Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cold Blue Case Files

Sometimes all you need is that one little piece of evidence. Sometimes you just need that one little ingredient. But, quoting the Stones, "You can't always get what you want".

But sometimes you get what you need. I learned that early on. My grandmother learned to cook in the depression era and could make about anything without some ingredient, be it flour, or eggs or sugar, finding substitutes in her cupboard or in the wild. From her, widowed in her 30's when my Norweigian grandfather was killed in a logging accicdent, my Mom, and the next generation learned to fix their weapons and tools with what was on hand, build a fire from scratch and just generally survive. But they did more than survive, they learned to make and tend to wondrous things. I've learned to do the same.

"Making do" got me thinking about another thing that needed to be tended to a while back; a couple small scuffs on my standard big city carry. Just a tiny little ding or two. Something a cold blue technique would work for. With the high cost of a professional reblue, many of us may have to admit we've attempted to blue an entire gun with cold blue, as some of the cold blue manufacturers promoted doing so. NOT a good idea. Frankly my gun turned out to be the cosmetic equivalent of Snooki on Jersey Shore. No matter what brand you use, it's difficult to avoid streaks or patchy spots. Yes, the dreaded "gun leprosy" on a large area made more noticeable as the color is just not quite right, like that paint you loved on the sample at Lowe's that just looks different on your wall. Unless you are part wizard, part gunsmith, the home done all-over cold blue just doesn't impart that beautiful blue black tone you expect from a professional job.

But bluing does get worn, rusted or or gouged with use, and we find yourself soon singing the blues again. But I might advise, for the average person, to use a cold blue just for those small little touch ups. Cold blues only work on normal carbon steels. Some guns, or parts thereon--such as the barrels on my Remington 700 Magnums--are made of stainless steel. They are not blued but darkened with a plating that gives the illusion of bluing. If the metal shows absolutely no sign of darkening, it's probably stainless or some other alloy, which may require a custom touch-up job.

Bluing only works on steel or stainless steel parts for protecting against corrosion. Because it changes the Fe into Fe3O4, it does not work on non-ferrous material. Aluminum and polymer parts are largely unaffected by bluing; no protection against corrosion is provided by bluing processes on them, although uneven staining of the aluminum and polymer parts can be caused by attempts at bluing.

By cold blue, for the new to firearms, I mean the "touch up" bluing that is simply swabbed on. If you're doing it to add color, well, it's better than painting :-) but it offers no rust protection. All blued parts still need to be properly oiled to prevent rust. What it is good for is simply touching up those small areas, those little dings or worn spots that aren't bad enough for a quality reblue but need a bit of color and cover to perk things up. Sort of like my little "Spackle box" of makeup, it provides that little bit of "something" to draw the eye to the finer features.

Like Coca Cola, the quality cold blue manufacturers have highly guarded formulas, each solution with different quality. What you need to concern yourself with is durability, and yes, color. For areas that take a licking, safety buttons, the top levers, bolt handles, you're thinking more for durability. For the rest, a good color match has it's selling points. Some of the newer brands, frankly aren't all that durable and don't pass the steel wool muster.

My favorite - Brownell's Oxpho-Blue. This stuff is tough. You can scrub on it with fine steel wool until the chickens come in to roost and it will not harm the finish one bit. It is also not as picky on grease, oil, and fingerprints when bluing and is much tougher than others. I've used it on an old Mauser that had been used as a can opener I think, to great success.

You can order it from Brownells - World's Largest Supplier of Firearm Accessories, Gun Parts and Gunsmithing Tools or Cabelas carries it as well. Cabela's Official Website - Quality Hunting, Fishing, Camping and Outdoor Gear at competitive prices. It does, however have an appearance that's almost charcoal, more darkest grey than blue/black, and it's a bit more shiny than matte. You may want to try other brands for a color you like better, this is simply my favorite. Some folks online say they've had good luck mixing two or more different brands, alternating between coats. I'd caution anyone from mixing different solutions of different properties. Randomly mixing chemicals can quickly earmark you for the Darwin Awards.

Another reason I like the Brownells. With many blues the littlest bit of oil can mar the end results, but Brownells handles it a bit better than other brands if the gun's not a pristine clean. In fact, the tried and true way I've used it for "touch-ups", is with steel wool, which has a fair amount of oil present in it (to keep the fibers from rusting).

It's easier than you think for a little cosmetic work. Remove the microscopic rust and oil residue by buffing with 000 steel wool. If you don't go wild on it, it won't hard the adjacent bluing. If you've used some of the high-tech lubricants and rust preventatives on the market, especially those containing silicone, you may find it hard to remove from the metal and it may resist the bluing.

