Friday, November 21, 2014

That's About It

Just wanted to say 'thank you' to everyone.

                                       image source

Friends who lift you up when needed, what could be better? Not much, not even chocolate!

                                     image source

That's really all I wanted to say today, oh, and this:

Thursday, November 20, 2014

But Seriously Folks

   No worries, I'll be back to the funny animal tales soon enough, but for now I need to get something off my chest. Feel free to bypass this post; frankly, it's mostly me talking to myself... if that makes a lick of sense.

   I've been driving for 36 years now, and (mostly) enjoying it tremendously. My first car, a Chevy Vega, looked rather like this:

                                     image source

   Purchased when I was 16 with money I'd saved, I then paid a family friend to replace the manual transmission with an automatic. (I learned to drive a manual several years later.) Listed among the ten worst cars of the 20th century, I loved the wee thing, and drove it until it couldn't be driven anymore. 

   As I grew older and bolder, my cross-country excursions grew apace and it wasn't unusual for me to drive... mostly by myself... to such far-flung places as West Virginia, the Dakotas, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida,  various cities in California. Whilst I never learned to love, or even like, driving in wintry conditions, I could do so competently, and the one traffic accident I was in whilst driving was the result of the other driver's lack of judgement, so I was relatively confident. Why, I even taught the Great Scot to drive, and on a manual transmission no less!

   What is all this leading to? 

   Over the last few years, particularly the last two, I've driven less and less, and have decided to give up my driver's license after the first of the year. It's a matter of safety. Not an easy decision, but... in good conscience, it's the only choice I can make. Why? Several reasons, including but not limited to: A deteriorating ability to react quickly to changing traffic conditions, weather, etc... This includes both somewhat slower cognitive function, and much slower physical reactions; I don't even want to imagine what could happen if, say, a child darted out in the road in front of me, which isn't unusual in this neighbourhood.

   Tremouring is also a huge factor in my decision: having a foot on the brake or accelerator, or a hand on the steering wheel, suddenly begin jerking or spasming would be very not funny. Nor would it be especially healthy for either myself, or anyone in a car/on the road with me. Same goes for my deteriorating visual-spacial judgement; it's growing harder all the time for me to judge distances, or the amount of space available on an in-store scooter, let alone a vehicle! Yet another factor is the various medications I'm on for these movement disorders: they can, and often do, exacerbate movements in certain circumstances, as well as causing drowsiness... neither of which combine well with several hundreds, or thousands, of pounds of moving metal. (For more information on Parkinson's and driving go Here.)

   Honestly, continuing to drive under these circumstances... when I'm already seeing negative effects... would make me as culpable as driving under the influence of illegal drugs, or alcohol. I'd not be able to live with myself if I caused someone to be hurt, or worse, because my ego wouldn't allow me to give up driving. Frankly, I'd rather do this:

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   So what brought this on? My sweetheart and I had a long, and very honest, conversation about driving before he headed off to work this evening... and we are in complete accord on this subject. I'm fortunate to have that support, and the luxury of being able to depend on someone else to drive me. It's still not going to be easy or fun, giving up that little bit of independence, I'll likely grieve for it on occasion, but that's okay; doing the right thing is considerably more important.

Now for a bit of music:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The White Bird(brain) of Love

... Or: What's a lovesick cockatoo to do?

   Do any of you remember the tv series Baretta, that started in 1979? It starred Robert Blake as Baretta, and often featured his feathery sidekick, 'Fred'.

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   That, my friends, was the extent of my knowledge of the sulphur-crested cockatoo... until the fateful day my oldest brother and his wife acquired 'Rocky'; a young, male cockatoo.

   Did you know that young, male, lovelorn cockatoos are incredibly loud? And they like to groom the objects of their affection? I....... learned.

   Rocky and I enjoyed an amicable relationship from the beginning: I thought him remarkably handsome and he thought me really quite agreeable. It was a lovely relationship at first, he would clamber over his cage being agile and cute and I would admire him and move on; but things began to change. My first clue about the changing nature of our relationship came when I called my sister in law to, I believe, ask about a recipe; Rocky began screeching so loudly we had to hang up. Hmmm.

   A few days later I stopped by their house and went to say hello to Rocky, who was out of his cage, as was my habit. My SIL and I were chatting away when I felt the most peculiar sensation in... as you may have guessed... my hair, and said SIL started laughing. Their resident birdbrain was alternating between running strands of my hair through his beak, and rolling his head around in it! Ew, that was squicky enough, but it quickly escalated.

   It wasn't long before the Rockster, deep in the throes of loooove, began 'performing' any time he saw/heard me. The head bobbing up and down, (I must confess that he did have rhythm.) crest rising and falling, as he sang me the ... extremely loud... song of his people. Why, he must have been the John Travolta of his tribe! Still, I wondered why he couldn't have been, say, the bluebird of happiness instead of the funky white bird of love.

   Eventually I moved away, and Rocky went to live elsewhere himself, but until that time if he saw me or heard me conversation became impossible. Funny old world, innit? I hope he has a girlfriend of his own species now, lol.

   Ah, for John, as promised: (click on it to embiggen) The family farm is just on the other side of the abutment. 70+ acres of sheer heaven, bounded by a creek... properly pronounced 'crick'.

More appropriate music:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

One Hump Or Two?

   Or: More tales of how animalia have bedogged and bedeviled me. I'm quite certain they start sniggering as soon as they see me! Think I'm exaggerating? Well read on, lovely friends and followers...

