Author Archives: Silk Cords

Still Drifting…

But the ship is coming under control ever so slowly. 🙂

So what to say here? I try to avoid personal drama here. It’s toxic, and it alienates good readers, and bad readers take pleasure in it.

LONG story short; my baggage goes WAY back. BAD childhood, equally bad first marriage, etc… For ages, I’ve tried the Western, new age BS way to deal with my “shadow”: all the pain, self-doubt and anger over it. That being to make peace with it, or bury it. Let me tell yah; that don’t work.

Shaka Zulu was credited as saying never leave an enemy alive lest they rise again and strike you down (paraphrased). That is exactly what happens with psychological baggage when you try that. You start to feel good, and it comes back attacking from a different angle. Even Seinfeld recognized that:

The only answer is to kill the bitch. How? Detailed instructions would be another, LONG post, and I can’t say as I’ve got all the answers YET. I do know I’ve made huge progress with prayer, meditation, grounding, energy work, and working hard to forgive myself and others. I can also honestly say that it takes some real introspection and self-awareness to hunt your own shadow as well.

Is it truly killable? Yes, but achieving that (IMO) would put somebody at the level of a Buddha or just short of that. Can *I* do it? Saying yes would be arrogant. Saying no would allow doubt and fear to creep into the fight, strengthening the shadow.

I’m already doing better too. I’ve come too far to let myself fall back also.

I will leave all of you with one VERY helpful tool while I continue to work, and compile a complete battle plan.

Ho’oponopono is Hawaiian prayer or meditation technique. It’s name roughly translates as ‘to release’. That’s exactly what it’s goal is also; to help you forgive yourself and others, and release the associated negative emotions and energy connected to people and events. The video above is one of several videos on YouTube covering Ho’oponopono. The process is as powerful as it is deceptively simple; an analogy would be the Israelites being told to gaze at Moses’s staff to be healed. Yes, it’s THAT good, especially with regular use.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by life or just want to grow, give it a try.

Beyond that; I’ll leave you with this post’s theme song; dedicated to getting better and supportive friends:

Feeling Adrift…

Yep, a personal post. I haven’t been posting because I’ve been in sort of a funk the last week or so. I’ve had posts ready to write out, but haven’t been able to “get pen to paper” as it were.

Honestly, it’s felt vaguely like the esoteric definition of a ‘dark night of the soul’, but without most of the negative emotion that accompanies one. None the less, there is the feeling of being without direction and like nothing I want to try (such as writing) is going to move in the right direction.

The simple definition.

Aside from the same worries that everyone else is dealing with nowadays, I suspect there’s something I need to make peace with and release. That, I will have to meditate on.

In the mean time, the prescribed way to deal with a spiritual dark night is to keep pushing through it, so that’s what I’m here starting to do. 🙂

More posts to come… such as my scratch made chili verde.

Superbowl Snacks: Smoked Chicken Wings

It’s been a couple of days, but I’m back with a tasty food treat. Last Sunday was Superbowl Sunday. No big deal for me, other than I like to see the commercials. They’re typically more creative than the average advertisement. As with last year, I made some snack type food to nibble on while we were parked in front of the TV.

I kept it a little more basic this time since it ended up being just the two of us. However, the weather allowed for pulling the smoker out of the garage and making some slow smoked chicken wings! 🙂

image from middleclasskitchen.blogspot.com AND Ed Edd & Eddie ala Cartoon Network

Step One: Brining

I started by wet brining the wings, and apparently forgot to get a picture of doing so. For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, wet brining is soaking a piece of meat in salt water. This adds moisture to the meat and the salt breaks down (tenderizes) the meat as well. This results in a moister, more tender piece of meat. I find it’s particularly helpful with previously frozen meat. As an added note, poultry and pork brine well, but beef shouldn’t be brined. Beef loses too much of it’s natural juices when brined, which means lost flavor.

Wet brine recipes are all over the internet, and the standard ratio is one cup of salt to one gallon of water. Personally, I think that tends to be a bit strong, and I go roughly 1/2 that. It will take a little experimenting for you to find a ratio that works for your individual tastes. You want the meat tender, but not too salty tasting after cooking.

You can also add other ingredients to your brine mix. I vary mine a bit, but minced garlic always makes it into the brine.

