Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Hunger Games - Coming to a Freeway Rest Stop Near You

I guess there are times you're driving down the freeway, coming home from a business trip that was easier to drive, then hit O'Hair and fly.  Look there's a rest stop after miles and miles of farmland. Your stomach empty and rumbling, you think -

"Dang, I wish I could have a giant prepackaged lukewarm dill pickle right about now."

With the pending holiday, travel safely this weekend! 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Critter Mix

Abby Lab here. With an unfenced side yard, seen above last winter, (our house was built on two lots, unusual for Chicago back at the turn of last century) we have a number of critters that live there, towards the back of the property where it's quiet. Mom feeds them year-round, though in summer months it's more like an afternoon "snack" than wintertime's breakfast and dinner. She'll fill up just one of the three bird feeders and toss out a cup of "critter mix" and maybe a few peanuts for everyone else. When it's gone they have to forage.

Mom always has fresh water out as well, as with the alley being gravel, the mud puddles when it rains are really dirty. They have pretty much figured out that I can't get out of the fenced part and barely look up when I go out.
If Dad takes me out for a walk, we go out the front so we don't alarm them.

Usually, it's the 6-8 squirrels that live in the trees and Mr. Bun, the yard rabbit.  Petey the Possum died of natural causes last year and Dad buried him in the yard, and we have a Trash Panda the size of a Prius that wanders through close to trash day to see if we left one of the Raccoon Bento Boxes open when we put trash inside,  But he doesn't live here as my barking at him usually sends him scurrying.  I only bark at the Trash Panda and the UPS guy.  I'm pretty chill with everyone else.
But yesterday w had a new visitor!  A very small bunny showed up to eat next to one of the squirrels born likely last August as he's still pretty little.  Both of them were very tiny.

But suddenly, everyone ran off!  Who could have shown up to alarm them?

Great . . . Zombie Groundhog
Brains!  Brussels Sprouts!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Counter Intelligence - An Abby Lab Lesson

You can not be too careful in today's times - please be on the alert to suspicious behavior in your kitchen. Watch for updates from HOUSE-Land security for threats in your home.

A counter surfed slice of ham added to the "look, rabbit poop" ended up in a singular pile of dog barf and a case of Dogrrhea.  Five times today Abby Lab went out and sprayed the yard with the enthusiasm of a Jato Bottle while our retired Navy Vet neighbor, whittling in his driveway in the cool temps, tried not to laugh.

He's lucky I didn't charge him a cover charge.

She did drink plenty of water and other than the "thar she blows!" seems to be OK.

After boiled chicken and rice, Abbey is feeling MUCH better tonight.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Friday, June 22, 2018

Don't Trust Atoms - They Make Up Everything

 Abby the Lab here.  Look what Mom got for me.  A New Petriodic table!  And it's full of squeakers!

Look what it spells out

 "It's flat it 's not big and fluffy-  are you sure I'll like it Dad?"
"Come on Abby - Science is our FRIEND".

My name is no longer Abby. 
 Please refer to me as Xenon - Warrior Princess.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Astro's Bark Day - Loafing and Meat Loaf

Today go on over to

and wish him a happy Sixth Bark Day!

He's having a cake deprived day of relaxation and fun!

We are so happy to have gotten to know him and his Mom this last year.  They live a few hours north of where I grew up.  I shared my family meatloaf recipe (on the blog back in June of 2017) with her and it was a huge hit, and Astro's Dad asks for it weekly.

Well, last week, I experimented and made a different meatloaf and my husband raved about it.

Pinwheel Meatloaf

1  to 1 and 1/4 pound ground sirloin (the lowest fat of the ground beef)
1/2 cup of Rice Chex, measured out and then crushed in a sandwich bag.
1/4 teaspoon salt-free seasoning (Mrs. Dash is what I used)
a shake of crushed red pepper
a little more than 1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
a splash of milk (about 2-3 Tablespoons)
1 large egg (if using smaller egg add another Tablespoon of milk)

Mix just until combined and on a baking tray sprayed with a little non stick spray, pat out into a square that's about 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick.

