Sunday, December 31, 2006

update, day 9

First of all, many, many thanks to you all for your encouragement and suggestions. It is so wonderful to know that my little guy is being prayed for and cared about, all across the country.

From now on, my posts about Simba's recovery will be a bit more sparse, because progress is expected to be very sloooowwww. In about 8 months, we'll know what his final condition is going to be.

The good news today is that I'm seeing more tail action! This morning when I asked him if he wanted to go out, he got excited and wagged his tail quite a bit as he waited for me to get bundled up to take him out. He looks almost like his old self when he does that ... if his wagging doesn't destabilize him so he has to sit down suddenly.

Yesterday, we were sitting together upstairs, me working away at my desk, him sitting at the head of the stairs. He often sleeps there; his bed is just steps away so usually he's in it sleeping, or on the floor at the head of the stairs sleeping. He's 11 years old, you know, so sleeping occupies a very high percentage of his time even under normal circumstances.

So, the Huz was sitting at the end of the dining room table that's visible from the head of the stairs (open floor plan house), and for some reason Simba decided to go downstairs. I had thought that the fact the stairs are polished wood would deter him. I could understand why he felt he could manage the stairs to the basement, which are carpeted, but wooden stairs? Going down?

I called out, "Simba! No! Stay!" which was the wrong thing to do. He turned his head to look at me and tried to stop, but ended up sliding butt-first down the stairs as I watched helplessly. The Huz jumped up and grabbed him as he neared the bottom and carried him up the stairs to me. Oh. My. Gosh. I was so upset, concerned, worried. Hovering, asking, examining, crying.

Simba, on the other hand, was fine. And now there are pillows on the first step at the top of the stairs. Which didn't prevent him from contemplating going down them again later in the evening, but he's a good dog and went and laid down when I warned him "no."

Tonight, we're going to leave him at home alone for the first time since the incident. He will be quarantined on the first floor, with boxes at the bottom of the stairs up, and door closed to the basement stairs. Door to spare bedroom closed, check. Sofa cushions upended diagonally so he can't jump up there, check. Doggie bed on the nice carpet under the dining room table, check. Food & water, check. Rawhide chewie available, check. Go out to do his business just before leaving, check.

Despite best efforts, worry, check.

Friday, December 29, 2006

update, day 7

This is an update on the health of our courageous little dog who suffered a spinal cord injury. If you'd like to follow the story sequentially, start here. To see beautiful photos of him before the incident, go here.

Perhaps the most challenging thing about having Simba on the injured list, beyond the wistfulness of watching him as he is now and remembering him as he was, is that he doesn't know what he's not supposed to do.

This morning, I had to warn him to stop as he made as if to jump off the bed again. I took him outside to do his "business" and had to hurry to catch him before he attempted jumping up on the deck, which is higher than his head. The one time he beat me to it, a few days ago, he got his top half onto the deck and hung there, looking at me like, "Why aren't my legs working?" while I hurried to him and worried about what that posture was doing to his spinal cord.

Before I went down to the basement to put some wood on the fire in our wood/oil combination furnace (fabulous invention, that), I tried to Simba-proof the ground floor. I blocked the way to the upstairs stairs with cardboard boxes, turned all the couch cushions up diagonally so he wouldn't try to jump up there, and shut the door to the basement nearly all the way, just leaving it open a crack so he would be able to hear that I wasn't going out into the garage and leaving him. A few minutes later, I heard him coming down the stairs. Aargh! I ran to try to stop him, and he was frightened and started back up the stairs. Double aargh! "It's OK, Simba, it's OK, stay, buddy."

How many times in his life have I wished that he understood English, so I could just say, "If you run out in the street you could be killed, and it's not necessary to guard me from the Huz when he hugs me, and in winter only go about half as far as you want to because you still need to get yourself back before you freeze, and of COURSE if you eat snow while you're out there you're going to end up shivering like a maniac, and not all buzzy insects are bees so you can just ignore them, and please just give a bark when you get to the back door so I'll notice you're there," not to mention all the mundane things I could tell him, like, "I'll be back in fifteen minutes, just have a nap and you'll never even notice I'm gone."

