Thursday, February 28, 2013

Frangipani - Skin Gear at its Best

Since scents and grooming were such a topic of conversation this week at Home on the Range,  I thought this would be a good time to share with my readers, especially the gals, the skin care I found a while back that I just love.  Like my gear and gun reviews, I will not accept free product or payment and I don't promote something that I don't personally have in my house and use.  I share because this is what I would share with my family, which now, includes you folks.  I also, would rather promote the "I DID build this" small business owner, especially an Indiana one.

Indianapolis based  Frangipani Body Products  specializes in all-natural skin care and body products and recently won a 3rd Annual Beauty with a Conscience Award.

When I first saw the products in a local magazine, I didn't know it was an Indy based company. When I checked out all the positive feedback on facebook from others with similar ages and skin types, I HAD to order some. The owner and creator of the products, Tracy Land, originally had been making them to heal her own skin, as she battled the skin condition rosacea (which I have as well) then sold it to a few friends while she worked in the Quality Assurance end of IT.

Tracy continued to develop the concept and when her position was eliminated, instead of just picking up an unemployment check, she started refining the products, producing the products and selling to the public, using word of mouth, farmer's markets, trade shows, etc.  I can only imagine how much telephoning, strategy, business planning and leg work that was. The product was a hit, and is now carried in a number of stores, including Whole Foods, in addition to being on line.

My skin has done so much better with natural products in the long term.  My skin is very fair and cantankerous on a good day and the rosacea has made my cheeks irritated and red since grade school.  I love the Frangipani products! They may cost a bit more than what you can get at the drug store, but conventional products use a LOT of water and fillers to keep production costs down.

Frangipani products contain only plant based ingredients, and almost NO water. Only a small amount is needed so the product is quite long lasting which makes it a value.  Compared to what I spent at the Lancome and Clinique and Estee Lauder counters over the years for things that only made my skin redder and more irritated. . . a bargain!

Sure, I could go out and get buffed and abraded and bo-toxed, quick, fake fixes. I prefer a product that heals the skin in the long term, helping it glow from the inside out.

I have no desire to be 20 again, (which is like 2 in dog years). Aging gracefully is wonderful, whether you're a famous black lab or his redheaded "Mom".

The Frangipani products:  So many - cleanser, creams, serums, Shea butter creams that would be perfect for gals OR guys to make work worn hands feel like velvet, lip balm, all kinds of things.  The skin care selections range from oily teenage skin to OMG, I remember 8 track tapes! My favorites are the cleanser and the facial serum. I love gel cleansers but they dry my skin.  Cream cleansers remind me of Grandma's Ponds Cold Cream and make me break out if I use every day. The Frangipani cleanser is smooth and very creamy but it lathers just enough to clean and rinses completely, without rubbing,  leaving my face soft without having to irritate it with a wash cloth. To exfoliate, there is an exfoliating product that's plant oil based with little jojoba beads that gently get rid of dry skin, as they gently dissolve.

I'm thinking the facial cleanser might work well for guys for shaving.  The faint coconut and olive oil based scent is very pleasant but NOT girly. Tracy does not use fragrance oils in her Frangipani line, but only essential oils, much gentler on the skin while still smelling wonderful.  

I also love the body oil, (you have to try that one) it's rice bran oil based so it soaks right in after bathing avoiding that whole, "Honey I just got out of the shower and moisturized and would love a hug", wherein he complies and you go shooting out of his arms like a watermelon seed and bounce off the walls, ruining the mood). And both the grapefruit and the lavender blends smell incredible but not overpowering

But don't let the all natural, plant based products fool you. I've talked to Tracy several times as I got her permission to post this and not only is she a wonderful lady and product genius, she likes bacon!

Check the website out (just click on the Frangipani name in purple at the start of the post).  Everything can be shipped promptly and the beautiful amber recyclable glass bottles are carefully packaged so there is no breakage (and trust me on the body oil thing.)

  - Brigid

Monday, February 25, 2013

Love and Hope - a Journey Through Alzheimers

Do you ever wake up and not know where you are?  If you've traveled a lot on business, you know the feeling. But to wake and not know who you are, that would be a terrible thing to behold.

