Saturday, March 31, 2018

Icelandic Waffle Morning

Have any of you been to Iceland?  Its a common stop for pilots delivering or flying low range corporate airplanes over the pond.  That's a job I did for a year when I had separated out of my previous employment and the airlines weren't hiring.  Unfortunately, back then I wasn't into photography so though there are some fun memories, there are no photos.

The pictures above and below were on the way there from a flight to the Middle East back in the 2000's when a former customer contracted a couple of us to deliver an airplane we were type rated and current in it and my employer gave the OK if I used vacation time for that if I wanted to go along.

 It was an old Gas Guzzler of a steam-gauged jet from the 60's, so multiple stops including the standard stop in Reykjavik.  It's a country where beer was banned until 1989 and alcohol is only sold at Keflavík International Airport and in Víbuðin, the state-run alcohol store, often given the Orwellian nickname 'Ríkið', or 'the government'. So it's not surprising that the only traffic jam you will find in Iceland nowadays is in front of Ríkið on late Friday afternoons and it makes Reykjavik a popular airport to travel into.
Iceland was one place I wish we could have stayed for more than a meal or jet fuel over the years and it's one of the countries I 'd actually love to visit outside of work.  I like the people, the geography of the place, the lack of blistering desert heat, and the food (OK, the roasted sheep head not so much).

What little food I had was excellent, from the awesome English style fish and chips from a little Fish and Chip Vagninn at the harbor in Reykjavik 
to their waffles, light as a cloud, thin and crispy and topped with fresh whipped cream and jam. So I decided to make some this morning.
I have a Swedish Waffle Iron (Chef's Choice 840 from Amazon) that has a low profile to make very thin waffles, crispy on the outside and soft in the middle so I bet I could use the Icelandic Waffle recipe I found in that. This iron has two settings, one for a more uniform crispness and one for crisp on the outside soft on the inside.  That's the setting I always use and these baked up in just 90 seconds.

They turned out incredibly good, and Partner in Grime told me to keep the recipe.  They were actually easier to make than Mom's Swedish ones.  I didn't have to whip the egg white separately and fold in and they were just as soft and fluffy inside.
Icelandic Waffles  (makes 5-6)

1 cup White Lily flour (made of soft winter wheat, makes excellent baked things)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 and 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3 pinches of salt
2 pinches of Cardamom

Mix  dry ingredients in a large bowl

Melt 3 Tablespoons of butter in a cup in the microwave
Measure out 3/4 cup milk.

Stir about a third of the milk into the dry ingredients.
Stir in melted butter
Stir in remaining milk
add 5 drops of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
add 1 large egg (room temperature)

Mix until combined but it will still have some lumps.

Cook per your waffle iron instructions (note, this was NOT tried in a thicker standard or Danish waffle iron so your results could vary).  Serve with whipped cream and jam or syrup. I didn't have enough whipped cream after making lefse earlier in the week so I used a simple syrup my Scandinavian Mom used to make.  The recipe is as follows
Country Syrup

1 and 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup Spring water

In a small heavy saucepan, boil the sugar and water over MEDIUM heat (don't be tempted to raise the temperature, it will scorch).

For a light syrup remove from heat when you get it to a boil.  For a thicker syrup, boil it longer until it starts to spin a threat on the spoon. (that's spin a THREAD, but it made for a brief funny mental image)

Friday, March 30, 2018

On Memory - Good Friday

Four years ago on Good Friday, he left me without saying goodbye.

I had just been out to visit him.  My Big Brother had moved in with Dad some months ago.  The doctors told him he was in remission last fall, he said, for how long, we did not know. But he had no job to return to with Defense cuts and couldn't afford to keep his home.  It was a good move though, for Dad, relieving us of the expense of a full-time home health provider, as Dad couldn't live on his own, even as he still refuses to live with a family that would welcome him.  He's outlived two children and two wives and said he would only leave his home when he ceases to breathe.

