Thursday, February 28, 2013

Frangipani - Skin Gear at its Best

Since scents and grooming were such a topic of conversation this week at Home on the Range,  I thought this would be a good time to share with my readers, especially the gals, the skin care I found a while back that I just love.  Like my gear and gun reviews, I will not accept free product or payment and I don't promote something that I don't personally have in my house and use.  I share because this is what I would share with my family, which now, includes you folks.  I also, would rather promote the "I DID build this" small business owner, especially an Indiana one.

Indianapolis based  Frangipani Body Products  specializes in all-natural skin care and body products and recently won a 3rd Annual Beauty with a Conscience Award.

When I first saw the products in a local magazine, I didn't know it was an Indy based company. When I checked out all the positive feedback on facebook from others with similar ages and skin types, I HAD to order some. The owner and creator of the products, Tracy Land, originally had been making them to heal her own skin, as she battled the skin condition rosacea (which I have as well) then sold it to a few friends while she worked in the Quality Assurance end of IT.

Tracy continued to develop the concept and when her position was eliminated, instead of just picking up an unemployment check, she started refining the products, producing the products and selling to the public, using word of mouth, farmer's markets, trade shows, etc.  I can only imagine how much telephoning, strategy, business planning and leg work that was. The product was a hit, and is now carried in a number of stores, including Whole Foods, in addition to being on line.

My skin has done so much better with natural products in the long term.  My skin is very fair and cantankerous on a good day and the rosacea has made my cheeks irritated and red since grade school.  I love the Frangipani products! They may cost a bit more than what you can get at the drug store, but conventional products use a LOT of water and fillers to keep production costs down.

Frangipani products contain only plant based ingredients, and almost NO water. Only a small amount is needed so the product is quite long lasting which makes it a value.  Compared to what I spent at the Lancome and Clinique and Estee Lauder counters over the years for things that only made my skin redder and more irritated. . . a bargain!

Sure, I could go out and get buffed and abraded and bo-toxed, quick, fake fixes. I prefer a product that heals the skin in the long term, helping it glow from the inside out.

I have no desire to be 20 again, (which is like 2 in dog years). Aging gracefully is wonderful, whether you're a famous black lab or his redheaded "Mom".

The Frangipani products:  So many - cleanser, creams, serums, Shea butter creams that would be perfect for gals OR guys to make work worn hands feel like velvet, lip balm, all kinds of things.  The skin care selections range from oily teenage skin to OMG, I remember 8 track tapes! My favorites are the cleanser and the facial serum. I love gel cleansers but they dry my skin.  Cream cleansers remind me of Grandma's Ponds Cold Cream and make me break out if I use every day. The Frangipani cleanser is smooth and very creamy but it lathers just enough to clean and rinses completely, without rubbing,  leaving my face soft without having to irritate it with a wash cloth. To exfoliate, there is an exfoliating product that's plant oil based with little jojoba beads that gently get rid of dry skin, as they gently dissolve.

I'm thinking the facial cleanser might work well for guys for shaving.  The faint coconut and olive oil based scent is very pleasant but NOT girly. Tracy does not use fragrance oils in her Frangipani line, but only essential oils, much gentler on the skin while still smelling wonderful.  

I also love the body oil, (you have to try that one) it's rice bran oil based so it soaks right in after bathing avoiding that whole, "Honey I just got out of the shower and moisturized and would love a hug", wherein he complies and you go shooting out of his arms like a watermelon seed and bounce off the walls, ruining the mood). And both the grapefruit and the lavender blends smell incredible but not overpowering

But don't let the all natural, plant based products fool you. I've talked to Tracy several times as I got her permission to post this and not only is she a wonderful lady and product genius, she likes bacon!

Check the website out (just click on the Frangipani name in purple at the start of the post).  Everything can be shipped promptly and the beautiful amber recyclable glass bottles are carefully packaged so there is no breakage (and trust me on the body oil thing.)

  - Brigid

Monday, February 25, 2013

Love and Hope - a Journey Through Alzheimers

Do you ever wake up and not know where you are?  If you've traveled a lot on business, you know the feeling. But to wake and not know who you are, that would be a terrible thing to behold.

