Thursday, August 14, 2014

We're Expecting A New Member of The Family Soon So I'll Share Something Happy for A Change (and a reflection: My St. Louis, Missouri Today . . . My Gary, Indiana circa 1970s)

Well, we're preparing for the arrival of our newest member of the family in three weeks. My heart is melting over this. As you all know, Dr. Thyme and I have suffered several losses of our most cherished pets. And with each loss, we felt an emptiness that was difficult to overcome. Very. Difficult. Lots of tears. The last loss, Merlin, was perhaps the tipping point. The point at which we both looked at each other and said, Gee, it'd be great to have a dog for its entire life: from puppyhood to adulthood. Because truth be told, the time we have to share a life with a dog is never long enough.

 We've had many discussions over the next family member--where to go, what we'd like (a Great Pyrenees for sure), how we'd manage the transition. Bringing a new pet into our family is not something we take lightly. At one point in our shared life, we had twelve dogs! How we managed that, I have no idea. But we did. And now we are a family of two canines. One seventeen or so (we don't know exactly), one almost eight or so (we don't know her age exactly either). We know we'd be devastated if anything happened to either one of them. We are also not in the position to be left as a one dog household. Ever. 

After much hand wringing and back and forth discussion, both of us felt we needed to bring a puppy into our home. I've fretted and followed many Great Pyr puppy "people" for several years now. Cautious of the number of litters I'd see being offered, and how quickly the next showed up. I did NOT want a puppy mill experience. I'd watch from afar as the babies found new homes and their stories were told. For years I've done this. And always the Great Pyrenees. We've rescued three so far. 

It was a relief to finally meet the breeder I felt most comfortable with. And mommy of the litter and daddy of the litter. Mommy the most lovable, hugging bear of a dog I'd ever seen. Actually standing to give me a hug as I was invited into the home. Then was introduced to the "babies".

And my heart just melted--all over again! I could have simply lay down with the mom and her pups and been content forever right there. I felt a happiness vibe like I'd not had in years. I was simply beside myself with joy. Yes. We will take her! But she still has to have some time with mom, so in three weeks is when she arrives. 

Now what to call her? Dr. Thyme and I, how to say this, well, we had some disagreement about names. I had one thought, he had his thoughts. Then finally we came to a conclusion and decision together: Millie. Here name will be Millie--or we hope so. (A special name to me.) And one for which DH could live with. (Compromise in a marriage is really important.) We are giddy with anticipation.

I'd like to have Millie (or whatever we finally decide) trained to be a therapy dog to visit people in the hospital. As a breed, Great Pyrs are gentle giants. Very independent and wholly protective of their owners and property. I've always wanted to help people with long hospital stays with dog therapy. I remember my long hospital stay (from a dog bite) and how lonely those hours were as I waited for the next "visit" from the doctor/nurse or simply anyone. These dogs light up a room, not just as puppies but in their adult years as well. (I also remember my mother's last days in the hospital--a dog visiting her would have been just the ticket for her to smile.)      

I'll keep you posted as the homecoming nears. Puppy selfies will be abundant!

And now for the here and now.

It's hard to believe what I am seeing on the news: police in riot gear. Tear gas. All over again.
 I simply need this space to express what is in my heart. 

Tragedy and grief unfolded here when a young, unarmed man was shot by a policeman over the weekend--an unimaginable thing for the parents and loved ones to endure. For anyone to endure. And now, headlines and more headlines: anger, frustration and demands for justice. Racial tension. Like an echo chamber from the past. I'm having flashbacks of another time in my life--only this time the pictures are in color and personal accounts are being shared via social media. The up-close and personal nature of the entire crisis is surreal. 

I returned home late the other night after a meeting to a phone call with my sister--who lives in Chicago--saying she's worried for my "safety". God love her. Then I calmly reminded her of what I witnessed growing up in Gary, Indiana during the race riots of the sixties and seventies. Of school closings because of racial tensions. Of images of these riots being played over and over again on the news and of police force being used to bring calm to the streets. Of the fear. Of the up close and personal nature of these events: my returning to class to see crude epitaphs spray painted on the the lockers and walls, of broken glass, of nervous teachers trying to create a sense of normalcy for us. It was important to return to class--to routine. No time to clean the walls. Get the children back to class and into a safe environment. Then I reminded her of the three times we moved--I changed schools three times before junior high because we were part of the white flight. And, well, that's what a lot of families in Gary, Indiana were doing at that time. Segregation. I still bear scars from those upheavals today. (There are no long lasting friendship bonds from that time in my life either--because making friends and leaving them didn't allow for much bonding to take place.) Now in my fifties, I thought I'd lived through and seen the worst of times. That it could never happen again. My little safe haven: Missouri. 

