Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving a Bit Early

Hope you all have a good Thanksgiving.  I'm taking the holiday off  from blogging.  I'm sort of fed up with the human race right now and going to take some time off from the internet.

On a plus side, I've learned one good thing through this tough year: who my friends really are. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Poppin' Fresh

Partner in Grime had spent six days straight on a factory floor saving the planet, living off of sandwiches and a pack of ramen noodles in his hotel room.  Sometimes you need  more back up than Ramen Noodles.

I had a busy week as well, but not so busy that I couldn't heat up a home cooked meal when he rolled in.
Cream of Chicken and Wild Rice Soup (the copycat Panera recipe from food dot com to which I added 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, a tiny splash of Moosehead, extra black pepper and a pinch or two of crushed red pepper) with Garlic toast.  He gave it a thumbs up and polished off all of it.

And for breakfast the next morning  I said "Popovers?" and he shyly said "if it's not too much trouble" which is husband speak for "hurry, hurry make them now!"  I keep a popover pan at the crash pad, but it had not been used in a while.
Popovers  Crisp on the outside, soft with soft, rich almost custard-like interior, with layers of goodness, they're worth a little extra trouble. I'd recommend a popover pan for the height and crispness but you can make these in a muffin pan. 
It's a good breakfast before we pack up the car and drive back to the Range where I get a couple days off and he goes right back to work.

On I-65 Northbound, I'd prefer four wheel drive and dual flame throwers, but a full stomach will do.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Our Pets- Making a House a Home

It has been almost six months since Abby joined our household.  It is a decision I am  glad we made.  She is SO different from Barkley, yet she has her own unique personality, one that's becoming a treasured part of each day. She's a five year old mixed breed, lab and possibly flat coated retriever it appears from her slightly longer, super soft fur with a red undertone, muzzle shape and tail. Such dogs are often overlooked  and lose their life as a result as people look at younger and purebred dogs to adopt.

Abby had  been in foster care only a week when we met, with a very loving lady and her husband, but the scars from time in a shelter showed in her eyes.  She was lucky - black dogs are the last adopted and the first euthanized in shelters.  She was rescued just hours from death by the wonderful people at Love of Labs Indiana who drove hours and hours to transport her.  They got her started on the heartworm treatment that was necessary to keep her alive, then worked to find her a loving home when she was well enough from that treatment to be adopted.

This photo was taken when she first showed up at the crash pad. She had been fed well and groomed carefully by the rescue folks but she was still thin from the heartworm treatment, scared at being someplace "strange" again and not even excited to get a treat.
Here she is now (and that tail is about ready to go into mach tuck)
I miss Barkley each and every day, and know you can't replace any dog that's such a big part of your life. But I'm so happy to have the love of this sweet girl my life and smile every time I see her.

Plus, it has made me happy to be able to donate all of the proceeds from the Book of Barkley to a number of organizations, including Love of Labs Indiana, Westside German Shepherd Rescue, Big Fluffy Dog Rescue, Midwest Labrador Retriever Rescue, For the Love of Labs Rescue, Central Florida Weimaraner & Dog Rescue, Angels Among Us Animal Rescue, Willy's Happy Endings and the local humane societies of friends and family. It has been great to meet and great some of them, provide donations and autographed books for auctions and just share our stories.  Barkley's story was not about me, or about money, it was about spreading a message of love and faith and hope.

If you are considering a dog or cat for your home, please consider adoption of a rescue dog - there are so many wonderful souls out there just waiting to be rescued.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Beach Memories - A Last Trip with Dad and a Word From our Sponsor

Just a quick note as it's Friday and I had a long, often cold week and then some photos.

I sent a half dozen of you some Barkley on Kindle last night  or the night before while the price was reduced as an early Merry Christmas.   I then realized, your email might send them to SPAM. So - if any of you and  I communicate through my brigid email address - please go check your SPAM filter for something from Amazon so you don't miss out as a few of you got an early Christmas gift (the rest of you I'm still working on punching the air holes in the box before I package up your "gift").

Until later my friends, I leave you with some photos of Dad's last trip (literally, not just figuratively) to the Oregon Coast where we spent much of our childhood at a very humble vacation cottage we kept there.

