Monday, November 28, 2016

Update From the Range

You'll never take me alive coppers!

I'm taking a bit of time off from all but the dog blog. I'm honestly really tired, and post-election - fed up with a lot of humanity right now.  The Range is fine, Partner is fine, Dad hanging in there.  I'm just needing a short break from so much time on the computer.

I hope you all enjoy this holiday time. I'll check back in with something you might find either fun or interesting well before Christmas, but I need a little break to pick up my spirits (literally and figuratively)

Everyone that requested  an autographed copy of my new book through the Book of Face or by email, you should have them by today, except for my friend V, as I didn't have the address of your new place (I do now).  Thanks as always, for your support and friendship.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Pumpkin Patch

I'm with one of my "besties"

in that I am NOT a fan of pumpkin.  This time each year EVERYTHING is suddenly infused with pumpkin spice - coffee, tea, desserts, and beer

Yes, pumpkin flavored beer.


My husband said it's only a mild hint of pumpkin but I wouldn't try it.  He said it was very good.

Sorry.  I absolutely adore Fall and Halloween and all the orange and black decorations were put up.

But I'm still not going to try it.

Then I looked at the label.  It looked like a lizard wearing liderhosen.  He said no, that's a GRASSHOPPER.  Points at "Hopper" on the label like I am possessed.

Looks like a lizard to me.  I told him I think there are jobs out west where Millennials just smoke weed and get paid to design beer labels.

He looked at me and said: "but I'M a millennial!"

True (and that explains all the cougar jokes)  But  I'm a cranky old pumpkin hater.

But what can I say, my engineer husband is so very smart and he built me new steps with lumber and hard work that are easier on my bad knee (oh meniscus, I miss you so). The steps now go back to the yard at a much shallower angle instead of a VERY steep slope to the driveway edge (I think he got the hint when I told him the Red Bull Games were interested in using our steps).
A pictorial version of "how I lost my meniscus".

This way we could install a fence a let Abby Normal the Labrador out. So I'll forgive him the pumpkin thing, especially since he's also put up a punching bag for me in the basement so I can take out my pumpkin spice aggression and burn calories productively (30 minutes of boxing is 2 nice sized glasses of Chardonnay!)

But post-Thanksgiving there is still the remnants of Pumpkin around, in the form of that beer.

I might make something out of it.

Sourdough Pumpkin Ale beer Bread.

I have to say, I had a piece for breakfast and it was really good, only a hint of sweet and spice to it, not a "arghhh PUMPKIN spew! spew! spew!" reaction.  Flavor wise it erred more on the side of a slightly sweet yeast bread rather than a typical sweet pumpkin bread.

I made mine with my  Einkorn based wild yeast sourdough starter but will give directions for both

2 and 1/2 cups 50/50 mixture of einkorn and whole wheat pastry flour (or use white or whole wheat)
1/2 cup sourdough starter (or equal amount flour in place of)
1/4  cup plus 1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (just a few shakes)
1 bottle pumpkin style ale

Beer instructions:  if using all flour, use full bottle.

If using a sourdough starter that's really thick (have to spoon into measuring cup) remove 2 Tablespoons of beer and put rest in mixture

If using a sourdough starter that you can pour into the measuring cup, remove 1/4 cup beer then add rest

Mix well and place in bread pan sprayed with non-stick spray

Pour 2 tablespoons melted butter over the top and pop in oven.

Bake in preheated 375 F oven for 50 minutes. It should pass the knife test with a firm crispy brown top crust (check it, as it may look done before it is, as the butter browns this up a bit more than other breads).

It was also really moist, and really didn't need the butter.

Not that I was going to leave that off or anything anyway.

I like the bread a lot.  Still in looking back on this fall - I can safely say I still hate pumpkin spice.
Now about that Christmas fruitcake that just arrived.

Friday, November 25, 2016

It's That Time of Year Again - Black Friday Fashion Advice

Why use a needle and thread if there's duct tape?

