Friday, November 30, 2018

Nature Friday

Today we are joining our friends Rosy, Jakey, and Arty from

for Friday Nature Day!

Some photos from an outdoor sporting event up in the upper Midwest a few summers ago!













Enjoy your day - wherever nature takes you!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Gone in a Flash

My old pair of doggie slippers finally wore out.  Actually, they lasted a year and considering I wear them inside and out on the driveway to take out the trash (if it's not raining) they lasted pretty well, considering I sort of LIVE in them.  They are SO soft and comfortable and really warm in the winter when our hardwood floors are cold.

So a new pair arrived today from 
https://www.bunnyslippers.com    (just cut and paste the address in your browser window).

But I went with another doggie breed this time.

Corgis!
Abby Lab was all over them thinking it was new stuffies for HER.

With the blurry picture of Abby moving in to strike, you have to get that song from the movie Flashdance in your yead.

She's a kleptomaniac, kleptomaniac on the floor (I sure know)
And she's stealing like she's never stolen before
She's a kleptomaniac, kleptomaniac on the floor (I sure know)
And she's stealing like she's never stolen before


WTD?  No Squeaker?

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Life in a Vacuum - DIY Dog Hair

If you have a pet - with resultant pet hair and treat crumbs, you likely own a vacuum cleaner..  It's one of those appliances that seem to sit in the corner when not in use until they don't work at ALL, then get thrown out and another purchased.

Every one has different standards of what they are comfortable with, cleanliness wise.  I am perfectly fine coming home to a Triumph TR6 carburetor disassembled on my dining room table as long as the bathtub sparkles.  Some folks aren't happy unless one can perform brain surgery on their floors while others are perfectly happy not getting out a bottle of Windex and the paper towels until the bacteria in the kitchen is big enough to enter a tractor pull.
Personally I like to keep a reasonably clean house, both my own and my elderly Dads (I redecorated his bathroom with new paint, curtains, cabinets and a sign!) I also like to do so economically, even making up some of my own cleaning solutions. (Note to readers:  Do NOT clean your toilet bowl with Diet Coke and Mentos.)

So I noticed how expensive vacuum cleaners had gotten.  Then after going through a couple in about as many years I did two things.

I ignored the urge to buy another cheap one.  This is one appliance where paying a little extra is worth it. Mine gets a pretty good workout between dog hair and that Christmas party where someone made a glitter bomb and we're still finding the stuff 87 years later.

I then learned how to to do basic upkeep and read the owner's manual.
If it  doesn't turn on:

First make sure the outlet it's plugged into isn't controlled by a switch on the wall (now don't I just  feel stupid now?)

Next, check the connection and make sure it hasn't blown a fuse.  When that happens, no one is happy. Fuses are like safety valves, if a circuit overloads then its fuse or circuit breaker triggers and the electricity is automatically cut off.  Resetting a blown circuit breaker is easy (though I learned you need to think about WHY it blew first, especially when at 40,000 feet) while that blown fuse needs to be replaced.  That in itself is an easy fix, and ladies, if you can do this without help, your man WILL be impressed.
(1) To turn off the power to the house at the fuse box, pull out the main fuse block, which looks like a rectangular block with a handle. It is usually located at the top of the panel. Tug hard and straight out on the handle. Use caution; the metal parts may be hot. (Your power company may well have an online tutorial for this, which I'd highly recommend.)
(2) Screw out the blown fuse in a counterclockwise direction (it's it the cartridge type, pull straight out)
(2) Replace the blown fuse with a new one of the same capacity.
(4) Replace the main disconnect panel to return power to the residence.

Isn't he impressed?  Now don't do this while coming in from a rainstorm, all wet -  you may end up with a perm where you really didn't want one.  Electricity and water do NOT mix so be careful of standing water in your basement or laundry room if there's a breaker box there.
The power source is good, but still no power?