I visited as often as I could, using both vacation and sick time, there to provide for their care. There was always lots to do, meals to prepare and freeze, cleaning, flowerbeds and gutters and the stocking of supplies. We made no trips but for short drives, his planning such overnight outings with the whole family for when I was away, but it was OK, those dinners with just he and my brother and I. Big Bro and I could do things he needed to be done, and he seemed to like just having the time with just the two of us, sharing the memories of that home when Mom was still there. Between us we got Dad's bills paid, the budget drawn up, taxes completed, even if we ended up finishing it over the phone.

But my brother had concealed a secret.  Not being able to get insurance under the Affordable Care Act as the State's Exchange was having issues, too young for Tri-Care, and not being able to get into the V.A. he stopped treatment when cancer returned. It was a death sentence he didn't wish to burden us with as there was no cure, just perhaps, a delay of the inevitable for a few weeks or months, at great cost.

I understand now, in retrospect, knowing him as I do, yet, I so wish he'd been able to share his burden with me.

But had I been able to talk to him one last time, I wouldn't have asked him about doctors or insurance care, where Dad's insurance info was or what Dad did with the phone and cable bills or even where the spare keys were. I would have simply told him I loved him, and how much he meant to me, one more time.  But we never knew our last words would be just that. Our last words are often not said, our lives always coming up short for those measured statements which through all of our brief utterances were our lone and enduring hope. There is never enough time for those last words, of love, of faith, of fear or regret.
The words not said hung in the air the days after he left. They were days that seemed like a lifetime, and yet seemed like only moments, perhaps because I don't know if I ever really slept in that time, or if, for a moment, time itself shifted, holding me down at the moment, as G-forces did long ago in ajet aircraft in a steeply banked turn.  Time held still for me, but for my brother, it had overtaken him and moved ahead. All of his things, placed into Dad's house, now to be moved again, to charity, to our homes, to our hearts, medals and coins, and books and I probably don't want to know why he had a loaded flare gun hidden alongside his concealed carry piece. There were laughter and tears, there in so many pictures, of early days, and the freckled face of fatigue, memories of a strong, reliable man, the simple kind of man that is the cornerstone of great reputation, even if the world at large would not observe his passing with tears or trumpets.

There was such much to do, to organize, to communicate. So many people stopping at the house or church, to pay their respects.  There were church friends, Bro's best friend, who came to the service even though he lost his own mother the day prior, high school friends, Submariner friends, and Don and several of the guys from Electric Boat. Then, before I knew it, a service, a eulogy I remember writing, but could not utter, the minister reading it instead of his own message, there as the Easter Lilies on the alter drooped towards him, as if listening.  There were words, of Easter, of remembrance, works that will give us a sense of what meaning can be gained from pain and suffering, death and eternal life. Things some of us ignored for years, then, in moments self-awareness, truly hit home.
It hit home for me when I looked out the window of the little memorial structure where he would receive his military honors before interment and saw the uniforms outside, just prior to raising their guns to the skies.  I heard the guns before they were ever fired, not as sound, but as a tremor that passed over my body the way you will see a flag unfurl, before even the wind that moves it is felt.

We often go through life with our eyes half shut, brain functioning well at idle, senses dormant, getting through our days on autopilot.  For many, this sort of life is comforting, welcoming.  Then for some, not the incalculable majority, but many of us, there is a moment, a flash, when in a moment we truly know all that we've had, held there in the moment of its loss.

All that week long it had rained, never really ceasing, only diminishing to a gentle mist now and again.  Yet as we arrived at that place, where guns would be raised, and taps would be played, the clouds moved aside as if paying their own respects.  The rain stopped as we pulled into the gates, and when we gathered, the sun came out.  As the officers stood at salute, all was silent, no rain, no wind, only stillness, the sunlight on the pooled water, now sleeping,

The guns fired their salute, taps were played, and the Lord's Prayer was uttered.  Then one by one, hands were placed on a stone urn, one final goodbye that we could not bear to end, a moment of immobility that accentuated the utter isolation of this hilltop in which valor is laid to rest.
The moment I drew away, warm hand from cold stone, walking outside, the skies opened up again with heavy rain.  It was as if the heavens themselves wept, the rain enfolding us all the way home, mingling with our own tears. My hands clutched the three empty rounds that had been placed there, holding them so tight my nails dug into my flesh, not wanting to ever let them go.