The first night there, there was a huge Pacific storm and the next day dawned blustery, to say the least.
My husband and I had rented three suites, one with a huge kitchen and living room, that adjoined or were across the hall from the others so a few of us could gather. The biggest one was a corner unit with great views. Everyone involved had done so much for Dad this summer while we worked, this was our treat, lodging, food, everything.

With it being mid week and during school, it was a small group but it was a tight group.  My cousin L (with whom Dad spent the summer) and her Partner K., and Big Bro's beloved only daughter and her daughter (her husband, a former submariner was working and wasn't able to make it) and Partner and I.
 The storm had passed.
People and their animals ventured out.

I remember once as a kid the tide went out so far we could drive a car around the backside of Haystack.  Cars aren't allowed now, but 45 years ago, this beach was almost deserted but for the locals and the occasion moron that drove his car into the incoming tide and got stuck and watched it get covered with salt water. Still everyone morning, before it was even light, Bro and I would head out to the rock to check out the tide pools, not disturbing anything, just taking in the wonders of the natural world.
We'd get up before light, being careful not to wake Mom ,and head on down to the tide pools that were exposed, gingerly looking, while not harming anything that was there, hoping to find a prehistoric shell to take home.  On the old 60's TV cabinet at Dad's, now a storage cabinet, is a dish full of sand dollars. Many of you have seen a sand dollar. They're commonly sold in souvenir stores. But what you see is only the remaining skeleton of a living sea creature. When living, the sand dollar is covered with fine hair like cilia that cover tiny spines, soft, and almost purple in color. But the remaining shell is beautiful, fragile, white. The essential essence of what this creature was.
We'd throw some of them back in the water, the tide moving as fast and as slow as life itself, even as we ourselves could not sense that momentum, believing that it would always be like this. All that distance between ourselves and the future, it was not even a thought in that long peaceful creep of a childhood afternoon.

TV was not allowed at the cabin and we'd play outside unless it was raining hard enough to drown a duck, coming in only for lunch (and once to catch Dad watching football - busted!). We played, racing around rocks, trees and water until supper, when we'd come in to Mom, to fresh baked cheddar garlic bread and fresh caught fish. We'd bound in and she'd take us in, in arms that smelled of flour, her auburn hair scented with Wind Song perfume, her laughter a balm to any skinned knee that might have occurred during the days warfare. We ran until we couldn't take in a breath.  We drove our feet deep into the sand, as if imprinting it forever.  We conquered the waves on skim boards, shooting across the wet sand with nothing more than the physics of motion and an inch of water, getting a sensation of movement of air and water, that never left either of us.
As Partner I ventured on that second day in this last family trip, I looked out upon the water, and remembered those days, happy I was out in the rain, getting wet, in doing so. As we walked, we talked, of mice and men and many things, sharing stories that occurred before he was born, that made me what I am, as our past shapes us all, like wind and tide.

I didn't mean we were ALL serious. There was these seagulls, and off to the left, one solitary seagull  Partner asked why he wasn't joining and I said "he is just waiting for his tern".  Laughing is good, even at really bad puns.

Time for some games as another shower comes through.
Cribbage and then Dominoes!
We're not type A or anything.
 Then a Trip to Bruce's Candy Kitchen established 1962 or 3.  I always remember it being there
Childhood favorites!  I don't care if your five or fifty - it's always fun to get hyped up on sugar and then go annoy your parents.
I just had the cheap point and shoot camera but you get the idea.
I got some "sea foam" candy and a HUGE bag of their incredible salt water taffy for my great niece and Monkeywrangler's kids.
 Shasta is tired and it was time for supper.

So many meals at this place, in good times and in bad,  as children, even during a time my Mom was battling cancer. She may have been too weak some days to get out of bed, but we were there, with Dad cooking pancakes that were so bad that the dog took them out and buried them and the one I threw in the fireplace wouldn't burn. Years later we still laugh about those pancakes.
We were there when storms tossed tree limbs like toys, taking out a window and reminding us just how vast and powerful the sky and ocean were, understanding both their saving power and severity. We were there through joy and hope and loss, and many, many a dismantled  crab.
But for our first night- Chicken Tetrazzini.

