Sunday, December 10, 2017

For The Press

So often it seems that reporters try to talk about firearms without adequate knowledge. I offer this free of charge, just glad I can help.


Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Guest Recipe for the Holidays From Brigid

I got through the work week and too many meetings with the help of my favorite laser pointer (you have had to have seen the Austin Powers movies to appreciate) but I was SO glad it was Saturday.

Even better, we had our first real snow.  Abby the Labrador went out on the yard to roll in it twice, the bird feeder was filled and the water dish I put out for the critters (we live on the edge a very big city park system) was filled as I imagine the creek was icing over.

Since it is the Christmas season, it's eggnog pancakes, a recipe I make every December. They are almost pastry-like in texture and SO yummy.
click on photo to enlarge
Eggnog Pancakes

1 and 1/3 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Small pinch of nutmeg

Mix together and make a "well" in the center of it in the bowl.

Mix in separate small bowl:
1 cup plus 3 Tablespoons eggnog
1 large egg beaten
2 Tablespoons clarified butter

THIS is the secret, clarified butter is butter that's been heated in a skillet until the butterfat and liquid separate a bit, it makes the pancakes extra light and fluffy, just heat the butter until it just starts to bubble and brown and add it to the rest of the liquids and immediately pour the liquid ingredients into the well in the dry ingredients. Mix lightly and cook on an oiled skillet til golden. The batter is fairly thick. If it's too thick to work with, then add a couple tablespoons of milk. Do NOT overmix.

Cook on medium heat. They are thick and take a little longer to cook than regular pancakes so don't let the heat get too high or they will burn before they are done and aim for lots of smaller ones, rather than big ones. Serve with real maple syrup.

With a little practice, you can prepare the batter in less than 10 minutes. This makes about eight 3-4 inch pancakes, enough for 2 or 3 people.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

A Day That Will Live In Infamy

It's memorials, headstones, and a dwindling few elderly veterans now.


76 years ago, it was ships, planes, and young men as the United States entered WWII.

Here's the story of one, Navy Fireman 3rd Class Kenneth Holm, from the USS Oklahoma, finally identified by DNA testing and laid to rest earlier this year.

Remember.



Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Couldn't Resist- Since I still have a Flip Phone This Probably Applies - Brigid

Santa' Alter Ego -- Krampus

Have you heard of Krampus?
Meet Krampus: a half-goat, half-demon, horrific beast who literally beats children into being nice and not naughty. Krampus isn't exactly the stuff of dreams: Bearing horns, dark hair, and fangs, the anti-St. Nicholas comes with a chain and bells that he lashes about, along with a bundle of birch sticks meant to swat naughty children. He then hauls the bad kids down to the underworld.


December 5th is Krampusnacht, the night before the feast of St. Nicholas. The modern traditions include parades of costumed Krampuses and parties.


The older stories of Krampus taking the bad children and the Krampus Cards from a century ago, make for some interesting, thought provoking, reading.



Monday, December 4, 2017

Christmas In A Minor Key

I loved Christmas growing up. Enjoyed learning to bake all the holiday recipes. The surprises and presents. The hope that the season represents.

Then I got married and we had four children. Even when there wasn't a lot of money, we got a big tree. Decorated the house. Made cookies by the double batch for weeks. Bought presents. Made it special. The house was loud, the kids jazzed up. My parents would come with a trunkload of stuff. We usually went to Midnight Mass and followed that with the chaos of Christmas morning. I have lots of pictures, this was taken on Kodachrome on some unknown Christmas in the '90s.


Even as they became adults, some or all of them would come home. I still put a tree, did some part of the traditions, let the holiday find it's balance. Remembered Christmases past.

November 2015 ended all that. As regular readers know, one of my sons took his own life. The others are scattered across the country and there is no desire to get together anymore. The decorations sit in boxes in the attic. The cookie cutters are on a top shelf in a Tupperware container with dust on the lid.

I bring this up to all of you to offer these thoughts.