My step mom  married my Dad two years after my Mom died.  He grieved for my Mom terribly, but he was still a relatively young man, and lonely. She was a widow with three grown kids. They were set up on a blind date by a female friend of my Dad's.

She was always a bundle of energy, 5 feet nothing and 95 pounds of whirlwind motion, laughter and care.  An expert seamstress, she joined a group of ladies from the church who hand crafted stuffed teddy bears to give to kids being brought into the trauma unit at the hospital.  I've written of them before, the ladies making the bears from scratch with clothing and accessories, all unique, cowboy bears, farmer bears, made with love, and all at their own expense. 

I remember one story of a trip the ladies made to the hospital with the newest batch of bears. While they were there, a very elderly man was brought in, muttering in pain and confusion, hurting and alone.  His eyes lit up at the bears and he asked to hold one. She gave him one and he hugged it to him, like a little child would, talking to it, breathing deep of the comfort of soft fur. The ladies let him keep it, a small bit of peace for someone lost and alone.

She had her little moments of forgetfulness, like any aging person, but a previously diagnosed cancer was in remission and she was doing really well, still active in church and in volunteering, taking dance classes, working in the garden.  But one morning, a few months later, she came into the kitchen and sat down, looked at me and I realized she did not have a clue as to who I was.

What struck me, was not that, but the look on her face as she realized this, realized she should know. I obviously wasn't a bugler or a neighbor over for coffee, I was a girl with red hair like everyone else in the family, wearing a fuzzy robe that she herself had washed and put in the guest closet the night before.  I will never forget the look of her at that moment. It was the most starkly exposed face I'd ever seen, a face in which which unknown terrors haunted the edges; the face of a fledgling dove about to tumble from the nest.

It came into our lives quickly, one moment she was laughing, engaging in board games and puns with us, her face bright, her wit razor sharp. Then came those moments where everything just went sort of dim. The doctor only confirmed what Dad had suspected and kept from us for some months until he knew for sure.  Alzheimer's.

It's a terrible disease for all involved. We read what we could about it, we planned as a family  and we prayed.  There really wasn't more we could do.

As the next year and a half passed, there were a  few moments she was quite lucid, and happy. But those were the hardest for all of us, for in those bief moments she was fully aware that her mind was going, what was happening to her and how helpless she was to do anything about it.

The disease's progression is as predictable as its course is certain.  Mood swings and aggression, words that made no sense, dropping to the floor like marbles, tears as she tried to mentally gather them up, anger at the very air around her. She always was gentle with my Dad though. Only with him would she remain calm, the reasoning that was blind and deaf somehow responding to something in him that her mind could still see.  Dad cared for her at home, no matter how bad it got.   We arranged for a home health aide to come in and lend a hand a few hours a week but he refused to let anyone else care for "his girl" or to send her to skilled nursing care. When she passed, it was quite sudden, after she contracted pneumonia. From her sudden coughing to her collapse, was just days.

Sometimes when you get to the far edge, the edge just breaks away.

We laid her to rest  on tree covered hill top. We visit, we bring flowers, we hug and shed some tears, neither of us immune to having our heart broken.  Then we smile through the tears, sharing their stories as we make the long trip home to photos and a little stuffed bear wearing the colors of the flag.

Would she have lived her life differently had she known her fate ahead of time? Perhaps not. Perhaps, in essence, she did, her mother dying of the same disease, as she and my Dad courted. 

She lived life to the hilt, a wheel in motion, racing downhill, a light against the darkness, the whir of a needle into soft fabric. I have a picture of she and my Dad on their first date, and you could see something in their smiles that would be lost on so many people.  Love is a story that tells itself.

I woke up the other morning abruptly, the glaring ringtone of the bat phone waking me with a message just after I'd fallen asleep.  For a moment, I did not know where I was at. The small room was cold, the sound of Barkley checking on me muffled from carpet, not hardwood floors.  I was in my place near work, traveling in the previous day to go on call.  My heart was pounding as that particular ring will do that to me, the surge of adrenalin. There would be no going back to sleep.

But I was aware, of every tick of the clock, of the feel of my skin, the soft panting of doggie breath waiting to see if I was going to get up and leave  or go back to sleep..  I was so blissfully aware, of these moments, these sounds. It was a new day, and even if tired and cranky, I'd leap right in, like a deer into the brush, feeling no thorns.

