Friday, August 31, 2018
Mock Armadillo (as my friends call it).
Photos prior to baking as once baked - picture piranhas skeletonizing a cow. You take a mixture of half low sodium soy sauce and half real maple syrup. Fillet a pork tenderloin (one that lengthwise would fill a bread pan) or two and marinate all day in the mixture, enough to cover.
About 3 hours before dinner, slice some green onions and a carrot into tiny matchstick-sized slivers and saute in a little olive oil with a clove of garlic. Add a twist of ground pepper but do not add salt as the soy sauce has enough already. Veggies should be starting to soften but not limp.
Remove meat from marinade, unfold the meat, stuff with veggies (amount up to you, I use about 1/2 cup uncooked per tenderloin, "seasoning" as opposed to "filling"). \
Wrap in raw bacon and secure with toothpicks.
Pour some of the leftover marinade over the meat and bake, loosely covered with foil, in bread pans in a 200-degree oven for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours. (aim for 45 minutes per pound for each individual tenderloin adding 15 minutes to the total baking if you're baking two in the oven).
Thursday, August 30, 2018
click on the picture to enlarge
I got this wooden plaque covered with a chalkboard for my cousin's dog grooming business. Now I just need to add some words.
Nouns - gun safe, ball, friend, couch potato, shoe, wiener, pot-roast, beer, toy, hippie, pointer, mailman, playmate, shepherd, bone, doghouse, toy.
Adjectives: floppy, miniature, hyper, happy, difficult, stinky, farting, smart, shedding, loyal, protective, hairy, short-haired, caffeinated, furry, playful, napping
Adverbs: silently, loudly, cunningly, slowly, quietly, sleepily, cuddly, lazily, hysterically, hesitantly, quickly, skillfully, exuberantly.
Color: black, white brown, red.
Number: Not nearly enough
There's no good word for this - Abby can sleep anywhere!
Wednesday, August 29, 2018
Highly recommended. . . L.B. Johnson
If you are a proud American, read this book.
If you are a Christian, read this book.
If you are a first responder, EMT, paramedic, fireman, or police officer, read this book.
If you are too young to truly remember 9/11 read this book.
If you've ever questioned where God was when you suffered some great loss, read this book.
Written by a former Chicago firefighter, rescue diver, and chaplain who volunteered (5 tours) at Ground Zero this is the most amazing story of courage, faith, and humanity as I have ever read. I stayed up well into the night finishing it, even though I had to be at work early. I ended it with tears on my face and a renewed trust in God and the humanity of my fellow man.
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
He joked, "Great - on my tombstone - here lies G. salt-free, but still dead". So, at his request, I smuggled him in some cheddar bacon popcorn due to a very kind gourmet popcorn shop in his southwest town that offered to deliver it to him. I used to hit his tip jar on his blog every few months with enough cash for a really nice bottle of Scotch (he was medically retired and was on disability). Thereafter he called me the Scotch Fairy.
He didn't get a chance to try the popcorn. He wrote that he was NPO (no food by mouth) for at least the weekend.
I expected a phone call Monday - since we didn't talk Friday as originally planned. Our phone calls were fun. We met about 10 years ago when he hung up his hat as a Private Investigator and we'd talk investigative stuff, crime, books, scotch, you name it. Over the years and especially after I lost my older brother he became like family. Honestly, G. was family even if we're not related.
My husband provided what comfort he could but I cried for a long time after I got the news.
I hope these words provide some comfort for any of you who have lost a friend or a family member recently.
An Excerpt From Saving Grace - A Story of Adoption
I've heard so many people say: "I'll do that when I'm older, when I lose 20 pounds when I'm retired." We go through life saying, "I would, but it probably wouldn't work out," or, " I'd like to but. . ." We too often base our actions on an artificial future, painting a life picture based on an expectancy that time is more than sweat, tears, heat, and mirage.
You can't count on anything. For out of the blue fate can come calling. My husband and I had recently lost our beloved black Lab Barkley after a brief but valiant battle against bone cancer and a weekend of pain we couldn't keep at bay for him. In a flash, life robbed even of the power to grieve for what is ending. I think back to when my brother Allen and I were kids: going down a turbulent little river with little more than an inner tube and youth, risking rocks and rapids and earth just to see what was around the bend of that forest we'd already mapped out like Lewis and Clark. The water was black and silver, fading swirls of deep current rising to the surface like a slap, fleeting and gravely significant---as if something stirred beneath, unhappy to be disturbed from its slumber, making its presence known. A fish, perhaps; or simply fate.