How much more do I wish I could tell him that he's going to continue to improve, but he needs to avoid motions that put a lot of torque on his back for a couple of more weeks. Just a couple more weeks, buddy. I won't be carrying you like a baby forever. And if you take it easy now, you just may be able to chase squirrels again someday.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

update, day 6

This is an update on the health of our courageous little dog who suffered a spinal cord injury. If you'd like to follow the story sequentially, start here. To see beautiful photos of him before the incident, go here.

Hello, everyone, I apologize for not giving you news of Simba sooner. We returned from our family visit the day after Christmas, and then yesterday morning I made a followup appointment with the vet for the afternoon, so I wanted to wait till I heard what he had to say before giving you an update. Here it is.

Yesterday marked five days after the accident. Every day, we've seen some small improvement in his ability to get around. At first his left leg was strongest; his right seemed totally dead, then he was putting weight on it but was dragging it, and then he began planting his right foot a little bit with each step. At first he only dragged his hind end, then he stood up, then he took a few steps, and now he can walk a fair distance before sitting down (although there's a fair bit of listing to one side, and if he doesn't keep moving, his hind end will eventually pull itself over onto the ground). When he stands still, for instance to sniff the wind, he braces himself with his left leg and after a while doesn't seem to notice that his hips are leaning, until they drag him into a sitting position. At first his sweet puffy tail was totally being dragged, then he was able to lift it out of the way a little bit when he needed to, and then we saw it go above half mast. Today I left him with the Huz for the first time since the accident to do some much-needed grocery shopping. When I returned, I saw a few honest-to-goodness tail wags, and for the first time saw it curve over his back a little bit. It did my heart such good!

He totally wants to do stairs and jump down from things, and he mustn't. Two nights ago in the middle of the night he jumped off our bed, which is pretty tall, and CLUNKed down onto the wood floor. Scared me spitless, but he picked himself up and was ready to go outside. Sometimes he gets up on his hind legs as if he wants to jump up onto the couch but hasn't the strength. Often he makes to jump off the couch; I have to watch him closely if he's sitting up there with me and I absolutely do not put him up there by himself any more. Yesterday when we returned from the vet, he got ahead of me and started up the carpeted stairs from the basement to the ground floor. He was halfway up the stairs before I could stop him. He's game, this little dog!

The vet believes he's going to have some permanent impairment but can't say how much. The fact that he's still impaired 5 days later indicates that some of the nerve cells have died so the messages aren't getting from his brain to his legs. Nerve cells can regrow, but there's no guarantee that they will. Their growth rate is usually about 1 millimeter per day, or about an inch per month. Based on where he shows sensitivity to touch on his spine, he has six to eight inches of damaged nerves, so in truth we won't know his final state for six months to a year.

But you know what? If he never gets any better than the way he is now, he's still my sweet little dog. He still loves me with all his heart, as I do him, and he is still happiest when I'm with him. He still enjoys getting his little dog bone treats, and trots them crookedly down the hallway to eat them on the one rug he's allowed to leave crumbs on. He's excited to see me, excited to see his dog dish filled, pleased to go outside, and content to sleep his days away when I'm busy. He's eating and drinking now, and he doesn't need surgery, and he doesn't have to be put to sleep, and I know I don't have to tell you how very relieved and grateful I am for every bit of him that's come back from the brink, but most especially for that last bit of good news.

So, we'll continue to care for him as best we can, tapering him off the steroids and pain meds and watching to see if that causes any problems. We'll barricade him from the stairs for another couple of weeks, and then cautiously let him start to try them. We'll love him and encourage him with excited exclamations and pick him up to carry him to the parts of the yard he can manage, standing out in the cold all bundled up because we want him to have a much time as he wants outside the house. In a few days, I'm going to try taking him on short walks; the vet says dogs are naturals at giving themselves physical therapy and walking is a good thing as long as we pay attention when he says he's done. And we'll continue to pray, and if you are so inclined, we would be grateful for you to do the same as he comes to mind. Please drop us a line if you do so. Your prayers and caring are so precious to us these days.

