Saturday, October 22, 2016

On Perspective

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
- Edmund Burke

This stone sits on a small shelf behind a desk, there in the shadows.  Only a couple of individuals have recognized what it was. What most of us see depends on what we really look at.

Those that see it don't look at it closely. But it speaks of so much that our present generation has forgotten.

Perspective. Recognition. Redemption.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

On Longing

From Abby, who is over two years in her forever home after being dumped by her family at a high kill shelter, heartworm positive.  She is so happy now and with that, some words from Abby on longing.
Wishful longing  (I wish I had some bacon)
Anticipation (I know if I'm quiet and good, I'll get some bacon)
Happiness  (There's bacon on the counter, and it's for me!)
Wanting  (It's been so long since I've had bacon)
Reality  (The bacon is ignoring me and  is going somewhere other than my bowl.)
Let Down  (The bacon is gone!)
 Disbelief (I didn't even get a real  goodbye).
Sadness  (I miss bacon)
Loneliness  (Everyone in the world has bacon but me!)
Hope.  (Someday, there will be the perfect piece of bacon, and I will find it, if I just sit patiently by the counter).
OK, just a little piece, Abby.
You just had to be patient.  God had a plan, you just had to wait until He was finished making it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Night Watches

“At least once every human should have to run for his life, to teach him that milk does not come from supermarkets, that safety does not come from policemen, that 'news' is not something that happens to other people. He might learn how his ancestors lived and that he himself is no different--in the crunch his life depends on his agility, alertness, and personal resourcefulness.”
― Robert A. Heinlein

A late Spring snowstorm hist the Midwest and a city will grind to a halt. An autumn windstorm of vast power catches the west, catching many off guard. I pay attention to weather, the forecasts, the chances for a really bad day. I've learned first hand how nature is more than happy to cut off your breath with a choking whisper of disregard.
Few do. Hollywood actors return from the political fundraisers to their houses build on hillsides that do, and will for eternity, burn to the dirt line every few years. People move to the mountains, build houses the size of New Hampshire, including green lawns that have to be watered in the high desert and then wonder why there's a water shortage and they have to dig a new well so often.

As that commercial from my childhood went "it's not NICE to fool mother nature".

You never know from whence your own moment will come. A couple of winters ago in my own area, a woman talking on her cell phone on ice slicked roads drives into a small pond and drowns mere feet from the bank, somewhere else, someone killed by a falling branch, heavy with ice as they took the dog out. There will not be a Spring storm where someone doesn't try and cross a rain washed road only to be washed away and drowned. The unwary, the naive, don't last long in the world we live in now.
As a child I lived right on the edge of mountains, which I could see out my window, where I could hear all that was around me in the still, dark nights. In those days before the big box marts moved in and a highway came on through, you could live the sound of nature right outside the window at night. I'd listen for the screech of the owl, the tiny fairy feet of a chipmunk on the deck, the lumbering gait of a raccoon, looking for something good to eat, the tiny tracks in the pristine snow. So young, so idealistic, I'd yet to understand that nature often wears a benign disguise to hide the evidence of how both man and beast craft their own survival.

Later, as I was learning to hunt, I'd see the predators, a bobcat shadowing me, or the deer that I was stalking. There in the edge of my vision, deer rifle slung over the shoulder, I'd be watching him watching me. He turns, so thin as he moves sideways that his form seem no larger than a branch, a shadow of tooth and claw, and then he's gone.
A crack of thunder splits the night, a warning to take shelter.  As I hurry back to camp I know that somewhere tonight, blood, hot and dense, bringing both pleasure and pain, will soak into the ground, starting the cycle of life again. From the woods a cry of an animal lingered long on the air, leaving on the breeze the thin echo of regret.  Today you weren't worthy prey, tomorrow who knows

It's not just in the woods, when my mind has turned towards being prey. There's been times where I've turned the key in the ignition of a little Cessna, took a long hard look at the sky, and shut down the engine, tied it back down and headed in. But there were also times I flirted with the cold and the dark with the abandon that one gets when their youthful flesh is untouched.

We all take paths that seem exciting at the time, as we travel the wilderness of a heart, of a landscape. Everything is as it seems to be, you're not mindful of the dangers, the lies that flow from a warm front during a time of cold.  Yet sometimes, the sky clears, you look carefully at where you're at, and where you're headed and realize the wisest thing to do is to walk away, clean and with as little blood as possible.
Fear is a gift of nature, so that the field will be more fairly played. I still spend just as much time outdoors as I did as a young woman. The walks are often alone, but on my hip is a weapon always, especially when out West when the four legged predators are a little bigger than they normally grow in the Midwest.

