Thursday, April 25, 2019

It's Finally Published

My Fifth Book is out and available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  The Kindle copy should be available in a few more days.

Jennifer Nichols, one of the HOTR fans, was a beta reader and said: "it's fantastic!"

Monday, April 22, 2019

Guarding What Remains

Archaeologists dig wherever there are bones being sought.  Rock, soil, mountains, desert, the earth is a quiet repository for that which once walked the earth. But in any action that requires interaction with both the local cultures and mother earth, such work presents its own unique dangers.

There are areas of volcanoes and earthquakes, subterranean growls that only seismologists and dogs can hear, rumbling under the earth like trains passing beneath with soundless and unimaginable speed. There's water that sometimes gives up on demure deception and coy concealment, rushing over the banks, onto beaches, its surge as unexpected and sharp as barbed wire. There are creatures, of tooth and claw, who would take us out in a swipe of a literal or proverbial paw, our form no more to them than a meat pinata.

Still, they look, despite the dangers, for in the looking are the answers to questions we seem to have been born with, things many are unwilling to ask.
In Vietnam and Laos, archaeologists have dug for bones, coming home with stories to share with others in that and associated fields of study. A couple of them spoke of the issue with mines, as U.S. aircraft had dropped a fair number of them, designed to drop without detonating but enough to blow off a limb should one tangle with them. One, the BLU-42, known as the "spider mine", loaded with Composition B explosive, threw out six tripwires upon impact. With anti-disturbance and self destruct features, those spiders lay quiet, waiting for the unwary.

In that, and other parts of the world, there are diseases we don't see here, thanks to the research and development under a medical system in the U.S. that was run as a capitalistic venture, not a socialist one. I've returned from more than one place that required more shots than a new puppy, some with needles I could have knitted socks with.
In exploring the world, the past, there is always risk. You learn to bring the tools you need to do the work, and the tools you need to protect AS you work.

But there is so much learn by looking back, some of it painful, some of it enlightening, for what is change, but a revealing.  As a nation, I see the effects of refusing to look at, not just a country's past, but its present, including those that lead in such times. I'm a firm believer that everyone is going to screw up one notable thing personally or professionally, once in their life (raises hand). But in looking at the big picture, there are definite trends in a person' behavior, their past words, who they've associated with, that are the true barometer of their future intentions.

I see it in individuals, taking the easy path from their errors, covering up, cleaning up, no matter if blood is shed in the process, or if blood is never atoned, simply so that their suffering is lessened, their own reputation unsullied.

No one ever said it's easy. The Bible said Suffer the children to come unto me, but that was so that they would not suffer, the word bearing more than one meaning, as so many words may. Let the suffering that is hardship be for those that have passed out of childhood, into choice and sin, to bear that suffering so that the innocent can be born, undefiled, to grow up in a nation that remains free, as well, by their sacrifice.
I see it in our country. To look closely, to question is to be aware. It's easier to take the safe and easy way, to be naive, assuming that decisions made by those we empower to make them, ARE in our best interests, that lawmakers in gated communities with private security detail knowing more about evil than the law-abiding that walk the streets in fear. It's easier to believe the colorful stories on the news which often resemble used car sales more than journalism, "you don't want their car, you want our car, no don't look at the paperwork on it, you can read that after you buy. Why, well, because . . . Look, a fluffy unicorn!".

There are layers and layers of truth interwoven with the dirt.
Wrapped around an item I'd packed at my Dad's to be shipped to my home when his home finally sold is an old newspaper,  the print looming up crisp and cold, even as the pages begin to warm.  It's a small newspaper, it's a small town, no news of war or North Korea or any sort of threat against our world, just hails to the previous chief for yet another social program that's funded, by the account of most that read this missive, from dollars that somehow grow out on the lawn with the Easter eggs.

I save it to light the evenings fireplace, refusing to live in that world. If I wanted to go through life with blinders and a feedbag I'd have signed on to be Festus's Mule, not Marshall Dillon.  But I am happy to at least have a paper to light the fire, as the night's cold may still surprise. 

