Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Bacon, Brass and Buddies - Brigid's Bachelor Cooking

You don't have to be single to appreciate "Bachelor cooking", those things that can be made with simple ingredients and a well stocked spice cupboard.

Getting a hold of an easy meal doesn't have to involve anything frozen, a pizza or a clown. If you are cooking for 1, 2 or a unexpected crowd hungry from some time at the range, this can be on the table in no time and won't break the bank.

With a few leftovers and some inexpensive cheese picked up at Aldi on the way home, this was in the oven in about 15 minutes and on the table in another 25.  And it got a BIG thumbs up from the Rangehands even if it wasn't chock full of cow.  So wash off the GSR,  pair it with salad and an adult beverage and it's good enough for company.

It tastes just like lasagna, but with a porky kick and the outside of the bun crisps just right in the oven, while the middle stays all soft and pairs perfectly with the cheese and sauce.
The "Porkinator" - Sausage  Lasagna in a bun (easily cuts in half or doubles)

1/3 of a jar of store bought pasta sauce (roughly 1 and 1/4 cups)
1/2 of a roll of Jimmy Deans SPICY breakfast sausage (sage flavor would also work)
1 heaping teaspoon chopped garlic (fill that puppy up)
a slice  or two (ahem) of chopped bacon
Mmmm.  Bacon.  You you need a couple slices for the recipe, eat any extra.
Cook meat and drain fat:

stir into sauce and add:
1/2 tsp oregano
a shake of crushed red pepper (OK I used 3 or 4 but we like spicy)
3 dashes of Jane's Krazy Mixed Up Salt (or your favorite mixed salt)

Simmer just until it's bubbling
While the sauce  heats up, in a bowl mix:

1 cup grated mozzarella
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup  Parmesan

Set aside about 1/2 cup of that mixture

To shredded cheese add:
1 cup of ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon of egg (white and yolk mixed up and measured out, save rest for breakfast)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1'2  teaspoon dried parsley
a pinch of cayenne
Mix well.
Get six bratwurst or other larger sized sandwich rolls and scoop out the middle third (save that for meatloaf later), leaving enough at the bottom it holds together, like a sub-shaped bread bowl.

Place a big spoonful of meat sauce inside, top with a couple spoonful's of the cheese mixture, leaving a little open space for the sauce to bubble up through.

Cook in 350 F. oven, covered lightly with foil for 20 minutes.  Remove foil, sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake another 4-6 minutes, until cheese on top melts.

That's it.  No time at all in the kitchen.

For when squirrels gather, they have more important things to do.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Hot- Like a Cow on Fire!

For Secret Squirrels or any other kind (yes, some of you are going to get the reference) this is a great spicy stir fry that uses an inexpensive small bit of round steak, and will provide a meal that will match any dinner at a Thai or Chinese place (and you don't have to tip!)

If you are prone to fainting, heatstroke or Victorian "the vapors", please reduce the crushed red pepper by half or if you are Midwest Chick, double it. Peas are optional , Old NFO :-)

 - Brigid

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Steampunked - ePostal Match Time

It's time for the June ePostal Shoot Out, which originated over at Mr. Completely 's blog. You can visit his site for the history of this fun event, but Partner in Grime has a target created for the June event, and our household will be tabulating the scores to see who wins bragging rights while Mr. C. is on the mend from some surgery.

I've done them before and they are a blast.  The one below involved  hitting anything BUT the flies, which was a lot of fun, especially with the use of Mr. B's Ruger 10-22.
Partner in Grime was trying to come up with a target for the June event, and finally just put some gears on it and called it "Steampunk!" (click on the picture below to download or print out the target).

Then I had a new camera, so pictures were in order.

Scoring: Each shot counts once as the highest zone touched. 10 bonus points for scoring on all 4 gears.

Looks like fun but it's not just shooting at the gears.   The points (also marked on the target) stack up like this.  You get 10 points for hitting a key, 9 points for hitting a shaft, 7 points for hitting a tooth, and 3 points for hitting anywhere else on the gear.   You get 10 shots at 10 yards (standing unsupported) which you can aim anywhere you please. However, if any of you are thinking about skipping that troublesome partial gear on the left, we'll throw in an extra 10 bonus points on any target where you score points on ALL FOUR GEARS. Each shot scores only once so this gives a (highly unlikely) perfect score of 110 points.


Target size: 8.5x11

Range:  10 yards (or as close as possible at your range)

Number of shots: 10

Position: Standing unsupported

Time limit: None

Scoring: Each shot counts once as the highest zone touched. 10 bonus points for scoring on all 4 gears.