Sprinkle with 3/4  to 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, an even thin layer that does not go all the way to the edge.

Then gently roll up the meat so you have a pinwheel cheesy thing going on.

Place in crockpot and cover top only with jarred basil pasta sauce.  Cook until inside temp is 160 F. (in my crockpot on low about 4 hours.)

An hour before done remove lid and add another handful of cheese to the top.  Serve with some shredded basil if you like and extra heated pasta sauce.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Father's Day

I got back not too long back from a trip long trip out West to check on Dad and spend time with him. Although at 98, his health and his heart are failing, he seemed to be holding it together mentally at least, eating well and doing all he could do, as a man, to defend the remote from those that would wish to watch “chick flicks” between beating me at multiple games of Cribbage.  He does have a nurse's aid 24/7 now as he is physically much weaker, but still mentally quick.. They also keep the house clean and prepare his meals, including a hot supper each day, laughing I'm sure at some of the "as seen on TV", things Dad has added to his "bachelor kitchen" since my Step Mom passed.
I met the young women working with him now and they are giving him the best of care, as they stayed even though I was there, my knee with the missing meniscus not able to pull him up from his bed or from the low slung car seat from those daily car rides he likes to take without further injury.   It was obvious from the cadence of their routines, and the spotlessness of the house, that they have his habits and the needs of he and his house down to a drill and with their medical training I'm more at ease than if he just had a "companion". That care, obviously, is not cheap, but hey were quite attentive and hard working and it was obvious he genuinely enjoys their company.  For the option - to leave a home of 60 some years to live with family thousands of miles away or go into local assisted living, would break his heart.  As long as I have a job, he'll stay where he can be happy, my ensuring the bills get paid, knowing he is welcome to live with us or my cousin L. in her mountain cabin, and knowing he never will.
But he's fallen a couple of times and his judgment for things physical is not the best (we had to hide the ladder and the portable heater). He said he's fine, but his grief is still there under the surface, sometimes clouding his thoughts, and perhaps his judgment. Having been there, I know that he keeps it in, simply, with surface tension, like a cup filled too full. Memories of the two wives and a son and daughter he outlived (the daughter died as an infant before they adopted me) come to him more often now.  I saw him tear up again, rising from a nap with moisture in his eyes and the words. "H. and I were having a time" and he just smiled, not elaborating.

Dreams. They come to us unbidden, some frightful, some bringing a joy that is only a glimpse of what is to become. Some are such that as soon as they touch us, we wish to pull out of them quickly. Such dreams are better faced awake, armed with reason and courage, then in the leaden movements of the night, where things will pull you down into the depths of fear and pain, while your legs struggle to move, caught in a quicksand of time and tide.

But for every occasional nightmare over those years (usually after late night Pepperoni pizza) there were those dreams that would wake us up with a smile on our face; a look, a face, a touch, unknown to us in the day, but yearning for us in the night. Those were such thoughts that follow us into our days as the sun warmed our face.
In school, I was an attentive student, not prone to wandering thoughts, though I did get sent to the Principals office for getting caught reading a car magazine behind my history book in 9th grade. (Look, I already knew about Lewis and Clark, I wanted to know how to put headers on my car, as soon as I could buy one).

There were also few expectations in a small mill town other than you try and finish high school, only a few going to the local two-year college. From high school, most get a job in the timber plant, get married young and work hard. The green chain of a lumber mill might be a place to earn $20 bucks an hour, big bucks at 18, but for me, it was a place where dreams would go quietly to die. Dad understood and gave permission for me to opt out of most of my high school courses and start my studies at our local college at age 14.

