Monday, July 29, 2019

Monday Smiles

It was a busy weekend (stripping and repainting the trim on our porch) so for this "back to work" Monday some smiles.







Thursday, July 25, 2019

Labrador 5-0

A friend of mine is having a birthday.  It can be hard to find just the right card for a good friend who is not happy about hitting the big Five Oh.

But I found one  :-)

Today is crazy busy - so I'll see you all tomorrow  (if my friend doesn't kill me  :-)

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Pups and Pancakes Life with a Dog

A house without a dog
With a dog.

Abby had her five year gotcha day not long ago.  As many rescues are, she was quite shy the first couple of weeks but is now is simply a happy lab playing with her toys, retrieving a ball, the tail thump thump thump against the couch when I come into the room and she's bonding really well with our new Lab rescue Lorelei.  Abby was well behaved from the start, not chewing on anything that's not a chew toy, obeying basic commands and learning new ones each week. She's allowed on the bed to sleep but prefers one of the couches or her big poofy Orvis dog bed.
She does well in her harness and likes her rides in the vehicles to visit friends or run a quick errand while one of us stays in the car with her. The "exploding retriever" experience of our first trip north is but a memory (hey, we've all gotten car sick)  On the last  car trip she laid quietly on the seat snoozing the whole time but for one time I turned on some Classic Country and she sat up with an irritated look that said "they're playing LeAnn Rimes - if she yodels I'm going to start barking". I turned it off.

The only other non-snooze moment was a stop to stretch legs and get a Chick Fil a. Like her Mom, Abby loves Chick Fil a, the smells from the bag setting her tail on high rpm.
Abby on her "gotcha day".   So very skinny and SO happy to have a home.
where she wasn't in a pen outside having puppies.

Like all labs, Abby does like her food, going into a full-body wag each morning as I get up to feed her a bowl of kibble.

The house settled into quiet, I think it's time to make a German (also known as Dutch Baby) pancake. I think back to the lst batch I made, a little experiment.

It was right after we'd adopted Abby and my husband was driving down to my crash pad, to give her a couple of weekends to get used to us all together as a family before we took her to Chicago to her permanent home for a weekend.  I wanted to make one of those Dutch Baby pancakes like we'd had at a local restaurant. There was one recipe in this little book of Swedish recipes I picked up out West, though and I thought I'd try that. In mixing it up, the proportions seemed a bit off, and the amount of batter seemed like too much for the size pan recommended and the recommended temp a bit high. But I tried it anyway thinking, "it's a published cookbook, how can it be wrong". But I said that about the "overnight, no-knead yeast bread" recipe I got from a well-known website. And we know how THAT loaf turned out
The pancake was assembled and after 45 minutes  I had what looked like a giant pan of hot jello in the oven, even after cooking an extra 15 minutes. I'm not sure how the edges can be almost burned dark brown AND raw inside, but they were.  I poked it with a spatula and it rippled and growled. I've had science experiments that looked less toxic.
I disposed of it like any good bio-hazard.

Abby played dead to avoid having to act like she wanted to try it. . . .
while my husband started looking for cold cereal (or the nearest exit).

I double-checked the recipe and I'd made it just as directed.  Oh well, that's what I get for following the rules as opposed to my usual cooking style of "Watch this!" with the fire extinguisher handy.

Not willing to admit defeat, I tried again, this time just winging it, Husband patiently waiting, as anyone that hangs around someone that likes to experiment with stuff, often does. Since an oven pancake is sort of a cross between a pancake and a popover, I adapted my standard popover recipe to the bigger pan and added some Cardamom and Lemon Zest. Melting four Tablespoons of butter in the pan, getting it all nice and hot before pouring the batter in, didn't hurt, either.

Ta Dah!  Puffy Oven Pancake.  (Recipe in the comments)

This is what the doctor ordered.  It was perfect, with a tender crunch to the edge, and soft and fragrant in the middle.
Served the traditional way with powdered sugar and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
I do think the second try was worth the wait, as my faithful lab assistant seemed to agree. For yes, she begged for a piece and I gave in.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

On Special Moments

For those occasional lousy days, followed by bad hair, bad breath mornings, when your furry best friend lets you know you are absolutely the most beautiful, important thing in the world.

I miss you Barkley - and those special moments.
But I'm so happy to have Laraelie Lab and Abby the Rescue Lab waiting for me while I shopped for groceries after work (their Dad was home on a house project and got a photo of her looking for my truck until I rolled in).

Friday, July 12, 2019

Friday Funnies

I had a busy couple of work days and husband is out of town, so I had to do all of the dog feeding and wrangling solo, so for tonight just some smiles.










