Grit Blogs >

Country Moon

One Big Joke

Country MoonI have always believed that God has a sense of humor. I even have a painting with Him laughing hysterically; this is how I picture Him, especially this past week, for I am sure the weather we have had is a big joke on His part.

Even though it is only the third week of February, we worked in the yard nearly every day. Even though I have heard countless folks say that this marks the beginning of spring, I know in my heart it is way too early not to have some wintry weather yet. Even so, and against my better judgment, I cleaned out my flower beds. Some of my daffodils and other spring flowers were trying to push their way through the thick layers of mulch and leaves — I did the unthinkable and uncovered them.

I was not alone. Farmers were in the fields, turning soil, disking, and anything else, because even though they know it is too early, when the winter chill turns to balmy breezes there is a compulsion to be in the fields. People cleaned up the yards, the hum of motorcycles roared down the roads. Even the trees think this is the real deal and are budding out. Spring fever ... in February. Even though I was pulled into the temptation like everyone else, I know God will lower the boom ... soon.

So, what is going on? This is more than just the January thaw a little bit late. Even before last week, this winter has been unusually mild. As a matter of fact, the past few years here in the Midwest have been milder. Is there something to this global warming that we have been hearing so much about? Some think so, some not.

The official definition of global warming is "an increase in the overall temperature of earth’s surface atmosphere, generally attributed to the greenhouse effect caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons and other pollutants." The greenhouse effect is caused by the interaction between earth’s atmosphere and incoming radiation from the sun. Solar radiation passes through the atmosphere to the earth’s surface, where it is absorbed and then radiated upward as heat. Gases in the atmosphere absorb 90% of this heat and radiate it back to earth, which is warmed to a life-supporting average of 59 degrees F. This is good.

Where this whole effect becomes bad is when human activity introduces too much of a certain gas back in the air and upsets the status quo. This is where global warming comes in. Weather is defined as "atmospheric conditions over a short period of time," whereas climate is defined as "the average weather of a particular region over several decades." Global warming will alter the climates of the world.

Even skeptics of the global warming theory cannot dispute the facts. Scientists have been documenting worldwide weather and climate changes since the 1800s. Earth’s average temperature is up 1.4 degrees F over the past century. Temperatures are predicted to rise between 2 and 11.5 for the average over the next 100 years.

Land ice is decreasing by 258 billion tons each year. The definition of a glacier is "a mass of ice and snow larger than 25 acres that moves." Montana’s Glacier National Park once had over 150 glaciers, and now only 25 remain. Due to melting ice, the sea level has risen 12 inches per year.

What does all of this really mean for us? With the rise in sea level, areas that were not affected before may become flooded. Carbon dioxide is essential for plant growth, and all agriculture (our food supply) depends on steady water supplies. Climate change is likely to disrupt these supplies through floods and droughts. It is likely to cause more hurricanes, as we have seen in recent years.

This global warming will have a negative impact on our health and environment. There are likely to be fewer deaths from extreme cold, but more from extreme heat. Heat-related diseases will increase, since the conditions will be favorable for more disease-carrying insects to survive and increase. Mosquitoes and the diseases they bring will be on the rise.

Scientists have varying opinions as to whether global warming can be reversed. However, most of them do concur that it can be slowed if we as a race follow some guidelines, such as:

1. Reduce fossil fuel use. Burning these increase the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

2. Plant more trees. Carbon dioxide is the most important greenhouse gas. During photosynthesis, trees and other plants absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. This is why having plants in the house is so good for us. One tree absorbs one ton of carbon dioxide during its life. Planting trees and other plants can, if not stop, certainly slow the greenhouse effect.

3. Reduce waste. Garbage and other waste that is burned gives off pollutants in the atmosphere that compound the problem. Remember the slogan, “Reduce, reuse, recycle.”

4. Conserve water. At one time, we all never thought we would be faced with a shortage of this precious commodity. Water is one of the essentials to life. In times of drought, man, animals, and plants all suffer. Conserve.

5. Use less heat and air conditioning. Add insulation, install weather stripping and caulking. This can lower heating use by 25 percent, which in turn will lower the use of fossil fuels.

6. Drive less and drive smart. By driving vehicles that get better gas mileage, we save ourselves dollars at the pump and save fuel. Also, make sure vehicles are running efficiently, which will result in fewer emissions.

7. Buy energy efficient products. Avoid products with excess packaging, especially molded plastics. Reducing household garbage by 10 percent can save 1200 pounds of carbon dioxide annually.

