Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Bacon, Brass and Buddies - Brigid's Bachelor Cooking

You don't have to be single to appreciate "Bachelor cooking", those things that can be made with simple ingredients and a well stocked spice cupboard.

Getting a hold of an easy meal doesn't have to involve anything frozen, a pizza or a clown. If you are cooking for 1, 2 or a unexpected crowd hungry from some time at the range, this can be on the table in no time and won't break the bank.

With a few leftovers and some inexpensive cheese picked up at Aldi on the way home, this was in the oven in about 15 minutes and on the table in another 25.  And it got a BIG thumbs up from the Rangehands even if it wasn't chock full of cow.  So wash off the GSR,  pair it with salad and an adult beverage and it's good enough for company.

It tastes just like lasagna, but with a porky kick and the outside of the bun crisps just right in the oven, while the middle stays all soft and pairs perfectly with the cheese and sauce.
The "Porkinator" - Sausage  Lasagna in a bun (easily cuts in half or doubles)

1/3 of a jar of store bought pasta sauce (roughly 1 and 1/4 cups)
1/2 of a roll of Jimmy Deans SPICY breakfast sausage (sage flavor would also work)
1 heaping teaspoon chopped garlic (fill that puppy up)
a slice  or two (ahem) of chopped bacon
Mmmm.  Bacon.  You you need a couple slices for the recipe, eat any extra.
Cook meat and drain fat:

stir into sauce and add:
1/2 tsp oregano
a shake of crushed red pepper (OK I used 3 or 4 but we like spicy)
3 dashes of Jane's Krazy Mixed Up Salt (or your favorite mixed salt)

Simmer just until it's bubbling
While the sauce  heats up, in a bowl mix:

1 cup grated mozzarella
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup  Parmesan

Set aside about 1/2 cup of that mixture

To shredded cheese add:
1 cup of ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon of egg (white and yolk mixed up and measured out, save rest for breakfast)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1'2  teaspoon dried parsley
a pinch of cayenne
Mix well.
Get six bratwurst or other larger sized sandwich rolls and scoop out the middle third (save that for meatloaf later), leaving enough at the bottom it holds together, like a sub-shaped bread bowl.

Place a big spoonful of meat sauce inside, top with a couple spoonful's of the cheese mixture, leaving a little open space for the sauce to bubble up through.

Cook in 350 F. oven, covered lightly with foil for 20 minutes.  Remove foil, sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake another 4-6 minutes, until cheese on top melts.

That's it.  No time at all in the kitchen.

For when squirrels gather, they have more important things to do.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Hot- Like a Cow on Fire!

For Secret Squirrels or any other kind (yes, some of you are going to get the reference) this is a great spicy stir fry that uses an inexpensive small bit of round steak, and will provide a meal that will match any dinner at a Thai or Chinese place (and you don't have to tip!)

If you are prone to fainting, heatstroke or Victorian "the vapors", please reduce the crushed red pepper by half or if you are Midwest Chick, double it. Peas are optional , Old NFO :-)

 - Brigid

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Steampunked - ePostal Match Time

It's time for the June ePostal Shoot Out, which originated over at Mr. Completely 's blog. You can visit his site for the history of this fun event, but Partner in Grime has a target created for the June event, and our household will be tabulating the scores to see who wins bragging rights while Mr. C. is on the mend from some surgery.

I've done them before and they are a blast.  The one below involved  hitting anything BUT the flies, which was a lot of fun, especially with the use of Mr. B's Ruger 10-22.
Partner in Grime was trying to come up with a target for the June event, and finally just put some gears on it and called it "Steampunk!" (click on the picture below to download or print out the target).

Then I had a new camera, so pictures were in order.

Scoring: Each shot counts once as the highest zone touched. 10 bonus points for scoring on all 4 gears.

