Welcome to the last week of the dumpster fire also known as 2020. We hope you had a blessed and Merry Christmas. Christmas this year marked an extra special occasion, marking the 90th birthday for my mom. My Mom has lived through some pretty horrific times. She survived the bombing of Frankfurt during World War II as child as well as through some pretty intense health issues over the past few years. I wrote a bit about it back in 2016 here, after Angel Sam spent a week on her bed at hospice care following an ER doctor’s prognosis giving her 48 hours to live. Long story short, she “flunked out of hospice” then. In 2017 she ended up back in hospital for 4 weeks, with a number of days in ICU. Another surgery was performed where more of her colon was removed for an obstruction but she managed to eventually bounce back once again. These days we affectionately refer to her as a ‘semi-colon.’ So yeah, this was a very special Christmas birthday. I’m so incredibly grateful to have been able to celebrated it. Happy 90th to my spunky, special Mom who has defied the odds in numerous ways.
Like everyone else, we’re hoping 2021 provides a path toward normalcy. It won’t come overnight (especially if ‘mask holes’ continue to not wear masks and congregating in large groups) and pray the recently approved vaccines provide a way back toward the ‘good ole days.’ The world has so much healing needed to embark upon and pray that 2021 is the beginning of that process.
We look forward to waving goodbye to 2020 while remaining upbeat that 2021 provides more smiles and joy for our COVID weary hearts. To 2020, we say “don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”
Hard to believe this is the last day of April and I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge some watershed moments that happen in April. Seventeen years ago I moved into my current home on April 26th. I purposely picked this neighborhood for its close proximity to downtown where I worked plus the fact it was a long-established neighborhood in the city. I loved the community feel that has been woven into my very soul. Safe to say, I am deeply connected here with the location and its inhabitants.
April is also the month when I first began publishing this blog some five years ago, although WordPress counts March as the birth month which is technically correct, yet the first post didn’t publish until the end of April when I finally took a deep breath and pushed the ‘publish’ button. What a terrifying moment that was and life hasn’t been quite the same since ever since.
Twelve years ago this month I began the process of adopting a certain (sub)Standard Poodle who was being rehomed, though he became a member of the Ranch household the first week in May. Who’d have known at that time what a fortuitous adoption that would be and resulted in us embarking upon a pet therapy odyssey a few years later after it was very clear he was a very special dog. Six years ago this month, Sam and I began volunteering at the hospital. I wanted a way to share our pet therapy moments since it was clear my first blogging idea of sharing home design/DIY had no chance to launch due to lack of abilities on that front. Luckily Sam does all the work and I just drive him to the hospital, I knew I could document this Knucklehead’s ability to connect with people. It’s been a ‘pawsome’ collaboration ever since. We’ve had many highs and known a few lows but it has been one of the most rewarding journeys ever. Sam is now two visits shy of making 200 visits brightening the lives of patients, staff and visitors. We expect to continue as long as possible but at 13 1/2 years old, I hold no illusions. My baby is slowing down and while he still loves the adventure, visiting sick people wears him out too much. We may look into a reader program or a senior living situation but for now, things are full speed ahead with hospital pet therapy.
I would be remiss not to mention how much we value your part in this journey. I swear you guys are some of the smartest, funniest, kindest people I’ve ever known. Your clever posts and comments have made me laugh and in some cases cry. Your ability to convey deeply personal experiences inspires and moves me to do better, write better and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Over the weekend, my family celebrated my parents’ 70th wedding anniversary. Yes, 70. freaking. years! All the siblings and their spouses enjoyed a lovely celebratory get-together. Just thinking about the smiles across my parents’ faces as they looked around and saw their children, a couple of grandchildren and a great-grand and a half (one niece is expecting any day now) was beyond heartwarming. Congrats Mom and Dad!
Last week was a difficult week for both me and Sam with a number of personal loses. Two of our pet therapy dogs passed away, which is always sad, but particularly one…Truffles, a big chocolate Newfie who was especially beloved by Sam, will be felt for a long time. A dear friend who was a mere 42 years of age was laid to rest. A kinder, gentler, more generous human you’d be hard-pressed to find. Tony brought joy to all who knew him and while his physical body is not with us, his spirit will live on within each of us. Sam adored Tony and my one regret was not being able to bring Sam to his bedside at the end. I know his tail would have wagged furiously and no doubt he’d have hogged Tony’s bed while Tony happily provided plenty of ear rubs.
