Friday, December 30, 2022

Canine S.A.D.

S.A.D, (Seasonal Affective Dog) is very unhappy it's cloudy out AND there are no sun puddles anywhere. 

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Christmas 2022 - Best Wishes to All

We hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas day, however you celebrate it.

Just some of our gifts to one another to bring a smile.

We miss Abby Lab - but my husband got some Lab suncatchers for our window, where she used to love to watch the squirrels.  
When you open your stocking to find a personal message from Elon Musk.

You can only laugh at your husband's sense of humor.

Two can play at that game!

But you'll need some matches for that candle.

A handmade Lab blanket (and some reading material for a "Dog Dad"

For teleworking - for automated "document approval process".

And when it's time to drive the dog nuts - squirrel finger puppets.
Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night

Saturday, December 24, 2022

From our household to yours - wishing you only blessings this holiday season and in the coming year.

Brigid, E.J., and Lorelei Lab

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Where Did Dad's Pillow Go

Me: "Where did EJ's pillow from our bed go? 

Lorelei Lab: "I know NOTHING".

Sunday, December 18, 2022

A Tale of Two Trolls

There was a lot of stuff packed away in boxes when I sold the sprawling home that I had prior to meeting my husband, as well as things I'd shipped back from Dad's after my brother passed away. Sitting here this morning looking at an old photo on an even older refrigerator I remember the day I finally had a chance to go through it before moving here, where space is limited and only things most precious are on display. 

There was a storm brewing that night, the wind fierce off of the Great Lake, stirring things in the trees, stirring things in me. In the bottom of one trunk, I found something among things gleaned from my brother's belongings that I had not had much time to go through. And it brought me to tears - because of this photo which is always on display. Look carefully to the left and right of my brother to the two little creatures, dressed for the winter. My Mom was 1/2 Swede and 1/2 Norwegian, so although I think they are actually Danish in origin, we always had trolls around. In the picture, we're playing out in the snow, and Mom had actually made little coats for the trolls to protect their felt clothing. How little we knew that one day that well-worn photo would be held by a magnet on an ancient refrigerator, there as the snow fell down like the gift of grace on the frozen ground, there in the days of honor and play, before we knew anything of selfishness, greed and the uncaring faces of forgetful men.

There were just our toys of childhood, the toy soldiers, our trains, our collection of matchbook cars, and hot wheels. And the trolls. We played with them in quiet solitude, not because we thought others would make fun of us for "playing with dolls" but because they were an outlet for imagination. They weren't "dolls" - they were Vikings, bigger than all of our other toys, even G.I. Joe standing down in their presence. Their hair was tangled with the imagined salt of the sea, their countenance a grin in the face of any adversity. They were born, not of a woman or the earth, but by magic and myth. Others might not have understood, so they were our solitude, which was also our saving as Mom grew sicker and the waters grew colder.

I wondered what had happened to them, more than once. They were our companions on bike rides deep into the trails that formed as more subdivisions were built, they were the silent watch on deck as we drifted off to sleep at night, the moon outside bending low into our window as if to look onto our face as we dream of fast ships and high seas. My brother and I were perhaps unusual compared to many siblings as he was genuinely my best friend and not just my older brother. We'd play in the yard, in the woods, and even better, at the coast where we had a small cabin, running out by the waves until the sun sank round and blazing into the crest of waves as if they eroded that luminous circle with their power until only darkness and the sound of the ocean remained

He and I rarely squabbled. He held me on those rare occasions I cried and he protected me from any neighborhood bully, who knew better than to invoke the wrath of a tall redhead who would grow up to be a giant of a man, a gentle giant who handled those things he loved as if made of glass. We played hard and well, even if in adulthood it was sometimes just a game of pool and a beer, laughing as much as we did as children, throwing fates to the wind, and taking no prisoners, even if we had a designated driver. On, or in, my dresser is the matchbox cars and rocks. shells, and other things of childhood. But I had forgotten what became of those two trolls, there in that photo. Not long after those days, as we left childhood, I never saw them again. Like many things of childhood, they just disappeared. The earth takes some - toy soldiers buried in the yard with full honors. Others are simply cast off as young adults, not yet realizing how precious those little things are until we reach an age where the earth calls its account for all things we hold dear, taking them away before we are ready.