Whether we dig for the truth or cover it up, things change, often suddenly, soundlessly, leaving us in joyful or fearful tears or terrified, seeking words we wish our mouths could speak. It is in those moments we know what we are made of and what will break us, when what we counted on flees us, leaving us raw and exposed, moments in which we have nothing, or everything, in the knowledge of what remains.
A man who lived his whole life  under the fierce yellow sun of hard work and little sleep, finds himself with too much of one, and not the other, his means to earn a living contracted out to someone younger, someone who will work for less on foreign soil or simply dissolved, he but a pawn in a chess game of which the rules consist of simply power.  He continues to search for work, doomed with motion, joining countless silent avatars, driven by the despair of bravery whose freedoms are not just abated but spurned.  He is just 46 years old. 

A man, who has lived his entire life in service to his country, happily planning on retirement in 10 years, time for fishing and grandchildren, gets a diagnosis that changes everything. Instead of dreaming dreams of steelhead and Harleys, he spent his last days awake at night, breathing in the clean scent of his linens changed by the hands of the woman he trusts, and breathing out the dark and inscrutable thinking of his own body's betrayal. He was just 56  years old.
Walking the street is a young man, heading towards the nearest club to fund his escape with money he hasn't earned yet. He's got a degree on the wall, like that of thousands of others, skills for which there is emotion, but no need, the nation awash in soft handed ideals unsupported by backbone or reason. He cries out in the streets, someone owes him a job, the lifestyle of his parents, the generation before raised by the generation before, who knew the taste of sweat and dust and failed promise. He showed up, didn't he, so where is his trophy?  He is just 26 years old.

As Spring comes to the Midwest, back in the mountains of my family's home out West, the snow can still fly in the dark. For on late night skies, come sly winds that compress the earlier snows into a breakable crust that will sustain the weight of a skier or a snowboarder, and then suddenly, will not.

I put down the newspaper and open the evening news, all around me history's fluent past blowing words around us like flurries of snow, voices talking about how we've met the challenge, that all is well, when outside lay descending currents of a night that still roars.

There are things we can't control, the wind, the evil of man, the heart of another, or our own body's decline.  I've felt that too many times, standing somewhere in the night, brooding as a landmark, where the scream of the siren fades into the distance, the sound unnecessary, for there is no one for whom a quick transport was necessary.
That is why there is such comfort in those things affirmed in blood, words sown into the fabric of our country.  My right to fair representation,  my right to speak freely, without retribution, my right to defend myself and my family with the tools that I have.  If I have proven that I can not uphold myself in a manner fitting with the law and with the soundness of mind,  then I would expect my rights be restricted so I do not harm others. But my simply possessing that right, is not a threat.

I turn the TV off, hearing enough and I look out onto the ancient Spruce trees in the yard. Underneath one, a small tuft of flesh and fur, mouse perhaps, and alongside it, the feathered calling card of the one that dropped in for lunch.  Was it the small bird of prey that dined on the mouse?  Next to that small feather is a larger one, the much stronger bird that swooped down to prey on he that preys.  Eagles aren't into Noblesse oblige and mother nature can lie like a bitch.

I close the door, press home the bolt, an eye towards a little place in which my defense lay, in case someone storms the door.  I look around this home, a place I never expected to be, but in which I am strong.
Each day is a gift, but one that is not taken without a promise of the lawful to guard it with everything we have. We guard it quietly, steadfast and unyielding, not threatening, in a manner that is both triumph and affirmation.  We guard it in numbers that remain strong, even as the fabric of our beloved nation is tested, as are we.

Far away, from the city, comes the scream of a siren, rising towards its illusive crescendo, passing out of the periphery of sound, but remaining always, in the air.
 - Brigid

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Sunday Black and White

It's not considered "drinking alone" if the dog is home.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Ranch Brunch

Not your typical Brunch Burrito.

Buttermilk brined fried chicken tenders, tater tots, mozzarella and cheddar with bacon sour cream ranch dip in a big fresh tortilla. There was an orange in the room so it counts as a complete breakfast.

Yes, tater tots. "Tater Tot" is actually a registered trademark of Ore-Ida, the company that invented them in 1953.  The founders had an excess of potato scraps after making fries so rather than sell them as animal feed they added flour and seasoning, then sent the whole thing through an extruder and into the deep fryer and food history was made (in my opinion as I adore tater tots.)  Since it's Saturday when I forego healthy eating and eat like I was raised on the grounds of the State Fair, this really hit the spot

I use Schwan's Crispy Taters  - definitely my favorite brand.

For dry seasoning for the dip.