Looks like fun but it's not just shooting at the gears.   The points (also marked on the target) stack up like this.  You get 10 points for hitting a key, 9 points for hitting a shaft, 7 points for hitting a tooth, and 3 points for hitting anywhere else on the gear.   You get 10 shots at 10 yards (standing unsupported) which you can aim anywhere you please. However, if any of you are thinking about skipping that troublesome partial gear on the left, we'll throw in an extra 10 bonus points on any target where you score points on ALL FOUR GEARS. Each shot scores only once so this gives a (highly unlikely) perfect score of 110 points.


Target size: 8.5x11

Range:  10 yards (or as close as possible at your range)

Number of shots: 10

Position: Standing unsupported

Time limit: None

Scoring: Each shot counts once as the highest zone touched. 10 bonus points for scoring on all 4 gears.


1 – Iron sight rimfire
2 – Iron sight centerfire
3 – Optical sight rimfire
4 – Optical sight centerfire
5 – Open class: Anything else.

Pistol or rifle are both welcome. If is unusual then shoot a target and send it in.  Send a picture too…if you and your gun look “steampunk enough” you will get extra points out of it!

Email scans or photos to engineeringjohnsonatgmaildotcom by the end of June.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Barkley Memories - Chances are Remote

Mom, he better not be messing up my TIVO of Animal Planet!

I rarely watch TV shows, with the exception of NCIS,  Dr. Who and the occassional Top Gear and Mythbusters.  Frankly, I'd rather have a root canal than watch most of the reality shows out there(though I did enjoy the few episodes of Deadliest Catch that I caught).  Besides, I have a collection of classic sci fi, westerns and a few old horror flicks at the crash pad in case I'm on call and don't feel like starting a book (page 50 into a engaging read  is usually the first sign that the bat phone will ring).

In looking at some of the Reality shows out there lately,  it dawned on me that I could likely replace any of these shows with some of the old classics and no one would be the wiser.

Here's some that's been on TV in the not so distant past and what you could replace them with: 

Jersey Shore - The Horror of Party Beach
Real Housewives of Orange County - Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death
Piers Morgan - Buckaroo Bonzai, Across The Eighth Dimension.
Amish in the City - Children of the Corn
Ice Road Truckers - Mad Max 2, Road Warriors
The Real Housewives of New Jersey - Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Jon and Kate Plus 8 - Village of the Damned

Sister Wives - Stepford Wives
Kim and Khloe Take Miami -Killer Klowns From Outer Space
The Bachelor -  I married a Monster from Outer Space

Teen Mom - I Know What You Did Last Summer
Fear Factor - Alien

Hey, seriously, Animal Planet is on.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

News Flash

Today was a good day. The Book of Barkley has finished the copy editing process and tomorrow will go to production. It's finally happening, to be in bookstores and online and e-book apps by early summer.

Even better, a box arrived in the mail for me.  I'd been wanting a fancier camera for some time.  I was so happy that my friend Keads gave me his little point and shoot when my little $80 camera died, it was so much better than what I had and he'd taken really good pictures with it.  But I'd got to play with my friend M's Canon EOS 7D and just loved it (it takes some dandy air show pictures).  But I just didn't want to spend the money as Dad's care is my responsibility and keeping him in his own home as he wishes, with a nurse, adds up, even with some insurance coverage. I am a firm believer that "savings" is for necessities in an emergency, not "wants", so I wasn't going to buy one for a while.

So I just pointed and clicked and would raise and eyebrow at Partner and say, "I wonder what I could do with the BIG camera". (Gentlemen, that's known as a  whack on the head with a "clue by four")

Today I will find out. But I have to say, I have the best husband in the world (even though when he proofed the Book of Barkley he grinned and said "needs more car chases and explosions :-)
I haven't even learned the settings yet and I'm loving it already.  (camera shy dog meet long range lens!) I took a few test shots before night set in, just to see what it could do with various textures and lights.  

