Friday, April 29, 2016

Bringing Home the Bacon

As my long time readers know, I  tend to be in an environment on and off work where it's pretty much all male.  I'm used to that.  In my last professional position, the guy I replaced was a General (gee, no expectations there). My current  "Secretary" is a guy, ex Army.  One of my long time best friends, outside of Partner, is a guy, Army CID.  It's taught me a lot about honor, sweat, blood and hard work and pulling together as a team.

But it does give me a different perspective on how very different, and how very alike, we all can be.

Names have been changed to protect the guilty.  Remember a couple of years ago and a talk of a looming bacon shortage?

Me:  OMG Aporkalypse! 

A: (pulling out the news article and passing it around)  I sent messages last night to the guys on Facebook warning them about a possible bacon shortage!

B.  How did they react?

A. (with a look of concern) "Dude, they unfriended me!
I understand, because even though I eat a lot of fruit and veggies and bean and grain based proteins, I LOVE my bacon. Especially THIS Bacon - brought to us from Indiana.
Everyday friends like you on Facebook 

Once in a lifetime friends bring you Amish bacon from BeefMart when they come over.

It's Friday night - WHAT to do with the bacon? How about cheeseburgers with bacon caramelized with honey, molasses, bourbon and chili? (yes, some wine was harmed in the shooting of this food post).
Four pieces of bacon were brushed with a mixture of about a Tablespoon of honey, 1 teaspoon molasses, 2 teaspoons Bourbon and a couple of dashes of ancho and regular chili powder, as they came out of the pan, almost done, then popped under the broiler just long enough to caramelize the sugars and finish cooking
That topped a pound of burger mixed with a teaspoon of McCormick Molasses Bacon Grillmates seasoning, a pinch of crushed red pepper and half of a small onion caramelized in the bacon drippings, the patties then grilled on the barbecue.
Top with some smoked cheddar and fresh from the oven hamburger rolls (telework days allow for rising yeast) and insert theme from Jaws here as Abby pops up from the depth of the rug.
I LIKE Fridays.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Preparing to Prep - Living on a Minimal Food Budget

There have been a number of people posting about eating off the equivalent money they'd get on SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) to highlight how hard it is to eat healthy and economically on public assistance.

This post isn't about the habits of those on public assistance, as it's easy to criticize.  But I wanted simply to give an example of how, with a little planning, you can feed a family for much LESS than the amount of money normally allocated in such programs (about $194 per person per month) even assuming you contribute nothing of your own money towards your family meals.
Banana bread

This weeks food  - $50 for the two of us, including a sweet bread and some cookies.   I've rounded everything up to the nearest half dollar.  I do the bread baking on Saturday and make cookies or some other baked treat.  I make soup or stew on Sunday and chopped and Tupperware the veggies so there's little time to prepare them on a work night. Many meals are meat free, with beans and grain for complete protein. Nothing is wasted, so there's always little bits of peppers or chilis or such in the freezer to add to soup and beans dishes as well as some bones with a little meat on them for soups. Any leftovers not immediately eaten are frozen for lunches the following week. We have  brewed iced tea, not pop, and I'll make an "energy drink" out of a splash of fruit juice mixed with 2 Tablespoons of Braggs apple cider vinegar and lots of water and carried in a recycled glass beverage bottle.
Both of us pack our lunches and have a water jug AND a thermos and do not buy coffee or soft drinks at work or on the way to or from. I'll make muffins to have as a mid morning treat for coffee or tea. Plus - when a local Sears went south, we picked up a deep freezer for $100 for the basement.

So total food and treats if one is closely watching the budget and has essentials on hand in bulk already -  $200 for the month for two adults.