Check the electrical cord.  If it's frayed and not connecting properly, re-splice the wires together and patch the splice with lots of electrical tape. (Please unplug it first unless you want your new nickname to be "sparky). This is a temporary repair only, but it will work.

If the motor has simply conked out, there's not much you can do but take it into a repair place or replace.

It just doesn't suck properly.

You've all done it. Vacuumed over that tiny little corner of paper, again and again, and it just stays there on the floor. With a sigh, you bend over and pick it up, only to throw it down and try and vacuum it up again.

Yes you have.
If your vacuum isn't picking up properly, there are a few simple things you can do before pitching it.

If it's old it just might need some minor adjustments.

First check the bag.

Make sure you have the right type for your vacuum.  Not just any bag will do.
Then see how full it is.  You know the "honey not now, I'm in a meat coma" after dinner at Fogo De Chao?  Well, overstuffed bags (or clogged filters) don't operate very energetically either.  Operating with a full bag also reduces the life of the vacuum.  Replace the bag when it's 1/3 to 2/3 full.

 If you have household pets, also buy a small flea collar and cut it into small pieces (wearing gloves) and put one into the bag (sealing the remainder in an air tight baggie) the night before you replace it.  That will kill any fleas before you remove it and put it in your trash (some recommend leaving a bit of one in there all the time but I'd rather not have the insecticide fumes in the house with all the air that moves through it).
Barkley - The Original Flea RV, in Park

Check that the hose doesn't have any holes in it. Holes in Swiss Cheese are good, your vacuum, not so much. Aren't you glad you bought that electrical tape.  Tape should be just a temporary fix until you can replace. Don't drape the disconnected hose up over a nail to store it, this is often the cause of the damage.

If it is the type that has a tube, make sure there's nothing clogging it (Hey - it's Mr. Squeeky!)
Though little kids love to go for a ride astride a canister type vacuum while you pull it, it's best to say no (look, the ice cream truck!).  Such vacuums aren't designed for that kind of weight, and you'll soon find yourself with a very expensive hose replacement.

The round spinning brush under the vacuum cleaner (basically an agitator) should spin freely.  If  it doesn't, there might be hair or small debris wrapped around it, keeping it from rotating and doing its job.  Use a small pair of scissors to cut through the build up, gently pulling it free. If it's finer hair or a piece of string, remove with a seam ripper (available in hobby stores or where sewing supplies are found).  If it's your better half's favorite bore snake for cleaning their squirrel hunting firearm, hide the remains quickly and distract them with a pie.
If the rubber belt attached to is is broken, you can replace that by removing the bottom place assembly with a screwdriver. Belts will need to be replaced every 6 months to 1 year, depending on how much it's used. Compare your belt to a new one to check its quality. It should be tight, without worn spots, cracks or unevenness.

I didn't think they still MADE shag carpeting? 

Some vacuums with agitators and brushes need to be adjusted for the height off of the carpet.  Too close and there won't be adequate suction to really pick up anything. Too high and they merely wave at the dirt.

And finally - 
It's not a vacuum cleaner.  It's a Dalek from BBC's Dr. Who and when you removed that bottom plate and poked it in the rear with a pair of needle nose pliers, you pretty much sealed your fate.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Reindeer Warning

Won't play any reindeer games with me?  Then I might just forget to preflight the equipment!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Rainy Sundays - A Dog and a Dram of Whiskey

It has rained or sleeted all day. Just not a good day to go out. So after church and before finishing a book, I made scones. The recipe is below.  If you wish a mix - go to World Market (and some Safeway stores) and get the Sticky Fingers brand of scone mix that they carry. They are excellent. Mine was simple, a basic recipe with wild Maine blueberries and glazed with butter, whiskey, cream, and sugar.

Scones are usually best on those cold grey mornings, when children trudge sullenly off to school, when the buildings creak strangely and dark shadows shiver and scratch on the walls, days when your body aches for the strength of another and the smell of the sea. Days of a fire upon a cold hearth, warmth in the kitchen, and perhaps a drop of Jameson's. In this case, a little Jameson in the glaze.