   This particular incident took place in the 1970's, at a little known place called Gobbler's Knob Zoo Farm, once located in Parke Co., Indiana. As you can see from this vintage postcard, the zoo had a diverse population of animals:

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   My particular nemesis was not a bear.... this time. Nope, this joker was a member of the Camelus family, i.e.:

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   A grumpy, spitting, hungry, and sadistic clown of a camel!

   It was like this: I'd had a perfectly peaceable time touring the zoo with Mom and Pop, complete with complaints of boredom and plenty of teenage angst. I wouldn't, in fact, be too surprised to find they were complicit in what happened next or, at the very least, secretly applauded my 'comeuppance'. 

   The camel was on one side of the fence; I was on the other, ignoring everyone and everything to the best of my ability, when I felt myself rising to my tiptoes, with the top of my head torn off and what I was quite sure was my warm blood running down my scalp. Screeching seemed quite in order at that moment, but I'm not sure the sound which came out was much more than a yelp. Reaching up to check my head for blood my hand came away covered in something somewhat clear, incredibly slimy, and not the least bit red in colour...


(Me as a teen, don't you just love those school pictures?)

So, what attacked my tender scalp? That's right, friends and neighbours, the humped menace decided my hair was so tasty-looking he had to take a bite, and drool all over my head whilst he did it! 

Well, after that I was so traumatised I don't remember a thing, except mayhap some laughter at my expense. The camel? Nothing happened to it, other than getting a snack, but I still say it would have made a great rug!

Happy Birthday to my sister-in-law, El; 29 is a great age, I liked it so much I've celebrated it 24 times!

And now for a little (appropriate) music:

Friday, November 14, 2014

More Hair-Raising Tales, Part I

...from the animal kingdom. 

   A few weeks back, I shared tales of some of my animal adventures; mostly of the 'too goofy to be as scared as I should have been' type. You may remember that I referred to them as 'critter jokesters'... well, thought I would share a few brief tales which might explain my rather odd relationship with critters, the first of which is about a dive-bombing blue jay.

                                     image source

   Age 6 or 7, and when it was warm outside it was usually difficult to keep me inside, but this spring was different somehow. Any time I set foot outside the door, this kamikaze jay dove - at warp 8 - at my head and yanked my hair out by the roots! At first the adults didn't believe me, thinking it some crazy tale, and would send me out into the danger zone despite my protests. Flailing wouldn't keep that darn bird away, he'd just wait until I was distracted, and YANK! there went another hank of hair! Finally one of the adults saw my feathered nemesis in attack mode (reminiscent of a Hitchcock film) and came up with a remedy which pleased us all, except the bird... for the rest of the summer I wore a hat outside. Brilliant solution!

   Oh, and that autumn? The wind blew down a nest, which my father found, and it was completely lined with my hair...

Next week: The hungry camel, and a cockatoo in love.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Let Us Entertain You

   Let me introduce you to my new best buddy... or, well, a really fun and adventurous guy I met via another blog buddy - Robyn of Life by Chocolate. Anyway, the new guy, Michael D'Agostino of A Life Examined, of Adelaide, Australia... if you have a sense of fun (and I know you do, or  you wouldn't be here!) you have to go visit his blog! Why? 

   Well, for one thing, this young aspiring media personality is really fun and candid, not to mention open to new experiences. In fact, he has challenged himself to try something new on a regular basis, and he documents it... not only by telling us about it, but sharing photos and video of himself and his friends, the Buttercup gang. What kind of new experiences? How about pole dancing... or having an American-style Halloween, complete with costumes... or trying escargot, or my personal favourite: mechanical bull riding... which I pictured something like this:

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   But it turns out that's the Scottish version. (Sorry sweetheart, couldn't resist, hehe.)

   Another thing I like, and admire, about Mr. D'Agostino? Turns out he is quite involved with Movember, which shines a spotlight on men's health issues. Pretty cool, huh?

   In any case, do go visit A Life Examined, you'll be glad you did... and if you should decide to follow him, he follows (and comments!) back. Win/win right?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Just Stick A Feather In My Hat (+ Food Talk)

   And call it macaroni! Speaking of macaroni, the Great Scot was delighted with dinner last night... homemade macaroni (actually rotini) and cheese. Before I get to that, however, for all those affected by this bit of cold weather, stay safe and warm, like these guys:

Nothing like a warm fire to keep this rambunctious trio glued to one spot! Not that there's anything wrong with that.

So, pasta and cheese: I tried a new method for making it and my sweetheart loved it but me? I'm not quite so sure. Pinterest abounds with recipes for making it by cooking the pasta in milk rather than water, so the starch in the pasta combines with the milk to make the sauce. No butter and flour roux, no hoping the sauce doesn't break whilst wondering when your arm is going to drop off from all that whisking. Sounds good, yes? Well, it tastes good, but... what most of the recipes failed to mention is the texture. Since the cheese isn't added until after the pasta/sauce is cooked, it doesn't seem to incorporate fully, which gives a gritty or grainy texture. I found it a bit off-putting but the G.S. adored it and wants it again. Perhaps I'll try adding the cheese a tad earlier in the process and see if that helps with the texture issue.

It looked and smelled wonderful however, and the taste was divine. I'll definitely use this combination of cheeses and spices again... whichever basic recipe I choose to use.

Here I have the whole wheat rotini, some dry mustard, (I use Colman's) cayenne, and black pepper. No salt, it doesn't need it. I used a mixture of cheeses: Fontina, aged white Cheddar, and - as pictured - apple wood-smoked Gruyere; the smoked Gruyere gave the dish a robust flavour which can't be beat!

Fresh outta the oven:

Whilst I certainly wouldn't call this a Pinterest fail, it's not a complete success (in my opinion) either, the main thing is that my sweetheart loved it.

Enjoy a little Jack Johnson, it'll get your day off to a great start: