Dog Walking as a Spiritual Practice

Between the news coming out of Gaza and the smaller, personal headaches about Oakley’s daycare center and sleepover camp going out of business at the end of the month, and the usual litany of daily weirdness,it’s been a little nutty out here in the soybean field.

This much I have done: been in touch with two dog day care providers who are much smaller and local with an easier drive from my house, and prayed for Gaza. I can’t do much else until things play out in their divine right order.

This much I can do: I went for a walk in the woods with Oakley this morning with the deliberate intention of staying in the moment. It’s all we have, really. Inhale, focus on breath while Oakley focuses on sniffing and peeing anything vertical to the ground. Focus on breath. Focus on the feeling of muscles raising and lowering my legs, my feet.

All well and good, but we somehow ended up on a trail predominately used by horses. Oakley decided that we needed a little variety this morning. No, Mom, we are NOT going that way today. I want to go this way. Ok, as long as we get a walk in and you don’t drag me through or eat unmentionable substances, we are good.

We found a very nice view of the Fox River, some lovely flowers punctuating the green of the forest floor plants with white and purple, and just enough dips and rolls to provide a small challenge. Oakley did his social networking for the day, and I had a good walk and practice in staying centered in the moment.

Next practice will be this afternoon.

How to Lose Friends and Inspire Enemies

Maybe you heard about this:

Let’s back up. Quite a few Detroit residents, something like 15,000, who haven’t paid their water bill because they just can’t are in danger of getting it shut off.

This is getting to humanitarian crisis proportions. A Canadian group is bringing in water to the affected families. The UN has become involved. And so has everyone’s favorite humanitarian group, PETA. They will be happy to make good on some families’ bills, but there’s a catch: they have to go vegan for a month. Yes, they will give gift baskets to help make the transition, but seriously? They really expect people in one of the biggest food deserts in the US to keep with the program after the month is up?

Seriously? Exploiting people who have to choose between utilities and even the most basic of foods to push an agenda?

It’s yet another turnoff. Their fundraising tactics that involve quasi-porn pics of women, dumping animal manure at events just put people off. I’m about 75% vegetarian, and the animal products that I buy for feeding the three of us are humanely and pretty much locally raised.

If you Google PETA and shelters, you’ll find a lot of disturbing stats. Their logic is that animals should be free of enslavement from humans, even as companions. They end up euthanizing a lot of cats and dogs rather than rehome them.

My hope is that people see through all of this, and somehow, someway the water stays on in Detroit without agenda. And that people remember that the best way to help animals is donating to local shelters and rescues, not huge organizations that mostly pad their PR budget and pockets.

Tuesday Thoughts

Yesterday started the week on bittersweet notes. One of my friends made the always painful decision to walk her dog to the Rainbow Bridge. B, the dog, had a congenitally curved spine that caused arthritis in his back end. Until the last month or so, the rounds of swimming, chiropractic and laser treatments, and vet visits for pain meds had kept him going. His body just gave out and his eyes said “no more.” He’s running free now, and his human walks the tough and rugged trail through her grief. We, both human and canine, who knew B walk with her.

The day care center where Oakley has spent the vast majority of Wednesdays and many happy sleepovers is going out of business. None of the other properties in the area will work on licensing and permits with her. The landlord is rather Dickensian in his approach to business, a more articulate description and less likely to land me in legal trouble for public questioning of his character and highly personal preferences. I take comfort in the words of TV sage Maude Findley: “God will get him for that.” Or karma. I leave it to those forces.

Anyway, Oakley and I found a new day care center and sleepover camp for him. It’s run by one of the trainers who worked with him when he was at his most semi-feral self. It’s small, but well-staffed, clean, and quiet. He took off running with the other dogs while I spoke with Ms. R about the details. When we left, Oakley planted his butt in her driveway to indicate that he didn’t want to leave. I respect his decision. He’ll go for some half days and start on Wednesdays in September to get him into the groove. That part of the equation is solved.

My next task: paperwork for the new day care place and set a date for his first half day there. We’ll still go to the usual Wednesday place until the final day, and then it’s on to the next adventure.

A Nice Frosty Bowl of…Soup?

The next couple of days here in the soybean field intersect at the corner of 90 and sweaty. I am not turning on the stove if I can help it. A chicken will be put on the rotisserie tonight. We will likely begin with a chilled soup.

Chilled cauliflower soup will be made at a later date. It goes like this: saute leek, garlic, and celery in butter. When limp, sprinkle some nutmeg on top and let it bloom for about 30 seconds, then add a whole head of cauliflower broken into florettes and enough chicken broth or water to not quite cover. Simmer until good and soft, about 30 minutes. Process in ye old food processor until it’s as creamy as you can get it. If you want it smoother, run through a fine-meshed sieve to get rid of the lumps. For a really fancy touch, add a little cream. Chill for at least four hours to make sure it’s good and cold.Then add salt and pepper and dish it up. Chives or green onion tops make a pretty garnish.

Tonight calls for gazpacho. One onion, one good sized tomato, one good sized onion, and a green pepper get halved. Half of each vegetable and some garlic go into the food processor. Add enough tomato of blended vegetable juice to make a smooth puree and process. Pour into a good sized bowl, then chop the remaining veggies into bite sized pieces and add them. Chill for about an hour to let the flavors blend. Little salt, little pepper, dash of red wine or sherry vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil and you have a very fine alternative to salad, indeed.

Is There Any Such Thing as a Right Diet?