So I go, and so I watch, finding sense in the senseless, finding my purpose even as sparrows fall to earth. People watching from a distance would think me too quiet, too still, shouldn't this activity be a frenzy of lights and motion, like on TV?  But there is great activity in being the quiet observer, standing in a stillness that smells of silence,  breathing in so many scents in damp cold  air. Sweat, blood and a flower that only blooms in the dark, the wind so scant it's like breath on a mirror. Each smell blended yet distinct, always overlayed with the copper tang of life spilled. The air hums along to the nights quiet as all I see, smell and feel, forms into a substance I can almost feel on my flesh, capturing it, recording it there in the stillness. The truth is often still, inarticulate, not knowing it is the truth.

When I next get out to my Dad's, I'll once again see that photo of them on that first date, the feelings there so sudden and so very unexpected, incapable of being formed into sound. I'll look at another photo, the last one we have of her where she was completely with us, a laughing woman on my deck in the Indiana summer, her movements that of a bird, free and spirited. There is no fear in her, in that memory, even as the picture lays silent. But there is hope.

Those last days with her were difficult, but they taught me a lot.  Not just visible confirmation of what my Dad was truly made of, but that words aren't  necessary to define what you believe, that nestled in the strong crook of an arm of the one who understands you without words, you know exactly who you are.  Even when she didin't know who I was, she taught me about not being limited by fear, but going forward with hope, even if the future is not articulated.

Home and love, love and desire, can be what propels us silently onward.  Hope and love,  love and desire, can also be merely sounds, that people who have never hoped or loved or desired have for what they never possessed, and will not until such time as they forget the words. 

 - Love, Brigid

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Smashing! - New Burger Joint in Town

If you are reading this, that means the bat phone rang and tonight's post will be one saved for just such occasion.

It's not in Indiana yet, but in our neighboring states, all over actually, a new burger place has popped up.  Smashburger.  Opened in 2007 nationally, most consumers have been comparing them to Five Guys.  It's hard not to draw comparisons between the two, both use fresh beef, both serve foods fast, and both offer a whole bunch of toppings and freshly made fries with a similar franchise model.

Five Guys is popular around here. When the coworkers get to choose where we eat when in the city, it's one of their favorite choices. Having a big table at Five Guys we can all sit at to talk and share fries (their fry servings are HUGE) in a very casual atmosphere (loud music, friendly personnel and peanuts on the floor) is something the fellows I work with enjoy. The guys are comfortable with that red and white tile storeroom feel.  They can be loud, they can be messy, they can just relax and eat and the staff is always so friendly to us.

I introduced Dad to them (he'd been a huge Wendy's fan til they changed their burger and fry recipe and at 92, says his time is too short to to sit in the drive through while some kid figures out which of the now apparently 12 different Frostys they want).

It was a hit (Dad, being part Scot saw the "free" toppings and went for it).

This was one happy Dad.

But it's not someplace I'd dine at by myself.  If I need to do fast food because of location or time available, I get a Chick Fil a Spicy Chicken Sandwich, squirt it from the packet of hot sauce and top it with a small side of their coleslaw and have a small lemonade.  It's not the best thing to eat in the truck and I usually arrive where I'm going, looking like Zombie Paula Dean, but I'm happy and full.  I like Chick Fil a. They're always clean and friendly; the food looks as advertised and my server usually isn't sporting 3 pieces of face tackle and dreadlocks. But that's about it for me and fast food, as frankly I'd kiss a wolverine before I'd eat a Big Mac.

But sometimes you just have to have a burger, even if you have to grill one at home in the dark and improvise.
So when I saw Smashburger (and the huge line out the door) one day I said I'd try it.

We went right before noon, it was very busy but there was still seating space. The decor was clean and neat with the red and white theme (sound familiar?) but this one more retro hip than warehouse.You get a menu off a holder on the wall as you come in, order at a counter, get your  drink and seat yourself with a numbered tag that sits at your table. The seating is more private, with dividers giving some areas some space between your table and the neighbors, nice if the place has a lot of kids or a noisy crowd.  They then bring your food to you, in a basket, not a bag that will soak up the fry grease, so once you are seated you can just relax and enjoy some conversation.