My step mom  married my Dad two years after my Mom died.  He grieved for my Mom terribly, but he was still a relatively young man, and lonely. She was a widow with three grown kids. They were set up on a blind date by a female friend of my Dad's.

She was always a bundle of energy, 5 feet nothing and 95 pounds of whirlwind motion, laughter and care.  An expert seamstress, she joined a group of ladies from the church who hand crafted stuffed teddy bears to give to kids being brought into the trauma unit at the hospital.  I've written of them before, the ladies making the bears from scratch with clothing and accessories, all unique, cowboy bears, farmer bears, made with love, and all at their own expense. 

I remember one story of a trip the ladies made to the hospital with the newest batch of bears. While they were there, a very elderly man was brought in, muttering in pain and confusion, hurting and alone.  His eyes lit up at the bears and he asked to hold one. She gave him one and he hugged it to him, like a little child would, talking to it, breathing deep of the comfort of soft fur. The ladies let him keep it, a small bit of peace for someone lost and alone.

She had her little moments of forgetfulness, like any aging person, but a previously diagnosed cancer was in remission and she was doing really well, still active in church and in volunteering, taking dance classes, working in the garden.  But one morning, a few months later, she came into the kitchen and sat down, looked at me and I realized she did not have a clue as to who I was.

What struck me, was not that, but the look on her face as she realized this, realized she should know. I obviously wasn't a bugler or a neighbor over for coffee, I was a girl with red hair like everyone else in the family, wearing a fuzzy robe that she herself had washed and put in the guest closet the night before.  I will never forget the look of her at that moment. It was the most starkly exposed face I'd ever seen, a face in which which unknown terrors haunted the edges; the face of a fledgling dove about to tumble from the nest.

It came into our lives quickly, one moment she was laughing, engaging in board games and puns with us, her face bright, her wit razor sharp. Then came those moments where everything just went sort of dim. The doctor only confirmed what Dad had suspected and kept from us for some months until he knew for sure.  Alzheimer's.

It's a terrible disease for all involved. We read what we could about it, we planned as a family  and we prayed.  There really wasn't more we could do.

As the next year and a half passed, there were a  few moments she was quite lucid, and happy. But those were the hardest for all of us, for in those bief moments she was fully aware that her mind was going, what was happening to her and how helpless she was to do anything about it.

The disease's progression is as predictable as its course is certain.  Mood swings and aggression, words that made no sense, dropping to the floor like marbles, tears as she tried to mentally gather them up, anger at the very air around her. She always was gentle with my Dad though. Only with him would she remain calm, the reasoning that was blind and deaf somehow responding to something in him that her mind could still see.  Dad cared for her at home, no matter how bad it got.   We arranged for a home health aide to come in and lend a hand a few hours a week but he refused to let anyone else care for "his girl" or to send her to skilled nursing care. When she passed, it was quite sudden, after she contracted pneumonia. From her sudden coughing to her collapse, was just days.

Sometimes when you get to the far edge, the edge just breaks away.

We laid her to rest  on tree covered hill top. We visit, we bring flowers, we hug and shed some tears, neither of us immune to having our heart broken.  Then we smile through the tears, sharing their stories as we make the long trip home to photos and a little stuffed bear wearing the colors of the flag.

Would she have lived her life differently had she known her fate ahead of time? Perhaps not. Perhaps, in essence, she did, her mother dying of the same disease, as she and my Dad courted. 

She lived life to the hilt, a wheel in motion, racing downhill, a light against the darkness, the whir of a needle into soft fabric. I have a picture of she and my Dad on their first date, and you could see something in their smiles that would be lost on so many people.  Love is a story that tells itself.

I woke up the other morning abruptly, the glaring ringtone of the bat phone waking me with a message just after I'd fallen asleep.  For a moment, I did not know where I was at. The small room was cold, the sound of Barkley checking on me muffled from carpet, not hardwood floors.  I was in my place near work, traveling in the previous day to go on call.  My heart was pounding as that particular ring will do that to me, the surge of adrenalin. There would be no going back to sleep.