Three years later, with Dad's blessing, I left for the big city, disillusioned by the indifference to the song of a destiny in a factory town displayed by my classmates, afraid of a fate that herded its own through a shortcut from school to an oft early grave, with sometimes dangerous and back-breaking work. Higher education was my only way out, and as much as I loved my family and some of my friends, I had to go. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it, there was no money for college, with Mom's long battle with cancer, but I knew that with the hard work ethic of those I grew up with, I could put myself through, as both my parents did.
So I watched those familiar mountains grow distant, my dreams about the only thing I had to consume in that first year on my own, which in the Chinese Calendar would have been the “Year of the Ramen noodle” as I sometimes worked up to 3 part-time jobs to pay for tuition and a room to rent in a big house near campus.

But I still came back, if only for Dad. For his dreams, tattered as Fall leaves that waved like a brace of flags, were still real to him. He was, and is,  happy there, children close in spirit if not in miles, sharing in the memories of much happier times, stories of those he loved with great intensity.

I understand such things, for like my Dad, I am a closet romantic. I once had a talk with a friend about what would be the ideal relationship for me, not the pride of ownership with the ensuing need for control, but something else - “I want someone for which I’m necessary, not simply loved, but necessary", I said, trying to explain it as best I could. He said such things are the 'stuff of romantic fiction' but he did so kindly, not understanding.
Perhaps there are only a few like us to which that romantic readiness which is the extraordinary gift of hope is to be found, those with that heightened sensitivity to the promise of a smile; the rest of the world, staid, their hard and fast existence only dust, floating on the wake of their dreams, leaving behind the elation of hope in the practical drift that is life. But I would not settle for less, for there is no amount of dust or fire that can challenge what someone dreams of in their ghostly heart.

Dad understood, and over the years sure we'd have talks well into the unquiet evenings while I was there about my life and my heart, not to be nosy, or to bring up the pain of the distant past that he knows was still there, but to simply make sure I would be OK when he was gone. He knew how fortunate he was to love greatly, not once, but twice, two marriage, each lasting decades, the last a great one that pulls at his heart daily though in no way diminishing his first love.

When I brought my boyfriend, now my husband, home, one of only two men I'd ever brought home to meet my family in the last 25 years, Dad was relieved to see I was finally happy, and my Big Brother took to EJ like he was already family, the two of them discussing engineering in the kitchen well into the wee hours, as even then, my brother knew his days were drawing to a close.  They both loved him and were happy that I was not just in love, but that I was "safe", something I'd not been with a spouse twenty years ago who used his fists as exclamation points.
Yet for all his romantic soul, Dad’s a practical man, raised in the depression, career military, living with Norwegians for which the utterance of profound despair may only be “ya, the coffee is getting cold” and possessing those fine set of brakes which can put a halt to any runaway emotion lest you lose control. And like my closest friends he is very much a "man's man" on the outside. He loves his sports and once glued to the TV, there’s not much conversation. I was cooking a large meal for him for dinner one night, and halfway through he came out in the kitchen and hugged me and said “I love you”. I looked at him, laughed and said “it’s halftime isn’t it”. And he just laughed.

But my Dad and I are just alike, even as, both redheads, we occasionally gently and humorously spar, out of stubbornness and concern for one another, as anything. Which is why I travel the long miles to see him as often as I do, spending time with him rather than going on trips with friends,or vacations with my husband, tending to Dad's large house, cooking him his favorite meals which will go into the freezer for later, getting his beloved garden in order, running his errands.
With my brother gone, keeping those memories of the family alive for him is even more important.  When I go home my brother's best friend since childhood and his beautiful wife often visit, so many memories to be shared about my brother, and that final question I AM going to ask my brother when I see him in Heaven -  "Why DID you have a live loaded flare gun in your nightstand??"

