The Unintended “Little House” Pageant Continues

In my childhood, I read all of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books at least twice. In my adulthood, I was able to visit her home in DeSmet, South Dakota, and saw the surveyor’s house where she and her family lived in On the Shores of Silver Lake. Amazingly, the five Ingalls and several railroad surveyors all squished themselves into a structure with fewer square feet than the closet in my master bedroom.

The book that’s been on my mind since November has been The Long Winter. At the beginning of the book, Pa goes to town one September day. While he’s at the general store, an elderly Native American man warns the settlers of a tough winter ahead, one that comes around every twenty years. “Old! Old! I have seen!” he states before riding out of town. When October rolls around, that part of South Dakota gets its butt kicked by a blizzard. The settlers don’t catch a break until late April or early May. Most of them survive, though. 

Today in modern times on the edge of the farmland between Chicago and DeKalb, it is February 27, and we are looking at a single digit high today. Tomorrow will be a more respectable 27 or so, but still below average. Oh, and before I forget, we’re supposed to get even more snow over the weekend. Yippee freakin’ skippee. 

Unlike Ma Ingalls, however, I can make a run to the store tomorrow. Their February meals are the meals of desperation and survival: beans boiled with salt pork; cornbread consisting of little more than cornmeal, salt, and water. There was one scene where Pa considered butchering their dairy cow, but fate intervened and one of their neighbors did so with a steer.

At least they had tea and Pa played his fiddle.

I hope that partially drowned out the wind. Around here, it’s been roaring like a wounded animal. I have the radio and TV that mask it, partially, anyway. The heat is pretty reliable, unless we have a power outage. 

So with basic needs met in a downright decadent manner in comparison to the Ingalls’, we soldier on, hoping this breaks before May. 

First person kvetching about the heat gets fifteen minutes on the naughty step.

 

 

Foods That Just Don’t Do It For Me

I’ll try almost anything foodwise once. I loved clams and spinach in my early elementary years; one of the most memorable meals I had in adulthood was on a trip to Chinatown with a coworker of Hubby’s who was from Taiwan. Within our parameters, she did the ordering. I have no clue what we ate, but oh, my, was it good.

However, there are some foods that I just do not care for at all. I just don’t like them. Period. I will take a bite or two for politeness’ sake, but please do not try to feed me the following:

  • Kale. I really don’t care for kale very much. I have tried it in salads, braised in ginger, garlic, and soy, and in green drinks. I don’t hate it; I just don’t care for it for some reason. Yes, I know it’s supposed to be the best thing since the last big trendy veggie, but I just don’t like it. In chips (de-stem, spread on baking sheet, sprinkle with melted coconut oil and garlic, and bake at 350 for 10 min. or until crunchy), yes, but otherwise, no, thank you.
  • Bananas. Between the dizzying amount of sugar, the pasty texture, and the trigger for memories of mashing them up for Orion his last days, spare me these. I like banana baked goods and in green drinks where the protein powder and berries or cherries mask their presence, but sweet Baby Jesus, keep them away from me. 
  • Most pork products. Yuck. Bacon on occasion, but ham and the rest? YUCK. Especially on pizza. YUCK YUCK YUCK YUCK! If I had a dollar for every piece I gagged down when I was in college to keep peace with roommates or while trying to impress a date, I could make a significant donation to some worthy cause.
  • White wine. Even when sipping mindfully, the only notes I detect are rubbing alcohol and lighter fluid.  
  • Raw mushrooms and cauliflower. No. 
  • Donuts. The combo of the fat and sugar and the texture repel me. Except for the one’s from Freddy’s, the long-demised donut shop of my childhood that cranked out perfect cake-like glazed cherry ones.

 Other than that, I’m pretty easy to feed. Nothing hip and trendy, please, and make it nicely seasoned. And I will be a happy WolfMama, indeed

The Therapeutic Value of Cooking

I’ve been cooking more than usual this week. Mercury is still in retro; the heavy snow from Monday’s storm followed by yesterday’s rain and wind-driven melting challenged one of the sump pumps to the breaking point; my mainstay paid writing job has been put on hold indefinitely; and of course, Oakley ate a few too many biskies, leading to 2 AM runs in the yard.

So I’ve cooked. Turkey chili, a rotisserie chicken, a cake made with almond and coconut flours, socca with fresh cilantro to go with the chili. The cake was based on a very simple French recipe; the other dishes are regular batters in the culinary lineup. It’s kept me pleasantly busy during the interminable wait for the weather to level out. 

Signs that spring can’t be too far off are coming up here and there. Strawberries glisten like rubies at the store and early greens are coming in to play. Mercury will get its act together on the 28th and go forward. And we shall as well.

