Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Rock Solid Friendships

When I was a child, my Mom and I collected rocks and various agates, often attending gemstone shows together.

I still have a collection of stones, some vibrant with color, some stunningly plain but with wonderful memories behind them on a shelf in my bedroom.

So I was delighted when

Mom Samantha sent me these rocks as a gift that she hand painted with the Jetson family (I LOVED that show as a kid) when I admired them on her Facebook page.

Thank you~ That just made my whole week!  It's just another example of the wonderful friendships we've all developed here in Blogville.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Whisky and Bad Decisions

Mom may have her own reason for her latest bang trim with the small scissors (seriously folks, she looks like a Romulan).

Me - and the whole stuffie explosion thing.  I'm blaming lack of Vitamin D from sunshine and insufficient treat nutrition

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Sunday Black and White - On Waiting

On the days I work at squirrel headquarters Abby has a professional dog walker, a retired female postal worker who just loves her and takes her for a midday long walk, rain, snow, sleet, or shine.  Her dog walker drives a bright green toaster-shaped vehicle, parking it in our driveway outside the living room window and Abby knows it by sight and sound.

On the days I telework at home, she still waits for her friend, looking out at any car she hears coming near the house around lunchtime even though I'm the one that will take her out to play in the yard midday.

 Still - she misses her friend.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Crate Expectations - The Winner is Announced

Abby Lab is between 9 - 12 years old as best as we can tell, her having been dumped at a shelter with no info.  A mixed breed Lab - we're hoping she will live a long life, but as she ages, she has had normal dog issues.  Yogurt in the evening took care of any digestion issues but lately, when my husband was out of the country for an extended period of time on business, she had several "accidents" during the house in the nighttime (she has free roam of the house).

I didn't scold her, just cleaned it up. It might be stress, it could be normal aging, but several folks recommended crating her at night.  With the help of the staff at PetPeople Store (seriously, our favorite brick and mortar pet store), we got a crate big enough that she can sit up in it and it folds up easily in one piece with handles for easy transport.  It also has an entry door on the side AND the end.

My husband is just having some cuddle time with her and a new stuffie to get her used to it. We'll crate her for the night in a couple of days.  An old bedspread gives her a cozy feeling and we can drape more of the bedspread over it during stormy weather to make a cozy cave.  Hopefully, this will solve the night time issues so we don't have to let her out in the middle of the night.

But we need a name for her new kennel. Enter your first choice in the survey!

And we have a winner - submitted as "other" by Foley Monster, Pocket and River Song - "Downton Abby's". Second place was "Hair B and B" (original entry) and third place was "Abby Lab Pad", submitted by Lexi the Schnauzer's Mom Amy.  

She's getting used to it, going in and out of it to eat and get her favorite toys and treats which we place on the cushion.  We're giving her a week or two before she's in there overnight.  Until then, she is baby gated in the den overnight with the fancy rug up, and cheap rubber backed washable mats and some "training pads" from out in case she has to go during the night. In the den she has both a comfy bed and soft futon, neither of which she has had an accident on. She has an appointment at the Vet for Saturday to make sure there's not a physical reason for the sudden accidents in the house.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thank you Blogville

Abby T. Lab here with Mom (Dad is doing something known as "puttering" in the basement)

Today is the 3rd annual Thanks - Blogville Blog Hop created by

 We've been a resident of Blogville for 3 years this Thanksgiving season.

We are thankful to Blogville for making us feel so welcome as a new pet blogger and strangers to most of you.  You laugh with us, you cry with us, you provide creative outlets for us, and most of all, you care and support, even if we've never met in the furs, making us feel special.

I think this poem sums it up the best.

"The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thank you Blogville for believing in all of us.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Monday Dog Haiku

Oh New Stuffie Toy
I Will Love You Forever
Unless Squeaking Stops

Friday, November 17, 2017

Time to Make the Fastnachts

This week, the holiday baking started. First cinnamon rolls, made with a secret ingredient (a cooked and riced potato) which makes them extra fluffy (and even though the frosting melted when I reheated one in the microwave today, SOOO good).

Then lefse, which is a thin Scandinavian soft flatbread also made with flour potato and finally, a typical Lenton dish that we enjoy during the winter holiday season (because they are just SO good on a cold day with a mug of coffee).