Scones
2 cups All-Purpose King Arthur Flour
1/3 cup Sugar
1 tablespoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 pinches Ground Nutmeg or Cardamon
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest (the peel)
6 tablespoons Unsalted Butter (well chilled)
1 extra large egg
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 teaspoons Penzey's Mexican vanilla

Vanilla Sugar
(I use Penzeys brand or you can make your own by putting a whole vanilla bean, sliced in half with the insides scraped out all of which is stirred into 2 cups of sugar in a mason jar and let it sit week).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix well. Thinly slice the chilled butter into the bowl and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter until the flour and butter look like coarse meal.

In a clean medium-size bowl, mix all the wet ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing as little as possible, just enough to incorporate wet and dry together.  If you like, add in a handful of wild blueberries, just at the end of the mixing.

Place the dough onto a flour-dusted pastry board (or another clean surface) and knead a half dozen times. Shape it into a round that's about 10 inches across. Place on cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick spray.  In my oven at 375 F oven, it took roughly 30 minutes to bake to a light golden color. (check it at 20).You can also deeply score the dough before cooking into 8 wedges. (reduce cook time 10 minutes though). Cool on a rack.


click on photos to enlarge

No recipe for the glaze, just a couple of teaspoons of butter, melted. Stir in a teaspoon of cream, a drop of vanilla if you like, a good splash of whiskey and enough powdered sugar to make a glaze. Put it on the scones as they come out of the oven, they taste like a melancholy moan of a Celtic tune, best shared with a friend, or a loyal dog.

The day is already getting brighter.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Someone call the SPCA!


Mom and Dad are mean to me.

I did NOT get one of Mom's crunchy on the outside, fluffy in the middle yeast muffins with tea.

Sure Dad petted me (and that blue thing in the side of the picture is Mom's YODA mat, where she sits like Jabba the Hut and tries and do stretchy things).

But I didn't get a MUFFIN!

She says grains make me sick to my tummy and gave me meaty treats but I wanted a MUFFIN! (especially with blackcurrant jam)

Here's the recipe if you want to be mean to YOUR dogs. 

Yeast Muffins (I think they were really good, my skinny Dad ate THREE of them)

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a bowl mix: 

2 cups SELF RISING flour
1 Tablespoon and 2 teaspoons sugar

Note: if you don't have self-rising flour - add 3 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt to 2 cups regular flour.

In another bowl mix: 
1 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon yeast (regular or rapid rise)
1 cup WARM (110 F.), NOT hot, water
Stir yeast water well and let sit five minutes.

Mix yeast water into flour mixture

Stir in:
1 egg
6 Tablespoons butter, melted (that's right, six tablespoons of buttery heaven)

 Batter will be lumpy. Put in greased muffin pans (makes 8) and bake for 20-23 minutes.
Wait!  Mom's still in her bathrobe but Dad's getting dressed!
Does this mean?
Really? (Note: our fridge is on wheelies and partially dissembled for some ongoing drywall repair.  Mom and Dad don't know that when they are asleep I roll it into the living room and attempt to steal the cheese).

I get to go roll in the last of the snow this morning before it melts.
Thanks Dad - I guess you can forget that call to the SPCA.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Black Friday

No shopping! White wine, dog slippers, animal cookies and a good cozy mystery to read.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Strays - A Story for This Thanksgiving

From Saving Grace - A Story of Adoption by LB 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 that 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 afterwards, 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.
Strays.
You see them at any 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 a 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 gentleman 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 its glare, was hidden behind the steeled gray of cloud cover. With its 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 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.
LBJ

Saving Grace can be ordered today from Amazon at the following address and the Kindle is just 99 cents for the holidays - all proceeds go to Animal Rescue

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1478754141