On the table by the bat phone is a stone I took from a field.  It was not party to anything I was looking at that night, it simply was there, marking the spot where I stood like an unblinking eye. When I picked it up, the rock was still warm, not enough to pull my fingers away, but enough that it possessed a luminescence heat, not the sort that would burn, but a slow steady warmth that the dying fire may scorn, rain would dilute, but only time could truly deplete. I picked it up and held it in my hand, feeling it cool. Not everything of strength and density is cold. Watching a drip of water fall to the ground I thought, even a stone can weep.

Years later I would look at the phone that whispered to me with the deliberate murmur of its waiting. I know it's going to ring, somehow I always seemed to know. It dud, late in the evening, nearly dark. Somewhere on cold air, buzzards soar in strong wind, the stiff breeze giving them the illusion of regression. The truck's warmed up, it's time to take my things and go.
As I headed down the road that night, a yawn escapes from me. My breath was frosty against the window as I turn past the cemetery, where angelic forms in shadowed marble muse, their eyes raised up above as if to ask why.

I could not answer that question, I could only drive the truck to where I've been called, scars hidden underneath a dark blue jacket, the letters that spell out my calling, splayed like snow across the back. I watched my path closely, eyes straight out on the road, checking for downed limbs or water underneath the clearing sky.

I looked out at the shadowed form of fence and trees, broken branches drooping, the landscape empty and uncaring, even as it flows as liquid past, from right to left. What is left was a silent blur, posts and caution signs, shattered with rain, dissolving into ground, each in their ordered place so soon to be disregarded. I opened the window for the sound of nature, and heard it in all its glory, a song simple in melody and tone. It's repentance, and retribution, ecstasy and bereavement; a tune spun on the night air, a disembodied wind singing a lament for those who trod where they should not.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Accessories for your Pet you May or May NOT Need.

There are so many toys and accessories for your animals, it's hard to find one that's really unique  So I  have taken the time to do a little shopping for you.

First up, the cat bonnet.  A modest cat keeps those ears covered and you know you're going to have SO much fun putting this on your clawed best friend.
You don't have to drink alone anymore.  Catnip wine!  Now the cat and you can curl up and watch the latest Lifetime movie while relaxing with some vino.

Poop Freeze.  Who cares about our carbon footprint, use some propellant to freeze your dog's poop.  Add a trebuchet and an annoying neighbor and you have a whole evening of entertainment.
Never touch your pets again, the automatic pet petter.  I'm betting Fluffy has that thing eviscerated within 10 minutes.

The leopard print bra dog toy.  Sure it's embarrassing when Fido drags out one or your unmentionables in front of company. Just distract your pet with this.  Your guests will be uncomfortable but you don't.

Can't wait to sleep with your eye open from now on - the cat Tierra, their look says it all.
The horse head squirrel feeder.  So your neighbor gets a restraining order - think of the fun you'll have.
 The mullet wig.  Your dog missed the 80's, now he or she doesn't have to!
 The dog treat Pez dispenser.  Holds six treats.
 Nothing says good nap like a bed shaped like a hamburger.
 The humping USB device.  Impress your friends AND your boss.
The Kim Jong Un cat scratching post (only $7300 on the internets) handmade by genuine political activists
The Nasty Dry Crap mat.  Barkey had one of those, and it just makes me smile. 
 The Super Mario Brothers cat play center.
 Give your cat a new reason to feel renewed disdain for you.  The cat pirate costume.
 Every cat has aspirations on being a tiny pilot.  Please be responsible and spay or neuter so no "mile high club" action results in a surprise litter.
So, the mailman says he's not afraid of dogs.  Just put on this lion wig and see what he says NOW.
Every dog needs a pair of plaid pajamas.  Mom has one like that.  She calls it "warm", Dad calls it "Scottish Birth Control".
You can't take too many selfies.  Use this handy app to get your pet's attention.  Or be a cheapskate like me and tape a treat to the phone.
 Every dog park needs at least ONE stegosaurus.
Have a horse, add a unicorn horn.
Tired of people you don't know coming up to pet your dog without asking first?  Just put on the werewolf dog muzzle and there will be no more of THAT.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

DIY Time - Buying Tips and Burritos

With storms in the forecast, I did my grocery shopping early.  I shop at a small family-owned grocery. It's not tiny; they have an in-house butcher and baker, but it's MUCH small than a chain grocery, probably a sixth of the size.  But I like that I can wander down EACH aisle looking for things marked down that may not be in their flyer.  I can't do that at the little hell on earth that is Jewel-Osco on a Saturday morning where you almost need a Sherpa to find everything as they are constantly moving items so you have to HUNT for them (oh look, while I'm on this aisle spray cheese for $8!)

The food on the table is one week's worth of groceries and household supplies, for which I paid less than $65. I don't know how many times I've stood in line behind a couple buying food for themselves for one week and it's close to $200, the cart FILLED with prepackaged, pre-prepared food and junk food.  Today at the store they were selling little aluminum containers of fresh cut up stew vegetables for $14 and young people were buying them.  I bought my veggies for this week's stew for $3. Because you know, dicing is so hard.

