Saturday, October 27, 2012

Autumnal Stuffed Squash

Nights like this I really enjoy, because the house is quiet and dinner can be a slow, unhurried affair.  Bear won’t be home until much later in the evening, and I can take my time to prepare dinner and experiment with a new recipe I found, or one I decided to make up.  I picked up an acorn squash while grocery shopping even though I had never prepared one before and couldn’t recall eating one.  A quick Google search pointed me towards butter and brown sugar.  That seemed like a good starting point and so off to the pantry to see what else might be lurking.  Raisins, dried cranberries, where are those pecans?  Oh yeah, they went into the bacon bourbon pecan pie and praline chicken.  Walnuts it is then!  

My Gram taught me a lot about cooking, and she never really measured anything (unless she was baking) – it was always an approximate guess as to how much of any given thing we were throwing into the pot.  Since we can’t be in my kitchen together, I did a pictorial step by step instead.  Because I love you that much, but not enough to show you pictures of my ancient oven, which I preheated at 400 degrees. 

Carving Acorn squash is a lot like carving a pumpkin – use the tip of your knife and push in to start it.  

Then bring the rest of the knife down and around the whole she-bang.

Use a spoon to scoop out the pulp and seeds.  If you love acorn squash, consider saving some of those seeds to dry out & plant.  

Score the squash with the tip of your knife taking care not to cut all the way through the skin.

Now it’s ready for some really good stuff!  Meet our co-conspirators: raisins, cranberries, and walnuts.  They heard it was a party, so they brought their good friends sea salt cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger (she was camera shy) brown sugar, and black pepper.  I like to pre-soak the raisins in hot water so they plump up and don’t dry out during baking.   About 10-15 minutes will do it.  They’re relaxing in their hot bath in this picture.

Drain the raisins, and add about 2 healthy tablespoons of butter, and melt in the microwave.  Obviously, by healthy tablespoons I mean heaping.  Butter’s not healthy, but it’s oh so good. 
While the butter is melting, I like to mix about 1/3 of a cup of brown sugar with my spices to ensure they’re all evenly distributed.  Reserve about a quarter of the brown sugar and spice mixture, and add in the rest of your sugar to the melted butter and raisins, then add the cranberries and walnuts.

How yummy does that look?  Seriously, look at all that goodness swimming in butter and brown sugar!

Fill the squash with the mixture.  It's OK if you get some syrup on the squash, it likes that.  

Pour a 1/4 cup of water into the bottom of the pan, and liberally sprinkle the flesh of the squash with the remaining sugar and spice.  

Loosely cover pan with foil and pop into the oven for about an hour, or until you're able to pierce the flesh easily with a fork.  

Now would be about the time would be admiring a picture of the cooked and ready to eat squash, except my camera decided to eat that picture.  Guess it got a little hungry taking all those photos.  

The stuffing turned out delicious, and I'll be using it again to top home made mashed sweet potatoes in individual ramekins and as a stuffing for butternut squash.  All of which are wonderful sides for Thanksgiving, or with praline chicken or cranberry pork loin (recipes to follow in future posts). 

Enjoy!  Till next time y'all! 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

S.O.Bees! The Welcome Committee From Hell

This is a little embarrassing to admit, but I’m a terrible wimp.  Snakes don’t scare me, mice and rats don’t bother me in the least, and even spiders aren’t a cause for undue alarm but when it comes to flying insects, especially anything that stings, I am the biggest wimp ever.  Over the years, this has been a source of chagrin for me, and a source of amusement for bystanders as I let out a whoop, bend at the waist and go running like some crazed duck doing a demented Three Stooges impression.  “Woo, woo, woo, woo, woooooo!  Nyyaaaaarrrr!!!”  There’s no logic to ducking down and running, it’s not as if going lower will somehow magically evade their radar, and the noises, well…those are involuntary.  And often louder than I intend.  That whole involuntary thing again, ya know?     

I was prepared for Palmetto bugs when we moved to South Carolina, having encountered them from my time spent in New Orleans.  Giant roaches, that’s all they are.  And while they freak me out due to just how inordinately creepy they are, I know they can’t actually hurt me.  Give me nightmares, yes, but hurt me, no.  I knew we’d have stinging insects here, already met a fire ant and learned just why they’re called that as we were house hunting (give the phrase “feel the burn” a whole new meaning) and figured bugs were bugs where ever you went. 