I think of the true story of the woman whose parachute didn't open on her first jump and she fell more than a mile and lived---to change her whole life to pursue her dreams. Did she sense something as she boarded that plane, looking into the sky at a danger that she could not articulate, that she could not see? Or was she unaware until that moment when she pulled the cord and nothing happened, as her life rushed up to her with a deep groaning sound? What was it like in that moment, that perception of her final minutes, what taste, what color, what sound defined her soul as it prepared to leave?
I was in the paint section of a hardware store the other weekend, looking for a brick-colored paint to spruce up a backdrop in the crash pad’s kitchen. I noticed the yellows, a color I had painted my room as a teen. I noticed the greens, so many of them---some resembling the green of my parents’ house in the sixties and seventies, yet not being exactly the same color. The original was one that you'd not see in a landscape, only in a kitchen with avocado appliances while my Mom sang as she made cookies. I remember Allen and I racing through the house, one of us soldier, the other spy, friends forever; stopping only long enough for some of those cookies, still warm. Holding that funky green paint sample I can see it as if it were yesterday. Memories only hinted at held there in small squares of color.
What is it about things from the past that evoke such responses? For some, it’s a favorite photo; a piece of clothing worn to a special event; a particular meal. Things that carry with them the sheer impossible quality of perfection that has not been achieved since. Things that somehow trigger in us a response of wanting to go back to that time and place when you were safe and all was well. But even as you try and recapture the memory it eludes you, caught in a point in your mind between immobility and motion, the taste of empty air, the color of wind.
One morning while out in a hangar checking out a pilot friend’s home-built project, I had one of those moments. It was an old turboprop lumbering down the taxiway with all the grace of a water buffalo. It wasn't the aircraft that caught my eye, it being one of those planes that carry neither speed nor sleek beauty but rather serves as the embodiment of inertia overcome by sufficient horsepower. No, it was the smell of jet fuel that took me back---to years of pushing the limits, not really caring if I came home, only that the work was done without my breaking beyond re-use something I was trusted with.
Until one day, while my heart was beating despite being broken unseen beneath starched white cotton, my aircraft made a decided effort to kill me. It was not the "Well, I'll make a weird sound and flash some red lights at you and see what you do," an aircraft's equivalent of the Wicked Witch of the North cackling: "Care for a little FIRE, scarecrow?" No, it was a severe vibration that shook the yoke right out of my hand as we accelerated through 180 knots on the initial climb, as unknown to me, a small piece of metal on the aircraft's tail had come loose and was flapping in the breeze.
In that moment, as I heard the silent groaning of the earth below, I thought "I do not wish to die," and I fought back---in that moment of slow and quiet amazement that can come at the edge of sound, finding in myself a renewed desire to live, recognizing the extent and depth of that desire to draw another breath and share that soft warm breath with another.
Today is a memory that months from now could be one of those memories---not of fear but of triumph. You may look back and see this day, the friends you were with, the smile on your face, the simple tasks you were doing together. Things, so basic in their form to at this time simply be another chore: cleaning, fixing, an ordinary day while children played with a paper plane fueled by laughter and the hangar cat drowsed in the sunlight. It might be a day you didn't even capture on film---no small squares of color left to retain what you felt as you worked and laughed together, there in those small strokes of color, those small brushes of hope as you wait for your best friend to join you.
Twenty years from now you may look at yourself in the mirror, at the wrinkles formed from dust, time, and tears around your eyes, at the gray in your hair; and you will think back to this day, the trivial things that contain the sublime. On that day, so far beyond here, you may look around you, that person you were waiting for no longer present, and you want it all back. Want it as bad as the yearning for a color that is not found in nature, in the taste of something for which you search and ache, acting on the delusion that you can recreate it, those things that haunt the borders of almost knowing.
You touch the mirror, touch your face and wish you'd laughed more, cared less of what others thought, dove into those feelings that lapped at the safe little edges of your life, leaped into the astonishing uncertainty.
Allen spent years running silent and deep under the ocean, visiting places I can only guess at as he will not speak of it, a code about certain things I share with him. But I knew the name. Operation Ivy Bells. He understood testing the boundaries of might and the deep, cold depths to which we travel in search of ourselves.
On his last nights, Allen and I talked, but not of that, being aware of grave matters of honor but not speaking of them, not even with each other. I'd sit as he talked about Dad and how he hoped Dad would live to be a hundred; how he hoped he would be there to take care of him, even as I watched 120 pounds leave Allen’s frame as he went through that second round of chemo and radiation.
He talked until his eyes closed, only his labored breath letting me know he was still with me; the rise and fall of his chest as if he were trying to push up from the waters of the sea, unfathomed flesh still so buoyant if only in spirit as the cold water lapped against him.
