Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sunday Eats - Enchilada Casserole

After 2 years of the "fixer upper" bungalow 1930's red floor from Hell. . . .

my husband got in the new floor (including all new sub-floor) with the tiles I selected and the design that would work in our very odd shaped kitchen
And it matches the color in the stained glass window he replaced a big old ugly window in in the kitchen with
We've still got new cabinets and counters to install and painting (after some new check valves and sump pump in the basement) but this was a project I was glad to see done and doing it after long days at work, meant some long days for him.

So to thank him, I made a "from scratch dinner" which he appreciates because it
(1) saves money
(2) tastes better than anything packaged.

Enchilada Casserole.
This takes a little time to put together, but doesn't require any real culinary skill - it's pretty hard to mess it up.  Just measure your ingredients out ahead of time. The sauce is wonderful, garlicy and zesty but not too spicy HOT.

Yes, you can use taco seasoning and a can of tomatoes to make the meat mixture, but this is much tastier, cheaper and healthier and the enchilada sauce is 10 times better than anything out of a can. It also doesn't have all the sneaky sugar added to many seasoning mixes and sauces.

It's even better is you like enchiladas but don't want to have to mess with rolling them up individually?  Make them casserole style like lasagna.

Lay out 15 small or 12 medium flour tortillas and 3 cups of shredded cheese, open a can of corn.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a bowl mix:

2 Tablespoons flour
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
dash of garlic salt

In a pan on medium/high heat brown:

1 1/2 lbs ground beef and 1/2 large sweet onion (if using "veggie" meat substitute, cook the onions in a little olive oil until softened and golden, then add your protein source)

Stir in seasoning from the bowl and add one 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning 

Stir well, cover and let gently simmer 15 minutes.

Measure out 1/2 cup flour and set near stove

In a small bowl mix and set aside:
1 and 1/2 Tablespoons Chili Powder
1 1/2 Tablespoons cumin
1 teaspoon sage
dash of salt

Open a 15 ounce can of beef broth and
a 15 ounce can of tomato sauce (sauce NOT paste)

and set aside

In a sauce pan over medium/high heat melt 1/3 cup butter
Add 2 Tablespoons of chopped  jarred minced garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Lower heat to medium, add the 1/2 cup of  flour and whisk to form a "roux" (it will be creamy and paste like).

Gently add in beef broth, whisking constantly until mixture just comes to a gentle boil,  Lower heat to simmer and continue whisking for 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and add tomato sauce and the remaining little bowl of spices to complete your enchilada sauce.

In a 13 x 9 inch pan place a cup and a half of the enchilada sauce, Top with a 1/3 of the tortillas, cutting to fit, 1/2 of the meat mixture, 1/2 of the can of corn and 1/3 of the cheese.

Add  another layer of tortillas, the rest of the meat and corn and 1/3 of the cheese.

Top with remaining enchiladas, remaining enchilada sauce and remaining cheese.

Cover with foil and bake for 45 - 50 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes and serve.

It was a hit with my husband!

Serves 8, and freezes really well for leftovers.

Friday, March 27, 2015

TBOB is a Portland Book Review Featured Book

The Book of Barkley by L. B. Johnson

BookofBarkleyIt’s A Doggone Life

There are many good books about the dogs we let into our lives. The Book of Barkley, a memoir-like novel by L.B. Johnson, is up there with the best and is reminiscent of Marley and Me. In this debut novel, Johnson weaves together the stories of two lives, her own and Barkley’s. We follow their two lives, from bringing the roly-poly black Labrador retriever pup home, through all the usual doggie events – nurturing, playing, traveling in the car and, not least, reacting to strange places and loud noises. The latter is described with high humor. “Suddenly there came this enormous BOOM of noise from a distance,” and Barkley was out the door like a shot, running for his life, while the narrator is shouting “Barkley, come back!” Seemingly, to no avail. Dog owners know the drill; after a while both Barkley and owner calm down and life goes on.
Using Barkley as the thread tying it together, the narrator tells her story, starting out as a sing le working woman living in the American Midwest. After acquiring Barkley she reminisces about daily life with a dog. At the same time, she dips deeply into her past life and childhood, all about growing up in Middle America. She also changes jobs and locations, moves houses, and before it’s over she falls in love with a dog-loving guy and gets married. All the while, Barkley is her anchor and the book’s focal point.
The Book of Barkley is well written, as these few snippets demonstrate. For example, th e author says that nothing “has taught me more than a dog… how to look carefully and inquisitively at everything, how to look deeply, without restraint or judgment or expectation… how to be happy with what you have today, here, now.” Near the end, after Barkley has gone off into the afterlife, she writes, “He was a dog, but he was much more than a dog. He was love that crept in on four paws and rem ains, as long as memory lasts.”
If you like dogs and dog-inspired human interest stories, chances are you’ll like this one.
Reviewed by Don Messerschmidt


