Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Taste of the Weirdness

Six weird things about me:

I have been tagged by RM to reveal 6 weird things about me. I am, in turn, supposed to tag 6 other bloggers to do the same. My problem is that I don't know any other bloggers. I'll do it anyways because I don't want to totally drop the ole ball.

1. I do not believe in aliens, but I do believe in Bigfoot.
2. When I was 2 years old I refused to eat for 3 days because I believed we would run out of food. My parents explained where all food came from, and then I really freaked out because I thought everyone would run out of food. To this day I hoard canned food in my apartment.
3. In six grade I did 70 sit-ups in one minute in the phyiscal fitness test. No one could believe it except the person who counted for me. I also creamed everyone in the grade in the flexed arm hang. I don't remember my time on that one. In the flexibility test I could not even touch my toes...
4. One time I put a dead bird in my pocket and forgot about it until the next day when I rediscovered it on a date. I found out later that it was that event that won the other person's heart.
5. I hate the following word combination: "clean sheet of paper." I do not hate any of the words seperate from each other.
6. I have what is seeming to be permanent numbness on the right half of my chin, caused by nerve damage from a wisdom tooth extraction one year ago. Apparently I am the third person in my oral surgeon's long history who has ever suffered any permanent damage. Oh well. One of the other two was his daughter's best friend.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Guatemalan treasure hunt

levity: conduct or attitude characterized by lack of seriousness; inappropriate gaiety; frivolity (Funk & Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary 1966)
Spanish: levidad

The other day I received a mass email from a friend of mine who is travelling in Central America. This was a surprise to me because I did not know he was down there. He described his travel plans, which, incidentally are very cool because he is studying plants, and named certain places he wants to go. On the list were a few destinations in eastern Guatemala. Reading his email transported me back to 2 years ago when I myself mysteriously found myself wandering down a beach on the Caribbean coast of Guatemala. I was with my friend, we'll call her Pine Cone because that's what her parents almost named her. Honest to God. So Pine Cone really wanted to score a bag of a certain special dried plant, but she didn't speak Spanish. Not to mention the sketchiness factor of approaching random people in a foreign town to inquire about such a quest. However, Pine Cone was very interested in obtaining a bag of this dried plant, and she kept talking about it. I had no interest whatsoever in her quest, but I was subject to hearing about it frequently. Well, back to the beach. We were walking along and I was entertaining my obsession with checking out interesting looking trash on the ground. (I feel this is one of the best ways to learn about an area as a tourist.) I saw a piece of paper that appeared to be a kid's math homework. Very interesting. Guatemalan math. I picked it up and opened it, eager to see the formulas written in Guatemalan. It indeed was a piece of math homework, but folded up inside was a bag of the special dried plant that Pine Cone had been craving. We laughed, of course, for a good long while, and then for the next few days, Pine Cone used the dried plant nightly. When it was time for us to leave that beach town and seek our next adventure, there was about half a bag of dried plant left. Pine Cone assigned me the task of hiding the bag so that she could return in a month or so to retrieve the rest of it. She was to wary of police to travel with the plant. I wondered why didn't she hide the damn stuff herself, but she must have been feelin incompitent or something, bless her heart. I decided that my room (Hotel California Room 8) was as good a place as any to hide the stuff, so I unscrewed a coat rack from the wall, duct taped the bag of plant to the back- all flattened out- and then re-screwed the coat rack. You'd never see it.

Pine Cone never ended up returning to that beach town, and I have wondered about the fate of the well hidden bag of dried plant that remains in Hotel Californina room 8.