Clearly, I was delusional.  At no point did it enter my mind to consider the possibility that if the Palmetto bugs get as big as a small pony, that the other insects would as well.  Somehow, that line of thinking escaped me completely until we’d bought our home and I was spending some time painting the bedroom.  It was a mild day; the front door was open and the storm door closed.  As I’m painting, there’s a tapping, as if someone gently rapping, rapping on my closed storm door.  “Just a moment” I call, then….nothing more.  Again as I paint the wall, wondering who it was that called, I hear the tapping, tapping of someone at my closed storm door.  “One minute” I call, as I cease to paint the wall and greet the visitor who is still tapping, still insistently rapping, rapping at my closed screen door…Getting to the door I cry, as a hideous site meets my eye, tis a hornet, and nothing mo-HOLY CRAP!!! 

This should never knock on anyone's front door.  Ever. 

Never had I seen a hornet that was two inches in size, let alone one that could KNOCK on my front door like the welcome committee from hell come to call.  “Oh hey, (tap, tap, tap) heard you were new to the neighborhood, (tap, tap, tap) thought I’d drop in…”  The accompanying shriek would have done any scream queen proud as the front door was slammed shut and the locks engaged.  Hey, if it could knock on the door, I wasn’t taking any chances.  That evening I set out for our local hardware store, still in my paint splattered clothes and possibly still a little wild eyed from that days encounter.  No doubt, I must’ve looked a sight. 

The thing about Southerners is that (generally speaking) they are so unfailingly polite that the clerk at the store’s only reaction to my story of the hornet from hell (related in a very animated way) and asking if they had anything in the store to annihilate Satan’s minions, like say, a flame thrower, was to get me their best hornet spray and offer to swing by after his shift and help me.  Bless his heart.  That offer of help really galvanized me into putting on my big girl panties and doing battle with the nasty SOBees myself.  Or maybe the paint fumes had finally gotten to me.  Whichever the case, I wasn’t prepared for how aggressive they were, or for how they’d repeatedly attack the car trying to sting it as you pull into the driveway, but many cans of hornet spray later, they’ve decided to take up residence elsewhere and terrorize someone else. 

Since then, I’ve learned that many bugs are bigger in the South, locals will always have a bit of helpful advice on how best to get rid of them, and I can get away from a wasp or hornet without running in a crouch doing my best Moe, Larry and Curly impression…well, most days.  

Well, I'd better be buzzing off!  Till next time, y’all!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

That's A Wrap: At Home Spa Day of Doom

Pinterest has been both a blessing and a curse to my life.  It’s given me wonderful recipes, tips and tricks, DIY projects and my favorite – at home beauty tips.   The idea of an at home spa day is wonderfully appealing to me since it costs far less, and some poor stranger isn’t subjected to seeing me in nothing but a pair of panties if it’s a body wrap or scrub I want.  Inevitably, these spa days wait until Sunday, when Bear is at work and the house is empty, save for myself and the cats.  Usually, that’s a good thing since I don’t think a husband needs to see every single little step of their wife’s upkeep and grooming.  (IE: bleaching my eyebrows so they’ll match my hair – no one needs to see me walking around the house looking like an Oompa Loompa gone wrong with thick white paste on my brows)

And so it began…my friend Kim had pinned an at home body wrap which I promptly repined to one of my boards.  When she posts beauty stuff, I pay attention because she's easily one of the most beautiful women I know, and she's really smart about all things beauty.  Since I’d been fighting a cold all week it seemed only appropriate that part of Sunday was dedicated to a little pampering.  I may not feel physically better but if I look better, that’s something, right? 

I began gathering the ingredients together, and in my usual pinch of this, dash of that fashion, modified them slightly to accommodate what we had in the house.  Epsom salt is in the house, but where in the house is a mystery.  Amazingly there was a jar of Bentonite clay in my “beauty box” that I forgot was there.  Huh.  Rarely do clay facial masks not get used up around here, so this is a really lucky find! 

