Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Confessions of a Gaming Mom

Hello, my name is Vicki, and I`m a video game mom.

*Support group murmurs ‘Hello’*

I play video games, daily if possible. When I buy a game, nine times out of ten, I say it`s for my daughter but it`s for both of us. Add this to my comic book habit and you can plainly see where my mind is most days (Aside from burly Greek gods and winsome goatherders that share a bed with burly Greek gods.)

Sometimes, I play them when my daughter is at school just so I can get an extra hour in slaying dragons, or being slain by dragons, which is most generally what occurs. I know, it`s really an odd past-time for a mother who is up in the ‘Slap a Classic License Plate On Her Fanny’ age range. I blame my video game habit on my mother, who was a gaming mom as well.

Before my daughter was born I can recall spending hours, sitting with my mom playing games on an old Nintendo. She played about as well as I do, but that didn`t really matter. We laughed and laughed as we struggled to get through a level. I think it was the combination of enjoying game play as much as it was the time spent just sitting beside each other and chatting as we died, repeatedly and in very gory and glamorous ways!

Now, I have my daughter to play with, since my mother passed over several years ago. And, I can see the same bonds forming as we spend time with controller in hand. There are nights that she and I end up in tears as I bumble around, battle axe in hand, trying to take down giants and mammoths only to end up as paste. As we play, we`ll chat, much like my mother and I used to, about everything and nothing.

*Stops talking and ponders for a moment*

You know, I came to this group in hopes of maybe finding a way to curb my video game habit. I mean, is it wrong to want to get ‘Assassins Creed - Revelations’ for a Christmas present as much as my teenager does? I thought that it might have been, but after coming here and voicing my concerns, I see that it isn`t wrong, or odd, or even weird. There are good things to be said about gaming and I think I just stumbled upon one. The time spent with your child.

Sure, some folks allow the game system to replace interaction time with their kids, and that`s not good. But if you can share something, especially with a teen that is going through the turbulence of high school, and if you can spend an hour or two just sharing day to day stuff…..then it isn`t a problem at all, is it?

So, I guess I don`t need this support group. All I need is another box of rechargeable batteries, my Nord warrior and a few hours spent giggling with my daughter.

And that copy of ‘Assassins Creed - Revelations’, of course.


A big yodeling welcome to Jim! Thanks for coming up the hill, hope you enjoy your visit!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Word of Mouth for Kids - Hobo Finds A Home

Ho-Ho-Ho! The holidays are upon us and it`s time for doing all that shopping that I`ve – I mean we`ve put off. I thought it would be fun to read and recommend some children`s books over the next few weeks, since there is no better gift for a child than a book and a love of literature. What I`ll do is review books in three different age ranges – four to eight, eight to twelve and twelve and over. That should cover every child, grandchild, nephew or niece anyone may have on their gift-list.

Our first Word of Mouth for Kids will be for the four to eight year old ranges, although even younger children will enjoy ‘Hobo Finds A Home’ written by Hobo, as told to Kevin Coolidge, read to them. Kevin and his lovely bride, Kasey, own our local independent bookstore ‘From My Shelf Books ‘in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania. Hobo is a fixture in their bookstore and the official greeter, when he`s not napping.

I must say over the past year or two I`ve had the privilege of meeting with, chatting to and having various authors sign my copy of their books. But never have I had the honor of being able to give the writer a belly rub while having my elbow, or chin, head-bonked!

The story begins with Hobo, a lively kitten, who lives on Farmer Brown`s farm. Hobo isn`t like the other farm cats though, he doesn`t like sleeping in scratchy hay or getting stepped on by clumsy cows. One day the feisty feline decides he`s had enough and he leaves Farmer Brown`s farm. Off he goes into the world, and at first, he has grand adventures. He pretends he is a lion, he plays with sunbeams and butterflies and he sleeps under the stars. Hobo feels as if he were the king of the world!

