Thursday, December 31, 2009

What a year!

What a YEAR 2009 was!  I'm not talking about politics or economics, this is my blog so I'm going to be a little more self-centered because, well, I can. 

In 2009 I learned the ways of facebook and have now joined mafia's while weeding gardens and fighting dragons.  I've learned to tweet, re-tweet, hash-tag, follow and unfollow

I've learned to let my friends know where I'm at by either gowallaing or being all squared with four-square

I've waved, been waved and still have no clue what I'm actually to do with wave

I'm still trying to get the GIST of gist

I decided to take a digital photography class at Clark College and wound up enlisting in Novel Writing Boot Camp that rekindled my love of writing and meeting some pretty damn fine people in the process namely the best teacher in the world Carolyn J Rose who helped me find the best critique group in the world!

Yes I'm talking about YOU Melanie - makes me laugh out loud with every blog entry and has a great story to tell the world, and YOU Carol - the first the only classic one who has helped me get in touch with techie things I never would have and has let me glimpse into the life of Carrie-Ann and Lee, And YOU Pam - who is so kind to let us crash at your place every Thursday and gives such great feedback  YOU Peggy - the fencer with a Y/A story that is out of this world.  And Lisa and Ginger, I met you two only once at the Christmas Dinner but it felt like I'd known you guys for years.

Through these wonderful ladies I've enriched my world with friends of the cyber-kind.  Karen and Harley your adventures always make me laugh, Jenku the twitter conversations and the wave waves have been very enjoyable, Appleberrymount - the nicest lady I've never met!  @BCMystery - it's no mystery that you're a fun guy to chat with sitting on top of a wave or twittering.

And of course MyNorthwestExperience - a co-worker you might be but a comrade in the gullet who opened my eyes to the cart scene in Portland and who's blog I love to read and wait with baited breath for a new installment.

To all my friends be you new, old, or cyber.  Have a great and safe New Year and see you all in 2010!!!

Sharon (and Bear and Boo - I couldn't leave them out!)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Gamer's Guilt

Hi.  My name is Sharon and I'm a gamer.  "Hello Sharon."  I've been gaming most of my life.  I remember vividly in 7th grade math class Gordon Culp brought in these small booklets that had the title Dungeons and Dragon's printed on the front.  Those slim volumes were the original D&D set where halflings were hobbits and there was no such thing as THAC0 (to hit armor class 0).  We didn't get to play then, and long I pined for the chance.  It wasn't until college, actually, that I finally got my chance to play D&D and by then the slim tomes had turned into larger books.  My theatre buds and I would play, staying up late into the night and early into the morning.  We'd lead our band of intrepid heroes into whatever dungeon the Dungeon Master had planned for us.  It was all in our heads, and mabye a little bit on graph paper so we knew where we were standing before we attacked the great grendlackian gundlesnark. 

When I moved to New Jersery I found others that played.  By this time there was not just D&D there were many other Role Playing Gamers (RPGs).  We indulged in playing different ones, Champions - where you were a comic book hero.  Traveler - set in a science fiction universe.

While living in New Jersey I met the future - it was a D&D game that you played on AOL.  Your party was other people who were on AOL.  You didn't have to be in the room with them!  And no more graph paper with x's showing who's who.  You could actually see each other's character and interact with the monsters (although squatty pixelized sprits that they were)

It was then that any first person based supposed RPG paled in comparison to this real life interaction...ok cyber life interaction.  But sadly, AOL didn't keep the D&D game for very long and I fell into a gameless void.  I did play first person RPG's and they were ok.  Wing Commander was my favorite of those, but I never looked up on it as an RPG .. not really.  A true RPG you felt like your actions caused events.  I never really felt that with even Wing Commander.  I mean after all you're given 4 options to reply back to someone and it's pretty clear which reply you want to use.

Time passed and I moved to the Pacific Northwest.  A friend back in NJ told me about a text based roll playing game based on a TV show I liked ..Xena.  It was acutally based on Xena and Hercules and was set in ancient greece - the Golden Age as the shows called it.. when centaurs and humans roamed the land and the gods came down and played. 

