Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween - On Kids and Dogs

Abby the Rescue Dog works hard to get the treat.

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. Growing up in the 60's our 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, 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 candy bar around. 

I guess I got to thinking about it today, as kids started knocking on the door about 4 o'clock.
I remember the last Halloween here, with both Barkley and Big Bro were still with me. That night, the stars lay scattered about Sirius's lair, tossed playfully upon the sky only to lie forgotten. Children cut through the trees across a vacant lot, the burn of branch, a tickle of cobweb, one eye weeps where an eye patch binds. It's soon discarded with a snuffling of nose and the raise of a toy pirate sword. Crying is for wimps.

The houses stand, some decorated with orange and black, others with only the discard of leaves. This home was built right after the first Great War, when men left and women waited, everything they knew dissolved in fire and smoke as soldiers carried the pride and hope of peace in the form of a flag and women wept at home, tears hitting the ground like ice, to be swept away like broken glass. I have a sense of them in this house even now, for those that came back and those that did not, not for pride or peace, but simply to regain that love and that faith they left behind. It's here in this house, it's here outside, in the echo of children who were never born.
Halloween in my day was sugar fueled invitation. I remember Big Bro 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.
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,  our wiener dog Pepper would snuffle our bags, lured by the sweet scent but mostly, just happy that her "pups" were home. Mom would sort 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 courage.
Tonight, the wind is silent and the house stirs, shadows gathering in the basement, a dark pine 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.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pancakes Please

It was always hard to ignore "the look" on Pancake Saturdays.  Memories of Barkley.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Where There is Trouble, there is Hope

That  is Trouble the Dog .  For a story that will remind you to dust your house as you suddenly got all teary eyed from it, click on the link.  Thank you, Miley's Daily Scoop, for sharing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

For Those Who Knew Barkley Best

For my long time friends - some photo of Barkley I don't think you've seen. 
Barkley and my friend M. from Just People blog.
Bark -o-Lounger
There's a tiny little dog in your suitcase Mom!

You have sandwich on your breath!  Where's mine?
Dad, I saw a Grizzly bear do this on TV.  Just give me a minute, I'll have that Salmon!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Barkley - On Mischief

There have been more than one Labrador Retriever in my life, but Barkley was the most spirited of them all.  He was never destructive, unlike Clyde the lab who ate my ugly pilot's uniform hat, the other pilots accusing me of smearing it peanut butter and leaving it on the floor:-)

No, Barkley was just inquisitive, always wanting to be in the middle of the action which meant, with bouncy step and sweeping tail, sometimes things got broken.

So for you all, a little fun in the memory  of Barkley (be advised only a few pixels were harmed in the making of these photos).

Raiders of the Lost Bark
 But I found my toy!
I chased it. I caught it. Then I didn't know what to do with it.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Woof if You're Not a Morning Person

My phone or alarm sometimes goes off very early.  I also don't know when I'll get a chance to eat, depending on how the day goes.  You'd think the years I made a living as a pilot would make it easier, but it doesn't.

There's a homemade sandwich if there's time, but many days, it's just some yogurt, some fruit and some Wasa flatbread or a crunchy cookie or two.  Most days, it is whatever I can grab with my eyes half closed and stuff in my metal lunchbox with a chill pack from the freezer door and bottled water in the truck.
We all like our crunchy little treats. These are mine. Yes, they have sugar and probably trans fats, but I love my Dare cookies to munch on or dunk in a cup of coffee.  These aren't quite as tasty as the maple cream ones, but they hold up during travel over bumpy roads in the truck.  But even the few in the box that end up broken are still lunch box worthy.
Mom, I'm waiting for a biscuit to float downstream.

Barkley had his favorite little crunchy treats as well.  He always loved the Healthy Radiance dog food (a local company) for his meals.  But he loved the little Iams dog biscuits and always got one just before bed, if he went out and did his business without barking at the Chiweenie and the Doodleman Pincsher (and their two mixed breed dogs) down the street.
Abby the Rescue Lab, is in the same routine now that Barkley is gone 

I'd best not make a trip to the store and not come back without some if the box is empty.
If Barkley was here he'd say . . .

"Get the one in the box with the fruit bat on the front"

(Uh, Barkley, that's a cute little dog, they're just not all as rugged looking as you).

If wasn't until I reorganised my kitchen to have things easier to get to at bedtime and at o'dark hundred the other night that I noticed how similar the boxes looked in color and size. That's not a green color you see every day.
It's 3 a.m. Time to get up, to grab and go (3 hours sleep, I can do 3 hours of sleep).  Abby didn't even get up to eat her food. But I better take some, maybe not for now, but I will need a little energy later at work.
Oh. . . . no. . .

Friday, October 10, 2014

Not Made in a Lab but Made By a Lab's Family - Heidi Pops Popcorn

Today, instead of a story about a dog, I'd like feature one of my favorite new family owned "Hoosier" businesses (Indiana, for those not familiar with the phrase) that's owned by a couple of dog lovers.