There’s also dry brining. That is basically putting the meat into a bed of salt or dry rubbing salt on it. I’ve yet to try this method for fear of the meat being too salty. HOWEVER, it’s supposed to be good for poultry. Wet skin tends to turn rubbery during cooking, and dry brining is one way to help prevent that. More on that in a little bit. 😉

Step Two: Prep

The next thing to do is dry off the wings as best you can,with some paper towels, for the reason previously mentioned. Before we get to putting a dry rub on the wings though, let’s mention another trick to getting crispy skin on your grilled chicken. That being to dust it lightly with either baking powder or corn starch. Baking powder is an old restaurant trick for this situation since it’s relatively flavor free in light doses.

After drying and possibly dusting with baking powder, there’s the dry rub.

I personally use a simple mix of Salt, Pepper and Garlic most of the time. Options are almost endless here however. Most stores carry several flavors also. Other favorites of mine are Greek, Chipotle and Lemon Pepper. There are thousands of recipes all over the internet also if you want to make your own.

My only two pieces of advice there are use fresh spices, and avoid sugar. Well, also if you make enough to have extra, store it in an airtight container. It’ll last longer. Sugar is really unnecessary though if the rest of the flavors are properly balanced. Some cooks like it because it caramelizes and helps produce a bark on the meat, but good grilling technique can eliminate that need also.

Step 3: Onto the Smoker!

After putting some sort of dry rub on the wings, they’re ready for the grill:

The big lesson in the picture above is to space them out. This gives the smoke as much surface area as possible to soak into the meat and flavor it.

Cooking the wings is a little tricky. The lower the temperature, the more time the smoke has to get into the meat. HOWEVER, to ensure a nice crispy skin on the wings, they need to be cooked at a minimum temperature of 275F to 300F or 135C to 148C.

If you cook at 200F, it will take roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes to get to a proper internal temperature of 165F (74C), which is the temperature the US government says is needed to kill all possible bacteria in the chicken. If you cook at the 275F to 300F range mentioned above, you can reduce that cooking time to roughly an hour and a half total.

A compromise option I use, and have mentioned here before, is to get the meat to an internal temperature about 30F below finished, then put it onto some direct heat like my Weber charcoal grill. This will put a nice sear on beef or pork, and help crisp up the skin on chicken.

As a side note, searing a piece of meat after slow cooking it is technically called a reverse sear. A normal sear occurs at the beginning of cooking. A normal sear is done to lock in moisture. Slow cooking does the same thing however, and will allow smoke and rub flavors to penetrate the meat.

That difference in temperature I found via experimenting. It seems to allow just enough time for the meat to develop a sear without drying it out. The reverse sear step can go fast regardless, so I advise closely monitoring the meat at his stage to avoid drying it out.

Step 4: EAT!

Serve with whatever dressing or sauce sounds exciting OR enjoy as is to truly savor the smoke flavor.

The above pic from Sunday reflects me skipping the reverse sear step. The weather was lousy, and my back was hurting. I crisped them up in our air fryer after this picture which made them much nicer.

They definitely turned out better than the game, or the commercials.

Destructive Little Peckerhead

A play on words as well as a legitimate statement of annoyance. The target of my wrath?

A woodpecker (maybe more than one). Not just ANY woodpecker though. On NO, we had to attract something special:

A Yellow Bellied Sapsucker. They apparently hang out in this neck of the woods during the winter.

Late yesterday morning, I take a peek out the front door and I see THIS:

For half a second, I thought the tree had been hit by lightning during the storm the night before (although there was no thunder or lightning). Closer inspection turned up these:

A little research ruled out termites and led me to our culprit above. These filthy little beasts drill holes in trees to drink their sap. And this poor tree was just covered with holes! All that black gunk in the picture above was tree sap, running five feet down the trunk.

We were on the way out the door to go to Home Depot and get some pruning sealant spray when it came back too. At that point, I introduced it to Red Ryder.

Red Ryder is my preferred discipline tool for these situations. It stings, but doesn’t have enough power to hurt even a bird that size unless you shot it point blank.

A pop in the arse sent our destructive woodpecker friend on her way. Afterwards, we got a can of Spectracide pruning seal. It took nearly the entire can to seal all the holes too. Given that the seal smells like and has the consistency of road tar, I doubt the bird will be attacking those areas again. 😝

*sigh* I like nature. I’ve been told I have some fae blood in me (hasn’t everyone who is Scottish or Irish? LOL), so it comes natural… pun intended. That’s a nearly 100 year old tree that stupid bird was destroying though. One that also sits far too close to the house and our cars for my comfort.