Cleaning the metal? A little evaporating solvent such as lacquer thinner or alcohol. Then apply the bluing mixture as per the instructions. Size the application swab to the area being worked on, so you don't get the equivalent of a 38C bra, trying to fit a pair of 32AAs. For tiny little dings, use a toothpick. Q-tips, which you should have on hand for general gun cleaning, are great for the slightly larger little scuffs, and for the large areas, try some cotton balls clamped in a clothespin, or a bit of old clean t-shirt.

Try and do just one pass with the solution, and as evenly as you can, keeping the applicator as saturated with fluid as possible without dripping. The steel getting a good steady bath of it produces the best results. Watch that you don't get the solution on the areas you don't want to blue, that can leave a little "ring" around the area you are working on as areas you didn't want to darken just may. If you see a spot where the solution sort of beads up from a a bit too much oil (like sharp corners), try lightly rubbing these spots with a very sodden Q-tip. Use a new swab for each application, as the residue that can build up degrades the effect you're going for. With the Oxpho blue, what works even better for a deep, streak free finish is, after swabbing it on, use some steel wool, 0000 or finer. Use it like a cloth, no heavy rubbing pressure, it's being blued as well, as it is distributing the bluing solution.

Another suggestion is the Brownells "Oxpho-Blue" Creme Formula which might be a little easier to work with than the liquid. You still need to degrease thoroughly, then try heating the part with a heat gun to just "very warm" applying the bluing with that same type steel wool, and work it in like polishing it and do this several times.

The amount of coats can very, small receptive little parts may just take two or three. In other areas you may need a half dozen or more. If after several coats of cold blue there are spots that just refuse to darken, start over by sanding the area with fine sandpaper. How fine depends on the polish of the adjacent metal; not more than 320- or 400-grit though.

If the process seems to be stalling out, it's time to quit, put everything in a safe place, wash your hands and have a beer. With some blues you'll get to the point where it starts to make it look worse, not better. Remember, you'll not get that same dark richness as you can with a factory blue or a hot blue. It's intended for a little "refreshing" not a complete refinish.

And finally, in my opinion, there are just some guns you don't care if there are a few little tiny dings. Sure you want to prevent rust on those, and you will, with fine care. But covering up every little defect on an older gun is something I would not do for certain weapons. Are not the worn spots from Grandfathers hands, from Dads rifle rack, badges of honor and markers of history? Battle scars honestly won, the marks of hard hands on harder steel, those are history and should not be lightly erased. The worn edges of an officers pistol, carried for twenty years in service and passed on to the family, shows pride in service, not something I would wish to alter.

Around my own eyes are just the faintest beginnings of lines, from laughter mostly. I have my own small dings as well. That little one across my hairline where I decided to see if I could do Mach .82 on my bicycle, the tiny scar above my eye where I wrestled with a tree blind and lost, the few small freckles from hours spent chasing after pheasants in the heart of our nation. These little scuffs, these little marks, are as much a part of me as my breath. And no matter how many years I still have, though I'll wear my sunscreen diligently, I'm not going to resort to any surgical or chemical processes to rid myself of them. When time ages me, I'll wear it with honor.

Some things are just left alone, remaining as they are, with every little thing that makes them particularly unique, each life experience that makes them special - small marks on our memory.

But if you want a little touch up for your sidearm, the cold blue process is worth trying.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Is It Soup Yet??

Sometimes the Irish can save civilization. Sometimes it's all they can do to rustle up dinner.

Technically, I'm a mixture of Scot/Irish, Scandahoovian and Cree, but it's hard to tell with the green eyes, red hair and freckles. In any case, I draw from my Warrior Farmer roots in a lot of my cooking with good, meaty stews, soups and breads often on the winter menu.

It was a good night for it as I was pretty tired. I stayed up way too late last night (for my schedule) catching up with a friend who had been away for a while. Today dawned way too early.

Still, duty calls, reports to write.

Probie comes over, a puzzled luck on his face, looking at a document I'd just finished.

"uh, doc. . . WHAT'S RIGOR MORRIS?"

I look up straightfaced (Typo? Me??") . . "DEAD CAT FOUND AT THE SCENE."

