Thursday, June 29, 2017

Smokin! - Smoked Briscuit

You don't need one of those $2000 smokers to make some authentic smoked brisket.  Just follow these easy directions from the folks at Kingsford and you'll have a brisket dinner on your plate before you know it.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Prayers in the Blind

This is not related to anyone's beloved pet or personal family member but something I witnessed today that still has me a bit shook up.

Given my line of work, I'm used to lots of mayhem, torn and often burned flesh and dead bodies.  But they're all strangers to me when I meet them in the field, or on the autopsy table.

Today a neighbor was getting a new roof.  I was teleworking getting some reports knocked out. The roofing crew started early morning and was still working insanely hard late afternoon. The homeowners were gone, not wanting to hear the noise all day, so I brought water and cookies and another male neighbor offered up his bathroom should they need it. No one spoke English but they all understood water and comfort and were very grateful.

Just before they were about an hour from being done for a day, the job site went totally silent. Then the ambulance, police and fire engine showed up. One of the men, a cheerful middle aged Hispanic man, had fallen from the steep pitched two story roof onto cement. A neighbor that witnessed it said, "it looks like he has some bleeding from a cut on his head and badly hurt his back".

Then I watched him get loaded into the ambulance.

He was unconscious and his body and arms were positioned in the decorticate response posturing which usually indicates severe head trauma. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is usually combined with cervical spine (C-spine) injury. Once in the ambulance, they didn't move for over 10 minutes which means they were likely performing endotracheal intubation with adequate sedative or analgesics and a muscle relaxant to prevent an increase in intracranial pressure during that intubation in the TBI patient.

Even sadder, the rest of the obviously traumatized crew had to keep working the job until dark, now short one man.  The roofer's trucks were unmarked, no one spoke English and there were no OSHA safeguards in place for the roof work.  If OSHA shows up to investigate tomorrow I'll be having a long chat with the investigator. I don't care where you were born or whether you are working on a green card or not. There are moments we are all simply human, deserving of safety and care.

I do not know his name but I will be praying for that kind, cheerful man and his family tonight.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

On Recollection

"It has been said that crowds are stupid, but mostly they are simply confused, since as an eyewitness the average person is as reliable as a meringue lifejacket." -Terry Pratchett - Unseen Academicals

If I personally were to have a choice of witnesses to a tragedy to talk to, give me the child. Their view is simply what they have seen, normally unclouded by judgement, history, politics and expectations. Certainly intelligence bears into it and the developmental differences of the child. The child also needs be of an age where they can remember and describe events, understanding the difference between the truth and a lie. But they often pick up on things that the adults miss even if, in and of itself, it might not be admissible in a legal setting. Sure the technical detail is not there and children can often mix reality with fantasy, but often the heart of what they experienced is ascertainable, containing details often lost to others.

Those that piece together such places, unfortunately, have had to use such recollections before. You can watch all the TV shows you want, but unless you are a first responder or LEO you don't really realize what it is like. Air laden with smells of fuel perhaps and smoke, stale sweat and the dense coppery smell of death close up. The frantic sounds, shouts and fluid movements of water or people, trickling down to a slow drip as the EMS vehicles move away. Sometimes in a hurry, too often not, the sound expanding away from the hollow rumbles of voices left behind to glean the concrete fields of evidence, searching for words and actions that explain.

Sometimes there is a crowd, sometimes in that crowd is a youngster, looking around, taking it all in, while the adults eyes are frantically forming words in their head while look for a TV camera, or swaying in shock, zombie-like, eyes closed in almost drugged immobility.

A child's recollection is simple, not so much words, but sounds, smell, movement, direction,things others might have missed. With a parents hands hovering near, those movements we all know of protection, it will be asked if the child could give their remembrance, just as was done with any adults that were present, letting them make a statement of what they remember, to define the things already known. Sometimes their statements, made with simple words and hands, are startling in their detail; details that confirm the tangibles that are known at that time. Tangiles that can become evidence. With that the search for truth continues.

For some adults do not do so well in recollection. An event to one person is seen in a totally different way than another. Both believe they are totally accurate and it's often hard to derive the reality from their truths. I've read accounts in the newspaper of events I actively participated in, only to shake my head in wonder at how very inaccurately it was portrayed, the words written for sensation and effect, not for accountability. I've seen it in a court room, a place where even in the scrubbed emptiness, the smell of spent violence, lust, graft and vengeance are discernible. Where even in the quiet you feel the reverberations of badgering and bitterness, sinners and saints, actors in a role, while we the public hope for that one legal expert that can see through all of that to do what is right based on reality, not motivation.

