Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Tuesday Smiles

There is nothing funny about the coronavirus, and the toll it is taking on our country and our medical personnel and first responders.  But I have had to try and find humor in the whole quarantine/shelter in place as we were officially quarantined at home after my husband was exposed to it on a flight out of Singapore.  It's been 5 weeks since I left my house and my husband and I are both working from home.  So for today, just some smiles. . .

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Barkley Memories - Dine and Dash Doggie

Hard to believe it's been six years since we lost him, but I continue to find photos on various laptops and thumb drives which make me smile.

No, we're not going to the Vee-E-Tee.

Mom's got to go back to work so we have to drive to Indiana to the crash pad.  I've got water and dog treats for you, a sandwich up here for me and we're all set.

I know it's a long drive, but I'll take you out for a walk when we get to the Rest Stop. 
Now, I've had my pit stop, it's time for yours.

Hey, where's my sandwich???

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Flying Frisbees of Goodness - Saturday Eats

Abby T.  Lab here - Mom made our favorite flying Frisbees this morning since she and Dad are stuck in the house with Lorelei Lab and I for the next couple of weeks.  

I don't get syrup on mine, but they are FUN to catch and eat.

This is the best recipe ever and makes the lightest, most aerodynamic Frisbees ever with the best texture as well as lift over drag ratio!

In one bowl mix:

1 cup flour (Mom is allergic to malt which is in the cheap store flour - she uses White Lily or an organic flour such as Arrowhead Mills - they are both Malt free but if you see White Lily in Texas snag some - it's a Southern soft winter wheat, unlike the flours up north and makes the lightest and fluffiest biscuits, pancakes, muffins, and waffles)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
In small bowl mix

1 cup room temperature Kefir (Kefir is a drinkable yogurt found with or near the yogurt in the store in a quart sized bottle.  It is normally lactose-free and full of probiotics - if you can't find it use buttermilk or milk soured with a tablespoon of lemon juice replacing a tablespoon of the milk.)
Splash of pure vanilla extract (about 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon)
1 egg (at room temperature) or equivalent egg substitute.

Whisk wet ingredients together, and then SLOWLY stream in while whisking - 

1/4 cup melted butter

Mix wet and dry ONLY until mixed (do not overmix) and cook on a griddle on which a drop of water sizzles.  The batter should be fairly thick.  If it is not (this should NOT be a pourable batter) add 1 Tablespoon of flour.

Don't make them too big to make them easier to flip as these are thick fluffy pancakes. Mom uses a 1/4 or a 1/3 cup measure to make the pancake.  Makes about 10 medium-sized pancakes. They freeze well - no need to buy those expensive boxed frozen pancakes.
- Abby T. Lab
Warning - Eating Too Many May Induce Flying Frisbee Coma

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

During Self Quarantine

Dog:  Oh my Dog you're here all day and this is absolutely the best I can love you and see you and be with you and follow you all over and I'm so happy and excited because I love you and can be with you and you are the very best.

Cat:  What the *#(@ are you still doing here. 

Monday, March 16, 2020

Not Just a Dog Story, But a Love Story

How an incorrigible Lab, a malfunctioning pooper scooper and a helpful young man in a fedora led to a love of a lifetime. The Book of Barkley - Love and Life Through the Eyes of a Labrador Retriever. The Amazon #1 International Best-Seller. 100% of all book sale profits are donated to animal rescue

Available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Waterstones Bookstores in the UK.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Stretching Your Food Supplies

My parents were alive during the Great Depression and thus raised me not to waste anything. It's been a boon this week.  My husband was on quarantine after being exposed to the Corona Virus while on a flight out of Singapore which means I was also on lockdown and couldn't get out to stock up on anything as the local grocery store shelves cleared out.  We already have several months of food, water, hygiene, and toiletry stuff in storage in the basement.  It's something I glad my parents taught us to do.