The only splurges were the extra large pizza, on sale for $6 and some beer. The jars you see are my sourdough starter which was drained to start the week's loaves of bread going and the other some homemade canned sauerkraut which will be eaten with dinner one night.  The sourdough starter was used to make this week's bread (no pricey yeast!) both sandwich and breakfast muffins, and then will then be refreshed daily and by next weekend will have enough to make more bread. I probably save $700 a year baking my own bread  and muffins as opposed to store and coffee shop prices and if you figure in bartering it with friends who have produce or eggs, even better. I got enough fresh garden tomatoes from my friend Birgit (I know Brigid and Birgit - we sound  a dyslexic law firm) to make pasta sauce for several months with just some homemade banana bread and beer bread. Sweet!

There was TP on sale, but I've learned to make my own laundry soap and I clean with DIY vinegar products so I save a bundle in the "home cleaning" aisle.
Wild Yeast Sourdough Beer Bread

There is only one large roast but last week there was a "buy one get one free" on pork tenderloin and the family pack of chicken, which will give me enough for other meals. The cheese this week was "buy one get one free" so that extra package will go in the freezer. There's fruit and fresh veggies for salads and green smoothies, and I have other veggies canned in the basement as side dishes or to make pasta sauces, as well as bulk rice and beans. I did buy a package of brown rice for less than a buck as in our long-term stores we just keep white rice, brown not keeping NEAR as long in prepping supplies. I also bought some canned pinto beans for .75 cents a can on sale, to use some of the canned beans in our supplies that are nearing an expiration date.  That way we make sure what we have stored is cycled through.  I had eggs, but these were .49 cents so I figure I can make a pie crust and use up the leftover veggie and cheese bits to make a quiche with the older eggs for lunch next weekend.

For lunch, Partner likes sandwiches with a piece of homemade pie or cookies so I picked up some fresh cut deli meats, which, when taking advantage of products they've marked down are cheaper than pre-packaged.  With it being super busy, the last couple of weeks I had been toting an Amy's Organic burrito to the office, as it's quick and nothing around work is cheap to eat at.  That with a cookie and an apple I'm set as they are very filling.  Then I realized, I was spending about $40 for lunch for two weeks and they are high in sodium, as is most processed food. I can DIY that.

So my goal today was to come up with a healthy, low sodium, high protein frozen burrito
Start with cooking up 3/4 cup of dry rice in 1 and 1/2 cup water.  In the steamer, brown rice needs about an hour, white only 40.  I used some of the liquid from a can of Rotel to replace the water.
While that cooks, get out your seasoning.  I addTablespoonepoon each of Penzey's Adobo seasoning, cumin and

Cowboy Crooner Hot Sauce to 3 cans of drained and rinsed pinto beans which I had simmering with 1/2 cup water, 1/2 a chopped onion and some fresh garlic (optional, use bell peppers if you don't like garlic and/or onion).  Simmer til the beans are softening and the liquid is gone. On medium heat about 15-20 minutes. Note:  The Cowboy Crooner is the mildest of all the Scoville Brothers sauces - if you use a hotter sauce reduce amount ofhot  sauce to 1 teaspoon.
 When the rice was done, I put it in a bowl to cool faster.
And then I added a can of Rotel tomatoes and chilis and a small splash of lime juice.

Using some store brand generic whole wheat tortillas (fajita sized) I started assembling when the rice and beans were cool to the touch (so the tortilla doesn't get soggy) using a generous 1/3 cup each of beans and rice and about 1/4 cup sharp cheddar. You can add a bit of green or red chili sauce, but I kept mine simple so it didn't drip on my desk while I work.
Don't use so much filling you can't roll it up and tuck the ends under.  You're not going for a Burrito the size of your head but a protein filled, healthy meal or snack.

I ran out of tortillas before I ran out of filling so I used a half dozen leftover smaller Sprouted Grain Tortillas from when I made soft tacos one night.
 To those,  add some scrambled egg and some salsa for a breakfast burrito.

In a little over an hour, most of which was rice cooking time, I had eight lunch sized burritos and six smaller breakfast burritos.   The cost was less than $8 and most of that was the tortillas which can easily be made as well. Buying the same amount of Amy's burritos would have been $56 at our nearest health food store price.

The larger burritos are about 400 calories with close to 20 grams of protein and very little sodium since I used low sodium beans and rinsed them thoroughly.

These will go into the freezer.
To serve, unwrap, wrap in a  paper towel and nuke from frozen for 2 to 3 minutes for the larger burrito and about two for the smaller (may vary depending on your microwave.)

This had a great taste and a nice bit of heat without "reach for a glass of milk" heat.

DIY - not because you have to, but because it feels good to do something yourself and have money left over the important things (like good single malt scotch and a ready supply of ammo)