Monday, July 19, 2010

Testing the Test Kitchen

Ever wonder why your re-creation of a masterpiece cover shot looks a little more...shall we say...rustic?
Don't feel bad. It's because your rendition is real food and that photo is probably an airbrushed wedge of foam rubber! Check out the perfectly even geometric layers. I couldn't accomplish that with a level and screed pole. You likely won't either. You can find the recipe and video tutorial here:
The second shot had a much better view, and cleaner edges. Alas...still no perfectly level layers. It looked scrumptiously imperfect to me. I didn't do too bad with the chocolate curls either. You can see all three layers too. The bottom layer was a flourless chocolate cake, topped by a layer of chocolate mousse sandwiched in a top layer of white chocolate mousse. Heavenly decadence. While I'm sure presentation is key (when you're selling magazines), the real test comes from the reaction of the tasters. If the recipe isn't good, it doesn't matter how many pretty pictures you take. As you can see, one of my tasters arrived early, like late at night in her nightgown. It didn't matter that the cake was not fully assembled yet. That would be taster #94 who always feels she can make a better decision with her hearing aids out and glasses off. There is only one of the five senses going here...pure, unadulterated taste.

Nothing else matters...even a camera stuck in her face.

Taster #93 appears and the cake-eating contest begins!

But #94 is not to be outdone...EVER! #93's genteel mannerisms will not beat her! Oh! The contest is getting dirty now!

I'll show you!

Taster #94 declared herself the clear winner and in a blur much too fast for our camera man...scored the prize of a SECOND piece of cake. (No lie! See those "finger trails" where that first piece disappeared?)

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Continuing Saga of CG (SeeGee)

While far from perfect, and with a much less than real "groomer" (ME!), CG the Sheltie, is finally clean, brushed and 80% de-matted. Shall I begin to tell you what a feat that was?
First-off, I don't own a pair of clippers.
Secondly, I am clueless how to use them if I did. The third issue was the real charmer; any scissors that could be found had long given up any intention of cutting anything. After much ado and frustration, I finally found a pair of manicure scissors with curved one-inch blades. It was a lot like picking up a bowling ball with eyebrow tweezers, but WE MANAGED! Here she is doing her down and back and preen for the camera. Not bad for a couple of old girls!
Animal Control gave CG's owner 24 hours to get her to the vet for medical treatment or they would confiscate her. Her owner surrendered her to me instead. I've contacted a Sheltie rescue, but I have not heard the decision of their board as to how they can help her. Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I Took Your Dog To The Vet Today

Her situation has been hard for an animal rescue person to watch. For almost two years, the little sheltie has been abandoned by her owner at a house they no longer lived in. It's a felony in NC to steal a dog, as it should be; but I have never been more tempted to break the law. Several of us neighbors have been feeding her in her lonely prison. It ripped my heart out on a daily basis. The owner came just enough to keep animal control from taking the dog, maybe once a week. Meanwhile, the real job of seeing to the dog was left to neighbors. The picture of the food bucket on a rope says it all about how much she cared for the dog. Even though there's a gate into her pen to the right, she chose to lower her food from the porch above. That is, when she came by at all. The more neighbors took on the care of the dog, the less she came. It was me who bleached the algae and black mold from her water bucket and made sure she had fresh water. Another neighbor had carried over pine needles to cover the never cleaned feces from her pen. That same neighbor bought her a dog house. Until then, she had no shelter except for a scrappy tree and unkempt vine overgrowth.

I don't know how she survived the winter in the elements. If I'd known she was there during single digit temps, I'd have already broken that dog-napping law. I found out about her just a few months ago.

It has rained here for days. Today when I went up to see about her, she was lying in several inches of mud. She never raised her head even though I was only a couple feet from her pen to take her picture. I thought she was near death. I decided today was the day I did more for her than feed her, pet and talk to her a little, and leave her. I could only hope my actions didn't land me in jail. I put that filthy matted dog in my van and took her to the vet. (Did I mention that I'm laid off from my job and have seven dogs of my own?) Nonetheless...

The good news, she wasn't dying yet...just exceptionally hard of hearing. This dog is sweet and very old. The vet estimated 10 or 12 years. The bad news: She's heartworm positive and needs treatment or she will die a horrific death. I paid for her bill today, but heartworm treatment is beyond my means at the present time. Animal control can't ignore her now. I put her back in her hell hole long enough for them to come confiscate her.

Her story isn't over yet, I'll have to save her from a gas chamber next, but I'm hoping to get Sheltie rescue involved. Please pray for this sweet little sheltie who I hope will know what love is before she dies. She has suffered long enough.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Big Gig to City Hall

They say, "You can't fight city hall." My experience has been that is right about 999 out of a 1000 times. It's almost impossible to get one over on city hall.

There's one fella though who is a legend in our area. He's been at a draw (read "stand-off") with the City of Conover, NC, for more than fifteen years. I don't know his name, but I know he's a painter and his business is right across the street from City Hall. My best friend, the late and sorely missed, Mark Smith was the architect who designed this lovely building for the city.

Spiffy new digs has a way of making people get all uppity, you know, and that disease spread swiftly amongst city administration. While they loved their (then) new building, when they looked out a window they saw the delapidated paint business across the street and decided it was an "eye sore." As the story goes, the powers that be approached the painter and demanded he clean up that place, and since he was a painter...he could PAINT it.




I noticed today that it looked like the building was about to go through another make-over, and if I was ever going to tell this story, I needed to take a picture. He sure made the view colorful for City Hall folk, didn't he? Pink, yellow, green, blue, purple, and the flag? Priceless. If they're about to make him paint it again, I can't wait to see what's coming next.