It was just one of those days, So I was glad to get home for something nourishing. Tonight, no guns, no glory, just some really good leftover soup and some fresh baked bread. To make - caramelise a large diced onion in a pan with a splash of olive oil, add 4 ribs of chopped celery and about six sliced carrots and cook for a couple of minutes. Put in a crockpot with 1 and 1/2 lbs smoked ham hocks, a pound of uncooked and rinsed white beans, 2 quarts fresh chicken stock, a pinch of rosemary, 1/8 teaspoon white pepper, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper,a large clove of garlic cut crosswise, a dash of hot sauce (I like Heavy Metal Heat by the Scoville Bros.), 1/4 teaspoon wild honey and 12 sprigs of fresh thyme, plus a couple dashes of salt (to taste). Cook on high for 4-5 hours, until beans are done, remove any stems of thyme, squeeze garlic to remove pulp, discarding the skins and stir into soup. Remove hocks and shred meat. Take a 1/2 cup of the bean mixture and pulse in a blender and stir back in with ham hocks.

With that, some quick bread.

Cheddar Peppered Biscuit Bites. Full of the bite of fresh cracked pepper and sharp cheese, they're baked in little triangles for little bite size bits of crunch with a soft, yeasty center.

Serve warm with butter , the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of old fashioned soup, stew, or even chili.

For now, enjoy the comforts of home. Tomorrow, a little firearm post - refinishing old blue.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Armed and Entertaining - The Liebster Award

I'm catching up with friends, so for tonight I hope you don't mind a post I wrote a couple weeks ago and saved, it's Liebster Blog Award time!

Wraith and a couple readers tagged me with the Award. Technically I don't qualify, as it's intended for blogs just beginning to build their following but it was much appreciated. Thank you! In carrying on the spirit of it, I will list 5 blogs that I thoroughly enjoy, all with 200 "followers" or less. Since it's leap year, I'm giving you 6, still hard to pick from the many blogs out there . The award recipients, should they so chose, are to name 5 blogs they themselves like, to share with everyone.

B.K. - at Cowgirl Photography. Every time you look at one of the Occupy folks, remember there are still many young people, smart, talented and hard working out there, raised with values and a work ethic that's come down through generations untainted. BK is one of these young folks.

Annie Oakley's Kitchen - Firearms and food, what's not to like and her recipes are the kind passed on to the next generation. She shoots! She scores!

Engineering Johnson - World traveling engineer, Gun Blogger Rendezvous Regular, Craftsman of wood, metal and duct tape, and my Partner in Grime with British cars, tractors, and the occasionally recalcitrant creme brûlée. His travels don't always make for regular blogging but what is there is always worth pondering. Plus the man makes a damn fine martini.

JP - A businessman, and musician, he turned his artistic talents towards the camera, specifically portraits of those we see around us, including his redheaded grand kids. (Perhaps he needs the stress relief after I took him for a flight in a nimble little airplane.) We've been friends for years, but this is his very first blog and his portrait photography is wonderful. Now, can I borrow your Colt Python??

Last Refuge of a Scoundrel - We've journeyed with Navy veteran Larry through the loss of a young wife, raising kids to be good adults and keeping the roads fun, one Mustang at a time. What we've learned along the way was worth all it took for him to put it down.

Enjoy. Until later, thank you all for making Home on the Range a part of your life.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Let it be Borne. . .

As Daniel Webster stated - “Let it be borne on the flag under which we rally in every exigency, that we have one country, one constitution, one destiny”.

The flag is not a piece of cloth intended to be worn as a necktie, bikini or an outfit for your wiener dog. It is a sacred symbol of a nation. A representation of a promise of freedom. Freedom to life and liberty. The freedom for the law abiding citizen to protect their family and what they hold dear. Freedom to work hard and prosper and enjoy the fruits of your honest labor without fear that it will be forced from you to support the degradation of the Constitution. The flag is more than fabric, it's a promise. I am an American, and I will honor the flag, wrapping myself around it as a patriot would, to protect it, not wrapping it around words or actions to justify that which we know to be a breach of this promise. - Brigid

Packin' Heat - Chili/Chocolate Brownies

Friends were stopping by, on their way to play a music gig in IND and I needed a little something to serve, a sweet treat, quick but not boring. You can't go wrong with something that involves dark chocolate, coffee, chili AND cinnamon.

Take your favorite fudge brownie recipe but this time add a splash of brewed espresso and a pinch of both cinnamon and cayenne pepper to the batter. If you use a box mix, replace all of the water called for with brewed coffee or espresso and add the spices. Now top with. . .

Chili/Chocolate Hot Fudge Sauce

Four ounces Dark semi sweet chocolate with Chilis (I used a 3.5 ounce Lindt bar plus the corner off a second one)
1/3 cup white sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3/4 cup plus 3 Tablespoons heavy cream (total is slightly less than a cup).
1/2 teaspoon Mexican Vanilla (I use Penzey's).