But I was aware, of every tick of the clock, of the feel of my skin, the soft panting of doggie breath waiting to see if I was going to get up and leave  or go back to sleep..  I was so blissfully aware, of these moments, these sounds. It was a new day, and even if tired and cranky, I'd leap right in, like a deer into the brush, feeling no thorns.

So I go, and so I watch, finding sense in the senseless, finding my purpose even as sparrows fall to earth. People watching from a distance would think me too quiet, too still, shouldn't this activity be a frenzy of lights and motion, like on TV?  But there is great activity in being the quiet observer, standing in a stillness that smells of silence,  breathing in so many scents in damp cold  air. Sweat, blood and a flower that only blooms in the dark, the wind so scant it's like breath on a mirror. Each smell blended yet distinct, always overlayed with the copper tang of life spilled. The air hums along to the nights quiet as all I see, smell and feel, forms into a substance I can almost feel on my flesh, capturing it, recording it there in the stillness. The truth is often still, inarticulate, not knowing it is the truth.

When I next get out to my Dad's, I'll once again see that photo of them on that first date, the feelings there so sudden and so very unexpected, incapable of being formed into sound. I'll look at another photo, the last one we have of her where she was completely with us, a laughing woman on my deck in the Indiana summer, her movements that of a bird, free and spirited. There is no fear in her, in that memory, even as the picture lays silent. But there is hope.

Those last days with her were difficult, but they taught me a lot.  Not just visible confirmation of what my Dad was truly made of, but that words aren't  necessary to define what you believe, that nestled in the strong crook of an arm of the one who understands you without words, you know exactly who you are.  Even when she didin't know who I was, she taught me about not being limited by fear, but going forward with hope, even if the future is not articulated.

Home and love, love and desire, can be what propels us silently onward.  Hope and love,  love and desire, can also be merely sounds, that people who have never hoped or loved or desired have for what they never possessed, and will not until such time as they forget the words. 

 - Love, Brigid

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Throwing Cupcakes

“Who throws a cupcake? …honestly!”
- young Dr. Evil, Austin Powers

I took a day off to create in the kitchen. Something thrown together to share with friends and coworkers who could use a little cheer in the coming week.  We'll start with cake.

Cake for celebrations or for cheer is a tradition that dates back as far as the Romans, with the idea for the candle on top being attributed to both early Greeks and later, Germans. The origins notwithstanding, the cakes vary from region to region and even among families. Everyone has their own favorite cake for celebrations.

The first one I remember, was not a birthday cake, but an Easter one.  I can still recall that ranch house, the apple trees I was almost big enough to climb, Mom's rose garden that  she painstakingly kept up, that after her death, still bloomed without help or hindrance from any of us.  I can picture that moment as she brought out the cake like it was yesterday.  For at Easter every year, Mom would make a two layer cake, then cut it in half, adding a nose, ears and tail to make a bunny cake. Then she'd make a small cake into a baby bunny.  We'd eat it at the very end of the day, after church, after thanks, after dinner.  There is an extremely faded photo close by from the sixties of one of them.

There were other cakes over the years, some plain, some fancy. Another family member  made me a cake one year that, well, was completely burned on the outside and raw in the middle (using that bachelor cooking time conversion  method of doubling the temperature and cutting the cook time in half).  We still laugh about that.

Birthday cakes come in all sizes and flavors.  Everyone had a favorite, though mine has been, since the very first cake that I can remember, yellow with chocolate buttercream.

Birthday cakes range from  memories of "Oh, that's so sweet!" (and yes, that's a plumbers candle and as Partner has a birthday soon, there will be payback, as we say).

to "Get a rope. "

Then there are wedding cakes. Cakes at weddings are intense elaborate affairs that can cost hundreds of dollars. (Seriously?  Register at Midway and make your own cake, think of all the money you'd save). 

What were once tradition white cakes and frosting with the bride and groom toppers are now  as individual as the couples involved.

But todays post is about my favorite- cupcakes.

