Dog Days of Summer

This past week was the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and this past weekend was the 10th Anniversary of when the levees failed. All of which is a reminder that Dennis Hastert was right.

It is little understood elsewhere that Wisconsin (once Ouisconsine) was once part of France, and then Britain, and then later became the United States as part of the Northwest Territories. There the resemblance to Louisiana and parts south ends, with our temperate zone and snowy wetlands filled with wolves and foxes and eagles, as well as fish and turtles and the occasional shy little frog—hippity hop. And let’s not forget our Trillium and Wood Violet and Lady Slipper—our own temperate zone orchid. We love our dairy products, and daily bathing rather than mummy skin and keeping the body fresh.

Louisiana’s wetlands (or bayous?) contain a lot of Snakes, of various types and venoms, and if you get down to the Core of it so do, apparently, their cousins in California and Connecticut and Philly. Here in Wisconsin, there’s just one poisonous snake, the Timber Rattler. That one gives just a nip to say you got too close and it’s best to stay on the Trail. And let’s not forget the oil rigs and refineries. 😉

There is an old Story about Abraham Lincoln and his family. Not the family he raised with Mary Todd, but the family that raised him. It seems that while Illinois is the Land of Lincoln, Mr. Abraham was born elsewhere—Virginia actually. The family had to pull up stakes and head West, a bit too much trouble back where they came from. While the story of a humble childhood is well known, Mr. Lincoln did rise to the “highest office” in the Land. He freed a lot of People, as they say, and did more than possibly anyone else in the history of our Nation to promote the furtherance of Democracy in North America.

To a lot of people in the Upper Midwest, Mr. Lincoln really does exemplify the American Spirit. He did things for himself, he pursued education, worked to protect his community, and lived simply even at times when money was flush. I’ve lived all over the United States, and I can say without hesitation, that vision of what it means to be an American or live in America is not shared.

Back to Virginia, of course, the Land of Lovers, has its fair share of wetlands, with some wild horses and oil rigs. There’s likely a sign somewhere that Mr. Lincoln slept or visited some places, I’m not actually sure myself. I supposed there are those who return to the Homestate, and then there are those, like Mr. Lincoln, who walk away and don’t come back much. I suppose, if like Dorothy Gale, one finds oneself simply picked up and deposited in a strange place, it does take some time to learn the difference between an Emerald City and the Wicked Witch’s castle. And when one finds the Big Striped Balloon, there is a flush of relief and the winds blow one back to where one started out, with familiar faces and familiar ways of doing things. An adventure had and over, hopefully, just a strange and mysterious dream, with no harm done, and some stories about a wondrous and unbelievable Land.

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Heartlander of the Week: A Mighty Wind

This week’s Heartlander is El Nino because . . . .  Why Not?

I think we all need a reminder from time to time that there are bigger stronger forces in this World than us.  Mother Nature’s little ones running around the Globe and pounding shores and blowing through the leaves–a not so subtle stay home with the shutters closed and the hatches battened down.

Let the rain fall down on us All.  🙂

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Seen and Not Heard

Having repatriated to Suburbia about three and a half years ago, I find myself swimming in slightly different waters. Not so much with sharks, I have freshwater roots, after all—Large Mouth Bass might be more appropriate. Which is to say, I do understand the instinct and wish to tape shut the mouths of certain people—other females in particular. I’m picky about who I roll with, I admit, and mouthy is not my favorite look.

All that aside, watching “Jimmy Kimmel” sometimes last month, I was a bit horrified watching a heritor of the Johnny Carson legacy actually taking Scotch Tape to the face—mouth, nose and eyes—of a guest on his show (Katie Holmes?), multiple times, as part of some game. I was watching the show out of the corner of my eye and didn’t really catch what was happening at first, and then realized that the actress and guest had a face covered in tape. Mr. Host then got up from his chair and put more tape on her face . . . . While she was being filmed from an awkward lower angle kind of sort of up the skirt of her so short it is hard to sit in (on a TV talk show).

Like, OK, I’m old enough to remember “Feminist” “Feminazi” “Manhater” and other slurs for any woman who defends another woman and Jimmy Kimmel is one of the Folk Heroes of the contemporary era, but really? Com’on People, it’s the 21st Century—taping a woman’s mouth shut on mainstream TV as some form of entertainment. (Yeah, I know JK is just following the script.)

