Saturday, March 30, 2019

Date Night - Vegans, Avert Your Eyes

My husband is a mechanical engineer/inventor (he has five patents) for a worldwide manufacturing company.  He travels a LOT. ("Hi, it's me, I'm on my way to China in the corporate plane, don't hold supper.")

So when he has a weekend between trips he does NOT get mac and cheese from a box or has to take me out to a restaurant.

I make him dinner, complete with tablecloth, dressing up like it's a date, and there is lots of wine. (But he does the dishes, which is why I'm writing this right now).

I think dinner was a hit, even if the "vegetable" consisted of a sprig of fresh herb and a roasted garlic bulb. (There was homemade sourdough bread and Ceasar salad).

Friday, March 29, 2019

Nature Friday

Today we are joining our friends from
For Nature Friday.  In honor of the occasion,I found these pictures of angel Barkley and just had to share.  Smile and enjoy the fact that Spring will soon be officially here, - LB
New Life

I Salute You

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

New Book Cover!

Abby Lab here - Mom's 5th book cover draft is out. She took the photo and wrote the book description - the publisher put the rest together. If you see anything funky with it please let her know as she has to approve or not approve in the morning and she's like (three glasses of white wine) stressed.

Mail Call!

Hey Mom - there's been a Chewy box on the porch for hours.  You need to go get it before the squirrels steal and eat my Blue Buffalo Apple and Lamb Blue Stix!  They're my favorite!

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Power of a People Treat

Suddenly, the cracked plaster in our bathroom was fixed by my husband so we could repaint after the ugly pink flocked wallpaper was ripped off!

Ultra Dark Chocolate Cake

For the Cake:

2/3 cup dark cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder to get that deep dark color)
1 cup hot strong brewed coffee
1 pinch cayenne
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
Butter for greasing the pans
Two parchment circles, cut the size of the bottom of your cake pans
Cocoa for dusting the pans

For the Frosting:
1 cup dark cocoa (I used Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa to get that deep dark color)
4 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 ½ sticks butter, softened
½ cup buttermilk
2 teaspoon vanilla extract


To Prepare the Cake:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a small bowl, dissolve cocoa powder and cayenne with hot brewed coffee and set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream oil and sugar until well combined.
4. Add eggs and beat until light and creamy, about 1-2 minutes. This process beats air into the mixture. Scrape paddle and bowl and beat once.
5. Slowly add in coffee/cocoa mixture, buttermilk, and vanilla and beat until batter is smooth. Scrape paddle and bowl and beat once.
6. In a separate bowl, sift flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to wet and beat on low speed to incorporate. Scrape down the bowl and mix just until all ingredients are combined, do not over mix once the flour is in.
7. Butter the bottom and sides of two 9-inch cake pans and place a round parchment circle in each. Butter the top of the parchment then sprinkle the whole inside of the parchment and pan with cocoa powder, shaking out excess. Pour batter evenly between two pans and place in the center of oven. (note, aluminum baking pans are by far, the best for baking cakes. Non-stick and dark colored pans can change the cake by browning it more than it needs to)
8. Bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Depending on your oven, you may need to rotate cake pans halfway through. During our baking, one cake was done in 30 minutes and the second in 32 minutes. Do not over bake.
9. Cool pans on wire racks for ten minutes then carefully invert out of the pan onto the rack to cool further.

To Prepare the Frosting;

1. Sift cocoa powder with confectioner’s sugar in a large bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer or hand mixer, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and cocoa powder mixture along with buttermilk and vanilla and beat until smooth and creamy. Add additional buttermilk or whole milk if frosting is too thick.
2. Place a small dollop of frosting on a cake dish to hold the cake from sliding and place one cake on the frosting. Frost the top of that layer. Place the second cake on the first and frost the entire cake, top and sides.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Power of a Dog Treat

We have a dog that lives in a fenced yard in the house behind us (we share an alley).  The owner is a nice young man who has a couple of little girls that he shares custody with his ex-wife, but the dog is VERY cranky to strangers.  It's a mixed breed, we thing predominately Chow and something but he's only about 30 pounds.  Sonny charges the fence growling aggressively and barking every time I took out the trash.

Then one day he got out when the little girls didn't secure the gate.  My husband, who was getting out of his car home from work just looked at him and said "Sonny?" very sternly and the dog started whining and backing away until finally, he slinked back into the yard.