8. Use less hot water.

Many of these things will not only help the environment, but will also keep a little more jingle in our pockets. It’s a win/win situation for all involved. Whether you believe in global warming or not, these things just make sense.

Don’t let me kid you, I enjoyed these past couple of weeks just as much as the next guy, but I know that you can’t fully appreciate the summer without winter. So I do wonder if this is a joke God is playing on us, or rather a warning He is sending us to take heed before it is too late.

Sunlight on a young sprout
Photo by Fotolia/lily

Folk Medicine That Works

Country MoonCoughing, sneezing, wheezing ... It is the season for cold and flu viruses to interrupt our daily routines. Even worse, doctors can’t usually make you feel better because viruses just have to run their course. Yuck!

Even though doctors don’t have medicines that will help, some commonsense folk medicine might just be the cure that the doctor didn’t order. Many folks are going back to “folk medicine” because it works and is all-natural. Essential oils and tinctures are powerful remedies, but, unless you are experienced in these, you may want to use caution.

Essential oils are exactly what their name implies; they are the pure oil extracts from plants and are very potent because of their concentration. Tinctures are liquid extracts made by soaking herbs in alcohol to extract the active ingredients from the herbs.

The safest way to use herbs and other natural remedies is to make a poultice, because poultices provide the benefits of herbs but are not as concentrated as essential oils or tinctures. A poultice is made by mashing herbs, plant material, or other substances with warm water or natural oils to make a paste. They can be used to draw out infection, ease spider bite pain, eliminate warts, and treat a multitude of other ailments.

My favorite poultice is one that our family has used throughout the years to treat congestion in the lungs from colds or bronchitis. It has kept us out of doctors’ offices and even the hospital more than a few times. You simply take paper towels, old cotton T-shirts, or other material, spread lard or Crisco on it, and cover that with a generous helping of ginger. Fold the material in half with the goodies inside and apply to the chest area over night. This will draw the congestion out.

The following poultice ingredients have properties to draw out infections, reduce inflammation, treat chest congestion, hemorrhoid and earaches, and many more ailments. Don’t forget that they can be used on pets and livestock, also!

ONION POULTICE: Mash a raw onion and mix with warm water or organic plant oils. This will help with deep coughs and congestion. You may want a thin layer of cloth between your skin and the onion.

POTATO POULTICE: Grate a raw potato and make a paste to help with inflammation and eye troubles such as conjunctivitis.

MUSTARD POULTICE: Mash some mustard seeds, mix with natural oil or water, and apply. Use a thin cloth between paste and skin, because a homemade mustard poultice is very powerful and can burn your skin if applied directly. Besides easing bronchitis symptoms, coughs, colds, chest congestion, and fevers, mustard poultices are effective in treating boils, arthritis, and removing toxins from the body.

PLANTAIN POULTICE: Plantain is a common weed that has great drawing power. Mash the fresh weed for the paste or use a tincture or compress. Plantain poultices are beneficial for insect bites.

ACTIVATED CHARCOAL: This is a black, odorless, tasteless powder that has been made from wood or other substances that have been exposed to very high temperatures in an airless environment. Make a paste of activated charcoal and water to help digestive and gastrointestinal disorders like acid reflux. It also can be used for infections like pink eye, urinary tract infections and absesses, poisoning, drug overdoses, food poisoning, gout, cholera, and plant allergens like poison ivy and poison oak.

COMFREY POULTICE: Comfrey roots and leaves have great healing properties, especially where bones and ligaments are involved. They work well for aches, pains, and sprains and bruises. Simply crush a small handful of comfrey leaves into a bowl and pour enough boiling water over to cover. Mash into a pulp, let cool, and spread the pulp directly on the affected area.

TUMERIC: Mix 1 teaspoon turmeric with 1/2 teaspoon water, olive oil, tea tree oil, or coconut oil for drawing infection and treating boils. It also helps in treating MRSA infections. For even better results, put a teaspoon of turmeric in a cup of warm milk and drink to help it work from the inside out.

CAYENNE PEPPER: Mix one part cayenne pepper and equal parts of mullein leaves and slippery elm powder, dampened with enough apple cider vinegar to form a paste. This will help alleviate the pain of arthritis and rheumatism and also sciatica and other lower back pain.

BREAD AND MILK POULTICE: These work very well for infections and boils, and they are two ingredients that everyone has on hand. Simply heat milk and add a bit of bread, wrap in gauze or cheese cloth, and place on wound. Use this as hot as you can stand it and repeat a few times a day. This works pretty fast and often much better than over-the-counter products.

LEMON BALM POULTICE: Lemon balm leaves make a poultice for small wounds, cold sores, and insect bites. Crush leaves and mix with a little water to make a paste.

