Monthly Archives: December 2012

One responsible gun owner speaks out

Under normal conditions I would not re-post a copyrighted piece. These shadow days following the Sandy Hook Elementary School slaughter are not normal. What follows was written by my good friend Nancy Heath Howell, outdoor writer for the Time Record NewsHer words stand on their own, needing no further commentary from me.

Open minds and experienced gun owners needed to address tragedy

By Nancy Howell

Chess Club at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, CT...

Chess Club at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, CT, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Plans for a Christmas column have been shelved.
The tragedy of Sandy Hook elementary school pre-empts my musings on gift ideas for that special outdoorsman or woman on your list.
Instead, I will tread into the delicate subject on everyone’s mind — guns.
Twenty-six children and adults walked into a Connecticut school last Friday, just another ordinary December day. They did not walk out.
A mentally-unstable gunman, armed with his mother’s legally-obtained weapons, forced his way into the building. He systematically and unapologetically killed 20 first-graders and six adults in a matter of a few minutes.
How? With handguns, magazine clips and a semi-automatic rifle able to shoot off 30 rounds of ammunition in rapid time.
I am a responsible gun owner. I hunt. I come from a long line of hunters. I married into a similar family, with a great legacy of hunting and fishing. It’s my privilege and honor to pass that knowledge and love onto my two sons.
I do not own a handgun or any guns with high ammunition capacity. The guns in my home are not loaded, and are secured and stored away from ammunition. They are in my possession for hunting purposes, period.
For me, a shotgun holding three shells is perfect for hunting pheasant and quail. I have no need for rifles with capacity for 30 rounds of ammo. It is purely a personal choice.
The subject of guns and gun control stirs everyday folks up into frenzy. It is a hot button topic whose volatility rivals only abortion rights and gay marriage.
Whenever something as heinous and as evil as Sandy Hook occurs, rumors of the government banning guns, or taking guns from responsible gun owners always run rampant.
Our Constitution is comprised of 27 amendments, with the second being “the right to bear arms.”
Responsible, law-abiding citizens should have that privilege — others should not.
The circumstances of how the Sandy Hook gunman availed himself of his mother’s weapons will continue to be debated. The bottom line: 26 families are picking up the pieces of their shattered lives.
There’s a first-grade classroom with only one survivor, a child who played “dead” among her 20 slain classmates and teacher.
I cannot fathom the grief gripping so many. I kiss the top of my boys’ heads and watch them gather backpacks and jackets as they exit my vehicle. I wave as they head into their elementary school each morning.
Before Sandy Hook, I took for granted they would be coming out of that building each afternoon.
The problem is complex and multilayered, with no easy, quick-fix answers. I certainly don’t have one.
Issues with mental health screening and law enforcement’s hands being tied unless crimes are committed could be contributing factors.
And God? He did not allow this to happen because prayer has been removed from the public school system.
Are guns too easy to obtain? Should there be a limit to assault rifles, semi-automatic weapons and the amount of ammunition available for purchase?
Honestly, I do not know.
What I do know is we must do everything in our power to ensure that Sandy Hook is the last school shooting in our history.
Do we arm our teachers? Do we have armed guards and metal detectors in every school in America?
Hunters and outdoor enthusiasts are among the most responsible, law-abiding, conscientious segments of our population. We play by the rules. We relish our time outside, pursuing an age-old ritual of hunting game for our families. It provides relaxation and a time to bond with family and friends. We connect with God’s creation on a pure, instinctual level.
Surely this portion of folks can assist law enforcement, local and state governments and school administrators. Together we need to brainstorm ways of preventing another Sandy Hook.
Let’s come to the discussion table with open minds, leaving political party lines, gun association memberships and preconceived opinions at the door.
This is not what our founding fathers envisioned when drafting the Second Amendment. The time to draw the line in the sand is now.
Every child has the right to be safe at school. Parents long to feel secure once again about leaving them there.
We owe it to our children.
We owe it to our country.

© 2012 Times Record News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Posted by on December 20, 2012 in Back to Basics, Some of our friends


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Epicurious George

Credit for this little ditty goes to GOOGLE’s TV spot for its Nexus 7 tablet. There is a tune, living in my head; but since I can’t write music, you’ll just have to wing it if you want to sing it. Here, then, are the lyrics to

Epicurious George

George was a good little monkey.
That’s why we used him in the stew.
George was a tender little monkey.
We knew he would taste better than you.
We’ve had it up to here with missionaries.
Hardcore dogma makes you a tough and stringy lot.
But George was a tasty little monkey,
And won the place of honor in our pot.

