Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Pet Cams - The Latest in Canine Technology

If I'm stopped for a train or slowed for traffic I tend to notice roadside advertisements more. One billboard was for a Pet Cam which caught my attention with

 "What is YOUR pet doing during the day?"  

Most of us leave our pets at home as we work.  Some of us have dog walkers that come over, or there is a doggie door to a fenced yard so the dog can get outside and sniff the trees and the grass. Like a baby monitor/cam, the Pet Cam can be set up with multiple cameras so can see your pet both inside and outside - with a live feed so you know they're safe.

I thought about getting one for Abby. I try and make sure there is plenty to drink and the home is pet safe, nothing toxic in reach, extra TP out of the way as Abby (like Barkley) loves to snag the extra toilet paper rolls.  But I wonder if I'd really see anything worthwhile if I got one of those "pet cams".

I'm off to a meeting I have to go into the office for.  Let's see what the doggie cam has to say.

8 a.m.
10 a.m.
12 p.m.
2 p.m.
4 p.m.


the truck pulling in the driveway
I think I'm better off without the pet cam.  Sometimes it's better not knowing :-)

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Fishing Spots

My dad bought me my own little fishing pole when I was barely big enough to hold on to it and they would watch with loving patience up on the bank to make sure I didn't fall in. So last night, when I discovered a forgotten little cherry rod during a recent clean-up in the shed, I walked on down to the river that cuts through my Village and sat down to think about it.

I have invited numerous people I have known over the years to join me in fishing local rivers, lakes, and streams. Many have taken me up on the opportunity. They are safe, quiet places where the kids can fish while the adults wait "safely in the jeep, as they used to say on the Wild Kingdom, with a cold ice tea or beer, listening to the laughter of kids used to city homes, tiny yards. It's a quiet spot away, for just a moment, from the exhaustive clamor of the city. It's appreciated and they often reciprocate by doing something to help me around my place. Though I appreciate the thanks, just the wide smile of a kid who has caught his first "big" fish is all the thanks any of us might need.

As I walked down to the water tonight, the sun was setting, leaving wisps of lavender ribbons across the sky; clouds moving up from the Plains, wispy strands through which I could glimpse was the phase of the moon. The bobber moved slightly, a fish, or the wind? I saw one huge fin slicing the water when I first moved in; it was either a giant carp or Nessie. I was tempted to jerk the line, to see what I had, but I waited. This is what patience is all about, being wholeheartedly engaged in the process that's unfolding, rather than yank up the line to see what's at the other end. Patience is what I needed. I've been going full tilt for so long that when it all pulled into one moment of pain, I realized I needed to take a break. That's why, as I sat, I prayed for some quiet, I prayed for acceptance and patience. Patience isn't stressed, it isn't unhappy, its a steady strength we apply to each experience we face, be it life showing its fangs, or a quiet weekend in a simple household.

As I waited, the call of what sounded like a loon brought me back into the moment and I thought about all the things I needed to do at home. Iron clothes in prep for a couple days on the road while I'm a guest speaker at some conference, cook dinner, call Dad and Tam back. And I stopped. "Can you hear that?" I whispered to Barkley, sitting by my side, tail wagging, poised to strike in case I reeled in a slab of hickory smoked bacon. "That" being the sound of a small bass jumping on a small span of water on a planet spinning through space. This is what fishing is all about, not catching anything, not putting a meal on the table, but for me, like flying a little tailwheel airplane, simply a time with nature to be savored when the whole body is one sense with the water and delight imbibes through every pore with the gossamer cast of a line. I really don't care if I catch anything, frankly, I'm not that enamored with that part of it, I just enjoyed the communion of elemental waters.

The crickets began their chorus to usher in the night, and the note of the sparrow is borne on the wind from over the water. And from the water's edge, a salamander crawled out, that traveler of both the water and the land, equally at home in both. We're all born of water, as we emerge from the watery landscape of the womb, we discover we can breathe, and we leave behind the comforting water world of our mother's body, to become searchers of the land, seekers of adventure. What caused that first being to emerge from the womb, from the water of life? The pull of nature, or something more primal? There was a Disney movie of a redheaded mermaid, half human, half fish, who gave up the freedom of her watery home for the love of a man. What is that primal urge that drives us out and up, away from our comfortable origins to a land that can often be dry and barren? Perhaps we simply leave the water searching for that love.