You know, life deals you some blows, but when you have something to look forward to, it makes all the difference in the world.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fifty Shades of Black - Morning at the Range

Morning comes early at the Range most days. But I love to watch the sun come in the many windows, the shine of it on all the wood around the house, as from downstairs coffee is ground on a 100 year old grinder. Everything here was either a beloved family piece or rescued by a curb or free on Craigslist and re-crafted. I've done the "buy a house full of furniture", spending thousands only to find even the "good" furniture store stuff was made of termite poop and Elmer's glue and started looking crummy in just a few short years.  I  don't care to do that again. I kept a couple room fulls for the crash pad, everything else was donated to AmVets. 
What we have is old, but it's well built and/or rebuilt, and even better, just about free. We've got a once beautiful hardwood Mission sofa being refinished. It had been a beautiful piece of furniture, but had seen several small children with the associated scratches and wear. It just  needed refinishing and re-cushioning and was had for a 12-pack of beer.  In it's place  for now, Partner's old Ikia couch frame from post college apartment with some quick cushions made up with yards of fabric and some foam and a bit of sewing.  It's not ideal, but it will function as a couch until the Mission frame is done and these cushions can be upgraded to custom fit it.  Provided I can keep the suede type fabric looking  nice.
Like the crafty chameleon,
 I have assumed the color of my background. 
 So why are you looking at me?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Driving Miss Abby - Dog Physics

You would think it would be just a simple drive. . . .

After almost two weeks at the crash pad, Partner coming on down last weekend so she could get used to one place a bit before uprooting yet again, it was time to take Abby home to the Range.

One of the traits I looked at, when picking a dog to adopt was "rides well in the car" as, like Barkley, she will commute with me.  The drive is several times a month and it's long, but we often see some really interesting things.  Like today, this "weekend woody" camper. 

I decided to leave in the morning, I was really tired from a long week and there was thunder and hail going strong as I left work.  I also I thought she'd be more relaxed driving in the early morning when she's still a little sleepy. We'd made a few short drives this last week and she took well to the harness system that allows her to sit and lay down in the back, but not move forward or turning into missile dog, in the event of the accident.  Saturday morning dawned with good weather, everything was packed up, this should be a breeze.

Until I got up to find her with her head in the food bowl, not the little one but the BIG one, the plastic container that holds 40 pounds  Apparently Miss Abby figured out that if Mom doesn't latch the top down tight, she can snoot the top up and have herself a little snack.

And she did, on top of her regular food.  There wasn't that much missing, and her belly wasn't hard, so I figured she'd be full but OK.

Until I got out of the shower to find out she'd barfed on the only really expensive rug in the house. swore Barkley was somehow up in doggie heaven giving her pointers.

I got that cleaned up, and took her out to potty, but she really did't have to go, so we loaded up. I knew she was a little nervous as we loaded up, as the last time she made a long trip, she ended up in another strange place with very kind, but new people.  After several months in a shelter being treated for heartworm, that had to have been scary for her.
So I kept  my eye on her. Having owned a couple labs in my life, I know about the effects of overeating, mainly, dogrrhea. But she seemed just fine when we left the crash pad.

But as we hit every pothole on I-65 North, she started to get a little restless (attention State of Indiana, driving the right lane on the stretch between Indy and Lafayette is like driving on a pinball machine, and that first rest stop north of town has fissures in the pavement that have likely swallowed a Smart car).

Abby had been happily sleeping when suddenly she sat up, maneuvered and let loose an explosive spray from her back end that would have done a demolition team proud. 

I didn't think a little dog could hold that much.

We got off the road at a looming rest stop. I didn't scold her, she couldn't help it, but patted her and got her cleaned up as best I could (thank you paper towels and a garbage bag in the emergency road kit).  Then, I wiped down the seat and the floor (most of it hitting the floor and the back of my seat).  I then went into the rest rooms to get cleaned up. One woman wrinkled her nose at the smell (my jacket sleeve got it bad) and I just said "you should have seen the other guy!"