But first, some homemade bread, cheese and olive spread.
We paused to say grace, for family and all our blessings.  Then we dug in.
 Some homemade Cardamon bread for Breakfast with fruit and yogurt.
Then it was time to explore some more.  Dad can't walk on the beach, but he had fun on the balcony with the binoculars, waving at us.
The storm washed up all kinds of stuff.
But some things it didn't budge.
Halibut fish and chips for lunch!  Partner and I both can't do shellfish but I've got him hooked on Halibut.
After lots of walking after lunch out on the beach, Dad beat everyone at Cribbage. 
Then Dad took a little walk around the property with a view of the beach, then came in with Shasta to wait for the baseball game to start. We let him break the rule about TV, it was THE baseball game to watch apparently.

Before we knew it, it was time for "fresh off the boat" crab which K went and so generously bought. With it, there was mac and cheese and salad and garlic toast.

Dad - he just ignored the kids being silly AND the sides and worked on his crab til he had this heaping pile of crabmeat  on his plate and then ate it all at once with a bit of cocktail sauce.

The rest of the family had headed back to Central Oregon to work the next day, so it was just my husband, favorite cousin and her Partner and Dad.  We poured some wine and enjoyed every minute.
After a good night's sleep, it was soon time to go.  K. taking Shasta out for one last romp on the beach before an 11 hour drive for them, back to the mountains.
 Then back, as  we gathered up our things.
Shasta senses something is changing as bags are gathered up, sticking close to her favorite human.

Partner and I made one last trip, by ourselves, to the spot where my parents rented a cabin when Bro and I were children, right on the water, the place now a huge hotel.  The dynamics of the ocean have changed, a river inlet to the ocean now shifted so much closer to the shoreline, where it had once been a huge expanse of beach.
This view is one I knew for my entire childhood - but for the water being a little further away when we were little.

What is it about certain things in life, the simplest of things, a tool, a smell, the feel of a piece of wood or small stone in your hand that evokes a place, a voice, a wistful goodbye, that makes you feel like a small child walking on a path of life that got suddenly big. And like a child, you deeply sense how it makes you feel, but the words you know to explain it are so very limited, so you just sit and  look, and breathe it in.

The only sound I hear is the internal tick of a clock, the only other thing I can sense is a taste of salt, that of the ocean, or tears, I can not tell, but distilled there on my tongue taking me back some 40 or so years to that wooded area where we played soldier and spy, almost unchanged.  As I stood there, I could hear my brother calling to me from deep within the green - We've beaten the bad guys, come join me.   Not too soon Big Bro, I hope, but I will see you again

Then it was time to load up Dad and say goodbye.
Dad with my beloved cousin L, - who he took under his wing after her Dad died in a fishing boat accident when she was a young woman.  He will see her again, with her loving partner and family member K., but Dad knew it would be his last time here, with the family.

As he got into the car, I saw the tears as all he could get out was "last trip. . "  Then I said "but you DID beat everyone over the age of 5 in Cribbage"-- and he slyly chuckled "I did" and laughed, enjoying the car ride back to his house with a stop for marionberry pie before we got on the ferry.  Good memories to the end.
A couple of days later, Partner and I load up the rental car to take one last ferry ride to catch our flight home.  Dad watches me through the window from that old recliner that has faded, there where the light fell strongest. I wonder, does he see a grown woman, a few laugh lines there beneath the long red pony tail and ball cap? Or does he still see a little auburn haired girl growing into adulthood at the speed of sound?  Does he recall all of those moments that haunt the winter of our memory, or just those golden days of summer at the beach, unmarred by rain or thunder? Or has he simply surrendered it all over to simply this moment, now, these remaining days that are left?

He yawns and his eyes close, there in the late Autumn sun, one last exhalation that empties his body of waking or worrying. The neighborhood lay in that soft hazy light that makes the houses look like old photos, faded scraps of color that scatter lightly on the earth, lighter than dust, with which one hard rain would wash forever from our sight and memory, were we not to gather them up to protect them.

