Saturday, March 16, 2019

Saturday Eats - Bacon Blueberry Pancakes (with gluten free option)

Bacon Deprived Abby Lab

Bacon Blueberry Pancakes.

Cook 6 slices of bacon, blot with a paper towel and chop. Thaw 1 cup of frozen blueberries, rinse and pat dry with paper towels.

In a small bowl mix, 3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons of milk and 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar (I use Braggs) Let sit for a few minutes.
Click on photo to enlarge - I double dog dare ya'.

In another bowl mix 1 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 Tablespoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of baking powder (I use Hain sodium free) and a pinch of Cardamom (or nutmeg if you don't have Cardamom).

Note:  To Make gluten-free replace flour with King Arthur Gluten-free flour and add 1/2 teaspoon Xanthan Gum.

To milk mixture add a splash of vanilla, 1 egg whisked and 2 and 1/2 Tablespoons of melted butter (add in very slowly while whisking).

Add wet ingredients to dry, mixing JUST until combined then gently fold in blueberries and bacon. Cook on a hot griddle. (or better yet, get your spouse or partner to cook for you).

Abby can't do grains but she did get a piece of bacon so she is quite happy.

Monday, March 11, 2019

A Message from Speed Bump Dog.

Mom - if you didn't want me to lay in a high traffic area, why'd you leave a dog bed on the floor after you did your workout?
One last thing - if you stretch yourself into a Pretzel when you exercuse (what Mom calls it when she skips half the workout cuz she's lazy) why do they call it Yogurt?  Wrong food!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Saturday Eats - Maple Bacon Scones with Whiskey Cream Sauce


Maple Bacon Scones with Whiskey Cream Glaze.

8-12 slices bacon, cooked and chopped Note: for my "veggie friends" I'd recommend Upton Naturals Bacon Seiten - VERY good (I eat meat-free several days a week).
2 cups all-purpose flour (measure carefully)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon plus one extra dash of nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp real maple syrup
1 cup sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 425*F(220*C. for my Canadian friends.)

3. In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt; mix well. Using a pastry blender cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles tiny crumbs. Form a well in center of mixture.

4. Combine egg yolk, sour cream, and maple syrup together and pour into the center of the well in flour mixture. Stir mixture just until combined, adding all but a couple of spoonfuls of bacon to it halfway through stirring. Dough will be sticky.

5. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and knead 5-6 times. Don't over-knead but it should no longer look wet or sticky. Form a ball and pat out to approximately 6 to 8-inch circle (it should be just about an inch thick) Cut into 8 wedges. Place wedges on ungreased baking sheet about an inch apart.

6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or to a light golden brown. When slightly cooled, drizzle with Maple Whiskey glaze and top with the remaining bacon pieces.

Maple Whiskey Glaze:

I'll be honest, I didn't measure. I put some powdered sugar in a small cereal bowl. probably a half a cup. I added real maple syrup until it was a thick but spoonable consistency (maybe 2-3 tablespoons). I then added half of a capful (that's CAP, not CUPful) of Jameson Irish Whiskey and stirred, which made it a nice consistency to drizzle.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Please Do Not Leave Drinks Unattended.

We had a little dinner party with some friends to celebrate the completion of my Fifth Novel.  There was alcohol.  Guests were warned.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

To the Bridge and Back

There are some of you that visit here, that know Barkley and my shared history and how his book came to be. There are others, dog lovers like us, some brand new visitors from the blog hops, that probably wonder how "The Book of Barkley came to be.

My Big Brother, an ex-submariner, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Esophageal cancer in 2013.  He and I were adopted together as small children, though I only found out very recently that we weren't biological siblings. But we were closer than a lot of siblings, though our careers often kept us thousands of miles apart when he was under the water, and I was piloting airplane miles above the earth.