Since that day, I have returned many a time to that hill, to the comfort of his ground, where the final stone is placed, to remember, the memorial being but the echo to his sound.

All around, I see the dead; in the small memorial at the spot in my hometown where two trains once collided,  in a sign erected in the memory of a local killed in a long-ago war. There's the little cross by the side of the road on my way home from work where another young soul left us. How important these undistinguished little memorials. Every death is a memory that ends here, yet continues on, life flowing on, sustained by love and faith. Such is the lesson

How thankful we are for these memorials, for the spirits smoke that stays with us after the candle has been blown out.  As I heard the taps, I realized that they signified distance, heard there in that first echo. The dead were not sleeping, they were gone. When the final taps were played, I no longer heard the echo, but I will always remember it, for the memory helps us hold on. After a while, an echo is enough.

His was a death that arrived on Good Friday, and it was a life celebrated there and remembered here now, in the week of Easter. For that is what Easter was, and is, to our family.  It's remembrance. It's the remembrance of a death that brings us life. Of sacrifice, of knowing that we will not be forgotten. Of the hope that after darkness there is light, inky comfort in the unknown.
 - Brigid

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Father Effect

A quick note before I start work. I don't know if any of you here have seen the film "The Father Effect" It premiered on the Global Catholic Television Network back in December of 2016 and went viral. By Director John Finch, who lost his Dad to suicide at age 11, it chronicles the effects fathers have on our lives. Not just for men, it also shows the perspective of women who missed their father's influence & love in their lives. The film is here at But why I'm writing - Mr.Finch reached out to me through my publisher when the film came out and asked me to write something original (as opposed to an excerpt from one of my books) for their outreach program "Encouraging Dads" webpage. "Encouraging Dad's" is an outreach from the film with its own website. My story, of my Dad and a special bond we had when my Mom was battling terminal cancer, was published last year, and for those of you who weren't on Facebook to see the link, you can click on it below.


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

What I Learned from Watching a Scary Movie

When Partner is on the road, evenings are usually spent curling up with a book.  The last few years I did so much writing I hardly read anything so now I'm getting caught up, in no big hurry to get the next book out.

I also sometimes will stream some movies. We gave away our TV.  Considering that we were paying for cable and we watched maybe 1 hour a month it just wasn't practical and in a small Bungalow, space is at a premium.  Now I just watch or stream shows or movies in the office/den on the large computer monitor.  This last trip of his, I got on a scary movie binge.  Probably not a great idea sleeping alone in a very old house that makes weird noises.

But I have to say, after watching a couple of scary movies, I've learned some things, which I will pass on.
When it seems that you have killed the monster, never check closely to see if it's really dead.

If you find that your house is built upon or near a cemetery, had previous inhabitants who went mad, flung themselves off the roof, or died in some horrible accident OR inhabitants that dressed in black robes with a giant flaming Pentagram in the yard (I know they said it was a Tupperware party, they lied) move immediately.

Never read a book of demon summoning aloud, especially not as a YouTube video.

Do not search the basement if the power suddenly goes out.
Never ask "is somebody there?" if you live alone and hear a strange noise.

When traveling in numbers, never "pair off" or go it alone.

As a general rule, don't solve puzzles that open portals to Hell.

Never stand in, on, above, below, beside, or anywhere near a grave, tomb crypt, mausoleum or other house of the dead at midnight on Friday the 13th.
If you hear a strange noise in a distant part of the house and find out it's just the cat, leave the house immediately, as it's never the cat.

If appliances start operating themselves, move out. If it's the 1940's stand mixer, call a Priest.

If you find an old farm town among the corn fields which looks deserted, it's probably for a good reason.  Take the hint and turn around. If there are two vacant-eyed kids selling kettle corn at a roadside stand in said deserted town ignore all posted speed limits.
The mutant alien cucumber from "It Conquered the World.

Vegetables can hurt you.  Eat more Pizza.

If you hear a strange noise outside  Do NOT go out there. Or at least take a weapon, some common sense, or a disposable secondary character to use as a distraction.