There’s not a lot for me to do there when Dad is sleeping, which is about 14 hours a day, the nearest town fairly small, the unemployment in that whole part of the state staggering. The town is coated with the smell of the pulp mills taking the form of grey houses and grey smoke and tired men and women who move slowly and seemingly without thought or dreams in and out of the vast machinery that keeps this little town alive. Their eyes dimmed by many hard days under rain and cloud, yet remaining here, for what tethers them to this land is as profound to them as what drove me away.
For though I go there because I am needed, I do not live there, I only watch. Watch the thin yellow sky, that bleeds into the smoke from the mills down the river, a smoke that offers a cloud of secrecy that is sensed rather than felt, by the casual watcher of the landscape. Whether we stayed or we left, we all have our secrets. Some are known, those that look at me in the grocery and whisper. And those secrets we don't speak of. We feel the words in our head and they are summoned to lips where, in an intake of air, they are almost spoken. But air alone is not enough to make them form, and they remain uncommunicated, except for the touch of fingers in our sleep.

So, for Dad, for his dream, I would stay, if only for that week. For this is what he needs now, for though his town is not the place he settled, so many moving away, it is is a memory of post-WWII life, setting up a home here with his first wife, my Mom, after years of separation while he was at War. It was a town full of music and dreams and tall hills covered with ceaseless timber, the rain, not a grey blanket but a sound, a rising and swelling with the gusts of emotion, and passion that was worth waiting for. That place is still alive for him, in an old covered bridge, in an old house near the water, in dreams of steelhead trout that never grow old, never tire.
I left this place to seek my dreams, and he says behind so he can live among his, in a home that contains those memories of what made him happy. Two china sets, two completely different women, both fragile and strong as steel, both beautiful. The marks of children raised here, a small playhouse out back, the marks on a door where we grew and grew. On the table in the dining room, a photo, of a pair of blue eyes in which his whole world achieved its value by the response he could draw from them. This was a woman who was completely necessary to him and will remain so even as her actual presence is but the touch of fabric left by a sewing machine, forever stilled.
After my visit there, I  go home to dreams rendered real, eyes kind and a face smiling, the countenance of St. John the Divine, made flesh. Someone to make me laugh, someone who would mourn my passing. My nights on the road might be lonely, yet in the wandering paths of my dreams both asleep and awake will come lips on my shoulder, fingers that hold my own, gently as if in sleep, silent shadows of faithfulness that communicate more profoundly than any words I could write here. And like my Dad knows, I am aware of how very fortunate I am, to have these remnants of family, strong and abiding still.
He and I both know this may well be the last Father's Day I get to say these words to him, but I know that when he does have to leave us, there will be more than shadows remaining.  There will be laughter and warmth reflected in invisible glass, seen from a distance by loving hearts that will always remember.

 Happy Father's Day Dad.  I Love You.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Chicago Hot Dogs - And This Post is NOT About Food

Angel Barkey lived for summer and water.

Chicagoland is under a heat warning, with temps in the upper 90's with high humidity.  90+ weather is not that common up here along the Great Lakes. Some folks in the city don't even have Central air, they just have a window unit in the upstairs bedrooms which in these old Bungalows get really hot in the summer.

Abby Lab has shown no interest in going out after an early morning walk.  I think we'll skip the afternoon walk, the pavement is just too hot for her paws. If she wants to play in the fenced yard which has a lot of shade, we'll do that, then my husband can walk her quickly to the end of the block and back before we go to bed.

Some breeds are more heat sensitive than others, but all pet lovers need to know ways to keep your pet cool in the summer.   You should also educate yourself to signs of heatstroke in your pet. Talk to your vet or visit some of the Veterinarian supported web pages that contain that information.
Today we're just going to talk about some simple things you can do, many of which cost little to nothing, to keep your canine comfortable when it's hot out. 

*If you have a room with a linoleum, or tile floor provide a wet (but not sopping, wring it out) towel for your dog to lay on.

*If you have any of those thin gel pack (I use the CVS  Gentle Fabric cold compress) that you can put in the freezer for sore muscles that have no tears in them, wrap in a dry towel and place on their bed.  Abby loves to lay on one when she comes in from outside.  Do NOT use if your dog is a chewer, the gel may be toxic.

*Add some ice cubes to the water dish.