First some history. . .
In Pamplona, there is the Running of the Bulls, but in England there is the slightly less lethal Running with the Stack.

This Running with the Stack (actually known as Shrove Tuesday/Pancake Day)dates from medieval times, originally celebrated by coveys of apron-clad women racing each other through the streets flipping flapjacks high in the air at least three times as they head for the finish line at the church door.

The vicar decided the winner and awarded the prize, a prayer book. The church bell then signaled the start of this Shrove Tuesday festival, which originated to use up all the butter and eggs before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, with itts look inward and abstinence from meat and other rich foods  It was a fitting end to cold dreary February, a month so dull the Romans only gave it 28 days
One popular pre Lenten dish of Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) is the Beignet.  It's good, but in my household during BOTH Lenten and Christmas holidays the pastry of choice is the Fastnacht.

The recipes and spelling of the dish may vary slightly but you do NOT want to call them donuts in Pennsylvania  Deitsch country. They may or may not have a hole or a slit in the center, but I add one, so my slightly larger sized ones cook completely in the center. But in holding with tradition, they are cut into squares, to represent the four gospels in the Bible.
You can sometimes find these at bake sales around Lenthh in Pennsylvania Dutch country but the rest of the year you are out of luck, unless you are brave enough to make your own.  Which I did.

However,  I avoided running, as a English/Scot/Swedish /Jewish (you think Abby Lab's pedigree is unusual?) Shieldmaiden with a plateful of hot fried Fastnachts is not a sight for amateurs.
Pennsylvania  Fastnachts

1 cup sugar
1 cup mashed potato (don't add anything to it, just the potatoes)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup lard
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp nutmeg
a pinch of Cardamom  (Optional)
2 packs yeast
1/2 cup warm water (use the warm potato water) plus 1/2 cup milk
5 cups flour

Cook 2-3 peeled chunked potatoes in water until soft.  Set aside potato water. Lightly mash potato and measure out 1 cup, reserving any leftover for another use.

Heat milk until scalded (just bubbling around the edges) and add cooled potato water (you want the mixture warm but not hot).

Add yeast to the warm liquid and stir until dissolved.

Cream the sugar, butter, and lard, and then beat that into the mashed potatoes on low, adding in eggs, salt, vanilla, and nutmeg. Beat in yeast mixture on medium until smooth and then, with a wooden spoon, beat in roughly 3 cups of the flour  Dump out onto a floured surface and knead in as much of the remaining flour as it takes (or not) so the dough is not sticky. Put in lightly greased bowl, cover with cloth and let rise until doubled.  Once doubled, roll out dough 1/2 inch thick, cut into squares and lay out on waxed paper about 2 inches apart and cover with a thin, clean towel.  Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about an hour)

Heat additional lard  (you want it about 4 inches deep) to 365 degrees F. and gently add the Fastnachts to the hot fat with a wire spoon, so they do not spatter. Fry until golden brown on both side, turning once. Drain on paper towel and brush with a glaze made of 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 Tbsp of milk and a small splash of vanilla.  When cool enough to handle, sprinkle with additional powdered sugar and serve. Makes a couple dozen large ones.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Freudian Slippers

One of the auction items I got at the Lab Rescue LRCP holiday auction was the cutest set of plush "Lab" slippers from

They are very warm and comfortable.  Little did I know the psychological effect on my dog.

For when I put them on last night, Abby Lab went bonkers thinking they were actual puppies.  She went into "play with me!" mode, prancing, then bowing down in front of them, showing her belly and wagging,then barking when they didn't "play" back.  If I walked towards her, it was even worse.

Finally, I took them off so she could see they were just slippers.  OK, but I got this look like "not real puppies, but they're stuffies and all the stuffies are MINE", right?"  At which point she grabbed one and ran off with it.

Finally, slippers rounded up, I let her sniff them and see they weren't  puppies or stuffies but slippers that smell like Mom's feet.

"I'm still not sure about these."

Today we have "slipper detente".  She has a new stuffie that's just hers but she has kept her paws off my slippers.
"Harumph  I'll just lay here with my boring stuffie turkey leg"

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

There Are Just Some Days.