I lift them out of the box, plucking a strand of dust from the hair of the female troll, blinking in the hazy light. With them is a smaller troll - one my brother gave me when he went off to sea as a submariner. They rest on a piece of wood cut more than a hundred years ago, the same shade as that gate that Dad built some 60 years ago, in the house that my brother and I grew up in. They were not Vikings or adventurers, they were simply toys from which our adventures sprung forth, daring days of glory in the heat and the cold. But rather than be tossed out with the rest of the toys, my brother had carefully put them away for me to find someday among his things that were left to me on his passage.

As I gathered the box to place them back into safe keeping in the home I'd made with my husband, I blink in the diffused light, as shadows ebbed and flow outside the window. I look out to the East, to the lake and in my mind's eye see a shadowed vessel manned by a redheaded shade, there beyond the horizon, who sends me a wave of greeting as he disappears into a soundless gale. Someday I will join him, when the splash of the ocean bites into the Sun, when the end of all things earthly comes without furor or a whisper, that moment we release ourselves to the water and our hearts cease to beat as if an engine stilled. At that moment, in that perfect moment of immobility, there will be a new adventure awaiting in glory. But not for now, now is for living and remembering.

The trolls almost seemed to stir there in the play of light, as if remembering all of those days of joy and freedom. So many memories there - the laughter of a young girl, and the brave shout of a boy, running his plastic warrior up to the top of the hill, where we are stronger than the oceans, Vikings rule, and imagination never dies.  That old photo placed where it would be safe, I carefully put the trolls away, as I raise my hand into the gales of the east and wave goodbye. - Brigid

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Morning in the Johnson Household

I can't help it, every time I look at this I see "In the morning when I rise, give me coffee, Jesus".

Sourdough Barley Swedish Waffles with Strawberry/Cranberry Jam
Someone found their peanut.
It's a lot prettier when I don't have to shovel it.

Mr, Turtle has survived 7 moves and 3 Labradors over the years.  Lorelei just ignores him.

The buffet is open!

Did you forget my walkies?
Post-walk naps are the best!

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Where's my Security Labrador - Someone Stole My Apple!

I was attempting to take an artsy photo of my Rachel's Texas Kitchen dutch apple butter (seriously folks, try her jams, veggies, and salsas - Texas born and bred this family knows how to make good eats - the Texas Twister jam with berries and jalapeno is our current favorite on biscuits).

But I turn my back for ONE minute - and my apple is gone!

Still - the apple butter made for some wonderful pancakes.

1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 and 1/2 tsp cinnamon 
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp salt
⅛ tsp nutmeg
1 cup milk
¼ cup Rachel’s Texas Kitchen Dutch apple butter

In a medium bowl - whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt & nutmeg.
In a large bowl- stir together milk, apple butter, melted butter, and egg.
Fold the wet mixture into the dry mixture just until incorporated.
Ladle the batter onto a preheated skillet or griddle set at 325 F, degrees & cook the pancakes for 3-5 minutes on each side until golden brown.
Serve with additional butter and syrup. (also really good with some toasted pecans on top, but keep them away from the squirrel).

The Security Lab slept through the whole theft.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

A Merry Retro Christmas

Yes, 3 bucks at a yard sale in a small village a couple of years ago. 
And they threw in the color wheel.
I think I need to decorate the place up a bit more for Christmas before it gets dark and my husband is home.
There--a little 60's Christmas cheer in a 1916 Mission Bungalow.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Tales of Sourdough

The term sourdough originated during the Klondike Gold Rush when settlers began to flood into Alaska. Due to the limited availability of leavening in the remote bush of Alaska, settlers made their bread using a sourdough starter which uses flour, water, and sugar to naturally collect yeast from the air. The use and consumption of this bread was so widespread that these settlers began to be known as "sourdoughs."

The history of sourdough, however, begins long before miners came to Alaska. Sourdough is the oldest form of leavened bread and was used at least as early as ancient Egypt. It was probably discovered by accident when bread dough was left out and good microorganisms -- wild yeast -- drifted into the mix. The resulting bread had a lighter texture and better taste.

Are the sourdough pancakes done yet, Mom?

All sourdough recipes begin with a starter -- a mixture of flour, water, and a little sugar. Sitting at room temperature, wild yeasts in the air and on the grain settle into the mix. The fermentation that occurs after a few days gives the starter its sour smell. Then it's ready to use, for years if treated with respect.

