Sunday, January 29, 2017


Abby Lab would never be mistaken for the Roadrunner.  She is not in a hurry to get ANYWHERE. When the fence was first put in the back yard her zoomie was more like a gentle gallop on Ambien. If it's wet out, she walks as if she has gum stuck to the bottom of her paws.

Even if you yell "treat" you at best get a speed that best could be called "power walk", NOT a run.
"I know you've got a treat - but I'm racing this caterpillar up the stairs."

I've tried everything (don't laugh, this is an actual product for sale in Australia).  Bribes, yelling, but if she doesn't want to hurry into the house just because the sky is about to drop a ton of rain on her, she's NOT hurrying in.

She's a senior but she's not THAT old and she has no arthritis - she just likes to take her time.
"The sun is in my eyes - so I stopped!"

Except for last night - I let her out before dinner.  She immediately sniffed something at the base of the stairs, then followed the scent around the side of the house where there is some shrubbery and where I can't see her.
A moment later a rabbit comes STREAKING across the lawn coming from her direction, diving between the fence slats to safety with Abby in hot pursuit.  Abby does NOT fast enough to have actually caught the rabbit but I laughed aloud to see her actually RUN. She then ran around the side of the house just to see if there were another one, before coming inside
"MA - I'm worn out!  Would you make me a cheese sammich?"

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Saturday Eats - Sandwich from the "Sout" Side of Chicago

Created on the Sout Side of Chicago (that's right  -no "h" used in South), in the Italian enclaves around the now defunct Stockyards, the classic Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich (pronounced sangwitch) is a delicious, drippy, variation on the French Dip.

You will find it at a hundred restaurants and food stands all over Chicagoland and at most hot dog stands.  The exact origins are a subject of debate, but it became popular in the early 1900s as more families moved out of poverty and beef roast replaced cheaper bits of ground meat.  Nobody knows for sure the inventor, but the recipe was popularized by Pasquale Scala, a South Side butcher and sausage maker. During the Depression, in the late 1920s, when food was scarce, Scala's thinly sliced roast beef on a bun with gravy and fried peppers was a huge hit.
Like the famous Gene and Jude red hots (a must stop if you're around O'Hare, and be prepared for a line - they are THAT popular) there's just something about the Italian beef sandwich that is unique to the area, and if you ever visit family or friends in the area, you need to try it.

Today, beef "sangwitches" are a staple at gatherings, both family and business, all over the city.  I work in the city - it's a bit of a commute for me, so I have lots of time to see all the many restaurants and little ma and pa places that advertise this specialty and it's not uncommon for a large order of from Al's showing up delivered to the security area in the front of my building for several employees who make a group order. (Why yes, I'll be carrying these sandwiches through the metal detector for you , and I just MIGHT stop at my office first).
It's traditionally made by slow roasting a lean cut of beef on a rack above a pan filled with seasoned beef stock.  Some folks up here call that "gravy", others just call it au jus ("juice" for short), although it is often made with bouillon, and that is not technically au juice, which normally refers to natural cooking juice  Pasquale Scala's  Italian Beef is made by slowly roasting lean beef on a rack above a pan filled with seasoned beef-based stock.

The meat which is normally cooked with a dry rub, is cut thin and served with some hot peppers mix on fluffy Italian bread loves.  You need some sturdy but fluffy white bread, because whether you call it "gravy" or "juice" you need bread that will soak it up without totally falling apart. Italian rolls are the way to go.

I wanted to make some for my husband, a native of Illinois (but from farm country down south), but it was a work day and I needed something I could do in a crock pot.  So my "Italian Beef" was born. It's not "classic" and the purists may take issue with it, but it was the best dang sandwich either of us have had at home in a long time.  Last time I made it, he ate it three meals in a row, rather than putting some away for leftovers to freeze like we do everything else.
 Give me some of that beef or I'm calling my boyz

The Johnson version of the beef sandwich starts with a jar of hot peppers known as "giardiniera".  In the Chicago area, where I picked some up at a store, they're commonly made "hot" with sport peppers or "mild" without, along with a (varied) assortment of bell peppers, celery, carrots, cauliflower, serrano peppers, gherkins and sometimes crushed red pepper flakes and banana peppers, steeped in a brine, then packed in an oil blend. If your store doesn't carry them the Vienne Beef company has them where you can order online.  They don't need refrigeration until opened.