SLIPPERY ELM AND THYME: Slippery elm has great healing properties, and thyme is a great antiseptic. Mash thyme leaves and cover with boiling water. Pour off excess water and mix in 2 tablespoons of slippery elm powder.

POULTICES FOR WARTS: Think both acidic and viral fighters. Garlic is excellent. Apply freshly grated garlic directly to the wart and cover with a bandage trying to avoid the healthy skin around the wart. Cotton balls soaked in apple cider vinegar and placed over warts is another remedy. Aspirin is salicylic acid, so this makes sense. Crush an aspirin and make a thick pate with warm water, then apply to the wart. Figs are an old folk remedy for warts. Use a fresh, mushy fig as a poultice for at least a half hour each day. Chopped onion sprinkled with a little salt and/or lemon juice also makes a great wart poultice. Blackstrap molasses is one of the oldest wart removal home remedies: soak a cotton ball in the molasses, cover the wart, and keep on as long as possible while also eating a tablespoon of molasses every day during the treatment.

BAKING SODA: Make a paste of this and water and use for spider bites. The alkaline substance can help draw out the venom.

SALT: Due to its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, it can effectively draw the venom out of a spider bite.

No matter what kind of poultices you are using, they can only be effective if kept moist and in direct contact with the skin. They are no substitute for modern medicine, but they do have their place alongside it. We live in an amazing world where everything we need is provided for us; we just have to learn how to use the different applications.

Mortar and pestle and herbs
Photo by Fotolia/lily

The Drawer

Country MoonEveryone has one. We don’t like to talk about it. It is nasty, distasteful, and, if we ignore it, we fool ourselves into thinking that it will go away. But it doesn’t. It makes us feel like less of a person because we have one, but no one really knows what to do about it. We are all plagued by ... THE DRAWER.

You all know what I am talking about. I asked Ron the other day where a paper clip was. He looked at me like I was crazy and merely said, “The drawer.” It’s that drawer, closet or inconspicuous corner that everyone has, into which everything that doesn’t fit anywhere else eventually finds its way.

I have one.  Every time that I open it, something odd magically appears. Last time I opened it I was looking for a AA battery. I found, among other things, a mask for mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, an old shopping list, staples (no stapler), needles (no thread), a hex screwdriver, and a small bottle of mouthwash. I did not find a AA battery, however I found three D batteries, none of which worked.

Clutter. The most organized person still has a couple places that just seem to catch everything. The hutch in the kitchen used to be our place. Everything that Jim had in his pockets — screws, money, phone, sticky notes — would end up on top of the hutch. It looked awful and was the point of contention between us when company was coming over — "Please clean the hutch — again!"

Don’t think that this applies to just the household. You guys have it, too — in your garages, barns, and shops. You know, all those places that are off limits to one or the other person in the house. ("How dare you think of cleaning the garage; you might put something away and I would never find it." On the other hand, we would welcome you to pick up things in the house.) Don’t think that I am pointing fingers at anyone, for I am just as guilty. On most days, one look at my desk and you would ask if there were even a desk under there.

This is the perfect time of year to de-clutter. I know what you are thinking: You did that last year at this time, and the year before. Somehow clutter has a way of returning, but there are ways of keeping it to a minimum. Most of us would like to live a simplified life with a little less clutter and usually have just a couple trouble spots, but then there are those who have reached or almost reached the status of "hoarder." Either way, there are creative ways to declutter that do not have to be painful.

I know this all too well. A year ago at this time, we started to go through the whole house and basement, shelf by shelf and room by room, and then proceeded to the garage and barn. Jim was a collector and saved everything. We found paper towels stuffed inside of Wal-Mart bags stuffed inside of boxes. Needless to say, we had a few royal burnings. By August everything was gone, through. Even so, this year I still have a few trouble spots (you know — THE DRAWER).

I make light of this situation, but it can be a serious problem for some, and for others it is just a nagging sense of being overwhelmed and defeated. There are actually professionals who can help us deal with clutter. Here are some of their suggestions to help take on the mess:

1. Whatever you do, do not try to tackle it all at once, it will be overwhelming. Instead, focus on one area — a room, a closet, or even so small as a drawer. It helps to make a list of areas and check them off as you go.

2. Work only as long as you are making progress. When you start to feel defeated, look back and see how far you have come and remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

3. The two above methods work well for some. As for me, I am more the “dig in and do it” type. However, for each area you can try the 12-12-12 method. Choose 12 items to throw away, 12 to donate, and 12 to keep and put away where they go. There is also the 4-box method where, again for each area, you have 4 boxes, one each for trash, give away, keep, and relocate.