Break chocolate into pieces and cook in the microwave in a glass bowl (high setting) for one and a half minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until almost melted. Transfer to a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat on the stovetop and stir in sugar, salt and butter. Stir in cream, a little at a time until smooth. Heat through still on low heat, until thickened (do NOT bring to a boil). Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Use to top brownies or save in the fridge to top ice cream.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Thoughts from a Drive - What keeps you company?

As I was driving back to headquarters from a distance, some thoughts came to me from this, and other drives. I was alone today in the squirrelmobile, non squirrels not being allowed to tag along. That brought me back to a previous job a lifetime ago, at International Sneaky Service, different work, but like any job, with its own set of rules. Several of us were out on a mission when, at the place we stopped on our drive, to eat lunch, the local animal shelter was having a "adopt a pet" for the locals in the parking lot next door. One of my work team wandered over to pat a pooch. He came back and said "there's a really cool lab I want to adopt, he's older, no one wants him, I have to give him a home". I'm in command here, he's looking at me for the OK. He's got no one, his girl leaving him after a long tour away. I haven't seen this look on his face for much too long.

I look at the rest of the group, one of them a combat vet who got shot down, his legs burned badly, he's missing some toes, but not his heart. Another is a former Marine, as tough as they come, but whom I've seen shed tears when a dog was lost in duty. The probie with us is quiet. I nod my head.

Twenty minutes later, he has custody of one very happy, well behaved and older, male labrador retreiver. But how to get the dog home? We'll just put him in the official Sneaky Service vehicle and bring him back to headquarters where he can get transferred to his new owne'rs truck stealthily in the parking lot out back. But probie says "we can't' take anyone on official business in the Sneaky car, we'll be up on charges".

I said, "that's people, no "civilians", contractors/ employees only, we know that, but there's nothing in the rules about a dog, he can't sue our boss of we have a fender bender?" So off we go, all the while, probie stewing and fretting in the back seat, treating the dog like a bomb getting ready to blow. Finally as we near our destination, he just loses it,his voice rising up an octave as he exclaims, "A dog in the Sneaky car, a DOG in the Sneaky CAR!! We might as well have a KILO of COCAINE in here!!"

Fortunately we had arrived. As we covertly left the vehicle for another team to soon use, and got ready to move Fido, we discovered the reason said dog may have needed a new home. From the back seat came a cloud of doggie gas that would gag a maggot. Retreat! We quickly got him out and closed the doors, moving him to the waiting truck of his new Dad. As we went back in the building, no even noticing we were back, we couldn't help but see the new guys open the door of the car we'd just evacuated with "WT . . . *)#(@. . .What's that SMELLL! OMG!!!!"

That's been a while ago. His remaining short years were good ones, happy and well loved, with his adopted Dad, who apparently had no sense of smell. Hopefully now, he is in doggie heaven, where everything smells like bacon.

There's other group trips, deer camp with Og and friends in my truck, so much laughter I have to really concentrate not to drive off the road at 4:30 in the morning. Then there are the long trips by myself. I'm not sure why I enjoy the car trips. I guess the wandering spirit runs in my blood, passed on my from Air Force father to me. Seems like ever since I got a control yoke in my hand I've been wandering across miles of land . . . across rivers and towns. My Mom would have preferred I marry a hometown boy and stay in the tiny town in which I was raised, but once I tasted adventure, I was born into that gypsy life and have never really known another.

St. Expurey said "he who would travel happily must travel light". And this adventurer did travel light, based across the US, with a short stint as a contractor overseas. I remember those early years, I remember not just the travel, the airplanes themselves , but the feel of the starched uniform shirt I wore, the smell of a crewman's aftershave (which thank heavens wasn't Brut). It seems as if all my early years were reflected in the window of those moving airplanes. I see my reflection, my past, through bug sprayed glass that tints the world bright.

The airplane, the destination and the years changed, as did the landscape of my career, but some thing things never changed. Days in an airplane traveling far. Miles and hours spent watching the landscape, silver grain elevators, red winged birds, mountains formed of ice and fluid need, and rivers without borders, all blending into a bright diorama of life racing past. The world looks different from above, clouds massive and dark, looming up like a target in a gun sight, looking twice the size of ordinary man.

I have spent a quarter of my life it seems on the way somewhere. I have watched a hundred cumulus clouds erupt, mass assassination of mayflies and the disappearance of a slice of cherry pie at a tiny airport diner and the journey was only beginning.

Along with me came the music, classical, music from the 20's and 30's if there was a CD player in the vehicle. There are parts of the earth you can hear music of all types, there are areas where all you will find is country Western. Some of it is good, it certainly taught me a few things. .