We visited an even younger woman at hospice last week. Probably in her 30’s, Shauna was conscious enough and very insistent on visiting with Sam. The pain on her face as she readjusted herself to be able to pet him told me how important his visit was for her. Her best friend (and visibly pregnant) since the 7th grade was with her in her final moments, a true friend right to the end. While visiting with them, I noticed a large tattoo on Shauna’s forearm. It read, “The girl who lived life” and it told me about the core of this brave woman. As her body was failing her, I knew she had made a special mark with her passion and spirit much like my friend Tony did. Recalling both of them her, more tears stream down my face. I know both are free of earthly bonds, no longer held hostage by unbearable pain but they will remain in the hearts of those who cared about them. They may no longer be with us physically, but will always guide us toward our own final path. I only hope I have as much grace and dignity as they both did.
So yeah, April is a big deal around the Ranch. I look upon it and celebrate the accomplishments, the anniversaries and share the losses because they all add up to a community I cherish and which allows me to share it with you. I plan to explore more reflections on the death and dying aspect of life in the future but for now thank you for coming along with me.
Holy cow, it’s April…how did that happen? April is the pretty month, sweet and full of springtime promises. Today also happens to be my baby sister’s birthday so I’m sending her oodles of poodles of digital birthday greetings. Happy birthday, sweet sis! Can’t wait to give her birthday hugsin person later this month.
The Knuckleheads celebrated her birthday over the weekend with Elsa making confetti for the occasion.
We hope you had a wonderful weekend and today offers a fresh new slate for exciting adventures this week. No doubt these two are planning more ‘pawsome’ fun. I can hardly wait.
Is anyone else having a hard time comprehending the fact it’s February already? Wow, where did January go? Today we once again join our fur-iends Rosy and her brothers from LLB in Our Backyard for this week’s edition of Nature Friday Blog Hop. I also want to take a moment to wish my baby brother a very happy birthday. Hope your day is extra terrific, Bro.
So on this first Friday in February, since so much of the country is gripped in a Polar Vortex of epic proportions, I figured let’s go back to the beach!
I could walk up and down the beach in Mexico a million times and still be enchanted with the scenery. Just looking at the golden sand, blue sky and foamy surf warms me up. Sure beats shoveling snow filled sidewalks, doesn’t it?
There is some very entertaining about catching a glimpse of pelicans whenever I’m at a beach location. I love that they always seem to be flashing a smile at you, especially just before they swoop in and filch a part of your lunch. This guys trailed the boat in hopes of a tossed fish and was amply rewarded for his aeronautics.
And what beach is complete without a catamaran or parasail? The colors themselves are enough to warm a winter soul, don’t you think?
Finally, as this little sculpture with his colorful painted surface suggests, the beach is just plain fun. We stumbled across an art gallery in Old Town Puerto Vallarta curated by a fellow from Corsica. He had relocated to Mexico over 30 years ago and loved the spirit of his adopted country. He was showing several of these dog-themed sculptures that were so charming. Who would love stuffing one in their bag for the trip home?
Hopefully these images warmed you up a bit. To our friends caught in the jaws of bitter cold, we’re thinking of you and hope you stay warm and safe. May your weekend warm up enough where you can get out and enjoy some nature with all the brightness of a sunny day. For me, I think it’s time to anticipate a tasty birthday toast for my brother. Cheers!
After a way too short of a visit with my granddaughter who’s visiting from Hawaii, it’s back to business as usual. As Miss Hailey leaves for her return flight this morning, we will prepare to make preparations for Sam’s hospital visits beginning tomorrow and will fondly reflect back at these two inseparable girls. How was your weekend?
Normally I share dog treat recipes with you but with Easter over the weekend, I thought I’d share one for the uprights. In my family we love holidays where we can come together to catch up and have fun, food and libations and this Easter was no ‘egg-ception.’ Most of our family’s little grandkids live out of town so most of the time we’re a group of young and older adults but ones who still love a good food fest. And while I wouldn’t classify our tribe as ‘foodies,’ we all love eating a good meal and holidays are a convenient excuse to fulfill that end and we’re luckily to have some incredible cooks in our clan.
Whenever we get together, we divvy up dishes among the women folk and rely on the Y chromosome portion of the family to furnish any beer/alcohol. Everyone contributes so this works out pretty well actually. And this past weekend was no exception.
Since 1900, April 1st has only fallen on Easter Sunday 4 times (1923, 1934, 1945 and 1956 when we welcomed my sweet baby sister back in 1956). And although she couldn’t be with us in person, we did FaceTime with her to wish her sing an out of tune version of happy birthday in addition to sharing our best family Easter greetings (Happy birthday again, li’l sis-hope it was grand!). This holiday was another great opportunity to celebrate and celebrate we did since April 1st falling on Easter Sunday won’t occur again until 2029. This was also the perfect opportunity to christen the completely gorgeous and totally renovated new kitchen at my brother’s house which is perfect for entertaining large groups (ours numbered 13 guests).