*Replace a meal or two a day of kibble with wet food, which will help your pet stay hydrated. As with any food change, start by substituting a 1/4 cup then work up each day until you are at the amount per day of wet food you want
Even the evil squirrel cartel gets extra water when it's hot.

*Have a collapsible or lightweight dish for water on walks.  I got one made by Petmate at Chewy that was less than $5. That way you can give your dog a drink with bottled water mid walk

*If you don't have a.c., put a big pan of ice cubes in front of the fan and turn it on in the room your pet hangs out in (by the way fans are great on a deck or patio if you have a power source to keep mosquitoes away - they can't land in a crosswind!)

*If the dog is going to be outside for playtime, and the house or landscaping doesn't provide shade, string up a tarp so they can rest under that. A beach umbrella in the yard will work too. Make sure they have lots of water and shade and check on them often while they play
Avoid pavement in the afternoons.  The asphalt can easily get over 100+ degrees on even a moderately hot day and can burn the dog's paws.  Morning and evening walks are the best. Abby will NOT wear booties but they are available to protect the dog's paws.

Abby hates it, but Barkley LOVED his inexpensive kiddie pool.  If we see them on sale we do what former neighbors did and get extra for a few of the young families on the street that have dogs but a tight budget.

*Soak a bandana in cold water, wring out then tie around your dog's neck with the bandana laying it flat across the back.  Just like a cold bandana tied around YOUR neck is cooling, so is this.

Some breeds are more heat sensitive than others, but all pet lovers need to know ways to keep your pet cool in the summer.   You should also educate yourself to signs of heatstroke in your pet.
Talk to your vet or visit some of the Veterinarian supported web pages that contain that information

You also need to watch for signs of dehydration:

sunken eyes,
skin, if pinched at the top of the neck is slow to "snap" back

If you think your dog is slightly dehydrated but they are avoiding their water add a bit of salt-free chicken broth to it, or a splash of carrot juice.  Even floating some pieces of your pet's favorite dog safe fruit (no grapes!) in the water will encourage extra drinking.

If you think the dehydration is more than slight, or they continue to avoid extra water, consult your Vet.
Warning!  Your Lab may melt at higher temperatures.

If your dog needs a little extra help cooling down after playtime, use evaporation to your advantage.  We humans cool off by sweating and then the sweat evaporating.  Dogs don't have a body's surface area to sweat like we people do. They cool off by panting. You can help this a bit by wiping your dog's paws after a walk with warm (not cold water). You can also use a dab of rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball or cotton cosmetic oval to gently and lightly wipe theirpaws. Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) has a MUCH lower boiling point than water and will then evaporate much more quickly. Don't overdo as it's drying and let each paw dry before going to the next one so the dog doesn't lick it until it's dry.

You can also wipe inside your dog's ears with a soft cloth dipped in cool water then wrung out (make sure it's wrung well to avoid ear infections).  That helps cool those capillaries in the ear area.

Grooming is also important.  I'm not a fan of shaving in the summer as the hair is part of a dog's natural cooling system.  But grooming is essential.  Abby has a thick dark upper coat and a soft reddish undercoat (we think she is part flat-coated retriever)  Those top hairs act as insulation against heat and sunburn and the undercoat is part of her cooling system.  But if it is not groomed it will become mattered and will prevent air flow across your pup's body. Brush your dog frequently to remove any dead fur, which will help them be more comfortable in the warm weather. 

And lastly - don't forget those frozen treats. Abby loves her Frosty Pause which is sugar-sweetened low-fat vanilla yogurt (check that it's not artificially sweetened some of those sweeteners can be fatal to pets) mixed in a blender with a banana and then frozen in little dixie cups.  Peel and serve!. I will also fill up a  single-serving size Tupperware with salt-free veggie broth (no onions or garlic) and let her lick that out on the patio after it has frozen and been removed from the container

So go out and enjoy the sun - just play it safe!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Safety in Blogville - Home Security is More than a Barking Dog

Mom, I barked at the UPS guy and he still delivered the package!

