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What’s happenin’

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My workspace

I’m back! Briefly –haha.  Much has happened since the summer. I’ll do my best to recap. Here it goes…

1. In August, we enrolled our son in a private school and he didn’t like it. It appears homeschoolers just can’t hack 12+ hour days of the drudge of traditional school life.  In fact, he missed having a life.  Yes, a 13-year-old can have a life outside of school, I guess.  There was no sense in paying a tuition when your child is miserable.  So, we went back to homeschooling.  He was there for only a couple of weeks. I suppose when you know something is wrong for you, it doesn’t take you long to figure it out.

2. During the summer months, I prepared a lengthy application to request a grant from my local arts council for a ceramic kiln.  In October, they finally notified me with their decision to not fund me the grant. Poo. 😦 Sure, I was disappointed, but life is full of disappointments.  So, I moved forward.  I found another great pottery studio to work in.  I’m excited to have a whole new experience in a new location.

3.  Yoga is a new passion of mine.  I practice it at a studio four times a week, and I. LOVE. IT.  Enough said. 🙂

4. Lastly, I will spill a little secret. I am a HUGE Dinosaur Jr. fan, and have forever adored J Mascis.  I had not seen them in concert since October 21, 1994, so I was super psyched to finally attend a concert after 18 years. They really rock!  If you are interested in seeing the performance I recorded and/or my photographs, feel free to click on the following links.

Dinosaur Jr. performing “The Lung” live.

Pics of the concert on Flickr.

And yes, I was the ONLY 40+ year-old woman at the stage!  I didn’t care.  I deserved it. 🙂

I miss my blogging friends.  I hope everyone is well.  I’ll try to check out everyone’s blog soon.

Now, back to juggling my life.  See ya’!

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Filed under art, blogging, ceramics, exercise, friends, home, homeschool, life, music, photography, pottery, videos

The story of Biscuit

A true (and lengthy) story about a dog who found his family.

I have never believed in reincarnation, nor have I ever given much thought to whether there are angels on earth; though, I believe there is a heaven.   Some people often find comfort in claiming that a loved one who has passed on is watching over them from heaven.  I have had loved ones to pass on, and to me they are just…gone.  They are remembered, missed and loved dearly but gone.  One in particular was our family dog, Bodie.

Bodie has been gone now for over a year and a half.  I often think about him and miss him, but my longing for him has never made me want another dog.  Since April, my son and I have been volunteering weekly at the local humane society, and not even one dog has tugged at my heart-strings so I would take him/her home.  My position was I didn’t want another dog.  What I would rather have, was another Bodie, but that would never EVER be possible.  That is, until Biscuit came along.

One Thursday, my husband and I were sitting outside on our swing enjoying the cool evening of the early fall.  Hearing some steps, my husband turned around expecting to see our son walking towards us.  Instead, it was a dog – small, but stout with a floppy ear.  The dog cheerfully walked up to Daniel and begged to be petted.  He was sweet and friendly without any timidness.  Then, he scampered over to me and jumped up on the swing and sat down beside me.  He stared straight ahead allowing me to see only his profile.  Immediately, I saw Bodie.  It was in his eyes, though they were brown, but not as dark brown as Bodie’s were.  Also, it was the shape of his head and his snout.  Daniel also noticed the resemblance, except for the ears and his coloring, his ears were smaller and his coat smoother – a cream color.  His body style was very similar to Bodie’s.  We jokingly referred to him as our Bodie angel.

We suspected that he belonged to someone up the street and that he had gotten out.  After a few minutes of petting the dog, we decided it was time to walk him back home, wherever that was.  The people at the first house we stopped at told us that he had been roaming the neighborhood for a couple of weeks, but that they saw him regularly at a house at the end of the street.   We walked the dog to that house and as we approached the porch, the dog acted like he was at “home”.  A lady came to the door and told us he wasn’t her dog, but that she had been feeding him and basically giving him a place to “crash.”  He either slept in a chair on her porch or would enter her doggie door and sleep in her garage.  She continued to tell us that she had made a few attempts to find the owner, but no one came forward.  She already had a dog and wasn’t in a position to take in another one.  Upon hearing that the dog didn’t belong to anyone, my husband asked her if we could take him off her hands.  She said sure, and let us take the food that was on the porch that was obviously his, and we walked back home with him.

All I kept thinking was that someone must be missing their dog.  He was such a sweet dog, he’s got to belong to someone.  He had a home, somewhere.  In the meantime, I couldn’t allow this dog (unneutered at that) to continue to roam the streets.  Besides, what would the people at the humane society think of me?

