“In order to keep a true perspective of one’s importance, everyone should have
a dog that will worship him and a cat that will ignore him.”

--Dereke Bruce

Monday, January 19, 2015

Makin' Bagels



















It was a cold and blustery day in PA... a good day to be inside. My husband was out of town. It was a day off work for my dear daughter and me.   It was a perfect day to try our hand at... making bagels!

We LOVE Panera bagels, especially the Asiago ones and the cinnamon toast ones. But we don't live near a Panera. So unless we wanted to drive a distance (which we didn't), we would have to make our own.

We did a little research, read and compared recipes and finally decided on THIS ONE (Asiago) and THIS ONE (Cinnamon Crunch).

We convened at my house and got started:



















Brody had his faced washed and was ready to get busy.



















As usual, the cats were excited and involved...  #sarcasm













Double checking the recipes:
Beautiful new KitchenAid mixer did a wonderful job mixing up the dough.  
But nothing beats hand kneading!

Our dough raised beautifully!





Dough shaped into 13 rounds. Starting to look like bagels now!

Short break for a belly rub:
"Awww thanks Sissy! You know the BEST spots!"
Next the bagels got boiled for a few minutes...

Grating the cheese...
Ready for the oven now...
Sprinkled with the cheese and baking in the oven.
Smelled soooooo good!
TA DA! Beautiful finished Asiago bagels! #AsGoodAsPaneras #MaybeEvenBetter

Next up, the Cinnamon Crunch bagels. (We were pros by now!)
Then kitchen tidied up...

And two happy (and just-a-little-tired) bagel loving' girls:

We divided the bagels and darling daughter went home.
The cats were EXHAUSTED!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Brand New Year...

















I have such a love/hate relationship with a new year. On one hand, I always shake my head and wonder, "How can it be? Another whole year, gone!" I brood a little over how fast the years seem to fly by. Remember how loooooong a year seemed when we were children? I want that feeling back!

But... on the other hand... I really like the start of a new year. Although I tend to think more in terms of the day's resolutions, not the year's... I  can't help but feeling like the new year stretching out ahead is full of promise and excitement.  Like a beautiful new book, just waiting to be opened and filled with new experiences and new memories, I can't wait to see what the year will hold.

I hope to continue to grow and learn. I hope to become wiser, kinder and more compassionate.  I hope to better show my family and friends that I love and adore them more than words can say.  And YES, I hope to lose five pounds!



Saturday, December 6, 2014

BRODY, ONE YEAR LATER (Or, Why It is Dangerous to Make Decisions When You are Depressed!)



If you read THIS POST or THIS ONE, then you know that an adorable Yorkie pup joined our family last year.

He was 3 pounds when we got him, and now he's full grown and tipping the scales at a whopping 6 pounds. And short of a human baby, never have so few pounds changed our lives!

















A little pre-Brody background... we were happy CAT PEOPLE with two gorgeous Ragdoll cats. We could go away for the weekend (or a couple of weeks) and those independent, self-sufficient felines would be fine in the care of a friend or house-sitter.  ("Oh, hi. Were you gone?")














Now if you know me, you know that I am typically content and optimistic. I am not prone to depression.  For this I am extremely grateful. But I broke my foot last year (that sorry post is HERE) -- and during those 3 very long, very difficult months, life was very hard.  I got depressed.  I was hard-to-please, miserable and unhappy.

I decided I neeeeeeeeeded a puppy because a puppy would make me happy. A puppy would cuddle in my lap (those dang cats weren't being nearly solicitous enough!)   A puppy would give me sweet puppy-kisses. (Those dang cats weren't giving me nearly enough attention.)  A puppy would greet me at the door with a happy, wagging tail and joyfully come when I called him. (The dang cats NEVER wag their tails [LOL] and lord knows they NEVER come when they are called!)  I envisioned errands and enjoyable, leisurely walks with a devoted puppy by my side.  (Those dang cats hate leaving the house.)

In other words, in my uncharacteristically unhappy state of mind, I decided that a puppy would simply solve all my problems. Any attempts by my reasonable husband to tell me otherwise fell on my two deaf ears.  I was convinced that The Perfect Puppy would change my life, make me happy, heal my foot, end hunger, stop crime, cure AIDS, balance the federal budget, and bring world peace.

