Monday, October 26, 2020

Seize the moment

 Kili Cat is no longer a young kitten. To be fair, she wasn't a kitten when she became our secondhand cat, and that was 8 years ago. Lately, white has been appearing on her muzzle where there was no white before, and she walks stiff-legged on days when we're hobbling as well. What she has lost in youth and enthusiasm, she has made up for with old age and treachery, and sheer low cunning.

For example, on this particular cold day, it's 34 degree and raining outside. This is a day when nobody in this household wants to move much, as the damp aches all the way down to the bones. My husband built a fire, and I? I moved out to the couch right by it, and took my laptop with. 

And Kili? She waited until the microsecond between putting the laptop aside and getting up, and my lap was filled with a cat, flowing up and turning around, settling down in a ball that just happened to stick cold toe beans into my warm inner thigh. As she settled, my lap vibrated to the purr of a happy cat. 

I settled back down on the couch, and once her toes were warm, she re-arranged herself with a fresh wave of purring that slowly tapered off as her eyes closed and she sank into a boneless doze. The paralyzing purr had struck again...

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Cat fur transmogrification

 Today, I went to the laundromat to wash the comforter, as it's too big for my washer and dryer. This involves removing roughly an adult cat's volume of fur from the comforter, as well as any skin oils from us, all the dust west Texas could blow here, etc. 

Washing the comforter was entirely normal. However, drying it? When I came back to transfer it to the dryer, I ran into a lovely woman who was keeping an eye on her smallest child while looking at another parent showing pictures of his kid being entirely too cute and utterly kid. As we chatted, it came up that the very small child there had just lost her cat to coyotes... and there had been kittens sighted nearby, and one had come right up to small child, though it hadn't come near mom. 

I know those kittens are ferals and strays, and allowed as how they were free to a good home if they could be rounded up. 

Which is how the three of us ended up going for a walk down an alleyway after picking up one emaciated little wheezing kitten with its eyes matted shut, searching for its feistier (and slightly less emaciated) littermate. The lady turned out to have been a vet tech, and much more able at wrangling small kittens than me! On the other hand, when she was casting about for a way to wrangle kittens while going and acquiring/buying a box, I looked around, popped open a dumpster, rummaged a bit, and came up with two boxes for her choosing. So, not completely useless. 

So, you know. I washed away roughly the same weight of cat fur as... the two kittens that went off to a good home. There's some sort of cosmic balance going on here, isn't there?

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Thre's no recipe for this

 The point of most recipes is two-fold: one, to be able to re-create the dish. Two, to provide a template for how the dish could be, so a cook has something to refer to when making a variation. 

Okay, three, sometimes a recipe is there to tell a story, and to also recreate the dish associated with the story. Which can be delightful - I was tickled pink the first time I read MCA Hogarth's Mindtouch, and she included the recipe for kerinne in the back of the book.

I'm going to ignore four for signal virtue, as experienced cooks look at the ingredient list and preparation method, and go "This person has no idea how to cook, or what they're trying to make. They just wanted to splash organic heirloom locavore non-GMO cruelty-free cage-free grass-fed blah blah blah buzzword all over the page." Because the travesty of some trendeigh idiot trying to virtue signal a recipe for gumbo without a roux or the full holy trinity was an offense unto food. 

But back to one and two - I often post recipes here because they're an amalgam of several other recipes, and I want to remember later how to re-create the dish. Unfortunately, today's dish would be impossible to recreate. So I present it only for the value of making you laugh.

Scalloped Turnips a la clean out the fridge

2 old, large turnips, one of which started to sprout in the fridge. (I forgot they were there!)
the end of a wedge of whisky-aged cheddar, grated
a wedge of "Oh, right, I got this to try and never did" mild blue Mornay cheese, grated
about 2 oz of cream cheese maybe, cut in chunks
a knob of butter - what was left on the butter dish
the almost-half a red onion on the cutting board that needed used up, sliced thin
a yellow onion, sliced thin
a palm-full of dried thyme, since it's getting old and I figure I need more to get the same flavour
a palm-full of dried parsley
a generous shake of mesquite-smoked salt
a few shakes of red pepper

Chop the ends off the turnips, peel, cut into manageable-sized chunks, and slice thin on the grater, ideally without adding any knuckle via the grater. Chop the onions in half, then slice thinly.

In a heavy-bottomed cast iron (I used my enameled cast iron braiser), melt butter. Add onions and salt, and let cook until starting to caramelize. 

Meanwhile, in a tea kettle, boil a liter of water. Dump turnips in large microwaveable bowl, cover with boiling water. Microwave for two minutes, because that's probably what you punched in when the cat distracted you by jumping on the counter and heading for the cream cheese. 

