Friday, November 30, 2018

Nature Friday

Today we are joining our friends Rosy, Jakey, and Arty from

for Friday Nature Day!

Some photos from an outdoor sporting event up in the upper Midwest a few summers ago!

Enjoy your day - wherever nature takes you!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Gone in a Flash

My old pair of doggie slippers finally wore out.  Actually, they lasted a year and considering I wear them inside and out on the driveway to take out the trash (if it's not raining) they lasted pretty well, considering I sort of LIVE in them.  They are SO soft and comfortable and really warm in the winter when our hardwood floors are cold.

So a new pair arrived today from    (just cut and paste the address in your browser window).

But I went with another doggie breed this time.

Abby Lab was all over them thinking it was new stuffies for HER.

With the blurry picture of Abby moving in to strike, you have to get that song from the movie Flashdance in your yead.

She's a kleptomaniac, kleptomaniac on the floor (I sure know)
And she's stealing like she's never stolen before
She's a kleptomaniac, kleptomaniac on the floor (I sure know)
And she's stealing like she's never stolen before

WTD?  No Squeaker?

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Life in a Vacuum - DIY Dog Hair

If you have a pet - with resultant pet hair and treat crumbs, you likely own a vacuum cleaner..  It's one of those appliances that seem to sit in the corner when not in use until they don't work at ALL, then get thrown out and another purchased.

Every one has different standards of what they are comfortable with, cleanliness wise.  I am perfectly fine coming home to a Triumph TR6 carburetor disassembled on my dining room table as long as the bathtub sparkles.  Some folks aren't happy unless one can perform brain surgery on their floors while others are perfectly happy not getting out a bottle of Windex and the paper towels until the bacteria in the kitchen is big enough to enter a tractor pull.
Personally I like to keep a reasonably clean house, both my own and my elderly Dads (I redecorated his bathroom with new paint, curtains, cabinets and a sign!) I also like to do so economically, even making up some of my own cleaning solutions. (Note to readers:  Do NOT clean your toilet bowl with Diet Coke and Mentos.)

So I noticed how expensive vacuum cleaners had gotten.  Then after going through a couple in about as many years I did two things.

I ignored the urge to buy another cheap one.  This is one appliance where paying a little extra is worth it. Mine gets a pretty good workout between dog hair and that Christmas party where someone made a glitter bomb and we're still finding the stuff 87 years later.

I then learned how to to do basic upkeep and read the owner's manual.
If it  doesn't turn on:

First make sure the outlet it's plugged into isn't controlled by a switch on the wall (now don't I just  feel stupid now?)

Next, check the connection and make sure it hasn't blown a fuse.  When that happens, no one is happy. Fuses are like safety valves, if a circuit overloads then its fuse or circuit breaker triggers and the electricity is automatically cut off.  Resetting a blown circuit breaker is easy (though I learned you need to think about WHY it blew first, especially when at 40,000 feet) while that blown fuse needs to be replaced.  That in itself is an easy fix, and ladies, if you can do this without help, your man WILL be impressed.
(1) To turn off the power to the house at the fuse box, pull out the main fuse block, which looks like a rectangular block with a handle. It is usually located at the top of the panel. Tug hard and straight out on the handle. Use caution; the metal parts may be hot. (Your power company may well have an online tutorial for this, which I'd highly recommend.)
(2) Screw out the blown fuse in a counterclockwise direction (it's it the cartridge type, pull straight out)
(2) Replace the blown fuse with a new one of the same capacity.
(4) Replace the main disconnect panel to return power to the residence.

Isn't he impressed?  Now don't do this while coming in from a rainstorm, all wet -  you may end up with a perm where you really didn't want one.  Electricity and water do NOT mix so be careful of standing water in your basement or laundry room if there's a breaker box there.
The power source is good, but still no power?

Check the electrical cord.  If it's frayed and not connecting properly, re-splice the wires together and patch the splice with lots of electrical tape. (Please unplug it first unless you want your new nickname to be "sparky). This is a temporary repair only, but it will work.

