Thursday, August 31, 2017

Novel-The Plan: Convicted


In the end, it was he, that would put a stop to the endless and futile appeals. Partially because it was useless and degrading. But primarily because it afforded him one final bit of control over his situation.

Oh, and one other thing.

It was that hazy hour before dawn that they came with the surgeon green gurney. Strapped him down tightly and rolled him to his destination. Wordlssly transferring him to a cot beyond the viewing room and then trussed a final time. The boards smooth and cool beneath his spread arms; a parody of crucifixion.

He felt the cool wetness of the alcohol swab and smelled its astringency. 

Felt the prick of a needle in his left antecubital space and the hum of the machine which would pump the first of three arcane chemicals into his bloodstream.

It would be a sedative.

He gazed through the glass at faces of Mark, hulking in his Exo-Shel, and his children.

"Enjoy the show" he thought bitterly, but said nothing.
Who brings their children to an execution?

Detective Brinks walked into the viewing and stood next to Mark. Catching Troy's eye he mouthed two words

"Fuck You."


Then...Richard Troy woke on his narrow steel bunk with a gasp. His brown prison issued jumpsuit soaked now with sweat. Sat up and took several deep breaths to clear his pounding head. Slow his wildly beating heart.

The recurrent nightmare was the same most nights. There were very few variables. Sometimes The General would be standing there with them- the same grin on his face that he had the day Troy was arrested. Sometimes he actually heard him say

"Checkmate"

Once Tracy appeared beside them.  Tracy, wearing the same dress that Troy had wrapped her in the tarp after her death.

The worst was Sarah.

When she came in his dreams she was often in various stages of decay reaching out to him soundlessly.

While he was still in County, this nightmare earned him the nickname "Screamer" from the other four convicts in the overcrowded cell.  Where they stayed housed together in a bizarre holding pattern until they were shipped to the Pennsylvania State Prison.

There would be no lethal injection for him. No quick release. 



A plea bargain offered by the Prosecutor, an upwardly mobile man who knew which side his bread was buttered on during the election year.

Life imprisonment without possibility of parole. 

He would die in this cell, or one like it.

The other thing? 

The thing that made the thought of living forever in a cage palatable?

The crest-fallen look on the face of Detective Brinks when after more than a year of preparation, the work, the impossibly late hours, the digging both figurative and literal, the attempts to piece together evidence to bring this to trial...he suddenly realized there would be no jury trial. No one would hear a single statement or puzzle over evidence. There would no ah-ha moment of guilt or innocence. All of it. For nothing.

The thought made no-longer-doctor, Inmate #2649927, smile a little, while stirring his tepid instant coffee.






Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Recipe:Sicilian Cannoli



One of the most surprising things I have learned so far on this Virtual Sicilian Adventure is, although I enjoy the Sicilian desserts and granitas very much, I am overall unimpressed and do not enjoy most Sicilian cuisine. Too many sardine and anchovy dishes. Not to mention the insane amounts of flaked red peppers.

 I much prefer Northern Italian Food. 

That being said, Cannoli are possibly the Food of the Gods.

Foremost, Cannoli is the plural.
If you have just one the proper term is Cannolo.

Second...there are Cannolo Shell recipes on the internet aplenty. They are a time-consuming dough wrapped around wooden dowels affair and deep fried in boiling oil.

I passed on  all that.

Perfectly serviceable Cannoli shells can be purchased online (I used eBay to find mine)  They are available in Full Size (large) or Mini (what I bought) and come pre-packaged in boxes of 12.

Two Mini Cannoli made a perfect individual serving...not too much and not too little. Just right.

Sicilian Cannoli

(makes 2 servings)

4 Cannoli Shells

Filling

1 and a half cup Ricotta Cheese

1/2 cup confectioner's  sugar plus a little for dusting finished Cannoli if desired.

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/2 vanilla bean seeds (scraped)

Mix Ricotta and Powdered Sugar until smooth...add vanilla and blend thoroughly.

( Variations:  You can add fruit...chocolate chips...nuts...flavorings...pretty much anything you like at this point...my Cannoli above are chocolate with additional chocolate chip)

Pipe filling into shells and garnish as desired with nuts,chocolate chips, fresh fruit or what-you-like...sprinkle with a dusting of remaining confectionary sugar. 