I liked the game.  I had a character named Chikara who came from Southern Greece - so of course she talked with a drawl.  I made many good friends. And in fact, after a while, I became a Game Master for the game.  Game Masters are the people that keep on-line games runing.  Mine was a voluntary role, but in it I was able to be creative and write.  I hadn't written in years - a prolonged case of writer's block - so it was nice to write little snippets.  You see in a text based game you don't see anything, you have text on the screen describing what you see.   So you might come into an area and see a small park off to your left with a fountain gurgling.  Tall trees create a nice shaded area in the park...etc.  Then there are mechanisims to allow you to "interact" with say the fountain by typing "Look at fountain" then again you'd be told "The fountain is quite beautiful.  It appears to be made out of a single block of marble.  A carved pan rests ontop of carved stones, water trickles out of his flute.."you get the idea.

But sadly, even though it was a fun job, it was a job that didn't pay.  And I finally had to part ways with it.

Again I was without a game, until World of Warcraft came on the scene 5 years ago.  I'd found that friends at work played it and had a guild and so on.  I joined and played.  This was not really a true RPG since no one REALLY roll played, but the graphics were nice and teh story was good and I was playing with a great bunch of people.

When I took Novel Writing Boot Camp I stopped playing.  I canceled all my subscriptions and I concentrated on writing.  It was odd that since I'd spent so much time playing games that had fantasy or sci-fi components that I would choose to write historical fiction.  But heh, I was actually writing again after about 20 years of not.

So why the guilt?  I missed WoW.  I missed the people.  So the other day I loaded it up on my Mac.  Then I found the RPG game that actually, for the first time, made me feel like I was taking part in a fantasy novel.  It's called Dragon's Age:Origins.  I'm stunned at the detail, the characters, everything about it.  Instead of writing about the civil war I've been fighting dark spawn and trying to stay alive after I was torn from everything I've known and cared for. 

I think I also needed a break from research and writing for a day or three.  Now I'm ready to get back to things and not feel guilty about the occasional trip to Azeroth (world of warcraft) or Fareldin (Dragon's Age).

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I was going to try to write something witty and funy for the season.  But, I figured I'd let da boyz say it

Merry Christmas if you Christmas, Happy Chanukah if you Chanukah, Happy Kwanza if you Kwanza and Happy Solstice if you Solstice

(And thanks Kevin for giving da boyz their hats!)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Trying to understand social media

Ok I understand Face Book, well sort of.  I mean I know it's where I can hook up with friends and get spammed endlessly for help whacking someone in mafia wars or fertilizing a friends farm in farmville.  Yes I've played those games and many more.  But Twitter....twitter is another animal.  Ok no games, that's a plus, and I'm limited to 140 characters - microblogging I get, it's hard but I get it.  I understand retweeting and I'm just starting to understand the # labels on things.  I even understand follow Friday.  Lists - I understand the concept. 
But what I don't understand is why why why I'm being followed?  I currently have 75 followers and they range from people I know like @scupperlout (Melanie) @thefirstcarol (Carol) @theclassiccarol (Carol's sistah) and so on.  There are people that follow me because of the whole writer thing or the foodie thing and then there are the ones I have no clue about.  Portland Roofing is following me.  I don't think I ever mentioned in a tweet I needed a new roof. It's nice to know that if I do I have a follower that is into that sort of thing, but... it's kind of creepy in a way.  I'm piling up followers (and yes I do cull the crew from time to time).  Do people follow to see how many folks they can follow?  Do they have software that will automatically follow anyone in a 25 mile radius?  Do I care?  Should I care?  I mean I follow people I don't know, but I don't do it randomly there's usually a reason I decide to follow.
I followed Mayor Sam Adams and was then stunned when he turned around and followed me.  Poor guys twitter feed is filled with my banal tweets about using Parmesan rinds in soups to add flavor or my retweeting tweets.  I don't even LIVE in Portland!  I guess, in a way, twitter is kind of like writing.  You write a book, or I suppose a blog, and put it out there and then perfect strangers will read it.  But still....a roofing company?

Sunday, December 6, 2009


It began with a fight.  Boo lunged at Bear and the comically horrible sound of two 20 pound dogs in full fight mode filled the house.  I say comically horrible because well they're little and horrible is the sound they make in sends shivers up and down my spine.  This is not a regular occurance, but still it happens with no clue what sets them off.  However this time was different.  When we pulled them apart there was blood.  Blood was dripping down from Bear's right eye.  Boo had taken a divet out of the lower lid.  The vet was closed and so we rushed him to the ER vet.  Thankfully no damage to they eye itself, just the lid.  He'd have a scar to match the other one he got from Boo when a stupid vet technican put the two of them together in a cage when they were puppies.  Bear had to wear the cone of shame for 2 weeks and take antibiotics.  I was out a couple hundred dollars.  But he was safe and sound...this time.