A starter, or "sponge" as the pioneers called it, feeds many families over many years. Starters have always been passed through families and from friend to friend. I have kept my last starter alive for 10 years and there are stories of starters that are much older. There is one starter from a famous bakery in San Francisco that started back in 1849 and is known as the "Mother Dough".

Starters can be kept thriving simply by adding equal parts of water and flour to a portion of the starter every couple of weeks. Replenish it, keep it stored in the refrigerator, and it will last indefinitely, acquiring more personality as the years go by. The extra tanginess that comes with age is highly prized and is why older starters become treasured members of the family for sourdough junkies.

So for the start of your sourdough adventure . . .a short tale from a time long ago.

Sourdough Starter & The Mad Trapper Of Rat River.

Nobody knew much about Albert Johnson. He arrived in Fort MacPherson, Northwest Territories, Canada on July 9th, 1931 on the southern edge of the Mackenzie delta (67 degrees N latitude).  His arrival was uneventful, a man simply descending into the town on the idle wind with a lot of cash in his pocket. He was by all accounts, in his mid to late thirties, with a rugged build, icy blue eyes, and a taciturn disposition, keeping to himself. These physical characteristics in men that trapped for a living in the north were nothing out of the ordinary, some youthful, some old, most bearded, yet all with that same attentive attention to the wilds around them.  Among such men, Albert Johnson melted quietly into the landscape.

What the locals noted as strange was this young man had pockets of money and build a large cabin with a good view on three sides in the prime trapping area of the Rat River, but did not obtain the requisite trapping license. He didn't invite questions and shunned visitors. Most often he was found alone, leaving quarters only to stride to a small bluff overlooking the river, his woolen shirt fluttering around him like a flag, as he stood watchful and mute.

When the trapping season went into full swing, something changed. The traps in the area were disrupted. Smashed, bait tossed about. There was no evidence of the act but for the cry of the wind through the trees that seemed to assume the human sound of rage and pain. Indian trappers complained that someone was interfering with their work. In this region trapping was the only source of food and livelihood for many, settler and native alike, and interfering with it was the most serious of crimes.
Angel Abby doing her best "bear" imitation.

Several pointed fingers at the hermit-like Mr. Johnson. The Indians said he "was mad". So one cold day Constable Alfred 'Buns' King and Special Constable Joe Bernard, each of whom had considerable northern experience, decided to call on Johnson to investigate. When they approached his cabin they noticed smoke billowing up from the chimney, wrapping around the house like a fortress. After numerous attempts to strike up a conversation in 40-below temperatures, about as productive as arguing with someone about politics, and getting nowhere with a man holed up with a gun, they decided to return to Aklavik to get reinforcements.

They returned with two more Mounties. Steam came from the edges of the cabin door as if it was warm inside. Men and beasts moved slowly in the cold, white fog brightened only by a shortened sun, the cold air gusting around the men, heightening the sense of urgency. A simple knock on the door and without warning, a shot rang out, three bullets splintering the wood and smashing into Constable King's chest. McDowell did not wait. He dragged his friend to their sled and cracked his snake whip as loud as Hermit Johnson's rifle. Tongues out, the husky dogs plunged forward, racing back through the night, fueled by hunger and the smell of blood. They made the 100 miles back to Aklavik in 20 hours. It was a record that saved Constable King's life.

Ten days later a new patrol mushed out to Rat River to avenge Constable King. Albert Johnson had used the interval to turn his hut into a blockhouse. He had dug the dirt floor out to a depth of four feet and cut loopholes at the floor level. For 15 hours Albert Johnson, ruler of that minute world, held off the Mounties. Dynamite charges blew the roof off his hut. Albert Johnson retired, like an angry woodchuck, entrenched in his dugout, willing to fight to the death. With temps at forty below and food for both men and the dogs running low, the police withdrew, thwarted again. As the coppery twilight gave way to a dark sky, only a few stars that dangled near earth like shards of ice, were witness to Johnson's thoughts.