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

update, day 3

The short version is: the news is good. Here's the long version.

Yesterday, I skipped his 5pm pain meds in hopes he would perk up and want to eat something. He did perk up, but food was still of no interest. I was cooking dinner and talking on the phone with a friend who cares about Simba when the Huz called out to me to look at him. There he was, standing up on all four legs, just briefly before he plopped back down. I've noticed before that I left him in one position and came back and found him in another, but I had assumed that he had dragged himself. This was the first time I've let myself hope he might recover from this incident.

Because he hadn't been taking much in the way of liquids, I didn't try to take him out in the cold, wet darkness last night to see if he wanted to potty. I was a little concerned about that, but he's always had a bladder of iron, going incredibly long hours without peeing, and really, he'd had maybe 3 ounces of liquid all day, and all of that under protest.

I got up at 4:30 this morning to give him his anti-inflammatory meds, and noticed that his tummy was very hard and he seemed uncomfortable. When I asked him if he wanted to go outside, he immediately started hauling himself up on his front legs and moving toward the edge of the bed. I had to lunge for him to keep him from falling off the edge. So, up, get on a robe & slippers, and out we went. I carried him over to the edge of the yard because this little guy is very good about not making messes in the yard itself. I put him down & steadied him, thinking he would try to go right there in the grass. Imagine my shock and delight and amazement and tears when he began walking toward the forest! It was a grotesque gait, lots of leaning and adjusting, but didn't he just use both legs to get himself into the leafy forest bottom and proceed to pee for a long, long time! He couldn't keep his leg lifted, but he stood there like a rock till he was done, then turned toward me as tears streamed down my face and walked over to where I stood and sat down at my feet, tired. Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh. I carried him back into the house and decided the Huz needed to hear about this, so carried Simba into the spare bedroom. Poor Huz, he had heard my sobbing and was about to have a heart attack thinking something terrible had happened. So, we both rejoiced and I went upstairs with Simba and had dreams about him moving around almost normally.

This morning he still won't eat, but twice he got up and walked from one spot to another. I spoke to an on-call vet and she said small distances with lots of rest between is OK. She suggested we buy him some canned cat food, a variety of flavors. Turns out cat food has more protein and fat in it than dog food, so he can get more nutrition in small amounts. It also can cause diarrhea, but since he's only 12 pounds normally and probably losing some of that, we need to take the chance. She also told me how to tell if he's getting dehydrated, and I did the tests immediately and he's doing OK with that.

So, it might be weeks or even months before we know to what extent he's going to recover from this, but the outlook appears to be quite positive for at least a partial recovery!

As you can tell by my request for prayers, I do believe in God. Last night as I was thanking him for Simba's gradual healing, I was reminded of how very often He has answered prayers for Simba. Back in the days when I was his dogsitter rather than his owner, and he was new to our property, he would occasionally get so far into the forest that I had no clue where he was. I would worry about him and call him and get no response whatsoever. Looking out the upstairs windows to try to see further up the hill and not seeing him, I would pray that he not be lost or hurt and that God would send him home because I didn't want to have to tell Pete that I'd lost his little dog. And, I'm not exaggerating, with a minute I would see him come bulleting down that hill toward me, happy as can be. And I would say to him, "You don't know it, little guy, but you've been touched by the hand of God." This happened twice, that I can remember.

I think God's touching him again, right where he needs it. (To those of you who are skeptical that God cares about animals, read the book of Jonah closely.)

P.S. We've decided it's safe to travel with him, so I'll be away tonight and tomorrow. I'll post another update as soon as I can. Thank you again for your concern and prayers! It is so wonderful to have friends, both near and far, to share life's important events with.

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

update, day 2

Thank you so much for your comforting comments. I've heard others say that the support of the blogging world has been so meaningful to them, but I've never had such need of it as today and I must say, even though I've never met most of you, it really does mean a lot to me that you're reading and caring and praying.

Simba's left leg is a little stronger today. He can bear weight on it, although not without help because his right leg is still pretty useless. But he hasn't lost sensation, so all this is good news. The vet said if we're going to see any improvement, it will start during the first 24 hours, and if he does recover fully it will happen slowly. We may be in that situation; too early to tell.