As the last of the daylight seeped back into the sky, I thought back to what has been troubling me, but only briefly, for my mind now, like the lake, is rippled but not ruffled. These small ripples of water raised by the evening's wind are only a hint of turmoil in a slowly calming stream. As the day pulled out of the sky taking the wind with it, I cast back out into the now still center of the pond, the moment causing me to hold in my breath. There it was. Utter and complete stillness. I wanted to hold my breath because even inhaling and exhaling was like a cacophony. The trees were absolutely quiet, the animals of day hunkering down for rest, and the night creatures not yet stirring. There was no breeze, no recognition of air even; it was the sound of nothing and everything. It felt like all life…and my future…and beyond was contained in one space, and I was not just casting into it, I was part of it. It's one of the most peaceful coherent moments I've experienced. A heavenly spot of time.
Poets talk about "spots of time," but its only been flying and on the water where I've experienced eternity compressed into a moment. A moment where in an instant you can see your whole life and make a choice. No one can even explain to you what this "spot of time" is until your whole horizon is a fish and then the fish is gone. I thought of one salmon off in the great North. I shall remember that fish when I'm an old lady. After fighting him until my arms groaned, I brought him up. For a moment, I saw the sun glinting off his 30-pound back, rainbow diamonds of light dazzling my eyes. I was so enamored of him I couldn't even take a breath and in that instant, before he was gone, the line snapped, it seemed as if time had stumbled. Then as the clock picked itself up again, I looked at the bare expanse of water while others patted me on the back, consoling me and urging me to try again. Only then did it hit me what it was that I had lost.
I thought back to fly fishing in Gunnison while I went back to Colorado to visit family, watching the fly fisherman standing, rod in hand, in the rushing water making the most beautiful movements, a ballet of line and wind and hook. A ritual of the chase, the cast like a tease to the unsuspecting trout, placid in their world, until he pulled them into his. As the trout took the bait, the man would smile, that quick knowing smile, and pull with a quick flick of his fingers and hands, like light strokes on a keyboard, and plant the hook. Then after reeling the trout in, he gently pulled the hook from the mouth, gently cradling the fish in his hand as a way of speaking his peace. Without a sound and a quick unemotional tickle of her belly, he said goodbye to her as she headed back downstream.
Catch and release.

With my neighborhood passing into shadow, darkness falling, I decided to head back. I didn't catch anything, my true catch was as intangible and indescribable as the twilight playing on the water. I think of what Thoreau said, "many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after". For to fish is to flirt, with dancing water and surging life, warm lips to cool water, we reach for a transparent kiss of the unknown. We willingly bite the secret barb, to be brought to shore barely breathing, gasping up into somewhere unknown, searching upward to catch a glimpse of who it was that wanted us.

Tonight I have no choice but to pull the hook of that fly out of my lips and swim away safely downstream.

Catch and release.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Thank a Veteran - Then Go Make Some Biscuits

They honored the Vets at church today, we still have 3 WWII Vets attending service every single Sunday.  I made sure I thanked each and every one on this Veterans Day.

That being said - since we are busy coordinating things in CA for my family that lost everything in the Paradise fire, writing will be short - specifically a recipe.

For those of you poor folks who eat your biscuits out of a CAN, this is what a real homemade biscuit looks like (this was just half of one).  I lived in the South for almost 10 years, so one thing I got a lot of practice with was making biscuits so I'm included some tips.

The picture above is just the "stunt biscuit".  This is the whole thing.
Brigid's Biscuits (y'all better  not make any jokes about that, my Dad reads my blog).

2 c. self-rising flour (use White Lily brand, it makes a tremendous difference in the height of the biscuit as it's a soft winter wheat, low protein - if you live up North and your store doesn't carry it, you can buy on Amazon which is what I have to do because one thing you never hear anyone say in Chicagoland is "I hear this city makes a mean biscuit!". If you don't want to buy from Amazon use pastry or cake flour but DO NOT use all purpose flour.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup lard (don't even think of using Crisco)
2/3 cup cream to which you've added 2 Tablespoons lemon juice or use 2/3 cup buttermilk.  You may need an additional Tablespoon or two as it comes together.
Step by Step Instructions:


Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.  (I've also cooked at 475 F.which works fine, the biscuits are just a little paler).

Let liquid sit while this happens, you want the liquid and butter to be warmer than icebox temperature. Cut the butter into the self-rising flour with a fork until it is in small flakes or balls. Don't mix the butter in completely if you want a really flaky biscuit. 