The first mention of the cupcake can be traced as far back as 1796, when a recipe notation of "a cake to be baked in small cups" was written in American Cooker by Amelia Simmons. They're more than a dressed up muffin. They're fun, they're easy to prepare and share, and if they turn out too dry and overdone they make dandy replacements for sporting clays (pull!).  For lunch OR launching in a trebuchet, they're dandy little things.

What kind?  Honestly, the simplest things are often the best.  My favorite is a vanilla cupcake with vanilla icing but today I added a twist.  The cake is infused with the delicate flavor of almond and brandy topped with a whipped butter cream frosting that is both buttery and sweet, but leaves just a touch of salt on the tongue as the faintest of aftertaste. This is a cupcake for grown ups.  But throw on some sprinkles, because there will always be a little kid in each of us.

You can just eat one and share the rest.  Right?

click on photos to enlarge

Saturday, February 23, 2013

HOTR Housekeeping Tips

Some folks clean their house like they do everything else, ordered, deliberate, careful, behaved.

I can as well.

Sometimes -

Just some advice - if you're going to vacuum in your bright yellow undies while your jeans and T shirt dry in the dryer. . .

and you're going to listen to Kool and the Gang "Jungle Boogie" REALLY loud. . . .

and you start dancing around with the Oreck in your hand, sucking up those dust bunnies while the red hair whips around. .  .

Make sure you have your drapes are completely closed.

Otherwise, there's a whole 'nother meaning to "neighborhood watch".

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Smashing! - New Burger Joint in Town

If you are reading this, that means the bat phone rang and tonight's post will be one saved for just such occasion.

It's not in Indiana yet, but in our neighboring states, all over actually, a new burger place has popped up.  Smashburger.  Opened in 2007 nationally, most consumers have been comparing them to Five Guys.  It's hard not to draw comparisons between the two, both use fresh beef, both serve foods fast, and both offer a whole bunch of toppings and freshly made fries with a similar franchise model.

Five Guys is popular around here. When the coworkers get to choose where we eat when in the city, it's one of their favorite choices. Having a big table at Five Guys we can all sit at to talk and share fries (their fry servings are HUGE) in a very casual atmosphere (loud music, friendly personnel and peanuts on the floor) is something the fellows I work with enjoy. The guys are comfortable with that red and white tile storeroom feel.  They can be loud, they can be messy, they can just relax and eat and the staff is always so friendly to us.

I introduced Dad to them (he'd been a huge Wendy's fan til they changed their burger and fry recipe and at 92, says his time is too short to to sit in the drive through while some kid figures out which of the now apparently 12 different Frostys they want).

It was a hit (Dad, being part Scot saw the "free" toppings and went for it).

This was one happy Dad.

But it's not someplace I'd dine at by myself.  If I need to do fast food because of location or time available, I get a Chick Fil a Spicy Chicken Sandwich, squirt it from the packet of hot sauce and top it with a small side of their coleslaw and have a small lemonade.  It's not the best thing to eat in the truck and I usually arrive where I'm going, looking like Zombie Paula Dean, but I'm happy and full.  I like Chick Fil a. They're always clean and friendly; the food looks as advertised and my server usually isn't sporting 3 pieces of face tackle and dreadlocks. But that's about it for me and fast food, as frankly I'd kiss a wolverine before I'd eat a Big Mac.

But sometimes you just have to have a burger, even if you have to grill one at home in the dark and improvise.
So when I saw Smashburger (and the huge line out the door) one day I said I'd try it.

We went right before noon, it was very busy but there was still seating space. The decor was clean and neat with the red and white theme (sound familiar?) but this one more retro hip than warehouse.You get a menu off a holder on the wall as you come in, order at a counter, get your  drink and seat yourself with a numbered tag that sits at your table. The seating is more private, with dividers giving some areas some space between your table and the neighbors, nice if the place has a lot of kids or a noisy crowd.  They then bring your food to you, in a basket, not a bag that will soak up the fry grease, so once you are seated you can just relax and enjoy some conversation.