In a word, no.

I went out to breakfast with a friend yesterday, a friend who’s lost 70 pounds in the last year by giving up grains and as much sugar as possible (a girl has to have her ketchup, you know). She looks fantastic.

I’m proud of her. I’m happy for her.

I’ve tried that, and while I felt better, the weight didn’t move. In the past when I’ve come down on the side of protein, the weight’s come off pretty well. But not this time.

It’s still stuck. So I change goals for water consumption, exercise routines–Oakley is just not a walker, as I’ve mentioned. I picked up a two-pack of yoga for weight loss DVDs at Target and have been doing one of the 15-30 minute classes daily for the past week. And dance workout DVDs. And the Tiger Warmer, a Chinese medicine device for warming key points for metabolism.

I know wheat and I don’t get along very well these days. Dairy and I play nice in limited amounts, so I don’t worry too much about that. Except for a Coke–and it has to be Coke with sugar, not corn syrup–every year or two, I don’t drink pop.

Everyone is different. One diet that’s helped to heal one person might cause another’s system problems, such as the Paleo diet causing someone with kidney issues problems from the amount of protein. A vegan diet that’s high in carbs won’t do a person with diabetes any favors.

No answer will work for everyone. Try it. If you don’t get the desired results in a reasonable length of time, give something else a shot.

But what do you do when you’ve run out of shots? That I don’t know.

Recipes I’m Going to Try

Dates, coconut, walnuts or pecans, shredded carrots and some cinnamon makes raw carrot cake truffles. I can’t call them “balls.” Makes my inner 12-year-old giggle too much–it just sounds wrong to use “cake” and “balls” in the same sentence. Maybe make some cream cheese frosting, dip them in that and roll in some more nuts. Freeze? Hmm. Many possibilities.

I also want to try popsicles this summer. I just need to find the molds. Honeydew, lime, maybe some cucumber? Strawberries? Hmmm….

Gazpacho in its classic form of cucumber, tomatoes, onion and green pepper is on my table frequently in summer. I want to try one of the white recipes. I’m intrigued–almonds, don’t recall what else.

Fruit salad is always good. Just sprinkle on lime juice to prevent browning. It’s unexpected, brighter.

I haven’t made pesto in a long time. Will have to do so.

Oh, and….balls.

“A Prairie Home Companion” Turns 40

Last week brought one disturbing news story after another. Last week brought a lot of changes, some welcome; others not so much. Changes in a family member’s health were not good. Pending changes at Oakley’s day care were quite maddening. More on the latter as it develops.

One thing that hasn’t changed, thankfully, is turning on my NPR outlet at five on Saturday evenings for “A Prairie Home Companion.” Since (self-dating alert) junior high, catching up on the “News from Lake Wobegon” and the live, real, hand- and heart-made music and comedy have provided the backdrop for dinner preparations most Saturday evenings.

After a week of involuntary and unpleasant changes, it was good to eat pasta and broccoli while listening to the Wailin’ Jennys and an ad for Bertha’s Kitty Boutique, still located in the Dales after all these years.

How long this refuge overproduced music of questionable quality and news reflecting the worst in humanity will continue I can’t say. Garrison Keillor, the once and future host, still rips out the weekly scripts in about two hours as well as his short stories, novels, and essays. He is not old by any reasonable standards in his early seventies, and hopefully he won’t retire any time soon. The show will continue in some form, I’m sure, thanks to the light side of modern technology.

Perhaps in another forty years, it will still provide a touchstone, an anchor to supply some stability in the waves of change that had slap a person around, providing grounding for the week ahead.


The humidity and (to me) excessive heat finally broke yesterday after a Monday night of rain, thunder, lightning, and five E1 tornados. Today is delightfully cooler, about 70-75, no humidity to speak of. It’s transporting me to my happy place at the beach in Marquette.

The only thing that would make me happier is one of these:

It doesn’t have to be from Lawry’s, either. The pasty, a meat pie, is Cornwall’s gift to the world. Immigrants brought the recipe for these tidy savories with them when they came to work the iron and copper mines in the Upper Peninsula, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. The crimped edge provided a way to grip it without contaminating the filled part with toxic residues left on their hands. It contains some kind of meat (usually beef, sometimes pork, not unusual for venison to be in there), potatoes, and onion seasoned with salt and pepper. It may or may not contain turnips or carrots. The filling gets wrapped in a basic pie crust, baked for about an hour, then served plain, or with ketchup (my favorite), gravy, or butter (!). 

This morning, I looked at some recipes on the web. There are some people out there who really have no comprehension of what a pasty is supposed to be about. The pasty is about simplicity of preparation and quality of ingredients. It it what Cornish miners ate on their breaks, not who can out-gourmet whom. You do not put celery into the filling. You do not saute the filling–it will not be as juicy that way. You do not put Dijon mustard and cream into the filling. If the meat is dry, a spoonful or two of gravy is just fine. But you do not try to make it go all yuppie as one restaurant I was in tried to and then charge $12 for it. The trauma blocked out the place’s location; probably better that way.

If Hubby heard any of the half mumbled profanity that I have been spewing, he will probably be too scared to come out of his office until dinner tonight.  I may have to get some spelt flour for the crust and make some here at home to coax him out.  

Pasties became a staple food up north, and your mom or grandma made the best ones. Or your favorite stand that you visited on vacation. They are best served at sunset by your favorite lake with sand between your toes as the waves provide dinner music.