Don't babysit - seriously, in scary movies babysitters are psychopath crack. Mow lawns, the psychos never go after the kid mowing the lawn.
When Muppets Do Meth

Don't fool with recombinant DNA technology unless you're really sure you know what you are doing.

If you are running from the monster, boogieman, etc, expect to trip or fall down at least twice, more if you are female and scantily clad.  Also note that, although you are running and the monster is merely shambling along - it will still catch up with you
If that house in seemingly excellent condition is SUPER cheap don't buy it.
If your companions or housemates suddenly being to exhibit uncharacteristic behavior such as hissing, fascination with blood, glowing eyes, increasing hairiness and so on, get away from them as fast as possible.

If your car runs out of gas in the middle of nowhere do not knock on the door of the nearest dark dwelling for help.  That never ends well.
If your children suddenly speak to you in Latin or in a  deep, dark voice other than their own, pack up their things and drop them off at a relative you don't like.

Don't be a teenager - sure the parties and alcohol and lack of parents at your rave in Mom and Dad's mansion may seem like fun but it just draws demented ax murderers.  Case in point.  Last night,  I watched a movie wearing flannel jammies (Scottish birth control) and munching on popcorn while some tea brewed.  I can guarantee there wasn't an ax murderer within 50 miles.

And lastly folks - if you want to survive to the end of the movie - KEEP YOUR CLOTHES ON!
I'm not scared Mom, let's watch another one.


No, not THIS kind of buckle.

THIS Kind:
Blueberry Buckle.

Since many of you have not had access to my recipes, I thought I'd add a couple of extra ones this month.  This was pretty quick to put together and not requiring more than some measuring implements, a spoon and a couple of bowls. Plus it was a huge hit with my husband. It's a "not too sweet" cake, loaded with juicy fruit topped with a crackly, spiced sugar and butter topping.
Abby Lab with her squeaky squirrel looked less than excited until she could start smelling it - it made the whole house smell wonderful.

In a large bowl mix with wooden spoon until blended and creamy:

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup lard or vegetable shortening
1 large egg
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon milk

Stir in:
2 cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder

Fold in:
1 cup dry blueberries


In a small bowl mix and set aside:

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup sifted flour
2 pinches cardamom
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup butter cut into pieces, nuked until about half melted and soft

Grease an 8 x 8-inch glass pan

Pour blueberry batter in pan.

With clean fingers, sprinkle on the streusel topping

Bake in 350 F. oven 45 minutes.

You’ll get some melty sugar on a knife or toothpick when tested for doneness but there should be no wet batter when done.  Run a knife around the edge when slightly cooled, as the topping does tend to stick to the pan - that makes it much easier to serve.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Retriever Adventures - The Saga Continues

Face Palm Skeleton - on my shelf of Geek.

I worked from home today to complete a legally convoluted compilation of dead electrons that involved big words, a new computer database that hates me, and the dance of the seven interrogatories after a spider came down on a thread from the ceiling.  Abby Normal the Lab mix rescue enjoys these days. She still gets a dog walker around lunchtime, as I only get 30 minutes for lunch which means that's usually "sandwich and a load of laundry or dinner in the crockpot time".

Abby is much more demure than Barkley ever was, but she's developed quite the personality over time, and like other females in the house, she'll let you know when she's unhappy :-)
Did I ever tell you the undercoat of her fur is most definitely red?

We keep a large water bowl in the living room by the front door, on a mat next to her food bowl. She likes it there where she can get to it easily from all her favorite nap places. On days I work from home, I fill it in the morning, then top it off at lunch as she likes to drink a bunch before the dog walker shows up (more for pee-mail!).  Then when they get back she'll drink a little bit more. I normally then don't have to refill until supper as by then she's had her fill. When I'm gone to the office the dog walker checks on her water supply.

Today, after her walk, I noticed she was looking at her water bowl which was empty but for a sheen of water on the bottom. She must have drunk a TON of water before and after her walk as I'd just filled it completely up before she went out. She'd been little miss Sulky Pants today as Partner in Grime was off to work very early for a meeting so her morning food was 30 minutes late as I don't get up when he normally does on the days I telework.  Plus she didn't get a long walk in early. It's Chicago - we live in the city, not the suburbs, so even in this fairly quiet area I do not walk the streets in the dark in case the prisons open their doors and let out all the convicted former governors. But she got some time in the fenced and lit yard while I watch from the back porch while coffee brews.
"Yes, Abby, I know it's empty."  I also knew she was unlikely thirsty, having drunk pretty much a whole large bowl within the last hour and a half and it not being a warm day out on her walk.  So I went to the basement to get her new bag of dog food opened and in her food container and then I would refill the water.