There are a lot of items on the menu but burgers are the star. Big balls of fresh Black Angus beef are "smashed"  with this medieval looking cookie cutter thing that looks like it was made out of a dismantled Dalek, on a a grill prepped with melted butter, not oil. As the patty cooks, the melting fat percolates through the small holes in the burger, sending wisps of smoke upwards that make the whole restaurant smell like PETA repellent. mmmmmm.  They then use an extremely sharp edged spatula to scape the specialty seasoned (garlic herb mix of their own) smashed patty off the griddle, a two handed operation and one that leaves an impressive sear on the beef.

Then a double thick piece of cheese is applied.  "No Kraft Single" cheese here, mine was a big thick piece of sharp cheddar (they had six types of cheese). Their systems seems designed so the buttery toasted bun and toppings reach the grill just as the meat is ready to come off. The burger is hot, the cheese is hot and melty and the toppings  are fresh, not limp.

Burger combinations are endless and each regional area has their own "specialty" burger.  The free toppings are many and you can also add (for a paltry amount), applewood smoked bacon, avocado, a fried egg, onion straws, fried pickles, garlic mushrooms, sauteed onion.

The picture above is my small burger.  It's larger than the small Five Guys,1/3 pound to 1/4,  but it is also about a dollar more so the value is about the same.  The large Smashburger is 1/2 pound (a bigger single patty instead of two thinner patties like Five Guys).

I went for simple - sharp cheddar, chipotle mayo and lettuce on the egg bun.  Partner in Grime had  the small burger with Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce, cheese, applewood smoked  bacon and onion straws (oh, that looked good). Both fairly simple so they probably aren't the most impressive, photo wise, but they were indeed very, very good.
We both selected the egg bun. They also have a whole grain and a spicy chipotle bun, all buttered and toasted, as well as a pretzel roll which I've made for my own grilled burgers at home. I would come back for the taste and the texture of the egg bun alone, but the burger was very good.

Moo - I've yet to have a restaurant burger that had the depth of flavor as a home grilled one, enough to stand alone without any topping but cheese,  but this is about as closed as fried can get..  I liked the slightly thicker patty of Five Guys but this patty was much more flavorful and juicy without being overly greasy as the Five Guys patty can be. The nice bit of snap and crunch from the violent smash and grill resulted in the center more juice than grease.  I still prefer my meat a little more rare in the middle.  But  being smashed they will be  pretty much medium, but it was no less juicy for it.

The patty isn't square, it isn't round, it's it's own unique shape, full of inlets and valleys where the condiments can loiter, waiting for that first bite.

The fries I'd say I'd prefer to Five Guys.  They weren't  nearly as greasy, and you can order them tossed with a bit of olive oil, garlic and rosemary which is a really flavorsome combination.  Five Guys has a Cajun seasoned fries as an alternate to plain but they are way too salty for my taste. The Smashburger fries still look as if they were made from frozen but I still preferred that over home cut and cooked but with grease soaking into the bag. (I'm not saying the greasy ones don't taste good, they do, but after a small  F.G. burger and a half of an order of those, I feel like I ate a live hedgehog).

We also tried the onion straws that came with a spicy dipping sauce (pictured below) They were crisp, salty, addicting, but more than enough to share. There are multiple other sides, including  sweet potato fries (with or without the garlic rosemary seasoning and probably really good with some blue cheese dip)  fried pickles with a buttermilk ranch dip, chili or a side salad.  You can get an adult beverage. If you are feeling especially snooty you can order veggie frites – flash fried carrots, green beans, asparagus, with sea salt and black pepper, though I didn't see anyone that ordered that. Lift your little pinky finger, hoist your wine and raise your half pound burger at the first Vegan that walks past the window.

There's chicken sandwiches (fresh chicken breast, not dismantled chicken bits made into a patty), black bean burger options, salads and hot dogs.  We were too full to try anything except their  iced tea bar, but any place that has a Butterfinger Malt (or just a regular shake) made out of Hagan Daz ice cream is OK in my book. Making a shake without soft-serve with all the gums and stabilizers would make for a pretty good, thick treat that would suck, but through a straw in a good way.  Next time, I'll pass on the fries and get a burger and a malt.