I called Partner and told him I'd be a little late. We took another walk, making sure she was completely empty before getting her some fresh water and a blanket. From there, she was all happy, no further discomfort though for the rest of the drive, though I was seriously tempted to stick my ear plugs up my nose, having left the Vick's in my ready bag.

We made our usual stop at I-65 Exit 240 (Lowell/Hebron) at the clean and friendly Arby's that's next door to a very nice Super 8 (even if I don't want a bite to eat, I'll stop there for a friendly hello and a coffee). By that time the truck had aired out, and she was definitely feeling better.
What is that? I smell cow  I love cow.  You gave me some last weekend.
It is! It's a bag of cow!  And it comes with some Cow Jus to dip the sandwich in.
Has anyone told you that large quantities of cow can restore an electrolyte imbalance caused by dogrrhea?
She didn't buy that line of bull.  I guess I'll just go back to sleep.

We're near the state line, you can tell by the cars.  Do you want to take a bet how good THAT is to drive during lake effect snow up here (don't drive that after Labor Day).
And what is this?  I think it's the "Red Green U-Haul, now with improved Duct Tape!
As I rolled into the drive, I knew Partner would be waiting for me with open arms.

And apparently a whole bunch of cleaning supplies.
 Still it was great to be home.
 Look Abby, Dad made you a paracord slip leash in U of I colors!
How about you two go for a long walk while I take a spray hose to the inside of the truck?

Happily coming up the steps inside, she settled right into the house, probably smelling us both there, and finding her favorite toy on the rug when she came inside to home, tail wagging furiously.

It's good to have a Lab back in the house, trying out every single comfy place to lay.  I can almost hear Barkley up above saying "Way to Go Agent Canine C-4, way to go".


Friday, May 16, 2014

For Those of You Who Love Their Shop- A Thought

In watching what little of the Winter Olympics I saw, I was somewhat saddened that they didn't have a Nordic Putter event.
 - Brigid

Thursday, May 15, 2014

On Memory - The Cabin is Gone

Summer will be here soon, but for now, the temperatures are still dipping down at night, the  early morning requiring a jacket as I roust Abby from her spot guarding the front door, for an early walk.  Outside, nothing moves, the morning pausing for the first ray of sun to break the trees, they themselves, barely breathing.

I like being the first one awake in the morning, the room completely quiet, the walls a dark forest of calm, the only laughter but an echo from the pages of books in my suitcase, a library of experience brushed by fingertips.

I've always liked the morning, and even as a child found myself up before my parents, eager to get out and explore, especially if there was water nearby. It will be time to get dressed soon, and I rummage in my purse, looking for my keys, when my hand touches a flat blue stone, etched with a moose. It is not a stone from the wild, but from an airport gift shop, purchased with a smile after visiting one I hold dear. As I touch it, a thought whispers in my head, almost a sound, a soft hushed touch, and I look up, thinking perhaps it's the sound of Abbey moving around, but she is back asleep on the couch, the sound but a rustle of a blue shirt, buried deep in a memory.
What is it about certain things in life, the simplest of things, a tool, a smell, the feel of a piece of wood or small stone in your hand that evokes a place, a voice, a wistful goodbye, that makes you feel like a small child walking on a path of life that got suddenly big. And like a child, you deeply sense how it makes you feel, but the words you know to explain it are so very limited, so you just sit and  look, and breathe it in.

The only sound I hear is the tick of a clock, the only other thing I can sense is a taste of salt, that of the ocean, or tears, I can not tell, but distilled there on my tongue taking me back some 40 or so years to a small wooden cabin near the ocean's edge.

The cabin is gone.  It's wood cremated to ash, its foundation covered by the advance of time,  But from that time of my youth, it burned brightly in my mind, that one constant, that spot on earth on which we grew and spread our wings, even as we were rooted to its ground, drawing our faith together there with our life.
I spent a good part of my childhood summers and the occasional holiday weekend at that cabin, right on the water's edge, only a small margin of sand between the sea and tranquility. It was small and clean and within its walls were my happiest memories. Getting up before dawn with my older brother to walk miles to look at the wonders the night had exposed. Clouds caught on the mountains, the sky grey in the morning, a filtered, ocean blue-grey, hesitant cloud cover that we felt safe under. Days running through the trees, down onto the sand,  playing soldier or storm trooper or spy. Days filled with time, as though it were something solid you could pick off the ground and put in your pocket.