4. When it comes to clothes, especially for us gals, it is hard to get rid of anything, because even if we haven’t worn it recently, each item holds a special memory or we will wear it when we are that size again. I know, I have some of those pieces. Oprah Winfrey gave notoriety to the “closet hanger experiment.” Hang all clothes in the reverse direction. After wearing an item, hang it right, and after a certain amount of time you know which ones you actually wear. This fits in with the “project 333” method: choose the 33 items that you wear in 3 months (or whatever numbers work for you).

There are also some tips of what not to do when decluttering:

1. Don’t buy storage pieces like totes until you have sorted through the house and know where they will eventually go — organize first and buy second. Nothing is more frustrating than having things packed nicely in totes only to find out that they won’t fit on shelves or under the bed or wherever they were intended live. Don’t forget that good old cardboard boxes work just as well for some items, and the price is right.

2. Don’t set time limits. If you allow yourself only so much time to get through the clutter (a day, a week), you will be disappointed and feel defeated. This is not an easy task, and you don’t know until you dig in exactly what time frame you are looking at. Remember, it didn’t accumulate in one day, why should it go away in one?

3. Good enough is good enough. No one has closets or drawers or basements that look like those in home decorating magazines. This is your space; as long as you are content with it, then it is good enough.

The number one reason that clutter happens in the first place is that we don’t know what to do with some things. Not everything fits nicely in one category. Mine is the mail. Now when I get the mail every piece is either thrown away, filed, or dealt with the same day (if a phone call needs to be made, bank statements dealt with, etc.).

As for THE DRAWER, I have rationalized that it is not a product of clutter, but rather a tool of decluttering for all those items that just don’t fit anywhere else. As a matter of fact, I am headed back to THE DRAWER. I still haven’t found that paper clip!

Photo by Fotolia/Pixsooz

Recipes Tie Families Together

Country MoonIt is pretty amazing when we stop to think about how much our lives revolve around food. Usually, food is the simple theme when there is a social gathering; whether it be a home cooked meal, grilling out, or cooking over an open fire, food brings it all together.

Of all the various ways of incorporating food into our lives, old family recipes evoke the fondest memories. Many times, these are passed down from generation to generation solely by word of mouth. Everyone remembers a favorite recipe that their grandmother, aunt, or mom used to make, but all too often they don’t know exactly what ingredients or how much of each were used. Sadly, many family favorites have been lost through time this way.

That is why I was thrilled when my bonus daughter, Kim (we like this term better than "stepdaughter"), suggested we do a family cookbook. This brilliant idea became my next project. However, there are no simple projects in my life. This was such a great idea that not only would I do the Hoffman/Jim's family, but also the Brueck/my mom's family, the Frye/my dad’s family, and the Scruggs/Ron’s family. Instead of doing four separate small cookbooks, I would combine all the recipes into one large book and also include recipes from friends, for they become our families, too. After all, the more the merrier, they say!

I soon learned that, although putting together a family cookbook is a lot of work, it is also very rewarding as long as a few simple rules are followed. Naturally, first on the agenda was collecting the recipes. There are many sub-categories that can take a recipe in different directions, like grilled meats, slow cooker meals, gluten free, etc. I decided that I preferred family heirloom favorites as opposed to just each family’s favorites. So I specified this in the initial contact letter to each person.

As far as number of recipes, I chose not to specify. I knew that some would have trouble coming up with even one while others would send me an endless number.

Many of my family recipes are scribbled on little scraps of paper and stuck in my recipe box. One of my projects for the winter is to get them all organized and put on a DVD, so they will be in some type of order and also be preserved. The cookbook project will do double duty to help accomplish this task, too. However, looking through the scraps of paper, I realized that even though I knew the shortcuts to each recipe, others would not. For that reason, each recipe would have to be very specific and adhere to certain guidelines such as:

Ingredient List: All ingredients need to be listed in the order of use. Any special instructions pertaining to each item needs to be specified, such as if it needs to be chopped, minced, melted, etc. Does the liquid need to be drained from canned goods?

No Dangling Ingredients: Many recipes will call for an ingredient and ask that the measurement be separated, with a portion of it reserved for a later use. Often, no more mention is ever made of it. This has happened to me repeatedly, and you end up with food you don’t know what to do with.

Preparation of Items: Be sure and specify what parts of items should be used, especially when fruits and vegetables are involved. Are they to be peeled, or is the peel included? Also, with boxed pudding and Jell-O, do you prepare it like the instructions say on the box, or use it dry?