Price wise, it was about $20 for the two of us with soft drinks, including tax.  Not a cheap lunch, but I've spent that on the road for "fast casual" for two and not enjoyed it nearly as much.

Dad will always enjoy his Five Guys (and the peanut flinging) and I'll happily eat there with him and the guys if they want to go. 

But I definitely have a new favorite burger joint.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dine and Dash Doggie

No, we're not going to the Vee-E-Tee.

Mom's got to go back to work.  I've got water and dog treats for you, a sandwich up here for me and we're all set.

I know it's a long drive, but I'll take you out when we get to the Rest Stop. 
Now, I've had my pit stop, it's time for yours.

Hey, where's my sandwich???

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Pistols, Pancakes and Polish Pickles - It's Saturday

The day dawned a frosty 13 degrees.  The high was going to be 21.  A good day for friends, firearms and food.  It started with pancakes. I was making a batch from some hand scribbled notes from last time, and somehow got the liquid and flour quantities reversed. The batter was thin, so thin that when it went on to the griddle it spread out all over, every which direction.

You know how some Mom's make pancakes shaped like Mickey mouse or other animals?


Time to return to the drawing board. The second bath turned out perfectly, light, fluffy, moist and not shaped like something from a Lovecraft story. (recipe in the comments.) Served with Amish Bacon and eggs fried up in a bit of the pan drippings.

Then it was off to Half Priced Books.

This was pretty cool, but at $50, rather pricey. Still, a neat hardcover collectors edition.

I'll just wander around and see if there's anything marked down.

Then it was home with a couple new non fiction books on history and architecture after a stop at a favorite store for some Polish back up.
Then, the drive on back home.
Yes, that's a shotgun cribbage board.
The game is not going so well.  I don't have jack.

Maybe I'll do better with a different game.

Maybe not.  Care for another game of Mexican Train Wreck Dominoes?

Look a squirrel new Ruger! (If all else fails distract them.)
A range report next weekend.  For now, I can redeem myself with supper.

Marinate some ribeyes  for at least 24 hours in a zip lock bag with:
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup key lime juice
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
3 heaping Tablespoons minced fresh garlic
2 and 1/2 Tablespoons Basil
1 teaspoon dried Rosemary
1 and 1/2 Tablespoons dried Parsley
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/4  teaspoon hot sauce (I like Scoville Brothers Heavy Metal Heat).

Grill and a minute before removing from heat sprinkle a pinch of Turbinado (raw) sugar on top of each steak to caramelize and offset the salt and heat with just the right sweetness.

Serve with freshly made Perogies stuffed with cheese, potatoes and spice, cooked with some finely diced onion and  browned butter and served with peas (sorry Old NFO).

Hopefully, everyone will forget that earlier train wreck.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

From the Below Wing R and D Department - Flying and Armed

Every homestead should have an R and D Department, where experiments can be conducted and new gadgets tried out. (No, no!  When it's coming at you, the rotation is reversed!)

Most of you remember "Q" from the James Bond films?  He was the crafty fellow who ran the Research and Development Division of the British Secret Service, coming up with all sort of ingenious weapons that Mr. Bond can use to protect and defend.

I do believe Q's full name is Q. Pid.

I arrived home from a VERY long week to find that Partner in Grime had left me a surprise.  The wooden winged fellow was well armed, and his weapon WAS loaded.  I look carefully, nothing of threat in the background but a couple of martini glasses.

Agent 00K9 Barkley (licensed to shed) acted as if nothing had happened in my absence, perhaps having been dosed with a dog treat secret drug causing unconsciousness and amnesia.

As I moved around the other side, I noticed on the table below, a message. . . or a warning. Agent Barkley watches with caution, at his feet, either a large pink grenade with feet, or the nefarious Mr. Squeeky.

With the message, a  heart shaped box of ECP (Elastic Colt Pistol) ammo, should the battle between redhead and red-winged Valentine's delivery guy be prolonged.

The red journal  - a few secret passwords that I can't tell you or I'd have to kill you.

Hey, no hoarding bags of extra ammo!

I hope you all enjoyed your week and have an even better weekend.

Love - Brigid and Barkley