I know that parts of my life are over and the cadence of my days and my future will change once again. But dealing with change as I grew up was easier at the cabin, because over the years it was as constant as the gentle waves upon the shore. And in this dark this night, as I sit in a quiet room, only my laptop to keep me company, I open up my picture folder stored therein, where I carry those glimpses of places and people that I love. As the world outside stills, I take myself back to it, as if I was there. I take myself back so I can let go.
I remind myself that love is more about how I feel in my heart than how others feel about me, that home has more to do with those who love me, than their being with me this very moment. And when I think of Big Bro standing against the landscape in my dream, still strong and healthy, I realize something. The undercurrents of ocean and sky had shaped him, eroding away all but what is essential; until all that was left was pure love, a pristine light that is his soul.   That, I will always have with me.

I tell myself, not how much I miss him, and will soon miss my whole family, but that I am thankful for who they were to me, and always will be.

The cabin is gone, but it's the memories that matter. They are in me, the way waves, incessant, after a long time, cease to be sound, yet are still there

 - Brigid

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Winter Survival - Road Trips and Recaps

I posted a shorter version of this a couple of winters ago. These tips are designed for normal winter travel not  - "hey honey, we're going to get 9 feet of snow, let's take the Triumph to the grocery!"

Think about your drive home today. The sun might be shining, but what will the weather be like when you come home from work? What if your car slides or is forced off the road due to another driver that leaves the scene. There you are, stuck in a ditch or broke down in an isolated area as the temperature slides quickly to zero or below?

More times than you know, after a strong and unexpected storm, people have died on their way home, having left offices in light coats to covered parking garages, expecting a quick drive home to their snug garage. They are just going from covered parking to covered parking. Who needs gloves or a thick coat or other things? And they died.  People in this horrible storm out east have died, caught unawares on the road. 

If you're going any further than you can walk, check the weather.  I have driven home on Saturday morning instead of after work Friday many times, because the weather was too treacherous to be out alone in it. 

Being outdoors in the winter, how you gear yourself is crucial. You have to dress for it, layering the clothes, making sure you keep dry at all costs. My Mom would tell us to keep our hats on as we'd lose 90% of our heat through our head. I'd be a smart alec and say "so Mom, I can go naked and wear a hat and I'll only be 10% colder".

It's not 90% but she was close. Even though my Arctic weight Carhart has a great hood that snaps in front of the neck, I still have a scarf for additional protection around the exposed areas. You can lose over 50 percent of your body heat from an unprotected head and even more if your neck, wrists and ankles aren't insulated well, for those areas of the body have very little insulating fat and thus are good radiators of heat. If you don't cover your head well, because of the blood circulation in it, much of it close to the surface, can cause you to loose heat quickly. The brain is quite susceptible to cold.
You want to avoid overheating as well. If you sweat into your clothes, that damp will decrease the insulation quality of the fabric and as the sweat evaporates, your body cools. If you start getting sweaty, open your jacket up a bit, or remove an inner layer of clothing or take off your gloves for just a minute. Hands, like the head can really dissipate the heat.

Do take gear for outdoor activities, even if it's just a day hike on a clear sunny winter day. If you have room and are going to be in the woods, pack up tightly a heavy, down-lined sleeping bag. Ensure the down remains dry. At least take an extra jacket, hat, gloves, and a blanket. If outdoors and you don't have a sleeping bag you can make one out of some parachute cloth, which is easy to pack and nature's own dry filler, pine needles, moss, leaves (make sure it's dry), placing the dry filler between two layers of the cloth.

But what about those less obvious treks, that trip to the store, that drive home from the lab or a night out on the town. That small trendy coat is going to seem pretty meager if you end up stuck, and unable to run your car's engine to heat the vehicle.

Rule No. 1- Never drive in winter with less than half a tank. If you get stuck, you do not want to be stuck further because you used your gas to keep warm.

Rule No. 2 - In your vehicle, always have plenty of gear to keep warm, because running your vehicle for warmth with snow piled around you is a good way to die from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.

How much stuff should I carry?

I always tried to carry a small survival bag in the car or in the truck when I know I am going to be out in isolated areas, or after dark anywhere. You don't need enough to stock or arm an entire platoon, just enough for basic protection from the elements and nutrition for a night or two. Pack it in a small bag, or a box.