He's very groggy, though, from the pain meds, and he's refusing food and water. He hasn't had a drink or anything to eat since yesterday morning, and he's not eliminating anything either. This morning the vet suggested that I withhold his pain meds, which are making him drowsy and also can upset his stomach, and see if he perks up and eats anything. He had them at 5 this morning, though, and they're 12-hour meds, so it won't be till this evening that we might see some improvement. Meantime I've found a little water bottle that I can use to squirt some low-sodium chicken broth into his mouth, and he will swallow if I do that although he doesn't like it when I do. And the vet said to try putting some peanut butter on the roof of his mouth so he'll lick and swallow that.

So, here's my sick little guy, ears down, eyes at half mast, nearly immobile in his bed. I considered not taking his picture, since he doesn't like it. But I want some pictures of him in these times, either as a memento if I lose him, or just as a remembrance if he recovers.

Please keep praying. Thank you so much.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

please pray for simba

This morning Simba suffered a spinal cord injury as he was chasing a squirrel. His hind quarters have been paralyzed ever since. The vet gave him a steroid shot to reduce swelling of the spinal cord, and a pain shot, and now we're hourly checking his hind feet for a pain response. So far, so good, we squeeze his little toe and he tells us he can feel it. If he stops feeling the pinch, it means nerve cells are dying and he will need emergency surgery. Please pray for him. It is breaking my heart to see him like this.

The rest of the story

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

caption not-contest #6 recap

As usual, we had some very fun entries in the caption not-contest last week.

Lynne thought Simba was feeling imperious: "Hey! Put down the camera and let me in! This isn't powdered sugar I'm sitting on, you know."

Elle gave her Simba a slightly sarcastic tone, "Yes, I want you to open the door. I left my opposable thumbs with the snowman."

Faith-in-Capitalism thought Simba was suffering from the dread stuck-lip syndrome:

(1st photo)
*snuffle, pppttthhhbbbbttt, snort, puh-puh-puh*

(2nd photo)
My lips are still stuck.

Ilsa exercised vicariously (her favorite way), with:

"and now for the neck exercises, up and back, now, and one, and two, and one and two! feel the burn!"

And Barbara, knowing full well Simba's disdain for stardom, adds:

(1st photo)
"Alright, where is she? Hey, I'm sitting on snow, my butt is cold, where are you? I hope she;s not getting that camera again..... "

(2nd photo)
"Oh there you are.....taking more pictures of me (again). I know it's hard to resist but .... *Flash* OK you got your picture, now let me in!"

Thanks, everyone, for joining in the fun, you guys are awesome! Sorry it's taken me a while to get this thing up. On top of the busyness of the season, I've just entered into a contract to do quite a bit of work for a client (hurray!), so you can expect to see fewer posts from me over the next few months ... although I do hope to keep up with my regular Cloudy Mondays and Wordless Wednesdays at least. Hope to see you here!

more pictures of Simba

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Sunday, December 17, 2006

meringue cookies

The Huz and I started our marriage with the idealistic view that we would share chores equally, and that whatever chore needed doing would be done by whoever was available and able to do it. In other words, gender wasn't going to determine OUR roles, nosiree!

But, of course, the heavy lifting really needed to be done by the Huz, and his interest in cooking was just about nil but I enjoyed it, so things started to shift and settle a bit. When we were both working full time, at the same workplace no less, we ate out most weeknights, and quite a bit of our weekend meals as well. And our deal was, if one person cooked a meal, the other did the cleanup. It was a fair deal, and one we mostly lived by. Not particularly onerous, because if either one of us didn't care to shoulder our portion of the deal ... out to eat we went. No problem.

But gradually over the years, things shifted and settled more. He did the outdoors work, I did the indoors work. He took out the garbage, I did the grocery shopping. He grew the food, I grew the flowers. And before we knew it, we had a nearly perfect traditional division of labor. It's really pretty funny.