There are a lot of items on the menu but burgers are the star. Big balls of fresh Black Angus beef are "smashed"  with this medieval looking cookie cutter thing that looks like it was made out of a dismantled Dalek, on a a grill prepped with melted butter, not oil. As the patty cooks, the melting fat percolates through the small holes in the burger, sending wisps of smoke upwards that make the whole restaurant smell like PETA repellent. mmmmmm.  They then use an extremely sharp edged spatula to scape the specialty seasoned (garlic herb mix of their own) smashed patty off the griddle, a two handed operation and one that leaves an impressive sear on the beef.

Then a double thick piece of cheese is applied.  "No Kraft Single" cheese here, mine was a big thick piece of sharp cheddar (they had six types of cheese). Their systems seems designed so the buttery toasted bun and toppings reach the grill just as the meat is ready to come off. The burger is hot, the cheese is hot and melty and the toppings  are fresh, not limp.

Burger combinations are endless and each regional area has their own "specialty" burger.  The free toppings are many and you can also add (for a paltry amount), applewood smoked bacon, avocado, a fried egg, onion straws, fried pickles, garlic mushrooms, sauteed onion.

The picture above is my small burger.  It's larger than the small Five Guys,1/3 pound to 1/4,  but it is also about a dollar more so the value is about the same.  The large Smashburger is 1/2 pound (a bigger single patty instead of two thinner patties like Five Guys).

I went for simple - sharp cheddar, chipotle mayo and lettuce on the egg bun.  Partner in Grime had  the small burger with Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce, cheese, applewood smoked  bacon and onion straws (oh, that looked good). Both fairly simple so they probably aren't the most impressive, photo wise, but they were indeed very, very good.
We both selected the egg bun. They also have a whole grain and a spicy chipotle bun, all buttered and toasted, as well as a pretzel roll which I've made for my own grilled burgers at home. I would come back for the taste and the texture of the egg bun alone, but the burger was very good.

Moo - I've yet to have a restaurant burger that had the depth of flavor as a home grilled one, enough to stand alone without any topping but cheese,  but this is about as closed as fried can get..  I liked the slightly thicker patty of Five Guys but this patty was much more flavorful and juicy without being overly greasy as the Five Guys patty can be. The nice bit of snap and crunch from the violent smash and grill resulted in the center more juice than grease.  I still prefer my meat a little more rare in the middle.  But  being smashed they will be  pretty much medium, but it was no less juicy for it.

The patty isn't square, it isn't round, it's it's own unique shape, full of inlets and valleys where the condiments can loiter, waiting for that first bite.

The fries I'd say I'd prefer to Five Guys.  They weren't  nearly as greasy, and you can order them tossed with a bit of olive oil, garlic and rosemary which is a really flavorsome combination.  Five Guys has a Cajun seasoned fries as an alternate to plain but they are way too salty for my taste. The Smashburger fries still look as if they were made from frozen but I still preferred that over home cut and cooked but with grease soaking into the bag. (I'm not saying the greasy ones don't taste good, they do, but after a small  F.G. burger and a half of an order of those, I feel like I ate a live hedgehog).

We also tried the onion straws that came with a spicy dipping sauce (pictured below) They were crisp, salty, addicting, but more than enough to share. There are multiple other sides, including  sweet potato fries (with or without the garlic rosemary seasoning and probably really good with some blue cheese dip)  fried pickles with a buttermilk ranch dip, chili or a side salad.  You can get an adult beverage. If you are feeling especially snooty you can order veggie frites – flash fried carrots, green beans, asparagus, with sea salt and black pepper, though I didn't see anyone that ordered that. Lift your little pinky finger, hoist your wine and raise your half pound burger at the first Vegan that walks past the window.

There's chicken sandwiches (fresh chicken breast, not dismantled chicken bits made into a patty), black bean burger options, salads and hot dogs.  We were too full to try anything except their  iced tea bar, but any place that has a Butterfinger Malt (or just a regular shake) made out of Hagan Daz ice cream is OK in my book. Making a shake without soft-serve with all the gums and stabilizers would make for a pretty good, thick treat that would suck, but through a straw in a good way.  Next time, I'll pass on the fries and get a burger and a malt.