We are blessed with a good education (I paid for mine 100% on my own, my husband was blessed with parents, having done so themselves, were able to help him significantly). With that, we have jobs that pay very well  But being raised by parents that understood a budget, mine growing up in the Great Depression, we are quite fine eating on a budget so that there is money available for unexpected expenses, helping family members and charities, including 100% of all the sales of the Book of Barkley and Saving Grace to animal rescue. That's important to us.
Yes, we have some extra splurge meals with more expensive ingredients (Amish Bacon!  Scotch!) I'ts because we are blessed to where we  can and we usually eat out once a month, someplace cheap and fun like Thai.  But we also know that if money was really tight we could eat VERY well, with adequate protein and minerals with a little planning and some time in the kitchen.  Even with treats, an adult beverage on the weekends and sometimes extra dairy from a local dairy farm we spend less than $300 a month on food, that extra money going to help my Dad or others in need.  I've stood in line at Walmart and watched someone with a cart full of prepared and prepackaged meals and junk food spend that in a week for a small family.

There have been years we've gone in with others for a 4-H cow, the cost per pound being really low, but this year, with a move, and remodeling, we just watch for sales.
Range "MackMuffin" with whole wheat sourdough bread rounds.

But it takes planning - don't wait until you lose your job before establishing a larder of bulk supplies. Do it when times are plentiful, and you'll have less to worry about later, because it's vital that you have certain items stored up to make a super cheap meal plan work.  You will need to spend a months worth of food budget minimum, laying in supplies if you want the absolutely minimum cost on dried and bulk items, not something that's practical once the emergency strikes.

Bread - I make it from scratch, using a sourdough starter made out of wild yeast in place of commercial yeast and a food processor, it takes minutes to prep, then just the rise and bake time for a couple of loafs and a batch of muffins or rolls. An hour of prep, time to rise, and a couple of hours to bake up everything, and I've got bread products for the week for a couple of bucks.
Wild yeast sourdough starter

Shopping - I will hit 3 stores if it saves me 3 or 4 bucks, as long as the gas to go there doesn't eat up the difference. I regularly check ads to see what's on sale where and I'm not afraid to clip a coupon. Make sure you look at your receipt - I've been charged other than the sale price at a couple of the big chain grocers.  I make a list.  If I see something super cheap not on the list, I will pick it up to add to the larder. I will NOT buy something just because "it looks good!" if it's not on the list,

On hand:
Home canned: salsas, applesauce (I trade bread/cookies for huge bag of apples each Fall with non baking colleague who has a bunch of trees), some veggies, barbecue sauce
frozen soup bones from previous roasts
sourdough starter
powdered milk, vegetable oil, peanut butter, pasta
vinegar and spices in bulk
rice and dried beans - in bulk
flour and sugar - in bulk
water - we take refillable thermoses to work, the tap water here tastes good and frankly, half of the bottled water is from a tap in some other city plus we keep a minimum of  3 months of bleach treated water, per person (including the dog) with prepping supplies.
4-H cow burgers with homemade buns

Cost - About $50 for the week for Partner and I and that included a number of meals with meat and eggs.

Daily Goal  - 3 servings of protein
5 servings of fruits and veggies
A treat (usually a cookie, sometimes a piece of pie when fruit is plentiful and cheap)
3 servings of whole grain carbs (my husband may eat more, the bread is super cheap to make)
2 servings dairy


Use of the bulk items for the week (spices, flour, bones, powdered milk, dried beans, oil, vinegar) $6.00
coffee or tea for the week (made at home and carried to work)  $2
Oatmeal $1
One small package chicken thighs (sale)   $2
package of boneless breasts (for sandwiches)  (free - this was a buy one get one from the previous week)
1 pound ground beef  $4 (if money was extra tight, I would replace with lentils for meat sauce or sloppy joes on the homemade bread)
Fresh Green Beans - $2
Fresh squash  - $2
2 Cucumbers (great with rice vinegar and a dash of honey as a salad)  $1.50
2 bags of apples (Aldi)  $5
Veggies: a number of cans purchased on  scratch and dent clearance  $4 total
Carrots:  2 bags on sale for $1.50
3 pounds oranges (sale)  $2
eggs - free - bartered with homemade bread for someone that has chickens but doesn't bake
bananas  .50 cents for a bunch on sale
Tibetan curried lentils

Potatoes 5 pound bag on sale .99 cents
2 onions   $1.50
package of  whole romaine for sandwiches and salad  $1
1/4 deli pound swiss (sale)  $1
1/2 pound mozzarella  $2
Canned mushrooms (sale).50
Bag of peppers  (Aldi sale) $2
Big tub of cottage cheese (or plain yogurt) $5
Bag of frozen dried berries (for oatmeal and/or muffins)  $2
Generic  boxed mac and cheese  .50
Butter (free with $25 grocery purchase)
Ham and Bean soup

Even better,  there will be some soup and beans to be frozen for a lunch the next week
Any leftover cheese  or chicken will be mixed with leftover pasta for a casserole or stuffed baked potatoes the following week.