2 Tablespoons of dried parsley
1 teaspoon of dried dill
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1/2 teaspoon  dried pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Mix and store in an airtight container.  When ready to serve, add 1 Tablespoon of the spices to 1/2 cup sour cream to which two pieces of bacon are finely chopped and added.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

April 18, 2014

Five years ago on this date, Good Friday that year, 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 a jet 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

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

World's Shortest Range Review

I'm naming this one Nancy. She's really small, not particularly pretty and has a mean bite if crossed.   I don't think I'd vote for one of these. On the other hand, for something with a lousy sight picture she can do deadly damage up close, but there are a lot of firearms that can do that.

One of the fellows at the conservation club let me try it out.  The Keltec P3AT .380 acp. Fully loaded with 6 +1 in the barrel, she weighed 11.2 oz fully loaded.

I'll be back soon with a foodie post as soon as my hand quits hurting.

- Brigid

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Spring Greetings from Chiberia!

Are you sure this is mid April?
Looking for the Easter Polar Bear on the way home from church!
This was at 10:20.   It's been snowing heavily since that time.
You could see by the footprints and the missing peanuts on the cleared spot the squirrels had their breakfast while we were gone.

Abby wasted no time in rolling in it.

By noon, we had a couple more inches on the ground.  And a guest for lunch.
Do I smell peanuts?
 A quick look each way to make sure all is clear. . . .

Can you see me?

Friday, April 12, 2019

News Alert!

My 5th book has officially gone to print today.  It should be available on Amazon in 2-3 weeks. It's written under my blog name Brigid Johnson (Brigid is not my first name) so if you share it, do it with that name because that is how it will be marketed and linked.  I worked 8 months on this one (compared to about 4 months on the other books) and I hope the effort shows.  Enjoy it - I'm going to wait until I retire in 4 years to write another one (5 in 5 years, with a full-time job, restoring a 100-year-old house, and Dad's care, I'm officially tired and going to put my feet up and read for a while.).

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Tell Me, What is Happiness?

"TELL ME, WHAT IS HAPPINESS?" - Iain M. Banks Use of Weapons (prologue)

On the road or with a long weekend, I usually stop in a bookstore if there is one around. So many books. The bargain books are usually entertaining in and of themselves, leaving you wondering what prompted some people to pen such thoughts to paper. I could think of a few titles for books that would instantly be in the bargain bin (and you can probably add a few titles of your own).

Living Life Bacon Free!
Harry Potter Meets the Groovy Ghoulies
My Little Ponies - Financial Freedom through Track Bets
The Kardashian Guide to Quantum Mechanics
Bouncing Betty and the Bucket of Moonshine - A Nancy Drew Mystery
Get Off My Leg!! - A Beginners Guide to Dog Training

But good books, have been part of my life since early childhood. For my long time readers, I've written before of my love for books and why. I was lucky to have two parents who exposed us to books and music and the outdoors. Learning and discovery were elemental to them and reading and words became a quiet necessity of my life. Charlotte's Web, The Wind in the Willows, A Child's Garden of Verse, and my all time favorite, Grimm's Fairy Tales.

Books were my portal to comfort, during those inevitable awkward moments of growing up, a way of immersing myself in the world of an author. As a child, books helped me grow, stretching my mind even further. And through books and written words came friendships. I'd talk about what I read with my classmates, telling snippets of stories and passing around dog eared copies of Asimov and Heinlein and Niven and Herbert. We'd gather over our lunches, laughing about a recent share, Philip Dicks -Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. We'd sit until a teacher made us go back to class, voices raised in excitement for the vast reaches out there, limitless possibilities that, on the cusp of adulthood, we believe existed.

With that, the world opened up to me. I started recording it, in small notebooks of paper, ink drawings, loose photos, added onto their pages, a scrapbook of my life, recorded for eternity with nothing more than an old Mont Blanc pen and a camera.

I remember my first visit as an author to a large Chicago book club where I was asked to join as a guest speaker.  I walked in to a room of ladies and gentlemen that acted like I was a celebrity apparently, their library had all of my books.  I felt like a kid playing grown up.  I'm not famous, I'm just someone that loves words.

Words dazzle and deceive because they are mimed by the face. But black words on a white page are the soul laid bare. Guy de Maupassant

"Soul laid bare." The sense of vulnerability in those three words is beyond reach. From these recorded pages have come my own story, tales of the possibilities of life, my soul laid out for many of you to read. Opening up something within me that made some of you take your own pen and craft your own story. I believe in the magic hidden in people and things, and these notebooks, these words bring them out into the light.