Mom got real busy at work and had to travel so I'll just put up a picture of Barkley and his favorite toy.  I prefer my stuffies, but that looks like lots of fun.

Abby Lab

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Girlz Night Out

Girlz Rule

It's Girlz Night Out - whether you are one of the hostesses, a party attender or a gate crasher - let's show those boyz of Blogville that Girls Just Want to have fun.  So many activities going on around Blogville for the ladies to check out.

First, everyone went to Dory's for 
Go to Miss Dory's Blog for this and other photos her Mom took

Lily is hosting game night! 

 Miss Sasha is hosting a Cheese Tasting (with snackies)

Miss Ruby  will  be rolling up in the famous Margarita Truck

Whitley and Finley will be holding a cocktail party

Madi is hosting a ME-ssage day that sounds like a blast!!

Hailey is hosting the gals for a day of hunting, fishing and camping

Hey maybe Mom can teach me how to make her famous deer camp cocktail

So ladies - stop in and visit the incredible Blogville Hostesses  listed for all the fun .

Ding Dong. . . there's someone at my door?
Abby Lab

Monday, March 23, 2015

Sammy Sparow's First Flight

Hello from Abby the Rescue Lab.  Monday morning started with snow, and more snow keeps on falling.  My Dad let me roll out in the snow  on our walk this morning while Mom slept in (she goes on call late tonight) and it was wonderful!  Then, inside to read some blogs while Mom has coffee.

One we love is The Daily Pip blog and especially "Reading with Ruby".  Today's reviewed book was one Mom squee'd with delight over, and is going to order one for the grandpeeps.

Sammy Sparrow's First Flight, written and illustrated by award-winning Illinois writer/poet/artist Tracy Ahrens, author of six books, two of which help support humane organizations. In Sammy Sparrow First Flight, a young sparrow named Sammy quickly learns why parents set rules.  He was told not to fly alone at night.  His wings are weak and Sammy falls into a bush below.  The world looks scary from the ground.

With the aid of a kindly owl; the story has a happy ending;  one I know the little ones would love to read.

Based on the author's childhood years of rescuing baby sparrows that fell out of a multi-room birdhouse that sat high up on a pole in her neighbor's yard, the book is raising money for a number of Illinois humane organizations, doing their part to rescue those "lost little sparrows" in the form of dogs, cats, and horses that need loving homes or restorative care.  I think the world lost a wonderful Vet when Tracy switched her college major to English, but her wonderful way with the written word is doing amazing things; to not just support the animals with monetary help, but to open up people's eyes to the world around them and the love we animals bring into your lives.

To order a book visit  

For more on the humane aspects of this wonderful book and to see some of the beautiful artwork with the pages of Sammy Sparrow's First Flight visit:

Thanks for supporting those that use their gifts to help animals like me find a safe haven.

Abby the Lab

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sunday Eats - Maple Bacon Scones with Whiskey Glaze

8-12 slices bacon cooked and chopped
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  and British friends.)

3. In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, nuutmeg 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 spoonsfulls of bacon to it halfway through stirring. Dough will be sticky.

5. Turn dough out onto floured work surface and knead 5-6 times. Don't overknead 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.
That had better be a scone in your hand Dad.

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.

Want to see what recipes are going to be coming up through the rest of the year? Cut and paste this to your browser (brower Abby NOT Bowser)

Saturday, March 21, 2015


I made it home after a week either on the road or at the crash pad near work. The kitchen floor that my husband started last week after putting in a whole new sub-floor was not done but it's getting there. The house has been rearranged a bit, the refrigerator being on the sun porch.