So the agonizing decisions began.  What to do with Boo.  Bear wasn't the instigator, Boo was.  We couldn't have this anymore.  For 3 years since I moved back in with my parents the boys have barked at anyone that came in the door.  Lhasas were bred to be guard dogs in palaces and lamasaries in Tibet, but I'm sure the royals and the monks had visitors.

We were down to our last chance...Boo was down to his last chance..if we didn't find something he'd have to go to a new home and it was tearing my heart up to think of it.  A friend at work had told me of a company called Bark Busters.  They come to the home, work with your dogs, and they will do it for the life of the dog.  It wasn't cheap, but I wanted to give Boo this shot.

I contacted Bark busters and got an e-mail from Jenny - the behaviorist for the Vancouver area.  She said she thought she knew what the problem was and could I call her.  No obligation.  I did.  She began to ask questions no trainer (and I'd been to several) had ever asked.  I started to think that maybe, just maybe she could help.

She came over yesterday.  The doorbell rang.  The dogs went ballistic.  While holding on to Boo Mom was able to open the door and let Jenny in.  I held on to Bear.  She watched as two grown women tried to get control over two 20 pound fur balls.  Then she placed her metal brief case on the floor, took her keys from her pocket and dropped them onto the briefcase exclaiming "BAH!"  The boys shut up.  Bear jumped behind me, Boo wasn't going to take this lying down so he barked again.  Again the keys, again the bang, again the BAH.  He was done.  "Good dog." she said sweetly.  And so began our day.

The problem was we didn't speak dog. She explained to us.  And we needed to learn it.  Boo thought he had to be head of the pack.  Everything he was doing was because he thought he had to do it.  The  nips and the fights with Bear, he was thinking Bear was out of line.  Not following the pack.  Once we showed Boo that WE were in fact Pack leaders he seemed to change before our eyes.  Jenny went outside for about 10 minutes and then rang the doorbell.  No bark!  Nothing!  In fact the mean little furballs were letting her pet them and give them treats!  We went for a walk.  A man on his roof (don't ask) shouted down Hi.  Old Boo would have lunged and barked.  New Boo...not a pip.

I had seen dog training shows before - Me or the Dog, The dog whisperer (which I loath) and I always scoffed at how the dogs reacted with the hosts.  It couldn't be that fast, it couldn't be that easy.  That fast, yes.  That  We're going to need to work with Boo and Bear daily to instill into them that we are the pack leaders.  We can't let up.  But today we have two different dogs.  We rang the door bell.  Boo started to Bark - Mom Bah'd.  Boo stopped and went back into the family room and sat down.  I rang the doorbell again.  A little bark, BAH. bark.

We have two very sweet and lovable puppies and it looks like we're going to be able to keep both our sweet and lovable puppies.  Jenny will be coming back out in a few weeks to check on things.  If we ever have an issue we call her and she'll be right there. 

The training lasted well into the time for the Vancouver Writer's Mixer though so I was forced to miss it and the, no doubt, wonderful talk by Carolyn Rose  my beloved writing teacher.  But I think she'd understand.  I missed her talk, but I saved Boo from having to go to a new family...well Jenny did... but I'll keep at it so that Boo can heave a sigh of relief and let the burden of leading the pack fall to the furless two leggers now.

Friday, December 4, 2009


In the cube rat hierarchy window seats (if you’re in a building that has windows) is a status symbol. It shows you’ve been with said company long enough to have enough seniority that you are deemed worthy enough to be given a desk by the window. In my case, after 15 years, I have a window seat on the 4th floor of our building that has a fantastic view of the Willamette River and, on good days, a view of Mount Hood.

As I’m an early bird (in usually by 5:30 AM) I also get the added pleasure of seeing the sunrise. And since I’m an early bird I hardly EVER see the sunset. Yes I go to bed earlier then a 4 year old.

But there are some drawbacks with a window seat that I didn’t think of. One, temperature. I’m near a window. The window faces East. It is winter, winter is cold. Winter Cold + East Facing window = cold cube. Very cold cube. So cold I’m currently typing with Bob Crachet gloves (fingerless). My toes feel like I’ve been walking up hill both ways in a driving snow storm – barefoot. Now normally I’m a polar bear. I sleep with the AC on in the winter! While people scurry about me bundled up like mini Michelin men I’m walking around in a sweater vest and shirt sleeves. But for some reason, here at my desk with a view I’ve turned into a shivering whimpering cold ninny! What’s up with that!