But there's one way in which our roles are reversed of the traditional, firmly and apparently permanently: he's the chocolate lover in the family. The only dessert that will tempt him away from chocolate is a creme brulee/caramel, with the occasional exceptional fruit pie or vanilla ice cream ... but even the ice cream usually has chocolate sauce on it!

As for me, give me a sugary treat nearly every time. I love jawbreakers, plain sugar cubes, sugar cookies, and, yup, meringues. I do make the occasional chocolate detour, usually to something that includes salty peanuts. But my heart's just not in it in the same way the Huz's is.

I discovered meringue cookies when I saw a package of these beauties from Miss Meringue at our local cooperative food store. At about 8 or 9 calories per cookie, they're a dieter's dream, IF you're the sort of person who can stop at just a few. I had to stop buying them, though, because I couldn't stop myself eating a 5-oz tub of these light & lovelies in two sittings (or less)!

(That's my solution to all my addictions: they're not allowed in my house. If we receive them as gifts, they go to work with The Huz. If I make something that I realize is likely to be impossible for me to resist, it goes to work with The Huz. Fortunately, we no longer share a workplace! I don't know what I'll do if he ever retires. Perhaps by then I'll have matured enough to have some will power!)

Anyway, when I was looking for something yummy to put in Christmas treat bags this year, I decided to try my hand at meringues. And lo, they were good, and I ended up taking them to parties, too (along with the pictured incredible chocolate Soho Globs, which I will find time to blog very soon, work and holiday schedule permitting).

Not having made them before, of course I set about searching the web to learn the scoop, and I found a wonderful article at Because the article is so comprehensive, I will just link to it here, and add a few comments. Please go read The Article now!

Are we back? Then here's what I learned that I can add. As you've just read, the basic approach is to whip up the meringues, put them on a baking sheet, and bake them very slowly, with several hours more drying time at the end. I discovered that you can extend the baking time slightly to cut down on the drying time quite a bit. I had these largish meringues and baked them for an extra half hour, so that rather than leaving them overnight I could just leave them for about four additional hours of drying at the end.

I also discovered that the larger size is not great for eating out of hand, because the cookies are so crumbly. My second batch was made bite-size. I added a bit of pink food coloring to the second batch when I was about halfway through pressing them out onto the baking sheet, so I had a lovely combination of pink ones and white ones. I'm sorry I don't have a picture of that batch.

And, finally, feel free to place your meringues cheek-to-jowl, as long as they're not actually touching. They don't spread, and it doesn't increase the drying time as far as I can tell.

Making these meringues was simple, but amazing pleasurable. Following the directions carefully, you end up with the most beautiful, glossy mixture to put into your pastry bag for piping. It was a pleasure to watch it develop in my mixing dish. I don't know, there was just something so beautiful and pure about it. And with only three ingredients, any kitchen except one resembling the Huz's bachelor kitchen will most likely have the ingredients on hand. It takes time, but not a heck of a lot of effort. Give it a try and let me know if you enjoyed the process too! (Not to mention enjoying the end result, which looks as if you worked a lot harder than you actually did!)

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

creamy mints

I'm making a variety of items for a treat bag to drop in stockings on Christmas eve, and am I ever having fun! The bags will have an old favorite, honeyed walnuts, one purchased item (espresso coffee beans), and a couple of new recipes. This is one of them. It's so easy, so delicious, and fun to put together besides. I made the pink ones today, in wintergreen flavor, and also plan to make some pretty green ones in peppermint.
3 oz cream cheese, softened
½ tsp flavoring (wintergreen, peppermint, or something adventurous?)
food coloring if desired
~3 cups powdered sugar
granulated sugar

Mix the cream cheese, the flavoring, and the food coloring. Gradually add the powdered sugar until you've achieved a texture similar to a pie crust, perhaps even a bit drier. (see picture)

Pinch off a piece the appropriate size for your candy mold, roll it into a ball, and roll it in the granulated sugar. Press into the mold (press firmly if your mold has ridges like the ones above do) and then immediately unmold onto a flat surface covered with waxed paper or parchment.

(You can also just pinch, roll into a ball, roll in the granulated sugar, and press flat into a disk shape if you don't want to buy the candy molds ... but they're really inexpensive and don't they make the candies look pretty?)

