Saturday, August 26, 2006

April's Menu

The beautiful one is sleeping in. We had a wonderful dinner. Then, we lazed around talking, took a time out to watch Bell, Book and Candle on TCM, talked some more. Then she conked. I mean, one minute we're talking about our kids and inconsequential stuff, then the next minute she's out. Luckily she did her nose dive on a wide leather couch. It was easy to bring her feet up and cover her with a blanket. She stirred a little when I put the pillow under her head, I told her good night, gave her a kiss on the forehead and toddled off my own self.

My sister (who totally adores April) was glad to hear that she's visiting and asked "So, I'm sure you pulled out all the stops cooking dinner, what was it?" She also said that it would make a great post. Ok, this is for you sis.

We mostly grazed through the evening. We didn't go course behind course. Which I happen to think is a totally civilized way to do things. Especially if you have other stuff to do around the house. For instance, every night a little before sundown (which in Arizona is often spectacular and something to see) I go out and muck the horse stalls, spread fresh straw for the night, top off the water and drop some hay. Then I go and check the fence and wire barrier around the truck patch. The rabbits will never stop trying to get in, the second line of defense is the barn cats. If I can slow them up by erecting barriers the cats will then patrol any weak spots.

Before I did any of that however, we started the evening off with a fresh spinach salad (the spinach came from the above mentioned truck patch). The first thing to do is to stem and wash the spinach. The best way to wash is to fill a sink full with clear, cold water. (I am presupposing that your sink is scrubbed and clean). As you pinch the stems off of the spinach leaves (horses love the stems) toss them into the water. When you have all the spinach floating, gently agitate the leaves with your hands. The idea is to shake off all the little gritty pieces of dirt and dust which will then drop down to the bottom of the sink away from the spinach. Let it soak for a little bit more, agitate again, then remove from the water, shaking off the excess water and put into a large mixing bowl lined with paper towel.

Grind or finely mince four slices of good bacon (out here in the country we have a butcher who does the slaughtering for back yard pigs. his bacon rules, it's a mesquite smoke cure, not too salty.) Saute the bacon crumbs over a medium flame stopping when the crumbs of bacon are slightly crunchy, but still slightly chewey. Remove from heat and bring over to the spinach. Don't forget to remove the paper towels you were draining on. Add about two tablespoons of a high quality thousand island dressing (Bernstein's is good stuff but Wishbone will do) and two tablespoons of the bacon crumbs and drippings. Toss well. You have to adjust on the fly here. If it's too greasy it sucks, so be ready to add in spinach, thousand or, if there's not a decent wilt action, more hot bacon. Put on the plates, top with crumbled hard boiled egg, sliced mushrooms and croutons (I'll give instructions for real croutons when I get into the soup course). Serve with fresh baguette, with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping.

For the baguette.

1 1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon salt (kosher or sea salt is best)
3 2/3 cups bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoon dry active yeast

There's no real magic or alchemy to start this recipe off. Just dump it all into the stand mixer with the dough hook attachment and mix well. Then at medium speed hook it for a full five minutes. Remove from the mixer, brush with olive oil, cover with a dish towel and let it rise for 30 minutes or until doubled in size. Punch it down, hook it again for five minutes, then allow to rise once more.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead in enough flour to make the dough easy to handle (that means it shouldn't stick to your hands or the surface but should retain a high degree of elasticity). For thin baguettes (this is what i like) divide the dough in half and roll out to a rectangle of even thickness between 1/4" to 1/2". Roll this up like a jelly roll, pinching the seams and the ends. Brush lightly with olive oil, turn onto your baking pan, (you can dust the surface of the pan with cornmeal now, it adds a nutty crunch to the baguette) cover with a dish towel and allow to rise 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Before putting it into the oven take an egg white and mix in with a fork 1 tablespoon of water. Brush the baguette liberally with this, bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Brush the baguettes down with the egg wash again and bake another 10 minutes. A well done baguette should be a deep golden brown, the crust should be glossy and hard, it should sound hollow as a bongo drum when thunked with a finger.
Remove from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.

The rest of the menu which I'll get posted as time permits this weekend was:

French Onion Soup Gratiné
Scampi Marsielles
Blueberry pie.