Abby was happy to see me.

Sure - she's all sweet and fuzzy and innocent, but just grab a Milkbone. . . .
The last thing a dog treat ever sees.

I brought a few more things up from Indy to add to the decor as we redo the kitchen. I loved the labs on this vintage sign.
There was the usual mail, but one wonderful surprise.  A beautiful etched pendant and a thank you note from  Lori-Anne at Rockin' LJ Wildlife Rescue and Esquine Sanctuary, in Tyrone, Oklahoma.  For over 12 years she's taken care of animals in need, including a number of blind horses.  TBOB sent a little check for some hay and her note just made my day. Thanks Lori-Anne! Consider a donation, it costs close to $1500 a week to feed the animals and much of it comes from her own pocket as well as earnings from her beautiful jewelry. Her auction page for her jewelry is on Facebook - enter in the Facebook search engine -
Rockin LJ Blind Equine Sanctuary benefit and auction page

We did take a break from chores to get into the Heidi Pops Toffee Popcorn (I got that and the cheesy jalapeno pretzel flavored) as I got badly trounced in dominoes. I might as well have put almost all of my fleet in dry dock and played Sequestration Battleship.
Then it was back to work.

The house looked like a testosterone bomb had gone off.  I'd left meals for each night, ready to nuke, but there were glasses all over the house, some leather-working stuff laying around, zillions of tools, and a pile of laundry that had its own base camp.

But my husband not only put in 8-11 hour days at work (he's a mechanical engineer)--he worked on the floor until late each night,.
And from the blanket I pulled off of the sofa - I think he just laid down there and fell asleep, never making it to bed, probably waking when it got light.
I realize how lucky I am.  Sure we could have paid someone to build a new subfloor and prep and lay the tiles, but I'd rather have that money in the bank for the future, and to help others when we can.

OK - so still no stove in the kitchen
 That's what a barbecue is for.  We've got burgers and fresh/frozen corn and ice cold beer.
Tired, full, and grateful for the weekend. - 
The Johnson Family

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Judging a Book by its Cover

The white you see is just background display.  The book itself is all black with a photo and scribing. There's a few very minor grammatical errors to correct on the back cover but here is the draft of the new book cover front and back.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St Patrick's Day - changes

A note from Abby-

Mom always celebrated St. Patrick's Day big time.  She would go out with friends, and having 12 years of tap lessons, could be persuaded to "river dance" with enough alcohol.  She was adopted out of foster care and was  told she was Irish and Norwegian - like her adoptive parents - two LEO's who took in a couple of scared little birds, she and her brother.

Some records that came to light this last year and DNA testing affirmed it. Not a drop of Irish blood or Scandinavian. She's Ashkenazi Jew (Central Europe) and Scot.

She assured me we still get to eat bacon, and I'll learn to love Haggis.

But St. Patrick's Day this year, she just felt out of place but said to send her love to Blogville.

Abby the Lab

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Sometime It is Worth the Journey

The Book of Barkley just hit #1 in sales at Amazon.   Not #1 in the Free Kindle Store, where it had been before but #1 in actual paperback book sales for genre.

Thank you - all of you in Blogville who read, supported and encouraged me, especially as a first time dog blogger.

I am especially thrilled as March sales are going not to just a couple pets that needed some help, but Midwest Lab Retriever Rescue and DFW Lab Rescue.

I miss you Barkley - but now the world will know how special you really were.

LB and family

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Dog Mom Fashion Advice

Abby the Lab here - no, I did not chew on Mom's underwears but she still had to fix it and afterwards she asked if she could take over the computer for a totally non-dog related post.  If there's treats in it for me - well sure!

To all the dog moms out there -

Why use a needle and thread if there's duct tape?

I know a number of my female readers have dealt with the whole issue of underwire bras. (for men who are unfamiliar, an underwire bra is sort of a cross between an erector set and fabric).  Then, you've probably had the issue where at the point of highest stress, the underwire breaks, and  pokes through the fabric.  You're sitting there, all of your body parts content and happy and suddenly there's this sharp metal thing poking very delicate skin, to the point of drawing blood.