That of course, is in addition to a personal carry piece in those places I can legally have one in the vehicle. Remember, if your trip is going across State lines, please carefully review the laws for having a weapon in your vehicle for each State you will travel through. Many states do NOT recognize other State's permits. Make sure the weapon is secure on your person or in proper storage, loaded only if you intend it to be, and never for a moment pointed at anything you don't wish to shoot. But have it handy, where you can get to it quickly and easily if the situation warrants its use to defend your life. 

Why a weapon?

I am going to come across to some as alarmist but I speak from someone with experience in the field and second generation LEO. Not everyone that may offer aid if you are stranded, especially women, is a good Samaritan. Women are often victims of those they trust. If the person offers help, have them call the Highway Patrol, Sheriff or local police. and stay near you until they arrive. But if your life is not in immediate danger, stay in your vehicle, with the window rolled up, until that help arrives. If a lone car pulls up with flashing lights, but no markings, or some sort of markings and no uniform, ladies, ask the officer for their ID before you roll down that window. Look at it closely and if it looks the slightest bit hinky, call their station to verify it.  They won't mind one bit, and would hope their wives or children of driving age do the same.

If you aren't comfortable or proficient with a firearm, take a knife, a can of mace, a big tire iron.  SOMETHING you can grab easily if someone tries to pull you from your car.

Now for assembling a basic, compact, easy to store winter kit:

What NOT to put in the kit is easy.

I think you can get along without a Margherita (alcohol is not the beverage of choice if you are conserving body heat), a snow globe (just look out the window), a DVD, or your lip gloss.

Hearing protection? Well gentlemen, that depends who you are stuck in the ditch with (I told you to stop and ask for directions ).

Here's what I would carry for trips about town - just the basics, not heavy, and it doesn't take up much space. For starters, already in the vehicle is a small shovel, flares in the glove box, that firearm and ammo (legally carried and stored, check your State laws), a map, cell phone charger that will run off the vehicle's power supply, a trash bag and a small first aid kit (throw some surgical tubing in the first aid kit, it can be used for a tourneqet, transferring water from a catch and is generally more useful than straps). Those things stay year round.

Now time for the winter kit or the kit that goes on any trip away from developed areas. Swiss Army knife, food high in in fat/protein and carbs, water for at least 3 days, a metal container to melt snow, waterproof matches (in a waterproof container), a backup lighter, a compass, waterproof ground cloth and cover, flashlight, 60 hour emergency candle, water purification tablets, something to signal for help (a mirror to augment the flares), an extra warm shirt or jacket and an extra warm blanket. (I throw in a sleeping bag alongside as well). Also, a bright colored warm hat to wear and something else bright colored to wear or hang from an antenna. Warm, waterproof boots, gloves, tape, string and hand sanitizer. Why? Cleanliness will keep you from risking dehydration with an upset tummy, sanitizer can also disinfect a wound and be used in starting a fire. This is in addition to the box of Kleenex and wet naps I usually have in the car. I also sometimes carry a little can of Sterno, NOT for using in side the car but for warming my hands if I have to do a tire change

If you have your pet with you - bring a very warm blanket for them, extra good and water, and keep a good bit of rope or paracord handy to allow them out of the vehicle if they have to go potty, while attached securely to your steering wheel. Also bring extra wipes and waste bags in case getting out of the car for bathroom duty isn't possible.

I tore the paracord in the boot with a knife and the boot stays in the cab.  If your supplies are in the trunk and you have to get out of your vehicle to get to it in snow or darkness cut a car length of it, tying one end to your steering wheel, the other to your wrist.  With another short piece tie your car keys firmly to your other wrist before leaving the vehicle.

click to enlarge
It sounds like a ton of stuff but you can put it all in a medium sized box or small duffel bag in the trunk. Better yet, if you are traveling solo, space permitting, have it in the vehicle with you so you don't have to get out into the elements to set up for warmth until help arrives. Stay with your vehicle, attaching a bright piece of cloth to an antenna for visibility. Don't try and walk out if can you help it. People have done that and been found frozen stiff only a 1/4 mile away from their vehicle after getting disoriented in the snow.
Simple advice. Small, useful things you likely already have around the house. Gather them up. Know how to use them. They may one day save your life, so you can get home safely and in need of proper refreshment.

And save the frosty things for when you get home.