Monday, February 29, 2016

Visitors Bearing Treats!

Sure -  the scratches from Aunt MC are fun but LOOK - Someone brought truffles from the Chocolate Garden in Coloma, Michigan!

About The Chocolate Garden

Check out their website - my best friend MC and her fella Mr. B stopped by yesterday to help us pull out the stamped steel 40's countertop for the kitchen remodel and she brought a goodie bag.  The truffles were incredible! (Ginger Citrus - OH MY!)

(And the Red Wine Vinegar Italian Dressing from St. Julian Winery and the Hammond chocolate bars from Denver were also much appreciated).  Thanks my friends!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Abby - Trained Bacon Detection Dog

Sorry Abby - we're out of Bacon, you'll just have to eat your bowl of dry kibble.

Tomorrow we tear out the old sink and countertop and plumb in the drain for the antique farmhouse sink on a wall that was a long window that's now a high stained glass window and a fresh wall. Tonight my husband did a test hang of the sink and everything fits perfectly.  When the 1940's metal cabinets to the left are replaced with the custom cabinets (we did all the renovation in the house ourselves, but I I'm having the cabinets custom built and happily wrote that big check).
We'll be without water for a while Sunday, so breakfast is going to be already made muffins with a smoothie, and lunch will be take out, whatever our best friends who are helping us would like.  So today PANCAKES and experimenting with a new recipe.  As always with a new recipe, we have to get used to working with a different batter, and adjusting our normal cook times.

Husband- "You put the ones that folded spindled, and mutilated ones on MY plate.  Is that like the leper colony plate?

(English accent) "oh, Jeeves find some poor orphan to give this to."
Me - "I'll share the burnt ones. but they aren't going in the photo."

Really Abby - no bacon - go back and eat your kibble.
Breakfast time!
 Greek Yogurt pancakes and thick cut bacon

1 cup flour
3/4 Greek yogurt, blended with enough milk or nut milk to make a  full cup)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
splash of vanilla

Mix dry ingredients in one bowl.  In another bowl whisk everything but the butter until emulsified and then SLOWLY drizzle in the butter while whisking constantly.  Add the wet and dry ingredients and stir JUST until blended and cook on a preheated oiled griddle.  They are thick so don't make big ones, and re-oil the pan lightly between batches.  Cook until edges are dry and they're just starting to bubble in the middle, then flip.
Hey!  You held out on me, you HAVE bacon.
OK Abby - maybe you can have a little bite of one piece.
I KNEW you had bacon in there.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Birthday Thoughts

Today would have been my older and only brother's 60th birthday  - so today, just a story of family, a brother and sister and memories of childhood.
On one of two very recent trips to visit Dad, an Honor Flight was arriving as I did.  How wonderful to see the crowds of people who stood up and clapped as these brave Veterans were wheeled past, and the line of officers that shook their hands and thanked them for their service. I had brought a tiny little point and shoot out on this trip and got one discreet picture, even as a tear ran down my cheek.

Good people honor their Veterans as we are taught to honor our parents.  That is why my vacations the last 20 years have been back and forth to Dad's house to care for him and my step-mom when she had Alzheimer's, My big brother, who lived two hours away, made sure the house stayed in good condition, with  both of us making sure there was enough money in his account to handle it's upkeep (you can't see it from this angle but Bro and I got him one of those recliners that lifts him up to a standing position). I handled cooking and cleaning, canning and freezing, so meals when I was gone were easy. Clothes were mended and gutters were cleaned
My last trip was just to check on him as he's been hospitalized two times in the last two weeks.He's home now where he wants to be with a home health aide there for a few hours every morning to help  him up and around and in the afternoon and evening, helping him into bed after making him a hot meal.  He might be there another year, it might be a day-- it's in God's hands at this point.

My family is from Montana. but they moved West, but for a small home back there that ended up a rental and an occasional vacation stop. Dad's house  is the one I grew up in, my room virtually unchanged from childhood. When I came home this last time, he did something that Big Bro always did for me, leave a couple of balloons tied to one of my stuffed animals (yes, they are still in my room) on the bed.

