Saturday, October 31, 2015

Abby the Lab with the Paw-rents Howl-0-ween Costume

Yes, Mom and Dad the historical society war re-enactment was a blast. 

So, since Dad has all that genuine antique gear, are you two going as Doughboys to the Halloween party? 

World War I Bacon Ration Tin


Wait - is that Mom's costume on the chair?

What Abby? Well I AM a Doughboy.

Remember everyone - there are TWO blog hops going on this Halloween!

 Bentley & Pierre and Sugar are hosting a Halloween Spooktactular Hop.

Dory is hosting No Tricks Just Treats for Shelters fundraiser hop.  Mom ordered extra bags of food from Chewy and is going to donate it to a pet food fundraiser.  If you ever have extra food or see it on sale consider donating it.  Many shelters and often your local vet or dog groomers office will have info or drop off sites.  Helping an animal get a nourishing meal is a simple thing to do.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Fractured Fryday Hairy Tales - Howl-O-Ween Eve

Welcome to Fractured Fryday Hairy Tales where on the last Friday of the month we dust off our creative writing skills incorporating a special phrase - this month's phrase one related to pumpkins. There's lots of things happening in Blogville this week so check out the community calender on the sidebar.  And don't forgot to stop in at Dory's for a special fundraiser and blog hop.

With that I present this months Fryday Hairy Tail
 - Abby Lab
I love my stuffie toys, all soft and squishy.  Mom got me this one that was a different brand then my usual Kong durable stuffies that I love.  It was a hedgehog.  It's not the little one that's on her shelf that she says is "special" but a dog stuffie.  It doesn't really squeak, it makes a noise that's a cross between an asthmatic huff and a fart, but it is SO fat and squishy I just love to hold it in my mouth.
But first we had to go around the neighborhood to look at pumpkins. I accidentally dropped my stuffie by the neighbors porch.
Their pumpkin will watch over it.  Sad pumpkin  -  he is SO skinny.

We walked up and down the block while I left some pee-mail in the neighbors yards for their dogs. The neighborhood had an eerie feel. It's Halloween Eve and soon the sidewalks will fill with mysterious, shrouded figures, the fierce cries of mytical creams and the gusts of screams. As I approached, some clouds rolled in, trailing last nights cold front like groupies, the sky losing its vivid blueness, taking on a grayish hue, like ancient cotton.

The air stirred little, full of invisible particles of scent, that carried with it no sound, my form underneath the span, little more than a thumbprint of white on cold stone. Trees  stand there as if painted, windless candles that have watched over the dark here for a hundred years.  As a train passes by at the end of the road, the sidewalks and porches shudders with sound, as if alive.

The pumpkin though - suddenly he's all fat. His smile, normally cheery, looks almost evil,  The hairs raised on my back as I urged Mom towards home, but not before she bent down and picked something off the ground, some furred thing with open fixed eyes.

Shudder.  I just want to go home and play with my plump, playful little hedgehog, there inside where it's safe with Mom.
What is it about Halloween that gets people thinking of ghosts and ghoulies? Few people truly believe that headless ghosts haunt Celtic castles, that restless spirits chase the shadows in every abandoned old farmhouse. Most of us go through life, not observing what was not meant to be observed.

But sitting in a darkening room, a candle lit, the taste of smoke and the moors in the air, Mom said she can't help but summon up the genuine wonder for those things that are never truly explained. She believes that despite our outward desire for explanation and logic, most members of the public would rather tell stories of haunted places and mysterious creatures than listen to a litany of logic.
For despite our modern conveniences, our science and technology, Mom feels we should not be surprised that modern man still feels that shadowed belief in spirits, haunting those places in which they were once so affected, when we ourselves scarcely separate ourselves from past lives and past longing, ever hovering over bygone times and all their emotions, in late night, darkened hours, lingering in the past places in which we were loved. Hoping in the dark misty hills of our hearts, we will remember and be remembered.

For despite our technology, we are still dreamers. I know my Mom and I are.

I was dreaming of treats and thoughts not involving monsters and ghosts.  Then Mom laid something next to me on the couch.

Mom, Mom, some vampire pumpkin sucked the stuffing out of my hedgehog.  He's ALL deaded and flat!