I refuse to give up my view and my hard earned desk. Maybe I can fine a lump of coal and put it in my heater to warm my hands over. Or maybe I’ll break down and bring in a blanket…hmm I wonder how wearing a snuggie would work. 

Monday, November 23, 2009

Getting old sucks

For 46 years my body and I have been on pretty good terms.  Alright there was the time I broke my index finger on my right had in the first inning of a softball game and played the entire game not knowing I'd broken it.  I batted the best I ever had.  Then there were the knees.  But I've learned to work with them and the two surgeries on the left and one surgery on the right have made them bareable.  I don't need to play tennis ... really.  And yes the eyesight that now requires me to wear monovision contacts and have bi-focals glasses was probably a good sign that my body was starting to start to wind down. But Friday...FRIDAY how could it.  And how could it do it so ... soo....All I did was sit down  SIT DOWN.  That's it.  I sat and I felt like 2 inches of my entire body suddenly settled with a big and painful BOOMF.  There was the pain, and the sudden realization that standing up again might not be quite the  mindless event I was planning.  Now I will say here and now I'm no stranger to back issues and I know where they all stemmed from. 

The summer of my 21st or 22nd year.  I was still following the dream of working in the theatre, not as an actor but as a techie.  I wanted to design lights or stage manage or something along those lines.  So that summer I was hired by my old high school drama teacher to be an assistant techincal director for a semi-pro repatory company.  I say semi-pro because only a handful of actually got paid, and the pay was a stipend at best.  BUT it was a job in the theatre and something I could put on my resume.  We did three shows, Godspell, Working, and Vanaties.  I don't remember much of the sets, but I don't think there was a lot to it.  The main thing was this platform or series of platforms that we could move around to create a different "stage" for each show.  It was a great idea.  Part of the platform staged was raked (theatre term for a stage that angles up or down).  The issue here, though, was in order for us to move the raked portions we needed to pick up the platforms so that the front legs didn't catch and break.  We did this by getting a slew of people under the platform and all lifting at the same time.  You needed someone tall near the center of the platform to help raise it high enough for the legs to clear.  I happen to be tall.  There was a person next to me who thought they were tall... they were not... and when we lifted the platform I got the brunt of the weight, arms stretched above my head.  The weight went down and into my lower back.  SNAP!  At that moment my back went out and my dreams of being Broadway's next great lighting designer went with it.  My back would spasam if I lifted up a six pack of cokes, how was I going to be able to pull up a 40 pound lighting instrument on a rope to a catwalk!  I wasn't.  I couldn't.  I didn't.

But, each time my back went out I could say..ok I did this...or I did that..or I KNEW I shouldn't have....but Friday.  I sat down....SAT DOWN and my body decided to play this cruel and twisted joke on me.  Cruel and twisted because the only time it's not being a pain is when I'm sitting.  Standing, walking, lying in bed... um..unless I've taken a handful of Motrin or some tylenol PM...not a fun situation.  And of course it's almost Thanksgiving!  GAH!  I've had to rethink my cooking. Ok the cranberry sauce I don't need to stand up much to cook.  Dad's doing the turkey, as usual, Mom is doing the dressing (we're from the Texas it's dressing and it's made with corn bread) but I was going to do a new riff on green beans and maybe a sweet potato casserole.  Now we'll have to see. 

Sigh...getting old SUCKS

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Of pedal powered truffles and such

Friday I won a contest.  I actually won a contest!  I tweeted to the twitter feed of wingnut truffles and I won a sample delivered to me by the very cool  pedal power people.  I was a tad bit out of their delivery area (curse my office for being downtown-ish...emphasis on the ish) but Adam was nice enough to deliver to me anyway and I got my sample of wingnut truffles.  Oh my oh my oh my oh my.  I was in chocolate foodie nirvana.  I tried the thai chili one first, don't be afraid by the sound, the dark chocolate and that kick of spice were out of this world.  All of them, everyone were out of this world great.

Ok so here I am waxing poetic about truffles, yeah ok right big deal right?  Wrong.  Ok hot shot why?  Why?  Because not only were these bite sized morsals of goodly goodness they were also vegan.  That's right, vegan.  I for one have always looked at vegan food as well....vegan food.  Sorry, I want my milk from a cow not a soy bean, cheese ...don't get me started on cheese... so yeah I'm not the type a vegan type of person.  The old cattle rancher Texan ancestry runs a tad deep.

I may have to change my tune now when it comes to truffles.  Honestly these rival and maybe even beat other truffles I've had. 