But then he begins to feel lonely and hungry. He starts to miss Farmer Brown, the itchy hay and even those clumsy cows. He tries to make friends in the woods, but the opossum family he meets only wants to lie around and the black-and-white spice kitty makes him run away from its terrible stink.

One day, Hobo is walking down the road and begins to follow a man. The man notices that Hobo is hungry and when they get to the man’s house, he feeds him some tuna. But Gonzo, a big fat cat chases Hobo from his tuna dinner. The man takes Hobo inside, so he doesn`t have to fight with fat cats, opossums or spice kitty’s. Hobo moves in, gets the house suited to his liking, finds a lovely spot in front of the fire, gets his own bed and soft pillow, lots of food and most of all, Hobo finds a new friend and a home.

Hobo tells a wonderful tale. His story is warm and funny (I loved the term ‘spice kitty’ for a skunk!) and relays a very important message about friendship and family that even a non-reader can grasp with ease. The artwork is bright and friendly and colorful. It`s a perfectly paced story for a young child, not too long and not too short. If you are looking for a book to gift that special young child in your life with this holiday season, I highly recommend ‘Hobo Finds A Home’.

Oh, and as an extra incentive to purchase Hobo`s story (not that you`ll need one) a portion of the profits from the sale of the book are being donated to the Second Chance Animal Sanctuaries in North Central Pennsylvania. So not only will you be giving a beloved child a delightful book, you`ll also be helping unwanted pets to find new friends and homes.

Just like Hobo did.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Getting the Turkey to the Table

Hello there gang, drop on down and let`s shoot the breeze!

Today Mister and I got our Thanksgiving turkeys done. It`s been a few years since we dressed a meat turkey but it`s kind of like riding a bike as they say. Since it`s that time of year and folks seem to be interested in home butchering more and more, I thought I would share with y`all how we did our bird for the big day this Thursday. We started out with two, one white and one bronze broad-breasted tom.

Mister has decided to keep two bronze hens and one tom for breeding. We`ll see how that goes since the only way these broad-breasted turkeys successfully reproduce is with human help. Due to humans breeding for huge breasts, the toms are now too large to allow them to copulate with the hens well. Mister and I are still going around about helping the turkeys. I won`t go into vivid detail, but I can think of better ways to spend my time then pleasuring a tom turkey, if you get my drift.

Anydoodles, the sex lives of our turkeys aside; this is a squiky post, so anyone who has a sensitive tummy about the butchering process may not wish to read any further. It`s also a pretty image heavy post but hopefully it will be informative.

Okay, onward we`ll go with how we yodeling goatherders butcher and dress a meat turkey. Let me apologize for the photo quality now. Some of the images are a tad blurry. I did ask Santa for a new camera this year, so we`ll see if I’ve been good enough!

First off, these are the butchering tools we used –

-A good sharpening stone for the knives, a lung scraper and a propane torch. Make sure your knives are as sharp as you can get them. The lung scraper is a handy gizmo that we bought for chickens but rarely use for turkeys, who have larger chest cavities, but they`re a nice little thing to have on hand. The torch is for singeing the hairs after plucking.

Also, we have this book (One of many on raising and butchering livestock) on our homesteading bookshelf.

It`s a very comprehensive book and one I recommend to anyone thinking of raising turkeys. The author`s name is Leonard S. Mercia, in case you can`t read his name well. As you can see, ours is pretty dog-eared from lots of use over the years.

The night before you butcher any bird, it`s recommended that you remove their feed. This will help make sure the bird’s crop is empty. I`ll not show the beheading process, that`s even a tad too ugly for me. We don`t use a chopping block for meat turkeys like we do for chickens. We`ve found over the years that too much damage is done when we use a block and axe. Plus, the meat turkeys are so large I can`t handle them while Mister chops.

How we begin things is by gathering the bird, arms around their wings please because they will flog you into a coma if a wing gets loose, and then hang them by their feet upside-down on our swing-set. Now it`s time for that very sharp knife. Mister quickly and cleanly cuts their heads off. Then we allow them to hang for a bit to bleed out and stop flapping. This system works well for us. The birds don`t do any damage to themselves in terms of bruising of the meat or possible broken wings from flopping around on the ground.

While the turkey is hanging we`re busy with getting things situated for scalding. This is our set-up -

-A twenty-five gallon galvanized trash can atop a propane turkey fryer base. The water has to be at 140 degrees. You don`t want a boil. We place a thermometer in the water and when it`s at temperature we then remove the turkey from its foot-holds and dunk.

You really want to work the bird up and down well in the scald water for thirty seconds. Make sure you get the legs and tail well immersed. If you go longer than thirty seconds you`ll begin to cook the skin. After the scald we begin plucking and picking! Ye-Haw!

The best suggestion I can give folks is to take your time with plucking. Don`t grab too big of a handful of feathers or you might rip the skin, which is what I did here on the bronze bird I was working on. Oops!

I have the most trouble with wing feathers which can be quite stubborn. Those I have to sometimes use pliers to remove one by one. Most generally we can get a bird pretty cleanly plucked in fifteen minutes.

Okay, so we`ll move along and now the turkey is feather-free.

We then singe the bird lightly, to remove hair-like feathers.

Don`t apply the torch to the carcass or the skin will get scorched. Once the singeing is complete we move onto cleaning the bird out. Mister removes the feet at the knee joint while they`re still hanging, so he doesn`t have to fight with the ropes. If you have really large bird, you may wish to get some help getting the turkey down from the ropes. Then he cuts out the oil gland found on the tail of the bird and tosses it into the scrap pile. Mister slits the skin on the back of the neck then cuts the neck off and places it aside for giblets.

Then he reaches into the cavity and removes the crop, which hopefully is empty. He carefully cuts below the crop to remove it and into the scrap pile it goes.

Then we flip the bird around and start at the rear. This is the vent (Anus) of the turkey.

Mister carefully cuts around the vent to loosen it, ties it closed to ensure no fecal matter escapes and then makes an incision about two inches above the vent.

With one hand he reaches inside and pushes the organs up and out of the cut above the vent.

Be careful while cutting not to slice the intestines. Then he lifts the viscera up and out of the slice and disposes of what he does not want to keep. I`m no fan of giblets but my husband is, so he always keeps the heart, liver, neck and gizzard. The gizzard is kind of tricky to cut, take care not to cut into the inner sac or lining of the gizzard.

This is the gizzard and how Mister begins his slice.

The gizzard contains grit that the bird picks up to grind up their food.

Turkeys do not have teeth, although, rumor has it that hens do but they are very rare. Sorry, I couldn`t resist. *Giggles like a loon*

After the bird is dressed out we then wash it thoroughly with cold water from a hose. Sometimes we truss them and sometimes we don`t. After we wash the carcass as well as we can, we then double bag it and place it in the fridge. I bought clear, unscented thirteen gallon trash bags but you can order specially made freezer bags online that work really well, but are pretty costly.

Also, the giblets are washed and bagged for someone (Not me) to eat.

Place the bird into the refrigerator as quickly as possible to get that body temperature as low as you can as fast as you can. Then you can freeze it, if you wish. We`re not freezing ours for Thanksgiving, but are simply refrigerating it until Thursday since we prefer them unfrozen if possible.

And there you have it! The Yodeling Goatherder way to have a farm-raised, free-range turkey for your Thanksgiving platter! The two toms we butchered today weighed in at thirty-five pounds for the white and forty for the bronze! I`m roasting the bronze for Thanksgiving and am seriously wondering if it will fit into the roasting bags I bought.

I foresee many hot turkey sandwiches and pots of turkey soup on the menu for a week or so after Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bear Necessities

Howdy gang! Boy, it`s been awhile. Come on in and have a fresh cuppa!

Sorry I`ve been so sparse over the past week. Life has just been one big pain-in-the-rear, tossing one thing after another at me, but, onward we must climb, correct?!