Mom says it's a different type of toy, made without stuffing but with fur a similar color to my other toy. Mr. Hedgehog was safely back in the toy bin. Thank goodness, I was afraid I was going to have to take a stake and pie plate and dispatch the vampire pumpkin.  But what if that pumpkin was really a stuffing-hungry ghoul and Mom was just trying to keep from scaring me?

That is why - after that I'll never turn my back on a pumpkin again.

Whether our dreams are that of coherent order and forensic logic or haunting memory of those places we wish we could revisit, we can't help but think just how small our being is. How infinitesimal within the world's workings, the grand chaotic design. As the wind picks up a howl, across open land, Mom lights a small lamp.  For suddenly, I feel very insignificant. Insignificant and small, as moonlight flits amongst the shroud of tree branches, the wind tapping on the window like a ghostly finger, the night but one last lamenting kiss.

Off in the distance, comes a keening howl.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Abby Lab Reporting Live from Washington

It's me, Abby.  Every one's commenting on what seems to be happening in Washington D.C. lately with budgets and elections and all. But Mom tries avoid the subject of politics on this blog because she is as fond of it as I am of some of my old kibble and she doesn't want deal with when she's home. But since she's busy trying to put a biscuit on the table and I'm not so bound, I can offer you a canine exclusive while Mom is at a late meeting. Yes, photos of all the action at Washington D.C.'s Dog Park!

I didn't take the pictures, but I'm happy to pass them along, just to keep you in the know.
He's been a little testy since the  intern "incident" and the subsequent neutering. 
Did I really tell the people the location  of my  top secret dog house?
We're this close to closing the gap.
I said "NO Press!"
No, it's' NOT a comb-over - it always looks like this.
Pork?  I have no idea what you're talking about. 
Don't stare at the bark-o-prompter. . try and look natural.
You know if I hadn't  played with the cell phone camera I wouldn't be in the dog house.
I thought that female Boxer could do a long speech. .

That's all the news here folks.  Mom will be back tomorrow with some more exciting things.
Your rovering correspondent - Abby Lab

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Halloween Memories

I am so thankful to have grown up in an era where the government did tell the schools or our parents what we had to have for lunch or snacks. Mom made sure there was lots of healthy food on the table, rarely anything "prepackaged", even the bread made from scratch (though how we whined to get some wonder bread, because you could roll a little piece of it into a ball and bounce it). But dessert was common on the weekends, and there was always a sweet snack after school.

As children, we were given a small allowance, in exchange for doing a pre-set list of chores. No chores, no allowance, the whole "something for nothing" unheard of in our household.  We were allowed to spend it as we wished. Mom and Dad did help us set up a little savings account at the Credit Union where we were encouraged to save what we earned from strawberry picking, babysitting, and paper routes. The allowance though, that had one purpose and one purpose alone.

So, what was your favorite childhood candy, and do you still enjoy it?

I keep a glass jar on my desk full of Tootsie Pops. I hunt around to find some unusual flavors to add to the standards, and currently have lemon-lime, raspberry, blue raspberry and watermelon in there with the regular flavors. I was surprised as to who would stop by my office, usually in the form of a large wall of muscle, asking me a question that didn't need to be asked, while eyes darted to the dish. Finally I said "would you like a Tootsie Pop" and I'd see a Marine's eyes light up like a six year old.

Around certain memories of childhood a lot of us never truly grew up.
I had some favorites--Charms, Marathon, SweetTarts, BlowPop, Big Hunk, Chunky, Milk Duds, Jolly Rancher Stick (the huge bar that if you bit into it too eagerly, would weld your entire jar together for quite a long time),Hershey Bars. Chicken Bones, Dots, Junior Mints, Slo Poke, Sky Bars, Astro Pops. And of course, there was always an Idaho Spud around. around.

I guess I got to thinking about it today, as I saw a neighbor putting up some fall decorations and realized that Halloween was days away, the old  bachelor Ikea couch where Barkley used to sit and wait for the trick or treaters long gone and replaced by a couch my husband restored.
Halloween in the late sixties was sugar fueled invitation. I remember my big brother and I suiting up as quickly as firemen after hot dogs and orange jello, eager to be out the door, out into the night where the cool Fall breeze shivered and stirred the grass where the leaves had long since fallen.