Stir in the liquid, stirring JUST til it pulls away from the side of the bowl. If it hasn't pulled together as a soft dough, add another Tablespoon or two of liquid and very gently mix with a fork

Turn out onto a floured cutting board and, with hands dusted with flour, knead very gently 3-4 times. No more than that. 

Gently pat out about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick and cut using a 2-inch biscuit cutter or drinking glass, dipped in flour. Cut straight down, do NOT twist the biscuit cutter and put them top down on your baking sheet.  This will ensure that you don’t seal the edges any more than necessary and that the most sealed edge–the side you cut from–will be at the bottom so they will rise as much as possible. Put them closely together on an ungreased cookie sheet, even touching if you like. Biscuits don’t spread, and they feed off of one another’s heat so I put mine very close together, even touching sometimes for the highest rise.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, checking at 8 minutes as they are usually done then. 1/2 inch thick dough will give you about a dozen biscuits. I make mine a little thicker and get about 8 biscuits. This easily cuts in half for two people

NOTE:  If your flour is NOT self-rising add 1 Tablespoon of Baking Powder and 1 teaspoon of salt to the recipe (based on two cups of flour).

Friday, November 9, 2018

Prayers for Paradise

Please, everyone, send prayers and/or healing thoughts to the people of Paradise California and other parts of the state hit by the fire.

A member of my family lost their home, and being out of state at the time was not able to take out ANY items of sentimental value or any financial records.  My cousin lost a winter's supply of hay for the horses she boards and cares for that is stored there for the winter, and the Aunt of my cousin's better half lost her home as well.

All are at my cousin Liz's up in the Sierras, including a Paradise neighbor that simply had no other place to go as she's quite elderly. The Aunt has a sister in Portland, they can take her there to live.  The elderly neighbor will be with them as long as she needs.  That's the kind of person my cousin Liz is.

But they are in total shock so any prayers are appreciated.  Partner in Grime and I are tweaking the budget to replace the hay.  The horses and I sort of have an "I won't ride you if you don't bite me" detente thing going but she just doesn't have the means to replace that much hay, especially with the post-fire price gouging that will likely go on.

We're family, that's what we do.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Look a Squirrel ! - Holiday Gift Giving


With Christmas coming up there's often a package on the porch when I get home as I do almost all of my shopping online.

I wasn't sure what the one box was - maybe it's the toy I got for Abby.

It's the Outward Hound squirrel puzzle tree with squeaky squirrels.  Abby's going to go BONKERS when this arrives.


It wasn't that today though. It was a collection of little travel size (1/2 ounce each) fragrances from Demeter which are fun little stocking stuffers.  They have some UNIQUE scents, is all I can say.  Many are really lovely, some are just odd (if your boyfriend wants you to smell like Paint, Turpentine or  Lobster, I don't want to get invited to the wedding).  Of course, there are some that make me laugh AND smell good.

I got Cinnamon Bark roll-on skin oil, an old standby that is spicy but not sickeningly sweet.  It's my best friend's favorite.  I also added some others.  The RHIB was just like the cocktail it's named after, very strawberry scented.  I like my Victoria's Secret Strawberry and Champagne spray better but it smelled nice. The Marshmallow was a light sweet fragrance, one I think my daughter. would like.  The Honey was sweet and pretty but I pictured swarms of Africanized Bees (Beebonics! Oh No!) swarming after me.  I may pass on that one.  The Gin and Tonic -  nice, subtle lime undertone and very crisp. This is going in my husbands stocking as that will make a very nice man's fragrance.  The Butterscotch - OK, I was caught huffing my wrist.  I'm going to keep that one for myself for date night.

Riding crop smelled like worn leather but my cousin who has horses may get a smile out of it. The only one I did NOT like was the Thunderstorm, which I expected to.  I was waiting for a crisp rain smell with perhaps some pepper added to the oils to make it sharper.  Nope, it smelled like something electrical burning from behind the dash.  I've smelled that smell in a Sherpa transport aircraft, late it night over a hostile landscape, and, trust me, that is NOT a good smell.  Thunderstorm isn't the right name.  They really should have named this one Lucas. (Any of you who have a British car in your garage - ever notice that Lucas and Lucifer start with the same three letters? Just saying).


What to do with it?  Hmmmmm. (insert evil laugh here)  I think I will make little air fresheners out of cardboard, cut them in the shape of a fuse, douse them well with Thunderstorm perfume, then stuff them in the vents in the current Triumph project and see how long it takes my husband to start looking around for the Lucas Replacement Wiring Harness Smoke Kit. :-)

For now, I can come up with something that smells much nicer than any of this. 