Baking Times and Temperatures: Be specific on baking and cooktop temperatures. Does something just need to come to a boil or boil for so many minutes? Is a baked item done when it is browned on top, or do you need to insert a toothpick to check for doneness? Do you need to cover it?

Sizes: Cookie sheets come in various sizes. Is an 8-inch pan round or square? A box of cornbread mix can be family or individual sized. Specify ounces or pounds for purchased items; it all makes a difference.

Servings: Give approximate number of servings and indicate if leftovers can be frozen, or if the entire recipe can be prepared ahead and frozen for future use.

If you attempt a project like this, then the recipes start pouring in you will need an organization method. There are many different ways to do this, although the general rule of thumb for cookbooks is by categories such as meats, soups, desserts, etc. They can also be separated by nutritional classes such as regular, sugar-free, gluten free, etc.

In my case, I have the option of separating them by families with subcategories of foo types, or by listing each family name and grouping all submitted recipes by individuals.

Even though it may be putting the cart before the horse, it is wise to decide which printing house you will use to print your cookbooks. There are many out there, and the norm is to charge by number of copies ordered and number of recipes per book. The more copies ordered, the cheaper each individual book, but the more recipes, the more expensive for each copy. Usually each printer has different options for the layout of the book, but it helps to know the guidelines of the one you intend to use so that you can arrange the material accordingly. Since mine will be a family cookbook, I want to include little tidbits of pertinent information to personalize each recipe. Some printers include this feature for free in their layout, and some do not.

Cost is a big consideration. Many organizations such as churches put together a cookbook as a fundraiser. Although the main purpose of mine is to preserve family recipes, there is no reason that it cannot also be a fundraiser. I plan on displaying these cookbooks with some local merchants. Selling more will help bring the price down for family members, and I will send the extra proceeds to Dr. Michael House in Indianapolis for his research to detect pancreatic cancer early, in honor of my husband, Jim, who succumbed to the disease and my cousin, Vicky, who beat it.

The last important consideration for this project is the time frame. I have set a date that I need all recipes by, and after that I can start categorizing. The more work I do — such as typing the recipes in the correct format and editing — will keep the cost down, so I am planning on a few months to format.

Any family or organization can put together a cookbook, making it as simple as a few typed pages or as elaborate as a whole book. I know this project for me will be a passion of patience. However, in the end, I know it will be so much more than that. Between the covers of each book will be the flavors and unique stories that make a family, a family.

Cookbook and ingredients
Photo by Fotolia/vetre

Rip's: Where Bar-B-Q Is King

Country Moon


A few weeks ago we checked out Rip’s, a Bar-B-Q eatery in Connersville, Indiana that friends Byron and Linda Kinsinger introduced us to. Needless to say, I was skeptical. Everyone knows that Bar-B-Q is an American original with its roots in the south, not in Indiana.

I had to eat my words, literally, because Tom Ripherger, owner of Rip’s, made a believer out of me. Although Rip’s may be small with only eight tables, the taste is big.

It all started a little over two years ago when Tom wanted to go for his dream. He was a software analyst in Memphis, Tennessee, and when he moved to Forrest City, Arkansas, he was introduced firsthand to real Bar-B-Q.

“I got hooked on the flavor,” he remembers. “When we moved back to Connorsville, we couldn’t find any Bar-B-Q that came close to the flavor that we had grown to love. Ironically, I got a promotion at work which took me off the floor and put me in a tiny cubicle all day. I didn’t like it, so I decided to follow my dream and open my own place. I have always liked to cook and grill, so this was a natural progression.”

So Rip’s was “born,” and Tom did both jobs for about a month until he decided that he could either put 20 percent of his time into his new venture, or 100 percent. Luckily, he chose the latter.

“Everything just fell into place,” he recalls. “Actually my folks, Sue and Tom Sr., were looking for a place to open an ice cream parlor when we saw a “For Sale” sign on this place, and we decided to make it a Bar-B-Q with ice cream on the side. It just fit.”

So what makes Rip’s so different? One of the biggest influences was when Tom tried Bar-B-Q in Memphis that was touted to be some of the best and he didn’t care for it. He is a firm believer in “meat should be good by itself and the sauce should only enhance the flavor.” Thus, Rip’s does Bar-B-Q not southern-style, not Memphis-style, but rather Rip’s-style.

Their meat is moist and full of flavor, even without the sauce, thanks to the special rub that he had already perfected to the family’s liking. Beyond that, customers have a choice from seven different Rip’s signature sauces, all named based on his take of each region. All seven are Tom’s originals, and each adds a distinct flavor. Memphis is a sweet sauce, while Texas sauce is spicy, and he also has a blend of the two, which are his most popular. Alabama sauce is mayonnaise-based, Carolina has a mustard base, and peach habanero is for those who just can’t get it hot enough.