But getting to the heart of the matter is difficult. Look at the media, at some of the written chronicles on the Internet of recent tragedies, and the variances in discussing the same person or event, the same bit of history. Some are honestly detailed yet succinct, while others, especially when they feel they or their cause have been wronged, are so outside the realm of what happened that they do nothing but provoke incredulity.

Tragedies bear their own truth and it is usually NOT what is in much of the mainstream media.

Life is never easy, and finding out why things happen as they do remains something that haunts the edges of not just a crime scene, but our very lives. We want to know, desire it. Yet, unless we look at events with the clear eyes of a child, unmotivated by greed, political leanings or prejudice, we may find that the words we read, the blames being made, are no more sweet deceptions.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Saturday Eats - Bacon Hash Brown Quiche

Film Noir Night at the Range.  The photo was taken back at the crash pad but we brought the movies out again at the Range.  This one starring Hugh Beaumont of later "Leave it to Beaver" Fame. "When you deal with dames you are in the danger zone". A cheating wife, a dead husband, a shady "private detective" who has a history with the wife and the good guy that gets involved in what was to be a simple job of taking a beautiful socialite to a yacht party.

The guns are tiny, the women of dubious reputation, the good guys brave.  But one can't help but chuckle when the hero is knocked out at least twice in an episode including once by someone throwing a bottle at his head from a distance.  Of course, the dialogue is always entertaining-
Professor - "She and Spadely indulged in an adolescent romance in high school.  She's been an old fashioned girl every since."

Dennis O'Brien (Hugh B.) "Old fashioned?"

Professor - "Unfortunately she drank too many of them with too many different men to suit her husband."

It was a perfect night for "breakfast for dinner" and one that could be made without a trip to the store.  Most of us are more budget minded now, perhaps having our work hours cut or having to care for another family member,  or simply seeing how much less the dollar buys as our taxes go up.
Studies have shown that a fair amount of the groceries we pick up end up getting tossed, little bits and pieces of things not used while still fresh.

So once a week, I go through the fridge and try and make something out of all the leftover bits. Tonight I had hash browns, leftover steamed broccoli, part of an onion, leftover cheese from pasta and sandwiches, eggs, half and half and always, bacon.  Quiche material  I have to say, this was the best quiche I've ever made and Partner in Grime raved about it.

The crust was made with hash browns,  Rich, crisp, buttery.

The filling - farm fresh brown eggs with a blend of Italian cheeses for a delicate taste.

And Bacon!   
Bacon Quiche with Hash Brown Crust

Hash brown crust -

3 1/2 cups shredded potato (can use thawed hash browns) moisture removed (use a salad spinner or blot well with paper towels).
several grinds of pepper
a shake or two of sea salt
1/2 stick of butter melted.

Mix and pat in a large pie pan and bake at 450 F for 22-25 minutes until edges are browning up.   Remove and lower oven temp to 325. (if you want the bottom a little crispier, put some foil gently around the edges and cook an additional two minutes).
Cook 8 pieces of bacon, drain,

Chop and toss with 1/2 teaspoon pure maple syrup.

Mix in large bowl:

the bacon
1 and 1/2 cup slightly steamed broccoli
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (I threw in an extra little pinch)
1/8 teaspoon of favorite hot sauce.  I would highly recommend you get what I used, Scoville Brothers Singing Smoke hot sauce, not too hot and a rich, natural smoky taste, it's a must have for eggs and casseroles in my home.  The Scoville Brothers aren't a big company, just two Hoosier musicians that market their incredible hot sauces.
In small bowl mix:

4 eggs whisked
1 cup half and half.

Pour over veggies/bacon in the bigger bowl.

In a cereal bowl toss:

1 cup of  Italian  blend cheese (Asiago, Romano, Mozzarella, Parmesan)
1 Tablespoon of flour.

Gently stir cheese into quiche filling in the large bowl.

Gently ladle into crust and cook in 325-degree oven for 50-55 minutes. (knife inserted into center should come out clean).