Mom could make a meal out of what seemed like scraps  - leaving money for the occasional store-bought treat for my brother and me and a cold beer for Dad on the weekends.

I'm much the same way. Our kitchen is quite small as is our 1940's refrigerator but we have lots of cupboards of storage space down in the basement where the temperatures are never too warm or too cool, perfect for storage of canned goods. So for today, just some tips on adopting some of the same practices in your home if you're not already doing so.

For today's recipe selections there are several meals involving ethnic dishes. Protein and potatoes are the start of our leftovers but with what we make from them we try and create dishes that normally we would go OUT to eat to enjoy, such as Mexican, Chinese, Thai etc.  Making the dishes ourselves, out of leftovers with just a few exotic ingredients all available on Amazon, saves us a TON of money.

Here are my basic guidelines, please share your own in the comments if you have any you'd like to.

(1)  Think ingredients, not leftovers.  If your meat or veggie "meat" favorites are on sale, buy in bulk and freeze.  We put a big chest type freezer in the basement just for this purpose (bought for $100 when a local Sears appliance store went out of business).

If making pasta sauce, I double the recipe and freeze it for spaghetti, lasagna, or a stuffing for a baked potato or biscuit dough placed up the sides of a muffin tin, then topped with sharp cheddar and baked.
Leftover coney dog sauce makes some really tasty nachos. OK, it's not really healthy but it sure was tasty.
If making rice or vegetables, make extra and freeze.

This was a stir fry with leftover rice and veggie protein, fried up with 1 TablespoonThai Roasted Chili Paste or "Nam Prik Pao" (available online or at Asian markets) and 1 teaspoon Red Boat fish sauce per 1/2 cup of rice (plus protein). Topped with carrot, basil. and lime it was as good as the restaurant stuff.

(2) Dedicate two nights a week to leftovers night, so your fridge and freezer don't get too full. Make sure you rotate foods from oldest to newest in the freezer.  Sometimes we just do a "leftover buffet" and bring it all out of the refrigerator and make up our own plate of our favorites to microwave.  Kids too, are less picky if you let them chose from an assortment of items.

(3)  Forget the Tupperware - if you store most of your leftovers in freezer bags (which can be washed and reused) you can better see what the leftover is. Otherwise, you may end up with a science experiment in a couple of weeks. The only Tupperware I use in the refrigerator is soup (in case of leaks) and muffins - so they don't get squished.
(4) "Mexican" night is way cheaper than eating out. To use up leftover rice, beans, or bits of meat, veggie protein, and regular or non-dairy cheese.  Grab some lettuce and hot sauce and the corn or flour tortillas for tacos or burritos or make enchiladas by rolling the ingredients in a tortilla and placing in an 8 x 8-inch pan. Simply cover with a can of cream of chicken soup mixed with a can of Rotel, and a little cheese and bake till heated through (about 30 min, at 350 F.)

(5)  Leftover vegetables? Keep a bag in the freezer to which you add those little bits that don't seem worth saving on their own.  With that make soup or soup stock, add it to scrambled eggs or tufo for breakfast or with some red sauce to make pasta sauce.
Guinness Stew

If you wish, separate them by type.  Zucchini and squash wind up in spaghetti sauce. Broccoli and cauliflower go into the beer-cheese soup. Green peppers and onions wind up in sloppy joes or spaghetti. All other veggies can be soup or "shepherd's pie," which is also a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes
Pate Chinois

Small bits of diced veggies, especially onions and peppers, are great mixed into bean-based burgers for the grill, and you can always top whatever goes on a bun with whatever assorted bits of lunch cheese, breakfast meats, or salad that's in the fridge.  Gardein does a really yummy saucy "pork" tidbits that also makes a great "Carolina" style sandwich with leftover coleslaw or substitute your favorite pulled meat for the carnivores in my reader group.

To make vegetable stock, dump the gallon bag of leftover veggie bits in a big pot when it is full, cover with water, simmer on low for a couple of hours and strain.  This is great for making a stock that's very low sodium, compared to the store-bought stocks which are loaded with salt.

