Sunday, January 31, 2016

Inspire Your Heart with StuART

We will be black and white blog hopping next week - but this week there is a special hop thanks to

In honor of the memory of his friend Stuart from
He went to the Bridge last month and we all miss him.

For this day, we are to create an artistic selfie and post as that is something Stuart would have really liked, since he always shared hi StuART with us.

Our StuART for Stuart - a dark haired beauty with a shy smile.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday Night Recipe - Treats for Peeps

It's going to be a cold weekend.  Cold, grey, the perfect time to get caught up on chores around the house. But what do you do if you might get a couple of little storm troopers stopping by for a visit. Well, I have my usual kid tested recipes, toll house, oatmeal (of which I just made a batch as well). But this recipe is one that frankly, adults love. Especially the men folk.

Malted Milk Ball Cookies. 

You start with a bag of Mountain Man Fruit and Nut Company Malted Milk Balls, not only are they delicious, like all of their products, they are twice the size of most. The chocolate coating is real chocolate (and you can get them in dark chocolate as well) and it's THICK, so it gets all nice and melty as it cooks. (And I probably shouldn't tell you about their dark chocolate covered "Teddy Graham" style cinnamon bears)
The batter is your basic "toll-house" style dough. Rich with sugar, egg and vanilla.

Malted Milk Ball Cookies

1 stick butter
1 stick margarine (I used Blue Bonnet) If you use all butter, they're spread too thin, if you use all margarine they won't taste as good
1/2 capful of pure vanilla (yes, that's CAP, not CUP) about 1/4 teaspoon
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup regular sugar

 Cream ingredients together  with a hand or stand mixer until blended.
 Add 3 SMALL eggs. (or two large).
 Mix in 2 and 1/3 cup flour
 1 teaspoon baking SODA
 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Throw in 2 and 1/4 cup chopped up malted milk balls.  Place in rounded Tablespoon sized globs on a baking pan spray with non stick spray. This will make about 4 dozen cookies.
Bake at 350 F. for 8-11 minutes. It's a soft, tender cookie, slightly crispy around the edges from the butter. The malted milk balls? Well the center takes on a almost honeycomb like texture  (sort of like sea foam candy if any of you have had that) and the chocolate melts really well and stays soft after cooling. Yum.

The Storm Troopers won't leave a crumb.

Dog Vader is giving me the Death Stare.  I'd better get out a non- chocolate treat.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Guest Post From Abby's Grandpa

Abby Lab here.

The picture above is my Grandpa, who turned 90 a few months after this photo was taken with Barkley.  Before you think that Barkley was Giganto dog, my grandpa, a former golden glove boxer is fairly small of build.. He's 95 now, still living on his own with a full time nurse during the day that Mom gets for him to help him with things between her visits.  When he had hair it was red, so like my Mom, he can be a bit stubborn and doesn't want to leave the house he's lived 70 years in and the West to live with my Mom in Chicago after her Mom and Stepmom and Brother passed away.

Born in Helena MT, my Grandpa went off to serve in WWII as a Captain out of the U of Montana. He came back to Montana, married his high school sweetheart and settled in. He adopted Mom and the one that became her redheaded brother when his friends were having grandchildren. He drove and played golf weekly until he turned 93.Even though he and his wife moved to Oregon, and later Washington after the war, he still considers himself a native Montanan, even after all the folks from Hollywood moved up there and built houses the size of Vermont. When Mom's Mom passed away, he married a widow from Montana and they'd still visit from their home in Washington.

When my Mom mentioned being really busy this month with her new job he offered to write a post, and she got this carefully typed on a typewriter older than she is.

Moving to Montana

September 14, 2010 - Moved to our new home up north in Montana. It is so beautiful here. The mountains are so serene and picturesque. Can hardly wait to see them with a covering of snow. God’s country. I love it here.

October 14 - Montana is the most beautiful place on earth. The leaves are turning all different colors. I love the shares of red and orange. Went for a ride through some beautiful mountains and spotted some deer. They are so graceful. Certainly they are the most peaceful animals on earth. This must be paradise. I love it here.

