Thursday, January 31, 2013

Craftmatic Adjustable Beds and Auto Launch Recliners - Dad's House

One thing I made sure Dad had during a recent visit was one of those chairs that lifts him up to the standing position, then, he can lean into it and gently have it sit him back down (and I have to say the DeBeers Diamond  "three months salary" marketing staff have nothing on the folks that sell furniture for older folks).

He loves it, one more thing to help him stay in his home. He recovered from his stroke a few years back better than anyone thought, but he now has a hard time standing and sitting without a little help.  Every morning, he gets up and gets settled in it and reads the daily message from "Our Daily Bread" and then the Bible.  That's something he's done every day since retirement, after his morning work out (Dad was a Golden Glove Boxer and still has a very strict exercise regiment that included swimming and Nautulus at the Y with my Step Mom well into their 80's).  Then it's time to get dressed and get about enjoying the day.

Actually, I checked the chair out when he was sleeping in one day, it's quite comfortable and seems to be built better than some of my expensive yuppie furniture.

But dang, I was hoping for an auto launch feature that would get  me airborne. 

Initiate Launch Sequence!  (that's it??)

I'm on the road, but was able to check on him.  Big Bro is starting round two of chemo next Friday, but he's handling it well and was able to spend the night with Dad the other night at the house.

The family room, where the chair is housed, has barely changed since I was in sixth grade.  The folks built it onto the house over what was most of our huge cement patio.  We took a vote as a family one year when I was in grade school. Vacation to Hawaii with the kids (the parents had already gone on their 25th anniversary alone) or add on a family room?  The kids decided it.  Family room!  We can play!  We can make noise.  We can spill stuff!  We can take the TV set completely apart with tools while they're at the grocery store (oh, dang, busted)

It has the previous living room carpeting down over the original harvest gold linoleum now and the drapes have been updated.  But much is unchanged. The 1970's fixtures for the fluorescent lights that Dad crafted by hand. Still there. That Mexican hat on the Wall?  A VERY embarrassing River dance gone South episode from some tap recital of mine.  The barre built into the wall where I did my ballet warm ups was removed and replaced with paneling.  It was there under the kitchen window that Mom once took out with a golf ball from the back yard when that was the back window to the house. Fore! (hey, I didn't know Mom knew that other word!)

On the walls are funny tin signs and Montana art.  On another wall are numerous awards and mementos from the community and  Uncle Sam, every single member of our family - Mom, Dad, brothers, sister, serving in Defense, Local or Federal Law Enforcement or the Armed Forces, with the Air Force and Navy battling it out for the best space. And the picture of Jesus, which has witnessed slumber parties, ping pong games (we'd set the table up inside in the winter) Loony Tunes, and probably cursing during that  1983 Minnesota-Nebraska college game.

The couch is new, but the quilt is one my Mom crocheted  in the 70's.  There is another one, but it sits in my linen closet, not where Barkley can chew on it, but where I can occasionally hold it, smell the scent of Chanel No. 5 that only exists in my memory.  It's where I can remember her hands working away on it while we kids watched westerns on TV and tried to outshoot Marshall Dillon with our little cap guns under the watchful eye of our Lord.

We've made just a few changes in the house.  The main bathroom, tub and shower were outfitted with handles and bars and a shower chair for ease of bathing.  We couldn't talk him into replacing his king sized water bed and TMI Red Velvet bedspread with a sensible mattress for his back, but if he wakes up at night with dreams of darkest blue and ash, and gets up, we've moved anything he might stumble into and fall.

The small bath by the family room, though, was in dire need of help.  It was always the "utility" bathroom, old faded paint, bare window, no storage at all, and small and hard to get around in as there was nothing for him to hold onto if his balance or strength waned.  But it's the one he uses the most.

Big Bro took care of the construction and I took care of the  paint and the decorating.

Still, with a full time home health aide I can arrange and lawn service Bro takes care of we are happy he can stay in his home. He originally said he wanted to move in with me when my Step Mom was diagnosed with cancer and I bought an old money pit of a big house on some property with a view of a small lake, a single story, no steps, "mother in law set up" outside of town, the original "Range." I hoped he'd be happy there. But she went into remission, with great thanksgiving, but was then diagnosed with Alzhemers.