I know a number of my female readers have dealt with the whole issue of underwire bras. (for men who are unfamiliar, an underwire bra is sort of a cross between an erector set and fabric).  Then, you've probably had the issue where at the point of highest stress, the underwire breaks, and  pokes through the fabric.  You're sitting there, all of your body parts content and happy and suddenly there's this sharp metal thing poking very delicate skin, to the point of drawing blood.

Many of us have been there.  Discomboobulated.

Unfortunately, in this case, my other bras were currently in the laundry and I had no spare. And there was NO WAY I was venturing out on the morning of Black Friday to buy a new one.

Thank heavens for Duck Tape.

With that and tactical lip gloss (and wedgie free skivies) a gal can handle most anything life tosses her way.
Tactical Lip Gloss?  Even Zeva has some of that.

Yes THAT Zeva.  NCIS is a guilty pleasure of mine, even though Ducky once described the injuries of a run over man as a broken "tibia and fibia". I think a "Fibia" is part of the jawbone of a politician, I've not seen one in a normal human body. But when you've only got an hour to save the planet, what's a little forensic goof. I still immensely enjoy the show.

On one episode, a young damsel is kidnapped from the watchful eye of the NCIS team who are protecting her as she knows a special secret. She's found hours and hours later in an old warehouse, duct taped to a chair, a big piece of duct tape across her mouth to stifle her cries, her brow damp, her shirt clinging to her in the intense heat and humidity. One of NCIS team goes after the bad guy and while one of them RIPPSSS the duct tape off of her mouth so she can speak.

Now, considering that it been stuck to her for hours, that would normally remove the lips themselves. But this is TV. Not only did it not appear to hurt her, her pink lip gloss was absolutely perfect. I mean absolutely flawless. It didn't fade, it didn't smear, despite hours of duct tape and heat. Midwest Chick and I had a long discussion on it, which included a comment in the ladies room at the Indianapolis Symphony as we reapplied our lip gloss. of "good but not duct tape proof" which several blue haired matrons about fainted over.

Look, I have my girly moments even though I own more guns than shoes. Face it, women in general pay a lot more attention to such things than men do. Probably because we grew up with Barbie who if she were a real live woman would be 6 foot 6, weigh about 98 pounds, (1/3 of which was her gravity defying chest) with a perfect hairdo that no real woman could get without enough hairspray to immobilize a Cape Buffalo.What's NOT to give a kid growing up a complex about such things as pouty lips and perfect hair when one has free range curly hair and grew up hoping there was a line of lipstick that came in .50 BMG brass.

Fortunately, I ditched Barbie and got some action figures instead. Action figures didn't have to look pretty, they just had to be able to DO stuff and be self confident. You would never expect G.I. Joe to say "does this M16 carbine make my butt look too big?" Barbie was soon retired, having lost an arm to an unpleasant Tattoo experience with the little soldering iron in the wood burner kit and a leg to a potato gun launch gone awry. She retired on disability in the Barbie FEMA house where she was soon forgotten for much cooler toys.

G.I. Joe was cool. He had only the accessories he needed. Plus he showed up in an action helicopter not a pink convertible.
But I'm not just not shopping because it's Black Friday.  Franky, I hate shopping  I hate shopping for clothes particularly, as I've written about before.

For starters I'd just as soon buy a bunch of shooty accessories than more shoes. Look, you need shoes, they keep you from stepping on scorpions and spiders barefoot, and all.   But frankly. I wouldn't notice another woman's shoes unless her feet were on fire.  My closet contains four pairs, total, though I do sort of want these Browncoat looking ones.

I have about 6 suits, 3 are court-worthy.  I also have some "it won't bother me to burn them" pants and shirts, a couple pairs of jeans and Irish sweaters and my favorite green cargo pants and black silk shirt.There's also my denim jacket. I live in the latter outfits.