But writing, as in reading, for me is not just intellectual but embracive. I love the way the spine of a book or notebook feels in the crook of my fingers. The book an aesthetic charm of endless possibilities. The smooth, hard end boards snug on either side of the pages sewn together, their edges flush and perfect. The smell of ink, the texture of a page as my fingers gently turns it. Between 1850 and the late 1980s, books were printed on acidic paper. Conservators can't keep up with the costly restoration. Soon, millions of books in thousands of libraries the world over will be lost when their pages disintegrate into dust. Already I mourn for the loss of something that we have no control over, that of the written word.

I love blank notebooks. To me, it's hard to think of anything that represents the clean slate of opportunities more than a pristine, empty notebook. Smythson’s of Bond Street has bound ones with thin, blue, delicate paper that looks like the air mail paper my parents wrote to one another on during the War. The paper is so thin, the ink bleeds through, yet with the ink comes pleasure. The smell of the ink as well as the as the scent of paper itself, is need as defined as the capturing of a personal experience. Experiences in danger of being lost in an errant click of a mouse. In today's evolution of the tools of our expression, we've lost the very things we can hold on to. Things that can still gather dust and be passed on, to a child, to a lover, to history. So I particularly like the Smythson's ones, the way my handwriting looks on the thin paper, words scrolled from a fountain pen, dense with weight, meaning something, to me anyway, even if two hundred years from now, the paper, and the one I wrote the words for, are only dust and starlight.

Tonight I sit alone and quiet, my closest friend far away, the dog asleep on the couch. I have a book, Iain M. Banks Use of Weapons. Once again, Banks takes us to The Culture, his galaxy-spanning civilization of humans, computer Minds, asteroid-sized Ships (some of the names he picks for his ships are worth the read in and of themselves) and annihilating weapons. Ah yes, weapons. Written in interwoven chapters, it is made up of two alternating narrative streams - one indicated by Arabic numerals and the other by Roman ones.

The stories are one of The Culture and one of a world not yet contacted by The Culture. The pre-contact world is the home of four children, a brother, two sisters and another boy, hidden from others. Of the two stories, one moves forward chronologically, while the other moves in the opposite direction; yet both are about the central, tragic character, Cheradinine Zakalwe. Zakalwe is a rogue, a military genius, an assassin, a sad case and an utterly sympathetic character all at the same time. A mercenary shaped by his experiences as the perfect soldier, he's taken, refined and utilised by the supposedly benign and pacific Culture for their nastier dirty tricks operations. The moral ambiguity and ethical contradictions of this are not lost on Zakalwe himself or on his Culture handler, the "Special Circumstances" operative Diziet Sma.

Gloriously grotesque, sharply observed, bleakly satirical and written with a revelation so perfect that you will only ask yourself how you didn't see it sooner. Anything, Banks is telling us, anything at all can be a weapon, and the failure of restraint in the use of weapons dooms us all. It's not the easiest book to get your mind around, some minds will find the interwoven stories confusing (but if you are reading this blog, you are not likely to be one of those). I can promise you this, after reading it you will never look at a small chair, especially a small chair painted white, in quite the same way.

I don't read a lot of "popular" fiction. I would rather be nibbled to death by ducks than read a Jackie Collins novel. I tend to read a lot of non fiction, of history. I like reading about long ago. I know more about my own life when I know more about the past. It's a sense of perspective; of days full of people that killed, tortured, struggled and suffered, agonizing for things that were of the utmost importance to them; working and living for reasons that may be well the same as ours. Now they've been gone some 500 years and all that is left to us is the essence and quintessence of their lives. To me history is more than a story, more than a book, it's the life, the heart and soul of ages long ago. It's the ultimate myth and inevitably ambiguous, but I do believe, like Lord Bolingbroke said, "History is philosophy teaching by example and also by warning." History not read is like ammo not used, someone once said, and without reading, for myself at least, the past is silence and the future is haze.

So for these many reasons, I hate being stuck somewhere with no book, no notebook or a laptop in which to record my thoughts Let the weather play God with my itinerary, let them send me to Elbonia. I've been stuck in places where my luggage did not arrive at the same time I did, and the only written word I could find in English was a ferry schedule for the River Styx. I don't care where I am, I simply need something to read and something to write in. Words in reserve, a buttress against the whims and dubiety of travel, of growing up, of life itself.