(5)  Roasting vegetables.  Those make great, tasty soup.  In a blender puree the leftover roasted veggies, or a variety and blend in a blender with 2-4 cups of broth, then warm in a pot. Since they're usually seasoned as they roast, simply serve the soup with salt and pepper and some croutons.

(6) Have a juicer?  Juicing can be a bit pricey as you're using lots of fruits and veggies to make one big glass, but it's a great way to get a whole bunch of enzymes and phytonutrients and I do a juice or smoothie daily during cold and flu season.  So how not to waste all of the pulp that remains in the juicer after you are done?  I add a bit of veggie juice pulp to stews or soups, stir the fruit-based pulp into a fruit salad and my favorite - with the 4 carrots/half a cucumber/2 granny Smith apple juice that is my go-to juice,  I make muffins out of them with whole wheat flour and just a few other items. They taste like little healthier versions of carrot cake without all the white sugar and flour and they are a favorite around here.

Juicer Pulp Muffins

Makes10 high fiber/low-fat muffins

1 and  1/2 cups plus 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Cardamon (substitute nutmeg if you wish)
1 cup fresh fruit/veggie pulp from your juicer (remove any bigger pieces)
1/4 cup vanilla-flavored Yogurt
1 egg or 1/2 Banana
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons milk
1/4 cup  plus 1 Tablespoon maple syrup or honey
Note:  If using a pulp that's high in fruit (and thus water content),  you may wish to omit the extra 2 Tablespoons of "milk"   You want it thick, but not with dry bits in the batter.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and cardamom together. Then add in the pulp followed by the yogurt, banana (or egg) almond milk, maple syrup (or honey).  If you use plain yogurt add 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mix until just combined and moist adding more milk if needed.
Add batter to a lightly sprayed muffin tin. Bake for 25 to 28 minutes. Muffins will be done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean and the bottoms and sides are just starting to brown.

(7) Stale bread -  if it 's it's just starting to get old - make french toast out of it.  If it's harder than that, cut the loaf crosswise, drizzle it with some good quality olive oil, rub it with the cut side of a halved ripe tomato, sprinkle with a little garlic salt and parmesan, wrap in foil and bake til warm.  Stale bread is also great for French Onion Soup,

If you have a single or small household and can never get through a loaf of bread before it starts getting old, put a third of it in the freezer to use for more sandwiches or some homemade breadcrumbs.

(8) Leftover Spaghetti - Spaghetti and garlic and veggie-heavy sauce is one of my favorite dinners and we eat it every couple of weeks.  But sometimes I end up cooking more noodles than I have sauce for.  I will use leftover spaghetti cut into smaller pieces in a stir-fry with veggies and protein and some sort of leftover oriental sauce, adding it in the last couple of minutes of cooking.

Thai curry soup is an easy-to-find recipe on the internet and great for using leftover bits of meat and noodles.
Leftover pizza - look, no one needs instructions for leftover pizza, right?

Got a "buy one get one free" bread or rolls or tortillas? Place a sheet of waxed paper between the portions, wrap and freeze.  With the family packs of meat, save what you will use this week and freeze the rest.
Just a little bit of juice left in the container?  I make DIY energy drinks out of it.  In reusable glass bottle mix 1-2 Tablespoons of Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar, 1/4 cup fruit juice and add mineral water. It makes a tart, refreshing drink that will give you a boost of energy with the B Vitamins and the Enzymes in the ACV.  This is especially good with stronger, unsweetened juices. If using OJ, you may wish to use more juice and less mineral water.

I hope this gives you some ideas.  You'll find, not only that you aren't throwing out food, you are eating less convenience food which usually isn't as nutritious AND you are saving a lot of money.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

On Restoration

It was that time of the evening when things grow both restless and weary. The sun has dipped below the horizon, just enough light remaining to make out the forms of a couple of bicycles strewn across a lawn down the street, abandoned by children called into supper. Piled up in the corner by where I sit and read are Abby is the pile of Abby's "stuffies" laying as if napping, where they will remain this late afternoon until she gently carries them to her dog bed at night, to sleep by her side.