Beware the secrets of the Aztec!
I put 2 green tea bags into the water to boil, measured out the rest of the ingredients, and then poured the boiling green tea into the clay & added the olive oil and some Geranium essential oil which is supposed to be good for toning the skin.  So far, so good.  It looked a bit too thick to work with….I’d read where adding some apple cider vinegar to the clay really helped pull out the impurities, so in it went.  Suddenly, I’m greeted with a bubbling, frothing, hissing mass of angry clay that now smells like very tart geraniums.  Undaunted, the mixing of this concoction continues.  Off we go to the bathroom, with the clay mixture and a roll of plastic wrap in hand.  The slathering part went fairly well, and I was feeling pretty good about myself as none of the clay mixture got on anything but me.  (a minor miracle)  After rinsing my hands, it was time to wrap my newly slathered self in the plastic wrap.  The midriff section was deceptively easy.  It lulled me into a false sense of confidence.   That confidence didn’t falter as I wrapped my hips, it didn’t so much as waiver as I wrapped around my derrière…it wasn’t until I was attempting to wrap plastic wrap around my thighs that the thought occurred to me, “Houston, we have a problem”.  My first thought was to just wrap around both legs together but the thought of hobbling around the house like the little mermaid didn’t sound appealing so I started wrapping down one leg, contorting myself to ensure every square slathered inch was sufficiently wrapped.  Then came the second leg and that’s when I discovered that I couldn’t contort myself nearly so easily as the first leg and hip were very tightly wrapped, as was my midriff, and movement was impeded, to say the least.  Somehow I managed to wrap the second leg and again was reminded of the wisdom of doing these sorts of things home alone, as a certain Bear would have been laughing too hard to be of any assistance to me. 

The instructions said to soak tights and a tight top in hot water to put on over that, but I skipped that step because I didn’t want to be a soggy mess.  Next was to put on my heaviest pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt, to keep the body heat trapped in.  The sweatshirt went on easily.  The pants required more effort than you’d think – my legs and hips were fairly immobilized by plastic wrap, which made the whole experience rather akin to dressing a Barbie doll whose legs don’t bend.  Pants on, I was free to go about the house albeit in a sort of penguin waddle kind of way.  The instructions said to relax for 45-60 minutes.  Lowering myself onto the couch with a mug of green tea in hand, I felt this…oozing feeling upon sitting.  The feeling of trying to sit, slathered in goo, bound in plastic is…there’s nothing to compare it to, really.  HGTV makes for a nice distraction, but about 20 minutes in, I start to notice this…feeling.  It’s like my skin is starting to come to life – in fact, it’s starting to feel like it’s pulsating.  My midriff, back, thighs, hips, yes, even my bottom are pulsating.  What fresh hell is this?  It’s not a pleasant feeling and there’s this niggling thought at the back of my brain to check the jar of clay, the clay that somehow managed to remain virtually untouched for two years in my beauty box.  Looking at the jar, I see this:

What marketing genius decided THAT was a good catch phrase?

I’m not sure how I managed to forget that this stuff isn’t your normal, run of the mill fairly mild facial clay - it actually does exactly what it says on the jar and makes your skin pulsate and throb like it’s trying to come OFF your body.  Well, mine couldn’t since it’s encased in plastic but I’m pretty certain if it wasn’t contained it would.  At least the mystery of why it sat in my box o’ beauty unused for so long was solved.  Since the clay was doing what it was supposed to, I determined to let it do its thing for the full length of time recommended.  HGTV does not distract nearly enough in times like this, and what’s worse, after another 15 minutes my green tea is gone.  Tea goes right through me, in fact, it’s amazing I didn’t need to tinkle prior to this but now I’ve really gotta go.  Like, now.  Except I’m still wrapped in plastic and I’m fairly certain that my self imposed mummification has made it impossible to use the rest room and in all my wisdom I decided to do this at home with no one to help cut me out of my plastic wrap in a hot hurry.  Houdini himself would have been proud of the speed with which I escaped my plastic shackles. 

I wish I could say that this is a rare sort of occurrence in my life, but the fact is, I often find myself wondering how it is that I manage to get myself into such “I Love Lucy” esque situations.  Sadly, this won’t be the last time I do this – after finally unwrapping and cleaning off the clay goop, the results were noticeable enough that we will once again find me covered in clay, wrapped in plastic, and doing the penguin waddle.  Hey, no one ever said looking good was easy! 

Till next time, y’all! 

Friday, October 12, 2012

So You Shoot, Huh?

Even though I’m still relatively new to shooting and the gun world in general, people seem to like to come to me for advice on guns.  I’m not an expert, nor do I profess to know everything there is to know about firearms – far from it.  There are always new developments, weaponry and shooting techniques I have never seen before.  But maybe because I don’t know it all people feel more comfortable approaching me with questions they might feel silly asking an expert or more seasoned shooter.  A good number of women will ask me questions about my own experiences that I’m delighted to relate.  I didn’t realize how many other women were afraid of guns, or more to the point, asking “stupid” questions about them until I starting becoming more vocal about my hobby.  I figured I’d post some of the most common questions, and my answers here just in case any of you had the same questions.