He finished with chemo and radiation, dropping 100 pounds on his six foot two frame.  He moved in with our widowed Dad so they could support one another, and to get out of his house, as he couldn't hold on to it,  having lost his job as a Navy Contractor.  I lived 1500 miles away and had a job that had me living out of the suitcase too often, but I visited them as often as I could, during all of my vacations, and on every long weekend.
He held his own, even if towards the end, everything he ate got smashed in a blender.  Pretty much all he could get down was some protein shakes. (I thought he was joking when he said he'd put my leftover cheese omelet I brought back from a restaurant with some leftovers, in there with the juice, fruit and ice cream but he said it was tasty except "I don't think the hash browns were such a good idea".

But we had some time, to do some grieving, for the loss of some older family members, including our Step-Mom who stepped to the plate after our Mom died fairly young from cancer.  We also had some time to do some laughing, especially as now he could share all the embarrassing childhood stories with my new husband who met him for the first time.  But we also  had a lot of time alone, up late, talking about our Dad, about growing up (or our inherent refusal to),  He told me more than once "you're a good writer, you need to put this down in a book" and I'd just laugh and say, "maybe after I retire".  He said, " we don't always get to retire, do it now".
At that point, I realized that the one  thing I am glad I did not hear from him in his end days was, "I wish I'd. . ."

I've heard so many people say "I'll do that when I'm older, when I lose 20 pounds, when I'm retired". We got through life saying "I would, but it probably wouldn't work out" or " I'd like to but. . ." We too often base our actions on an artificial future, painting a life picture based on an expectancy that time is more than sweat, tears, heat and mirage.

You can't count on anything. For out of the blue, fate can come calling. Barkley was in fine spirits at my wedding, weeks later limping; a few weeks after that--gone to the Rainbow Bridge.  In a flash, life robbed even of the power to grieve for what is ending. I think back to when my brother and I were kids, going down a turbulent little river with little more than an inner tube and youth, risking rocks and rapids and earth, just to see what was around the bend of that forest we'd already mapped out like Lewis and Clark. The water was black and silver, fading swirls of deep current rising to the surface like a slap, fleeting and gravely significant, as if something stirred beneath, unhappy to be disturbed from its slumber, making its presence known.  A fish, perhaps or simply fate. 

I was in the paint section of a hardware store the other weekend, looking for a brick colored paint to paint a backdrop in the kitchen. I noticed the yellows, a color I painted my room as a teen. I noticed the greens, so many of them, some resembling the green of my parent's house in the sixties and seventies, yet not being exactly the same color. The original was one that you'd not see in a landscape, only in a kitchen with avocado appliances, while my Mom sang as she made cookies. I remember Big Bro and I race through the house, one of us soldier, one of us spy, friends forever, stopping only long enough for some of those cookies, still warm. Holding that funky green paint sample I can see it as if it were yesterday.  Memories only hinted at, held there in small squares of color.
What is it about things from the past that evoke such responses? A favorite photo, for some, a piece of clothing worn to a special event, a particular meal, things that carry with them the sheer impossible quality of perfection that has not been achieved since. Things that somehow trigger in us a response, of wanting to go back to that time and place when you were safe and all was well. But even as you try and recapture it, it eludes you, caught in a point in your mind between immobility and motion, the taste of the empty air, the color of the wind

Today is a memory that months from now, could be one of those times.  You may look back and see this day, the person you were with, the smile on your face, the simple household tasks you were doing together. Things, so basic in their form, as to, at this time, be simply another chore, cleaning, painting, another ordinary day, while the kids played outside and the dog barked merrily along with them. It might be a day in which you didn't even capture it on film, no small squares of color left to retain what you felt there as you worked and laughed together, in those small strokes of color, those small brushes of longing.

Twenty years from now, you may look at yourself in the mirror, at the wrinkles formed from dust, time and tears around your eyes, at the grey in your hair and you will think back to this day, the trivial things that contain the sublime. On that day, so far beyond here, you may look around you, that person with you in your memory no longer present, and you want it all back. Want it as bad as the yearning for a color that is not found in nature, in the taste of something for which you search and ache, acting on the delusion that you can recreate it, those things that haunt the borders of almost knowing.