My bedroom looks just the same as when I was a teen, with the rainbows painted when I was 14 our out of the horrid colored 70's leftover paint (I do NOT want to remember which room the aqua one was, but I remember the awful salmon color as my childhood bedroom paint scheme).  The rest of the house has been repainted, a kitchen fire a couple of years ago when someone Dad hired to help with the cleaning and cooking (instead of the licensed and bonded one I had hired because "this one is cheaper", even though I was the one paying for it) set fire to the place while out smoking and talking on the phone while something was cooking on high near flammables.

Though, other than the fresh paint on most of the walls, it looks just the same.  Around the house, are always things that make me smile.  Big Bro's frog. The photo frames he made as he was dying and put up all over the house, reminding himself each day of the life he had lived, and how lucky he was.
Something else had changed - the bathroom.

In our house we had what was known as the Girl's Bathroom and the Boy's bathroom, which of course, now would be politically incorrect. The "Girl's bathroom" was where Mom and I could take our time with hair and curlers and what not and the boy's bathroom was just a half bath that was painted blue and decorated with a little ceramic skunk Mom made named Stinky. The tub and the shower though were in the "Girl's bathroom"

Everything in there was pink, walls, towels, shower curtain, etc. On the wall were these ceramic tropical fish Mom made (she was really into crafts) that were a Daddy and Mommy tropical fish, with two little baby fish. They were stuck to the wall with adhesive stuff, Mom and baby fish following the Daddy fish with little ceramic bubbles  that would perch above them as if rising to the surface.  I was the smallest fish, there at the end of the little line of swimming fish. Big Bro used to take the bubbles from our two fish and position them so they'd be coming out of the little sister fish's butt.

 Big Brothers are like that.

Being in that house, 50 years later, brings back so many memories. The houses on this block were all were erected in the 50's, sprawling across what used to be farm fields, rich soil that lay at the foothills of the mountains, small squares of cedar and brick, laying in the shadows of tall unaxed trees and the log train that serenaded a little girl to sleep.
The neighborhood back then was different then the dynamics of a neighborhood now.  Families moved in and didn't move out. There weren't foreclosures popping up every few houses, and kids tended to live in the same home from the time they came home from the hospital until they went off to the lumber mills or college. It was a small mill town, most of the kids ended up there, drawn by the lure of a log mill wage at 18 that seemed like a fortune, until you saw the brutal tax on your bones and your spirit after 40 years of it. Only a few of us made our way out beyond those snow capped mountains.
We knew all of our neighbors, the other Mom's home during the day, welcoming in the noise and the occasional dirty footprint onto linoleum.  We knew which Mom made the best chocolate chip cookie, and which one would be as stern a taskmaster as our own Mom when it came to playing quietly in the house.  (Look it's NOT a hallway, it's a Hot Wheels racetrack and I needed 6 extra kids as a pit crew).

The town's only grocery was across a two lane 50 mph roadway that lead to the mountains. We were NOT allowed across it on our bikes without a parent, even if there was four way traffic light at the intersection with the grocery and the gas station. There was no even THINKING of breaking that rule. We knew the consequences of being reckless, and it was not a slap on the wrist or a taxpayer funded 'stimulus'. Outside of that, there were all kinds of places to roam, and in summer time we were pretty much outdoors from breakfast to supper, no helmets, no sunscreen if we could help it, no hand sanitizer, no shin guards.
We'd ride up and down the block, usually playing Man From Uncle (I always got to be Ilya Kuryakin whom I'm sure started out his Secret Agent stuff, like I, with training wheels).  We'd play soldier and spy or cowboys and Indians in our back yard where Dad and my favorite Uncle, an engineer, built a cool A-frame play house for me.  I could usually squirrel away some of the Hostess products from the kitchen, inside it's structure for the Indians to run raids on. I was ready, I had my cereal box Colt six-shooter and a BUS (back-up slingshot).

But, like the examples of our parents, and the lessons of TV, which did not yet involve drugs and spandex, we were careful with our weapons, even if they were plastic.   Besides, should those rules be broken, we knew who the Sheriff in town was, and it was Mom, even if she gave up her actual Deputy Sheriff badge and an 18 year career in Law Enforcement, when they adopted both of us.