Menu for the week:
Breakfast - work day oatmeal (with some powdered milk and cinnamon mixed in)  and tea or coffee or egg with toast or a homemade muffin
sourdough raspberry muffin

weekend - hash-browns with any leftover onions and scrambled eggs or omelette  or pancakes made with leftover plain yogurt and a fried egg

Lunch - For Partner:  peanut butter or chicken sandwich (sliced or chicken salad with veggie or fruit bits left from the previous weekend) with Swiss and homemade mayo and an apple
Homemade baked potato chips (400 F. oven, lightly coat 2 rimmed baking sheets with non stick spray.  Slice potatoes super thin with food processor and place 1/4 inch apart on sheet.  Season and bake, rotating halfway trough until golden brown - about 30 minutes)
extra fruit for afternoon snack
homemade peanut butter or oatmeal cookie

For me:  baked potato with a bit of salsa and cottage cheese with some carrots,  applesauce for dessert


Cottage cheese or leftover soup or casserole from the freezer with a slice of bread and a small apple
an extra fruit for a snack
Lebanese herbed rice - with homegrown herbs and bulk cow, less than .75 cents a serving

weekend lunches - boxed  mac and cheese to which I've added a little leftover corn, a little leftover chicken or ground beef, a little pepper and salsa, topped with buttered bread crumbs and baked
canned green beans

Leftover barbecue shredded chicken served on homemade rolls with extra sauce and canned corn.

Baked potato stuffed with  leftover veggies, salsa, cheeses, whatever bits are in the fridge.

leftover soups or stews (frozen)

leftover pizza


(1) Split Pea Soup (from Scratch) with potatoes and onions (beef bone to add seasoning)
Cornbread from scratch

(2) Meat Sauce and Pasta (made with  from scratch sauce from previous week, adding peppers and ground beef).
Canned corn
Garlic toast (homemade bread, a little oil and garlic powder toasted in a pan)
Lasagna bread

(3) Baked potatoes stuffed with meat sauce with a sprinkle of cheese or lasagne bread (meatsauce, 3 cheese stuffed day old rolls)
Can of peas and carrots
Fresh green beans

(4) Homemade lentil soup (beef bone and spices for seasoning)
leftover cornbread
carrot sticks

(5) Chicken with  homemade canned barbecue sauce
Steamed rice
Canned corn
Remainder of fresh green beans

(6)   Pizza Night - deep dish this time, homemade. topped with  homemade Canadian bacon (much cheaper than the store bought), leftover veggies bits  and cheese
Romaine salad with cucumber and homemade vinaigrette.  Croutons made out of older bread.

(7) White beans with ham shank and spices
Garlic toast made with homemade bread, sprinkled with a little cheese
Carrots or canned veggies of choice.
Cookies for dessert and some sweet tea sitting out on the front porch

So whether you are budgeting or just learning to be more prepared, start getting creative in the kitchen and with your meal prep and prepping.  It might save you more than a little money some day.

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Barkley Memory - Sage Advice

Let go of the life that was planned.
 Only then can you see the life that was waiting.
 -  The Book of Barkley

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Lessons From Our Parents

There is no greater enhancement to beauty, than confidence.
- Brigid

I found it there in the closet of my big brother's room, a little Savage, that had been my Dad's. It still had no child safety lock and didn't when I first picked it up when I was 12.