For anyone expected more detail on the visit of the beautiful and talented April. I hate to disappoint you, but the Code of the West clearly forbids any kissing and telling outside the kitchen.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Friday Random Ten

Here's what's on the ol' iPod this morning:

For the Sake of the Song - - Townes Van Zandt
Lawyers, Guns & Money - - Warren Zevon
Sweet Georgia Brown -- Django Rienhart
Stop Breakin' Down - - Robert Johnson
Copperhead Road - - Steve Earle
Seven Bridges Road - - Emmylou Harris (live bootleg)
Muddy Water - - Bessie Smith
Alla Dat's Alright, But - - Sweet Honey In The Rock
Big River - - Johnny Cash
Her Mind is Gone - - Professor Longhair

Bonus Track:

Gimme a Little Sign - - Brenton Wood

what's on your playlist?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Looking Forward to a Weekend With April

Usually the way my life works the weekend really has no meaning. Because I work on a day to day basis, if there's work that day to be done, I'm working. When I'm in performing mode weekends are almost always about work. When the "squares" are off work, that's the time for me to go to it. Just how things go. So, for me to be all a twitter behind a weekend thing is unusual.

Of course, there's unusual circumstances involved. I have this old friend. Her name's April (OK that's her stripper name but I'm learning this whole blog psuedonym trip) and we've been very close for the last eleven years. She was the first woman I tried to have a relationship with sober, and while I fucked up all the places I usually fuck up when I'm in a relationship I didn't fuck them up drunk. We somehow managed to remain friends. Then the friends thing grew into what it is now. I wish I knew what it is now. That's the whole thing that makes it exciting.

Right off the top here, I absolutely respect and admire this woman. It's not just that she's a total babe. If she was carnival food she'd be Babe-on-a-stick; but that's not even a major part of her package. We met in recovery, I had about two years under my belt, was still fighting my way into the jingle game while being a single parent and trying to stay sober through it all. One night, I'm there at a meeting, whining my ass off about "it's so hard to work, take care of the kids (leaving out the part about how I have a full-time, live-in nanny) while staying sober, and ohhhh boo-hoo booble ooble oooo." Jessie Joe (who by this time is my sponsor) tells me that he has somebody he wants me to meet. I'm like "great another fucking cheerful geezer to tell me about how I should be gratefull and shit." Instead of a geezer, he introduces me to this lovely 28 year old blonde. She says "I understand that single dads don't get a lot of compassion, but you know, there are a whole bunch of women out there in the meetings who don't have the advantages you have." I mumbled stuff under my breath and looked at the toes of my shoes. She said "I'm a single mom too. I have four kids at home , I've been a single mom since I got sober. Their dad isn't any help with money or anything. I'm OK with that as long as he stays away and leaves us alone." Her story was a long one. Pregnant for the first time at 15, all the attending abuse and exploitation that goes with the alcoholic/drug abuse territory. She was definately a fighter.

We had known each other for about six months before I found out that she was a dancer. I had mentioned casually that I was dealing with learning that my oldest daughter who I thought was a full time college student in Alaska had been dancing in clubs there. I never really got all moralistic about stuff with her, in the first place, dancers in Alaska make stupid money. I mean incredible bucks. I also have never felt comfortable claiming any moral high ground or authority with my kids. My lifetime of over indulgence and indiscrestion speaks for itself. I can't see throwing hypocrisy on the top of that heap of shit. I just worry about them, 'cause even as big a mess as I usually am, I do love them and I want them to be happy. Anyway, I'm spilling all the beans and April just looks at me with her beautiful blue eyes and says "What do you think I do?" Being the sophisticated cool dude that I am I started mumbling and looking at the tops of my toes again. We did make a pact right there. I promised her that I would never go and see her dance. I never have. I've seen her dance in a club, just not a strip club, and believe me there's no way you would mistake her for a cubicle drone or have any doubt about her line of work. Strippers just can't dance square.

We eventually kind of slid into dating. As much dating as two people that have seven kids between them and full time careers can manage to do. That got to be enough of a hassle that we finally just said we didn't have the time to waste farting around with that whole boy/girl scene.