(1) No matter where you are in the plains states, somewhere, on some station, someone is playing "Bad Bad Leroy Brown".

(2) If the singer is going on about taking you for a ride on his "big tractor", he's NOT talking about farm equipment.

3) there will be areas where all you can find is rap or Hispanic music. If that happens make up your own country songs - "If he hadn't been so good lookin I might have seen the train".

And finally, after many hours straight of broke down, done wrong, sad tears kind of songs I realized that -

4) At the gas station of love, sometime in your life you will get the self service pump.

Finally, though, I'm home where fortunately, I have someone of the four legged variety waiting eagerly for me, (with the two legged kind arriving back stateside soon) Life is good, worth singing about, even if my knee has gone to sleep.

Til then, I have Barkley. He's good company, at home or in the truck. He's a heartbeat at my feet on those nights I'm alone in the house and a draft of lonely wind taps at my soul. He's the uncomplicated creature I could be if I knew better. He challenges any threat with honor; to bark at a strange dog is the utmost of patriotism for him, and he quietly offers me an affection ignorant of my faults. He sleeps deeply yet watchfully and for his cunning seems to have no knowledge of death, and relies on me to do his worrying about that for him.

He's one of the best decisions I ever made along the way. He's a warm, brave and loving companion that's been part of this journey all along.

Even if he tries to get us all in trouble sometimes.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Travel Log - What is Happiness

"TELL ME, WHAT IS HAPPINESS?" - Iain M. Banks Use of Weapons (prologue)

On the road, I usually stop in a bookstore if there is one around. So many books. The bargain books are usually entertaining in and of themselves, leaving you wondering what prompted some people to pen such thoughts to paper. I could think of a few titles for books that would instantly be in the bargain bin (and you can probably add a few titles of your own).

Living Life Bacon Free!
Harry Potter Meets the Groovy Ghoulies
My Little Ponies - Financial Freedom through Track Bets
The Kardashian Guide to Quantum Mechanics
Bouncing Betty and the Bucket of Moonshine - A Nancy Drew Mystery
Get Off My Leg!! - A Beginners Guide to Dog Training

But good books, have been part of my life since early childhood. For my long time readers, I've written before of my love for books and why. I was lucky to have two parents who exposed us to books and music and the outdoors. Learning and discovery were elemental to them and reading and words became a quiet necessity of my life. Charlotte's Web, The Wind in the Willows, A Child's Garden of Verse, and my all time favorite, Grimm's Fairy Tales.

Books were my portal to comfort, during those inevitable awkward moments of growing up, a way of immersing myself in the world of an author. As a child, books helped me grow, stretching my mind even further. And through books and written words came friendships. I'd talk about what I read with my classmates, telling snippets of stories and passing around dog eared copies of Asimov and Heinlein and Niven and Herbert. We'd gather over our lunches, laughing about a recent share, Philip Dicks -Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. We'd sit until a teacher made us go back to class, voices raised in excitement for the vast reaches out there, limitless possibilities that, on the cusp of adulthood, we believe existed.

With that, the world opened up to me. I started recording it, in small notebooks of paper, ink drawings, loose photos, added onto their pages, a scrapbook of my life, recorded for eternity with nothing more than an old Mont Blanc pen and a camera.

Words dazzle and deceive because they are mimed by the face. But black words on a white page are the soul laid bare. Guy de Maupassant

"Soul laid bare." The sense of vulnerability in those three words is beyond reach. From these recorded pages have come my own story, tales of the possibilities of life, my soul laid out for many of you to read. Opening up something within me that made some of you take your own pen and craft your own story. I believe in the magic hidden in people and things, and these notebooks, these words bring them out into the light.

But writing, as in reading, for me is not just intellectual but embracive. I love the way the spine of a book or notebook feels in the crook of my fingers. The book an aesthetic charm of endless possibilities. The smooth, hard end boards snug on either side of the pages sewn together, their edges flush and perfect. The smell of ink, the texture of a page as my fingers gently turns it. Between 1850 and the late 1980s, books were printed on acidic paper. Conservators can't keep up with the costly restoration. Soon, millions of books in thousands of libraries the world over will be lost when their pages disintegrate into dust. Already I mourn for the loss of something that we have no control over, that of the written word.