You touch the mirror, touch your face and wish you'd laughed more, cared less of what others thought, dove into those feelings that lapped at the safe little edges of your life, leaped into the astonishing uncertainty.

My brother spent years running silent and deep under the ocean, visiting places I can only guess at as he will not speak of it, a code about certain things I share with him.   But I knew the name.  Operation Ivy Bells.  He understands testing the boundaries of might and the deep, cold deep depths to which we travel in search of ourselves.

I too have had more than one day where I stood outside on a pale crescent of beaten earth and breathed deeply of the cold.  I am here, my wings long ago hung up, tools in hand because someone has died and with great violence.  On those days I felt every ache in my muscles, I felt my skin, hot under the sun, the savage, fecund smell of loss in the air, laying heavy in the loud silence. Somewhere in the distance would come a soft clap of thunder, overhead clouds strayed deliberately across the earth, disconnected from mechanical time. I'd rather be elsewhere; the smell simply that of kitchen and comfort, the sounds; only that of laughter. But I knew how lucky I was to simply be, in that moment and alive.  I also knew, how blessed I was that after such days, I came home to my furry, four-legged best friend Barkley, who was my Black Knight in somewhat shedding armor, the soft-coated Kleenex when I needed to cry.

You can't control fate, but you can make choices. You can continue your day and do nothing, standing in brooding and irretrievable calculation as if casting in a game already lost. Or you can seize the moment, the days, wringing every last drop from them. Tell the ones you love that you love them. Hug your family, forgive an enemy (but remember the bastards name), salute your flag, and always, give the dog an extra biscuit. Then step outside into the sharp and unbending import of Spring, a dying Winter flaring up like fading flame, one last taste, one last memory, never knowing how long it will remain.
I said goodbye to my brother that last time, neither of us were certain as to what the future would hold. Had I known that just weeks later, my beloved Barkley would be gone to an aggressive bone cancer, followed just weeks later by my only brother, I might have held him longer, but I wouldn't have played the days out any differently.   For one thing we both agreed on, today is that memory, go out and make everything you can of it.

The Book of Barkley is that memory--for Barkley, for my brother, for all the laughter we wrapped around each other in the end days, to be carried on forward like held breath, in the airless days ahead.

-L.B. Johnson

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

We're BACK!

Abby Lab here.  Mom has got her FIFTH novel off to the publisher to meet their schedule (which meant 2 weeks off from work and working on it 12 hours a day). It's dedicated to a dear blog friend of Mom's, a retired Naval Aviator that died in a plane crash a few years ago while working as a contract military trainer.  He was the one that encouraged Mom to write books, not just blogs.

So we will be back blogging soon!

Pee SSS.  While Mom was busy, Dad got bored and put up a fake voice commanded printer at work which totally messed with people's heads.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Thursday, February 28, 2019

On Secret Lives

My husband had a multi-day business trip in another state and was able to get home a day and half early. I knew it was a possibility but it usually doesn't work out so I didn't expect him at all. He arrived home midday today while I was taking laundry UP and trash OUT. He looks at it all -"three pairs of ratty yoga pants, 3 T-shirts, "boy-shorts" panties and the "Border Collie Bra" (doesn't lift or separate but rounds them up and points them generally in the right direction VERY comfortably) and the "Scottish Birth Control" flannels. Trash was Doritos, Kraft Mac and Cheese, leftover pizza, two frozen bean burritos, diet Coke, and a pint box of cheap Chef Boyardeaux. Yup, my glamorous, gourmet life while he is on the road is busted as well as my attempted seduction of the UPS driver.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Monday, February 25, 2019

Visits from Chewies from Chewy

I got home from the acupuncturist to find a familiar box sitting on the large front porch we have. CHEWY!