Thursday, July 11, 2019

Memories of Barkley - Threads of Fancy

I put up a post about this Etsy business run by a dear friend of a long time female pilot friend. But I had to repost after I got my handcrafted stuffed dog from her.
Photos from Jeannie's Etsy Shop (click on picture to enlarge)

My friend Dot whose husband married us, and who has been a long time pilot friend, told me about a roommate she had when she was a young woman. She showed up at her apartment one night with "Jeannie, you know how I wasn't going to Awesome Costume Ball tonight because I had to work a double shift? Work suddenly realized how much overtime I've already worked this week and let me go for the day... But I have no costume, so I just came to see you, and say hi before you have fun!"

Her roommate's response was to make her friend a meal, take a piece of string to Dot, and then turn a bolt of fabric into a rocking grunge fairy outfit.  Off the top of her head, with a pattern she designed. In a few hours. Just because Jeannie wanted Dot to be able to hang out with friends, too. These days, she's using that incredible imagination and awesome skill set to make the most amazing stuffed animals you didn't think could exist.

I got mine in the mail today, and even though I didn't tell her what kind of dog Barkley was, or what color, she totally nailed it.  I felt like Barkley was looking down on her and directing her hands and it just made me cry (but in a happy way, remembering all the good times).

https://www.etsy.com/shop/ThreadsofFancyAK
https://threadsoffancyak.weebly.com/

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

On Recollection

Abby Lab Here - Mom is out on a book tour for her new book but she wanted to post a chapter from her fourth book  Gold Winner for Fiction in the Reader's Favorite International Book Award. "SmallTown Roads."

The most effective way to destroy people is to deny 
and obliterate their own understanding of their history.
George Orwell

He notices them in the city, old vacant houses, bearing the form of the formerly beautiful.  He notices them in the country, old empty barns, the houses of which watched over them, also long abandoned. The barns drew him the most, some mystery there in their silent lofts, where among the beams and rough-hewn boards, life from venerable times was lived according to venerable ways, never to be seen again.

There are many reasons such places are abandoned, foreclosure, death, yet they remain vacant, remain fallow, someone's dreams perhaps tied up in probate or simply discarded, no one wishing to assume the burden of that which will take some care to make whole. He only stops to look, then drives down the road to home, an older place but kept in meticulous repair, the house warm, the walls adorned with only a few photos of the past, framed copies of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

A young woman walks out to the curb, where renters moving out next door left a few bags of trash.  Laying next to them were two large pieces of cast iron cookware.  She takes a closer look, both were high-end brands, neither purchased cheaply.  Both looked unused but for the thick rust covering both.  The house empty and staying that way, she picks them up and takes them home to examine and clean. Once the rust is removed, the pans oiled and properly seasoned, they look as if new,  these pieces that should last a lifetime. Someone simply did not know how to care for what they had and casually discarded them.
Out at the rural airfield, a man who still wears his youth in his eyes, arrives for a local flight. He notices, off in the distance, tires flat, grass growing up into the wheel pants, there sits an old tailwheel airplane.  The paint hasn't seen a wash or polish in years, the once bright hues that flaunted their color against the sky like a cry of challenge, now laying mute upon the grass  The engine, which once fired up with life, growing louder and louder as the entire aircraft trembled like a racehorse waiting to run, lay quiet, but for the rustle of birds who have built a nest in the intake.  He wonders what it would cost to buy it, to get it flying again.

So many things that go unnoticed until they are gone.  Some lie barren, covered in days until they no longer shine, forgotten.  Other things, capture the eye of someone, be it a house, a piece of machinery, a person, an entire manner of living, which for that one individual, possesses a life all of its own.  It is that missing piece of our history, that forbidden apple whose taste could open up the pathway to heaven, or cast one from all that is accepted.  Yet, they can not resist, like the fruit of the Tree in the Garden of Good and Evil, such things being fraught with the possibility of the undiscovered.

A man sits alone in a house that still shows the remains of the recent past amongst the modern updates,the 70's retro hunters blaze of orange touching some things like a flame, shag carpeting stamped flat there in the trails of silent children. It is quiet now, two children and two wives preceding him in death, his remaining child flying in as often as she can, calling every night before he goes to sleep.  The TV is off, the windows open, the curtains breathing in and out with the soft exhalation of the evening.  It is a night for memories or passages, those moments within us, that by our history, our remembrances, release us from the shadows, our soul freed there at that moment that makes certain silences more clear than any words that can be uttered.

In another home, that's seen a hundred years come and go, a young man in a blue button-down shirt sits in a chair, surrounded by books and antiques. Each piece was carefully picked from the flotsam and jetsam of estate sales, carefully cleaned and placed in the room alone but for muscle and sweat.  The room looks no different than if the time was a hundred years ago, but for a small flat screen TV, dusty in the corner.  The safe holds a small collection of rare and unique firearms, some dating back to the Civil War.