But I do have a couple of  "girly" outfits. There's a little black dress and one pretty little flowered number I bought because I hang out with someone that has occasion to dress up.
But outside of that, I went for the longest time without buying anything new, but finally it happened,  Things started wearing out, cuffs frayed, collars too, and some things just get ruined out in the field.  Plus, I seriously stepped up my physical activity and started doing military style workouts for 90 minutes, three times a week, dropping the 20 pounds I picked up after I blew my knee out.

Apparently though, while I was living in the fashion dark ages, picking up just the occasional Tee-shirt and undies, sizes have changed.  What used to be the size a  thin girl wore, a size 8, is now a size 0.  There's also not just women's clothes and men's clothes, there's  junior and Missy's (which makes me think of John Wayne "well I tell ya little Missy").  Add to that designer label (which means if you're a size zero at Fashion Bug you're a negative integer at Ralph Lauren),  petite and oh, thank goodness, woman's section, which I figured, worked, because I'm a woman.  But no,  that was a way of saying, "you're not shaped like a 2 x 4.  Welcome to mumu land".

According to statisticians, I am just slightly less than the clothing size of the average American woman, usually a size 10 in pants, getting a 14 in button downs if I don't plan on wearing undergarments designed for assassination attempts).  I've got 4 inches in height on the average American gal, but I'm curved like her. I will never be "fashion model thin" but I'm strong and I can go top speed all day, which you can't do on a piece of arugula and a rice cake.

But in a world where a woman with her ribs jutting out seems to be the ideal (which, I think, would be like sleeping with a bag of antlers), clothing designers still don't seem to get how real American women are built, and most of us ARE bigger than our lipstick.
So for them, I will offer some fashion design advice.

(1) Just because I have an ample backside does not mean I'm shaped overall like a VW Beetle.  I have booty.  I also have a small waist.  So why must you make jeans that fit my hips also so big around the waist and the legs (which are decent from 20 years of ballet and tap dancing), that after sitting in them for an hour, they SLOWWLY start sliding off my form.

There I was at Mountain of Geese, seeing what they had in the way of ammo, when the jeans started doing their little gravity dance and I was afraid I was going to be mistaken for one of those gangbangers that normally frequent Don's Guns.  I hoped at least, that the briefs that were appearing were the proper degree of gansta cool. I had to sneak behind the ghilly suit display (no one will see me here!) and "adjust".

(2)  Due to my. .  er. . bust size, I often have to get a larger sized shirt.  Designers? Just because I am bustier than the other size 14 gal, does NOT mean that my arms somehow grow extra long.  Why is it if you go from a 12 to a 14 size shirt, suddenly the sleeves are 3 inches longer and you have to roll the cuffs up?
(3)  Women in my age bracket may BE considered cougars but we don't care to dress like Marlin Perkins Mistress.  Enough with all the leopard and zebra prints for everything from handbags to dresses to sweats.  The only time I wore something like that, the 20 year kid kid at the oil change place asked me out but after I jogged through the park later, I came home with a dart in my ass.

(4)  If it's 90 degrees out, sleeveless would be nice.  Apparently designers think all woman over 40 never work out and  have arms like  flying squirrels and the intent seems to be cover them up, and cover them up with voluminous fabric, even in  smaller sizes. Looking at clothing for the yearly Christmas party, all of them of had these voluminous winged arms, so that when you held your arms up and out they draped in a straight line to the waist.

I could have jumped out of an airplane in any of them and flown to earth.  When did the 2016 Christmas look become "Base Jumper".  Actually, given all the sparkles on them it was "Base Jumper Elvis".
Spring collections are worse.  Everything is white.  I am messy, I come home spattered with an assortment of fluids you don't want to know about. I've gotten bacon tangled in my hair  But I had to get something for a special occasion. I tried to be kind to the clerk and just tell her the white top and pants she presented were too. . "you know. . plain."  So she gives me a long red scarf to hang around my neck with it to add some "zing".