Soooo, my friend writes from Central America and says that he is planning to maybe visit the east part of Guatelmala, and instantly I know that he is the perfect candidate to rescue the hidden treasure. I was writing him detailed instructions for a "treasure hunt" in Spanish, and I realized I didn't know the work for coat rack. Damn. It happens to be the key word in the whole instructions. I was over at my sister's, and she didn't have a Spanish dictionary. I was racking my brain for something I knew wasn't in it when the phone rang. It was MH calling from the Mountain Magnolia. I asked her what was coat rack in Spanish and she was busy saying things like " Maybe it's coato racko" when she was overheard by a guest. The guest said, " My friend is upstairs. She's visiting from Madrid, and speaks Spanish fluently. Lemme go get her..."
Perfect. I chatted for a moment with the gal, who told me "gancha para abrigos" would work for my purposes, and off went the treasure hunt instructions. I really hope someone makes it over to the ole Hotel California- Room 8.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Cock Fights and Ole Boys

A little story involving 2 brothers, 20 bags of raked leaves, and my relationship to the all of the above...
Flashback to October: It is a crisp fall day, and MH, SG and I are raking leaves at the Mountain Magnolia in Hot Springs. Our buddy, local Hot Springs character, CP emerges from nowhere, as usual and starts up the usual small talk. "Mar-Ellen, is Deena workin you too hard?" "Deena, I ain't seen you in a while- war you been?" "I thought I'd better come aggravate you'uns or you'd think I was mad atcha." And so on. This goes on for the typical 5-10 minutes before the point begins getting hinted at. First he asks if we had raked in front of the Garden House. No. Then he asked if we were going to. Yes. Then he asked who was going to do it. Don't know. I realize that he wants to rake it, but he isn't going to ask. I'm not going to bring it up, so small talk continues for a time. Finally he says the reason he's asking is because he needs 5 more bags of leaves "because a feller says he'll buy ten bags of leaves off me for $10 a bag, " and he already has 5 bags raked and bagged. I asked him, "What kind of feller is gonna buy bags of leaves off of you for $100 in the middle of fall?" He says, " a feller out in Tennessee." I ask if this is a certain feller that I might know. Yes. I say "Why in the world would this particular feller pay $100 for leaves in the middle of fall when he lives in the woods???" The answer: all of that feller's leaves fell in the creek.
Well, this conversation is getting long and ubsurd, so I tell CP that he is free to rake and bag all the leaves he wants from the Inn's property, but if he is selling them for $10 a bag, I'm not going to pay him to rake. He seems pleased, and so am I. Before I get back to work I ask one last question: "Why does this particular feller want these leaves so bad?" It is a question that, once I know the answer, I regret having asked. The feller wants the leaves to take down to the cock fights and put in the pit so the roosters can have something to scratch up before they kill each other...

Flash forward. It is late December, a few days before Christmas. It morning in the Smokey Mountain Diner, and I am waiting for biscuits to go. PP, the youngest brother of CP, walks in, and we sit together, making small talk and catching up on local gossip. After a few pleasant minutes of this, PP, starts to talk about something curious- 10 bags of leaves. He says, " I have ten bags of leaves that I need to get rid of by tomorrow." I don't think much of it, and I don't really respond. So he says it again. And again. Finally I ask him what he is talking about. He says he has been saving 10 bags of leaves for "that ole boy, the one you know" for his garden. I ask him which ole boy he is referring to, and he just keeps saying "that ole boy, the one you know" over and over, like I am responsible not only for knowing which ole boy he is talking about, but for the fact that, whoever the ole boy is, he has not come for his 10 bags of leaves like he said he would. Finally he tells me it is the ole boy who sells fruit down at the Post Office, and I realize who he is speaking of. He just keeps telling me over and over that the "ole boy said he would be by for his leaves, but he hasn't come yet." I suggest maybe the ole boy is under the weather, but , no, PP just saw the ole boy and he was fine. Then PP starts telling me how "the ole boy's garden really isn't that far away, just a block or 2," and I realize he wants me to offer to come move the leaves over to the ole boy's garden in my pick-up truck.
Once I realize this is what he is after, I silently scold myself for being so slow-witted so as to have missed the clues for so long, and I promptly volunteer to go by the next day and move the 10 bags of leaves.
My biscuits came, and I left the Diner wondering how I managed to get involved in 2 different strange situations involving 10 bags of leaves with these brothers in such a short amount of time.
Unfortunately, I started puking the next day, and was unable to fulfill my commitment. I wonder if PP is down at the Diner right now saying something to someone like, " Well, that lady, the one you know, was supposed to come by and pick up these 10 bags of leaves to take over to that ole boy..." I also wonder how many cocks have been killed so far in Mountain Magnolia's maple leaves...