So I started looking for a puppy (HERE). I spent every spare minute in my favorite living room chair, bad foot elevated, Mac in my lap, obsessively researching puppies and breeders.  (I know you find that hard to believe, right?)  Well, I found him. And I wanted him. And at that point, neither hell nor high water could have stopped me. And as soon as I was able to put weight on my foot, I flew to Missouri to get him.




















But this post is not really about Brody's story.  Or even Brody himself, for that matter.

No, this post is about MAKING DECISIONS WHEN YOU ARE DEPRESSED!  Because I am here to tell you that within DAYS of being able to walk again, the depression lifted.  It was rather amazing, actually.  I could literally feel the crushing weight slipping off my shoulders.  The last 3 months quickly began to feel like a COMA that I had now miraculously awakened from.

I had "known"at the time that I was depressed, of course, but it wasn't until I was looking back in hindsight that I realized HOW VERY depressed I had been.

So then what happened? Well, when I woke up out of my Depression Coma and looked around -- I HAD A DOG! Egads, how did THAT happen?! A DOG?! WHY do I have a dog?! I'm a cat person! I'm also a busy person! I don't have TIME for a dog! And I don't know a THING about dogs! What in the world am I going to do with a DOG???! OMG, WHAT WAS I THINKING?!

Which is the point of this post: I WASN'T THINKING.  At least not thinking "clearly".  And in my depression-fog I made a decision that now commits me to 15 years or so of 24/7 doggie-parenthood.

Thankfully my husband ADORES Brody, and actively shares in his care.  Thankfully Brody is small (in my compromised state of mind I could have gotten a Mastiff or a Newfoundland!) and is (as far as canines go) pretty easy to live with.

But the point is... I made a decision that I would probably have NEVER MADE had I not been depressed.  Which was kinda scary and very sobering.

So the moral of this story is that the experts knew what they are talking about when they tell you to never make an important decision when you are depressed or grieving or otherwise emotionally compromised.

This experience has been quite eye-opening for me.  And thankfully, all I ended up with was a dog.  I think about people who are depressed who walk out of their marriage, quit their jobs, gamble away their life savings, or any number of other equally horrifying scenarios.

Now please don't misunderstand: I love my little dog.  (In fact, he is curled up beside me on this chair where it all began, sleeping like an angel with his little head in my lap.)  I am thankful that he is healthy, good-natured and adorable. And he does love me. He is always so happy to see me, he gives me sweet puppy-kisses, he is a tail-wagger and cuddler of epic proportions.  In many ways now I can't imagine my life without him.

HOWEVER... all that being said, it has not been without a LOT of challenges and adjustments.   But that's another post for another time...








Friday, April 11, 2014

BEER BREAD!

























Have you ever heard of Beer Bread?  Do you know about this?  Have you ever had it?  Have you ever MADE it?!

If you answered yes, yes, yes and yes, and are thinking something along the lines of, "Um, duh, of COURSE..." then apparently it's ME that's been living UNDER A ROCK?

Well, if that's the case, then let's just say I am so glad to finally be seeing the LIGHT OF DAY!

Because... Beer Bread = my newest addiction!  I simply cannot get enough of it!

It all started innocuously enough.  Thumbing through the latest Penzey's catalog (which is a different post for a different time, but suffice to say that I LOVE PENZEY'S!)  and one of the recipes caught my eye. "Beer Bread?  Hmmmm... interesting. Never heard of it.  Looks good.  Well, I have flour... salt... sugar... baking powder... and a 12 oz. bottle of Dos Equis... I'll try it."

An hour later I was one happy, happy girl!

It is DELICIOUS!  Tastes like a yeast-bread, but fast and easy like a quick-bread.  (No time-consuming rolling, kneading, punching down, kneading again, punching down... oh no!  Just MIX, pour, bake!)  The batter looks like a biscuit batter, which is truthfully the taste/texture I was expecting.  I was wrong!  I pleasantly surprised with the moist, rich finished bread.  This is NO biscuit, babeeee!

(By the way, if you don't like beer, let me assure you that there is little to no "beer taste"!)

The picture at the top of this post was my first loaf of Beer Bread, and I have made it several times since.  It is consistently and deliriously delicious hot out of the ovan, warm, room temperature, or toasted. It is delicious by itself, or as a sandwich. It is delicious in a box, with a fox... in a house with a mouse... oh, never mind, I'm sure you probably get the idea!