Price wise, it was about $20 for the two of us with soft drinks, including tax.  Not a cheap lunch, but I've spent that on the road for "fast casual" for two and not enjoyed it nearly as much.

Dad will always enjoy his Five Guys (and the peanut flinging) and I'll happily eat there with him and the guys if they want to go. 

But I definitely have a new favorite burger joint.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dine and Dash Doggie

No, we're not going to the Vee-E-Tee.

Mom's got to go back to work.  I've got water and dog treats for you, a sandwich up here for me and we're all set.

I know it's a long drive, but I'll take you out when we get to the Rest Stop. 
Now, I've had my pit stop, it's time for yours.

Hey, where's my sandwich???

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Pistols, Pancakes and Polish Pickles - It's Saturday

The day dawned a frosty 13 degrees.  The high was going to be 21.  A good day for friends, firearms and food.  It started with pancakes. I was making a batch from some hand scribbled notes from last time, and somehow got the liquid and flour quantities reversed. The batter was thin, so thin that when it went on to the griddle it spread out all over, every which direction.

You know how some Mom's make pancakes shaped like Mickey mouse or other animals?


Time to return to the drawing board. The second bath turned out perfectly, light, fluffy, moist and not shaped like something from a Lovecraft story. (recipe in the comments.) Served with Amish Bacon and eggs fried up in a bit of the pan drippings.

Then it was off to Half Priced Books.

This was pretty cool, but at $50, rather pricey. Still, a neat hardcover collectors edition.

I'll just wander around and see if there's anything marked down.

Then it was home with a couple new non fiction books on history and architecture after a stop at a favorite store for some Polish back up.
Then, the drive on back home.
Yes, that's a shotgun cribbage board.
The game is not going so well.  I don't have jack.

Maybe I'll do better with a different game.

Maybe not.  Care for another game of Mexican Train Wreck Dominoes?

Look a squirrel new Ruger! (If all else fails distract them.)
A range report next weekend.  For now, I can redeem myself with supper.

Marinate some ribeyes  for at least 24 hours in a zip lock bag with:
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup key lime juice
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
3 heaping Tablespoons minced fresh garlic
2 and 1/2 Tablespoons Basil
1 teaspoon dried Rosemary
1 and 1/2 Tablespoons dried Parsley
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/4  teaspoon hot sauce (I like Scoville Brothers Heavy Metal Heat).

Grill and a minute before removing from heat sprinkle a pinch of Turbinado (raw) sugar on top of each steak to caramelize and offset the salt and heat with just the right sweetness.

Serve with freshly made Perogies stuffed with cheese, potatoes and spice, cooked with some finely diced onion and  browned butter and served with peas (sorry Old NFO).

Hopefully, everyone will forget that earlier train wreck.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

From the Below Wing R and D Department - Flying and Armed

Every homestead should have an R and D Department, where experiments can be conducted and new gadgets tried out. (No, no!  When it's coming at you, the rotation is reversed!)

Most of you remember "Q" from the James Bond films?  He was the crafty fellow who ran the Research and Development Division of the British Secret Service, coming up with all sort of ingenious weapons that Mr. Bond can use to protect and defend.

I do believe Q's full name is Q. Pid.

I arrived home from a VERY long week to find that Partner in Grime had left me a surprise.  The wooden winged fellow was well armed, and his weapon WAS loaded.  I look carefully, nothing of threat in the background but a couple of martini glasses.

Agent 00K9 Barkley (licensed to shed) acted as if nothing had happened in my absence, perhaps having been dosed with a dog treat secret drug causing unconsciousness and amnesia.

As I moved around the other side, I noticed on the table below, a message. . . or a warning. Agent Barkley watches with caution, at his feet, either a large pink grenade with feet, or the nefarious Mr. Squeeky.

With the message, a  heart shaped box of ECP (Elastic Colt Pistol) ammo, should the battle between redhead and red-winged Valentine's delivery guy be prolonged.

The red journal  - a few secret passwords that I can't tell you or I'd have to kill you.

Hey, no hoarding bags of extra ammo!

I hope you all enjoyed your week and have an even better weekend.

Love - Brigid and Barkley

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Today's Forecast , A Bit Chili - Range Recipe of the Week

It's not been in the single digits but with winds up to 50 mph earlier this week the chill was definitely in the air.  A perfect time for chili.  This recipe was posted a couple years ago when it won a chili cook off at work but it seemed like a good idea to make it again and share with my new readers.  

