Saturday, November 18, 2006

Pool Girls, Spurs, Crops, Boots and Saddles

In case you think that this might be about something kinky allow me to disappoint you right up here at the top. I have been told that a headline with a suggestion of sex and kinky will increase traffic. Which totally explains the time I wrote about politics but titled the post "Edible Panties."

I was already half inclined to go for a ride yesterday. I was in a puttering mood, which for me, includes whipping something up in the kitchen. I am also doing the National Eating Day (hat tip to PoP) at mum's out of town and my local family has let it be known that if I leave without delivering pies and other goodies that they will be roundly disappointed. So I was in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on two pecan and two pumpkin pies when the Pool Girls showed up.

Just as a refresher on how this works out here. These girls are simply one of the best services I've ever engaged. They are totally professional. They do a great job at a competitive price. The fact that both of them happen to be drop dead gorgeous is NOT why I hired them. They had been working out here for two weeks before I even met them. I had been gone off to Vegas on a gig. Their little company was the first listing I called where a human being answered the phone. Since then our relationship has been cordial but never personal.

They are out getting prep work done for some winter surface conditioning, and since there's finally an autumn chill in the air the bikini action I grew so fond of over the summer is not happening. I was on my way out to the barn and I stop by the pool to tell them that I am heading off for a ride, that their check and the pie of their choice is on the counter. (it's no small character reference in my book that the dogs will let them come and go in the house without a second glance. Dogs just know stuff like that)

The upshot is that the girls have a very light schedule this week and yes, they would love to go for a ride. I also understand what it means to be a horse person without access to a mount. I, of course, tell them to come along. They begin putting their gear into their truck while I head out to the barn to start getting things ready.

I'm planning to ride Casey. Casey is short for Awa a Kasim Kasim which is Arabic for 5150 (police code for "danger to self and others"). He's not crazy, but he's a stallion and sometimes suffers from what the lovely April terms "testosterone poisoning." None of the mares are in season, today he looks like he just wants to get the hell out of there and roam. The other two horses are Rosalita, a gorgeous little Arab mare who is a dream to ride. She's a fully five gaited push button sweetheart. When she's in her walking canter it's like being on a living merry go round. Then there's Mustang Sally. She's the one I have to check people's skill levels with. Sally is the perfect choice for a child, a rank beginner, or a very experienced rider. She can be frustrating for an intermediate whose ambitions exceed their skill levels. If she gets upset with her rider she doesn't buck, but she will stop, lie down and roll. She doesn't want to hurt anybody, but she does not suffer fools gladly. I think that's why she and I get along so well.

I am busying myself with all the little things that must be done before a ride. Filling the water tank in the trailer, stashing goodies in the stash bins, picking hooves, brushing down. I have Casey's tack out. I ride him with an Australian Stock saddle (any riders out there with bad knees should check one of these babies out), a snaffle rigged with double reins and a martingale. I figure I will learn a lot about where the girls are as riders by letting them choose their own tack styles.

The girls arrive and start to pitch in immediately. It's obvious that they both know what they're doing. I ask what kind of tack they like and BlondeGirl (here after called "BG") says that she grew up riding Western. Fair enough. I ask the RedhairedGirl ("RG") what she likes and she says "It really doesn't matter. I'm fine with a bareback pad." I suggest that we go pick them out a horse. RG and Sally bond instantly. I can tell it's love at first sight. BG and Rosalita are then paired by default but I know that as soon as she starts moving for her love will come.

We get everybody saddled up, the trailer loaded and head down the road about 10 miles to be right at the base of the SanTan foothills. We set off and are having a grand old time. The girls are enjoying the hell out of themselves. They are also a wee bit starstruck from seeing some of the pictures of me with people I've worked with. I tell them that the relationship I have with most of them is strictly business. They want to hear about last night's show. I give them a worker bee's eye view of what that's like. It goes something like this. I show up, I do my job, I go home. I don't get to meet La Diva or pal around with anyone. The highlight of the day for me was when I showed up to the venue and flashed my parking pass at the guard. They had different parking areas for performers and for crew. He asked "Talent?" I said "Of course I have talent, but I practice all the time." He didn't get it, but that happens to me a lot.