I don't know when calm will ensue here. This could take months, even years. As Dr. Thyme and I were discussing the headlines this morning, he was reminded of a quote and I thought it was perfect for this moment:
The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.
--Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Vegan Heirloom Tomato Devil's Food Cake with Fluffy White Buttercream Frosting (Yup, it's chocolate and tomatoes . . . and my rollerblading/knitting escapades)

If you think you're a purist with chocolate, like I am, you may very well look askance at the very idea of tomatoes and chocolate and tsk-tsk this recipe away. Well don't. It's rich, decadent, moist, chocolate-y and has a to-die-for crumb. Top it off with a luscious vegan buttercream frosting and you'll be sooo happy your kitchen has become tomato central--you'll keep this cake in your weekly rotation. . . because the world would be a much better place if we all sat down and had a piece of cake at least once a week. Right now, we're on the "daily" piece of cake ration plan.
 Happiness ensues. 

The tomatoes starting rolling in about three weeks ago. And they haven't stopped. Something had to be done. And with tomatoes coming in by the bucketfuls, I've made every iteration of pasta you can imagine. No. Seriously. I have. Basil's the same way--coming in by the bunches! Normally, I would never in a million years complain about eating pasta. Ever. It's in my DNA to love it: Croatian/Italian--we LOVE our pasta. But a woman has her limits.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Vegan Brown Butter Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (. . . and summer canning tips for the "cherry" obsessed)

This is one of those recipes that came about because another oatmeal raisin cookie recipe didn't. I was insane to bake today in this ninety degree gawdawful heat. Cravings have priority. While I was at it--baking, that is, I whipped up some cinnamon raisin bread, too. It was a little steamy in here. (Something about the cinnamon being out made me crave the bread. But I don't know.) I can barely concentrate enough to stay on task going from one room to the next. But somehow today I was able to accomplish both bread and cookies thanks to a little cinnamon-obsessed moment.  

I think of the oatmeal cookie in the way I was raised to think of them: chewy. There are other schools of thought on the matter of oatmeal cookies. And I won't eat them. You know who you are: dry and crumbly. Save that for the shortbread cookies. So after one huge, messy kitchen cookie disaster, I did what any other woman would do, I baked another batch of cookies again, only this time, I wasn't messing around. And brown butter showed up to take these to the next level of yum. It wasn't on purpose, sort of a happy accident with the butter. I wasn't paying attention. But it worked, okay?   

Friday, July 4, 2014

Vegan Black Raspberry Cobbler with Biscuit Thick Crust (Heirloom Amish Recipe. . . and your mother was right: Always. Wear. Sunscreen!)

This week: bake, eat, bake some more, run, garden, pet the dogs and bake again--oh and attend a medical procedure for DH. This cobbler is a result of what happens with a black raspberry patch that's gone amok and a whole lot of stress on the side. The cobbler is an old recipe from one of my mother's Amish cookbooks. Growing up in Indiana, many of our summer trips involved a visit to Amish country. Mom was into the Amish. Though I don't think she'd trade her modern conveniences like electricity (powering her sunlamps!) for the whole "Amish" way. Ever. 

A huge black raspberry crop showed up in our yard this summer. (I have the remnants from the thorns all over my upper arm to prove it--a small price to pay for enjoying these delicious fruits.) We had no trouble devouring them. On my last trip down the hill, I had harvested about four cups of berries. I knew immediately they'd be made into a cobbler (one of DH's favorites). Problem was, I didn't know which recipe I'd use. About ten years ago, I had used this same Amish recipe, but with the traditional butter/fat/and a TON of sugar--the recipe called for. Not this time. I whole-grained the crust up and then cut back on the sugar and of course, used vegan butter. The result was pure heaven. You should check to be sure you have some vegan ice cream on hand. Pretty much mandatory for finishing this dish.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Homemade Dill Pickles (fast. . . no canning required!)

So far I've made three batches of homemade dill pickles. Every morning I go into the garden, there's a another "surprise" cucumber. This is my best cucumber crop yet. A few years back, my first pickling disaster was so salty, it nearly required eating a pound of bananas to offset the spike in my sodium levels. A detox from dill pickles then ensued. This recipe is forgiving and allows for some latitude in the amount of salt you'd like. I prefer my pickles a little more briny and less salty.