“So you shoot a semi automatic and not a revolver?  Why?” 
Yes, I shoot a semi automatic.  The why is purely my own personal preference.  Semi automatics usually have a higher magazine capacity than revolvers, and I prefer the feel of them in my hand.  I just don’t care for how a revolver feels.  I’ve shot them; they’re just not my cup of tea.  If you prefer how a revolver feels in your hand, then that’s the style of gun you should consider.   If both styles feel good in your hand, go to a range that rents out guns to shoot and try each of them in different calibers and styles. 

“How do you manage to rack the slide back?  I can’t seem to get my husband’s gun to do it!”  
Men generally have more upper body strength and seem to have a stronger grip naturally.  Why else do we hand over those impossible to open jars over to our husbands?  It seems like the ability to rack that slide back comes easier to them.  I have little hands, delicate little fingers, and my grip strength is not equal to Bears.  In fact, I struggled like crazy to get the darn slide racked back the first 50 times or so.  Bear showed me how to use my dominant hand that’s on the gun grip to push the gun forward as my other hand was simultaneously racking the slide to the rear.  I didn’t get it the first time.  Or the second.  Or even the third.  I practiced till I did.  Once I did it successfully, I practiced some more till my hands were tired.  I still practice racking the slide back.  Your husband’s spring may be too tight for you to rack with ease, but another gun may be just right.  It’s sort of like Goldilocks and The Three Bears.  You have to find the one that’s just right for you. 

“Isn’t a .40 caliber really hard to handle, though?” 
Nope.  There are a lot of people who will tell you horror stories about recoil, and how the gun jumped and bucked and did all sorts of cartwheels across the range.  I’ve shot .22 caliber, .380 caliber, 9 mm, .40 caliber, and .45 caliber semi automatic handguns.  I won’t lie to you – there’s definitely a difference in the amount of recoil.  But as a smaller sized woman, I need to ensure that if I ever need to use lethal force against an assailant, that it will STOP them from advancing on me further.  I need to make every shot count.  A .22 won’t give me the same stopping power, even loaded with hollow points, as a .40 or even a 9mm will, also loaded with hollow points.  It simply won’t.  Larger holes equal more damage, so if someone who’s hopped up on Lord knows what is coming at me, or a rabid dog charges me, I’m putting my faith in a larger caliber.  It’s just where my comfort zone lies. 

“Why do you go to the range so often?  I just want one to keep in my nightstand drawer in case I need it.”
What fun is keeping it in your nightstand?!  Let’s take a step back and look at this scenario seriously for a minute.  You’re asleep in your bed, and you awake to hearing someone in your house.  Maybe they’re already just outside your bedroom door.  You have seconds to react.  Seconds from coming out of a deep sleep and having to have your weapon unlocked, loaded, and ready to fire, while issuing a loud, commanding, “Leave this house now – I have a gun and I will shoot you!”  Do you really want to be fumbling with a weapon you’re not familiar with, haven’t practiced with, in this situation, wasting valuable time that an attacker can get to you and possibly even turn the gun against you?  Or do you want to be confident in your ability to be loaded, racked, ready and able to hit your target on the first go?  I think the question here really becomes, “Why wouldn’t you go to the range often?”  We practice on the range, we do drills at home, and the peace of mind it provides me knowing that I’ll be able to access my gun in the minimum amount of time is invaluable…and it’s a heck of a lot of fun to shoot away the week’s frustrations.  (State imposed deadline of a half an hour to reply to a claim, I’m talking to you)

“The guy at the gun shop told me I didn’t need…”
This one kills me.  I’ve had more than a few patronizing gun store clerks try to hand me a tiny little pink or purple gun and tell me it’d be “just fine for a little lady” like myself.  If you run into this, smile sweetly, bless their hearts, hand them the gun back, and tell them you’ll be taking your business, and your money to an establishment who will take you as seriously as a male customer.  Then leave.  Don’t even bother giving them your business.  There’s gun shops a plenty here, and the few times I’ve run across that attitude, I have not only left, but I made sure to let everyone else know how they treat potential customers as well.  A good gun shop will be interested in helping you find the gun you want without scoffing or patronizing you in the process.  The guys at the local store we go to are respectful, helpful, and happy to talk guns with me.  They know I’m a “caliber queen” and don’t even bother showing me anything below a 9mm unless it’s in the spirit of a little light hearted teasing.  They know I take my guns seriously, and as a result, they take ME seriously. 

