Monday, February 29, 2016

DIY - Food and Friends

Sunday we were up early as that was the day we were pulling the old sink and counter top (one piece stamped steel) out of the kitchen, dismantling the plumbing to it and adding the antique farmhouse sink with a temporary drain until we can get the wall apart to plumb it back behind the wall in prep for the new cabinets.
It's not that big but that sucker is going to be heavy.  Once all the small appliances were moved to the basement, we rearranged so the farmhouse sink could get wheeled in. The fridge is still wheeled from when the tile went in as it will get moved one last time for plaster work and painting.
 Ding Dong - the back up troops have arrived to help.

 Midwest Chick and Mr. B. are Here!  Scritches for everyone!
OHHHH! Midwest Chick brought a goodie bag.  Hammond's candy bars, some Italian dressing in a wine bottle from St. Julian winery and. .
incredible truffles from the Chocolate Garden in Michigan - the Citrus Ginger ones were the bomb.
But back to work.
After the counter top was carried off to the garage, it was time to "exterminate" the plumbing as they say on Dr. Who.
 Midwest Chick and I fled to the safety of the jeep with some new cookbooks to peruse.
One section of cabinets was removed so we had space to put the temporary drain from the farmhouse sink until it can get plumbed back behind the wall as the cabinets go in.  Then a temporary wood counter top went in so I had a clean space to work the next few weeks. I am so going to love having a solid space of counter from wall to wall.  With the appliances and the sink in the middle, weekly bread baking was challenging.

Time to eat. While the menfolk worked away Midwest Chick and I caught up discussing important things like raw honey face cream, wine, and if there is a physiological correlation between too much botox, the frontal lobe and voting liberal. It was good to laugh and be silly  - the last year with aging parents was tough on us both and we had little time to do this.

Then, while the menfolks were at a stopping point, we  hit a local family owned Mexican place. Sometimes the tiny little "hole in the wall "places are the best.

No tomatoes for this redhead but I do love my Americanized (on request) carne asada tacos with the homemade hot sauce and lime. (the tortillas are made every morning from scratch).  Their hot sauce is so good I ask for extras for my eggs later in the week.
It seems like the other day when this wall (home to a long, ugly window) looked like this. (I do NOT miss the red peeling linoleum floor).
The walls will be painted a light creamy yellow which will really make the sink and the window"pop".
It's in - and we have water.  A few more weeks for the cabinets to be completed and then we can touch up plaster and paint the walls and ceiling after the soffit is removed and on to the next project.

Reinforcing the front porch which has all the fortitude of a campaign promise, new front steps and fresh paint trim around some of the windows.
It never ends when you have a 100 year old house and it's SO worth it. Especially when you have wonderful friends to help relax and unwind after the adventures.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Ciabatta Sundays

Today the old sink is unplugged and the antique farmhouse sink is set up with the drain system to be put in. The countertop to the left which is solid, is coming out with a little help from two friends, and a piece of hardwood is going on top as a temporary counter as the custom cabinets are being finished up (about five more weeks). We're going to wait and finish the paint and plaster work after the cupboards, backsplash and inlaid light is done as the whole soffit is coming out and we'll have to repaint anyway.

This wall originally had a long, ugly window that Partner replaced with the smaller stained glass. Then he plumbed it to free up the single countertop to the left for a long counter, without a sink in the middle.  The kitchen is quite tiny, so space is carefully planned.

So - before the water was turned off, breakfast. I usually make French toast with leftover white bread but today I had some crusty Ciabatta that was getting old and I have to say it made the best French toast ever. Because there is so many large holes, there was lots of opportunity for the rich batter to seep into every nook and cranny. You will need to let it soak in the egg an extra minute and swish it around gently to get the holes filled in but it makes a GREAT breakfast.
It's about as easy as breakfast gets.  Slice four slices per person and set aside.  Using one egg for each person whisk in bowl and add a splash of milk (about 1/4 cup for two people), a few drops of vanilla and a small spoonful of honey.  Soak the bread for about a minute each side then cook on a hot griddle. The center is all soft and pillowy, almost like brad pudding and the crust has a nice bite to it without being "crisp".
I don't think I'm going to make my old French toast again. Pair this and a plate of bacon and some orange juice and coffee and everyone will be happy.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Happy Birthday Big Bro

