Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Range day!

Alma Boykin of Cat Rotator's Quarterly mentioned a few weeks ago that she was looking for a new carry gun. For her and I, this is a process as fraught as trying to find, say, a new pair of women's jeans that fit, allow enough movement, and look good, while having functional pockets. It's not impossible, it's just... rare, and usually involves trying out lots and lots and lots of disappointing variations first.

Actually, it's normally harder than jeans, because at least with jeans you can go to stores and try the fit and function. Where can you do that with a wide range of guns?

Oh, wait. I'm married to a Bayou Renaissance Man, and live just down the road from LawDog and OldNFO. And when it was mentioned that she was looking for a new carry gun that would fit her hand size, build, and needs, the gentlemen carpe'd the diem. This became A Project!

I can tell we're regulars at the gunshop when we walk in, and the owner says the following: "Hey, OldNFO. Morning, LawDog! Morning, ma'am, how can I help... Wing, where's Peter? You leave your husband at home?"

"I'm just here for moral support!"

"Moral or immoral?"
"Whatever Alma wants!"

We checked out the plastic fantastics and the other semi-automatics, and then rapidly migrated over to the revolver side of the store, where the nice young clerk was trying to be very helpful without sounding patronizing or condescending. (Very nice man. But if he'd been dancing any more carefully over his words, it'd have been a full two-step. Eventually rescued by the owner, with a "Son, OldNFO has forgotten more about guns than you'll ever learn.")

Old NFO loves Colts. He has some beautiful, magnificent specimens. He has the most peculiar grimace when he pulls the trigger on something else, like a Labrador that thought it was stealing bacon and got lemon rind instead. "Ugh! Smith trigger!"  

To be fair, Colt triggers are things of beauty and joy, and unless given a trigger job, Smith & Wessons are most definitely not. But I have to giggle a little when he makes that face.

After determining that nothing in the shop right then cried "Take me home with you!", we went back to OldNFO's and he opened up the cornucopia of wonders... ahem, the gun safe. And then we went to my house, and Peter started pulling out the "everything I've tried for my wife, so it's in tiny grips size for a lady's hand." (Alma and I have almost the same hand size. Not quite same glove size, but very close. We can grump to each other about the difficult of finding Mechanix gloves that fit.)

And then we went to the range (Well, Peter took a nap, but the rest of us went. This time, LawDog didn't have to shoo the cows off, either! Beautiful blue-sky day, cloudless and almost calm. (Very calm, for North Texas.) There had to be twelve planes flying past just in the times when I was chilling out and not concentrating on shooting. One of 'em was an L-19, still with the old Italian Air Force markings. (I happen to know that plane - and yes, the prior owner carefully masked off the control panel when painting, so it still has all the italian inside, too, as well as the english-required placards.)

I figured this was the perfect time to get some more practice in, as well as try out some of the guns broken out for Alma. The weightlifting has really helped with shoulder stability, to the point that I can now fire something a lot closer to snubbie - but it sure ain't fun! And I got a chance to try one of OldNFO's beautiful colts that was out of my abilities before... only to discover that it's beautiful, lovely in the hand, nice on the recoil, and the checkerboard grips tear the heck out of my soft no-callus palms. (Yes, I've been weightlifting for five months, and the only calluses I have are right where my wedding wing rubs when I grip the bar. I dunno either.)

On the extremely bright any shiny, you know when you've hit that point where you're finally good enough that the coach doesn't say anything on your lift, and you're kinda waiting for the other shoe to drop before you realize it's because you did everything right? I had a cylinder like that, with OldNFO & LawDog standing by and watching! Yay! If I could do cartwheels, well, I wouldn't have done one because of the cow patties on the range, but I felt like doing one!

Alma, meanwhile, went though quite a range of guns, and found that what she really liked was my carry gun - it's a Taurus .357 that I only shoot 38 special out of, because that's what I can take, with a nice squishy Hogue monogrip that takes a whole lot of bite out of its bark.

Clearly, she'll have to come back to try it out, as well as others we didn't get to, some more!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Ding! New Level Achieved!

Autocorrect on my phone and I do not have a friendly relationship. (Who does?) Among other consistent "help", every time I texted a friend about lifting the 22-pound training bar while learning to weightlift, it would auto-correct to "training bra."

Fortunately, said friend is female, lifts weights, and understands the vagaries of Otto Corrupt, so there was simply eye rolling, laughter, and moving on with the conversation. And as I gre stronger, I moved from the 22-pound bar to the standard 45-pound bar, and could leaving that particular fight with Otto Corrupt behind.


I was still using the 5-pound plastic plates on deadlift, to put the bar at the right height. Big tough powerlifters, and everyone else, uses the 45-pound plates or higher, all of which are large enough to put the bar at the correct starting position - but 5, 10, and 25-pound plates are too small.

Yesterday, I finally managed to lift 135 pounds, for the first time. I even managed a set of 5 lifts! My coach happily told me that from now on, we're going to start with 135, and not use the plastic training plates again.

So of course, I go to text the good news. "Yay! Now I'm off the training bar AND the training plates!"

That is absolutely not what Otto Corrupt sent.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Light vs. Dark... Meat on the chicken!

Today was going to be a pot roast day, according to my meal plan. But as I tossed and turned the night before, my knees let me know our cold spell had been interrupted for a hot, humid day with impending thunderstorms. (The impending delivered; there are some truly impressive flashes of light going on outside my window. All potted herbs are on the ground so they don't have far to fall if the wind knocks 'em over.)

Pot roast goes better with cold and crisp fall days, not muggy thunderstorms. And besides, when I was at the grocery store, they had fresh chicken drumsticks on sale for $0.89/lb! So I brought them home with plans for a Cajun chicken alfredo. (Not that it's really Cajun, but it uses Cajun seasoning.)

I'd forgotten how much my darling man despises drumsticks, along with a ...strong preference... for boneless skinless breast over any and all other parts of the bird.  Possibly because we've been working our way through a flat or two of boneless skinless breasts that were on a good sale from Sam's club that I'd broken down into smaller packages and vacuum sealed.

My darling man had forgotten how much I adore bone-in, skin-on dark meat, roasted until crispy in the oven. Outside of long, slow cooking recipes that pretty much turn anything into pulled chicken, it's hard for breast meat to match that juicy flavour.

"By the time you cut off all the skin, gristle, tendon, and bone, there's hardly any meat for all the chicken you paid for!"

"You're supposed to eat the crispy skin! And it tastes so much better, that it works out far better in flavour per dollar! Why eat dry white breast you have to simmer in juice or smother in gravy when you can have a couple juicy thighs?"

Yeah, I don't think he's ever going to come to the dark side of the bone. At least this means we're not competing when we split a rotisserie chicken!

Cajun Chicken Alfredo (The easy way, in 3 parts:)

The chicken:
drumsticks or thighs (Or breasts, if you must!)
olive oil to grease the pan
1/4 Tbsp pat of unsalted butter per piece of chicken (probably more if you do skinless)
Cajun/Creole seasoning (I used Tony Chachere's "more spice" version.)

1. Preheat the oven to 400F
2. Lightly oil a pan big enough to hold all the pieces of chicken (it's fine if they're snugged up against each other)
3. Put the chicken in the pan, and cover lightly with seasoning. (If you really want a lot of seasoning, flip the pieces and coat both sides.
4. Put a pat of butter on top of each piece to keep it juicy and moist while cooking.
5. Bake for 25-45 minutes, until done. (I cooked about 2 pounds, and it took 45 minutes)

The noodles:
1/2 spaghetti squash per person spaghetti squash

1. Cut spaghetti squash in half. Unless you got one big enough that'd take an axe, in which case just stab a couple holes in it for steam to escape. (Like a potato. A very tough potato. Be careful!)

2. If you were able to halve it, scoop the seeds out of the halves, the wrap them in plastic wrap. If not, skip this step.

3. Place halves face down in the microwave, and microwave for 10 minutes. If you weren't able to split it open, just stick it in the microwave for 8-15 minutes, depending on the size of the squash.
4. IMPORTANT! After the microwave is finished, LET THE SQUASH COOL OFF SEVERAL MINUTES BEFORE HANDLING! Steam burns are no fun.
5. If you didn't scoop the seeds out before, cut the squash in half and do so now. Oven mitts help in handling hot, steam-laden squash.
6. Take a fork, and scrape out the spaghetti squash flesh. It comes out like noodles. Pile ontop plates, or into serving bowl.

The alfredo sauce:

1 jar alfredo sauce (I told you this was the easy version.)
1/2 pack (4 oz) mushrooms, sliced thinly
1 large onion, sliced thinly
1 shot of bourbon for the sauce (optional: another shot for the cook to sip)
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp oil
pinch of salt
1/2 cup milk

1. Slice mushrooms and onion thinly.
2. Heat oil and butter in saucepan on med to med-high, then add onions and salt. Stir until onions are coated, and steaming away.  (They're going to be too crownded to saute, but will turn transparent.)
3. Add mushrooms, stir to coat with oil & mix with onions, then stir occasionally to keep from sticking. The pan will be too crowded to truly saute, and that's fine. When everything's limp, and the onions are starting to caramelize, deglaze the pot with bourbon.
4. Dump in alfredo sauce, stir to mix. Do not toss sauce jar! Reduce heat to simmer/low.
5. Add milk to sauce jar, put lid back on, shake to thin all the sauce clinging to the walls. Open jar, add to the pot. Stir.
6. Stir occasionally, but this sauce'll keep while you're dealing with the spaghetti squash - so when your chicken is done, and your squash in a serving pot (or if only feeding two, just, ah, pre-plated), dinner is ready to put together and serve.

I served with a salad, and it was all good. Except for the look on my husband's face as he tried to salvage boneless skinless chunks from a drumstick or three... Sorry, dear!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Gardening recap

It's mid-October. I just moved all the herbs from underneath the mulberry tree to up against the house, in the hopes that more direct sunlight and some extra warmth will keep them going a little longer. Something Alaskan in my brain still hurts at that statement, but it's true.

I would bring them inside, but... two cats. That does not end well, or cleanly. In fact, it's dirt and roots and leaves everywhere...

As things go, I know now not to try to grow cherry tomatoes in a planter, because when the gigantic tangle of tomato vines gets higher than 6 feet tall, the sheer wind resistance will start pulling the planter out and knocking the whole thing ever in every bad blow. I currently have it braced with dowels. Next year, I think I'll try planting tomatoes in the actual ground, by the fence, where the tomato cages will be more anchored.

I'll also try a different varietal. This one didn't say it'd turn into a 6 foot tall tangle reminiscent of briar hedges, either, but... the search shall continue. (And my brain is now imagining a riff on the fairy tale cottage overtaken by roses, only this one with cherry tomatoes... actually, this particular varietal would do that in a heartbeat, if it lived long enough!)

Also, next year, no more thai chili peppers. Too hot to eat regularly, and this plant is putting them out by the handful. No, more than that... the stems are starting to bow under the weight of peppers. Apparently I must have some ideal growing conditions, but I don't like them that much!

Maybe some sweet peppers next year?

The rosemary, because I didn't use it enough, has crowded the oregano out of the pot. Next year, I'll have to start a new pot with just oregano - and the same for parsley, as the thyme has decided it is small but mighty, and taking over the world!

On the bright and shiny, I kept everything but the dill and the cilantro alive this year, which is a vast improvement over my first year of gardening in Texas. Next year will be better yet!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A perfect storm of fluttering wings

Last weekend, I found myself inadvertently in the middle of one of Nature's near-inexplicable little miracles. Namely, I was on the high plains in Colorado, standing outside a farmhouse looking at a line of storms, when the air was suddenly filled with butterflies.

Now, I'd noticed a higher-than-normal number of butterflies around for October, but FarmMom said it's been a very wet year, and I wondered if they'd just survived the summer. But when every direction I looked, including up, the air was filled with hundreds of butterflies - I had found, by sheer accident, a butterfly migration path. Monarchs, painted ladies, sulphurs, and one or two cabbage whites, all swirled, danced, and tumbled on the wind in a generally southward cloud.