We were getting low on dog food so I made a stop on Chewy.com to order some (placing order the end part of last week and it was here today and shipping was FREE) as well as a surprise treat for Abby.

Sweet Potato treats.  Single ingredient and safe for sensitive tummies. They're dehydrated so they make a chewy/rawhide type treat.  Abby apparently has never had this type of treat before.

For I gave it to her, and she just carried it around in her mouth for  whilea, then I hear a noise and come back to this.

I killed it Mom!
Sigh.  Barkley loved those things, perhaps I'll do a demo with some turkey jerky just have to show her how you're supposed to eat them, not dismantle them.  She has no problems chewing on other things.

Mr. Rabbit sprung a leak.  Abby won't de-squeak her sturdy Kong Cozie stuffies (available at Chewy.com as well!)  She literally carries them around in her mouth and sleeps with them.   But she does like to make them squeak and sometimes a tooth catches an ear or a tail and over a few weeks, we have a small hole (overall they have held up better than all other plush toys).  Balls or flat toys that squeak are quickly de-squeaked but not her animal stuffies. Those are her fur-ends.

Mr. Rabbit wasn't a Kong toy so he had sprung a slightly larger tear above his tail, but the squeaker was intact. So Dr. Dad did some stuffie surgery while Abby waited in the waiting room with her favorite Kong Cozie Mr. Moose




Aren't you done yet?

Abby was quite happy to have her rabbit back and I saw her getting sleepy.  It wouldn't be long before she picks him up and heads to her dog bed.

Remember Abby - Dr. Dad isn't on call all the time so . . .



Saturday, February 23, 2019

Saturday Eats - Swedish Waffes

Einkorn flour is an ancient grain and the only flour in the US that is not genetically modified. Most people with gluten sensitivity (like me, not Celiac, just don't digest flour well) can eat it. This is a great waffle recipe.

1 cup Young Living Einkorn Flour (there are other brands available online but this one is moderately priced).
1 tsp. sodium free Hain Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon, low sodium salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon Cardamon
1 Tablespoon sugar
In another bowl mix,
1 cup of buttermilk (or make your own by replacing a tablespoon of regular milk with lemon juice and letting it sit a few minutes
a splash of vanilla
2 and 1/2 Tablespoons melted butter
1 egg whisked.

Mix wet and dry ingredients and drop 1/3 cup into a Swedish Waffle iron. Serve with Young Living Ningxia Berry Syrup (a blend of blueberry, plum, sweet cherry, pomegranate and wolf (goj) berry with lemon and orange essential oil (SOOOO tasty and also a great glaze for pork with a little melted butter, garlic and rosemary) and whipped cream. To order YL retail visit: https://www.youngliving.com/vo/…

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

An Abby Lab Impawtant News Announcement

Abby Lab here - now that Grandpa's house sold and the 87 tons of stuff in it is sold or given to charity, Mom is taking 3 weeks off from Squirrel Headquarters to finish her 5th book.  With all the noisy house renovations that Dad has been working on these last six months she's not been able to write on the weekends and by the time she gets off work she says her muse is dead.

So blogging will just be a couple of times a week until mid March but drop in on Facebook if you are on there (we are on as L.B. Johnson - with the photo being the Barkley book).

 On the plus side, I get my favorite dog walker a LOT more often!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Love's Fine Blade - A Short Story

A Man's morning shave ritual.  It's something that's been done for centuries, even in the days of rampant beards, a number of men preferring to remain clean shaven. My brother always had a beard. With his red hair, build, and height he very much resembled a Viking, until cancer took 120 pounds off his frame, tempering his blade, honing his spirit.