In the end it was mainly our busy lives that made a relationship between the two of us unworkable. No wait, that's a lie. I was doing my normal, self absorbed, off in my own world, not paying attention to the other person in my life stuff. I kept missing things that were going on with her. I not only didn't take the time to ask, I never saw. She broke it off one night while I was explaining to her why I couldn't possibly be able to be there for her birthday or something (I depended on her younger daughter to keep me posted on birthdays and stuff, I love kids that appreciate the beauty of a good bribe) bacause I had five days of work booked into three days of time and then right after that I had to be in San Francisco and after that. . .she looked at me with those beautiful blue eyes, with a single tear coming down from the left hand corner of her right hand eye. Something I noticed for the first time right then. Then she said "I don't think this whole us together thing has much left in it. I need more than you seem to be capable of giving me. I deserve more than you're giving anyway."

There wasn't anything I could say to dispute that. I knew in my heart that she was exactly right.

Like I said at the top, we remained good friends. We've seen each other through all kinds of things. Sickness, deaths in the family, one of her sons got busted for dealing dope, she got beat up by a customer at work, I lost an important gig I was counting on, I had some brutal tax problems. Life in general stuff that we stood by the other through.

When things changed was when I moved down to Palm Springs to open my chocolate shop. Now, there was some distance between us. She had never found the guy that she was looking for. She was into this whole meeting guys from out of town, fucking them for good money and then saying good bye at the hotel. Once I became officially "out of town" she decided that we might be able to work something where we could, at times of her choosing, get together and spend time with each other. Doing that whole caring about, and enjoying sex with somebody you know, who knows you, and loves you anyway. We tried it a few times in different places too. Once I took her with me to Las Vegas when I had a week's worth of gigs there. She did a guest spot at one of the top drawer venues for her kind of entertainment (I still have never seen her dance) and I did my thing. That worked out well. It wasn't like she was this other person who had nothing to do while I needed to devote my time and energy to my work.

Things between us have gotten comfortable. We know each other well. She called a little while back and said that she needed a break and could she come out to Arizona to see my new place. Maybe hang out at the pool, ride some horses, she knows I'll spoil her with good food and music.

So that's where we are. I've gotten the house all spruced up (OK, OK, I hired that shit out), My decks are mostly clear. I have the spare room ready and waiting for her arrival. Whether or not she spends any of that kind of time with me is up to her. Usually, that's the way it works, but, I make sure she knows that this is not the reason I'm so glad to see her again. We're way beyond that stage.

I don't know what kind of relationship you would call this. But, for us, right now, it's working well. My son is conveniently off for the week visiting his mother, we have the house to ourselves and for a few days; nothing but time, and each other.


This is not your garden variety square pan ginberbread. This is a full on yeast bread. It also makes the absolute best PBJ's on the face of the earth.


1 cup whole milk at room temperature
(i suppose you could substitute reduced or nonfat, i just haven't ever tried)
1 egg, beaten well
1 tbsp shortening
2 tbsp molasses
2 tbsp brown sugar (packed)
3/4 tbs salt
3 1/4 cups white flour
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp dry yeast

Heat the oven to 375°

Take two tablespoons of the room temperature milk and mix with the yeast, set aside.
I use my big ass standing (and candy apple green) Kitchenaide® mixer with a dough hook for this, but it can be done by hand if you're strong and relentless. Mix all the other ingredients together and turn on the hook for 5 minutes. Add the yeast mixture. Knead or hook for another 5 minutes. You want your dough to be elastic It should naturally ball up and should stretch well before tearing. A small ball pinched off should naturally hold its shape.

Take it off the mixing stand and brush the dough ball with a little melted butter. Cover with a towel and put in a warm place (not too hot just slightly more than room temperature) for 30 minutes. The dough should be doubled in size.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface and flatten it out. Knead by hand or put it back under the hook for another 5 minutes. Brush, cover, and allow to rise again for another 30 minutes.

Without all the brutality this time, turn out and shape into a loaf in a standard, lightly greased loaf pan. Cover and allow to rise another 20 minutes.

Put it on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 40 minutes. At this time you can start checking for crust color and crispness. I like a dark, crunchy crust on mine, but tastes vary. A well done loaf of this bread will sound hollow when you tap it with a finger.