So, it’s like, I guess, you can say playing around with Scotch Tape is not that bad, but, really, what’s next, tearing a woman’s clothes off because she tried to say something? Maybe they could throw rotting food at her. Or, maybe she could slip and fall in the rotting guts of a dead, abused animal, like another show that I watched.

What is bothersome, is that this type of depiction of violence is insidious. It creeps into the consciousness and dull the senses and leads our minds in a direction of simply shrugging our shoulders—“eh, so what?”

Well, “yeah, what?” It’s funny until someone loses an eye—Yup, losing an eye probably would suck. So would having one’s nose cut off or mouth sealed shut. Or a lot of other forms of physical abuse or psychological abuse. A place holder for what is coming next, to see if anyone minds.

So, once again I’m the heavy, swimming upstream. Kick the feet, right then left, breathe as often as you want.

Later. :-/

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Gluten-free Monday: Live Simply

I think one of the most enjoyable things about gluten-free living is that it really makes life simpler.  Once you’re into it, eating at home, cooking breakfast, making desserts and sides and snacks, and even homemade bread is easier as well as fun.

I throw out very little food these days at home, because I’m using it.  And when I’m not using it, I’m going through the cabinets, looking for ingredients, or something that was set aside, whipped up a few weeks ago–or a few days ago.  And when you go to the trouble to find recipes, hunt up ingredients at stores, stir everything up, clean up the mess, hold your breath to hope it turns out right–you don’t throw it away, you don’t waste it.

And honestly, my own cooking tastes better.  😉

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Heartlander of the Week: Who’s Coming to Dinner?

This week’s Heartlander is he who is conspicuous by his absence at the Table—Lindsay Graham.

According to Quinnipiac, The Donald leads the Republican field. Mr. Graham is not on the list . . . .

Northern though I be, I am a bit startled that the Republican party has forgotten the handwritten invitation to a native born son from a conservative stronghold State. Who knows what the future holds, but the Gentleman certainly has experience in Washington, an interesting bio and ability to swing a State or two. Or three. Or might be a viable Vice President. Or Cabinet Secretary.

To Big Tents and many voices. 🙂

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Gluten-free Monday: Oat Rolls

So, to follow on last week, I made Oat Soda Bread Dinner Rolls.  (No pics, still on the Information Superhighway’s breakdown lane, traveling fifteen miles an hour single file and minding the guys with the orange flags.)

So, I used last week’s recipe, and used only 1 cup of buttermilk to have a dough rather than a batter consistency.  I split the dough into six parts and rolled them into sticky balls.  I did roll five of them in a bit of extra flour.  I made a cut in the top of each roll and then baked them in the oven at 375 for 20 minutes.

The result was fine, they rose a bit and were spongy and not too dense.  They were a bit dry–a shorter cooking time or slightly lower temperature might work better.  As dinner rolls, the bread did taste a bit mealy, as if maybe it didn’t completely mix or digest, again, I’m wondering if I should have let it sit longer.

Also, rolling the balls in oat flour didn’t seem to make a difference.  The result after cooking was largely the same as the ones that were rolled in flour.

I might try them as popovers in a cupcake pan as well.  Hmmm . . . .  Gotta love home cooking experiments.  😀

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Heartlander of the Week: Never Forget

This week’s Heartlanders are the investigators who are still searching for answers in the Malaysian Airlines MH370.

With all seriousness, events like this make a big splash in the news, the Masses follow the updates for a few weeks, and then it all slips into obscurity and we all keep going on vacation like we used to.  Except, of course, for a few families and friends and colleagues and neighbors and landlords and old teachers and classmates who will always wonder what really happened and will never forget that day.

Persistence is sometimes frustrating and scary to those who prefer to let things go and move on.  Hopefully, some day everyone will hear the answer.

 

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Gluten-free Monday: Oat Soda Bread

So, I have returned from hiatus. This hiatus was a working hiatus and a technical difficulties hiatus, not a vacation hiatus. No, no, the past few months have not been a vacation. :-*

One of my discoveries during my “Unwired Period” is home made oat flour soda bread. Free of yeast as well as gluten, I am in love with having bread around the house regularly for the first time in years. I had actually stopped eating bread several years before learning about gluten intolerance for reasons that I didn’t really understand. A Lenten commitment to give up sweets and alcohol threw the bread out with the goodies and replaced them with yogurt and fruit smoothies.