Can prepare ahead a few hours and refrigerate until use.

Enjoy!


More anon...




Monday, August 28, 2017

Recipe: Sicilian Petoni


Every Country seems to have their own recipe and name for a hand meat-pie.
This is the Sicilian Version. The original recipe also contained anchovies and 1/4 cup of red hot) pepper flakes. You can add them for authenticity.

I passed.

Sicilian Petoni


1 large pie crust divided in half.

salt

fresh rosemany and oregano

water

coarse cracked pepper


Filling

1/2 pound Italian Sausage (cooked)

1/2 cup Farmer's Cheese

1/2 cup Red and Green Bell Pepper slices (sautéed)

1/4 cup (sautéed) sweet onion

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Fresh Oregano and Basil sprigs

Take 1/2 of pie crust and layer 1/2 of fillings on one side.  Fold top over bottom to form a wedge shaped packed. Wet edges and use fingers to create a crimped sealed edge. Brush with water and sprinkle with fresh herbs, salt and pepper. Do the same  with the second half of the pie crust. Makes 2 servings.

Bake at 350 degrees until hand-pie begins to brown.

Let sit for 5 minutes before eating. Filling will be very hot.

Enjoy!

More anon...




Saturday, August 26, 2017

This Week...Two Birthdays and a Baby...One Beastly Muscle Car and More...



Always amazing and resourceful...this is the cake Nicole created when we gathered to celebrate her brother, Brandon's, 32nd birthday...Emma's11th birthday...and her daughter, Brittany's, baby shower...all in the same night! So good, and the inside was a swirl of baby pink and blue.

And what a night it was!

A house full of love. Both Nancy and I, Brandon and his wife Nicci and their kids, Brittany and Amelia Rose and The Baby Bump, Emma and Aiden and Brenden, James and Nicole...it was happy chaos. 

                                             Brantley...coming soon!









Nicki...you know how to fill a house with love...and make a house a HOME!

Gleaned new recipes from James for both Blackberry and Peach Whiskey. I tried the Peach and it was smooth and delicious. Would like to try my hand at this.

So proud of both he and Nicole who have BOTH managed to completely quit smoking!!!!!   For good.

Way to go, guys!

Brought these home to try, too...



 Watching and waiting to hear word from our Texas friends as Harvey roared in and made landfall at a Cat. 4 Hurricane.

 Now threatening to stall over the area for several days increasing the chance for devastating flooding. Many area being only 15 feet or less above sea level and criss-crossed with rivers.

-

Anticipating an EARLY arrival to Fall. You can already see it in the already changing trees and deep blue skies, and feel it is in 75 degree days  and the chill of early morning and late night!

Excited...only

more days until "Rose and Idgy's Early Fall Artist Adventure".  Planning to explore Gold-Leafing together and Cheese-Making, Painting and Photography...and a lot of relaxing, wine and chat as we celebrate our Combined Birthdays and another year!

We are not the only ones who have been creating this year.  Jill (Lennon's Bio-Mom...Bill's Ex-Wife) and I who have finally, after years, became friends...which Lennon still proclaims to me

 "It is just WEIRD, Mom" 

(...and I remind him that life is way too short to hold onto past grievances...)

Anyway...Jill has taken up acrylic painting this year, too...enjoying it a lot...and quite talented!



-

Earlier in the week enjoyed the company of my Seasonal Friend for our Late Summer Visit...where we brunched and enjoyed catching up from Spring.   Both discussing the latest in the Trump Circus  (more on this in a moment) and parted with

"I shall see you in the Fall"

Later in the week, John (of The Shelburn Bank Scheme Days), drove down. Used several of the varieties of home-made cheeses I have been practising and made us a Traditional Sicilian Brunch.

Complete with Petoni sans the anchovies






and Chocolate Cannoli

He brought me several surprises from The State Fair...a 100th Anniversary Mug
(...now we can have coffee every day together...lol!), some Maple Syrup...and a jar of Maple Cream that is destine to become Maple Walnut Cream Hand-
Dipped Dark Chocolate candy to share soon!

But this was hands-down the best surprise.



After Brunch and chat he said

"Let's take a ride in the country"

When we went out to his Mazda......well...it wasn't there...it had been traded for THIS BEAST!  

2014 "Godfather" Charger

OMG!