He cared for her in his home through that, until her death, years more than we expected, but not easy years for him.  But as she was his cross, she was also his salvation and he refused to put her in a nursing home, even when she acted out in anger against her children, not recognizing her own life, but somehow, always recognizing him.

But after she was gone, he changed his mind. His Mom was from Indy, and he enjoyed it here, but he didn't want to leave where he's lived all these years.  He wanted to stay where his memories are, good or bad, in his own church, in that old house.  I  understood. 

This is the home in which his memories reside, in every furnishing that's 30, 40, 60 years old.  There have been other houses, for summer vacations and the old family home in Montana, but this modest little place was always the center of the family.  Outside, is the bed of my Mom's rose garden, replanted with other flowers now, yet still containing for him, those pink and red and coral buds and blossoms, long after they've fallen to dust, no more dead to him than the hands that tended them, the drops of blood they sometimes drew.

In that family room, he sits in his recliner and watches his favorite sports, while around him are the artifacts of loves never lost,  triumphs and defeats, as well as the living laughter of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Not one of them are related to him by blood, but by the strongest bond - family.

My room at home is virtually unchanged and that was not by my request, but his will. Photos of family and family and extended family all around.  The rainbow I painted on my walls in junior high. Dad said I could, but I had to use leftover paint which is why my rainbow is every shade of totally tacky 1970's paint we had.  (yes, we had rooms painted those colors!)

There is no view. There used to be a view of beautiful mountains, but they are hidden from where we sit by tall, big box marts. He refused to sell when they literally bought up several blocks, RE-zoned residential and commercial, so we look out the windows to the vast walls of a commercial business, their parking lot lights illuminating the place like Attica Prison during a break. Curtains keep the light out at night, sort of.  Dad realizes the value of the home just went to zip, but he doesn't care. It's his home,  it's our home.  It's where we lived, and it's where he will pass, hopefully and quietly in his favorite chair, with his family around, his Bible open and a can of cold beer waiting for when the game is called.

He knows his days are short, we all do. But he's very happy, lousy view and all. There's Big Bro and his kids nearby.  I fly out as often as I can, becoming an expert on the cheap air fares (how many stops?)  My step brother drives six hours to take him to lunch and until very recently, out for a game of golf.  He has friends, good ones, but new ones, as all of his original group has passed on. He's active in the church, and he eats very well with a hot meal daily from the sweet lady that is his home health aide and the snacks and small meals I leave for him in little freezer containers between visits and Big Bro's cooking, which is always good.

Around the house are small sayings, quotes that mean things to him, verses from the Bible.  "This is the Day the Lord hath Made, Let us Rejoice and Be Glad in It" is one that always makes me think of him. Each day is a gift from the Lord, he says, and I can't disagree.

Big Bro and I will make sure he's safe and happy, however he wants to live. With Big Bro ill, there's more for me to do, but I don't mind in the slightest, as they would both do the the same, and more, for me. I can't say what the future will bring, but one thing my brother and I are both agreed on. Dad has outlived his wives, and his first born child, we're going to fight to make sure he does not experience any more loss of what he holds dear. (OK Bro, I'll cancel the Acme Rocket Propelled RV6 order - beep beep!)

- Brigid

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Posts From the Road - The Quitter

When you're lost in the Wild,
and you're scared as a child,
And Death looks you bang in the eye,
 And you're sore as a boil,
it's according to Hoyle
To cock your revolver and . . . die.
But the Code of a Man says: "Fight all you can,"
And self-dissolution is barred.
In hunger and woe, oh, it's easy to blow . . .
It's the hell-served-for-breakfast that's hard.
"You're sick of the game!"
Well, now, that's a shame.
You're young and you're brave and you're bright.
 "You've had a raw deal!" I
 know -- but don't squeal,
Buck up, do your damnedest, and fight.
 It's the plugging away that will win you the day,
 So don't be a piker, old pard!
 Just draw on your grit;
 it's so easy to quit:
 It's the keeping-your-chin-up that's hard.
 It's easy to cry that you're beaten -- and die;
 It's easy to crawfish and crawl;
 But to fight and to fight when hope's out of sight --
Why, that's the best game of them all!
And though you come out of each grueling bout,
 All broken and beaten and scarred,
Just have one more try -- it's dead easy to die,
It's the keeping-on-living that's hard.
 - Robert W.  Service

Sunday, January 27, 2013

1911's, Spaceships and Waffles - Just another Sunday

This coming weeks Range Review,  the Springfield Armory 1911, the perfect blaster for targets and spaceships.

