If you haven't had a chance you should check out Melanie Sherman's cousin Karen's blog http://notvoneyear.blogspot.com/. Work warning, do NOT attempt to read this blog while at work unless you have an office and can close the door because you will be howling with laughter and if you're a cube rat your fellow rats will start to wonder about you...well more then they already do.
Anyway - Karen's been regaling her happy followers with tales of critters - snakes, spiders, frogs and armadillos. Good southern fare. But being a Pacific Northwestern now for the last 15 years I feel we need a critter tale from these parts. And da boyz (Bear and Boo) have been happy to oblige.
Our house has a burm in the back. It looks very pretty with ivy and different plants and with 3 large pine trees on top. Until recently the back, however, was more of a jungle filled with black berry bushes and what have you. About 3 years ago when I moved back in with my parents I let Da Boyz out for their nightly duties. Before I knew what was going on, they'd raced up and over the burm top and were in the back barking a bark that can only be described as their pack hunt bark. Totally different from their normal barks. I run out, Mom runs out, Dad runs out. And we all start calling their names. Now when a dog is on a hunt, they don't normally listen to the furless two leggers that they allow in their pack.
Funny thing about burms, they're low hills, and like hills they have dirt, and when dirt gets wet it turns into mud and mud is slick. Thinking da boyz had were fighting off a mountaian lion I start to race up the burm. Only..yeah remeber the mud part. I stop to slip. No problem the fence is right next to me. I reach out to grab hold and find that I am now holding one of the slats from the fence. I stare at this piece of wood in my hands as I fall over backwards. Behind me comes Dad, ex-marine that he is, he goes into a marine crawl, on the knees using the elbows, he slowly works his way up the burm. All the while Mom is calling the boys names.
So here we are, it's pitch dark, I'm on my back in the mud holding a part of the fence, Dad is going all commado and trying to crest the burm like it was mount suribachi, and Mom is calling BEAR BOO!!!
Then up they come over the crest. They look somewhat amused at Dad and me as they trot down the burm and polietly go back into the house as is nothing had happened.
No doubt some poor Opossoum, mouse, rabbit or oddly shaped leaf learned its lesson. We sure did. There is now a high stone wall in front of the burm with steps on one end that we have blocked off from little four leggers. The back of the burm is now free of anything where a critter would call home.
When Amazon sent me an e-mail saying that the Civil War Coobook they SAID they had they actually did NOT have I decided to go local and got on Powell's websit. BOOM there it was and for cheaper then what Amazon had had it. So yeah got that...then I did something I don't normally do... I looked at the rare cookbooks. OH MY there's one from 1860! 1860!!! It's from London but still...1860!!!! It's name...
Modern Cookery, For Private Families, Reduced to a System of Easy Practice, in a series of Carefully Tested Receipts, in which the principles of Baron Liebig and Other Eminent Writers Have Been... (the ... were from the title heading. That is the full name of it! So my Civil war cookbook and my cookbook from the Civil War era (ok a year before) are COMING!!!!
I LOVE POWELLS! And a plug for Cover to Cover books in Vancouver. My Portland friends need to cross the river and check it out. It is a TRUE BOOKSTORE...remember those? Not Barnes and Noble, not Borders but a real honest to goodness independant bookstore with a bookstore cat and a fully equiped espresso bar. Believe me you'll be there a while roaming the endless shelves of literary goodness.
And while you're there pick up "THE GIFT OF MURDER" It's an anthology of murder mystery stories and the Pacific Northwest's Very own Carolyn Rose has a short story. In fact she is the ONLY Pac NW author chosen for the anthology. All proceeds go to Toys for Tots so tis a good cause as well. OK so that's two plugs one for Cover to Cover and one for "THE GIFT OF MURDER". You won't be sorry with either!
I'm a foodie plain and simple. I love food in any way shape or form. I've tried everything from chicken butts to sweetbreads and I'm a sucker for a good slab of bbq brisket and a nice hunk of corn bread ( my Texas roots are showing). Recently I began reading A Taste For War: The Culinary History of the Blue and the Gray by William C Davis. It's a culinary history of the civil war.