Some people are born out of their due place, fate casting them too soon or too late, but they only look ahead, even as they bear a yearning for a place they knew not.  On the shelf is a picture of a woman, not a young woman, except for the eyes, the blaze of her hair.  He looks at the photo, tracing the leather of the spine of his book, with hands that remember. 
A woman works in a basement, putting up boxes away from the moisture, water had crept in during recent storms.  In watching her work, you would think her a young girl.  Only in the harsh light from the window, do you know she is not. She look down at her hands and her forearms, the scar on her palm where she took a fall out of a tree, the rough-edged dimple on her arm, where bone forced its way through, her form no match for someone that outweighed her by a hundred pounds, someone who felt that since he possessed something, it was his right to break it.

There's other scars you can't see, the small bite shaped mark of a biopsy, the small shiny serrations on belly flesh, proud marks of the skin's burden as it carries another to live.  Would she erase or airbrush them away if she could?  No, she's descended from immigrants and warriors; for her, life is simply a battle fought, the scars simply marking the skirmishes won.

She is moving some boxes and hanging bags, military uniforms and gear, worn by grandfathers and beyond, men who are now only dust and courage. There is a new box to add to these, for which she must make room. She opens the box, carefully packed up just a week ago to be shipped, the uniform items carefully shrouded and laid to rest within. She touches the items, and even in their stillness, comes a moment of real and profound intimacy with the one who once wore them, unexpected and lasting, as is often our glimpse of truth. They will be carefully packed again to protect them and stored with those uniforms of generations past. She leaves space on the shelf for another future box, for there will be one more, and probably soon.

At the bottom of the package, carefully wrapped in bubble wrap, in a lone toy soldier, that had been unearthed in the garden one Spring, years after the battle for world dominion with two flame hair children and their troops had ceased. The touch of its small battered form brought back the scent of the earth in their back yard, the shade of the apple tree that sheltered them, the warmth of the sun, times when they could ask Mom and Dad most anything and they'd tell them the truth.
Was this little figurine simply a forgotten toy or was he buried in some forgotten childhood military honor?  She could not remember, but like anything long lost, he spoke to her, of why we remember things and why they are important.

With that remembrance, with the lessons of the past, we can live safer and smarter. We can make decisions based on what we learned the hard way, about the truth, about individuals, about intentions, those deceits and traps that lay like spider webs for the naive or the unwary.

So she continues to look, sometimes seeing the past in front of her, in pieces found years after they were laid there, the answers beneath her hands, under a mantle of dirt and time. She sees them sometimes late at night, out of the corner of her eye. Perhaps it's just fatigue, perhaps an awareness of more than these moments here, now but there at the edge of her vision, she senses those moving moments of lives that went before. People who valued freedom over power, truth over political correctness, people unafraid to ask "why" or "how". People just like her, full of fear and pride and arrogance, courage and love, the knowledge of suffering and foreshadowing of their own death, saying no to death, for generation after generation, knowing that can't stop it, but damned if they won't go out trying.
She sometimes look into unseeing eyes, wondering if at that moment of their passing, the questions were answered, or if perhaps more compassionately, they had forgotten the asking of them. But there is only scent and whispers, there in that cold landscape, speaking, murmuring across time, the questions they can no longer seek, but she can give voice to, with a simple but solemn, signature at the bottom of a page.

The items put away, she returns to a table of tools, a place to work and repair, form and craft, as she finds something soothing in fixing and finding answers in that which is broken, even as she restores its use.

The young man in the button-down shirt picks up an old violin, worth more than all of his other possessions combined, even as appearance alone might label it, in unknowing eyes, as yard sale material.  The notes reach out to the depths of the dwelling, penetrating the darkness, laden with the awe and enigma that can be borne on the strings of remembering men. From the shadows, a woman smiles.
These people may all be strangers or they may be bound by blood, bond or friendship.  But they do share one thing; an understanding that life bears with it the remnants of the past.  They can call it baggage or call it wisdom. They can cover it, shed it, walk away from it, forget it ever happened and forget its lessons.  But as they destroy that history, they destroy themselves.

Better they can preserve it, for what it was, those moments, those things that made them what they are. They can treat it all as something shameful, or they can speak or write of it, in a tone that would be a shout of triumph were the words on a keyboard capable of speech.  They can live their lives, old before their time, for the burden of the past, or they can live sufficient, complete, desiring as the young do, not to be bound, but only to love, to query and scrutinize uncontested, left alone with their freedoms. 

It is the future.  It is the past.  An elderly man sits in a chair, surrounded by books and antiques.  The room has not changed in the last fifty years.  On the shelf is a picture of a flame-haired4r woman. He slowly rises and walks towards it, joints stiff with pain, his form cleaving the space she once passed through.  He passes a shelf, a book bound with leather, an old revolver, a small vase, his glance touching what her eyes had lost. He picks up the photo and realizes that some things, even if not present, are never truly gone, fixed and held in the annealing ash that is our history.

As the night descends upon him unchecked, he stands and looks hard at everything.
L.B. Johnson