Let sit 10 minutes and serve with crusty french bread and any leftover salad or fruit.

click on photos to enlarge

Friday, June 2, 2017

In Memory of Bob

My best friend of many years who has normally around half a dozen cat rescues in her country home, lost one of her first rescues, left in a snowstorm near her partner's business, found starving and almost frozen.  Bob was a force of nature.  I remember him one weekend (I spent a lot of weekends with them before meeting my husband as I was new to the area with no family and few friends), eating an entire waffle off my plate when I turned my head for a couple of minutes. I've always been a "dog person" never having owned a cat - but I loved Bob so much.

In memory of Bobcat  -a chapter from The Book of Barkley, where he was a star.  We're going to miss you Bob - we hope right now you are at the Bridge with Barkley and Schmoo, your Lab sisters, frolicking without care or pain.

CHAPTER 29 Dogs and Cats Living Together

Words can do our bidding, but sometimes nothing else will.

Especially a cat.

I went for some years before Barkley without a dog, believing with my life and schedule and commitments I just didn't need one.  But I never had cats.

Suddenly, as Barkley came into my life and we opened our world to a lot more than work, I met a lot of other animal people, and many of them had cats. Fortunately, Barkley stayed with a friend for a few weeks when he was a pup when I was traveling and his regular dog sitter was having surgery. It was comfortable country home that came with an assortment of dogs, cats, and grandkids, and he had a grand time with them.

The cats I am around now belonged to my friends, MC and Mr. B. There is Tank, oh, so aptly named, the one that sleeps with me every night when I visit them. Then there is lovable Bob, a big orange Nerf ball with legs, Socks, and Goldie.  Our visits with them included Barkley and their black lab Schmoo just hanging out, lots of food and fun times, EJ joining us when he could. Knowing MC was like having a sister and Mr. B. was not just a fabulous cook, he was an engineer like EJ, so they got along great and these were times I looked forward to.
I was still residing in a rental home, not feeling rushed to buy something else, undecided on whether I wanted to buy a small house close to work or a small place in the country. Due to job transfers and family circumstance, Barkley and I had moved three times in his lifetime and I was tired of moving.  Besides, the money would accrue more interest in investments other than the current real estate market, which for me had proven about as economically sound as tossing my money off of a building.

Since both Barkley and I were somewhat housing unencumbered, my friends with the four cats, needing to both be out of town for a few days, asked me to housesit. I had some vacation time I could use and would love to be out in the country, so I said yes and Barkley and I arrived.  We'd be fine on our own for a few days, EJ planning to come over on a couple of evenings to visit and help Barkley and I as needed.

The house sitting was going pretty well I thought, after that first couple of days.  Six animals in the house kept me busy, but there were many hours to read or write (or sit with a Big Orange Cat in my lap while I watched the Rifleman on big screen TV). I'd handled the litter box for four cats well (thank you, surgical mask!)

I might not even need EJ's help, though part of me wished for his company. The house was quiet; all the animals were snoozing, and all was right with the world.   As it got dark, the lights off, I sensed movement from the master bedroom across the hall, where Barkley and a couple of cats were napping.

Barkley whined.  It was a soft plaintive whine, not of pain, just of worry.  I heard him moving, toward me, but he was not moving fast.

Another whine as he entered the hall that was lit.

He had been on the bed of my friends, the top coverlet a crocheted type.  The little hook of his rabies tag had caught in it.  Of course, with multiple pets trying to nest in it, it was wrapped up in all the covers, which he was now trying to run down the hall with it in tow.   Lying on the tail end of all of it was Bob the Cat, riding it like a travois.

Barkley was unhooked; Bob was displaced (much to his displeasure) with only minimal blood loss on my part and the bed was remade.

I called for backup though.

There were some things I learned about cats that week.  To start, out in the country, no matter how many cats are in the house, mice will still come in when it dips down into the low 30s at night. Even though all four cats are peering out the window at them, the mice would come in, a suicide mission if there ever was one.

I also discovered that four cats, defying all laws of physics and thermodynamics, can, on a daily basis, turn 36 ounces of basic sustenance into 16 pounds of poop.  Outside of politics I’ve not seen a conversion quite like it.

I also found that cats can be so much fun (except for the morning I had to clean up a stain the size of Vermont where Goldie horked up what appeared to be William Shatner's Toupee.)

