Product Review: Goat Milk Hand Lotions

A student gave me two small bottles of hand lotion from Amanda’s Country Soaps. This is a small company based in Clarendon, TX, that produces products made from goat milk, shea butter, and similar products. The goat milk comes from their own goats.

Short version – great stuff!

Longer version – I use a lot of hand lotion during the winter. Our relative humidity can get down to two percent (Sahara, Gobi, Antarctica level humidity.) No matter how much water you drink, your skin will get dry. Toss in washing your hands with industrial-strength soap a few times a day, and you can imagine what happens to my skin. It’s not fun. So I use a range of lotions, starting with Vasaline™ Intensive Care and going from that point.

Enter lotions from Amanda’s Country Soaps. I had not heard of this company before, and I’m always happy to buy very local, if the stuff is any good. It’s good. Very, very good. The 2 oz bottle lotion is very thick. The scents are mild, and fade to a nice faintness. The primary ingredients are goat milk, shea butter, olive oil, then water, glycerine, and scents (often essential oils). Unscented versions are also available. The lotion lasts on my hands. Yes, there is a bit residue, but I look at that as a positive. If you prefer a lighter texture, you might try the larger size. That is whipped, and doesn’t seem to go on as heavily.

Because these are small batch products, and depend on how much milk the goats are producing, some scents might not be available at a given time. Amanda’s also seems to sell out of popular scents pretty quickly, but they also come back pretty quickly. The web-site is well organized and makes it easy to see what’s in and what’s currently sold out.

Prices are reasonable. Shipping is a tad steep, but they are sent close to overnight, and they are somewhat fragile. The items were very nicely packaged, and came with a little soap sampler.

If you or someone you know likes thick hand lotions or goat-milk soaps, I recommend these.

FTC Notice: I purchased these with my own money, for my own use, and received no promotional consideration for this review.


Piperade a la RedQuarters

Piperade is a recipe that is attributed to the Basques, or at least comes from that corner of Spain and France. The version I grew up with . . . came through Louisiana, perhaps, or from Florida, maybe. I recall it as one of those dishes that MomRed used to stretch the budget, sort of like beans-n-bacon-n-cheese, succotash, and scrambled eggs with chili.

The official version seems to start with “first, roast tomatoes.” That never happened at RedQuarters, because, well, that’s not what you did at home in the 1960s-70s in the US (unless an accident happened in the oven . . .) Canned diced tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, scrambled eggs with ham, that’s what I recall. So it is a very, very distant Americanized cousin of a Basque dish that used post-1492 ingredients.

one can diced tomatoes, partly drained

four-eight eggs, scrambled (depends on how hungry people are and how much ham you have)

1/2 diced onion

a plop of garlic (1 Tablespoon, but I like a lot of garlic. Can be omitted)

one small bell pepper, diced

Paprika or other warm, peppery spice to taste

4-5 ounces cooked ham, diced or minced (can substitute inexpensive ham, or even leftover lunch-meat ham)

Heat oil or butter in a heavy skillet. Add onion and garlic, sautee until onion is translucent. Add bell pepper and heat through. Add tomatoes and paprika, reduce heat and cover. While sauce is cooking, melt butter in a skillet and cook scrambled eggs to desired done-ness. Add ham to eggs just before the eggs are done. Bring sauce back to a high simmer or low boil and add eggs and ham. Serve hot. It shouldn’t be too runny, unless you want to serve it over toast.

I would probably add more spices and so on now. It’s hot, filling, tangy, and can be adjusted to local taste.

I Think It Needs a Transfusion . . .

because it’s bleeding all over the place!

How to stage a murder scene in your bathroom or laundry room. Take one red, floral print cotton blouse, acquired on clearance. Add warm water and anti-allergy soap. Stir vigorously in the bathroom sink, using hands to squeeze warm water and soap into blouse. Stare at water as Moses and Aaron stage a reenactment of messing with the Nile. Brilliant crimson soapy water now fills the sink. Surprise!

Interestingly enough the Red family has had a problem with crimson clothing going back several decades. Sib had a shirt that never, ever stopped shedding color in the wash, even after a score of washes on cold. It always went in with the blue jeans and other really dark colors, and woe betide any sock or pair of pale underwear that somehow slipped into the load. It emerged pink. I tend to assume that red colored garments will shed dye until proven otherwise. Although . . . the “winner” is still a green dress.