I looked like a thermometer.

All I could think of was "I wonder if this comes in cammo?"

I gave up,  went home and put on my cargo pants and jean jacket.
Ladies, though we may occasionally stress over the whole fashion thing, especially when under a timeline to get something for a special event, never overstress as to how you are built, if you are healthy and active. Honestly, the good men don't care about that.  They care that you make them laugh, and that you will, and have, jumped up and down with glee over your two inch grouping, and that you don't mind that their car smells like motor oil, Hoppes No. 9 and a hamburger. They look at you and don't see a size or an age, they see the form of love and the color of courage, even on your worst days, the one holding the laughter of their truest friend.

Besides, I have enough to wear for the places I usually hang out.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving - Surprise Visitor

Thanksgiving was quiet.  I have to work tomorrow.  The Head squirrel is gone, and I am in charge of the division, so I'll have to work.  But still, a day off with Partner in Grime was enjoyed.  We had no plans, but to play a few board games, tinker in the shop, and make a simple supper and get to bed early.

Then I dropped a Happy Thanksgiving note to one of the Indy Bloggers, who actually lives in Chicagoland but would visit his parents in Indy during cancer treatments. He and his teenage son had stopped by the Range  here up North when they were in the area after school but had missed my husband on those trips, and with my many trips to check on Dad out in Washington State when I had a long weekend or vacation, I'd talked to, but not seen David in two years.

When I met David through the Indy blog group, doctors gave him 2-5 years to live, and his wife left, not wishing to deal with it.  So in the middle of his chemo, with the support of our guys, Midwest Chick and I actually bought dresses and "make me write bad checks" very high heeled pumps and went on each arm with him to a date at the symphony.
That was several years ago, and despite what the doctors told him seven years ago, he is still here though he is on daily dialysis as the aggressive chemo took out his kidneys. I had figured he would at his parents in Indy for Thanksgiving, having spent one delightful Turkey Day with them when Partner was on the road, and I was on call down there one Turkey Day.  But I  told him, if not, he was welcome to come over for dinner.

Turns out, that sadly, his Dad passed this last year and his Mom recently went in a nursing home, so he was just home reloading, while his son was with the ex.  So the invite was ON! The holiday food was prepped and we looked forward to his visit.

So he came over for dinner.  He used to work in the same industry Partner in Grime does (but for a competitor) so they had all kinds of things to talk about, and there were several antique firearms in the shop getting reworked and restored to keep us from going into a coma after the meal and fudgy brownies (sorry, NOT a fan of pumpkin).

When he  left, Partner looked at me after the door closed and said: "You have the COOLEST friends!"

Indeed I do and I'm grateful for all of you as you see me through life's ups and downs.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Unexpected Finds

Partner in Grime is a Mechanical Engineer.  Or at least he TELLS me he is.  :-)  For you see I've never actually seen his workplace or a paycheck, but large amounts of money just show up in our savings account.  I tease him a little about it.

A day or so ago, I came home unexpectedly early, and on the clothesline downstairs where he had done some laundry before running an errand were all these gloves.  Dozens of gloves, all stained with dark rust like colors that wouldn't come out.

I hear the back door open, then footsteps in the kitchen followed by a creak at the top of the stairs .. . I peer up and ask him as I hold up one of the creepy stained gloves.

"So babe - tell me again - mechanical engineer . . . or serial killer?"

I think I made him snort his beer.

Fortunately, he doesn't have to go to the plant Friday as he has a vacation day that's a use or lose.  I have to work, but telework on Friday so he can see what I do during the day and we can eat lunch together.

You all have a safe, and sane Thanksgiving.Whoever you're with.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bacon Care of Business - Mac and Cheese

Temperatures in northern Illinois dropped from the 70's to the 20's within a couple of days.  I can't complain, as according to Facebook, a post of early November of last year was Abby romping in some snow in our backyard and this year we maintained spring-like weather (including heavy thunderstorms) until the third week of the month.

But it made for a weekend where it was just nice to stay inside, and warm. , ,

. . . and do some home cooking.

The last three years have been a blur. A crash pad move due to very noisy neighbors,then a move home, a big career change from field to high-level position at headquarters, taking care of Dad when my brother, his caregiver, suddenly died, getting married, writing three books and doing all the usual author stuff at libraries, book clubs, and signings, and organizing the sales therefrom to several dozen animal nonprofits.
Partner in Grime and Dad - enjoying their reading.

All of this while trying to maintain some semblance of  three blogs (I also have a pet and a fitness blog), canning, baking, prepping and gym rat time. I'm ready for some down time this winter.  I have tried to buy (so I'm a verified purchase -  but thanks for the autographed ones!) and read all of the books my blog friends have written, of which there are some amazing ones.  But I have a whole stack of books that have been sitting here gathering dust over the last couple of winters.  I'm going to take those on with some continued light blogging, spending some time in person with friends, and some new recipes.
Like some mac and cheese.

After I made this and Partner in Grime was stealing spoonfuls as it cooled, I looked at him and said: "has anyone in your generation actually eaten homemade mac and cheese?"  He shook his head - mac and cheese comes in a blue box or a frozen red box. . right?

This was the best mac and cheese I've made in several years, and aside from standing at the stove stirring for 14 minutes (with wine - I'm ambidextrous when it comes to whisking and drinking wine), it was super easy to make and Partner raved about how good it was.  Even these pictures, taken two days later as leftovers with some fresh breakfast bacon (it was too dark when I first made it for photos), doesn't do it justice as to how creamy it was when it came out of the oven.

Creamy Mac and Cheese (serves 4 as a main dish, and 6-8 as a side dish)

1 and 3/4 cups dry macaroni

12 ounces sharp cheddar (I used 8 ounces of sharp cheddar, grated from a block and 4 ounces of pre-shredded cheddar/jack leftover from making enchiladas Saturday). If you can, grate your own. Pre-shredded cheese doesn't have the moisture of block and has preservatives. Shredding your own tastes SO much better; is cheaper, and makes a creamier mac and cheese.

3 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard (in the spice aisle for you new cooks)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
4  to 5 shakes of a jar of crushed red pepper (about 1/4 tsp.)

2 and 1/2 cups milk (I used 1 % -  what I had in the fridge)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease or non-stick spray an 8 x 8 casserole dish.

Mix flour and spices in a small cereal bowl.

Bring a saucepan of water to a rolling full boil.  Stir in pasta.  Cover and turn off heat.  Set timer for six minutes. (seriously - for servings up to four -  I never stand and boil my pasta, just give it a quick stir, cover with a tight lid, turn off the heat, and walk away, using the normal time on the box).  Since this will cook further in the oven, I only cooked it to "al-dente", so it was still a bit firm to the bite.

Grate the cheese - you want 3 cups total.
When the timer goes off for the macaroni - drain, then rinse with very cold water and drain again so it quits cooking and place the pasta in a large mixing bowl.

Get timer, beverage of choice, and potholder on standby and in reach.  Once you start the next step you do NOT want to step away from it for "another glass" or "let the dog out" or you will  likely scald the milk or end up with lumps.

Melt butter over medium-high heat in a heavy saucepan. Set a timer for 14 minutes. Whisk in flour and spice mixture, over medium/high heat, whisking constantly for two minutes.  Use a real whisk, (even WalMart has them), rather than a fork.   In a slow stream, add the milk, whisking constantly. Whisk until the timer goes off and the mixture is thickening at medium-high heat.  You want it steaming but NOT coming to a full simmer (bubbles).

Turn off heat and stir in grated cheese, stirring until it's melted.