I also have to admit I'm closet food historian. I LOVE looking at old recipes from the 1800's and even early - mid 20th century. I have copies of Buckeye Cookery and Practical Houskeeping - first published in 1867 and the Webfoot Cookbook originally published in 1887 in Portland, Oregon! I have medieval cookbooks used by members of the Society for Creative Anachronisim and I've actually made a recipe or two from those. One for a brie cake and one that used chicken and almond milk and had you use bread as a thickener. Works well.
But as I was reading A Taste For War I realized that the civil war was a real milestone in culinary history as well as the history of our nation.
Think of this. The soliders that went off to fight - on both sides - came from a society where it was demeaning for a man to cook (unless he was a chef at a high end restaruant). And since everyone thought the war would before before it really began no one thought about well feeding the millions that went to war. And by feeding I mean the soliders having to cook their own rations. Poor men on boths sides of the Mason Dixon line learned to cook - the hard way. And with rations that were.. shall we say...less then desirable. Even the act of grinding and making coffee was foriegn to them. A consultant for the Union Arm went so far as to suggest that there be dedicated cooks for the regiments with the rank of Sgt. Major and a pay of $50 a month! That didn't happen, but it goes to show that the feeding of the troops was a big concern. Cookbooks were rushed out to the Union soldiers so that they could stop poisoning with their soups and stews. The South didn't have that luxury but they bungled through as best they could. I haven't finished reading it but that first part struck me as interesting
What also happened at the end of the war was a melding of the two regions foods. Union soldiers that had had fried chicken for the first time down south took the hankering for it back home. This isn't surprising since our food palate has changed due to wars time and time again. Doughboys coming back from WW I liked those fried potatos they'd eaten in France and called them French Fries. Going farther back during the cursades the west learned about such exotic spices as pepper and cinnamon from the crusaders that returned from the Middle east.
But still as I ponder dinner tonight I can't help but think of those poor young men sitting around a cook fire, looking at a pot of some disgusting mess that was suppose to be a stew and knowing they were probably going to have to eat it or go hungry.
Melanie got me pondering weaponry and I decided to use my friend google and wikipedia to check on one of the more prolific weapons in the Civil War - the Navy Colt. How did it gets its name? Well I figured it was used in the navy. Which was true. The cylinder was engraved with a scene of the victory of the Battle of Campeche in May 1843 - By the TEAXS Navy! "The Texas Navy had purchased the earlier Colt Paterson Revolver, but this was Colt's first major success in the gun trade; the naval theme of the engraved cylinder of the Colt 1851 Navy revolver was Colt's gesture of appreciation. Despite the "Navy" designation, the revolver was chiefly purchased by civilians and military land forces" so sayeth Wikipedia.
Who knew Texas had a navy. I mean it does stand to reason, it WAS a republic and it does have coast line but still. Wow. I LOVE REASEARCH
My friend Kris was in town. He gets in usually once or twice a year, this time it had been a full year since he last graced the hallowed halls of the Pacific Northwest. We'd been talking a while back and he told me he and his wife had started Geocaching. Now - a slight explanation for those who might not be familiar with Geocaching. It's basically hide and seek for computer geeks. Really. Someone will go and hide a "cache" and then go onto the Geocaching website (http://www.geocaching.com/) and post it's location in GPS coordinates. This is the geek part since you need a GPS or something along those lines to FIND said cache. Then once you find the cache you mark the log in the cache...depending on it's type you can put a little doo-dad in there and then go back to the site and brag that youf found it. Or in some cases cry that you didn't. Anyway that's Geocaching in a nutshell, except for the fact that some caches are in really nice hiking areas and you can see a lot of beautiful sceneary, when you're not heads down looking at your GPS.
So, Kris and I had figured we'd do some geocaching when he got into town. But sadly we never could synch up, that is until today. He is flying home tomorrow.
Now I don't have a GPS but I do have an iPhone with the Geocaching app on it and, as luck would have it, there was a micro cache within blocks of the office at the old Children's Muesum. So, both of us headed out to find the cache..Kris with his GPS and me with my iPhone. Now I have found 1 count them 1 cache in my tenure of geocaching. Kris has found hundreds.
The day was foggy and kind of chilly but the walk wasn't that far. We arrived at the Children's Museum and begin our search.. now you have to be somewhat secretive when you search so that Muggles (non-geocaching people..I'm sure Ms. Rowling is so happy to have that term used) don't actually SEE you at the cache, for they are ignorant and know not what they might mess up.