Back in the late 1990s-early 2000s, rayon skirts and dresses from Asia became trendy. The skirts replaced broomstick skirts (which I had loved) with a lighter version that didn’t need re-pleating after each wash. The skirts had a few flaws, flammability being one major flaw. The other was that the dyes used weren’t always colorfast. So, I bought a very dark green rayon dress at a local western store in Flat State. Since it was rayon and imported, and because I’ve had raw green fabric bleed a little dye in the past, I opted to wash it with cold water in the bathtub.

To make an interesting half hour short, when I finished, I had a white-grey rayon dress. Whoever had dyed the material had used no fixative at all. None. Nada. All the dye went down the drain. No, I couldn’t get my money back, either. And the “call with questions” line led to someone with a strong Hindi accent who was less than helpful. I’m not sure he understood the problem, or why it was a problem.

The pink and red blouse, after one wash and three rinses with warm, stopped bleeding. It looks quite nice. I’m just glad it didn’t go into the washing machine with MomRed’s pastel blouses and slacks, though!

What is Evil?

It’s one of those questions that every philosophical system and religion has to deal with. What is evil? How do you recognize it? How do you define it? How do you fight it, or do you? The question came up in recent weeks, back-to-back, in otherwise unrelated discussions or lectures. That sort of coincidence usually means I need to pay attention.

Eli Wiesel said that evil is indifference to one’s fellow men. I heard that definition, and thought, “What about suicide bombers, what about . . .” and began sort of listing individual actions and things that seem to be the opposite of indifference. But Wiesel was talking in the context of the Holocaust, about systems of evil. In that case, indifference does apply. The system doesn’t care about suffering, has no pity, or mercy, or interest in understanding people. People of the system are indifferent to what goes on, deaf to objections from victims of the system. Think of bureaucrats with quotas, or who always close the office at three-thirty in the afternoon, no matter how many people are still waiting to get help with paperwork, or in need of something. That’s the mild version. Stalin’s Soviet Union, or the Nazi empire, or Mao’s Great Leap Forward are the more severe version. Individuals disappear.

Then there’s active individual evil, the evil freely chosen, embraced, for a whole host of reasons. Some of them are because the individual’s wiring is skewed, and evil is the easier path. (A lot of people who might go that way don’t, for a number of reasons. But a few do.) The two are not exclusive. Actively evil people often do well in an evil system, or become the head of an evil system.

At an individual level, it’s not just indifference, although I suspect there’s a bit of that, a certain sadism, or even cold calculation that others are less than, well, anything. People are things, are tools, but are also obstacles to be removed, demons to be sent wherever $Deity wants them to go, toys to play with and enjoy watching them suffer.

Judaism and Christianity use the story of the serpent in the garden, where evil is introduced to paradise through temptation and disobedience. But where did the serpent get it from? The “Book of Job” is often nodded to as a book about coping with evils, but if you read it carefully, well, it’s not satisfying, exactly. Evil in the New Testament is personified as the Tempter, Satan, and as actions that go against the will of the Lord. But what is evil? An idea? An action? Where does it come from? Was it created by G-d? That leads into the argument that a perfect and good deity can’t have created evil, unless the deity did it for reasons that are good and that mortals just can’t understand. Or you get into dualism, where you have a good deity and an evil one, and eventually the good side wins (Zoroastrian system, among others.)

Evil is one of those things “I know it when I see it.” Except my definition of evil seems to be rather different from others’ definitions. Being a suicide bomber, to me, is evil. To others, it is a way of getting rid of evil. Lyall Watson’s book Dark Nature, and some of his other works, considers the idea in nature. Is what we call evil something that other animals do? Is it built into life in some way, something that culture checks most of the time, but that leaks out at other times? It’s a creepy book, one that I’m still chewing over even though it’s been a while since I read it. When orcas seem to “play” with seals before finally killing and eating them, is it evil? Or is it just further evidence that Adam’s fall condemned other creatures as well (one idea I’ve seen kicked around)?

Humans have been debating the question of evil for a very, very long time. It’s a question with no easy answer, unless it is to say, “This is evil. This I will not do, this I will avoid thinking about, this idea I reject and will teach/preach/fight against.”

But what is “Evil?”