So this was the page that changed my life:



















I started looking around and soon realized that there are a LOT of beer bread recipes floating around the internet (and Pinterest)... but I'm feeling fiercely loyal to the Penzey's recipe!

Althoooooough, I will say that when I saw The Brown-Eyed Baker's "Bacon and Cheddar Beer Bread  Recipe" recently, I thought, "Now that's an idea I can get behind!"  (That was after my first thought of, "Aha! She loves Beer Bread, too!")

It is pretty much the same *basic* recipe as the Penzey's one, just a few small tweaks.  It, too, is DELICIOUS!  Here is my loaf, made just last night:



















If anything could improve that basic recipe, it was bacon and cheddar. Ohmyguuuudnessohmyguuuudness!

This will be phenomenal tomorrow morning, 2 slices toasted with an egg in between.  All the elements of a breakfast sandwich in only two steps!  Very excited!

For your own beer bread baking pleasure:
The basic Penzey's recipe can be found HERE.
The bacon/cheddar variation can be found in the Brown Eyed Baker's post HERE.

Enjoy!  And please let me know when YOU become a Beer Bread fan too!

Monday, December 23, 2013

SUSTAINABILITY -- ONE YEAR LATER



If you read THIS post and THIS one, then you know that a year ago my husband and I enjoyed a 2-week vacation at a very beautiful all-inclusive resort in Mexico.  It was two weeks of pure pampered bliss, and one of the best vacations we had ever taken.

It was also, quite simply, a vacation that changed my life.  How so?  Let me explain:

Once we arrived, my husband was busy right away exploring the resort, the pools, the beach, the restaurants, the activities... on the other hand, I was exhausted and all I wanted to do was sleep. And honestly, that is mostly what I did the first few days.

When I woke up on the morning of our 4th day there, it took me a few minutes to recognize the wonderful feeling of being rested! It was actually a rather shocking revelation, and definitely made me think, "If it takes me THREE DAYS to get rested up from just LIVING, then something needs to change!"

So I re-examined my life and my priorities, and decided then and there that when I got home, I would implement changes to hopefully prevent that kind of bone-crushing exhaustion from ever "taking over" again.

And that's what I did.

In ways large and small, I took practical steps to make my daily life more *sustainable*.  Of course there were certain obligations and responsibilties that didn't change (my job, my home, my husband!) and we could all use more hours in a day, but I was surprised by all the things that I could shift or rearrange. And by the difference these changes would make.

At the top of my list was, clearly, the goal to get more sleep.  That is hard for me, but I made it my #1 priority change.  I am now in bed typically 8 - 9 hours before I need to get up.  That difference alone  has been staggering! Of course that means better evening planning, so that I have everything done that needs done well ahead of bedtime.

Another strategy was our evening dinner.  Meals and good food are important to us, but we began doing a lot of our cooking on the weekends, instead of cooking every evening.  These weekend menus are fun to plan, very versatile, and great for mixing and matching all week long, for EASY, delicious weeknight dinners.

I tried to become more aware of not wasting time... keeping better lists of groceries and errands and combining trips so that more could be accomplished in less time, etc.

I continue to monitor myself... paying attention to my comfort level and my limitations.  I realize that adjustments and "tweaks" will probably be ongoing.  My mantra remains "sustainability", and not ever allowing that deep rut of exhaustion to take over.

What have I gained?  More time with my husband, my family, my friends. More time to read, play with my pets, relax. More long baths, more long walks, more time to think and play and enjoy the things that matter most.

What tips or strategies do you have for keeping your lifestyle sustainable?












Tuesday, October 29, 2013

NATIONAL CAT DAY

























Today, October 29, is National Cat Day.  It's a day to recognize and honor the wonderful and wacky feline members of our world.

