they say before you hand over your VISA to the smiling guy behind the counter. Frankly, a good recoil pad will do a lot for recoil but don't let a salesperson tell you that backboring is the only way to go, as it's also an expensive way to go. Ask around, talk to other 870 owners, they may agree with the salesperson, or not, but it might save you some money to do a little homework.
Would I buy one? Definitely.  If I could, I'd be the skattergun polygamist and have four of them in various configurations.

Why?  It represents the quintessential American shotgun. The designer that left his mark on it is considered right behind JMB as the second best firearm designer of the century.  His name, John Pedersen, and  he was around from the Model 10 to the 870. John Moses Browning told Maj. Gen. Julian S. Hatcher of U.S. Army Ordnance that Pedersen "was the greatest gun designer in the world". You can't ask for higher praise.

This is a dependable, rugged, "working guy or gal's" firearm. It's wicked on sporting birds and often the first shotgun to be torn down and re-assembled into a home defense weapon. If a home invader hears a round being chambered in your 870, he's likely to be back out the door, running away, before you even see him. Coming from an LEO family I can say that a lot of police officers probably owe their lives to their 870, as well.

Overall, they're as reliable as a hammer, drop one in the water, you can likely yank the grass out of the receiver and keep on blasting game birds. They're easy to tear down and clean and impossible to hurt.

All in all, its reputation is deserved. It's a firearm that's dressed for the hunt, not for the wall.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Small Town Roads has Been Picked Up

My Third Book "Small Town Roads", has been picked up by a very large, well-known Christian Publishing House.  I still have some polishing work to do with my editor, so I'll continue the "favorite posts of the past" for at least the next week.

Unlike my first two books, printed through a small "vanity press" publishers, it's going to get a lot more attention, marketing and such, being available to 71,000 bookstores and libraries and not just online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble and it will be featured at a number of large Christian trade shows.

Having two books that went to #1 at Amazon, with The Book of Barkley being a featured Indie author write up in Kirkus Review (online AND print) Magazine as well as winning a major International Literary award, was a big help in pitching it to them.  I can't expect it will do that well, lightning may not strike thrice, but I hope that my long time readers will enjoy the story, and the message.

Storyline:  Rachel Raines is orphaned after putting off college to care for ailing parents.  Finally she's off to a major urban center university and the fun loving, young party girl has better things to do then go to church, even if a good student.  She inherits her only relative's tiny home in a small town in the middle of nowhere a few weeks after graduation. She wants to stay in the city, but that house is the only place she has any memories of her family, her childhood home sold to pay for medical bills, burials, and her continued education.

Armed with a Criminal Justice degree and grades that should have taken her to the FBI, she finds her self as a rookie patrol officer in a place that has no coffee shop, no single men her age and the only local restaurant has a giant plastic cow on the roof. Well, there was one single man, but he  broke their date after she arrested him.

But small town doesn't always mean safe and she's caught up in a unexpected meth lab bust, and in one moment of violence, her whole life changes, as does her look at her future and her faith.

It will be different then my previous books, fiction and obviously, a Christian theme.  But it is a subtle one, stressing the values of self reliance, working together as neighbors, and commitment to family we were raised in as opposed to being "preachy". The characters have firearms and the Constitution on their wall and I hope the ride won't be too dull.

Lord willing, it should be out by Christmas.

Dad is failing pretty quickly so I'm going to print a copy and put it in a binder and send it to him next week but he was very proud at the news.
Love - Brigid


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Why Do you Carry?


Why do I care a firearm for self defense?

Because bad guys rarely shoot themselves.

Because rapists consider a whistle as foreplay.

Because I can't throw a pit bull at 1200 feet per second.

Because my Acme Dehydrated Boulders are in my other bag.

Because a cop that isn't in my purse is at least 10 minutes away.


Because lightning never hits the bad guy at the opportune time.

Because Steven Seagal isn't here to hide behind (literally and figuratively).

Because the only belt I earned in martial arts is the one that kept my shirt on.

Because throwing a jar of angry bees just pisses off the average armed burglar.

Because a running chainsaw is just hard to get through the aisle at Kwik E Mart late at night.

Because to run away, I need a sports bra that makes me look like I'm expecting an assassination attempt.

Because with a Smith and Wesson, it doesn't matter that I have the upper body strength of Justin Bieber.

Because if you think an underwire bra is uncomfortable, try a couple of Ninja Stars in your shirt pocket.

Because when I say (deadpan) "Stop, or I'll kick your butt" it doesn't sound as scary as when Chuck Norris says it.

Because tying angry Grizzlies to the front, side and rear of my car might stop the average carjacker, but it's a bitch to parallel park.