Vanilla cupcakes with chocolate hazelnut frosting, topped with crumbled Cadbury Flake candy. I made up a batch of these for a friend with a black lab that needed a little holiday cheer.

The cake has extra vanilla and the tiniest hint of almond and the creamy chocolate hazelnut frosting recipe has been a big hit with those I've shared it with on the blog before.


It must smell good - doggie photobomb!
Now what's that burning smell?

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Great Knee Caper

The anniversary of our wedding and getting into the anniversary season or our first winter together brought back some memories - especially when a storm front moved in and my "accu-knee" was giving me the forecast.

On our first official weekend together as a new couple with my now husband up in Chicagoland, I had a bad spill walking the dog.  I tried to soldier on as they say, but after trying to walk on and doing several flights of stairs, it finally gave out and I ended up in the local ER with a diagnosis of a torn meniscus. We were at this funky antique place when it finally gave out so the hospital was NOT in the best part of town (think armed security walking in).  Fortunately, when they found out I actually had insurance, there was a team of medical professionals all over me. 

The doctors suspected a torn meniscus I was told to make plans for an MRI and an orthopedic surgeon back in my hometown.

Partner in Grime canceled his Christmas plans and drove me over 200 miles to my own doctor and home and stayed and took care of Barkley and me while I recovered from surgery. I knew then he was a keeper.

But the recovery from such things is never fun, even with the most loving of company but it provided a great memory and a chapter for The Book of Barkley.


CHAPTER 25 From The Book of Barkley – The Great Knee Caper

It was supposed to be a perfect weekend - a first weekend-long visit to my friend EJ’s house.  After the autumn of outings, our friendship was evolving into a bond that knew not the span of years or miles between us. 

He was inviting a few of his friends over to meet me.  I had a new outfit; Barkley was going to be on his best behavior.  All his friends would like me.  There would be crème Brulee that had absolutely no calories.

So how did I end up in an MRI machine, after two days in his easy chair with a pack of frozen peas on my knee, followed by a long drive?

Take one black lab, excited for a walk after a long drive.  Add a flight of icy steps and a female golden retriever across the street.  The fact that the vet rendered him incapable of knowing exactly what to do with a female did not deter him.  He lunged to greet her at the same moment my knee turned ninety degrees to go the other way and my center of gravity, always far forward anyway, was pointed the wrong way.

The doctor at the emergency room said, “You likely have a torn meniscus, you will need an orthopedic specialist and an MRI.”
It was two days before Christmas.  My doctor was two hundred miles away and EJ was planning on going home to see his family for the holiday.  My roommate was also out of town for Christmas and New Years. But I was in too much pain to travel for a couple of days, even if I could have driven myself.

Christmas itself was subdued, myself in pain and feeling bad about ruining his holiday.  But we made the best of it, opening gifts, setting the 60s aluminum tree and matching color wheel briefly out on the covered porch. That, of course, resulted in comments that we should not have the color wheel out there on a final approach to an airport, due to the dangers of pilots being blinded by bright laser lights.

"Captain!  There's a bright light in my eyes!   It's Green.  Wait it's Blue, now it's Orange, now it's Red!"

Even as much as I hurt, I laughed, with a vision of law enforcement showing up to confiscate the color wheel and we made the best we could of our Christmas.

With driving out of the question for me, EJ canceled everything and drove me back to my place, an appointment made to get an MRI and an orthopedic consult. 

That first night home night Barkley stayed glued to my side.  There was nothing to do but wait as serene and still as possible, while others did the worrying for me.  Outside, the moon shone on nibbled shadow, the only other lights as far off and distant as memories of shame or pride or loss, remembered there with a sharp twinge of the knee, then fading to dim memory as Barkley leaned into me with a comforting snuggle.

The MRI was done the next day, the news confirming that I would need surgery, and right away.

Barkley hovered with that worried concern that dogs can convey, he more so than most, with Groucho Marx eyebrows that could move up and down with the most expressive of facial expressions.

He wasn’t the only one hovering.

EJ canceled a business trip and stayed with me through the surgery and the first week of recovery, cooking for me, helping me up and down and making sure Barkley was fed and exercised. 

I was not the best of patients, not wanting to take the pain meds, other than that first day, so as not to feel loopy.