Between that, squirrels tearing up our lawn and garden back in Sacramento and crows attacking our house and cars regularly…

well, let’s just say I’m liking nature a bit less nowadays. 😕

Italian Style Meatball Soup

I’ve been neglecting my food related posts, so here’s an Emeril Lagasse recipe (with a few modifications that I made during a recent bout of cold weather).

Rather than just re-do the whole recipe here, I’ll provide a link to the original page:

https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/meatball-soup-3646042

Emeril is one of my favorite chefs. Almost every recipe of his that I’ve tried has turned out great. This one was no exception.

I didn’t even burn myself this time! LOL

I will add a couple of notes here however:

Emeril’s 2 can’s of low sodium beef broth, 29 ozs or 8/10 of a liter, are not near enough liquid to make this soup. With the amount of meat and vegetables that go into this, it’s almost too thick to be a stew with that amount of liquid. Even more true if you use dry pasta in the recipe.

Bottom line; plan on having about twice that much to get the soup at the consistency in the picture above, or at least be ready to add water.

You also might want to make a little more meatballs than the recipe calls for. This made a crock put full, as you all can see. That’s about 8 decent sized bowls of soup. There were only a couple of pieces of meatball left by the time we got to the last two bowls.

OH… and if you’re using a crock pot and dry pasta… The pasta will NOT be cooked in 15 minutes like Emeril says… More like somewhere around an hour and a half. I *did* add that in late also. Past experience has taught me that slow cooker soups tend to dissolve pasta if it’s added in right at the get go.

End Result:

I almost forgot…

A bowl of the soup finished, and topped with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, and served with some garlic Parmigiano Reggiano toasted bread on the side. 🙂

Devilishly Good News

In honor of my hitting 666 followers today:

Yeah, I know… I don’t know whether to cringe or celebrate, LOL…

Still, I have some good news that’s vaguely related if you’re superstitious. 😯

Lucifer was renewed for Season 6 at Netflix!

I guess this is old news for truly rabid fans of the show. Like Seasons 4 and 5, I’d heard alot of up and down about if it was going to happen. Last I’d heard, it was a no-go.

Those who have followed me carefully for any amount of time know I’m not big on evil or glorifying it, so I admit this show’s premise was hard for me to swallow when I first heard about it. HOWEVER, I loved it once I started watching. Here’s the rundown:

THE BASIC PREMISE:

The show is based on the Lucifer comic books by Vertigo (a subsidiary of DC Comics) and developed by Neil Gaiman, the creator of American Gods. Safe to say he has a strong interest in religion and myth, lol.

Anyhoo, Lucifer gets bored of ruling over Hell, and decides he needs a break. He goes to Los Angeles and opens up a Night Club there. He also frequently plays piano for the crowd, as a side note. After a murder case lands at the doorstep of his night club (named Lux), he decides police work is amusing and weasels his way into becoming a consultant for the LAPD, and gets partnered with Detective Chloe Decker.

His consulting typically takes the form of knowing shady people (who end up providing leads on cases), and being able to get people to tell him their deepest wish, OR outright scaring the literal hell out of them by showing them his true nature. Of course he’s super strong and has a few other abilities also.

The Neil Gaiman Twist: Lucifer’s Character

In order to make Lucifer a more palatable character for audiences, the writers went OLD OLD school, and reverted Lucifer from the modern boogeyman to more of a loose interpretation of old (perhaps traditional would be a better word) Judaism. Lucifer is more of a jailer and punisher who watches over Hell (or used to in this case). As he puts it “I don’t MAKE people do anything, I just punish them for it.”

The “Prosecuting Attorney” aspect of Lucifer is missing. He’s also humorously hedonistic, and self-absorbed to the point of being completely obtuse and clueless at points. He did still rebel against Heaven in the show, and has daddy issues because of it.

he actually goes to therapy also, and his counseling sessions are some of the true highlights of a show that is literally overflowing with wry, dry humor.

They were actually a little funnier in the first two seasons, when Linda thought Lucifer was speaking in metaphors about being the devil. The one below is a bit profound actually, and I suspect was Neil Gaiman’s influence / interpretation.

Season 1, Episode 6… A fairly profound counseling session after Lucifer tries to come to terms with having his self-amputated wings stolen. She doesn’t know yet that he really is THE Lucifer.

Over the course of the four seasons I’ve watched thus far, “Luci” has actually grown a bit ‘as a person’ also.