To make this I also needed a can of beer  (why look, I have beer!  WHAT a surprise!) and a small packet of dry Italian salad dressing mix.
And a roast.  A nice firm rump roast.  The roast goes into a crockpot, then the peppers (with liquid) are poured over all. The pepper jar is then filled almost to the top with a good beer (light ale style) and the Italian dressing seasoning is added and shaken, then poured over the meat and peppers. Crock pot it on low 5-8 hours and serve on good bread with the "juice" placed in little bowls to dip your sandwich in.

The meat was so tender, I cut it extra thick to give the sandwich a nice "bite".  The "juice" has some heat from the peppers as well as a little sweet tang from the dressing mix and was the best part of the sandwich.  It may be a break from tradition, but it was a recipe I'm going to make regularly, if my husband has his say. It made 6 sandwiches using a sub-sized Italian roll with a nice little slice left to cut up and put in some leftover vegetable soup.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


I worked at headquarters on Monday for a meeting.  Abby's pet walker took her out for her last walk at 12:30 or so, and I was home by 3:30 as I started very early that particular day.

Usually, she's patiently waiting by the back door.

Monday - no Abby.  I called out to her and I hear her toenails clicking on the floor but she doesn't greet me.

I saw why.  The entire contents of a bag of fun sized M and M's was on the floor, mostly uneaten but drooled and spread everyone. It appears she didn't so much EAT the M and M's but licked off the hard candy shell leaving a very chocolatey mess on the floor.

I weighed what was left. I knew the weight of the original bag (plus an extra little zip lock of leftover SweetTarts).  I figured she had not consumed more than 2 ounces total of the milk chocolate, just delighting in ripping apart about half of the wrappers and spreading them across three rooms.

Off to the vet. The little milk chocolate she ate was not enough to be a worry, but the sugar from the other candy's might give her an upset tummy. (I had a vision of sweet Tarts and a black lab's digestive track being like that Diet Coke and Mentos experiment). She was fine, and given her weight didn't have any further issues.

I still couldn't figure out how she had done it. Yes, the cupboard door was left ajar, but it was one with the drawers that slide out and they were stowed and the candy was way in the BACK, behind several bowls. She must have worked her paw through there or snooted the bowls to one side (and there's very little headroom clearance) and then slowly dragged out the candy out by snagging it with a nail.
Not these drawers - the ones on the right-hand side, behind the sink, even harder to get to.

When my husband got home I showed him the mess I'd dumped in the sink while I scrubbed floors and he went over to Abby with a "Abby?" and a disapproving look.

 She couldn't' look him in the eye, it was rather comical.

But she didn't get a treat before bed and she KNEW she was in the doghouse.

I own Houdini dog.  Just lock a treat inside of a closed box, wrap it in chains and dunk it in a giant tank of water.

Today she was well behaved so she got a little reward from the bargain bin at the drugstore on the way home today.

 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle~!

The shell is the best part!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

CILRA Lab Rescue and Adoption

Abby Lab here - one of Mom's good rescue friends from where she lived before marrying Dad has continued the friendship and they often catch up on doggy antics and what's going on with the Lab Rescue Group Suzie is involved with - CILRA  - Central Indiana Lab Rescue and Adoption.  Their website is

The next two weeks they are having a fundraiser with some custom printed shirts, nightwear and totes with the money going to help the rescues.  Mom is SO ordering one of those and I can see my friend

with one of the Bright Pink "Dogs- Because People Suck" tote bags!