Anyway, can't find it...d'oh wait...his GPS and my iPhone show it's about 300 feet away. Off we go. Coast is clear, lady watching her two dogs play in Lair Hill Park. We head over to an older building. Who knew that there was a much older version of the muesum. We begin our search...THERE behind the black down spout is a film canaster. SUCCESS! I retrieve it and open it. Inside is a rolled up slip of paper. The front side is already filled with names and dates. We flip it over and write ours..well our Geocaching handles, you know you just can't write Sharon Axline found your cache! Very passe' So we signed, and put it back like nice little Geocachers and headed back to the office.
So now I have 2 count them 2 caches to my name. And perhaps I shall find more...maybe...when Kris comes back.
Not to say I'm a paranoied person. That black van WAS really following me! But you know I get 33 followers on Twitter and suddenly Twitter itself is acting funky. Fail Whale off the port bow! Was it me? Did my getting 33 followers cause Shamoo to be lofted high into the sky by twitter birds every few minutes? Is some nefarious government agency behind this? Did some underling at the HQ under Mount Tabor rush up to his blad, scar faced beloved leader salute and say "SIR! Sharon Axline has achieved 33 followers!" Where upon the dastardly leader petted his cat and said "Excellent Smithers, excellent. We've reached the threshold. Activate the Twitter Death Diregable!"
Maybe it's nothing. Maybe their servers are slow or some mouse nibbled through a wire, or someone it Latvia is trying to break into the power grid by hammering away at Twitter. Whew I hope it's that... I'd hate to think my 33 followers caused this.
And yeah that Van WAS following me!
We have an old family recipe for applesauce cake that if Melanie and Carol don't watch out they might just be subjected to at group next week..along with the other nice ladies. Mom made it for a lunch she was going to. Now, normally, when we have said cake it's au natural. Nothing fancy. But when Mom takes it to lunches and such she likes to put a glaze on it.
I have to admit the house smelled FANTASTIC while they were cooking. The smell of those cakes wafting through the house is a tell tale sign it's fall.
So while I was working on my beet stew with lamb meat balls, Mom was working on the glaze, but something wasn't quite right. It didn't taste right, the glaze not the stew. It wasn't sweet. We pondered. Mom was using a new recipe for the glaze and she was using whipped cream cheese instead of a block softened. Maybe that was it. But whatever it was this was NOT a sweet glaze.
After dinner she returned to her old tried and true glaze recipe, but again it didn't taste right, and what's more when she put it in the microwave to heat up the contents and thin it...it got THICKER! What the...
Can powdered sugar go bad? What was going on. I'd made a pumpkin cake last month and had a box of powdered sugar sitting in the cupboard so I went to get it. About the same time Mom decided to double check her powdered sugar. There was the hand written label on the canister - pwdr sugar. There was the bag with a white powdery substance. She pulled out the bag. Impostor!!! There, sitting in the canister for powdered sugar was in fact corn starch!
It all made sense now...sad..sorry...corn startchy sense. With the box of TRUE powdered sugar in hand she made a fantastic glaze for the applesauce cake. I noticed this afternoon on the grocery list....we're in need of corn starch
So, I had the writer's group audition tonight. Was I nervous? Is the Earth round? Do salmon swim upstream to spawn? Was Stanislovsky the father of method acting? Stomach churning, palm sweating, pacing nervous was I. Now I don't want to say the people who make up this group were legends. BUT...my instructor talked about them in semi hushed and reverent tones, AND one of their midst had come in second place at the Pacific Northwest Writer's Association Literary Contest!! So, yeah I was a tad nervous. I mean what if they didn't like me, what if they hated my work, what if...what if...
Finally the time came to go. Now I'd done a dry run on Sunday. Guess what sports fans, Sunday is NOT Thursday. Yeah a TAD more traffic. GREAT I'm going to be LATE because there was TRAFFIC and I missed a turn. CRAP! Park, grab satchel, rush to condo. Heart PLEASE do not beat so fast you will cause me to keel over with an attack.
Meet and greet. Listen to works. Damn that's good...oh GAH I'm suppose to give feedback...um...um...it was good! The next....d'oh..I didn't write anything. Now my turn...ok ok slow DOWN..you might have been Born in Texas but your reading is from NJ.
Great feed back...they caught stuff the class didn't and thought of stuff I hadn't thought of. Damn they're good. Finally....YES...I passed the audition!