“But if your husband has a gun, why do you need one too?”
My husband also has a pair of boots, but I’m not going to go tromping around in his when my own fit me so much better.  I can shoot Bears guns, and often do, because it’s important to me to be proficient in all the guns in our house, but I still prefer to have my very own guns because they fit me.  Simple as that, really. 

In the South, guns are part of the culture.  In the areas I’ve lived in the north, it was almost taboo and the only time guns were ever really discussed was to jump up on a soapbox and lament our need for stricter gun control.  It might shock you, but I agree – we DO need stricter gun control….so be safe, get on out to the range, and work on controlling that gun – the x ring isn’t going to shoot itself, y’know! 

Till next time, y’all! 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Carry On...15 Different Concealed Carry Outfits WITHOUT The Purse

The idea of carrying my gun in my purse is odd to me.  Why would I put my gun in my purse when there's so many different options for me to safely carry it on my person, where I can access it easier and faster than from my purse?  I set my purse next to me when I'm in a restaurant, under my desk when I'm at work, on a friends kitchen island if I'm visiting, and in it's little spot next to my desk at home.  If I need to access that gun immediately, I have to first get my purse, then open the gun compartment (because all ladies who carry guns in their purses are using actual concealed carry purses, right?  With a built in safety feature, I hope?)  then I have to draw my weapon, then I have to rack the action and then I can address the threat.  Even if I'm just walking through a parking lot, if someone catches me unaware, they could very well end up snatching my purse and my weapon.  That leaves me completely defenseless - they have my purse, they have my address, they have my gun, which is registered to ME.  Consider the implications of that one.  

I realize that it's a matter of personal choice, and all the above reasons are why my choice is to always carry on my person whenever possible.  Like most women, I also like to look stylish and used to think that carrying a gun would limit my wardrobe choices.  Not so.  There are so many different holsters on the market these days that I can't use that excuse anymore.  With the right gun, and the right holster, I'm good to go.  

For those of you who aren't familiar with the holster terminology, IWB is Inside the Waistband, OWB is On the Waistband.  Compression shorts holsters look like biker shorts, but have a built in holster for left or right kidney carry. There's also compression t shirts and tank tops for women with right and left pockets for your gun. The Flashbang holster clips to the middle of your bra.  Yes, your bra.  The Marilyn holster is brought to you by the makers of the Flashbang holster, and it also clips to the side band of your bra.  The thigh holster I've only ever seen made by DeSantis Leather, who produces some truly beautiful holsters.  I won't insult your intelligence by telling you what a shoulder holster is, we've all seen those!  
But, just in case you STILL think I've lost my mind, here's a compilation of different outfits I put together on Polyvore, with different possible carry options for each outfit, ranging from mostly casual to  some dressier fashions, for all seasons.  Ready?  Let's go!

IWB, FlashBang Holster, "Thunderwear" compression shorts holster

IWB, OWB, Shoulder Holster w/Jacket on, FlashBang Holster, "Thunderwear" compression shorts holster

IWB, OWB, Flashbang Holster, "Thunderwear" compression shorts holster, The Marilyn Holster

IWB, OWB, Flashbang Holster, "Thunderwear" compression shorts holster, The Marilyn Holster

"Thunderwear" compression shorts holster, Thigh holster

"Thunderwear" compression shorts holster, Thigh holster

IWB, OWB, Flashbang Holster, "Thunderwear" compression shorts holster

IWB, OWB, Flashbang Holster, "Thunderwear" compression shorts holster

IWB, OWB, Flashbang Holster, Shoulder Holster w/jacket on, "Thunderwear" compression shorts holster

"Thunderwear" compression shorts holster, Thigh holster

"Thunderwear" compression shorts holster, Thigh holster, Flashbang Holster, The Marilyn Holster

IWB, OWB, Shoulder Holster w/Jacket on, FlashBang Holster, "Thunderwear" compression shorts holster, The Marilyn Holster

"Thunderwear" compression holster, Thigh holster, The Marilyn Holster

"Thunderwear" compression shorts holster, Thigh holster

IWB, "Thunderwear" compression shorts holster or compression t shirt or tank holster, The Marilyn Holster  

That's a lot of potential outfits, and hopefully you're getting the idea.  There are at least 2 different ways for each outfit that you can keep your gun safely secured on your person, still look great, and still have room in your purse for all the rest of the stuff you lug around for you, your significant other, the kids, etc.  (Or maybe that's just me that ends up carrying everyone's stuff in her purse?  Say it ain't so!) 

You probably noticed all the accessories too...but just remember: the best accessory you can wear is the one that keeps you alive!  

Till next time, y'all!


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

I'm a Prepper, He's a Prepper, Wouldn't You Like to be a Prepper Too?

I have a confession to make.  Bear and I are preppers.  I still consider us fledgling preppers since we’ve only begun truly prepping in earnest within the last 3 months or so.  A lot of people ask me Why?  It’s a valid question, sometimes asked incredulously, other times asked out of genuine curiosity, but it’s a question I’m happy to answer, because I think preppers can sometimes be put into that “crazy person” category by people who don’t understand it, or who’ve never met someone who practices preparedness. 

Freud would say to go back to my childhood, since all issues stem from there, and in this case, he’s right.  My Grandmother grew up through the Great Depression, and that mentality of always having a fully stocked pantry, cabinets and freezer passed on to me as well.  An empty cabinet fills me with anxiety, while a fully stocked kitchen makes me feel more secure.   Our family went through some lean times when I was a child, but there was always food to eat.  Gram knew the best way to stretch a pack of chicken breasts, or a cut of meat, so it’d give our family at least 2 meals.  She passed that onto my Mama and me. 

The other factor was a bad case of the “What ifs”.  Granted, the family joke is that I’m such a worrier, I’d worry about the baggage retrieval system at Heathrow International Airport if there were time.  They say it like it’s a bad thing, too!  But I digress…Bear and I always had items in the house in case of a natural disaster or really bad storm – extra bottles and canteens to store water in, flashlights, lanterns, candles, some canned goods, first aid supplies, military surplus items - but it was only enough to get us through a few days at most.  That always bothered me, and the what ifs crept in.  What if we were without power or fresh water for a month or more?  What if there was a disruption in the food supply chain?  What if there was a Zombie Apocalypse?  What if one of us lost our jobs?  It would be our own personal economic collapse.  The rest of the world would go on business as usual around us, but our life as we knew it would cease to exist.  While we have a buffer in savings, our money isn’t going as far as it used to.  How long could we survive off our savings before it ran out?  In this economy especially, the thought preyed on my mind more and more often and I knew we had to do something to ensure we’d be able to survive should a worst case scenario come to pass. 

In the South, so many of the people are remarkably self reliant.  They can hunt, fish, fix and grow just about anything.  If they don't know how to do something, they know someone who can, and they'll happily share their knowledge with you if you'll just set on the porch a while with them and visit.  Here, hunting and fishing is something that's not just an adult male dominated hobby.  Parents take their children out hunting and the kids learn how to handle a gun safely at a very early age, bait their own hooks, and take satisfaction in the fact that they helped to put that venison stew on the table, or caught some of those fish for the fish fry.  It's a big contrast to living in New York City where people were mostly "shelf reliant", and if you needed something fixed, you called the building super and waited for them to take care of it.  For us, prepping is just an extension of life in the South.  We're learning how to become more self reliant and less shelf reliant. 

I look at prepping as taking my Grams Depression Era mentality an extra step further and mixing it in with the Southern "country folks can survive" attitude and making sure my family will be ok should we face an emergency or crisis.  Now, instead of worrying about the “what ifs” I know we’ll be OK, and that gives us the calm, level heads needed when facing an emergency. 

In upcoming posts related to prepping, I’ll be covering making room for food storage for those of us with smaller spaces, how we track our food storage calories to see how long the supply will last, the joys of oxygen absorbers (no seriously – they are amazing!), how we made our own gravity filter, and getting friendly with my beast of a pressure canner, nicknamed Megalodon.  Of course, they’ll be non prepper posts thrown in there as well, but admit it, you’re just a wee bit curious, aren’t you?    

Till next time, y’all!  

Why prepare for 72 hours if a storm can leave us without power for a week or more?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Life Is Good - Musings on a Cold Day

Yesterday was a beautiful, balmy day in the low 80’s and very comfortable.  My Mom and I were speaking and she was telling me it was 50 where she is in what I refer to as "the great white north".  Last year they were snowed in for Halloween, with no power for about a week!  The year before that they had to shovel the snow off the roofs because the weight of the snow was caving the roofs in.  That’s craziness!!!  I grew up in the north, but I sure as heck don’t miss the snow, ice, and cold.  I don’t even miss the full change of seasons, sure the foliage was pretty, but if you don’t blink,  you can still see some trees changing color here and there.  But here’s my Mom, telling me how chilly it’s gotten already, and there’s me, terribly smug because I’m going about in flip flops and a t shirt and…WHAM!  Mother Nature and Karma got together and said, “Oh yeah?” 