Remove cat from counter. Rescue cheese to cutting board. Stir the onions so they don't burn. Grate the cheese. Pause between cheeses to stir onions, and add thyme and parsely, and tell the cat he'd better not be paws-on-helping-cat on the cutting board. 

Cat will reply with insouciance and a tail wrap. Do not trip.

Finish grating cheese, turn on oven to 375 like you meant to do and forgot earlier, stir onion. Throw in cream cheese, stir so it starts melting. Pull the bowl of parboiled turnip slices out of microwave, careful not to splash hot water. And not to trip over helpful cat who is helping. Drain turnip slices somewhat successfully.

Stir onions and cream cheese and herbs, then add turnip slices on top, using the water that didn't completely drain to deglaze the pan. Sigh wistfully over how you should have opened a bottle of white wine to use for deglazing instead, and use for a glass for the cook. 

Once pan is deglazed, add the grated cheese in. Remember to turn off the burner. Stir until everything is evenly distributed melted gooey mess, smooth flat. Stick in oven that's still preheating, set timer to 30 minutes.

...yeah, there's no way to recreate that recipe. For one, you'd have to start by acquiring a paws-on helping cat, and much as I'd like to give you all 17 pounds of mine right now, my husband would object. For another, I'd have to remember who makes and where we got the whiskey cheddar to try, and I think the mornay was a seasonal item. And measurements? What measurements?

So, I really do not recommend forgetting turnips in your fridge. Really, you should get what you plan to use and enjoy it, right? But hey, my fridge is now cleaner and emptier, my stomach is happy with a nice meal, my brain is happy because it now knows parboiling is a perfectly viable method to make large turnips no longer crunchy, as well as less pungently turnip.

And if you laughed at the recipe, well, my goal for posting it here has been met!

Thursday, October 15, 2020

There's a reckoning a-coming

 Woke up this morning to a cold, hard wind blowing out of the north. It's pounding the land fiercely enough the water in the toilet is sloshing to every gust, and the house is creaking slightly. Perfect day for early voting; if they're going to steal my vote, they're going to have to work for it. 

Otherwise, time to start cooking a stew, and throw another layer on. When the wind dies down, it'll be a good time to warm body and soul with a fire in the fireplace. Y'all stay safe and warm out there.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Things I've learned to say

 ...after moving to Texas.

"Wow, look at how green everything is!"

Yep, everything is relative.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Home again

 How sweet it is to be snubbed by one's own cats. Or, something like that. After breakfast this morning with Alma Boykin, in which I failed at socialization before coffee (fortunately my Calmer Half and Alma managed to do the talking thing), we hit the road. No detours this time, and almost no stops - if only because we had food, and we had a full tank of gas, and we had a pile of dirty laundry and a cooler full of ribs. 

The litterbox has been cleaned, the laundry started, the tea kit put away, half the spare clean clothes put away, and the cats have gone from purring and joyous at our arrival to full snubbing due to our absence, and in one case, a rather hilarious attempt to kill the suitcase that took her people away. 

Here's to life being back to normal!

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Unreasonable standards

 This year, I brought two guns to Blogorado - the S&W Compact in .22LR, and the S&W M&P EZ in .380. (Man, that sentence is almost military or aviation in its amount of jargon/acronym, eh?) They're almost identical in the grip, so I started training with the .22 and then finished by running two mags through the .380.

The most annoying thing about trying to get better at shooting after destroying my shoulder is that I have such a small functional learning window. Like swimming after my last shoulder sprain: I loved swimming, but 20 minutes driving, ten minutes in the changing room before hand, ten minutes in the changing room after, and twenty minutes drive home gets to be extremely annoying when I can't handle more than 5 minutes of swimming at a time, and those 5 minutes are a reminder of just how much I suck compared to where I used to be. Even when I doubled my swim time, I was still at "It takes more time to shower than I spend swimming."

Which is why I don't swim anymore; I can only handle so many doses of frustration, suck, and fail before I get an attitude problem. I weightlift now, which at least doesn't require getting changed and showering, and I can see slow, steady progress charted in the logbook.

Well, today I slew the mighty steel targets (yay), until my shoulder started bitching at me. My darling man was trying to help with such advice as "You're anticipating where you're shooting next. Slow down, focus on the front sight. Take a break every 2 to 3 shots in you need to."

Right about the time I wanted to bite his head off, I instead took the car keys, and went and sat in the car, out of the wildfire smoke and dust, in the air conditioning, drinking water and shaking out two tylenol. After a few minutes, he joined me. 

"I love you." I figure this is always a good conversational opener with my darling man: a reminder that no matter what, I do love him. 

"I love you, too." He replied, and calmly waited. 

"I'm sorry." I figured this, too, was a very wise thing to get out there, on the table, sincerely meant. 

I didn't expect the confused, "For what?"

