Tuesday, November 26, 2013



In spite of her age and arthritis, this little dog never slowed down.  On Saturday night she jumped up on the bed, apparently figuring it was time she stopped being kicked out of her room.  As we were falling asleep, I rolled over and pressed my backside into my boyfriend's belly. The dog immediately plopped herself down and pressed her back into me.  It made me laugh, but was also very sweet.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

What I'm thankful for year after year.

They arrived in such different ways - one through long, hard med-less labor, the other cut from me after an unexpected breech presentation. But I couldn't be more thankful for the pair of them. Both due on Thanksgiving day, both making an appearance a wee bit early.
Now my older son is 20 and my younger son hits 17 tomorrow.  ut when I look at my tall young men, I still see my tiny babies. I guess I always will.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I'm on a roll with hiking.

Sunday, I went to the Smokies with a friend for another hike.  It was just a little cool and misty, and the beginning of the hike followed a creek.
I mentioned that it seemed like there ought to be gnomes in these mountains and we got into a discussion about how woodland gnomes would dress differently than garden gnomes.
 The ground was sodden in places and I was thankful for my waterproof hiking shoes.
Since the Smoky Mountains are a temperate rainforest, nearly everything sports a little moss.
Part of the trail involved a steep stone stairway. It was worse walking back down it.
It was pretty socked in at some of the overlooks, and the temperature was dropping.
The layers I'd peeled off got added back on.
 We stopped here for lunch. And as soon as we stopped moving, I started shivering.
A storm was brewing and we turned back after we'd walked about four miles.

Eight miles in all, much of it in cold rain.
As we drove back to where I'd left my car, I got an out-of-focus shot of this bear up in a tree by the road. Another bear was nearby, also in the branches.

Monday, November 18, 2013

And... Quaker at the Gun Range.

Naturally, now that my younger son owns a rifle, we had to go shoot it. On Saturday, we drove into town to a range run by the wildlife resources agency. Straight ahead in the green jacket is my son pinning his target at the 50 yard mark. Is it just me or does the end of the gun in the stand look like a sad face with a Yosemite Sam-style mustache and Dumbo ears?
There were strict safety rules. Ear and eye protection were required a good bit before you actually reached the range, and we had a briefing by one of the volunteer range officers. We had to wait behind a red line until the next cease fire, gun unloaded and tabled. The range officers were very friendly and helpful, but also quick to call someone down if they broke a safety rule. The man at the end of our row approached his gun during a cease fire and I heard the officer shouting, "Sir!  Sir! Step behind the red line!" He went on to explain, firmly, that when people see someone approach a gun while they are on the range, no matter what you are actually doing, they get understandably nervous. Finally everyone was safely back inside, the warning lights turned off and they announced, "The range is live, fire away." Yes, I was a little creeped out.
I only fired three times, to try it, and mostly stood behind my son watching. Even with the ear protectors on, it was bloody loud. My own target was just at 15 feet. I hit the target, but that's all I can say. The gun is so heavy I could not have shot it all if they hadn't provided us with a stand.
My son took this photo of the barrel after he'd cleaned it the first time. The inside still had some residue and rust, even after cleaning. Which I guess isn't surprising since it's an 81 year old gun.
Shooting it, however, cleaned out the inside. It apparently knocks loose some of the residue.

And for your entertainment, this is me reacting to the powerful kick of the gun against my poor arm (the first several shots you hear are people around me):
And yes, more sushi was required to soothe the disturbance to my Quaker soul.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Stretching summer into winter.

We've mostly been getting great weather, but when we started getting chilly nights a while back, I harvested a bunch of basil and made up some pesto. In part, I wanted to see how useful the immersion blender was. It has replaced both my blender and my food processor, so I was hoping it wouldn't let me down. Fortunately it worked perfectly. I made this pesto with toasted pine nuts and walnuts, slow roasted garlic, olive oil, and fresh shaved parmesan. Delicious. Most of it is in little packets in the freezer.

The basil continued to thrive, though, so when we had a forecasted over-night freeze last month, I had to do an emergency harvest. I googled "how to preserve basil" and then got to work. First I made five logs of herb butters to freeze and use for cooking: basil butter, rosemary-lemon butter, sage-chive butter, parsley-lemon butter and tarragon-lemon butter. Next up, herb salts - you just chop the herbs and mix them with coarse ground salt. My sister had given me a bag of some sort of French sea salt, so I used it. I now have containers of basil salt and rosemary salt. And then, I cut the rest of the basil, parsley and also some oregano and brought it in. I set a big pot of water boiling and started immersing the herbs a bunch at a time into the hot water until they wilted and then into ice water to preserve the color. My apologies to the little green caterpillar who rode in on the basil. Sometimes camouflage is the opposite of protective. After stripping off the blanched leaves, I froze them on sheets of paper towels, so they can be used a little at a time. I also harvested the remaining chives, cut them into pieces, and froze them.
Not all my efforts were productive. I decided to roast the last few tomatoes and then sat down to read. Periodically I'd note the pleasant campfire-like smell in my house and Do. Absolutely. Nothing. La la la, my house smells like it's burning. Until I suddenly remembered and ran into my kitchen.  I'm a fair cook but I am also a bit scatterbrained.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Quaker at the gun show.

My younger son has been agitating for permission to buy a gun. He wanted it for target practice at a range and outlined the safety precautions he planned on. After much consideration, I reluctantly accompanied him to the gun show so that he could look for his pick, a Soviet-made bolt-action rifle used in WWII. And let me tell you, this pacifist was NOT comfortable.
 There were plenty of rifles.
 And plenty of handguns.
 There were things that had likely been killed by guns.
 There were coffee mugs to remind you of guns.
 There were ridiculous pink and purple girly guns.
 Even Barbie rifles. Seriously, who thought of this?
 Everywhere I looked there were people strolling around with their guns.
 There were displays of paranoia.
And did I mention the paranoia? I found myself carping to my son about all the assholery I saw around me.
Yeah, I felt welcome. I probably stood out - the Quaker in the Amnesty International t-shirt with a look of dismay on her face. But I wasn't there for me. And so when my son found what he was looking for, I stood back and watched him haggle politely with the dealer. At last they reached a price both sides felt was acceptable. It was actually kind of funny to watch the faces of the two men behind the table as they considered my son's counter-offers - they were smiling at him as if they thought it was cute that he was calmly negotiating, and smiled again as he offered a handshake at the end.
We left with his new 1932 Mosin-Nagant hex receiver rifle. He was happy. I was a little creeped out.
I needed a lot of sushi to restore my soul.