Friday, December 22, 2006

Low Point and biscotti recipe

Rainy winter solstice. I think I may have contracted a bit of the stomach virus that my sister has had. Due to certain urgent bathroom needs, I feel unable to escape the prison which is currently my garage apartment. My kerosine monitor broke the other day, so my landlord (bless his heart) came and took it away for repair. In the process he spilled kerosine all over the rug and carpet, so this place smells like a gas station. I am out of crucial food items and dogfood, which causes a situation of dog following sick human around a small kerosine infested space which is cluttered not only with Christmas projects, but also with items having been moved to accomodate the evacuation of the heater.
On the bright side, SYR and I successfully completed the 3rd annual biscotti bake-off last week, with 177 beautiful pieces of mysteriously delicious crunchiness to show. We added 2 secret ingredients to the following recipe ( and 9 times it!!!):

Cream together 1 stick plus 2 Tbs butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

Stir together 2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

Gradually add wet to dry ingredients until well mixed. Add 12 oz. chocolate chips, 1 cup slivered almonds, and 1 cup coconut. Form into 3 loaves on a large, greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 325F for 35-45 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes. Slice each loaf into 1 inch slices. Lay slices back on cookie sheet. Put back into oven, and toast on each side for 10- 25 minutes. At the end, the pieces should be crunchy and completely toasted, but not burnt. Keep checking them until they get to this point. It took ours quite a while to get there... Enjoy!
This recipe was given to me by a friend who got it from a friend, and other than that we don't know its origin.
ps. The secret ingredients are not listed here.

pss. RM, if you are reading this, notice the large quantity of undesirable words contained in this recipe.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

"After the Brains" and internet dating

First, a hide update: After the hide soaked in the Rose brand canned pork brains over night, it was time to work it hard so it would soften. The goal of working it hard is to break down all of the little fibers that create a strong network and make the hide tough and stiff. I read that it is best to work the hide post brains but before it's dry again. So for 5 solid hours, as the hide was drying, I worked it hard, stretching it in all directions, rubbing it vigorously over a piece of rope I had tied up, and scraping it with the abrasive edge of a shell. I worked continuously until the whole thing was dry and my hands were so sore and tired I couldn't do it any more. The result was a beautiful, white, soft piece of buckskin. The only problem is that some of the areas still have stiffness inside even though they are soft to the touch, so I think I'm going to have to soak it again and work it some more. It's amazing how much work it is taking. If I can borrow a camara, I'll post a picture of the hide.
Next, a little weird story about internet dating that I think falls under the same title of "After the Brains..." MMC5th and I were eating brunch at the Stony Knob Cafe in Weaverville last Sunday, and I noticed the lady at the table next to us because of a beautiful purple shawl she was wearing. Well, then I noticed that she was talking very loudly to the man she was with. First I heard her ask the men his last name, and then I heard her talk in a disconcertingly loud voice about what she is looking for in a relationship. I deduced that she was on an internet first date, and I asked our nice waitress to see if she could discretely confirm my suspicions. She did. MMC5th and I enjoyed our delicious meal eavsdropping and speculating about the weirdness of internet dating. Then it was over and everyone left.
But that's not the end of the story. MMC5th and I went to his house for a little while, and then we decided to go grocery shopping at Greenlife (in Asheville). While shopping, I went up to use the bathroom, and when I came out, I saw MMC5th running across the store towards me flailing is arms in excitement (not his typical in public behavior at all). When he reached me, he quickly conveyed to me the source of his excitement. He had just spotted the same lady in the purple shawl from the restaurant- with a different man! He had seen her in the produce section, so we headed over there, but she was gone. We looked around the whole store (which was, of course, very crowded) but could not find her. Disappointed, we checked out and left. As we were driving out of the parking lot, MMC5th took one final glance at the store and saw the lady in the purple shawl sitting with the different man at a table in the dining area! And there was one free table in the whole crowded place- right next to her!!! "Stop the car!" MMC5th shouted, and he jumped out, ran in, and claimed the free table. I parked in the nearest parking spot (the Mothers to Be reserved parking, God forgive me), and ran in to join him. What we witnessed just blew our minds. This lady was on a different internet blind date, and she was talking to this different bozo in the same loud voice about relationships and personal business. I couldn't believe it. The man was talking about, and he said that the only things he looks for to rule out in a profile are nascar and smoking. I was trying not to laugh my head off. He wrapped up the very short power date by saying to the lady in purple, " Well, I'm gonna be heading back to Raleigh today, so if you decide you want to see me again, just let me know. And if you decide you don't want to see me again, that's OK too."