My Furry Valentines

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Both Oakley and Orion adopted us around Valentine’s Day. Orion in 1998; Oaks in 2011. 

Orion would have made a great canine cast member on “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” He threw himself into the middle of any situation with a wagging tail and confidence bordering on recklessness. Much to our chagrin and the amusement of vet’s office staff, he ate damned near anything offered. Regardless of species, everyone was his friend until proven otherwise, and the top of a picnic table was the best place to sit while he waited patiently for tidbits. He slept on his back and could snore and wag his tail at the same time. Most days, the peace and acceptance over his crossing settle like a cloak; others the pain rebounds as if he’d just left yesterday.

Oakley is more like Michael Palin in the post-Python years: a bit reserved, analytical, willing to wait until the moment is right to jump in with his contributions and observations. He has discriminating tastes in cuisine and with whom he chooses to keep company with, and is protective of me on walks at the park. If he doesn’t like a vibe he’s picking up, he stands in front of me. At 75 pounds, this sends a pretty strong message to squirrels, other dogs, one rather creepy person who chased after us to talk to me, and a giant snowman. Once on the A list, a person will get leaned on and Pyr-patted to no end.

Because of them, chestnut and white have replaced pink and red for Valentine’s, and I am the better person for it.

 

 

 

 

The Focus on What One is For

Yes, I know that occasionally, one has to shock the populace to rouse them from complacency. The problem is when the shocks come so frequently that they inspire apathy rather than action. Numb is not good when it comes to speaking out on behalf of the vulnerable such as senior citizens, children, and animals. Posting information to raise awareness is one thing, but graphic images are another.

As an antidote, antitoxin to the horrific pictures of mistreated animals, several friends posted a Facebook game where participants like a status that indicates a desire to break the endless chain of pictures of dead, dying, or abused dogs. If you like the status, you’re assigned a breed, then you post a picture of a dog of that breed and the above status on your timeline. 

We need to be aware of the capabilities of the dark side. But we also need to hold onto hope and have faith that good and decent humans are out there somewhere. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find a picture of a Scottish wolfhound.

 

 

Spa Day

Oakley is getting a spa day today. OK, not that elaborate. He went to an extra day of day care today. The on-site groomer will give him a bath, do his ears, and trim his nails. Not cheap, but a good investment in health and aesthetics. 

He doesn’t mind the baths. Those he enjoys. He smiles and lies down in the tub with the same expression of someone in a whirlpool after a long day.  It’s getting all 75 pounds of him in the tub that’s the problem. It’s his issues with getting his ears cleaned and his nails trimmed that don’t help. He’s always been touchy about his paws getting handled, possibly due to rough handling somewhere along the line.  He gets a tag team pedicure with Ms. Marcy running the Dremel and clippers and Ms Judi, the day care center’s owner, giving him lots of love and affection to keep him distracted.

At the end of the day, Oakley gets a bandana and extra treats, and we get a clean, happy dog who doesn’t try to bathe himself at 3 AM. We all end up winning. 

Wednesday Musings

Another storm system waltzed through the Chicago/NW Indiana area last night. Knowing that this morning was going to be a cold wet mess, I dropped  Oakley off at day care yesterday instead of today. He played while I picked up the necessary and sufficient supplies. The snow arrived as I was picking him up and wove itself into a white blanket as we pulled up the driveway. I’m allowing myself the luxury of being a little self-congratulatory on my timing of last night’s ventures. 

Caputo’s had an insanely good price on organic broccoli yesterday–69 cents a pound. I stuffed a bag with it and made gluten free pasta with broccoli. Did I give the recipe? If I didn’t, this is how you do it: make paper-thin slices of 4-6 whole fresh garlic cloves and place them into a small frying pan with extra virgin olive oil and a good shake of red pepper flakes. Heat slo-o-o-w-w-w-ly and gently until you can smell the garlic. While that’s going on, break broccoli into florettes, and put them into your favorite pasta pot with plenty of water to cook them and the pasta (I used Tinkyada brown rice fettuccini). When the broccoli is good and cooked and the pasta’s done, drain–don’t rinse. The starch helps the oil and the broccoli bits stick to the pasta. Now, pour in the lovely garlic and pepper infused olive oil, and mix. I topped off mine with shredded Asiago cheese. Perfect antidote to the weather. Oh, and an orange for dessert. If you don’t or can’t do cheese, try some toasted chopped pecans or walnuts. 

This morning, the clouds have dissipated to a thin veil. Hubby and I will have leftover broccoli and pasta for lunch with strawberries for dessert. Oakley is napping, dreaming of his upcoming bonus day care day on Friday. I don’t know if he know that it’s going to be a spa day or not–he’ll be getting a bath and a nail trim then. 

We stay in the moment, yet we count the 42 days to spring.