When in Doubt, Make a Casserole. When Confident, Make Two.


(image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy)

Well, that was a hell of a week.

Let me try again.

One ill family member; one visit with out of town relatives who’d cancelled vacation plans to come to see her; one hearing for a special use permit for Oakley’s day care; and two drives up to see the family of said family member left me totally wrung out. Except for the visit (breakfast at a very comforting restaurant) the other events involved drives of upwards of an hour, plus trying to convince Oakley that the relatives’ dog was not a fruit bat-shark mix.

Good boy that he is, Oakley just walked away, then sat quietly by the door until we left. I made him a bison burger for dinner.

The ill family member is in progress. I’m not going into details to protect her privacy, but I will tell you that she fares better today. And that her condition scared a few years of growth off all of us. It’s going to take time, but things look a lot better this week than they did last Monday.

I couldn’t directly influence her recovery process, but I could support the ones in the immediate circle with food. Comforting. The type with plenty of carbs and that can be heated up in the microwave. In other words, a casserole.

Nothing fancy. I made stovetop lasagne. Been too hot to turn on the over here. I boiled the pasta (1 lb. fusilli), stirred in a jar of sauce, a carton of ricotta, and some pre- shredded provolone and mozzarella. They liked it.

I made a huge batch of turkey chili, too. They received it with favor. And a rotisserie chicken that I grabbed at the store. They will be well fed for a few days. My hope is that things will level out so they can do a little cooking. It’s therapeutic. I felt better as I saw the chili and pasta fall into place.

They felt better as they ate the chili, too.

Had it been cooler, I would have made a chicken-noodle casserole as well. It’s like tuna-noodle, but with chicken and cream of celery. Two people in that part of the family have fish and mushroom allergies, and they had enough problems without a reaction to the tuna. And the mushrooms.

But it worked out, and continues to do so. We just have to be patient. And eat some casserole.


#WoofWoofWednesday: Home Cooking for Canines

12091164_1093123694038950_1270561461227914638_o“Carson, we’d like the tea and biskies now….” (image courtesy Mid Day Play)

That’s Oakley’s favorite place for a short rest at day care. He’s gracious enough to share the sofa with his with his friends, though. He also might be wondering what his mom is making him for dinner. Am I going to get turkey? Bison? Bunny? I know I’m getting pumpkin. Other carb veggies set my tummy off because they have too much sugar. Is Mom going to try to get me to eat spinach? It’s not as good as grass, but Mom said I had to eat spinach once or twice a week because Dr. P said so. I hope it’s turkey. Yeah, I’d like some turkey…

I think his wish came true that night. Frozen turkey (thawed and cooked, of course) and pumpkin. He’ll eat spinach now and then, but mostly then.

Spinach, pumpkin, and one of the above proteins fall on the cool end of the spectrum in Chinese medicine and nutrition. Because of the low fat and sugar content, they are least likely to cause inflammation for Oakley, keeping his tummy calm and his mother sane. I can easily find canned bison and rabbit without additives. The turkey has to be cooked from scratch after the label gets scrutinized. He can have two biscuits a day without digestive repercussions. Dr. P had suggested a vitamin powder, but every time I’ve tried one of those, it’s knocked his tummy out of whack. He seems to be doing just fine without them–his hair is smooth and soft, blood work numbers are all good, so I see no sense in rocking the ship.

This is what works for him. It’s not spoiling him any more than it would be giving him insulin if he were a human child with diabetes.  I get weird looks sometimes when I speak of making his food, but as long as he’s happy and healthy, the critics can look askance to their heart’s content.

A lot of kibble has ingredients that may be healthy for some dogs, but not so much for Oakley. Omega 3 fatty acids set him off. We don’t talk about what happened when he ate a flax-based food in polite company.

Pumpkin. Protein. Spinach. Occasionally an egg or a tiny bit of cheese. This is what works for us. Things might be very different for your fur-child. Please talk to your vet before changing over to a new feeding regimen.

If you’re interested in exploring home cooking for canines, please read Dr. Pitcairn’s Book of Natural Health for Dogs and Cats or Dr. Becker’s Real Food for Dogs and Cats. 

And someone please ring Carson for the tea and biskies.


Advice from a Disney Character That’s Actually Pertinent

I won’t post the link to “Let It Go” from “Frozen,” nifty song that it is. Elsa sang some words of wisdom, though, as she climbed that mountain. I love it, but for readers who have been subjected to its repeated playing by members of its intended demographic group, I’ll spare you.

We are coming up on equinox next weekend. Plans for a gathering to mark the turning of the wheel are afoot for a week from today. Time to let go of the summer. This will help.

I’m not struggling as much with letting go of Oakley’s former day care. We went to the party last weekend and exchanged contact information. I did what I could to help organize for the garage sales she’s holding to find homes for the equipment. I can’t roll back time and make it my version of right again. If you’ve been through the process of walking with a loved one down the path of a terminal illness, you’ll get it. The band of Denial, Bargaining, Anger, and Depression have finished their opening act and left the stage for Acceptance’s solo show. There is no good time for something like this to happen, but as things wind down and contract in the fall, it’s as good as any. The anger still flares now and then, but has settled into righteousness and outrage that what is legal and what is moral are two very different things. I have to gently remind myself of Karma and her mysterious ways, breathe, and get on with things.

The change of seasons, especially going into fall and winter, are good times to let go of stuff in any form, physical or otherwise. I’ll be using this week to sort out some clutter and make a run to a donation center. Perhaps an unsent letter burning is in order as well.

Let it go, indeed.






To Everything There Is a Season

Labor Day came and went, and left hand in hand with August. The storm came on Thursday, the one that announces autumn’s impending arrival. We still have a lot of summer in front of us and plenty of nice days ahead until that last week or so in November. School starts, and on we go into the new season, changes and all.

Some of them are good. I am down a hair under seven pounds as of Friday. (bows and says “thank you, thank you.”) Oakley did two full days at his new daycare place. He slept well both nights. Going to Ms. Rebecca’s involves a left turn at the major intersection rather than going straight. He’s learned that when we do that, he’s going to go have fun, and he stands up in excitement. Oakley has mad several new friends, including a pretty lab mix named Sheba and a schnauzer named Wilfred. Ms. Rebecca’s is about a third of the distance that it was to Ms. Judi’s, even picking through the construction that squashed the main road through town to two lanes.

Some are bittersweet. We are staying in touch with the parents of his previous day care friends through email and Facebook so that we can arrange play dates and walks. The adjustments are easier for him than me. Oakley’s blissfully unaware of the legal, moral, and karmic aspects about the hows and whys of the center’s closing. I wish that I were as well.

He has accepted the changes well. I, too, will adjust, but I’m the one who needs the time to do so.


The Gladiola Conundrum

It was Oakley’s last day at the day care center before it closes and he starts full days at the new one. I decided to do a big-haul shopping trip since I won’t be getting over that way with the same frequency.

Started the trip at Costco, then on to the Whole Foods that’s across the street. I wanted to get Oakley’s teacher a token of gratitude, such as flowers. Just inside the door, gladiolas stood proudly in their buckets. I chose one bunch for Ms. Judi, a vibrant earthy red-orange, and one bunch for me in a more ethereal lavender. I didn’t think anything of it at first, but a couple of aisles later near a Labor Day promotional display, I realized that I had just bought gladiolas.

Gladiolas+Labor Day=impending autumn. Write an equation and solve for summer’s entirely too-short visit. For some reason, several radio stations played “Cruel Summer” during my travels yesterday. The last endless winter had robbed us of a good piece of spring, rendering us all logy and crabby and vitamin D deficient. The cloud of the doggy day care center’s closing had cast shadows over the landscape, too. Hubby and I were only able to get up to the Ren Faire once this summer due to his work schedule and the endless tasks required to get his mom’s house on the market.

So here we are at Labor Day. Changes and time cannot be stopped. I felt like quoting Sheldon’s line from “Big Bang Theory” when he pitches a hissy about Leonard’s and Penny’s engagement leading to changes in the housing situation, shouting that no one was moving and nothing was going to change because he didn’t want it to.

Unfortunately, I don’t control things, a hard truth learned in my life. I decided that Ms. Judi needed a bottle of wine to go with the flowers. For a moment, I toyed with getting some for myself as well, then decided not to since it’s four points a glass. I like my Shiraz, but not that much.

Perhaps the circumstances are beyond control, but the choices made in their flow and ebb aren’t.






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. 

It’s Time for Day Care! It’s Time for Fun! Time for Day Care for Everyone!

Wednesdays start with me singing that. 

For two years now, Oakley has gone to day boarding, or day care, on Wednesday. At first, it was a way to help him catch up on his socialization and wear him out playing with other dogs. 

Now that he’s older and grown into a gentle companion, it’s just to wear him out. A day of running, playing games like bounce and chase, and snuggling the day care teachers will do that to a guy. He usually falls asleep before I hit the main road.

Is it an extravagance? Some might think so. It’s an investment. Oakley gets to play dog games for the better part of the day under the supervision of a staff that’s better trained than that at many day care centers for humans. When Hubby and I go to the Ren Faire, we know he’s in a secure place getting plenty of love and having lots of fun. 

On my side of the ledger, I get a free day to run errands, network, and experiment in the kitchen without help (cough). 

And the tail wagging greeting I get at the end of the day can’t be beat.