Archive | July 2012

One Lovely Blog Award

One Lovely Blog Award

Thoughtful Reader…

I recently received this award from a fellow blogger who deemed my work to be worthy of at least a second glance. I am honored to receive it…..and even more honored to pass it on to others who deserve the recognition. I would like to say “thank you” to mixedupmeme who honored me with this, although I can’t for the life of me understand the logic. Please take a moment and visit her blog. You will find it refreshingly upbeat, intelligently written, and full of whimsy, rhyme, and sharp-edged wit. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

In the spirit of the award, there have to be some rules. Not many, but some…

So, as stated by the rules (my understanding..??), I am supposed to post seven interesting things about myself. Then award other bloggers who I feel deserve this honor. The last part will be easy. The first part, not so much so.

So, here are some interesting factoids about me…

1) I have a niece who is older than I am…

2) I went to work in the agricultural fields before I was in high school…

3) I went to no less than 18 different schools before graduating from high school…

4) I barely escaped drowning in the surf when I was eighteen…

5) I purchased an airplane before I knew how to fly one…

6) I flew a border mission in Germany before the wall came down…

7) I was kicked out of Maxim’s in Paris (back when Maxim’s was THE place on the Champs-Elysees..)…

8) I have lived in seven states…

9) I prefer Mac computers (but I don’t own one..)…

10) I prefer the Iphone (but I don’t own one of those either..)…

Now for the fun part…!!!

I am going to recommend the following blogs and send this award their way…

  • tryingtowriteit is an amazing collection of stuff from a British lady who is close to publishing a major work. Truth be told, I spend too much time on her blog. Stop by this one and settle in for a while.
  • Miss Tanya Jean is the first blog I followed when I started this exploration. I thought she wrote with a certain flair…and I still think so.
  • Privypeeps is a blog written by a lady from India. Tanushree writes in English and handles the language extremely well for a non-native speaker. I know how tough English can be–so I respect her greatly for doing what she is doing. Good solid attempts.
  • Clotildajamcracker has become another of my favorite blogs. She writes with so much imagination and tongue-in-cheek humor….It is almost impossible to stop reading. She very possibly has already received this award…but that’s okay. Now she has another one.!!
  • Brautigan’s Girl is my last recipient. This is very probably my favorite “Long Read.” Terrii writes fiction and handles character development extremely well. If you like fiction and are willing to suspend disbelief for a short time, PLEASE check this one out.
Advertisements

Tomes, Quill Pens and Parchment…

AKA…What to do when it’s raining…Vol. 2

Thoughtful Reader…

I hasten to point out that the following paragraph is a remake of one in “What to do when it’s raining…Vol.1“…..with the blanks filled in to represent the ideas coursing along for this post (Vol.2)

In my recent analytical style of self-introspection (yes, I realize that “self-introspection” is redundant–I could have said “self-observation” or “self-evaluation”, but I just like the sound of “self-introspection,” so sue me…), I have discovered a possible cure for these blues, and blahs. Did you know that cooking feeds the soul? Did you know that ——-(Reading..?) allows us to escape the reality of our poor misbegotten lives? And ——-(Writing..??) Did you know that ——-(Writing..??) reinforces our memory? Which is a good thing as long as you are aware of this particular idiosyncrasy and welcome it. I mean, you know, repressed memories and all that… Anyway,  it’s true. It’s all true.

I often wonder how many memories are hiding, repressed, in the deepest reaches of my not so nimble mind. With apologies to Billy Joel, When I wore a younger man’s clothes I remembered everything. These days I am somewhat more refined and have lower expectations. I think that is what happens as you age. You get a little more haughty (refined..??) as you realize that there are fewer and fewer folks out there who can match your experience level. This level of refinement is often characterized by walking around with your chest out and your nose in the air just a little (of course it could be because my back is so da** stiff that I can’t move anymore). Then you think for a moment, and, coming back down to earth, realize, that the folks around you don’t really care anyway. They know you are getting older (and therefore senile..???) and they don’t really expect you to “produce” or “remember” like you did some years back. Hence the lowered expectations.