Now onto the delivery of my amazing truffles.  Portland Pedal Power - these guys are amazing.  Talk about green delivery!  They also hit the carts in Portland and will deliver to your office, or if you're in need of truffles they'll do that too.  Listen, do yourself a favor check out their website and if you're in or near their delivery area do yourself a favor and have them grab you some lunch, or breakfast or what not.  You'll be glad you did.

Here are the websites:
Wingnut Sweets
Portland Pedal Power

Try them you'll like them!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

1860 biscuits

Since Carol asked about a biscuit recipe and in honor of Melanie and her swashbuckling I found this recipe in:  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 as much as possible applied and explained.  BY ELIZA ACTON (published in London 1860)

Good Captain's Biscuits
Make some fine white flour into a very smooth paste with new milk;
divide it into small balls;
roll them out, and afterwards pull them with the fingers as thin as possible;
prick them all over, and bake them in a somewhat brisk oven from ten to twelve minutes.
These are excellent and very wholesome biscuits.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Aunt Ruby's Peach Honey

Pam from my critique group suggested that I put recipes from my book in my blog.  I thought it was a pretty darn good idea so here's the first.  Aunt Ruby's Peach Honey (this is actualy my Great Aunt's recipe - Auntie Mae was a fantastic cook.  Meals at her place were always an event.  I don't remember her making this, but I do remember the family driving back to California after a Texas summer visit with parafin sealed jars filled with her fantastic strawberry fig preserves.)  So without further adieu here is the recipe and my notes are at the bottom.

Peach Honey
4 cups Ripe Fruit
2 Tbs. Vinegar

Put on stove, boil 2 minutes.  Add 4 cups sugar, cook 8 minutes longer.  Let set 24 hours.  Put in jars and seal with parafin.
(real good made with peaches)

My modifications
2 cups frozen peaches
1 tbs rice vinegar
3/4 cup sugar.

Put the lot in a pot on the stove and boil for 10 minutes keeping watch and stirring ocassionally so that nothing sticks.   The mixture will reduce about by half.   Let cool then spoon into a jar and seal the lid.  When the jar is cool, put in the fridge and let set for 24 hours.

Slather on toast or biscuits.

Friday, November 13, 2009

can't resist

When you have a face like that looking up at you
it's hard NOT to just pick him up and hug him.

And this one sits so patiently waiting for the treat which is usually carrots or green beans's had a few to many treats.

But now....

After grooming.....I'm doomed!  They're just too huggable!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I know it's research, and I know since I'm writing a historical novel that I need to do a lot of it, but I have to admit, I'm feeling a tad guilty.  Research shouldn't be this fun!  I'm currently reading Spies of the Confederacy by John Bakeless.  This is NOT a history book.  It's fun, it's witty, and I get caught up in the stories.  I never thought I'd say a history book is a page turner, but this one is.  At least to me. But all this research has left me little time for much else like NaNoWriMo, so..sadly.  NaNo I hardly knew ya, and I did get 1K worth of really bad prose written in your honor, but for now I shall have to bid you adieu.

Now with NaNo no longer taxing what is left of my brain I should be able to concentrate on the tasks at hand.  FINISHING Spies because I have Rebel Cornbread and Yankee Coffee to read and oh yeah...writing!  D'oh!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Good bye old friend

For 15 years we've been together.  15 years.  I was but 31 a fresh face who'd moved from New Jersey to this vast glorious green land that is the pacific Northwest.  You saw me through my first days here where I knew no one - the parents being in Malaysia.  You were always a constant no matter where I went.  You were there.  Now the time has come.  I knew it would, I knew that 15 years is a long time, but still I am saddened by the fact that come monday morning you'll be gone.  I'll think of the old times, the good times, the not so good times and I'll always ALWAYS think of you.

My Old Phone

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wonders of Modern technology II

The other day my cookbook from 1860 arrived.  It's a little worse for wear but after all it is almost 150 years old (149 as a matter of fact).  The cloth on the spine is hanging by a few threads, but other wise the pages themselves look pretty darn spry.   I've flipped through it, and the 1943 Joy of Cooking, in small savoring bits.  The 1860 cookbook has drawings of "modern" kitchen tools.  Most of them look like some sort of torture device used by an evil baron in one too many B serials.  As I'm flipping through I notice some recipies for jellys and gels.  Nothing out of the  ordinary until I flip to the recipe on how to boil beef bones to extract what you need to make said gelatin.  Then it hit me.  1860 - no Jell-O, no Knox gelatin packages for all your nail strengthening and gel needs.  If you wanted to make a gelatine then you had to work for it.  Which is why it was very much a privilaged dessert.  I can't quite picture ol' Homer going out and boiling up a load of old Bessie's bones to get a gelatine so he and the missus could have a molded dessert. 