November 11 - Deer season will start soon. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to kill such elegant creatures. The very symbols of peace and tranquility. Hope it will snow soon. I love it here.

December 1 - It snowed last night. Woke up to find everything blanketed with white. It looks like a postcard. We went outside and cleaned the snow off the steps and shoveled the driveway. We had a snowball fight (I won) and when the snow plow came by we had to shovel the driveway again. What a beautiful place. Mother nature in perfect harmony. I love Montana.

December 12 - More snow last night. I love it. The snow plow did his trick again (the little rascal) A winter wonderland. I love it here.

December 19 - More snow last night. Couldn’t get out of the driveway to get to work this time. I’m exhausted from shoveling. I need a snow plow.

December 22 - “White Christmas” my busted butt. More of that friggin snow. If I ever get my hands on that son of a *(#&@ who drives the snow plow, I swear I’ll castrate the moron. Don’t know why they don’t use more salt to melt the (#)@& ice,

December 28 - More white crap last night. Been inside since Christmas Day except for shoveling out of the driveway after “Osama Bin Snowplow” comes by every time. Can’t go anywhere; car’s buried in a mountain of white. The weather man says to expect another 10 inches of this *(#* tonight. Do you know how many shovelfuls of snow that is?

January 1 - Happy (#)@  New Year, The weatherman was wrong (again). We got 31 inches of the white crap this time. At this rate it won’t melt until July 4th. The snow plow got stuck up the road and the dumbass driver had the balls to come to the door to borrow my shovel. I told him I’d broken six shovels already from shoveling the crap he’s pushed into my driveway. I broke the last one over his head.

January 4 - Finally got out of the house today. I went to the store to get food and on the way back, a damn deer ran out in front of the car and I hit the little bastard. Did $4000 damage to the car. Those ()#*@ beasts are a menace.

March 8 - Took the car to the garage in town. Would you believe the thing is rotting out from the *(#*@ ice they keep dumping g all over the road? Car looks like a piece of *(#(.

June 1 - Packed up and moved to Arizona. I can’t imagine anyone in their friggin right mind would ever want to live in that God-forsaken state of Montana

- Love, Grandpa

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Shirley you know. . . .

Blogville Mayorz

have declared this week:  "Everything knows Shirley" so we can have an opportunity to introduce our friends to friends they haven't met yet!

I have so many new friends in Blogville since Mom adopted me as a rescue dog in 2014 so it's hard to pick from so many.

Well - I can't forget my fella Frankie Furter at

He's just pawsome, as are his paw-rents  and his cousin.

We have so much fun talking and laughing in Blogville and at home.

I think almost all of you know those friends, but here are some you may not have met and will be SO happy you did.

First -  there are cousins that each have a blog  (no don't start singing that "identical cousin" them song from the Patty Duke show that Mom remembers when she was little or EVERYONE will know how old she is).


They have the most colorful, entertaining blogs and even though each of them has lost a dear four legged member of their families very recently they still take the time to share and care for others.

And lastly - our newly discovered friend

Bertie lives clear across the big pond and is a math and science whiz who makes my Mom laugh SO hard.  We LOVES Bertie's science post collection. My Pee H. Dee Science Mom is weird, she has a collection of antique slide rules on the shelf with her bones (and don't get me started on why Mom won't let me play with her bone collection).

So stop in and say hi to old friends and make some new ones.  Thanks again to the Mayor Doodz for this great event.

Abby T. Lab

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Belated Birfday Surprise!

 What's that Mom - I got a package in the mail!  It's a birthday card and pressie!
 I didn't even know what a birthday WAS before this week, and now I got a surprise?
 Look it's from Frankie Furter and Ernie and their Mom and Dad!  They remembered!
It's a stuffie animal ball!
 Dad has to cut the tag off of it before I can play with it.
 The squeakers in the tail!  The squeakers in the tail! 

Thank you 

And thanks to our Sunday black and white blog hop hosts.  We're so happy to hear the mass taken off of Sugar's spleen was benign.  We hope you feel better Sugar!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Sorry Charlie - the Cat's Getting the Tuna

I've never really owned a cat - always being a dog lover (and my Dad was highly allergic).  I've cared for some for friends, sometimes for months while they were overseas, and I've had strays I've found, cared for, and then found good homes for, as at the time, I had a lifestyle that didn't allow for any pets. Abby isn't afraid of cats - but she's happier as the center of our attention, given her background of neglect.