So, if no one else expects you to be on point or live out on the edge, why should you bother.?? Another rhetorical question, but for this one I have an answer. You should bother because it is good for you. Because it stretches the mind and the understanding. Because now, after living quite a while as an adult, you may finally have the resources to do something worthwhile with your life. And because you can still make a contribution and others may benefit from your understanding. Producers, contributions…..More on that another time…….

Of Tomes, Quill Pens and Parchment…

Reading….the best use of any available minutes not already allocated to other endeavors….and the second indoor thing that occupies me today. As a youngster I grabbed my fun and adventure where I could find it. That was usually in books. Readily available in libraries at no cost, they were the perfect source of adventure and mental stimulation for a boy with no money and no family life. There were stories of adventure in far off lands, and stories of travel that led to adventure. Train trips to danger filled destinations as depicted on the “Orient Express,” and safaris to the “Dark Continent” chasing wild beasts. The swashbuckling men of the French Foreign Legion were always good for an imaginative story, and of course there were the “Khyber Rifles” and other titles by Mundy as well as Zane Grey’s westerns and Mark Twain’s stories of middle America. Stories of heroes and villains and stories of fortunes and fortunes lost were plentiful too. To add variety there were many, many outdoor magazines and various encyclopedic tomes full of “how to” instruction sprinkled liberally throughout those early years.

Today, I read various genre. Historical fiction is a particular interest because the underlying tenets can be worth recalling. Some of the political savagery is also of interest, as well as some biographical works and historical treatises…particularly the U.S. founding period. Reading was, and is, a favored thing. I think I would dry up mentally and spiritually if forced to abandon it. And if you read some things other than fiction, you may find yourself contributing to the understanding of someone else. And that is worth doing.

Writing goes hand in hand with reading. Once captivated by the written word, there is an almost insatiable desire to produce something meaningful…a printed legacy to show others and to look upon with pride. I have been somewhat fortunate in my endeavors to produce acceptable narrative. I say acceptable because at various points one person or another has felt it was “good enough” to occupy some space in print. Now, today, I am here knocking on the door of this new medium. I have a lot to say. Some of it may provoke consternation among the élite and cause great soul-searching, hand-wringing, and gnashing of teeth among the masses. Gosh, I hope so.!! Will it be “good enough.??” Only time will tell….

“Men of age object too much, consult too long, adventure too little, repent too soon, and seldom drive business home to the full period, but content themselves with a mediocrity of success”…………..Dale Carnegie

One thing is certain….I refuse to accept the loss of my remaining brain cells without a fight.

Be well…

Howard

Post Script….

Thoughtful Reader

For those who read the blog post about my dessert adventure in “Indoor Sports or “What to do when it’s raining…” Vol. 1, this is the ending.

I left all of you with the opportunity to jump up and down on my foolishness. To your credit, you were nice about it. No one said anything ugly about my parentage, or laughed in my face (although I deserved a little ridicule..).

If you remember, I was trying to hasten the preparation of a desert sauce to be used as an ice cream topping. I started with the slightly softened peach in the bottom of a bowl, topped with French Vanilla ice cream, then drizzled with the sauce.

Photo courtesy of DAXTER at desktopnexus.com


 
 
 
This is what the topping sauce was supposed to look like—-well, at least something very close to this. A little bit lighter in color and a little clearer, but essentially like this.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Topping Sauce
 
 
 
This is what I ended up with. This is what happens when you cook sugar too long or to a high temperature. I could have avoided this by using my candy thermometer. Instead, I chose to visually watch sheeting on the spoon and counted on the bourbon to halt or slow down this process……Which it did…partially.
 
 
 
The topping ended up tasting wonderful and looking beautiful, but it was much too thick for a topping. At least it did not harden off like brittle.!!! The lesson to be learned here (or reinforced..) is to always think about the relationships between ingredients….Oh, and watch those temperatures!!!