When you're satisfied with the crust, put on a cooling rack and cool for 15 minutes.
Then turn out of the pan and cool completely. I know there's a temptation to attack the bread with your knife and slather it down with butter and start gobbling it right now, the melted butter runs down your chin and ooohh it's just so fucking good right now. It's all that indeed, but be strong and resist. If you start hacking into the bread before it's cooled you'll fuck up the texture of the rest of the loaf you weak willed greedy bastard. Be strong for the rest of your family. The only time it is acceptable to tear into a hot loaf of bread is if there are enough people right there with you to devour the entire loaf.

I need to go track down my son and his visiting friend right now dammit.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

IMG_0736 Random Flickr Blogging

Originally uploaded by sfar06.

I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
     And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

Originally uploaded by Ollie Purkiss.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
     And evening full of the linnet's wings.

Originally uploaded by leogdion.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
     I hear it in the deep heart's core

     William Butler Yeats

Update on the Colcannon Fundraiser Challenge

Thanks to Maurinsky (who got credit for merely being more irish than me), Shakes, Konagod, Bad Tux and Tata I just dropped $25 in my friend's tip jar. While I was doing it I thought up another challenge.

It's Little League World Series time and the Arizona lads from Ahwatukee (they are calling them Phoenix but they're from Ahwatukee which used to be a Yaqui village) have just advanced to semi finals. So here's the challenge. I'll take the Arizona boys of the West USA against all comers, foreign and domestic for $5. Furthermore, I'll kick an extra $5 everytime my lads hit a home run.

The winnings will go to Shakes.

Any Takers?

I double dog dare all ya'll, nope, I TRIPLE DOG DARE YA!

Long Morning

Up before dawn is not regular territory for a working musician. I used to tell people "I don't get up before the banks are closed." Of course, banker's hours ain't what they used to be. But there I was in the wee hours this morning, pouring coffee down and venturing out to help my nieghbor bring in the five remaining goats of his that were holed up in a small draw not to far from here. We each took a large horse trailer and a horse in case the critters didn't want to just load up and ride themselves home.

We arrived right as dawn was breaking, or would have been breaking if there wasn't a bunch of clouds blocking the view of the sunrise. There was also a slight, warm rain falling which was actually pretty nice. We tried enticement first. Goats love dry dog food and since I spoil all of mine we trotted out the high test Purina multi colored kibble. The goats were buying it. They knew we were planning something so they stayed away from the food.

I checked my tack again (always a good idea) and climbed aboard. My neighbor mounted his and off we went into the chapparal. This is rural Arizona, every plant out there sticks, scratches, grabs, or has some other kind of vicious defense. At times like this I trust the instinct for self preservation my horse has.

I was riding my Arabian mare Rosalita. She's a dream. Smooth, agile, smart as you can expect from a horse. She figured the game out right away. It's time to chase goats. The system we worked was for me to hit the brush behind them and shoot them out into the clear where hopefully they would recognise my neighbor and become a bit more trusting, and then clamber up into the trailer and off we'd go.

Herding is something that plays into the natural instincts of the target animals. They have a powerful safety in numbers drive that when they are under stress brings them together. I was still riding quietly and deliberately. No sense in riling things up I figure. I'm watching the little knot of goats and trying to anticipate their next move so that I can be in position to cut that off while leaving what I hope is an attractive path to where we would like them to be. My neighbor is doing the same, but staying mostly in the clear area of the wash.

At one point we got three of them almost into the trailer but the two that stayed away must have been the herd leaders and as soon as we turned to work with them the others ran right to them and there we were. Right back at the beginning.

Then my neigbor has this bright idea. He say "Why not just drop a loop on that lead one and see if we can bring him in so the others will follow?" I tell him that it's mainly because I am nobody's roper. I much more of the dismount and tie a knot kind of guy. He looks at me in wonder, "You never roped nothing?" I say not so anyone would notice. He shakes his head but seems to drop the subject.