Pour cheese sauce over macaroni, stirring to break up macaroni and place in 8 x 8 x pan.  Bake uncovered at 375 for 20-25 minutes until bubbling around all of the edges and just starting to brown. Let cool for 3-5 minutes.

Top with chopped bacon or buttered bread crumbs (I prefer the bacon). I believe there was a vegetable in the room so we covered all food groups.

Friday, November 18, 2016


Partner in Grime and I celebrated the new book with pizza (as I was too amped up to cook) and a bottle of wine.

Now it's time to seriously just chill.

I'm going to concentrate on magazine articles here in a month or two, for after three books in two and a half years I'm creatively tuckered out and we seriously need to get to the gun range.

I'll have a post up this weekend on "mystery firearm".


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Small Town Roads Has Been Published

My first fiction novel (family/relationships/Christian genre) Small Town Roads is available for Sale on Amazon.  It will be in bookstores very soon as well.

To buy on Amazon click 

Small Town Roads is kind, gentle, poetic, but grippingly bittersweet in the meeting and meshing of the times and values of two distinctly different — but so much the same — women in a small American town. L.B. Johnson is a writer to watch for tomorrow, but she is also someone to enjoy today”.
--John L. Moore — award-winning novelist and journalist, author of The Breaking of Ezra Riley and other novels.

“In the tradition of Kent Haruf’s best-selling Plainsong, L.B. Johnson has written a lyrical, meditative story that acknowledges the dangers and comforts of our world.  Small Town Roads is a loving story about an old, slow place where the terrible loneliness of grief eases because ordinary people decide to be community."
--Katie Andraski, author of The River Caught Sunlight

Evelyn Ahlgren, a widow and retired teacher, enjoys the quiet comforts of her tranquil neighborhood. That’s why she is intrigued to see what her new neighbor, rookie police officer Rachel Raines, will add to their charming small town.

Rachel had big-city plans that hadn't included inheriting a tiny home in a rural community, a place with no coffee baristas and where the town’s only restaurant had a giant plastic cow on the roof.
Evelyn believes that God brought the two together to find renewed purposes in His will, and they begin an unlikely friendship that surpasses age and experiences. When an unexpected act of violence impacts them both, their concept of faith and family is tested with life-changing results.

Small Town Roads, by best-selling author L.B. Johnson, accurately depicts the feeling of small town life, where residents know each other’s names and become neighbors, and friends, for a lifetime.

L.B. Johnson has a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice and lives in Chicago with her engineer husband and rescue black Lab.   

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

His Name is Midnight

There's a lot of miles from the Badlands of Montana to West Milford, NJ, especially for a horse named Midnight.

His amazing story is featured in the documentary film

directed by Kelly Corbert, and featuring my friend: journalist/award-winning novelist/rancher 
who rides Midnight's cousin Simon on his third generation ranch in the Badlands of Montana. Click on the link above for the film on amazon, and if you don't have a Prime membership, click on "other payment options" to simply rent or buy the film.

Hewitt resident Kelly Colbert (left), director of

Midnight, a horse of impressive lineage and experience, truly a “prince of Big Sky Country,” was bred for strength and rodeo glory but instead ended up given up to auction, and ultimately discarded by human abuse and cruelty. Even his own lineage and name were forgotten, and he was foraging just to survive alone in the woods where he was abandoned to slowly die.  Yet when a rescuer found him, in seriously poor health and barely able to walk, he displayed a strength and tenacity that made others go an extra mile to save him while hiss upbringing in the Badlands of Montana gave him the will to survive until his name and heritage were restored.

The 28-minute film follows how Midnight was sent cross-country to auction in Massachusetts, and ultimately seized as part of a Connecticut cruelty case by the Connecticut Department of Agriculture. He now peacefully resides at the West  Milford Equestrian Center in Newfoundland, New Jersey.
The film was shot on location in the Badlands of Montana, at the York Correctional Institute (a prison in Connecticut where Midnight lived after he was seized), and the West Milford Equestrian Center.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Warmth of Being Prepared

This was a mostly unedited draft of some writing the ended up in my next book "Small Town Roads" - coming out on Kindle in the next week.  I ended up shortening it slightly to fit the storyline as it developed, but I think many of you will appreciate what is here.   Thanks for all the patience while blogging was light as I got through the publishing process.
As the moon first knocks at the window she slices bread into thick pages to be placed in the toaster, cracking eggs into a bowl, dinner a simple omelet and tea.  The house is quiet, her man off buying some wood to craft furniture.

Outside, the world is quiet, the four walls around her corralling her in, even as she is free to leave. There is still much to do, clothes fresh from the drier to be hung up, the remnants of her supper to be put away for the morning. On the floor, a black lab twitches in her sleep, swimming against the impending night.

Outside, somewhere far in the distance, a coyote howls. She looks out into the darkness, into the ancient and inscrutable face of the night, seeing nothing, knowing that doesn't mean  that nothing is out there. The light faded, the wind brisk, the flow of the outside lights, small incandescent intervals of safety around the house, challenging anyone to come near.

Her chores are completed, she turns on some music and sits by the fire, the lights off, the curtains open so she can keep her eye on her world. She's not afraid of the dark, not with her firearm and her courage, a mother bear who will defend to the death her home and her life. Behind her, a small lamp stammers its light; the shadows tossed upon land on which glaciers once slowly roared. From a distance she can hear the sonorous waves of sound from the woods, floating out to her, the cry of an owl, the yip of a predator. The sound builds, merging with the sounds inside the house, a soft laugh, a bit of a song, a resonance both subdued and rich, rising and retreating like a harmonic tide.

In a vase, a single flower, small and delicate, watered by hand, carrying its scent into the home. The water here this time of year is as rare and precious as love. When it falls, it falls in huge drops that seep into bare skin, wetting the formally barren ground, soaking in deep with the weight of an astonishing gift.

She looks delicate, but she is not, having seen both the drops of water and drops of blood that fall on the foreheads of the innocent. She is not unaware of the dangers that being a woman alone can pose, predators seeking defenseless prey, even in small, quiet towns.

But she can live no other way, hope to lay on her, like snow on the ground, the conviction of unshakable faith of what she lives for and what she will fight for. She is aware of the weight of her weapon on her, feeling herself rushing back in time, without anything in her now that was born of seeing the world as it lay, not the vain imagining some wished upon it.

She touches the steel of the small pistol that sits in the pocket of her robe, resting against hips which have borne more than regret. It lay under her fingertips with the warmth of readiness.

- Brigid

Monday, November 14, 2016

On Reason

Reason is a choice. Wishes and whims are not facts, nor are they a means to discovering them. Reason is our only way of grasping reality; it is our basic tool of survival. We are free to evade the effort of thinking, to reject reason, but we are not free to avoid the penalty of the abyss we refuse to see. 
Terry Goodkind, Faith of the Fallen

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Grist Mill Cooking

During the summer and fall we drive over to a Historic Grist mill that's a few miles from the Range and after biking or walking the trails along the river, we pick up some of their stone ground cornmeal.  It's unlike anything you can get in the stores, and it's pretty hard to go back to "corn dust" once you've tried it.  
They were closed this summer for some upkeep on the structure, which is some 150 years, so when they reopened we were able to go over and stock up before they closed for the winter as the cornmeal freezes nicely in ziplock bags.
At their request, we picked up a big bag for our gunblogger friends:
Sherry's Place
Both said they may post what they do with it.  I've already heard back from Sherry as to how good the cornbread she made with it was.

This weekend, I decided to do three recipes with it and was very happy with the results.
My favorite was the cornmeal pancakes.  Not only are they super light and fluffy they have the perfect little "crunch" of the cornmeal amidst the fluffiness. The recipe is adapted from one in the Graue Mill's Brochure (I soured the milk and added slightly more sugar)
Before syrup - see how light and fluffy?