Those were glorious days.  We'd drink from the hose or come in for KoolAid, and a hug, soda pop being something not in a budget of a single income family, reserved for a treat while on vacation to my Aunt and Uncle's ranch. We'd count marbles, candy money and coup, and we'd roam as far as we could without crossing that highway.
Many of the houses had fences, many did not, but there was an alleyway of grass that ran behind our house where we could run covert missions into a neighbor's place. The ones without kids were off limits, we were taught to respect others' property, but we did raid one retired couple's little decorative pond at the back corner of their place for the occasional frog which we'd use to scare some sissy kid, and then return it safely. (Seriously, if I ever give you a shoe box with holes in it with a big bow on top, don't open it).

On Saturdays, the cars came out to be washed, and sometimes waxed. I could earn spending money for candy by washing the station wagon for Dad, and gladly did so, learning early the correlation between labor and putting food on the table. Our Dads  would mow, and our Moms would get groceries and bake cookies for the week.
In the late afternoon, Dad would curl up with some sports on TV for a couple of hours, his only break in a long week of work and family. Mom would go to her needlework or crafts while the neighborhood kids continued to play those glorious summer games that were relegated to single days off during the school year for us. For Sunday was a day of worship, of rest, reading, board games and music, not raids on a local fort or trying to blow something up in the garage.

Now when I go back, so much of the area has changed  I see houses down the street where there's no money to repair a roof, moss taking over, plants growing in the gutter, but there's a new fishing boat and Hummer in the driveway of the very modest home. On others, there are bars on the front doors of the homes we'd run up to to ring the doorbell on Halloween, without any adult in trail.

But Dad's  house - it's virtually unchanged from my childhood, but for the apple tree that had to be cut down
I love my Dad, as I think we all do our parents, even when we don't see eye to eye with them, both sides occasionally causing hurt even to someone they love dearly. Such is human nature.  But I also admire him even as I tease him a little that he  has a picture of Ronald Reagan riding a horse on his desk.
So I do all I can to keep some continuity in his life. Having buried two wives and two children, a daughter they lost in their late 20's  and my brother, Dad needs that sense of stability, even if the martini making duties have been inherited by  my husband.
But one thing that did need a change, and he'd tried to do it, but just made a mess with some paint. The ever so pink bathroom.  It's the one Dad uses most of the time, as it has the tub that we added bars and a chair too.  It's also larger and easier to navigate in. But it was still pink. So while he was in away, it was updated to be a little less "girly"

Nothing fancy, a light greyish-blue paint,  a new shower curtain, and grey towels to match the tile. The fish, long since living at my house, were replaced by an old, old  photo of of our childhood vacation stomping ground, and Dad's favorite memories.

Everything else but for the bathroom was left alone.  Dad asked that everything else, including my brothers things, be left exactly where they are, until he too, is gone. Though, that empty spot where Bro's recliner in  the family room had been, is painful to look at (it had to be taken to the dump, being soiled from where they brought my brother in from where he collapsed.)

The span of that empty space is as wide as our grief..

I wish my brother been here long enough to see it, but I'm glad I wrote The Book of Barkley.  I know some people looked at it and said "oh, another dog book"  or "I don't have a dog" and then click past the page to the more exciting genres.  But it's more than a book about a dog, it's about my brother and I, how our lives grew together, then apart, then back again, into that house where there were so many memories. Barkley was simply the change that made this lonely road warrior look at my  life and my faith in a whole different manner, so that the end days, when they came, were sweetened by the joy that we have shared, and the joy that awaits us, together in heaven.
As I left the house that last time, I gave my Dad a big hug at the front door, told him I loved him, went to the car, climbed in and started the engine, then got out and ran back to him and gave him one last hug.  For it might well be the last one. We are not related by blood but we are, by life lived, commitment honored and memories made. He touched my check, with work weary, dry, thin hands, an old man's fingers, yet still his hands, my Daddy's hands, touching my rosy cheek where the strength of his blood still flows within me, will flow, even after his long journey back to his reward.

I looked at the house as I left it that last time, all of Big Bro's things on the wall.  All of those memories seemed to condense in it, as if the house alone were the source of them, shining from it from that big picture window, glimpsed just for a second as my rental car pulls away, like that 10 point whitetail you see the split second after he sees you, when he's already gone, even as you yearn for him to return.

Happy Birthday R. Allen D. - you are sorely missed and forever loved.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

You Had Me At Woof

Photo from Frankie and Ernie's Blog

A couple of you that have my email asked where Abby the Lab got the pretty bracelet present (that said "you had me at woof") for Frankie Furter's Mom for Valentine's Day.

Here is a close up from the Etsy shop it was purchased  from.