But what I put in that pocket was a small stone, no moose etched on it, but a stone, a small smooth weight I carried in my pocket, worn smooth by the action of the waves that flirted with the shore. Waves are part of life, the cadence of your day, perhaps that is why I'm drawn to the shore. The beach where we vacationed, like any stretch of sand and stone, is formed of glacial drift and rock, the small stones that you can still hold in the palm of your hand are worn to their element. I would touch them, smooth against my skin, stroking the surfaces well rounded by the waters never ending manipulative caress. But in addition to the stones, we'd find all sorts of treasures, branches and bits of bone, small pieces of the wild, tossed about by wind and galloping currents, and abandoned as casual playthings of the wild, just waiting to be picked up and held.
We'd throw some of them back in the water, the tide moving as fast and as slow as life itself, even as we ourselves could not sense that momentum, believing that it would always be like this. All that distance between ourselves and the future, it was not even a thought in that long peaceful creep of a childhood afternoon.

TV was not allowed at the cabin and we'd play outside unless it was raining hard enough to drown a duck, coming in only for lunch (and once to catch Dad watching football - busted!). We played, racing around rocks, trees and water until supper, when we'd come in to Mom, to fresh baked cheddar garlic bread and fresh caught fish. We'd bound in and she'd take us in, in arms that smelled of flour, her auburn hair scented with Wind Song perfume, her laughter a balm to any skinned knee that might have occurred during the days warfare. We ran until we couldn't take in a breath.  We drove our feet deep into the sand, as if imprinting it forever.  We conquered the waves on skim boards, shooting across the wet sand with nothing more than the physics of motion and an inch of water, getting a sensation of movement of air and water, that never left either of us.
Nights were filled sound of the water lulling us to a sleep after our nightly family time that consisted of board games, fires, Jiffy Pop popcorn, and always, prayer before our simple supper.

The cabin is gone.

We went there through good times and bad as children, even during a time my Mom was battling cancer. She may have been too weak some days to get out of bed, but we were there, with Dad cooking pancakes that were so bad that the dog took them out and buried them and the one I threw in the fireplace wouldn't burn. Years later we still laugh about those pancakes. We were there when storms tossed tree limbs like toys, taking out a window and reminding us just how vast and powerful the sky and ocean were, understanding both their saving power and severity.  We were there through joy and hope and loss.

We'd get up before light, being careful not to wake Mom ,and head on down to the tide pools that were exposed, gingerly looking, while not harming anything that was there, hoping to find a prehistoric shell to take home.  On the old 60's TV cabinet at Dad's, now a storage cabinet, is a dish full of sand dollars. Many of you have seen a sand dollar. They're commonly sold in souvenir stores. But what you see is only the remaining skeleton of a living sea creature. When living, the sand dollar is covered with fine hair like cilia that cover tiny spines, soft, and almost purple in color. But the remaining shell is beautiful, fragile, white. The essential essence of what this creature was.
I loved those mornings at the tide pool, when no one was around and I had miles of the wild to myself. I loved it in the afternoon, when the sun beat off my back while we played with a big weather balloon Dad got us and the chance of an encounter with something large of tooth and fin was simply an annoyance. I loved it when the fog lifted off the land and I could take the little Piper from the local airport where I worked as  a teen, and follow eagles as they danced in tandem with the waves. With the light of the sky reflecting off my prop guiding  me back to the airstrip, a wing tipped to a pod of whales. I still believed that life was uncomplicated. I loved it in the evening, when I could get in one last walk at my world's edge, when the whole landscape took on an otherworldly look and I could dream the dreams of my future in the sky against the backdrop of clear, iridescent waters.

