Monday, November 30, 2015

Don't Say You Weren't Warned.

There's a post up for meatless Monday on the diet blog but I have to share something that was whipped up in the kitchen the other morning for breakfast in just a few minutes for my hungry husband who can eat about a zillion carbs a day and not gain weight.

I bow before you, oh great waffle iron, creator of square Frisbees of goodness.

This one is about as easy as it gets.  Cinnamon Roll Waffles.  Get a tube of  Pillsbury Grands Cinnamon Rolls, Separate and pop each one into a  hot waffle iron for 3 minutes.  Add a splash of milk and vanilla to the "icing" as syrup.
My blood sugar just jumped off the roof looking at the photos but they were really tasty.

Barkley on Helping the Blind

The holiday weekend has drawn to a close.  It was a quiet one, spent at home while Abby Lab mostly napped.  My Dad spends Thanksgiving with my cousin, who is like a daughter to him, her losing her own Dad at a young age.   So he will get some good food and company until I can go out to see him closer to Christmas and New Years.

We had a great time Saturday but I woke up Sunday with a head cold in full swing -  so the day sort of dragged.  But there was one bit of awesome news.

There is an organization in Kansas called  the Kansas Audio-Reader Network at the University of Kansas.  They are a reading and information service for blind, visually impaired and print disabled individuals in Kansas and Western Missouri.  According to their website "We read daily newspapers, magazines, and best-selling books on the air and on the Internet, 24 hours a day and we offer automated newspaper readings by telephone."

This  non-profit service has brought a lot of joy to those in the area that are blind, or otherwise have physical limitations that prevent them from enjoying books and printed material.  The readers are all volunteers and they have great support of not just the university they are part of, but Kansas and Missouri Lions Club.

So why am I sharing this?

The Book of Barkley was selected as one of the best sellers they would be reading for the visually impaired.  I will be receiving a copy of the reading as well, which I can't wait to hear.

Their website is:

It's a wonderful thing they are doing, not for profit, but simply to help their community.

I've not mentioned this, but this is something close to my heart.  I have a still young family member that has lost much of their vision due to a hereditary issue that results in retinal detachment, with little that can be done, so it's a subject close to my heart.

Barkley, for one, would be very happy to be part of this effort and we both give our support and thanks to the organization.
Well I CAN'T lay on my bed,  someone stepped all over it with their paws and it's not poofy any more.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Black and White Sunday - Our Own Little Miracles.

"Everything worth meaning is made up of so many small parts, its moments, its words, its acts, the skin and bone and the nucleus within us that contains its own fire, somewhere deep inside. We're our own walking fate, and we're our own little miracles, the atoms from which we're made; not so different from the atoms of the earth, the air, the water, all of us formed from that blazing nucleus of the stars--Heaven, binding us together." -  The Book of Barkley - LB Johnson

Thanks to our hosts Nola and Sugar for the Blog Hop.

Saturday, November 28, 2015


Every year, between Thanksgiving and Christmas  - Mom and Dad have a bunch of Dad's friends from his college days (U of I Engineering School) over for snackies. Mom is almost always on call on Thanksgiving so one of the junior probies with small children and a large doesn't have to be.  She and Dad will make a small turkey breast and/or pork roast with some sides from the deli for a quick, simple meal, having visited their parents a previous weekend for an early Thanksgiving gathering.

But then, they'll have a get together after Turkey Day with lots of fun snacky foods for their friends.

This is my SECOND holiday season in my furever home and I'm loving it.   I'll probably have to be baby gated in Mom's office again while the food is out, but I have a nice comfy bed in there and Mom said she'd bring me snackies while people can give me pets over the baby gate.
On party day, baking starts at first light, and cooking continues on until the first of the guests will arrive. Mom and Dad keep busy, talking shop and other things while things baked, simmered and seared. Mom has friends that don't don't  meat so she always makes things they can enjoy as well.

Mom gets the buffet cleared off a bit so there's room for the glasses for the adult beverages while I patrol to make sure she didn't drop any crumbs.

Uh oh, busted trying to table surf for goodies.

Before the sun was even up, Mom put up the 60's retro aluminum Christmas tree  that goes up in the front room with a original, rotating color wheel (come on, some of you remember having one of these as a kid).
Then the bed will be made cleared off so there's a place to put coats and a few antique chairs will come up from the basement so there's room for everyone to sit in the living room.

Here's some items from this years menu as well as a few photos of some things from last year.

Cream Cheese topped with  Jalapeno Jelly (a dip combination you have to try) with crackers and veggies.

Mom's famous Hot Sweet Onion Dip, for which the recipe was requested by everyone, served with wedges of fresh Pita bread and paw-tato chips.