The stuffed squirrel, like the stuffed snow freak and the fabric pizza slice from Christmas came from an etsy site called Wags and Wiggles, which I shop fairly often as I love their stuffies.

The bracelet was a NEW Etsy place I discovered and I was so happy I did.

I know a couple of you that would like THIS one.
Or how about. . 

It's called Harminy's Place

Just go to and type Harminysplace in the search bar and their website will come up with all kinds of pretty silver bracelets with pet and other themes as well as some handmade fleece blankets that both two and four legged folks will love (Abby wants the Star Wars one).

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A Dog's Home is Her. . . . . . .

SOMEBODY (not naming any names here) was apparently upset that Mommy was an hour and a half late getting home, EVEN if the dog walker came over and  gave her an extra walk and fed her since I knew I would have a long day.

Season 3 seems to have been opened (with teeth) and forensically examined.

(If any one you haven't seen Castle -  it's one of my favorite "crime" shows, with a lot of wit, romance, and humor).

You know Abby - our friend

said today's wacky holiday IS National Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day.

Do you think I should give you a biscuit for eating my movies?

OK, OK, We'll just say the squirrels did it. Just this once. Put those big brown eyes away and come get your biscuit.

And people wonder why Mommy drinks :-)

Monday, February 22, 2016

Scrabbled' Up

While Dad was on the road, Mom spent a few hours with a friend, and a game of Scrabble erupted. Scrabble rules are loose in our house.  Which is why we have DNA, ATC (air traffic control since Mom was a pilot) and Ho (hey, Mom said that word was just uttered on Law and Order SVU). And when your best friend lives a stone's throw from from Toto, Indiana the word Oz is always allowed.  But this was one of the few games where Mom played and used every single Scrabble tile, so she took a picture.

I think if you look at the titles it's very telling as to what Mom spends her days doing.  But if I could spell out some Scrabble words - they would be a LOT simpler.

Abby Lab

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Sunday Black and White - Moving Days

A Chapter From The Book of Barkley  (Outskirts Press, Available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble online)

CHAPTER 15 – Moving Days

The car was packed, and the moving truck was already on its way.  I’d been selected for a position in a Midwest city, one with the potential for promotion over time.  The house here was selling, at a huge loss given the market, but at least it had a buyer.

Things are changing; my Stepmom’s diagnosis of cancer, Dad's talk of moving in with me after she's gone, something he swore he'd never do.  I found a little ranch house in that Midwestern city I am moving to, bigger than I would have bought for myself, but a lot less fancy and still much smaller than this house. It will provide him his own rooms, and bath, with an entrance without steps for him.

The house stands empty. Only a few folks have been inside, a few neighbors, my parents, a couple of friends and a few dates, none of whom seemed to like dogs, which was becoming more important. We're better off moving on, even alone, I tell Barkley, there’s a big world out there with lots of things to do and people to meet.

He's only three years old.  I wonder if he will miss this place.

Barkley and I made one last trek around the neighborhood and the woods behind before we left for the first leg of our journey. The moving truck had another stop to make so we would have time to travel and catch up. So many trips we'd made around these blocks.  Barkley sniffed everything, pointing to the occasional piece of trash or blowing leaf, as I steered him toward the common area to do his business, rather than on someone's lawn.  He, of course, would only lift his leg, and then continue on, for Barkley was always looking for something, a bright picture window, a family seated in front of it at the dining room, enjoying dinner. He'd then dash over to their lawn and squat to do the rest of his business, all right in front of their dinner.  Kids squealed and giggled, adults shot me looks that were daggers, as I would wave an apology.  Then, I'd go clean up the pile, scolding him yet again, as we walked off, my cheeks blazing with embarrassment, his head held up proudly with a "that was the biggest one yet!"

We took one last walk out into the openly wooded area that runs for a half mile behind this new development, back to a little pond where he first learned to swim.  Tonight, I stood at the crest of the rise of sand and dirt that made up the lip of this water filled bowl.  Man made or nature made; it was hard to tell, for the perfect shape of the pond.  But given the location, it was probably man made. The moon cleaved the pale waste that was sky, the sun having left like low tide, leaving this place in the shadow, just the form of a red haired woman and the dark grieving of earth.