Check out the link to see all that they have. A portion of the proceeds goes directly to CILRA.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Monday Night Football - Wide Retrievers

Abby Lab WIDE RETRIEVER here with a Football update.
Even at almost 97 and with late stage congestive heart failure and prostate cancer, Mom's Dad is fairly sharp mentally.  Mom takes care of the bills as that was getting difficult for him, even as a former LEO turned CPA. But he still enjoys card games and cribbage and usually wins and can hold a lively debate on current events or history as he still avidly reads.

But if he's had a rough night's sleep, he can be a little out of it the next day.  He stays sometimes with Mom's cousin Liz, who is like a daughter to him and who has a home out in a rural setting that he enjoys. Normally it's quiet, but every once in a while there will be a neighbor's dog barking, or loud vehicle going past that will wake him up. Last night was one of those nights.

Mom called and he was doing his favorite activity - sitting in a recliner watching sports.

After the usual sharing of daily activities with Mom he said (quite excitedly):

"Football is on!"

Mom asked:  "Who is Playing?"

He said:

"The Green Bay Packers


The Georgia Catheters"

Parents - you can't make this stuff up.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Blogville's New Catering Truck is Ready to Roll

click on photo to enlarge it

Abby T. Lab here with a Blogville update.With a little help from Mom and Dad, Blogville's New Catering Truck "Wags and Woofles" is ready for the big Valentine's Dance.

We'll have delicious hot and cold food for all kinds of critters and lots of treats from Chewy! However to avoid (ahem) CERTAIN critters we are a NUT-FREE truck.  Just saying.

Mom is embroidering my name on my new Chef Hat and I'll be ready for the big day.  Do you have a date yet? Singles are most welcome but if you have someone you want to ask, now is the time!~ I can't wait to attend with Frankie Furter.

I am very honored to have been selected as Blogville's new Chef and hope that Angel Sasha will be proud.
Don't forget to send your pictures to Murphy and Stanley's Mom by February 1 if you plan on attending. See you there!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Well I WASN'T Expecting a Package?

Either my husband has a big automotive project planned  on the suddenly noisy Escape this weekend

or Abby ordered a poodle.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

How Many Licks Does it Take. . .


To get to the Tootsie Roll Center?

Abby's Mom here - I thanked Abby for doing posts the last couple of nights. I still feel like death on a stick and need THIS

as a hat but I had to go back to work today.

Yes, that's a scorpion in the middle of that sucker.  My husband travels internationally a lot and on the longer trips, he sometimes brings me home a silly and often tacky gift from a local gift shop (as well as some really cool things).

But I thought of that sucker while my jaw thawed out from an emergency trip to the dentist today.

When you have to start the day in an expensive suit with heels, it can only go downhill.

I had some business that required serious suit-like adult clothing to testify in (hey, the black suit matches my lunch bag that looks like a battery!)  I even attempted something with a scarf, a subtle animal print, draped around my neck since the silk sheath under the suit jacket was a bit too low cut for the setting.  They make it look easy to do scarves like that in magazines.  I ended up looking like I had a marsupial attacking my throat and gave up and changed blouses.  Between that and wheezing and snorting throughout the entire process I probably had all the courtroom presence of  a cross-dressing Barney Fife on Ambien, but duty called.
But despite the grown-up activities, I still snuck in my daily Tootsie Pop between, for lack of a better word, "events" (Grape). Of course, I bit it. I always do.  Only this time, I bit it a wee bit early, so instead of the chewy center I got a piece of enamel.

Which had previously been part of my left rear molar.

Recess!  (Revert to 3rd-grade mode)

Fortunately,  it was time to break for the day, so my dentist worked me in, as he had a cancellation.  It didn't hurt at all, but the sharp and rough areas were going to bug me over the next three days.

I did get some teasing about "how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop"  as the dentist and his assistant were of that age that they would remember that commercial.
Dr. E. fixed it with some resin that was the color of my teeth  (C1 and C2 were considered and we went with C1)  I told him "don't use C4, as if I bite another Tootsie Pop I might explode."