2 cups chopped sweet onion
3/4 cup 2% sharp cheddar
1 teaspoon hot smoked Hungarian Paprika
1/2 teaspoon Heavy Metal Hot hot sauce (from Scoville Brothers in Indiana)
1 cup mayo (not non-fat)
dash of pepper

Mix and top with 1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan and a dash of more smoked, hot paprika

Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes until bubbling.

The humans usually lick the bowl clean of this stuff.

The crock pot will get set up for Mom's party meatballs. These are vegetarian ones that EVERYONE loves.  Start with 3 packages of Gardein veggie meat balls and prepare as directed. Then in a pan, over medium heat, mix the following ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes, adding a couple Tablespoons of water in if you like a thinner sauce. Pour over cooked meatballs and keep warm in the crockpot with toothpicks to spear them. Double the recipe if you're going to have a crowd. (makes 3 dozen meatballs).

2 cups tomato sauce
1 and 1/2 cup honey (substitute 2 cups of brown sugar if your guests are vegans)
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons plus two teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup finely grated shallot
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon jarred minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
A pinch of crushed red pepper
1 and 3/4  teaspoon Jane's Crazy Mixed up Salt (a low sodium herb blend), or 1 and 1/4 teaspoon regular salt)
Dad's homemade yeast rolls, cut in half and topped with:

(1) goat cheese and sauteed veggies and herbs, then broiled
(2) steak marinated in vermouth then rubbed with espresso salt and chipotle and seared, on top of pepper jack, also broiled

Plus herb encrusted pork with garlic mayo and Gruyere served on sourdough toasts
Finger sandwiches with turkey, cranberry and cream cheese, or veggies and cream cheese..
Bacon wrapped dates ready to go in the oven to bake.

Chips, fresh veggies and sliced fruit.  MMM.  There's Dad's caramel apple dip.

There will be eggnog again,  with the bar readied with some things for cocktails, plus red wine, mead and . . . Liquid Wrench? That got a few smiles last time before it was set aside and drinks mixed.

Of course there were toys, you can't have a house full of geeks without toys. Radio Controlled helicopters, board games and of course, the stuff in the shop. The hosts and designated drivers got to play with the lathe in the Bat Cave. (I think the camera crew for this one got some spiked eggnog but you get the somewhat blurry idea).
. . . . while guests more loosened up with Liquid Wrench had the option to play with Mr. Blick, International Bean of Mystery (much safer).
I'm looking forward to this years event, like in previous years,  the food will go quickly, the conversation lively.  With Dad's friends starting their own families now, it's getting harder and harder to get together so this is always a good gathering.

It's was a fun time, even as the food disappeared, no limbs were lost in the Bat Cave and there was only one or two near mid airs with the RC helicopters. Time to open the White Elephant Gifts, which some of the group brought to share last year.
There was an assortment of the deliberately useless and tacky, including the Billy Mays Slider Maker (because just making 5 small burgers is SO hard but wait there's more act now and get the special slider flipper for only $19.95 shipping and handling.) Another fun one was the small children's story books, hard bound. Or shall I say 10 for $10 BADLY edited children's story books. "Jack and her Brother Jill went up the hill" (??) and a little Red Riding Hood where the editor just couldn't handle the historical ending of Red Riding Hood which did NOT end happily ever after, instead, substituting a vague, "we're not sure what happened to Red Riding Hood, no animals were harmed in the making of this book. THE END."

Before heading home, with everyone getting leftovers to take, there was dessert.

Dad will make  trifle with butter rum pound cake, whipping cream and berries. Mom will make several chocolate rolled cakes with fluffy cream cheese frosting and freeze them in the weeks prior to the party.  She will then thaw them and serve with some homemade peppermint bark. Mom makes up a little plate of the leftover sweets and takes them to the older next door neighbors who just LOVE that each year, especially the leftover cake.

There was no big screen TV, no fuss other than food, just lots of conversation and laughter, card games and quips, and remembrances of parties past when Barkley was still with them (one year there were marshmallow guns). As always, there's big fun watching Dad with a butane torch, finishing off the classic touch to the evening, fresh creme brule' to go with a cup of coffee before everyone heads home.

And of course - even though everyone is stuffed, Mom puts out a plate of her deep fried rosettes, dusted with powdered sugar and some little plastic containers so everyone can take a few home.

Dad looked so handsome in his bow tie and it was good to see so many friends we'd not seen all year.
I think I hear someone at the door! Mom Mom, it's time to PAW-TY!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Love is an Exploding Cigar

Love is an Exploding Cigar We Willingly Smoke.
 -Lynda Barry
The picture above pretty much sums up when my husband and I met and anyone married to a redhead will relate.
Here he is trying to look serious (and yes, he has blue eyes to match the shirt).