This post has nothing to do with dogs, but after an incident last night in our neighborhood I thought for the safety of those in Blogville I would share

Last night late, as I was up late reading, I noticed a white panel van going by.  Unusual in our street is closed to thru traffic as it is widened and repaved.  Half of the street is not passable so all of the locals are parking a block or two over.  I recognized the van, with some minor damage, driven by a middle-aged guy, looking like any local, not a gang type as it had cruised by my house a couple weeks prior, slowly and staring at the houses. It was the same van last night, stopping several doors down with emergency flashers. The light over the license plate was dark. He had a spotlight and was shining it on several houses that had no lights on.  It wasn't hard to dart out front behind the construction equipment and get his license plate number from the dark plate with a flashlight and call it into the police as he saw a light and took off.  He had a custom plate (not smart for someone casing the place for burglary I guess), and the Village police will be looking for him. (he was gone when they got here).

Some people say "well you have a home alarm system, you should feel safe!" 

You've all probably seen those old ads on TV showing the guy in the hooded sweatshirt stalking some woman coming home from the store and trying to get into the house. The alarm goes off. The security company is on the phone with her in about one nano-second, assuring her the police are on the way as the would be bad guy runs away. Thank you Acme Security Company!

Another one, some young babe wearing small bits of spandex is exercising on her treadmill which is set up in her living room, next to the front door, in front of the open window (sure, that's how I exercise). Shifty looking guys dressed all in black, including the" Spenser for Hire" dark colored watch caps, scurry in front of the window, leering at her. Then, the front door is kicked in. With one kick,  no less, instantly setting off the alarm, out they run. Thank you Acme Security! It's a nice idea, but no security device is going to work well if it doesn't have brain-equipped users linked to it and police VERY close by to respond to the call.  It can be a deterrent but not a guarantee.

Even if the alarm company immediately alerts the police (one time with our FORMER alarm company in Indiana, a dog walker sent mine off by accident, they never did show up, because they were never called), it could be 15-30 minutes or more before they are there depending on where you live.  In that time the criminals could have cleared out any jewelry and electronics I had, stolen all my Terry Pratchett books, molested the yard gnomes and drank milk directly out of the container in the fridge.
The commercials make me laugh. But not at the home invasion scenario. It's very real. According to a Department of Justice report, 38% of assaults and 60% of rapes occur during home invasions. According to that same report, 1 of every 5 U.S. homes in their lifetime will experience a break-in (real or attempted) or home invasion.

Charging through the front door (mine has reinforcement but more on that later) or coming in through the garage, which you left open, is often the way they get in.  Do you leave your door unlocked because you're just taking out the trash or returning a plate to the neighbor next door?  DON'T.
But frankly, most burglaries usually start with a knock at the front door. Do you know how many people will simply open their door to a knock? The criminal may not strike that time, but simply assess your home AND you, pretend to have the wrong house and leave. Have nice things in plain sight? Check! Look small and or helpless? Check!

Common Scenarios include-

*A uniformed individual tells you that they are in the area checking for a gas leak, or a problem with cable or utilities and asks to check out your property. Do you have any idea how easy it is to buy a uniform and make an ID on a computer?  Gas, telephone, electricity, and cable lines are checked from outside, not inside the home. If the person claims that they are there to enter your home for a utility or cable company and/or you are suspicious of the credentials they present (holding them up to your window) do not open the door and phone the company for confirmation. If the service is such that they do need to come in (installation, etc), and you are a female living alone, call a large male friend over to hang out with you when you set up the appointment. When I had cable set up in my crash pad, a coworker joined me, an ex-SEAL coworker. You don't want to advertise to anyone that you are a female living alone, especially in an community neighbor's frequently change. That's not being helpless, that's being smart.