If the motor has simply conked out, there's not much you can do but take it into a repair place or replace.

It just doesn't suck properly.

You've all done it. Vacuumed over that tiny little corner of paper, again and again, and it just stays there on the floor. With a sigh, you bend over and pick it up, only to throw it down and try and vacuum it up again.

Yes you have.
If your vacuum isn't picking up properly, there are a few simple things you can do before pitching it.

If it's old it just might need some minor adjustments.

First check the bag.

Make sure you have the right type for your vacuum.  Not just any bag will do.
Then see how full it is.  You know the "honey not now, I'm in a meat coma" after dinner at Fogo De Chao?  Well, overstuffed bags (or clogged filters) don't operate very energetically either.  Operating with a full bag also reduces the life of the vacuum.  Replace the bag when it's 1/3 to 2/3 full.

 If you have household pets, also buy a small flea collar and cut it into small pieces (wearing gloves) and put one into the bag (sealing the remainder in an air tight baggie) the night before you replace it.  That will kill any fleas before you remove it and put it in your trash (some recommend leaving a bit of one in there all the time but I'd rather not have the insecticide fumes in the house with all the air that moves through it).
Barkley - The Original Flea RV, in Park

Check that the hose doesn't have any holes in it. Holes in Swiss Cheese are good, your vacuum, not so much. Aren't you glad you bought that electrical tape.  Tape should be just a temporary fix until you can replace. Don't drape the disconnected hose up over a nail to store it, this is often the cause of the damage.

If it is the type that has a tube, make sure there's nothing clogging it (Hey - it's Mr. Squeeky!)
Though little kids love to go for a ride astride a canister type vacuum while you pull it, it's best to say no (look, the ice cream truck!).  Such vacuums aren't designed for that kind of weight, and you'll soon find yourself with a very expensive hose replacement.

The round spinning brush under the vacuum cleaner (basically an agitator) should spin freely.  If  it doesn't, there might be hair or small debris wrapped around it, keeping it from rotating and doing its job.  Use a small pair of scissors to cut through the build up, gently pulling it free. If it's finer hair or a piece of string, remove with a seam ripper (available in hobby stores or where sewing supplies are found).  If it's your better half's favorite bore snake for cleaning their squirrel hunting firearm, hide the remains quickly and distract them with a pie.
If the rubber belt attached to is is broken, you can replace that by removing the bottom place assembly with a screwdriver. Belts will need to be replaced every 6 months to 1 year, depending on how much it's used. Compare your belt to a new one to check its quality. It should be tight, without worn spots, cracks or unevenness.

I didn't think they still MADE shag carpeting? 

Some vacuums with agitators and brushes need to be adjusted for the height off of the carpet.  Too close and there won't be adequate suction to really pick up anything. Too high and they merely wave at the dirt.

And finally - 
It's not a vacuum cleaner.  It's a Dalek from BBC's Dr. Who and when you removed that bottom plate and poked it in the rear with a pair of needle nose pliers, you pretty much sealed your fate.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Reindeer Warning

Won't play any reindeer games with me?  Then I might just forget to preflight the equipment!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Rainy Sundays - A Dog and a Dram of Whiskey

It has rained or sleeted all day. Just not a good day to go out. So after church and before finishing a book, I made scones. The recipe is below.  If you wish a mix - go to World Market (and some Safeway stores) and get the Sticky Fingers brand of scone mix that they carry. They are excellent. Mine was simple, a basic recipe with wild Maine blueberries and glazed with butter, whiskey, cream, and sugar.

Scones are usually best on those cold grey mornings, when children trudge sullenly off to school, when the buildings creak strangely and dark shadows shiver and scratch on the walls, days when your body aches for the strength of another and the smell of the sea. Days of a fire upon a cold hearth, warmth in the kitchen, and perhaps a drop of Jameson's. In this case, a little Jameson in the glaze.