Because the bad guys have guns, whether they are legal or not. They  have them now, they will have them later, no matter WHAT additional gun laws are enacted making their already illegal guns MORE illegal. They have them, and then some.  As a result, they are much less afraid to use them against me in the places I can't legally carry a firearm for protection

Because as a law abiding citizen, the United States Constitution affirms that right, and my city and state support it.

Because the world is not the one I grew up in.

- Brigid

Friday, September 16, 2016

Whiskey, Woman, and WiFI, a HOTR Classic

“Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.” ― Mark Twain 

The picture was taken where friends and family gathered, a night back in January.  The moon was building, the air was quiet, the earth a motionless sphere in cooling space.  Stepping outside, one breathed in the cold, across which the faint scent of a fire touched the palate with smoke. Above, the night streamed in thick indigo threads, beyond which lay myriad points of crystal lights.  It was a good night for a small glass of whisky.

Whiskey vs. whisky?  The difference between whiskey and whisky seems simple but it's not. Whisky typically denotes Scotch or Canadian versions and whiskey denotes the Irish and American beverages. Although both spellings are of Celtic origin, there are substantial differences between the countries products, include the selection of grains, number of distillations, the maturation period and the type of still and barrels used.  Each country's style has its own unique characteristics to savor and there are some further divided into sub categories like bourbon.

Irish vs. Scotch? Unlike Scotch, the malted barley in Irish whiskey is dried in enclosed kilns, not roasted over peat fires but where the true difference in flavor comes from is the aging process. Irish Whiskey is an enjoyable drink indeed, but not the beverage of the upcoming winter evenings. I want something that brings the echo of smoke across my tongue, down my throat, and leaves me with the smallest bit of heat on my breath, after that last sip, that soft lick of flame as a candle gently sighs and goes dark.

Just as in the wine world, where names like Napa Valley, the Okanagan Valley, Bordeaux or Rioja tell someone not just where a wine was made, but what it will bring as far as color, clarity and taste, scotch whisky has its own geographic intricacies. But among all, there is one common thread, the origin of the drink is Scotland.  If you see Scotch Whiskey made in Massachusetts - run!!!

There are friends I know socially and professionally that enjoy a good Scotch. Enjoy to the point there is rumored to be a Scotch Club amongst some of them, a fluid society of friends who meet to share stories  of good guys and bad guys, of airplanes and automobiles, while sipping the best of that liquid mystery which is brought forth from barley and water. None of us are kids.  Most kids today can't keep up with us.

Scotch isn't something to drink because it's there, as it's not cheap. One doesn't drink it to get a "buzz".  It's the warm sip of history and tradition, a celebration of artisanship and the deep pleasure of life.  It's a developed taste.  It's a journey; one that will take you though the rugged Highlands, along the waters of the Sound of Islay to the Isle of Jura where George Orwell penned his novel 1984 at the age of 46, describing the place as an extremely "ungetatable place".

Besides, it makes up for the times when we're about ready to go on duty and we need to have iced tea.

But, in all honesty, I never tried Scotch whisky until I was  in my 40's, when my best friend brought some back from "duty free" on a business trip overseas.  I'd tried some amber adult beverages in my youth, but they were of the ultra cheap American variety, smelling of uncapped magic marker and tasting of sharp heat, the taste equivalent of pulling a hot cast iron pan off the stove with your bare hand. After that, the scotch was a revelation, the honeyed, warm glow of meeting an old friend. 

Since I started spending time with folks that actually knew what a good whisky was, and even better, would share it with me, I've learned a lot.  We've also come up with a number of ideas for introducing others to such fine beverages (forget that Bambi Airstream idea, let's get one of these).

As for the many varieties and price ranges of whisky/whiskey. I'd classify them on a HOTR 1 to 10 scale.

(1) Taste buds usually recover from the shock by morning.  May incite anarchy in redheads.
(2) Chock full of dreadfulness. Put aside for the next Democratic National Convention or Sheep Dip, whichever I would want to attend first.
(3) Suitable for anti freeze, almost as tasty.  May improve with age, but usually drunk by the very young at a shotgun wedding bachelor party.
(4) It's like a root canal, sometimes you know you just have to have one.  Doesn't mean you are going to like it. Often blended with 7-Up to get rid of it.
(5) The Keltec of adult beverages.  If it was all that was in the house, I'd sip it.  Otherwise, no.
(6) It's 10 degrees out.  It's this or hot tea.  Maybe I'll just put a splash IN the tea.
(7) You're getting warmer.
(8) Very nice.   I'd not be embarrassed to have this on my side buffet with guests.
(9) I really feel badly  that I didn't try this 20 years ago.
(10)  It's like a good quality firearm.  When you want it, cost doesn't matter that much.