My parents believed in providing us challenges. I was on the back of a big horse before I was even tall enough to climb on without assistance. At first I sat with an intrepid awkwardness, even with some lessons and the adventuresome spirit that seems to have been inherited by all the women in our family. The mare had been ridden by all the kids in the family and she seemed to sense my timidity and moved slowly and patiently as I took measure of her and myself as my parents watching carefully. I broke into a grin as she began to pick up speed with my encouragement. Leaning forward I let out a yell as we broke into a gallop, as if by doing so I could outpace the mare. We ran out free of the fence lines, free of ourselves, racing with a quality of movement in our motion totally separate from the pound of hooves or the whoop of joy as I discovered flight in its oldest form. So it was with all discoveries my parents exposed us to in that wild country, the next of which was in the form of that Savage .22.

For my parents a firearm wasn't some purpose of evil, but something that would help us learn and grow, with learning to use it as important as the possession. I held it, wood smooth under my hand, the sun at the quarry where we would shoot it shining off of the barrel. When I touched it, I felt an excitement of responsibility and promise whose reason I could not put into words at that age, being too young to articulate that. I felt responsible. Yes. Responsible. For something that cost most than many months allowance would ever replace. Responsible for the trust my parents put in me in handing over the legacy of guns in our house. Responsible for myself, my brothers. To use it properly.

So we watched, we learned. We started with soda cans in that old quarry, or out in the woods, using the center of the can as a little target area. We were well aware that for an adult it was a right, but a child it was a privilege, and one we worked hard at our schoolwork and chores, to maintain. Responsibility had to be earned. Trust had a price.

We paid attention, we listened. It didn't mean we didn't make mistakes, but they weren't potentially deadly ones. We weren't taught just how to clear a misfire, or clean our weapon or to hit a nice grouping. We were given the talents to be safe and ethical shooters, guardians of an outdoor heritage of survival, stewards of the essential liberties which we now pass on to our children.

When we showed we could handle the smaller rifles and shotguns, a family member let us try out an 8 mm Mauser. It was heavy, it seemed to be as long as I was tall, and when I fired it, the recoil about knocked me down. There was a flash of powder and light as Thor's hammer struck in a slow, solid repercussion of sound and force that I felt all the way down my legs, in muscles and places I'd forgotten I had. Then the air cleared, a vacuum, an interval of recognition and amazing clarity and I knew something; in the tremble of flesh and the warmth of my hands. I wanted this. I wanted this again. I don't care if it will probably hurt me some in the process.

So many days where we would go out. We shot until we were out of ammo and our arms ached, and even then, worn out from the day, handed the guns back carefully with deep and somnolent reluctance. Even today I feel that, ammo can echoing, trigger finger aching from the pull of the .38, and I hate to leave - one more, one more shot. Please. The last bullet is carefully loaded, and its discharge explodes into sound; a report out of proportion to the small piece of air it pushed aside, as if by firing it obtained some sort of ravening possibility, not to be inhibited by anything, not by threat, or by cold or by wind. It fired in a burst of sound that put one last neat clean hole through the dead center of the target. Then the echo of silence.

I gather my range gear in an old green military tote bag in which are a just a few pistol pouches and supplies. The bag is old and worn, not much different than that I used as a child. The smell of gunpowder kissing my hair, the ache in my arm and my hand making me feel so very alive, no different than those days so long ago. In the quiet of a range gone cold, I hear my Dad's voice in my head. Well done kiddo, well done. I'd been here two hours, I could tell that from the sun, and the sound of the many birds in the trees. They were everywhere, constant and ceaseless, happy, chattering along with the various conversations as the shooters took a break. Shooters sharing information, knowledge and history, just as my parents shared with us.

I was a bit stiff, the knee aching as it does when there is a pressure change in the atmosphere.  But the walk to the truck parked away from the range line would cure that, the urgent beating of my heart timed with the slap of the gun bag against my hip as I covered the distance across the now empty parking lot. My weapon, so much different than my first, yet still a paladin of equity, a fighter for justice.

I walk with that steady gait that is both aim and purpose, being free with that singular carrying of arms that abrogates both timidity and hesitation. It's a stride borne of training and practice so as to relegate fear to a place far away. I may be alone, but I am safe. I am safe because someone loved me enough to give me the tools to be confiden

Thursday, April 21, 2016

RIP Prince - Gently Weeping

Prince's music and his genius were the reason he was one of the few musicians that pulled me away from a budding career and schooling, a schedule too busy for the usual interests of young people. But I listened, so much and more than once, standing in line in West Coast rain to see the movie Purple Rain, and buying the music, even though money was beyond tight. That music got me through make ups, break ups, bad landings, and bad decisions, as I finally came into my own.