After about an hour and a half which produce only a couple instances of close and almost, we decide that it's time to call it for the morning and for him to see if he can get somebody with a stock dog or roping expertise. I get the tack off my mare and am brushing and wiping her down while she drinks deeply from a bucket of high tech horsey gatorade I mixed up for her. She walks into the trailer and sticks her head down into the molasses and oats mixture I have for her and is munching away happily. My neighbor is about to lead his horse up into his trailer when lead goat scampers out of the weeds and trots up into the trailer. The other four follow right along. He slams the gate and laughs. I tell him to load his horse into my rig and we'll meet him at his place.

When we get there his wife has lots of black coffee and a big mess of chilaquiles cooked up with a stack of fresh tortillas. We tear into breakfast like Halliburton execs on a no bid contract. My neighbor has his wife laughing when he describes how hard we were working to be real cowboys (or goatboys but no matter) and how, in the end, the goats simply decided that it was time to come home.

After breakfast I'm getting ready to get along home and as I'm going out to the truck my neighbor's wife says "Thank you for your help, that was real Christian of you." I smile and say "I'm not a Christian, but I try to be a good neighbor." She looks very worried and says "You're not one of those Jews are you?" I say "No, it's even worse than that. I believe we should be good and decent to each other because it's right. Not because the big gunfighter in the sky is going to send us all to hell." My neighbor steps in and puts his arm around my shoulder, guiding me out to the truck and says "Never mind her, she never misses a chance to beat the Jesus drum. You are a good neighbor and you are always welcome at my place. Anytime I can help you just holler." I invite them both to dinner sometime and he volunteers to bring his tractor over to help me haul some more fallen brush around my place.

I am, at this point, planning to get my mare put up all comfy and spoiled and stick my ass in the jacuzzi for the rest of the morning. When I get home, my sister's car is in the driveway. When I get into the house she's there with my 10 year old niece who has a slight fever and doesn't feel up to school today. I put her on the couch, and tell her if she needs anything to give me a shout and head off to the shower.

That's how we do it out here in the unsophisticated hills. If somebody needs help, you help them. If somebody's sick you nurse them. We'll be mending fences this afternoon if the rain doesn't come again.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Interesting little bit (after a brief explanation)

We had a brutal storm last night. Power was out for over twelve hours. More storms are gathering. I'm busy with calming spooked critters, picking up downed tree limbs (it's strange to be using a chainsaw the way it was intended to be used and not in a hotel room somewhere in the midwest), trying to arrange a time with my neighbor whose fence went down and is now wondering where his various sheep, goats and horses might be for a group of us to go out into the hills nearby to see about coaxing them home. I'm also battening down for what appears to be three more days of unpredictable rain, wind and lightening. So, for the immediate future expect light postings.

I have been reading John Dean's Conservatives Without Conscience and highly reccomend it to all. I'm halfway through chapter two and must say that I admire Mr. Dean in a way that I never thought was possible. I must confess that I had my knee-jerk disdain of snitches when it came to him. Reading his thoughts I must confess I misjudged a decent, honorable man.

He does a great deal of groundwork lining out where people fall on the political spectrum. In the footnotes of page 36 he provides two websites that give you a touchstone to see where you fall on the whole Freedom-Order-Equality spectrum. I wasn't surprised at all to find myself falling in the left-leaning-libertarian camp. I'm concerned with issues like fairness, tolerance, opportunity, equality for gender and race issues. I'd rather have the least amount of government possible, but I'm not heartless enough to permit things like starving kids or the sick to go untreated when there are proven, efficient ways to deliver that food and health care through government. I oppose privatisation of Social Security because I expect that Wall Street assholes would simply take the money and run. I want a well ordered militia handy if only to hunt those bastards down.

The first site is a tutorial followed by the test and can be found here.

The second site is a much quicker self test

Again, Conservatives Without Conscience is a well written, well thought piece of work. So far anyway.

I gots work ta do.


After several hours of flailing away with a chainsaw at only one of several piles of fallen limbs in 105° heat with 77% humidity I stepped back and asked myself "Who the fuck do you think you are, George Bush?" I bowed to the inevitable and called in a professional who is now happily and efficiently sawing and stacking my fallen timber. Some of my neighbor's critters came a wandering home on their own. Several have been spotted in a draw about two miles away. We are planning to go with trailers for the ones that will allow themselves to be loaded and food for the skittish who elect to stay behind. The clouds are ominous and gathering for tonight's round. We shall see what's next.