George was a most delicious morsel.
Glad we were to have him for our feast.
So savory, so succulent, so saucy!
While you Christian types taste way to much of yeast.
In times past we might have served you gladly.
You see, back then our tastes weren’t so refined.
But George, such a delectable little monkey,
A first rate primate on which we dined.


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Posted by on December 17, 2012 in The Elderly American Songbook


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Geminids variations

Geminids? 2 fukN layZ


cloud cover
warm covers
lack of ambition
another cosmic shower missed


Geminids shower mid December comes;
Dry clouds shroud my patch of planet.
My bed, beneath warm covers, remain I;
Old man sleep trumping ambition.


mid December show
clouds curtain from my viewing
covers over head


Thirty-two Hundred Phaethon comes, son of the sun, from Gemini’s twin bosoms spawn star stuff! Stuff of which ALL is born. Man, woman, butterfly, sky; the ever lovin’ music of the manic cosmic spheres, man; did you never like listen, I mean, really listen to Sagan, man! Growing strong, lasting longer; a hundred…one twenty…one thirty…one forty…one fifty…one sixty an hour shower down in the wee hours across the depths of sky…. Hidden behind the dry shroud curtain of rainless cloud that blankets this patch of planet we call home. Three a.m. calls anyway, as usual; and you’re up to pee, anyway, as usual, knowing it’s out there; silent, slow streaming at two dozen miles per second some two dozen miles high; and all you can do is stand with junk in your hand, slow streaming, pissing the night away because it’s, well, cold out there and the damned clouds block the view, and if you’re quick enough shaking off the dew, the warm spot you left so carefully laid between the covers still will be there to welcome you back to the comforters’ fold. What the hey, right? They’ll be back next December, right? Unless, of course, the ancient Mayans got it right. Good night.

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Posted by on December 14, 2012 in The Elderly American Songbook


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Is it Christmas without Bourbon Balls?

Soak your balls with shots of whiskey! Fa-la-la-la-laaaaa, la-laa-la-laaa!
‘Tis a treat to make us frisky! Fa-la-la-la-laaaaa, la-laa-la-laaa!
Balls of chocolate laced with bourbon, Fa-la-la-la–la-la-la–la-la-la!
Packed with nuts and a wee more bourbon! Fa-la-la-laaaa–la-la-la-la!


Christmas Bourbon Balls

Where I first heard of bourbon balls or how these chunky chocolate nuggets became a part of my personal Christmas traditions are mysteries lost in the fog of Yuletides past. All I can honestly offer today is that it is not Christmas around the cave until the bourbon balls roll out.

Two branches stem from the bourbon ball tree. One is kin to a cookie while the other is decidedly candy, both sharing deep Southern roots.  The candy traces back to 1919 when Ruth Hanly and Rebecca Gooch began a candy-making business in Frankfort, Ky. Long about 1938 Hanly combined their highly popular chocolate with Kentucky bourbon whiskey to create a confection the recipe for which remains a guarded family secret of the Rebecca Ruth Candy Co. to this day. These are not MY bourbon balls.

My bourbon balls are more cookie than candy, and recipes for these easy to make adult treats abound throughout the South. Not even GOOGLE, however, could provide a hint to their origin or history.

Traditional bourbon balls begin with vanilla wafers. Non-traditionalists may opt for shortbread cookies, ginger snaps, graham crackers, Oreos (do you really want to scrape off all that cream center?), etc. Heck, I’ve even pondered experimenting with Ritz crackers, but truth be told, I’ve not yet gotten far enough into my cups to try that variation.

Start with a double handful of cookies. If you tend toward lazy, dump ’em in a food processor or blender to reduce the cookies to fine crumbs. I prefer to double-bag ’em in plastic baggies and beat the crap out of ’em with my trusty rustic wooden rolling pin. This hands-on method will not produce the crumb uniformity of machine processing, but I feel SO much calmer when I’m done. Also, I prefer the more rustic, non-uniform crumb size.

Begin the batch with at least a healthy cup of crushed cookies in a large mixing bowl. Some folks prefer to bump it up to two cups of crumbs for a tamer product. You will have to experiment to find your particular comfort zone.

To the crumbs add two tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and a generous cup of finely chopped nuts. Mix well.

Being a Southern concoction, pecans are, of course, the traditional nut of choice here. Free-thinking lefties, on the other hand, have been known to use hickory nuts, walnuts, hazel nuts, chestnuts, what have you. I’ve even heard rumors of some die-hard tree huggers using pine nuts, but that does get costly in a hurry. Whatever the nut you decide to go with, they will benefit from toasting before chopping, but that’s fodder for another blog.