*A uniformed or non-uniformed individual informs you that they have a delivery of some sort, usually flowers, telegram or a package.  If you don't actually see them come out of the USPS, UPS or Fed Ex Truck with your package, or don't see it parked next to your house, don't open the door. Some shippers use third-party contractors that may drive a plain rental van.  I don't open the door for them -  if they have a package they have always just left it and rang the doorbell.

Knock Knock! MAMMO-GRAM!

Knock Knock! LAND SHARK!

*The individual informs you that they are collecting for a charity or some other good cause.  In the situations where you are being asked for charity assistance, use your most conservative judgment. Be especially careful if you see a large van or truck nearby, that may be there to load up your household goods after they've made entry.  I ask solicitors to leave a brochure.

*A stranger claims to be in some kind of distress and asks if he or she can use your landline phone. That is oh, so common. The person looks ordinary, you are trusting and feel sorry for them. You open the door. Their accomplice, who may not be so friendly looking rushes in behind them and next thing you know, you are a victim.  Offer to call any number they have for help or call the police. If you do not know them, male OR female, do not open the door

There are some common sense measures of protection -

*Keep a bright porch light on at all times after dark (try for 100-foot visibility on outdoor lighting). If you only have it on when you are gone, that's not good.

*Install outdoor motion sensor lighting outside near the parts of the house that may be breached out of sight from the street. Hide it, so it's not obvious, and easily disabled. You'd need to climb over a fence with a locked gate and get a ladder to disable mine.

*Look at your windows, some are so cheap they can be lifted out of the frame with a couple of tools, even if locked. Assess your windows with a quick exercise: called the "Try to Break Into Your Own Home."  It's simple, just go out and give your windows a shake and see if they hold up. If you can reach in and turn the lock, or the window is so loose that you can rattle it open, that’s not good. If you could get it open to climb in, so could a burglar.
Look closely at upper-floor windows. If there’s a roof, ledge, fire escape. trellis or ladder nearby, you need to secure those windows. There's info online on beefing up windows, money well spent. Don't sleep with your windows open, unless you can put a locking mechanism where they can't be opened more than a few inches and chose them carefully as those that may be good for childproofing are NOT always burglar proof. For that, you'd need something such as pin locks (but make sure they are easy to remove  from inside in case of a fire)

*When you are gone have lights on timers.  We also have this little light that emits a pulsing colored light that from outside of the house looks as if we are up late watching TV.  It's on a timer as well and was about $20.

*Get to know your neighbors and consider a Neighborhood Watch program.  Our next door neighbor, retired and usually home, is notified when either or both us are gone and will keep an eye on the place, picking up any flyers or local free newspapers that may end up in the yard. We do the same when they are visiting the grandkids.

*Don't let decorative or outdoor stuff pile up on the porch or near the porch to the point it's easy to hide behind.

*Install solid core doors, with heavy duty locks. Use four three-inch screws to secure heavy duty lock strike pates in the door frame. A good solid entrance door, preferably a steel commercial door and frame (like the ugly gray ones you see on industrial buildings) is a very good way to slow down entrance. A similar door with deadbolt for the bedroom door is useful too. It buys more time- wake up with an assailant or four standing over your bed and this really sinks in deep. (Yes, they can be made pretty with wood veneer, both the doors and the assailants, for the goblins the wood veneer is usually an inch thick and about 2' x 2' x 6'.)

Remember though, the door isn't generally the weak point when someone is trying to force their way in. The part that generally fails is the door frame where the lock penetrates.

There is a fix to this that's neither difficult or expensive.  Normally, all of the force of the deadbolt is only applied to the wood directly behind the hole. If you carve out a slot in the frame behind the deadbolt that runs 5 or 6 inches above and below the deadbolt, and then screw in a strip of metal, you spread that force out over a much larger portion of the door frame.

Lock all doors, windows, and garages at all times. If you are working outside alone, keep your eye towards the street.  If you see anything or anyone that is suspicious, go into the house and lock the doors.

*Keep windows clear but if you do have a few plants, make sure they are the small, very spiny variety to make access difficult and hiding about impossible.  If you have a home alarm, don't forget to wire the windows, it's not always the door they come through.