I never tried making my own savory bread in my gluten-consuming days, but was considering embarking on learning bread-making when I realized I was gluten-intolerant. I put bread-making on hold in favor of learning gluten-free.

Recently, I got interested in bread making again—out of an interest in bread eating, growing confidence in gluten-free cooking, and not wanting to break the bank on mass market gluten-free bread. I wanted to try my hand at a gluten-free savory bread, but not necessarily muck around with learning about yeast, which I have never worked with. Something jogged my memory that soda bread is leavened with baking soda, not yeast, so I searched the ‘Net for simple Soda Bread recipes, gluten-free or otherwise.

Some of the recipes I found were really complicated and there was a lot of variation, including the traditional non-gluten-free recipes. Some of the recipes including things like raisins, and some of the gluten-free versions had complex mixes of a half dozen or more flours. I eventually found one very simple gluten-free recipe that used only oat flour, a gluten-free flour substitute, butter, salt, baking powder and baking soda and about 1/3 of a cup of milk soured with apple cider vinegar. The result was a very thick, sticky dough that held together as a big ball and is then placed on a tray in the over (butter the tray if you don’t want it to stick) and comes out as a dome-shaped loaf. This produced an interesting result, but was rather dry and crumbly. I noticed that many of the other recipes called for 2 or more cups of buttermilk or soured milk with a similar amount of flour.

I played around and came up with a basic recipe using only oat flour that seems to work really well. Sometimes the bread is crumbly and not really usable for a sandwich, but at the very least it can be eaten with a meal, and I eventually came up with a way to make a loaf of oat bread than can be reliably thin-sliced and used for a sandwich.

How liquidy the “dough” is seems to vary a lot with the same amount of flour, which I think is something to do with “hard” and “soft” grain.   One time the result was super liquidy, like a banana or cranberry bread, so I poured it into a round ceramic pan, cooked it a bit longer and got something that was an awesome, yummy, much fluffier and moist result!

 

Oat Soda Bread

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon of salt (or more if you like bread a bit salty)

1 ½ teaspoons of baking soda (more makes it taste like baking soda)

1 ½ -3 cups of buttermilk or milk soured with vinegar (1 Tablespoon of vinegar for every 1/3 cup of milk) I’ve used buttermilk, vinegar and milk, and a mix of both and they seem to all work similarly. I also used some sour milk that was forgotten in the fridge and it worked fine, too.

¼ cup butter

2 Tablespoons honey

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. If using milk and vinegar, mix the milk and vinegar first and let sit for a few minutes. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Melt butter in a small pan on the stove or in the microwave, mix with honey and then add to dry ingredients. Add at least one cup of buttermilk/ sour milk, and stir. Let it sit after mixing for a few minutes to let the flour absorb the liquid. If the dough seems dry, add more buttermilk/milk If the mixture looks dry, it can be baked on a cookie sheet, or you can add more buttermilk/ sour milk and cook in a ceramic or metal pan. Bake for 20 minutes, turn. Bake for another 20 minutes, then test with a fork or toothpick—crumbs are OK, goopy uncooked dough is not.

 

The lump on a cookie sheet method can produce a nice, moist loaf of bread, but seems a bit trickier and I think you have to know your flour mixture and make sure that the texture turns out like a lump of clay or library paste (the taste is fine) so that it sits in a big ball on the cookie sheet.

The time that I used 3 cups of oat flour and 1 ½ cups of buttermilk and got a bowl of something like a thick soup or a smoothie or something and didn’t have any more flour, I poured the result into a round ceramic oven-safe pan. I baked it for a full hour (the inside was still gooey at 40 minutes) and the result was very nice! It didn’t rise quite as much, but the texture was very moist and it held together a bit better, so that I could thin-slice the bread (slices less than half an inch). The next time I tried the ceramic dish cooking method I purposefully mixed in enough buttermilk to make the dough runny (2 cups) and cooked it in the oven until it was done in the center. I had to leave after I took it out of the over, and put the glass cover on the top to keep the cat out of it. The final result was a very moist loaf of bread that held together very well and was very easily thin-sliced about ¼ of an inch wide. I also tried baking the dough with the lid on the dish. It rose well, but did not brown. I did take the lid off for the last fifteen minutes and the result was very moist with a kind of spongy texture and the bread held together for thin-slicing.