I intended to read tonight, but there is a new little notebook on the side table, I removed the film cover, the crackling sound awakened something in me. I stroked the oilskin cover for the first time, my future turning before me as I snapped open the elastic band to flip through the pristine pages, dreams waiting to burst out onto them. The pages were too perfect, it's almost hard to make the first mark upon the clean, fresh landscape. But then, with the thought of a face, of a hand at the small of my back, I began; splaying the words on lasting paper before they are lost in the ether. Words that are bequeathed to the page before they were forgotten, words that though not spoken, will take a corporeal shape in my heart whenever I close my eyes, even as they themselves, slumber between the closed cover that is their hiding place. - Brigid

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Travel Kits on the Road

Travel is part of my life, for work, to visit family, none of whom live anywhere close anymore. An average commute to work for me for many years was 150 miles plus each way, across a windblown cold landscape this time of year.  As you can from the photo above,  with 11 degrees ambient and a 40 mph wind that day, Bossie was spotted, frozen solid.

But that's an easy commute, I've been called away, where getting to work was thousands of miles away, and I had 40 minutes to get out the door and to the airport, wondering if not only did I have the right passport, but the right shots. Although I miss field work, I'm glad to be in a "Director" position where I don't have to travel as much.  But with Dad's care I still travel.
When I do travel I try and travel light when I go, on short notice sometimes, so there are always a few things in the airline suitcase or the bug out bag that goes in the truck.  I use one specific suitcase, computer bag or purse if carrying any type of weapon, firearm accessory or ammo, even just picking up a box of ammo at the store. No exceptions. They are very casual in style, and khaki or tan.  For travel by air, I have two suitcases of varying sizes, a computer bag, and a purse, all stealth black with a shiny airplane shaped tag affixed to them.  That way there is no doubt which ones are 100%  TSA checkpoint "meet the nice police officer" free.  

Food on the road is another matter. Airport prepackaged food is generally carbon dated for freshness and most hotel food is horribly expensive when all I need is a little snack.  Plus, I can't just run to my favorite burger joint in the middle of a shift (yes, that's a pretzel roll)
So I make sure I have not only tools to protect, but also tools to keep me comfortable and running at good efficiency when I can't get a regular meal.

So today, a few select things from my handy "ground only bag,". It's not everything, it's just a couple of things you may not have tried.
Let's see.

Knife  - "check".

Skin salve- "check"

Train Whistle?  - well you know the liberals recommend that women carry a whistle instead of a gun in case some rapist tries to forcibly jump their caboose?

I'll take my concealed carry piece, thank you.  The whistle is simply a reminder of a fun day with my husband on one of our first dates.

The square that looks like a microwave burrito?

You heat them up for a minute or three in the microwave (depending on size) and they'll mold to that sore neck or knee or whatever and keep deep moist heat on it for a long time, no fuss, no chemicals and cheap. Don't buy one, they are simple to make! Get some sturdy natural fabric (synthetics could release toxic fumes as they are nuked)and sew it up into the shape you want (this one is perfect for my neck), leaving an inch or two open on one side to fill. (Don't fill it completely full, you want it to mold to your body).
 Fill full of dry white rice and stitch shut. If you want a fragrant bag, add a few pinches of one or more of the following - lavender, ground cloves, ginger, rosemary, cinnamon, crushed mint to the rice and put in a sealed container or a few days, stirring occasionally, then fill.  If the bag needs a freshening after a while (cover is soiled or it smells like cooked rice even when it's cool) simply take out a few stitches, empty, hand wash and dry, and refill and restitch.

Outdoors you could heat it up in an empty dutch over for a bit. I think you could probably wrap it in foil well and just stick it in the coals, but if you've been lifting or bending all day, you will appreciate it at night.

Another item that always handy in the bug out kit and the squirrel bag, O'Keeffe's Life Out There,  a thick mixture of glycerin and water (no oil) that protects skin from deep cold and hard wind when I'm out in the elements for long stretches. It's the one non-scented that has kept me from getting blisters on my hands during particularly hard work in the cold or the elements. Highly concentrated, just scrape off a tiny piece with a thumbnail, soften between your fingers and rub on hands, face, whatever mother nature is after. 