But I have a soft spot for all animals.

Today, while my husband and I were playing backgammon, thankful Chicago has seen only some single digits this month and not had a lot of snow,  I heard a plaintive meow from outside.  My best friend has 7 cats (all dumped out in the country where she has land) and I know that sound. That's a "I'm scared, lonely, or hungry" sound.  I went out and saw a medium grey cat.  My husband came out and said he'd seen him around before, sometimes hiding under a thick shrub that offers some cover when it's raining or snowing. I'd also seen cat prints out by a brush pile by the shop where I know there are mice and chipmunks.

He didn't look malnourished at all, his coat  clean and in good condition, but he sounded hungry and he'd not been fixed, nor was he wearing a collar.

He retreated back under the shrub when I came out and I got a can of albacore tuna, opening it with the opener that doesn't leave sharp edges, and put it out near where he was hiding.

A half hour later, he came out to feast.

I quietly walked out, talking to him as he ate.  He came over and leaned up against me, obviously used to humans.  I didn't pet him as I didn't know how he'd react and didn't want to risk a bite out of simply fear from an animal whose vaccination status was unknown.  But I talked softly to him, and he want back to eating, coming back a second time to lean in against me, licking his chops, probably not having good albacore tuna before.

He might just be a pet that's an "indoor/outdoor" cat, forgotten perhaps for a meal today while his family was late getting home with the weather and will find his way home later, He didn't finish off the can, so he's not starving, perhaps just a little cold and hungry. If he stays, and appears to be not getting adequate food elsewhere, we'll make sure he's fed and has a warm place to sleep in the shop, and some vet care, until we can find him a permanent home. If he's a neighbor's cat, looking for some attention - we'll welcome the visits - even if it costs us a can of the good tuna or two.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Oh no - Mom has her author's hat on again.

“Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.
 Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.”
- Groucho Marx

Abby Lab here.  I was just hoping for something simple like

Treats.   Bacon.   Stuffie.

But Mom went and wrote another chapter her third book  For those of you interested, here it is.

Chapter 13 of Small Town Roads - "Books in Hand."

She didn't know what she would do without her books. Remember the book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury?  It was set in a dystopian future in which firemen intentionally burn any house in which a book is located, because it's against the law to possess them.  In the end, a fireman who had grown to love books escapes the city of quick, mindless but big screen, reality based entertainment, to find a small group of book-loving refugees banded together.  Each person is assigned the memorization of one complete book -- Aristotle, Dickens, James Joyce and more -- so the books will survive until society is ready to embrace them again
She didn't read a lot of popular novels, though she had a rather large collection of classic Sci-Fi.  When her grade school classmates were reading The BoxCar Children and Pippi Longstocking, She was reading the works of Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein and a whole world beyond her quiet, hushed one at home, opened up to me.

Reading  for her was not just intellectual but embracive. She loved the way the spine of a book feels in the crook of her fingers. The smooth, hard end boards snug on either side of the pages sewn together, their edges flush and perfect. The smell of ink, the texture of a page as her fingers gently turns it.
She tended to read a lot of non fiction and books that teach you how to create and maintain things. She likes to read of history. She loves reading about long ago. know more about her own life when she knew more about the past. It's a sense of perspective; of days full of people that killed, tortured, struggled and suffered, agonizing for things that were of the utmost importance to them; working and living for reasons that may be well the same as ours. Now they've been gone some 500 years and all that is left to us is the essence and quintessence of their lives so she can remember all that they never forgot.
To her, history was more than a story, more than a book, it's the life, the heart and soul of ages long ago.  It's the ultimate myth and inevitably ambiguous, but she did believe, as Lord Bolingbroke stated, "History is philosophy teaching by example and also by warning." History not read is like ammo not used, someone once said, and without reading, for herself at least, the past is silence and the future is haze.
Quantum Physicists have stated that time, as most of us think of it, is an illusion. They have postulated that the past,the present and the future are here, now, captured in a touch, the blink of an eye, or perhaps,simply between two pages.