There have been a few biblical ‘guest stars’ also; Tom Welling of Smallville fame played Cain in Season 3. Cain turned out to be the big villain for the season also. At first it looked like he was a good guy operating as a LAPD Lieutenant and trying to make amends for his past sin(s). Lucifer’s “Mother” also appears, as do a few non-scripture angels and demons. THE Eve also appears in Season 4 as Lucifer’s foil, and I understand Micheal the Archangel appears in Season 5. In the show and comics, he’s Lucifer’s “twin” brother (in the comics he has blond hair and blue eyes).

The Crisis on Infinite Earths:

Probably one of the most fun scenes for fans of Lucifer and the CW Network’s lineup of DC Comics related shows was when the CW did their own version of DC’s now-legendary “Crisis on Infinite Earths” story arc. The story arc was the first reboot of the DC Comics Universe.

As the name suggests, there was a great deal of hopping between alternate realities as the heroes try to stop the threat. In the scene below, John Constantine and friends pay a visit to Lucifer looking for some assistance with the threat:

What truly makes the show Lucifer great though is more than the outstanding writing. Every on the show seems to fit PERFECTLY into their respective role and into the group dynamic of the show. Tom Ellis does a perfect job portraying Lucifer, and the same can be said for all the other actors.

I’ll be honest. IF you’re a strict “The Devil is responsible for all the world’s evil” kind of interpretation person, you’ll very likely be offended by the show. If you have a sense of humor, enjoy someone tripping over their own foibles regularly but growing SLOWLY, and understand that human misery is created by humans, you’ll likely LOVE this show.

Personally, I highly recommend it… To all my 666 followers, LOL. 😈

Scrivener Update / Rant

What seems like centuries ago, I did a post with some brief impressions of the Scrivener writing software.

Part of my reasons for the earlier review being fairly positive was that buyers were promised a free upgrade to version 3.0. That version has been out for Apple products for some time. It has a MUCH cleaner, more professional looking user interface. Some new features, and 64 bit architecture also, which means performance should be much faster since it call use ALL of a newer PC’s resources.

Well, as it turns out… Literature and Latte has apparently been promising said upgrade for nearly three years now. They’ve failed to meet multiple promised release dates, and have had almost nothing to say on the project. Well, beyond that converting source code from Apple to Windows is HARD! anyway. 😥🙄

The irony here is that I was looking for an alternative to M$ Office because I felt I was being ripped off by Microsoft for never being able to reinstall a copy if I have a drive go bad or upgraded. NOW, it looks like L&L has been playing a game of misrepresentation and false advertising of it’s own to boost sales.

Strangely enough, to me anyway, this has divided the user base quite a bit. Some are perfectly happy with more clunky version 1.9 and say that L&L doesn’t owe anybody anything. I’d argue they owe what they advertised and promised to their paying customers.

If you went into a restaurant, and ordered a nice meal, but only got the main course… Your sides and drink were ignored no matter how much you asked when they were coming… Would you STILL pay for the full meal just because the steak was adequate? Would you pay full price for a car without tires and rims just because you like the rest of it, even though you were promised it come with wheels?

In my opinion, this is yet another example of how capitalism has gone off the rails. Fifty years ago, business was done on a handshake, and your word was your bond. NOW, it’s “Screw it, and the contract, I don’t feel like it”.

Whatever happened to ethics and integrity? Oh yeah…

Cynical, and a tiny bit melodramatic? Perhaps, but nothing is made worth a damned anymore, and businesses pull things like L&L did all the time also.

End of rant though.

Bottom line, AT BEST I can only be neutral on recommending Scrivener anymore. It has a learning curve as bad as MS Office, and is only better organized if you don’t understand how MS Office interconnects nowadays. The price is better however. If you’re using a PC, you just have to be OK with being lied to and getting less than you paid for.

Personally, I’m starting to look into the alternatives to Scrivener, like The Novel Factory. We work too hard for what little we have here to be cheated by companies.

Cooking: Not Every Experiment Works…

At least not completely. 🙂 Sometimes, however, you’re left short of normal ingredients and have to improvise. The whole premise of the Food Network program “Chopped” is about being able to wing it like that via combining a basket of mystery ingredients into a meal. Sometimes winging it works, sometimes… well… not so much.

Such is the case with a recent meal I put together. We decided on my world famous meatloaf for that night; simple and hearty. Well, as it turned out, the meatballs I was going to mix in with the hamburger had gone bad. Not wanting to run out to the store again, I found some linguica in the cold drawer of the fridge.

Oddly enough, the brand we buy down here.