*Use a secondary blocking device (a simple piece of wood will do) on all sliding patio doors and side sliding windows.

*Set the home perimeter alarm at night, if you have one.

If your garage is attached to your house, lock your door to the garage at ALL times even when you are home with the garage door closed.  I could jimmy a garage door open if I had to. It's not that hard and if you are in the shower or the TV is loud you may not hear it.  My inlaws had a home invasion by a guy high on meth (clues were the only thing he stole other than grandma's car with the keys in it was a package of ham hocks and fried ocra).  They lived in a "safe" farming community, but still, this guy got into the closed garage and the only thing that kept him out of the house was the locked door from the garage to the house.

*If you have a family, have a security meeting. I can't stress this enough. Make sure your children are aware of the dangers of opening the door to people they don't know, even if "Mommy's or Daddy's in the next room". If someone does get in, have a plan as a family. Have a code word for the family means "heads up for danger and run when you can".

Effective personal defense responsibility is a learned behavior.  It should be core curriculum for all children.  Sadly, too often, the weakest link of a home security system is the habits of occupants

I hate to sound paranoid, or an alarmist, but coming from a family that's 75% LEO, and a single female who has been the third party to more violence against women than I would like, it's only prudent to NOT be trusting when it comes to keeping your loved ones and home safe.

Because a barking dog is not enough.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sunday Eats - Donuts from Scratch!

BAKED Buttermilk Donuts. 

They have seriously fewer calories than regular donuts and they are really tasty! It's a slight riff on a King Arthur flour recipe and they are so tasty you won't miss the fried part. I made a big batch for my husband's coworkers, all of them Milleneals who are into working out and healthy living.
Bakes 6 full size or 12 small to medium (what my new pan turned out to be).

• 2 tablespoons) butter, melted
• 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1/4 cup granulated sugar
• 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
• 1 large eggs
• 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, to taste
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 1/3 King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (if using Gluten free flour add 1/2 tsp Xanthan Gum)
• 1/2 cup milk with 2 teaspoons of liquid replaced with lemon juice, then let sit five minutes before adding to other ingr3edients.

I also made one gluten-free batch with 1/4 cup finely diced apple and a good dash of cinnamon in them.

NOTE:  King Arthur Flour DOES make a baked donut mix, sold on their website. I usually make mine from scratch to save some serious $$ but I have tried the mix and if you don't like to bake, you'll love it.  It's really tasty and they have a gluten-free version in several flavors and the mix is divided into two pouches so you can make either six donuts or 12.

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray donut pan with non-stick spray

 2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the butter, vegetable oil, and sugars until smooth.

 3. Add the egg, beating to combine.

4. Stir in the baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, salt, and vanilla.

5. Stir the flour into the butter mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour and making sure everything is thoroughly combined.

 6. Spoon the batter into the lightly greased doughnut pans.  Mine looks like this (purchased from Amazon)

You want to fill the wells no more than 2/3 full for a small/medium pan or 1/3 inch from the top on a full-size donut pan.  Do NOT fill them up all the way, if you have extra batter - make a second pan.  I tried to get all the batter in my pan (which turned out to be a small/medium size and not full size like you'd get at a donut shop) and they were WAY too big with an indentation and not a hole and a fat base to them.

Think "Duffin". 

I rolled them in cinnamon sugar and my husband said they were really tasty but I was NOT going to serve those to his coworkers in the morning.  Those would go in the freezer to be thawed for little lunchbox snacks over the next couple of weeks while a new batch or two was prepared for his team at work.

7. Bake the doughnuts for 10-12 minutes. Remove them from the oven, and wait 5 to 7 minutes before turning them out of the pans onto a rack.  When cool, glaze and sprinkle.

GLAZE (enough for one batch)
1 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
1 Tablespoon melted butter
1-3 tablespoons milk  (start with one and add more to get the consistency you want)