I always paired off with Big Bro. In a very small town, and a neighborhood where any stranger would stand out, we weren't too much at risk but having an older brother watching made Mom feel better. We were given strict instructions though, as how much of the neighborhood we could cover, and how long we could be out. We didn't carry a store bought plastic pumpkin to hold our candy but rather, a thick pillow case.  Do you have any idea how much candy you can get in a pillow case? The limitation therein only our parents rules and Newton's Second Law.

But the trick or treating wasn't just about the candy. It was being out, after dark, by ourselves, just kids, with scores of other kids, flashlights in hand. Out in front of us, two whole blocks, dozens of houses, the darkness slung low with lights, the night blowing cool and full of promise.
One year I was a ghost. That year a lot of kids were ghosts, the lumber mill having laid off a bunch of men, and money for costumes was sorely lacking. An old sheet, a couple of holes cut for eyes and you were a ghost. Pity the poor kid who was the pink ghost, he was going to get flattened like a pancake next time the boys played dodge ball. Other years, the costumes were as wide as our imagination and bigger than all our fears.

In our garb, we hovered over places of play, breathing sugar fueled dreams like air, ashen figures gliding through the night on silent feet. To each porch that had a light on we'd go, candy bag in hand.  The houses weren't decorated up the way they are now, but on the porch would often be a lone jack o lantern, eyes shining from a candle or some fake cobwebs along the porch (those aren't fake! ack ack ack, get it out of my hair!) We'd pass each other wondering just who was that superhero, who was that under the Casper mask? We scurried along, hands waving, quick steps in time to the chatter of chilled breath, the blocks of a post war suburb stretching out, the dim lights of small town America.

As ghosts, cowboys, baseball players and Superman, we covered ground, drawing in deep breaths of it all, unutterably aware of how brief this night would be. I think even as kids we know that too soon we'd have to put this other life, this other identify away, as we melted anonymously back into our regular life, with wistful longing and the taste of sweetness on our lips.
Goblin Gorp

Even though we were told to just do two blocks, we always went ahead and did that third one, or as much of it as we could fit in before our little watches told us it was time to back. We advanced, trudging up the steps to that first house, looking over our shoulders as if we could already see our Mom scolding us. We hit about six more houses, with other kids from our street, before as a group we agreed to go back. We swear each other to secret, the words not spoken but carved into stone upon which lies a nameless and forgotten effigy, those secrets of childhood we bear with us always.

There up ahead, the lights of our house. Home! We cross the empty lot where a new house was going in, following a faint path were dozens of small feet had worn the rotting leaves down to the soil. We clicked off the flashlight, whispering there in the dark about Great Pumpkins and Ghosts, where overhead, Chestnut trees thinned against the skies.
The wind had blown the clouds away, leaving a bright starry night, imaginary bat wings beating in the trees, a black cat crossing the road under the silver echo of the stars. Smoke hangs on the air suspended, the ash of burnt leaves that once rattled on the ground like tin.  I stretch out my hand into the last expanse of darkness, as if to clutch a star, to save a sweet fragment of the night to tuck into the book of that day.

Too soon it would be time to go in, the night rushing past all too quickly, stolen moments of sweetness there in the dark. As children we live in the moment, we live in a sugary world where not all is warning, where people are inherently good, and the goblins and witches and demons take off their costume and reveal a harmless smile. We know that in recollection, we see how quickly it all went past, and holding a sweet piece of time with blurred eyes, I realize we all have lost part of that, the innocence and the wonder, forever, even if memory remains.
When we got back to the house, Mom sorted through our candy, tossing anything not completely wrapped, being careful. But we appreciated that she let the two of us go without parental oversight those last few years; Big Bro being big enough to keep me safe in the street. There were so many other kids out, the streets full, an adult not in sight but for the ones with little tiny kids. She had to worry, it was dark after all, we were hardly isolated, but we were alone.