You can sprinkle some granulated sugar on the paper if you'd like a little extra sugar on the bottom, but it's not necessary to prevent sticking. Allow the mints to dry for several hours; you can also put them, uncovered, in the refrigerator to dry and firm up. Store in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.
I looked all over town for wintergreen flavoring, and was about to give up when I spotted it in the King Arthur Flour store. That surprised me, because they don't have it in their online catalog. So now we know that if we want something cooking related and we don't see it in their catalog, we should call them up and inquire. They're legendary for their service, so I'm pretty sure they would ship you something from their retail store.

I've gotten most of my shopping done, but I'm still looking for stocking stuffer ideas. What are you planning to put in your loved ones' stockings? How's your shopping coming?

broccoli christmas trees, anyone?

I recently signed up to bring a dessert to a Christmas party, so when I saw the recipe for making a veggie platter look like a Christmas tree using broccoli as the tree and lots of cut little veggie cutouts for its decorations, I foolishly passed it by. Now I've agreed to switch to bringing an appetizer, and I cannot find the recipe anywhere! Help!

wordless wednesday

Hey, dog lovers! This Sunday night, we can expect to see lots of canine hijinks over at Weekend Dog Blogging at Sweetnick's place. Head on over for head shots, tummy shots, jump shots and what nots!

Follow the links in the sidebar to lots more wordless wednesdays. This is #26!

more pictures of Simba

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Geek. Dork. Nerd.

I'm a geek. When I say that, people rush to assure me that no, I am not, but I assure you, I'm proud of the fact. I love to write programs that make computers do things. When I was full-time employed at a local college, I was delighted that my office had more hardware in it than almost anyone else's. It was a virtual machine room. I am the very definition of a geek.

I am not, however, a nerd, which I think people sometimes confuse with geek and that explains why they experience surges of compassion and issue waves of reassurance when I declare my geekdom.

Tonight, though, I just may have acted like a dork.

Oh, all right, no "may have" about it. I acted like a dork. In public. Oh, yeah...

I made a late run to the local Price Chopper for a few items, enough to require a wheeled basket but not nearly enough to fill it. Price Chopper was deserted; 9:00 is a great time to go grocery shopping, as long as you don't require the attention of the people behind any of the counters other than checkout. I did have a nice chat with the produce man, who was replenishing the supply of eggplants depleted by a woman who came through just a few minutes before me and wiped them out. She told him she was making dinner for 150, a church dinner. Eggplant for 150? I hope she's prepared to find something to do with the leftovers, but what do I know? Maybe she has a fabulous recipe.

So, moving on from produce, I turned to go up the aisle toward the cough medicines, and went past someone who looked vaguely familiar. As I continued along, I realized where I had seen him. He had starred in our local professional theater's presentation of "I Am My Own Wife," a fascinating tale of a German transvestite who survived Nazi Germany. This actor played 30 different roles, switching seamlessly between them, totally convincingly. What a feat! He was truly amazing.

I believe he came here from New York City to play the role, so I was surprised to see him in the area a month after the show had closed. He was accompanied by another man of about the same age.

So, that's kind of cool, right? Running into an actor who, while not nationally famous, certainly did a wonderful, professional job during two weekends of shows locally. But I'm not one to approach people who don't know me, because I always think it would be so uncomfortable for them, that whole business about a one-way relationship where I saw and "knew" them but they have no clue who I am. When I used to deliver training campus-wide, I certainly was uncomfortable with my fame, such as it was. I would see a look of recognition on someone's face, and feel bad that I didn't remember them as they so obviously remembered me.

So I tried to behave as if I didn't realize who he was and went to get my cough syrup.

Now, the store is deserted, and they're playing Christmas songs, and I'm moving along the aisles, never seeing anyone else. So, who's going to mind if I start to whistle a little? I like to whistle. I'm pretty good at it. So, I'm whistling in counterpoint to the songs, and fooling around with little trills, kind of like those guys who do bird whistling songs on the radio, you know, really dorky. Really dorky.