He's a teddy bear in a mean dog outfit.  So last Monday I took the trash out.  He still did the charge the fence thing. Then I slowly approached.  He started backing away and I threw him a grain free peanut butter treat through the slats of the fence (I asked his owner first). The next time he only growled a little.  Today I got him to wag his tail at me before he got his two treats and he didn't bark at me as I walked back to our house.  Never underestimate the power of a treat.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Dogs and Math

If there are any of you that thing your dog can't count - put five treats in your pocket when you go out for a potty break and then just give them only four. You get THIS face.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Time for that Vet Visit!

Abby had her annual check up today. My husband took the morning off to take her. She LOVES going to the vet and gets so excited I can't walk her in without her pulling on my bad knee. So EJ does Vet duty. When we first got her they thought she was 9 years old (she's been dumped - no background info). She looked it after having litter after litter of puppies, and probably being left outside a lot. She had a very grey muzzle and was very scared and very skinny when she got to her foster Mom for heartworm treatment. But we've had her 5 years now and there is no way she is 14. The Vet updated her records to show her as being 10 and a half years old.  He agreed there was no way she was 14.

Her lungs and heart are good, she has no growths anywhere, muscle tone is excellent and ear are clear. She got her nails trimmed and came home for an extra treat and time to wait and bark at the "foodables guy", our outstanding Swchan's delivery guy Todd Good. (Their certified gluten free pizzas are the best and my husband loves their Crispy Taters with my meatloaf).

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

You Ain't Nothing But a Hound Dog

Abby's Mom here.  This is Abby's "Elvis face".  This is the little lip curl, sometimes tongue out, she does when she is annoyed with me because I'm too slow getting the treats, or yogurt, or walkies, taking a picture instead of getting her what she wants.

But it made me smile as on one of my last visits out to my Dad before he went in Assisted LIving, we went to the grocers.  He likes to flirt with the ladies in the flower section and just generally wander around and say hi to people (it's a small town, everyone around the neighborhood knows Dad).

One day though, the check out lines were slow and I could see my 98-year-old Dad was getting a bit bored.  When the clerk's back was turned helping yet another shopper with "how to use a chip card", Dad picked up the mic they call for assistance or price checks with and with a perfect Elvis imitation said (where it boomed out to the entire store):

"The is Elvis - open up the bakery".

You can get away with that stuff when they're old, or furry.  :-)

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Saturday Eats - Bacon Blueberry Pancakes (with gluten free option)

Bacon Deprived Abby Lab

Bacon Blueberry Pancakes.

Cook 6 slices of bacon, blot with a paper towel and chop. Thaw 1 cup of frozen blueberries, rinse and pat dry with paper towels.

In a small bowl mix, 3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons of milk and 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar (I use Braggs) Let sit for a few minutes.
Click on photo to enlarge - I double dog dare ya'.

In another bowl mix 1 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 Tablespoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of baking powder (I use Hain sodium free) and a pinch of Cardamom (or nutmeg if you don't have Cardamom).

Note:  To Make gluten-free replace flour with King Arthur Gluten-free flour and add 1/2 teaspoon Xanthan Gum.

To milk mixture add a splash of vanilla, 1 egg whisked and 2 and 1/2 Tablespoons of melted butter (add in very slowly while whisking).

Add wet ingredients to dry, mixing JUST until combined then gently fold in blueberries and bacon. Cook on a hot griddle. (or better yet, get your spouse or partner to cook for you).

Abby can't do grains but she did get a piece of bacon so she is quite happy.

Monday, March 11, 2019

A Message from Speed Bump Dog.

Mom - if you didn't want me to lay in a high traffic area, why'd you leave a dog bed on the floor after you did your workout?
One last thing - if you stretch yourself into a Pretzel when you exercuse (what Mom calls it when she skips half the workout cuz she's lazy) why do they call it Yogurt?  Wrong food!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Saturday Eats - Maple Bacon Scones with Whiskey Cream Sauce

Maple Bacon Scones with Whiskey Cream Glaze.

8-12 slices bacon, cooked and chopped Note: for my "veggie friends" I'd recommend Upton Naturals Bacon Seiten - VERY good (I eat meat-free several days a week).
2 cups all-purpose flour (measure carefully)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon plus one extra dash of nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp real maple syrup
1 cup sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 425*F(220*C. for my Canadian friends.)