Now to be perfectly honest someone DID try to make a set gelatin in 1845 but it didn't um...gel. It wasn't until the late 1800's early 1900's that Jell-O became well...JELL-O

So not only are old cookbooks a glimpse into the eating attitudes of people in that time they also help us to appreciate what we got.  I can tell you I would much rather dump a box of cherry jell-o and add hot water then boil up a load of bones.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Wonders of Modern Technology

My first computer was a 386.  I bought it in the mid 80's.  In those days Windows wasn't installed you just had DOS which was fine because I was programming in C at the time for laptop computers.  Yes I said laptops.  They were heavy suckers with 4 inch high screens that would suck up a battery in 30 minutes to an hour if you switched to a back lit display.  They had no hard drive, just dual 3.5" diskette drives.  One would hold a diskette with the operating system (DOS) and the other would hold the program diskette.

I remember how cool I thought I was when I got a sound card, installed it and then went out hunting for the sound package for my favorite game Wing Commander.  For those too young to know what I'm talking about most PC games didn't have sound.  You could, however, purchase for about $10 more or so the sound package.  Many a night I sat with my joy stick listening to what constiuted music as I flew through space killing Kilrathi.  I was in awe that when my joy stick pulled to the left the hand of my pilot on the screen would pull to the left as well.  Yeah I'm a geek.

I remember getting a PS2 at the office and being bowled over by it's speed - I think it had a 486 processor and size...I would SO not need a MEG of space!  I mean come on that's a whole MEG!  And 256 memory was more then enough for any computing job.

In my 20+ years in the computer business I have seen a lot of changes in the world of computers.  We've moved from hulking mainframes to blade servers.  From clunky old 286 processor PCs to intel dual core, from Dos to windows Vista (ok maybe we shouldn't have gone there), we now have desktop computers that have can store a terrabyte of data.  Modems are replaced by DSL and cable modems and every starbucks has wifi.

Why do I talk about this, because at my side I have something that will make these high powered PC's seem like my old 386 from the 1980's.  I'm talking about my smart phone.  My iPhone has 8 gig of memory on it, can access the internet via a wireless or a 3G connection. Allows me to do everything I could do on my PC or Mac PLUS make phone calls. 

Already companies are feverishly working to get "apps" built.  Chipoltle Grill has an Ap where you can make your burrito and transmit the order to the closest location.  It's there waiting for you.  Starbucks is piloting an Ap where you can order your coffee, pay for it via your phone (and a credit card or starbucks card), and then put your phone in front of a scanner.  The scanner will read a barcode your phone is displaying and POOF you've bought your Venti Skinny Vanilla Latte with extra foam.

And best yet - I can play Rock Band on my iPhone!  Oops gotta go, my drum solo is coming up.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Sweet and spicy roasted veggies
Coriander encrusted pork loin
Brown rice with walnuts, golden raisins and chard
Bourbon Hot Toddy for dessert (drank it before I could get a pic)

Things that go BUMP in the night

If you haven't had a chance you should check out Melanie Sherman's cousin Karen's blog  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.

And we have a new fence

Thursday, October 29, 2009


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!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Food for thought

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.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The wonders of research

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

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cacheing in

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 ( 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.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Paranoia sets in...maybe..kinda...are they watching me type this?

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!

Monday, October 19, 2009

The powdered sugar sanction

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 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

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday dinner

Got lamb, got beets, what else are you going to make?  Kibbeh Shiftah B'shwandar of course.  It's beet stew with lamb meatballs

Beet Stew with Lamb Meatballs

It's a traditional Iraqi-Jewish dish....We'll see how this Southern WASP does with it 

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Dog Gone Dogs

When Lhasas get furry.  Bear tends to look like an old Major General from the days of the Raj

After a hair  cut...little puppies - who happen to be 5 years old

Some times it's tough being a Lhasa

A little nap time is always good.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The audition is done

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. 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 was good!  The next....d'oh..I didn't write anything.  Now my turn...ok ok slow 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!!!!!!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fear and loathing in Vancouver

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 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!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Going to the dogs

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.

Monday, October 12, 2009

What to write

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.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Feeding the Bs

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