I looked down and saw it, the pale abandoned nest of a Canadian goose; the goslings long having been hatched if the eggs survived both rising waters and predators. I pictured the water moving, like slow waves, but it was as still as I.  We both seemingly waited for something, an act of fate, of destiny, the irrevocable sentence of time that's passed or perhaps, an invitation.

I wondered if I came back in ten years, if this place would still be here? Or would it be plowed into yet another row of Monopoly houses, another neighborhood of lives and love, fights and frustration and unborn children who can't wait to grow up so they can leave this place, then wish desperately that they could return.

They say you cannot go home again, and perhaps as far as a childhood home, that is true. But what of the memories of other places we hold firm in our mind's eye? Some of them we have a name for, our elementary school, the river where we dove as far out as we could into the dark water, a place where church bells rang. In the Book of Genesis, all was drawn out of the waters of chaos by its name, "God called the dry land Earth." Sometimes, the incredibly complex can be summed up in one word.  I read in a story that the Inuit Indians have one such word to bring to conceivable life the fear and the awe that possesses them when they see across the ice, the approach of a polar bear.  Some things have no words at all, their form remembered only in the etchings of tears.

But of those places, both named and unnamed, there are places you are drawn back to, years later, praying they are not changed, and knowing it will not be so.

I hope in ten years Barkley and I can come back here, if only to wave at the house in which I raised him to adulthood, as to an old friend.

 Thanks to our hosts Nola and Sugar for the Blog Hop.

Saturday, February 20, 2016


Oh boy - Mom made Pup-overs!

She lets the steam out of mine first, but they are soooo eggy/custardy in the middle and crunchy around the edges.
I'm glad Dad made it home  - he was on the road for business all butt one day last week so Mom's going to spoil him (and me) this weekend.
Abby Lab

Friday, February 19, 2016

On Tonight's Episode of "Suicidal Squirrel"

There's a car coming, run into the road.

Car slows as you're 95% of the way across.  GO BACK!~


Run back across the road.  SCREEEECH!

Thanks for watching tonight. Our show sponsored by Midas Tires and Brakes.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Thursday Eats - Pizza Bones!

posted a picture of a pizza on a romantic Valentine's evening out with her husband at the pizza place they had their first date (and congratulations on the two pounds recently lost)

I had a SERIOUS hankering for pizza after that. But I really didn't want to go out in the cold wind to the store, and I didn't want to clear and re-salt the steps for a delivery guy where snow melted today and then re-froze. Besides Abby could use a treat.  Her Dad's only been home one night this week between business trips and she misses him. (She sleeps by our bed which she never does when he is home, guarding me).

So I made a pizza we'd both like, not super heavy on sauce and cheese, some tasty toppings but not too heavy on them, and a dough that's slightly chewy but soft in the middle, baked long enough the cheese welds to the crust without burning.

Making your own pizza dough isn't as hard as you think, and you can control the quality of the ingredients and the amount of sodium.  So why not make my own and then top with lower sodium toppings from the deli. I love deep dish, but didn't want all the extra calories so I made traditional crust (not thick, not thin)

Easy as "Not Pie!" -Dough (makes two 12 inch pizzas)

2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon yeast (not rapid rise)
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 and 1/2 cups flour divided
4 Tablespoons olive oil

Mix water and yeast and let it sit 4-5 minutes so it foams up.

Add yeast to 1/2 of the flour and mix in your mixer with a dough hook.  Add the remaining flour and salt and knead by hand (or with hook) until smooth.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes.  Have a glass of wine.  Think pizza thoughts.
Preheat oven to 400 F.

Pour 2 Tablespoons of oil per pizza stone (or baking pan) and spread to coat evenly.

After the 30 minutes are up, divide the dough in half, adding a few Tablespoons of flour to keep it from being too sticky, and pat out on oiled pizza stone (or pan) until an even thickness.

Top with a thin layer of marinara or pizza sauce, leaving an inch uncovered around the edge, adding toppings of your choice (I used a reduced sodium ham and pineapple) and 2-3 cups cheese per pizza,

Bake 18-20 minutes (Note this pizza and the sauce had NO Garlic - Garlic is VERY toxic to dogs).   So do not give your dog pizza crusts or crusts with sauce infused with garlic, they could get very ill, depending on the amount of garlic and their body weight. I did sprinkle a tiny bit of rosemary on it before baking, in place of my usual garlic.

Oh boy Pizza Bones!