Tex-Mex: A hybrid of hybrids

What a lot of people in my part of the world call “Mexican food” is actually Tex-Mex. Tortillas, spices from North America (and Europe), meats not native to the Americas (beef, chicken, domestic pig,) cheese (introduced), with veggies from the Old and New World . . . Which also describes a lot of Mexican food as well, unless you stick with 100% pure Native American dishes, if you can find them.

Tex-Mex began when Anglos met Hispanic Texicans (the generation of 1820-1850)*. Southern food, and northern food, and European food, met what was available in Texas. Spices from the Old World – cumin, sage, paprika, garlic, black pepper – met different peppers. Beef and cheese encountered pinto beans and tomatoes, and tomatillos (little green not-exactly-tomatoes). San Antonio is often credited as the home of Tex-Mex, but it might just be the largest city where blending occurred. Chili-con-carne is native to San Antonio, that everyone agrees on. Usually. Mostly.

The term Tex-Mex wasn’t really used until the 1960s and 70s, when “ethnic food” cookbooks became more common, along with more exotic ingredients, and authors started trying to distinguish real Mexican food from the versions found in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Until that point, people called it “Mexican food.” You know, crunchy tacos, burritos with refried beans in them, nachos, quesadillas and that “you’re doing what to corn chips” wonder, Frito™ pie. And canned chili, of course, be it Wolf Brand (the Redquarters staple, bought by the case), or Hormel, or other kinds. It tastes great, but . . . it’s most decidedly not really Mexican food. OK, guacamole is, until it gets “improved” or “adjusted” into Tex-Mex.

So, one of the “what is that?” regional favorites, Frito™ pie. You need:

Fritos™ corn chips (if you use other corn chips, it becomes a sort of nachos. Still good, just not authentic)

Canned chili, heated to the appropriate temperature (NO beans)

grated Cheddar cheese

other toppings to taste

Dump the corn chips in a bowl and spread around to make an even layer. Add chili to the chips. Cover with cheese. Add preferred toppings. Eat one chip at a time.

For a less “what we eat at high school foot ball games) version, you start by making your own chili:

1 lb ground beef, not too lean

Garlic and onion, chopped fine

tomato sauce, one can [or one can diced tomatoes OR one can RoTel tomatoes]

Tomato paste, one can (smaller can than sauce)

Chili powder to taste (this is a spice blend, not powdered chilis)

Brown the ground beef. Add garlic and onion, sauteing until the onion is transparent. Add tomato products and stir well. Add chili powder to taste (it tends to be mild, so you can go up to a quarter cup. I’d start low and add more as needed). Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or so to allow flavors to darken and blend.

Proceed as with first version, perhaps top with salsa and sour cream if daring. Most of us stop with the cheese. It is not gourmet food, and is not supposed to be.

*Until the 1960s or so, it was customary inside the state to refer to the first generations of Texans as Texicans. Then came the Texians, and then Texans referred to those born after 1900 or so. You no longer see the different terms unless you are reading older books.

Speaking of Frontiers and Poems . . .

Since I’m in an odd mood today, here’s a poem I first encountered as the title of a fun history/fiction/who knows book. “The Coming American.”

Bring me men to match my mountains;
Bring me men to match my plains, —
Men with empires in their purpose,
And new eras in their brains.
Bring me men to match my praries,
Men to match my inland seas,
Men whose thought shall pave a highway
Up to ampler destinies;
Pioneers to clear Thought’s marshlands,
And to cleanse old Error’s fen;
Bring me men to match my mountains —
Bring me men!

Bring me men to match my forests,
Strong to fight the storm and blast,
Branching toward the skyey future,
Rooted in the fertile past.
Bring me men to match my valleys,
Tolerant of sun and snow,
Men within whose fruitful purpose
Time’s consummate blooms shall grow.
Men to tame the tigerish instincts
Of the lair and cave and den,
Cleans the dragon slime of Nature —
Bring me men!

Bring me men to match my rivers,
Continent cleavers, flowing free,
Drawn by the eternal madness
To be mingled with the sea;
Men of oceanic impulse,
Men whose moral currents sweep
Toward the wide-enfolding ocean
Of an undiscovered deep;
Men who feel the strong pulsation
Of the Central Sea, and then
Time their currents to its earth throb —
Bring me men!

Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911) is another Victorian poet, popular in his time and now pretty much forgotten. Some of his pieces sound a bit like Robert Service, others like early Robert Frost, James Whitcomb Riley, and similar poets. The book (by Irving Stone) that took its title from the above poem is about the opening up of Nevada and the Sierras, about scandal and triumph, engineering, and Populism, and all sorts of Wild West stuff. The book caused a flurry of unhappiness among people who didn’t care to recall that their ancestors had not been as pure as the driven snow. Today, history buffs of the American West take that for granted, but in 1956? Oh, the pearl clutching. The book ranks up there with De Voto’s Across the Wide Missouri and Stanley Vestal’s books, in my opinion, as far as “should be required reading for US West 101.”)

On Odd Poem for (and from) an Odd Time

The poem, which I’m only excerpting is “Bryan, Bryan, Bryan, Bryan.”

“Oh the longhorns from Texas,
The jay hawks from Kansas,
The plop-eyed bungaroo and giant giassicus,
The varmint, chipmunk, bugaboo,
The horn-toad, prairie-dog and ballyhoo,
From all the newborn states arow,
Bidding the eagles of the west fly on,
Bidding the eagles of the west fly on.
The fawn, prodactyl, and thing-a-ma-jig,
The rackaboor, the hellangone,
The whangdoodle, batfowl and pig,
The coyote, wild-cat and grizzly in a glow,
In a miracle of health and speed, the whole breed abreast,
The leaped the Mississippi, blue border of the West,
From the Gulf to Canada, two thousand miles long:-
Against the towns of Tubal Cain,
Ah,– sharp was their song.
Against the ways of Tubal Cain, too cunning for the young,
The longhorn calf, the buffalo and wampus gave tongue.”


“And these children and their sons
At last rode through the cactus,
A cliff of mighty cowboys
On the lope,
With gun and rope.
And all the way to frightened Maine the old East heard them call,
And saw our Bryan by a mile lead the wall
Of men and whirling flowers and beasts,
The bard and prophet of them all.
Prairie avenger, mountain lion,
Bryan, Bryan, Bryan, Bryan,
Gigantic troubadour, speaking like a siege gun,
Smashing Plymouth Rock with his boulders from the West,
And just a hundred miles behind, tornadoes piled across the sky,
Blotting out sun and moon,
A sign on high.”

Vachel Lindsay is probably better known, if anyone knows him these days, for “Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight.” He’s one of the Victorian ballad poets, along with Stephen Vincent Benet, Sam Walter Foss (“The Coming American” aka “Give me Men to Match my Mountains”) and Sidney Lanier. Lindsay has a dubious reputation because of his poem “The Congo.” He encouraged African-American poets and authors, but also condescended to non-Anglos in general, and to Africans in particular (like so many in his time), and is pretty much ignored these days. However, the second excerpt appeared as a comment on The Powerline Blog, which sent me tracking down the source. G-d bless PoemHunter and other sites!

I warned you, it’s a strange poem. I suspect any ballad about US politics is going to veer into the surreal.

Lindsay’s poem is about William Jennings Bryan, the Populist (and later Democrat) who became a symbol for the ordinary people of the rural areas and US West, those shut out of machine politics. There was a growing sense in the 1870s-1890s that the East had grown corrupt, and rotten, isolated from the real people of the country. The Populists wanted to reclaim their voice in government, to stop the long deflation that so hurt farmers and miners, to clean out the machines that seemed to control national and state (and local) politics. These were the days when men really did meet in dark, smoke-filled back rooms to decide who would be president. The Republicans were resting on the laurels of the Civil War, the Democrats didn’t seem much more responsive, and the Populists, Farmers’ Alliance, and others wanted their turn.

If you’ve read Kipling, or much Old Testament, you’ll recognize Jubal and Tubal Cain. Some of the creatures Lindsay lists are imaginary, some are folk-lore, some (jay hawk) have political connotations that he ignored. The young west, the wild west, the clean, honest wilderness and the people who settle there, they are going to reclaim the East, to smash the corruption, all led by William Jennings Bryan.

The idea of the west, the frontier, as a place of moral superiority and uplift was very popular in the late 1800s. You get a hint of that in Kipling, especially “The Explorer” (“Something Lost Beyond the Ranges”.) Without a frontier, the US would grow decadent, and corrupt, and stagnant, and start to rot – like Europe. In 1892 the head of the US Census had declared that the frontier was closed. The population had settled too much of the country, and no open frontier remained. This led to much philosophizing and bewailing the lack. This was also the age of the machine politics, the Gilded Age, Mark Hanna, Boss Tweed, the Chicago Machine and “Honest Graft.”