And of course, a good quality protein bar.  Having to eat on the run, or miss meals, I've tried about every kind of protein and "healthy" bar out there. Most are dry and chalky and have white sugar or fake ingredients that sound like a lab experiment.  These are great (and yes, they are all hippie vegan but they are still really filling and tasty).  They have a number of flavor combinations using various nut butters. Most healthy bars I'll eat if I have no choice, this one I'll munch on any day.

That's it folks, just a few things that go in the bag when I hit the road.

And watch when you're driving.  If you hit frozen range cattle, it's gonna hurt. 

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Saturday Eats - Danish Pancakes

Whether you refer to them as aebleskiver or ebelskiver (same pronunciation, different spelling), the actual word in Danish is Æbleskiver and it means “apple slices” because traditionally these were made by putting a small slice of apple in the center while cooking them.  That's not as common anymore, and people are now making them year round so they aren't just a Christmas treat anymore.

Makes 24-26, serving 2-4.

1/2 cup Young Living Einkorn flour
3/4 cups soft winter wheat flour (I used White Lily) for extra fluffiness
(or use 1 and 1/4 of your favorite regular or gluten-free flour, if using GF flour add 1/2 tsp Xanthan Gum)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon of Penzey's Vanilla
1 large egg
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons melted butter

In a bowl, mix flour with sugar, baking powder, cardamom, and salt. In a small bowl, beat egg to blend with milk, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons butter. Add liquids to dry ingredients and stir JUSTuntil evenly moistened. (there may be some small lumps in the batter<

In about 1 and  1/2 minutes, thin crusts will form on bottoms of balls (centers will still be wet); pierce the crust with a slender wood skewer (knitting needles work great) and gently pull shell to rotate the pancake ball until about half of the cooked portion is above the cup rim and uncooked batter flows down into cup. Cook until crust on the bottom of the ball is again firm enough to pierce, about another minute, then rotate ball with a skewer until the ridge formed as the pancake first cooked is on top. Cook, turning occasionally with a skewer, until balls are evenly browned and no longer moist in the center, another 2-3 minute (depending on the type of pan, such as Teflon, it make take a couple extra minutes but with well-seasoned cast iron the total cooking time for each batch should be about 4-5 minutes. Check by piercing center of last pancake ball added to the pan with a skewer--it should come out clean--or by breaking the ball open slightly; if balls start to get too brown, turn heat to low until they are cooked in the center. Lift cooked balls from pan and serve hot with syrup (I used both Maple and Young Living Ningxia Berry Syrup (made with wolfberries, blueberries, plum, sweet cherry, and pomegranate mixed with citrus essential oils and pure vanilla extract - SO yummy!)

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Caffeinate! Dark Chocolate Espresso Shortbread Cookies

An afternoon experiment in the kitchen resulted in a nice break for hot beverages and a little pick me up on a cold day.  This is a dark chocolate, not too sweet, shortbread cookie, perfect with a glass of milk or with your afternoon tea.

Espresso sugar is not sugar mixed with coffee but sugar made with a coffee infusion.  I get it from Artisano's in Indianapolis (they ship!) and it's also wonderful in brownies, as a rub for steak or in molasses cookies. If you don't wish to order any, you could likely substitute a bit of instant espresso powder mixed with sugar,  but it's worth a purchase and it only takes a little bit in most recipes so even the half ounce bag (pictured) is good for several uses.
Chocolate Espresso Shortbread 

1  and 1/2 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar plus 2 Tablespoons espresso sugar
1/2 teaspoon  real vanilla extract

Beat with hand mixer until light and fluffy.

In a smaller bowl mix:
1 and 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder (I used Scharfeenbrger)
Stir flour mixture into butter mixture, stirring by hand until blended.   On a nonstick surface or lightly floured cutting board, form into a log about 2 and 1/2 inches across.  Wrap well in Sarah wrap or plate and lightly cover with a piece of Sarah wrap on top and a dish towel on top of that and chill 30-40 minutes.

Slice, sprinkle lightly with a mixture of regular and espresso sugar and bake on a nonstick cookie sheet in a preheated 350 F oven  for 18-20 minutes (they will spread out slightly and edges will appear dry when done.)  Do NOT over bake (they will be pretty soft coming out of the oven but harden up upon cooling).

Let cool slightly in pan on a wire rack before removing cookies. Sprinkle with additional sugar if desired.

Makes 2 dozen.

I couldn't resist though, staring down at the cookie sheet in my best Dalek voice:

"Which of you is least important!"  before exterminating a couple of them.