The meal consisted of the classic Easter ham, potato/veggie casserole, couple of different salads, deviled eggs, crackers, cheese, salmon hors d’oeuvres, mimosas. Never one to miss an opportunity for sweets, rounding out the menu were loads of jelly beans, sweet breads and a couple of Easter cakes, pies and bunny tails. For my part I brought Quiche, one for the ‘flesh’ eaters (aka meat eaters) and one vegetarian version. Quiche always works for brunch, travels well in the car and I had a new recipe to try out. And like most recipes, I decided to go off the reservation completely revamp it. Using ingredients I had on hand, I created this adaptation. Originally it was called Easy Puff Pastry Quiche recipe but I renamed it “Kitchen Sink” Quiche since it had loads of extras. And it was yummy g.o.o.d. My hat’s off to Ms. Fuentes. Here’s the basic recipe with my adaptation/changes in blue.
~ KITCHEN SINK QUICHE RECIPE ~
Photo/recipe courtesy of http://www.laurafuentes.com/easy-puff-pastry-quiche-recipe/
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of one 17.3-ounce package), thawed [I used 2 sheets]
[Cubed bites of ham for the flesh eaters and vegetarian sausage for the vegetarians]
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup grated Monterrey Jack cheese [I used a package of four-cheese blend with some grated Parmesan because, I mean, it’s Parm and who doesn’t love that?]
1 small zucchini, shaved with vegetable peeler [I used red and green peppers instead and nearly added some mushrooms but realized more ingredients weren’t necessary since I used meat/pseudo meat and other veggies]
2 large eggs [I stopped counting after 8-remember I was bringing enough for a B-I-G crowd]
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary [I have a rosemary plant on hand that I’m constantly snipping branches off and personally love adding rosemary in egg dishes]
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream [I used sour cream]
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Unfold pastry sheet on to a pie dish. Or you could lay it flat on a baking sheet and create a rectangular Quiche. [I used restaurant containers for the crowd. If you want it to have nice neat edges go for it, I’m more into a rustic finish].
I added the meat and meat substitute first then topped with the remaining ingredients.
Pour egg, cheese and yogurt mixture over toppings, over puff pastry. Bake until pastry is golden brown and toppings are set, about 18-22 minutes. [I baked mine for about 38 minutes or so since they were in large containers]
This recipe is super simple, quick and versatile. Swap or add ingredients…be creative. If the edges start to brown and your Quiche is still jiggly, cover the edges with foil until fully cooked and firm. No one likes jiggly-wiggly eggs.
Sadly I wasn’t smart enough to take a photo of the finished Quiche (these were just prior to adding the cheese/egg mixture but included a slice of the vegetarian one.
This is what you’ll get when you’re done. I can almost guarantee the empty dish will be the vegetarian version. Happens. every. time. [True confessions, there was a small narrow strip left over but far less than the ham version]
Hope you had a wonderful Easter holiday spent with friends and family, where the food was excellent, but the company was better. Got any stories to ‘dish’ about your Easter?
P.S. My brother and his wife have two wonderful Chessy Retrievers in residence, so I’ve had to do a ton of ‘splaining to Elsa who shunned me after she caught a whiff of “eu’d dogparfum” from petting Rudder and Axel. Luckily she and Sam both were easily ‘comforted’ by a fresh hoof so maybe I’ll get back in their good graces. Once they stop gnawing on them, that is.
Hi-ya, ‘member us? It’s me, Sam. You know, Chief Knucklehead and Standard Poodle Extraordinaire from the Ranch. Lately it’s been a rough time here. We lost a couple of beloved pups in our extended family (R.I.P. Aria, aka Big Dawg and cutie pie Wriggly-we hope you’re running free and enjoying life at the Rainbow Bridge-we hope to have a better memorial post once we can locate a couple of photos) and Mom’s been out of town for too long handling a family emergency with her mom that we hope, (fingers crossed) has been resolved. Can I get a woof, woof?! Mom came back Tuesday evening and boy am I and my goofy Ninja sister thrilled. I haven’t stopped wagging my tail and won’t let her out of my sight for a second, which has made her trips to the water torture room kind of interesting.
We hope to be back full-time blogging after mom decompresses catches her breath like we used to, so we hope you’ll be patient with all of us. And I know she is ever so grateful for those of you who have reached out and asked what’s up with us. We appreciate your kindness, concern and fur-iendship. In the meantime, look what I dug up out of the archive backyard. My predecessors, McKenzie, Eliot and Crosby. I know, I hear your ‘awww’s through the screen and admit they were pretty adorable. I think McKenzie looks like he could have been the Ninja’s older brother. Eliot always looked like a giant stuffed toy and Crosby was mom’s first dog when she moved to Denver who also had the dreaded Epi-Monster visit him way too many times. I think mom might have been able to treat his condition better now days than she did back in those olden days. She’s learned a lot with Elsa which seems to make a difference since the monster hasn’t visited her for a number of months. We hope you’re all doing well, staying warm, safe and cozy. So what have we miss?