I`ve always been a person that tries to not let life`s trials pull me down too low, so aside from a few illnesses (Miss over the weekend, Mother-In-Law having knee replacement surgery on Tuesday and Mister struggling with a staph infection in his leg) we do have some uplifting things to relay! Sometimes you have to shove the grey clouds aside to find the sunshine, but it`s always there!

First off is this!

Mister got this bruin on Tuesday morning before he left to go with his sister and mother to Williamsport for her surgery. (Ma is doing fine and will be moving to a nursing home nearby for a few weeks of rehab tomorrow!)

Now this girl isn`t the biggest bear in the woods I`m sure, but she sure was a trophy for hubby, since she was his first bear AND he took her with a bow. She weighed in around 150 live weight, which isn`t too shabby. We had a WCO come out and do what they do with bears when the stations are set up during rifle season. He pulled a tooth and measured her. We had a nice chat with the fellow when he was here. After letting her hang for a day yesterday we had the fun job of skinning her out for a rug.

Mister has lots of experience from his trapping days with raccoons and such, but he`s never done a bear for a rug. I`ll make sure to show you all how the rug looks when it comes back from the taxidermist. As for the skinless bear, you don`t want to see it. It looks like some sort of zombie dog from a horror movie! We did keep some of the tenderloins, so that will be a new taste experience!

What else is new? The writing for NaNoWriMo is coming along really well and I`m hoping to have reached my goal within the next few days. Then hopefully I can devote a bit more time to my poor dusty blog. Oh! This weekend we`re going to be butchering our meat turkeys for Thanksgiving, so I plan to take my camera along and show y`all how we dress out our holiday bird! I can already taste it….*Drifts off into carbohydrate overload fantasy*

So, that`s the news from the hillside farm, what`s new on your spread?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Where The Wild Eyelashes Roam

Howdy gang, drop on down and I`ll grab the pot. The coffee pot I mean, not the weed pot. Who the heck needs me being any dopier than I usually am?!

The other day I was pondering. I sometimes ponder in odd places, like the grocery store or the drug store or while driving. This time I was pondering while I was drying off after a nice hot bath one evening. It came to me as I was applying some moisturizer. I stood at the sink, in my Iron Man lounge pants and a red matching tank top, minus my glasses, so I was on tip-toe with my nose about an inch from the looking glass. I stopped applying face cream and gaped at my eyelashes. Now I know I`ve mentioned before how they seem to have disappeared. What perplexed me was where they could have gone. I don`t ever find any on my pillow case, although with all the dog and cat hair it might be hard to differentiate, but I don`t seem to have eyelashes stuck to my lips when I wake up.

Where could they be going, I`ve been wondering. Eyelashes just don`t one day decide to pack up and leave town, do they? Where would they go if they did? Would they hitchhike to someone else`s eyelids? That hardly seems feasible. Maybe they go to some exotic locale to lie in the sun and sip on drinks with paper umbrellas while they discuss the merits of different mascara manufacturers, or bemoan those dreaded eyelash curlers. That also, upon further reflection, didn`t seem to be a viable answer.

Then, as I was slowly rubbing moisturizer on my neck I discovered where my eyelashes have moved to. They didn`t go to the Florida Keys or Mexico or even Arizona where it’s hot but dry, nope! They had simply shifted to a new neighborhood under my chin. I have to assume that this new stomping ground is to their liking, since they seem to be growing like weeds down there, like they used to when they still resided on my upper eyelids. Sure, they did leave a forwarding address of short lashes but it would have been nice to have been notified of this odd move beforehand.

You know, just a small note saying something like-

Dear Vicki,

We are tired of hanging out over your eyes and wish to live under your chin. It`s less irritating down there, and shady as well! Please don`t buy any more mascara, unless you wish to darken us as we chill out under your chin. Oh, we have heard rumors that your leg hair is thinking of moving into our new neighborhood. We hate to be judgmental, but we feel your upper lip would be a much better place for those leg hairs that used to need shaving weekly but now only require a razor every two months. Thank you for your cooperation and years of lengthening and thickening. Tell the new hair on your upper lip we said hello! Enjoy your post-menopausal years!