So, if you wish to venture into the aisle of whiskys, don't go cheap and don't necessarily go for the brand you see on billboards with a floozy blond.  This isn't a drink for Monday night football and wings.  This is a drink for those gentle dark nights of retrospect, a sip of warmth before the long corridors of sleep.  This is the clink of a glass next to the fire, sipped slowly under the long sound of rain, the taste, a whisper of smoke.  It's  life lived richly, profoundly enjoyed in amber miniature.

It's not a drink for youth or debutantes or post tractor pull.  Its  taste, whether drunk during travels, or at home, is an invitation, leaving you with a fading aftermath of promise, that secret affirmation, like taste itself.

A Dhé, beannaich an taigh - Brigid

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Ultimate Final Exam

Back in University days, there was this humorous "ultimate final exam" floating around.  Many of you will remember the one challenge - "You will find a piano under your seat that I posted sometime last year.  It dealt with emergency situations and self reliance as well as just flat out "you are so toast on this one".  It's still floating around the web but I see that it hasn't been updated for a long time. I figured it was about time for one that mirrored current situations.

Ultimate Final Exam - Home on the Range  edition
Instructions: Read each question thoroughly. Answer all questions. Time limit - eight hours. Begin immediately.

Art 
On your desk is a box of Crayons and a sheet of paper.  Recreate the Mona Lisa.  No smiling. Note that the crayon  color "flesh" from your childhood has been renamed as apparently that was politically incorrect. Even the orange one couldn't be named "what happened when I used Q-T once in the seventies".
Agricultural Science:

Create a process to crossbreed Texas Longhorn and Charolois cattle.  In the back room, you will find a cranky female Longhorm and artificial insemination equipment.  Document your findings regarding resultant lineback color patterns, composite qualities, expected muscle mass of offspring and the impact on raising in parasite infected areas if you are able to write with the bandages.

Business:
You have a product and service that is unrivaled in the current market place and can be distributed at greater savings than competitors. Write a business model to sell off the assets of the organization with the least impact on capital gains after the contract was awarded to a minority business with no actual production experience.
Chemistry

Explain how the use of fossil fuels to convert corn to burnable fuel saves fossil fuel.  You will find a bushel of corn and a car with 1/4 tank of  e-85.  The answer is in a classroom 6o miles away.  You are not allowed to refuel.
Computer Science

You have an ancient computer equipped with MS-DOS. Call the help desk that is now in India and tell them the screen is blue and you wish to change the color
Epistemology

Explain why there is no "I" in team, but there is "me" if you rearrange the letters.  Be prepared to defend your position and make sure everyone gets their award.
History

Document three historical instances of technological reversals in semi-isolated societies, not including the Torres Islanders and Dorsek Eskimos.  Describe the impact on the use of weaponry such as the bow and arrow and whether anti-bow and arrow tribesmen contributed to the loss of such technologies and subsequent loss of life and/or livelihood.

Literature 

Compose an epic sonnet based on all that you achieved in your first 18 years of life in which you use the writing style of William Butler Yeats.  Tweet it to 10,000 strangers.    No sentence may end in "Nantucket".
Logic

Using accepted methodology, prove all four of the following:

your dryer eats your socks on a regular basis
beauty is in the eye of the beholder
long term public assistance encourages people to seek employment
the sky is infinite

Now disprove all of the above;

Marksmanship:
On the table you will find a Wilson Combat Tactical AR15, a box of  .223 ammo and a can of spray cheese.  In 5 minutes several hungry and rabid Honey Badgers will be released into the room.  You are in Cook County, Illinois.
Medicine -

You have a link to the Obamacare website.  Get  health insurance.  You have 1 hour.

Music
Write an opera for alto and soprano using the lyrics of any album by rapper Lil Wayne  Explain how this is music.
Religion

Explain why Islam is the religion of peace.  Students are not allowed to frame an answer in Judeo-Christian language or comparative reference as such discussion is not appropriate in a state run classroom.
Philosophy

Write 500 words regarding analytic philosophy as reflected in the works of Monty Python.(Nudge Nudge, Think Think).  If you say "who is Monty Python?" do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

Political Science 

Explain why Hillary Clinton was elected Senator of New York (marrying Bill and buying lots of people is not an acceptable answer).  You have 20 minutes which is 10 more minutes than you had with the rabid Honey Badgers.
Psychology

In the Twilight Series, Edward Cullen is a 100 year old Vampire with a perfect body and perfect hair, who can run. jump and fight in a supernatural way. Plus he sparkles. Please explain in psychological terms, whether his wish to attend high school in Forks, Washington  (population about 3,000)  is based on anticipatory coping or a fixation on females with an apparently improper functioning amygdala. Extra credit for algorithms or Edward and Bella hand puppets.
Biology

Create a life form that can survive without food or water.  Document any useful purpose of such creature, either companionship/service animal, medical research,  food source or benefit to society.  If none is found, have it declared endangered and vacate the learning institution immediately with your can of spray cheese.  Your exam is now over.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Striking When It's Hot

Posting the remaining part of the month and into early October  is going to be some reposts every couple of day of some of my personal favorites (though if I get creative in the kitchen I'll post a new recipe.