2 cups All-Purpose King Arthur Flour
1/3 cup Sugar
1 tablespoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 pinches Ground Nutmeg or Cardamon
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest (the peel)
6 tablespoons Unsalted Butter (well chilled)
1 extra large egg
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 teaspoons Penzey's Mexican vanilla

Vanilla Sugar
(I use Penzeys brand or you can make your own by putting a whole vanilla bean, sliced in half with the insides scraped out all of which is stirred into 2 cups of sugar in a mason jar and let it sit week).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix well. Thinly slice the chilled butter into the bowl and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter until the flour and butter look like coarse meal.

In a clean medium-size bowl, mix all the wet ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing as little as possible, just enough to incorporate wet and dry together.  If you like, add in a handful of wild blueberries, just at the end of the mixing.

Place the dough onto a flour-dusted pastry board (or another clean surface) and knead a half dozen times. Shape it into a round that's about 10 inches across. Place on cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick spray.  In my oven at 375 F oven, it took roughly 30 minutes to bake to a light golden color. (check it at 20).You can also deeply score the dough before cooking into 8 wedges. (reduce cook time 10 minutes though). Cool on a rack.

click on photos to enlarge

No recipe for the glaze, just a couple of teaspoons of butter, melted. Stir in a teaspoon of cream, a drop of vanilla if you like, a good splash of whiskey and enough powdered sugar to make a glaze. Put it on the scones as they come out of the oven, they taste like a melancholy moan of a Celtic tune, best shared with a friend, or a loyal dog.

The day is already getting brighter.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Someone call the SPCA!

Mom and Dad are mean to me.

I did NOT get one of Mom's crunchy on the outside, fluffy in the middle yeast muffins with tea.

Sure Dad petted me (and that blue thing in the side of the picture is Mom's YODA mat, where she sits like Jabba the Hut and tries and do stretchy things).

But I didn't get a MUFFIN!

She says grains make me sick to my tummy and gave me meaty treats but I wanted a MUFFIN! (especially with blackcurrant jam)

Here's the recipe if you want to be mean to YOUR dogs. 

Yeast Muffins (I think they were really good, my skinny Dad ate THREE of them)

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a bowl mix: 

2 cups SELF RISING flour
1 Tablespoon and 2 teaspoons sugar

Note: if you don't have self-rising flour - add 3 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt to 2 cups regular flour.

In another bowl mix: 
1 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon yeast (regular or rapid rise)
1 cup WARM (110 F.), NOT hot, water
Stir yeast water well and let sit five minutes.

Mix yeast water into flour mixture

Stir in:
1 egg
6 Tablespoons butter, melted (that's right, six tablespoons of buttery heaven)

 Batter will be lumpy. Put in greased muffin pans (makes 8) and bake for 20-23 minutes.
Wait!  Mom's still in her bathrobe but Dad's getting dressed!
Does this mean?
Really? (Note: our fridge is on wheelies and partially dissembled for some ongoing drywall repair.  Mom and Dad don't know that when they are asleep I roll it into the living room and attempt to steal the cheese).

I get to go roll in the last of the snow this morning before it melts.
Thanks Dad - I guess you can forget that call to the SPCA.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Black Friday

No shopping! White wine, dog slippers, animal cookies and a good cozy mystery to read.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Ask Not for Whom the Dog Barks. . .

CHAPTER 17 - Do Not Ask For Whom the Dog Barks, He Barks for Thee

We had survived the winter in our new house, the snow here, not nearly as deep as in the last state we lived in, although I shoveled more than I had planned.  I loved having a fenced yard though, even a modest chain link one.  I could let him in and out without a leash, wind or cold.  He seemed to know, however, when I was not looking my best at which point he refused to come in from the depths of the yard until I came out on the deck in a fuzzy bathrobe, wild red hair, and slippers to call for him.

“Barkley, if you’re trying to help me meet a nice guy, this is not the way to do it.”