As I get ready to go out for a quick jaunt around the neighborhood before dark, it's not hard to see the houses that have big screen TV's in the living room as they are directly evident if the windows are open, or providing that telltale glare of light through the curtains. For many people, the TV is on as soon as they walk in the door, People come home, turn on the television, turn on the video games, draw the blinds, their view of the world that which comes through on the TV, losing imperceptibly their sense of the outside, of the world beyond a news anchor.

If someone walked past our porch at night, they'd see no such light. For we don't have a big-screen TV. We don't have a TV at all, but for a small one in the basement where we can get the weather with an antenna on the roof if we're down there due to Mr. Tornado.  If we want to watch a favorite show we have boxed sets, (cheaper than cable) from which to pick, watching on the computer monitor that can be turned to face the cozy futon in the office. Even that is something we only do on some weekends.
The crash pad where I lived after I got married, but before I was able to transfer to our Chicago facility, had a nice TV from my old house, but it was given to the young couple in need who are got all of the furniture, which we really have neither need nor room for up here.  They had lost everything in a natural disaster, and on a waiting list to adopt a baby, were anxious to be able to provide a furnished home.  They rented a small house, I provided all of the contents of mine, and they were finally at ease, that baby coming along in two months time from an unwed mother loving enough to give her child up to a good home.  Some things just work themselves out.

I'm fine with my smaller, older home. But anyone curious or casing this place to rob it would see hardwood floors, restored antique furniture, lots of leaded and stained glass and a Victrola, my service revolver in the nightstand and a few vintage LEO pistols of generation's past carefully locked up in the safe.
As big and beautiful as it was, I don't miss my old house.  It was your typical McMansion, those huge suburban houses that are less home than monopoly game house squares of plastic and cheap lumber and wasted space.  What wood is there is usually laminate, the walls not thick enough to withstand a really good storm or the thump of a neighbors bass played too loud. They look OK now, but I can't imagine what it will take to sustain them 100 years from now if they're even still standing.  But they are big and "new!" with three-car garages full of a lot of things that aren't paid for yet, the neighbor's house so close you can't swing a tax assessor without whacking your next-door neighbor. Some didn't even have furniture - the people buying them not having enough money after buying the too-big house to properly furnish it.
Our house is old, it's small and it's sturdy.  There is no mortgage, there is no credit card debt for the furnishings.  But for a small table that was a family heirloom, everything in our view we bought with cash or picked from curbside trash, restoring it as best we can, those items that another found to have little worth.  I think the only things well under 50  years old in the house are the computer, the mattress, the frame of a couch we restored and the three beloved souls I live with, both two and four-legged.

I've had a couple casual acquaintances look at the sagging porch that needs to be redone, the antiquated kitchen and a sun porch that makes the Green Acres house look upscale and make a subtlety snarky comment about it. They're not invited back. It's a work in progress, the whole house being a restoration project, much of the work on things you won't see on the surface. I look at it differently, I guess.  I don't see what still needs to be done.  I see what HAS been done.
The little village within the big city we live in is small, with a train station, small grocers, a mom and pop pizza place and a couple of pubs.  The houses themselves are grey, white, brown or brick, no trendy Victorian dollhouse colors, no urban renewal shades of yuppie reclamation.  The houses and porches are the shades of time and shadow and quiet murmured voices gathered between columns as if time and breath had made them all one quiet color, a hushed vestibule where all is forgiven.

Within a short drive is a trendy urban area where people live in half a million-dollar apartments, taking the train into the city, some not even owning cars as every bit of millennial spender and excess is within walking distance. We do go there as that's where the big home improvement store is.  That's where we bought all the copper pipe and wood for the house and a nice runner for the hall at a good discount because the young man with the trendy haircut couldn't multiply $12.97 times 6 on a piece of paper when the calculator went missing.