Tonight - since it's been an very busy week in squirrel land, just some general silliness for those of you in a relationship, or navigating the minefields of dating.
Love is an Exploding Cigar We Willingly Smoke -

Lynda Barry

Like Dancing with the Stars, if you ask some women, romance and marriage have their own point system.

Frankly I don't keep track, it's like that whole Weight Watchers thing. My heart goes "kaboop", there's the smell of chocolate or gunpowder in the air and I don't think about points.

However, I am also told that having been raised in a very testosterone laden household (all, including Mom were/are LEO, military, defense or special ops), I don't "think like a girl" .

For example, my husband and I were recently on the couch discussing a book set deep back in history where women pretty much gave birth, toiled in the house and died too young. I said "I just don't think I would have fit in back then" to which he replied "LB., back then you would have been burned at the stake as a witch". 

That actually made me smile.

But today at work some male buddies were talking about the female "point system", totally in the dark as to why some things they did made their spouses go from all happy and warm and "look my clothes fell off" to a a "fine" and a door slam. "Just what is this whole keeping points thing", they asked?

So, in another installment of  romance tips here is the point system as we know it.


You make the bed (+1)

You make the bed, but forget the matching useless pillow shams (-1)

You cover the rumpled sheets with that nice tarp you brought Bambi home after deer hunting so the blood stains will dry out (-100)


You make a special trip to the store when she's not feeling well and buy her something she needs (+1)

It's a girly product such as nail polish (+2)

It's raining (+10)

You return without the item but with this month's issue of Big Racks. (-10)

It's not a magazine about hunting (-300)


You check out a suspicious noise at night (+1)

You check out a suspicious noise, and its the wind (0)

You check out a suspicious noise and it is something (+5)

You fling your shoe at it - hitting it soundly (+10)

It's her cat (-50)


You stay by her side the entire party (0)

You stay by her side for a while, then leave to chat with another friend (-2)

Named Trixi (-10)

Trixi is a professional stripper (-50)

Trixi is showing off her new implants (-200)


You take her out to dinner (+2)

You take her out to dinner and it's not the flaming chicken wing place or a sports bar (+3)

Okay, it involves flaming chicken wings(-2)

and sports (-3)

And it's all you can eat night (-3)

It's a flaming chicken wing place, it's all you can eat night, your face is painted the colors of your favorite team and the gift you got her is a "We're No. 1" giant foam finger (-200)


You take her to a movie (+1)

You take her to a movie she likes (+3)

You take her to a movie you hate (+6)

You take her to a movie you like (-2)

It's called 'Mutant Zombie Hookers" (-8)

You lied and said it was about kittens and starred Julia Roberts (-25)


She asks, "Does this make me look fat?" (-5)
Sorry guys - You lose points just by playing

You hesitate in responding (-10)

You reply "Not as much as what you wore to work today?" (-35)

Any other response (-20)


When she's had a bad day at work, you listen, pour her a glass of wine and give her a hug. (+4)

You listen, through two glasses of wine and a little whining. (+50)

All while you are missing Top Gear. (+200)

Which you are able to watch if you turn your head just so and pretend to focus on her face as you look past her into the living room, until she catches you. (-200)

So now you know what the point system is. But trust me gentlemen if you find the right woman you won't have to worry so much about that. For in a truly good relationship it's not about points.
Unless animals are involved.  If you love and care for animals -  it's serious bonus points.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Strays - A Story of Giving Thanks

From Saving Grace - A Story of Adoption  - Amazon #1 Best Seller by Author L.B. Johnson

I have some very close friends that have a half dozen cats at their country home, all of which I believe were dumped out there by the unfeeling .  All were found cold and extremely hungry. It's good to see them now, well fed, happy and cared for as indoor cats in a spacious country home with a huge basement for them to explore. I remember evenings with my old black lab Barkley up on the couch, surrounded by the original four cats, their purr of content as they lay on top of the couch or next to him, drawing on the warmth of his big furry body, suffering the occasional snoot with a clawless and gentle swat to his nose.