Your Eyelashes

PS-Do keep in mind that we are not fond of razors or tweezers or wax. We do, though, think brightly colored beads braided into us would be most festive come the holiday season! Tatty bye!

Darn pity I thought as I reached for Mister`s razor in the medicine cabinet. They had written such a nice letter too.

Also, I`d like to give a big yodel of welcome to Kate Spencer! Welcome aboard, Kate!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Great Milk-Bone Dilemma

It had to happen eventually.

Yesterday morning, around four-fifteen A.M. (Way before I had enough java juice into me to make my brain function properly), we experienced ‘The Great Milk-Bone Dilemma’. Mister had just left for work and I had stumbled out into the living room muttering ‘Brains’, my left slipper missing and in the mouth of a certain Black Lab. All three dogs were doing the Pee-Pee dance at the door. I removed my slipper from the mouth of the black lab, so it didn`t end up lost in the weeds, shoved the soggy footgear onto my right foot, (It was early, don`t judge me) rearranged slipper to correct foot then pushed the door open. Out they went like they were holiday shoppers and it was Black Friday at Toys `R Us. Also one yellow cat snuck out, I assume hidden under the belly of one of the Labs, since he can`t hide successfully under the beagle. Too low of an undercarriage you see.

I made my way to the pot, poured, creamed and sugared and waited. As I waited I sipped and tried to understand why I had been dreaming about being on the Enterprise. It was a pretty good dream, what there was of it. Number One was showing me to the holo-deck for some reason. Maybe I was planning on reliving the battle of Troy? Who knows? Anydoodles, I stopped wondering why I dream the things I do and went to the door to let the three dogs back in. The foursome, me and the trio of eager canines, tripped to the cupboard and opened the door. Well, I tripped and opened the door. Stifling a yawn I reached into the box of Milk-Bones and found only one snack. Oh dear. I gave the three dogs a worried look as I pulled the lone doggie biscuit out. I had forgotten to buy dog snacks! That is nearly as bad as forgetting to buy cat nubbies!

“Uhm, guys, we have a problem,” I said, turning around to see three dogs waiting with expectant looks in their brown eyes. “We only have one bone and three dogs.”

I don`t think they saw the difficulty because math isn`t their strong suit.

“I can break it in half but that still leaves one dog out,” I told them. Poe shuffled a sneaky look down at Tinker. “Why shouldn`t Tinker get half?” I asked the aged yellow Lab. “Is it because he`s shorter than you two girls or because he`s a guy?”

She rolled her eyes as if the answer should be obvious.

“Okay, well we`re not discriminating against gender. So, which one of you three has misbehaved the worst in the past day?” I asked. Six eyes moved nervously around the room. They weren`t going to cop to anything it seemed. I frowned. They wagged their tails. This was too complicated a mental task with only four swigs of coffee in my bloodstream!

What to do, what to do I ruminated. As I stood there deliberating, the three dogs really turned on the charm. You all know that look. I was torn. Then I snapped the bone in half and their eyebrow whiskers rose in anticipation and their ears perked up. Except for Tinker. His ears are too long and droopy to perk up, although they do hang nicely in his gravy dog food every night.

“Tell you what I`m going to do,” I said and reached into the cupboard with my left hand, “Two of you get a biscuit and one of you will get a cookie!”

They looked unimpressed. “A human cookie,” I added with a smile. “Now, who wants the Milk-bone and who wants the human cookie?” I inquired, pleased as punch to have figured out a solution to the great dilemma. Poe shot Tinker another bad look. Tinker licked his chops. Trinity dropped the sneaker she had been holding.

Hmmm, guess this one was going to be tougher than I thought I sighed. I took the only available option my sleepy brain could come up with at four-fifteen in the morning. Each dog got a sugar cookie, the broken biscuit went back into the box and I made sure I stopped and bought another box of Milk-Bone`s before I went to my luncheon date with two of my fellow lady scribes.

Talk about a crisis neatly averted!