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Archive for the ‘life’ Category

For a brief time I was a guest columnist here but life interfered and I’ve been gone quite awhile. It’s been too long. And as my title implies, I have reasons but no excuses.

In January 2008 I got a new job — incredibly challenging. Six weeks later, my mother — who had always been healthy, strong and vibrant and who was 10 years younger than my father — was diagnosed with terminal, metastasized lung cancer. In the middle of this, I started questioning whether or not I wanted to stay in my then-relationship. (I guess the “then” gives away what my decision ultimately was.) My entire life was in upheaval and everything that was not necessary to move forward got put on hold — including the writing.

By March, I’d pretty much decided to leave the relationship but was putting off the actual exit until we could see what effect Mom’s chemo would have on her prognosis. In June, she had her last chemo and was doing so well we were all convinced it had worked wonders. False hope: it shrank the lung tumor but every other tumor grew in the meantime. However, during the time we thought it had worked well enough to make an actual difference in her timeline, two things happened: I told my ex I was leaving, and, that same week, I met face to face someone I had happened to meet online the week before — and knew as soon as I laid eyes on him that I was supposed to be with him forever.

She deteriorated quickly. She died on August 31. Four days before, on her last lucid night, she met the man I married four months to the day later (last Saturday, in fact), and he was with me when she died. I have not begun to assimilate her loss nor the joy my new husband brings me, but I am trying to look both of these huge changes in my life squarely in the eye and take whatever they have to offer.

My mother was a gourmet cook and taught me well. She’d love the idea that I was sharing my recipes here: she not only sent me hundreds of recipes over the years but every time she found a new kitchen gadget she liked, she bought four of them — one for her and one for each of her children. She was a generous woman, and in the name of that generosity, well, I’ll try to get back here more often and share the culinary wealth.

Iced Spiced Ginger Bars

Bars:
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teas baking soda
1 teas cinnamon
1 teas ginger
1 teas cloves
1/8 teas salt
1 cup hot coffee
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup molasses
2 eggs
Frosting:
1/3 cup butter
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teas vanilla
3 or 4 tablespoons water
Oven 350. Grease 13×9 pan. Blend all bar ingredients at low speed until moistened than at medium speed for 2 minutes, bake 350 for 20-30 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly in center. Cool in pan.

For frosting: medium saucepan over low heat, cook butter until light golden brown, stirring constantly. Add remaining frosting ingredients, mix until smooth, pour over bars and allow to harden. Makes 36.

Enjoy!

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The BBQ Disaster

People who have been to BBQ’s at our house start asking if the fire department was there.  HA ha ha.  That seems less funny each time I hear it.  NO, not quite.

We, my wife and I, were doing a barbecue fundraser for the High school baseball team.  We were cooking burgers and dogs by the dozen on my gas barbecue.  I’ve had it for several years and it has always done a fine job.  However on this day it would falter and stumble early in the game, leaving us with lots of uncooked meat and hungry patrons.  Not the combo we were looking for.  Since the barbecue didn’t just quit but burned part of the hose up, the situation called for quick action.  So off I ran looking for the necessary parts.  However, living in a small town, the parts eluded my hunt.  I then had to think quick.  So I went to my Dad’s house and persuaded him to allow me to borrow his barbecue.  Not as easy as it seems since I had just partly incinerated mine.  I then loaded it up and headed for the crowd.  We set it up in record time and got back to pumping out the food.

In the end, the barbecue was a success and the disaster was nothing more than a little spice to add flavor to the experience.  I simply converted my gas barbecue to briquettes and we are barbecuing more than ever.

Thanks to this little mishap I had the opportunity to experiment with barbecuing with briquettes.  Having been a propane gas barbecue guy for years I relished the idea.  I have to say that I like it better.  A little less convenient, but not much.  I used a chimney to start the briquettes so no need for starter fluid and it only took 15 minutes or so to get the briquettes ready to dump in to the barbecue.  The flavor was better and the cooking process went off without a hitch.

If you are considering buying a barbecue and are leaning toward gas because you think using briquettes is too hard or slow or hard, consider giving it a try.  The results are noticeably better and the process is pretty straight forward.  Anyway, you don’t have to wait for a cooking disaster to give it a try.

Have a great summer.

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The Promise

Today is the day that we celebrate the delivered promise. It’s the day we see that death can be defeated. It is the day we see who He was.

The powers of the world threw their worst at Jesus and thought they had defeated Him. It is on this day, that we celebrate their error. We celebrate the victory of life over death, good over evil, God over Satan. We observing this battle, can now know we are redeemed and victory has been won for us.

With that perspective, even if the weather does not cooperate, it is still a beautiful day. I hope yours is and that your gatherings are full of warmth and the wonderful aromas of a family gathering.