When I went out to get the water bowl less than 10 minutes later - she left me a sign of her irritation that I hadn't promptly refilled it immediately.

Get this. . .

She POOPED in her empty water dish.  Not sure how, but her aim was spot on.

Some disinfectant and scrubbing later she had some water, which she barely lapped at after giving me the look that said 

"I'm gonna tell Dad!"

Monday, March 26, 2018

Saturday Eats - Philly Cheese steak

With steak cooked in bacon fat, jalepno's and homemade beer cheese, what's not to like?

Range "Philly" (serves two)

3/4 lb. top round steak
2-3 slices bacon
1/2 sweet onion
2-3  small jalapeno peppers chopped- chopped and seeds removed
1/2 cup of sliced bell peppers, assorted colors
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4  top round steak
salt, pepper, garlic powder (optional)
2 soft  hoagie rolls

Tightly roll the eye round steak into a torpedo or log shape. Wrap tightly in plastic. Place log in freezer for 45 minutes to firm the beef into a tight but not frozen texture.

Make the beer cheese (recipe below) and keep warm.

Remove plastic, and working quickly cut the beef into the thinnest slices possible, then flatten the slices using a meat tenderizer. Refrigerate slices until ready to cook.

Peel onion into paper-thin half moon pieces. Halve the peppers, remove and discard seeds, and then slice into bite sized pieces.

Cook bacon and remove and set aside on a paper towel, leaving bacon fat and adding an additional teaspoon of olive oil if needed to coat pan. Add onions and cook 8 to 10 minutes, until caramelized and softened, stirring frequently. Do not allow them to brown. Transfer onions to bowl; add peppers to same skillet, still over low heat. Cook peppers 10 to 15 minutes, until soft and tender, flipping often.

Transfer to bowl with onions. Season onion-pepper mixture to taste. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel to keep the mixture warm.

In a clean skillet, warm the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Cook the beef in 2 batches, until lightly browned and cooked through, stirring often. Add additional olive oil to keep meat from sticking if necessary.

Season meat to taste with salt, pepper, and/or garlic powder

Serve meat, peppers, and onions on hoagie rolls, top with Beef cheese, smoked paprika and green onion (optional toppings)

Beer Cheese (serves 4, cut in half if making just two sandwiches, or save remainder for warm chip dip)

12 ounces white cheddar cheese, shredded
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 (12 ounce) bottle beer, preferably brown ale
5 ounces evaporated milk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce (I use Scoville Brothers Singing Smoke)

Toss cheese with cornstarch in a medium bowl; set aside.

Whisk together beer, milk, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat until gently steaming, whisking frequently to prevent scorching.

When beer mixture is warm, add cheese, stirring until completely melted, bubbling slightly, and thickened. Stir in hot sauce and season with salt to taste (with the amount of cheese I didn't add salt)

Warning - Graphic Humor

I  found this online site (Zazzle) where I could create my own author business cards from scratch. I have limited photo editing skills but it was fairly easy to use, and later I made different ones for Small Town Roads and Calexit - The Anthology as they were different genres.
I had to do the Kirkus Review blurb.  I was told NOT to submit my book to them as "They HATE Indie authors and will savage it" from more than one source, including the publisher.  They loved it, featuring it in their dead tree magazine (only a small number of their web reviews make it to the printed magazine) and making me a front-page featured Indie author on their webpage.  Score.

I thought the cards turned out fairly nice and they were quite inexpensive so I used the same website again to try to create a unique card for my hubby who had a birthday this last week. I try and make sure he has a nice birthday though there are some rumors around the house that I'm a cheapskate with the wrapping material.
But at least there was red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and dark chocolate mini chips.
So I think he had a good day.