Between two pages here is a photo of her Mother in her garden. Outside the window here now, a plant opens up, spilling forth its seed onto the soil. She remembered days of working in the flowerbeds that her Mom so lovingly maintained. After her death, She kept it going as long as she could for her Dad, until adulthood called me away. As she toiled in the garden, the sun kissed the top of her head, the touch a benediction, a blessing.
She had not yet learned of other kisses, the ones in the crook of the neck where the head joins the body and the body knows not its limitations. The one that dances on the skin like light that falls upon it, outstretched hands gathering fistfuls of flowers imprinted upon starched cotton. She had not yet learned that love is not just as wild as the flowers; it’s as fragile and elusive as glass; that in nature, the most delicate of things are often trod underfoot as they go unnoticed. So much contained in those pages never read.
At the bookstore recently, an engineering manual, two generations old, was opened to browse. In it was an ancient leaf, carefully pressed within the pages, the person who had done so likely long gone. She has many books like that old book, purchased from stores that contain more light than dust, yet containing within them things old and forgotten, things that in the wrong hands would only grow older. Finding the right one is like finding treasure, fingers tracing the spine, fingers that are gentle and forgiving, not wishing any further scar upon that which binds.
Such books find their way to her  home, where they lay looking out from under leaded glass, pulled out to be read on late nights, the mind marveling that other minds marveled, the mysteries, the mistakes, playing out across the pages as if they were penned today. They tell their tales like the lonely, animated elderly, to anyone who is willing to listen, lessons given without rancor or heat, so many words that need to be said while they can still be heard.
Nothing for her is worse than being in the back of an airplane or at a hotel with nothing to read. When in one mountainous far off place, she  had to downsize a bag as the little airplane being piloted by what she believde was a Yeti, was weight restricted and her books were left behind for materials she had to have for the missionary work. She almost would have given up her tools, her poncho and her hiking boots than her little collection of paperbacks, of Earth Abides and Stranger in a Strange Land and a small leather bound book of Shakespeare sonnets.

Let the weather play God with her itinerary, let the tanker bringing in supplies break down somewhere, let the post sell the last bottle of whiskey, but if she'd laid up alone in the middle of no where after she busts a move down the Himalayas and break her leg, she want a book. Curled up in strange places among a couple artifacts of family that get toted around in her suitcase, she may be lonely, but she will be be content. 
For she has a book.

It's a big old paper dead tree book, because she wants to hold something in her hand that feels alive, to me even if a living thing died to create its pages. It's words that form pictures, laid out upon a living thing that never slept, never dreamed of the soft perch of birds or the sharp blade of the ax, never mourned the tender leaves that it nourished and abandoned. It’s a piece of wood, that which can be warmth, support and shelter, or the perfect, pristine bed of memory laid down bare.
Such is it she is alone tonight, her husband long buried.  But in her head is history, the cries of warriors, rushing forth immortal beneath disported sabers and brandished flags, men rushing forward into time, propelled by gunpowder and righteousness, underneath a sky of thunder. She has a book.  She is caught up in battles, in loves, both forbidden and forgotten, coursing like blood as long as the words will, that immortal, fresh, abiding blood which bears respect above regret and commitment above the ease of dishonor.

Her housework is put aside for at least an hour or two before bed and she'll pick up that book. She'll let it transport her to somewhere far away, until a chime will toll for warriors, for battles won and those so easily lost. As her hand turns the pages, she will move among people who lived and died, or perhaps never existed at all, their shadows not of flesh of blood but of imagination, shadows as strong as finely honed steel and shadows as quiet as murmuring breath, forgotten until they were put upon paper.
Then, on the sound of that chime, perhaps a clock, perhaps something that just travels within her, the note cutting the air, as sharp, clear and quiet as a blade, she will fall off into sleep, there in that lonely bed. The book lays prone on the nightstand next to her, two forms, creating one shadow, the stories in both of them, never ceasing, even at rest. Outside the world continues in that illusion of change, the sky letting go of its tears, washing a parched landscape anew.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Vetting the Vet