We're just having ourselves a grand old time when my cell phone goes off. It's my son calling to tell me that he has been given a better offer for amusement than the Suns game tonight. I figure hey, it's an 82 game season and I would quite frankly rather go alone than to go with a teenager who would rather be somewhere else. I remind him that it's Philadelphia and Iverson is playing. Nope, he'd rather hang out with Becky and her crew than the old man. Besides that, the new Bond film is opening and....and....and..... OK kid, I get it. On a whim I announce to the girls that I have an extra ticket for the Suns tonight. They both want to go. I figure, no problem, we'll do like I used to do before I could afford good seats. We'll buy an extra ticket and negotiate something with the other season ticket holders so that we can sit within shouting distance of each other.

We head back to the house, get the horses all snug and cozy and I tell the girls that it would probably be best for us to meet at the arena. They kind of hem and haw a little before they let me know that since this is their off season for work money's a little tight and the parking fees and other expenses of a night at the basketball game would be a burden to their budget. I say "How about this then, you guys go get yourselves ready to go to the game, come back out here, I'll fix dinner, we'll all go to the game and have a great time." They tell me that I'm not only old, I am wise. You have to love girls like that.

I didn't do anything fancy or special for dinner. Spinach salad (mine's coming in beautifully from the garden and spinach is still an item of suspicion in the stores for most folks, I figure it will be a hit), Reuben sandwiches, chips, and, of course, pie for dessert (I was planning to give them to my sister but I can always make more today).

The highlight of the evening is when my son stops in to gather his stuff for his night out. He sees the two gorgeous pool girls eating and chatting happily about going to the game and says "Dude, you my hero." I tell him Pshaw, we're just going to the game. There's nothing there beyond basketball and a fun night. He looks at them again and says "No, really Dude, you my hero." I tell him he's a good son.

We negotiated the seating arrangements with ease. One of the people that sits close by had a cancellation and there was an extra seat up there for me. The best thing about it for the girls is that they made contacts for a couple of potential clients right there in my section. The Suns win. Iverson was amazing. We all go home happy.

The girls are coming back out to finish up their work from yesterday. Life is good in the country.

cross fire rigged

Friday, November 17, 2006

Pecan Pie (to die for)

Is really one of the simplest thing there is. I use the recipe off the bottle of dark Karo® syrup with one tiny variation. One little extra added thing. That's all.

I won't even make fun of you and call you a slacker if you use a frozen pie crust. I promise.

For a pecan (and i really don't have an opinion on how to pronouce the name of the nut in question Pea-can, puhcawn, hell i just don't care)

The variation is simple (I said that didn't I?)

The recipe (per pie) calls for 1 cup dark Karo®

I use 3/4 cup of the syrup and 1/4 cup honey. We get better than decent citrus honey in Arizona, sage honey gives a nice smokey hint to it. Use whatever you want.
But remember Karo® has the best recipe I've ever found right on the bottle.

Friday's Random Ten

I'm recovering slowly from last night's show. Whew! Planning to mainly accomplish jack shit until basketball time. I might be cajoled into a horseback ride in the hills. Casey (the arab stallion) is restless and acting like he wants to stretch out a bit. Down the road, up into the hills, stop for coffee with a neighbor, sounds like a plan. Go Suns!

Until then hit random and we get:

When Ye Go Away - - - Waterboys
Dunsmore Lassies - - - Chieftains (with Ry Cooder)
Twisted - - - Lamberts, Hendricks and Ross
Gimme One Reason - - - Tracy Chapman
Do-Re-Mi - - - Woodie Guthrie
Go and Say Goodbye - - - Buffalo Springfield
Amarillo By Morning - - - Me, on celtic harp, the beautiful Scarlett on violin
Get Up John - - - Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers (live, at the Ryman)
Biko - - - Sweet Honey in the Rock
The Wreck of Ol' 97 - - - Lester Flatt

Bonus (hit random twice, take the top)

Tennessee Waltz - - - Slim Whitman

bonus bonus (only 'cause hitting the one slim outta 37 gigs of tunes is too cool)

Ki Ya Gris-Gris - - - Dr. John

what's on ya'll's playlists?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Killer Kranberry Sauce

I like this one very much. Of course, if your family tradition to open a can and you're OK with having that kind of family far be it from me to criticize. This is something I like to keep on hand. It's also very good with toasted bagels and cream cheese.