The first is to tell you that if you are still engaged in full-on Christmas celebrations, love it, appreciate it, revel in it.

Second, remember you know, work with, and interact with people like me. People with losses that have forever altered their Christmases. You may know, you may not, but they have lost a child or a loved one, have someone who is in prison or struggling with addiction, are dealing with chronic illness, and so on. The season brings up memories that they carry like a weight on their best days.

And to finish this. On the shortest days of the year, in the darkness at the beginning of winter, we light the lights, gather together, share a festive meal, and for those who believe, we celebrate a new birth of hope in the world.



Sunday, December 3, 2017

Why you don't ask the Forensic Anthropologist to make the Christmas Cookies - a Brigid Guest Post

Borepatch has advised that he wouldn't have much time for posting this week and asked that AMS826 and myself keep you amused until he returns. Since so much of what I write is fairly philosophical in nature, I thought I'd add something a little lighter tonight. You all should relate - Brigid
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Office building occupants, whether they are law enforcement or CPA firms, run drills throughout the year, to test evacuation and security. I've been in a building where the fire alarm was going off and people were saying "OK, just let me finish downloading this. . . ". That's not the way to get people to move quickly from their desks.

Simply have someone get on the intercom and say "there are Christmas cookies in the lunchroom".
Stampede!!

The average cubicle worker and free food go together like vultures and carcasses. Hmm, I had better rephrase that. Not implying that vultures have higher standards but in some offices, you could put throw some Purina dog chow in with some Chex cereal and put out a sign "free party mix" and people would start noshing. I know, I used to party with med students who thought Oreos and Jagermeister were "impress the ladies" party food.

But those of you stuck in an office or cubicle all day know the feeling. You're hungry, you're bored, you hear the word free and . . . (besides calories during the holidays don't count).

But how do the various office holiday foods add up? Our office get-together usually involves all of the wives providing hot dishes and the boss providing lots of roast pig so it's grand ( I bring my famous appetizer crack and some pies) but I've been to some in past jobs that left a little to be desired.

Holiday Office Food explained.

To start, there are five types of office party eaters.

The Forklift: They rumble around the background, looking, slowly assessing the terrain, then add full power, reach in and scoop up half of the cheese dip If you see someone with a very large scooped Frito in their hand, watch out.

The shoplifter: They appear totally uninterested, then quietly reach down and grab a Slim Jim, stick it in their pocket and retreat to their cubicle to store it with the goodies from the last office birthday celebration before anyone notices what is missing.

The holding pattern: These folks just sort of make circular patterns around the room, never really stopping to eat. If you ask, they say "I'm trying to decide". While they count the sprinkles on a cookie to see if they'll get the best one, most of the food disappears.

The Homer: Male or female, they'll stare googly-eyed at the food with a "mmmm. . . . pimento loaf. . ." and then grab a portion and head for the liquid refreshments. They WILL be back.

The Hoover: A subspecies of the Homer, the Hoover will eat anything, and everything, sucking up even the last half of a peanut from the empty Chex Mix bowl.

I'm a Homer.

So let's review a sampling from a prior office I worked for, rating the food from most to least popular, with scientific comments. Seriously, add in the types of eaters and it was like watching an anthropological experiment before my eyes.

Chocolate espresso truffles - Have you ever seen one of those once a year bridal sales? Picture that and replace the brides with piranha. Yeah.

Chocolate and peanut butter buckeyes - Even those that hate the Ohio football team scarfed these up.

Bugles - What is it about bugles? They were brought in by one of the office bachelors. They're shaped like little dunce caps for a reason. A mixture of cornmeal, partially hydrogenated yard gnomes and salt, they are really bad for you. Yet once you eat one you can't quit. I leave some out for Santa.

Teriyaki beef sticks - A favorite despite being another store-bought treat.

Gingerbread men: Being homemade, they went quietly into the void rather quickly.