I love blank notebooks. To me, it's hard to think of anything that represents the clean slate of opportunities more than a pristine, empty notebook. Smythson’s of Bond Street has bound ones with thin, blue, delicate paper that looks like the air mail paper my parents wrote to one another on during the War. The paper is so thin, the ink bleeds through, yet with the ink comes pleasure. The smell of the ink as well as the as the scent of paper itself, is need as defined as the capturing of a personal experience. Experiences in danger of being lost in an errant click of a mouse. In today's evolution of the tools of our expression, we've lost the very things we can hold on to. Things that can still gather dust and be passed on, to a child, to a lover, to history. So I particularly like the Smythson's ones, the way my handwriting looks on the thin paper, words scrolled from a fountain pen, dense with weight, meaning something, to me anyway, even if two hundred years from now, the paper, and the one I wrote the words for, are only dust and starlight.

Tonight I sit alone and quiet, my closest friend far away, Barkley asleep on the couch at home. I have a book, Iain M. Banks Use of Weapons. Once again, Banks takes us to The Culture, his galaxy-spanning civilization of humans, computer Minds, asteroid-sized Ships (some of the names he picks for his ships are worth the read in and of themselves) and annihilating weapons. Ah yes, weapons. Written in interwoven chapters, it is made up of two alternating narrative streams - one indicated by Arabic numerals and the other by Roman ones.

The stories are one of The Culture and one of a world not yet contacted by The Culture. The pre-contact world is the home of four children, a brother, two sisters and another boy, hidden from others. Of the two stories, one moves forward chronologically, while the other moves in the opposite direction; yet both are about the central, tragic character, Cheradinine Zakalwe. Zakalwe is a rogue, a military genius, an assassin, a sad case and an utterly sympathetic character all at the same time. A mercenary shaped by his experiences as the perfect soldier, he's taken, refined and utilised by the supposedly benign and pacific Culture for their nastier dirty tricks operations. The moral ambiguity and ethical contradictions of this are not lost on Zakalwe himself or on his Culture handler, the "Special Circumstances" operative Diziet Sma.

Gloriously grotesque, sharply observed, bleakly satirical and written with a revelation so perfect that you will only ask yourself how you didn't see it sooner. Anything, Banks is telling us, anything at all can be a weapon, and the failure of restraint in the use of weapons dooms us all. It's not the easiest book to get your mind around, some minds will find the interwoven stories confusing (but if you are reading this blog, you are not likely to be one of those). I can promise you this, after reading it you will never look at a small chair, especially a small chair painted white, in quite the same way.

I don't read a lot of "popular" fiction. I would rather be nibbled to death by ducks than read a Jackie Collins novel. I tend to read a lot of non fiction, of history. I like reading about long ago. I know more about my own life when I know more about the past. It's a sense of perspective; of days full of people that killed, tortured, struggled and suffered, agonizing for things that were of the utmost importance to them; working and living for reasons that may be well the same as ours. Now they've been gone some 500 years and all that is left to us is the essence and quintessence of their lives. To me history is more than a story, more than a book, it's the life, the heart and soul of ages long ago. It's the ultimate myth and inevitably ambiguous, but I do believe, like Lord Bolingbroke said, "History is philosophy teaching by example and also by warning." History not read is like ammo not used, someone once said, and without reading, for myself at least, the past is silence and the future is haze.

So for these many reasons, I hate being stuck somewhere with no book, no notebook or a laptop in which to record my thoughts Let the weather play God with my itinerary, let them send me to Elbonia. I've been stuck in places where my luggage did not arrive at the same time I did, and the only written word I could find in English was a ferry schedule for the River Styx. I don't care where I am, I simply need something to read and something to write in. Words in reserve, a buttress against the whims and dubiety of travel, of growing up, of life itself.

I intended to read tonight, but there is a new little notebook in my suitcase, I removed the film cover, the crackling sound awakened something in me. I stroked the oilskin cover for the first time, my future turning before me as I snapped open the elastic band to flip through the pristine pages, dreams waiting to burst out onto them. The pages were too perfect, it's almost hard to make the first mark upon the clean, fresh landscape. But then, with the thought of a face, of a hand at the small of my back, I began; splaying the words on lasting paper before they are lost in the ether. Words that are bequeathed to the page before they were forgotten, words that though not spoken, will take a corporeal shape in my heart whenever I close my eyes, even as they themselves, slumber between the closed cover that is their hiding place. - Brigid

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Where the Wubba Meets the Road -

Barkley stays at a doggie day camp occassionally when I know I'm going to be away from home 12 hours plus, til myself or a friend picks him up. He loves it, lots of outside and indoor play areas with wading pools when its hot and all kinds of toys. His favorite, this really hard rubber ball with feet on it. It also squeeked.

Barkley will destroy any cloth toy with a squeeker in minutes, but this one was so hard, he couldn't get his teeth though it and could just work it with his jaws, SQUEAK, SQUEAK, SQUEEK. (I think I should buy the folks at the dog camp some high caliber ear protection.)