I suppose I should add that back-in-the-day he had a GTX.

Yeah, I'm impressed.

And it goes from Zero to Hold-Onto-Your-Ass in seconds!

We lit up a few short straightaways at 100+ during the afternoon...felt so good to be sucked back into a seat again...lol!  Last time was with Carol in the Chally in Pennsylvania.

It's been awhile.

Also enjoyed a beautiful scenic drive through a lot of the twisting backroads between here, Raccoon Lake, and Bridgeton, saw three deer...yes...and one frog...lol...and checked out the  Bridgeton Covered Bridge and The Falls.



A Perfect Afternoon...made even better by the fact we didn't have to call any of our grown kids for BAIL.

 When they pull you over at 100+...they will ask you to

"Step out of the car, please." 

That is law enforcement-ese for

"You are not sleeping at home tonight."

and

"You will need bail money."

So...Anticipating tomorrow's Game of Thrones Season 7 Finale


 Where the Night King now has this:



Yes...a re-antimated Ice Dragon. Upping the stakes a bit,I should think. Can't wait to see how this goes.

By the looks between Dany and Jon...it would appear The Mother of Dragons is expecting 6-8 inches of Snow.

Just think...it could even make her title a little longer...

Daenerys Targaryen: First of her Name-The Unburnt-Queen of Meereen-Queen of the Andal and the First Men-Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea-Breaker of Chains-Mother of Dragons-Blower of Snow.


Just saying.

Also started the Mr. Mercedes Televised Series.


Only three episodes, thusfar, and enjoyable...but already there are wide deviations from the book. If you are a purist you'll probably want to give it a pass...for the rest of us...forget an absolute storyline and enjoy the show.  Well cast and great opening.

This week's book:


This might possibly be the quintessential Summer Read. A nice light throw-back to growing up in the 70's.  Not War and Peace,by any stretch of the imagination...but guaranteed to make you smile and nostalgic.  A great way to enjoy an afternoon.


Now for a quick look at Trump World this Week...

Another one bites the dust.


As Sebastian Gorka resigns...after John Kelly offered him the now popular resign or get fired package.

Don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out, Gorky.

So THAT was good news.

Time will tell...but it looks as though Trump and FEMA are on top of the Texas Harvey Situation...and I am pleasantly surprised.

But, not so surprised that Donnie pardoned this guy

Yes,  Sheriff Joe "I'm A Rascist" Arpiao...from Arizona.

(...just shaking my head...)

As well as attempting to issue that EO regarding banning Transsexuals from serving in the military.

Waiting to see the ACLU reaction.

So to paraphrase Bill Murray from Stripes

"We've STILL got that Texas/Harvey/Gorky thing going for us...so that's nice."



More Anon...






















Monday, August 21, 2017

ECLIPSE 2017


"And the sun was (mostly blotted) and day turned into night"

Well...twilight anyway!

Indiana had 90%. Sat outside through it observing.

At the beginning my Shelby-Diva was not impressed.

As it progressed though she obviously became absolutely TRAUMATIZED.

Passing out on the sofa

Okay...maybe not.


Anyway...

The beautiful 90 degree sunny day started like this

And progressed to this


And zenithed like this


For a short while the World looked like a photo negative and was strangely silent. 

And I noticed quite a lot I had never before. The way just before the Zenith the temperature drops quickly...the shadows...and the way the cicadas who NEVER shut up...

Stop.

 Just. Like.That.


Then when it has started turning light again...they all start back in a chorus.

Our Partial Eclipse came just on the cusp of a thunderstorm, which was even better, because just after it was over the thunder began-  and you could feel the electrical charge in the air. 

(...I LOVE the moments just before a storm...)

Of course, by that time, The Ancient Ones would have been rustling up a sacrifice...quick!

One of my "Bobs" in the Frog Bog seemed to be watching the whole show.




Idgy and I caught up just after...and she captured THIS



And we have set a new GOAL together. Her idea. On April 8th,2024 there will be a TOTAL Eclipse in Indiana. The first one in over 800 years.

We are planning to see it together!

Working on what wine and cheese go with Eclipse...lol!

More anon...














Book: Seeking Sicily

Finished Seeking Sicily by John Keahey over the weekend. A to-do on my Sicilian Virtual Adventure List.