The big Three Six - I told him if he made any comments about being old, dinner was going to be gruel.  But back to the DIY birthday card from Zazzle.
Partner in Grime is a mechanical engineer so the front was fun to see, but let's just say I didn't read all the instructions. The result was a lot funnier than anything I could have added.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Moving Forward

"The mind replays what the heart can't delete.”
Yasmin Mogahed

There's something about the cold that brings about its own introspection, at least for my age group.  On one such morning this winter it was in the low 20's as I hit the sidewalk for some cardio to get the blood circulating, carrying with me some peanuts to toss to the squirrels as I ran.  I don't use this time or the hours later in the week that I'll spend with the punching bag or on the exercise mat as a time to worry about things, such as why anyone thought that doing a plank was a good idea, or how I ended up with so many dust bunnies under the recliner.

There are times where in order to dwell in the present, focused and aware, you just have to let everything else go and just embrace your truth.  Your truth may be clarity, it may be fear, sometimes it's a little of both but I'd rather have a healthy fear of the unknown, than a fear of myself.

I wouldn't be out long, I needed to get showered and then to the church that day, and as I moved I paid close attention to everything around me, tilting my head to the sound of a garage door going up behind me.  I listen like this when I'm lying in bed alone when my husband is on the road.  There is the gentle huff from the closet of a black lab rescue dog, who sleeps on a soft dog bed there among the clothing that hangs over her head like boughs of a tree. There is the soft chime of a clock, a footstep down the driveway next to our bedroom, the familiar sound of our retired neighbor making one last patrol of his property before bed, a Navy tech always on watch, even if it's been 40 years since he's been on board a ship
I'm reassured by the stir and murmur of his moving, knowing he watches out for me like a daughter when Partner is gone, making sure I am safe.  We were lucky to get such neighbors.  My husband often plows their driveway, and they make sure I'm in safely at night, the light from the bedroom which is across from their  kitchen, letting them know I'm in, and not floundering out in minus 20 degrees weather after busting a move down the stairs taking the dog out to the backyard.  Its just one of the many things I think of on such nights, things I am grateful for as I hear the gentle sound of his gate closing as he rejoins his wife. Although my mind is still moving too quickly for sleep to come, I find rest with those attentive perceptions of the slight sounds around me.

But I also listen like this when I run, paying attention not to just possible traffic, but possible dangers, lying about in shadow.  I know of people that never consider fear as they move around a quiet neighborhood, trusting others to keep them safe, trusting in a good fortune that has not as yet failed them.  Life seems an indestructible thing for some people, continuing in light and in dark, awake and asleep, tirelessly watchful of us, not realizing that in reality, it hovers just as affectionately around our impending death.

Call me cynical, but I've made it past 50, only having been shot at once (OK, several times if you count bullet holes in an aircraft) by watching the darkness and listening to its conspiracy of breath.
I spotted her just as I rounded the corner to home, a dark red colored parka standing like a flame on the frozen ground. From a distance, she looked neatly dressed, a young twenty-something professional woman pulling a small rollerboard suitcase. Her posture was stiff and angular almost as if she were a carved figure and not a human being. I didn't recognize her, but the large house on the corner had been made into apartments where young people who are new to the area often briefly live when they are first out on their own.  I figured she was waiting for a taxi or Uber to the airport perhaps.  Most of our neighbors don't pay the extortion that is O'Hare airport pricing and it's common to see such a vehicle at the curb in the early morning hours.

But what drew my attention, was even as I was not going to directly pass her, she moved as if to make herself invisible, pulling back into shadow, not making eye contact. Even though she was in the shadows her quiet anxiety took on the glare and glow of light.  Though her stance was one of watchful age, her face had that youthful look to it that was someone barely in their 20's.  I noted a pale and extremely thin face, pants that were more worn than you would wear to travel and thought "she's homeless".  Coming from a two generation LEO family that knows a lot about self-reliance, that can't help but pull on my heartstrings.
My husband had spotted her one night when he was out with the dog and I was almost certain this was the same young women.  He'd mentioned the unique coat and the roller bag and how she tried to avoid the gaze of anyone out for an evening stroll.  On that night he had called our local police hoping that someone could come by and take her to one of the shelters, but when we saw the cruiser amble past, they were met with only shadows.
As I ran, I pulled my jacket closer around me.  It was still winter, a freezing mist laying along the slopes of the bungalows.  What little light the heavens were emitting fell down upon it, as if an abyss, swallowed up by the darkness. From above, the morning sound of a songbird, weightless and transient herself, one which hawk might prey on or owl, still in this moment, singing as if it is immortal, and indeed in this moment, may very well be.