Still, as much as those critters are family, I still am a "dog person." I love how dogs wait, they long for your return and greet you with an unbridled joy that knows no bounds. On those days that I came home drained from a difficult day, tears in my eyes and the worry of ghosts in my soul, he was there. Barkley simply laid his head on my knee and looked up, as if that moment is what he lived for. His tail would wag with a healing that humans can't always give.

He didn't care how new or fancy his house was, what he rode in, or what collar he wore.  All he cared about is how to bequeath that which sustains him, in his too-short life: his faith and his love, as he patiently waited, only wanting me to come back into the room where he lay.

But  I admire how that when I was away, he was fine, bonding with friends who care for him, some related by blood, some just related by love and friendship.  Unlike most cats, which just have staff, dogs have their pack and Barkley had his own among my friends.

They cared for him as did I.  Once while I was away, he injured a leg, jumping high for a toy, just like he always did, one minute happy, the next, hobbling with pain. My friends were beyond concerned, and we hoped it was just a sprain. When I got home, he was a little better, and then quit eating, then drinking, and my concern turned to panic.

I called my friend, Tam, and she came over, helping me make a little stretcher out of a rug to get him into the truck and off to an animal hospital in the city that was open on a Sunday.   It was a simple soft tissue injury where he’d overextended his leg, and they kept him overnight for some hydration, some pain, and anti-inflammatory meds and he was better. But I was like a parent there in the waiting room, the young male vet trying to soothe me as I fought tears. He said, "Are you by yourself" and I sniffed,"No, a friend is with me." He said, “I'll go find them, what do they look like?”

I said, "Look for the beautiful six-foot-tall, pony-tailed blond in the ball cap pacing the lobby looking worried."  That young man was quite happy to share the news.
I understand.  When I blew my knee out, in a city far away, needing surgery, not even able to drive my own truck home to my own doctor, my best friend took care of me.

That is what family has always done, and pets are our family.  But although you can own a dog, he’s with you because he wants to be. Short of tying him up, if Barkley was truly unhappy here he could just jump the fence and leave in a heartbeat, off to the land of unlimited biscuits and Moms who don't live out of a suitcase part of the year. He is bound only by choice, not vow or ring or law.

But he did not. Each day, be it rain, shine, or snow, he was here for me, even if I was not present.  That was his gift to me, one I accepted gladly for as long as he lives.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Stick to your Ribs Dinner

It's late in a long workweek, you're bone tired and wanting something nourishing with a bit of a kick for dinner. Something to satisfy you after a long day or two in the field, zombie attacks or a list of weekend honey do's and chores, which may have included tree stump removal (note to self, C4 may work better than in-laws bush hog), scraping wallpaper in the guest room and finally, escaping to do more important things like determine if indeed your electric garage door is strong enough to lift an inline six cylinder engine out of a vehicle.

If you'd made this sauce instead of that wallpaper scraping thing and let it sit, you'd be in business. It's a sweet yet smoky sauce that is worth the patience to let it sit 24 hours before you eat it.

Gnaw on the Bone Barbecue Sauce. (click on the photos to enlarge)

The recipe can be halved for smaller households.

1 extra large Walla Walla sweet onion, minced
8 cloves garlic, minced (you can used the pre-minced in the jar)
1 and 1/2 cups Bourbon (I know you're just cooking with it, but use a good quality one)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups tomato sauce
1/2 cup tomato paste
2/3 cup plus 4 tablespoons (not quite a cup total) apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons liquid smoke flavoring
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon Scoville Brothers Heavy Metal Heat Hot Sauce

Directions: In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the onion until it caramelizes and just starts to turn golden brown (about 5 minutes). Add in garlic and bourbon and simmer on low 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix the remaining ingredients, turn up heat just past low, towards medium and just until it comes to a slow boil (careful not to scorch as it does have a high sugar content). Reduce heat back to low and simmer for 20 minutes, again stirring occasionally.

Let it set 24 hours before serving. (Right after cooking it will be too sweet, too smoky, but after it sits - oh my, it's get your fingers out of that!) This sauce gets its complexity over time and is awesome after sitting a day. It does well on a grill as the sugars in it do this mind meld thing when exposed to flame that will have you you going back for seconds. But for winter, pour it over some ribs or chicken in a crockpot and let it cook on low all day.

Add some garlic mashed potatoes with some smoked cheddar and some carrots for crunch and it's a meal well worth the wait.