I too have had more than one day where I stood outside on a pale crescent of beaten earth and breathed deeply of that cold. On those days I felt every ache in my muscles; my skin hot under the sun; the savage, fecund smell of loss in the air, lying heavily in the loud silence. Somewhere in the distance would come a soft clap of thunder; overhead clouds strayed deliberately across the earth, disconnected from mechanical time. I'd rather be elsewhere; the smell simply that of kitchen and comfort: the sounds only that of laughter. But I knew how lucky I was to simply be, in that moment, and alive.
I'd go home on such nights and pour a drink, prepare a small meal. I'd eat it slowly, letting the sweet and salt stay upon my tongue. For me there would be no quick microwaved meal eaten with all the detachment of someone at a bar, tossing back a handful of stale nuts with their beer. No, I wished to taste and savor the day, the warm layers of it, this day that had been someone's last.
You can't control fate but you can make choices. You can continue your day and do nothing, standing in brooding and irretrievable calculation as if casting in a game already lost. Or you can seize the moment, the days, wringing every last drop from them. Tell the ones you love that you love them. Hug your family; call an old friend you've not spoken to for months; forgive an enemy; salute your flag---and always, always give the dog an extra biscuit. Then step outside into the sharp and unbending import of spring, a dying winter flaring up like fading flame, one last taste, one last memory, never knowing how long it will remain.
Monday, August 27, 2018
Sunday, August 26, 2018
Friday, August 24, 2018
The storm rolled through fairly quickly and with more than a little rain. This has been quite the year for rain, setting a fifty-some year record. The damage on the drives home each weekend was explicit - whole farm fields submerged, others dotted with large pages of dead vegetation that succumbed to days and days of standing water, The flat land was ridged and rutted with the marks of the centuries, the land passed over with wagons and guns, tears and tribulations.
It was only a few years ago, we had a drought, the corn dying across the landscape. There is no pattern to it, no predictability beyond a farmer's almanac and the scattering of bones across the ground. I remember one hot day in that summer - a small farmhouse - an interview to be conducted. The woman that answered the door knew why I was there, even as she looked past me as if hoping I'd disappear. I'm supposed to say "I'm sorry for your loss". But I could not. I simply stood there as she grabbed onto me as if a lifeline, breaking into tears. She couldn't have been much more than 100 pounds and felt like a bundle of sticks against my muscled form as she cried - sticks that had weathered so much, for so many years, only to be tossed onto a fire, for which I could offer no healing rain.
For some reason, I think of that on that Monday morning, as the rain dripped down eaves that have wept the tears from above for well over a hundred years. The village itself was old, all but a handful of the homes a hundred years old or more, trees covering my shadow that had existed long before I did. It's a quiet place, a safe area to walk. Each morning my husband or I would take Abby out for her walk, passing a Pub, the Catholic Church, down past the school to my house. As I went that day to get her leash, a flock of Canadian geese flew overhead, causing me to look up to a gunmetal sky as I looked out across the neighborhood.
The wooden steps listed ever so slightly, as if tired, a project when the kitchen is done. Branches of age-old trees moved in the wind, a flutter of birds released as they bow down upon the altar of a porch, The air within was still with invisible memories of the several generations who have lived in this home.
I wondered if I could instantly take myself to this spot 50 years in the future if it would be the same, if it would even be here. That's something I will never likely know, as the future, like beauty itself, floats fleeting, undefined, half hidden in the silent, still air, to be recognized only when we are ready.
As we returned from a short trip out to the grass, then a dash back to the house, I took my boots off, gliding quietly over polished floors, throwing my raincoat on the fragmentary curve of the chair. The house empty now, I went down to the basement, ducking my head in stooped courtesy to the low ceiling, where I would take up a tool and hammer grief into a piece of wood.
My Aunts house, where I sat in the tiny living room and listened to my favorite Uncle, the Engineer, ask questions that made me view the world in a whole new way. It's gone, the house raised to joint the tall colorful homes that rise towards the sky on those small lots. All that is left is some glassware of my Aunts, my Uncle's engineering books, passed to my brother, then to me. There in the closet is the carefully tended uniform of a great War, the cloth itself assuming the shape and form of those who are our heroes, looming tremendous against that backdrop of books and tools, and a small folded flag, that fills a sleeping house.