I wanted to get him one, but I'd never seen one in the pet toy section of the stores where I shop. It looked to be made out of the hard Kong material but that's all I knew. Then, surprise! EJ was able to find one and presented it to Barkley a while back,, and he continued to play with it until the incessant squeeking was such it got taken away for a while each day (Look! A Squirrel! Mr. Squeaky? What Mr. Squeaky?)

Until the day the squeakee died.

He got a tooth in the little vent in the back for air to move in and out of. Over a few days, he worked enough of a hole in it that it wouldn't squeek but would just sort of wheeze like an asthmatic blowfish..

He was seriously bummed.
I know, Mr. SqueAky is DOA and your other friends are busy working. But come on, it's the new issue of Classic Trains!

I got tired of the look so off I went.

To the bigbox pet mart. They didn't have one in stock, but they did have a similar device, a kong style big ball that squeeked. Not as big, and not quite as hard, but pretty thick AND wrapped in extra tough fabric (reinforced! it said). The instructions were in English AND French (do not ask me why as it was "American designed and tested" and "made in China"). Jeu amusant et interactif! Fun, interactive play! At last I could use my college French, yes, for instead of taking a language that appears to be more popular than English in most border states I took French, which I speak really badly, which everyone makes fun of (or will until we are invaded by Canada ya hosers!)

The Kong WUBBA!

He was so happy. For three minutes. SQUEEK, SQUEEK, SQUEEK, JOUET COUINEURrrrr!


I removed the remains in a bucket.

Looks like it's going to be another round with annoying Calgon Dog instead.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Annie Get Your . . . .

GUN EMPANADASI'm still on desk duty for at least another month, post "blown out knee" repair. I know that means my team is working extra hard. I can run command central with a phone, but I'm used to being OUT there, directing things, pulling my weight. To let them know I appreciate it, I showed up with a large warm container of these for those who had morning duty (do not ask what time the alarm was set for). They were intended to be reheated for lunch. They were gone before the sun was hardly up,.

Sweet and Spicy Empanadas (double or triple the recipe if needed, heats up well in a crockpot after frying the beef and veggies).

1 to 1.2 pounds ground beef
1 sweet onion chopped finely
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1/4 cup finely chopped carrot (I julienned and then chopped)
1 can chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup sherry (alcohol will cook out, you'll just get flavor)
1 Tablespoon wild honey
1 Tsbp balsamic vinegar (I used a 20 year old one aged in bourbon barrels)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
pinch of crushed red pepper
1 or 2 drops Scoville Brothers Rockin Red hot sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon dark cocoa powder
dash of salt and pepper
3-4 sheets of frozen puff pastry, thawed and unfolded

Preheat oven to 375 F. (about 200C.). In a hot skillet, cook beef until no longer pink. Once done, drain excess fat and set aside. In same pan (which should still have a little fat adhering to it) cook onions and carrots in a splash of olive oil until onions are golden brown and caramelized, being careful not to burn. Add just enough olive oil to keep from sticking. When done, add beef mixture back in. Add in sherry and garlic (I didn't measure the garlic, but 3-4 cloves) and cook until sherry has evaporated.

Add in honey, vinegar, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, Worcestershire sauce, dark cocoa powder, tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook till the sauce is thickened and there is hardly any liquid, but it's not dried out.

(Yes, you can click to enlarge the photos). Roll out thawed puff pastry, cut into 4 inch circles (I used a drinking glass to cut them out). Place a heaping tablespoon of beef mixture onto pastry. Fold in half and press sides well with a clean and dry fork to crimp and seal.

Pierce top of the pastry once with fork. If you wish, brush with an egg wash (1 egg beaten with a splash of milk). I didn't, only in that I was out of eggs, but they were still great, just not as glossy. Bake for 15-20 minutes till golden brown.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Short and Sweet Breakfast - Brown Sugar and Bacon Waffles

One of you asked me to repost this recipe, so for a "no grape nuts for me today" Saturday, here it is!

Brown sugar and caramalized bacon waffles.

10 slices of bacon
1/4 cup brown sugar
pinch of cayenne papper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with non stick cooking spray and line with foil. Arrange bacon in a single layer on the baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with brown sugar and cayenne. Place in the upper third of the oven and bake until sugar is caramelized and bacon is brown and crispy, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Immediately remove bacon slices using a pair of tongs. Place them on a cutting board (not paper towels, they’ll stick!) to cool before chopping. Once cool, chop the bacon into bite size bits and set aside.

For the Waffles

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
2/3 cups canola oil
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons Mexican vanilla (trust me, there's a difference)
2 1/2 cups buttermilk

Set up your waffle iron on a level, clean surface and turn on to preheat.