I thought of approaching the young woman and offering help, at least some money for the cheap local hotel where she could sleep in warmth for once.  She literally froze where she stood and we looked at each other from opposite sides of the streets like mismatched bookends. I'm familiar with the usual homeless that panhandle on my drive home, many of them cheerfully engaged, even if they were perhaps fighting their own personal demons. This young woman looked, frankly, LOST, as if fate had someone plucked her out of the paradox of her surroundings to be a paradox of her past, as she wandered the same streets over and over looking as if the answer was somewhere close at hand
I paused, smiled, and moved towards her, and the look in her eyes shifted as she drew away from me.  It was the look of a feral animal and a dangerous one. If I approached she was going to run or fight, and one thing my LEO Mom taught me was to walk away from the fight when you can.

I have worked as a volunteer in enough shelters to recognize the look, one of mental illness and pain.  I can only guess how she views me, if she even SEES me, her reality perhaps being no more than bright outlines, painful colors, and voices that make her hide under a blood-colored coat as they rang in her head with a great din of cymbals. There was no difference to her in the voice of anger and the voice of assistance. All I could do for her this early morning was leave her territory, hoping she could see in my eyes that I was no threat.
I saw her a couple of other times as I drove home from the town square, always in the vicinity of a home we know was vacant, as the locals didn't always think to have someone pick up the flyers and advertisements that make their way to the porch while they took their kids on vacation. I'm guessing she was sheltering in the backyard, or perhaps a garage left accidentally unlocked. She always had that roller bag, but anytime she saw another human on the street, she would turn and go the other way, instinct and anguish guiding her step, not wishing to be saved.

She then disappeared from the local neighborhoods. Ours is a very small village, surrounded on two sides by dense forest, and a river on the other, tending to isolate the locals.  Someone like that will standout when perhaps they don't wish to.  Today, months later, on the way to church which is a fair drive away, under an overcast sky, we saw the red coat and the bag  that trails her like a forlorn puppy as she crossed a busy street ahead, disappearing into a crowd of people going out for breakfast in that upscale community's main street.  None of them noticed her, her thinness, the tremor of a hand, there in the fog of their morning conceit, and she disappeared into the masses, like an invisible line of wind running through a wheat field.
Later, we quietly sat in our pew, in quiet prayer before the organist began, the sun finally broke through the stained glass, its light merging with the brilliance of the alter, becoming one bright immensity, there among the formerly lost.

Before I raised my head, I said a prayer for that young woman.  I can't take away her pain, for events in the past that hurt or harm, often stand out in our minds as they are no longer being surrounded by a clutter of insignificant details which then disappear over time. No, I can only pray, that in spirit, she can remember back to the time before her aimless wanderings; back to the days when she was a young child. For the very young, don't have those standout painful moments, even a bruise or a bump is immediately forgotten after a kiss from Mom to make it better. No, the very young have the freedom to live forward of their coming days in all the serene continuity of hope which knows no respites and no scrutiny.

In that, I would hope she could, if only as a brief dream. move forward as a child would, without fear.
 - Brigid

Fajitas! and a HOTR Recipe Index Update

Partner In Grime had been in Texas all week for his job but when I mentioned fajitas for dinner he said "sure!'  I figured he'd be tired of Tex-Mex, but after another two weeks in the UK  earlier this month where his only choice of dining was this horrific pub we quietly refer to as "The Grease and Weasel", he was game.

I didn't have the ingredients for an online recipe for the marinade (lime and cilantro) so I made my own up.  It was really good.