Happy Easter!

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Hiatus

All:

Two events have occurred: I’ve taken a new job (minor), and my mother has become very, very ill (major). I won’t be around for a bit until the dust settles here. I’ll post when I can, but at the moment, I have to spend my time and thought elsewhere.

Paddio, I’ll be back when I can.

J.

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Just in case you are a bit squeamish, I should let you know this is not about food. This post is one of those sideline interests of mine. It’s about the curing of hides. Not only is it about hides but it is about the Indian Technique for preserving hides. I mention it here because part of the process involves cold Smoking.

It is a bit of a reach but, what the heck. You’ve been warned.

I have a book that describes the process in detail written by Arlington C. “Buckskin Slim” Schaefer. What is surprising about this book published in 1973 is that it lead to a renewed interest in this process that continues to this day in tanning hides and that it was published in the county where I live. Douglas County, Oregon

The title of the book is “The Indian Art of Tanning Buckskins” and has quite a following even today amongst those wishing to make their own leather. Another name for the process is brain tanning.

You see the substance used to cure a hide in the Indian style is the brain of the animal. For a deer the brain is combined with about a quart of warm water and simmered for about an hour or so. There is a lot of preparation that is done to the skin before and after the skin is place in the brain-dope, as he calls it. It involves scraping, soaking and wringing the hide. It can then be cured two ways.

The first option is to lay out with the (former) hair side up and the brain-dope is rubbed in by hand. The edges are folded in and the hide is rolled up for about fifteen minutes.

The second option is to take the wrung-out hide right into the bucket or pot that has the dope in it. Kneed the hide to work the emulsion into all the nooks and crannies . It is left in the emulsion overnight and then laid out to dry all day in the sun or indoors depending on weather. After the hide is somewhat dried out, it is then put on a rack to complete the drying process. I haven’t done this but it’s certainly a lot of work. This will take us to the last step, smoking.

The hide is sewn together staring at the neck and leaving a hole at the tail end (about 16-20 inches) to go over the coals. A hole (pit) is dug about 18-24 inches deep and about 16 to 18 inches around. A small air hole is cut into the pit from about 18 to 24 inches from the pit at about a 45 degree angle and reaching to the bottom of the pit. The hide can be hung from a tripod made of long sticks. The edges of the hide are staked down or held down with rocks. In the pit a bed of coals are made. On the bed of coals damp rotten wood is placed to create the smoke. The air hole is used to regulate the coals as a flare up can ruin the project. The flow of air is slowed with moss or rags when needed. The hide is smoked for and hour or so and then turned inside out and repeated. Between the brain-dope and the smoke the hide is cured and ready for use.

The book goes into much more detail but this gives you an idea. It is a fascinating process making an incredibly useful leather.

Is the leather edible? Surprisingly, yes it is. It’s pretty tough though. Commercial leather has all kinds of poisons in it, so it’s not a good idea to let your toddler chew on it. Brain tanned leather is not poisonous, however, there are organisms carried in brain matter that can be dangerous. Problems are unlikely, but I thought I would throw that caution in there.

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Girl Party?

Yeah, great (He says sarcastically) but that means I have to either stay away for 6 or so hours or be locked in the dungeon for the duration of giggly festivities.

So here I am in the dungeon awaiting rescue after the pink explosion is finally contained. We have 4 kids and since the three youngest are girls, my son and I are often outnumbered in more ways than I can describe. My son, displaying wisdom beyond his years, has departed for a friends house.

The “girl party” will consist of games and chatter and cooking. The girls will be baking cookies with my wife. Most will be eaten at the party and the rest will go home with the girls. Leaving the smell behind to taunt the men and boys who will be allowed to get a whiff of the lingering aroma of goodies long since gone. Oh well, I doubt I would have been able to endure the “girl stuff” to get the treats anyway.

So like an inmate in an ancient prison, I await the mercy of the King (or at least the diffusion of the girls).

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Girl Party?

Yeah, great (He says sarcastically) but that means I have to either stay away for 6 or so hours or be locked in the dungeon for the duration of giggly festivities.

So here I am in the dungeon awaiting rescue after the pink explosion is finally contained. We have 4 kids and since the three youngest are girls, my son and I are often outnumbered in more ways than I can describe. My son, displaying wisdom beyond his years, has departed for a friends house.

The “girl party” will consist of games and chatter and cooking. The girls will be baking cookies with my wife. Most will be eaten at the party and the rest will go home with the girls. Leaving the smell behind to taunt the men and boys who will be allowed to get a whiff of the lingering aroma of goodies long since gone. Oh well, I doubt I would have been able to endure the “girl stuff” to get the treats anyway.

So like an inmate in an ancient prison, I await the mercy of the King (or at least the diffusion of the girls).

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