Monday, December 8, 2008

"Big Bad John" was a Bulldawg (aka Boxer)

I can remember the day as if it was yesterday. It was a long time ago though, circa 1960. My Dad rolled up in the yard in his 1954 Ford. Riding shotgun was the biggest, slobbering Boxer bulldog anyone could imagine. Three beaming, excited kids fell all over ourselves getting out the front door to meet him.

"Daddy! Daddy! What's his name?"
"Well, they call him John, " He said, "But his registered name is Big Bad John. Just get him some water for now, and I'll bring food for him when I get back from town...and leave him tied up until he gets used to the place or he might run off."
He spoke as he chained him to the tree in the side yard and never looked back as he jumped in his car and sped off toward the poker house...and the firewater. He never heard my brother's question, "Is he OURS?"

The answer came from an angry voice on the porch. "No, HELL NO! He's NOT OURS!" Mother yelled. "That dog is not living here!"

She ordered us in the house and dared us to touch the dog. We couldn't get him water and much less food. He'd never leave if we fed him. She spent the next hour in a tirade mumbling about him "always bringing her more work to do" while he "went off and got drunk," and "no sirree Bob" it wasn't gonna work this time. That dog would be gone when he got back just as soon as she figured out a way to be rid of him. Being the oldest child and about fourteen at the time, I knew what she was ranting about. Dad was famous for going off to play poker (and drink) with other farmers. Sometimes they had poker money, and sometimes they didn't. Lack of money didn't stop animals were legal tender, and they played for them too. Mother had her fill of bucket feeding his poker winnings of 3-day old calves. It gets worse. She would raise them to healthy yearlings and he would haul them off to the cattle sale. He pocketed the money himself...or just as likely, pitched a two-week drunk on it. The fruits of her labor never made it home. By that age, I could easily understand her anger.
But...I wanted that dog!

About the time I realized how bad I wanted him, Mother had decided how she was going to get rid of him. She marched outside, took him off the chain and commenced to throwing gravel out of the driveway at him, trying to run him off. John had other ideas. He thought he'd like living on the farm, and decided to stick around in spite of having to dance around dodging rocks. The fact that he wouldn't run away just frustrated her more. She was picking up gravel by the handsful and chucking them at him to no avail. John just danced and dodged on the outer perimeters of the yard until she finally wore herself out and came back in the house. I doubt she hit him with the first rock. If she did, John was none the worse for the wear. He sneaked up on the porch, checked all his perimeters, yawned, and settled in for a nap. He was home. He just had to convince HER!
John seized his golden opportunity to worm his way into my mother's cold heart about 3 AM when Pop came home...quite inebriated. He didn't smell like he did earlier in the day, and John wouldn't let him out of the car. He tried several times, but each time he opened the door, John lunged at him. The door shut quickly. He was trapped in his car and my mother was falling in love. Finally, he resorted to blowing the car horn until she opened the door to see what he wanted. He yelled through an inch wide crack in the car window, "Tell this SOB who I am!"
"YOU tell him!" She yelled back as she slammed the door. The next thing I knew, she was pulling slabs of bacon, sausage, and eggs from the fridge. She put on a pot of grits and made homemade biscuits and gravy like there was a dozen or more coming for breakfast. I looked at the clock and had to ask, "Mama, why are you making all this food in the middle of the night?"
"For me and MY dog," she said, "And anybody else who wants to eat."

Indeed, John was ours.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

What Not to do for the Grieving...

I really don't know where to begin this post, except that I feel compelled to address it for my own heart's sake. It's been six months since my beautiful daughter died in a grinding automobile crash. Not a day goes by that I don't think about her. I miss her in a most profound way that's different from any other person in my life who has passed on. There are no words for it, just the feeling that half of me is gone and I must somehow survive without an important part of my very soul. I'm having to re-invent myself because I am no longer the mother of a lovely young woman who should have had her whole life ahead of her. If I'm not her mother, then who am I? (The picture is Angie with her son, Nathaniel).

Grief is one thing, but a whole identity crisis is something I thought I figured out back in the 70's.

Most days, the tears are "just behind my eyes" (to borrow a phrase from the friend who first used it.) It's such a fragile balance, and I have worked so hard to achieve it. That delicate edge is the difference between being a functioning human being and a total emotional breakdown.
Today I learned that I not only must survive this grief, but I must also survive well-meaning people. I'm learning to live with the grief, but I'm convinced that well-meaning people just might do me in. I've been a train wreck since the mail came, and I know she would never intentionally hurt me. She's my friend. She's done a lot for me over the years and I love her very much. She would be hurt to know that I spent my day screaming and crying like I'd just got the news of Angie's death...over the package she sent me today.

If you know someone who is grieving, please don't try to make it better. For one thing, you can't. For another, you can very easily make it ten times worse for the person you are trying to help. Most especially, don't send a grieving mother poems written in the first person like a "letter home" from Heaven. Only God knows what I would give to get a real letter like that from Angie. All my neighbors know (now) how loud I can scream that it's just not possible. The name of the poem is "My First Christmas in Heaven." I'm sure it was intended to help someone who is going through the first Christmas without their loved one. I'm sure she thought it would help me. The truth is...if I were to read it again, I'd not survive another day, much less through Christmas. It has the total opposite effect on the grieving and should come with a warning label. It's a tear-jerker on a good day. For someone walking that fine emotional's total overwhelment. I don't need any help to cry. I got that one down-pat. I need LAUGH.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Flower Power in Fourth Ward

Even at the end of the season, there were these beauties in the park.