Cheese ball with crackers - Covered in parsley, it looked like a Magic 8 Ball Chia Pet. But with three kinds of cheese, red pepper, Worcestershire sauce and secret herbs and spices, it was a hit. Made by one of the few females in the office, there wasn't even enough left for a tox box.

Brownies - A disappointing performance from a usual birthday crowd favorite.

Mystery meat logs - I'm not sure what they were made of, but they were some sort of spiced meat mixture shaped into little sticks and baked. I could only refer to them as Spampons. They were as popular as the name infers.

Baby Carrots (no Ranch Dip) - You have a room full of hungry guys. This is not food, this is what food EATS. The crowd was less than pleased.

Clementines (golf ball sized oranges) - See above comment

Fruitcake - It and its twin disappeared, but only because I needed a set of wheel chocks for the Piper Cub.

Oh, the humanity

Pimento Loaf- I've not seen this product since grade school. Maybe someone brought it because it resembles bologna with a Christmas tree ornament ground up in it. The first few pieces were gone quickly, predators being tricked by the meat aroma. The remains lay pale and sweating, two hours later, til one of the shoplifters pounced on them.

Office punch - Some sort of juice served with sherbet and 7 up, served at weddings that don't allow dancing since 1954. The Exxon Valdez spill was more popular. Colleagues were observed swilling warm diet coke directly from the 2-liter bottles to get rid of the taste of the pimento loaf, rather than drink the punch.

Gluten Free Rice Cakes - coasters!

Candy canes - They are called "candy canes" because "mint infused glass shards" doesn't sound as appealing. Most of them were still remaining the morning after, even Hoover didn't polish them off. My faith in my fellow coworkers was restored!

You all enjoy whatever festivities come your way!
- Brigid

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Anticipation - A Brigid Guest Post

Sometimes the waiting for something is the best part.

Christmas was like that as a child, the build-up to the big day, shaking the presents under the tree, many which had been rigged with marbles or rocks inside to throw us off. Mom would make a couple of different types of cookies every few days, something new to taste and try with a plate set aside with a sample of everything to eat after the Christmas meal.

It's not just Christmas - there are many events in our lives we anxiously await. The birth of a baby, a holiday, a wedding, awaited with great longing, then suddenly over, vanished as if an illusion.
But Christmas Eve, as children was the best.  We weren't allowed to open any gifts until Christmas morning.  We'd be up before the marked light of dawn, seeing the unwrapped gifts that Santa had left for us on the mantle around the fireplace, Mom and Dad trailing down the hall stifling yawns.

I spent Christmas Eve and day some years back with neighbors who let the kids open the gifts on Christmas Eve.  They didn't go to church so Christmas Day was simply watching sports while the kids played non stop video games.  I appreciated the invite but it felt no more like Christmas than the 4th of July.
No, waiting for the morning was anticipated glory.  I'd sleep in a little trundle bed next to my brothers, trying to stay awake to hear Santa. Mom would come in and lay the sunset colored afghan she had crocheted on top of me for warmth.  Outside, the big, fat 1960's Christmas lights would shine through a window, curtains swept aside so we could see.   Overhead, an aircraft went on its way, solitary and swift like a shooting star.  We'd  speak in low tones, as if in church, as outside the door, our wiener dog Pepper's toenails click-clacked on the hardwood floor as she patrolled her domain.

We would always fall asleep too soon, and wake before the sun rose with that flaming stare of quiet curiosity.
But Christmas isn't the only thing we look forward to.  It may be graduating from college.  It may be retirement.  I think of those people that have a countdown calendar to the day they can walk out the door.  Some come back to the workplace by to say hello, as if tethered to that place they spent so many, many years. Some we never see again, that place nothing more than a coat they have now flung off in warmer lands.
You think what you wait for will take forever to get here.  Then, when it is behind you, those days seemed as they raced past, brilliant and quick, nothing more than a flash of light in the distance, the nights as short as fragmented dreams. Too soon, what you waited for is memory, never to be reclaimed but in thought.