It was like being inside a swirling windstorm that shook all the leaves off the trees - except there weren't any trees shedding leaves nearby, and these were all flying, flapping, tumbling around each other, alighting on cars and grass and barn and people, even on the rifles. (One poor sulphur was most disappointed to find a taillight, while red, is not a hummingbird feeder full of sugar.)

I've gotten up at 4am and napped while my husband drove to a remote Tennessee corn field to see ultralights leading whooping cranes on their first migration, but I'd never put two and two together and realized I even had a chance to see the butterfly migration.

That was amazing!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Fall cleaning!

It was 67 degrees and raining today (third day in a row of rain), which made it a perfect day to wash the airplane!

Although, I did hit culture shock when I asked a pilot on the airport "Where's the non-potable tap?"
"The what?"
"The non-potable tap? You know, for washing the airplane?"
I got a very funny look back. So I asked another pilot, who looked confused and aimed me at a third.

He grinned, and said "We don't have non-potable on the airport. It's all purified, off the city water." As my eyebrows started climbing to my hairline at the idea of wasting potable water on washing, his eyes were crinkling up in suppressed laughter. Fortunately, he continued on to outline where the airport had not one, but something like 6 taps around the hangars. "You're welcome to taxi over and use the hose outside my hangar - just wash the plane on the taxiway, so you keep the greasy belly dirt off my white apron!"

How do you wash an airplane with a hose? I'm not sure what to do with an abundance of water.  So I did it the way I know best. First, I rolled the airplane out into the rain to get wet. Then, I found the nearest tap, and filled the bucket three-quarters full, lugged it back, and added a good amount of aluminum-safe soap. Taking the nifty mop-like scrubber, dunk, and start at the top of the airplane, working my way down to the dirty belly.

Although, North Texas has such an abundance of dirt in the air, and I haven't flown the plane enough, so for the first time in my life the top of the wings were dirtier than the belly. That just ain't right.

When finished with the first pass, I emptied the very dirty water where we don't want plants growing anyway, then rinsed out the bucket, refilled it, and added just a little soap. Then I washed a second time, really cleaning now that most of the dirt had been removed and bird poop had time to soak.

I could have done a third pass with just water, but my arms were killing me. (The gym this morning was squats and overhead presses. Next time I wash the plane, maybe I'll do squats and deadlifts instead? Or be brilliant and wash her on a day I'm not already tired from the gym!)  So instead I called my father, and chatted with him about sacrificial anodes in water heaters and the newest high-tech paints which have ammonia that flashes off when applied, leaving behind an acid-based polymerization to create a film on the wall instead of ground pigment particles suspended in a drying medium, like... the entire history of paint before now.You know, standard daddy-daughter conversations.

After fourty minutes or so, we rang off, and I judged the airplane rinsed enough by mother nature, and pushed my dripping bird back in the hangar.

I guess there must be another way to use a lot of potable water and clean planes quickly. Maybe someday I'll acclimatize to the Lower 48 and think it's normal?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Poor prior planning makes for playgrounds

Yesterday was laundry day. It was also group dinner day, though thankfully by the time for friends to come over I looked almost presentable, and the house was close enough to clean for confirmed bachelors to be at home. (Even if Old NFO did have to dodge me passing him with two milk crates of freshly dried laundry before he even got something to drink.)

I left washing the mattress pad until after dinner, not wanting it spread out to dry over the chairs or couch while guests might want to sit there. This meant that I spread it to dry over the living room chairs shortly before bed.

...which means there was a fresh damp white mattress pad for the bored black kitten to amuse himself all night. And this morning, it looked every inch of it. *sigh*

In fact, as I write this, the kitten dashed up at tapped Kili on the hindquarters. She snarled, and disappeared under the chairs, behind the mattress pad, covering her retreat with fierce hiss and lightning paw. He's now sprawled on the floor on the other side of the hanging curtain of cloth, upside down and back legs splayed, batting under the edge of the formerly white pad at her.