There are just some days you need some comfort food to make it all better. For some it's "bath day" (Barkley was NEVER a fan) or for others it's a whole day of meetings which can sometimes be more tiring than being busy with having eight fires at once to put out.

So for tonight. . .

Easy Baked Mac and Cheese. I love the "just like Mom made" stuff with ham and onions and homemade roux, (and I have an incredibly good one if anyone wants it).. But some days you just need EASY. This one is. But is also delicious and unbelievably creamy. You can assemble it in 15 minutes, if you get out the ingredients ahead of time, while you get out of your work clothes and take the dog outside.

This recipe has been made for church potlucks many times and the dish is quickly scraped clean.
You start with some Cabot extra sharp cheddar (or Tillamock for those lucky folks that can find it out West) and (don't faint) a little bit of Velveeta to make it creamy and a can of Campbell's Cheese soup.

Toss in the rest (not pictured, some Penzey's Northwoods seasoning for the most subtle of bite).
Bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle a little more cheddar on top and bake a bit more.
It's the perfect plate of comfort food.
click on photos for the full effect
4 cups macaroni (dry) cooked
1/4 cup real butter, melt onto drained pasta

Stir in a generous 2 cups shredded good qualityCheddar (about 8 ounces)
1 can cheddar cheese soup
8 ounces processed cheese spread
(all at room temperature)

Stir until mostly melted

Add in 3 eggs whisked into 1 can evaporated milk, 1/2 teaspoon Penzey's Northwoods seasoning (or seasoning salt of your choice) and 1/4 teaspoon white pepper.

Bake at 325 for 20 minutes covered with foil. Stir well and remove foil. Sprinkle on about 1/2 cup  cheddar cheese and bake another 15-20 minutes, uncovered, until cheese on top is melted and starting to brown on the edges of the pan.

If you wish to go crazy and add an extra five minutes to it, chopped bacon and/or jalapeno is awesome stirred into it before cooking, but it still shines, even plain.

This is neither low fat or low sodium, and is  really is intended as a side dish for ham or pork or meatloaf.  But I have to say, I loaded up my plate and it was SO worth it.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Friday, November 10, 2017

Dad is Home! Dad is Home!

Dad has returned from two weeks in the UK for business.  I'm sure he is tired of pub food (especially from that one place that Mom refers to as the "Grease and Weasel") and wants a vegetable that's not "boiled potatoes" or "mutton".  (Mom is English, she's a Woodworth by birth, so she's allowed to make fun of her home country's cooking).

Let the American Foodables begin!  Fried chicken breast with Chicago Italian Pickled Pepper mix, salad, coleslaw, buttermilk biscuits and Mom's Slow Cooker Mac and cheese.

Abby T. Lab

Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
1 can (10-3/4 ounces)  Campbell's condensed cheddar cheese soup, undiluted
1 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 teaspoon onion powder (f you don't eat onions a pinch of cumin is a good alternative.
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded fontina cheese
1 cup shredded provolone cheese
Cook macaroni according to package directions 7-8 minutes so it is still a bit firm (it will soften further as it heats through) Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, combine soup, milk, sour cream, butter, and seasonings; cook and stir over medium-low heat until blended. Stir in cheeses until melted.

Drain macaroni; transfer to a greased 3-qt. slow cooker. Stir in cheese mixture. Cook, covered, on low 1-2 hours or until heated through. Yield: 8 servings. (freezes really well for single serve "Bachelor" meals).

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Piano Guys - A Video and Honor

I don't know how many of you have listened to "The Piano Guys" but their music is just awesome. This video is special as I was one of the several folks that got to be part of the production process. (My author name is in the credits).  The wife of Jon Schmidt, the piano player, read my third book "Small Town Roads" and sent me the most heart warming handwritten letter as to how those words, as the book had an underlying grief theme, helped them as they had just lost their 21-year-old daughter in a tragic hiking accident. That meant so much to me. Great family, great music, and a connection was formed. I was so honored to be part of the production of this video.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Unidentified Flying Objects

I thought I had seen it all on the internets today, but apparently, I almost missed the

I bet they found some eggtraterrestrials in there.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sunday Black and White

A dog is the soul that will wait for you when no one else will. - 

Friday, November 3, 2017

For Casey's Mom - At What Cost Love

I hope this brings some comfort to Casey's Mom through these last days.  A chapter from The Book of Barkley. . . .

What price love?
Today all told  - $811.46.  That's in addition to the $329.04 twelve days ago.

All to a tiny and pretty blond woman  in a white lab coat named Alice who talks to Barkley down on her knees, at his level, looking into his eyes, like he is a human.  I swear he talks back to her.

It was another trip to the vet.  The soreness and slight limping that was thought to be muscle strain or early arthritis, (pending x ray confirmation) did not respond to the drugs for that, even after a couple of weeks of very limited activity. Over only a couple of days, the slight limp went to full limp. Last night he refused food and wouldn't put his foot down, hopping on three legs.  This morning while squatting to poop in my neighbor the cop's yard (pooping in your own yard is for wimps!) he fell over, like cow tipping, without the moo. He was able to get up and slowly hop into the house with a "I meant to do that!" but with too much effort. The vet was called, then my team, who were expecting me for a load of fun today, that I had to trust the probies to handle themselves.

We were there by 10 for the x rays we'd discussed earlier.   Don't ask me how I got him into the bat truck since he can't jump, but being part Valkyrie really comes in handy.

The images on the x rays were such, a radiology specialist was consulted to look at a possibility we both are aware of, given his history, but weren't going to say yet.  Appendicula osteosarcoma.  A very aggressive bone cancer that manifests itself at the onset in lameness, the owner often trying other treatments until it's already spread to the lungs.  He's my 4th retriever so I know that lameness in a large-breed dog that does not promptly resolve with symptomatic therapy is a red flag we must check out.  So here we were, waiting, the silent ticking of his life in my ear.
While the images went to the radiologist, I went back to work, if only to the office, hiding in the Goat Closet (someone had to have fun with the placard) once to cry so no one would see.  When you're Gibbs, you can't get caught crying.

She called me with a sound in her voice that is some hope.  There was no visible tumor, and the specialist said the bone didn't have that (as best I can describe it to you) Swiss cheesy look you don't want to see.  It doesn't mean that cancer couldn't lurk, just not having manifested itself yet on x-ray but it gives us time to look at other things, minor infection, simple inflammation, he's faking it to get more treats.

I could have brought him home to the crash pad, but with a storm approaching, it was agreed they would keep him (he sometimes happily boards there when I'm working overnight) to monitor and run some more tests.  This will also help in keeping him quiet for a few days, while I go home for a night or two, a trip in the truck he would not want to make in pain, time to build a ramp so he can go out in the backyard without even those few stairs.  I brought his bed to which I added layers of foam underneath between the bedding and cover to keep him off the floor that could be cold, his toy, his treats.

I imagine I'll be writing a couple more checks later.

I don't mind.  We do a lot for love, we learn, we grow, we take chances, we hurt.  For one feisty blond woman I knew, finding out the guy who was calling her the "love of his life" was dating another woman at the same time, we show up at his stockholders meeting and light that brand new red Victoria's Secret number we bought for our anniversary, on fire and throw it on the table before storming out, head held high.

Most of us have lost someone close to us in our lives. A parent, a spouse, a friend, a beloved pet. It does not matter what form love takes, it becomes part of us, and losing it is like peeling away that outer layer of skin, leaving nerve endings exposed to the cold that bites with weasel teeth.   We all know that every life must end, but when it ends much too young or abruptly, it is just so hard to accept. For the true majestic, incandescent blindness of love is its willful refusal to fully acknowledge that at some time death or even circumstance will take someone from our lives here.

I remember a moment at Dad's not long ago, walking inside, carrying groceries and seeing my Dad so still on the couch, it appeared he wasn't breathing. For just an instant, everything went into high relief, like a scene in a 3-D movie - the Safeway bag dead weight in my arm, the sun glinting off my old piano against the wall, Dad's slippers on the floor.My whole life suspended, bathed in bright June sunlight. In the short terrible space between that moment and the next, when he opened his eyes and smiled, I got a glimpse of grief as it would look in this new incarnation. And perhaps, for those of us who have had that glimpse, it is partly the encroaching darkness that makes the light so vivid.
Artists understand this so well. Think of the paintings you have seen in a museum, that life force depicted in paintings of old, a succulent pear, a fox so finely wrought that a single drop of blood can be seen along a thin whisker. In studies of faces that bloom in layers of ancient varnish, the curve of a a child's innocence revealed gradually, the glint of light on a warriors steel or the promising, secret gleam in a woman's eye that belie the fact that the persons in these visages are now only framed by the earth, hundreds of years gone. For that moment, in those paintings, they are still with us.