Today I had to drop a friend off at the Indianapolis Airport at lunch time and stopped on my way out of town at the Metropolis Mall in Plainfield, Indiana (Futura Parkway just off Perry Road, which is a little West of the airport off of I-70.) There's a nice little Irish pub there we had a bloggers gathering at one time, that I wanted to try again for lunch before I hit the freeway. But first, a wander to check out a new business I'd heard of.
The Metropolis mall is a fun little outdoor mall, with an eclectic assortment of shops, a good restaurant or two and a movie theater. I'm not a fan of malls, but I liked this one. It's more like a cluster of unique shops as opposed to that whole "mall" feeling, in a suburban community that's low on crime and high on friendliness. Plainfield police have a station on the main street and the feel to the whole place was clean and family friendly. 

Heidi Pops Gourmet Popcorn. I heard about it from a friend that works in Plainfield and knows Heidi.  She said --"Heidi and her husband have black labs-- you need to go say hello".  So I did. Owned by a husband and wife team, and yes, "Mom and Dad" to two Labrador Retrievers, the store's been open for a couple of weeks, ready for their permanent sign and hungry customers. This is their dream, after a lifetime of good jobs working for others, to have their own Mom and Pop (pun intended) business; the entrepreneurial spirit of America alive and well in them.

There's a couple of other popcorn places around the Indianapolis area. Good, but not enough to make me go out of my way to get some. But I DO like popcorn. . .
Wow. THIS popcorn I'd make the drive for. Seriously, if I was anywhere near the I-465/I-70 interchange in Indianapolis I'd be stopping in.  OK, if I was anywhere  in the middle of the STATE, I'd stop in. It's not mass produced, but hand crafted in small batches and Mr. G. was making some as I wandered in. It's the kind of popcorn you'd find at places such as Gerrett's in Chicago without the drive and that special Illinois pricing. The popcorn I got today at Heidi Pops to share with some friends later was still warm in the bag and was quite reasonably priced for the quality. 

I was warmly greeted by Mr. G. when I popped in and was given a quick tour of their treats and tastes. Then I snapped some pictures while he set up more samples for customers to try.  They always have some standards such as caramel corn, caramel corn with pecans or almonds, and sharp cheddar cheese.
Today they also had buffalo ranch.  MMMMM. And Pickle.  Yes Pickle.   If you love sea salt and vinegar style chips you will snarf up the pickle flavor.

The cheddar popcorn is amazing  It's a sharp cheddar, though not a biting sharp, and tastes like the best quality real cheddar, not that cheddar-like cheezy dust you usually find on popcorn. It's like you mated the best quality Indiana popcorn with that wonderful sharp cheddar pub cheese in the brown crock. I would drive a long way for this cheddar popcorn.

You can get a single serving size bag, small, medium, or large for sharing, and tubs up to many gallons, which you can fill with more than one flavor, with little dividers put in them. And there were a lot of flavors in addition to the ones pictured here, including chocolate and some colorful fruit flavors that would surprise you.
They also have some fun decorative tins, small to large, which would make great little gifts for family, coworkers or perhaps a holiday housewarming, birthday, new baby, etc. Dad is so going to enjoy the one I'll get him during the Christmas season.  I'm also going to get a huge tin of the buffalo ranch and cheese popcorn to haul home for my co-workers.  Heidi Pops - parties, catering, they do it all.
So, if you are traveling through Indiana, or work or live here, stop on in and bring home some tasty goodness. I can't wait to get home so I can try it.

How did my steering wheel end up orange?
Don't eat and drive.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Barkley Memories - Begger Boys

But they're SILK sheets, Mom!
I found this photo, and a number of others, on some old camera cards that I'd pulled out of the camera, but not uploaded to the computer.  The one above is my fancy schmancy house I happily got rid of when I moved here, donating half of my stuff to AmVets and changing the way I lived.  Barkley didn't care, and I found out, I was much happier with a simpler lifestyle and the people I met, where it didn't matter what I owned, just who I was. And there was dog hair.  LOTS of dog hair.

And dogs and stole my knickers in the middle of the night.

In looking at photos of him I'd forgotten of, my eyes welled up, but then I smiled, good memories there. Just simple things, ones that make you happy, ones worth sharing.

For those of you who have bought the Book of Barkley, thank you.  The money from the proceeds is providing for my 94 year old Dad's nursing care (some stubborn redhead refuses to live with one of the kids or grandkids). It's available with the links on the right, and also Amazon, USA, UK and AU.
For tonight, as I got back to work, some Barkley memories, taken at my little crash pad near my workplace in the big city.

Hey, I think someone has food up there.
 No seriously.  Did Mom cook something while you took me outside?
Don't be holding out on me.
  I see a bowl, I smell Popcorn!  Mom made popcorn?
 Wait - you have ice cream  ??
But seriously, I smelled popcorn!
 You get BOTH ice cream and popcorn!  What kind of sick, twisted people are you?
I will just sit here in front of my empty food bowl and look pitiful while you two heathens finish your snack.