For the third time, a police patrol set out from Aklavik, but this time Albert Johnson had fled from Rat River, trying to beat his way through the arctic winter to Alaska and safety. What followed was the northern country's greatest manhunt. Trappers rushed their wives to trading posts for safety, then joined the posse. They were loosely organized but realized as we still do today that it is the spirit of the law, and not the form of it that keeps justice alive, and they were willing to leave all behind to ensure justice for an officer taken down simply trying to preserve a man's work and the fruit of their sweat.

Thirty miles further in the posse finally tracked where Mad Albert had built a fort of ice and snow. There was another battle. In it, Constable E. Millen died. Police ammunition ran out and the posse withdrew for supplies, leaving three men to watch the fort. In the middle of the night, Mad Albert Johnson slipped away again in a blizzard that covered his snowshoe tracks, winds wailing a hymn of mourning for another fallen officer.

They called in Capt. W. R. ("Wop") May, a survivor of the epic battle which ended in the death of Germany's famed Baron Manfred von Richthofen. "Wop" May was at Fort McMurray, Alberta, 1,100 miles away, when Constable Millen was shot.

Flying in that day was slow, it was risky and clouds were low to the hard earth. There were no instruments to guide you in bad weather, no controllers to help you find your way. All you had were wings and courage. Articulate honor in the face of death. Men like Captain May, those that earn their names, know what risk is, and they elect to it anyway. With winter weather making the sky a time bomb of ice, May took their frantic call for help and took off in an Army monoplane, headlong into the swirling snows of the pursuit, armed with nothing more than a craft about as maneuverable as a Brinks Truck equipped with a single bomb rack.
Even flight in a blizzard couldn't hide Albert Johnson from the eyes of Capt. May. Days later May reported that Albert Johnson had crossed the Yukon River, and was tracking west from the Pierre House trading post, only 175 miles from the Alaska border. The manhunt resumed full cry.

On Jan 30th he was confronted once more. After a short shootout, Constable 'Spike' Millen lay dead - shot through the heart. Johnson made his escape by climbing a sheer cliff in the dead of night, somehow rising out of the darkness like a phantom from the grave. The Mounties' reputation was on the line, their ability to take down one lone man reduced to a whisper of cold promise left in prints of a snowshoe.

Albert Johnson seemed to be no average trapper. The Mounties said of him to be capable of great feats and was crafty beyond belief. The local Inuit said at one point in the chase that Johnson could snowshoe 2 miles for every 1 mile a dog team had to break trail. The cold was brutal, pulling the air from your lungs, as the hairs in your nose froze to Brillo pads that blocked the little breath you could take in. Yet Johnson was able to flee, and at a pace faster than the best of the best, so many times they thought they had him, when his departed form split the night like artillery, breaking the lie of silence.

He took down one other officer before being felled in one crashing volley. On February 17, 1932, May directed the Mounties to a hairpin turn in the middle section of the Eagle River where a gun battle eventually brought Johnson down. It took 9 bullets to Johnson's body to finally end this week's long order. The fallen officer, Sargent Hersey was rushed back for aid in May's airplane. The Mad Trapper, Albert Johnson came back on a police sled, dead, frozen stiff. No one ever claimed his body. No one in Alaska or the trapping fields had heard of him. No one had ever heard him utter a single word. Yet he had the modern-day cash equivalent of the cost of a new home in his pockets (as well as a knife, fish hooks, nails, and a dead squirrel).  His identity was never known, quietly buried, a DB Cooper of the Wild North

To end his rampage, and ensure the reputation of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police it took seven weeks, a dozen straining dog teams, the life of a good Constable, the wounding of two others, and a fighter ace. And it took sourdough.

For a particular sourdough starter was carried along on that famous hunt for Albert Johnson. As the mounties and their posse stayed on the trail of Johnson for several months, the men had to prepare food on the trail in the harshest of conditions. The mix helped keep the posse fed throughout much of the manhunt.

As Fall gives way to winter it's a good time to make a sourdough starter, flip pancakes, bake bread or roll out tasty biscuits. If the only "sourdough" you've had has been packaged, preservative-laden bread from the store you are missing out on something truly spectacular. Light fragrant, and tangy, it makes white bread hide in the closet in shame. Add homemade gravy and sausage to it and it's absolutely addicting.  For pancakes, they can't be beaten.

Throw in some butter and Birch Syrup and you have a filling breakfast that won't weigh you down for a manhunt or simply provide you nourishment for your soul. I think Captain May and the Mounties would have approved.