Saturday, October 29, 2011


Home-made Pickles
I like pickles. Dill pickles mostly, but for some reason I’ve craved pickles this last year. Sometimes I can substitute green olives, and sometimes I’d rather have olives than pickles, but if I go too long without eating a pickle, I get really hungry for them.

I’ve liked pickles my entire life, it seems. I also like hot peppers, often at the same time as the pickles. The mixture is a great flavor.
Okay, this isn't about hot peppers, but it's a cool picture

My Mom used to can pickles. She made all sorts. She made dill, of course, but she sliced some, turned some into spears, did some of them whole. She also tried sweet pickles, but she wasn’t much of a fan of her own sweet pickles. I think Mom’s favorite pickles were bread and butter pickles. She made some of those also, in a large, clay pot with a lid. This crock was designed specifically for letting bread and butter pickles ferment, or whatever they do while they sit in the corner of the kitchen on the floor for a month. Those came out pretty well, actually.
The crock looked a little like this, with a lid
We grew our own cucumbers back in those days. I suspect she bought the rest of the ingredients. She might have grown the dill or got some from one of her Aunts (I’m thinking of the time we lived in Michigan and Dad was in Viet Nam).

There was one batch of pickles she made that just weren’t crisp, not at all. You’d spear them with a fork to get them out of the jar and they’d bend like a noodle. The flavor was amazing, though. She made those while we lived in Washington State (just before Dad’s tour in Viet Nam). She also made some Dilly Beans. We had a surplus of green beans and she grew tired of canning the regular kind of green beans (we had a LOT of green beans). Somewhere she found a recipe for Dilly Beans, which are green beans turned into dill pickles, sort of. Now those were crisp, and had a sharp dill flavor. They were great, and they didn’t last long.
When Darling and I went to Africa last spring I missed pickles a lot. Pastor Muhoza Lewi, an incredible man, was our interpreter, but he didn’t have a clue what a pickle was. During one meal Pastor Don felt so bad for me that he had the restaurant bring me pickle relish. It was all they had, and it helped a little. During one of the few times with internet access I sent a text mail to my team where I work and mentioned that I really wanted a pickle. I came back to six jars on my desk.
Those were gone in two weeks. (Well, they were little jars.)
When I first moved to Texas, a few decades ago, I got married and we bought a house. I put in a big garden, and hauled some dirt in for the garden beds and I grew cauliflower, broccoli, corn, tomatoes, beans and cucumbers. I didn’t get the crop I expected, but I wasn’t used to the local environment either. Still, I had enough cucumbers to pickle a few.
I sliced, and mixed and boiled and packed and sealed and the pickles were pretty good. There weren’t many of them, so they went fast, but they were tasty. They were also sort of limp, but that doesn’t affect the taste.
That was my only garden and my only batch of home-made pickles.
But last Saturday I made some more pickles. Darling got me some cucumbers (four giant ones) and bought me the ingredients according to a recipe I found on-line for refrigerator dills.
Dill Pickles
5-1/2 cups water
3 cups white distilled vinegar
1/4 tsp ground tumeric
5 Tbsp pickling salt (or non-iodized salt)
black peppercorn
mustard seeds
red pepper flakes
fresh dill heads
whole garlic cloves
cucumbers, sliced, speared, whole (make sure to remove the blossom end of the cucumbers)

I sliced and mixed and boiled and packed the cucumbers in a single large container. I see now why most people pack the pickles, by the way – if you don’t, they tend to float to the top of the liquid. They won’t get full flavor that way! But we work with what we have.

We can’t eat these pickles for four weeks. I left strict orders with everyone in the house that these are not to be touched until the time is right.
I did take one small spear from the jar yesterday, and it was good. Only one week toward the four-week time limit and they were already pretty good. A little too much vinegar taste, but I think the spices have to move in over the next few weeks.
Now the nice thing is that I have lots of ingredients right now, except for the cucumbers, and I might be able to get some of those on sale shortly. I might make a few smaller jars to tuck into the back of the fridge. Otherwise, I don’t know what to do with all the fresh dill that Darling got for me.
I could look into making dilly beans…

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Five Squared Bonus

Ralph Waldo Emerson said "Shallow men believe in luck...strong men believe in cause and effect."

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. What are you doing now? What results do you want? Make a plan from that. Work backwards and figure out what you need to do to get the results you want. God answers prayer, but He also imbued in each person strength and skill and will and spirit to accomplish things FOR God's people.

There is an old saying that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. That's good, short-term planning. Plant the seeds so you can have lemon trees in the future. That's long-term planning.