This makes one large crockpot full (about 20 regular sized bowls). For the smaller crockpots or less servings, simply cut in half. It's got a hint of sweet, a bit of smoky and has just the right amount of "hot", so those that like mild will still eat it and those that like zippy won't be bored. The surprise ingredients, a little bit of cola and some dark unsweetened chocolate.

The Penzey's Chili 9000 spice is available on line and it really makes this recipe, so it's worth getting.  It has all kinds of things in it aside from straight chili powder.   For IN residents there is a Penzey's store on the Northeast side of the city and there are more popping up all across the country.

4 -15 oz cans Glen Muir tomato sauce (yes, it's in the hippie/organic section and WELL worth it)
2 -  28 ounce cans chopped, diced or stewed tomatoes, or any combination thereof
2 cups roughly diced sweet onions
1 heaping tablespoon Italian Seasoning
1 pound Applewood smoked thick cut peppered bacon, cooked until done but not crispy and then chopped into bite sized pieces.
3 pounds burger or venison (lean as you can get it)
2 pounds Jimmy Dean or Bob Evans spicy breakfast sausage
4 cans kidney beans - drained and rinsed  well (canned beans have a LOT of sodium)
1 bottle (about 18 ounces I think) Sweet Baby Ray's Hickory Brown Sugar Barbecue Sauce
1/2 cup Penzey's 9000 chili seasoning
1/3 teaspoon crushed red pepper
approx. 3/4 cup Coca Cola (yes, and not Pepsi and certainly not diet), use the Mexican Coca Cola in glass bottles made with sugar, not corn syrup, if you can find, Costco often has it.
2 individually wrapped squares Baker's unsweetened dark chocolate, finely chopped (each square breaks into two pieces so it's pretty easy to chop up).

Cook the meats  (I've used  venison or beef and a mix of both and won every time) separately and drain well. Saute the onion separately from the beef in just a bit of olive oil and just a DROP of honey so it caramelizes. Mix meat and onion  in with rest of ingredients adding the dark chocolate last. Cook in the crockpot on high about 2 hours, or on low 4-6 as as desired.

I've never seen anyone not eat a second bowl of this. Serve with corn bread or Cheddar Garlic Biscuits. (new link!)

Though tomorrow is Valentine's Day.  For those of you who, unlike me, aren't celebrating the day with "sploody" things already,  you might want to roast him or her a chicken or something. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

State of the Coffee Table - A Lesson for Consumers

There has always been a copy of Better Homes and Garden Magazine on my table.  From the time I was a kid, to now  There's all kinds of great DIY ideas for decorating, crafts, food and house and yard and the photos and ideas always spark a lot of creativity. Someone in my family has always subscribed to it.

It's just a constant on the table, always enjoyed, and saved for months and one of the few magazines I'll pay to have come to my home.

And look, there's a new flyer to renew the subscription.

The January issue came.  Wow! It seems, well lighter than usual.   Let's look at October's issue, which was on the table where I last read it.  The last page is page 200.
Now let's look at the January issue.

The January issue's last page is page 100.

It's half the size, exactly.

For the Same Price.  $3.99   

What is it WITH everyone's fear of high capacity magazines?

Needless to say I won't be "renewing" at any price.  Others did and are now finding out just how ripped off they were, but I won't be one of them.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Whisky, Women, and Wi-FI - a Scotch Post

“Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.” ― Mark Twain 

The picture was taken where friends and family gathered, a night back in January.  The moon was building, the air was quiet, the earth a motionless sphere in cooling space.  Stepping outside, one breathed in the cold, across which the faint scent of a fire touched the palate with smoke. Above, the night streamed in thick indigo threads, beyond which lay myriad points of crystal lights.  It was a good night for a small glass of whisky.

Whiskey vs. whisky?  The difference between whiskey and whisky seems simple but it's not. Whisky typically denotes Scotch or Canadian versions and whiskey denotes the Irish and American beverages. Although both spellings are of Celtic origin, there are substantial differences between the countries products, include the selection of grains, number of distillations, the maturation period and the type of still and barrels used.  Each country's style has its own unique characteristics to savor and there are some further divided into sub categories like bourbon.