Just keeping up with having enough sauce and rub is a job in itself. In a typical week, Rip’s uses 5 gallons of mild sauce, 3 to 5 gallons of each of the others, and 20 gallons of rub. That’s a lot of sauce and spice!

“Accompanying” his sauces and rub are 750 pounds of beef, pork, and chicken bought fresh each day and smoked to perfection in two smokers that are filled with hickory, apple, and other fruit woods. Tom explains, “We load the pork and brisket in the large smoker at night and it slow cooks for 12 hours, and then each morning we put the ribs and chicken in the smaller cooker and leave it for 3-1/2 hours.”

However, man does not live by Bar-B-Q alone. All of the side dishes are homemade from family recipes, too. His mother Sue is in charge of these. “We feature a different soup each day, and that works out pretty well. We also offer any leftover soup from the previous day along with the special, and this saves waste and offers our customers a couple of choices.”

She makes 2 gallons of soup each day and mixes her baked beans in a 5-gallon bucket so they are already seasoned and she can bake only what she needs at a time. Her beans definitely have a secret ingredient that sets them apart. “You’ll just have to stop by and taste them for yourself to see if you can figure out what it is,” she says with a grin.

Sue and her husband, Tom Sr., have been stanch supporters of the business since Day One. Even though they have adopted six kids in addition to their own — with four of the adopted ones still at home with them — Sue cooks most of the sides while her husband does maintenance and is basically jack of all trades. Tom Jr.’s sisters, Tiffany, Tammy, Jaimee and Hannah, fill in wherever needed as does his daughter, Katelyn. Audrey, who has been there since they opened, is just like family, as are brothers Devon and Darren who round out the team.

It is obvious that they are a close- knit family, and that atmosphere is conveyed to the customers. Tom likes working with less staff and having the family atmosphere. “Everyone has a purpose and a place, and we are all working toward the same goals.”

As if Bar-B-Q and homemade sides weren’t enough, you can also round out your meal with homemade desserts (if you have room!). These include cheesecake, fruit cobblers (peach, apple, cherry, and blackberry), banana pudding, and 14 flavors of ice cream. Now, that’s my kind of meal!.

“All of us have special duties but we all know every job, so we can fill in wherever needed,” Tom says. That’s a good thing since they also do event catering, which includes either just delivering the food or setting up and serving it, too, depending on the wishes of the customer. Sometimes it gets a little hectic when they get a call in the morning for an event that the customer wants catered that same afternoon. “My motto is that if the customer wants it, I have to figure out how to get it. It’s not always easy,” Tom sighs.

Just recently, Rip’s also started serving breakfast. Sue laughs. “For the present it’s only French toast, biscuits and gravy, and other simple items. We have to be here at 6 A.M. anyway, so we figured we may as well serve breakfast, too.”

It’s nice to see a small, family-owned business enjoy such success. recently sent people to sample Bar-B-Q in all 50 states, and Rip’s was their choice for the best in Indiana. “That was quite an honor, and all we are doing is what we love to do,” Tom proudly explains.

I could see the twinkle in his eye and knew he had even bigger plans for the future. Eventually, he would like to have five more Rip’s in the surrounding area. However, he cautions, “People like what we are doing here, so I would like to have all the food made here and trucked to the other establishments. That way we could maintain quality.”

But that is a little wats down the road. For the immediate future, Tom has purchased the house behind Rip’s and plans to double the seating capacity. “Along with the extra room, it would give us a little more flexibility. My Dad and I play and sing and I would like to offer live acoustic shows with an open mic and rotating bands.”

Rip’s is the little place that’s big on flavor and hospitality. If you are in the Connersville vicinity, it is well worth it to stop by at 302 W. Fifth St. and sample some Bar-B-Q heaven with a generous helping of hospitality on the side.

Granny Get Your Gun (Or Not)

Country MoonProtecting oneself from violent attacks in the society we live in today has become a necessity, especially for single women who live alone. If the women, like myself, are a few years older than the young crowd but still by no means old, this presents another scenario.

Unlike the rifle-touting Granny of the old television show “The Beverly Hillbillies,” not all of us are real keen on carrying or even owning a gun. This decision boils down to one important question: If presented with a violent situation, could you actually pull the trigger and take a human life in a matter of life or death for you or a loved one? If the answer isn’t a resounding “yes,” then perhaps another form of self-defense may be more suitable to you. Even though they may not be quite as cut and dry, there are other effective forms of self-defense .

Pepper spray should be given the credit it is due. It is a non-lethal OC agent that is supposed to shut down an attacker’s vision. The pain is intense and the loss of vision makes the attack almost impossible to carry out, plus pepper spray rarely requires a permit to carry. It does require a defensive mindset, but not much training — just be sure to get a good one. UDAP makes one designed to stop a Grizzly bear and any other mammal smaller than 1000 pounds. The main thing to remember is to keep it accessible; having it at the bottom of your purse renders it useless.

Kimber makes two highly effective models of pepper blasters, both of which fire a stream over 13 feet at 90 mph. They are approximately the size of smartphones, have a trigger in the middle, and have a barrel of spray located both above and below the trigger. The Pepper Blaster 2 is shaped like a gun, but is bright red so as not to be confused with a handgun. It also has sights that help make aiming easier. There are premium pepper sprays that are capable of getting the spray behind glasses and even behind masks. They generally cost less than $50 and each contain two blasts of potent spray.

Stun guns and tasers are easily confused. With a stun gun, you have to be either in direct contact with or very close proximity to an attacker, whereas tasers let you have some distance but are generally a one-time-use weapon. Stun guns are easy to use in a wide range of categories and work by emitting a steady jolt of high electricity to the opponent that only ceases when the user releases the trigger. They are capable of instantly stopping the threat and creating immense pain.

Often overlooked as a weapon, a baton can also incapacitate an attacker. These are long rods that extend from 16 inches to 26 inches, and some even double as flashlights. Although the various sizes must be tailored to the individual, sometimes the shorter ones are easier to use as encounters are often in tight quarters. Batons have found their way into the duty belts of a vast majority of police officers. The United States Marine Corps trains troops to use these effectively for non-lethal crowd control.

Even though all of these means of self-defense are non-lethal, some places still prohibit their use, even pepper sprays. Though more vulgar, there are other weapons to fit the bill. Mag lights are nothing more than giant flashlights filled with D batteries, but they pack a huge punch. Smith and Wesson produce pocket-sized self-defense pens that are flashlights and also glass breakers.

The Ninja Spike keychain is a weapon where just the name would be enough to stop me. It comes with an attachment for a keychain and fits perfectly between the fingers when you make a fist. The spikes will do massive damage to an attacker and is very intimidating. The Honeycomb Hairbrush made by Cold Steel is a hairbrush with a twist: The brush pulls off to reveal a 3-1/2 inch dagger. The Paracord Monkey Ball looks like a cute keychain but has steel balls embedded in the paracord that are designed to inflict serious damage to an attacker.

Perhaps the best self-defense requires no special equipment. Taking a self-defense course can empower anyone by learning to use their own body as a weapon. This takes physical strength and dedication, but it is well worth it.

Of course, we all prefer not to have to resort to any kind of self-defense, and as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Every woman alone, whether out in public or in the privacy of her own home, can take precautions to protect herself before something happens.

• Choose a safe place to live. Yes, this may mean moving if you have suddenly found yourself alone, and it may not be the place you have always called home. Some people feel safer in the city with people around them all the time. I prefer the country, it is where I grew up.

• No matter where you reside, have a plan of escape, not only from intruders, but also for natural disasters. If doors are blocked, from what windows can you escape? Have flashlights and cell phones close (and charged at all times). Get to know your neighbors. There were times when we all knew our neighbors, but not so much anymore in our fast-paced world. This can be beneficial for all involved as you look out for each other.

• A home security system can create a safety zone. Many times this will be enough to stop an attacker, and a system will provide a greater sense of security when coming home and entering an empty house. I am impressed with SimpliSafe as it is wireless and you can install it in a matter of minutes. It is affordable and reliable.

• Most of all, use common sense. Be sure to lock doors, even when you are in the house but cannot see or hear someone come in. Follow the old rule of never letting strangers into your home. Install mobile apps on your phone that can send alerts when you are in danger.

A woman is 30 to 40 percent more likely to be attacked rather than a man. Over 22 million women in the United States have been raped, and every 90 seconds someone is sexually assaulted. A gun is the most effective self-defense tool one can carry, but only if you feel comfortable enough to use it. You do have other choices, and any choice is better than nothing.

Photo by Fotolia/yellomello

What's In The Cards?

Country Moonplaying-cards1

Playing card games are some of the most popular pastimes around the world. I dare say there is not one person who has not played at least one kind of card game. We all take cards for granted; not too many of us know how the specific cards originated or how they so uniquely relate to our life.