We prepared a place for him to stay in our garage.  Bodie’s dog basket had been put away and we got it down along with his old bowls.  There were some old towels and throw rugs that Bodie slept on and we put those in the basket.  I put the food in Bodie’s metal food bowl and the dog began to eat.  He sounded like Bodie eating.  Daniel and I just looked at each other and listened to the familiar sound.  Then he drank from the water bowl, and the rhythm from the sound he made as he lapped up the water even sounded like Bodie’s drinking.  He walked over and got in Bodie’s basket, rearranged the towels with his paws, and then lied down – just like Bodie.

There we were with this dog, a dog that looked and acted like Bodie, yet wasn’t quite like him.  He had his own personality, especially with his one floppy ear, but there were too many similarities.  All of this was definitely strange. 

Daniel and I needed another opinion, and we called our son downstairs to see the dog.  As the dog walked around the garage and jumped up for attention, our son  also noticed the resemblance to Bodie.  Ian became so excited and pleaded for us to keep him.  Daniel felt the same way, but I was reluctant.  “Someone out there has lost this dog, ” I said,  “Someone might be looking for him.  How could someone just let this sweet dog go?”

The dog did well in our basement overnight.  We expected to see a disaster by the morning, but he was house broken thank goodness!  When we greeted him in the basket, he wagged his tail vigorously, and then rolled over on his back so we could scratch his belly –  just like Bodie.

My husband walked him and I went to work on the computer, making flyers and posting “FOUND DOG” on several websites, including the local county animal shelter.  Daniel later took the flyers around to some local businesses to display.  He also took the dog to our vet to ask if they were aware of anyone looking for him.

That entire day, the dog did so well with us, and we did well with him, too.  Having a dog seemed second nature, and the fact that he was so much like Bodie fascinated us.  But we couldn’t get comfortable with having him around.  I was certain it was only a matter of time before we’d hear from his owners.

Later that evening, a lady called about the dog.  She had seen his flyer at the Post Office.  She even emailed me a picture she had of the dog and it was, indeed, the dog in my garage.  After we confirmed that we were dealing with the same dog, she began to tell me more about him.

One rainy September evening, the lady and her granddaughter were on their way church. Driving along a busy four-lane road, they watched the dog get thrown out of a truck.  The driver then kicked the dog and drove away.  After witnessing such a horrible scene, the lady couldn’t leave the dog there all alone.  She and her granddaughter got out of the car to get him, and drove on to church with a wet and frightened dog.  Once at church, she asked a woman, who was a veterinarian, to come out to her car and examine the dog. ( That vet just so happens to be our veterinarian.)  The vet looked him over and said he was about a year old, a lab mix, and didn’t appear to have any injuries.  She mentioned he was such a friendly dog, especially to have been tragically abandoned.  That night, the lady took the dog home with her.

A few days later, the lady found a family who expressed interest in taking in the dog.  That family lived in the same town as us.  The lady called the family on a few occasions to ask how the dog was doing.  The mother would say the dog was fine, but made excuses for why the lady and her granddaughter couldn’t come by to visit the dog.  Now knowing that I had the dog and that he been roaming in my neighborhood for at least two weeks, the lady realized the mother had been lying to her the whole time.  The lady proposed that I keep the dog.  She did not want him going back to that family since they were not only neglectful, but liars.  And God-forbid the man jerk who cruelly abandoned him come forward to claim him!  Of course, I didn’t want the dog to go back into the hands of such unworthy people.

After listening to her story, which I believed to be true, I realized that this poor dog didn’t have a home.  At one time, someone had indeed loved him.  He behaves well, is easy to train, desires much attention, and even walks obediently on a leash.  I shared with the lady our story, how the dog approached us the day before, and how he resembled and behaved like our Bodie who passed away.  The dog was like an angel of our Bodie with his cream-colored body and lively self; he was Bodie with a new youthful body.  She believed that it was meant-to-be that we keep the dog, this dog found us for a reason.  Maybe so.

We debated over a name for the dog.  The lady who rescued him on the busy four-lane road called him Marley. The lady at the end of the street who allowed him to crash at her house called him Buddy.  Those two names weren’t options for us because we have close relatives who have dogs with those names.   Ian suggested Bono or Elvis (I’m not sure why.)  Daniel suggested Charlie, but I couldn’t warm up to it.  With his cream or biscuit colored coat, I was leaning towards Biscuit.

So, we decided on Biscuit, not only for his coloring, but as a tribute to Bodie because he loved to eat dog treats that we called…

Biscuits

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Filed under animals, blogging, family, home, life, pets, thoughts

The Versatile Blogger Award

A couple of weeks ago, I was awarded The Versatile Blogger Award.  Many thanks to The Daily Dish for choosing my blog to be worthy of this award.  I guess I have to admit that I don’t have a reoccurring theme, I write about anything.   Being versatile can be a good thing.