I won't name the specific outfit or the city, but if there are any Vets in the reader group - a little lesson on how to lose a patient in a little post about getting a new Vet for Abby in my new locaiton ( her previous vet was in the city where I had the crash pad.)   The place I went to first is a chain (you know, like IckDonalds) and I'll just refer to them as "IckHospital"

First Visit - The place was fairly close to home and I appreciated the big parking lot as the truck is difficult to maneuver, one of the main reasons I selected them for appointments starting in the Fall/Winter. Plus they advertised themselves as a "hospital" not just a veterinary clinic, something I found invaluable when we had Barkley and he took ill.

I arrive with a printed coupon provided on their website for a free exam.  Get charged for exam anyway.  Scheduled a nail trim (groomer on premises) in addition to wellness check.  Nails not trimmed. Her shots were due in a few weeks - told to wait and bring her back in, rather than do them early (second exam fee)
Mom won't let me on the couch if my nails are too long and sharp.

Last visit - schedule to look at a scab at the edge of her ear that was bothering her and that didn't seem to be from any obvious wound and showed up suddenly. It was loosening a bit but was causing her some discomfort. As my husband and I are waiting in the exam room, a lady in jeans comes in, not the vet that's on their website, no doctor's smock or jacket, no ID, doesn't introduce herself other than "well I guess I'm the doc that gets to look at you". She asks which ear it is, then roughly picks off the scab, to Abby's unpleasant surprise, and simply says "it's a bump", offering NO explanation as to what it actually WAS under the scab.   (I can see it's a bump, and could have paid someone off the street to tell me that). She just says "keep an eye on it for a few weeks" and moves to leave the room, apparently having the attention span of a goldfish.

I say (politely) - "if we don't know what it is, I'd like it removed ."  (Having lost Barkley to a sudden cancer, I'm acting on the side of caution.)

I am told "we don't do that here. " Apparently, although they list themselves as a "hospital" they don't have anyone trained in surgery on staff.   I was told I could go to another of their locations that has a surgeon. It's almost an hour away in traffic each way. They offer another office that's  slightly closer, but say the person there isn't a specialist and may not be able to treat her either but I'll have to make an appointment to find out.

I'll also need a separate appointment for blood work.

I ask "Why can't you do the blood work here since you are 10 minutes from my house and you're the same business, you can just send them the results?"

I'm told, "we may not know what kind of blood work they need" (hello - it's a sister office, could you perhaps just call and ask).

I'm given a brochure and and a phone number to call to set up what I need.  I do not.

I am charged for my exam of "the bump" and sent on my way. I may have burned gravel in their empty parking lot.
But Mom - what about my ear?

Next Day - new Vet.With her records in hand, I take her to the place Barkley went to when he had an ear infection issue while visiting my then-fiance and they were great. So I just parked on a side street and walked her over.

Fees were explained and we were promptly seated in an exam room.  A young man, dressed as you would expect a vet to dress, walked in.  After introductions and some general questions about Abby, the Doc looked at it and said "it looks like a Histiocytoma. They are usually benign but I can do a needle aspiration and look at the cells under the microscope while you wait. It won't hurt."
He leaves -I hear much giggling and laughing and a happy woof as Abby gets petted and fussed over by all the techs so she's at ease when she gets a little poke with the needle. A few minutes later, the doctor comes in with a happy Abby, explains what he did and saw and says that the cells look normal, and that type of growth should regress within 3 months as they normally do.   If it doesn't, it can be removed onsite, but it likely will just go away. He prescribed an ointment which he said would speed up that regression process while soothing the ear. When the front desk gave it to me they explained how to use it and how to store it. I made sure I thanked them for getting her in on less than 24 hours notice as well.

Needless to say - we have a new vet and a happy dog who has a less itchy ear.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sunday Black and White - Caution for Homeowners

As temps reach  a high of 6 today in the Chicagoland area and elsewhere, be sure and make sure your thermostat isn't set TOO high so the dog doesn't melt.

Thanks to our hosts Nola and Sugar for the Blog Hop and a big hug for Sugar as she recovers from surgery