It didn’t get above 58 degrees here today.  I left the house in a light denim jacket and short sleeved shirt and was blessing the car heater the entire drive into work.  But, we’ve had a few cool mornings and it always warms up nicely by lunchtime so I wasn’t all that concerned.  Stepped outside at lunch, and it’s still freezing!  Ok, not technically freezing, but it is COLD out there!  In my world, anything below 75 is chilly, if it drops below 70 I’m grabbing a sweater and if it goes below that, I’m miserable and looking like the Michelin Man in all my layers and layers of clothing.  Bear will be the first to tell you that it probably took me a full year to “thaw out” after we moved down here.  My body just does not tolerate cold well at all.  As I type this, my fingers feel like little sticks of ice…and I’m in the warm house with a shirt, and a (Gamecocks) hoodie on. 

We’ve been in South Carolina for just over 3 years now, and I’ve gotten used to the weather (the humidity is another story).  Today it occurred to me that maybe I haven’t just gotten used to it, but I’ve begun taking it for granted.  If this is the biggest problem of my day, my chief complaint, then I am really, well and truly blessed.  There’s a double batch of chili simmering away on the stove, and a pan of cornbread baking in the oven.  Bear will be on his way home to me shortly, and we’ll be able to curl up together on the couch, watch a show and spend some time together before we both have to get up to go to our jobs tomorrow.  Life is good.  Sometimes that's all too easy to lose track of.  There are bills to pay, stress from work, budgeting and then re-working the budget when something unexpected comes up and the day to day chaos.  We’ve got a roof over our head, food for our bellies, and we’re still crazy in love with each other after 8 years together.  So today was cold, but it was a blessing in and of itself, because it helped me to see that I’m taking things for granted that I’m very lucky to have.  The cold is a temporary inconvenience, and maybe we won’t always have some of the many blessings we have today, but so long as Bear and I have each other and our families, life will still be good. 

Till next time, y’all! 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Girl & Her Gun, It's a Beautiful Thing

To say that I have had limited exposure to guns would be an understatement.  My mother’s second husband fancied himself a hunter, and while there were some guns in the house, the actual mechanics of them were a mystery to me.  Bear, on the other hand, grew up shooting and as a Soldier, has an extensive working knowledge of firearms.  We’d talked about getting a gun for home protection before, but the very thought was scary to me.  I thought about how dangerous that could be, and I was fairly certain that I wouldn’t be any good at handing a gun of any sort, ever.  The most experience I had handling guns was the water gun game at the local fairs. 

When we went to our first gun show, I was overwhelmed by the amount of guns I saw.  Yeah, I know – it’s a gun show, what did I expect?  I had no idea what to expect, but I never expected that there were so many guns of different sizes and calibers by so many different makers.  Long guns, revolvers, semi automatic handguns, pink guns, camo guns, guns, guns, guns.  That first show, I walked around looking at the various handguns and speaking with some of the vendors, while Bear carefully made sure I was following proper gun handling etiquette.  (as in, when examining a gun, do not POINT the muzzle anywhere but down in a direction where there are no people so that no one’s in front of the barrel)  We didn’t buy a gun that day, and I was relieved.   I still had very mixed feelings about having a firearm in the home.

Our next gun show was in South Carolina.  Our little home is out a little ways, on a small lake.  By “out a ways”, I mean we’re in the boonies, and on a small lake, I mean one that has alligators.   (Imagine my surprise upon discovering that!)  Suddenly my mixed feelings about having a gun in the house became a little less mixed.  So we meandered up and down the aisles of the gun show, Bear teaching me about all the different guns and then, he spotted it.  A Mossberg 12 gauge tactical shotgun, a beast of a thing, and his eyes got this gleam in them, this kid on Christmas morning look lit up his face.  The price was right, and we had cash in hand.  Before I knew it, we were driving home with a gun and ammo of our very own, and I was fairly certain I was going to have to shoot it.  I was sure that I’d do something completely stupid, like drop the gun or break it somehow.  The story my friend Peggy had told me about the time she went shooting with a male friend came to mind – she said the gun was bucking wildly and she kept getting “ploinked” in the head by the spent shells.  This did not sound like my idea of a good time...but I knew it was unavoidable and I was going to have to shoot that gun.   