The comment on Powerline ended with something to the effect that “Who would have thought that Lindsay was talking about truck drivers?”

The Populists didn’t win, exactly, the Progressives and the machines did (temporarily. Then the Progressives became the machine.) The Populists didn’t disappear. The Farmers’ Alliance is still around, the Farmers’ Union still has members and supporters, and the sense that the ordinary people of the Midwest and South are less corrupt than the professional politicians of the coasts, that’s still with us.

The Fangs of the Alps . . .

The year was 2014, and the day was in mid-June, closer to the summer Solstice than not. My traveling group had visited a small, relatively un-publicized but very nice Roman site in Kempten not too far from the sprawl that is Munich, down in the Algäu. From that area, if you look south, you can see the northern edge of the Alps.

The Alps, like most high mountain ranges in humid climates, collect clouds, and storms are not uncommon in spring and summer. The storms tend to be milder than those in the Rockies, if my limited experience with Alpine thunderstorms is valid. You still don’t mess around when you start seeing black clouds and sensing rumbles, trust me. There are few things spookier than being on an Alpine mountain slope and hearing thunder echo as black swallows the sky and the land. However, these were your typical summer puffies, which might or might not eventually form storms, or might just fade away with evening. Since the summer had been unusually* cool, fade away seemed more likely.

A jagged blue and white wall rose from the land around me as I looked to the south. Spears of sunlight and shadow revealed snow on pointed, vertical peaks. These weren’t the friendly, flower-dotted Alpine heights of Heimat stories and Heidi. No, these mountains tolerated no trespass, blocking the way and warning any who ventured south that danger and cold lay waiting. A rampart with fangs stood before me, and I had no desire to challenge it. I understood in a visceral way why it was the 1800s before people “domesticated” the high peaks, turning the Alps into an asset rather than a terror.

We moderns look at mountains as places of recreation, cool places in summer, ski and winter-sport destinations, or just scenic obstructions to drive through on our way from here to there. Or to fly over, weather permitting. Yes, the highest peaks are reserved for those with skills, equipment, stamina, and perhaps a touch of insanity – the Eiger, Jungfrau, Mt. Ranier, Mt. McKinley, others. But we are new. Hiking for fun, climbing peaks for fun is very new. Skiing down mountains, as opposed to skiing to get cross country over snow, only started in the late 1800s, when travel became cheap and supplying mountain towns became easy (easier). Going up into the highlands to look at the cute lambs and visit shepherds’ huts or hiking from hut to hut, we enjoy wildflowers and cool air and lovely views. We’ve domesticated the heights. Or so we like to think. It has not always been so.

Eiger means “ogre.” A nightmare in German is an “Alptraum,” an Alp-dream or isolated-pasture-dream. The Romans seem to have stayed away from the mountains, although they poked their edges and identified passes and invasion routes. Mountains were places to go through, or to hide in to get away from the World as well as other people. The great Alpine monasteries were often built to provide refuge for travelers and pilgrims trapped by storms, as well as spiritual retreats. Even today, on the southern side of the Alps, truckers form convoys for safety because of bandits and others. Yes, the Swiss lived in the Alps, and miners in Austria went into the Alps, but they were always a little suspect. Mountaineers and proper, lowland dwellers have had fraught relationships for centuries, if not longer. The mountains were uncanny, and so were the people who lived there.

That day, near Kempten, the Alps reclaimed their old reputation. My modern brain knew of motor routes through those peaks, and of the great passes, now well paved with lots of rest-stops and other amenities. I’ve hiked and visited small, very remote towns on the Austrian side of that wall, and dodged storms, and watched snow come down a valley toward me. But that day? No. A forbidding, ferocious, truly sublime mass loomed in by path, warning causal visitors away. The old, old Alps had returned, if only for a moment. I retreated to Munich.

*Unusual, if you believe all the breathless reportage about the warming climate and the death of the Alpine glaciers. I’ve been going to northern Europe almost every year since 1992, and only twice can I remember being what in the US we’d call “hot.” Once in 1994, and June of 2019. Otherwise, I’ve packed more wool and heavy cotton than chambray and summer-weight slacks. OK, one day in 2015, near Potsdam, it got to 95 F in Berlin. A cold front galloped through that night, prompting severe storm warning for . . . up to pea sized hail. Those of us from the Great Plains giggled. Quietly, but we giggled.