 The cucumber season has been plentiful. I planted about six seeds back in April indoors. They were about two or three years old. Truth be told, cucumber seeds will produce better the older they are. (When they fall off the cliff in terms of their germination rate, I have no idea--but I had read this fact about the cuke seeds and fortunately for me, I am always saving seeds.) Thus, I am experiencing my first "old cucumber seed" bonanza this summer.
 At first, I wasn't sure I'd have room for them--they spread and like tons of garden space. If you're savvy about it and have the "energy"--they will climb a trellis. I skipped the trellis. But I did give them plenty of room to grow. I have pickling cucumbers and slicers. The difference being, one is for pickling (obviously). The pickling cukes are smaller and quite prolific producers. I companion planted them with two bronze fennel/dill plants and zucchini. I love the bronze fennel against the bright green of the other foliage. Companion planting tip: always plant dill with your cucumbers!  

Grab some pickling cucumbers the next time you're at the farmers' market. Then rush home and make these dill pickles. Or next  year, plan ahead and plant your own cukes. They are incredibly easy to grow and will do well in containers, too. The best cucumbers are made from the most freshly picked cucumbers. Ask the grower when the pickles were picked. 

Ask if Peter Piper picked them. . . just get them as fresh as you can.

Grab some pickling spices. The difference in your pickle flavor will be amazing. The McCormick's brand is the one I used. 

Because you aren't using a water bath canning method to make these pickles, they are only good for about four-five days in the fridge (if they last that long). Store them in a glass container with a lid and enjoy!

Homemade Dill Pickles 
*Adapted from Rachael Ray

3-4 pickling cucumbers sliced on the diagonal about 1/2" thick
1 cup white vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cloves garlic minced
2 T. fresh dill chopped
2 tsp. pickling spice

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, add vinegar, sugar and salt and bring just to a boil. In a medium bowl--one that is a bit flat (so the cucumbers can be submerged in the vinegar to soak up all the goodness) add your cucumbers, garlic, fresh dill, and pickling spices--toss together in a bowl. Pour the warm vinegar mixture over all of this. Carefully toss the pickles around a bit to make sure the pickles all have a chance to soak up this yummy mixture. Store them in the fridge. These are better after they've had a chance to cool. *Note: if you taste the mixture and feel there needs to be more salt, just sprinkle more over the pickle/vinegar mixture.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Blogger Photo Restoration Complete! (How I Fixed the Google Plus "Mess"-- You're Welcome)

I am not going to tell you the last few days has been easy. A nightmare is more like it. (Felt like I was trapped in a cage with spider monkeys.) This "blog photo disappearing act" tragedy has happened to other blogspot bloggers. I feel your pain and possibly this made me even more determined to find a solution to this mess that nearly wiped out SIX YEARS of my digital life. Here's a caveat to remember: if you are going to blog on a free platform, recognize there are risks you take in doing so. I don't claim to know the inner workings of Google any more than the next person. However, I sort of have an "in" with regard to how search works (those digital footprints and detritus)--and his name is Dr. Thyme. So to you DH for these little monster moments you had to endure as I sat feverishly plucking my blog posts from cyberspace (dear god, over 450 of them)--thank you for your patience and understanding--and tissue-box-replacer man.

I hope in sharing my story, I am able to help at least one more person who may experience a similar meltdown, er, "problem". Or prevent the same disaster from happening to someone else.

Now for the details--and this is not complicated, but is very time consumptive:  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

We Have A Problem. . .

Well. I think this may be my official "undoing." It appears the entire six years of photo history within my blog has been wiped away. All except those I decided NOT to delete in Google+. Why, may you ask, would you EVER do that? Delete photos. To save space, silly. I had moved my photos from my phone onto Google+ (to shore up more space on my phone--like you are supposed to do, like you are told to do). While doing so, decided, well, since I was "in there," may as well free up more space in Google+, because wouldn't that be nice to free up space for Google? So I deleted some photos of "old food" and whatnot. Years. Of. Food. And. Whatnot. . .GONE.

Never, never realizing for one single moment that I had just deleted 99.9 of my blog photo history. Because I am prone to hysterics, and yes, you could say I am near hysterical right now, I called my DH. Oh no, he said. When he says "oh no," this is very bad.


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