Bear was careful to give me hearing protection and safety glasses, coached me on how to hold it properly, how to lean into the shot to mitigate some of the recoil, and how to click the safety off so the gun would actually fire.  Bear demonstrated by shooting if first and I was really proud of myself for not peeing my pants….It sounded like a cannon going off!  Oh my goodness, I was not prepared for how loud it would be!  Then it was my turn, and so I took the gun and followed Bear’s careful instruction.  That first shot felt like someone had walked up to me and shoved me in the shoulder, hard!   But I did it.  I shot that gun, I didn’t drop it, I didn’t break it, it didn’t break me, and I hit the dead tree we were using as a target.  I felt…victorious.  I’ve conquered other fears by facing them (rappelling down a tower comes to mind) but somehow I expected to still be scared witless of guns even after firing them.  Instead, I became more comfortable with it and from there my curiosity and interest in guns grew. 

By the time the next gun show rolled around, I was ready for a gun of my own and chose a Sig Sauer P250 compact and spent a good bit of time learning how to rack the slide properly and how to lock it to the back.  Bear taught me how to disassemble the gun, clean it, reassemble it, clear it in case of a misfire, and of course, the safety rules.  My first range day, I didn’t have great expectations and was really nervous that I’d embarrass myself.  I’m really lucky in that Bear isn’t just a great shot himself, but has had countless years instructing others in the proper use of firearms and marksmanship.  With his guidance, I did fairly well for a first timer.  The biggest surprise was how friendly everyone was on the shooting range.  They were all so encouraging and sweet – I’d get helpful pointers, offers to shoot their guns for comparison, compliments our on range safety etiquette and so much positive reinforcement.  I was hooked!  It became an almost weekly occurrence for us to head out to the range together, and it was amazing to watch my progress on those targets.  I couldn’t believe that the girl who had been so scared of guns was now a woman who wasn’t just comfortable with guns, but one who really loved the continuous learning and the challenge to improve with each range day. 

Enjoying the Glock 21's paper perforation power!

I’ve now shot more rounds than I can count, thrilled at the power and accuracy of Bear’s Glock21, enjoyed the elegance of a bolt action rifle (beautiful!), rocked the AR-15’s accuracy and intimidating look, wore an ear to ear grin with a suppressed .22 that made me feel like femme fatale assassin, played with a Czech sub machine gun, and some other cool toys that our range buddies bring out from time to time, and are kind enough to let me get my hands on.  It’s a very humbling experience to be acknowledged as a good shot among people who’ve been shooting far longer than I, and to be entrusted with the firearms they hold near and dear to them.  Most of all, it’s been an incredible bonding experience for Bear and myself – to learn from him, to see how proud he is of me when I’m shredding the x-ring, to have somewhere for us to go where we can blow off some steam and be among people who accept us as we are.  

There's me with my pink range glasses and that suppressed .22

It’s given me a whole new level of confidence and security that my life didn’t have before.  I’ll always need Bear in my life but if he isn’t home I know that I’m still very safe and very capable of protecting our family.  It’s a wonderful feeling, and one that I encourage other women to experience for themselves.  Find a good teacher, one who is well versed in not only the mechanics of shooting and marksmanship, but also safety, read up on the subject.  I highly recommend the book, “The Cornered Cat” by Kathy Jackson, and her website,  Do not let anyone, regardless of who they are, or how much experience and knowledge they have, pick your gun out for you.  Pick the one that feels right in your hand that feels like it’s the right fit for you and your needs.  Practice as often as you can, whenever you can.  Learn to disassemble your gun and the proper way to clean it.  Do dry fire exercises at home, drills to ensure you can get to your gun quickly, and have it drawn and ready in the minimum amount of time.  For practicing dry fire exercises, intruder drills, and cleaning your gun keep your ammunition in another room entirely and ensure that your firearm is cleared completely prior to practicing or drills as an added precaution.  It only sounds like safety overkill till you put a whole in the wall, or worse.  My kitchen bares testament to this - thankfully, it was only a bb pellet, but still!   

I’ll be posting more shooting blogs as it’s a huge part of my life, but in the meantime, please feel free to ask me any questions or give me ideas on what you’d like me to cover in future blogs. Till next time!  

Shooting my cousins AR-15 - so much fun, we had to get our own!