Never make bad jokes to a man with a drill in his hand.

As it was just one corner, he bonded the resin to what filling was in that tooth and the remaining tooth itself (after doing a bit of drill work), after building up a little shelf of some sort as a platform for the materials. He then shaped it and smoothed it so it looked and felt just like a tooth. It looked totally natural and cost 1/5 of the cost of a crown another Dentist may have likely tried to sell me. He said it won't last a lifetime, maybe 2- 5 years. With the expenses for Dad's nursing care, I'll take it for now.

This is a Dentist that makes sure there are some actually GOOD magazines out in the waiting room, NOT 15 copies of Sports Illustrated all from the 70's.  I knew he'd take care of me.
Seriously, I have the best dentist on the planet, and he entertained me with stories, while he worked away, about shooting a firearm long range, prone, with his wife and a Biathalon instructor on a vacation.  I could only mentally nod while offering such valuable shooting tips as. . .


With a tooth that looked better than it did waking up this morning, I was out in an hour; some gas for the Truck, then back to Secret Squirrel headquarters to drop off some papers while my lips unfroze (Slurpee--bad idea)

But home soon beckoned, quiet, the Zen of a peaceful Bungalow, a colorful throw rug, a loving, obedient dog who plays with her toys as gently as she does me.

Usually. The floor looked like the back of my truck tonight - filled with mounds of wadded up tissues.
Apparently, the Angry Bird Sound when she bit the Green Pig Angry Bird Toy unleashed something primal after weeks and weeks of  nuclear build up. Sorry Abby - you've lived with us for HOW many months without destroying a toy again, but no more unsupervised visits for you!

She feigned sleep when I came in but I caught her with an eye open.
I'm going to feed Abby, blow my nose (again) and have a glass of wine. Then I'll see if my inventor husband can come up with a patent for that TP hat.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Health Alert from Honorary Dog-tor for the Day Abby

Dog-tor for the Day Abby Lab and friends here - Mom still feels poopy with her sneezes and constant sniffles so I'm doing tonight's post again.  I think she is feeling slightly better, she did put a meatloaf in the crockpot with diced sweet potatoes and drizzled some Iron Chef Orange Sauce on it (she will be lazy on cooking when she is sick).  AND she sent a note to Dad that said

"Pick up some white wine please on the way home.


Tonight's post is more serious, a health alert for pets put out by the FDA.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning vets and pet paw-rents against the toxicity of a topical (applied to the skin) human skin cancer cream that has sent FIVE dogs to the Bridge WAY too early after they ate some of the product.

The product is Fluorouracil Cream USP 5% which is marketed for our humans as Carac, Effudex, or Floroplex and is very dangerous to pets, most especially dogs.  One dog punctured the tube before her owner could get it away and began the barfing and seizures within two hours.  12 hours later he left for the Bridge as have four other dogs that the FDA knows of.

So for the safety of our furry friends, please immediately put all pet AND human medications, including creams away, in a safe place as soon as you use them. If you ever use any of the creams above, discard any tissues or machine wash immediately any fabric that this cream may have touched and consult your doctor about covering the area with a fabric or band-aid dressing to prevent pet licks that could be very bad for your pet.

Thank you, and I now return you to our regular programming.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tuesday Funnies

Abby Lab here - Mom is really sick with a head cold and can't stop sneezing and sniffling so she's kinda miserable right now.  I'm going to put up some pet funnies to make everyone smile (including one for the Crabby Girls).

Sunday, January 15, 2017

It's My Birthday!

It's my birthday!  Mom thought it was on the 10th and Dad thought it was the 20th, but Dad pulled out my adoption paperwork and it was it was today, the 15th.  I can't believe I've been with Mom and Dad almost 3 years after that scary shelter place where my friends would leave with a shelter person and never come back.