1-1/2 C sugar
1 large navel orange
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
4 Cups cranberries (that's one bag)
1/2 Cup (2 oz.) toasted pecans

Juice the orange and put it into a heavy saucepan. Grate the peel and put it with the ginger and sugar in with the juice and heat over a medium flame until the sugar is completely dissolved. Increase the flame to a slow boil, add the cranberries and boil until they pop. Remove from the heat, stir in the toasted pecans. Chill. Done.

A variation to this is to add a kiss of Gran Marnier, Triple Sec or Ruby Port with the orange juice. Another cool thing to do for presentation is to mould it. Of course, you all have moulds lying about don't you? If the cans are what your people are used to having you could be all sneaky and chill this in a can. That way you won't have to fight that whole contempt prior to investigation that can happen when traditions are bucked.


Happy Anniversary

To Ken Levine

a great writer. baseball fan. all around mensch.

one good year deserves another.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Lest We Forget

The Boy and the Lion

Once upon a time there was a young boy who lived in Bavaria. His name was Peter. He felt very out of place in the little town he grew up in. Then when the tragedy of war took both of his parents, he found himself living with his Uncle Jan and his aunt.

Another thing Peter discovered was that the farm his parents owned was now part of his Uncle's farm and Peter was not only an orphan, he was dispossessed.

He did what any rational young man at the age of 14 would do. He ran away with the circus.

At first life in the circus was pretty lonely. He survived by working very hard and learning many different jobs. He helped with putting the tent up and down. He made a little extra money and food by helping the people who had animal acts take care of their stock. Coming from a farm he was not afraid of hard work and the circus folks soon began to appreciate having him around.

His hero was Hans the Black. The lion tamer. Hans was everything Peter wanted to be. He was dashing, brave and handsome. Every show Hans would stride into the cage full of lions and the lions would do his bidding. Peter was very happy the day when Hans came to him and said “My regular helper has left the circus. I need to replace him. I've seen you working around the other animals and I like what I see. Would you consider being my assistant?”

Peter didn't have to think very long at all. He said he would love to be the assistant of Hans the Black. He found out that his main duty was to feed the pride of lions twice a day. Well, that and to deal with the main result of feeding them. To feed the lions he had to chop up vast quantities of meat. He would then take the load of meat in a wagon to the lion's cage and give it to them. He always watched the lions closely while they ate. Observing them allowed him to see the structure of the lion's society. How one large black maned lion named Solomon always ate first. He asked Hans the Black one day “Why isn't Solomon ever in the show?” Hans said that “Solomon is the Boss Lion. His job in the show is to run the cage. If I show displeasure during a performance when the lions return to the cage, Solomon will make sure that the one who misbehaves will see the error of their ways.”

Then Peter asked “How does one become a lion tamer?” Hans said “The first thing you must do is to make friends with a lion.”

Peter took that to heart. Every time he came with the meat to feed the lions he always made sure that the choices and juiciest parts of the day's food were right on top. These tidbits he began to personally give to Solomon. It got so that Solomon began to wait at the edge of the cage and roar out with joy when he saw Peter arrive. It was about this time that the circus people bestowed a stage name on Peter. Because of his job, cutting and chopping up meat for the lion's most of his clothes were stained a dark red from the blood. The circus people thought that the perfect stage name for the assistant of Hans the Black could only be Peter the Red.

As time progressed Solomon began to not only roar his delight upon seeing Peter, he began to sit up on his haunches. They developed a game where Peter would throw a juicy chunk of meat high in the air and Solomon would leap into the air to snatch it from mid flight. Peter began to believe that his best friend in the whole world was Solomon the lion. Many nights, instead of sleeping in the caravan wagon with Hans, Peter would be down at the lions cage, curled up with his friend Solomon. He learned that lions purr. A deep, rumbling basso profundo sound, but a purr nonetheless.

Peter really didn't know what his birthday was. He knew that he had been with the circus for three whole seasons. Hans the Black asked him if he knew when his birthday was and he had to tell him that things like that weren't very important on the farm. Hans said that the blooded horses from the Rosinback rider's show were all born on New Year's Day. He asked if that would be alright with Peter. Peter said yes.

New Year's day arrived and when Peter awakened that morning, right there on the chair next to his cot was a beautiful leather outfit. Bright red with brass buttons. And shiny red boots to match. On top of that was a gorgeous red leather whip and a light red chair. There was a card on top of it all that said “To Peter the Red from Hans the Black.”

Peter was thrilled and excited. He had never once in his life been given a present. He had never once in his life been treated like anything but a boy by any adult he could think of. Now, here was his hero, Hans the Black treating Peter the Red like an equal member of the act.

Peter was brimming with energy and happiness. He put on the new set of clothes and admired himself in the mirror. He looked every inch the tamer of lions. He felt every inch the tamer of lions. He wanted to shout and show the whole world that Peter the Red was a lion tamer.

He ran down to the lion's cage to show his new things to his best friend Solomon the Boss Lion. Solomon was sitting where he usually sat, he roared out his usual delight at seeing his friend Peter. It took Solomon a bit of time to realize that the thing that was missing today was the wagon load of meat that usually accompanied Peter's arrival. No matter, he sat up upon his haunches. Peter showed his friend Solomon his new red leather whip. It made a loud Crack! when Peter snapped it in the air. The crack of the whip startled Solomon so much that he jumped into the air just like when Peter would throw up a chunk of fresh meat. Except there wasn't any meat in the air for him to snatch. Only Peter. Solomon did what any rational lion would do faced with this set of circumstance. He gobbled Peter down rapidly.

The moral of the story will appear in the comments section


Monday, November 13, 2006

Thanksgiving Feast Favorites: Creamed Pearl Onions

I love this dish. It's a rich, tasty counterpoint to a perfectly roasted turkey. It will also make you feel like a jerk and a slacker for ever thinking about those bricks of salt and glue you used to thaw out and call food.

It's not very complicated. Like a lot of other very good dishes this one is made glorious by excellent ingredients and simple straightforward preparation. Get fussy about the stuff you put into it and you'll have some memorable stuff on the table.


3 lb white pearl onions
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (if you can find European style butter get that)
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt (be prepared to use less)
5 whole cloves
About 4 cups water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Blanch the onions in heavily salted water at a rolling boil for about two minutes. Drain, cool until you can handle them without flinching and peel them. (you can do this part ahead of time, just bag and refrigerate them)

Heat the butter in a large, heavy (cast iron rocks for this) skillet until the foam subsides, add the onions and sauté until tender and you start to see little flecks of golden brown. About eight minutes should do the trick. Add enough water to cover the onions, stir in the sugar and cloves, add in a little of the salt and simmer covered until the onion are tender but not falling apart (25-30 minutes). Taste and adjust the salt to suit yourself. Crank the flame up and boil uncovered until the liquid in the pan is reduced to about 1/2 cup. If you're worried about your kitchen backing up on the big day, you can halt this process at this stage too as long as you have it in an airtight container and it's kept refrigerated.

Pick out the cloves, and stir in the heavy cream. Simmer for about five minutes until the cream slightly thickens. Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste (remembering that if your family is anything like mine there are some real barbarians that will hose everything down with the salt and pepper before they even taste shit). Stir in the chopped parsley just before serving.

You can also make this entire dish the day before and heat it before serving in a double boiler.


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Neil Young is 61

but performances like this are timeless. rock on neil.