The rules of ‘The Versy’ require I reveal 7 unknown facts about myself.  This was a tough task for me.  Seven unknown facts?  Can it just be three or four?  To help me get started, I asked my husband and son what they would say if they had to tell someone else about me.  Even they had trouble coming up with seven.  My son said that I am nice and I cook his favorite foods.  Hmmm.  Thanks, but that’s not what I was looking for.  Then, my husband said I am frugal, focused, follow things through, and I have sensitive teeth.  Uh- all facts, but he didn’t help either.  Besides, I’m certain I’ve written about those facts here on my blog.

After much thinking, I came up with 7 Unknown Facts.  Some are personal and some are not, but here goes:

1. Many people have a disorder, disease or illness.  Well, I have mine, too. It’s called Mixed Connective Tissue Disease.  And if that isn’t enough, add Raynaud’s Phenomenon and rheumatoid arthritis  to make it more interesting.  It all sounds very serious and in many ways it is, or was in my case.  Thankfully, my “ism” (as I call it) doesn’t afflict me anymore, but the MCTD lets me know it is still around by showing up in my blood work.  The Raynaud’s is milder in my older years than when I was younger, and the RA is in remission (as long as I stay on my medication and exercise.)

I was diagnosed at age 18 and had no problems throughout my young adult life as long as I took my meds.  Shortly after getting married in 1995, I stopped my meds to get pregnant and stayed off them throughout my childbearing years.  All the while, the RA progressed and I lived in constant debilitating pain from the inflammation that attacked my body – for 13 excruciating years! Yeah, it was really awful!  While I tried other medications that were “safer” to use during pregnancy, they either weren’t effective or I was allergic. By my late 30’s, my hands and wrists were already moderately damaged by the inflammation.  When my 8 year-old son had to help me tie my shoes,  I knew I needed to consider my present quality of  life and my future.  In 2007, I made the heart-wrenching decision to give up on having another child so I could go back on my medication, Plaquenil.   This medication gave me back my life! After taking it for several months,  the inflammation disappeared and the pain was gone.  Being pain-free was remarkable and liberating, yet it was foreign to me.  So foreign that it took me and entire year to get use to living daily without pain.  My mind and body had been conditioned to live and function within so many boundaries.  Finally, my abilities were limitless.  I could do anything with ease, open jars, pick up baskets, and shake someone’s hand without any dread.  Certain things are not so easy, such as yoga, but I make modifications.  Being able to throw clay on the potter’s wheel again was a major accomplishment.  After years of thinking I could never use my hands again, I could finally say that I beat it.  As one can imagine, getting my health back was a triumphant period.

2. I have a high tolerance for pain. (see above).

3. I am an only child and the last person to carry on my dad’s family name.  Makes me wish I had given my maiden name to my son.

4. We have a new dog.  I swore I’d never have another dog after our Bodie died in March 2010.  Here’s the thing…we didn’t go looking for this dog, he came looking for us. Literally. Look for a post soon about our new doggie, Biscuit.  He is heaven-sent!

5. Greek culture and all things Greek fascinate me.  I love Greek food, Greek art, Greek architecture, and ancient Greece. OPA!  I think Greek people are the most attractive people in the world. I wish I was Greek. I even considered converting to Greek Orthodox, but some of their beliefs were…complicated.

6.  All my shoes are either brown or black. My flip-flops are brown or black.  Even my slippers are black.  I have a pair of green Columbia canvas shoes, and I hardly ever wear them.  When I wear them my feet feel “loud”.  Weird, I know.

7. I hate canned green peas. Actually, hate isn’t a strong enough word, I loathe canned green peas.  They make me sick just to smell them. My husband loves them and will eat them right out of the can.  YUCK! If I must eat green peas, I can only tolerate fresh ones that are sparsely scattered in a salad.  But if they are cooked and mushy – NO WAY!

There it is!  Seven unknown facts about me.   But wait, it isn’t over.

The rules of ‘The Versy’ state that I must pass the award on to 5 other bloggers. This part is easy as my place in the blogoshpere is kind of small. Chances are if you read my blog regularly or occasionally, you are very likely a winner. 🙂

Good in Parts…“S. Le” is a quirky British librarian worker who enjoys drinking coffee. She writes about her home, family, cats, work, food, and anything in between.  I admire her bravery to name her children, Art Major, Benny the Troll, and Cute Daughter.  She is so clever and unusual!

Jean Has Been Shopping Jean blogs about her family, their awesome vacations, and makes Photoshopping look so easy.  Her vlogs are fun to watch, too.  I just know hanging out and shopping with Jean would be an adventure.

I Am The Cheese  Planetross is a Canadian living in Japan who is gifted with creatively using words and wordplay in his posts.  He never ceases to amaze me with the combinations of words he uses.  His writing (usually accompanied by a single photograph) will motivate you to think of things you never would have thought.  Planetross was right when he said, “I’m not trying to make people think … I’m trying to make people think like me. hee hee!”