And I look up and see Actor and Friend standing at the end of the aisle I'm in, grinning rather unkindly and pretending they're not laughing at this middle-aged woman bird-whistling her way down the aisles of the grocery store.



There's nothing for it but to just keep on doin' what I'm doin'. I finish up my shopping, not whistling as much because the next song isn't as counterpoint-able (really! that's why!) and check out, feeling kind of dejected, you know. I'm extra nice to the checkout clerk, wanting to demonstrate that I have social skills. As if anyone was watching.

And then, as I head out to the car, I get a grip. Yep, I'm a middle-aged, geeky, dorky, non-nerd. What can I tell ya? So get over it!

P.S. Still looking for a few more captions for my Caption Not-Contest #6!

cloudy monday #7

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

caption not-contest #6

It's been a while since we've had a caption not-contest for all you verbally creative type ... are you game for one? If so, leave a comment us all what Simba's thinking in these pictures. I know he'll appreciate your help getting his point across!

I'll do a recap later in the week.

Tonight I spent some time doing an index of Simba pictures, and added a link in my right sidebar called "Previous Simba photos." I know I will find it at least as useful as anyone else, as I'm forever following the trail of "wordless wednesdays" and other posts, trying to find a particular picture. I hope some of you who may be new to the blog will enjoy looking back at other shots of the little guy, too.
links to more simba pics

catching up

I despair of ever being able to take a picture that does justice to the beauty outside our windows on a sunny day after snow. It's so incredibly beautiful. But here's my best attempt, a goldfinch all puffed up against the cold. It's amazing that a little half-ounce bird can survive in temperatures like this. It's an intelligent design, indeed!

I feel as if I've been falling behind in my blogging, just posting pictures and brief comments and not really keeping you all "posted" on my cooking ventures. And there's a very good reason I'm feeling that way ... it's true! And today won't be the day to catch up, but that day is coming, my friends, it's coming. I want to tell you about a nutritionist I've been seeing and some thoughts about the eating changes coming from that. I've been planning some Christmas cooking and look forward to having some pictures to share, including of a new shrimp dish that will be featured regularly on our dinner table, it's so easy and yummy. I've signed up for a bread baking class December 18th, to see if I can erase my yeast bread insecurities; that will no doubt produce some fun posts. And I want to look back at the 5 food challenges meme that I joined way back at the start of the year, to see how I did with them, and perhaps think up some new ones for next year. Did you participate this year? How did you do?

So, that's what I'm planning to blog about soon. Meantime, take a look at these adorable little stocking stuffers: Egglings are available through Elsewares for only $8.95, with your choice of plant to water & grow. How cute is that?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

wordless wednesday

big red female pig with scalloped curvy earsFollow the links in the sidebar to lots more wordless wednesdays. This is #25!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


It was nice to wake up yesterday to a dusting of snow. It never looks more like powdered sugar than when it's like it is right now, just lightly dusted across the tops of the stone cupcakes and the fallen-leaf caketops.

Between the snow and the fact that the squirrels have finally returned to our yard (it must have been a banner year for nuts out in the forest, because we've seen nearly no squirrels under our birdfeeders since July, much to Simba's sorrow), Simba wanted to celebrate all day yesterday. He stood at the back door, watching all the activities and whipping his head around to stare at me intensely whenever he saw something that particularly called him outside. I must have let him out 14 times yesterday, and each time he darted across the deck and sailed off the end of it, landing and making an immediate course correction to try to catch a squirrel before it could make it up a tree or under the deck. He stayed outside for long periods, patrolling the yard for more rodents, not even noticing that the thermometer never made it up to 30. It always brings home what a thick dense coat he has when I look out there and see him sitting down on snow. The very image makes me shiver.

Today he hasn't had so much fun, because I've been feeling awful and in bed with a cold. Today he's been my comforter. Today the squirrels ate in peace. But tomorrow is another day ...