In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and brown sugar. Whisk to blend. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, buttermilk and vanilla extract. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold. Once almost fully incorporated, add the bacon bites. Stir. Try not to over mix the batter or the waffles will become tough. You will still have a few lumps remaining in the batter.

Cook according to your waffle machine instructions.

Serve with real maple syrup that you've heated gently and crumbled bacon. Be prepared for guilt wracking stare from Waffle Dog.

Quote of the Day

When the one arises who can make you laugh, solemn Ista, angry Ista,
iron Ista, then your heart will be healed.
You have not prayed for this:
it’s guerdon even the gods cannot give you.
We are limited to such simples as redemption from your sins.

-Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Impressing Dinner Guests - with, yes, Venison!

Today is my "Friday" and in the Range neighborhood, folks don't want tofu, spray cheese (which, like any hazardous material in a can, should have written warnings on its use) or iceburg lettuce salad. They want FOOD (salad being what food eats!). I've probably lost my last vegetarian reader with this post, but venison, when prepared correctly is very tasty and can be quite tender.

My last deer harvested on a hunt with Og and company, was a doe. It was a long shot, the range of that Marlin with .357 pistol loads (you can't hunt with rifles in my state). She wasn't a youngster, but she wasn't all that big, though I didn't know that until the good clean shot was taken. That prompted my Dad, when seeing a photo of me and my deer to say in front of the whole family - "did you shoot a dog?" After enduring numerous cracks about the Whitetail Spaniel, people shut up after eating the prepared summer sausage and tenderloins that came from that bounty, a good 60 pounds of excellent meat to tide my house over for the winter months.

For those of you who are lucky enough to have on hand in your freezer, (or as a gift from a fellow hunter), a nice piece of venison (or yes, a chunk of good beef) this is a meal worthy of family or friends. The recipe comes from two members of the HOTR honorary Canadian division, father and son, Dad being long time friend and fellow sportsman Marty.

If you are ever in Langford BC, stop in at the excellent Fountain Diner and tip your hat to Marty's son, head chef Jesse Fischer who kindly shared his recipe (they're located at 2800 Bryn Maur Rd, in Langford, B.C.)

Venison Roast with Red Currant Jelly Sauce

Take one bone-in venison hip, this was a doe, very tender and succulent, 10-12 lbs. Line bottom of roasting pan with a basic mirepoix (a chopped mixture of onions, 50%, and celery and carrots at 25%, ). A note from B. - the finer you chop them the more aromatic they will be.

Chop 5 cloves garlic, and mix with 2 roughly chopped sprigs of rosemary and 1/4 c. of olive oil.

Place venison in roasting pan and coat with oil/herb mixture. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Cook at 400 F. for 45 min and then turn down to 300 for 2 hrs. until medium rare. Do not overcook! Remove venison from roasting pan and let rest 30 min.

Place the mirepoix and drippings into a sauce pan. Add 1 and 1/2 c red wine (HOTR recommends Malbec), place on stove and reduce by half. Strain to save the liquid. Julienne 10 small shallots and sauté in sauce pan until translucent. Add the saved liquid, 1/3 cup of red currant jelly and simmer 10 min.

Evening low light's not the best for a small camera, but it makes for a beautiful table.

Roast Potatoes

3 small skin on potatoes per person, washed and tossed with olive oil and 10 whole cloves garlic for the batch. Roast 30-45 min. at 400 F. until tender.

Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette

Two whole medium tomatoes (your favorite, through yellow or orange heirloom ones make for a pretty dressing) washed, skin on. Cut in quarters, drizzle with olive oil (I added a sprinkle of summer savory to Jesse's fine recipe) and roast in 300 F. oven for 1 and a half to 2 hours (put in at same time as you turn down venison).

Cool and remove skin if desired, but not necessary. Combine with 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar and 1 cup olive oil. Process with boat motor. ;)

Serve over mixed green salad (no, not iceburg but good dark greens including wild greens if you can get them, iceburg lettuce has all the nutritional value of the USA Today newspaper).

See, a game dinner you'd be proud of. I had a haunch you'd like it :-)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Last Minute Valentine Dessert Idea

Let's see - you can serve your sweetie some ready made -


Homemade Chocolate Raspberry/Brandy Truffles rolled in dark cocoa powder with a touch of raspberry chipotle sea salt. A melt in your mouth taste of sweet and salty goodness and easier to make that you think (recipe in comments).

And for a certain friend that's not going to get one of these in Business Class - there will be some when you get back. . . OK, not the one in the front, it's a goner.