Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Travel Toys

When I travel for work I try and come home with a little surprise for my husband.  He does the same for me though it's sometimes the tackiest thing he can find, a little joke between us.  In some of the foreign countries he goes to, they have been comical. So I'll often have a little gift in my briefcase as well as the obligatory snacks as I have low blood sugar (since menopause) and always carry some sort of nut or jerky treat to get a bit of protein if my sugar drops.

And maybe a surprise for Miss Abby.
She just LOVES stuffies - her last Pooh lost his nose from a tooth snagging on it, but otherwise lasted pretty long.  She doesn't play with sticks or bones or balls, JUST The stuffies, some round, some flatter. She'll gently squeak them as she carries them around the house all day. Even this morning I found her new stuffed hamburger on her bed where she'd snagged it off the couch during the night.

She'll usually pile some of them up on one of her beds to sleep with her. Usually her favorites - Angry bird, Mr. Gator and the little red dog that her fella Frankie (and his wonderful family) sent her.

I remember arriving home from this last trip.  It was the middle of the night and I awoke to her toenails on the hardwood.  I then hear a snuffing sound, but I figured she was just grabbing another boy from the big box they go into when I vacuum, which I'd done earlier. But it sounded like it was the office where my briefcase was, not the space where the box is.  Oh well, she's just snooting around, I thought as I went back to sleep.
In the morning there was a surprise on her bed.  She'd snagged the puffy bag of beef jerky out of my briefcase.  She didn't try and gnaw it open, thinking perhaps it was just a really tasty smelling stuffed toy.
I was just keeping your bed warm until you came back.  
Thanks for the new toy Mom.  It didn't squeak at all but it smells like cow!

I thought, as I put water on to boil for tea, there is the occasional week where my time at home may sometimes be short, but it is never boring.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Making Someone's McDay

What's this Mom - is that for me?  
 Yummy - a burger and fries!
And the drive thru is open!
I think I'll start with the burger. 
I'm Lovin It!

I'll be making my order to go.
What do you mean the drive-thru is one way?
OK, to go is always good.
 A burger I don't have to beg for!
 For a Quarter Pounder - it's heavy!
Yum Yum Yum
Dad - you didn't share your burger, 
so I'm not sharing mine.
 Nom Nom Nom Nom
Abby, would you like fries with that?
Thanks, Mom.
Now every day is Fry Day.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Secret Life of Dog Moms - A Scooter story

Abby Lab here telling a little "tail" about my Mom from a few short years ago.

Mom's parents were both in law enforcement (her Mom was the Deputy Sheriff) and after being a professional pilot for both civilian folks and the government for a while, Mom entered that field when she finished her PEE-H-Dee. She said she's never done anything super exciting like on TV, said she would get sent home if she dressed like some of the female agents on the telly, and the biggest danger she usually faces is the candy machine in the lunchroom. However, she is trained in the use of a firearm in case she doesn't have an electron microscope to lob at someone's head. When she was new at it, she said she'd could likely hit a target IF attacked by a finback whale. But with practice at the local conservation club and the Law Enforcement Officer range, she got better.

She's mentioned doing her proficiency shooting, when the mail came that day.  Boy did her mood change. You see, Mom got an AARP card in the mail,  with another envelope from the Scooter Store (with FREE mobility assessment).  Mom said "they think I need a scooter!  I'm only 50 (mumble mumble)! Her parents belonged to AARP and Mom said they were a fine organization but that was for OLD people.

I didn't want to be the one to remind her - but although people thinks she looks much younger, and she continued hiking, biking, and rappelling into her 50's, the theme for her high school prom was "FIRE". Just saying.
Mom did use a scooter once, in 2012 when she tore her meniscus busting a move walking Barkley fighting ninjas, after the endoscopic surgery to clear out what couldn't be fixed.

Dad. who was her boyfriend at the time, went with her and at the WalMart - she got her first try with a motorized cart. Speed wise it was a fair less than the INDY 500 and more than a snail on demoral. But Mom was not only able to do a cookie in the chicken aisle, she found that the displays in the electronic aisle made for great S patterns at top speed. She also discovered that big guys in Harley Davidson jackets with carts containing 200 bags of Tater Tots can move surprisingly fast when faced with a flaming redhead converging at top scooter speed.
She said that dealing with the crutches and the scooter was the hardest part. She  tried holding them up, but that made it hard to work the controls. She put one one out front. Jousting - WalMart Style. (if you can knock a Billy Bass out of someone's cart with it, it's bonus points). She finally gave in and let Dad carry them while she tried to burn rubber doing .02 mph watching out carefully for the Manager.

She admires anyone that can deal with using one of those on a regular basis and was so happy to give it up, working hard to get through the physical therapy.

So she was NONE too happy about the scooter advertisement and off she went to the range.
The snow melted off but boy , Mom said it was COLD.
First, a test shot from 50 feet.  I would make a comment about blind squirrels and acorns but I do want to get a treat tonight.

Then. . 
Then there's that membership card.
That's my Mom - putting the "O" in mobility.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Old Dogs, Old Friends

My husband is still overseas, so while he is gone I finally got around to uploading more photos off  of my camera.  Other than make me droll it brought back a good memory of the last outing with had with our closest friends.

It had been a very busy week at work - the Big Cheese was gone which made me Acting Big Cheese and there were more politics and meetings than I want again in a 5-day stretch.  I remember coming home and having a piece of ciabatta bread and a glass of wine, feeding my husband and then going to bed to sleep for 10 hours straight.

That Saturday dawned much brighter. Silver dollar "World's Fluffiest Pancakes" and a game or two.

If you have never played Ticket to Ride (especially if you love trains) check it out - it is VERY fun and can be quite competitive.

But it's also simple enough the younger members of the family can play. Each player gets x number of trains, each with their own color. You get three destination cards (city A to city B) worth varying points based on their length. You can discard one, but if you keep all and don't finish the track you deduct those points. Each track is colored or has a neutral any color goes segment. You draw cards with varying colors of trains, some are shown face up, or you can select a wild card or two. When you have enough to build a track you can on a turn, one track per turn and you can't draw your two cards when you do that.  You are done when one player is down to one train. Each track is worth x number of points which are added up as you play.

Then, we met with two couples who are our closest friends.  You'll remember MC and Mr. B., from The Book of Barkley (the house with all the rescue cats) and Mike H. and his wife who show up on my Facebook and whom I've been friends with offline for many years.  With them was Mike's best friend from childhood, still his best friend today.  With MY husband actually home, it was going to be a great day.  Abby knew something was up when I got the house tidied up earlier than normal

It's MC!  It's MC!  Mom's best friend! 
 First I had to give them a tour of Abby's recent additions to the  "Stuffie Zoo".
Then - after pets all around and some time to catch up, it was time to head over to the Pub, now that it would be less busy and we could get one of the big tables.
The building is really old, but it's fixed up really warm and cozy with two fireplaces and it's within walking distance of the Bungalow.

Everyone started with appetizers, fried pickles, corned beef bites, and fried cheese curds in beer batter, but I forgot to take pictures as it was late when we ate, and I was getting hungry.
I was almost full on the goodies so I had a salad with grilled chicken and radishes. MC kept saying "radishes" with a thick Scot accent that had me cracking up. That soon had us doing the Taysiders in Space thing.  

 MMMM.  Shepherds Pie with the homemade Irish bread.
 Poutine. Mrs. H is from Canada so she had to order it.
 Fish and Chips
 Irish Breakfast.  MC:  "Fries and Irish bread - what's not to love!"
 Guinness Stew. Yes, that bowl is as big as it seems.

There was lots of conversations on science, and mechanics, and engineering including sharing some telephone photos of "projects gone really wrong" with lots of laughter and refills on our beverages.
I bet Abby is at home thinking "don't forget the doggie bags"

Back at the house, we got caught up on things we'd been doing or reading.  Mike spotted the "F is for Effort (more of the very best totally wrong test answers)" book and was reading it out loud making us all crack up.

"Explain one reason why people are concerned about rising water levels in the world's oceans?"

"Dolphins will invade coastal cities in phase 1 of their plan for world domination!"

Then there were horror stories of world travel, including the very worst of Five Star Hotels and why the passenger in the seat next to you drooling on you can only get worse.

All too soon it was time to say goodbye, Abby getting a bunch of love all the way around one last time.
She looked at them as they left as if to say, "I am so happy you all visited. Please come back - I love you!"

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Belated Monday Eats - Beer Bread

I posted this over at the "healthy eating blog" even though, on its own, it's not exactly low cal. Still, if you're having a light supper or salad this is the perfect bread to go with it. It also freezes well, so you can make several loaves at a time, just cool completely before double wrapping to put in the freezer.
I know a number of folks who have never made a loaf of bread - preferring to pay 3 to 4 times the cost to buy a loaf in the store rather than mix, knead, wait, knead some more, wait some more homemade bread.  Now, frankly, we don't always have time, especially if you have jobs and/or young children. Certainly, in my house, the occasional Aldi loaf shows up to make sandwiches. Baking yeast bread takes time and a little practice.  THIS bread does not.  You only need six ingredients. There's no kneading, and it's pretty hard to screw it up.  Plus - it involves buying beer and you have to figure out WHAT to do with the 5 cans you DON'T use. (such a hardship :-)

Beer Bread- crusty and buttery on the outside and tender and slightly sweet on the inside, it's perfect with soups, stews, or just a light supper of grilled chicken salad.

Preheat oven to 375 F. (190 C.)

Mix in large bowl:

3 cups flour (sift it or gently spoon into the cup or you will have a doorstop.  Even better weigh your flour - 3 cups flour is 12 and 3/4 ounces or 360 grams)
1 Tablespoon Baking POWDER
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar  (50 grams)
1 can beer (I used Miller Genuine Draft - as that is what my husband likes for an inexpensive beer but any beer or ale will work).  One can of American beer is 12 ounces.  If using a foreign beer measure out 12 ounces or 1 and 1/2 cups of beer.

Spoon into a bread pan sprayed with non-stick spray.  Melt 1/4 cup butter (57 grams) and pour over batter and place in preheated 375 F. (190 C.) degree oven.

Bake for about 50 minutes
Want to take your beer bread up a savory notch? Try Sharp Cheddar Beer Bread -  it reduces the sugar and adds freshly grated sharp cheddar (no, this is NOT low fat but it's high in taste and just a small slice will satisfy - (OK, who am I kidding, I can eat a quarter of this loaf by myself :-)

 Sharp Cheddar Beer Bread.

3 cups all-purpose flour (360 grams)
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar (40 grams)
1/8 teaspoon (rough estimate) cracked pepper
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese - 113 grams (and seriously, use fresh, it's a big difference in taste over the packaged stuff)
1 bottle room temperature Sam Adams beer or other light ale (12 ounces)

Just before baking, top with:
1/3 cup butter (NOT margarine) melted (75 grams)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. (190 C.)

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Add the cheese and toss to combine. Add the beer all at once, (use a big bowl as it WILL foam up for a moment)mixing until blended (the batter will be slightly lumpy).

How do you get that wonderful buttery, crunchy edge to it?
After pouring the batter into a 9″x5″ loaf pan that has been sprayed with nonstick spray, (you know, to save calories :-) microwave the 1/3 cup (75 grams) butter and pour that melted gold over the top of the loaf, swirling it around in the pan so the whole top is covered.

Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes, or until top is dark golden and a thin knife or skewer poked into the middle comes out clean (mine took 45 minutes). Cool a bit on a wire rack.
One final version that is GREAT with beef stew in the winter or bangers and mash with caramelized onion and Guinness Veal reduction with some stout mustard. (For the mustard mix: 2 Tablespoons Guinness, 1/4 cup each whole-grain and dijon mustard, 1/2 minced small shallot and 2 teaspoons brown sugar).

NOTE: If you are vegetarian, Field Roast Brand makes a delicious meat and soy-free apple sage sausage that will work with a veggie gravy for this dish (it does have gluten though).
(Use a Wilton 1M or 1B cake decorating tip for the fancy schmancy potatoes)


Guinness Beer Bread

Using my first basic beer bread at the start of this post replace the beer with 1 and 1/2 cups  (12 ounces) Guinness Stout and add 1/4 tsp. dried rosemary to the batter. Combine and bake as directed above.