These cats are family, but still, I am a dog person, even as I have a soft spot for any animal that is homeless or mistreated.  Walking through my neighborhood with Abby, our new rescue dog, yesterday, I saw a cat, arrested within the eyes of that dog, pulled up high in the apostrophe of fear as he held poised for fight or flight.  I pulled Abby gently away, as she had cats at her foster Mom's house and we weren't in for a rumble. But I didn't want Abby to get a clawed nose for her curiosity.  The cat's coat was in good condition as far as I could tell,  but it was a thin, likely a stray. I was going to see where it went, where it might have a home, but it was gone in a flash before I could check on its well being. I'd seen her before, always hanging around the same spot in the fence, where she likely had found a safe place to sleep.
We see them on the streets, in shelters, the fortunate ones collected by rescue groups, the unfortunate--the look in their eyes, heartrending.

But animals aren't the only "strays" we see, people fall into that same category.  I'm not talking homeless, necessarily, but those people that by circumstance or transplant find themselves in a new city, for a new job, or a fresh start, where they don't know anyone, or are stranded somewhere while traveling for a day or days, due to weather and fate.

I found myself in that circumstance the first year I was in Indiana.  I'd only been on the job a few weeks, not enough time to make any friends. I'd moved here from back east, too far to visit any old friends after the cost of the move. My parents were in San Diego at my Step Aunt's condo, where they spent every Thanksgiving and Christmas after my Mom died and my dad remarried two years later, to a widow with three adult kids.  I wasn't invited-- the place not being big enough for the whole blended family.  Dad felt bad I'd be alone, but he wanted his wife to be happy, her time with her sister, growing short, the rest of her siblings gone. I understood that and would visit them for a belated Christmas at home on their return, but it still made the holiday lonely.
I remember walking out to my little VW Jetta from my workplace the night before Thanksgiving that first year there, as the sky spat cold rain, and felt a tear on my face. I'm not sure why, as a professional pilot in my younger days, I'd spent many a holiday alone, on call or in a hotel.  Years, later, holidays were busy times at work.  But that night it sort of got to me-- I really had no place to go but home to Barkley and a sandwich, my kitchen torn up for remodeling. I was hoping someone would remember that I had no family near, and would turn around, pulling back into the parking lot to ask me to join them for dinner the next day. As I walked to the car, I got a gleam out of the corner of my eye in the darkness, a movement and I smiled thinking someone remembered me and was turning back with an invitation. But it was nothing more than an illusion, that faint glimpse of reflection imagined there as you gaze into the depths of a wishing well, only to find cold stillness.

There was no car, just a flash of light reflected off a nearby road, and it brought back every moment as a child, those moments we have all had, when we feared we just didn't fit in, that we didn't belong.
I was always the one inviting the new kid to play with us, befriending the nerdy and the odd.  Perhaps it was because I viewed myself that way. So when  I was a very young flight instructor, living out of a suitcase with no roots, I decided to continue that tradition and share my table with others like me. With most of us on call to give an "introductory flight" to a prospective student, hoping to earn some dollars to pay next quarters tuition, or too broke to fly home commercially, many of us had no place to go on Thanksgiving day. So I hung a flyer up on the instructor's bulletin board at my airport, for any errant corporate pilot in the area or my coworkers. An invite to come over to my little place for Thanksgiving dinner.
I'd not say I was "friends" with all these guys from the perspective that we would continue to hang out together when we finished college, going off to fly for the military or the airlines.  These were simply people I'd spent hours in the cockpit with getting my various instructor ratings occasionally getting the &*#@ scared out of us, absorbing the wonderful colors and shapes and shadows of the sky, making temporary homes in a series of small apartments with multiple roommates, cramming as much as possible into the rare 24 hours we actually were off.  So yes, we were family, if only related by adventure and empty pockets. And for that, I could think of no better reason than to peel thirty pounds of potatoes, bake five pies, and to bat my big green eyes at the butcher to talk him out of that extra ham at half off.

Yes, thirty pounds of potatoes, for although I expected RSVP's from about six people, I ended up with twenty-seven people, pilots I worked with, a couple of our mechanics, and a few corporate pilots that used our facility and stayed at the local hotel while their passengers enjoyed Thanksgiving with family and they got free Cable. They arrived with drinks and chips and thankfully, some extra rolls and a couple of pies from the Safeway store.

It was a wonderful evening, with massive quantities of food eaten, countless stories told and much laughter, eating until we couldn't eat anymore. There was something starry in the kitchen that night, where I learned as much about my ability to organize and create as I did about the essential bond that a meal around the table creates, even if it's a bunch of card tables shoved together with white bleached sheets over them.
Did it mean that we all got along perfectly after that night? No, for there were still those days that intruded darkly on hours normally full of light. Those long close quartered days where we plowed through thick dark clouds to reach ice covered firmament, cursing the weather and long lines for takeoff. Days where the alarm clock snatched us violently out of wrung out sleep, sweeping us all back into the thrall, impotent for days against returning to home, knowing that instead of getting a nap afterward, most of most of us would be heading off to night classes.  As much fun as flying could be, after a few months of such a schedule, even the best of us got a little self-absorbed. Add in constant travel, books and study hall, and it was a life of scattered adrenalin, little sleep and scant time for real relationships. Just like life for many of us now, with families and jobs and pets and demands.