No, I'll pass on all the "hip" places unless they have tools.  I'm perfectly happy browsing in an antique book store or standing in line at the grocer with elderly Polish women.  Dressed as if they are going to church, many of them have survived more than one war, holding our numbers and waiting for the deli clerk to slice meat that was roasted in the store, not unwrapped from cellophane, shaving the meats and the cheese and carefully wrapping them up for me with a smile. There's homemade sausages, salads, and potato pancakes, foods known well to the immigrants that settled in this place. I'll pass on the toaster strudel, and buy one of the real thing, made by hand, breathing in the scent of sugar and yeast as I head home with my bounty, driving past an ancient church and a small park which knows know only the shades of those first children that played there.
Am I just getting old - looking at the past as simply stories of youth and bravery, doomed to forgetfulness as I eventually pass, as we all will, those points of affection and regret into a fog that quietly dims the lights? Or have I simply changed what parts of the world are important to me based on how I have touched the world, and it has touched me in return?

I think it is the latter.  Getting to middle age is some way, like surviving a war.  There are false truces and negotiations, retreat and reconciliation, triumph and treachery. In the end, if you are lucky, there is peace, your warrior's medals and ribbons being internal, only recognized when you look into the mirror and see those first lines around your eyes and smile because you know that despite it all, your sustained breath is its own little victory.
It's a peace I enjoy and as some of my peers rush around getting Botox and fillers, putting on enough makeup to make Krusty the Klown jealous. I'm perfectly content to put on sweat pants and tactical lip gloss and just hit the road, face bare and long red ponytail trailing behind me like those red warning flags you see on timber hanging off the bed of a fast-moving little pickup.

So tonight, I'll take a jog down through the village across the railroad tracks and down past the old church.  In the small graveyard, there stands upon a gravesite, a  stone angel, her shadow painting a canvas of dimming light as I move past.  She is a melancholy spirit, crafted in another century, her eyes closed as if in prayer, her mouth open as if she turned to stone at the moment she uttered her life's final secret.  Around the grave, there is a garland of living flowers, grown wild, even as the rest of the small graveyard fades to dust, flowers reaching for one last bit of sun, there amidst the silent stones, the histories that live on in this place.
I wonder how many people have walked past her, with earbuds on, or their head down with texting, not realizing the significance of a forgotten grave - that one small thing, that soul - at one time, the most important thing in the world to someone, held through sickness and health, and cherished even as they grew old and faded as flowers will.

How many now, truly possess that which holds weight and value, something that when viewed, when held, lights up the eyes with the triumphs of all risks and renunciations. Or have we become a society of the easy and disposable, be it a product, a relationship, or worse, even a life?

As the sky begins to spit snow again, I hurry home, but not before lifting my closed eyes up to heaven, mouth open, catching flakes of snow on my tongue, a self-communion of one, as I say a blessed thanks for a long safe journey through life.
As I approach our house, the light dimming, I see the glow of the television sets in other homes, an unearthly artificial glow, as canned laughter seeps out of an open window. As I arrive home, climbing up the tired stairs unto the large porch, there is light inside from the wall sconces, rewired but decades-old, bright as a spark, significant of human shelter and repose. As the key rattles in the door, there is a soft woof of an old Rescue Lab, her grey muzzle snooting me happily as I enter the house

A burglar casing the place would look through the front window and shake their head, seeing little for which they would give value. I look inside and see the riches of a strong house that shelters me with vigilant accord. It has stood for a hundred years, with an air of history and invincible possession, which will remain, long after I am gone.

I set my keys near the Victrola and my husband's Fedora.  As he calls out a greeting from the kitchen, I pat Abby the Lab on the head, looking at the small precious things that have been rescued and now live here, grateful for eyes that finally learned to see.
 - L.B. Johnson