I look at pictures of myself and of my own daughter, wondering if decades from now, the upcoming generations of our women will remember the strength and love from which they were born. I look at words I penned even five years ago, words that don't exist now in the same world, even though they were placed in space with these same hands on this old computer, as the same old clock ticked above, time discarded by moving hands.

I look at my Dad, sleeping more now, under an attic where lay a bundle of letters that give off a whisper of old longing and forever hope, carried across an ocean to lie above the woman who wrote them. Dad grieves and he gives thanks, for love still exists, even as the bones of it have crumbled to dust, becoming one with the soil, the love remains intact, impervious, where they had lain, there in the rich earth of a man's heart.
I look at a photo of my Mom taken in the woods she loved, long before she began that fight for her life. A heavy smoker, cancer was diagnosed when she was in her 40's. I remember watching as a youngster, when Dad would come home to that same house, with shadowed corners and open windows, in the town where I grew up, and he'd collapse on the sofa from worry and exhaustion. Losing my mother seemed impossible; she was never so alive as in those last years when she fought so hard to stay that way.  Still, death came too soon for her age, and for mine.

Yet she is still with me daily. Whenever you've been touched by love, be it of a parent, child or friend, even after they're been taken from you, a heart-print lingers,so that you're always reminded of the feeling of being cared for, knowing that, to someone, you mattered. You do not need a photo to remember that.
I remembered that when my Step Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimers, a good and kind woman, lost in the shadows of her own mind, dancing to memories we couldn't see and crying out for those she didn't recognize.  I remembered it when both Dad and Big Bro were diagnosed with cancer, both still fighting even though they know who will eventually win.  I remember it every day I wake up and know, that even as my world dwindles, to someone, I am the form of love, one with bed-hair and waffle breath.

I so miss Barkley here this night and so I write. I hope you will join me in saying a little prayer for those that remain.  There are no guarantees, but we have today.  Every hour, every day is grace, even as I drive 7 hours round trip to make a ramp for a dog that will likely go out and buy a skateboard to play on it.

I am going to savor that, however.  For it's not what you've lost that counts, its what you do with what you have left, concentrating on the good things, so while we still are, we can still hope.
L.B. Johnson

For the Abandoned Labradors

Gemma - my friend Carol's Senior "Foster Failure"

Lab Rescue LRCP of Maryland, a group that The Book of Barkley has supported for some time, with wonderful volunteers who have become good friends, is having their online holiday auction. They have some amazing items due to their generous supporters. They've raised $22,000 but with the high number of dogs for whom they provide medical care and placement into loving furever homes, more bids are needed (until the 8th).

I can't speak highly enough of this group and The Book of Barkley has supported dozens of rescues thanks to those that have bought my books. Lab Rescue of the LRCP (Labrador Retriever Club of the Potomac) is a volunteer-driven non-profit organization (Non-Profit Tax I.D. 52-1880024) that rescues, provides veterinary care for, fosters, and finds loving new homes for abandoned and neglected Labrador Retriever.

No dog is left behind, I personally know one volunteer that has taken in multiple "forever fosters" for dogs that due to age or health, won't be adopted, giving them a warm and loving home for their final months or days, paying for whatever care is needed to keep them comfortable, so they leave this earth surrounded by nothing but love and attention. (Bless you, Carol)

Check out the many generous donations - travel packages, professional sporting event tickets, gift cards from many restaurants and some beautiful dog-themed art and accessories for your home.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Speeding Squirrels

Hmmmmm - I wonder WHO this was?  The newspaper said it was a "he", so I'm off the hook for the squirrel-cide.

Blogville Officer Abby.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

November Naps

After all the holiday treats it's a good day for just napping, don't you think?