Many of us have been there.  Discomboobulated.

Unfortunately, in this case, much of my laundry was down at the crash pad (where the washer and dryer are bigger), I had no spare and my truck was down at the corner garage for servicing.

Thank heavens for Duck Tape.

With that and tactical lip gloss (and wedgie free skivies) a gal can handle most anything life tosses her way.
Tactical Lip Gloss?  Even Zeva has some of that.

Yes THAT Zeva.  NCIS is a guilty pleasure of mine, even though Ducky once described the injuries of a run over man as a broken "tibia and fibia". I think a "Fibia" is part of the jawbone of a politician, I've not seen one in a normal human body. But when you've only got an hour to save the planet, what's a little forensic goof. I still immensely enjoy the show.

On one episode, a young damsel is kidnapped from the watchful eye of the NCIS team who are protecting her as she knows a special secret. She's found hours and hours later in an old warehouse, duct taped to a chair, a big piece of duct tape across her mouth to stifle her cries, her brow damp, her shirt clinging to her in the intense heat and humidity. One of NCIS team goes after the bad guy and while one of them RIPPSSS the duct tape off of her mouth so she can speak.

Now, considering that it been stuck to her for hours, that would normally remove the lips themselves. But this is TV. Not only did it not appear to hurt her, her pink lip gloss was absolutely perfect. I mean absolutely flawless. It didn't fade, it didn't smear, despite hours of duct tape and heat. My best friend  and I had a long discussion on it, which included a comment in the ladies room at the Indianapolis Symphony as we reapplied our lip gloss. of "good but not duct tape proof" which several blue haired matrons about fainted over.

Look, I have my girly moments even though I tend to be a bit of a tomboy. Face it, women in general pay a lot more attention to such things than men do. Probably because we grew up with Barbie who if she were a real live woman would be 6 foot 6, weigh about 98 pounds, (1/3 of which was her gravity defying chest) with a perfect hairdo that no real woman could get without enough hairspray to immobilize a Cape Buffalo.What's NOT to give a kid growing up a complex about such things as pouty lips and perfect hair when one has free range curly hair and grew up hoping there was a line of lipstick that tasted like cheetoes.

Fortunately, I ditched Barbie and got some action figures instead. Action figures didn't have to look pretty, they just had to be able to DO stuff and be self confident. You would never expect G.I. Joe to say "does this M16 carbine make my butt look too big?" Barbie was soon retired, having lost an arm to an unpleasant Tattoo experience with the little soldering iron in the wood burner kit and a leg to a potato gun launch gone awry. She retired on disability in the Barbie dream house where she was soon forgotten for much cooler toys.

G.I. Joe was cool. He had only the accessories he needed. Plus he showed up in an action helicopter not a pink convertible.
But I'm not just not shopping because I don't have wheels.  Franky, I hate shopping for clothes. 

For starters I will admit I own more tools than shoes and the shoes I have aren't "cute".  I have broken both feet on separate occasions. One involved a Ninja Hotel Dresser and jet lag, and the other a metallurgical experiment and gravity. They're healed, but they swell on a long day so most my shoes look like something Mickey Mouse would wear.  Look, you need shoes, they keep you from stepping on scorpions and spiders barefoot, and all.   But frankly. I wouldn't notice another woman's shoes unless her feet were on fire.  My closet contains five pairs, total, though I do sort  of love these boots..

I have about 6 suits, 3 are court-worthy.  I also have some "it won't bother me to burn them" pants and shirts, a couple pairs of jeans and Irish sweaters and my favorite green cargo pants and black silk shirt.There's also my denim jacket. I live in the latter outfits.

But I do have a couple of  "girly" outfits. There's a little black dress and one pretty little flowered number I bought because I am married to someone that has occasion to dress up.
But outside of that, I went for the longest time without buying anything new, but finally it happened,  Things started wearing out, cuffs frayed, collars too, and some things just get ruined out in the field.  Plus, I seriously stepped up my physical activity to recover from and support a blown out knee and  in that necessary process, lost 30 pounds that had set up base camp on my 40th birthday and refused to leave for a number of years.