A detailed look inside Sicily and the Sicilian Mindset, which Keahey calls "Sicilitude" (aptly). And where that attitude came from.

The book, written in 2011, begins at the ruins of the home of 18th Century author of Il Leopardo (Giuseppe di Lampedusa).



 His timing, perfect, as the once palacial fortress was to be raised the following week. Photographs inside show the lush palazzo- crumbling, overgrown and abandoned. Inquiries as to why this was never restored as a memorial/monument to one of Sicily's more famous authors is met with a shrug and

"Eh."

He will encounter a lot of this resignation through his travels. Ascribed to a people who has been conquered,subjected, and unable to control their fate through the centuries...he sums the entire affair up in a single Sicilian saying

Sufaru Sugnu

Which translates to

"I am sulfur"

Referring to the chunks of sulfur mined in Sicily. Tossed into waiting carts with little regard and no control over their destiny.

This is also the reason that Italy considers Sicilians to be Italians...but Sicilians rarely do. 

He makes mention of the Messina Bridge Project (remember the never-to-be built bridge) and another reason it will NEVER happen. The Sicilians want it even less than Mainland Italy does.
They revel in their sense of separateness.  
Their Sicilian-ness.

It explores local customs, foods, and craftsmanship...including the disappearing hand-painted donkey carts. Today, mostly reserved for parades and festivals.



He worships throughout the book at the alter of Sciascia, also making mention of (current day Sicilian author) Camilleri and his wildly popular Montalbano series. Several of which I have now read.

                                                  Andrea Camilleri


It is a fairly comprehensive study of Sicily, and since I have until November to poke around the island...and I own "Seeking Sicily"- I may use the book like I did Year in the World to explore deeper and supplement my initial itinerary.

More anon...







,






Gone now.
The Villa Lampedusa



Saturday, August 19, 2017

Donnie and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week.....and More



With sincere apologies to Judith Viorst.

Since last weekend...the state of the White House...and most of America can be best summed up as utter INSANITY.

Beginning with Nazis and the KKK marching on Charlottesville...and the vehicular death of Heather Hayer by one of these same protesters...then Trump blaming "both sides" and taking 3 full days to renounce NAZIS (...kind of...) and toppling of Confederate Statues...and CEOs abandoning this administration until Trump dissolved the whole thing...and the committee for Arts and Humanity leaving en masse...and the Tennessee  GOP Senator who introduced a bipartisan bill for the president's censure...and Al Gore calling for his resignation...several others (GOP and DEM) calling for his impeachment or resignation...Trump wandering around in his bubble saying "All is Well"...Mueller sniffing right on his tracks like an ultra-focused bloodhound (...save us Obi-Wan...you're our only hope) ...a few states putting forward a bill to PROTECT the rights of people who run over protesters (seriously)...and an absolute shit-storm on the Twitterverse...and Trump doubling down on his comments about how some NAZIS and KKK Members are "fine people"...

to quote Shrek's Donkey

"...look at my eye twitchin'...I'm going to need some serious therapy!"

(extra points if you just read that in Eddie Murphey's voice)

And BANNON has been fired, so THAT was good.


Out of this photo only Pence and Trump remain.

People in America are funny. You can get away (it seems) with rubbing shoulders with the KKK and the Confederacy...but aligning yourself with NAZIS does seem to be the "No-Fly Zone"

The breaking point.

Nice to see there STILL is one.

So...it gives me hope that GOOD will prevail...and a proud part of The Resistance.

Watching 45's Administration implode.

"Donnie, it is done.It's over. Save yourself and your family the embarrassment- and the taxpayers the cost of impeachment and resign.  Seriously."

Moving on...

After the past week it almost seems appropriate that the SUN is going to disappear on Monday...doesn't it?



The Eclipse is Coming!

Found this handy-dandy go to site to see what time and how dark it will be in your area.

https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/map/2017-august-21#

Just plug in your zip code.

My area will start around 1:00 and be over by 3:00 and the projected path shows we will only have about  90%.  Carbondale Illinois will be plunged into total darkness for 2 and a half minutes.

Now THAT would be something to see.

So protect your eyes and enjoy the celestial show.

Did I mention lately that my DIL, Nicole, is amazing?