Some fun CAT FACTS:

1.  In North America, cats have become more popular as pets than dogs.  Nearly 73 million cats are kept as household pets vs. 63 million dogs.
2.  A cat can jump up to 5 times its height per jump.
3.  Outdoor cats have a lifespan averaging only 3-5 years; indoor cats can live to 16, or more!
4.  Cats are the mammals with the largest eyes.
5.  Cats have 24 more bones than humans.
6.  Cat's pregnancies last about 9 weeks.  Most litters have 4-6 kittens.
7.  Each side of a cat's face has 12 whiskers.  Cats use their whiskers to measure openings, indicate mood, and for general navigation.
8.  A fingerprint is to a human what a nose is to a cat.
9.  Want to call a hairball by its scientific name? Next time, say the word "bezoar"! (As in, "Why yes, there's another BEZOAR on my bed!")
10.  Cats sleep on the average of 16-18 hours a day.  Of their time awake, approximately 1/3 of it is spent grooming themselves.

(Cat Facts from DID YOU KNOW...)





Here are a few ways to celebrate National Cat Day:
(Reprinted in part from Baxterboo.)  

1. ADOPT A CAT. Do you have room in your home for a homeless kitty? Visit Petfinder.com to find available cats for adoption near you. If you can't adopt, encourage others to do so or sponsor one at a shelter. Consider fostering cats as an alternative to help several cats and kittens.

2. TAKE CARE OF YOUR CAT. If you are a cat guardian, guard them well with updated vaccines, quality food and yearly check ups. Also, if you haven't spayed or neutered the cats under your care (either house cats or feral) please do so to keep more cats from contributing to shelter populations.

3. PLAY WITH YOUR CAT. Cat behaviorists suggest playing with your cat at least 15 minutes a day for mental and physical exercise. This keeps cats in shape and emotionally well balanced. It can reverse problem behaviors! This is particularly important for indoor cats and cats that used to be outdoor cats. Cats need to experience the daily "hunt" to feel all catty inside. This includes stalking, catching and "killing" a cat toy. This technique is best created with fishing pole type toys. Well-exercised cats are less likely to exhibit behaviors that get them sent to shelters.

4. DONATE TO YOUR FAVORITE SHELTER. Cats and cat shelters have it rough. Because of severe cat overpopulation, nearly 7 out of 10 cats in shelters are euthanized. Consider getting involved by volunteering your time and money at your local shelter where your resources can really make a difference.

























My husband and I are happy and honored to share our lives with our two wonderful cats, Boo and Bentley. We love them so much! They make us laugh and smile every day. They also keep us humble. It's pretty hard to start thinking TOO MUCH of yourself when you live with cats!

Boo Radley
Bentley Edmund Spencer




































Do you have a special cat (or two...) in YOUR life?


Monday, September 9, 2013

WEEK NIGHT WONDER - Jalapeño Popper Quiche


Just look at this glorious bowl of mixed hot peppers, fresh from the garden!  Oh, yum!  The POTENTIAL!



















I love hot peppers... and making jalapeño poppers is one of my favorite snacks.

But it was a Thursday evening and we needed DINNER, and this recipe, "Jalapeño Popper Quiche",  from Closet Cooking began dancing in my head!  If you have seen my recipe for Reuben Casserole or Pepperoni Pizza Soup, then you know how I love to take favorite, familiar flavors, shake them up and turn them into something unusual.  THIS recipe, using all the ingredients of jalapeño poppers was right up my jalapeño-lovin' alley!



















AAAAND... it was QUICK.  It was EASY.  It was DELICIOUS!  Because of all that, it earned a well-deserved post as a "Week Night Wonder"!

JALAPEÑO POPPER QUICHE

A cheesy quiche with all of the flavors of jalapeño poppers including cheddar cheese, cream cheese, jalapeños plus a crispy crust!

Servings: makes 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 (9 inch) pie shell, lightly pre-baked
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 jalapenos, diced (seed them if you prefer less heat)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • [I added 1/2 of an onion diced small and 2 cloves of garlic minced]
  • 5 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated [I used more]
Directions
  1. Spread the cream cheese over the bottom of the pie crust and sprinkle on the diced jalapenos.
  2. Heat the milk and cream [and onion and garlic] over medium heat until just before it boils, about 5 minutes and pour it into a large bowl.
  3. Pour the eggs into the heated cream while stirring constantly.
  4. Mix in the paprika and salt.
  5. Pour the mixture into the pie plate and bake in a preheated 350F oven for 30 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven, arrange the jalapeno slices on top, sprinkle with cheese and bake until the cheese has melted and turned golden brown, about 15 minutes






















If you can take THE HEAT (LOL!), I totally recommend this recipe!
It's a definite *YUM!*

Do you have a week night wonder that YOU love?