Apparently though, while I was living in the fashion dark ages, picking up just the occasional Tee-shirt and undies, sizes have changed.  What used to be the size a very thin girl wore, a size 8, is now a size 0.  There's also not just women's clothes and men's clothes, there's  junior and Missy's (which makes me think of John Wayne "well I tell ya little Missy").  Add to that designer label (which means if you're a size zero at Fashion Bug you're a negative integer at Ralph Lauren),  petite and oh, thank goodness, woman's section, which I figured, worked, because I'm a woman.  But no,  that was a way of saying, "you're not shaped like a 2 x 4.  Welcome to mumu land".

According to statisticians, I am the clothing size of the average American woman, in the size 12/14 range (14 if it's a shirt and I don't plan on wearing undergarments designed for assassination attempts).  I've got 4 inches in height on the average American gal, but I'm curved like her. I will never be "fashionably thin" but I'm strong and I can chase after dogs and grandkids and the occasional group of ex-marines and special forces guys, which you can't do on a piece of arugula and a rice cake.

But in a world where a woman with her ribs jutting out seems to be the ideal (which, I think, would be like sleeping with a bag of antlers), clothing designers still don't seem to get how real American women are built, and most of us ARE not built like an ink pen.
So for them, I will offer some fashion design advice.

(1) Just because I have an ample backside does not mean I'm shaped overall like a VW Beetle.  I have booty.  I also have a small waist.  So why must you make jeans that fit my hips also so big around the waist and the legs (which are decent from 20 years of ballet and tap dancing), that after sitting in them for an hour, they SLOWWLY start sliding off my form.

There I was at a a big outdoors store with my best friend seeing what they had in the way of hiking gear, when the jeans started doing their little gravity dance and I was afraid I was going to be mistaken for one of those gangmember types that normally frequent certain areas of south Chicago.  I hoped at least, that the briefs that were appearing were the proper degree of gansta cool. I had to sneak behind the ghilly suit display (no one will see me here!) and "adjust".

(2)  Due to my. .  er. . bust size, I often have to get a larger sized shirt.  Designers? Just because I am bustier than the other size 14 gal, does NOT mean that my arms somehow grow extra long.  Why is it if you go from a 12 to a 14 size shirt, suddenly the sleeves are 3 inches longer and you have to roll the cuffs up?
Husband with the look all men get when you ask "does this make me look fat?"

(3)  Women in my age bracket may BE considered cougars but we don't care to dress like Marlin Perkins Mistress.  Enough with all the leopard and zebra prints for everything from handbags to dresses to sweats.  The only time I wore something like that, the 20 year kid kid at the oil change place asked me out but after I jogged through the park later, I came home with a dart stuck to my behind.

(4)  If it's 90 degrees out, sleeveless would be nice.  Apparently designers think all woman over 40 never work out and  have arms like  flying squirrels and the intent seems to be cover them up, and cover them up with voluminous fabric, even in  smaller sizes. Looking at clothing for the yearly Christmas party, all of them of had these voluminous winged arms, so that when you held your arms up and out they draped in a straight line to the waist. 

I could have jumped out of an airplane in any of them and flown to earth.  When did the 2014 Christmas look become "Base Jumper".  Actually, given all the sparkles on them it was "Base Jumper Elvis".
Spring collections are worse.  Everything is white.  I am messy, I come home spattered with an assortment of fluids you don't want to know about. I've gotten bacon tangled in my hair  But I had to get something for a special occasion. I tried to be kind to the clerk and just tell her the white top and pants she presented were too. . "you know. . plain."  So she gives me a long red scarf to hang around my neck with it to add some "zing".

I looked like a thermometer.

All I could think of was "I wonder if this comes in cammo?"

I gave up,  went home and put on my cargo pants and jean jacket.
Ladies, though we may occasionally stress over the whole fashion thing, especially when under a timeline to get something for a special event, never overstress as to how you are built, if you are healthy and active. Honestly, the good men don't care about that.  They care that you make them laugh, and that you will, and have, jumped up and down with glee over something they made you by hand, and that you don't mind that their car smells like motor oil, Hoppes No. 9 and a hamburger. They look at you and don't see a size or an age, they see the form of love and the color of courage, even on your worst days, the one holding the laughter of their truest friend.

Besides, I have enough to wear for the places I usually hang out.