We probably didn't even look back as we ran out. But if we had, we would have seen her standing there, evanescent and forlorn, even as she put a smile on her face and waved, so we'd venture forth with hope, not fear.
There weren't many more Halloweens with her there. Too soon we lost her. Too soon we were adults living on our own and learning that too much sugar can make you fat, and that roses often draw blood. Too soon we'd understand the night's promise of unease, the dangers that lurk in the shadows, finalities that go beyond a grave. But she let us live with our innocence as long as she could, while preparing us to be fighters and risk takers, teaching us to be not fixed, but flexible in the light, no darkness to flee through and from that we could not handle armed with faith and some training.
Tonight, the wind is silent and the house stirs, shadows gathering in the basement, a dark spruce tree forever trying an ancient latch on the window of the room in which I sleep. I smile at a taste of sweetness on my lips, a stolen moment of childhood nibbled before bed. Around me are homes, some dark and cold, no pumpkins yet in the yard, the doors shuttered against laughter. There are always those that look at childhood dreams like viewing something through glass, behind which is only vacuum, from which no sound emits and which, too soon, fades to where they simply live anchored, until they simply cease to exist.
Outside the darkness gathers early, evening time advancing on black cat feet. The smoke from burning wood hangs on the air, then falls to the ground, lying in wait, merging from white to grey, to the ashed hue of burned bone. I pick up a little piece of chocolate and place it in my mouth, as outside, the last ragged flame tongues the edge of the smoldering pile of discarded memory, so easily vanishing, fading off into breathless smoke upon a darkening sky.

For myself, I'll keep my little stash of candy; I'll retain the child within, these nights of exploration and magic, where my super hero costume is untarnished by time, where there is only laughter and sweetness here in a house that's become a home. As I lay back in the chair, sweetness on my tongue, I can almost hear the sound of children's feet, rushing up towards the next house, not an actual sound mind you, but something in the air which the sound of the running feet faded into. The sound of innocence, so easily lost, yet remembered there in the shadow of a chestnut tree that stands its watch in silence, gallant and forlorn.
- LB Johnson

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Dog's Wisdom

"Dog's don't know the word "love". To them it's just a word like any other, a sound that defines or simply fills a lack, a word they don't need to know any more than they need to know the word for fear and pride. Yet, though they can't articulate it, they show it, as though nothing else had ever been, our form the shape and echo of all that is necessary to them.

--from  "The Book of Barkley" by LB Johnson

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Happy Anniversaries

“I am and always will be the optimist. The hoper of far-flung hopes and the dreamer of improbable dreams.”
— The Doctor, Season 6, Episode 6

CHAPTER 41 – A Wedding (From The Book of Barkley by LB Johnson)

The house was decorated for the reception, a few friends and family gathered.  The dining room held a cake that had on it, not a bride and groom, but a time traveling machine known as the Tardis and a Dr. Who and Amy figure from the BBC Sci -Fi series, Dr. Who.  It is a non-conventional cake topper for a family that will be anything but conventional.
I missed having Barkley here, but the combination of “look! people!" black dog hair and white dresses, and a table full of “treats!” was a viral YouTube video waiting to happen, one I did not want to see.  But we were only going to spend our wedding night at a romantic Bed and Breakfast.  Then we would swing by the Doggie Day Camp, where Barkley would remain tonight and pick up the rest of our family, for what’s a honeymoon without a little dog hair.

One in my bridal party is in a kilt, and I smile, this being a day of many surprises.  I am in a Renaissance style wedding dress, MC is Maid Marion of Honor and Mr. B is the best man. The minister is a personal friend, a retired pastor and author, someone who understands words and emotions and hearts, marrying for himself for the first time in his fifties to a young lady, a pilot friend of mine, in her thirties.

There is no one else we’d rather have marry us.

Our wedding. It was not just a day; it was a decision, one we made together. We could embark on this journey, one that any statistic will tell you is a risk, or we could stay safe, keeping hearts in check, telling ourselves it’s probably for the best.
If I had thought that, ten years ago, I would not be wondering about the best way to get dog hair off a wedding gown. I wouldn’t be here, so very happy.