Dad does not wish to celebrate Christmas as anything more than the quiet communion in his home with the minister in celebration of Christ's birth. By his choice, there has not been a tree for a traditional Christmas celebration since my Mom died over 30 years ago. The aluminum tree and color wheel were packed away, never to be seen again. In the years before he remarried, there was neither light nor breath in that house for my Dad and he just wanted Christmas to be over with, once my brother and I were out of the house.
When Dad did remarry, to a widow who had herself lost a beloved spouse- they usually spent Christmas at his sister in law's condo in San Diego - enjoying the warmth.  Dad did not wish to spend Christmas day in a house in which my Mom's laughter had gone silent.   I understood, spending Christmas with friends, later volunteering for extra flight duty so those with children could have the day off.  I understand it even more after losing my brother.
Today, I look up at the flash of a light, here in the fading light.  It is is an airplane, the tiny blink of its passing no different than the ones we viewed as children. I know too well, the feeling of that crew, anxious to get to their destination, hoping they won't have weather or a mechanical issue that precludes their making it home in time for Christmas.  I know the sense of relief of the last flight of the night, launching into a sky, that like man, in one embrace can assume and appease, even as it cannot forgive.

Many a night I flew on Christmas Eve, eliciting a chuckle from the crew chief when he glanced up at the Cockpit and saw my Santa hat as we prepared to depart.  We were only anxious as to the day and time until we were aloft, then like seaman have probably felt since time began, we settled down, finding the true Peace of God and Earth somewhere over 35,000 feet, finding the storms and turbulence, not as some heavenly punishment for our selfishness in wanting to be home but rather a gentle rebuke to curb an impatient heart.
At altitude we'd talk of Christmas past and the hope for Christmas future, perhaps one with a family, our voices quiet, no louder than expelled breath, as the miles ticked under us.  Those in the back of the airplane were subdued, anxious to get home, looking down on cities that twinkled like Christmas lights, clouds bunched over some of them, like warm flannel blankets. Some nights the wind would be so strong aloft we felt like we'd stopped, going forward not with will or strategy but simply that groved habit to endure,

The recorded weather data that we'd confirm receipt of, instead of Delta and Echo and other letters of the phonetic alphabet were Dancer and Prancer and such.  On more than one Christmas Eve, my copilot would confirm Information "Santa" received and we'd made our final descent, not to a city where loved ones awaited, but simply a hotel room with all the ambiance of a dental lab, it's emptiness bringing that quick sharp sting that I could taste in my mouth as I opened the door.

There, I would sleep like a soldier in the field without shelter but for stiff, cotton sheets, waiting to wake up to the fight and the firing.
Tonight I look up and outside. There will be no Christmas light at home, too many commitments of work and family to get them up this year. But there will be a 1960's aluminum tree with an antique color wheel, found at a garage sale, repaired and set up by my husband.  There will be the click-clack of Abby's toenails on the hardwood floors as she patrols her domain. In the kitchen, there will be cookies and a pot of tea set to boil  And on the shelf, there will be found a framed picture of a little auburn haired boy and girl sitting in their Dad's lap, Christmas decorations in the background, as he reads them a story.

It was a story of a baby, one not born of passion or pleasure but one born so that more than a Mother's suffering in his birth would be eased til the end of days.  It was a story of forgiveness we often can't receive from man, but that is His promise in eternity.
This Christmas season, I'm grateful for the anticipation of days.  Christmas will too soon be here and gone. Those that I spent the Christmas of my youth with are gone, but for Dad, his own days drawing to a close. What is left now may just be a fleeting illusion, but illusions, like memory, are as true as flesh, bone, and blood.

Rather than wish that Christmas was here, I'm going to wish it would wait, that I can savor this time of quiet peace, the smell of ,warmth, the laughter of my husband, and the hearkening of a family of angels who calm this impatient heart with a touch as soft as a caress.