Sometimes I’d have to go out to get him to quit barking at the ducks, at the geese, at a leaf floating by on the surface of the pond.  I was trying to teach him not to bark at nothing, only at a real threat. I'm not sure if it was helping.  Sometimes he’d just stand by the front gate and selectively bark as if he had some form of Doggie Tourettes.

I was trying to teach him good from bad barking habits.  So if he barked at a tiny bunny I’d say “Barking BAD!" If he barked at stranger hanging around the front sidewalk, even if likely harmless, he heard “Barking GOOD!"  He then got a little treat.  That kept more than one door to door salesman away as his bark sounded like it was coming from a huge Mastiff. He wasted no time with the allowable barking, wanting that treat as soon as possible.
He also knew the word “company.”  You might bark at company, but "company" meant someone was coming over and that meant food and treats and people that might be suckered with big brown eyes into giving him goodies.  With that word, he would still bark, and loudly, but his tail would be wagging.

The whole back side of the house had windows that faced the pond that ran between two blocks of homes.  Barkley always assumed his position of protector on the little loveseat against the window, looking out across the back of it at his territory as it grew dark, a small form of courage, and a heart big enough to contain the world.

One evening we were relaxing to some quiet music, Barkley in his usual position on the love seat. The lights were dim; the outside lights not on yet.  The shrubs formed foreign, almost, ghostly shapes, the limb of the tree a black gash across the moon. 

I could hear music from a distance.  Across the water, it looked like the neighbors were having some party, windows open, adults in and out, smoke from the grill. It wasn’t overly noisy, I was just aware of it.

Then I noticed movement behind my chain link fence.  I looked out.  It was dark, but in the flash of a cigarette lighter, I could see it was the kids of that neighbor and their friends, probably sneaking out of the house during the boring parental entertainment.  They likely figured no one would see as they lit an illicit cigarette trying to look both older and cool, achieving neither.  They likely weren’t up to any mischief, but I didn’t want them sitting out against my fence, throwing their cigarette butts onto my property.

Barkley has a low growl in his throat.  I looked at him and said “company,” as the kids weren’t up to any harm, just teens being teens.  But I had no intention of this becoming a habit and picking cigarette butts out of my yard every Saturday morning.

I looked at Barkley, his tail now tail wagging, and pointed out toward the fence, and said “Barking Good!”

I then opened the door, the porch light off.  But for the light across the pond, it was pitch dark outside, Barkley fading like the intangible form of some dark, quiet shadow into the silent night.
I half expected him to launch into the bark immediately, but he did not.

Instead, he rushed at the fence in the darkness, invisible on the air, until he was six inches behind them, at which point he launched into a full-scale bark.


I heard the squeals and heard the rushing of movement, as the kids flew like a flock of pheasants away from those imagined teeth and that fence.  I’d be willing to bet at least one of them wet their pants.

I love my dog.

-From "The Book of Barkley"  (Outskirts Press 2014)

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Just Saying

What I got as a Secret Squirrel car when I had to travel for a work conference.
What my husband got from Acme Manufacturing Company when he had to travel for a work conference.

I'm all for saving my employer's dollars, but could I please have a Mustang just once?  (sound of crickets).

Friday, November 16, 2018

Nature Friday - Snow!

We are joining Artey, Rosy, and Jakey at

for the Nature Friday Blog Hop. The end of our week didn't start out colorful. We had our first real snow in Chicagoland this season. Dad was out of town on business and it was really heavy wet snow so Mom didn't shovel it but just drove up and down the driveway a few times with her big four-wheel drive truck so we had a path to get out to the street if need be.
Then it was time for breakfast. Homemade bagels with marmalade and herb tea.

 But by afternoon the sun began to peak out.
 The hole in the cloud got bigger. . .
 and bigger.
 Soon, the birds were chirping and the squirrels were up in the tree chattering.
 While the wind made the spruce tree windchime sing it's happy tune.

 It turned out to be a pretty day, despite the snow.