Look at the video. 2004 George Harrison Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction with Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff: Lynne and George's Son, Dhani Harrison. There  about 34 seconds in, when he picks the high E rapidly, while alternatively fretting the note and leaving it open. I’ve never seen anyone do this since. . . ever. Whether you are a fan or not, this is guitar legend. The look on George Harrison's son behind him says it all.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Happy Birthday Mr. B.

Yes, I know they are your panties. I'm blaming Stockholm Syndrome and I did it for the Cat.

Happy Birthday

. - for many years of friendship and memories, especially those with our four legged friends.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Quote for the Week

Confidence is silent.  Insecurities are loud.

Friday, April 15, 2016

When Dogs Dream

We've all seen our dogs when they dream. The back legs may twitch, sometimes they give out a soft little woof.  Barkley on more than occasion gave out a long  mournful howl, like the Hound of the Baskervilles.

But I wonder - what does Abby Normal dream she is doing?  Is she having an adventure?  Is she famous? Is she stealing stuffed animals with squeakers?

I guess I'll never know.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Abby Normal the Labrador here, blogging for my Mom tonight.

Comcast quit working for over six hours today, for the whole Village.  Mom was trying to work from home, and ended up having to use leave since she couldn't work, and there wasn't enough time to actually make the trip into the city to go to the workplace there since she had her acupuncturist appointment on her lunch break in the early afternoon. Plus she missed a dead lion she was supposed to handle and she has a new secretary, a  young man just out of the Army, and she wasn't online to help HIM get help with some things.
Let's just say she's a little bit CRANKY tonight.  She's banging around the kitchen with a wooden spoon muttering HBO phrases that involve "Comcast."  Plus she said this Friday on Casual Day she's going to go in  to work wearing a bathrobe and a tiara and have her box of wine under her arm.

I think I will stay out of her way for a bit.  Dad has been warned and will arrive home bearing alcohol and a box of Dots.  Thank goodness there's homemade fried chicken left from last night or dinner might have been just something on the rocks.

Abby  - reporting from the safety of the living room.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Good Advice

"My advice is keep your lips away from the spinning things."
 -Adam Savage - Mythbusters

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Strutting for the Seniors - a Dog Fundraiser

The Book of Barkley is a monthly contributor to Lab Rescue LRCP of Maryland, one of the first lab rescue groups we met after the book was written. It's a wonderful group of people who donate so many hours of their time as volunteers. One of those special ladies is Carol Lagunda, who has become a good  friend. She is a multiple "foster failure" taking in the Senior dogs that stand poor chances of being adopted and keeping them, now including Gomer, Gemna and Queenie
Queenie is extra special.  She came with a large inoperable cancerous tumor on her leg and was quite advanced in years.  Her previous owners did not have it treated (and it was likely treatable when it was small) and when her days grew shorter they just left her scared and hurting at a shelter and walked away.  Carol was NOT going to let her go to yet another home when she got comfortable with her family as a foster, bonding especially with Gemma, another elderly female lab that's a permanent member of the family. She's a well loved and happy member of the household now. There's nothing the doctors can do, for any amount of money, but with good Veterinary care, a warm bed and excellent food she's comfortable and enjoying her days filled with love.

I know how glad I am we adopted Senior Lab Abbie from a rescue group in Indiana.

So this year, with Lab Rescue doing their annual fundraiser, think about sponsoring Carol (and Queenie) in their

walk to raise money for the shelter.  Lab Rescue LRCP places over A THOUSAND Labs into loving homes each year and the Vet bills, getting them healthy and fostered, can be in the six figures.  Even a $5 pledge helps the dogs. The Book of Barkley fund got her going and a number of folks have added to the amount (thanks everyone!)

Thanks to all of you that foster, transport, walk or love a senior rescue. And thank you especially for everyone that supports animal rescue.
Walkies!  Walkies!