The heart and soul of the bourbon ball is the whiskey. Bourbon whiskey. GOOD bourbon whiskey which comes from Kentucky. If you would not let it pass your lips straight, don’t put it in your balls! As you can see, my personal choice is Buffalo Trace (No, I do not get kickbacks from the distillery, but I remain open to offers!). Must one use bourbon whiskey? Well, yes, if one wants to make bourbon balls. However, you can use rum instead if you have a hankering to put some rum-pa-pum-pum in your Christmas celebrating. Same rule of quality applies.

So fetch down a small glass bowl in which to blend 1/4 cup of fine bourbon (yes, or rum!) with about a tablespoon and a half of light corn syrup. What happens if all you have is dark corn syrup? I suppose your balls will lean to the dark side, I do not know. Nor have I played with honey or molasses, although I am considering it. Use your own judgement. Have fun!

Thoroughly combine the bourbon/corn syrup mixture into the dry ingredients in the larger bowl. Incorporate it completely, then cover the dish with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to stiffen a bit. Half an hour should do it, but it will not hurt to let it sit longer.

When you are ready to roll your balls, sift about a cup of powdered sugar into a pie pan. Take about a heaping teaspoon or two of the mixture, form it into a ball and roll it in the sugar. Coating the balls in sugar retards alcohol evaporation, so do not omit this step! Seal the finished balls in an air-tight container, return them to the fridge and forget about ’em for at least a couple of days. Most purists will age them at least a week, but whose got that kind of will power, right? Take your balls out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature before serving. You also may want to roll them one more time in powdered sugar before presentation.


Posted by on December 13, 2012 in The Elderly American Songbook


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A Word A Week Photograph Challenge – Blue

A Word A Week Photograph Challenge – Blue.

Some of the most amazingly stunning photos I’ve seen anywhere!

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Posted by on December 12, 2012 in Some of our friends


What a friend we have in cheeses

CheesesCome on, now, fess up. Surely, I’m not the only hardshell Baptist child to ever hear “What a friend we have in cheeses” in that venerable Sacred Harp hymn.

Cheese is older than recorded history, probably originating as if by magic back when Middle Eastern nomads began toting milk in goatskin bags. And what fare is more basic, more down to Earth for road trip picnicking than a loaf of bread, a hunk of cheese and a bottle of good wine?

So here’s to cheese in all its marvelous forms and flavors! Our salute from The Elderly American Songbook.

What A Friend We Have In Cheeses

What a friend we have in cheeses; cheddar, brie and Camembert.
What a privilege to marry country ham with smoked Gruyere.
Oh, what peas so often forfeit, Oh, what tasteless dishes bear
All because we do not marry yummy cheese with all our fare!

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged, so long as we have cheese to share.
Can we find a friend so faithful to grace our table oh so fair?
Cheeses fit for every palette, to every meal a special flare.

Such a friend to macaroni! Comfort food beyond compare!
And who can imagine poor bologna, without an American slice to share?
But be it wedge or slice or circle, be it spread or in a can,
There’s no food you may mention that’s been a better friend to man!


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Posted by on December 12, 2012 in The Elderly American Songbook


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Morning broke colder than a witch’s tit

First snow of the season came falling yesterday, and this morning, again, broke colder than a witch’s tit. Which got me pondering, exactly where did we get this chilling yet less than logical metaphor?

The internet jury remains hung for the most part. The most popular explanation–based on the number of times others stole it–was posted by Bruce Kahl on The Phrase Finder bulletin board. Bruce speculates colder than a witch’s tit is nothing more than simple metaphor. IF (big if) one must seek for deeper meaning, perhaps the phrase stems from the common yet erroneous presumption that a witch is cruel, heartless, in league with the devil and, therefore, cold.


Novelist and historian Francis Van Wyck Mason

Oxford English Dictionary sites the first usage in Van Wyck Mason’s novel Spider House published in 1932. 

Born Francis Van Wyck Mason in Boston in 1901, Mason spent a portion of his childhood in Paris and Berlin with his U.S. Consul General grandfather. He returned to Europe at 16 to get into the first World War, finagling his way into the French army and winning the Legion of Honor as an artillery officer. By the war’s end he was a lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Mason ended a distinguished military career with the rank of Colonel having served on Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s staff as Chief Historian.

Military affairs aside, Mason is better known as a novelist, the author of some 78 works of fiction including several whodunits. His best known series features American Army Intelligence detective Captain North, every bit as dashing and daring as Ian Fleming’s 007 operative who would make his literary debut some 20 years later.

Seems the dashing and distinguished war hero turned writer was a fair hand at coining a phrase.

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Posted by on December 11, 2012 in Back to Basics


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