Today would have been my Big Brother's 60th Birthday.  I think about what I would have done today if he was still here - probably onlibe looking for a horrifically tacky and politically incorrect floral bouquet to send him (teleflower, you are MUCH too tasteful, all you have  are beautiful flowers in lovely arrangements, I couldn't find anything involving cactus, spent brass and a fart cushion.).  If I'd been able to visit him where I would have made his favorite cake.  He baked one for me one time when he was a teen - it was burned on the outside and raw in the middle  - apparently in "doing the math" he thought if 45 minutes at 300 F was good, 20 minutes at 500 was even better.  Dinner that went with it was egg rolls and Tater Tots. But I loved him for the effort. By the time e got into his 20's though he was a good of a cook as I, though he went to his grave with his recipe for Bullie Beans (with tequila, I'm sure of it) refusing to give it to me until I gave him his Rat Fink ring back, a much beloved joke between us).

He always did something special when I came home, balloons for my bedroom, a gallon of my favorite Tillamock Marionberry ice cream in the freezer, a card.  Always.

I know if I could turn back time and see him again,  I'd hold him close in a hug, even though he towered above me and was twice my size, telling him I loved him and he'd tell me back, for he never had a hard time with those words.

So for tonight - I'll raise a toast and share a chapter from Saving Grace - A Story of Adoption which is as much about he and I as my having a child and giving her up.  This months proceeds from both books are going to the Ontario SPCA .

That's Ontario Canada, not California, an organization some friends are part of.
Chapter 49 - Lifespan

I tried to visit Dad as often as I could in those first weeks after we lost my brother. He wished to remain living in his home, so a home health nurse was hired to provide full time in-home care and drive him where he needed to go. I had mentioned his getting another dog---but he was having difficulty standing up, so a dog that had to be let out would probably not be a good idea.
But Dad has had a number of rescues over the years, the last being a Dalmatian named Ashlee. When he got her he was 90 and the dog was almost 12. There was no telling who would outlive whom; but he was so happy to have that four-legged friend to share his big old house with.
But with good quality food and regular veterinary care, Ashley the Dalmatian lived two very comfortable years with her; and Dad at 94 now is doing better than average.
Think about it. As a society we now live decades longer than our ancestors. I remember reading the book Alaska by James Michener; in the opening chapter, there in the dawn of time they speak of "the Ancient One," a woman who was a great healer and spiritual leader. She was in her thirties. Oh great, I thought as I read it, first the big three-oh, now I'm ancient.

These days most of us can expect to live well into our seventies and eighties, some even into their hundreds. Yet some creatures live only months or even days.
Late one fall a cricket moved into my garage of the house. Night after night he chirped away on the other side of my bedroom wall. Leaving the garage door open a bit didn't encourage him to leave, only to have a party with some of his bigger friends. I was able to shoo them out, but he hopped into a little crack to hide so he could continue to serenade me. After a few nights of that I was wondering as to ways to dispatch him. (Would using a silencer on a cricket be illegal or apropos?)

I did a little checking online---apparently
the life span of the average field cricket is just a couple of months. Already an adult, he likely had only a few weeks to live, if that.

The poor little guy wouldn’t even make it to Halloween; but each night he sang as if he would live forever. I didn't have the heart to capture him and move him outside. He could stay safe in my garage as my pet cricket. I named him "Mort."

Consider the hummingbird: such a small creature with such a high metabolism, yet it has a life span much greater than you'd think, with some living more than a decade. I watch them from the feeders in summer, warring for the liquid nectar found within, fending off others that wish to take it; watching, guarding, always wanting more of life's sweetness. No different than what we want.
I think of lives cut short that achieved so much for their brief time here, like my favorite poet John Keats, who threw over medicine to write some of the most sublime odes in the English language and died at 25 from tuberculosis; Percy Shelly; M.F. Xavier Bichat, French army surgeon turned pathologist; Évariste Galois, mathematician and inventor of group theory who died at 20; Robert Fergusson, Scottish Poet; Saint Albertus Magnus. Their words, their teachings still follow me where I go, whispering to me in unexplored depths or darkest of nights---such great thoughts tinged with wonder and mystery, those whispers of slain genius.

Fortunately our human life span is much longer than most creatures’---if we are blessed and take care of ourselves. But even the greatest expanses of time seem so short in recollection. Walking through the little village where I live, the sidewalk glinted with little bits of mica. Not the prophet Micah who told us our human task is to do justly, but the geological kind. As a kid, the sidewalk would glitter like broken glass upon the tide flats from the small glints of mica within it. My brother said it was made of broken starships, and I believed him. For though there are limits to what we may accept as children, there is no limit to what we can believe, nourished as we are by the embrace of the incredible that is found right beneath our feet.
Into the warm days of fall that is childhood's longest hour, in those weeks of summer vacation we believed we'd live forever. We weren't content just to ride our bikes on these glittering trails of star-stuff; we'd get big pieces of chalk and drew on them, hopscotch, tic-tac-toe, our names. We'd play well into the dark, coming in only when we were hungry, the front doors unlocked to our comings and goings---time for us was something we could pick up and put in our pocket.

When I go home and my brother’s laughter is silent, there is no weather of distance between that time and now. It seems like yesterday. But I have realized that the saying is true: man does carry his life in his hand. My dad's siblings, though blessed with a hardy disposition, also possessed an intrepidity of spirit and courage that might have been called reckless in others; but in them it was a natural trait when tempered with a soundness of choice. They honored their bodies as vessels of God and didn't abuse them with drugs or an excess of alcohol or even food. In the pictures I have of them together I see only lean, honed strength and purpose of duty.
I look at a collection of bones on a table, beautiful to me in their pristine immobility. I look at a glass box my aunt left me that sits on my desk. In it is Urania ripheus, more commonly known as the sunset moth, hovering on lifeless wings that glow in the light as if lit aflame. The sunset moth is found on the shaded areas of river banks in Madagascar. The essence of life floats elusive, half submerged in the waters of science, buoyed by God. I've spent the last fifteen years studying the many tragic ways life ends; and still I draw great comfort for the way it fights to remain.

Somewhere a thousand miles away, meal time drawn to a close, Dad will be in his recliner reading that old family Bible, the book for all the days remaining. Dad never knew his destiny would be to live to great age, to love deeply, outliving children and two wives. A love that entranced him and made him its own to the most secret of thoughts, to the disquiet of blood, to his last exhalation. He did not know his destiny but he followed it with unfaltering footsteps. The Bible is gently laid in his lap as he nods his head for a nap. The winter window fades, then glows---a living spark there among the shadowed embers as at his feet lies an empty dog bed.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

There's Not Much that Can't Be Improved by Chocolate Chips

On the wall at Dad's is a platter that my Uncle the engineer brought back from a business trip to Iran back in the late 50's or 60's.   He had told my Dad that it was a serving plate, covered with olives and all sorts of tidbits and they gave him the platter as a gift.  I went to snap a photo and only after enlarging it, did I see someone in the kitchen pilfering a cookie.

When I arrived at Dad's on a recent trip out, Dad only had packaged cookies from the store, made out of special Keebler Kevlar, so I said I'd make up a batch from whatever was on hand, once I got a nap. He's sleeping a lot more now, but for being almost 96, I'm just astounded he still gets around, riding his exercise bike each morning and going for a walk on any day it's now snowing or pouring.

Dad was a little low on chips, sugar and real butter. so I added in some sour cream for moistness, and a hint of cardamom and orange zest to accent the reduced dark chocolate.  It made a soft, almost cake-like cookie that Dad raved about.

2 cups flour
1 and 1/2  tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of sea salt
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 tsp. orange zest
1/2 cup butter, gently melted so it's mostly  liquid but not hot
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream (NOT light or non -fat)
1 cup dark chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or grease it well, even if non stick).

In a large bowl, with a hand mixer, cream together the melted butter, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Beat in eggs and sour cream until well blended.

Sift together flour, baking soda, salt and cardamom, stir into the butter mixture. Mix in the orange zest and dark chocolate chips.

Drop dough by heaping tablespoons 3 inches apart on cookie sheets. Bake 13 to 15 minutes, until lightly golden brown.. These will be a soft, lightly colored cookie so do NOT over bake. Let cool on wire rack

Dad didn't get a fancy platter, but after his late afternoon snack of cookies, he did get a small martini and both remotes so he was a happy man.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Scotch Night

Of course the Scotch night where friends sampled this was the week I got suddenly sick with a horrible head cold/flu thing and didn't even hear about it til later.