We wake to the earth’s silent ticking, chasing the time that is still unaccounted for, rushing headlong from nights of God's silence to days of great discovery. We can stay in, intact for one slow, sure, unremarkable day, gathering useless possessions and people around us, as what sparked our dream fades to an almost sleeping ember.  For many people, that is their safety. We can just sit and talk about it, the changes we need to make, the things we wish we could do, but talk is just that, talk - arming ourselves with the satisfaction of courage without the inconvenience of risk. Or we can cast off our fear, gather those things around us that are precious, shedding that which only seeks to hinder us and head out into the world, eyes wide open.

What is ahead is unknown, often coming at us, so towering and fast, one can sense from it neither distance nor time. You can treat it with fear, no different than standing on the edge of a cliff, dreading that feeling as the ground falls away, the tiny rocks clamoring down like the first throw of dirt on a pine box. Or you can treat it as a perceived feast, as a wafer on the tongue, a leap of faith into that place that is devoid of time and regret, while that which held you back runs somewhere far afield, away from soundless guns.

I know where my home is at, and it's not four walls. I know who my friends are and they could care less about the things I own, where I live, or how old I am. As I look at my husband, at a photo of a big black dog in a frame, I know I have the comfort of a life in which, if only for a moment, I meant the absolute world to someone. That is something you can never buy, like the heat of steady flame that warms you from the inside out.
As the vows echoed in a room full of happy toasts, stories were told of Barkley, how he brought all of us together, of those he has healed and bonded.  For we are his pack, as we are each others, love being, not a journey, but something that gently brings us back home.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Flaming Hotcakes - A Country Kitchen With Abby Lab

Abby the Lab here.  Does your Mom or Dad remember the show Green Acres? The premise of the show - a successful New York lawyer and his spoiled society wife move to the small town of Hooterville to live on a small farm. One of the more comical aspects to the show was stunning Lisa Douglas' attempts to cook, especially her specialty Hotscakes!, which could also be used as a replacement head gasket on a farm tractor and were served with Martini shaken coffee. 

Other kitchen specialties of Lisa included:
Fried dry oatmeal
Crepe Suzette (flaming hotscake)
Vaffles (hotscakes pressed in a waffle iron)
Tunafish and jelly sandwiches
Tortillas (actual paper plates)
Hot Kebobs (flaming hotscakes on a skewer)
Chicken Sandwich (a rubber chicken between two slices of white bread)
Polarized Chicken (it beeps when it's ready)
and for dessert  . . .
Fruitcake (which had the entire top of a whole pineapple sticking out of the top)

and the ever popular 20 Pound Pound Cake
I think my Mom has an actual copy of the Green Acres Stove
Our house is sort of like the Green Acres house as we renovate room by room.  An antique farmhouse sink is going here under the "new" stained glass window.
Throw me a hotscake Dad!

Like many modern women, Lisa Douglas sometimes resorted to convenience foods such as Dee Dee's Dehydrated Mason Dixon Fried Chicken Dinner and Dee Dee's Dehydrated  New Orleans Pompano (which included a bottle of dehydrated wine).
Her loving husband took it in stride, however, somehow mustering the energy to spend the day working on the tractor on nothing more than hotscakes sandwiches and hot water soup.

My Mom does a lot better, and every Saturday, she makes Hotscakes.  It's her "splurge meal" of the week if she's watching her calories and she says it's worth it.

Today's Buttermilk Cornbread Hotscakes 
This version  tastes just like cornbread, but lighter, with all the crisp wonderful edges that cornbread gets (as good as pizza bones).

1 and 1/4 cup stone ground cornmeal (get the good stuff, not No Name Brand Cornmeal Dust).
1/2 cup flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
2 dashes salt
1 egg
1 and 1/4 cups buttermilk (or make your own by adding 1 T, lemon juice to milk).
1 Tablespoon melted lard
1 Tablespoon melted butter

Mix, cook on a cast iron griddle.

Served with butter and maple syrup or molasses, they are tasty and filling.

Perfect for a day with the tractor mangler (don't laugh, Mom came home and found this in the garage - a surprise from Dad from an auction somewhere)
Come on Mom - Nothing says "I love you" like your own mangler!   
Or a plate of hotscakes.

Sing along with me -

"Green acres is the place to be.
Farm living is the life for me.
Land spreading out, so far and wide.
Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside".