Thursday, July 30, 2015

Life of a Dog - Panhandling Pancakes

A house without a dog
With a dog.

Abby had her one year gotcha day not long ago.  As many rescues are, she was quite shy the first couple of weeks but is now is simply a happy lab playing with her toys, retrieving a ball, the tail thump thump thump against the couch when I come into the room. She is very well behaved, not chewing on anything that's not a chew toy, obeying basic commands and learning new ones each week. She's been allowed on the bed to sleep but prefers the cool surface of the leather sofa or her big poofy Orvis dog bed.
She does well in her harness and likes her rides in the vehicles to visit friends or run a quick errand while one of us stays in the car with her. The "exploding retriever" experience of our first trip north is but a memory (hey, we've all gotten car sick)  On the last  trip home from she laid quietly on the seat snoozing the whole time but for one time I turned on some Classic Country and she sat up with an irritated look that said "they're playing LeAnn Rimes - if she yodels I'm going to start barking". I turned it off.

The only other non snooze moment was a stop to stretch legs and get a Chick Fil a. Like her Mom, Abby loves Chick Fil a, the smells from the bag setting her tail on high rpm.
Like all labs,  Abby does like her food, going into a full body wag each morning as I get up to feed her a bowl of kibble.

We are looking forward to a few days off at home, suitcase unpacked, and pancakes to be made  I think back to the LAST bath I made, a little experiment.

With everything quiet the last time I was home, Sunday called for pancakes, but the big puffy baked ones, of which I'd not made one in a couple of years and had no idea where the recipe went to. There was one in this little book of Swedish recipes I picked up out West, though and I thought I'd try that  In mixing it up, the proportions seemed a bit off, and the amount of batter seemed like too much for the size pan recommended and the recommended temp a bit high. But I tried it anyway thinking, "it's a published cookbook, how can it be wrong".   But I said that about the "overnight, no knead yeast bread" recipe I got from a well known website. And we know how THAT loaf turned out
The pancake was assembled and after 45 minutes  I had what looked like a giant pan of hot jello in the oven, even after cooking an extra 15 minutes. I'm not sure how the edges can be  almost burned dark brown AND raw inside, but they were.  I poked it with a spatula and it rippled and growled. I've had science experiments that looked less toxic.
I disposed of it like any good bio-hazard.

Abby played dead to avoid having to act like she wanted to try it. . . .
while my husband started looking for cold cereal (or the nearest exit).

I double checked the recipe and I'd made it just as directed.  Oh well, that's what I get for following the rules as opposed to my usual cooking style of "Watch this!" with the fire extinguisher handy.

Not willing to admit defeat, I tried again, this time just winging it, Husband patiently waiting, as anyone that hangs around someone that likes to experiment with stuff, often does. Since an oven pancake is sort of a cross between a pancake and a popover, I adapted my standard popover recipe to the bigger pan and added some Cardamom and Lemon Zest. Melting four Tablespoons of butter in the pan, getting it all nice and hot before pouring the batter in, didn't hurt, either.

Ta Dah!  Puffy Oven Pancake. (recipe in the comments)

This is what the doctor ordered.  It was perfect, with a tender crunch to the edge, and soft and fragrant in the middle.
Served the traditional way with powdered sugar and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
I do think the second try was worth the wait, as my faithful lab assistant seemed to agree.  For yes, she begged for a piece and I gave in.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Black Lab Memories

Christmas 2013.  Barkley was unimpressed by The Force.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

For Mary - Still Life and Quantum Mechanics



had a post up today that was heart-rending. One of the dog bloggers hit with a sudden and terminal diagnosis. I had just met this person and their wonderful dog Casey on-line on facebook through them, felt the smiles they brought, and now she will be gone? So for tonight, not anything light, no dog hair or squeaky toys, but words from the heart, from one who has pushed the envelope enough to know how very, very precious each day is.
------------------------------------------
For Mary -

It was once said in an age-old axiom, that an object cannot occupy two positions at the same time. Yet now, with today's technology, it may be argued that it is just possible to do that. The number of places science can go is far greater than I ever believed, even growing up reading Clarke and Asimov at every turn. Most physicists today trying to unite Einstein’s theory of gravity with quantum mechanics focus on microscopic realms beyond the reach of any conceivable experiment. Perhaps the solution that eluded Einstein is much closer at hand, in the strange territory where quantum mechanics just barely emerges into the human world. And we could be in two places at once. Or occupying the same position at two different times. Or fervently wishing we could

You've all had days like that, when simple things went awry, plans made that mattered little to you, mattered much to others, things said, bridges burned, moments that repeated themselves for weeks or months in your head. If only I'd done this, if only I'd said that. Moments in which you wish you could turn back on itself, as if you've never been there. Moments that repeat themselves in your memory, minute by minute, wrong place, wrong time.

Things happen when it is time for them to happen they say, and that moments like those long ago, likely were meant to be. Perhaps today is, as well. It's a sentimental notion, wishful thinking, or to some, a projection of some great plan by some divine power. But where would we be without wishful thinking? How much hard-bitten logic is there in the world? Would an electron have split with simply cold hard logic, and not a bit of wishful thinking by minds whose conceptions are beyond logic. How much hard reasoning is there really? Maybe somewhere out there in the world there is a place where reason is never as comfortable as a familiar sweater, where thought is as flat as a glass of stale ale left forgotten on the counter when the phone rang.


There are people happy to live that way, who lie in quiet acceptance of what is thrust upon them. People who numb the reaches of their mind in the same way someone with chronic pain eases their movements with pharmaceuticals. That person thinks there could be more, that possibilities exist, but there is too much effort involved in the motivation to take them there. It would mean giving up what is safe, getting up, moving forward, and who knows if the outcome would be the best thing they ever experienced, or simply shed more light on a world they would prefer stay comfortably dim. Best to stay still, quiet, and in the dark, they say.

Certainly such a place is safer; where no smudge of desire affects debate, prediction is not contaminated by untried theory and actions aren't clouded by concealed agendas. Still, it is a world flat and colorless as tap water. A world I don't want to live in.

I still have moments where the lone tear for things past come unbidden, yet in each day in me is an increased curiosity for the world around me and what I can take from it, even if reaching for it sometimes causes me to teeter on the edge of a precipice in which only my fate echoes. D.H. Lawrence wrote that in every year we pass an anniversary unaware. That of our own death.

I regularly visited that place. Authors such as Laurence Gonzales write about it in Deep Survival. Where we, as adventurers of the world, circle and circle, climbing faster and higher, up to that spot marked X. That spot that will mark their own demise, flirting with it, teasing, poking the bear. I've seen it enough to recognize and know when I need to stay, and when it's time to leave.

You can do the same in an ordinary life, you can fall off a ladder and break your neck on a lunch break, but we do that blindly. In a life fully lived we engage our fate deliberately, we speak the words we may later regret, but we have to say them. We engage life as a indefatigable opponent that others will wish to tiptoe by, so not to awaken it. We risk our necks, and we risk our hearts, both, cajoled by the spirit of adventure that whispers to us from the dark like a lover, with honeyed voice and strong arms that draw us out of our complacent sleep.

I look at the photos around me on the mantel. Behind a dogsled in Alaska, perched on the side of Mt. Rainer or Mt. Hood with friends, in the pilots seat of a T-6, face flush from doing aerobatics, in one frame, a leaf plucked from the upper levels of an alpine slope. I look at pictures of the last 15 years, time spent alone, graduating from the academy, giving a lecture at a university, a dinner party for friends, Mexican train dominoes and much laughter and beer.   I look at more recent pictures, of paths taken, not always straight, but as pristine and intact as the road to glory itself. I look at other frames, vacated or new, awaiting new photos, noting those places to be filled by a heart that is. I am still an adventurer, I'm just an older, wiser explorer of the world, whose limbs and heart though tested still yearn for that last great adventure

I am two women, at the same place, at the same time. The woman here at the apex of life, and the young woman in the photos seeking untarnished dreams. Two women; the one that I have was, and the one that I am. That woman today,  green eyes wise with age, will hopefully look at pictures from the past,  remembering the woman that I brought me here to this day, hopefully wiser than the young woman I was, but retaining all of the dreams.

For although many years of life have passed, here still lies ahead miles of water to drift down, if only in my dreams, endless chasms of sky to cross; horizons that will tilt and change, fueled by dreams that I will take on until until I can no longer draw breath. Dreams that bring with them moments in which I feel the rush of air and catch the scent of warm breath on my face, entering into that other plane of being in which I see my whole life ahead of me, death still beyond it. Moments in which, in the rush of emotion, I am outside of my body. Outside, yet in, looking away, looking beyond, in a rush or pleasure so intense that I know, that even with that risk, I will chase that moment again. I am in two places, within my heart and outside of it, tasting, seeking, reaching up to touch that last crimp with the tips of my fingers, to climb past that X into the light.

I will never fully understand the science that can transport matter, or the circumstances of quantum mechanics that allows for wonders that we can't conceive of. But I can grasp the wonder of my world, in a volcanic rock formed in the earth that holds in place letters from those long gone. In a pressed leaf in a photo frame; a leaf once green, nature's compromise between life and poison, a pragmatic conformation to circumstance, retaining beauty even as it fades to dust.
-- LBJ

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sunday Black and White - Stuffie Haiku

Oh New Stuffie Toy
I Will Love You Forever
Unless Squeaking Stops
 
 
Thank you Nola and Sugar for hosting the Blog Hop
 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Friday Night Labs - Escape Artist

Abby travels back and forth from home to the little crash pad in the city where I work. It's a cozy little place with some  the furniture from the house I owned when I met my husband and little things that make me smile.

She has a dog walker at both homes, someone to let her in and out, and stay overnight with her if need be or have her stay with them.  She's pretty laid back and minds really well, including having to block her into a specific room  at the crash pad when the landlord sends someone by to change the furnace filter, check the smoke detector or replace a bulb in the high ceiling fixtures.
Barkley would have bounded over the chair.  Even a baby gate was no match for him. Abby just stays behind it with plenty of windows to spot when I come home, and goes to sleep.

Or so I thought.

There were two days in a row she was blocked in the living room with her toys and water bowl as a small repair was being made. When I came home the first day she was in her usual position - on the couch in the blocked living room,  half asleep and looking slightly bored.
If Mom really loved me she'd have one of those baby toys that goes over the crib with music and dangling bacon.

She does occasionally change positions.  Lat night when I went to take her out one last time before bed she was on sprawled out on her back with one leg straight UP in the air towards the ceiling  like John Travolta in Saturday Night ever.  Low light kept me from getting a photo but I cracked up.

On day two, I came home, but it was Friday, so she was reading the tabloids, looking less than happy about the most recent celebrity divorce.

But today, when I got home I talked to the dog walker to set up next weeks schedule.

She said "Abby was so cute, meeting me by the front door".

 I said "huh? No, she was blocked in the living room for the maintenance guy".

 L said " No, she must have jumped over the chair when you left for work."

AND jumped back and pretended to be asleep when I got home.

I'm on to you Abby.
BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

I better go count my beers there's no telling what ELSE she was up to.  :-)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

People Treats - Childhoods Sugar Filled Memories

My brother and I were raised on the sugar sweetened joy of the 60's.   My favorite Western RanchHands were Twinkie the Kid and the Hostess Cupcake. We drank Koolaid (Soda Pop was an expense that was only the rarest of treats in my house), or better yet, cold water from the garden hose. We watched TV when we could, but mostly we ran, we jumped, we covered miles of ground on our bikes. TV was a treat, not a weekend-long marathon and the backyard was our empire, one of constant motion. None of us had an ounce of spare flesh on us, we were lean and healthy from all the outdoor playtime.

And our cereal came with prizes in the box.

When did the cereal prizes disappear? I'm sure, as most children did, I drove my Mom crazy begging for one type of cereal over another, depending on what toy was inside. The toy would be buried deep down, and we'd have to eat about half the box to get to it. Of course there were those times Mom left us alone briefly while Dad watched football, and with the help of a large mixing bowl, the toy was liberated soon after purchase, the bowl then cleaned (here boy!) and put back in the cupboard. But that didn't happen often so normally the prize would plop down into our bowl about half way through the box. What a treat that was!

Most of the toys plastic figures were slightly larger than Monopoly counters – animals, trains, cars. Sometimes there were decoder rings, badges and other trinkets promoting TV adventure shows. Sometimes the prize was a cut out on the back of the box that could be made into a toy, there were even cut out photograph records on the back.

One of the cereal toys I've never forgotten was a plastic submarine. On its bottom was a tiny container into which you placed baking powder.  The sub would then dive underwater and resurface on its own, again and again. I loved that toy and spent a lot of time with it in the bathroom sink and in the bathtub.

Big Bro spent his years after school on a real submarine, so perhaps all that play with those things had some effect.
The non sweetened cereal usually didn't have a prize, but it would have a coupon where you could collect box tops and send away for a prize. The sugar laden cereals usually had the prize right there. The prize might sway our decision but our favorites remained unchanged. Were they healthy? Not particularly. You'd have to add an orange grove and an entire pig to be a "complete breakfast", but that's not why we ate them.

Sugar Pops - My personal favorite. The original cereal was just Sugar Pops. Then they added the word corn, then they dropped the word sugar, then they dropped the corn thinking kids didn't want to eat a bowl of corn, now they're just Pops. That was one thing I liked about that generation. They weren't afraid to use the word sugar. They were PROUD of the word. Then they filled everything full of corn syrup which is worse for you and simply changed the names. Not only was the cereal great tasting (I still eat it before big presentations at Secret Squirrel headquarters), but the concept was cool. Blasting sugar onto the cereal with a gun? How cool was that? The earlier boxes that my  brother remembers even had special offers for a "Colt six shooter".

Sugar Crisp -The sugar bear started out as your average bear, then later got fashion sense (though no pants) and this laid back groovy persona. The Sugar Bear was the cool dude your retired military Dad NEVER wanted you to date (attitude and no pants, never a selling point with my Dad). He was so popular some kids went as Sugar Bear on Halloween. Or maybe that was a real bear in our garbage can that night.

In the 70's they came out with a Super Sugar Orange Crisp that had little sour orange bits in it. The sweet and sour was enough to keep you bouncing off of walls for days. It didn't last long, probably banned by the PTA.

Alpha-Bits - like Cocoa Puffs, as a kid I was on the fence about these. They were OK, , but as an adult I thought they tasted like hamster food. It was fun to try and spell words in your spoon though, except for that time I tried out a NEW word which I heard my Dad use when he dropped a tool on his foot, which my Mother did NOT find amusing.

Sugar Smacks - Start your day the Sugar Smacks way. Dig em the frog was OK, but not as cool as the bear. However even Spock could have figured out they were the exact same cereal as Sugar Crisp.

Frosted Flakes - one of the few breakfast cereal that hasn't changed, been improved or altered (I cringe when I think what they've done to Trix over the years). I used to eat it dry, in a little bowl with my fingers, watching Scooby Doo (those meddling kids!) because it it lasted about 10 seconds in milk before going limp.

Froot Loops - not sure where Toucan Sam got the English Accent in the 1970's but it was a house favorite. The only colors were a tropical fruit sort of red color, yellow and orange. What more do you need. I got sample box in the mail recently to which several new colors were added (is that blue?) PLUS fiber.

What's next? "Honeycomb. Improved, now with Ginkgo Biloba?"

There are a lot of things that aren't good for us. Letting your kids eat junk food in adult portions all day long is good for no one. But what about a little bowl of sweet, the occasional cookie with the hug and fun with our imaginations and the help of a "beam up badge"? Did it really do us any harm?
So I'm going to start my day  some weekend soon with a big bowl of Quisp cereal.


You remember Quisp?

The voice of Quisp on the commercials was Daws Butler, the voice of Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, Snagglepuss and Huckleberry Hound. It tastes like Captain Crunch but doesn't remove the roof of your mouth when you eat it. The slogan I remember as a kid in 1970. . . "it gives you Quazy energy".  It's hard to find but it's still out there.

Look, I try and eat healthy most of the time. But I refuse to grow up, and I'm going to enjoy my sugar laden dreams via a bowl of cereal from the 60's.

And then I'm going to give Abby an extra treat.

For growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Barkley Memories - That First Trip to PetSmart

Mom - I need more squeeky toys.  You leave, you're gone for days and you come home all tired out, without any squeaky toys.

I remember that day, my fiance  was visiting me in Indiana  and we had a few errands that needed to be run before our Fall wedding.

First a stop at the BigBox store for some cleaning stuff ("hey look - the WalMart Brand of foaming bathroom cleaner with "Scrubbing Bubba") and a trip to the UPS store to pick up all my mail.

Then off to PetsMart.  We'd not been to one before.  He had another groomer that was co-located with his doggie day care, and most of the time when I needed something, I'd order it online.

But here were were, on our first trip.

 I wasn't sure how Barkley would do, as he hates tile floors, but once he saw all the toys and the smells and the other dogs, he just charged right in pulling  his "Dad" like some sort of Nantucket Sleigh Ride.
Look! People!
Hmmm, giant tub of dog cheetos or the chewy snacks. Can I have both?
I think we need the "Beware of Dog" sign to intimidate that wimpy mixed breed terrier next door.
Oh look, it's dog adoption day!  I'm so lucky to have a home, I hope some folks will take these dogs home today and give them treats.

From the distance came the sound of several squeaky toys going off in a single round and the rest of the pictures were just "dog shape blur"

He did behave himself at the check stand while his treats, a new leash and a  $1.99 sale toy were bagged up. (The duck was on sale apparently due to a pneumothorax.)

See Barkley - you behaved so you get a toy of your own.

squeek squeek squeek squeek squeek squeeky squeekkkkkkkkkkk!!!! OK, that's enough toy for now Barkley.
You can have my duck when you pry it out of my cold, cold jaws.

Yes, I think everyone had fun! (look carefully at the sticker on my shirt)


So many good memories Barkley while you were with us, and so many new ones to be made with our Miss Abby.
Look Mom - I got a scarf from the PetSmart groomer that matches my squeaky elephant! 

Don't I look adorable?