But for future Scotch nights with friends and family - some quotes.

“It sloweth age, it strengtheneth youth, it helpeth digestion, it cutteth flegme, it relisheth the harte, it lighteneth the mynd, it quickeneth the spirits, it cureth the hydropsie, it repelleth gravel . . . and trulie it is a sovereigne liquor if it be orderlie taken”.
Raphael Hollinshed,  - Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, 1577

“There is no such thing as a bad whisky. Some whiskies just happen to be better than others.”
- William Faulkner
“Set up another case bartender! The best thing for a case of nerves is a case of Scotch.”
- W. C. Fields quotes
“No married man is genuinely happy if he has to drink worse whisky than he used to drink when he was single.”
- H. L. Mencken
“The light music of whiskey falling into a glass – an agreeable interlude.”
- James Joyce

“Too much of anything is bad, but too much of good whiskey is barely enough.”
 - Mark Twain
“For God’s sake bring me a large Scotch. What a bloody awful country. “
- Reginald Maudling

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Dear Chick Fil a

Thank you for taking coleslaw off the menu.  For you see, I was eating at Chick Fil a EVERY single week, to get my fix of a chicken sandwich topped with the coleslaw as part of my sandwich. I'd add to that a small waffle fries with Ranch to dunk them in and a drink, figuring I probably spent $400 at Chick Fil a last year. Sure, for the rest of the week I skipped the fast food - this was my treat on a busy workday.

But apparently, people want a Kale salad, to go with the breaded and fried items instead of looking at the meal as a treat. I'm not sure when kale got its own marketing company  but it went from the vegetable that was hard to clean, tough and bitter to the world's greatest superfood almost overnight,

I admit I tried kale, trying a "Paleo" diet to lose the extra 4 holiday pounds. Lean meat, berries and lots of salad, right?  But the end game to that experiment was not the kale in salad which was as fun as a root canal, but the Kale Chips.  Yes, Kale salted and dried in the oven until they were bite-sized little flakes that tasted like dirt (but with natural sea salt!).  No wonder the mastadons died off.  The caveman fed them kale chips.
It's bad enough that when I buy yogurt there's about 55 different kinds including, soy, cow, goat, coconut, Greek, Icelandic, Australian, low fat, non fat, full fat, baby yogurt (seriously, you have to spend twice as much for a brand with a picture of a  baby on it?) Yogurt used to be a 3 second stop to make a selection, now it's harder that buying a dang bra.

But Chick fil a said we wanted kale in our lives. It's hip!  It's healthy! (you can burn extra calories with the gag reflex due to the taste of kale!)

So they gave us the recipe for the coleslaw that had been around since I was in grade school so I could make it at home.  It was then that I realized that in occasionally wanting the beloved foods of my youth, things that simply tasted delicious, instead of worrying about how many anti-oxidants I'm getting at the drive through as I suck down a drink with 87 grams of sugar - I am officially old and no longer the key demographic for hip products..

So Chick fil a -  have fun with the millennials sitting around crunching on their kale salad while they stare intently in their smartphones in case some pop star sent out a Twitter post.

I'll be with my old fart friends, sharing some stories, laughing, drinking a beer and eating THIS.
Because I didn't go to Chick Fil a for my health.

But I appreciate the recipe.

Love  - Brigid

Sunday, February 14, 2016

February 14

Whatever you end up doing, whoever you chose to spend your time with, may you all have a day that balances the sweet and the dark.

Happy Valentine's Day
- Brigid

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Stay in the Boat

True Blue Sam the blogger is someone perhaps just a few of you know as a long time friend and commenter here.  He's also something more special. He's my father in law. He and my mother in law, both firearm owners and skilled and proficient shooters, had a home invasion on Thursday night. The person involved may have been high on drugs (I'm guessing meth) - he DID ransack one of the freezers in the garage, taking a ham hock, a tub of lard and some ocra.  Just saying.

No one was hurt, but there are lessons to be learned.  Not just the fact that the perp been detained earlier for a event, had a psyche eval (by Skype no less) and was released to continue his night of mayhem. But rapid response when this sort of thing happens. (Semi Auto is your friend).

We always worried that  being in the city that something like this would happen here, and in addition to our stickers shouting alarm system! we added extra bolts, top to frame  and bottom braced against a floor joist, for the walk out basement doors, in addition to cutting back shrubbery and adding extra lighting.