Howard

Indoor Sports or “What to do when it’s raining…” Vol. 1

Photo courtesy of: public-domain-image.com

Thoughtful Reader…

Have you ever…

1) Wanted to smell the roses…..but it was raining..?

2) Wanted to lay out in the sun…..but it was raining..?

3) Wanted to go to the ballgame…..but it was raining..?

4) Substitute here any other outdoor thing in which you are interested…..but it was STILL raining.

In my recent analytical style of self-introspection (yes, I realize that “self-introspection” is redundant–I could have said “self-observation” or “self-evaluation”, but I just like the sound of “self-introspection,” so sue me…), I have discovered a possible cure for these blues, and blahs. Did you know that cooking feeds the soul? Did you know that ——- allows us to escape the reality of our poor misbegotten lives? And ——- ?? Did you know that ——- reinforces our memory? Which is a good thing as long as you are aware of this particular idiosyncrasy and welcome it. I mean, you know, repressed memories and all that… Anyway,  it’s true. It’s all true.

Ambrosia, Nectar of the….Common Folk??…

I am basically an outdoorsman at heart. I well remember when I was growing up dreaming of adventure in far off lands and exploring the woods and hills of nearby “wild places.” I am still that same person.  However, there are still some indoor things that occupy my interest as well. The first of which is food. That’s right, food. And the proper and skilled preparation thereof. I exhibit no hesitancy in saying that I enjoy good food and I enjoy preparing it. I consider myself to be somewhat skilled in the kitchen and willing and able to prepare meals for anyone who risks trespass into my domain. I started cooking when I was about ten years old I guess…through necessity of course. But it is only in the last fifteen years or so that I have started to take it seriously. I study the science and practice the art….

That really is the truth, so what happened a few days ago caused more than just a little consternation on my part. I was preparing a little something for a couple of folks, when I realized that I really could use a dessert of some sort. Well, lets back up a minute…..I started my prep work the evening prior.  I prepped a pork loin and set up a mild brine, peeled and prepped three nice apples for applesauce, prepped some potatoes and soaked to wash away some starch, and prepped and lightly blanched some green beans for a quick sauté. Everything went swimmingly. The following day while finishing up the pan sauce for the pork, and toasting some sesame seed for the green beans, the realization hit me. Dessert..! No dessert.!!! Oh, crap….What to do?

Well, as you, gentle reader, have come to know (maybe..???), I am nothing if not nimble. Or as one of my readers was recently want to say, “I forgot.! You are a Thoughtful poster.” (the sarcasm was not lost on me…). I had in my possession a few almost ripe peaches and some French Vanilla ice cream; so I said to myself, I said “Self,” “Problem solved.!” Quickly blanching the peaches and slipping the peels, and pitting them required only moments. I started a light syrup and softened the peaches in the syrup for about four or five minutes. Like I said, they were just a little on the hard side. Setting them aside in the cold box to chill, I started to build a sauce for a topping. Here is where things started to go awry. I planned a caramel-like sauce, only different. I loved the flavors of peaches and bourbon together. I also wanted a clearer sauce, a little more transparent. The only way I could accomplish that was to clarify the butter first, and leave out the cream. So, here are the steps: First, reduce the peach simple syrup some as a base ingredient. I wanted to retain the peach flavor. In a separate pan, I clarified the butter, then added raw sugar. I like raw sugar both for its taste and color. I added a little honey and peach nectar for flavor. I then added the reduced peach simple syrup, and continued cooking/reducing. The color was right.! I had it made.! Well, maybe not…….

The observant among you will realize that my “sauce” mixture was sadly lacking in one base ingredient, the fats and solids that the cream normally adds to a sauce. I knew I would have to be careful with it. I cooked it down slowly, stirring and watching. Never even considering the temperature of the almost pure sugar “sauce,” I added the bourbon and burned off the alcohol. The consistency was good. The taste was almost spectacular.

So, what went wrong? Who among you would like to venture a guess? Who would like to be the first to tell the world how stupid I was? I have given you all the hints you need. Go ahead, serve me up another dish of humble pie!! Answer……later.

Be well…

Howard

Bio-sketch #2 or “Fealty…as a part of life..”

Thoughtful Reader…

Allegiance sworn is only important if you intend to keep the oath. When I joined the military I took such an oath. It required me to swear allegiance to the United States, defend against all enemies, follow lawful orders and several other important things as well. The exact content of the oath is public record and I do not feel it necessary to quote it here. It is significant in what it says, but even more so in what it doesn’t say. It doesn’t tell you how to be a responsible soldier, or how much mental exertion it might require of you. It doesn’t require happiness in your daily work or allow for eight hours of restful sleep. What it does is simple. It turns youth into adult. Boys become men and girls become women. Followers become leaders. Youth, barely able to function on their own, become responsible adults capable of following lawful orders without question, respecting authority, and showing merciful compassion.

Uncle Sam Says…

The military did a lot for me. It gave my life order and discipline at a time when I seriously needed both. I joined up the first time when the war in Vietnam was raging. In those days the all volunteer military did not exist. All eligible males registered for the draft on their eighteenth birthday. A lottery was held and every day of the year was assigned a sequence number by random drawing. The number assigned to your birthday was YOUR sequence number. I drew a low number….. Rather than be drafted into a specialty in which I had no interest, I chose to enlist. Armor–Track mechanic…..

Some years later I joined the Army a second time. What is that I am hearing…”Why would you do that?” Well, because by this time the draft was becoming obsolete and I wanted to fly!! I already knew how to fly airplanes but I wanted to fly helicopters too. So I marched myself right down to the recruiting station and interviewed for direct entry into flight school. And as they say, “the rest is history..”

The Army’s Aviation Center is at Fort Rucker. That is in Alabama, if you didn’t know. All of the training for the aviation branch takes place there. The hardest part of Army Aviator training was getting into the school. Being accepted into the direct entry program was only the first step. You had to complete the officer/warrant officer development training before advancing into flight training. Mistakes here were costly. Screw up and you were asked to leave (and not politely either..). With your exit went your wasted effort, time and dreams of becoming an aviator. No second chances.

I spent about fourteen months at Fort Rucker. After completing flight school I went on to fly for the Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory doing some testing on equipment to enhance survivability for pilots. Then off to an advanced aircraft transition to learn more about military air doctrine and to learn to fly attack helicopters. The FMC version of the Cobra was the last and best of the AH-1S line. When the AH-64 came on-line, aerial tactics and maneuver changed greatly. What had once been about “survivability” on the battlefield, was now about taking the battle to the enemy. A real game-changer.

I loved my tours in Europe. Good time. Fun time. Hard work time. Some of you may remember the days of the “Iron Curtain” and a divided Germany, and some of you might actually have seen the “wall.” It was a troubling time. We went “camping” frequently, usually in the snow. At least that is how it seemed. Regardless of what you may think, tents don’t make good houses. Flying our aircraft along the border, hearts would pound and stomachs threaten to empty when enemy anti-aircraft radar “locked” on our aircraft. Instantly you wonder, “Is this the time..”? I think they were just screwing with us, having a bit of fun at our expense. But we didn’t know that then…..

Did you know that deep  in the Black Forest near the Austrian border stands a monument to wealth and excess (and beauty..)? Called Schloss Neuschwanstein, it was the model or inspiration for the Disney castle. A neat place to visit, so I did. And I have smelled the clean air of the mountains, drank cold beer at a cloistered monastery, enjoyed Oktoberfest, visited the Paris Air Show, enjoyed the hospitality of the country of Luxemburg, visited the Queens palace and castle, rode double-decker buses, ate a meal at a real English pub, and in general learned a lot about a continent and countries so old they make the United States look like an infant…………Yes, the military life was very good for me.

Howard