It’s December 20th and I’m just now starting to get into the ‘howliday’ spirit. Given last week’s unexpected and ongoing family emergency, I might be ready by December 30th. Then again, it might be January 30th. 😊 Are you ready for the jolly one?
Today is Thanksgiving in the US and on this national ‘howliday,’ we ‘paws’ and give thanks to all our family and fur-iends. Wishing you a safe and Happy Thanksgiving. Just remember the operative word today. Woof!
Family ties…but not the ones from that popular TV series, but instead real life family ties. The past 10 days have been filled with them. First my 21-year-old granddaughter and her boyfriend visited (yeah, I know, hard to believe I”m that old to have a 21-year-old granddaughter but I digress). I have a special bond with Hailey, having taken care of her when she was an infant every weekend for her first year. When I went to Hawaii last spring to celebrate her brother’s graduation, I was fortunate to meet her boyfriend, a quiet, adorably nice young man. Kyle is a local Hawaiian and as kind of a human as anyone could wish for their progeny to find. Polite, sincere with a beautiful and respectful life ethic, it was great for me to have them stay with me. Turns out after all they did while visiting her friends from high school, staying with me was a vacation they needed…i.e. rest. I think the go-go mentality of young road warriors had caught up with them after days of constantly being on the move visiting places and sharing the beauty of Hailey’s home state with her boyfriend who had never been to Colorado before. This thoughtful sweet girl took him to South Dakota to visit with her other grandmother for a few days as well. When I think of how this beautiful young woman has matured into a loving human, I am filled with joy and yes, a helluva lot of pride, too.
As Hailey and Kyle were preparing to return to their island paradise, Hailey’s dad arrived, their co-visits only overlapping by a day. Ostensibly to attend his 30th year high school reunion (I know, here’s that age thing again…WTH…how did that happen?), we managed to schedule some family time as well. For our family who relishes these get-togethers more than anything, it usually involves a fair amount of good food and some liquid refreshments. And this was no exception. Kevin’s best friend since junior high helps out his cousin’s craft brewery here in the metro area. The brewery, located in Del Norte, Colorado near where we lived more than 35 years ago, Three Barrel Brewery specializes in small batch “artisanal inspired brews produced from San Luis Valley grown, single origin malt, hops, Haefelis’s honey (from a local honey farm) and fresh mountain water.” Seth provided us with a healthy supply of some of their more popular brews which provided us the opportunity for some experimental suds quaffing. Had never tried ‘sour beers’ before and think the consensus amongst our collective palate is we’ll probably stick to slightly more conventional options. Perhaps I’m too old to be hip enough to enjoy the sour beers that the brewery is well-known for, but no worry on my part. Give me a robust IPA or ale and color me a happy gal. I’ve known Seth and his family for more than 30 years and he’s practically a family member. It’s always good seeing this man who now also has a family though substantially younger than my son’s. Seth is a generous, smart and funny guy, who is Hailey’s godfather so we go back a long way, in more than just time.
My brother Tim and his wife, Natalie, opened up their beautiful new home to the family clan multiple times. Natalie’s nieces were visiting while Hailey and Kyle were here; our two families sharing food, beer, and loads of laughter completely warmed my heart and soul. After our recent pet therapy visits getting together was definitely most welcome and the perfect Rx to soothe and comfort my spirit.
Having my son visit, even for a short time, meant the world to me. Not only did I get to have some much-needed time with my son (a mother’s dream) but the quiet mornings over coffee and breakfast catching up on the details of his life, of how his new job was going and the final details on the remodeling of the ohana back in Kona allowed me to see exactly the kind of incredible role model and human he is, as a son, a father and a loving human with incredible talents. Even just thinking about it, I can’t help but smile.
At first meeting, Elsa was slightly wary of the new people arriving but quickly warmed up to Kevin, Hailey and Kyle. Sam became particularly attached to Kevin’s hip, following him around the house. And though both dogs waited outside guest bed rooms sniffing at the crack each morning waiting for their new BFF’s to rise, Sam in particular reconnected with his old friend from when he stayed with us for an extended time before moving to Hawaii in order to wait out the quarantine period with his own dogs.
Now that everyone has left, Sam wanders around looking for Kevin in particular, hoping he is still here. And much like me, he’s missing this wonderful man who provided such joy while he was here. It’s a lot quieter around the Ranch today and as we adjust back to the old ‘normal,’ I smile thinking of this wonderfully loving family, the cherished visits with everyone shared over lively conversations, tasty meals and libations. This is what I’m talking about…these kinds of family ties and as I look forward to the next one, be it here at the “Ranch” or on an island paradise, my heart is filled with love allowing me to face the dragons of this crazy world anew. It’s good to be fully stocked again by the best fuel around-my family.