But this happened in a very quiet rural area, where the nearest "city" is houses, a barber shop and a church, just as they were heading to bed, and not thinking of defense.

Just some things to think about folks and we're just thankful they are safe, though a vehicle was stolen and totaled (after getting some serious air time during a chase through the woods) and there was a lot of damage to the home as the perp used firewood outside to break out several windows in an attempt to get into the main house before hitting the garage.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

What Europeans Think Americans Eat for Breakfast.

Sent by a friend who said someone thought I'd taken the picture to which Old NFO replied "It couldn't have been her.  Brigid would have laid the pistol on its left side to make it faster to pick up!!"

HA!  (but it's making my triple berry muffin  this morning look sort of wimpy now).

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Better than Take-out. Asian Sticky Chicken

I've been experimenting with some Asian, Indonesian and Thai dishes lately.  This was an experiment (not from a recipe) that turned out remarkably tasty (and is pretty low in fat and calories compared to the traditional orange chicken type dishes) so Partner in Grime said I should post.

Sticky Chicken 

Start with:

Asian sauce

1/3 cup orange juice
2 Tablespoons water
2 Tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons tomato sauce
1/4 teaspoon honey
4 teaspoons minced jarred garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice Powder (I use Penzey's)

Mix and set aside.

In a Tablespoon or two of olive oil brown 8 chicken drumsticks in a pan on medium high heat for 8- 10 minutes per side, until lightly brown. Remove from pan and pour off any oil or dripping and wipe down pan with a paper towel. Add chicken back to pan, pour sauce over top and cook on a low/medium simmer, covered, until chicken is 165 degrees F, internally (for these pieces, fresh from the local butcher, it was 8 minutes in the pan per side, then 45 minutes on a low simmer).

Remove the chicken from the pan and keep warm. To the sauce add 2 teaspoons of cornstarch mixed with 2 Tablespoons of water. Raise temperature to a boil and whisk until sauce is thickened. Pour over chicken and serve.

Garnish with green onion and serve with some rice and some salad drizzled with rice vinegar or Asian dressing.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Scars But No Regrets

A Chapter From Saving Grace - A Story of Adoption

Scars But No Regrets

My husband and I were making progress renovating our new house. Well, "new" was stretching it. If this house was a rescue dog it would be a senior---and even that was a stretch since it was almost 100 years old.  But it was home.

It wasn't home like where I had grown up, that place where my brother Allen and I ran and played in the endless rains of summer; where in winter we built forts of white and tumbled through the drifts like glacial stones. In snow gear of jeweled hues we played until we were forced to come in; harnessing the earth's energy, keeping our childhood alive.

It was hard yet rewarding work. But I enjoyed laboring alongside my husband, pulling cabinetry out of the wall, taking tools and making them do what I needed, the sweat on my forehead reaching my mouth, tasting of who I am, someone who's worked hard for everything she's got---someone who will raise some sweat to keep it. When I bought that place it needed a lot of work, like bathroom fixtures and an updated kitchen; and I did most of the work myself. I worked late into the nights alone, too many nights using leverage to swing the tools---but at times it seems like there were two of us, the tools and I working side by side like familiar lovers who can guess each other’s moves, hearts speaking to one another in musical measures beyond the need for words.

Some of the work I was proud of; some of it made me thankful for throw rugs and large pieces of art. But like farm living it kept me centered, close to the ground, to the earth and blood and fluid need in all things. It also honed my swearing in Norwegian, for which my grandfather would be proud.

The tools I have are old and precious to me, some given by friends, some from home. Tools my Dad used to craft the fence around his own house, the detailed and geometrically perfect cabinets in his garage. Tools that have stood the test of time, held by three generations; tempered by fire and heat to be strong under stress and having enough flexibility to get out of corners and swing freely as needs arise. Just as he raised us to do.

I learned about hard work early on, facing it like battle to which you carry ancient wounds. You can't live on a farm or a ranch without learning about hard work. I spent ten years as a young bride living such a life with my former husband so long ago. I know the signs of impending birth in a heifer. I know how to cut a single longhorn from a herd of fifty with nothing but an ATV and a dog, all while avoiding the pointy ends. I didn't compare nail polish colors with my girlfriends, because long fingernails sort of get in the way when you might have to grease a cupped hand and naked arm with Betadine and lubricant to help a breached calf make its way into the world. I've fallen face first in stuff you don't want to know about and cried like a child to find a calf still and cold after I spent two days nursing her after her mama died.

 It wasn't Green Acres; though I think we had their house. It had nothing to do with Norman Rockwell and everything to do with the hundreds of different ways a heart can freeze.

It was a valuable lesson in life. Hard work, hard decisions, made on evenings like that one years later as I worked away at my home, listening to the sound echo in an empty house, learning about life and love with all the salt and truth one can expect from the swing of a hammer. It taught me more than how when physics and your thumb meat your thumb will lose; it taught me about budgets and planning, woods and nail and drywall. It taught me what I have the capability for, and it taught me to dream the dreams of a child again.

As my husband and I pulled an old decaying lattice away from the side of our house, I had to stop and sort my words as memories came unbidden---color, movement, shape. The first was of my mom bending over the garden, helping my dad weed; a good woman over whom death had already cast its shadow as surely as the apple tree shading her that day. Around her our rescued wiener dog mix Pepper pranced around in play, barking joyously. Standing there in that barren flower bed a lifetime later I could still smell her perfume on the air; I could hear that bark and the remembrance of the fluid movements of her hands in the soil was as real to me as a tide. Steady, gentle, certain.

I think back to the days on the farm, to another house, and I remember not the hard times but the good. I remember the last winter there, when I helped a neighbor pull a reluctant calf from his mother's womb. If I close my eyes I can relive that next moment in which I ceased to breathe myself as the calf did not. In that moment all I could I hear were the tiniest sounds, the fairy feet of barn mice and the creak of a rafter. Then in a rush of indignation came the mighty and protesting bawl of that newly-born bull calf, his cries from a birth-wet mouth awaking something in his weary mother who lay so still there under the dark moon, both of us totally spent from the effort. I still can picture his trusting eyes fixed on her as she rose up to sniff and take him in with that wonderful snuffling rush of new found love.

Our memories are not the house we live in. They are inside of us and all of them, the laughter and sharing of friends, all of the fun and adventures that will follow you. Home is the pillow on which you lay your dreams, brought out with just a word, a sure and steady gentle touch.

Tomorrow will be the long drive home, after a long week of work. When I get there it will just be getting dark. I will replenish supplies, taking out an empty dog food sack to the trash. The driveway will lie in a placid warm slumber, silent under my feet. I'll pull closed the back door, looking at land that holds neither corn nor cows, seeing the rise of another old house in the distance as I begin a clog-stomping run back onto the porch. The chilling night air whistles through my shirt, tickling skin, scorching my bare cheeks and the back of my throat.

Inside the door where the mailman pushed it through lies a letter from a foreign land, the handwriting looking almost like him---slender and strong and focused. I can almost smell the scent of gin and tonic as I tear open the envelope and drink in the words. Those words are water to me, the paper a quiet pool, myself merely one of those little water bugs that lie not quite on the surface nor beneath it---but in that quiet line of demarcation that is neither water nor air, earth nor heaven; exposing to the outside world only what is necessary to draw breath and hope.

Soon, there in that house I never expected to be, it is time for bed. There on the nightstand is a dried maple leaf, a candle, a couple of framed photos. I lie back across the edge of the bed, naming off each vertebra; looking upward as my body stretches downward, long red hair trailing to the floor like a line of fire. On the floor is an empty dog bed. Perhaps it’s time for another dog, I think. I smile up at stars that glitter like mica through the window, at unheard poetry that hides on the dark side of the moon, at the sun that warms another pillow far away; thankful for the journey here, however painful.

I may have my scars, but I have no regrets.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Band of Brothers (and da' Sisters)

It had been far too long since we'd all met up at one place.  With elderly parent care issues, some of which got beyond complex in the last couple of years, with some of us unexpectedly ending up as mostly sole caretakers, jobs, children, animals etc, it had been well over a year, since we'd all gotten together.  I was finding it hard to just juggle writing and marketing my books,  Dad's care and expenses and a demanding new job, having to greatly reduce contact with a lot of bloggers, barely having time for even close friends. Fortunately the majority of them understood and let me step back and breathe for a while, as I did them.

Sure, my closest friends and I had all seen each other singularly, sometimes out and about, a quick coffee or lunch or pizza with a few of us and there were always phone calls.   But it just seemed that time slipped away, and as Midwest Chick put it so well- it's time to get the band back together!~

We came wearing our finest (casual) wear.

And for the ladies needing the right jewelry. Midwest Chick had a Leatherman tread. so you always have your allen and box wrenches and screwdrivers on hand.

We met at our favorite meeting place -  the usual gang from the North, Og and Mrs. O., Og's Best Friend since childhood, M, the original named Partner in Grime (seriously I get to hear ALL the stories about Og growing up) known as M. to MY Partner and I, Mr. B.and  Midwest Chick, M's little brother Rich couldn't join us from Southern Indiana but he will soon. (And yes, I AM going to call you "Grandpa".)

We meet at a restaurant that's about not  super close but is an equal drive from all of our houses, the perfect point in the middle of friends scattered across two states.

The Warsaw Inn. in Lynnwood IL.  My husband's cell phone camera doesn't do it justice but I was not going to risk losing a perogi or being rude and holding up the line trying to balance the big Cannon camera so it stayed home.
 It's all you can eat Polish Food.
You start with the homemade (and I mean like your Mom made, not a bread machine) bread and honey butter and soups, then move down the line of pastries and salads.
 The hot bar has several varieties of perogies in butter, blintzes, cabbage rolls, potato pancakes
Just when you think you've got everything you need, there's the stuffing, real mashed potatoes and gravy, beans, fried chicken and sausages. It's spotlessly clean, and they keep the food filled up so it's hot and fresh.
And at the end (not pictured as that plate was FULL and the camera needed to get stowed), the owner, a beautiful woman who runs this place while a well oiled machine, is there to carve some roasted beef or ham off the bone.

The  friendly and attentive waitress kept the coffee and drinks coming and most everyone made two trips, a little last bit of a favorite item and some of the wonderful pastries, cakes and cookies (frosted brownies, I HAD to have two)
It was good to just be together and share stories - at one time there was a conversation going about M. being in the bathroom with a stripper, while Mr. B. was telling a tale about disrobing in public with one hand, while with the other he got the mouse out of his pants, and of course there's the story of Harold, who has to live out in the barn because he doesn't get along with the rest of the family. But none of the blue haired ladies around us gasped as these were true stories of simple country household misadventures and all of those silly everyday things that when shared with friends, take on another level of humor, given this group.

Too soon it was time to share hugs all around and head home. We made sure our waitress got a very generous cash tip, as we'd stayed a while with many cups of coffee and seconds on dessert and we gathered our coats, But first, since I'd not seen her during the holidays and had to mail her her Christmas gifts, some things from Midwest Chick - best friend, confident, and fellow blaster of bowling pins. Moving up here was bittersweet because it was far away from two people who mean a lot to me, Roberta, always a source of wisdom and wonder and Tam who has been my dear friend since long before this blog came to be, but getting closer to these friends - made it all worthwhile.

The first gift made me smile - my favorite hot sauce from a favorite band. Scoville Brothers of Valporaiso IN, making great music and hot sauce for several years.  This is the only brand of hot sauce I'll use in Range cooking.

 She got me two of the Singing Smoke, the one I use the most and was lowest on (I still have some awesome Heavy Metal Heat Ghost Pepper sauce left) and a NEW one.  Cowboy Crooner which I can't wait to try (after I listen to their new song with my free download).
 Then a mug that matches my favorite hat.   Cunning!
 What's this?   It's an antique book - Robin Hood to be exact.
 But it has been MODIFIED!
 It's a purse!  With hardware to open and close and a fabric center that matches the cool antique look of the book.
Midwest Chick made me a paracord strap for it so I can carry it as a strap purse in addition to a clutch purse! It's reflective to, so if I'm carrying it in poor light, I'm easier to see.
And as they say on TV - and there's MORE!  Some awesome handcrafted shampoo and conditioner from Toadstool Soaps on Etsy.  Sweet Orange Chili Pepper  - this smells AWESOME.

And of course - the gift that says I love you my friend - a big package of Amish bacon from Beef Mart.

Which for years, many of you thought was a euphemism.

Some things, and some people are worth going out of your way for.  Thank you, my friends. We'll not let it get that long between gatherings again.