It isn't a Prime Day, it's a Square Day. Bonus Post!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Three Musketeers

There is a new movie of the Three Musketeers, and this one has a little of everything, including a bit of steam-punk, by way of Leonardo da Vinci.
October, 2011
The book was good, but I didn't think it was excellent. For one thing, it portrayed French society the way it probably was: Musketeers were often kept solvent by wealthy women who slept with them, and Constance, though familiar with the queen, was a wealthy man's wife who took a shine to D'Artagnan.
However, it has been the topic of a lot of action movies. The first one I can find (IMDB) was made in Italy in 1909. In 1914 we see one made in the USA. There are over forty listings in IMDB, made in a half dozen countries, including Japan.

My favorite of all the versions that I've seen is probably the one from 1939, with Don Ameche as D'Artagnan. It's colorized now, of course, but it was the classic version when I was growing up. I didn't realize that it was considered a parody of the book.

I didn't read the book until a few years ago, when I went into a fit of downloading classics from Gutenberg. In some ways I guess I was disappointed in the written version, since the movie was my de-facto standard. The book gives a harsher reality to the story and makes it a gritty tale of deceit and double-cross.

The 1973 version with Michael York was entertaining and I liked it. I'm sure it didn't hurt that Raquel Welch was Constance. I've watched that one a number of times.

In 1993 the movie method changed. It wasn't so much the story that people now went to the theater to see; now people went to see the action scenes. We could debate whether that was always the case, but the story seemed to take second place with Chris O'Donnell as D'Artagnan. In this one, the choreography was fantastic and more than just simple action sequences. The classic example is the final battle using the ladders in the tower. Ladders? Tower? What? Just accept it; they were specifically for the movie battle with no practical use whatsoever. Constance went blonde in this version. Oliver Platt became less heroic as Porthos and more slapstick. (No offense. He was still excellent.)

Just released Friday is an entirely new version, but the concept remains. Porthos returns to the original giant strong man, Aramis remains the brooding man of God, and Athos is still the betrayed, full-of-angst unspoken leader of the Three Musketeers. D'Artagnan remains cocky and self-assured (with some justification). Constance remains blonde. That probably won't change in future versions, either.

The producers ramped up the special effects and injected high levels of energy into the action sequences. Explosions, gunfights, sword fights, leaps into space, displays of grace - all careen across the screen giving you only moments to catch your breath.

Is it worth going to see? Maybe. I liked Real Steel better as a story, but I still liked this new Three Musketeers. I really liked the ending, but I like steam-punk too (which is the added bonus to this version).

I liked it even though it didn't have Raquel Welch.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Firefly gives me another hint

Who am I?
That's the biggest question anyone ever asks. It's a tough one. I ponder it a lot, and I am now over a half century old and counting (with my most recent birthday just days past).
Moses: First he was a Prince...
Moses asked that question. “And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11, KJV)
God knows who He is, of course, and simply tells Moses “I AM.” It doesn't get simpler (or more profound) than that.
Moses started as a Prince of Egypt, then saw himself as a deliverer of the Hebrew people. He took it upon himself to kill an Egyptian, then hid the body, thinking it was a secret. He had an image of who he was right then, and maybe it was a clear image.
But it was a wrong image.
Because of his actions he had to flee Egypt, flee position and authority and power. He had to abandon everything he knew to that point, including his own concept of who he was.

... then a follower.
Forty years of exile later, a burning bush finally explained to Moses who he was to be. At first, he rejected the task. "Who am I" was the question on his lips. God didn't answer that question, really. Instead God told Moses to simply tell Pharaoh that Moses was sent, an emissary from God Himself, and God revealed who He was.
And Moses found real power, but it didn't come from inside himself, or from the power of his own mind or the power of positive thinking. The authority and power of Moses came directly from "I AM", Y_W_. 
And Moses discovered who he was as he led the people of God (not the people of Moses) from the land of Egypt and toward the promised land.
Not that I compare myself to Moses, nor to Charlton Heston, either.
We all suffer from this question. Perhaps some people find the answer early in life. Maybe that's what makes them successful, but then we need to define success.
Steve Jobs might have known who he was. He sure oozed confidence during the presentations and speeches. He died not long ago, and now people are trying to define who he was. I guess that's from a different perspective, isn't it?

Who are you now, Steve Jobs? Where are you now, Steve Jobs?
In Serenity, the offshoot movie finale of the short-lived, much-loved hit television series Firefly, the Shepherd talks to Mal about belief. Mal gets upset and says that the question always comes up. Shepherd Book basically growls at him, tells him that he has to learn to believe in something.
Near the end of the movie, Mal does believe in something. The antagonist, a killer with no name, asks him if he is willing to die to finish the task before him. Mal answers that he is.
Just not yet.
So Mal finds out what he can believe in and lives on. Does he now know who he is?
Maybe Mal in the movie gives me a hint who I am, or perhaps he gives me a hint how to find out. There will be more on this question in future posts. After all, it's been around for a long time.

(I'll grant this is a cheat, and a placeholder, with a bit more to come, but that's the topic for this Prime Day. I missed one this month. I won't entirely miss the nineteenth.)