Dad tried to grow a mustache once. It was in the early 70's, and was less than successful.  Dad had fine, dark red hair that resulted in a mustache that came in thin and sparse. I remember my Mom looking at the final outcome and trying her darnedest not to giggle and failing. Dad looked at with a wry smile and shrugged and went back to the bathroom and shaved it off.  Mom wasn't trying to belittle his efforts, her love fluttered over all of us like small wings, whisking away tears, and brushing aside fears.  She treated Dad the same way, but oh dear Lord, was that a sorry looking mustache and even Dad, realized it.
So from that day forward, each and every morning, Dad was in the bathroom shaving. For most men, the morning shave is something they must do each and every day.  It's done whether there is a houseful of kids bustling around, or they are on their own.

I remember my Dad's ritual which remains to this day.  After he does his morning work-out (which he has done six days a week for 80 years), he'd go shave.  He never uses an electric razor or any of the shave creams in a can.  No, Dad always has a mug of fine soap, a high-quality brush and a regular razor, with a straight razor when he wanted an extra close shave for a special occasion.

I remember vividly those winter mornings, all of us dressing quickly, not so much that the house was cold but hearts and blood and minds weren't quite awake yet and movement was with willful purpose until such time as the chocolate milk or the caffeine kicked in. Dad would come through the kitchen from where he worked out, giving my Mom a kiss, the morning sun highlighting the freckles on her face, then a kiss for each of us, still in our pajamas, our faces innocent of either guile or water.
While my brother and I tried to stay out of his way, he'd shave, the tiny half bath which was his bathroom, filling with steam. He was careful with the straight razor, pulling it over features as carefully as if they were oiled glass, rinsing the razor in hot water, as the dark stubble on his face brushed away like filings from a new gun barrel.  I simply watched from the kitchen table, carefully and quietly.  Dad was so intent in his task before he even drew down that fine blade in its first stroke, his attention was almost perceptible in the air, surrounding him as fragrance does, leaving a subtle impression of his intent long before the act was complete.

When he was done, he'd finish as he started, with a clean washcloth doused in extra hot water, laid on his face to steam it.  Then he'd finish with a splash of aftershave.  There were only a few that he would wear.
Brut was beyond popular when I was growing up, one of the first to use a celebrity endorsement to persuade men that grooming wasn't for wimps.  Famed heavyweight boxer Henry Cooper was the original "face" of Brut, urging men to "splash it all over"long before David Beckham had his first shave.

Then there was the Hai Karate. My Dad had some of that and was supremely disappointed and used to tease my Mom that his bottle must have been a dud as he didn't have to fend of any supermodels with karate chops like on the commercials. I don't remember what it smelled like but I don't think he ever had to fend off Mom wearing it, though, come to think of it, once, when he put on too much, she drove a golf ball from the back yard through the back kitchen window with a Five Iron.

Dad gave that up for Old Spice which he has worn ever since, though once in a while he'd put on "Stetson" and give Mom this look and she'd giggle and we'd go stay with our beloved Aunt and Uncle for a couple of days.
When I go home now, Mom's giggling laughter but an echo in the walls, Dad gives me a big hug and I can still smell the Old Spice on his shirt, that "Dad" smell that's both reassurance and comfort.

Now, there's not just aftershave, there is cologne, shampoo, body washes, shampoo/body washes (and the difference is?)

Most advertise themselves to smell like "fresh glacier extinguishing a giant forest fire full of deer in heat" or such things.  I think the perfect man natural scent would be some sort of mysterious combination of gun cleaning fluid, coffee, bacon, woodsmoke, and dark beer (with a slight undertone of 20-year-old British Motor Car Wheel Bearing Grease.)  But I love Dad's Old Spice and the sandalwood scent my husband wears.
I'm happy my husband has much of the same ritual as my Dad, with the soap in a mug and the high-quality brush. I get the soap for my husband's shave mug from

and cut a piece big enough for his mug, leaving a little chunk for hand soap. It smells incredible and lasts such a long time, with a soft, creamy lather.