3. In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt; mix well. Using a pastry blender cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles tiny crumbs. Form a well in center of mixture.

4. Combine egg yolk, sour cream, and maple syrup together and pour into the center of the well in flour mixture. Stir mixture just until combined, adding all but a couple of spoonfuls of bacon to it halfway through stirring. Dough will be sticky.

5. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and knead 5-6 times. Don't over-knead but it should no longer look wet or sticky. Form a ball and pat out to approximately 6 to 8-inch circle (it should be just about an inch thick) Cut into 8 wedges. Place wedges on ungreased baking sheet about an inch apart.

6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or to a light golden brown. When slightly cooled, drizzle with Maple Whiskey glaze and top with the remaining bacon pieces.

Maple Whiskey Glaze:

I'll be honest, I didn't measure. I put some powdered sugar in a small cereal bowl. probably a half a cup. I added real maple syrup until it was a thick but spoonable consistency (maybe 2-3 tablespoons). I then added half of a capful (that's CAP, not CUPful) of Jameson Irish Whiskey and stirred, which made it a nice consistency to drizzle.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Please Do Not Leave Drinks Unattended.

We had a little dinner party with some friends to celebrate the completion of my Fifth Novel.  There was alcohol.  Guests were warned.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

To the Bridge and Back

There are some of you that visit here, that know Barkley and my shared history and how his book came to be. There are others, dog lovers like us, some brand new visitors from the blog hops, that probably wonder how "The Book of Barkley came to be.

My Big Brother, an ex-submariner, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Esophageal cancer in 2013.  He and I were adopted together as small children, though I only found out very recently that we weren't biological siblings. But we were closer than a lot of siblings, though our careers often kept us thousands of miles apart when he was under the water, and I was piloting airplane miles above the earth.

He finished with chemo and radiation, dropping 100 pounds on his six foot two frame.  He moved in with our widowed Dad so they could support one another, and to get out of his house, as he couldn't hold on to it,  having lost his job as a Navy Contractor.  I lived 1500 miles away and had a job that had me living out of the suitcase too often, but I visited them as often as I could, during all of my vacations, and on every long weekend.
He held his own, even if towards the end, everything he ate got smashed in a blender.  Pretty much all he could get down was some protein shakes. (I thought he was joking when he said he'd put my leftover cheese omelet I brought back from a restaurant with some leftovers, in there with the juice, fruit and ice cream but he said it was tasty except "I don't think the hash browns were such a good idea".

But we had some time, to do some grieving, for the loss of some older family members, including our Step-Mom who stepped to the plate after our Mom died fairly young from cancer.  We also had some time to do some laughing, especially as now he could share all the embarrassing childhood stories with my new husband who met him for the first time.  But we also  had a lot of time alone, up late, talking about our Dad, about growing up (or our inherent refusal to),  He told me more than once "you're a good writer, you need to put this down in a book" and I'd just laugh and say, "maybe after I retire".  He said, " we don't always get to retire, do it now".
At that point, I realized that the one  thing I am glad I did not hear from him in his end days was, "I wish I'd. . ."

I've heard so many people say "I'll do that when I'm older, when I lose 20 pounds, when I'm retired". We got through life saying "I would, but it probably wouldn't work out" or " I'd like to but. . ." We too often base our actions on an artificial future, painting a life picture based on an expectancy that time is more than sweat, tears, heat and mirage.

You can't count on anything. For out of the blue, fate can come calling. Barkley was in fine spirits at my wedding, weeks later limping; a few weeks after that--gone to the Rainbow Bridge.  In a flash, life robbed even of the power to grieve for what is ending. I think back to when my brother and I were kids, going down a turbulent little river with little more than an inner tube and youth, risking rocks and rapids and earth, just to see what was around the bend of that forest we'd already mapped out like Lewis and Clark. The water was black and silver, fading swirls of deep current rising to the surface like a slap, fleeting and gravely significant, as if something stirred beneath, unhappy to be disturbed from its slumber, making its presence known.  A fish, perhaps or simply fate. 

I was in the paint section of a hardware store the other weekend, looking for a brick colored paint to paint a backdrop in the kitchen. I noticed the yellows, a color I painted my room as a teen. I noticed the greens, so many of them, some resembling the green of my parent's house in the sixties and seventies, yet not being exactly the same color. The original was one that you'd not see in a landscape, only in a kitchen with avocado appliances, while my Mom sang as she made cookies. I remember Big Bro and I race through the house, one of us soldier, one of us spy, friends forever, stopping only long enough for some of those cookies, still warm. Holding that funky green paint sample I can see it as if it were yesterday.  Memories only hinted at, held there in small squares of color.
What is it about things from the past that evoke such responses? A favorite photo, for some, a piece of clothing worn to a special event, a particular meal, things that carry with them the sheer impossible quality of perfection that has not been achieved since. Things that somehow trigger in us a response, of wanting to go back to that time and place when you were safe and all was well. But even as you try and recapture it, it eludes you, caught in a point in your mind between immobility and motion, the taste of the empty air, the color of the wind

Today is a memory that months from now, could be one of those times.  You may look back and see this day, the person you were with, the smile on your face, the simple household tasks you were doing together. Things, so basic in their form, as to, at this time, be simply another chore, cleaning, painting, another ordinary day, while the kids played outside and the dog barked merrily along with them. It might be a day in which you didn't even capture it on film, no small squares of color left to retain what you felt there as you worked and laughed together, in those small strokes of color, those small brushes of longing.

Twenty years from now, you may look at yourself in the mirror, at the wrinkles formed from dust, time and tears around your eyes, at the grey in your hair and you will think back to this day, the trivial things that contain the sublime. On that day, so far beyond here, you may look around you, that person with you in your memory no longer present, and you want it all back. Want it as bad as the yearning for a color that is not found in nature, in the taste of something for which you search and ache, acting on the delusion that you can recreate it, those things that haunt the borders of almost knowing.

You touch the mirror, touch your face and wish you'd laughed more, cared less of what others thought, dove into those feelings that lapped at the safe little edges of your life, leaped into the astonishing uncertainty.

My brother spent years running silent and deep under the ocean, visiting places I can only guess at as he will not speak of it, a code about certain things I share with him.   But I knew the name.  Operation Ivy Bells.  He understands testing the boundaries of might and the deep, cold deep depths to which we travel in search of ourselves.

I too have had more than one day where I stood outside on a pale crescent of beaten earth and breathed deeply of the cold.  I am here, my wings long ago hung up, tools in hand because someone has died and with great violence.  On those days I felt every ache in my muscles, I felt my skin, hot under the sun, the savage, fecund smell of loss in the air, laying heavy in the loud silence. Somewhere in the distance would come a soft clap of thunder, overhead clouds strayed deliberately across the earth, disconnected from mechanical time. I'd rather be elsewhere; the smell simply that of kitchen and comfort, the sounds; only that of laughter. But I knew how lucky I was to simply be, in that moment and alive.  I also knew, how blessed I was that after such days, I came home to my furry, four-legged best friend Barkley, who was my Black Knight in somewhat shedding armor, the soft-coated Kleenex when I needed to cry.

You can't control fate, but you can make choices. You can continue your day and do nothing, standing in brooding and irretrievable calculation as if casting in a game already lost. Or you can seize the moment, the days, wringing every last drop from them. Tell the ones you love that you love them. Hug your family, forgive an enemy (but remember the bastards name), salute your flag, and always, give the dog an extra biscuit. Then step outside into the sharp and unbending import of Spring, a dying Winter flaring up like fading flame, one last taste, one last memory, never knowing how long it will remain.
I said goodbye to my brother that last time, neither of us were certain as to what the future would hold. Had I known that just weeks later, my beloved Barkley would be gone to an aggressive bone cancer, followed just weeks later by my only brother, I might have held him longer, but I wouldn't have played the days out any differently.   For one thing we both agreed on, today is that memory, go out and make everything you can of it.

The Book of Barkley is that memory--for Barkley, for my brother, for all the laughter we wrapped around each other in the end days, to be carried on forward like held breath, in the airless days ahead.

-L.B. Johnson

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

We're BACK!

Abby Lab here.  Mom has got her FIFTH novel off to the publisher to meet their schedule (which meant 2 weeks off from work and working on it 12 hours a day). It's dedicated to a dear blog friend of Mom's, a retired Naval Aviator that died in a plane crash a few years ago while working as a contract military trainer.  He was the one that encouraged Mom to write books, not just blogs.

So we will be back blogging soon!

Pee SSS.  While Mom was busy, Dad got bored and put up a fake voice commanded printer at work which totally messed with people's heads.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Automatic Dog Petter

I'm married to an engineer - guess how long until one of these shows up.