I think this basic recipe would work with other flours or other flour mixes, but I haven’t actually tried it yet, so I don’t actually know. I am also wondering if I can make tiny little dinner roll-sized breads, either in small pans of on a cookie sheet. Hmmm . . . .

I do have a few pics, but my return to the Information Superhighway has encountered “Slow Speed for Summer Construction.”  More later.  😀

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Heartlander of the Week: It’s a Marathon

The Heartlander is back, and this week’s Heartlander is Caitlyn Jenner.

We first got to know Caitlyn when she was Bruce, gold medal Decathlete. I’m vaguely old enough to remember 1976 and 1975 and what a craptastic self-image the United States had of itself back then. A controversial War ends with a Legislative defunding and a botched evacuation, political scandals and exposes of “Military Intelligence” that is spying on virtually every American adult, and this was a Country that needed a birthday party, something to celebrate a couple of nice presents—Happy Birthday, you made it to 200! Here’s a gold medal in the most difficult Olympic sport.

A reminder that “America” was not about the instantaneous and the spectacular, that “America” to some of us, at least, is about the long, slow, pace grind, the step by step journey that at times is shrouded, mysterious, unknown, uncertain, obscure. That “America” is about a type of introspection, of self-driven goals, of “who cares, I just want to do this for myself as much as anyone else.”

I was a bit too young in 1976 to understand what a Decathlon was—I barely understood the Olympics—but there was a dark-haired man with a Breck Girl doo in his underwear on Daddy’s Wheaties box and everyone thought it was a big deal and he did something like Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill and it was a big deal because America hadn’t done that one before. And Deca meant ten. (This would come in useful a few years later in elementary geometry class.) And people were cheering and happy.

Like most major athletes, Bruce aged out of his sport and retired to a behind the scenes life that probably included some coaching and popping up occasionally on a Christmas Special. Bruce next reappeared to most of us as the Hollywood Superdad on the “Kardashians” franchise. Lots of daughters, lots of grandkids, lot of patience. Then the heartbreak that another long-term marriage was coming to an end—“Doesn’t anybody stay together anymore?”

And then the big surprise moment that kind of reminds me of the moment in “Eat, Drink, Man, Woman” where the Dad asks the widowed neighbor’s daughter to marry him instead of the widow next door and everyone is happy but everyone is screaming and clapping and passing out—“Bruce” will soon be “Caitlyn”. In the vintage vernacular, for some time, he has felt like a woman trapped in a man’s body. OK, now we all feel better about Mom and Dad’s divorce.

As the story is emerging, her Hollywood friends have known for some time that Bruce felt the need to be Caitlyn and had time to learn and adjust (or perhaps reject and depart). For the masses, it has been a bit of a shock, one that is becoming the long, slow, paced grind that we associated with Bruce. Caitlyn is progressing through another “Decathlon”, and much like ’76, we are all caught up in an enormous achievement in its own way. And she is leading the way, bring many of us to a place we never thought we would be.

Watching her acceptance speech at the ESPY’s last week, a plea for rational understanding, I really felt comforted. I think I’m fairly liberal on Gender and Sexual Rights, although I do admit I have concerns about body alteration, generally, although on my third hand I realize it is a process that is not undertaken lightly by the medical community, complex and not really my business. Transgender is a difficult topic, and one that now had a leader in America. She’s a leader we remember from another time and it’s a topic that has lacked leadership. I don’t know that I’m completely resolved to the topic of transgender, but it does somehow feel good to be lead. This, of course, is a difficult admission of my own for a Contrarian Gen Xer.

And, like other women, I also feel completely outclassed by America’s new “Woman Who Does Everything Better Than You” fantastic dress, 65 and still has Breck hair, fabulous home, amazing children, grandchildren, and totally resolved relationship with her X. OK. She’s been a woman for a few months and she’s already better at it than me.

Congratulations, Caitlyn, you’re stepping through the events, 100 meters, long jump, shot put . . . it will be a while until we watch you run the marathon, but you’ve got our attention and we’re on the edge of our seats, cheering for you the whole way.

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Heartlander of the Week: It’s a Grand Old Flag

This week’s Heartlander is the United States Congress for allowing “key” parts of the Patriot Act to expire. Score one for the Fourth Amendment; or make that two. Annddd . . . Lone Wolves are breathing safer and sleeping sounder.  (Woof.  Grrg-hrmf.) Long May She Wave . . . .

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