But that night, if only for a few hours, we had that bond of family and food, warmth and safety. It was that moment when chance aligns with time, whose only foe is death, and together, death's darkness seems so very far away.
You see them at an airport, that frazzled traveler that just missed the last flight, that young person sleeping on the floor after their flight canceled, without the means to secure a hotel room. I've offered a hot coffee and a sandwich with a smile to more than one soldier or college student I saw stranded at the airport. Because I have been that young person with rumbling stomach, surrounded by strangers, wanting only to be home.

I had a flight between two Midwest cities a few years back after I'd picked up a couple of days work as a contract corporate pilot  The city where I was flying wasn't home but it was near where I was spending Thanksgiving with friends when I got the call to cover for a pilot out sick, for a company I'd done some contract work before.  Easy money and the holiday was about over anyway.

The sky was cold and cloudy as I waited for my return flight, to be followed by a long drive home, but there was no precipitation  All of a sudden, our flight was canceled, with no reason given, but we were only told we'd be on another flight real soon. I didn't see any mechanics at the plane, and the flight crew was all there, so I called Flight Service, for the aviation weather, giving them the N number of the plane I'd just flown in, the previous night.  There was severe icing aloft, unusual to be so widespread, but deadly. No one, big or small,  was going to be flying out of that airport, and likely for the rest of the day.
At this point, we were standing in line to be re-booked, the word not having gotten to the gate that he airport would essentially be shutting down flights.  There was a well-dressed gentlemen behind me.. We had chatted a bit and it turned out his wife worked at the same bank one of the folks I had spent the holiday with worked at.. I quietly told him about the weather and explained that NO ONE was going to be flying, and I was going to get a rental car now, as the flight was just a "hop" and getting home back to where my car was parked was just a three and a half hour drive. A couple other people overheard.  I said, "do you want to go with me?"  With a quiet nod, four of us snuck out of the line.  For it only takes a word that the last flights are canceling to start a disturbed hum in the customer service line, like bees, before they move in an agitated swarm to the rental car counters, with stinging glances to the Priority Customers, the worker bees hoping for one solitary KIA to be left.  I wanted to get out before THAT happened.

The weather out of the clouds was great, just a little snow and we made the trip in four hours, everyone calling their spouses or friends that they would be a bit late and whether they needed a ride from the airport. On the drive, we were strangers and we weren't.  We talked of holiday plans, and kids and vacations when it got warm.  There were bad puns, and WAY too many references to the "Trains Planes and Automobiles" movie--something only folks that saw that movie would appreciate. "You're Going the Wrong Way!" one of us exclaimed and the whole car erupted in laughter like we were a bunch of grade school kids, the cool kid--"Those Aren't Pillows!"-- as we laughed again, just having fun, with no fears of rejection or hurt or loss.
With a stop for sandwiches at one of the toll plazas, we soon made it, only to find the terminal pretty much deserted, most of the flights coming from north or east also canceled inbound.  They thanked me for making that call and offering to pay for the rental car. I had let them pay for gas, and that's all I wanted.

We said our goodbyes and walked away towards home. The sun, whose brilliant form dwarfs us all into the smallest of particles upon the earth as we are held within it's glare, was hidden behind the steeled gray of cloud cover. With it's brightness now captured behind a stratified door, the night fell upon us as we walked to our cars, it was as if we were all just shadows, covered with a fine, soft scattering of night, falling like ash.

I never saw any of them again.
Thanksgiving for me that year was one of those "sandwich days", not for lack of an invite with friends, but personal and work-related.  Still, it gave me time to think and reflect, something that is as important as giving thanks.  The human heart is is large enough to contain the entire world, and it's small enough to be felled by just one being, yet it is valiant enough to bear all burdens when you realize you are not alone.

As the phone rang with the cherished voice of my husband, letting me know he had reached his destination safely,  I realized I had much to be thankful for. Even in an empty house, there was a gentle doggie snore of an adopted friend until the clock struck the duty hour and I gathered a black bag and gear in case the phone rang in the middle of the night. But before that occurred, there was something I needed to do.  With a quick warm hand pressed for a moment on top of a cold square box in which my furry best friend lay, I left the house and walked to a little store a block away, a can opener and a little plastic bowl in my pocket. I got some cat food and put it out in a bowl along a solitary fence.

For everyone, at one time, is a stray.