There in a city further away is a rental house I lived in as I started University. I shared the top floor apartment with two girlfriends from high school, the main floor housing one of their brothers and a roommate, as did the basement. It was owned by one of my friend's parents, We got cheap rent, but it was NOT free, the house having to pay for itself. It was so very tiny, two of us sharing one bedroom, one former bedroom, now the "living room", the really small one, mine, just enough room for a twin mattress on the floor and some pictures of musical instruments on the wall. In the tiny bathroom, a single antique claw-footed tub, as deep as desire. It was a sanctuary where I would soak for an hour with Vivaldi playing, not the usual Queen or Led Zeppelin, when I actually had the place all to myself.
I opened up the window, the air breathing in and out, lightning flashes and with the weight of the dark, my breath quickens - blood running warm and quiet. So many places, now gone or changed to where what I remember of them is more recalling a piece of music I've heard, but for which I played no part.
When I was in grade school, on the long walk home, there was this giant shrub, actually several that had grown together, dying parts replaced by new shoots, all trimmed in a huge square shape. But underneath, in the tangle of their bases, you could crawl through, on your belly, like you were in some sort of secret fox hole tunnel. There were lots of open branches and space so it wasn't EXACTLY like a foxhole, but we could pretend. Of course, I'd arrive home, the dress my Mom had made for me all dirty and she had NO idea how I could get that way from a "walk home".
So imagine my surprise when I was first back in town after university and saw that sculptured shrub was still there, all new pieces perhaps, but still a growing living thing. I could no longer fit underneath its form but I could see that image still, looking up through the dense shrubbery, the branches, the arms that protect, the leaves, guarding not just my form but my urgent heart as I thought that surely heaven must be this color green, that forever grows and will never die.
I think of the walls of my crash pad near work, a place that was only a spot to lay my head when I was on duty, my true home far away. But what of the memories made there, the dinners and laughter, Barkley's attempts to get the little plush toy keychain that was attached to my friend's purse, friends stopping by to see both of us, innumerable waffles, toast and toasts and always, books. There were tools and brass and puzzles and a question asked that made me look at the world in a whole new way. There was a dog bed, by mine, now claimed by a senior rescue dog, who will twitch in her sleep as she guards that which remains.
Then there were the nights alone there, waiting for the phone to go off, even as it didn't. My eyelids lids would twitch as I tried to sleep, the movement in response to my own brains thoughts or perhaps merely the cyclical movement of the earth and all of her watchers. In that place, there were memories made, and a life, perhaps forever changed. I wonder if years from now, I will drive past, just to see if it's there.
For these are the places of our happiest memories. They are scraps of time, like scraps of a note where your name once lay, a bit of stiff paper that means little of itself, yet still you keep it, will not burn it or throw it away because it means something, something you can hold even if the marks upon it are faded to white, something that says what you were, what you felt, even as you still are.
Years from now, oh so many years you hope, year to dream, to grow, there will come another night, with eyes that twitch with the minds flooding, even if the body is failing, the organs requiring the care of a Swiss watch even as time ticks down. The eyes are full of everything save consciousness and others gather around, looking on with knowing and unbearable eyes. The places of your memory are likely long gone, all they have here is the pictures of them in that brain that still sparks like a match, unspoken stories mirrored in the eyes of those around you.
Those places are never truly lost, they simply lie in whatever peaceful trail, besides whatever placid and assuring pond of spent years remains; in the mirror of days in which the mind still contemplates older desires and everlasting hopes. They are there, always, quiet, musing, steadfast, the joy still triumphant even if the actual place is now cinder and dirt. In that brain, is one final vision, a place perhaps, a person, someone for whom that spark exists even if they were years gone. The breath slows, the body remembers, the eyes finally close even as they embrace all seeing.
From outside the basement window, the rain ceased as a flock of geese flew overhead. Their sounds rose towards an astonishing crescendo, beyond the compass of hearing, as they flew upwards into a bright green sky.
Wednesday, August 22, 2018
I'm at work today, earning my daily bread so I will leave you with a little lesson in making your own. The tasty variety. While picking up a loaf of bread not all that long ago I paid attention to the price. It has gone up significantly in the last year, as have most other foods.
I use up to a loaf a week, sandwiches for lunch, french toast, a base for stew, toasted and smeared with roasted garlic alongside roasted veggies or pasta. I eat primal a few days a week to keep my overall sugar and carbs down, but I still have some bread days. I tried to do the low carb thing once and was ready to take hostages at a Dunkin Donuts by day 3. I'm fine with salads and roasted veggies with my meat, but I missed toast with my bacon and eggs.