Until then, a clip from one of my favorite movies and Sunday Morning's Kitchen Experiment (made without the assistance of a cookbook OR Minions)


"It's So Fluffy!" Waffles with Maple Bourbon Cider Syrup

These waffles have a consistency almost like pastry or pancakes, very fluffy, tender and light in crumb with just enough crisp on the top to hold in those delicious pockets of butter and  homemade syrup. If you're used to a Crisp Belgium Style Waffle, give them a try, you might be pleasantly surprised.

The hot syrup can be made with ingredients you likely have on hand - a cup of maple syrup, a cup of cider, a pinch of cayenne and a half a shot of Bourbon (more depending on your relatives).   The directions are in the link above for the waffles.

Serve with butter and add some crisp bacon or sausages and sliced peaches. Drizzle all with a bit of the syrup for a nice "breakfast for supper" Sunday meal.
click to enlarge photos

And the corn version below, replace 1/4 cup of the flour with corn meal and replace the sugar with honey.  The rest of the directions remain unchanged.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Drop a Bomb on Me, Baby

I'll SIT for a treat,  but do you have any idea how COLD  my butt is right now?

That had BETTER be a really good treat.

Barkley's No-Bake Nut Butter Bombs

3/4 cup 100% natural  unsweetened peanut or almond butter
pinch of cinnamon
1/4 cup almond milk
1  and 1/4 cups slow cooking rolled oats (NOT instant oatmeal, it can contain salt)
1 Tablespoon fresh flax seed (ground in a blender first)

These treats are dairy free but always check with your vet first if your dog is food sensitive.  Peanut and almond butter based treats are safe for dogs, served in moderation.

Mix nut butter, cinnamon and almond milk. Add in oats and flax seeds (mixture will be thick but you can add another Tbsp. of almond milk if it's too hard to work with).

Use a teaspoon to scoop and shape small balls.  Place on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and refrigerate a couple of hours.

Keeps 3 weeks in airtight container in fridge or freeze some for later. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Back to the Grinder - A HOTR Sandwich Review

There's been lots of talk about Subway sandwiches in the news lately, including a lawsuit.  I can't say I've ever measured my sandwich with a ruler, but I've done worse things with tools when bored.

But the Subway issue caught my eye when it showed up in my unit in a report from a colleague,

"Reward offered for information leading to the discovery of the whereabouts of a six inch  Subway Italian Bravo Mike Tango with lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, salt, pepper and spicy mustard on a nine grain honey wheat bun. Subject was last seen at approximately 1300 hours Tuesday in the west most refrigerator in the lunch room wearing a Subway wrapper surrounded by a cellophane Subway sandwich bag."

Being the ever on alert, stalwart professional, I replied

"So we're looking for the unsub?"

I will happily eat a cold Subway sandwich if the alternate is most burger type fast food.  Actually, I'd eat a live carp if the alternative was Hardee's but that's just my preference.  My former Squirrel Partner used to hyperventilate over the original Hardee's Big Shef.  Taste is very much an individual thing.

But for "sub" style sandwiches, there is no competition for me.

Bellecino's Grinders.  They are located in IN, MO, Ohio,  Illinois and Michigan and possibly other states. (

There's all sorts of stories about the origin of the name of the Grinder, and the difference between one and a "Sub"  sandwich.  One story regards a A New London shop (Capaldos Market?) who made sandwiches and sold them from a cart at the entrance to the Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton during WWII. The sandwiches were a favorite with the welders and grinders (the guys who grind the weld down smooth), and were usually called "Grinder's Sandwiches", later shortened to Grinders.

Not that I have anything against "subs", but once you've had a hot Grinder it's hard to go back.