This makes 8 pancakes, double if it cooking for a larger group.

You will need:
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
enough milk to make 3/4 cup total liquid

2 Tablespoons melted butter

1 egg separated

1 cup flour
2 teaspoons sugar plus a pinch
1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add ACV to milk to make 3/4 cups total and let sit in small cereal bowl

In a  large bowl mix dry ingredients, then add just the egg yolk.  Put the egg white from the separated egg into a clean, dry bowl, large enough to whip it with a mixer

Take a hand mixer and whip the egg white with a pinch of sugar until you have a soft meringue that makes small peaks when you pull the mixer out.

Add 2 Tablespoons of melted butter to the milk mixture and stir into dry ingredients.
Carefully fold in the whipped egg until incorporated, but be VERY gentle with it.

Cook on an oiled griddle.

Next up is a recipe for some homemade corn tortillas for carne asada tacos. (Yes, I don't like raw tomatoes, hence my tacos are a bit "nekked" with just lettuce and a little Mexican cheese.)

Note:  making these from just stone ground cornmeal is not going to work, you need the traditional Mexican  masa harina flour to which you add just a bit of cornmeal for a slightly crunchier texture. Masa harina is made by drying field corn (maize) and then treating it in a solution of lime and water. This loosens the hulls from the kernels and softens the corn.  In addition, the lime reacts with the corn so that the nutrient niacin can be assimilated by the digestive track.

Corn Tortillas

1 and 1/4 cups plus 2 Tablespoons masa harina
2 Tablespoons cornmeal
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lard
About 1 cup hot water, or more as needed
Flour for kneading

Combine the masa, cornmeal, and salt in a bowl; stir in the oil. Slowly stream in the water while mixing with your hand or a wooden spoon until the dough comes together into a ball.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until it is smooth and elastic — just a minute or two. Wrap in plastic, and let it rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to a few hours.

Break off pieces of the dough (you’re shooting for 12 to 16 tortillas total), and lightly flour them. Put them between 2 sheets of plastic wrap, and press them in a tortilla press,use a rolling pin, or roll them out or press them with your hands to a diameter of 4 to 6 inches. Begin to cook the tortillas as you finish pressing or rolling them.

Put a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes. Cook the tortillas, 1 or 2 at a time, until brown spots appear on the bottom, about a minute. Flip, and do the same on the other side. Wrap the cooked tortillas in a towel to keep them warm; serve immediately, or cool and store tightly wrapped in the fridge for a few days.

Lastly, for dinner.  Pork chops dredged in egg and milk and coated with crushed cornflakes to which some lemon pepper was added, baked at 350 F. for 50 minutes (these were thick cut) served with veggies, garlic mashed potatoes, and a side of stone ground corn muffins.
Partner in Grime went and changed into more formal dining attire, given our corn themed meals.
 Served with a side of stone ground corn muffins.

Metric ingredients provided for the HOTR Canadian readership. Note: the conversion came from "the Metric Kitchen" so if a chicken explodes I won't be held responsible. :-)

1 cup yellow cornmeal Plus 2 Tablespoons (175 grams)
1 cup all-purpose flour Plus 2 Tablespoons (140 grams)
1 tablespoon baking powder (15 mL)
1/3 cup granulated sugar (65 grams)
1 teaspoon salt (7 grams)
1 cup milk plus 2 Tablespoons (270 mL)
2 large eggs (make sure you use ones from Metric chickens)
1/2 stick butter, melted (60 grams)
3 Tablespoons honey (65 mL)
1/4 teaspoon Mexican vanilla 

Heat oven to 400 degrees (about 200 C). Into a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the whole milk and eggs. In a small glass bowl in the microwave, melt butter and then add the honey to that. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed.

Bake in a greased 12 muffin tin, or use the little paper muffin liners. Bake for 14-15 minutes, just until golden.