Linguica is a Portuguese sausage that’s good in a wide variety of dishes. Most notably (although I’ve only seen it on the West Coast), it’s one of the world’s greatest pizza toppings. Try it that way if you can find it in your area. You’ll love it.

So, determined to try something a little different and keep the meal on course, I diced up the linguica and mixed it into the meatloaf

Baked it as usual, since the weather didn’t allow for smoking it on the grill. On the surface, it turned out fairly well:

After coming out of the bread pan

The one drawback however, was that linguica can be as greasy as chorizo… almost anyway. Thus despite having both bread crumbs and egg as binding agents, the meatloaf didn’t hold together too well.

The meatloaf did have enough grease to leave us both with mildly upset stomachs though. Not a horrible dinner, but not the success I’d have wished for either. The flavor of the linguica really did add to the meatloaf though.

What I’d Change:

So what lessons can we take from this? The first and obvious answer is to use a less greasy sausage if you want to use sausage as a second meat in your meatloaf. The other option that came to mind us to use something like this meatloaf pan from Bed Bath and Beyond:

You can get something like this almost anywhere with a little searching. The interior rack allows grease to drain off the meatloaf (which would have been a big help in this specific instance), and allows you to easily remove the meatloaf from the pan.

Worth the investment? I guess that depends how often you make meatloaf. It’s a bit of a rarity here, but still something we enjoy on occasion.

Advice for Struggling Writers

I decided to do a little Sunday (non-religious) motivational today.  I read another blog where an aspiring author was (or sounded) severely depressed about the inability to get going as a writer.  I left some heartfelt encouragement there.  I’d been struggling with the same issues myself for the longest time after all. 

I think there are other writers out there that could use similar words of encouragement.  With that in mind, I want to pass on what’s helped me make my breakthroughs.

First, one of the biggest causes of writer’s block is simply self-doubt.  That, in turn, frequently comes from being too externally focused.  That means you’re basing your sense of self-worth on the input of others.  The problem with that is people are almost always negative if you have a dream different from where they’re at or aiming for in life.  Why? 

Because they’re secretly jealous that you have the courage to try something different and chase a dream.  If you succeed, it’ll make them feel all the worse about themselves that they never even had the courage to try. 

The million different rationalizations you’ll hear will all be cached in terms of protecting you, not wanting to see you fail, wanting you to be realistic, etc…  The truth is though that they’re scared of what they THINK your potential success means for or reflects upon them.  They’re probably not evil, just worn down by life and rationalizing on a level so deep that they don’t even realize why they’re truly attacking you.

In terms of dealing with the negative feedback, the best option in my opinion, is to turn it around in a friendly positive way.  Ask them about their dreams and then encourage them to chase those, “even if it’s just a hobby or side gig”.  That last part will make it sound less threatening for them to do so.

The main thing though, especially with breaking through the writer’s block and struggling, is you have to let go of the self-doubt and have faith in yourself.  You’ll struggle, you’ll fall, but THAT’S OK.  It’s part of the learning process.  Accept that, gently analyze where you came up short, and work to do better next time. 

Beyond that, you have to do it for YOUNOT to prove others wrong, (although that does work for some people), not to get an inflated ego that will block your learning and growth either.  Write show yourself that you’re capable, to grow better, and because it brings you joy.  When you can give yourself permission to do that, it won’t matter how many books you write, or how many you sell.  You’ll be a success because you’ll be growing as a person.  Work at it though, and the financial success will likely follow the emotional and spiritual success. 😉

ALMOST everybody has the talent to be a good writer.  Want to know a secret?  Almost everybody has the talent to be a great ANYTHING.  You just have to be willing to work at it.  Michael Jordan and Lebron James were NOT born great basketball players.  They got to be legends among professionals because they worked at it 8 or more hours a day, every day.  I guarantee you they were rough at first also.  They were determined to work at something they loved though and gave themselves permission to fail as long as they learned from it. 

Likewise, realize that you CAN do it (whether it’s writing or anything else).  It WILL be slow at first, and you WILL have to be dedicated to continually improving yourself.  Time, effort and patience, especially with yourself, is all it takes.

As far as some writers turning out tons of books a year…  I guarantee you very few people doing that are turning out QUALITY work.  At least not their best quality. Even a good portion of James Patterson’s books are ghost written.  Maxine Paetro writes all his “Women’s Murder Club” books, for example.  On the flip side, Michelangelo took 4 years to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, but everybody remembers it.  Ergo, it’s OK to work slowly, just keep going.