1 – Iron sight rimfire
2 – Iron sight centerfire
3 – Optical sight rimfire
4 – Optical sight centerfire
5 – Open class: Anything else.

Pistol or rifle are both welcome. If is unusual then shoot a target and send it in.  Send a picture too…if you and your gun look “steampunk enough” you will get extra points out of it!

Email scans or photos to engineeringjohnsonatgmaildotcom by the end of June.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Barkley Memories - Chances are Remote

Mom, he better not be messing up my TIVO of Animal Planet!

I rarely watch TV shows, with the exception of NCIS,  Dr. Who and the occassional Top Gear and Mythbusters.  Frankly, I'd rather have a root canal than watch most of the reality shows out there(though I did enjoy the few episodes of Deadliest Catch that I caught).  Besides, I have a collection of classic sci fi, westerns and a few old horror flicks at the crash pad in case I'm on call and don't feel like starting a book (page 50 into a engaging read  is usually the first sign that the bat phone will ring).

In looking at some of the Reality shows out there lately,  it dawned on me that I could likely replace any of these shows with some of the old classics and no one would be the wiser.

Here's some that's been on TV in the not so distant past and what you could replace them with: 

Jersey Shore - The Horror of Party Beach
Real Housewives of Orange County - Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death
Piers Morgan - Buckaroo Bonzai, Across The Eighth Dimension.
Amish in the City - Children of the Corn
Ice Road Truckers - Mad Max 2, Road Warriors
The Real Housewives of New Jersey - Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Jon and Kate Plus 8 - Village of the Damned

Sister Wives - Stepford Wives
Kim and Khloe Take Miami -Killer Klowns From Outer Space
The Bachelor -  I married a Monster from Outer Space

Teen Mom - I Know What You Did Last Summer
Fear Factor - Alien

Hey, seriously, Animal Planet is on.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

News Flash

Today was a good day. The Book of Barkley has finished the copy editing process and tomorrow will go to production. It's finally happening, to be in bookstores and online and e-book apps by early summer.

Even better, a box arrived in the mail for me.  I'd been wanting a fancier camera for some time.  I was so happy that my friend Keads gave me his little point and shoot when my little $80 camera died, it was so much better than what I had and he'd taken really good pictures with it.  But I'd got to play with my friend M's Canon EOS 7D and just loved it (it takes some dandy air show pictures).  But I just didn't want to spend the money as Dad's care is my responsibility and keeping him in his own home as he wishes, with a nurse, adds up, even with some insurance coverage. I am a firm believer that "savings" is for necessities in an emergency, not "wants", so I wasn't going to buy one for a while.

So I just pointed and clicked and would raise and eyebrow at Partner and say, "I wonder what I could do with the BIG camera". (Gentlemen, that's known as a  whack on the head with a "clue by four")

Today I will find out. But I have to say, I have the best husband in the world (even though when he proofed the Book of Barkley he grinned and said "needs more car chases and explosions :-)
I haven't even learned the settings yet and I'm loving it already.  (camera shy dog meet long range lens!) I took a few test shots before night set in, just to see what it could do with various textures and lights.  

You know, life deals you some blows, but when you have something to look forward to, it makes all the difference in the world.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fifty Shades of Black - Morning at the Range

Morning comes early at the Range most days. But I love to watch the sun come in the many windows, the shine of it on all the wood around the house, as from downstairs coffee is ground on a 100 year old grinder. Everything here was either a beloved family piece or rescued by a curb or free on Craigslist and re-crafted. I've done the "buy a house full of furniture", spending thousands only to find even the "good" furniture store stuff was made of termite poop and Elmer's glue and started looking crummy in just a few short years.  I  don't care to do that again. I kept a couple room fulls for the crash pad, everything else was donated to AmVets. 
What we have is old, but it's well built and/or rebuilt, and even better, just about free. We've got a once beautiful hardwood Mission sofa being refinished. It had been a beautiful piece of furniture, but had seen several small children with the associated scratches and wear. It just  needed refinishing and re-cushioning and was had for a 12-pack of beer.  In it's place  for now, Partner's old Ikia couch frame from post college apartment with some quick cushions made up with yards of fabric and some foam and a bit of sewing.  It's not ideal, but it will function as a couch until the Mission frame is done and these cushions can be upgraded to custom fit it.  Provided I can keep the suede type fabric looking  nice.
Like the crafty chameleon,
 I have assumed the color of my background. 
 So why are you looking at me?

Monday, May 19, 2014

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's 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 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 persons 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. God 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 know 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.
On the table  is a paper from my childhood hometown, 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 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 got it for the obituary, but put the rest of it away, 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 paper to light the fire, as the night's cold may still surprise. 