The Girl from the Ghetto.  All I can say is this girl from the ghetto rocks!  Not only does she read a gazillion books in an entire month, but she devotes time to write an excellent review.  Amazing!  Her reviews are so fantastic, she encourages even me to read, and I read two to three books annually at best!   Please, someone give this woman a job to write book reviews!  GG is also up on the latest in pop-culture, television, and my favorite – reality show celebrities.

Aarti Paarti Aarti Sequeira’s food blog and cooking videos were popular before she won The Next Food Network Star.  I enjoy watching her cooking show on Food Network, but I love her more – simply because of her blog.  Her delicious recipes and personal writing style keep me coming back to see what she is doing next. In addition to food, Aarti often writes about life, her husband, and most importantly, God. Her honesty about her Creator is what I admire most about her.  She is so inspiring!

At last, my duties as a Versatile Blogger award winner are fulfilled.

Thanks again for the award, Christy and congrats to all my winners!

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Ratatouille rocks!

Sunday, I happened to be traveling in my car during a broadcast of a radio program about food called The Splendid Table.  Lynne Rossetto Kasper, the program’s hostess, was about to introduce a guest to discuss a rustic French stew called ratatouille. I was familiar with the dish, but I had never eaten it.  This I had to hear.

Francis Lam was the guest and he discussed his special method of making ratatouille.  I wasn’t really intrigued with his method, I don’t have time to stand and stir tomatoes into a jam-like consistency for let’s say, an hour.  However, I was intrigued with making my own ratatouille.  Now to find the best recipe, and of course, one that was easy.

Not only did I find an easy ratatouille recipe,  I also discovered a fabulous website about sustainable cooking, called Sustainable Pantry.com.   I followed the recipe as instructed and combined basil, thyme and marjoram for the mixture of herbes de Provence.  I must boast and add that the marjoram was the kicker!  Definitely glad I used it.

OH MY! It was so delicious! I didn’t know what to expect from a mixture of onions, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini, but I never thought it would taste so good!  Perhaps I was just very hungry.  Food often taste better when you are famished.  Regardless, I just had to write about it!

If you are looking for an end-of-the-summer meal, perhaps for a meatless Monday dinner, ratatouille might be a hit. Watch the movie, too. Ratatouille is one of my favorite Pixar films.

But if you have any picky eaters in your family, particularly those who don’t like onions, peppers, eggplant and zucchini, you could get lucky and end up having it all to yourself.  Like me.

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The search is over

When my dad’s family gather, my dad and his sister will reminisce about their mother’s (my grandma) brown sugar pie.  I had never heard of a brown sugar pie until they mentioned it.  My grandmother was not an elaborate cook by any means, but she did have a knack for making certain dishes – brown sugar pie being one of them.

Since there was only a memory of the pie and no recipe, I had to search for one and then offer it to my dad for the taste-test.  The recipes I used were found on the Internet with everyone claiming their recipe was the best.  I found out that this was not true – in my opinion.  It sounds like a simple recipe, but the different variations in ingredients can make or break the outcome of the pie.  The first one I made bombed – too sweet.  The second pie was runny.  

I began to lose hope that I would find the best brown sugar pie recipe…until yesterday.  The Washingtonian‘s Ann Limpert published an article about  pastry chef Lisa Scruggs’ brown sugar pie recipe.  Her Canadian father made the pie every Christmas.  This recipe sounded promising and fortunately, it included ingredients that I had on-hand.

Last night, I made a pie and a tart. I even made the pie crust, which I have never done before.  The pie will be for my dad and the tart was for us (me).  So far, in less than twelve hours, I have eaten half the tart all by myself.  It is safe to say that this brown sugar pie recipe is the best!

Why am I determined to find a good recipe and make a pie for my dad?  Well, because I love my grandma (who passed away in 1999), and I love my dad. 

Happy Father’s Day!

Lisa Scruggs’ Brown Sugar Pie

Makes one 8-inch pie.

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 heaping tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 disk pie dough (half the recipe below)
1 8-inch tart pan
Heavy cream or vanilla ice cream (optional)
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine all the ingredients (except the pie dough and ice cream or heavy cream) in the bowl of a stand mixer, and mix on medium speed for two minutes. Roll out the pie dough, press it into the tart pan, and trim off any excess dough around the edges. Pour the brown sugar mixture into the pie shell and bake for 35 minutes, or until the crust is lightly browned and the filling has set. Remove from the oven and let cool. Slice and serve with heavy cream or ice cream.   
 
Pie Crust Dough
Makes enough dough for two 8-inch pies.

1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
4 ounces of cold butter, cubed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup ice water

Put all the ingredients except for the water in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Blend until the butter is incorporated. When the dough just begins to come together, keep the mixer running and quickly pour in the ice water. Mix until the dough is blended. Divide the dough into two balls, flatten them into disks, and wrap them in wax paper and plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

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