The bottom of the mug can be filled with hot water, so that the suds above stay warm, which makes a straight razor more effective.  As yes, my engineer husband often uses one, so it's a closer shave.

He shaves at night after I've had my bubble bath, and as I curl up on the sofa with a splash of Scotch, he'll begin that ritual.  He's shaved in hundreds of hotels, in countries all over the world, the ritual much the same yet, there's something almost peaceful about the act performed in one's own bathroom, in one's own home, small rituals of sameness.
Many of us wander all over the world, the esteemed and the obscure, the bold and the invisible, earning beyond the oceans our riches, our scars, and our destiny. But when we go home, we are rendering an account, we are sweeping away those things we picked up that pull us down, as we surround ourselves with the familiar, with that which is cherished.

When he is done, he'll join me on the couch in his bathrobe, his measure of Scotch already poured, the house quiet but for hundred-year-old sconces on the walls that lend the room an aura of timelessness.  We won't talk much but of family, of things in our home that need repair, or simply our day as we sit and stroke the flanks of an old black dog that lies beside us.  Such rituals are as fine as a blade, as comforting as stone. Shared, they are as bright and uplifting as the flash of sparks as dulled blade and stone meet.

Soon, I will leave my husband again, to make another trip to see my Dad in Assisted Living, my childhood home now only a memory.  I dread the changes I will see in his physicality and changes in his world. But in going home, when my frail Dad takes me in his arms in a big bear hug, he still smells like Old Spice, and I'm six years old again.
So much has changed, I thought as I took one last look at the house before the keys were passed to another family.  It was a house that saw both the lives and the deaths of my two Mom's, of my brother's presence that still thundered through the rooms, the walls now missing the medallions of his courage.  So much gone, swirled down the drain with past and present tears. But still, I look at the world as I did those long ago mornings, carefully and quietly. And when Dad gives me a hug, and I breathe deep a familiar scent, it is the same feeling I now have in my own home each night  In that moment of ritual, I'm at peace, safe, and loved, with a future that is too far away to fear.
-Brigid

Friday, February 15, 2019

Kung Fu Valentine

I was a little sad for Valentine's Day with the closing of the sale of my childhood home last week (a blessing with Dad's assisted living expenses that we've had -  but still hard to see) and watching so many things of my Mom, Dad, and brother's go to auction or charity  We just don't have room for it here, and shipping items more than a few items back to Chicago via UPS was out of the question financially.  I do have some great small glassware pieces of Moms and a few things of my brother's  including his favorite shirt which still smells like him (at least in my memory).

I did get my husband a couple of things to celebrate the day though.  His French Press for coffee at work had broken so there was a replacement.  It was just a Tardis one.
With some SERIOUS coffee for those Monday mornings. 

And there was a handcrafted card - not by me as they usually don't let me play with sharp things around people that are still alive (sorry, forensic humor) but I got this AWESOME card for him (he's a train buff) from www.etsy.com/shop/katescardcompany  Check out her etsy store, Kate has some wonderful and beautiful cards and the prices are very reasonable for the quality you will get.

My husband did do his best to cheer me up.  I had told him NOT to get me a fancy Valentine's gift, as we're putting a new roof on as soon as the weather warms up and that's $$$.  I said, "just take me out for Thai Saturday and I'll cook us Valentine's dinner after work" (including the Oreo/White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake above).

But he surprised me with something he put together for me with an online find and some hobby paint.
My very own redheaded Kung Fu Bobblehead with a homemade card. 

He got the belt color right (Shao Lin Twin Broad Swords - Get Off my Lawn!)

Dinner was wild caught salmon from https://wildalaskancompany.com/ (seriously worth the price - as good as what Dad and my brother used to catch and cook the same day) poached in white wine with herbs, garlic cheese bread, and peas with the cheesecake for dessert. (Sorry for the low light, not the best photo).

I was smiling all evening.
Whether you had a Valentine with you or not we hope your day brought a smile.