I'm  not sure if that's the true origin of the term "grinder" but all the ones I have tried have one similarity.  They are baked.  And not "toasted" like in the Subway "toasted" which is done in this sort of combined microwave/toaster oven/linear accelerator that magically sucks out all of the freshness out of otherwise recently baked  bread leaving it the consistency of a chalkboard eraser. No, I'm talking about baked in a PIZZA OVEN,  and not in 3 minutes either.  The combination of this incredible homemade bread baked slow with gooey cheese and sauces and meats with lettuce as a "garnish", is hard to beat.  You won't 'get your sandwich in 2 minutes, but that 10 to 15 minutes will be well worth the wait.

The one I stop at frequently is the Bellecino's in Plainfield IN as it's not far from the Indy airport, being only a few miles West of the terminal. I try and eat before I go on a flight, to avoid the "carbon dated for freshness" airport sandwiches.

The Plainfield location is spotlessly clean and the young man that  takes the ordersthere most days that I stop in pre or post travel is very welcoming  and makes sure everyone has good food and good service.

All of their locations have really good pizza (they put huge pieces of bacon on the bacon /pepperoni pizza), salads, lasagna and other oven baked pastas and $2 and change garlic cheese bread you'll want to order every time.
Still, what has me make that out of my way "dog leg" in my trip to the airport is the hot, cheesy Grinders.

This is Partner's sandwich one day when he went with me. This is a HALF, not a whole (the six inch Subway is hiding in a closet now).

Look at the size of those tomato slices, heck, look at the size of the sandwich.

I don't like cold tomatos so here's my  plain turkey grinder with just lettuce. It's probably not as "blog photo pretty" as some of the sandwiches with all sorts of Italian Meats and real bacon on them, but this is my favorite, "pre-flight" sandwichBut I just took these for pictures of a fun day, not intending to post  them until the whole Subway debate reminded me I should tell readers about this hidden little gem.

Again, this is  HALF of a sandwich.  The menu said this was 9 inches.  I didn't bring a ruler, but I'd say. . . based on a forensically trained eye :-) yes, that is, at least.

When you have to cut a HALF sandwich in half to handle it with two hands, that's a big sandwich.

The Plainfield location is tucked into a small, older mall complex about 3/4 mile East of Plainfield Shooting Supplies.  From  Highway 465 on the west side of Indy, take the Washington St. exit. Go West a few miles.  Look for the Kohl's and Applebee's on your left and turn left into the mall area and you'll see it on your right by Massage Envy and some other sandwich place.   

The "small" club
You know, I think if I get one of these Grinders for my colleague, he'll close his missing sandwich investigation as a cold case file.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Working All the Angles


[sin 4x - cos 4x] / [sin 2x - cos 2x]

and you factor the denominator

 [sin 4x - cos 4x] / [sin 2x - cos 2x] = [sin 2x - cos 2x][sin 2x + cos 2x] / [sin 2x - cos 2x] 

and simplify 

 = [sin 2x + cos 2x] = 1 

and further simplify 

x = whiskey  (and yes, I'll have 1)

That's my theory and I'm sticking to it.

You all have a good night.  My brain is tired and it's cold in Hoosierville so I'm taking a night off to relax. No computer, just music, a warm, furry lab and a small neat glass.  Those of you that can, should do the same.  

Cheers - B.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

You Had Me At Bacon - Bacon Hummus

I  was wanting to make a snack for a friend to tide us over to lunch.  I had some garlic and a can of chickpeas and was thinking of trying my hand at hummus, because as it gets more popular, it seems to get more expensive!
I had to run an errand first,  so I figured I'd get some tahini (sesame paste) which is one of the key ingredients of hummus at the big  grocery store or, striking out there, at the health store that's a couple townships over.
The big yuppie grocery didn't have it and the small mom and pop health food store recentlly went out of business (there are many empty strip malls around here).
There was sesame oil at the grocery but that was $10. No thanks. Plus sesame is an ever growing food allergy.  So, since I'm experimenting with recipes for my friend A Girl and Her Gun with No Dairy and No Gluten for her teenage daughter, why not add in No Nuts. (If you have a bacon allergy, you really need to find another blog).
So I had to come up with plan B. I substituted some lemon and Braggs (real apple cider vinegar with the "mother") for the tahini with some spices that came to mind.  I offered  my friend a spoonful for a taste -  "here, try this". It was good, but it needed something to add some savory to offset the ever so slight vinegary undertone.
Bacon and green onion.  Oh My!  It was the perfect combination of tart and savory. I sliced up a little baguette and we stood at the counter and literally cleaned the bowl here.  This WAS lunch.
Tahini Free Hummus with Bacon
(c) Home on the Range
1 can chickpeas drained and rinsed.
3 teaspoons chopped garlic (from the jar).
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
a grind or two of fresh pepper
1 Tablespoon bacon grease
4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil (and if you get the urge to shout "EVOO" like Rachal Ray, please do so in the privacy of your own home).
5 pieces applewood smoked bacon, cooked,
3 heaping Tablespoons finely chopped green onion (green parts, not the bulb)

Makes enough for lunch and extra to send home with my friend.

Cook the bacon and set aside to cool. Retain at least one Tablespoon of the bacon grease.
In blender or food processor (preferred, the blender didn't make it that smooth) mix spices, lemon juice, fresh bacon grease and Braggs with the chick peas until course. Drizzle in remaining olive oil, pulsating until you get the desired consistency (for me it was 4 Tablespoons). Stir in 1/2 of  the bacon (chopped) and serve topped with remaining bacon and green onion.
Note - this used a can of chickpeas that needed to be used up.  Dried chickpeas are super cheap and easy to cook up.  Cook in some water with some garlic  and add a fair bit of salt after they start getting soft (cooking time will be on the package). When cool and dry, freeze in small sandwich bags.  Great for snacks, salads or recipes, they will keep in the freezer for at least a month. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

LAB Rules

Angus, the black lab that belongs to my friends Six and his wife Lu at the Warrior Class broke his leg. (click for link)  Go on over and drop them a  kind word.  Young Angus is going to need surgery and everyone is understandably worried.

Brigid and Barkley

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Butter My Biscuit and Take Me To the Gun Show - UPDATE Recipe included

For those of you poor folks who eat your biscuits out of a CAN, this is what a real homemade biscuit looks like (this was just half of one).

This is the whole thing. (the recipe for the stunt biscuit was added to the comments by reader request)
Now, for those of you that have never been to an honest to goodness gun show, it's time you tried one out.

This weekend was the big IND 1500 Gun and Knife Show.  I was a bit late to the festivities, missing it completely yesterday,  fighting off a head cold, but Tam has all the action from Saturday in her latest posts.

We got there about 11, no line at all, unlike yesterday where the line went around the whole building, and then some.There was "no photography" at the event but I did get a photo of this really cool pharmacy museum at the fairgrounds which we stopped at on the way out.

Partner in Grime and I were entering the building when over comes a stunning blond in a long coat who had spotted him with a big "Hi E!" as she came on over.  It  was Ashley Varner, Director of Public Affairs for Gun Laws by State,  She had wanted to meet me, and after, gave us a quick synopsis of the show. But being in charge of much of the media goings on, she couldn't stay.  We promised to catch up with her later.  If any of you are looking for a outstanding reference on state to state  gun laws, from Indy's own Bryan Ciyou Esq., please check out the website. It's a wonderful reference source, one I have on hand at home.

The gun show is still as big as I remember. A lot of tables were empty, it being the tail end of the event, but there was still a LOT to look at (Hey, where are the "Tasers, just in time for Valentine's Day"?) Though we didn't come away with much, reloading dies, something for the kitchen  - "Lester's.  America's Cheapest Ammunition. . it usually works".

This was certainly not my first gun show, nor will it be my last, but I came away with an impression that I always do at the big and small shows here in Indiana and one that would not uphold the stereotypes often portrayed by those in the media that report on such things.

You've never seen so much camouflage wear  in  your life, people with long hair, beards, overalls, military uniforms, military haircuts, women, kids, old men, young veterans, old veterans, disabled veterans.  You could not  pick any other large group of people and put them all in an enclosed space and find a more laid back, courteous bunch, respectful of each other and the event itself -  "no, you go first"  "Thank you".  No, go right ahead, after you". "Please".  There's no litter, that's something I also notice. Kids are told "now don't touch other's people's things unless you ask first, be polite" and they are.  People wait in line, for hours, patiently.

This is a cross section of America of which I'm proud to belong, even if we are as different as what we wear, what we do to earn our own way during the work week. We were all here for one thing, for a show of support of that which we uphold and support as a right, not a right as in something that is bestowed,  but a right as something that we inherently possess, which can not be taken from us.

I hope to be at another one, soon.  But the shadows were lengthening and it was time to go.

First we headed to Big Hat Books in Broad Ripple.
This is why I can't write children's books, I'd run out of words that rhyme.

Then to the Broad Ripple Brew Pub.  No official  blog meet today, just friends catching up.

There were bangors and mash and  pub pizza's, I ordered the bacon and pineapple (That's a 10 inch pizza?  They need to have a chat with Subway.)    

The bacon on the pizza, I believe, is from Goose the Market, best bacon in Indy. There was a fair bit of pizza left, but NO bacon.

 This small one was bacon, jalapenos and feta.  mmmm.

Then it was home, to release the hound, as the weather is supposed to be down in the single digits for the next couple of nights and not much warmer in the day. So he's not going to get much in the way of outside playtime.

A big thanks to the folks at the Indy 1500 for such a fine event, and thank you my friends, for a good day.

Tools that Bind, Tools that Free

I was cleaning out a storage unit that I had rented when I sold my last house, with the  last of the lightweight gear loaded in the truck, tied together and down by strands of paracord. Like baling twine to a farmer, it's the thread of life for someone bent on surviving. Shelter building, gear repair, snares and traps, securing gear either to yourself or your ruck so if you and thick brush do a tango it doesn't come lose. The inside strands can make a fishing net. Hanging food out of reach of animals, makeshift clothes line, a sling, multiple uses for something that coils quietly like a snake in the dark of my pack.

550 cord has its name due to its strength capacity. Each of the 7 strands is rated at 50 foot lbs. . Its good to know that info if you need to use the individual strands. Knowing the strength of the individual is as important as knowing the strength of the group and it might save your life sometimes.

Each strand, 50 pounds. With the empty sheath rated at 200 pounds. I think you could flatten that out and use it to temporarily replace a fan belt if you had to (though you might need an overhand knot every so often to keep it from slipping).

It's hard to describe the sort of predicament that paracord could get you out of, but if you've ever ridden into one, you will know.

Yet, it's a common item that gives outdoor survival some substance, a reminder of doing with what you have, what you need to do to survive. Holding it in your hand, it becomes second nature, what hands and fingers are for, the dexterity of your fingers, the willful outcome of your intentions, formed into something useful. Something that can hold life together.

I'm not any sort of expert in anything outdoors. I'm never going to have my own reality show (and note to those that do, please actually HAVE some fishing and shooting acumen before you try and pass yourself off as someone that does). But in addition to basic camping and hiking, I've been survival trained by a couple of employers and if it hasn't given me definitive skills, it's taught me how to THINK about surviving.

It was supposed to be a day hike, though I had lightweight sleeping bag (OK, it's only rated at 30 degrees, but at 3 pounds and it being summer, always worth toting along). Plus I had tarp for a tent just in case I got running behind. Friends knew I'd be back no later than the next morning and if I failed to appear, where to come looking for me, my route laid out ahead of time. The weather was forecast to be good, I was in good health. Then, like something out of a Stooges movie, I stumbled in some loose rock putting a big gouge in my knee. It was deep enough to hurt, not to hobble, but it slowed me down. Enough to know as I headed back I was unlikely to make my truck before dark. Pushing it in the near dark was only going to get me lost.

I figured I best set up for the night near the trail. I had food, water, a way to build a small fire, stuff for a makeshift tent. As I set up my camp for the night, a sound crashed out of the brush, rising up and away, a parabolic curve of sound as a large deer sped away. I could only watch, my head turned to pace his invisible flight, in the wan light, watching the shadow flee into the spell bound woods beyond.And it dawned on me. I'm not the only one out here. This is bear country, not grizzly, but bears nonetheless, though frankly, in all the times I'd hiked up here I'd never seen one. Still they are here. I needed to sleep upwind of my food, and where I prepared it. And I needed my food up off the ground. The trees were tall, I climb about as well as a carp. What to use?

Paracord. I only had a little, Lesson learned, you can NEVER have too much duct tape or paracord. But I did have enough if I separated it out into strands. So I cut off a good piece., leaving enough for other uses. Normally, I'd burn the ends with a lighter so the individuals strands didn't come out (be careful on this, Dante's inferno has nothing on melted 550 cord that drips on bare skin). But this time I needed those strands. Tying each one to each other with a simple square knot and I was able to lift up my gear. Food, breath mints (bears like the smell of some minty toiletries and it wasn't like I was going to meet Mr. Right out here), the shirt and shorts I prepared my food in. All well out of Mr. Bear's reach, about twelve feet off the ground and four feet away from the truck. It wasn't a lot of of weight for just a day hike but it was up and safe as I would be for the night, with just a little planning ahead.

I thought about it that day when I was   putting away the last load from the truck.  I think about it as I hang up the coat I wear outdoors to the range, I find a single round. A live round, not tarnished or touched, the primer embedded firmly into its form. Not much longer than a match, it's large enough to contain a life. Someday it might have to.

Tools are all around us, simple things, necessary things. Learn how to use them. You can sit home, enveloping yourself in the smoke of useless and perpetual passivity, that you can almost smell on a person. Or you can learn. Learn to recognize fear, often as lost on the very young as love and passion.

Then one day, when you stand still with the taste of brass there in a mouth gone dry, a knot in your stomach, you know it's time to use those tools you have to survive. You feel it, in blood, bone, skin, awareness rising out of experience. Be it a city street, the protracted shade of undying woods, or simply face to face with someone who wishes to steal something within you you are not ready to give, you reach into your pocket, into yourself and unleash those threads that bind you to passivity.

There's strength in even the small things that are causes for wonder.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Come to the Dark Side. We Have Cookies

Dark Chocolate and Espresso Gingersnaps 

A family can always disagree on what to have for dinner, but no one ever argues over "want me to make some cookies?" These aren't for the kids, infused with coffee and a bit of chocolate and laden with spice.  Crisp on the outside and chewy in the middle, they are perfect alongside of or dunked in a cup of hot coffee or cold glass of milk.
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 Tablespoon  unsweetened dark cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1  heaping teaspoon. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg 
  • 1 Tablespoon finely ground coffee
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, warmed to room
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  •  3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup unsulfered molasses 
  • extra sugar for tops of cookies (4-6 Tablespoons)
Preheat oven to 375 F. In a bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg coffee and salt. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugars on high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, (about 1 and a half to 2 minutes).  Beat in the vanilla, egg and molasses, mixing well. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in thirds,  beating  well until each addition to incorporate the flour. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

Using  a spoon create balls of dough a little more than an inch in diameter.  Roll top portion in sugar (I used a mix of Artesano's espresso sugar and regular sugar).  Place on lightly greased pan and press down slightly with a glass dipped in sugar. 

Bake in preheated oven 8-10 minutes for a chewy center cookie (bottom of cookie should just be getting slightly brown) 10-12 for a crisp cookie to dunk in coffee.  Immediately transfer the cookies with a spatula  to a wire rack to cool.  Store in an airtight container.  Makes 3 small cookie sheets full.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Irish Cure for Winter Weather.

How to tell if you're Irish.

You are not a professional basketball star.
You've never heard anyone say "nice tan!"
Instant potatoes are a mortal sin.
There wasn't a big difference between your last wake and your last keg party.
There isn't a big difference between you losing your temper and manslaughter.
At least one person in your family is named Mary, Catherine, Eileen or Margaret.

Most cures for common ailments involve whiskey.
Blas Meala - a traditional Irish recipe, it's more like dessert than a drink, and you will debate whether to sip or eat with a spoon. But on a snowy, icy day, it's perfect, whether you're part Irish or not.

The recipe serves two

1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (fresh does makes a lot of difference).
2 teaspoons clover honey
3 Tablespoons Irish Whisky (a bit shy of a shot glass)
a  few Tablespoons whipping cream, whipped til soft peaks form
a  few pinches of oatmeal toasted in a hot pan til dark brown and then crumbled with your fingers.

In a saucepan, heat the OJ to JUST below boiling, add honey and stir.  Pour into a glass, add whisky and a layer of whipped cream.  Sprinkle with the toasted oatmeal, give it a minute to let the whipped cream sort of meld into the liquid and then toast and drink up.

A nice way to spend the evening, no matter how big your castle.