This week she has been teaching my grand-daughter, Emma,how to make blueberry jelly


and put up pickles






It is so great that she is passing these skills on...as so many parents aren't (or were never taught how themselves.)

My Aunt Vernie taught me canning and preserving when I was about Emma's age. 

One of my favorite political satirist- Will Durst


is busily on the stand-up circuit with his show re: The Trump Administration

"The Durst Case Scenario"

I have seen some of it. Hilarious stuff.  If he shows up at a venue in your area be sure to catch it.
You'll be glad you did!

Unlike the latest cinematic release

 
Although I love Stephen King's writing I could (admittedly) never get interested in Roland's World.  My late husband-person was exactly the opposite  and read all 8 books with relish. 

Were he alive,  there is no doubt in my mind he would have walked out in the middle of this show. 

I LOVE  Matthew McConaughey...and even enjoyed Idris Elba as Roland. The boy they cast as Jake was perfect. But that is the only thing (well...and the CGI) that this short short film had going for it.
That, and maybe the nice feel good ending.

If you actually read the books you will dislike the severe abbreviation and the dropping of main characters...although the movie is a "what came after" film...trying to cram 8 books worth of information (even as a suggestion/reference) into one and a half hours is impossible.

If you had never read the books you will be disjointed, confused, lost. It is absolutely not a "stand alone" movie.

So yeah....bleah.

I am looking forward to the new release of IT in September...which promises to be much much better!

And then there is MY Novella. 



Which has felt like THIS for the past couple of weeks. I am writing the last several chapters...bringing everything together...tying up loose ends and have spent two and a half weeks deciding one of the three possible "endings" I have been considering.

Fictional characters sometimes take on a life of their own. It is kind of strange. 

Since Idgy (and a couple other close friends) have been following me along on this literary journey (reading and offering suggestions) I even reached out and asked how THEY would feel most satisfied (...the ending...) and surprisingly it was a consensus. They want Troy to live (no execution) and maybe a taste of journalling from behind bars.

The options were

Dr, Troy being executed for  murder.

Dr. Troy being incarcerated.

Dr. Troy getting acquitted on a procedural technicality...and Brink's reaction/dismay/frustration to it.

(and an earlier 4th discarded Kafkaesque type ending where Mark discovers that his ex-wife and friend are both dead...quits the Exo-Shel programme...and our last visual of him is back bedfast in the VA hospital...depressed and hopeless. Very Kafka- without the large cockroach, of course)


So...now doing research and back to writing.

Which leads into this week's book review.

The Graybar Hotel by Curtis Dawkins

Dawkin's début novel. He is currently serving a life sentence without parole in  Lakeland Correctional Facility- Michigan, for a drug related homicide.

This novel is a (non-fiction) micro-view into prison life. A collection of stories about himself and inmates he has encountered during his stay in what he refers to as "the greybar hotel"

An insightful look into the prison system, mindset, lifestyle and its sub-culture.

Besides being an excellent source of reference material for my own novella, this was an eye-opening, interesting,and brilliantly written read. Also gleaned a prison candy recipe which I am tempted to try.

Looking forward (hopefully) to more from this talented writer in the future.

I respect the final sentence in his aknowledgements

"Every penny I might be fortunate enough to make as a result of my writings goes into an Education Fund for my kids."




















Photo taken a year before his incarceration. he was 36 years old.
 
Dawkin's holds a Master's Degree in Fine Arts earned in Michgan four years before his incarceration. He has now been in prison for 13 years. He has 2 children. A son and a daughter.


More anon...



Friday, August 18, 2017

Virtual Ragusa, Sicily



Built on the top of a hill between two deep valleys, to fend off outside invaders, the city of Ragusa. The city itself divided into two sections. Upper Ragusa and the older town of Lower Ragusa.

Upper Ragusa is known for The Ragusa Cathedral dedicated to John the Baptist.

Tour
https://youtu.be/iqdWO4swY68

Lower Ragusa is home to several cathedrals as well. One interestingly named
Church of the Souls of Purgatory 










There are a number of these skulls with assorted hats and such decorating the outside.

Tour
https://youtu.be/B-TUN6kOvNM

Ragusa also is home to the Hyblean Gardens with a perfect view of the Hyblean Mountains.

Unfortunately...no video available.







A charming (but very small) Sicilian town just outside of Noto.

More Anon...













Ragusa at Night