Whether we dig for the truth or cover it 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 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 turn on the TV, 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 sewn 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 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

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Driving Miss Abby - Dog Physics

You would think it would be just a simple drive. . . .

After almost two weeks at the crash pad, Partner coming on down last weekend so she could get used to one place a bit before uprooting yet again, it was time to take Abby home to the Range.

One of the traits I looked at, when picking a dog to adopt was "rides well in the car" as, like Barkley, she will commute with me.  The drive is several times a month and it's long, but we often see some really interesting things.  Like today, this "weekend woody" camper. 

I decided to leave in the morning, I was really tired from a long week and there was thunder and hail going strong as I left work.  I also I thought she'd be more relaxed driving in the early morning when she's still a little sleepy. We'd made a few short drives this last week and she took well to the harness system that allows her to sit and lay down in the back, but not move forward or turning into missile dog, in the event of the accident.  Saturday morning dawned with good weather, everything was packed up, this should be a breeze.

Until I got up to find her with her head in the food bowl, not the little one but the BIG one, the plastic container that holds 40 pounds  Apparently Miss Abby figured out that if Mom doesn't latch the top down tight, she can snoot the top up and have herself a little snack.

And she did, on top of her regular food.  There wasn't that much missing, and her belly wasn't hard, so I figured she'd be full but OK.

Until I got out of the shower to find out she'd barfed on the only really expensive rug in the house. swore Barkley was somehow up in doggie heaven giving her pointers.

I got that cleaned up, and took her out to potty, but she really did't have to go, so we loaded up. I knew she was a little nervous as we loaded up, as the last time she made a long trip, she ended up in another strange place with very kind, but new people.  After several months in a shelter being treated for heartworm, that had to have been scary for her.
So I kept  my eye on her. Having owned a couple labs in my life, I know about the effects of overeating, mainly, dogrrhea. But she seemed just fine when we left the crash pad.

But as we hit every pothole on I-65 North, she started to get a little restless (attention State of Indiana, driving the right lane on the stretch between Indy and Lafayette is like driving on a pinball machine, and that first rest stop north of town has fissures in the pavement that have likely swallowed a Smart car).

Abby had been happily sleeping when suddenly she sat up, maneuvered and let loose an explosive spray from her back end that would have done a demolition team proud. 

I didn't think a little dog could hold that much.

We got off the road at a looming rest stop. I didn't scold her, she couldn't help it, but patted her and got her cleaned up as best I could (thank you paper towels and a garbage bag in the emergency road kit).  Then, I wiped down the seat and the floor (most of it hitting the floor and the back of my seat).  I then went into the rest rooms to get cleaned up. One woman wrinkled her nose at the smell (my jacket sleeve got it bad) and I just said "you should have seen the other guy!"

I called Partner and told him I'd be a little late. We took another walk, making sure she was completely empty before getting her some fresh water and a blanket. From there, she was all happy, no further discomfort though for the rest of the drive, though I was seriously tempted to stick my ear plugs up my nose, having left the Vick's in my ready bag.

We made our usual stop at I-65 Exit 240 (Lowell/Hebron) at the clean and friendly Arby's that's next door to a very nice Super 8 (even if I don't want a bite to eat, I'll stop there for a friendly hello and a coffee). By that time the truck had aired out, and she was definitely feeling better.
What is that? I smell cow  I love cow.  You gave me some last weekend.
It is! It's a bag of cow!  And it comes with some Cow Jus to dip the sandwich in.
Has anyone told you that large quantities of cow can restore an electrolyte imbalance caused by dogrrhea?
She didn't buy that line of bull.  I guess I'll just go back to sleep.

We're near the state line, you can tell by the cars.  Do you want to take a bet how good THAT is to drive during lake effect snow up here (don't drive that after Labor Day).
And what is this?  I think it's the "Red Green U-Haul, now with improved Duct Tape!
As I rolled into the drive, I knew Partner would be waiting for me with open arms.

And apparently a whole bunch of cleaning supplies.
 Still it was great to be home.
 Look Abby, Dad made you a paracord slip leash in U of I colors!
How about you two go for a long walk while I take a spray hose to the inside of the truck?

Happily coming up the steps inside, she settled right into the house, probably smelling us both there, and finding her favorite toy on the rug when she came inside to home, tail wagging furiously.

It's good to have a Lab back in the house, trying out every single comfy place to lay.  I can almost hear Barkley up above saying "Way to Go Agent Canine C-4, way to go".