I'm taking a couple days off work this week to hit the writing hard and concentrate my evenings off on writing as well  to try and have book #3 to my editor Stephanie Martin by October.  She did such a great job with Old NFO's newest in the Grey Man Series I feel quite fortunate to be able to use her service.

So for you new readers, hopefully you'll enjoy this and my regular readers, I know, will be patient with me as I stay off the Internets a bit so I can put my author hat back on.

A year off from book writing was sorely needed, and I appreciate those of you that stuck around as I commented and socialized less and spent more time with my Dad, but this book is ready to be born.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Weekend Eats - Taking it on the Chinois

The bumper sticker is from Penzey's spice store, a place I stop at, several  times of year.  On this visit, with my friends Og , Midwest Chick and Mr. B. in tow, Og spotted it and part of it was covered with a magazine on the counter so he thought it said "Love People.  Cook Them".  I remembered this story as I found the sticker unpacking the last of my stuff and thought I'd share with readers.

I prefer to cook FOR my friends, and am always trying out new foods on them.  But sometimes I just want, for what to me is "comfort food".

If you are like me you probably have a collection of ground meat in the freezer, beef, veal, pork, venison. Moosellaneous? Easy to thaw and serve, but you can only do meatloaf so many times on these increasingly colder days.
How about a walk on the Canadian side. Pâté chinois is a French Canadian dish similar to English Cottage Pie, Shepherds Pie or the French hachis Parmentier.  Something I learned to cook from a family member, as, there is a Montreal branch of the Range clan through marriage. I'd posted the recipe on the sidebar, and a quick link a while back, but not all of you may have seen it.

I can also teach you some common French Canadian sayings (which I picked up with the cooking and could be useful in both cooking AND in today's election)

Va pèter dans le trèfle.
‘go fart in the clover’.

Baise-moué l’ailKiss my garlic

Il lui manque des bardeaux.
'He’s missing a few tiles'.

Reçu comme un chien dans un jeu de quilles.
'Welcome as a dog in a bowling alley.’

La rondelle ne roule pas pour lui.
'The puck isn’t going his way'.

Grosse Corvette, p’tite quéquette
‘big car, little uh. . . (euphemism here) 

Avoir mal aux cheveux
'To be so sodden with booze and hung-over on the morning after that you are having a ‘hair ache’.

J’ai vu neiger.
I’m not just off the boat.

Ah, but back to the intent of this post. DINNER!

Pâté chinois

I make this several times a year, especially when I have quite a bit of leftover mashed potatoes. It's a wonderful, easy meal for a wet, overcast day.

To make from scratch:  Boil chunks of 5-6 peeled potatoes and mash with a little butter and milk Just regular mashed potatoes, make your favorite recipe but you're looking for enough to serve 4-6.

Next, chop and saute a large sweet onion  in a little olive oil until just starting to soften and caramelize. Add in a pound and a half of ground meat and three to four roasted and chopped cloves of garlic (or about 1 full Tablespoon of the jarred minced garlic) and cook. I used ground sirloin as I was out of venison. If you are using cheap cuts of beef, drain off any large amounts of extra fat.

In the last few minutes of cooking, add in 2 pinches (roughly 1/4 teaspoon) of cinnamon (yes, cinnamon), the same amount of black pepper, a dash of white pepper (if you have it), and a few shakes of salt and one small squirt of Srirachi (or Ketchup for the meek). Heat on low/medium for a few minutes as it finishes cooking. Spread the meat in a deep casserole or a pan that's 13 x 9, or the next size smaller.

Then, spread over the top of the meat, about 3 cups of corn mixed together (I used 1 cup of creamed corn and 2 of regular corn). Spread on the meat. Cover with the mashed potatoes and sprinkle generously with Penzey's Hungarian Paprika. Bake at 375 F for 35-40 minutes, until bubbly.
I'm not sure how the name was coined as the French version of "Chinese pie", but one popular theory is that it was introduced to Chinese railway workers by Canadian cooks during the building of the North American railroads in the late 19th century. These cooks made it under instruction from the railway bosses (who were mostly of English descent) as a cheap and easy to make version of the popular cottage pie with the sauce in the tinned creamed-corn serving as a substitute for the gravy.

click on pictures to enlarge, if you dare.
Allegedly, The French Canadian railway workers became fond of it and brought the recipe back with them to their home communities

However the name was derived, it's good. It's often served with ketchup on the side and maybe some pickled beets and a maple cookie. Or just plain.
Either way, it's comfort on a plate.  And memories of the good kind of family, whether related by blood, marriage or simply by being a long time friend-- those people you just like and admire.