I was also anxious to get out of the house.  I hated the crutches, but at least they were so big Barkley could not get them in his mouth and carry them around like the cane.

After a week, EJ needed to get back to work and we confirmed I could manage on my own.  An old exercise step had a hole drilled through it with a cord that attached to my truck’s headrest.  I could drop it on the ground; step in, then pull it up, the truck too tall for me to manage otherwise.

I got checked out on the scooters at the local stores, until such time as I could ditch the crutches.

The scooter was fun, though one of the greeters came over and asked if I needed help operating the controls (consisting of forward, backward, right and left). Granted, it might be more difficult than a jet aircraft, but I was good to go, thanking them for their help. Speed wise, it was fair to say the scooters were slower than the INDY 500 and faster than a snail on Demerol. But I was not only able to do a cookie in the chicken aisle; I found that the displays in the electronic section made for great S patterns at top speed. I also discovered that large guys with carts containing a hundred bags of Tater Tots and beer can move surprisingly fast when faced with a redhead in a Springfield Armory T-shirt, converging at top scooter speed.

Dealing with the crutches and the scooter was the hardest part. I tried holding them, but that made it hard to work the controls. I put one out front. Jousting – Big Box Mart Style (if you can knock a Billy Bass out of someone's cart with it, it's bonus points). I finally gave in and let EJ carry them while I tried to burn rubber doing .02 mph, keeping watch that the store manager was not involved in radar trail tactics.

I also set up a schedule of friends to come over and walk Barkley for a few weeks.  He’d been great, viewing the whole crutch thing as a human equivalent of “the Cone of Shame,” looking at me with pity for my having to use them, and convincing me that his body heat would be the only thing keeping me from freezing to death there in my big bed.

Before EJ leaves, I will make us a dinner of pancakes, if I can keep upright long enough to cook.

When I was a kid we’d have pancakes for Sunday breakfast, but sometimes we'd have them for dinner as well. It was usually when the household budget was tight. My Mom quit her seventeen-year career as an LEO to be a full-time Mom, and Dad took a lesser paying position that allowed him to be home every night, sacrifices I know that made a difference in our lives. Certainly, I remember those dinners and the laughter and the love that lived in the house 24/7, more than any brand new bike I didn't get.

We’d have different toppings for them, maple syrup and lingonberry jam, perhaps some real butter from a nearby farm and a little molasses.

As we ate, Dad would finally relax after a long stressful day at work, and we'd tell the tales of our day and small childhood victories. For these breakfasts at dinner, no worries about money, or the mortgage or the future. Simply bites of life shared with those you love. I'd savor one bite, even while anticipating the next, the golden disks disappearing like coins well spent.

Tonight, I toss one plain one like a Frisbee, as I give my knee a rest, caught in the mouth of a dog that’s shown nothing but patience. Like pancakes for dinner, such was this Christmas, unexpected, not ending as planned, but full of little bits of sweetness and caring from those that are becoming like family.

Friday, October 26, 2018

5th Wedding Anniversary

“Everybody knows that everybody dies. But not every day. Not today. Some days are special. Some days are so, so blessed. Some days, nobody dies at all. Now and then, every once in a very long while, every day in a million days, when the wind stands fair and the Doctor comes to call, everybody lives.”
— River Song, Season 6, Episode 13
“I am and always will be the optimist. The hoper of far-flung hopes and the dreamer of improbable dreams.”
— The Doctor, Season 6, Episode 6
“You don’t just give up. You don’t just let things happen. You make a stand! You say no! You have the guts to do what’s right, even when everyone else just runs away.”
— Rose Tyler, Season 1, Episode 13
“Do what I do. Hold tight and pretend it’s a plan!”
—The Doctor, Season 7, Christmas Special
The Doctor: "Amy, you'll find your Rory. You always do. But you really have to look."
Amy: "I am looking."     
The Doctor:" Oh, my Amelia Pond. You don't always look hard enough."
Doctor Who - Season Six, Episode 13
 “There’s a lot of things you need to get across this universe. Warp drive… wormhole refractors… You know the thing you need most of all? You need a hand to hold.”
— The Doctor, Season 6, Episode 6
 “We’re all stories, in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?”
— The Doctor, Season 5, Episode 13
"The universe is big, it's vast and complicated, and ridiculous and sometimes, very rarely, impossible things just happen and we call them miracles." 
— The Doctor, Season 5, Episode 12 - "The Pandorica Opens"