But everything in moderation. Still, thinking as to the cost, I wondered - how much does it cost to bake a loaf versus buy. Using the best quality flour (I love King Arthur for bread, White Lily for biscuits, pancakes, and waffles) and getting your yeast in bulk you can bake a loaf of bread (baking two at a time in the oven to reduce fuel cost) for a little more than a dollar. If you buy cheaper an/or bulk flours, you'll save even more. Artisan bread in the store cost up to $4-5. For myself, baking two loaves (freezing one) rather than buying a loaf of the fancy bread saves me over a couple hundred dollars a year). That's just one person. When I married a "sandwich guy" that doubled my savings and it was SO much better.
Anyway - to get started. . .
You will need:
6 cups flour
2/3 cup white sugar
2 cups warm water
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1 and 1/2 Tablespoons butter (NOT margarine)
2 teaspoons salt.
A big bowl, a board for kneading and a little extra flour to coat the board and your hands.
Measure out six cups of flour. (King Arthur bread flour was used). Flours are different, and some brands may require less or more than the recipe calls for, some, for products like biscuits, give a taller, more tender product (using soft wheat). I am just telling you what I've had good luck with, but you may have excellent luck with another brand that is less expensive. It's something you just learn over time. I'm also allergic to malt and malted barley flour is added to a lot of cheap grocery store flours. For my whole grain breads, as I do both, I use Bob's Red Mill.
In a very big bowl dissolve 2/3 cup white sugar in 2 cups warm water (110 degrees F. or 45 C.). If you don't have a thermometer, test it on the inside of your wrist like you would baby formula. If it's too HOT it will kill the yeast and your bread won't rise (door stop anyone?). If it's too COLD you have the equivalent of yeast "shrinkage".
Add flour, a cup at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon. When almost all of the flour is added the batter will look stringy like thick elastic and want to slide off the spoon. Add the rest of the flour (but gradually, so you use only what you need) until it's too thick to stir.
Remove the dough to a clean floured board or surface and knead it by pushing with the palm of clean, dry hands. After each push, bring the dough back towards you, gather up the sides and push again watching that you don't poke holes in it with your fingers.
Add flour to the board to keep it from sticking but not too much, or the dough will be dry.
The more you knead, the finer texture your bread will have, but you also don't want to overwork it.
Knead it till it's becoming silky smooth and doesn't stick to your hands. If it's "shaggy" looking, doesn't hold a shape or tears, it's NOT ready.
Place in a well oiled BIG bowl and turn to coat both sides. Cover with a clean, damp kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place free from drafts until doubled, about an hour. You want a temperature of about 75 degrees F. If the house is chilled, I'll turn the oven on for just a few seconds, then turn it off, to get it a little warm and put the bread inside. watching though that it's not too hot or your bread will becoarsee textured. In the summer, just put your oven light on and put it in there.
Now go find something to do. It's quiet, you've got an hour. Go commune with nature. .
Or check on your emergency supplies in the garage.
When it is doubled in size, remove dough from its resting place, perfect
Time for some fun with that third loaf.
We added some crushed red pepper, cracked black pepper and Parmesan and slightly kneaded it in. You also could do fresh or dried herbs or garlic. Then, a little bit more fresh shaved Parmesan was sprinkled on top after we brushed all of the tops with another Tablespoon (or as needed) of melted butter before that final raise.
Allow to rise for 1 hour, until double and about an inch above the pans. (OK, these weren't all exactly the same size, Yeungling may have been involved).
Remove from oven and remove from the pans as soon as possible. (Letting it cool in the pan may result in the bottom of the bread being a bit soggy).
Thanks, Stephanie, for the recipe and baking lesson at your lovely country home. I hope you all try it, the kneading takes a little practice but it's fun, relaxing, and the bigger your family, the more money you will save over 20 ingredient store bought bread. If the room or the water are too cold or hot and it doesn't rise like expected bake it anyway, it will make great bread pudding or croutons. If it doesn't rise AT ALL, well, there's not much you can do but launch it at a hippie with a trebuchet or bury it. But with these hints, hopefully, that won't happen.
Some other household tips: This has no preservatives. If you're not going to use it in three days, keep it in the fridge. For small households, the bread itself freezes well in a plastic bag sealed tight . When you remove it to thaw, let it thaw in the bag without opening. Opening the bag while it thaws adds moisture to the bread you do not want.
Enjoy - and happy baking!
Tuesday, August 21, 2018
Mom doesn't have a Smart Phone so she can't play. It's not that she can't afford one, she doesn't WANT one. She likes her boat anchor phone with the "ringing app" as she regularly drops it, kicks it, gets it rained on and drops a giant Slurpee cup on it - and it just keeps working!
So we took the boat anchor phone and played anyway. Boy, there were a lot of those characters around Chicago.
I've seen enough Mom. Who knew Chicago had such strange and wacky things.