It is estimated that there are close to 10,000 card games in existence, even though no one knows for sure since new ones are invented by individuals every day. A deck of cards is most commonly known as pieces of specially prepared heavy paper, thin cardboard, or plastic coated paper marked with distinguishing motifs usually used for playing card games.

Although card games are the most popular use for cards, there are others. Cardistry combines cards and artistry. This skill uses a person’s hands to create cuts, displays, fans, patterns, and sequences. The intent is to create a captivating motion and beautiful display. It resembles juggling, mime, or similar entertaining activities. The effects are only limited by the types of cards used and the imagination and degree of manual dexterity of the performer.

Cartomancy is a fancy name for fortune telling using a deck of cards. Who hasn’t wandered into the fortune teller’s tent at a local carnival to have her display the deck of cards out in front of you to tell you the rest of your life’s story? This use of cards appeared after playing cards themselves were introduced in Europe in the 14th century.

Building card structures is another use of playing cards, where they are balanced on top of each other to form structures. Contests are held to see who can construct the largest.

Memory sport is another card use where participants attempt to memorize and recall different forms of information under certain guidelines using cards. One type of memorization is where the order of random cards is memorized. National and international championships are held in this category.

Unless it is a specialty deck, a deck of cards has 52 cards, four suits (hearts, spades, diamonds and clubs), and 13 cards in every suit. The suits date back to the 14th and 15th centuries and were introduced by the French. It is thought by some scholars that each suit represents a different social class of the time: hearts represented the church or clergy; spades represents swords for nobility; diamonds represent coins or money associated with the merchant class; and clubs represented the batons of the peasant class.

The numbers in a deck of cards are in truth symbolic representations of our calendar, used for centuries by priests in temples to work with the planetary motions and the earth’s cycles. Numeric values in a deck of cards match the calendar perfectly; the common deck is not so common after all. Here are some of the common denominators:

• There are 52 cards in a deck and 52 weeks in a year.

• The 4 suits match the four seasons.

• The 12 court cards — all the Jacks, Queens and Kings — correspond to the 12 months of the Gregorian calendar or 12 zodiac signs in each year. The average value of all the court cards is twelve. There are 12 hours in each day and each night. There are 12 animals in the cycles of the Chinese calendar.

• There are 13 cards in each suit. In a lunar year, the moon goes around earth 13 times. There are 13 weeks in each season.

• Start with a full deck of cards without Jokers. Deal them all one by one into two piles, and then put the second pile on the first pile and start over. Do this a total of 24 times, and the entire deck will be in the same order as it was before you started dealing. There are 24 hours in a day.

• The two colors on the faces, red and black, symbolize day and night.

• Consider Ace as 1, Jack as 11, Queen as 11, and King as 13. The middle number between one (Ace) and thirteen (King) is 7, the number of days in a week. If you add up all 52 cards in the deck you’ll get 364 ... plus one for a Joker is 365, the number of days in a year. Here is another way to get there: 4 = the number of suits (or seasons); 7 = the average value of a card (or days in a week); 13 = the number of cards in each suit (or months in the lunar calendar year); 4 x 7 x 13 = 364, plus one for a joker = 365 — the number of days in a year.

Pretty cool, isn’t it? If you want to go a little further, there are some theories as to what the different face cards symbolize. The King of Spades is said to resemble David, the king of the Hebrews. His sword is modeled on the weapon he took from Goliath upon slaying the giant with a slingshot, which was shown lower down on the card. The Club King is depicted as a stylized Charlemagne, the King of Diamonds as Julius Caesar, and the King of Hearts as Alexander the Great. The four kings represented the Jewish world, the Holy Roman Empire, and pre-Christian Rome and Greece — the four main wellsprings of western civilization.

The queens and jacks did not align so well. The Queen of Spades was based on Pallas Athena, the goddess whose warlike spirit called to mind Jeanne d’Arc. The Queen of Diamonds was modeled on Rachel, the beauty whom Jacob had to wait fourteen years to marry. The Queen of Hearts inspired by Judith, the Jewish heroine who got the Assyrian general Holofernes drunk on false pretenses and then cut of his head, saving Israel in the process and rating the widow her own book in the Old Testament. The Club Queen paid homage to "Argine” — from regina, the Latin word for queen.

The four jacks are featured, full-length depictions of famous knights whose names were printed next to their pictures: Lancelot, Ogrier, Roland, and Valery. Each of these long-haired, beardless, young warriors sported a battle axe, except for Valery, who was attended by a hound.

Who knew our playing cards had such a colorful past? Steeped in tradition and history, today they also play an important part in bringing people together for hours of fellowship and merriment.