I have the recipe below but for those of you who haven't visited in a while I've updated the recipes on the upper right sidebar to add:

Bacon and Corn Spoonbread (time-taking to make and SO worth it)
Bacon Basil Pesto Muffins (makes great little breakfast sandwiches)
Beef Dip Sweet and Spicy (a house favorite)
Breakfast Casserole (Dad loves this)
Carne Asada Tacos
Cheesy Burrito Casserole
Chipotle Chili Stew (it has beans so I can't call it "chili" or risk pitchforks and flaming torches from my dear friends down in Texas, most of whom were at our wedding)
Cornmeal Pancakes
Crock Pot Green Chili Verde Pork Roast (ugly, but incredibly delicious)
Dad's Favorite Sausage Omelette
Eggs Benedict Southwest
French Toast Panini with Ham (or bacon, as in the picture)
Grilled Chicken with White Barbecue Sauce (a must try)
Ham and Cheese Biscuit (when your biscuit picture goes viral you're on to something)
Hangar Steak Goulash
Herdsman Chili (my recreation of the Broadripple BrewPub dish)
Honey Roasted Home Fries (Dad loves these with his eggs in the morning)
Hot Bacon Potato Salad
Italian Beef Sandwiches with Au Jus (a tweak involving beer and Italian seasoning on a recipe author Dorothy Grant gave me  - outstanding)
Maple Bacon Popcorn
Peppered Pork Tenderloin Pork and Beans (I'm sensing a repeating theme of pork here. . .)
Pizza with Alfredo Sauce (several of my reader's favorite pizza from the blog)
Smothered Enchiladas (super easy for weeknights)
Sriracha Hot Chicken Enchiladas (I made a date cry, which Partner in Grime, then just a reader, took note of).
Stroganoff Burgers on Sourdough Bread (Miss Congeniality for looks but super tasty).
Sweet and Spicy Bourbon Glazed Meatballs (addicting, I converted a Vegan with these).

They have all been posted before, they just never had a direct link. They are marked with a NEW! on the sidebar index to make them easy to find and click on and I've moved the Recipes up a bit so they are directly below the book information. And no, as someone invariably asks, I'd rather have 3 root canals than format, edit, and market a cookbook.  You just have to go to Half Priced Books to see how intensely oversaturated the cookbook market is. (Stepping down from soapbox).  Plus you have copyright issues if your recipe is just a slight adaption of someone else's which many of mine are.  Feel free to print and use any recipe on here for your personal use.
Crown Roast of SPAM  - A Home on the Range Specialty
(yes, those are "Slim Jims")

For now - the fajitas.  Cut up 1 to 1 and 1/2 pounds thin flank steak. If you can't find thin- cut, get regular steak and play "whack a mole" with it with a meat tenderizer between two pieces of waxed paper.  Put it in a gallon ziplock bag.


1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon hot sauce (I used my favorite brand -
 - the Cowboy Crooner one which is pretty mild - they are a couple of musicians from Indiana that my best friend Midwest Chick knows. They make the BEST hot sauces, available at their store or online and if you like Ghost Peppers their Heavy Metal heat is awesome!
1 heaping teaspoon chopped minced garlic (the jarred kind)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (more or less depending on how hot you like things)
Shake or squeeze the bag to mix up and thoroughly coat the meat. Place in fridge 4-10 hours (no more than that or the meat texture will degrade.

Prior to preparing thinly slice:

1 large sweet onion
1/2 of a large or one whole small yellow pepper - seeds and white bits removed
1/2 large or one small orange pepper - ditto
1/2 large or one small green pepper - ditto
To cook and assemble:

Put some rice on the stove or in a steamer (I love making it in a steamer).

Heat a couple of teaspoons of oil in a cast iron skillet on high.
Stir-fry the veggies until tender crisp - (about 15-18 minutes on high).
Remove with slotted spoon.

Drain off about 3 Tablespoons of the marinade from the ziplock bag, and place remaining sauce and steak in the skillet.  Cook on medium-high to high until the meat is cooked through (for me about 7 minutes on high).  Add veggies to mixture and heat through.

Serve with rice/beans, tortillas, salsa and sour cream or if you're watching carbs or wheat products serve over cauliflower "rice" (hot cooked cauliflower put in a food processor and pulsed with the metal blade until rice sized).