Irish vs. Scotch? Unlike Scotch, the malted barley in Irish whiskey is dried in enclosed kilns, not roasted over peat fires, which is why it does not have that distinct smokiness of Scotch. Irish whiskeys maintain the natural flavor of the barley, fragrant, with a unique but softer roundness of body. It's an enjoyable drink indeed, but not the beverage of this cold winter evening. I want something that brings the echo of smoke across my tongue, down my throat, and leaves me with the smallest bit of heat on my breath, after that last sip, that soft lick of flame as a candle gently sighs and goes dark.

Just as in the wine world, where names like Napa Valley, the Okanagan Valley, Bordeaux or Rioja tell someone not just where a wine was made, but what it will bring as far as color, clarity and taste, scotch whisky has its own geographic intricacies. But among all, there is one common thread, the origin of the drink is Scotland.  If you see Scotch Whiskey made in Massachusetts - run!!!

There are friends I know socially and professionally that enjoy a good Scotch. Enjoy to the point there is rumored to be a Scotch Club amongst some of them, a fluid society of friends who meet to share stories  of good guys and bad guys, of airplanes and automobiles, while sipping the best of that liquid mystery which is brought forth from barley and water. None of us are kids.  Most kids today can't keep up with us.

Scotch isn't something to drink because it's there, as it's not cheap. One doesn't drink it to get a "buzz".  It's the warm sip of history and tradition, a celebration of artisanship and the deep pleasure of life.  It's a developed taste.  It's a journey; one that will take you though the rugged Highlands, along the waters of the Sound of Islay to the Isle of Jura where George Orwell penned his novel 1984 at the age of 46, describing the place as an extremely "ungetatable place".

Besides, it makes up for the times when we're about ready to go on duty and we need to have iced tea.

But, in all honesty, I never tried Scotch whisky until I was  in my 40's, when my best friend brought some back from "duty free" on a business trip overseas.  I'd tried some amber adult beverages in my youth, but they were of the ultra cheap American variety, smelling of uncapped magic marker and tasting of sharp heat, the taste equivalent of pulling a hot cast iron pan off the stove with your bare hand. After that, the scotch was a revelation, the honeyed, warm glow of meeting an old friend. 

Since I started spending time with folks that actually knew what a good whisky was, and even better, would share it with me, I've learned a lot.  We've also come up with a number of ideas for introducing others to such fine beverages (forget that Bambi Airstream idea, let's get one of these).

As for the many varieties and price ranges of whisky/whiskey. I'd classify them on a HOTR 1 to 10 scale.

(1) Taste buds usually recover from the shock by morning.  May incite anarchy in redheads.
(2) Chock full of dreadfulness. Put aside for the next Democratic National Convention or Sheep Dip, whichever I would want to attend first.
(3) Suitable for anti freeze, almost as tasty.  May improve with age, but usually drunk by the very young at a shotgun wedding bachelor party.
(4) It's like a root canal, sometimes you know you just have to have one.  Doesn't mean you are going to like it. Often blended with 7-Up to get rid of it.
(5) The Keltec of adult beverages.  If it was all that was in the house, I'd sip it.  Otherwise, no.
(6) It's 10 degrees out.  It's this or hot tea.  Maybe I'll just put a splash IN the tea.
(7) You're getting warmer.
(8) Very nice.   I'd not be embarrassed to have this on my side buffet with guests.
(9) I really feel badly  that I didn't try this 20 years ago.
(10)  It's like a good quality firearm.  When you want it, cost doesn't matter that much.

So, if you wish to venture into the aisle of whiskys, don't go cheap and don't necessarily go for the brand you see on billboards with a floozy blond.  This isn't a drink for Monday night football and wings.  This is a drink for those gentle dark nights of retrospect, a sip of warmth before the long corridors of sleep.  This is the clink of a glass next to the fire, sipped slowly under the long sound of rain, the taste, a whisper of smoke.  It's  life lived richly, profoundly enjoyed in amber miniature.

It's not a drink for youth or debutantes or post tractor pull.  Its  taste, whether drunk during travels, or at home, is an invitation, leaving you with a fading aftermath of promise, that secret affirmation, like taste itself.

A Dhé, beannaich an taigh - Brigid