I'm not sure what 'high-kill" shelter meant but I'm so grateful someone from the Lab rescue place drove 12 hours round trip to rescue me as they were getting ready to take me for one of "those" walks because I was getting too old to have lots of puppies and I was very sick.

Once my heartworm was fixed Mom as well as some other things  -
Mom came and got me from my foster Mom and we've never been apart other than when she visits her Dad in Washington State and I stay with Dad or the lady that runs the dog walking service we use with Andy the rescue lab and a HUGE fenced yard (she and her husband even let me sleep on the couch!)

It was a great birthday and I am 8 years old!

First, there was a beautiful card from my sweetie - Frankie Furter. I love it that it has a wiener dog on it!

Thank for celebrating with me Frankie!

Mom got me a new stuffie!
And a Birthday treat from The Pet People Store! We buy all our food and treats from Chewy but Pet People has a little dog bakery so I get something from there on my birthday and Christmas!
Even better, instead of just regular kibble Mom made me Meatsloaf for my birthday mid-day dinner, made with crushed kibble instead of grains, and no onion, salt or garlic in the gravy and dog safe veggies like zucchini and carrots

I even got to eat off a people plate! (all the photos were just a total blur of feeding frenzy and wagging tail). Mom made this remark about piranha and skeletonizing a cow - I have NO idea what she was talking about!

I don't know why Mom didn't have a little one for her and Dad, and they ate the leftover pork roast with their taters because it was yummy! (OK, except for the carrots - I ate the carrot and went SPEW SPEW SPEW!  Mom even got all Gore-May on me and sprinkled parsley on the plate so I'd fresh breath for Frankie.

Happy Happy Birthday!

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Thank You

Abby's Mom here.  A big thank-you to any of you who bought any of my books for gifts this Christmas. TBOB had a nice little spike in sales that helped me donate to a lady that has a Blind Horse rescue that lost her husband of 19 years to a heart attack a few days ago and didn't have the means for a proper burial as well as help a couple of bloggers with unexpected Vet bills. I love to write, but wouldn't have gone through the whole book publication/editing thing (not fun) except to help folks I couldn't otherwise be able to help.

I've appreciated all the reviews, but this recent one on my book published in November really struck home as the reader really understood the message of the book, which though from a Christian publisher, is less about any specific religious doctrine and more about living a life of love and peace and caring for each other as neighbors, as Christ would have done.

The photo above - the barn I would pass on my way to work when I lived in Indiana.  The rail spike on the cover from Small Town Roads was part of its door and I loved the photo.

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you like a book that will make you think, this is the one L.B. Johnson's novel is about self-discovery in a small town. What really shines is less the story line than the psychological exploration of the heroine. That exploration (and her lush writing style) makes the characters come to life. Indeed, it makes us consider our own lives - as someone who has a family member struggling with dementia, this bit about the heroine's mother and her struggle with Alzheimer's jumped at me:

"Initially, she had little moments of forgetfulness, like any person of her age, but she was such a bundle of energy, still active in church and volunteering, taking dance classes, working in the garden. Then one morning, out of the blue, she came into the kitchen and sat down, looking at me and I realized she did not have a clue as to who I was. What struck me was not that but the look on her face as she realized this, realized she should know."

Johnson's ability to make you stop reading and think about your own life is remarkable and is spread throughout the book. This about a rescue dog is one of a million similar gems:

 "On my couch is the form of a little black dog. I do not know why Clyde was a stray. He responds with great plaintiff urgency to the sound of small children laughing, looking around for them as to say "my kids, my kids" only to get this look of pure sadness when he sees they are strangers. The first time I witnessed it, I cried."

Johnson tells you a story not by telling it, but by showing you these scenes, one after another. I found it a slow book to read because I would suddenly snap back from where I had been mentally wandering, remembering a time when I too had had an experience like what was being described.

This book asks big questions: What is it to be human? What is it to live the Good Life? What is it to leave that Good Life?

 I cannot recommend this book more highly