Monday, December 04, 2006

cloudy monday #6

As is so often the case with cloud photos, this one caught me completely by surprise. I was driving along and had to find a spot to pull over to I could catch this brilliance in a photo. I'm sure a pro could have gotten an even better shot, but I was just thankful that I had my camera in the car so I could preserve this memory with this one. As we head into winter, this memory of warmer days is a happy one.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

a favorite salad for the Fall Salad event

picture of spinach salad with hot bacon dressing and eggsIn the spring, we're thinking asparagus and fiddlehead ferns. In summer it's tomatoes and basil. And in the fall? Winter squash, or apples, or cold-hardy greens such as spinach. Although the weather we've had so far this fall can hardly be called cold. There are still perennials in my garden and here it is December in what we call The Frozen North! But that's neither here nor there ... (where on earth did that phrase come from, I wonder?)

Since I've blogged quite a bit about apples and butternut squash lately, I thought I would share with you today a favorite recipe for a spinach salad. It is descriptively called "Wilted Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing." When it's cold outside, I'm not usually drawn to green salads nearly as much as in the heat of summer. But with this salad, the bit of wilting and warmth from the dressing is just the thing to make you want to eat greens.

I cannot for the life of me remember where I found the recipe. But, no matter, I'm sure I've modified it beyond recognition since finding it!

I've tripled this recipe for a crowd, and served it on individual plates, with half a sliced egg and a sprinkle of bacon crumbles on top. It's a beautiful presentation that draws appreciative comments from its intended audience, and there are very few plates that come back with any salad on them when the dishes are cleared.

This is one of those dishes that comes together quickly, so it's best to have the ingredients on hand and ready to go before you start it. In particular, you want to make the dressing all in one fell swoop so it's sizzling and aromatic and ready to pour on the spinach immediately.

Speaking of aromatic, you see the step where you add the vinegar? Don't stand with your head over the skillet. It's quite potent!

So, without further ado (I'm full of medieval references today), here's the recipe for

Wilted Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing

Serves 4-6
6 oz baby spinach
3 T cider vinegar
1 T sugar
¼ tsp ground black pepper
pinch salt
10 oz (about 8 slices) thick-cut bacon
½ medium red onion, chopped medium (about 1/2 cup)
1 small clove garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1/2 tsp)
3 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and quartered lengthwise or sliced crosswise
  • Put the bacon in the freezer for a half hour. Remove it and thinly slice it crosswise. (I often just pull it frozen from the freezer, slice it, and throw it in the frying pan. If you have thawed bacon and don't have time for freezing it, I recommend frying it in slices and then crumbling rather than trying to cut it while it's soft.)
  • Place the spinach in a large bowl.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the vinegar, sugar, pepper and salt until the sugar dissolves.
  • Fry the bacon in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate.
  • Pour the bacon fat into a bowl, then return 3 tablespoons bacon fat to the skillet. Add the onion to the skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until softened, about 3 minutes.
  • Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
  • Add the vinegar mixture, then remove the skillet from the heat.
  • Working quickly, scrape the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits. Gradually pour the hot dressing over the spinach while tossing it. It helps to have a second pair of hands here, but if you don't, then pour some, toss, pour some more, toss, etc. The spinach should end up slightly wilted.
  • Divide the salad among individual plates, sprinkle the bacon and arrange the egg quarters over each, and serve immediately.
A big "thanks" goes to Gabriella over at My Life As A Reluctant Housewife for sparking my post about this favorite dish. She's hosting a Fall Salads event this week. If you have a recipe for a fall salad that you'd like to share, blog about it and send it to her by tomorrow, following the event rules which can be found here. If you'd like to see what others have come up with for fall salads, be sure to drop by her site mid-week to catch the roundup.

And, since my blogging has been so sparse and promises to continue to be so for a while, I think I'll have to make this post do double-duty as my entry in Cate's ARF 5-a-day event this week. Please drop by Sweetnicks Tuesday night to see the many other creative recipes focusing on anti-oxidant-rich ingredients that will be featured in her roundup. And be sure to stick around to browse through her fun pictures of sweet Nick and Eli and all the cooking goodies she loves to scout out for us!

And now I'm off to lovingly wrap Christmas packages for mailing Monday to relatives in far-flung places. May your holiday season be as stressless as can be and focused on the Spirit of the season!