I wanted to follow the lady in purple to the next stop in her methodical journey to meet a life partner- the next of her Sunday crossroads where the virtual meets the tangible, but I thought that would be stalking. And plus, I had a hide to tan.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Brain Tan Update

The hides actually needed to soak in the ashes for at least 10 days until the flesh was swollen and the hair was loose. My hide was ready yesterday, but MMC5th's wasn't even close, probably because his hide is about 4 times thicker than mine. Yesterday I "grained" my hide, which meant scraping the whole layer that contained the hair follicles. It took most of the afternoon to really get it all. Then I rinsed it overnight to get all of the rest of the ashes out. Today I went back and scraped the rest of the membrane off the flesh side of the hide, soaked it in a vinegar solution for a few minutes, let it dry, and currently it is being soaked in the brains and water. It's going really well so far. The hide is beautiful and really pliable and stretchy. I'm gonna let it soak in brains all night, and then tomorrow I will work it hard to get it soft.
This guy saw us working today and stopped by and said his brother tans hides with antifreeze. One of my favorite parts of the whole process has been all the commentary and tips given to us by passers-by. Hickory Flats is quite a busy place these days. Last week my next door neighbor's dad who is a professional taxidermist had a lot to say about the process. All interesting stuff, but I am set on trying the brains...

Other winter projects for this week are: racking apple cider, making strawberry wine out of berries that came out of a freezer of a friend who just moved, working on my proposal to get myself hired as an official teacher at Hall Fletcher, and making 200 pieces of biscotti. I'm having fun.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Post Thanksgiving Brain Tanning Adventures

This is my first blog. I don't really know how to go about starting this, but I guess I'll just write about what I did today. "MMC5th" and I are attempting to brain tan 2 deer hides. We have already fleshed them, and they have been soaking in wood ash and water for the past 3 days. We were getting all ready to remove the hair and the whole layer of skin which holds the hair follicles today, but we discovered they have not had enough time in the ash solution. We went to Ingles anyways to buy some brains, and all they had was canned pork brains in milk gravy (Rose Brand). We proceded to fill our basket with 16 small cans, and in the process I became a little over eager and accidentally knocked a neighboring jar of pig feet over. The glass shattered in the aisle, and the pig feet started protruding from the mess.

When we got back to my place, it just so happened that my neighbor's little nephew had just shot his first deer, so there was a lot of excitement. Both my neighbor and his daddy are taxidermists, and both were present, so we got quite a lot of tanning tips when we busted out our hides to check on.

Later we went to Flick video to select the evening's entertainment, and at some point during our hour in that vortex, there was some discussion about renting some redneck deer hunting stand up comedy video that promised a special appearance from Bigfoot. I decided I didn't need to pay for that kind of entertainment as it seems to be readily available at my back door.

The guy that gave me my hide is a nice young fellow from East Tennessee that SG introduced me to. We met up with him at dusk in the Slab Cafe parking lot the other day. SG told him that she was knitting leg warmers, and he got really excited to tell us he and his girlfriend have been making pony bead bracelets. Then he said, "Hey, we should all get together sometime and knit and make bracelets!" I thought that was a really sweet proposition coming from some East Tennesse deer hunter.