I now have a writer's group!!!! and here was much rejoicing..YEA!!!!!!!
My parents have been married 53 years. That's a milestone by any means. Since I live with them I've done a jokeish kind of thing where an gifts come from the dogs (Bear and Boo). Usually the excuse is that they have stolen my wallet, copped a credit card and figured out how to use a mouse, keyboard, and the internet all at the same time. They're Lhasa Apsos so ..hey it could happen. This year the boys found a plant...a Kangaroo paw plant to be exact. It look pretty in the FTD pic on their website. The caption said how it came in a copper metal pot and was a fallish plant. Yeah. Well..said plant came in a puke green pot from the nursery, the plant really doesn't thrive beyond umm...OCTOBER. So...yeah anniversary plant..sucked. Nasty e-mail to FTD..done.
On to the fear. Tomorrow tomorow and tomorrow does NOT creep at a petty pace from day to day. It's here..which means the writers group...which means audition of my "novel"...which means...no eating from hence forth.
I can get some satisfaction thinking of the boyz nipping at the ankles of the president of FTD while he holds a Kangaroo paw plant. Ahh its the little things. Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!!
OK - I've decided. Oprah likes dogs, people like dogs, if I ever get on Oprah and people come here to find pearls of literary wisdom then they can find it mixed with tales of the dogs I love. So there. HA! Besides I find dogs are much better to be around then some people. Ok small people...OK alright...KIDS! Now don't get me wrong there are some kids I like. But, take for today as an example. I went with some co-workers to Chang's Mongolian grill. It's something we do every month. One person picks the place. So this month the pick was Chang's. OK, it's good food, lots of it and for $8.00 I'm not going to quibble. Lunch is going good when two women are escorted to the booth behind our table. With them are 3 kids .. all boys. One a toddler and the other two look to be around 5ish. I can tell right off this is going to be fun since the boys are racing in and bouncing around like someone gave them straight sugar water.
I hope for the best. I get the worst. After sitting the gaggle down, the two women leave the boys in the booth while they go off to get their lunch. It's busy, they're gone for something like 20 minutes..ok it felt like 20 minutes. It was probably 19:59. Anyway while I'm trying to listen to the conversation at my table I can hear tiny voices behind me and the clinking of what sounds like cutlery. Were we given knives? I expect at any minute to hear a child yell "OW MY EYE" and find him running around with a fork sticking out of his face.
Mother's return, somewhat silence falls. We finish. They finish. We're talking when the boys bound out of the booth and begin to jump..literally jump around. Was there MORE sugar in their meal? One boy top bounces into me. Do I hear an I'm sorry, or Junior tell the nice lady you're sorry? No. The kid glares at me as if I had moved my chair just at the right moment to get in the way of his jumping.
I hate to use the why in my day argument, but I'm going to. IN MY DAY I would have quickly apologized to the nice lady before my mother told me too. And she probably would have apologized as well. But then come to think of it, I would not have been bouncing around like a rubber ball either nor would my brother.
Which brings me back to the dog thought. You can LEASH a dog.
When I went to the writer's mixer a couple weekends ago, the lady who was speaking talked about having a blog, website, newsletter, etc. Ok so no website, no newsletter, but HEY I got a blog! Now what do I write about, besides the dogs. I mean come on they are cute but not something a would be writer can wax poetically on her blog about. I mean, what if my book gets published and I'm on Oprah, and they mention my blog and everyone comes here to read jewels of literary wisdom only to find my blog after blog of the dogs. Nope. I am going to limit my dog blogging, hard as it may be. Since they are cute little critters and know it.
My biggest hurdle, fear, right now is my test run with a writer's group. They were in the class before me, so I feel like the freshman trying to sit at the senior's table. I go on Thursday to read 9 pages of my work and see how things go from there. Oh yeah the stomach knots are already starting which is probably why I left my wallet at home. Good thing I didn't need to buy lunch OR get pulled over by one of Portland or Vancouver's finest for speeding.
Ok, so here ends the first real blog blog, and I didn't even mention how cute Bear and Boo look curled up on the rug butt to butt.
Note to self. Next time don't name your dogs starting with the same letter. That way when you're trying to get Boo to eat HERE and Bear to eat THERE you won't have Boo trying to eat where Bear was going to eat and Bear trying to eat where Boo was going to eat. OY