Even into adulthood, that cabin was our hearthstone, even if distant, that place where we all had the right to sit as family. We were already traveling hundreds of miles of uncharted ocean and sky, earning under or beyond the ocean, our glory, or sometimes no more than a stale sandwich and strong coffee. But going back there was like rendering an account, the open sky and that mighty ocean our friend, our inspiration, our judge. We came back, sometimes scarred, but we came back whole, as family, to face the peace and the truth which was simply grasping each other's hand in prayer, before someone decided to play "Mr. Pincher" with a crab claw on a sibling that outranked them.
The cabin is gone

It was sold and replaced with a condominium on the site where the little cottage and those of its kind stood. We went back one last time before the buildings were razed and watched the sun set on my innocence. I wanted to hold onto that night, the way the water smelled, the wash of colors of a Western skyline, the lonely cry of a bird of prey echoing off of the wind. I looked so hard, so long, that I forgot to blink, and my eyes teared up. I didn't want to shut them; I wanted to capture what I was seeing forever, a color imprint on the film of memory. For I simply did not want to let go.

The family went back there once before we lost Big Bro, staying at someplace that wasn't quite the same, still having a wonderful time, four generations hamming it up for a photo, the sound of a child's laughter, unchanged in 50 years.
I think of how many years Mom has been gone, now Big Bro. I think of dreams shattered, of dreams born. Before I left home to come back to work this week, I dreamed of Big Bro at the cabin, and in my dream he was silent, simply hugging me while I could hear his heart beat as if it was the only thing in the room. I wonder if his silence is more from my holding on to him than letting him go. But letting go is easier said than done.

The cabin is gone.

I remember the last night before I left Dad's We'd left the military cemetery a few days prior, leaving a spray of pink flowers for both my Mom and Step Mom, and as always, some daisies for my Great Uncle and WWI Veteran, Royal Crown Brown. Dad was taken care of, help coming in seven days a week, the grand kids visiting on the weekend, doing what we could to make sure he was safe and happy there, as long as he could remain. Not ideal, but the only way he wished to live, there in that house with his memories.
As I loaded up the rental car, he watches me through the window from that old recliner that has faded, there where the light fell strongest. I wonder, does he see a grown woman, a few laugh lines there beneath the long red pony tail and ball cap? Or does he still see a little auburn haired girl growing into adulthood at the speed of sound?  Does he recall all of those moments that haunt the winter of our memory, or just those golden days of summer, unmarred by rain or thunder? Or has he simply surrendered it all over to simply this moment, now, these remaining days that are left?

He yawns and his eyes close, there in the summer sun, one last exhalation that empties his body of waking or worrying. The neighborhood lay in that soft hazy light that makes the houses look like old photos, faded scraps of color that scatter lightly on the earth, lighter than dust, with which one hard rain would wash forever from our sight and memory, were we not to gather them up to protect them.

The cabin is gone

I know that parts of my life are over and the cadence of my days and my future will change once again. But dealing with change as I grew up was easier at the cabin, because over the years it was as constant as the gentle waves upon the shore. And so very last night, as I sat in a quiet room, only my laptop to keep me company, I opened up my picture folder stored therein, where I carry those glimpses of places and people that I love. As the world outside stilled, I took myself back to it, as if I was there. I took myself back so I could let go.
I reminded myself that love is more about how I feel in my heart than how others feel about me, that home has more to do with those who love me, than their being with me this very moment. And when I thought of Big Bro standing against the landscape in my dream, still strong and health, I realized something. The undercurrents of ocean and sky had shaped him, eroding away all but what is essential; until all that was left was pure love, a pristine light that is his soul.   That I will always have with me.

I told myself, not how much I miss him, but that I was thankful for who he was to me, and always will be.

The cabin is gone, but it's the memories that matter. They are in me, the way waves, incessant, after a long time, cease to be sound, yet are still there

 - Brigid