"Snapping at you. I shouldn't let pain make me bitchy! I should be better than that. And when I'm hurting and about to bite your head off, when you're the one of the two of us who knows what the heck they're doing, and are trying to give me perfectly reasonable advice... I'm sorry. That's why I went and hid in the car, and got painkillers."

My darling man proved yet again why I call him Calmer Half: He looked over at me with a smile. "No need to apologize. You did exactly the right thing." After I'd blinked at him in mild confusion, he added, "And this is why I will never do an extended training course with you. Some things, spouses are not meant to do together." 

I made an agreeable noise, and took another drink of water. 

After a while, he said, "Want to head back to the hotel, now?"

"Yes. But what I'm going to do is get back out there, and shoot the .380 so I get familiar enough with it to carry." After all, that's why I brought it. 

"All right." He nodded, and put his hand on the door handle. 

Grumpily, not liking the limitations of my body, I muttered, "And then go back to the hotel and lie down. I'm sorry." I don't like grumping and snarling around him.

"There's nothing to apologize for, love."

"I just hate not being anywhere near as good as I want to be!" 

I wasn't expecting the rueful laughter that filled the cabin. "Oh, I know. So do we all!"

Friday, October 9, 2020

Not all who wander are following GPS?

 On the road to Blogorado, we decided to take a 30-mile detour and visit Kent Rollin's new cowboy coffee shop. It's new enough that the grand opening was set for the day after we showed up. Kent's wife was lovely, gracious, and holding down the counter while a familiar face and cowboy hat was running in and out delivering box after box of supplies. 

As for the coffee? That was awesome. I got a mocha - my standard for new coffee shops, and Peter got the cowboy coffee. The mocha was a good mocha, but the cowboy coffee was really worth the drive! 

From there, we looked at the GPS, which was being its usual "interesting" self, and the routes it was trying to give us - none of which included the obvious use of I-40. Peter said, "Interstates are boring. why not?" So off on US routes and farm-to-market roads we went.

You know, if want to see a collection of small towns, and really get the feel for the land, that's certainly how to do it. And it only took about an hour longer, including the stop for gas where the whole town's internet was out, so the credit card readers couldn't. (Thank goodness for cash.)

We arrived in plenty good time, and spent the afternoon and evening hanging out with friends, eating too much, and sucking down lots of water and soda to combat the altitude and the allergens hanging thick and hazy with the wildfire smoke and dust in the air. And on the cat fur, as a barn cat named Short Round (she was the runt of the litter) came out of wherever barn cats go, and started cadging scritches, then flopped down against me and went purring off to sleep. 

As hugs were traded, along with catching up, and guns were pulled out and food piled high, I wasn't the only one who's had permanent singing tension between the shoulderblades since March, and we were starting to relax. Life is good!

As soon as the meds couldn't combat the allergen load, I turned in to shower, medicate, and sleep, which is the only reason I'm up so early... for once, I may not be a tail-end Charlie in to breakfast, muttering "coffeeeeee" like a modern day zombie!

Monday, October 5, 2020

Two months later, the anthology is out!

I don't post very often, so it was only two posts ago I was talking about being ambushed by friends and coming up with a story for an anthology. Well, it's now out! 


Tales Around the Supper Table: -An Anthology of Texas Writers-

Alma TC Boykin- Pigmentum Regium;
Monalisa Foster- Caliborne's Curse;
Dorothy Grant- Business not Bullets;
Kathey Grey- The Invisible Train;
Pam Uphoff- Runaway;
JL Curtis- A Favor Owed;
Jonathan LaForce- Knights and Dragons;
Peter Grant- Starting over;
Lawdog- Bad Night in Falls Town;
John Van Stry- They Only Ever Just Send One;
Wayne Whisnand- For a Child.

Alma has a dragon working on Alchemy, Peter has a prequel on how Tyler Reese came to partner in the old west with Walt Ames, before the start of the series. 

Monalisa has a hilarious take on urban fantasy and actuaries, and LawDog has a hilarious take on vampires... in Wichita Falls. "The people around here don't do intricacies. They do dynamite and bulldozers at noon."

I have a trader trying to build up a lost colony by shipping spices - described around the writing table as "The challenge of doing business in space Afghanistan." 

By the way, if you want to do business with some crazy, determined people who are trying this very thing in modern-day Afghanistan?

Rumi Spice is sourcing saffron, black cumin, fennel, and other spices out of Afghanistan - bringing fresh, high-quality spice to the USA and funneling the profits, with as few middlemen as possible, straight back into the people there, trying to build a living for them and that doesn't involve opium or endless wars, and invest in the local infrastructure.

One minor word of warning: the cumin is so fresh and strong that I have to halve it for most recipes, as they assume you're getting ground cumin what might have sat going stale on a supermarket or spice cupboard shelf for over a year.